Omari Patrick on his "perfect" Sutton debut following a difficult summer
This should have been the summer of Omari Patrick’s life. Having scored an 84th-minute Wembley equaliser to help Carlisle United win last season’s League Two play-off final, he earned the first promotion of a career that started in the Southern League almost 10 years ago.
Even though he started that final on the substitutes’ bench, Carlisle were keen to keep Patrick on in League One, offering him a new contract to remain a part of Paul Simpson’s squad.
But the 27-year-old is a self-confessed critic of his own game, and following a campaign in which he was regularly used as a striker rather than in his preferred position on the wing, he decided to search for a new challenge.
“It was quite difficult being without a club. I haven’t really been without a club for a while,” he said following a man of the match display on his debut for new side Sutton United. “It was a big decision to leave Carlisle, but as a footballer there’s no point staying somewhere if you’re not feeling as comfortable as you should.
“I wanted to make more of myself and play a way that I wanted to play. Sometimes you and a manager want to play different ways. You do what you can for the manager and sometimes you have to find your own path.
“I obviously made the decision to leave, and I think it was the right decision for me.”
Patrick only signed for Sutton less than two weeks ago, and featured in just a single pre-season friendly ahead of Saturday’s League Two opener against Notts County.
He wasted little time in making himself at home though, curling in a delightful first-half goal before adding a thumping header just five minutes after the interval as Matt Gray’s men ran out 5-1 winners at Gander Green Lane.
“It was perfect,” said Patrick of his first Sutton appearance. “Every player wants to score on their debut to show what they can do, but it’s even more perfect that we got three points.
“A win, a debut goal, you can’t ask for anything better.
“If I’m being critical of myself, I probably could have had four! At least I’m in the positions to score goals which is exciting.”
Patrick linked up excellently with fellow debutants Josh Coley, Harry Smith and Scott Kashket as Sutton overwhelmed newly promoted County with their incessant pressing and direct attacking.
The Slough-born wide man explained after the game that an understanding with his new team-mates has formed naturally.
“We’ve built a crazy connection,” Patrick said. “You can already see with me and Coley that we have a good link up. He set up two today and I scored two.
“It’s been quick and natural getting to know how the forwards play here and that’s very good in itself.”
Sutton’s new attacking star was quick to point to the influence of Gray in helping him make an immediate impact at his new club.
Conversations with Gray were key in agreeing to move to south London, and the opening day win provided ample proof that Patrick may have made the right decision.
“Everything that he said to me was shown today,” he said. “I’ll get chances to score, I’ll play in my favourite position. I’m very happy.
“We’re set to a plan that Matt has given us. He’s brought in the players to execute that plan. If we all keep working hard and stick together then anybody can get promoted in this league.”
With Sutton currently top of the early league table, perhaps it is not beyond the realms of possibility that Patrick could end this season with another promotion to his name.
Is another Wembley goal a personal target? “Hopefully we can go up automatic and don’t need to go to Wembley!” Patrick joked.
“I’ve got my individual goals; I can’t share them. If I share them you give yourself pressure.
“I’ve started quite well today, hopefully I can just keep going.”
With Patrick off to a scoring start and now playing in his preferred position in an environment that already seems like home, it would seem foolish to put a limit on what he and perennially unfancied Sutton can achieve this season.