Pragmatic Brady happy to plot a route to the top by taking his chance at Hull
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.
Brady enjoyed the rest of the game. His footwork and control were greeted with regular applause. He looks a crowd favourite. Afterwards Steve Bruce said it was “of paramount importance” Brady was signed permanently in January.
Hull City leapt to second in the Championship courtesy of their win. Three days later they fell back to third when conceding four at Crystal Palace. Neither one win nor one defeats vindicates or mocks Brady’s January decision. Hull might not make automatic promotion come May but Brady is part of a rising tide on Humberside.
Just two points cover the three clubs chasing leaders Cardiff City in a race that will only get more and more compelling. Brady is in the thick of it.
Hull will probably lose some ground today as they are playing at Burnley on Monday night. Also playing on Monday night, at Moss Lane, are Manchester United reserves. Had Brady stayed it is likely that is where he would be, as opposed to Old Trafford tomorrow for Chelsea in the FA Cup.
But it would be understandable if Brady still has “what-if” thoughts. And, if so, he can talk to Hull colleague, David Meyler. In last Saturday’s matchday programme there was a “Made In Ireland” feature. Meyler spoke in it, rousingly. “You can never knock an Irishman” and “we are unique people,”said Meyler. “We get on with things . . . that’s what you have to do in life, not dwell on things but go out and do things.”
It may not be glory, glory Manchester United but Robbie Brady is out there doing it at Hull City. And it may yet lead to the Premier League.
Ferguson’s view on the importance of sports science a clue to his decision on Rooney
The Peterborough United owner-chairman Darragh MacAnthony has launched a new magazine twentyfour7football. Its first edition has Alex Ferguson on the cover and an interview inside.
Given MacAnthony’s manager at Peterborough is one Darren Ferguson, the route to the elder Ferguson may be visible.
The interview – by Gordon McQueen’s daughter, Hayley – contains a paragraph that jumps out in a week when Wayne Rooney’s body fat compared to that of Cristiano Ronaldo’s or Ryan Giggs’s is such an issue.
“Sports Science, without question, is the biggest and most important change in my lifetime,” Alex Ferguson says.
“The medical side has improved a lot too in terms of rehabilitation and preparation of players, it’s moved the game on to another level that maybe we’d never have dreamt of all those years ago. Sports Science has brought a new dimension to the game.”
This development, and Ferguson’s glowing appraisal, is surely worth noting when he is gushing about Ronaldo and Giggs, while stating “Wayne needs games” shortly after leaving him on the bench.
Rooney might be called upon tomorrow against Chelsea. Then again, Shinji Kagawa and Javier Hernandez did not even make it off the bench against Real Madrid.