When I caught up with Lorne Bickley he sounded as determined as ever to make the big time and, prior to his unfortunate injury, he was firing the goals in left, right and centre.
We talked about junior football in Jersey, why he decided to move to America, his successes in freshman year and what his ambitions are for the future.
Q: How are you? Settled back in after summer?
Bickley: I am great thank you. Yeah settled in very well again, it’s always easy to come back here to the USA, it’s like my second home. Even though I don’t get to see family for about half of the year I have my boys here who are like family. It’s a very simple lifestyle to get back into; football and schoolwork, the only two things you really need to concentrate on. So yes, overall I have settled back into life in America.
Q: You’ve always been good at sport, how did that come about?
Bickley: I have just always loved playing sport, and I was keen to be the best at every sport I played, it was a big drive for me. I hate losing. Hence why I hated losing to you at racquet sports! Any sport that is being played around me, ever since a young age I would just want to get involved in. I remember I would go home from school, get changed, go outside and kick a ball against the house wall. It used to drive my mum mad (he says as he laughs). I always grew up playing football with people older than me on my estate and so I think that’s why I have always been interested in sport and been able to push myself. My parents and grandparents have always been very supportive, they always wanted me to do well and would encourage me to be successful. My grandparents were great sports players. My parents have always had a great knowledge of sports rather than the ability to play, so having both these advantages has helped me. I think the main reason why I have played a lot of sport is because I have never particularly enjoyed school as I was never really academic. So, I would try a lot harder at the sports that played as it came easier to me compared to the school work. Which, by the way, for any youngsters reading this, isn’t the way forward.
Q: Did you always want to concentrate on football?
Bickley: I have played football my whole life. I love everything about the game. However, in my younger days I was actually a great swimmer. I swam for Tigers, I won many accolades and this was my first love. I swam with the Harry Shalamon (who competed in the last Commonwealth Games), and in my day I was a little bit better than him. He won’t admit that though. Now, Harry is a fish and he’s doing great. But yeah, I loved swimming, everyday, early morning (5:30 am), I would swim before and after school. I loved it. It actually helped me a lot in football due to the cardiovascular benefits. I think I got to the age of about 11/12 and I had to make the decision whether to carry on playing football, or swimming. I ended up going for football. I felt it offered more than going up and down a swimming lane, which can get tedious. It wasn’t an easy decision at the time and I can still remember it to this day, but looking back at it now, it definitely was the best decision. I don’t regret it at all.
Q: What was your best memory in junior football?
Bickley: My best memory of Junior football? I really don’t know. Junior football is great fun, many people criticize the work of junior football in Jersey, but I loved it. It’s on the up now even more as people like Paul Renton and Brian Oliver are working at the Jersey COE. It’s a tough decision, I’m difficult to pick my best memory, I’m stuck between two scenarios. The first is playing in the Muratti U18 in Jersey in the first ever game at Springfield Stadium on the brand new astroturf pitch. I was only 16 at the time, I scored the second goal of the game and we ended up winning 4-3. Some game. It was one of the best matches I played in and loved every minute. The second memorable moment was receiving the captains armband from Paul Renton in my last year at U18. There is no better feeling than captaining the Jersey side. It’s one of my proudest moments, and I am forever grateful to have been given that opportunity. As a bonus I scored in that game too (he said laughing). I don’t think it comes any bigger in junior Jersey football.
Q: Did you prefer school or club football?
Bickley: I think playing school and club football is completely different. I feel as if club football was always more competitive in my opinion. School football was not viewed as important compared to club football. Both are fun, you have the opportunity to play with different people, but club football has always had the edge for me because of its competitive nature. For example, being a Lasallian I’d love beating Victoria College. However, beating St Pauls or St Peters meant so much more. It was always a nice feeling to walk into school on a Monday after having beaten St Pauls/Peters and give them a bit of stick, and listen to their excuses.
Q: You were a centre midfielder, but now you’re a striker. How did that move come about?
Bickley: It was a bizarre move and still to this day I really don’t understand what came over me to make the change. I think it was around the age of 16, I was playing CM/CAM and it was enjoyable, but I loved scoring goals. So it was the pre season game against Grouville U18 (I was 16), I played CM 1st half, and then 2nd half I asked the coach if I could go up front. I did and we won, and I think I scored twice. Since then I have never really looked back. It hasn’t hurt me but I do wonder where I would be now if I was still in the midfield. I think now due to my size and stature it was probably the best move and I was subconsciously thinking about this when I decided to switch. I had to adapt my game a lot, but now I am more suited to this role.
Q: Why did you move to America? Was it a hard decision?
Bickley: I just knew for me that it was either I go to work, or I find a way to play football at a higher level. I don’t have the brains to go to university in England. Therefore, I knew a couple of older lads who had gone to America before me so I looked into it and found the network called (Pass4Soccer). They helped me through my recruiting process, I went to numerous showcases, I had to record the games I played, in Jersey to get a good highlight reel. I then received between 10-20 offers to go to different universities but I chose Wilmington University, Delaware, and haven’t looked back since. For me this really wasn’t a hard decision, I can play more football at a higher level and get a degree, its perfect. I recommend it for anyone who is wanting to go on further in any sport, not just football.
Q:What is the football style like? Hard to adjust?
Bickley: It’s a lot different than playing back home. I think the reason for this is that there are so many different nationalities involved within football out here. For example, in my team there are Spanish, Jamaican, Nigerian, English, American, Venezuelan, Greek and Brazilian players, so it is very mixed. Communication actually isn’t that hard because we all have one thing in common and that’s the round thing we kick. You learn a lot from bringing all these styles together. It’s a lot more physical, players out here aren’t as technical as back home, however they’re athletes, quick and strong. You learn ways to win games though. Having all these different factors have made me a better player and team mate.
Q: How did it feel to receive the ‘Freshman of the Year’ award?
Bickley: To be honest, at first I didn’t think it was that big a deal. At the start of the season there were accolades called “rookie of the week” and I won a couple of them but didn’t understand what they were. I had to ask the older lads what it was. Of course, it is great to be recognized by other coaches and players within my conference, and know that they rated me. I was very happy and felt like my hard work had persevered, especially coming from such a small island like Jersey, being recognized was quality. Now it puts a target on my back because more teams know who I am, but being able to receive ‘Rookie of the Year’ and to get into both the “East Region Team of the Year” and “Conference Team of the Year” was a great achievement.
Q: How’s your recovery going? How did it happen?
Bickley: I was gutted when I tore my Meniscus in my knee. I have never really had a major injury, so this was horrible for me, especially at such a significant time. It happened in about March/April. I was playing and felt something which didn’t feel quite right. It never got picked up over in the States. I went home and trained a couple of times, and something definitely wasn’t right. So, eventually in July I had an MRI Scan and it showed a tear in the Meniscus with cyst grazing around it from where I had aggravated it. I had surgery on the 12th July. I am now in the middle of completing physical therapy over here and it is going very well, my recovery is ahead of schedule and I’m working hard to get back and be fit. I will be back soon.
Q: What are your goals for the future? Are you going to stay in football?
Bickley: At the moment I am concentrating on getting fit. I don’t really have any goals right now other than with my team. They’re my priority, all I want right now is to be successful with them and I’ll take each day at a time. When I’m finished I’ll make the decision of where my next step will be, but I want to go to the next level wherever that may be. So yes, I will be staying in football.
It was great to catch up with Bickley, with it being clear to see that his move to America has not only improved his football ability technically, but also in terms of being a team player and his mental determination to make it to the next level in the football world.
I wish Lorne all the best for the future and I hope he reaches his goals. It was great to catch up.