By Jake Sanders
WITH five games left of the National League season, Isaac Olaofe’s chances of becoming a history-maker appeared to be slipping away, but the striker never stopped believing that Sutton would eventually get the job done.
The south London outfit had been cruising to the title less than two months earlier having been four points clear of second place with three games in hand in their bid to reach the Football League for the first time in their 123-year history.
However, a 3-2 loss at Notts County on a Tuesday evening in May saw their promotion hopes taken out of their hands.
The 21-year-old had equalised that day, but Torquay’s victory at Chesterfield 24 hours earlier meant that Sutton now needed favours elsewhere to avoid going through the lottery of the play-offs.
“In football, sometimes you have got to expect the worst,” the striker told the News. “We lost that one, but it’s all about how you react. And every game we lost this season, we won the next couple of games, and that’s what we did after Notts County.”
“It was a tough one to take, it was a very big game, but we managed to turn it around, we won every game until the last day when we had already won the league.”
That defeat at Meadow Lane was a turning point for Sutton, who’d win their next four matches to seal their place in League Two next season – with Olaofe scoring the nerve-settling third goal against Hartlepool in front of more than 1,000 fans at Gander Green Lane.
It topped off quite a remarkable turnaround for Olaofe, whose season started with a failed loan spell in Scotland with St Johnstone.
He initially made the switch along with Danny McNamara for the whole season but was recalled by Millwall less than three months later after making just two appearances in the Scottish Premiership.
Olaofe was back on the move less than seven days later, but this time a lot closer to home when he returned to Sutton for the season. He’d spent the last couple of months in 2019-2020, although that was cut short by Covid-19.
But whilst that spell was nothing to write home about, his second stint with the U’s was more than memorable.
Olaofe said: “I already had a good relationship with the players and the manager, and the manager was trying to get me back. When he noticed I wasn’t playing, he was very eager to get me back, because for someone at my age it’s important to get as much game-time as possible.
“After the first 10 games, I could feel something in the group, the energy. You know when you feel like you have a good team spirit, and a good bunch of lads.
“And when you have all of that, it’s what makes a title-winning team. So, when we won the league the way we did after a 42-game season to consistently be top three, it’s just amazing.”
Olaofe already has big aspirations of becoming a regular in Millwall’s first-team having been given a taste in the Non-League.
But the 21-year-old told the News that making history is something that he always dreamt of as a youngster.
“It’s amazing because as a little kid, you always want to be remembered in history.
“Just knowing that you have got a club and area that will remember you. Your face will be the cover of their history, and just knowing that when you walk through the doors there will be a massive picture of the title-winning team, and that’s something that can’t be replaced, whether we live up to 100 or 200 years, that will always be there.”
Image: Paul Loughlin