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Q&A: Getting in decent with Daniel Bruce

As I’m warming up I like to watch goals on YouTube. I like to just pick a striker; Aguerro, Suarez, Chicharito, all the great strikers just hitting the back of the net for 5-10 minutes, give myself a bit of confidence.

By Seth Biddulph | Photo: Adam Nish

If you didn’t know where you were headed, you would never even know you were nearing the United training grounds. Set away from the hustle of the city, and prying eyes, the club’s training facility is well hidden. The only discerning marks; the club crest on the main entrance doors.

I was lucky enough to be able to head down to the training center just before the Cardiff City match for a chance to talk to Daniel Bruce. As I walked in there were a few other outlets there waiting to talk to players and I was greeted by Jessica Campbell, the club’s Public Relations Assistant. I wasn’t surprised when she told me that Bruce had been one of the most popular requests for the week. As the various outlets waited players drifted in and out of the showers, grabbed lunch, and to my surprise Head Coach and Technical Director Troy Lesesne was walking around passing out cookies to those of us in the lobby.

Not what you would typically expect from the coach of a professional sports team.

Daniel finally came out and we found a place to sit, a pair of Gatorade coolers off in the corner. It was one of those scenes that makes you feel like you’re back in school, just hanging out in the locker room. The thing about it was that for a guy like Bruce, it only seemed natural. I honestly don’t think I would have had it any other way.

As other players and outlets milled around behind us, I sat down with quite possibly one of the most gracious people I’ve ever met. The newest USL Championship Goal of the Month winner didn’t mince words either.

What’s been the biggest transition for you coming from England to Charlotte and now here in Albuquerque?

DB: I will say this, wherever I’ve gone, the people have been so welcoming and so homely and inviting us in and helping us out. I feel so fortunate to be a part of the clubs that I have. At UNC-Charlotte was a place where I grew as a player and a man over the four and a half years I was there. It was a time that my game altered and changed and there were tough times. Coming here to Albuquerque, the team here, the guys it’s a fantastic setup. There’s nothing really that is that difficult about transitioning apart from obviously not seeing my family.

I have to ask, we talked about you transitioning to here in Albuquerque, other than your family, what is something that you miss? Any sort of food you miss?

DBL: Obviously I miss my family and my mates. I love England, but it’s because of the people that I knew that I love it. The things that we do. Me and my mates we would literally play footie in one lad’s backyard then move to the next guys’ house and play footie in his backyard then have food and just play until two in the morning. It’s just those kinds of moments, times and memories that you share with those people in England, the bond that we have, the jokes and nothing is too serious between the guys makes it all the more special. I miss that greatly.I don’t know about the food. I like English food, but I think in England it’s a blander palate than it is here.

Let me ask you about this then, red or green?

DB: I’m not well versed in it. I’ve had more green than red, so I’ll have to say green

How big is it for you to get an opportunity to play against one of the premier clubs in England?

DB: Nothing short of a dream come true. As a young man in England you grow up watching these teams and watching the interviews and these managers like Neil Warnock and these players. Even in the last twelve months I don’t think I could have ever dreamt of playing against a premier league team. You see these guys and it’s almost a step too far to the dream when you play against them. You watch them and hope maybe somehow train with these guys at some point in your life or have some interaction. But to actually be on the field and compete and play against them and match yourself against a premier league or championship standard football player is honestly something that it’s really hard to describe.

That’s something I’ve admired about the Premier League and other larger leagues around the world, the community around the clubs, compared to here, what’s that been like for you growing up around the fans there to what’s going on here?

DB: It’s not all that dissimilar with Albuquerque. There’s such a buzz about this team. I will say the biggest difference is over here you go to a game and it’s a nice day out. You have some food, maybe a few drinks, you go to a game with your mates and your family. Win, lose, or draw it’s a nice day out. In England, you have to win. You have to win. It’s not about having a nice day out. It’s good fun, but it’s all about winning. If your team wins, it’s a good thing and a bad thing that these towns are just so obsessed with it. When you win people treat their wives well, their families well, the kids have a great week, they go to work and work hard. there’s just such a buzz. It’s just turned on its head when the teams lose. There’s a drag around town. When Liverpool lost the champions league final two years ago, there was just such an overwhelming depression about the place. Compare that to this year, there’s a buzz in the atmosphere.

When it comes to match day, what is your preparation like? Do you have any superstitions or anything?

DB: No superstitions. I feel if it goes wrong, then I feel like I’ll have a bad game. that just not the game that I play. I like to think that if you work hard in the week leading up to it and you do things right then you’ll play well. I do like routine though. I like to be in the gym and get my body moving a bit. Usually game day is on Saturday, so I’ll get up early and without a doubt watch all the games on NBC that I can. I’ll eat my breakfast, drink my coffee, and I will watch those games and highlights and re-watch them, that’s one of the greatest things. I really enjoy that. Then usually in the afternoon I’ll put my legs up and turn off the lights in my room for an hour or an hour and a half. then as I’m warming up, I like to watch goals on YouTube. I like to just pick a striker; Aguerro, Suarez, Chicharito, all the great strikers just hitting the back of the net for 5-10 minutes, give myself a bit of confidence. They make it look so easy, literally you think about stuff, but it’s just put the ball in the back of the net.

Looking at how the club prepares, Troy has gone on record before saying that no one likes going up against you, that you’re one of the toughest guys out there. I want to put the same question to you, who on the club has challenged you the most or who have you learned the most from?

DB: Great question! I would say that one of my strengths is battling. I learned that from my dad, being tough and playing with your heart and running.

At this point we had a visit from Daelynn from Somos Unidos News. I invited her to ask Daniel a question to which she replied that she wasn’t interviewing him that day. Daniel took it all in stride joking that maybe someday he’d be up to her standard for an interview.

DB: and running and being that nuisance on the field. something that I think was missing from my game was having the composure and being able to play the game and retain possession. That was something that was lacking in my game and needed to be sharpened. I think watching guys like Juan Pablo (Guzman) and David Estrada, players who retain possession so well. I think the fact that I can play against and with those players and just watch them and see how they see passes before the balls even at their feet, they know where the ball is going. I wouldn’t say I’ve adapted quite yet, I’m still learning. It takes a while to bring those things up. But I think certainly from players like those two I’ve been able to bring it to my game.

You mentioned being a nuisance, let’s go back to the Rapids match. Within minutes you got into the head of Rosenberry, was it a mental thing, was there trash talk going on? (A wry smile comes across his face as he forms his answer)

DB: It’s just the game. He’s a very good defender. There was no trash talk it was all soccer. I very rarely get involved in any talk. The games a game and it’s a beautiful game even when it looks like that. That’s the beauty of it, during the battling and the tough times, amazing soccer breaks out and you win a game of that magnitude. but nah, it’s all soccer based and he wants to win and I want to win and that’s how it goes.

Chris and I were watching that match going, man Brucey’s really gotten into his head. You could see Rosenberry reacting and not playing. How much of the game is the mental versus the physical aspect?

DB: It depends on the player. Some players do very well when they want to take attention off the game. They can talk and flick and pinch and take your attention away and some players are very good at that. I can’t, I know that if my head’s not in the game and its elsewhere it’s going to hurt my performance.I need to be focused on soccer and soccer alone. That’s where i know that i’m best and if my head gets dragged out of the game then I get dragged down to someone else’s level and they beat me on experience because they’re better than me at that. I’m not a good enough player to not be 100% in the game at all times.

With the Open Cup, its kind of took away from league play. Now that it’s done, who do you think will be the most difficult club to go up against and what is it going to take for you guys to get back into the push for the league?

DB: We have to take an example from these teams like Manchester City’s and Liverpool’s this season. What an example that is of being able to focus on the next game, the next training session. It was unbelievable the pressure that was on City last year to continue to week in and week out prove that they were worthy to be champions. And we’re not necessarily thinking about that big house yet of a championship at the end, we’re laying the bricks one game at a time. Cardiff has been great preparation for this stretch of games coming up. We need to focus, not necessarily on who the most difficult team is, but that the next team is the team we need to beat. You can play the bottom of the table in this league and it’s going to be a tough game, you can play the top of the table and it’s going to be tough as well. We know that better than anyone because we’ve been up there.

In soccer anyone can beat anyone on any given day

DB: There’s too many variables. And there’s too much of a run of play for it to be balanced all the time. Guys are going to have incredible games and guys are going to have terrible games. For me, I have to look at the guy I’m against and say that even if I have a bad day today, you’re having a worse day than me. We have to have that kind of brutal mentality the rest of the season. It’s not pretty all the time. It’s not always going to break out incredible football and win 5-0 at home, it’s going to be crusty 1-0 away wins and we have to enjoy that. We see these Man City teams with a wealth of talent in the squad and they’re enjoying these 1-0 wins.

I read somewhere that you are a Wolverhampton supporter,

DB: Oh, die hard. Die-hard Wolves fan

What got you into Wolverhampton? Was it a family tradition?

DB: My mum is a huge Burnley fan, their side of the family is all Burnley fans. My dad was a rugby player, a very good player, tough lad. I think he would have loved for me to play rugby, I played it for a few years, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as the beautiful game. I loved watching the Ronaldinho’s and I fell in love with football. He (my dad) didn’t have a problem with it. He said, you can play footie if you want, we’ll do it, but you’ll be a Wolves fan. I lived around Manchester and Merseyside; I was ten minutes from either way. We had Manchester United, City, Everton, Liverpool, but you’ll support Wolves if you play football.

This season had to be a big one for you, with Wolves qualifying for European football.

DB: First time since the Premier League formed, at least the first in my lifetime. My whole life really, it’s been a struggle supporting Wolves. I mean, it’s been fantastic, I would never change. Never wavered once. It hasn’t been the easiest of times, but in the past two years being a Wolves fan has been unbelievable. The players we’ve signed the style we play, the coaching, the city now there’s a buzz around the place.

What do you think about the growth of the sport here in the states? It’s obviously growing, what do you think has helped the sport grow so much? Is it due to guys like Rooney and Ibrahimovic coming in or do you think it’s something else?

DB: I think it’s more the international side. I think it was one of the biggest tragedies to soccer over here that the USA didn’t qualify for the last world cup. I wasn’t even here, but I remember the buzz about the USA being in the tournament (in South Africa) and having a few big wins and doing well was crazy. People still relish that to this day. It’s those international games that I think really brings the country together and I think in a few years, when the USA qualifies, hopefully, for the next world cup I think that will be the real big bang marker and that soccer will zoom. Then all these amazing athletes you have will be choosing soccer over other sports.

Thank you so much for your time

DB: Thank you! 

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