Brothers get their kicks
Junior and Jaineil Hoilett take their soccer games from Brampton backyard to European stage
The Hoiletts’ Brampton backyard was a training ground.
Just a few blocks from the Bramalea City Centre, it was where David (Junior) and Jaineil Hoilett learned to play soccer. Junior was a childhood prodigy, and Jaineil, two years younger, worked his butt off trying to keep up with big brother.
Now, at 19, Junior is playing in the world’s most popular sports league, the English Premiership. He might be the best talent Blackburn Rovers have produced in a decade. Meanwhile, Jaineil, 17, is with the junior arm of FSV Mainz, playing regularly and looking to become a first-team player in Germany’s top division.
FIRST EPL START
Junior got his first EPL start Saturday in a draw with Hull City, and was a key part of the Carling Cup upset of Chelsea two weeks ago. He came on as a sub and scored in the penalty shootout.
“I was nervous at first, but things went well once I got my feelings under control,” he said of his first EPL start.
But Junior hasn’t committed to play for the Canadian national team. He turned down a recent invitation to join the squad for friendlies in Poland and Macedonia.
Both have said that the prospects of playing for the national team aren’t foremost in their minds. For Jaineil, the decision still is a few years away. But, when it comes to Junior, Canadian soccer fans are waiting on pins and needles.
“Right now, I’m focused on establishing myself in the first team, and establishing myself as a Rovers player,” Junior said in an exclusive interview.
“No, I just feel I need to focus on my club at the moment.”
Said Jaineil: “It’s not time yet to make a decision. I’ve got a lot of years ahead of me. My focus is on club football, not international football, at the moment.”
But there’s no arguing that both are special players who could have a major impact on the Canadian program for years to come. Last year, while on loan with German side St. Pauli — where he teamed with his younger brother — Junior was such a hit that the fans unfurled a huge banner beseeching him not to return to England.
Football writer Gary York of the Lancashire Telegraph wrote Junior is “one of the best prospects to have come through the club’s academy since David Dunn and Damien Duff.” Both of those players have gone on to long and fruitful careers.
But, will Junior stay at Blackburn? Jaineil was Blackburn property until he was 16, but the family decided to explore other options. Father David Sr. and mom, Ingrid, didn’t like the way Blackburn kept loaning Junior out to German teams, and didn’t want the younger son to go through the same experience. Junior has not signed a new contract, and rumours fly that he will want to move on as well, with a possible move to a big German club as early as January.
Blackburn manager Sam Allardyce even travelled to Brampton from England to meet with the Hoiletts, to sell them on the idea that Junior was indeed part of the Rovers’ long-term plans.
“Can I say no comment on my situation right now?” Junior said. “He (Allardyce) did come to Canada to visit my parents. And that did show me that they really want to keep me here. Actually, I’m really comfortable here.”
While Junior isn’t talking about his future, Jaineil says he is happy for the moment at Mainz.
“I’ve played in every game (with the U-19s),” Jaineil said. “My goal is to make it into a few games with the first team by the end of the year and keep playing with the under-19s.
“I’m very happy here but my situation isn’t settled.”
Both brothers have things they need to work on. Jaineil needs to be better with the ball at his feet and his heading. Junior needs to hold the ball up more and concentrate on defensive positioning. But they are years ahead of the curve.
A lot of that has to do with that backyard in Bramalea.
“I think Brampton, compared with the big city, there’s not a lot to do, so we focused on playing soccer,” Jaineil said. “In Toronto, there are so many things to do, so many distractions. In Brampton, we just played sports, played against each other. In the yard, I had to learn to be strong on the ball because my brother was older than me. And I also learned that I had to play some tricks.”
Junior joined Blackburn’s academy when he was 13. Jaineil soon followed. Their dad and mom have been to their share of grounds and stadia in England and Germany since then.
Ingrid took a three-month leave of absence from work to help Junior settle into life in England when he first made the move. This year, for the first time, he won’t be home for Christmas, as the EPL plays through the holiday season.
“I think I am humble-minded,” Junior said. “I have worked had and my family has supported me. They went back and forth with me to England and back. They worked hard so I wouldn’t feel homesick.”
He can send home some Christmas cards. Or better, contribute to some Blackburn victories.