WITH the second half of the Victorian Premier League season under way, the Moreland Zebras are lagging near the bottom of the table and will be relegated to State League 1 if they can’t turn things around in the coming weeks.
The signing of Grant Brebner came as a shock to many when he joined the struggling club in the mid-season transfer window this month. Brebner was released from Melbourne Victory on a free transfer in May, after six years and 120 appearances for the club.
When Victory’s new coach, Ange Postecoglou, declared he was keen to make wholesale changes to the squad, the writing was on the wall for the Scotsman, who had cut a peripheral figure in 2011–12 due to injury. Brebner, 34, says he isn’t bitter that his Victory career is over. He chose to join the Zebras because of his good relationship with Moreland sponsor Joe Mirabella, a former Victory and Melbourne Heart investor.
“I think relationships are a big key in football and for me,’’ he says.
“Moreland were promoted [to the VPL] last year and sustaining a place in the league is the number one objective, but if we can get four or five wins, finals is certainly achievable.”
Moreland coach Joe Palatsides says Brebner will be eased into the lineup as he regains match fitness. He hopes Brebner can play a crucial role in the club’s survival.
“Grant’s one of those players who comes on and helps his teammates get better,” Palatsides says.
“Off the field, his character as a person is tremendous. ?He wants to help the club and the young players are going to learn a lot [from him].”
Brebner is best described as one of football’s journeymen. After beginning his career in the Manchester United youth academy (where he says Sir Alex Ferguson had a soft spot for all the Scottish youngsters), Brebner had spells at Reading, and Scottish clubs Hibernian and Dundee.
At 28, he left Europe to join Melbourne Victory where he quickly slotted into the side. Brebner forged a no-frills midfield partnership with the fiery Kevin Muscat, and was an integral part of the side during its premiership-winning years. In 2010–11 he was recognised as the Victory’s player of the year.
While goals were few and far between, his 88th-minute winner against Perth Glory in 2006 will live long in the minds of Victory fans.
“When I joined the Victory I envisaged staying at the club only for a year,’’ Brebner says.
‘‘[2006–7] was fantastic for everyone involved with the club because we won the minor premiership and the grand final.’’
But the low point in his career came in 2008, when Brebner was embroiled in controversy for placing a bet against his own team.
As he approaches a new chapter in his football career, Brebner says his focus is on enjoying the game. For a player who preferred to “go about things quietly” rather than embrace the media’s attention, swapping the glamour of the A-League for the suburban Victorian Premier League seems like the perfect way for Brebner to wind down his career.
“It’s a challenge and everyone wants a challenge,” he says.
The Moreland Zebras play their next home game against Green Gully on July 29 at Epping Stadium. Details: visit footballfedvic.com.au.