Dulwich Hamlet defender: Missing out on Charlton Athletic move was a regret in my professional career

BY RICHARD CAWLEY
richard@slpmedia.co.uk

Most footballers say they don’t have any regrets in their career – but Magnus Okuonghae is not one of them.

The Stockwell-raised centreback joined Dulwich Hamlet this summer.

It is his first South London club after a professional playing career that took in Rushden & Diamonds, Crawley Town, Dagenham & Redbridge, Colchester United and Luton Town.

But Charlton Athletic were one of the clubs who bid for Okuonghae when he was a defensive rock for Colchester in the summer 2011.

“I live in Bromley and the location would have been perfect,” he said. “I was on holiday in Egypt and was about to board a plane home when my manager rang and said the chairman had turned the offer down.

“Charlton were a massive club who were under-achieving a bit at that time. There was a period where I was linked with a few other clubs. I know it might rile people up but if I got to rewind time then there is that saying – strike while the iron is hot.

“I had six or seven brilliant years at Colchester but with all due respect they are never going to be a Charlton or Norwich City, who were the type of teams I was being mentioned with.

“If I could do it again now then I’d probably call the chairman up and have had that conversation – how important this move could be for my career. That was probably what I needed to not get complacent and make that next step. There wasn’t bitterness at the time. I signed a new three-year contract. Colchester was fun.

“I’m a South London boy and it is a privilege to play for a South London club. I’ve always followed Dulwich’s progress. I’ve kept an eye on Gav [Rose, Dulwich manager].

“When I was young he used to put on football sessions in Beckenham – him and Junior Kadi – so I have known him for years. It was an easy decision to make.”

Okuonghae, 32, has been a recruitment consultant for about five months.

“I’ve been lucky enough to play football full-time since I left school,” he said. “I got to the point where I wanted to experience something different and meet new people, learn a completely new field.

“I wanted to build a network moving forward because there is a lot of life to live at the end of your football career.

“I did my coaching but it is like teaching someone to ride a bike, you never forget after playing that long. I would have been asking myself otherwise, what would that have been like? My long-term goal is to eventually set up my own recruitment company and do some sort of coaching once that is up and running.

“I looked at the agency side and set up a small one with some friends, they manage that. We’re trying to find young players from South London, move them on and help their careers, just like I got help from similar people in my early stages.”

Okuonghae moved to Croydon while at secondary school and was initially on Fulham’s books.

“I have to say it was a really good education,” he added. “Just the discipline that it took to have a career. I got released at 16. But it gave me the tools to use that as a springboard.

“I played under Brian Talbot at Rushden and he turned me into a man. I was around a first team and grew up quickly.”

IMAGE BY KEITH GILLARD

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