Aussies abroad special: ‘My first six months in English football’

Comfort zone or challenge yourself? It’s a question all of us have asked ourselves at some point. Millwall’s teenage Aussie striker Kristian Brymora opted for the latter.

Unless you’re a Newcastle Jets fan, you may never have heard of Brymora.

A teenage striker on the fringes of the Jets A-League squad last season, the local boy had a comfortable life in his sunny hometown located two hours north of Sydney.

Family; friends; football; beaches... a good life. But he knew he had to push himself. He knew there was more out there to challenge himself.

So Brymora's agent Joel Grenell set up trials in the UK, he bought a one-way ticket and in late June landed in England.

His European passport (Polish background) helped, as he trialed with Watford and trained with Bromley.

But he was soon trying out at Championship club Millwall – and after hitting the net in trial games, the former Jet subsequently signed a six-month contract with their U-23 side in the Professional Development League.

Last week, Brymora signed a six-month contract extension with the London outfit; the same club where Tim Cahill began his own football adventure - likewise Lucas Neill.

Here the 19-year-old Aussie reflects on six months as an “Aussie Abroad”...

Kristian Brymora, in his own words...

Don’t get me wrong it has been tough being away from home, I don’t have my parents here, though they are always a phone call away.

There is another Aussie here at Millwall, James Meredith, so we have gotten to know each other really well, I feel like a little brother to him.

It’s great having someone to fall back on; we’ll go out for lunch or coffee after training.

I have played against teams you watch on TV and even some ex-EPL players so it’s a big thing for me.

You walk into these games in a tunnel and you know there will be a couple of ex-Prem guys and all of a sudden you have come against some great footballers.

So it’s just the experience of being around footballers who have played at the highest level, it’s just an eye-opener to show that it’s possible for someone like myself and young footballers.

We recently played QPR and one of their players was on loan at Liverpool a while back. He had played in the Prem for Liverpool!

We play a game a week, usually on Mondays. I play as a striker, up top in a 4-4-2.

I have played week in week out. And there are first-team boys that drop back, so it’s an environment where we are competing for our positions as well and that’s what has also probably made me a better player.

We have been doing a lot of extras like finishing and hold up play.

The set up here at Millwall is unbelievable and it’s just something that a young footballer thrives off. So, it’s getting games for myself and that’s what’s really improving me and also constant training and coaching.

The past couple of months it has been very physical. I have played a couple of games just looking at some of the boys we play against and just go “oh wow”! It is a very, very physical league. But you adapt to the circumstances in which you are in.

Within the first couple weeks being here it was kind of like “okay what’s going on?” how do you adapt and play in your spot.

And as time has gone by I have played a couple of games, banged a couple of goals and you get your confidence and begin to understand the game a little more and what you are playing around.

In England here you have Prem 1, Prem 2 and then there is Cat 1, Cat 2.

In your Prem 1 that’s where you have Liverpool, Man City, Chelsea and Prem 2 has teams like Swansea and Brighton.

Then Cat 1 is kind of like the Championship so that involves my club, Leeds, Crystal Palace is in there, Watford, Bristol, Ipswich.

My U-23s coach Kevin Nugent has been phenomenal. Coaching wise but also aspects of my living he has understood I’m so far away from home and there is a lot to it being here.

I live in Farnborough. I live in “digs” which basically means I get put up by the club with another family.

I live with the goalkeeper for Millwall U-23s.

You get your own room, can do your own washing of clothes... it’s great.

When you are living right I feel as though your football is going to follow quite nicely.

At Millwall, I have had a lot of one on one coaching with my U-23s coach and also stepping up in with some of the first team as well. For me, it is ideal to learn.

It was kind of just a leap of faith coming here and at least knowing that if I had a chance or had an opportunity I would try my best to take it.

And that’s what I don’t regret and being really thankful to do something like this.

I have played in a lot of stadiums here already across England. In all honesty, I love playing at The Den, Millwall’s home ground; there just isn’t anything that feels like it.

Just the atmosphere of being there is just something I have never come across, something that you never see in football except at a place like this.

I don’t think you can compare the standard because English football in comparison to Australian football is quite different, in terms of physicality perspective and the rhythm of play.

I grew up playing Australian football in the academies so I think I understood it quite well when I was there but coming here it was a bit of an eye-opener as to how they play over here.

You watch it on TV but it’s totally different once you are amongst it all, once you’re playing amongst it all and actually do what you have seen it’s an amazing thing and the levels between, they are two different levels of comparison.

Football over here is much broader there is so much more foundation to it and I feel like it’s a platform and an amazing platform whether that’s England or anywhere around Europe, it’s a platform for young players to grow.

It was a big step but I have no regrets about the opportunity that was given to me and I knew my parents had my back. My whole family is proud of me following my dreams.

Even in terms of living, learning to take care of yourself, I think I have definitely grown up since moving here.

I have really enjoyed it growing up, and being in a city like London... a lively city but also in terms of football I have grown up understanding a bit more of the game.

I’ve seen a lot of Championship football and Premier League games since I moved here and I think just my overall understanding has gotten better.

You go from your everyday life in Australia of training, catching up with mates, you go to the beach and its sunny and warm and then you come over here and there is an abundance of people, traffic everywhere people moving everywhere, so it was a massive culture shock for me.

I was a bit overwhelmed when I first came, but I am loving it at the moment and you just start to get in the flow of things.

You wouldn’t think a 19-year-old from Australia would get to experience this and when you’re living it first-hand you don’t look back.

I signed another six-month deal which is amazing, but in two years I’m not sure, I don’t know where I will be but I know I will be here in Europe.

I will visit home in the off season breaks, but I know that I want to continue my football here in Europe whether that is England or in another country where it’s best for me to stay here.

To have an opportunity here is something not many footballers can do from Australia.

I've just got to take full advantage of that and become the best footballer I can.

Kristian Brymora