Cape Town - In an exclusive interview, JEREMY BROCKIE talks about his late loan move to Maritzburg United, Stuart Baxter’s resignation and whether Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should be given time at the Red Devils.
Sport24 asked: How are you settling into life at Maritzburg United?
Jeremy Brockie: I arrived on Wednesday and met my team-mates who gave me a warm welcome. On Thursday morning, I took part in my first training session with my new team. When you come to a new club, it’s always nice to see a familiar face. I will be working with Eric Tinkler again having played under him briefly at SuperSport United. Eric is a hard-working coach, is very professional and demands a lot from his players. It’s nice to be back with him and I already know his style of play and what his training sessions will be like, so I foresee myself slotting in pretty quickly… In terms of the loan deal, Eric got in touch to say the club was keen and asked what sort of shape I was in. He wanted to check out if I am still motivated to play football and I jumped at the opportunity. I worked hard on my own during pre-season to make sure that if an opportunity came up, I would be ready. My transfer went down to the wire, but we stuck in there and I signed on the dotted line just in time.
Sport24 asked: How tough was it to be side-lined at Sundowns?
Jeremy Brockie: It was very tough. Before I moved to Sundowns, I had a different vision in terms of how it was going to turn out, as did the club and probably the most of South Africa to be honest. It’s one of those things that happen not only in football, but in any professional sport. You make a move and then for all sorts of reasons it just doesn’t work out. I think the playing style was a big contributing factor and I would never want a club to adjust their style to suit one player. It was difficult, frustrating and mentally challenging. (The 31-year-old struggled at the Chloorkop-based club, scoring eight goals in 27 games). However, I stayed professional and kept working hard. I think that that is one of the reasons Sundowns president Patrice Motsepe let me go out on loan. He said that more than anyone else he wants to see me scoring goals. I’m very grateful for his allowance to get back to doing what I love. Obviously I’m not on the same scale as Alexis Sanchez, but I believe you can draw parallels between our situations. (Sanchez scored 80 goals in 166 games for Arsenal, but only netted five goals in 45 games for Manchester United). It happens all over the world where you want a move, get it and then it just doesn’t work. It has been difficult for myself and the family because I was obviously playing every week at SuperSport United. My children Piper and Oskar really enjoyed watching me on TV and then after a while being at Sundowns, my son asked me: "Daddy, why aren’t you playing?" On Tuesday I told him I would be moving to a new club and he asked who the Maritzburg United goalkeeper was because he wants to go in goal. Oskar is very excited for me.
Sport24 asked: Have you set yourself targets for the current season?
Jeremy Brockie: Firstly I’m just glad to be able to get an opportunity to work myself back into the squad. My first goal is to work hard in training and get into the starting XI whenever that happens and then when I crack the XI, make sure I do enough to stay in the team. The only way I do that is by playing well and scoring goals. Like any other striker in this league, I’m aiming for the golden boot or to be thereabouts in terms of goal-scoring charts at the end of the season. Double figures is definitely a realistic target. Team-wise, finishing 15th last season was disappointing for the club because they have consistently been in the top eight and made the Nedbank Cup final a couple season ago. Getting ourselves into a cup final and finishing in the top-8 would be pretty satisfactory.
Sport24 asked: What was your take on Stuart Baxter’s resignation?
Jeremy Brockie: I’m a big fan of Stuart and he has actually been there by my side helping me through the difficult times over the last 18 months. I’m very thankful to him for the support. In terms of Bafana Bafana, I believe he didn’t really get the credit he deserved when he was in charge of the national team, hence the reason why he probably moved on to a new challenge and opportunity. I’m sure there will be plenty of people after him and we will see where he goes next. New Bafana Bafana coach Molefi Ntseki has something to build on because Stuart laid some good foundations. There is a good mix of youth and experience in the Bafana squad and I’m looking forward to seeing how his tenure gets underway… Stuart has been around for a long time as a coach and boasts plenty of experience. He plays a little bit defensively and people weren’t happy. However, in the same breath, if the team goes on all-out attack and gets smashed 5-0 then people also won’t be happy. In terms of game philosophy, it’s about finding the right balance and I maintain that there is plenty of talent within the national team. As a coach, while you have got to allow the players to display that flair and individual skill, you still have to put some tactics and shape into play.
Sport24 asked: What do you make of Solskjaer at the United wheel?
Jeremy Brockie: As a die-hard Red Devils supporter, I’m still not quite sure. When he came into the club as caretaker manager he hit the ground running, which normally happens when a new coach comes on board with fresh ideas. However, it sort of fell apart when he got given the job on a full-time basis. However, I believe he needs to be afforded time to shape the club according to his vision. He has made a few nice signings in the off-season and, to be fair, the team is probably in a redevelopment stage. I will never give up my Manchester United colours and will keep supporting them through good and bad times. I think parting ways with Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku is better for the team collective. United have some good up-and-coming players and while you still have to have some experience around them, the aforementioned pair were taking up a lot of the wage bill and their exit gives Solskjaer a bit of room to move come the next transfer window. In terms of the title race, I think it’s pretty fair to say that Manchester City and Liverpool are streets ahead of the chasing pack. I’m looking forward to seeing how that tussle pans out this campaign. Last season, Liverpool and City went toe-to-toe. This season, both clubs have had a very good start and, as much as I don’t like to admit it as a Manchester United supporter, maybe it could well be Liverpool’s year.
Sport24 asked: Could you see yourself playing in the MLS one day?
Jeremy Brockie: I know that my football idol David Beckham will have a team in Major League Soccer (MLS) from 2020 (in the form of Inter Miami CF) and a move there would be nice (laughs). However, to be honest, after being away from the pitch for so long all I want to think about is the short-term and getting myself back on my feet and doing what I do best, which is playing football and scoring goals. Beyond this season, I don’t really know what my future holds because I’m fully committed and concentrated on Maritzburg United and trying to help them achieve their goals... From a marksman’s point of view, a striker like Zlatan Ibrahimovic is someone who absolutely inspires me. He is 37 and is still ripping it up in the MLS. You never want to put a timeframe on your career. Zlatan is still tearing up leagues and scoring goals and keeping himself in shape. I think these days if you look after your body properly and do all the right things away from the football pitch, it really allows you to extend your playing career for a few more years. Zlatan is definitely someone to look at and admire. Post-playing career, I definitely want to stay involved in football. A passion of mine is coaching children and I have a couple of football schools in Johannesburg. Coaching kids is definitely a passion project and is something I’m thinking about doing after football. I don’t think I’ll get into professional coaching, but if I can have a hand in developing future talent that would be pretty cool.
Sport24 asked: As a Kiwi are you looking forward to the World Cup?
Jeremy Brockie: Yes. I’m a big All Blacks fan and am hoping they can do the three-peat in Japan. The opening Pool B clash between the All Blacks and Springboks is going to be a big one. While it won’t decide the World Cup, all eyes will be on the encounter. In New Zealand, the All Blacks are seen as the pinnacle and growing up, like myself, you want to represent your country and you can’t get anything bigger than doing it on the world stage. I played a little bit of rugby at school, but I never tackled and stayed on the wing in order to avoid contact. I gave up the oval-shaped game pretty quickly to pursue football. The highlight of my national career was being lucky enough to represent the All Whites at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. In terms of what football can learn from rugby, the All Blacks have a very good team culture and it’s driven by the players rather than the head coach. The concept is that no one stands above anyone else and everyone is on an even keel.