Adrian Mariappa interview: Macarthur Mapps – Former Watford man remixed but still striving
Having previously featured exclusively in England’s top two divisions, Adrian Mariappa headed for Australia last November, to Macarthur FC. The popular ex-Watford defender has slotted in smoothly in South Western Sydney, and he is enjoying this stage of his career, even if his signature song might be requiring an update for the new generation.
Appearing in the Premier League as recently as July 2020, for Watford away at Arsenal, Adrian Mariappa was one of 11 players confirmed this time last year as leaving Bristol City. The following few months saw the Jamaica centre-back playing numerous games at international level while a free agent.
Despite understandable interest from EFL sides, the next beneficiaries of the ex-Crystal Palace man’s vast experience would be A-League Men club Macarthur FC. The Wealdstone-raised player has remained close to his roots throughout his career, commuting to each club he has been with, though 10,500 miles this time around would have been stretching it just a touch.
The man known as ‘Mapps’ sets the scene of his current life Down Under.
“I live in Malabar, and where I live is on a hill, so literally when I go out my front door, I can see the sea, walk down to the bottom of the hill, little bit of a walk then there’s a beach right there. They’ve got a rock pool, which seem to be everywhere as well; we don’t really have them in England, as far as I know!
“Obviously very different, there’s beaches everywhere, everyone’s in flip-flops, but to be fair, it’s rained probably more here than it has back home. But that part of the lifestyle is very different, and something I enjoy as well, the warmer climate, easier on your joints, and I feel in really good condition out here.”
47′ | GOOOAAAAALLLLLL TO MARIAPPAAAAAA!!!!
Mariappa comes through and equalises the score!#CCMvMAC #WeAreTheBulls pic.twitter.com/hdSSMpTnKA
— Macarthur FC (@mfcbulls) March 19, 2022
The past couple of years have been an unusual period for players moving clubs, with split dressing rooms and minimal social opportunities during the severest of the in-season restrictions, and of course for a time, no chance to play in front of their new supporters. While Adrian’s most recent move did not happen during the worst of it, there was enough disruption at least to earn him a reprieve from the customary initiation song.
“I got away with it…probably shouldn’t have said that! When I came, because of COVID, the games I initially had were all basically in Sydney, then we had probably six weeks without a game, because all teams were getting COVID.
“I was probably there two-and-a-half months before I had an away game where I could have done my initiation, and by then, the time had passed. I’ve done it a good few times in my career, and I don’t actually mind doing it.
“It is nerve-racking, but if you just get up and give it a go, you can get it over and done with quite quickly. At Reading and Bristol City, I did Maverick Sabre ‘I Need’, which is quite an easy song to sing, and it went down well.
“The only problem is, with a lot of younger players now, they don’t really know the song!”
If a track from just over a decade ago is lost on the up-and-coming crop, then a mention of cassette tapes stands no chance!
“I can’t remember the first one that I ever bought but I remember having Michael Jackson ‘Bad’ cassette when I was younger and playing that quite a lot. When I was a kid, I listened to a lot of Michael Jackson.
“Growing up, people like Kano, Ghetts, the UK scene, I was always big into that. Apart from that, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, a lot of the West Coast stuff, Snoop and Dre etc.
“I was always a big hip-hop fan and I was always listening to reggae, my dad always had reggae playing in the house. I used to nick some of my sister’s stuff as well; she was listening to garage back in the day.
“To be fair, I like house music now as well.”
Macarthur’s season recently drew to a close, with the Bulls finishing 7th of the league’s 12 teams, missing out on Finals qualification by six points in what has been their second campaign since first beginning play. Adrian has featured prominently, even chipping in with three goals, though the prestigious and pressurised position of team DJ has not been on his wish list.
“I stay away from that! The younger lads, Michael Ruhs, Lachlan Rose, they kind of take it in turns.
“Sometimes Charles M’Mombwa as well, he gets involved. They all listen to totally different stuff between them, so it’s quite interesting to hear.”
Attacking prospect Ruhs was recently confirmed as departing, in what is a period of transition for the burgeoning club, with inaugural head coach Ante Milicic having already bid farewell. Former Manchester United striker Dwight Yorke has just been appointed as his successor.
The Trinidad and Tobago great was in his first stint in Australia, playing for Sydney FC, back when Adrian was embarking upon his debut season of senior football. It memorably ended in promotion to the Premier League for a Watford team that had been tipped as relegation favourites in pre-season.
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He has since spent nine seasons of his career in England’s top flight, with five of them for the Hornets – ‘his’ club. His father was raised fairly nearby, and Adrian remembers the musical influence he was surrounded by, and subsequently passed on.
“My dad came to England from Fiji when he was really young and he grew up in Neasden. He was in class with a lot of Jamaican boys, so he grew up around a lot of reggae music and that was always his go-to music.
“Whenever we had family functions, or just in the house, my dad was always listening to it; it was purely reggae in our house. I always grew up with that, and I find myself now going back and listening to the stuff that he used to listen to.
“Any time I listen to Beres Hammond, that reminds me of my dad and when I was growing up.”
When it came to international football, it was his maternal heritage that he would opt to represent, and a nation that embodies the idea of living and breathing music. Numerous Jamaican players have featured on this site down the years, from the historic World Cup ‘98 team, right through to today, shedding light on just how deep the rhythmic connection runs for the Reggae Boyz.
Adrian shares his own experience of that side to life in the black, green and gold.
“(Music) is not even seen as extra, it’s part of the culture. For example, when we do initiation songs, everyone’s involved; someone’s pretending they’re on the mic, someone’s giving you a drum beat.
“It’s a big thing, and it’s not someone trying to trip you up, everyone wants to get involved. Shamar Nicholson usually plays a lot of the music; happy for him to take control of that, because it’s probably hard keeping your playlist up to date, and I just could not be bothered with all that!
“The boys who are probably the best dancers in the camp as well take care of all the music, so it’s playing from the bus ride over, all the way into the changing rooms, literally to when we’re going out playing. You see all the celebrations when we’re with the national team are usually dances, so music is a big thing, and it sort of brings everyone together as well.
“It’s part of the whole feelgood factor, and it’s something that Jamaican people have been very talented at over the years, contributing musically to the world, so it’s obviously something that I’m very, very proud of.”
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A sense of bringing something to the party from your homeland was never captured better than in his second spell at Watford. Returning in August 2016 after four years away, Adrian had teammates in that season alone from Brazil to Nigeria, and Uruguay to Chelmsley Wood (but more of Troy Deeney later…).
Would it make for a dressing room that essentially became a world-music sound clash?
“It would, exactly what you just said there. When I left Watford, it was very English-based, the Pozzos had just taken over, and when I came back, it was so many different nationalities.
“Literally, some of the boys didn’t even speak English, and coming into that environment, sometimes one of the French boys might be putting on their music, or one of the Spanish boys, but honestly, I used to enjoy it. It was just a melting pot of different cultures and countries, and types of music.
“Sometimes there was a bit of a battle to see who could get the speaker first! Troy liked to be one of the DJs, he was always good, Andre (Gray), Gerard Deulofeu liked to try and get on there first as well.
“Roberto Pereyra used to carry this red speaker which was in the shape of a dog, so sometimes he’d be playing music on the coach. There was literally music playing everywhere; in the physio rooms as well.”
Argentine midfield man Pereyra was someone he came up against with Jamaica before they were teammates, in a group game at 2015’s Copa América in Chile which also featured Lionel Messi. Adrian would captain the team when he appeared again in the competition in 2016, as well as being part of two CONCACAF Gold Cups.
One of those saw the Reggae Boyz win 2-1 against hosts United States in the old Georgia Dome in Atlanta, in front of 70,511 in the semi-final, as they finished runners-up in 2015. His globe-trotting escapades continued this March, in Kingston and Toronto, as he made three appearances to round off the World Cup qualifiers.
A debutant back in 2012, it was a summer when he would also join Reading. Returning to the Premier League was an opportunity too good to turn down, though it did mean missing out on one player’s top-drawer initiation effort at Watford, as told by the aforementioned Troy Deeney on here back in December 2013.
Luckily, the same man would be back to re-sign five years later, with Adrian around to see the second showing.
“Nathaniel Chalobah, he was really good; he sang ‘Return of the Mack’ (Mark Morrison) and he put the voice on and everything. I remember Troy Deeney doing one of the worst!
“He tried putting his own spin on a tune – it was terrible. But you always have a laugh, whether it’s good or bad.”
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Prior to his Vicarage Road return, there were three years spent at Crystal Palace. As well as crucial consolidation for the newly-promoted team in his first year, he also got to play in the famous 3-3 comeback draw with title-chasing Liverpool, May 2014’s so-called ‘Crystanbul’.
‘Glad All Over’ ringing around Selhurst Park might be the soundtrack most associated with Palace, but there were big music enthusiasts in the team during Adrian’s time in south London, like Wilfried Zaha and Yannick Bolasie. Kitman Danny Young, though, is actually the one he remembers most for the changing-room playlist.
One thing is for sure, it was all a lot more harmonious than at Bristol City!
“There were more arguments I think in that changing room, because Kasey Palmer used to try and DJ and I think he’d get kicked off every week! I think Antoine Semenyo would take over as well.
“I can’t remember if Jack Hunt also used to, but I always remember Kasey Palmer getting kicked off, because he only listened to trill music! At some point, the lads were like, ‘That’s enough now’!”
Given his pick of anyone from all-time to see perform, the chance to watch Michael Jackson on stage and in full flow would be impossible to look past. Despite his love of music, though, gigs and festivals are a relatively new addition to his life.
“Yeah, I’ll be honest, it’s only really something I started doing more recently. The first proper concert I went to was Usher, and then I’ve been to a few at the O2; Future, Drake, The Weeknd.
“I tried to go and watch Alkaline at the O2 in Brixton, which got shut down because people were trying to rush the door! That would have been good.
“Saw Popcaan at Wembley Arena; that was really good. I’ve been to a few house festivals during the summer, We Are FSTVL and stuff like that.
“I try and get to them when I can but most of it happens in July, and I’m usually back in pre-season by then.”
Unlikely as it may be, should he ever switch his talents to recording a song, Fulham’s Nathaniel Chalobah would get the call to come in and collaborate (assuming the real Mark Morrison isn’t available, of course). Former Watford left-sider Jordan Stewart, a man he rates as ‘the best dancer I’ve played with’, would also be drafted in – for the music video alone.
The right sounds have an undoubted part in setting the tone for him, as an athlete and in life away from the sport. Music aside, numerous elements can go together to make a player feel in tune with their surroundings and the people they are amongst.
For Adrian, what kind of approach has tended to hit the mark with him from managers in his career?
“I feel like I’ve been able to adapt to most coaching styles, which I think has allowed me to have longevity in the game. I think I’ve always responded better with the more responsibility I’ve had, and that’s probably the way managers have got the best out of me personally.
“I’ve not always played in my career, I’ve had to battle my way up, which I’ve taken a lot of pride in. I think Javi Gracia was one of the ones (who understood me best).
“I played a lot under him, we had a great season at Watford, the 18/19 season, which was incredibly hard to do. We nearly finished in the top half of the league and probably could have had Europe that year, got to an FA Cup final as well, and he gave me a lot of responsibility.
“I just tried to repay the faith that he showed in me on the pitch.”
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Having played against some of the most notable attacking talents around, it would be easy to drop some heavyweight names if he was to be quizzed on the best he has faced. More interesting, though, is which individual opponents liked to get it firing with the verbal jousts during the game!
“Clinton Morrison – oh my God, he just didn’t shut up! He was big into the verbals.
“To be honest, I’ve not really played against too many that were, but he was. I think he was the first person I came up against where I was kind of taken aback, ‘Wow, he’s talking a lot!’
“I always enjoyed the battle with him, he was a very good striker as well, hard to play against. Whenever I see him now, I’ve always got a lot of time for him.”
There should be an interesting test around the corner this week as well, with Adrian one of two Macarthur players (alongside goalkeeper Filip Kurto) named in the A-League All-Stars team to face Barcelona on Wednesday (25th May). The game will mark Barça’s first time in Australia, with new Bulls boss Dwight Yorke announced as the All-Stars’ coach.
Showpiece exhibition matches aside, Adrian describes how else this move has felt a step into the unknown in his career, in an on-field respect.
“It’s completely different from football in England, nothing that I’ve been used to. Even the way the league is set up, it’s very different, with the play-offs and trying to get to the Grand Final.
“It’s very athletic, it’s very competitive, and I feel like anyone can beat anyone on their day, but at the end of the day, it’s just football. I’ve loved how different it is, I’ve loved the challenge.
“I’ve put the same attention to detail and the same effort in as I would have done playing in the Premier League, because I feel if you don’t, you’ll come unstuck. I’d like to think I’ve still performed well, and I’ve really enjoyed it – scored the most goals I ever have in a season!”
There have certainly been some magnificent accomplishments ticked off over the years, from playing in a Wembley FA Cup final (with Watford against Manchester City in 2019) to long since surpassing 400 appearances at club level. Australia represents another phase of his life, and an exciting one at that, with all sorts to savour from one week to the next.
Away from the pitch, there are some other up-and-coming youngsters keeping his hands full, though he does get to dabble in another pastime, thanks in no small part to a certain ex-Watford teammate.
“Ben Foster got me into cycling, so I ended up quite big into that; we’d hit the road with Craig Cathcart quite a bit. Apart from that, my life’s quite full-on with the kids, so I enjoy taking them to stuff and helping them to try and achieve what they can.
“They’re into so many different things, but that’s one of my passions, just helping them improve and seeing them enjoying something, and hopefully being successful.”
As he signs off here, there is another game in the offing (albeit one of the fantasy variety), so it is time to call in some of the big guns. In this regular final question, the player is asked for four teammates from their career to go alongside them in a 5-a-side line-up, though with no emphasis on naming any kind of ‘best four’ they have ever played with.
The vibe instead is on enjoyment and simply throwing together some examples of those they would relish mixing it with once again. So, who gets a start in this one?
“I’d have Troy (Deeney) in there; he’d do my head in, he’d moan so much, but I’d have him in there! I’d have Wilf Zaha in there; he’s definitely one of the most talented players I’ve played with.
“I’d probably stick Lloyd Doyley in there; I’d end up having a laugh at him, probably! He’s still a good friend of mine.
“I’d have Ben Foster in goal; that speaks for itself, doesn’t it?”
To catch each of these interviews, you can follow me: @chris_brookes
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