Exodus Geohaghon has forged a reputation as a cult hero, whilst tackling the trials and tribulations of a career in the lower leagues.
The 6’5” giant, currently on loan at Dagenham & Redbridge, sat down with Back Page Football’s Dave Wood, following a recent fixture with Millwall. The central defender spoke, candidly, about the ups and downs of his time in the game, in this exclusive interview.
Geohaghon’s schoolboy career began with West Bromwich Albion, during Brian Little’s inauspicious spell in charge of team affairs. Describing his start in football, Exodus said:
“It wasn’t really the best, to be honest. The season I was there was a time of transition and the manager hadn’t really won any games. It was just short-lived.”
At the turn of the Millenium, Geohaghon had been left to rebuild, starting from scratch at the foot of the English pyramid. He worked his way from Sutton Coldfield Town to Bromsgrove Rovers, before going on to impose himself at Redditch United.
When asked if it was always his realistic ambition to make a full-time living in football, throughout this extended grind, the multi-skilled Midlander said:
“It was at first, and then, obviously, I went into education and decided that education was going to come first and whatever happened with football would happen.”
Defying the stereotype of unintelligent footballers, Geohaghon made contingencies for his future, by studying at the University of Wolverhampton. He has fond memories of his time there, on a course that suited him well.
“They were good years. The course was more based on independent work, so I got to spend a lot of time away from Uni, doing things for myself. It gave me the opportunity to play football as well as continuing my studies.”
Geohaghon graduated, in the Summer of 2008, with a Degree in Video and Film Production. Soon after, he would receive his just reward, for eight years of Non-League graft, with a big money move to Conference club Kettering Town. The five-figure transfer fee posed no problems to the level-headed long-throw specialist.
“Obviously the manager knew me and the chairman had wanted me for a while, so it just a case of going in there and getting some games.”
Hungry for success and grasping his chance with both hands, Geohaghon quickly became the first-choice centre-back partner of, Poppies skipper, Guy Branston. Hardman Branston is, in his own right, one of the characters of the lower divisions, as Exodus attests.
“For those that know Branno, they know that he’s intense, always. The way he trains is the way he plays and, to be fair, it was a good partnership. He’d win everything and I’d mop everything up so, obviously, at Kettering, we had a solid defense, me and Branno.”
In the 2008-09 season, this partnership was the foundation on which Kettering built a successful run to the F.A. Cup 4th Round, falling only in defeat to Premier League Fulham.
One of the indellible memories of this cup run was a Geohaghon goal, during the incredible climax of a 1st Round tie with Lincoln City. Reliving the thoughts that flashed through his head, as time stood still whilst the ball dropped to him, Exodus said:
“ “Hit the target”. That’s the main thing [that I was thinking].
Obviously, that’s what I did and I managed to get myself a little goal in the F.A. Cup.”
Talented manager, Mark Cooper was the catalyst behind Kettering’s success, in league and cup, during this period.
In November 2009, Cooper moved up the divisions, to replace Darren Ferguson at Peterborough United. Following this move, Cooper was quick to bring in Geohaghon as his first signing, in a transfer that represented a major breakthrough for the Birmingham-born player.
The Posh became the second of three clubs, at which Cooper and Geohaghon would work together, and the appreciative defender speaks highly of his mentor’s managerial abilities.
“Coops is, obviously, a good manager and it’s always about the organisation.
Unfortunately, it didn’t work for him at Peterborough and then he never got that opportunity at Darlington either, at the time that I got in there.
Obviously, first and foremost, it’s about getting a solid foundation and hopefully he’ll go on to get another job.”
Sadly, Peterborough had found themselves in an impossible situation, with a lower budget than many of their 2009-10 Championship rivals.
Only two months after stepping into the big shoes that had been left by Ferguson Jr., Cooper was deposed by an incoming Jim Gannon. The period of upheaval continued and it was a matter of months before Gary Johnson would take over the reigns, with Gannon departing. The unsettled Geohaghon was placed on the transfer list, before being allowed to leave the club, in a series of loan spells. His career’s rise had been brought to an abrupt halt.
EASTER EGG: GEOHAGHON ON DELAP COMPARISONS
There’s a different kind of aspect to [Delap's throw-ins]. Obviously, he plays further up the pitch and gets about more. It’s different for me, having to come from defence, throw it and then get back.
It’s not something I really want to do anymore, if I’m honest. I just want to concentrate on doing my normal job.
In January of 2011, Geohaghon was, once again, given the opportunity to re-connect with a former coach, when Jim Gannon was appointed at, League Two, Port Vale.
However, the manager’s apparent inability to win over the Port Vale support, culminated in ugly scenes, last March. Sickening abuse, including racial slurs, was hurled at Geohaghon, by his own fans, during a 3-1 defeat at Accrington Stanley.
“It not the first time I’ve come across racism, in my career.
It was just one of those things, I was a player that Jim Gannon had brought in and the anger that was being directed at the manager ended up being directed at players that he’d brought in.
It wasn’t just me, at the time, in that incident. We had a loanee, Dom Blizzard, that came from Bristol Rovers and he had a tough time, that day, as well.
It was just a case where they wanted their boys to be playing and they weren’t, so…fans are fans and they wanted to express their feelings. Obviously, certain fans did it in the wrong way.
It’s gone now and I just want to go on and play football.”
Despite his resolve, as his career has continued, the downtrodden Geohaghon has only encountered more difficulties.
In October 2011, he linked up with Mark Cooper for the third time. Packing his life up and moving to the North-East, with non-league Darlington.
As is well-documented, at the time of writing, Darlington is a club on the verge of extinction, with administrators unable to find a buyer. A backlog of broken promises to fans, staff and players alike, lie in the Quakers’ wake. Cooper’s spell as manager was abortive and Geohaghon was amongst a group of players that elected to leave, after being asked to play for little or no pay.
Describing what the atmosphere is like, in a dressing room where players aren’t being compensated for their efforts, Geohaghon said:
“It’s hard to read. Some just want to get on with it and some it affects more than others.
For me at Darlington, it was a case of, I’d gone up there, and the Chairman knew my situation, to then spring that on me and ask me to take a pay cut was something that I couldn’t really work with, so I was pushed before I actually jumped.
It’s just one of those ones where, obviously, the boys wanted to stick it out as long as possible but, as we’ve seen, in the end, it’s a situation that’s turned out badly.”
Geohaghon was handed an apparent lifeline, via a loan move back up to League Two, with Dagenham. However, after struggling to break into the first team, with time at a premium and with the possibility of having no parent club to return to, Geohaghon is, understandably, uncertain as to what his future holds.
“With the situation that I’m in at the moment, it’s hard to say where my home’s gonna be. I’ve got another month here and then, obviously, I’ve got to look to be playing football somewhere else.
Opportunities have been limited here at the moment so, obviously, it’s frustrating for me.
I need to be playing regular games.”
The BPF team would like to wish Exodus Geohaghon all the best, as he braves the footballing wilderness.
Thanks are also due to Dave Simpson, Richard Shorey and all at the Dagenham & Redbridge F.C. Media Department, for their co-operation on this project.
Readers can visit www.daggers.co.uk for more information on the club.