Getting in trouble over Pikachu, being too competitive at table tennis and refusing to play a round of golf together again – that’s it for Brighton forward Ellie Brazil growing up in a football family.
Ellie’s father Gary had an 18-year career with clubs such as Newcastle, Preston and Sheffield United, and is now academy manager at Championship club Nottingham Forest, while her brother Jack is a full-time coach at Norwegian men’s club Valerenga in Oslo.
Gary may have retired in the late 1990s, but that didn’t stop him from coaching his young protégé with videos from his playing time.
However, he gave up after discovering that a collection of some of his targets was included with an episode of Pokemon.
“I have to giggle what the kids have done with things I really cherished,” Gary joked. “I had to become a Pokemon fan now because I can’t watch any of the clips anymore. Pikachu is very good for purpose!”
Even without Gary’s highlight roles for inspiration, it was clear that Ellie was talented from a young age.
She was an avid tennis player, excelled in athletics, and Gary had noticed her impressive hand-eye coordination.
“In the background she was really tormented because she had no choice to play football because of me and her brother! She would participate a lot,” Gary added.
Ellie eventually turned to football, but admitted it was probably her third choice before making a career in the Women’s Super League, while also representing England’s youth teams.
“My brother used to go out in the backyard with a load of cones and let me dribble through them,” Ellie said.
“He’d say ‘we’re going to the park today’. And I was excited when I thought we were going for a kickabout. I’d never get that – I’d get cones on the field and told I’d run from this box to that box !”
Gary always watched Ellie’s games, laughing, because she was the “best player on the field”, but admitted he had to pick his moments to give her advice.
A round of golf and competitiveness
The pride Gary has for Ellie is reciprocated.
He acted as agent for Forest several times, culminating in the 2018 FA Cup matchwedstrijd against Premier League giants Arsenal.
“That was a big moment for the whole family,” Ellie said. “Even my mother cried. It was beautiful and I am very lucky to have the family that I have.”
But would Ellie want to be coached by Gary or her brother Jack?
“We’ve always joked about this, but I told them they’re banned from getting into the women’s game. No chance. I don’t think I could play for them,” Ellie said.
“I think it would be hilarious to play against them. It’s more out of shame to be put on the bench by your father or your brother.”
Unsurprisingly, they’re all extremely competitive, too. A round of mini golf in Cyprus led to Gary and Jack running away when Ellie won.
“They couldn’t stand me. I’m pretty sure I brought my certificate to dinner,” Ellie joked.
There are similar examples in table tennis and a round of golf that resulted in Gary refusing to let Ellie play with them again after lifting the ball from 70 yards straight into the hole.
“Normally you would have jumped, but with Ellie it was like, ‘Yeah, that’s the last time you play golf with us – you can’t be good at golf either,'” Gary joked.
“It’s competitive for all of us. I don’t think we’ve ever let her play golf again.”
Injury comeback and good memories
But Gary’s experience in football has helped Ellie through a rough patch while she was recovering from a serious knee injury.
Ellie was out for 13 months before returning to Tottenham in the WSL on December 6, 2020.
“I’ve listened a lot and tried to join in. Ellie is a bubbly person and has a very positive outlook on life. This tested it a bit as she went into the unknown,” said Gary.
“I just tried to be really supportive as a parent, like her mother was. I’ve seen a lot of people come back from those injuries, but it was really weird to see your own child come back from that.”
And now that Ellie has made a full recovery, Gary says it’s a “fantastic opportunity” for her to enjoy something she loves as the women’s game continues to grow.
“It’s wonderful to see all of your kids develop and be on their journey,” he added.
“We’ve been very lucky to go to parts of the world we wouldn’t have done to see Ellie play for her country.
“Just to have those experiences, to be able to see Ellie having a great time and doing something she loves is great.”
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