Wingate midfielder Rifat praises the club despite breaking appearance record
- Credit: Archant
Wingate & Finchley’s Ahmet Rifat says breaking the all-time club appearance record after 14 seasons at Summers Lane is a ‘good achievement’, yet the midfield general who isn’t one to take the limelight, gave full credit to the north Londoners for his longevity.
History came to fruition during Wingate & Finchley's super-six over Edgware Town in the Middlesex Senior Cup when the former England youth international surpassed another legendary Blue - Marc Weatherstone - to achieve the 460 appearances milestone.
The hosts shot themselves into a 3-0 lead before Rifat was given his due diligence - a decision which proved fruitful, as he played an active part in two out of the three goals which found its way into the Wares' net thereafter.
"It's a big achievement; everyone keeps telling me!" said Rifat. "I'm happy that I've got to this stage with one club. It's not easy to find somewhere you feel comfortable, wanted and everyone respects you - even to the point where I've made lots of lifelong friends here at Wingate.
"When you're playing at this level, you get a little bit of pocket money, but it's not about that. I've met Marc Weatherstone, he's the closest friend - and that's come from football.
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"I've met lots of other great people like Aron Sharpe. He's the Chairman, but to me first and foremost, he's a friend and a friend of the family. Being here for 460 games is a good achievement, but I'd like to say that everything else that's come with that is more important than the actual games.
"I would like to say thank you for all the support that I have been given over the years, through the good and bad.
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"I know the fans and the club pull their hair out when I do something a bit mad and play on the fine line like I do at times!
"Onwards and upwards this season and we hope to turn the performances that we've been putting in into wins in the coming weeks."
An ever hard-man on the pitch, but away from the white lines Rifat's humble character shines through.
And he couldn't shower the club with enough praise for not only memories achieved on the pitch - most notably being part of the famous treble winning 2010/11 squad - but also pointing to the supportive nature of the club and the life-long friends he's grown to know as the overriding takeaway.
"It's maybe because of the amount of games I've missed - I can play a little bit longer!" he continued.
"It's a nice place to be, I feel wanted and I want to be here. The club makes me feel special and personally, it doesn't get any better being here - it's perfect. It's not far from my house; I'm not a Finchley boy, but I'm from Islington which is just down the road.
"When players come here, they give back to the fans and will spend time with them after in the bar.
"You get to build relationships because there's not so many people - it feels that little bit extra special. Rob Laney had a great relationship with the fans and before that, David Laird.
"When you give that little bit back to the people that come, it's appreciated, and you get to see that. It's what keeps the small fan base that we do have coming back.
"Everyone knows each other and I know there are kids out there who watch us and through coming here, they become friends of the club."
As alluded to, Rifat garners respect from every member of the squad which was evident particularly on Tuesday night.
And there was no pretentious attitude from the technically-gifted leader after placing his team-mates ahead of his own personal success on numerous occasions.
"The first one, my tackle that fell to Tanasheh (Abrahams), was a bit of a touch-tackle - football people know what that is!" he finished.
"As for the assist, I've been playing those passes this year for Tage (Alphanso Kennedy) and he makes it easy for me with those types of runs.
"We have a good relationship; I don't even have to look, I just know he's going to do it and he probably feels the same.
"It was good to get an assist, especially on an occasion like today (Tuesday).
"There was a penalty that people wanted me to take, but at the end of the day, Roman (Michael-Percil) - who hasn't scored for the club - needed that more than I did.
"Even if he wasn't on the pitch, Eoin (McKeown) was on a hat-trick and I wouldn't have taken it away from either of them.
"It's not in my nature to do that and at the end of the day, it's not all about me.
"I'm one of the older players and the group we have now listen when either myself, or 'Gorey' (Shane Gore) speaks.
"They are a good bunch; they make it easy and maybe it's through performances and showing them that you can still do it.
"You have to gain respect, they won't just give it to you - it doesn't matter who you are.
"I hope that I have that respect - I feel that I do! Everyone respects each other; we might have our little arguments, but that stays within the changing room.
"When we're on the field, it shows that we stick together - especially in the last few weeks. You can see a difference in performances, fight and desire."