Stefan Oakes, Ex EPL Footballer Shares Qualities Needed for a Midfielder
Stefan Oakes was recognized as having the goal of the year when playing for Notts County against Yeovil Town.
Stefan Oakes is a retired English professional footballer who played for several clubs including Premier League Leicester City, Notts County and the Wycombe Wanderers. His professional career spanned from 1998 to 2013. He was a member of the Leicester City team that won the League Cup in 1999-2000.
One of Stef’s many highlights is his goal from midfield in the Notts County 3-1 win over Teovil Town at Huish Park in March of 2005. This won him the Mitre Goal of the Year for 2005.
Stefan Oakes is currently the Director of the Elite Technique Program at the North Carolina FC Youth in the US.
What skills did you possess that set you apart as a player?
Creativity, Technical skills and Passing ability, both for long and short shots.
I had speed of thought. I wasn’t the fastest on the pitch, but I knew where the other players were and could anticipate where the other players were going to move. I could think ahead and know where I needed to move the ball to put it in the best position for my team.
Did you play positions other than midfield?
Mainly midfield, sometimes left back.
What qualities do you think midfielders need to possess?
A midfielder needs to be able to go box to box (be fit enough to run from one end to the other, and then back without tiring and then do it again). They need great passing skills, for both short and long passes.
A midfielder needs to be a strong player and have good vision (ability to see other players on the field and to anticipate their movements).
What do you believe is more valuable? Being a team player or trying to be the star player?
You have to be good at decision making. There are times when you need to be selfish and take the ball. It doesn’t mean you’re trying to be the star, but that you know you can make a move. You also need to know when to pass the ball. You can’t just dribble dribble dribble all the time and never pass.
A star player makes the people around him better.
How were you found?
I was on the local team in Birstall United at nine (9) years old. I joined the Youth Team Scheme (YTS) at 16.
What is the YTS?
The YTS is the Youth Team Scheme. It was for 16 – 18 yr olds. We were training to go up to either the Reserve team or the First Team. If you were good, you’d move up to the Reserve team and continue to train or play there. If your were really good, you might get signed directly to the First team.
What was your day like when you were on the YTS?
We had to be at the facility by 8. We had to clean the areas, even the bathrooms for the first team. We worked and trained at the facility. Training was five days a week from Monday through Friday and then we had our games on Saturdays. We were paid as YTS players – not a lot, but we were paid every week.
Did you have any set backs on your way to playing professionally?
When I was eighteen and still playing for the Youth League, we had a match against Aston Villa and I broke my leg in ten places during that game. I had six breaks to my tibia and four to my fibula.
Ten places?!? How?!?!
There was a guy with the ball. I stuck my leg out in front of him. I knew he was going to hit my leg but I thought I was going to let him do that and then get the ball away from him. It wasnt even close to being a tackle. I had no idea how hard I was going to get hit. My tibia was broken in six different places and my fibula was broken in four places. The doctor told me he didnt think Id be able to play again. I had to sit back and wait for it to mend.
That injury happened right around when we were supposed to know if we were being offered a professional contract. The manager called me. He knew I was a hard worker and that I loved the game. He told me that if I could build back my fitness, he would grant me a one-year contract. He could have just told me to GO. Instead, they signed me and waited while I recovered.
How long before you were able to play again?
It took me nine months to get back into playing shape. I worked really hard and probably came back stronger.
What advice would you give the serious player who is dedicated to his craft to best position himself so he can be seen and possibly placed with a professional club?
Practice / Practice / Practice
What, if anything, would you do differently?
I would have stayed fitter and worked harder. I got complacent, not lazy but over confident that I didn’t need to work harder.
Stefan Oakes now lives in the US. Aside from his duties running the Elite Technique program, he offers private coaching lessons. He is a brilliant coach and amazingly humble. Two of my children have trained with him and I speak from personal knowledge when I say the kids love working with him.