Q and A with Michael Theoklitos

Brisbane Roar goalkeeper Michael Theoklitos is the only Hyundai A-League player in competition history to win three championships with three Goalkeeper of the Year gongs also under his belt.

Brisbane Roar goalkeeper Michael Theoklitos is the only Hyundai A-League player in competition history to win three championships with three Goalkeeper of the Year gongs also under his belt.

After three seasons with Melbourne Victory, the former Victorian Premier League player had a short stint with England-s Norwich City in which he only made one appearance - a 7-1 defeat at the hands of Colchester in the opening fixture of the 2009/10 season.

Theoklitos made a return to Australian football in March 2010 after signing to play under Ange Postecoglou at the Roar and twelve months later pulled off the impossible, saving two penalties in the sudden death Hyundai A-League Grand Final shootout to hand Brisbane their first championship.

Here, the experienced shotstopper opens up about his time abroad, explains what motivates him as a goalkeeper and talks about away trip superstitions.

Brisbaneroar.com.au caught up with Theoklitos on Wednesday afternoon to ask your chosen questions from Facebook and Twitter.

1. When you started playing football, what made you decide to be a goalkeeper?

I started playing when I was nine and I used to play on the streets with a mate of mine. He used to shoot and I used to dive around on the cement. Then, we thought we-d join a club and they asked me what position and from day one, I-ve chosen to be in goals. I don-t like running around too much so I prefer to dive around and order people around! Goalkeeping is an important position, if you make a mistake, it-s a goal. But then, if you pull off a good save, you save a goal so I get excitement by making a good save and keeping my team in the game.

2. What goes through your mind when you are about to face a penalty? Is it any different in a shootout when you know you-ll be facing a few?

When you-ve got a penalty throughout the season, you try and stay as big and as imposing as possible, maybe play a few mind games to put the penalty taker off. Obviously, it-s in their favour to score the penalty so you-re sort of in a win-win situation - if you save it, you-re the hero, if they score, they were meant to score. In terms of a shootout, you-re facing five in a row so I prefer that, I-ve actually got a good record in shootouts. Obviously, the grand final last year and even in the Victorian Premier League back home, we won a grand final in a penalty shootout where I saved three. I think I should-ve saved three in the grand final last year too! But yeah, I prefer that - facing five with plenty of mind games going on. In the grand final, I went into the zone and really concentrated. You go on your gut instinct, you pick a side and sometimes try and read the player to see where you think he-ll put it. But when it comes off, you-re the hero and when it doesn-t, they were meant to score anyway.

3. Do you find the mandate of playing out from the back challenging at times? Are there times you-d feel more comfortable kicking it long?

In the past, I-ve played for teams where we didn-t play out from the back so I-ve been used to going long. Since I arrived in Brisbane - this is my second season - it-s been all new to me. I can see the benefits of playing out from the back so it-s something that I-ve had to work on. I work on it every day and I-m improving in each game. It-s something I-ve had to adapt to and it-s something I-ve had to work on in my game but I-m enjoying it. It-s not the usual slow the game down and knock it long and hope for the best. There-s a purpose to why we play out from the back and we want to keep possession. At times we make mistakes but that-s going to happen and we get on with it. That-s the beauty of our team - all players out there are comfortable on the ball and feel comfortable with the ball at their feet. If you had players that weren-t so comfortable, it would be risky and you-d have to go longer!

4. Would you ever consider another stint in Europe given what happened during your time with Norwich City?

It would have to be something exceptional. It-s something I always wanted to do and I got a taste for it. In that sense, I have no regrets. In saying that, I-m really enjoying being back home and being a part of one of the most successful clubs in the A-League. Why would I want to leave unless something exceptional came up and I had to look at it? I-m happy where I am and I-m thoroughly enjoying my football and enjoying life in general here in Brisbane. I don-t regret anything at all - if anything, my stint overseas made me a stronger person and made me the person I am today. You learn a lot about yourself through the difficult times, when everything is going well, it-s quite easy but it really shows your character and what you-re really about. In trying circumstances, I coped quite well considering. I was put under immense pressure but the way I reacted, I was really proud of myself. At the end of the day, I always did the right thing and I was a professional footballer. I always made sure I worked hard at training and if I got an opportunity, I-d be ready for it. Norwich are in the Premier League now, I think they are ninth or tenth and they-re doing pretty well. For me, it just wasn-t meant to be. It was one freaky game but that-s football, it-s pretty cutthroat. The manager gets sacked after one game and a new manager comes in and I-m not part of his plans - the writing is pretty much on the wall for me. But that-s how it is over there in Europe, it-s pretty cutthroat but as I said before, I wouldn-t change it for anything. I really enjoyed the time, as trying as it was, I learnt a lot about myself and it-s made me the person I am today. That-s why I really enjoy coming into work every day and playing on the weekends because for a year there, I felt like I wasn-t a footballer.

5. How do you rate the other goalkeepers in the Hyundai A-League? Is there a type of comradery between you guys or are you competitive against each other?

Australian goalkeepers in general have been pretty exceptional over the years. We-ve had a lot of ‘keepers do well in European leagues. There are only ten positions so it-s important that you do well, otherwise someone else will come and take your job. There is a bit of comradery whenever we play and obviously with clean sheets, you want to keep as many as you can. I think we kept 10 last year or 11 I think it was so we were quite happy with that. We-ve had two on the bounce now which hoping we can keep up and score down the other end too. It-s difficult, there are two or three ‘keepers at a club and only one plays so it-s a difficult situation to be in if you-re the number two. I-ve been in that position many times before and that-s just part of goalkeeping. You-ve got to keep positive, keep working hard and wait for the opportunity and hopefully when it does come, you take it. That-s the case - in Europe it-s four goalkeepers and one plays so it-s a difficult situation to be in but that-s part of it. There-s no reason why Redders [Andrew Redmayne] can-t go do well at Melbourne Heart. He-s 23 now and in five or six years, hasn-t played that many games but he-s a good goalkeeper and I really think he-ll do well at Melbourne Heart. It-s good for him to get out there and play.

6. In last week-s Q and A, Erik Paartalu told us that you love your fantasy football. Any other hobbies or interests outside of playing and training?

He-s not lying when he-s saying I-m good at fantasy Premier League. Yeah, I-m top - clear by 100 points. I-ve got [Robin] van Persie up front, [Sergio] Aguero and Demba Ba from Newcastle so I-ve got a pretty good attack and my team is solid. I-m ranked 25,000th out of 2.7 million players so I do fancy myself a bit at the fantasy Premier League! I do my homework, probably spend an hour or so each week making sure I know who-s injured, who-s not, transfers in that week and I look at the fixture list as well. Outside of football, I like reading books. I-ve just started a new trilogy - the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Thoroughly enjoying that so I-m onto the third book. I-ve just seen the movie and they-ve done an amazing job on it. Obviously with all the travelling we do, I-ve got plenty of time to read. For my birthday, I also got an iPad so I-m loving that. About Erik, he-s a good roomie, I must admit! I-ve had him since day one and we went on that winning streak so we kept it the same. We-re very superstitious. Every time we check into a hotel, I have to open the door and go in first. We always make sure I-ve got the bed furthest from the bathroom - it-s scary how superstitious you become!

7. You-re a Melbourne boy living in Brisbane. What do you like about Brisbane and what do you prefer about Melbourne?

Melbourne is a great place, there-s plenty to do there and we-ve got family back home but in saying that, we love Brisbane. It-s just a different way of life, it-s very laidback and here, it-s just my wife and I so we do our own thing. The weather and the climate here is so different so you can do more things. We love it here in Brisbane. In terms of football clubs, I was quite fortunate to play for Melbourne Victory. We won two titles, which was great, and in terms of support, the atmosphere they generate is great. In saying that, to play at Suncorp Stadium - it-s an amazing stadium and especially the Den and the atmosphere they create. There-s probably not as many there than people who go to Melbourne Victory games but they generate an atmosphere just as good.

8. You-ve got your own goalkeeping clinics. Is this going to be your career post-football?

Yeah, definitely. It-s something that I want to do - give back and train the next goalkeeper or out-field players and give some of my experiences that I-ve gone through in my playing career if I can help them out in any way. Instead of doing it post-career, I thought I-d start now. I thoroughly enjoy it and we-ve had a couple of clinics and they-ve all gone well. The feedback we-ve had has been all positive, the kids love working with us. It-s a passion of mine and it-s something that I enjoy doing. It-s exciting, seeing the kids go through the ranks and if you can influence them in a positive way and they can learn from you, it-s a win-win situation. Thoroughly enjoying it at the moment but when I finish my career, it-s something I-ll do on a full-time basis. At the moment, it-s quite hard because we-ve got games and Asia as well so in the off-season, I-ll have a clinic or two. Maybe when Fernando [vaz Alves] retires in ten years- time I can take over as goalkeeper coach here at Brisbane Roar!