Intrepid Brandon showing character in Scandinavia
Fri 03 April 2020, 20:33|Tottenham Hotspur
Exploring the scenic lakesides of central Jutland, driving on the other side of the road and talking to the locals about Ben Davies… living on his own in Denmark amid the coronavirus outbreak has all been part of the learning process for on-loan Brandon Austin – and he’s certainly been making the best of the situation.
Our talented young goalkeeper branched out to join NordicBet LIGA side Viborg FF in January, shortly after turning 21, for his first taste of senior competitive action. Named on the bench for us six times during the first half of the season, including twice in the Champions League, the Academy product quickly set down roots in Scandinavia and, after a mid-season training camp in Turkey, came straight in to start his loan club’s first match following their winter break at the end of February, producing a Man of the Match display in a 1-1 home draw with Hvidovre – his family even flew out to be part of the 2,468-strong crowd proudly watching on at Viborg Stadion. A week later, he impressed again from the start in a 3-1 win at FC Fredericia.
All set up in his own apartment in the city centre with a car at his disposal and vying for promotion from the second tier of Danish football, the headstrong young player from Hemel Hempstead was making great strides… until the coronavirus changed life for us all. Like the rest of the world, Danish football was suspended but, thankfully, Brandon’s character has continued to shine through.
“It’s been strange in the sense of coming out here and being in a foreign country but it’s been a good challenge and it’s helped me grow and develop as a person,” he said. “I’ve been living on my own in the apartment. Before the virus, my family and my girlfriend could come out and see me – they came to watch the first game which was really nice – but then unfortunately the virus happened and matters were bigger than that. Travel was limited so they couldn’t really visit any more, but I’ve made friends here and my team-mates have been really good to me and really welcoming.
“I’ve still been able to train at my apartment, I’ve got an exercise bike here so I’ve been able to keep on top of my fitness and my strength. That’s been important – to make sure that you stay on top of that because you never know when we’ll start training again and you need to be ready. I’ve been reading a lot, keeping fit… you’re still allowed to leave the house for exercise as long as you make sure you’re social-distancing so I like to take a walk or just explore a little bit – just find ways to keep busy and keep occupied. I’m living right in the city centre and although nothing is open at the moment apart from the supermarkets, there are some really nice lakes in the middle so you can go for a walk around there. Yes, it’s nice. I have a car out here as well which made things easier before the lockdown – there’s driving on the other side of the road to contend with, but I quickly got used to that!
“The city itself is quite small so it’s actually quite quiet – I guess it’s different to London in the way that London is hectic all the time – but that means it’s very community-driven. The club is very close to the community and the fans are really good, singing for the whole game when we play. The stadium itself is very nice so the home games are definitely special. After my first match, a couple of people recognised me out and about and said ‘well done for the game the other day’ – like I said, it’s a small area and a lot of the locals do come to watch the games. It’s a traditional club and it’s really good, well run.”
Viborg FF celebrated their 124th birthday this week – the day after England were supposed to face Denmark at Wembley. Brandon himself should have been preparing for this weekend’s return match against Hvidovre in Copenhagen – instead he’s keeping in regular contact with his coaches and team-mates from both his loan and parent clubs, patiently waiting and hoping for some positive global news.
“I’ve had a good start to my time here, but the virus outbreak is one of those things that’s out of everyone’s control and you’ve just got to try and deal with it,” added the England Under-21 stopper, who was recently able to share some of his experiences and advice with our younger Academy goalkeepers training at home via a video link session.
“I’m the only English guy at the club but everybody speaks English. I’m learning some Danish too but if needs be, everyone speaks English so there’s not a communication problem or anything. There’s a few of the lads that I’m close with – there’s one from New Zealand, Nikko Boxall, who has played in the New Zealand national team and another lad from Holland, Lars Kramer… I get along well with those two especially.
“I’ve been watching all the Spurs games too. I’ve grown up playing alongside – well, behind – Japhet (Tanganga), so to see him doing so well for the first team has been really good. We’re the same age and I speak to him all the time. I’ve seen his performances and I’m really pleased for him.”
Serendipitously, Brandon has also heard a familiar name being spoken about in central Denmark – that of our Welsh international left-back Ben Davies, who actually played for Viborg for two years from the age of nine, his family having temporarily relocated there from south Wales while his father worked for a company that produces central heating pumps. Aged 11, the family went home, Ben returned to Swansea City’s academy and the rest, including his transfer to Spurs in 2014, is history.
“Before I moved, I spoke to Ben about it – it’s a small world I guess, in that he’d also been here,” smiled Brandon. “He told me it’s a really good club and that he really enjoyed his time here as a kid. Even since I’ve been here, some of the people around the club are always telling me about Ben and how he’s still remembered fondly in Viborg.”
Ben’s recollections of his stay in Denmark
Set to turn 27 later this month, Ben first told us the story of his time at Viborg FF in our matchday programme back in 2016. How much did he recall about Brandon’s current club when he spoke to us this week?
“I lived there for nearly two years and I played for the junior teams – I loved it!” he smiled. “In the summer, you played normally outside and when it was so cold in the winter, we all played indoors, working on skills, passing, movement – it was really good. Actually, we won the Danish indoor championship at Under-10 level! It was a little scary at the time, moving away to another country but as soon as we got there, it was actually pretty easy. Once we met a few people and I started playing football, it all fell into place. It was an amazing experience.”