Friday 18 August 2017

Aidan O'Hara: Brady needs to find his best role to make next move

'O’Neill was at pains to point out that he thinks of Brady as far more than a utility player, but it’s a peculiar aspect of the Irish squad that so many of them find themselves switching between positions at club and country level.' Photo by David Maher/Sportsfile
'O’Neill was at pains to point out that he thinks of Brady as far more than a utility player, but it’s a peculiar aspect of the Irish squad that so many of them find themselves switching between positions at club and country level.' Photo by David Maher/Sportsfile
Aidan O'Hara

Aidan O'Hara

In a different context, the story of how Wes Hoolahan once refused to play a match unless he was picked in a particular position could be portrayed as him being a diva rather than a teenager who, even then, knew his best position.

"Weso was on Billy Young's FAS course when I was head coach in Santry," revealed current Cobh Ramblers manager Stephen Henderson on Twitter a couple of months ago. "We were due to play DCU in a friendly. Weso, because he was left-footed, played on the left wing.

"He told me he would not play unless he plays in the centre. I was desperate for him to play because he was a gem and agreed. The only genius who came up with the idea of Wesley Hoolahan as a No 10 was Wesley Hoolahan, no one else."

Hoolahan spent all of his schoolboy career at Belvedere playing on the left wing, and being on the flanks in Fairview Park meant that the wind was either blowing you into the trees or down the hill - and that was just in the summer - but his technical ability was obvious to anybody who ever braved the elements to see him.

It is, obviously, far easier to make your case for playing a particular position when your livelihood isn't depending on it but, at a certain point, players with talent and a future ahead of them need to start being a little more selfish.

Like Hoolahan, Robbie Brady spent his schoolboy career as a left-winger, with St Kevin's, a position which many people feel is his best, but his adaptability may well be proving a hindrance rather than a help to his chances of getting a move back to the Premier League.

Ireland manager Martin O'Neill spoke glowingly last week about Brady and his ability to play both at left-back and on the left side of midfield "equally as well" but was adamant that Brady wasn't in the situation which O'Neill recalled in his own playing career.

"I think he is adaptable," said O'Neill of Brady. "Getting back to what Ian Bowyer used to say to me way back at Nottingham Forest, when everybody said he could play a number of positions, 'yes, but when everyone is fit I'm sub!' Well, Robbie won't be sub when everyone is fit."

O'Neill was at pains to point out that he thinks of Brady as far more than a utility player, but it's a peculiar aspect of the Irish squad that so many of them find themselves switching between positions at club and country level.

Richard Keogh, Seamus Coleman and Glenn Whelan are three outfield players whose positions are set in stone but many of the players in O'Neill's squad for tonight's game, like Brady, have found themselves filling in gaps which have made them a manager's dream but arguably hurt their progress.

John O'Shea spent years swapping between centre-back, full-back and the occasional central midfield role at Manchester United before winding down his career in his original spot at the heart of the defence.

Stephen Ward started as a striker before moving back down the left wing and into left-back, where he is now established; Marc Wilson and Ciaran Clark have played in central defence and full-back, while Jon Walters goes between right-side of midfield and centre-forward, depending on where a hard-working battering ram is required.

Even Shane Long, whose ceaseless work ethic will have most centre-backs looking to switch sides, has found himself on the right of midfield at club level.

Perhaps it's an Irish person's natural desire to please that they'll do whatever is asked of them. More likely, it is players doing what they have to do to survive in such a cut-throat industry but, in Brady's case, he should hold plenty of cards given that he certainly has the ability to be far more than a Championship player.

There has been no murmuring of discontent from him about Norwich's desire to keep him and, like a good professional, it would appear that he will get his head down and work hard to get them out of the Championship.

The problem for him is that, when he lifts his head up, he could easily find himself as a Championship battler who turns 25 in January - an age when a player should be coming into his prime but, equally, at a point when clubs spending big money are also factoring in things like re-sale value.

In the course of four consecutive sentences last week, O'Neill used the words "terrific", "brilliant", "exceptional" and "fantastic" to describe Brady's performances in an Ireland shirt for the past couple of years, and while it isn't an international manager's job to get his player to a better club, it would certainly be of benefit to both parties.

Scoring free-kicks against teams like Oman looks nice but won't register among Premier League clubs with their eye out for talent any more than Ireland's upcoming games against Georgia and Moldova.

With the transfer window closed, it is games like tonight against Serbia and November's clash with Austria where Brady can show that he belongs against a higher calibre of opposition before heading into a winter of Championship drudgery, with Norwich facing 20 more games before the window re-opens.

It's a peculiar state of affairs in English football that performing admirably as Brady did at the European Championships isn't enough to attract a Premier League club but two dozen good games in the country's second tier just might be.

Brady's first task is to decide his best position and do everything in his power to play there as often as possible, even it means rocking the boat a little. It took Hoolahan until he was 29 before he made a Premier League appearance and while Brady has time on his side to get a big move, it might be up to him to make the first one.

Irish Independent

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