His breakthrough came at his hometown club, and for a spell, it seemed like Rotherham United could have quite conceivably been the gateway to the big time for Stephen Brogan. ‘Subject to change’ is as true a tagline as any for football, and it is hard not to reflect at times on a cruel twist of fate here and there for the left-back. Almost 15 years on from his senior debut, though, he is very much still going, and would desperately love to unlock that promotion-winning feeling for his new club come the end of next season.
The 32-year-old was one notable name in a flurry of recent new signings at Buxton, as the Silverlands side look to challenge in the Northern Premier Division in Gary Hayward’s first full campaign at the helm. The versatile former Spennymoor Town man shares insight here into the highs, the hurdles, and the hopes for what is still to come.
You’re part of an exciting set of new additions at Buxton this close-season. How, and why, did it end up happening?
Well it came out of the blue really. I’d left Spennymoor and I was speaking to a few different clubs, but not anything sorted properly, especially with the situation. Gaz (Hayward) just rang me up after he found out I was available and it happened pretty quickly. He came with a good offer pretty much straight away when I went to meet the chairman, so it was a bit of a no-brainer. I knew the club were going in the right direction with the players they were signing and they were gonna have a go this year, so pretty straightforward really.
What have you been able to do training-wise over these last three months or so, and what has life been like in a more general sense?
Yeah, it’s been alright. It’s the same for everyone, isn’t it? It’s been a rubbish situation but just keeping yourself busy, keeping yourself fit. Not knowing what’s happening with football really but knowing it will eventually start and trying to make sure you’re ready to go when it does. I’ve just been street-running. I’ve got a few things at home, weights-wise, but just street-running. It’s been a bit boring, but not much else to do. I’m mad into my golf. Obviously, the course has opened up a lot earlier, so I’ve just been golfing every day really. It’s not been bad.
With all your experience up to now, making that breakthrough at Rotherham and also having to overcome some setbacks, what’s your current outlook as we speak now?
Yeah, I’m feeling good. I wanna win, I wanna win the league. Speaking to Gaz, like I say, he’s made some really good signings. Yeah, I’ve dropped down a league, but the way that I think Buxton’s gonna be going this following season, I think it’ll be a good club to be at. The chairman’s obviously wanting to give it a really good push this year, and I’m 32 now, so I wanna go and win something. Hopefully we’ll be up there and have a good start, and kick on from there.
— David Nelson (@DJNelsonPhotos) December 12, 2018
Coming from Rotherham, were you a Millers fan growing up, or was there another favourite for you?
I did always support Rotherham, but Leeds were the main team. Obviously at the time, when I was a young supporter, Leeds were Champions League and Rotherham were down the leagues. Then over the years, they obviously became similar leagues to each other. So I always supported Rotherham, but Leeds were the club I went and watched with my dad.
In that time at Rotherham, you’d started establishing yourself as a pretty notable young prospect in the Football League, and there was supposed interest from Spurs. How much of that were you aware of?
Yeah, there were quite a few interested – well, so I was getting told at the time. Just bad timing with my injury; I was flying, playing every game as an 18/19-year-old. I think I would have been off at the end of the season; I thought I was gonna go in January but it didn’t quite happen. Obviously in February, things took a turn for the worse (a double leg fracture). I didn’t know where I would have been going. It was just said that Spurs had been down to Rotherham watching my games and stuff, but I don’t really know what would have happened. It’s all ifs, buts and maybes I suppose, it’s one of them things.
If you think back over the best form you’ve enjoyed during your career, and the manager(s) you had at the time, what sort of approach do you think enables you to reach your best?
I don’t know really, it’s always nice to have someone that gives you that reassurance and that believes in you. I had opposites at Rotherham; I had Alan Knill, Mark Robins, who were playing me and I felt on top of the world. After my leg injury, Ronnie Moore came in and it was the complete opposite. I wasn’t his sort of player and didn’t really feel wanted and what have you. I’ve played under quite a few managers and everyone has their own way. It’s just a case of getting your head down and doing well, I suppose, and looking after yourself. I loved it under Alan Knill; he was youth-team coach and then he sort of brought me into the first team. I’ve always got on alright with managers, never really been one to fall out with anyone, but I’d say the early days with Knill and Robins were good times. They brought me through as a youngster so I definitely have to say those two really.
For former teammates who could be counted on to help lift the place, or they were always in there with the jokes, doing mad stuff etc. who are some of the names who come to mind?
Well I were pretty mad me sen, to be honest! Me and Dale Tonge really (at Rotherham); we used to get up to a few things, but nobody really stood out. It was good times. We had a lot of old heads in the changing room, and then us young lads just enjoying ourselves, as you would, playing for your hometown club at that age.
The main injury is the obvious one, so how about later in your career after that, was there a toughest/most challenging or frustrating spell you’ve had in the game?
Yeah, I think when I first left Rotherham, I didn’t really feel I should have been leaving. Obviously, the change of manager and coming back after the injury, things didn’t quite work out. I should have gone out on loan but I tried to stay and play, and then by the time my contract had ran out, I’d made odd appearances but I’d not really been playing. I found myself struggling for a club. I ended up going to Stalybridge because my agent’s dad was the manager there at the time, Jim Harvey. It was quite a big drop for me. I felt I should have still been up in the League, and it was tough, but I just had to get my head down. I did well, scored a lot of goals and had a good season. The end of that season, England C called me up, and from there, my name got bandied about again. I went on to Forest Green for a couple of seasons. I felt better going back up the leagues, I suppose, but again, then I had some terrible injuries at Forest Green. It was stop-start a lot, just from injuries. It’s about timing really and getting those breaks, the same as anyone. I seem to have had a few bad injuries at big times, but I’m still playing at 32, so I can’t grumble.
On this day: In 2012, Stephen Brogan scored a last gasp winner on his debut in a 2-1 away win at Macclesfield Town. pic.twitter.com/CIPHLFYQNi
— Forest Green Rovers (@FGRFC_Official) September 22, 2014
You made your senior debut in 2005, is it fair to say you got the last bits of the ‘old-school’ approach for youth-team players coming into a first-team environment?
Oh yeah, definitely. Yeah, I had a few boots to clean; a few older lads, like Martin McIntosh, Guy Branston, Paul Warne, (Chris) Sedgwick. Cleaning boots all the time and always up to no good really! But great times, them. I loved them; I wouldn’t swap them for the world.
Would that be the happiest time you’ve had in football, where you’re just young players coming through, having a laugh and all the rest of it?
Yeah, you had your duties to do, but they were enjoyable times. It’s obviously changed a bit now – I don’t know whether it’s rightly or wrongly – but I’ll always remember those days, I loved them. Always look back with fond memories on them.
You’ve been asked before about the Come Dine with Me episode you featured in with the Chuckle Brothers. At the time, was it more the case of you getting hammered for it, or were people buzzing about it, with them being legends?!
I got battered really! A fan at Rotherham came in and he asked at the club if they could have a player to be the surprise guest sort of thing, and he asked for me, because of being a local lad. So I agreed to it – this was probably six months before the filming – and when it eventually came around, I’d sort of forgotten about it. Went down and filmed it all, and then Dale Tonge found out, and he was like ‘when’s it on TV?’ I said ‘I don’t know’ and he kept looking every week, and then eventually, it was getting aired. He found out, and then obviously he told all the changing room! So that night, I was sat at home, at my mum and dad’s, and all the lads were just firing in and that was it, I just got battered! I had a big, long mullet and these earrings in. It’s funny to look back on, but I got some stick for that.
On a similarly excruciating theme perhaps, have you had your share of initiations to do when joining a club?
Yeah, every club really. I’ve got a terrible voice, broad Yorkshire, so keep it short and sweet; Oasis, something simple like that. You won’t catch me up there long!
Finally, reflecting at this point on all that’s been and gone so far, what do you think you’ve learned the most from it? Has it changed you from that young lad coming through at Rotherham?
As a young kid, you don’t really appreciate what you’re doing at the time. Looking back now, you’ve just really got to enjoy it and just give it everything; no regrets. I did that really when I was young, and I haven’t got any regrets. Like I say, a bit of bad timing with that big injury, and you never know what could happen, but I’ve loved it and I’ll play as long as I can. Hopefully keep myself in good nick, and as long as I’m good enough, I’ll keep playing, because when you’re with the lads at football, it keeps you young.
Interview by @chris_brookes