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Liam Brady (Arsenal F.C. 1973-80)

Liam Brady

Having just scored a classic goal at White Hart Lane in our 5-0 win

Chippy : Our Irish Genius   (courtesy of ARSEWEB)

Over the years, many players from the English league have been dressed up as world-class players, often with little justification, but the suit was tailor made for Liam Brady. A man with the most magical left peg ever seen at The Home of Football.

Born in Dublin on the 13th February 1956, he joined the Arsenal as a 15-year-old apprentice in June 1971. He turned professional in July 1973 following in the footsteps of his older brothers Pat (Millwall) and Ray (QPR). Many still believe that he was given the nickname ‘Chippy’ by Don Howe, as a mark of respect for his remarkable ability to chip the ball either short or long with amazing accuracy with that fabulous left foot of his. Not so. It was his penchant for chips, of the deep fried potato variety, that gave birth to the name.

Brady was not a one-footed player, in the way Winterburn was, as any defender who played against him for the first time discovered, when they attempted to force him onto his expected weaker foot. He could also play and cross perfectly well with his right as witnessed for our 2nd goal of the Final against Manchester United. As left feet go Brady’s was special, just so brilliant in fact that it must have seemed pointless to him to use his other one. By way of left footed comparisons Emmanuel Petit is probably the only recent player to come close to Liam’s ability since the Brady era but the Irishman’s close control was vastly superior and his passing more consistent.

He made his league debut against Birmingham City on the 6th October 1973coming on as a substitute. Those privileged to be there recall a waif-like 17-year-old who had expected to remain on the bench throughout. However when Jeff Blockley (who will never get his own page on this site- Ed.) twisted a knee on trotted a young kid who stole the show, as the saying goes. Sammy Nelson who was watching from the stands reckoned he changed the course of the game. In the eyes of the faithful a star was born.

Claiming a regular place in the first team in 1974-75, the same season he got his first international cap Brady found himself a member of a squad in transition and some would say disharmony. He was fortunate however to find a mentor in Alan Ball whom he played alongside in midfield in a pairing that was once described in the press as ‘the sorcerer and his apprentice’

During an era when the Dutch were credited with playing total football Liam was our total footballer. His scrawny appearance belied a strong wiry frame and powerful legs, which were honed, and muscular, it took a powerful opponent to knock Brady off the ball.

Probably the one game that he is most remembered for, is the 1978-79 Cup Final against Manchester United. When you mention the1953 Final every fan knows it was ‘The Mathew’s Final’, the same is true of 1979 this was the ‘Brady Final’. Arsenal were two-nil up and coasting with five minutes to go but United scored twice to level, as Brady wrote later could see it written in every Arsenal face, we had blown it again. After the kick-off following United’s second goal, we lost the ball but got it back immediately. Nelson played it up to Stapleton who gave it to me, it was going through my head that I should try to get the ball as close as possible to their line as this would use up some of the remaining time and it would also take play far away from our goal. I would have been relieved for the game to go to extra time. But as I went forward gaps appeared and I kept going, suddenly Rix was bombing along outside of me and I played it on to him. He hit the perfect cross; close enough to the keeper to tempt him to come for it but not so close that he could actually get it. Sunderland was in precisely the right place and he finished it well

Other fans will have their own special moments and December 24th 1978 will rank high on many lists. The Christmas present every Gooner wanted was delightfully received in the form of a 5-0 slaughter of Spurs at White Hart Lane. Brady was unbelievably good, running the show and scoring an absolute gem in a game in we could have easily won 10-0. If you’ve never seen a video of his goal in this match you won’t understand why it can still bring a tear to the eye just to think about, it was that sweet.

For others maybe his performances in the two leg semi Final against Juventus win out. The first being at Highbury in April 1980, where Tardelli was sent off, having tried everything to try and stop him within the rules gave up and resorted, along with the other Italians, to kicking him out of the game. It was in this same match that Bettaga‘s tackle on O’Leary in front of the dugout is still rated the worst ever seen at THOF.

If I could turn back time, I would hope to ensure that he had poor games against Juve, as they broke my heart by buying him a few months later. This was almost certainly as a result of the remarkable return leg where Arsenal did the impossible by beating the Italians in Turin because the Italians just did not lose home European ties back then.

The Turin match was seen by only a couple of hundred Arsenal fans in the ground and none on TV because Forest playing in the European Cup semi-final was the game shown that night. The match was rated by Brady as the biggest achievement by any team he’d played in up until that time. Juve played for a nil-nil from the kick off and looked like achieving it ended with Arsenal stunning the Italian crowd with a late headed goal from Paul Vaessen to steal the tie 1-0 and silence the crowd.

Mine was not the only heart Brady broke when he left for Juventus, but we knew he needed bigger challenges and wished him well.

He was with Juventus for two seasons where he won two Serie A championships. In his last game for the club, which was the last game of the season against Cantanzaro, he scored the goal, a penalty, that gave them the 1981-2 Championship. So he must have felt badly let down by Juventus, when at a time when only two foreigners were allowed by the Italian League, he was replaced by Plattini for the following season. He was sold to Sampadoria staying for two seasons before going to Inter Milan in 1984. Then a season with Ascoli before finishing his playing career with West Ham. He played over a hundred games for the Hammers before announcing his retirement in the summer of 1990.

© Mike Geary  / Brian Dawes     2000

Want to know more? Here's some recommended further reading :

So Far so Good - Liam Brady

Proud to Say that Name - Amy Lawrence

Green Gunners : Arsenal's Irish - Stephan McGarrigle

Arsenal Who's Who - Jeff Harris

Arsenal Illustrated History - Phil Soar and Martin Tyler

Arsenal Player by Player - Ivan Ponting

Arsenal : A Complete Record - Fred Ollier (the Arsenal Statto's bible)


LIAM BRADY STATS

Born William Liam Brady

Position: Creative Midfield

Born in Dublin Ireland on 13 February 1956

Joined as an apprentice in June 1971

Turned professional July 1973

Played for first team from 1973-80

Debut game Arsenal v Birmingham (home) 6 Oct 1973 (won 1-0 League) at the age of just 17

Debut goal v QPR 30 April 1974 (drew 1-1 League)

Republic of Ireland Internationals 72

Republic of Ireland Youth Internationals 11

League played
goals 43
FA Cup
goals 2
League Cup
goals 10
UEFA Cup
goals 2
Cup winners Cup
goals 2
Charity Shield
Arsenal Total
goals 59

FA Cup Winners medal 1978-79

FA Cup Finalist medal 1977-78 1979-80

Cup Winners Cup Finalist 1979-80

South East Counties League Champions 1971-72

South East Counties League Cup runners up 1971-72

Arsenal Player of the year 3 times

PFA Footballer of the Year 1979

Repubic of Ireland player of the year 1979

Serie A Championship Medal 1980-81 1981-82 (with Juventus)

Sold to Juventus for the ludicrously low fixed fee of £514,000, and also played for Sampdoria, Inter Milan, Ascoli and West Ham United

 

 

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