Sunday 27 May 2018

Talking Point: Example of Keane can show Brady the way back

Knee injury a cruel blow but attitude to comeback will define the Dubliner at a key stage of his career

Robbie Brady (left) goes down clutching his knee after clashing with Leicester City’s Harry Maguire at the King Power Stadium on Saturday. Photo: Reuters
Robbie Brady (left) goes down clutching his knee after clashing with Leicester City’s Harry Maguire at the King Power Stadium on Saturday. Photo: Reuters
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

When a footballer turns 26, they have progressed beyond the point where they are one for the future. They are supposed to be in the prime of their career.

So for Robbie Brady, who reaches that landmark next month, this is a disastrous time to be struck down by a long-term setback.

Brady was understood to be in London yesterday, after meeting a specialist to find out the severity of the knee injury he suffered against Leicester on Saturday.

It's a cruel setback considering the Dubliner appeared to be just finding his stride at the highest level.

He recently made his 100th Premier League outing, but it has been a stop-start journey of relegation battles, transfers and comebacks.

There have been injuries too, yet this blow looks to be by far the most serious one. And it's a bitter pill to swallow so soon after the crushing disappointment of the play-off defeat to Denmark.

Brady can look to the Irish camp for inspiration, though. Another Irish midfielder had just turned 26 when he faced the most serious challenge of his career.

When Roy Keane lay on the Elland Road turf in September 1997 with Alf-Inge Haaland barking in his direction, the Corkman was condemned to a lengthy lay-off.

He would miss the end of Ireland's aborted attempt to make the World Cup in France and could only watch on as Arsenal stormed to the league title.

In one of his early autobiographies, 'Managing My Life', Alex Ferguson explained that staff were apprehensive about how Keane would cope with the situation.

Delicate

It came at a delicate time for the club's new skipper as in the week leading up the game he'd been involved in a late-night, boozy punch-up in a hotel. He was by no means the model professional.

"To recover fully, Roy would have to show a great deal of patience and that is not something the rest of us at the club naturally associated with our Irish warrior," said Ferguson, speaking years before the painful break-up.

"Remarkably, however, he proved to be the perfect patient, adhering conscientiously to the regime laid down for him."

This was a key point for Keane who was stronger when he returned, with the 1998/99 season the best in the club's history.

He was the engine of the team, and while he did have dark spells during his rehab which were touched on in his first autobiography, he emerged stronger from the experience.

It took him a while to thoroughly change his lifestyle - he was arrested after an incident in a Manchester bar in 1999 - but the injury that could have broken him arguably ended up making him. The penny dropped eventually.

This process will be a test of Brady's resolution. Every long-term injury is a test for a player because it removes their sense of purpose.

Footballers have to struggle with boredom at the best of times. With no game at the end of a week and lonely days in the gym the only reason for reporting to work, it can easily get players down.

He's been down the road before for a different type of injury, a frustrating spell at Hull which meant he missed a good chunk of the 2013/14 season because of hernia and groin problems.

There was a disagreement between the player and his then manager Steve Bruce who initially thought that Brady was finding it hard to come to terms with being out of the picture when he was slow to recover - time supported the player's feeling that all wasn't right.

It helps that Brady has friends around him at Burnley, a strong Irish contingent who often travel to training together from the Manchester area with friends Jeff Hendrick, Stephen Ward and Kevin Long part of an established group.

Jon Walters, who is based in the Liverpool area, joined up this year but he has struggled with his own knee woe.

Burnley have a new training ground which will ensure he has the best treatment available too. But this is a mental battle as much as a physical one and, while Brady is well liked and regarded as a solid pro, this will ask questions of him.

The Ireland assistant manager should be able to help him out by drawing on his own experience. For a different type of motivation, he can look at the unfortunate case of Darron Gibson too.

Gibson was in a good place at Everton when he did his cruciate on his comeback to Irish duty in the autumn of 2013.

There were concerns about how he would deal with it, but he actually impressed observers at Everton by knuckling down in the early months and working hard to regain full fitness.

The real killer for Gibson was the niggles that he was simply unable to shake on his return that led to further knee issues and then a metatarsal problem.

That chipped away at his morale, which was cited when he cut a sorry figure after pleading guilty to hitting a cyclist while drink driving and then departing the scene.

His legal team admitted that Gibson was 'very low' because of long periods out of action and that had contributed to his poor behaviour.

Brady should have the common sense to bounce back in the right way. In addition to Keane, he can look at Seamus Coleman too.

Setbacks do not define a player; it's their response to them that shapes their destiny.

Irish Independent

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