If Liam Brady was playing today, his value would probably be well over £100m because naturally gifted, creative players are simply few and far between. It’s staggering to think that in 1980 he was sold to Juventus for just 540k, that’s nearly a weeks wages these days but few could claim to be on a par with Arsenal’s number 7.
Of course, it’s desperately hard to compare players or imagine if they could perform in today’s Premier League, but it’s something that comes to mind whenever I reminisce about an elite group of Arsenal’s former players.
‘Chippy’ Brady was an artist, someone capable of extraordinary vision. Incidentally, he acquired his nickname because of his fondness for fish and chips, not because of his sweet left foot crosses.
The sight of Liam Brady racing up the pitch with the ball literally stuck to his foot, jinking left and right, surging forward and then delivering a precision pass or subtle lay off, was a joy to behold. He was able to create space or use the little he had available to his advantage to bring others into the game. He would cutback to players running into the box, find the free player advancing near the back post or provide a short pass into space that demanded a shot.
Liam Brady was a classic midfielder, much more powerful than he looked, full of drive and determination and someone that could dominate a game and provide goal opportunities.
In the 1979 FA cup final, Brady showed the full range of his silky skills including immaculate close control, scorching passes and a fantastic appetite in possession. There were times when he got the better of two United players and even as he went tumbling, he was still trying to get the ball to a team mate.
Brady turned it on that May afternoon at a time when the competition still meant something. It has been described by many as the ‘Brady final’ with the Irishman involved in all three goals but his performance that day wasn’t all about attack
He defended with heart, tackled as if his life depended on it and his surging runs left many United players in his wake. He was a tiger on the ball, refusing to give up on a lost cause or to be intimidated by the opposition.
John Motson referred to him as “The Mastermind” of the Arsenal team and many pundits said before the contest that he was the one key figure that could win the game single-handedly. That he did !
I was there in ‘79’ in the United end as the sun blazed down through the glass panels. I’d managed to get a ticket which was given to me the day before and although I’d tried to get another ticket to be with the Arsenal supporters, I was out of luck.
As an Arsenal fan, it was one of the most exhilarating of my life up to that point and the last five minutes of the final were absorbing and electrifying. A 2-0 lead had been surrendered with around four minutes of normal time left.
Liam Brady picked the ball up inside the United half (89), he popped it out to the wide left and into the path of Graham Rix. Rix sent a perfectly flighted ball into the box for Alan Sunderland to angle the shot into the net.
That was that and there was no doubt that the Irishman had been the difference in the game as he so often was in an Arsenal shirt. But would he have been able to fit in with the likes of Bergkamp, Henry, Pires and Vieira ?
No doubt about it !
Liam Brady was an immensely intelligent footballer with an amazing work ethic which Arsenal could badly do with today, he is still revered by fans and is one of the finest homegrown players to ever wear the Arsenal shirt.