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Danny Bracken playing for Corinthian-Casuals

One man and his club: Danny Bracken and Corinthian-Casuals

To some, loyalty in football is a charming relic that has gone the same way as mud bath pitches, sideburns and footballers getting the number one bus to games.

Players now can seem like travelling mercenaries, drifting from club to club with little regard for the fans or the shirt.

And that may well be the case in the sport’s upper echelons, but in a small corner of South West London loyalty to a team and its supporters remains alive and well.

When Danny Bracken first arrived on loan at Corinthian-Casuals from Tooting and Mitcham in 2010, he couldn’t have imagined that he would go on to stay at the club for more than ten years.

Bracken is a primary school teacher by trade, but in between IT lessons and parents’ evenings, he has been able to notch up more than 400 appearances for one of London’s most historic clubs.

The goalkeeper said: “In this day and age everything is so dominated by money, where people switch jobs for an extra couple thousand a year.

“But I like playing for a traditional club which is based on fundamental values like loyalty and togetherness, things which can be lost today in society.”

KEEPER: Bracken has been at Corinthian-Casuals since 2010

When Bracken first signed for the club, he was still juggling football and his education, but throughout his three years at the University of Brighton, his commitment to the Corinthian-Casuals never wavered.

He said: “My dad would drop me off at Gatwick station and I’d get the train down to Eastbourne. I didn’t miss a lecture in three years.

“Then I’d get the train back on Tuesday and Thursday and dad would run me straight to training.

“Football has always been as important to me as my education and my work, and I was never going to give it up when I went to university.

“I always wanted to push myself and become the best goalkeeper I could be, it was tiring, but you got used to it.”

If Danny Bracken is no ordinary footballer, then Corinthian-Casuals are no ordinary club.

Corinthian FC, founded in 1882, played an integral role in popularising football around the world, Real Madrid even based their kit off the white shirts of Corinthian.

Whilst in Brazil, five Sao Paulo railways workers named their new club after the London-based amateurs, founding one of South America’s most successful clubs, SC Corinthians Paulista.

He said: “I’m fully aware of the club’s history and how important the club was in the development of football around the world and it’s great to feel a part of that.”

And back in 2015, Corinthian-Casuals got the chance to travel to Sao Paulo and share a pitch with their Brazilian counterparts.

Despite losing 3-0, it still made for an unforgettable occasion.

“The chance to play in a packed stadium on the other side of the world, in front of passionate supporters like the Corinthians fans, it’s something that will stay with me forever.

“It was an incredible experience, to play against nine internationals on the Saturday.

“But then to be back at work by a photocopier on Monday was the biggest comedown ever.”

It’s not just trips to Brazil and the history of the Casuals keeping the 30-year-old shot stopper at the club, his brother James has been manager since 2015.

“I’d never leave with James being the manager, you’ve got to be loyal to your brother.

“He’s the best manager around, if he was at a club with more resources, I dread to think what he would be able to achieve.

“It would be weird being managed by your brother if he wasn’t so good. He is so spot on with everything that we do as a team, that I just respect him as a manager.”

THE GAFFER: Danny’s brother James Bracken manager of Corinthian-Casuals

Perhaps Bracken’s desire to stay at one team is because of how he was treated by his boyhood club West Ham, who released him from their academy when he was just 15.

He said: “For three years I got to put on the West Ham kit, train at Chadwell Heath and cross paths with Alan Pardew and the players of that era, it was special not just for me but for my family.

“When it came to being released, that was probably the hardest thing that I have had to deal with.

“They were re-jigging the academy and losing the under-16 team which meant that basically my whole team got released, they only kept two players from my age group.

“I was competing against a goalkeeper in the year above to stay in the academy, obviously he was bigger and more mature than me, so it wasn’t meant to be.”

Bracken has since been rewarded for sticking with the Casuals, as the club now sit 10th in the Isthmian Premier, the highest they have been in years.

“It was a struggle when I first joined, we were bottom of the Isthmian South and that’s where we stayed for three years.

“Whereas now, we fear no one. When we turn up and apply ourselves, and stick to how we are being organised, we are a match for any team in the league.

“We’ve just got to keep that up on Tuesdays and Saturdays and see where that takes us.”

Photo credit: Stuart Tree

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