Pragmatic Brady happy to plot a route to the top by taking his chance at Hull
Hull City's Robbie Brady battles Wilfred Zaha of Crystal Palace during Tuesday night's Championship match. Coach Steve Bruce said it was "of paramount importance" Brady was signed by the club.photograph: getty images
Soccer Angles: On an increasingly bleak Thursday night towards the end of September, Moss Lane, Altrincham, on the southern outskirts of Greater Manchester staged a Manchester Senior Cup tie that did not persuade legions from their homes. Rickety Moss Lane is where Manchester United play their reserve games and this one was against Bury reserves.
An Irish teenager, Shane Byrne, caught the eye for Bury, but it was the sight of Robbie Brady in Altrincham that was most notable. Brady was 20. He had just made his full Irish debut against Oman and had scored a goal – past Wigan keeper Ali Al-Habsi.
Brady then finished the month by making a four-minute appearance for United against Newcastle in the League Cup at Old Trafford. This, too, was a debut, a first senior appearance in red. September 2012 was turning into a month to remember for Robbie Brady.
Yet in between those two occasions was this blast of reality, a cold night in Altrincham playing reserve-team football. If you were to discover Alex Ferguson selected the premises personally in order to keep his young players’ egos in check, it would hardly be a surprise.
Brady has had praise heaped upon him from a young age, it was said 19 Premier League clubs offered him a contract at 15/16, but here was what a professional career contains: a toughening game in front of a couple of hundred diehards in a ground that is the opposite of all that is Old Trafford.
What recognition gained here comes from coaches and peers, no one else. That can be enough, but at some point a talented young man outgrows such venues and fixtures.
Federico Macheda played that night as well; Macheda (scorer of that famous winner against Aston Villa in 2009, but just five months older than Brady) is now on loan at Stuttgart.
And within six weeks of that Manchester Senior Cup tie, Brady was also on loan, playing in the Championship with Hull City against Wolves and international colleagues Stephen Ward and Kevin Doyle. There were 15,000 there at the KC stadium, an atmosphere. No, it was not United and Old Trafford – those four minutes v Newcastle were all he got – but it was proper senior football.
Brady had first gone to Hull at the beginning of last season. He stayed the course, first under Nigel Pearson, then Nick Barmby. Going back to a familiar club – now onto Steve Bruce as manager – made sense. It was the action of someone who understood his reality.
In January Hull made the transfer permanent courtesy of a £2 million deal. As Brady turned 21, Old Trafford, and Altrincham, were over. John O’Shea, a decade in United’s first-team squad, called Brady’s decision “very brave”.
“In the long term I think it will benefit him. In the back of young lads’ minds, they’d be thinking: ‘I could get a chance’, but I think the problem they have now is the [United] worldwide network of scouts has increased so much even from when I was a youth team player.
“Look at the lads who are coming in from Brazil, South America, African kids, it’s a lot more fiercely competitive and that will obviously make it a lot more difficult for the Irish lads.”
That’s the reality for the likes of Brady. United comb the world for boys now, not just these islands. So Hull City and first-team football have their own attraction. Certainly that was the evidence last Saturday as Hull demolished Birmingham City 5-2 and Brady stood out from the first minute when his exquisite pass teed up George Boyd for the opening goal.