Fresh from surpassing 100 appearances in all competitions for the Sky Blues, we caught up with midfielder Brandon O’Neill to look back at his time with the club so far.
100 appearances for Sydney FC, you must be pleased?
Big time pleased and proud. It’s a great achievement for me and my family and it’s a great honour to be able to represent Sydney FC over 100 times. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Sydney is my footballing home and I’m very fortunate to be able to play for this club.
Did you set yourself a target for number of appearances when you joined?
Not really. My biggest thing coming here was how can I better my career and better myself. Coming from Perth it was a huge challenge to come over to such a big state, people wise and football wise, and to make sure I succeed and do well. I think I have and I think I’ve reached that point now where I can look back at my 100 games, I’ve won trophies and individual honours, as a team we’ve won everything we can in the A-League and FFA Cup, so looking back it’s been such an enjoyable experience.
How much have you developed throughout your time at the club?
Massively. Being able to work under Arnie and Clarky and now Steve Corica is not something many footballers are lucky enough to do in this country. I’ve been able to work under all three of them now, they’re three of the best coaches I’ve ever had and they’ve been able to take my game now to a point where I’m ready to be an international and that’s down to their help and guidance. I’m grateful and honoured to play for this club and the game I have, and the biggest thing for me moving forward is continuing on the success we’ve had.
A lot of your appearances have come as a starting player, what do you put that down to?
Hard work I guess. It’s very cliché but there’s a difference between working hard and really working hard. I’ve found the key to that, especially this preseason and especially being able to cement a spot in your team week in week out. To be able to maintain a level where you’re consistently playing week in week out you have to do the small thing, not only on the pitch but off the pitch, and that’s helped me put in the performances that I have. I’m really looking forward to my next 100 appearances for Sydney FC.
There’s no easy appearance is there?
No. Whether you’re playing in the FFA Cup against Rockdale for example or in the Grand Final against Melbourne Victory and you’re stepping up to score a penalty that could win your team the Grand Final or everywhere in between, it’s not easy. Every appearance comes with a different set of challenges. I think it’s the biggest thing is whether you prepare and whether you’re mentally dialled in to be able to do your job under any circumstances. To have a successful and long career you’ve got to be doing what the other people aren’t doing and I feel like if you set that in your mind there’s nothing you can’t achieve. I’m humbled and very privileged to have played 100 games for this great club.
What’s the funniest moment you can recall from your 100 appearances?
One springs to mind. The away trip to Perth Glory where we’d won the Premiers Plate before the game in 2016/17 and it was a cool way to celebrate my first major trophy back in my home state with my family and friends in the stands. I’ll always remember in that game there was a chance, I won the ball in midfield and I was one on one with the keeper and I skied my shot, off my shin, and into the shed. I remember running back to half way and the shed was shouting “Glory reject” and I remember laughing because I thought I’ve just won a Premiers Plate here with the best club in the country and I’m getting shouted at “Glory reject”. Five minutes later the ball comes down to the edge of the box and I ended up putting that finish away and scoring and there was an awkward, deafening silence in the crowd. In terms of ironic and funny that moment stands out for me.
Finally, what moment stands out for you as your most memorable?
We’ve been lucky enough to have loads. My main two are, when I scored my first ever goal for Sydney FC in the Derby at ANZ Stadium. To score in the Derby is mental, but to score a free kick at ANZ in front of 60,000, and to make it more special my Mum, Dad and Girlfriend (now wife) flew in that morning to surprise me and watch the game, I got to run over to them pointing at them and celebrate with them. Secondly being able to take one of the winning penalties in the 2017 Grand Final. When I was walking up for it my Wife and Mum said they were crying in the stands because they were that nervous and my Dad couldn’t watch, and I just put the ball down and slotted it. To be able to experience that so young, not many people that age can say they’ve done that, so they’re my two biggest moments.