By Tony Attwood
I wanted to write a piece about Liam Brady turning professional on this day (23 July) in 1973. The problem is that although some sources such as “The Gunners: Day to Day Life at Highbury” say (and I quote exactly) “signed his first professional contract for Arsenal” on this day, while Wiki says that “He turned professional on his 17th birthday in 1973”.
At least we can all agree he was born on 13 February 1956. So 13 Feb or 23 July, you take your choice.
I don’t know if the slight difference in wording is significant, but a jaunt around the internet finds both dates being quoted – although the Wiki date turns up mostly on sites that seem to be copying from Wiki word for word, so clearly there is no real thinking or research going on. In typical fashion Wiki gives no source for its date.
So maybe it is the anniversary of Liam Brady as a professional footballer for Arsenal on 23 July, but whether it is or not, let’s continue.
The tragedy is that Brady came to the first team just at the wrong time. Having won the FA Youth Cup and youth league double in 1971, while the big boys were winning the FA Cup and Football League, Liam moved up as the club went into rapid decline.
In 1973/4 he made his first appearances for the first team, generally to rave reviews, and on 30 April 1974 scored his first goal – in the game in which Bob Wilson played his last game for the club. (I don’t know any other web sites or books that say this – I only noticed it myself during my research on “Arsenal in the 70s” which will come out next year).
By 1975 the club spent much of the season playing in the relegation zone, escaping only in the latter part of the season to come 16th. In 1976 when Liam played 41 of the 42 league games we were even worse and came 17th, were knocked out of the FA Cup in the third reason and the League cup in the second.
Liam of course did win some trophies: the FA Cup in 1979, and Serie A with Juventus in 1980/1 and 1981/2 and played in the Cup Winners Cup Final. He also won 72 caps for Ireland.
During the Terry Neill era things did pick up and with Macdonald and Stapleton up front matters improved a bit, and he played in the three FA cup finals of the era, but it was not to be.
However he gave us one of the great, great moments – one of those moments which if you were there, stay with you forever. At White Hart Lane on 23 December 1978. Somewhere way out from the goal (I remember it as the half way line but I think it was closer to the penalty area!) he sent a shot right across the Tottenham goal and in to secure a 5-0 win.
And then he lifted his arms, and turned to the Shelf and stood there.
He became the first non-British player to win the PFA Player of the Year award but in 1980 signed for Juventus for £500,000 having played 307 games, scoring 59 goals.
After Juve he went on to Sampdoria, Inter and Ascoli in Italy, and then West Ham, which is not in Italy. He retired in 1990, scoring in his last game.
After that it was to management: Celtic (1991/3) and Brighton (1993/5) but had no success with trophies.
But then he came back to Arsenal as Head of Youth Development and Academy Director, and is of course still with us. In this regard he won
- 1998: FA Premier Youth League
- 2000: FA Youth Cup
- 2000: FA Premier Academy League (under 17s)
- 2001: FA Youth Cup
- 2002: FA Premier Academy League (under 19s)
- 2009: FA Youth Cup
- 2009: FA Premier Academy League (under 18s)
- 2010: FA Premier Academy League (under 18s)
He is thus the most successful youth team manager / head of youth development / academy director of all time at Arsenal.
And one of the very greatest players I have ever seen.
If you think you know your Arsenal history – it is time to think again. Never before has one book so transformed what we know about a football club. Woolwich Arsenal, the club that changed football.
- How Arsenal changed football
- Anders Limpar and George Graham – and the sale of Rocastle
- The Bertie Mee index page has been sorted cleaned and you can now even find your way around it! Bertie Mee
- Bob McNab – a key Bertie Mee signing
- When the Tottenham keeper hit an Arsenal supporter during a game
- Bernard Joy, Arsenal player, and captain of the GB Olympics football team 1936, died 18 July
- When an Arsenal/Tottenham game was stopped due to bad language