Friday 18 August 2017

Daniel McDonnell: January move should be on Brady's menu

Robbie Brady may be hoping that the transfer window will give him another chance to play in Premier League. Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images
Robbie Brady may be hoping that the transfer window will give him another chance to play in Premier League. Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

In the pantheon of top Delia Smith television moments, nothing will ever come close to the infamy of her 2005 'Let's be having ya' half-time speech from the centre circle that failed to inspire her beloved Norwich to a result that would have helped them avoid another relegation.

Football is really just a wing of the entertainment business now and the celebrity chef's status as the Canaries' joint majority shareholder has exposed her to a different kind of scrutiny - although in that particular instance she could hardly have any complaints.

There was another wonderful Delia moment during her club's Championship loss to Huddersfield at the start of the Christmas period, a clip that was caught by the skill of Sky's production team. No microphone was necessary.

As Norwich laboured towards the inevitability of a defeat that would continue their slide down the table, the Carrow Road patrons voiced their dissatisfaction by sending a message to the boardroom with a repetitive chant.

At this juncture, the pictures cut to Delia sitting in the directors box, just as her elderly mother was leaning across to ask what the punters were saying. The obliging daughter was duly captured mouthing the words "Delia, sort it out, Delia, Delia sort it out". At least nobody can accuse her of not listening to what the rank and file are saying.

The natives are restless, though, with manager Alex Neil the target for their ire as the pre-season promotion favourites have steadily slipped off the pace with a run of eight defeats in 12 games

His employers are in the spotlight after reports that the Scot signed a new deal in the summer which has increased the value of any pay-off and is therefore making it harder to press the eject button in a division with a ridiculous attrition rate.

There have been 18 managerial changes in the second tier since May. Mick McCarthy is the division's longest-serving boss after a marathon spell of four years and two months at Ipswich.

On the face of it, Norwich's run of dreadful results is bad news for Martin O'Neill given Robbie Brady and Wes Hoolahan's importance.

Brady endured a miserable New Year's weekend as he was harshly sent off in Saturday's scoreless draw away to Brentford, punished for a mistimed tackle in the dying seconds of a match that the visitors had enough chances to win.

But there could be a silver lining on the cloud as the descent into crisis mode has re-ignited talk of a January exit for the Dubliner with suggestions that Norwich might be under pressure to sell a valuable asset to raise funds.

Norwich was a good move for Brady when it cropped up in the summer of 2015 after Neil, then considered a rising star, led them to promotion via the play-offs. It appeared to be the ideal environment to really kickstart his Premier League career in a positive environment.

By all accounts, it's a nice place to live too - Hoolahan has settled into East Anglian country life to the extent that he plans to retire there - and Norwich handed their £7m recruit from Hull a three-year deal.

Relegation in that first year was, to state the blindingly obvious, a significant setback. The length of the contract and the absence of a release clause meant that Norwich were under no pressure to offload and they resisted advances that fed the rumour mill in the aftermath of Brady's notable Euro 2016 exploits.

Considering Champions League football at Leicester was one of the options floated, the uneventful end to the August transfer window was demoralising for the player, and Norwich's descent down a slippery slope from a reasonable start to the campaign has destroyed the argument that a year competing at the top end of a table might somehow be a confidence booster.

He did well at Brentford before falling foul of the officials, yet local reports of the season would suggest that Brady's form has suffered in a team that seems to be bereft of confidence. Hoolahan is out of favour too.

With a negative atmosphere prevailing and his 25th birthday coming up later this month, now is the time for Brady to escape.

It's a fairly safe bet that he will still remember 2016 in happy terms for the rest of his life.

Debates about the end of year awards circuit are a bit like the late bar after the Christmas party. Once you go in, it's much harder to get out. And there's a fair chance you will regret it afterwards.

But it's true that Brady deserved greater recognition, especially as his header in Lille was the iconic 'Where were you when?' Irish sporting moment of the year - don't let the results of any multiple choice survey tell you otherwise.

RTÉ's 'Two Shades of Green' documentary which chronicled the Euros experience rammed that point home.

Brady is a likeable character and, while footballers in his wage bracket aren't under pressure to endorse products for extra income - they are able to turn down PR/interview opportunities - it is slightly surprising that his profile doesn't really appear to have soared to another level.

It's impossible to avoid the conclusion that the mundane ending to his club year weakened his claim for recognition.

Struggling

Recency bias always influences these decisions and struggling to set the world alight for a floundering Championship team has checked momentum. Out of sight means out of mind and all of that.

Brady's composure at the Euros illustrated why he belongs in elite company. That's before considering the versatility that means he can function in a variety of positions.

Sam Allardyce has reportedly honed in on that angle when placing the player on his Crystal Palace shopping list. Everton were mentioned last time around and that would be a natural fit.

From his current position, pretty much any Premier League opportunity sounds like a good option even though he could do with avoiding another relegation scrap. It would be a shame if he followed his dream summer with a wasted season.

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