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Brennan Article


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Found a nice article profiling Brennan, including a short comment on the WCQ situation...


Sep 14, 2004

Patrick Mangion - More from this author

Norwich, a city of some 122,000, sits precariously on England's southeastern coast.

Although only a two-hour drive from the cosmopolitan flair of London, Norwich, known more for its relative isolation and relaxing pace of life, may seem worlds away.

For the most part, Norwich residents lead quiet lives, unhindered by such suburban annoyances as crime or traffic congestion.

But just about every weekend for nine months of the year, a passion burns fervently for their beloved Canaries.

For nine years, the soccer team toiled in relative obscurity in England's First Division, their loyal fans desperate for a berth in the elite premiership with the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool.

And when a strong 2003/2004 campaign saw them finish atop the division, earning a promotion to play with the best, it marked the unlikely culmination of a boyhood dream for Newmarket native Jimmy Brennan.

"I always told my parents I wanted to play professional football in England," he said during a telephone interview.

Already a 10-year veteran of England's professional soccer, make that football, ranks, the 27-year-old midfielder signed with Norwich City in 2003 following stints with Nottingham Forest and Bristol City.

A man of few words, the soft-spoken Huron Heights Secondary School alumnus offers a simple explanation as to how he was able to overcome the countless obstacles for a Canadian child determined to play in what is arguably the world's best soccer league.

"You've got to have dreams and goals, then go get it. I did whatever it took," he said.

While other young Canadian boys fell asleep in a bedroom full of hockey paraphernalia, perhaps dreaming of one day donning the familiar Maple Leaf blue and white, Mr. Brennan asked his parents for a poster of veteran English stand-out Ryan Giggs to go with the trademark gold and green Norwich City scarf proudly displayed on the wall.

The oldest of three boys, he has always enjoyed a close-knit relationship with his father, Jim Sr., a plumber, and mother Stella a hairdresser.

He still calls and asks his father's advice before signing a contract, Mrs. Brennan said at their Stonehaven home.

It came as little surprise to her that she was the first person he called after learning the team he idolized as a boy, made an offer to sign him last year.

"Norwich has always been his team, even as a kid. It was the weirdest thing," she said, proudly going through her son's collection of international soccer jerseys.

Interestingly, the team's first stadium was on Newmarket Road for five years.

His proud parents have created a chronicle of his career throughout the family's home.

They have everything from pictures of a little boy in his Newmarket soccer uniform, to clippings from the Norwich newspaper of full-page features on a confident soccer star, known for his Beckham-like hairstyle.

From the time she had to leave work early to enrol him in local youth soccer, a move that initially didn't sit well with her hockey-playing husband, Mrs. Brennan knew her son was special on the pitch.

He excelled during his teenage years, often playing against older players, eventually moving up with the Woodbridge Strikers and Canada's national soccer program.

Those closest to him knew a career in soccer could, indeed, be waiting for him but it's unlikely anyone would have thought it would happen so soon.

The initial shock quickly subsided after a 17-year-old Mr. Brennan informed his parents he would be leaving for England less than halfway through his senior year of high school in Newmarket to attend a tryout with Bristol City.

"At the airport, I told him it was a wonderful opportunity. If he made it, great. If not, he could go to school," she said.

"He looked at me and said, 'Mom, I won't be back.'"

Three weeks later, he had earned a spot with the team.

There was, of course, the expected adjustment period.

There was the time he suited up for one of his first matches against the bitter cross-town rival Bristol Rovers, with his parents in the stands cheering him on.

Hostile fans stormed on to the field in a short-lived attempt to attack Mr. Brennan's visiting club following a 1-0 victory.

Despite being an avid hockey fan, nothing could prepare a teenage rookie for such a frightening scene, he said.

On a more pleasant note, he still remembers the feeling of receiving his first paycheque.

The hours of incessantly booting a soccer ball against a wall, honing his skills and the numerous sacrifices from a normal teenage life had, in an instant, paid off.

"It was like winning the lottery," he said.

Despite of the insistence of a reporter, Mr. Brennan simply concedes his annual salary today consists of six figures.

Converted from English pounds to Canadian dollars, it's safe to say the beautiful game has made Mr. Brennan comfortable.

"I'm set for life," he said, his voice suggesting gratitude rather than conceit.

As with any professional athlete, he affords himself of certain luxuries, however.

Still three years shy of his 30th birthday, he drives a Mercedes and owns several properties, including homes in England and a villa being built on the southern coast of Spain.

But, he insists, he lives a conservative lifestyle, one he learned from his parents.

In fact, he still comes home to Newmarket every summer and joins his two younger brothers at the family home in his own room.

The door remains open, where a bed and some furniture take up most of the room.

A framed collection of photographs of him with Canada's national team centres the main wall.

Beside it, a small, simple frame without glass houses his prized championship medal from Canada's unlikely 2000 Gold Cup victory.

Despite his overseas success and English accent, Mr. Brennan still lists that underdog victory as his crowning achievement thus far.

He has cherished the opportunity to represent Canada in World Cup qualifying matches in recent years so you can imagine his disappointment when officials with Canada's national team left him off the team following this summer's losses to Guatemala and Costa Rica.

"I guess they wanted to go in a different direction," a diplomatic Mr. Brennan said, confident he has not played his last game for Canada.

As for the medal, it may come with him when he moves next summer, following his first full season in the premiership with Norwich City.

A soon-to-be completed penthouse in downtown Toronto will be his new off-season Canadian home.

His magnetic personality and infectious sense of humour will be missed around the Brennan family home.

"It's going to be weird not having him around here next summer," his mother said.


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quote:Originally posted by rdroze

A framed collection of photographs of him with Canada's national team centres the main wall.

Kinda like that part best.

This fellow realy got into the meat of it didn't he? Guess JB dose stand out as a bit of an oddity. Born, bred, and raised in Canada but he somehow found the quality to win his way into the English game despite all the disadvantages.

Good articule. Nice of JB to let the fellow in as it were. Wouldn't see that from a lot of sports pro's.

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