Training for retirement

Liam Brady is candid about the lack of sentimentality in coaching and decoding accents for Bill O’Herlihy but, even after 18 years as head of youth development at Arsenal, he’s not reaching for slippers

Sat, Jul 19, 2014, 01:00

It is a wonderful thing to be driven around Highbury by Liam Brady. It is the area of London he first came to as a teenager. Now the baby seat for his granddaughter, Aoife, is in the backseat of his car.

“This is Highbury Fields, ” he says, as fine houses of yellow brick ease themselves into another blistering day of the London heatwave. Past the Emirates stadium, Arsenal FC’s new home, built on land that mostly belonged to the railway. Past the apartments that surround the stadium, past the club offices.

“You have to cross that bridge there to get into the stadium. It’s a railway bridge,” says Brady.

Round the corner then and past the Arsenal Tube station, not even five minutes from the Emirates Stadium. And then the old stadium, in all its Art Deco finery, red and white, and reborn as apartments now. Brady points out the edges of the new gardens planted where the pitch used to be.

“I lived down there,” says Liam at one point. “When I first came over.”

He was in digs in Plimsoll Road. He was 15 years old. But London was not entirely new to him.

“I’d been to England a few times because two of my brothers were professional footballers over here.”

Beyond cliche 

Brady is sort of beyond cliche. He surprises you. He is both forthright and gentlemanly.

The worst tackle, he says, is when the other guy comes in just slightly late and so his studs are coming down your shin and down your knee. Good God, what do they call that, I say, ready for any drama, and the technical term.

“An over-the-top tackle,” he says, and laughs out loud.

He was kept out of the 1990 World Cup and the last bit of the 1988 European Championship by injuries which still hurt him. No histrionics here.

“Usually you become good at something, Ann Marie, because you love it. No kid is going to turn it down. I wouldn’t put any kid off it.”

Of course he was part of the recent marathon of soccer punditry on RTÉ .

“We had a great World Cup to commentate on,” he says.

The atmosphere this time was much better than during the 2010 South African World Cup, “where you had white people who didn’t like football and black people who couldn’t afford to go and see it,” he says.

He was pleased that RTÉ introduced new people to its famous panel of himself, John Giles and Eamon Dunphy. Like Richard Sadlier and Kenny Cunningham. And Ossie Ardiles.

“Ossie,” says Brady, “I had to translate Ossie to Bill [O’Herlihy]. Bill didn’t get Ossie. But I’ve known Ossie a long time.”

Brad Friedel, Neil Lennon, Ronnie Whelan – “Ronnie’s one of us,” he says.

Surely he must be exhausted after the whole competition.