“One of the best highlights was beating Arsenal and finding out my wife was pregnant on the same day”- British-Seychellois football player Michael Mancienne recalls career highs
Michael Mancienne, the son of former Seychellois footballer Mike Mancienne, is currently playing for Burton Albion in English League One football.
The 34-year-old is in Seychelles on holiday with his family after a tough 2021/2022 season, where his side finished the league season in 16th place.
Mancienne has played in several European teams since he made his debut at 21 years old.
SNA managed to catch up with the former player of English Premier League team Chelsea, who shared his desire to represent Seychelles at the international level.
SNA: To start please tell us more about how you started your football career?
MM: I started playing football for Chelsea when I was 8 years old after joining their academy. I made my first team debut for them when I was turning 21 but before that, I went on loan to Queen’s Park Rangers and Wolverhampton Wanderers. After Chelsea, I spent three years in Hamburg, before spending another four years at Nottingham Forest and then 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 the Chelsea football club?
MM: I loved it. It was a great place for any young footballer to learn their trade. There were a lot of top players to look up to at the time, such as Marcel Desailly and Frank Leboeuf and later came the likes of John Terry and Frank Lampard and they were massive influences 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 doing really well actually. I know the academy director really well, Neil Bath, who has run it since I was a little boy and he has done an amazing job. He used to hold talks with other academies and teach them how to run their own.
They have done really well and a lot of young boys have come through, such as Mason Mount and Reece James and it’s a really positive thing that they are trying to push through 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 that it would be difficult to play regularly for them as they had great players at the time. I wanted to make a name for myself and wanted to play every week and not just sit on the bench.
SNA: Is that why you decided to move to Hamburg then?
MM: Yes. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my career when I played at Hamburg actually. It was a different lifestyle, language and a different style of football as well. The first year was tough, but after that I enjoyed it. The football was great and getting to play against the likes of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund was a great experience.
SNA: What would you say is the biggest difference between the English Premiership and the German Bundesliga?
MM: I think the top teams in Germany could compete in the Premiership, but other teams would find it harder as in the Premiership every team is strong and they can win against any team on their day.
But in Germany, Bayern and Dortmund are the top and when you go there, you don’t even go to win, you just play to keep the scores respectable. That’s how it was at that time anyway.
SNA: How was your experience playing for Nottingham Forest?
MM: They are kind of the sleeping giants of English football. They are a good club and should be in the Premiership and they are close to making it back. But for me it was a great experience and it’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 USA was tough, to be honest, and that was when COVID hit as well. It was a good experience, but it’s tough with the travel because you travel 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 right because of the long travel. So, it was tough, but I did enjoy it. Then when COVID hit, everything stopped and we were stuck in an apartment without our families, but it’s still a good experience.
I just had to cope with it. In the U.S., they are more used to basketball and NFL (National Football League) so they are used to seeing a lot of goals being scored and that’s what football felt like.
It was like a basketball game with the ball just going back and forth and the game was very open. A lot of teams do not have a very good defensive structure and that is why the game is so open, but the fans love it. I did end up enjoying it in the end.
SNA: You are now playing for Burton Albion with former Chelsea star Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink. How do you find him as a coach?
MM: It’s been really good. Jimmy-Floyd has actually looked after me really well especially now that I am a senior member of the team. He will sometimes take me out of some of the running the younger players have to do. He has a lot of respect for me and I do for him.
He is one of the main reasons I moved to Burton, as he called me and asked if I wanted to come and play for them and I said yes. I also wanted to move back to Nottingham, which is where I live with my family, so it’s great for me.
SNA: What would you say have been 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 was not only defeating Arsenal, but when I went home that night, I found out my wife was pregnant with our first child as well, and I think it was the day before my birthday.
SNA: What has been your worst experience?
MM: I was at Wolves and we were playing against Birmingham I think and the ball came over the top and as I went to head it back, I lost my bearings because the sun hit me in the eyes and I ended up heading the ball straight up and the centre forward just ran onto it scored against us.
SNA: Have you ever thought of playing for the Seychelles’ national team?
MM: Of course! I’m going to watch the team train soon and will talk to the coach then. So, if he calls me up, I am prepared to come out and play.
SNA: After playing will coaching be the next step for you?
MM: I don’t think I’m going to be a coach, to be honest. It is a very difficult job to do. You have to really love coaching to do it. At the moment though, I’m not there yet, but you never know. Anything can happen.