Spell in Turkey gave Town striker Cameron Jerome the hunger to 'kick on' when returning to England
Forward discusses his two years with Super Lig side Goztepe
Spending two years in Turkey definitely opened up Luton striker Cameron Jerome’s eyes to what it’s like being a foreign player in this country, while also giving him the hunger to kick on again in the English game.
Following a career with the likes of Cardiff, Birmingham, Stoke and Norwich, Jerome made the decision to move to Goztepe in the Turkish Super Lig, staying for two seasons.
He played against sides like Besiktas, Galatasaray and Fenerbahce, scoring eight goals in 49 games, before deciding to return home and head to MK Dons in October 2020.
On how he found his first foray abroad though, the 34-year-old forward said: “It definitely made me appreciate the players that came to this country more, in terms of how they adapted on and off the pitch to a different type of football, a different lifestyle, different climate and culture.
“I think that was probably one of the biggest things.
“In this country, especially the media, we tend to be quite harsh on players who have come from a different league or country.
“It was very interesting, the dynamics of everything.
“Moving away with your family and all the things you’ve got to think about, which would come naturally in this country, then all of a sudden it’s new, it’s alien and it’s out of your comfort zone, being abroad.
“It was something I always wanted to try, I always wanted to play abroad, taste something different and experience a different culture, a different lifestyle in football and I was fortunate enough to be able to do that.
“There was a crazy passion, I was blown away by how welcoming people were in Turkey towards me and my family, but the football side of things was magnificent.
“I really had a good time there, made some good friends and playing in those big stadiums against some big teams was something that will stay with me forever.
“It was a great experience, I thoroughly enjoyed it, but glad to be back on home soil.
“I’m glad I did it and it almost refreshes you, gives you a reset.
“You come back and you don’t become stagnated and stale here, going through the motions, so it gave me the hunger to kick on again.
“I was chomping at the bit to come back and it was exciting whilst I was there, but I’m glad to be on home soil now and hopefully I’ve got a good few years in front of me and I can carry on.”
Although Jerome wanted to play as high as possible on his return to England, coming back when the coronavirus pandemic was starting to sweep the nation and the country in lockdown, he settled on MK Dons in League One rather than find himself with the worrying prospect of being without a club in such difficult times.
He said: “When I came back it was in the middle of a pandemic, I wasn’t sure if I was going to stay in Turkey or if I was going to stay abroad.
“So I came back and I was mulling over a few different offers at the time and with the way things are in football, you are out of sight and out of mind, that was the case last year.
“I came back and I was sitting around, training on my own, waiting for one or two things to materialise and I wasn’t prepared to wait.
“At the age I’m at, I don’t think you can sit around and wait for the perfect opportunity.
“Having the relationship with Russell (Martin, MK Dons boss), there was conversations about coming to January or coming to the end of the season and I brought into the project he was selling me.
“I thought it was an opportunity to carry on playing football, if you want to carry on playing, no matter what the level is, you will go out there and play.
“There are so many lads who are similar age to myself who struggle to get clubs.
"Whether it is their ego or other things that have not materialised for them, they haven’t got anything sorted and that was the dilemma I had in summer.
"Do I wait around and you know what it is like in football, people are always spinning plates and wheeling and dealing.
"From my perspective it was just about playing football again and that is all I want to do.
"I had no qualms about going down to MK, dropping down to League One and playing for a team that played really good, attractive football.
"That was another plus that drew me down there.”