The veteran SuperSport United defender may be in the twilight of his career soon, but still feels he has plenty to offer Matsatsanta.
"I FEEL OUT YOUNGSTERS HAVE LOST A LITTLE BIT OF RESPECT FOR THE SENIOR PLAYERS."
Clayton Daniels never shies away from getting stuck in i with a firm tackle whenever doing duty for SuperSport United and when he opens his mouth, he speaks with the same intensity. Having made mistakes before in his career, and now the oldest player at the club, his wisdom means he is forthright and commanding. KICK OFF’s Lovemore Moyo spoke with the veteran defender, who hasn’t missed a single minute this season.
KICK OFF: You will be 36 in July. How does it feel to now be a senior statesman in the PSL?
Clayton Daniels: It is in everyone’s journey that they will reach a certain age in their careers. I am happy that I can still play and perform to the best of my abilities at the highest level in the country. It comes with a lot of responsibilities because we have a lot of youngsters nowadays in our football who get to the PSL aged 18 or 19 and they are looking up to guys like me. I am their role model and I can’t step out of the line in front of them or whenever. I must train harder than them every day and stay longer after training because I must be an example to them.
People say hard workers stay longer in the game than many of the so-called talented players, who fizzle out …
There is nothing wrong with doing extra work as youngsters for an hour or two to work on your game. I feel like our youngsters nowadays have too much pride, so much that they believe that if his friend is not doing it then he is not going to do it. I want them to look past that because extra work will always benefit you for the long run. There is also nothing wrong with carrying the posts and helping to clean the field, but I feel our youngsters have lost a little bit of respect for the senior players. Yes, we are all in the same team and in the same job but they must remember certain things that a senior player is a guy with over 10 years’ experience doing this job and you have just come in six months ago and you want to be bossing this guy because the coach told you that you are the best player at the club. I just want to tell the youngsters about the need to be humble and respect the senior players and coaches because these are people that will never lead them astray. The youngsters of today never sacrificed for the game and I say this
because when I was at Ajax Cape Town, it took me three years to buy a car worth R30,000, but nowadays they buy a GTi after signing their first contract. I’m not saying don’t buy a car, but I feel some of these things make these youngsters feel bigger in their heads thinking they have made it. We don’t want them to repeat some of the mistakes made by the generation before them. Fortunately enough, at SuperSport we have youngsters with good values and abilities to become great players one day. Guys like Teboho Mokoena, Sipho Mbule, Jamie Webber, Luke Fleurs, Jesse Donn, Oswin Appollis … they are good young players and I want them to keep their heads down.
Since turning 30 you’ve been able to keep getting stronger, maintaining an average of 32 games per season …
As you start getting older you get to see that certain things are not working for you so you must change and right now, I can feel it in my body. My attitude towards the game is better than ever, plus I am at an age where I cannot make big mistakes anymore because there will not be time to catch up. My programme for training and eating is always strict so that is the kind of professionalism that has helped me perform to the best that I can over the last few years. You cannot be having McDonalds meals three times a week and be staying up late at night. Your body needs to recuperate so it needs rest and nutrition, so that you can perform to the best of your abilities. When you are in the streets you will have the wrong crowd around you who will not help you reach your goals, but are only there for a good time. Your circle needs to be based on positive people that want the best for you and not those who will
" I AM AT AN AGE WHERE I CANNOT MAKE BIG MISTAKES ANYMORE BECAUSE THERE WILL NOT BE TIME TO CATCH UP."
only stick around when it is pay time and wanting to have a nice time. When you grow up you get to see who is good for you and who is not good for you.
How do you deal with the fact that many people are obsessed with judging players based on age, overlooking the experience factor you bring?
People are always going to say those things and as a player you must accept that people will talk. With me, if I am playing at the highest level and my coach is happy with me, I don’t care what those people say. They can say as much as they like. I don’t feel my age. If you know how I train, then you would know that I run with the 19-yearolds and they can’t keep up with me. My principle is that at times you must blo ock the outside and believe in yourself. I wwill know when to give way, but I am far from that time and I can feel it in my body that I am in shape because I trai in at the highest level with the best play yers in the country.
How beneficial was moving out ffrom Cape Town when you made the sw witch to Mamelodi Sundowns almost a ddecade ago?
If you know the reason why you are e leaving your household and you know w where you are coming from and whe re you are going, then you will succeed. I kne ew when I left Cape Town that I was goin ng to better my career and earn more mon ey than I used to get at Ajax. I knew that with all the sacrifices that I was making it wwas all for bettering my career. You can’t bbe a professional and have people wanti ing things from you, but you are still earn ing, for instance, R2,500 [per month]. I knew iit was time for me to move because I neede ed to feed my family back home since I wwas aware of my situation back home. I knew that I am from the ghetto and we were struggling, so I needed to take myself out of that life of poverty. I think my character has carried me through though. I had some challenges at Sundowns, where I felt like I didn’t play enough and moved to Bloemfontein Celtic, where I put myself on the map by proving that I am not a bad player. SuperSport then came and I have kept on pushing and trying to be a better player. I always go to training to try and improve myself.
You have played so much football this season, having featured in every minute of all 31 games in all competitions …
That is not a lot! That is still not enough for me. My character is such that I want to pplayy every y ggame,, even if it is a friendly match at training. There are timees when we play a team from the lower di visions and the coach says he will give otther players who havven’t been playing ann opportunity, but I sti ll feel bad because I also want to play those games. Hoowever, you must learn to listen too your coach about how to control yyour body.
So much is ussually said about fatigue in domesstic football …
[Cuts in] I don’t undeerstand that thing [fatigue]. I cannot be tiredd while I am still playing. You must know tthat when you do your recovery session prooperly and eat right, your body comes backk quickly and you are prepared for the nextn game. I want to play every game, wh ich is why I always want to give it all be iti at training or in a match.
Since making your deebut on that rainy Friday night on Januaryy 5, 2007 against Benoni Premier United , you have gone on to surpass 350 games, whichw is a rare feat in domestic football …
If I can play 500 or 6000 games, then I will be happy but for now I a m not. How many games did Edries Burton play? [592 games] I know it is in another ge neration but if he can do it then why cacan’t I? One of my goals is to reach those kinds of numbers for games played. I still feel like I am 25 years-old because of the way that I am pushing. Even with the national team, if there is an opening and they need me I will be available until I have retired.
Do you think defenders get little appreciation for the solid shifts that they regularly put in?
"IF YOU KNOW HOW I TRAIN, THEN YOU WOULD KNOW THAT I RUN WITH THE 19-YEAR-OLDS AND THEY CAN'T KEEP UP WITH ME."
For me as a defender, I am all about the team and not individual recognition. Those who deserve that can have it but with me if my team is doing well, I am good. I won’t say a pat on the back is wrong because it is an encouragement to keep doing well. I have never been a person who wants the glory for myself. It is not for me. Like Gavin Hunt said, ‘strikers win you games, but defenders win your titles’. I am not shy to say I am one for the team.
How has it been playing under Kaitano Tembo, seeing as he was also a centre-back like you?
We are similar in terms of character and how we do our things. I can only learn from him because he played the game before me and he is the coach now, while I am his player. I am just wanting to help him be the best coach that he can be, and we get
to have success together. He is helping me because we are both still growing in the game plus, one day, I will want to become a coach as well, so I am taking everything that he is bringing to the game.
You should enjoy being in the trophy-hunting environment provided by SuperSport United …
We all have the interests of the club at heart, from the cleaners and kitman to the coach and board, which makes it easier to be successful, rather than when you are in a space where everyone has a different mindset. We pride ourselves in our jobs and the way we play our football. Sometimes what we do is not the best on the eye, but we always finish in the top eight and win a trophy. Yes, we might come short when there is an injury to a vital player or two in the team because we then have to bring
a youngster who is going to take time to adapt, but that is normal because we don’t have the budget to buy a [Gaston] Sirino or Themba Zwane. Those are expensive players and our club doesn’t have the budget to buy those players, so we have to develop players and that is the difference for us as SuperSport in finding ourselves just a little bit short in terms of winning the league again. Even with all the young players that we have, we are still a top four team.
What has been your take on the title race this season and do you feel you are still in it?
It will take a huge miracle for us to win the league this season. Our primary goal is to get into a CAF spot in second or third because we have a squad that needs that kind of competition to grow their profiles as players.
"I HAD SOME CHALLENGES AT SUNDOWNS, WHERE I FELT LIKE I DIDN'T PLAY ENOUGH."