EXCLUSIVE: Neil Young’s story is about never giving up on your dream. The 30-year-old Jets keeper filled us in on his elongated road to an A-League career.
First, congratulations on your form for the Jets after debuting against North Queensland Fury in round 14. Where the hell have you been all these years!?
Basically, I've been in the Perth state league playing for one team for 14 years, Sorrento. I've had a few trials around the place in Perth and Adelaide but aside from that, it's been the state league in Perth and also ten games for Melbourne Knights as well as some overseas trials.
So how have you slipped the net?
A lot to do with being in Perth, I think. The state leagues don't get much recognition.
I guess you've had to do some other jobs over the years to keep the cash coming in?
Yeah, working as a builder's labourer for companies involved in the WA mining industry - labouring jobs basically. Hard graft.
After arriving in July, what do you remember about your debut against North Queensland?
It was the best game. I was a bit nervous but other than that I've felt more and more comfortable each week. I didn't have much time to think about it. Ben [Kennedy] got injured in the warm-up and in the changing room Ange Costanzo and Michael Bridges calmed me saying you've played 100 of these games before and it's just another game. Just go out and enjoy yourselves. Making a debut against Robbie Fowler was kind of a dream come true. And he didn't score against me.
You waited so long to make your A-League debut, and suddenly you've only got a few minutes to prepare...
It was good actually because I didn't have much time to think about it.
You went to the UK for trials around 2000 and you have a passport for Europe too, how was that experience?
It was unbelievable. Completely different to over here. You eat, drink, and breathe football. I got injured while on trial but was at Bournemouth, Crewe, Luton, Bolton for a week and Charlton with Dean Kiely. It's a tough life. You get about two training sessions to see if you fit in, if not you're pushed aside. And you've got to be better than what they have over there.
To debut in the A-League aged 30 actually is not that late for a keeper...
It's a good age for a keeper. Hopefully I've got another four or five years left if I can get another contact. Experience is a good thing. To make a debut at 30 is a bit strange. My first couple of games sitting on the bench I was in awe of the players on the park. It's strange you watch them on TV and now you're out there with them. Even sitting on the bench a 300-gamer in Ange Constanzo was sitting next to me. And he's just a couple of years older than me and I'd never played one.
The Jets now sit in sixth ahead of the Gold Coast game this Sunday. What's your take on the new and improved Newy?
I think we're starting to work a lot harder for each other. The camp is bubbling and we're clicking and I think it can only get better.
Are you the number one keeper now?
Not really. Branko's got three keepers. I've got it at the moment, I've just got to try and keep it. My contract is till the end of the season.
What's the best thing about being an A-League footballer?
I guess the lifestyle. I enjoy playing football; it certainly beats labouring for a living. I've done the hard yards working. I'd like to enjoy this for the next four or five years. And it would be even better if my family was with me.
Tell me more...
My wife and kids live in Perth. It's difficult for me but probably more difficult for my wife. She's got two young boys to look after 24/7 and she works four days a week for the Government as well. It's hard, but we get by.
You must have a massive phone bill calling back to Perth all the time?
And Internet bill too with Skype. It lets my kids see me and I can see them.
So how have the Jets boys been and how do you feel you've fitted in to the camp?
I think I've fitted in pretty well. Ljubo has some friends in Perth that I know so he's sort of helped out and the other boys have too. Ljubo's a gentle giant! A good bloke and he's honest too. He'll tell you honestly what he thinks. He doesn't hold back. And he's a big cuddly bear!
And mate, I've got to ask you, 30 years ago, Neil Young was "Rockin' In the Free World" singer. Were mum and dad fans and if so, is that why you were called Neil?
Look, my dad was a big fan of Neil Young he had all the albums. Yeah, I was named after him even though I didn't know his songs. And actually now I sometimes listen to Neil Young songs. I don't mind them; sometimes I listen in the car to relax. It's not that bad music. And I even did a trial in England at Bournemouth and the full back was called Neil Young - which was rather strange.