Published: 06:00, 08 October 2021
Kennington striker Gary Lockyer puts his prolific form down to his "obsession" with running.
Lockyer made a conscious decision to get fit after returning from Australia at the end of 2019.
And the 28-year-old, who made his debut in senior football for Ramsgate aged just 16, hasn’t looked back since.
He had 15 goals in 12 games when last season’s Southern Counties East Division 1 campaign was cut short by Covid.
Ton’s step up to the Premier Division hasn’t slowed him down, with Lockyer sitting on 13 goals in 14 league and cup matches.
He scored his second hat-trick in three weeks as Dan Scorer’s side won 5-3 at Rusthall on Saturday and struck twice in a 3-3 draw against former club Hollands & Blair on Tuesday night.
“I’ve just got a lot fitter, that’s all it is,” said Lockyer, a product of the Billy Bone Academy.
“I went away to Australia for a month and came back quite heavy and it really played with my mind and affected my performances.
“I decided to get myself fit so after Boxing Day I went out and started running.
“I’ve done marathons, duathlons, it turned into a bit of an obsession.
“I’ve cut back a bit because I have a problem with my feet, Morton’s neuroma, which affects the nerves between the toes every time I go over five or six miles.
“It’s like a shooting pain into the toes but I don’t get it playing football where that’s more stop-start.
“I was fit when I was a kid but growing up you have kids and other obstacles in your life and your fitness takes a backwards step.
“So does football sometimes, because there’s more important things, which is bad to say when you’ve committed so much of your life to it, but getting fit again has helped a lot.
“I’ve always been good with my movement but, having the fitness, now I can use it.
“My head’s telling me to do something and now my body can do it, and it’s really shown.
“I had 15 in 12 before last season was cut short and this year 13 in 14, which isn’t bad.
“I did set a target of 15 by Christmas but I’d like to push for 20 now.”
Kennington have taken to life in the Premier Division, sitting 10th after 11 matches and suffering just three defeats.
Only leaders Glebe have scored more goals - 29 to Ton’s 27 - helped by Lockyer’s fine form.
He said: “I’ve always felt I could play at this level and I believe one or two above but I’m settled where I am.
“Kennington’s a very good club, Dan’s a good manager and the people behind the scenes do a really good job.
“Nobody’s tried to tempt me away, which is good because then you haven’t got to make a difficult decision.
“Never say never but I’m happy here and it shows in my football.
“The grass isn’t always greener.
“When you’re younger you look at the money situation and that comes into it.
“But none of us get paid here, we’re here for the right reasons and I think my favourite seasons are when you know you haven’t got the pressure of being paid and worrying about justifying your money.
"It’s a bit more relaxed without that.
“We’re here to enjoy our football. I pride myself on scoring goals and sometimes if we win and I haven’t scored I’m annoyed but as you get older and more mature it’s all about the three points.”
Lockyer’s breakthrough season at Ramsgate led to trials with Crystal Palace and Charlton.
His talent was never in doubt but the move to full-time football eluded him and he settled into the non-league game with spells at Blair, Ashford, Bromley Green and Lydd before joining Kennington’s rise through the divisions.
“There’s going to be regrets when you look back,” said Lockyer. “I had a bit of a temper, I couldn’t control my passion, and I don’t think that helped.
“You’ve also got to have a bit of luck and someone to believe in you, and I probably didn’t have that.
“When you go into the non-league system you have to grow up a bit quick.
“I remember going to Ramsgate, I had a good pre-season and didn’t even make the squad for the first three games. I turned round to my dad at 16 and said, ‘What’s this all about?’
"I didn’t care about the money, I just wanted to play football.
"Where I went into men’s football I skipped the under-16s, 17s and 18s and I probably regret that, because that could have led to different options.
“You think you’re going to play football because you’ve joined a non-league club who were well established in Ryman South back then.
“It was a case of ‘Right, I’ve got an opportunity to test myself for a couple of years and hopefully push up the leagues’ but I’ve still done a lot in my footballing career and I’m happy with that.”
Kennington host Crowborough at Homelands this Saturday.
* Ton are looking for a new media manager to help with the ongoing promotion of the club, including social media, videography, website, and matchday programme. Anyone interested should contact Simon Jasinski on email@example.com.