Cape Town - In an exclusive interview, SuperSport United striker JEREMY BROCKIE discusses why he extended his contract, the profligacy of SA marksmen and why Jose Mourinho is the perfect fit for the Red Devils.
Sport24 asked: Since signing with SuperSport United, how have you enjoyed playing in the PSL?
Jeremy Brockie: When I first came to South Africa in 2014, it was a case of stepping into the unknown. I didn’t really know too much about the league and wasn’t sure how long it would take me to adjust to my new setting. However, my teammates made me feel very welcome from day one, and scoring goals in my first few games certainly helped. 18 months later, I’ve enjoyed a successful time in the PSL and I’m looking forward to continuing that form this season. In terms of extending my stay at SuperSport United, it was an easy decision signing a four-year contract extension. On the football side, SuperSport is an ambitious club and we want to win trophies. And away from the field, my young family and I absolutely love living in this country. The weather is amazing, the people have been accommodating and friendly and the cost of living compared with New Zealand is very cheap.
Sport24 asked: The transfer window has shut. How would you rate SuperSport United’s business?
Jeremy Brockie: We have brought in experienced players who have won championships and have national caps as well. You can’t put a price on experience. The addition of Tefu Mashamaite is very exciting. His experience and leadership will be crucial. In terms of signings, everything has been put in place by the club and it’s now up to us as players to perform, pick up the points and continue progressing as a side. We have a steady squad and we want to build on the trophies we won at the end of last season. I’m confident that we have the right mix of players in order to obtain our goals. A big part of winning football matches is how everyone gets along in the team. We don’t have any big egos at this club, which is something that we all pride ourselves on. It’s a strength within our squad.
Sport24 asked: What are your impressions of the PSL and how does it suit your own style of play?
Jeremy Brockie: The PSL is very different to other leagues I have played in. However, as a forward, the one aspect I really enjoy about the PSL is the attacking brand of football that is played. Everyone loves to attack and get themselves into goal-scoring positons. The reason I feel I have been successful thus far at SuperSport United is because I’ve been afforded plenty of chances to score goals. With the players who have been added to the team this year, I believe I will get even more opportunities to score goals. It’s up to me to ensure that I put the ball in the back of the net. Technique is something I have honed from a very young age and, during my development, I always made sure to work with both feet. These days, I see plenty of younger players who are so dominated by one foot that they forget to use the other. In the modern professional era, managers love to look at players who can shoot off both feet, unless of course you are Lionel Messi, who only needs one.
Sport24 asked: Since Stuart Baxter took over the reins, how has your role in the team changed?
Jeremy Brockie: For the majority of my career, I have played as the top striker, but since Stuart took over he moved me into a ‘Number 10’ role. It has freed me up and allows me to get more involved in matches. As a striker, there are times when you go through long periods in the game where you are not really involved. Dropping a bit deeper allows me to get on the ball more and bring others into play. I’m really enjoying the role and hopefully I can continue to get better at it the more I play. Coaches always look at whether a player can operate in more than one position and, as a forward, it’s crucial to be able to adapt to any of the four positions across the front line. I like to see myself as being a versatile player and whatever role I’m tasked with, I know I can do a good job for the team.
Sport24 asked: SA strikers have been chastised for proving wasteful in front of goal. Your take?
Jeremy Brockie: I don’t think South African strikers are wasteful in terms of missing easy chances, but rather in not taking the shooting opportunity when it’s available to them. I have found that they tend to take an extra touch or two in the box, or try to beat a further defender when there is an opportunity to strike at goal. I watch local matches on TV and get a bit frustrated when I can see that a player should have had taken a shot for goal. Instead, they decide to take on another defender and then get tackled. As a striker, I have learnt that sometimes you have to be a bit more selfish and pull the trigger when it’s on, instead of trying to make the goal look better by beating another defender.
Sport24 asked: You have been coached by two former Bafana Bafana managers in Gordon Igesund and Baxter at Matsatsantsa. How would you compare their coaching methods and philosophies?
Jeremy Brockie: Tactically, Stuart sets up the team better than Gordon did when he was at the helm. Stuart works very hard on structures and formations. Stuart has got us very well drilled, but it’s taking us a bit longer to adjust to the way he wants to play because he’s trying to feed us with more tactical information. He makes sure that us players not only know our own roles, but are aware of the opposing personnel we will come up against on match day. I’m really enjoying working under Stuart and his presence as the manager was obviously a big reason why I re-signed with SuperSport United until 2020. I am in a good place in my professional career, am enjoying my football and the opportunity to continue to develop under the boss made my decision to extend my stay pretty easy.
Sport24 asked: During your time in the PSL, who are some of the players that have impressed you?
Jeremy Brockie: There are a few players I enjoy watching in South Africa. Sundowns’ Hlompho Kekana boasts strong technical lability and he gets himself into very good goal-scoring situations for a more defensive-minded midfielder. The pair of Keagan Dolly and Khama Billiat are two other technically gifted players in the PSL. They can beat their opponents in one-on-one situations. Moreover, I’m glad to be playing with rather than against Reneilwe Letsholonyane this season. Ever since I arrived in South Africa, the former Chiefs midfielder was a player I would watch and admire.
Sport24 asked: As a Manchester United supporter what have you made of the managerial change?
Jeremy Brockie: I was pleased with the appointment of Jose Mourinho. It was the first time that I had been excited as a Manchester United fan since Sir Alex Ferguson left the club. Mourinho is a winner and has enjoyed success in a number of different leagues. He has attracted some big-name players even though the Red Devils won’t be competing in the Champions League this season. It says a lot about Mourinho as a manager and proves that Manchester United is still a big club. I think it’s safe to say that I will be much louder around the change room this year as a Manchester United supporter than during the Louis van Gaal era. Meanwhile, the clash of the “super managers” in the English Premier League will be one to savour. Pep Guardiola, Antonio Conte and Mourinho have all started the season unbeaten, which many predicted. The battle of the big names makes the league much more exciting and I will be watching with interest. Hopefully my manager comes out on top!
Sport24 asked: If you could invite four celebrities over for dinner, who would they be and why?
Jeremy Brockie: I would definitely invite David Beckham, as he was a massive idol of mine growing up. Dan Carter would also crack the nod, as he is a legend of his sport and could share plenty of his knowledge during the dinner. Sir Alex Ferguson would be my third guest of honour and he could regale us with stories from his time in charge of Manchester United. And, last but not least, I would ask my team-mate Michael Morton to come over to enjoy the evening and to cook a traditional braai.
Jean de Villiers
Ali BacherFelipe Contepomi