The life of a non-league footballer can be a fascinating one. With players juggling work commitments, football is, to many, a labour of love (writes Adam Skinner).
Darren Lok is no different. Obsessed with scoring goals, the Eastbourne Borough front-man, who has just penned a new deal which keeps him at Priory Lane until the end of next season, is a support worker for psychiatric patients by day and a terroriser of defences come the weekend.
At under 6ft tall, Lok might not strike you as your archetypal non-league centre forward but he was busy last season carving out a reputation as an energetic, lively striker, who makes up for what he lacks in physique with a presence beyond his stature.
He weighed in with nine goals, an improvement on the previous season’s tally of eight, to help his side to a mid-table finish and became known for a knack of scoring late winners from the bench.
He is keen,though, not to be labelled with the super-sub tag and the ambitious 22-year-old, who came through the under 18’s and reserves before the heady heights of the first team, will be far from content with a place warming the bench next season.
“It seems to be every time I come off the bench I score goals. I don’t know what it is,” he says.
“I was pleased with my overall performance last season and I was more involved than the season before.
“But I want to be scoring goals more regularly when I start games.”
Lok also says that he was pleased with how the team performed last season.
Borough flirted with the prospect of the play-offs for much of the campaign but fell short as the seaosn tailed off.
An eventual 10th place finish was, however, a good showing for a side with a modest budget compared with many of the teams in the league.
He thinks they may have over-acheived in fact, and while he acknowledges that next season will be just as hard, he insists they need to improve and has seen enough from his team-mates to suggest they can make a charge for the play-offs next term.
After all, manager Tommy Widdrington, who Lok attributes much of his rapid progress to, would accept nothing less.
“The league will be similar, if not harder next season.
“Good teams have come down and teams will be throwing money around again. It’s getting tougher and tougher.
“People expected us to fail last season and it was good to shut a few people up.
“We know it’s going to be difficult but we can definitely push for a play-off place.”
Lok’s ambition is infectious and his delight at agreeing a deal to stay at the club he grew up around shines through.
He speaks with a familiar passion which epitomises the way he plays, and clearly holds Eastbourne Borough close to his heart.
“I used to watch them when I was younger and, for me, it was an easy choice to stay.”