COLOURFUL CAREER: Daniel McBreen with his late father, Jimmy; playing for Newcastle United, St Johnstone, Edgeworth and the Mariners; and with the A-League Golden Boot trophy on Monday in Sydney.
IT’S a grand final fairytale, but it’s not the Western Sydney Wanderers’.
Daniel McBreen was born in England, grew up in Edgeworth and tomorrow, two days shy of his 36th birthday, the Central Coast Mariners striker will be gunning for an A-League title.
A career that began at Jack McLaughlan Oval will reach its climax in the A-League decider against the nation’s adopted team, the Wanderers, in front of a full house at Allianz Stadium.
It is not McBreen’s first trip to the well.
He came off the bench for the Mariners and had the ignominy of having a spot-kick saved in a heartbreaking loss on penalties to the Brisbane Roar in 2011.
Two years on, McBreen will be front and centre.
At an age when most men are cooking a barbecue and filling the esky on grand final day, McBreen will enter it the equal $6.50 favourite to score the first goal.
He already has the Golden Boot, reward for his 17 goals in the regular season, in his kit bag and craves a championship medal, his first at any level.
‘‘It has been a stand-out season as far as goals go for myself,’’ McBreen told the Herald. ‘‘But as far as the team goes, this is where we expected to be and aimed to be. We have one more win to go and then we can start celebrating.’’
McBreen’s journey to this point has been one of persistence as much as anything else.
A late bloomer, the raw-boned larrikin signed his first professional contract at the Newcastle Breakers in 2000 at age 23 after winning the Northern NSW State League golden boot for Edgeworth.
It was the start of a voyage that took him from the Hunter to Romania, Scotland, the lower divisions of England and back Down Under for stints at North Queensland, Perth and the Mariners.
Different leagues. Different cultures. In Romania he went months without pay. There was a string of injuries and other obstacles.
Of course there were highlights, too.
He scored 14 goals to help Falkirk win promotion to the Scottish Premier League, hit the target for St Johnstone against Rangers in a Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden Park and graced the hallowed turf at Wembley for York City in the FA Trophy final.
All that is missing is a title.
In the stands tomorrow will be McBreen’s mother, Kathy, wife Gabby, boys Noah and Leo, and his in-laws, who are visiting from England.
‘‘The regular crowd from Newy are coming down,’’ he said. ‘‘My mum and stepdad will be there and, as luck would have it, my missus’s parents are over from the UK on holiday.’’
One person missing will be McBreen’s late father and former Edgeworth and KB United foundation player Jimmy McBreen, who died 13 months ago after a battle with cancer.
‘‘Dad won’t be too far from my thoughts,’’ McBreen said.
‘‘I have a few songs that I listen to before each game. One of them, These Days, by the Foo Fighters, reminds me of dad. I always think of him when I’m going to the game.
‘‘The final game of the regular season against Heart was the anniversary of his death. I scored that day. It meant a lot to me and got me the Golden Boot. It was a good day.
‘‘I will always have that memory. I’m sure he is looking down proud.’’
After claiming the Golden Boot, his first since leaving Edgeworth, McBreen secured the Mariners’ passage to the decider with a stunning left-foot strike to snatch a 1-0 win over Melbourne Victory.
The goal epitomised how important McBreen has become under Mariners boss Graham Arnold.
‘‘It has been a bit different this year with Arnie putting me in the No.10 role since Tommy Rogic left,’’ McBreen said. ‘It gives me an opportunity to get a few things on the edge of the box.
‘‘Against the Victory I had the opportunity to have a whack so I went for it. Luckily for me it went flying in.’’
McBreen is adamant the final will come down to a special moment and who has the bravery and ability to make the most of it.
‘‘Both teams have a similar philosophy – defence first and then you build into transition,’’ he said.
‘‘It will be a cat-and-mouse kind of game, and it might take something spectacular from a certain player to get the goal which wins the game. You never know until the day. Anything can happen.’’
McBreen is proof of that.