Bromley defender Marc-Anthony Okoye forced to retire from professional football
BROMLEY say they are deeply saddened to announce that centre-half Marc-Anthony Okoye has retired from professional football due to a knee injury.
The 27-year-old turned professional for the first time when he signed for Bromley in the summer of 2018 and put in plenty of superb performances at the heart of the Lillywhites’ defence.
Okoye, who came through the ranks of the Bromley youth system, playing alongside the likes of Bradley Goldberg and Brendan Kiernan, who now play for Welling United and Harrogate Town respectively, went on to play for Dulwich Hamlet, Merstham and Braintree Town, before signing for Bromley and returning home in the summer of 2018.
Okoye has since established himself as a fans’ favourite at Hayes Lane and has on numerous occasions taken the captain’s armband.
“It’s been a very difficult past month or so. I’ve seen specialists and had various opinions on my knee but unfortunately the overall verdict is that I need to stop playing,” Okoye told www.bromleyfc.net.
Okoye was quick to express his thanks to the clubs fan base.
“I’m so honoured and grateful, all the support I’ve received since signing back here last summer has been simply amazing,” he said.
“I’m truly grateful to each and every one of them and hope they can continue to do the same for any player who comes through the door at Bromley Football Club.
“A massive thanks also goes to Neil Smith. Having signed last summer, I played in a few positions and earned his respect and he repaid me by trusting me in big games.
“The boys all took to me from day one, respecting me as a man and as a player. I’m grateful to everyone at Bromley Football Club.”
Bromley manager Neil Smith added: “I’m really disappointed and upset for Marc, especially at the start of the season when he got into the side, he was keeping Jack Holland out and playing very well.
“He was a tower of strength for us and took the captaincy when required. We had a great run and he was a huge part of that.
“When we found out the news, we were devastated. We had hoped he was going to play a big part of our future, especially as a local lad.
“We’ve now got to be there to support him and we will do, as men and as a club. Our thoughts are with him and we all hope the future for him outside of future is a bright one.”
Director of football Jerry Dolke added: “I’m desperately sad to hear the unfortunate news regarding Marc’s condition at the peak of his footballing career. He is someone who I strongly believe is one of the best centre-backs in this league.
“Marc has had a long association with the club and it’s been amazing to watch him blossom from our under nines right through to leading our first team out in the National League this season. He will be sorely missed not only on the pitch, but in and around the club on a daily basis.”
Smith, meanwhile, has snapped up striker Ben Williamson from their Vanarama National League rivals Eastleigh, for an undisclosed transfer fee.
The 30-year-old impressed during a 2-1 pre-season win over Crystal Palace in the summer of 2017 by scoring a late winner for Bromley, but opted for a more lucrative deal down on the south coast, following his release from Cambridge United.
“I had a short spell here during pre-season a couple of years ago and I’ve kept in touch with Neil ever since,” said Williamson, who scored 19 goals in 102 appearances for the Spitfires.
“I’m delighted to be here and my first day back has been great as I know a few of the boys already.”
Smith, who has had his eyes on Williamson for a while, was delighted to have finally grabbed his target.
“We enquired about Ben more in hope than expectation to be honest! It’s a position we’ve been looking to fill for a while now and Ben comes with the experience we need,” said Smith.
“I’d like to thank Paul Emerson, one of our scouts, who’s watched Ben for many years now and has helped us in the process.”
Williamson will wear the number 18 shirt and is available for selection for Saturday’s trip to Sutton United.
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