On the Grill: Former SAFC midfielder lifts the lid on horror injury & fractured relationship with manager

Kieron Brady played for Sunderland for five seasons between 1989 and 1993, playing over 40 games and scoring seven goals before his career ended early at the young age of 22 due to injury; in his short career Brady also represented Ireland internationally.

by Ethan_Thoburn Thursday, 08 March 2018 08:06 PM Comments

Kieron Brady played for Sunderland for five seasonsbetween 1989 and 1993, playing over 40 games and scoring seven goals before hiscareer ended early at the young age of 22 due to injury; in his short careerBrady also represented Ireland internationally.

 

WAW: What are your earliest memories of football?

 

Kieron: “Playing incessantly inmy back garden. Whilst this, in the main, did not offer game time as such itwas wonderfully rewarding in allowing me the chance to constantly work with theball and no doubt was of benefit in terms of pursuing a career.”

 

WAW: Who were your heroes growing up?

 

Kieron: “As a huge Celtic fan itwould have initially been Kenny Dalglish, then Charlie Nicholas before he, likeDalglish, went to England to advance their careers. Beyond that however itwould, without doubt, have been Maradona. He still, even with his wellpublicised issues, would still be an idol of sorts. In the main, my heroeswould not be footballing people as such.”

 

WAW: How tough was it to become a footballer?

 

Kieron: “At the risk of sounding conceited, it was not. Iappreciate that in interviews there is an expectation of humility but, equally,there is a desired honesty from any interviewee and, in hindsight, becoming aprofessional footballer required no conscious effort whatsoever. I do, however,believe that if I were able to maintain a career I would have had to makesacrifices to become a top, or world class, player on a consistent and annualbasis. 


The compliments I have been fortunate enough to receive over many yearshave mostly centered around 'outstanding natural ability' or 'God given talent'and, in any walk of life; those blessed in such a manner can often ascend tothe top of their field without much endeavor, certainly at a conscious level.It is one of the 'benefits' of natural talent and it is not different simplybecause it is football.”

 

WAW: What was it like to be expected to perform and whatwas the feeling like when you scored?

 

Kieron: “Being as young as I was I think Idid not sense the expectations and that is not a bad thing. I was lucky that Igot man of the match in my first 1st team game at Roker Park and the fans wereincredible with me. That helped me no end and I have them to thank as much asany manager or coach for providing me with the confidence that allowed acareer, even as brief as it was. Scoring is special, particularly decisivegoals.”

 

WAW: What are your recollections of the West Ham and PortVale games?

 

Kieron: “Inrespect of the former it would be elation that I had not only performed wellbut that we had won such an important but also entertaining game. West Ham werecompeting with us for a play off spot so to beat a competitor was pleasing butthere is little doubt that my performance was very pleasing and to score myfirst goal for the club added to it. 


Denis Smith was complimentary to meafterwards but even then it felt it was with some reluctance. I was then madeaware of the comments of others, Liam Brady who had played for West Ham in thegame and subsequently kind remarks from various quarters who had been at thegame. I am glad also that my family was present to see it and, all these yearslater, I am humbled that it seems to have been enjoyed for so many Sunderlandfans. 


The Port Vale game was memorable but not with the same optimism as itwere, we were performing poorly in the league and although, of course, scoringtwo as we came from 3-0 down to get a draw, is a happy moment at a personallevel it was not set against a backdrop of the team moving in the rightdirection.”

WAW: What was yourrelationship with Denis Smith like?

 

Kieron: Itwas fractured, intimidating and, ultimately, nowhere near as productive as itshould have been. I have to acknowledge that I was not living as an athleteshould on a consistent manner, my diet was poor and social habits wereincompatible with getting the best from me, both mentally and physically. That,however, was contributed to by his attitude towards me; this was manifest onoccasion by personal attacks that were unwarranted. In retrospect, I do notthink he had a dislike of me as such, I believe that he simply was incapable ofoffering the necessary personal management to get the best from me on a regularbasis. 


To perhaps make it easier to understand - I went on loan to Doncasterfor a month. I had never met the manager, Steve Beaglehole, before. I arrivedat the stadium, was pointed to his office and upon meeting him and introducingourselves his first comment was 'I can't believe I have you in my team'. Hemade me feel wanted, important and that I was central to his plans, even for amonth. I loved playing for him and it was reflected in my performances andconfidence in doing so.”

 

WAW: How did your injuryimpact you as a person and what were the affects of the injury?

 

Kieron: “At thetime I did not feel there was anything notable in terms of changes to me as aperson. My Mam, however, knew that the effects of it would be profound. In theaftermath of my operations I had been in intensive care and on life support.That, however, did not create emotional trauma that was comparable to not beingable to play football again. 


Over time I have become much more philosophicalabout it and my time as a footballer in general. I played professionally forfive years and that should be at the forefront of such reflection, not anyembitterment about the ten or fifteen years that were denied. That isreinforced through living in Sunderland and being surrounded by people whowould give so much to wear the strip once in a professional context. 


There isalso, as twisted, as it may seem, a benefit to having not played as long as Icould have and that is that the culture of the game can have detrimentaleffects to the human being. I cringe when I think of the way I acted when afootballer, it is wholly at odds with the person I now try to be. The physicaleffects of the condition are still there and always will be, my leg was left insuch a condition that medical advice is that it should never be operated onagain.”

 

WAW: After football, what have you been up to and are youstill involved in the game?

 

Kieron: “I have, for the most part, worked within the fieldof anti-discrimination. This has included delivering hundreds of training days,becoming an expert witness in criminal proceedings and having the honour ofbecoming the first ever footballer to be Patron of Gay Pride. This area hasalways been a passion. 


I recall going to training one day as a teenager,wearing a t-shirt showing support for the African National Congress, and thebewilderment of team-mates at this teenage white boy showing support for theanti-apartheid movement in South Africa. It was, therefore, great to seecollaboration between Sunderland AFC and the Nelson Mandela Foundation, part ofme thinking I was ahead of the game, ha. 


Latterly I have worked with the BBCon Sunderland matters, also engaged in work with Premier League Productions,this involves attending EPL games when I am not at the Stadium of Light onmatchdays. I do not have any direct undertakings within football, certainly notin the playing operation. It has never been a desire; there are fraudulent andinsincere aspects of football that I am contemptuous of.”

 

WAW: If you had to pick 11 players you played alongsidein your career, who’d be in it?

 

Kieron: “That is difficult, not leastbecause it is something I have never considered, nor been asked from memory.Tony Norman would be goalkeeper, a very good keeper whose international careerwas hindered only by being a compatriot of Neville Southall. Gary Kelly fromLeeds would be at right back, Frank Gray at left back. In the middle would beGary Bennett and Kevin Ball. If disallowed from selecting myself then a four inmidfield would be Peter Beagrie, Roy Keane, Paul Bracewell and Colin Pascoe. Afront two would be Duncan Ferguson and Marco Gabbiadini.”

WAW: Who was the best player you playedagainst?

 

Kieron: “In terms of those I played against- it would be difficult to go beyond Zinedine Zidane or Luis Figo, certainly inrelation to the careers they would go on to have. I can take some comfort fromgetting man of the match when playing against Zidane.”

 

WAW: In your opinion, do you think Sunderland will be in theChampionship on the 6th May, and do you think the current squad isgood enough?

 

Kieron: “Honestly, I do not know. I do not think the chancespresently are better than 50/50. The squad looks weak mentally, it is veryinexperienced in areas and until such time as there is a change in ownershipand, critically, approach and sustainable ambition it is not going to changethat much, certainly not to a club that is aspirational in a manner that I thinka club of Sunderland's attributes should be. The club is much much more holidaycamp than boot camp a in terms of meaningful ambition and without a transformativeattitude it is destined to not change much for the better.”

 

WAW: Finally, what are your opinions on a fan ledprotest?

 

Kieron: “Justifiedif structured in a certain manner. Ultimately, however, it also seems somewhatbelated as the objectives of such agitation have become restricted. If such ademonstration, in whatever form it takes, can compel the club to be proactive insecuring new ownership then it could be worth pursuing. I do not think it willreinforce the desire of Ellis Short to withdraw emotionally; it is evident thatwe are already at that juncture. I would not want to see actions undertakenwhich may deter future ownership, there is always that risk even if coming froma position of honourable passion. 

The wording of the RAWA petition wasexcellent. The only part I would take issue with was "Sunderlandsupporters are a humble bunch, and we do not feel our club has a divine rightto play at any particular level". 

The fans should 'feel' the club should be operating at the highest level. Itdoes not mean they have a right to but given the stadium and support, both interms of quality and quantity, they should expect a club that challenges at theelite level. The mentality has to be altered and significantly so, it has to betop down, consistent and exceed previous standards that, in my view, havetended to settle around mediocrity and an aura that informs players they cantake things easy. 

I want to see a Sunderland player in years to come, whenspeaking about his time at the Stadium of Light saying that they did not likeit because expectations were particularly high. I understand football fansenjoy seeing a former player expressing an opinion that they 'loved their time'at the club. It is always worth exploring why they loved it if there is veracityto their remarks.

I would love to see Sunderland in years to come replicating1973 insofar as being part of a giant-killing FA Cup Final but with their roleas the beaten team. It would of course be a disappointment on the day butit would represent something much more positive about the club if they were thegiant who simply had an off day as it were.

 

Massive thanks to Kieron Brady for talking to meand taking the time to speak to me.


Share your thoughts on Twitter with me@ethan_thoburn or @WeAreWearside.


Thanks for reading and all the best.