Clay­ton Daniels

Kick Off - - INSIDE -

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."

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