Josh Brownhill of Burnley says growing up with older brothers has helped him in his career as a professional footballer.
The Warrington-born midfielder recalled how his siblings, Lewis and Joel, often kicked him during competitive games in the back garden.
Their father, Gary, a longtime Manchester City fan who played for the club’s youth team in the 1970s, had built a miniature Maine Road at the back of the Altrincham family home, a construction they the trio had called it ‘Poundland Soccer Dome’.
The brothers played from the first light of day until the days fell into darkness, barely trying to breathe in an attempt to brag about the “final whistle.”
“It’s competitive for as long as I can remember,” said Brownhill. “It started when my dad did a mini astro arena in the backyard and we were there all the time, since we were five. It started from there.
“I don’t think I really liked what my dad was doing back then because I was so young. He built this land for five in the garden. It was only quite small.
“He built it and I, Lewis and Joel were in the backyard playing on it every day. It was a lot of fun and looking back I can appreciate what my dad did for us, allowing us to play. everyday.”
The “blood and thunder” and “blood and thunder” of those behind closed doors kicks certainly served as character-building exercises for Brownhill’s admittedly short younger brother.
This is the reason he was released from Manchester United at the age of 16, with coach Tommy Martin announcing the teenager would be leaving after spending more than a decade at Old Trafford.
Brownhill, who started at Broadheath FC, was recruited by then-Preston North End boss Simon Grayson, while the Lilywhites played in League One.
It was then that these wars of attrition began to bear fruit. “I remember people targeting me the first few games I played because I was quite small and trying to beat me,” said the 25-year-old.
“My brothers and my dad have helped me through this part of my career, they’ve given me this learning experience on how I should handle this growing up.
“I remember when I first played for Preston and got fired and it was exactly the same as what happened in our backyard.
“They treated me like I was their age. I was pretty good at football, I could handle football very well, so if I scored or did something against them they didn’t like it because I was younger than them and they would let me know!
“They have helped me tremendously to grow and behave on the football field.”
Brownhill had a loan at Barnsley before making 161 appearances for Bristol City in all competitions while his older brothers continued to play in non-league circles.
Lewis, 34, who was in the RAF, played for Hungerford Town, Kidlington FC, Northwich Victoria and Thatcham Town, with whom he lifted the FA Vase in 2018 at Wembley following his victory over Stockton Town.
Joel, 29, has meanwhile scored goals for Altrincham, Rylands FC, Ashton Athletic, the Vics and Spalding United. “Throughout my career they have helped me tremendously,” said Brownhill.
“They played at a decent level, they have a lot of experience outside the league so on that side they have to be tough, they helped me with that when I grew up in Preston.
“My family has been absolutely great to me and they still are. We talk a lot about football every day, things in general and everything around it. We talk a lot.”
Now that 51 years in the Premier League are starting with the Clarets, the former Robins intermediary has yet to manage to win in the top flight. However, he broke a lot of other things in the past.
Don’t tell her mom, Elaine, about her precious jazz band figures. “There are a lot of stories where we would play soccer in the house and break things in the house,” he admitted. “They would go out and my big brother would take care of us and we would play soccer indoors.
“Lewis would glue them back together. If we broke something, I was far too young to fix it and he would. For centuries my mom and dad had no idea what we were doing. Looking back, it was a lot of fun, but the times when we broke stuff were pretty scary.