Throughout Hyundai A-League season eight, Daniel McBreen wrote a piece of Central Coast Mariners history as he helped himself to a stunning 17 goals – including one in the Grand Final – for the Club.
Ben Ingram caught up with McBreen to see how he’s faring in his second stint in China with Shanghai SIPG, what the future holds for the affable 37-year-old, and to check whether fans can expect to see the former Falkirk front man back at Central Coast Stadium – as a fan, not a player – soon.
Here’s the chat.
Ben Ingram (BI): Shanghai SIPG are currently sitting in fifth place, two points behind fourth in the Chinese Super League. Plus your five goals and two assists, do you consider this a successful season for your club and yourself?
Daniel McBreen (DM): I have more than two assists but who's counting (laughs). But it has been a successful year as far as the club is concerned. It's only the second season in the CSL and to have now secured a top five finish - top six was targeted - it really has been a great achievement from everyone involved.
BI: Being 37, how do you keep going and your levels high?
DM: I guess it's just about managing workloads and really knowing your body. Knowing the right time to step out of training or when to do that little bit extra really does help to keep you fresh.
BI: You were a joker at the Mariners - is this a role that you’ve taken to Shanghai?
DM: (Laughs) Yeah I like to have a joke and a laugh quite a bit. Obviously the language barrier can make things a little more difficult but we still manage to have a laugh, and it's a great bunch of guys here too so that helps. Recently the local TV asked the players which players characters and my name came up quite a bit for the jokester so I guess nothing's changed.
BI: You left the Hyundai A-League with Championship, Premiership, a golden boot trophy, and a Joe Marston Medal. Was your time at the Mariners the highlight of your career? Can anything top it?
DM: It would definitely be up there. I've had some great moments over the years and fantastic times but the year we won the league at Mariners just seemed to be the perfect storm. It was a great team that had some wonderful players, a great management team who knew how to get the best from their players and just a whole feeling around the place of enjoyment. It was certainly all these factors that helped me to perform and really enjoy it.
BI: From your tweets it seems you still keep an eye on the Mariners and the Hyundai A-League. What are your thoughts on our current strike force of Mitchell Duke, Malick Mané, Nick Fitzgerald and co?
DM: Yeah I like to keep in touch with what's going on back home. It's great to see these young guys with the talent grow into the players they are. From what I've seen so far this year Fitzy (Nick Fitzgerald) is really starting to shine. Dukey (Mitchell Duke) will only get better with experience as he has all the attributes. (Malick) Mané I haven't seen too much of him but from all accounts he did well against Jets so it will be interesting to see his development.
BI: How does the Hyundai A-League compare to the Chinese Super League?
DM: The Hyundai A-League is much more physically demanding and there is much more contact. CSL has very technical players. I'd say there's a lot more structure and tactics across the board in the Hyundai A-League. In the CSL the top six teams seem well structured while the rest seem to be a lot more flexible in their approach.
BI: How do you assess the growth and development of Chinese professional football?
DM: Chinese football has massive potential to be a powerhouse in world football but there needs to be a much bigger effort put into grassroots football. There's no doubt China has the finances to bring quality coaches and players to their shores but finding the right people to implement a plan for development and the future is paramount to the success of this. Having a clear plan for growth and setting the right foundations instead of chasing immediate success will provide a better and more stable future for Chinese football.
BI: Your contract with Shanghai SIPG ends at the end of this campaign. What’s left in the professional playing career of Daniel McBreen?
DM: I’m unsure at the moment. There's big things happening with the club with reports our sponsor will be taking over the club as owner and bringing in a new, well known foreign coach. Until this is confirmed and completed contract talks are on hold. I'd still like to think I have a few years left in me. Maybe play I will play until I'm 40 if the body holds up and I'm still contributing.
BI: What will life after football look like for Daniel McBreen?
DM: I’m not too sure. Ideally it will be dropping my kids off at school, spending my time between the beach, the gym and a nice cafe or restaurant enjoying a coffee, before meeting the kids at the school gate and spending the rest of my time with them. I have a few things I'm looking into as far as business goes so it will be good to see how things pan out.
BI: You’re back in town over the coming weeks. Any chance we’ll see you supporting some old friends and teammates at Central Coast Stadium?
DM: Definitely. It will be nice to get down to the football with my son and see some familiar faces.