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Exclusive: FLW Editor Sam Rourke speaks to Erhun Oztumer: Talks Walsall, Championship ambition and Turkey

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Erhun Oztumer is the heartbeat of the team at Walsall Football Club.

The 26-year-old attacking midfielder has been an influential figure for the Saddlers this season, and his nine goals have helped keep the Midlands side just above the relegation zone.

Dubbed the ‘Turkish Messi’ – Oztumer’s height and style of play have striking similarities to the greatest player in the world.

FLW Chief Editor Sam Rourke got a chance to speak to the 5ft 3 midfielder to talk all things football…..

What have you made of Walsall’s season so far? Bit disappointed?

Yeah definitely, we are a team that should be doing better in the league, we’ve been a bit below par and we’re  out of all competitions as well so it hasn’t been a great season so far.

Would you say the club’s main objective now is to simply stay up?

When you look at the table it doesn’t lie, but if we can get a couple of wins in then we can be competing for play-offs.

It’s a tight league this year and hopefully we’re not in a relegation battle this season.

What’s Jon Whitney like as a manager?

Yeah he’s man-to-man manager, he talks to a lot of players one on one and he gets on with everyone.

Obviously every manager loses his head now and again, but he’s a brilliant manager – he’s learning stuff everyday and we’re learning stuff from him everyday.

So, you’ve scored nine goals in the league so far this season, are you happy with your total?

Yeah for a team that is nearer the bottom of the table, to score nine goals is good.

I’m just trying to get more goals than the 15 I got last year, i’m trying to improve every year, and hopefully my goals can help the team progress.

You’re 26-years-old at the moment, you’re reaching peak stages of your career, do you have ambitions to play at higher level?

Every player wants to go and play at the highest level, the target is to hopefully play in the Championship.

I feel if I carry on doing what i’m doing at Walsall, i’ll get a chance to play at that level, and hopefully be a good player at that level.

You’ve probably seen yourself being dubbed the ‘Turkish Messi’ – would you say you do have a similar playing style to Messi?

We’re both left-footed, low centre of gravity and I think that’s where it comes from, nowhere else! (Laughs)

I’m nowhere near as good as him, but he’s my favourite footballer and I watch him play every game, I enjoy watching him.

On a personal note, what’s been the best moment of your career so far?

Probably signing my first contract at Peterborough. Being in the non-league and then getting the opportunity to play professional football was a good day for me.

On the flip-side, what has been the worst moment of your career so far?

There’s always ups and downs in football, but there hasn’t been one that has really hurt me.

I missed a penalty a few weeks ago, that was quite upsetting!

Who did you look up to when you was a kid, did you have an idol?

As a kid, I used to love watching Zola at Chelsea – he was my favourite player at the time and obviously right now it’s Messi.

Finally, what was your experience like in Turkey when you was younger?

I got released from Charlton and I needed to try and find my way back to a professional club so I was really excited when I signed for a team in Turkey.

It was a good experience but after a while I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere and I decided to come back – It was a massive learning curve for me, both good and bad.

It’s helped me to become who I am today.

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