Tuesday, 16 February 2016

OSM - Football Legends - Liam Brady

Liam Brady spent seven years plying his trade in Italian football before returning to play with West Ham for the 1987/88 season. It was suspension and injury which prevented him from playing in EURO 1988 under Jack Charlton in Germany and he ended his Republic of Ireland playing days with 72 caps in 1990 never making it to the World Cup in Italy either.

Overall though 1979 was amongst the best for the Whitehall man as he won the PFA Player of the Year and then played a key role in the dying minutes of the 1979 FA Cup Final to secure a victory for Arsenal over Manchester United at Wembley. In fact he had a hand in all three Arsenal goals and controlled most of the match that day.
Although the League title went to Liverpool that year, Brady had an FA Cup medal and the Cup Winners Cup was to be played for against Valencia at the Heysel stadium in Brussels. The exertions of the FA Cup final though the previous Saturday may have taken their toll on the Gunners and the 0-0 deadlock could not be broken in normal time. `

It was his performances in the two leg semi final against Juventus that were the real high points for Brady portraying his ability and craft.

In the first leg at Highbury the new Republic of Ireland Assistant Manager, Marco Tardelli, was sent off but the game ended in a 1-1 draw despite the Italians playing with ten men.

The return leg was more remarkable and the Gunners saw off Juventus by one goal to nil in Turin courtesy of Paul Vaessen. The Italian side had played from kick off like a side happy with a nil all draw hoping that the away goal in London would prove enough. History recalls it was not.

The clubs run in the Cup Winners Cup enhanced Brady's reputation immeasurably and having started to consider a move from Arsenal himself that year it was the performance in the match against Juventus in the semi-final that sealed the move to Juventus and life with Giovanni Trapattoni.
But there was more heart break before that good news was to come to pass.

In the final in Brussels the Valencia side were not fancied despite being managed by Real Madrid legend Alfredo Di Stefano. In their side was 1978 World Cup champion and tournament top scorer, Mario Kempes and 1974 World winner Rainer Bonhof. But the efforts of Brady, Stapleton, O'Leary, Pat Jennings, Pat Rice and Sammy Nelson went unrewarded that night when Valencia won 5-4 on penalties.

The German fondly remembers a see saw game that could have gone either way at one stage. But the former Borussia Moenchengladbach midfielder had been given a job to do and it was to neutralise the influence of Brady that night.

“I had to follow him for the match especially when we were defending their attacks and make sure he could not control the team like in the previous round against Juve“explained Bonhof with a wry smile, “At the start of the second half Brady eventually looked at me like and asked when was I going to give up following him? I told I couldn’t, it was my job that night!”

After extra time it was to be spot kicks and the first penalties were missed by Liam Brady and Mario Kempes. Then with four scored a piece it went to the second round and for the Gunners it was Graham Rix who saw his spot kick saved sending Arsenal home empty handed.. The Spanish travelled away as victors and at 24 years of age, Liam Brady was to go and join Juventus for a fee of just £514,000 leaving the disappointment of defeat behind him.

In Turin Liam quickly became a favourite of the Juventus fans and won back-to-back Serie A titles in his two seasons at the club. In early 1982, rumours that Juventus were ready to sell Brady, in order to accommodate Michel Platini, were greeted with incredulity by their fans. But the fears came to pass and the Turin side went on to parade two World Cup stars the next season with Polish forward Zbigniew Boniek joining Michel Platini, the current president of UEFA., at the club.

In their wake Liam Brady moved to newly-promoted Sampdoria and helped the club establish itself in Serie A even if no trophies came his way. In 1984, he left for Internazionale in Milan and spent two seasons there again with little to silverware to show for it. In 1986 Brady made his way to Ascoli as Trapattoni came the other way and at Milan he managed Inter to win another Serie A title the first season and a UEFA Cup in 1991.

The Italian journey ended when Brady returned to England in March 1987 joining West Ham from Ascoli.

Despite becoming gaining 72 caps and scoring 9 goals, Ireland’s transition into an international football force came too late in Liam’s career for him to be part of it Through injury and suspension he missed out on Euro 88 and then two years later he was not to be part of Ireland’s 1990 World Cup Final squad, a tournament that was to be hosted in Italy.

His time in management was probably his least successful era with a spell at Celtic that saw him part company by mutual consent in 1993. Soon afterwards he joined as manager of Brighton and that ended without success after two years. In 1996 he returned to Highbury as Arsene Wenger’s Head of Youth Development and the Director of the Youth Academy where he remains today.

In 2008 he was appointed an Assistant to the Republic of Ireland Manager, Giovanni Trapattoni and remained for a year.

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