Golden boot winner Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe undecided on Derry City future
SSE AIRTRICITY Premier Division Golden Boot winner, Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe admits his first season in League of Ireland has surpassed his expectations.
The Londonder netted his second hat-trick of the campaign on the final night to pip Dundalk marksman, Pat Hoban to the top of the SSE Airtricity Premier Division goalscoring charts and ultimately secure European football for Derry City in 2020.
And while the Colchester United loanee never set out with the intention of challenging for the prestigious accolade when he first arrived in Derry last February, once he netted the first goal against Finn Harps on Friday night, he only had one thing on his mind.
"At first I heard he (Hoban) had scored one and the boys were trying to get me a goal but I thought it's just not going to be. As long as we won and got into Europe I was happy but it's a massive bonus and I'm just happy. It's crazy.
"Before the game I wasn't really thinking about the top scorer. It was about winning the game, getting into Europe and that would be a massive achievement for us.
"But obviously when I got two goals at the start of the game, I thought I could get another one and who knows what could happen? So I'm very happy it worked out.
"For me personally, I thought I started the season a bit slow. Obviously it was a new team, a new league and playing out wide was different. But I adapted and the boys made it easy for me.
"I learned when to make runs when certain players had the ball and they made it so easy for me to adapt and get used to the tempo and the way football is played here.
"I literally came here and bought into the idea the gaffer had. His plan was to finish in the European spots and thankfully we've achieved that. That's what we set out to do.
"Personally, I thought I could get a few goals and help the team out but to finish top scorer is amazing."
Junior's first goal came from a sublime pass through the middle of the Harps defence from Barry McNamee and the Englishman finished expertly into the corner on 15 minutes to set the tone.
His second wasn't as clear-cut as he poked the ball home in a crowded six yard area after David Parkhouse's point blank header was parried by the keeper.
And he completed his hat-trick with a deft touch to bring down Jamie McDonagh's ball over the top before smashing the ball past Jamie Bell on 78 minutes.
"The second one, the corner has come in and I was on the keeper," he recalled. "Parky headed it and the keeper made a good save and it bounced up. I was just at the right place at the right time and tapped it in. I got lucky but I'll take them all day."
It was his second hat-trick of the season following his treble against Cork City at Turner's Cross back in June. However this one was 'special' in front of a packed, appreciative Brandywell crowd.
"It felt great, especially at home as my last one was at Cork and the atmosphere wasn't the same. At home it was electric, I'm so happy.
"Everyone is buzzing. We set out to finish on a high and thankfully we done that. It was a tough game but we worked hard for each other and got the result. I'm delighted.
"The atmosphere was so good out there and the fans have been brilliant with me. I'm very happy for them."
To register 14 goals in his first season while predominantly playing on the wing is an incredible achievement but Junior credits his teammates for helping him top the scoring charts.
"I'm used to playing up front but I've enjoyed playing on the wing because football here is played properly. It's played on the floor and it just made it easier for me to settle in and adapt my game. I did the defensive stuff as well and it's been brilliant. I've really enjoyed it. The boys made it easy for me. It's been amazing.
"Coming here, I didn't really know what to expect but it's been a good season overall. I'm just happy."
The 25 year-old has had a somewhat nomadic career in the game with Derry being his 13th club despite the fact he only started playing semi-professional football when he turned 18.
He remains contracted to Colchester United and while the Derry City fans have adopted him as one of their own, he's uncertain about where the future lies.
"I haven't really thought about what's next. I've just been focused on the games and getting into Europe so I haven't really thought much about the future.
"Anything can happen. I don't know what's going to happen but I'm just so delighted with how things how gone.
"Off the pitch it's been good too. Everyone in the city has been good to me. Going out, everyone has been friendly and I haven't had any trouble since I've been here. It's been great," he smiled.