Ellie and Gary Brazil: The footballing father and daughter

By Emma SandersBBC Sport
Ellie and Gary Brazil: Growing up in a footballing family

Getting into trouble because of Pikachu, being overly competitive in table tennis and refusing to play a round of golf together again - this is what it is like for Brighton forward Ellie Brazil growing up in a football family.

Ellie's dad Gary had an 18-year playing career at clubs including Newcastle, Preston and Sheffield United, and is now academy manager at Championship club Nottingham Forest, while her brother Jack is a full-time coach at Norwegian men's club Valerenga in Oslo.

Gary may have retired in the late 1990s, but that didn't stop him trying to coach his young protege with videos from his playing days.

He gave up, though, after finding a collection of some of his goals had been recorded over with an episode of Pokemon.

"It makes me giggle what the kids did to things I really treasured," joked Gary. "I've had to become a Pokemon fan now as I can't watch any of the clips any more. Pikachu is very good in front of goal!"

Even without Gary's highlight reels for inspiration, it was clear Ellie was talented from a young age.

She was a keen tennis player, excelled at athletics and Gary had noted her impressive hand-eye coordination.

"In the background she was scuppered really as she had no choice to play football because of me and her brother! She would join in a lot," added Gary.

Ellie eventually ended up focusing on football but admitted it was probably her third choice before she went on to carve out a career in the Women's Super League, while also representing England's youth teams.

Gary with Ellie after a running race
Gary and Ellie after an athletics event where she won gold in the 800m

"My brother used to go in the back garden with a load of cones and make me dribble through them," said Ellie.

"He'd say 'we're going to the park today'. And I used to be excited thinking we were going for a kickabout. I would never get that - I would get cones on the pitch and told I was running from this box to that box!"

Gary used to watch Ellie's matches, laughing, as she was the "best player on the pitch" but admitted he had to pick his moments to give her advice.

A round of golf and competitiveness

Gary with Ellie when she was younger
Gary with Ellie in the park when she was younger

The pride Gary has for Ellie is reciprocated.

He has stood in as caretaker manager at Forest on several occasions, with a highlight coming in the 2018 FA Cup match against Premier League giants Arsenal.

"That was a big moment for the whole family," said Ellie. "Even my mum was crying. It's been lovely and I'm very lucky to have the family I have."

But would Ellie want to be coached by Gary or her brother Jack?

"We have always joked about this but I've told them they're forbidden from coming into the women's game. No chance. I don't think I could play for them," said Ellie.

"I think it would be hilarious playing against them. It's more out of the embarrassment of being benched by your dad or your brother."

Unsurprisingly, they are all extremely competitive too. A game of mini golf in Cyprus led to Gary and Jack walking off when Ellie won.

"They couldn't stand me. I'm pretty sure I took my certificate to dinner," joked Ellie.

There are similar examples in table tennis and one round of golf which led to Gary refusing to let Ellie play with them again after she lifted the ball straight into the hole from 70 yards.

"Normally you'd have jumped around but with Ellie it was like 'right, that is the last time you're playing golf with us - you can't be good at golf as well'," joked Gary.

"It is competitive with all of us. I don't think we've ever let her play golf again."

Injury comeback and fond memories

Ellie and Gary in Florence
Gary and Ellie in Italy when she played for Fiorentina in 2017

But Gary's experience in football has helped Ellie during a tough period while recovering from a serious knee injury.

Ellie had 13 months out before returning to face Tottenham in the WSL on 6 December 2020.

"I listened a lot and tried to engage. Ellie is a bubbly person and has a very positive outlook on life. This tested it a little bit as she was going into the unknown," said Gary.

"I just tried to be really supportive as a parent, like her mum was. I've seen a lot of people come back from those injuries but it was really weird seeing a child of your own come back from that."

And now Ellie is fully recovered, Gary says it's a "fantastic opportunity" for her to enjoy doing something she loves while the women's game continues to grow.

"It's lovely with any of your children to see them develop and be on their journey," he added.

"We've been very lucky to go to parts of the world that we wouldn't have done to watch Ellie play for her country.

"Just to have those experiences, to be able to watch Ellie have a great time and doing something she loves is great."

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