‘One of the best moments was beating Arsenal and finding out my wife was pregnant on the same day’ – Anglo-Seychellois football player Michael Mancienne recalls career highs

Michael Mancienne, the son of former Seychellois footballer Mike Mancienne, currently plays for Burton Albion in English Premier League Soccer.

The 34-year-old is in Seychelles on holiday with his family after a difficult 2021/2022 season, where his side finished the league season in 16th place.

Mancienne has played for several European teams since his debut aged 21.

SNA have managed to catch up with former English Premier League side Chelsea, who shared their desire to represent Seychelles at international level.

SNA: To begin, tell us how you started your football career?

MM: I started playing football for Chelsea when I was 8 after joining their academy. I made my first-team debut for them when I was 21, but before that I was loaned out to Queen’s Park Rangers and Wolverhampton Wanderers. After Chelsea I spent three years at Hamburg, before spending another four years at Nottingham Forest, then I moved to the United States to play for New England Revolution and now I’m back in England, playing for Burton Albion .

SNA: Tell us about your time with Chelsea Football Club?

MM: I loved it. It was a great place for any young footballer to learn his trade. There were a lot of great players to look up to back then, like Marcel Desailly and Frank Leboeuf and later on came John Terry and Frank Lampard and they were a huge influence on me.

SNA: The Chelsea academy has produced good players, what do you think of the team now and the work of the academy?

MM: The academy is actually doing very well. I know the director of the academy very well, Neil Bath, who has run it since I was a child and he has done an incredible job. He used to chat with other academies and teach them how to run theirs.

They’ve been very successful and a lot of young boys have been successful, like Mason Mount and Reece James and that’s a really positive thing that they’re trying to get across to the young English boys.

SNA: You were voted the club’s young player of the year for the 2008-2009 season, did you feel that you would be in the first team?

MM: Well, I was already in and around the first team anyway, but I always knew it would be difficult to play regularly for them because they had great players back then. I wanted to make a name for myself and I wanted to play every week and not just sit on the bench.

SNA: Is that why you decided to move to Hamburg?

MM: Yes. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my career when I played in Hamburg actually. It was a different lifestyle, language and style of football. The first year was tough, but after that I enjoyed it. The football was great and playing against players like Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund was a great experience.

SNA: What do you think is the biggest difference between the English Premiership and the German Bundesliga?

MM: I think the best teams in Germany could compete in the Premiership, but other teams would have a harder time because in the Premiership every team is strong and can win against any team at their own pace.

But in Germany, Bayern and Dortmund are on top and when you go there, you don’t even go there to win, you just play to keep respectable scores. It was like that at the time anyway.

SNA: How was your experience playing for Nottingham Forest?

MM: They are sort of the sleeping giants of English football. They are a good club and they should be in the Premiership and they are about to come back. But for me it was a great experience and that’s where I met my wife. So a lot of good came out of being in Nottingham.

SNA: You also played in the United States, how was your experience and how did you manage the change?

The United States has been tough, to be honest, and that’s when COVID hit as well. It was a good experience, but it’s difficult with the travel because you’re traveling six hours on a plane to a different climate and time zone, but still in the same country. Then you have to play a game the next day, and your body doesn’t feel good because of the long journey. So, it was hard, but I liked it. Then when COVID came it all stopped and we were stuck in an apartment without our families, but still a good experience.

I just had to deal with it. In the United States they are more used to basketball and the NFL (National Football League) so they are used to seeing a lot of goals scored and that’s how football felt.

It was like a basketball game with the ball going back and forth and the game was very open. A lot of teams don’t have a very good defensive structure and that’s why the game is so open, but the fans love it. I ended up liking it in the end.

SNA: You now play for Burton Albion with former Chelsea star Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink. How do you find him as a coach?

MM: It was really good. Jimmy-Floyd has taken really good care of me, especially now that I’m a senior member of the team. He will sometimes take me out of some of the errands that young players have to do. He has a lot of respect for me and I have for him.

He’s one of the main reasons I moved to Burton because he called me and asked if I wanted to come play for them and I said yes. I also wanted to go back to Nottingham, where I live with my family, so that’s great for me.

SNA: In your opinion, what were your best moments as a player?

MM: Probably the highlight of my career was when I was at Forest and we beat Arsenal in the FA Cup. It wasn’t just about beating Arsenal, but when I got home that night I found my wife was also pregnant with our first child, and I think it was the day before my birthday.

SNA: What was your worst experience?

MM: I was at Wolves and we were playing Birmingham I think and the ball went over and as I was going to send it back I lost my bearings because the sun hit me in the eye and I ended up heading the ball straight and the centre-forward just ran over it and scored against us.

SNA: Have you ever thought about playing for the Seychelles national team?

M.M.: Of course! I’m going to watch the team training soon and then I’ll talk to the coach. So if he calls me, I’m ready to come play.

SNA: After playing, will coaching be the next step for you?

MM: I don’t think I will be a coach, to be honest. It is a very difficult job to do. You have to really love coaching to do that. For the moment, I’m not there yet, but you never know. Everything can happen.

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