When the idea for Beyond the Dugout was first floated amongst members of the Kick360 editorial team, the desire was to shine a light on the incredibly important and often unseen work of those slogging away behind the scenes in the A-League.
No role in football quite epitomises that description quite like the kit man.
From assisting coaches with training to offering a friendly ear and a bit of banter, these wonderful characters are often the life and soul of the club, and while the work they do will go mostly unseen by those outside the dressing room, without them the playing side of things would struggle to function.
For the final edition of Beyond the Dugout, we sat down with Perth Glory’s Property and Logistics Manager, Brett ‘Lambo’ Lambert to discover what life is like amongst the cones, balls and training bibs.
“The players get in at nine o’clock, so I usually get in a few hours before they start. Ensuring the change room is ready to go for them, their boots are ready, training equipment is ready; whatever they need” says Lambert.
“Over time, you start to know who likes what and what they like on any particular day.
“We get their drinks ready. Any of the supplements they need for the day need to be there for them. And of course, the most important thing, you can’t do training without the balls.”
Once the players needs are catered for, Lambert turns his attention to the gaffer.
“Then upstairs to see the coaches, get the coaching plan for the day. That normally takes about an hour and a half, so around 8:30, just as the boys are starting to arrive, we’re heading off to the training park to get the pitches set up for the drills for the day.
“It runs like clockwork. I’m in to my 14th season now, so nothing’s new to me.”
With the club sitting way out West on their own, preparing for a Glory away game certainly comes with its own set of challenges.
“Game day for us is a little bit different for us when we travel, for sure. We virtually travel for a whole day given the time difference. Anywhere we go in Australia is around 4 hours. Sydney is 4.5, Melbourne is 3.5, our closest is Adelaide and that’s a 2.5, 3 hour plane trip. It’s not like we can jump on the bus.
“We would normally board the plane anywhere from nine o’clock to eleven o’clock. There are two kinds of planes they have flying from the West over the East, the narrow bodied aircraft which sits 3 and 3 and the wide bodies, which are 2 x 4 x 2. We try to aim for those bigger planes, so the boys every hour to an hour and a half can get up and walk through the plane.”
And the club certainly don’t travel light.
“We normally take about 30 pieces of equipment luggage that includes the physio stuff, the strength and conditioning, my stuff for the game day, our analyst’s things, that works out to be around 1200kg.”
Upon arrival, preparations begin to ensure everyone is ready for game day.
“We normally arrive late afternoon or evening in to the state that we’re playing. In to the hotel, the boys will have a good meal to get them going then in for a stretch. What that means, especially in the summer months, there’s a three hour time difference, so we’re landing at six o’clock at night, which to us is still only three pm. The boys often won’t get to bed until about midnight or thereafter.
“They get a bit of a sleep in on the morning of the match, then go for breakfast about 10 o clock, which for our boys is only 7am. Have a little team walk and a stretch in a local park and then back to the hotel for some tactical stuff. When they start the tactical stuff, I’m usually heading off to the venue to set up for the match.”
With all the kit required for training and game day prep, even the most organised of kit men could be forgiven for forgetting something here and there.
Luckily, the mythical Kit Men WhatsApp group is on hand to save the day.
“The kit men around the league, most of them have been around for quite a while. As simple as it may sound, you may have forgotten your cones or only taken eight balls instead if ten, so we all share with each other. We’ve got a little WhatsApp group amongst ourselves where we help each other out, especially when we would arrive two days before and have a training session together.”
Working with the staff day in and day out over such an extended period of time, it’s only natural that strong relationships develop.
From local youngsters to global megastars, Lambert has been there for them all.
“Over the years, we’ve had some great players come through. We’ve had Robbie Fowler here, we’ve had William Gallas, Shane Smeltz, who’s a great player in his own right here in Australia, and we’ve got Andy Keogh still here… we’ve had some big names.
And we’ve had the young Perth boys who’ve come through. I’ve watched them go through the Academy and in to the youth team, come in to the senior team then kick on.
“I’m the mum and dad all rolled in to one when they come in.
“What I’ve found over the years is that I tend to be the fence sitter. I’m on the players side definitely, but I’m on the coaches side as well. Not that I’d talk out of school or something, or that I’d try and get anyone in to trouble in any way because that’s just not who I am, but I see a lot of things that go on with the players and I stick up for the coaches when I hear that, and vice versa, when the coaches say something I stick up for the players, providing they’ve done the right thing that is!”
Unfortunately, the football business is cyclical. Players come and go and Lambo has seen plenty of them pass through Perth during his time at the club.
“Over the years, I’m working with them every day, I’m going away with these players every second week, I’m spending a lot of time with them. Then I start to hear little whispers that they may be on the move… While I’d love nothing more than for them to stay, I’m definitely happy that they’re progressing their career and taking the step in the right direction, but there’s a couple of boys that spring to mind that I’ve had very close relationships with over the years.
“Probably the first one is Josh Risdon, who was here through the academy, through the youth league, made his debut and played a lot of games in the senior squad and got selected for the Socceroos.
“Then he moved on, which, yeah, I must admit, I shed a tear that day when he told me he was going… Chris Harold is another one that had been there a long time. He moved on to another club then came back to tell me that he’s going to give it away completely… there’s numerous players that I’ve spent years with here that I’m very close to.”
“Not to mention, I’ve been to a lot of players weddings, I’ve been to birthday parties, I’m the only member of staff they invite to go on their end of season trip…
“The coaches, that’s a completely different relationship because we spend a lot of time together. When we’re away, we’re together. We let the players do their own thing, playing table tennis or FIFA, where we sit together and have a glass of wine or a beer together, just to chill out a bit and talk about general stuff, and try not to talk about football.
“The coaches have been very good to me, and in turn I hope they appreciate all the things I’ve done for them over the years.”
And appreciated he most certainly is
Having spent even a short space of time in Lambo’s company, it became abundantly clear just how much of a kind, generous and charitable person he is.
Knowing our piece couldn’t begin to sum up just how important he has been, and continues to be, to those who have met him, Kick360 reached out to Glory greats past and present, who jumped at the chance to share their memories of the club legend.
Richard Garcia – Head Coach, Perth Glory captain 2014-2017
“Lambo is a great person to have at the club. He works with the players well and makes sure they have everything they need, and is great with players coming to the club as he always makes them feel welcome and helps them settle.
His jokes and funny stories keep us all entertained. He is a big part of the club and is always willing to help out wherever he can for players or staff; a true club man.”
Kenny Lowe – ECU Joondalup SC head coach, Perth Glory head coach 2014-2018
“Lambo is a brilliant guy. He cared for and looked after everyone, players and staff during my time at the club. He also has a lovely knack of lifting the mood, no matter the situation, always upbeat and smiling. Never a dull moment. Really, just the best. Top, top bloke”
Steve McGarry – Assistant Coach, Perth Glory player 2010-2014
“Lambo, the kit man extraordinaire and his famous bar and grill… but that’s a story for another time!
“I’ve shared some great times and experiences over the years with Lambo while playing and coaching. I keep him and his sidekick Rusty on their toes with training set up every morning, everything having to be immaculate for when the players arrive on-field, and as usual, they always produce the goods.
“Lambo goes above and beyond his kit man duties, building rapport with staff, players old and new and is always there to lend someone a hand or help someone out. The auld boy, as he is getting on a bit now, is the backbone of the club, and it’s people like him that really make football clubs special.”
Josh Risdon – Western United defender, Perth Glory player 2010-2017
“Lambo is loved by everyone. You never see him without a smile on his face. I saw him almost every day for seven years and even after I left the club, we kept in touch and he went above and beyond to help me. We have had some great chats and many laughs. An absolute legend.”
Scott Jamieson – Melbourne City captain, Perth Glory player 2012-2015
“The best all round man I’ve probably ever met. He’s someone who you can head to the pub with. He’s someone you could go to war with. He’s also someone you can sit down and tell your problems to. But he’s also someone that will clean your jocks and they’ll always come back clean!
“A man that I consider a true friend and I miss. I love him and his family lots and forever grateful to know him. As we say to each other, Love you Mumma.”
Brandon O’Neill – Perth Glory 2011-2015, 2021 – present
“Where do I start with Lambo? Talk about heart and soul of a professional organisation… he is it and more.
“He’s seen so many people over the years come and go but one thing has never changed; him. He’s warm, welcoming and always offering a hand to help but he also loves to take the p**s and have a laugh!
“Just recently he sent me a photo he took just over 10 years ago of me making my debut for Glory. He still had it on his phone! He’s kept all the local WA boys picture on his phone from when they’ve made their debut for the club… That’s the measure of the man. He cares.”