My First Club - Brett Emerton

Qantas Socceroo midfielder Brett Emerton talks to about his first professional club.

BRETT EMERTON (Blackburn Rovers)

Former clubs: Campbelltown Gunners, Macarthur Rams, NSW Academy, Marconi, AIS, Sydney Olympic, Feyenoord (Holl)

WHEN the never-ending debate about what age should a player head overseas arises, Brett Emerton-s name invariably pops up.

It is brought up by those who argue that a player is better served doing his apprenticeship domestically, before heading overseas only when he is ready to challenge for a first team place in one of the better leagues.

Perhaps there is no better example than Emerton, who made his National Soccer League debut in August 1996 for Sydney Olympic.

“There were earlier offers to go overseas, but mentally I wasn-t prepared to go overseas at the time to be honest,-- said Emerton, who is embarking on his sixth season with English Premier League side Blackburn Rovers.

“Obviously your parents have some influence but at the end of the day it was my decision.

“The reason I stayed in Australia that long was that I don-t think mentally I was ready to make the step to move overseas and that-s probably a mistake a lot of young kids make.

“I am delighted I stayed with Olympic as long as I did and plied my trade in Australia until I was ready to make the move. And it-s been a good career ever since.

“Look, had I gone a year or two earlier it might have worked out, but mentally it-s a tough step to make.

“And I thought if I waited a year or two longer I would have a better chance of making it as a person and as a players and that-s why I decided to stay.--

And when he finally was ready to leave, Dutch giants Feyenoord saw fit to pay just over $1m for ‘Emmo-, a substantial sum of money for an Australian club.

After four seasons, 93 games and 16 goals in the NSL, Emerton was more than ready for the rough and tumble of European football.

“The national league was a big step up for me, I was 17 at the time and playing for a reasonably big club like Sydney Olympic, it was a dream come true,-- he said.

“I-ve got some great memories, I had four really good years there and left just before the Olympics.

“There were still some players who were full time, some were part time working other jobs.

“It was a big step for me and I had a lot of respect for the players, a lot of whom I-d grown up admiring.

“When I was younger I admired players like Steve Corica, I always enjoyed watching him play.

“As far as Sydney Olympic was concerned there was Peter Tsekenis, Kimon Taliadoros and (Gabriel) ‘Cici- Mendez who I looked up to.--

After captaining the Olyroos at the 2000 Olympics, it took Emerton no time to crack Feyenoord-s first team.

“I pretty much broke straight in. I had an opportunity as soon as I got there,-- he recalled.

“There was an injury within the team and my first game was against FC Twente. I played well and never looked back.--