News: Get to know.. Robert Cullen

James: Morning Robert. Welcome to the Tanners, although you’ve been here a while now. What were your main reasons for deciding to join Leatherhead?

Bobby: Playing in England as a professional was my dream, so I was looking for clubs in England with my agent and he has a good relationship with Leatherhead so that’s how I got the trial and contract here.

James: You previously played in Holland’s top fight, the Eredivisie, a very high standard! Who were some of the best players you came up against during your time there?

Bobby: I played against Van Dijk now at Liverpool. He was very strong and so fast, I couldn’t pass through him! Also in the air he was so strong too. He was at Groningen back then.

James: You started off in Japan’s J-League, which now boasts superstars such as Andreas Iniesta and Fernando Torres. Is football a big attraction in Japan because of this, or has it always been a major sport for the Japanese people?

Bobby: The most popular sport is still baseball but football is second now. Football is very quickly developing and getting better. There are many clubs with lots of money buying big players. The J-League is aiming to show its games to all of Asia and wants to be like the Premier League one day! There has been a lot of interest since Iniesta and Torres moved there, many tickets are being sold and stadiums are sold out.

James: I read that Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neil approached you about the possibility of playing for their national team. How close did that come to materialising?

Bobby: It was back in 2012. I was playing in the Netherlands and one of my coach’s asked me if I’d like to play for the Northern Irish national team. But I wanted to play for Japan so I said no and my father was a little sad about this… But at that time I was so keen to play for the Japanese national team.

James: I know you played in many countries throughout your career. What has your favourite country and best experience been from playing football?

Bobby: Dutch football was a fantastic experience for me, it was very different to Japan. Japan is a bit more technical and organised, but Dutch football is more individual… it’s always 1v1 which makes it very interesting.

James: You also played in India, and like Japan there’s been a lot of investment in the game there, big players have played there in recent times. Diego Forlan, Eidur Gudjohnson, Nicolas Anelka to name a few. Did you have any big superstars playing with you?

Bobby: In my team we had Didier Zokora who played for Tottenham {Ivory Coast’s most capped player, no mean feat with the likes of Drogba and the Toure originating there}. Zico and Zambrotta were managers over there at the time. My manager was not famous though.

James: Did you enjoy your Indian adventure? The culture, food and overall experience…

Bobby: Yes, but we had to stay in the hotel everyday outside of training and games, those were the rules. It’s a very short league, only a two month season but we play 14 games in that time! India is a huge country and we had to take planes everywhere, we didn’t have time to go out to eat or socialising. But yes, the Indian people were very kind and friendly to me.

James: I’ve watched you play many times so far during your short spell with Leatherhead. It is clear you are a very creative player and like creating chances for other players, but do you get the same buzz from assisting others as you do from scoring yourself?

Bobby: I like to make assists. To be honest I am not good at shooting but I am good at assisting others, I like to make chances for Leatherhead!

James: Do you have a number in your head of the number of assists you’d like to achieve each season?

Bobby: Yes, more than 10 assists in half a season!

James: Lastly, you are hosting a dinner party this weekend. You can invite three celebrities. Who would you invite and why?

Bobby: Ohhhh, interesting question! In England I have a friend playing in the Premier League, Maya Yoshida playing with Southampton and Shinji Okazaki with Leicester. I played with Maya in Holland and Okazaki in the Beijing Olympic team {Japan U22’s} so we are also good friends. I would invite both of them along. And the other…my agent!

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