THE challenge of playing abroad is difficult for any player, adapting to a new culture, a different language and fresh style of football.
Oscar Threlkeld embraced that challenge when he moved from Argyle to Waasland-Beveren in the top flight of Belgian football but things did not start well under the management of Yannick Ferrera, who chose not to give the former Bolton youngster first-team opportunities.
When Ferrera was replaced by Bosnian Adnan Custovic, Ozzie was then hit by a frustrating injury and, on his return, it was very difficult to find a place in a team that had started winning. The lack of game-time was a new and difficult experience for Ozzie, who had to do some soul-searching.
He has now joined Argyle on loan until the end of the season, his fourth stint as a Pilgrim, and mentally ready to help the Pilgrims pull away from the danger zone in Sky Bet League One.
“I didn’t really have a connection with the first manager [at Waasland-Beveren], we weren’t really on the same page,” said Ozzie. “I played two games out there, thought I did well in both games, although we drew one and lost one.
“It wasn’t like I was out-run or not up to speed. It was just one of those where you get a manager who isn’t on the same page as you, and vice versa. I had to look after myself, keep myself [physically] fit and mentally fit.
“It is a common theme now to keep yourself mentally fit because you see a lot of players who you think are ok, but they’re not. I had a bit of trouble with myself out there because I obviously wanted to play, and I was used to playing.
“You start looking at the four walls and thinking ‘am I doing something wrong’. It felt like I wasn’t good enough. I would just go to training and go home; I didn’t really get out of the house and was stuck there watching TV.
“Sometimes, even with the TV on, you’re just looking at the four walls. Luckily, I had a guy who really helped me out there. We had a session once a week for just an hour, when we would talk, not just about football, but things at home.
“It wasn’t like I was missing home because I’ve been here [Argyle] four times. It was just game-time. I suffered before with Bolton Wanderers but I understood I wasn’t playing because I was young. I know what I can do as a footballer and that is to give 100%. I knew I didn’t have the experience at Bolton Wanderers.
“When a new manager [Custovic] came in, I started to get back to that mental state where I could prove myself and then, in his first training session, I got injured.
“The team started winning and I can’t complain because a manager can’t change a winning team. January came along and now I’m here, and ready to go.”