Thursday 22 February 2018

Schoolboy clubs must change mindset – Brady

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

HALFWAY through a considered answer about the state of youth football in Ireland, Liam Brady checks himself. "I don't want to sound like I'm touting myself for a job here," he smiles.

Perhaps, someone else should be. Brady will leave his role as head of youth development with Arsenal in May of next year and admits that he is unsure what will come next.

The authorities at the club have spoken to him about taking on some other role, and he is quick to joke that it's nothing to do with Arsene Wenger's current position.

He is aggrieved by the criticism of the Frenchman, just like he takes issue with comments aimed at Giovanni Trapattoni, although he is far less certain about the latter's chances of retaining his job than the former.

"I think the staff, directors and players all want him to stay," he says. "I think Arsenal's demise has been exaggerated."

But what of Brady? He is speaking on a promotional visit to Dublin on behalf of ESPN, yet it is clear that he does not see his future revolving completely around media work.

The FAI have yet to replace their high performance director Wim Koevermans and there is a clear void in terms of direction.

Brady speaks at length about the disconnect between the ambitions of the clubs at the higher levels of the schoolboy game and the association's need to work with the elite players from a very young age. Could he be the figurehead to make a smoother relationship possible?

"I'm not touting myself, it's just an area we need to look at," he says. "We really need to get these kids in regional centres at nine, 10 and 11 and be working with them only on technical stuff.

"I would like to see elite players taken away from their clubs at an agreed level so that on school holidays they are working together. It's this political thing that you have to overcome. I feel there is a situation where teams want to win trophies and everything is about winning. And I think the schoolboy clubs and the FAI don't really see eye to eye, do they?

"So a person is needed to go in there and make that happen by reassuring the schoolboy clubs that they are working in the best interests of the boys."

Brady is content with his own work at Arsenal, citing the development of Ashley Cole, the spirited Fabrice Muamba and "the jewel in the crown" Jack Wilshere as three youngsters who he is proud to have helped develop.

A variety of reasons have resulted in the club suffering in the past half-decade, but he feels that if UEFA implement financial fair play regulations and fans show patience with Wenger, then the Londoners can get back to where they were.

"In the 24 hours after you lose, everything seems black and white, but it's not," he says. "I'm still hopeful. There are a lot of grey areas about what might happen in the rest of the season."

The same comment could apply to his next move. One hopes the FAI are paying attention.

Irish Independent

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