Oakley Hopes To Hold Key To Success At OFC Pirin Blagoevgrad
George Oakley was one of 17 players to depart Hamilton this summer, but was the first one to find a new club as he joined Bulgarian second division side OFC Pirin Blagoevgrad on two-year deal.
When you think about Bulgarian football, you’ll most likely think European regulars Ludogorets Razgrad or Tony Watt’s old side CSKA Sofia. Those two sides have been the dominant teams in Bulgarian Professional League for the last decade.
Orletata (the Baby Eagles) were bought by Emirates Wealth back in October, and Oakley’s new side are huge favourites to be promoted next term as the new owners have heavily invested into the club.
The whole essence of the club has changed, with Graham Warren being appointed as technical director while ex- Northern Ireland international Warren Feeney is the manager. He is assisted by former Derby County defender Andy Todd.
There has been no shorter than 10 new signings at Pirin this summer, including ex-Arsenal youngster Conor Henderson, as well as Ibrahim Meite, who is on loan from League Two side Crawley Town.
The top tier is currently still on-going in Bulgaria and each club is now allowed up to 1,000 fans per sector in their stadiums each week.
The second tier has been concluded with Pirin finishing a disappointing 11th last term.
Speaking about the move to OFC Pirin Blagoevgrad and his ambitions for the next season, George said: “There were honestly a couple of reasons why I wanted to move to Bulgaria. I have always wanted to play abroad in my career and with what’s going on at the moment with this pandemic, this opportunity came along and it all fell in place at the right time and I think would have been stupid not to take this opportunity really.
“Having come over here and speaking to the chief executives, the manager and everyone, the club has big ambitions this year to get promoted back in the top league and with the club now being backed by Emirates Wealth, they are giving everything they possibly can for the players on and off the pitch. I’ve only been here for a few days and the place is absolutely amazing, and I really can’t wait to get started.”
OFC Pirin is the hometown club of former Manchester United, Tottenham, and Bulgaria striker Dimitar Berbatov, who was known for his eye for goal.
Oakley is hoping to replicate that during his stay. He said: “When I spoke to the manager and the club, they told me that they had been keeping an eye on me for a long time and that they know a lot about me. What I hope to bring to OFK Pirin a big presence up-front with pace and power to get in behind defences and to of course score a lot of goals here and get back into the top league.”
George had brief spells at AFC Wimbledon and Inverness before joining Hamilton in 2019, and was Brian Rice’s first signing since taking over the reins from Martin Canning.
The Englishman went on to make 42 appearances for Accies, scoring eight goals, including that Van-Basten esque strike at Pittodrie.
Speaking about his spell at the New Douglas Park outfit, He said: “My time at Hamilton was fantastic. I don’t have not a bad word to say about Accies and being involved in a club with a lot of passion and the hard work week in week out was brilliant. I’ll always remember Hamilton as a great time in my career with great people and great fans. I would like to say a massive thank you to Brian Rice.
“When I came up to Inverness, he was a coach there and during my three years in Scotland I’ve worked with him for two of them. He has helped me and my game come on leaps and bounds and I can only thank him for being such a big part of my career so far and I felt grateful to be part of his team at Hamilton which defied the odds for another two years while I was there.”
Speaking about that fantastic strike, he said: “All I can say about that strike at Aberdeen is that is what I’ve been saying all my career. I always say, ‘If you don’t shoot you don’t score’ and I just knew as soon as the ball came over, I had to hit it. I thought to myself to just get it on target and luckily, it’s looped over the keeper and gone into everyone’s surprise, even my own! I hope moments like that will live in the memories of every Hamilton fan who made that long trip on a Tuesday evening, because I will never forget it.”
Ultimately, George has joined what looks like a very ambitious club in OFC Pirin Blagoevgrad. Their ambitions has blown all of the new management side away as well as Oakley, and it’s looks like a very exciting project in place.
The 23-year-old has proved he is a goal scorer when provided good service and this move should work out well. He’s scored goals in the top two divisions in Scottish football, therefore it’s hard not seeing him hit double figures next term.