Former Swindon Town defender and Wales Under 21 international Aaron Oakley made his Royal Wootton Bassett Town first team debut on Saturday, marking his return to the club where he started his career as a youth.
Although his presence could do little to prevent Bassett from suffering a hugely disappointing 3-2 defeat at the hands of Cirencester Town Development in the Bluefin Sports Challenge Cup third round, Oakley’s performance was a positive one, with the towering central defender making a handful of important tackles and demonstrating great comfort on the ball.
Dual-signed with Southern League Division One West side Swindon Supermarine, Oakley will potentially be available to Bassett boss Paul Braithwaite for the remainder of the season as the 21-year-old seeks to gain match practice having been cruelly beset by injuries over the past couple of years.
Oakley started out with Bassett as a member of the hugely successful youth side that also included Josh Shama, who spent a number of years with Reading before earning a professional deal with Oxford United. His talents were obvious from an early age, and Oakley was soon snapped up by Swindon. He progressed through the ranks with the Robins, becoming a Welsh youth international along the way as he featured for the Dragons’ Under 16s and Under 19s sides.
While still an apprentice with the Robins, Oakley was frequently included in the first team squad, with his first inclusion coming under then-manager Paolo di Canio in October 2012. He was also elevated to the Wales Under 21 squad, making his debut in a 3-0 victory against Iceland in February 2013. Oakley was then rewarded by Town with a one-year professional deal in June 2013.
However, a foot injury prevented him from making his first team breakthrough and a pair of loan spells at Chippenham Town followed before his release from Swindon in the summer of 2014. That summer Oakley signed with Southern League Frome Town before moving to Swindon Supermarine. Throughout his time there he has unfortunately continued to be plagued by injury, leading to the decision to sign for Bassett to get some match experience under his belt.
Bassett are delighted to have Oakley among their ranks, and it is hoped his second spell with the club will be a mutually beneficial one. To have the quality offered by a Welsh youth international who only a couple of years ago was set to break into Swindon’s League One side is a great boost to manager Braithwaite’s squad.
Meanwhile, for Oakley hopefully the minutes the defender racks up will serve him in good stead as he seeks to first return to full fitness and then re-establish his career higher up the pyramid, and possibly even back in the professional game.