Player Profile: Brett Emerton
Date of Birth: 22/2/1979
Height: 6 ft 1 in
National Team: Australia
International Caps: 95
International Goals: 20
A fan favourite everywhere he went, Brett Emerton played for four clubs in an 18-year career, making over 500 appearances and scoring 54 goals.
What marked Emerton – or ‘Emmo’ as he was prosaically and affectionately known during his time in England – was his dedication and, above all, his versatility. Although naturally a right-midfielder, Emerton was employed in almost every position on the pitch throughout his career, moonlighting as a right-back, centre-midfielder and even a striker.
He began his superb career with Gunners Soccer Club in his native Macquarie Fields in Sydney. The amateur youth team would provide to be fertile ground for homing his considerable skillset, even from such a young age. He would go on to play for a number of youth academies in Australia but would settle at the Australian Institute of Sport in 1996, the same organisation which developed his fellow countryman and Blackburn Rovers teammate, Lucas Neill.
Given the moniker ‘the greyhound’ for his speed and nimbleness in his early years, Emerton signed his first professional contract in 1996 with Sydney Olympic. Though Aussie football was not generally seen as a hotbed of talent, Emerton’s performances down under were enough for him to be on the radar of a host of European clubs.
He stopped just short of 100 appearances for National Soccer League side Sydney Olympic – scoring 16 goals for the club in his four years with them. Feyenoord, one of the most prominent clubs in the Netherlands and indeed in Europe at the time, acquired his services for just short of half-a-million pounds in 2004. Emerton became an instant hit with the Rotterdam club’s fans.
His time with club coincided with one of Feyenoord’s greatest triumphs in the modern era. They won the 2001-02 UEFA Cup after a memorable run to the final which was played in Rotterdam itself at the De Kuip stadium. Although Emerton was bitterly disappointed to miss out on the final owing to injury, he played nine games in that season’s competition. This included Feyenoord’s 3-2 defeat of Inter Milan over two legs in the semi-finals. There was also a famous encounter with Dutch rivals PSV Eindhoven in the last eight in which Feyenoord scraped past their opponents on penalties after 1-1 draws in both legs.
After one more season with the club, Emerton departed in order to fulfil a long-held ambition of playing in England. Blackburn Rovers, under the management of Graeme Souness at the time, paid an undisclosed fee for the midfielder rumoured to be in excess of £2-million in July 2003. An instant hit, Emerton bagged a goal on his debut against Wolverhampton Wanderers in a 5-1 rout.
Though Rovers struggled in the latter stages under Souness, Emerton excelled. His skillset, it turned out, was perfectly suited to the fast-paced and physical Premier League style of play. His technical ability meant he was able to play in small spaces, always finding a man with a pass and never panicking in the face of opposition pressure. He was vital in Rovers struggle against relegation that year and would go on to be a mainstay in the team for almost a decade.
In his first two seasons, Emerton featured in all but two of their Premier League games. After a hugely successful 05-06 campaign during which Blackburn finished in 5th place under the management of new manager Mark Hughes, Emerton was playing European football once more, making six appearances in the UEFA Cup in the 06-07 season.
Emerton and Rovers narrowly missed out on the opportunity for silverware on a number of occasions. They were vanquished FA Cup semi-finalists on two occasions and League Cup semi-finalists on one.
Emerton left Blackburn at the start of 11-12 campaign; it would turn out to be the season they were relegated to the Championship after more than ten consecutive years in the top-flight. He returned to Sydney in his homeland, this time with A-League side Sydney FC. He would make 57 appearances for the club, many as captain, in his three final years as a footballer before hanging up his boots.
He was forced into retirement by a back problem which had clouded his final years as a professional. Had it not been for this unfortunate injury, Emerton might well have gone on to play at a good level for a few more years.
The fourth most-capped player and 7th all-time leading goalscorer in Australian football history, Emerton is a beloved figure in the game in Australia.
He made his first cap in 1998 at the age of 19 and scored the first of his 20 international goals two years later in 2000. Prior to playing for the senior team, Emerton represented Australia at Under-17, Under-20 and Under-23 level. With the latter age group, the midfielder played at the 2000 Olympics which were hosted on home soil in Sydney.
One of the most famed moments for Australia football was the Socceroo’s 3-1 victory over England in which Emerton scored the crucial third goal.
Emerton was part of the Australia side which qualified for two successive World Cups in 2006 and 2010, the country’s first such successes since 1974.
Where is Brett Emerton Now?
Since calling time on his career, Emerton has stayed in the game, albeit from a distance. He is involved in numerous football websites, has given regular interviews to Blackburn Rovers fan groups and was employed as an ambassador for Football Federation Australia, according to an interview he gave in 2017.
Other than that, Emerton has invested in property both in Australia and England from which he continues to make living from.
Did You Know? Interesting facts about Brett Emerton
– Yellow Fever: Emerton missed what would have been the two biggest games in his career thanks to yellow cards: the 2002 UEFA Cup Final and Australia’s 2006 World Cup Round-of-16 match against Italy.
– Aussie Admiration: Emerton is a massive fan of Brighton and Hove Albion and Australia playmaker, Aaron Mooy.
– Long way to the top: Brett Emerton trialled at Leeds United as a teenager with fellow Australian Harry Kewell. Leeds offered them both contracts, however, due to visa restrictions, Emerton was unable to put pen to paper with the club. Instead, Emerton would not feature in the Premier League until the 2002-03 season when he signed for Blackburn Rovers.