Armstrong Oko-Flex on hunger to succeed, advice from Downes and his biggest influence
Armstrong Oko-Flex is hungry to make his mark at Swansea City, and revealed how former Swan Flynn Downes played a part ins his decision to move to the Swansea.com Stadium.
The 20-year-old forward made his debut as a substitute in the 1-0 win over Queens Park Rangers, having joined on loan from West Ham earlier in the week.
It is a first loan spell of the former Arsenal and Celtic player’s career, and he understands the importance of making a good impression.
Oko-Flex showed some nice touches against QPR, showing pace and a directness with the ball at his feet.
And he is keen to build on that encouraging debut.
“It feels good to be here, the boys have been really welcoming, as have the staff and the manager,” he said.
“It has felt easy for me to settle here, I love the style of play the club has, dominating possession and playing through the thirds.
“I also spoke to the manager before I came and he spoke about wanting to help me develop.
“I wanted to come somewhere where a team wanted to have possession, have the ball and give players a chance to show what they can do.
“I hope I can bring directness with the ball, I like to take on players and go towards goal. I just want to contribute and help the team win games and pick up points.
“I am hungry to play, I was on the bench on quite a few occasions last season (at West Ham) and I want that first-team action.
“I was grateful to have the chance against Viborg a couple of weeks ago. I just wanted to come somewhere where I can play as much as I can and help as much as I can.
“This is very important for me. It’s my first loan and I have to be ready to go. I think this is the right place and I want to make an impression and make my mark by helping us win games and contributing as much as I can.”
Following midfielder Downes’ switch to the London Stadium early in the summer transfer window, Oko-Flex had the chance to train alongside the former Ipswich midfielder.
And Downes provided the youngster with a glowing reference when it came to how much he would enjoy life in SA1.
“Yeah, 100 per cent, I spoke to Flynn and he misses it here,” said Oko-Flex.
“He is a top guy and a top player. He spoke about his time here and said how much he enjoyed it.
“He spoke really highly of the gaffer, and just hearing it from him and knowing the way Swansea play made my mind up.”
Dublin-born, Oko-Flex started his career with local clubs before joining the Arsenal academy in 2013.
He would spend five years with the Gunners – having been identified by talent spotter Liam Brady - before making the move to Celtic, and later sealing his switch to West Ham.
His time with the north Londoners saw him given the opportunity to work with some Gunners’ greats on the training pitch, while he also had a notable team-mate alongside him as he came through the ranks.
“Going to Arsenal was huge for me. It was great there,” says Oko-Flex.
“I was a striker and then Freddie Ljungberg recognised that I could be direct and take players on and he felt I could operate on the flank.
“He really changed me and the way I play, and I am very grateful to him for that. He was great, I can also remember us having Thierry Henry take a couple of sessions with us, and Jack Wilshere as well when he was doing his coaching badges.
“So, there were a few ex-players there, and I had Bukayo Saka in my team and he was probably the biggest name that came up with me.”
But there is no doubting the person Oko-Flex views as his biggest influence and inspirations: his father, Reginald, who has always been there to provide support whenever his son has laced up a pair of boots.
“He has been vital for me. I think I got to a point where I couldn’t play games unless he was there in the stands to help me,” says Oko-Flex.
“Obviously I don’t have that now, but he has always been brilliant to me. He has always supported me, he has tried to keep me focused and keep me driven.
“When you grow up in London there are so many potential distractions, but he kept my head straight and focused in on football.”