Tony Stokes is one of the few English men to have played for Ujpest FC. Starting off at the famous West Ham academy, Stokes made his debut for the hammers in 2005 as a replacement for Tomas Repka in the League Cup. He found chances hard to come by, and had three loan spells at Rushden, Brighton and Stevenage before moving to Ujpest in 2009.
Stokes went on to make 24 league appearances for Lilak before leaving in 2010 to join Isthmian Premier League side, Concord Rangers. Since joining Rangers he’s scored 51 goals in just over 70 games. Stokes was kind enough to spend some of his time answering Tomasz Mortimer’s questions exclusively for HungarianFootball.com…
You came through the famous West Ham academy, played alongside Mark Noble, and made a couple of first-team appearances. How do you rate your time at West Ham?
A. I really enjoyed it, I was there from the age of 9 to 22. I made some really good friends and I will never ever forget my debut. It was a dream come true.
You had a few loan spells before moving to Hungary. Any stand out?
A. Yes I did, I went on loan to Rushden, Brighton and Stevenage. They all stand out for me really because they all made me into the player I am now.
Where did the opportunity come from to join Ujpest?
A. I was playing for the West Ham Reserves and the Director of Ujpest was watching at the time. Then I got the phone call offering me the opportunity to go out to Hungary.
How did you enjoy your time out there and were there any particular that were highlights?
A. I loved it out in Hungary, the people were so polite and made me feel so welcome.
How is your Hungarian? Seeing as it’s one of the hardest languages to learn, did you mostly speak English in Budapest?
A. It is not very good, ha. I could say the basics but the rest was just too hard to learn. When I went to the shops I’d speak English and the Hungarian people would try and speak it back.
How about the cuisine? Enjoy it? Or do you prefer English food?
A. I loved the Hungarian food, my favourite was Goulash. I couldn’t get enough of it. Plus I really enjoyed the pancakes out there.
You were also joined by Middlesborough’s Gary Martin (who’s now in Iceland), Scott Malone (now at Bournemouth) and Mark Millar (now at Falkirk) at Lilak. Did that help you to acclimatise to being away from England?
A. Yeah, it did really help me because I didn’t feel alone and they were going through the same feelings I was about missing home.
Hungarian Football is known for it’s violence. Did you encounter any problems when you were over there?
A. No I never, the Ujpest supporters were the best to me and the best fans I’ve ever seen. It was a pleasure having them as fans.
Do you have any regrets leaving Ujpest early?
A. No I don’t regret it because it was the right time to leave but I do miss the place and my friends I made there.
Not many English footballers take the route of moving abroad. Seeing as you’ve experienced football outside of England, can you see why more don’t?
A. I think missing their family plays a big part because it takes a lot of bottle to just up and move to another country. Especially if you don’t speak the language.
You’ve now made the move to Concord Rangers and have 26 goals this season (after 25 last). How does the football differ from Concord to Ujpest?
A. Where Ujpest is a pro team everything is better as you should expect it to be but Concord is run very well too. It’s like its a pro team, not semi pro.
It seems like you’re playing in a more advanced position at Rangers. Do you feel more comfortable playing up top, or do you prefer it in midfield?
A. I prefer it up top or just behind the front two. I like to make things happen and set up my team mates. I told Ujpest I could play more advance but they liked me in the defensive midfield role.
You must have a number of scouts watching you with your goalscoring record. What’s your ambition for the future? To get back into the football league, or maybe move abroad again?
A. Yes I have and my main goal is to get back into the pro game as soon as possible because I’m not getting any younger, ha. I’m open to any offers, I would definitely go back abroad if it was worth it.