Tim Brown: Being a footballer a dream job
All Whites and Phoenix vice-captain Tim Brown is retiring from football at the end of the A-League season, to study a masters degree in management at either the London School of Economics or Cambridge University. He talks to Fred Woodcock about the decision that stunned his team-mates and football fans.
Q: This comes as a shock to most people. What's your reasoning?
A: This opportunity came up unexpectedly and I decided if I didn't do it now I might never do it. I'm 31. In saying that it was hugely difficult to walk away from the All Whites and Phoenix and a lot of good people.
Q: Were you still enjoying your football?
A: Absolutely. You get to go to work everyday – sometimes in a southerly at Newtown Park, I'll give you that, and that's not so much fun – but you get to play football for a living and travel the world.
Q: You didn't play at the 2010 World Cup because of injury. With Brazil 2014 just around the corner, it must have been tempting to hang on for another two years?
A: It's a long road and I didn't quite feel I could completely go through with that. It would have been an injustice to other people.
Q: What about the Phoenix? Three successive finals appearances, things are going well. Tough to leave?
A: None of it is easy. I've got my dream job, you know. But at the same time I sort of feel I've taken it as far as I could have. I'm immensely proud of what the team has achieved and hopefully can still achieve this season. More than anything else, they're really good mates. Some of the best mates I've ever had. It's a bloody scary decision but I feel very happy with it.
Q: How did your team-mates react when you told them?
A: They were shocked. I told them straight after that game in Melbourne last week at the team dinner. It turned quite emotional, I didn't think it would, but there were a few tears. I guess I was humbled by the overwhelmingly supportive reaction from everyone.
Q: Will there be tears at Westpac Stadium on Friday (against Sydney)?
A: Maybe. There will be tears in my eyes if we don't play well, how's that?
Q: Any regrets?
A: I think there is plenty of time for regrets. At the moment there is still everything to play for. You don't want to believe in fairytales but it would be a helluva lot better going out having won an A-League championship.
A: It's difficult. There'll be plenty of time to dwell after I'm done. Hopefully Friday's a highlight, and the next game's a highlight. I think the group I'm part of at the moment is pretty special and probably the closest team I've been a part of. It's a bad answer, but hopefully the best bits are ahead.
A: You always set high standards for yourself personally, so there's always things you could've done better. I'm thinking about that this week, too, what I can do better.
Q: How would you like to be remembered?
A: It's not an easy one but I'd like to think I may be remembered for never taking things for granted, on and off the field, whether it be training at Newtown in a southerly or the guy who comes up to you at the supermarket on a Monday night and wants to critique your performance when you haven't had the best game. I'm doing a job many people would give their left arm for. Maybe it's not always been good enough, but I've never left anything in the tank.
Q: And you've made a lot of contributions off the field, too, in terms of charity work and also helping to market the All Whites' World Cup qualifying match against Bahrain.
A: Look, there is a lot of good stuff and Bahrain was a huge night, but more than anything else, you look back at some things and being the best man at Siggy's [Ben Sigmund's] wedding a year ago, and that was right up there. It's about the mates you make and I've been lucky. It'll be hard to replicate in the real world.
Q: Given the closeness of the team and your standing in it, I imagine the Phoenix are keen to put on an especially good showing for you on Friday?
A: That might be a small part of it. Things have tapered off a bit over the last few weeks and we've worked so hard, it would be such a shame if we went down without a fight. I think we've got a good late run left in us. In many respects we've exceeded expectations but the danger is we think what we've done is acceptable.
AT A GLANCE
Name: Tim Brown
Born: Congleton, England
Home town: Wellington
Position: Central midfielder
Educated: Wellington College, University of Cincinnati (USA)
Professional teams: Richmond Kickers (USA), Newcastle Jets, Wellington Phoenix
All Whites internationals: 30
Phoenix matches: 110
Phoenix goals: 22