Billingham Town FC




If you approached Stephen Oakley from distance, and weren’t familiar with his persona, it would be easy to go back in time a thousand years and imagine a Norse fighter holding a double axed weapon in readiness for battle. And then he speaks, the perception shot to pieces as the gentle, amiable giant shows his true character off the pitch, happy to converse in general conversation. However, on the pitch, Oakley is the redoubtable warrior, often playing through the pain barrier after suffering from an interminable knee injury during the last Boxing Day derby against Billingham Synthonia. The injury was a major blow for himself and the club with a fourth round FA Vase tie on the horizon against eventual finalists, Cleethorpes Town. Did he return too soon and aggravate the injury further? For him and manager Barry Oliver, the risk was worth taking but sadly Town exited the competition with a valiant performance but especially from Oakley who alongside Dan Rowbotham were up against two prolific strikers on the day. Chris Dickinson pulled a goal back midway through the second half but Cleethorpes held on to win 2-1.

Oakley: We had a great run that season in the Vase and looking back on it now I should probably never of played the game the way my knee was but I had to try and get out there. I had been to see a physio for the two weeks leading up to it to try get myself right but even to this day i still get injuries to my knee and struggle on through games.

The game itself wasn’t what we wanted, we started off slow and they got their two goal advantage in before half time. Second half it was all us and if we had scored the chance with minutes to go to take it to extra time I believe the game would of been ours.

During the last campaign, Oakley appeared to struggle through games with Town short of numbers in central defence but the skipper is never one to shy away from a challenge and soldiered on, building a partnership with Kris Summers who arrived from Hebburn Town. By the end of the season, Oakley looked to be back to his best causing havoc in opposition boxes and winning the aerial battles in defence while Summers mopped up in behind - the win over Chester-Le-Street Town a case in point.

Oakley: Last season at certain times i did just play on through injury strapping my knee when i could and just doing what I had too so I could play but it was made easier with playing alongside Summers! He’s a great lad on and off the pitch and a brilliant defender too. The more he plays the better he becomes so its looking positive for the season ahead of us.

With the new campaign only three weeks away, does Stephen approach the season the same as any other or are his injury troubles firmly behind him? Joint managers Barry Oliver and Paul Edwards are building a strong squad in preparation with competition for places but it will take a strong character to break up the Oakley/Summers partnership.

Oakley: Yeah I’m feeling good at the moment injury free (touch wood) and ready for the season to start. The gaffers have made some great signings this season and as everyone can see on the pitch we are clicking better than anyone could have imagined at this stage so they’ll have some decisions to make for the first game of the season coming upon us with competition very high for places.

Big Oaks appeared for the second half in the morale boosting 1-1 draw against Hartlepool United, a result that was fully deserved. Although the game maybe seen as a practice match, many pools fans were impressed with Town's performance, shocked by the fact that Billingham will be plying their trade five divisions below Hartlepool United when Town kick off the new season against Ryton & Crawcrook Albion on August 4th.

Oakley: The hartlepool game is always a great one to start with we always get a good crowd in and a good run about, the gaffers spoke before the game telling us that shape was the main aim for the game and i think we stuck together well and were never dragged out of position once. Preseason has been brilliant so far probably the best i have had so far the lads are all putting the graft in and the results are showing on the pitch for everyone to see. Hopefully we’ll keep this form going and start the seasons on the up with promotion



Paul, first of all, welcome to Town. Obviously you must be delighted but can you tell us how this joint venture with Barry Oliver came to fruition?

i spoke to Barry last season briefly about maybe coming into the club in a management role although that didn’t come to fruition but we kept in touch and I think due the fact we both have similar beliefs and styles it seemed like a really good move although time and results will determine the outcome

I remember when you were Manager at Thornaby. You had a team that was difficult to break down. Do you have a particular style of play or does it depend on the type of players you have worked with?

I believe in the ball rolling along the grass haha I like my teams to play high tempo and attack minded but obviously as you have seen not gung ho and astute in the defensive side of the game

What do you know about Billingham Town as a club and its passionate supporters?

Well I’ve watched a lot over the past few seasons and believe the club is a sleeping giant with great vocal support, I believe there is an opportunity for the whole club and town to grow into a major force within the non league spectrum

You and your family are well known within the Northern League scene. What have you all been up to in recent seasons? I will never forget Curtis Edwards bossing our midfield a few seasons back!!

Probably Curtis best game under me was v yourselves, he’s still in Sweden playing top  flight and has played some amazing games against some great sides in this years Europa league. Keo has fell out of love with the game in recent years but you never know he may follow his dad if he can get fit haha, I myself have kept busy watching games and recently trying to keep Darlington Ra in the northern league

I’ve seen you on several occasions on the road. Barry Oliver loves to do his homework and I sensed you are similar to Barry in that respect. Could it be a case where both of you will scout the opposition?

I always like to know what I’m up against so I would think if nothing else our team will be well briefed

What would you say you’re main attributes are as an individual and as a Manager?

I’m a very good man manager. I get the best out of players as footballers and individuals but I expect a lot in return and my standards are very high

What are you looking forward to the most? Building a side, Pre-season or Barry’s infectious banter?

I’m looking forward to building a great group of players who will take the club to new highs over the coming seasons and obviously Barry’s banter

And finally, Paul have you given yourself any individual targets or goals for the season ahead?

I never set targets but I would like to get my hands on some silverware and  I don’t like losing so watch this space .

I would like to thank the club, Paul and Barry for this opportunity and will be doing everything to repay their faith, I can promise the club and the fans that they will enjoy watching games and that the players will wear the shirt with a belief and pride , finally I would like to say that I ain’t coming in to the club as a yes man and right hand man, I’m coming as a joint manager with Barry and we will have ups and downs but I think we will both gel really quickly and I can’t see there being too much arguing or falling out haha


Next Game

Saturday 20th April



Heaton Stannington

KO. 3.00pm

Ebac Northern League