The ‘brutal’ side of the beautiful game
Peter Masters, who owns a caravan park. Panzer and fellow Kiwi Zane Sole got put up in one of those caravans.
‘‘Zane and I have a laugh about it now,’’ Panzer said.
‘‘Every club has their different ways of housing their people. For two Kiwi guys trying to crack it in England, thinking we might have a chance, we were up for anything.’’
Aside from the housing situation, the football wasn’t of a very high standard. The club trained twice a week at a level akin to most winter league teams in New Zealand, Panzer said.
The one saving grace was having former All White Rory Fallon as a player/assistant coach. He stayed behind to do extra sessions with the Kiwi lads, but was sacked in January and gametime quickly disappeared for Panzer.
Panzer puts the experience in the ‘‘character-building’’ category, saying it was an eye-opener into the ‘‘brutal’’ world of football.
‘‘It wasn’t developmental in terms of football, but in terms of the other aspects of learning about the grind and learning about the system and how professional football is and the brutal world of it, that was how you learned.
‘‘It’s been difficult. It’s been a rollercoaster and I’ve learnt a lot. I wasn’t ready at all. I wasn’t ready for professional football.
‘‘One of the reasons was because my university coaches didn’t really prepare me as well as they could’ve, but also I didn’t prepare myself as well as I could’ve.’’
From Truro, he went to Bridges FC in Chicago (he holds both a New Zealand and United States passport), which is an organisation that helps develop players and prepare them for professional football.
Training twice a day for four months served him well and he earned a spot on their touring squad to Scandinavia.
That led to a trial with Nordva¨rmlands FF in the Swedish Division 2 (fourth-tier), where he played until his visa ran out on October 2. The following week he returned to New Zealand to join Team Wellington, having been in contact with their coach, Jose Figueira, since February about a potential move back to New Zealand.
With what he has experienced this year, he warned other young Kiwis to be ready for a hard grind as they pursue their professional dream.
‘‘All these young guys in New Zealand, they might be the top of the crop here, but what is that? That’s nothing.
‘‘You know, that’s nothing against New Zealand at all, but it’s not until you go overseas and try your luck in that environment and see what it’s really like ... nothing is handed to you. That’s the biggest thing. Over here, a lot of things are handed to you if you’re good.
‘‘You see with a lot of guys, they kind of get half-breaks over there at a decent level, but are you able to sustain it and keep going, or are you going to give in to the smallminded, Kiwi mentality and come back to the small pond and be a big fish?’’
So is that what Panzer is doing now, coming back to be a big fish?
‘‘That’s not at all what I’m trying to do. I’m looking to continue to develop and grow. I’ve been overseas and hit a few dead ends and speed bumps with visa issues, or a lack of a visa, and a lack of opportunities.
‘‘So to get the chance to come to a place where the coach wants you, he wants to bring you in, he wants you board, that’s very attractive to any player.
‘‘Also, the mentality and the way Jose has Team Wellington functioning is something very attractive. The way he wants us to play this season and the purpose behind it all is something I haven’t been given the opportunity to have over the last two years.’’
Panzer should slot in well as a replacement for Bill Robertson in Team Wellington’s back three this season, should they look to play that way again.
His first test will come this Sunday when the team takes on Auckland City in the Charity Cup at David Farrington Park in Wellington, which doubles as both teams’ first game of the ISPS Handa Premiership. The season proper starts with a full round the following weekend.
"It's been a rollercoaster and I've learnt a lot. I wasn't ready at all. I wasn't ready for professional football." Erik Panzer
New Team Wellington football team signing Erik Panzer has opened up on the brutal world of football.