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Manager 1991 - 1993Fullname: Liam Brady
Born: 13 February 1956
Birthplace: Dublin, Ireland
Position as a player: Midfielder
Internationals: Republic of Ireland 72 (9) 1974-89
Celtic Manager: 1991-1993
| "To be allowed to manage a club like that [Celtic] is something special." |
Management Career at CelticBefore any of you read any of the following, a note of caution, some of it can be painful reading covering a disastrous period in the club's history. However, not all was the fault of Liam Brady, and the good points have to be highlighted as amongst the gloom there were some great moments and entertainment too.
Liam Brady was given the job straight after an interview process, after Terry Cassidy (Celtic's then Chief Executive) decided to not headhunt for a new manager but rather to advertise to invite potential managers for interviews. This poor idea ended up leading to Liam Brady being picked as a manager.
Liam Brady, appointed on 19 June 1991, was the first Celtic manager who had not previously played for the club, and also the first since Willie Maley in the 1890s to have had no prior experience of football management.
On paper it was a gamble, Liam Brady had no managerial or coaching pedigree or experience, and he was coming to Scotland with not having played in the Premier Division at any time. On the other hand, his appointment was a welcome change, having completed a successful playing career in England with Arsenal (where he is still hailed as a favourite) and then in Italy.
He broke the mould for players from the UK and Ireland by being that rarity of a player from these isles to have been able to actually settle down successfully in Italy and make a go of it, unlike say Denis Law or Ian Rush. His undoubted talent as a skilful player definitely marked him out as playing “the Glasgow Celtic Way” augured well, whilst his Irish background was obviously a bonus too for some.
Things didn't start off well on the pitch, and we didn't do well in the league and he seemed to be very naive about the Celtic/Rangers derby remarking at first that it was no different to any other such as the Arsenal/Spurs derbies he had played in. It only took his first Glasgow Derby game to show him that this wasn't the case, and it was a real baptism of fire for the Irishman. First season was a difficult one and he couldn't piece together successfully a team to challenge Rangers' increasing confidence and financial backing.
It was too much to turn around for a novice manager in his first year, and we finished third behind Rangers and Hearts! Ignominiously, we would have finished second but lost our last game of the season at home to Hibs 2-1. We only needed one more point to come second. It summed the whole season up, and we were out of Europe until troubles in the former Yugoslavia gave us a back door route into Europe, so some good luck at the end.
However there was one result that stuck out more than others and has been little forgotten. Celtic were to play Neutchatel Xamax of Switzerland in the UEFA Cup in what should have been a straight-forward two leg victory. Embarrassingly, the first team posted missing and we were humiliated with a 5-1 defeat away! We recovered with a 1-0 win at home but too little too late. The 5-1 defeat was our worst defeat in Europe until the embarrassment of the 5-0 loss to Artmedia under Gordon Strachan in 2005. It was made all the worse coming off the back of a very poor opposition. We had really sunk in European terms. For Liam Brady it was a result that hung over his head for the rest of his time at the club.
His second season was an improvement but still unsuccessful. Less naive and more experienced about management (esp about Scottish football), he finally had a better grasp of what to do. In later interviews, he admitted that he only realised once he had become a manager just all the things that he had to contend with, whilst as a player he was mollycoddled having it all done for him and his colleagues by others (it's even more so now for players with agents pandering to their every whim).
Football under Brady was generally very good to watch and there were patches of some great results. He liked to get the players to not be afraid to use their skill with one-touch football. However, little went to plan as Rangers romped to the league title and Celtic were unceremoniously dumped out of the cup competitions (no finals) and out of the league reckoning by the turn of the New Year. Being knocked out by Rangers in the Scottish Cup was the worst part as Rangers had gone down to ten men and we were on top for much of the game yet still lost.
Discontent from the supporters was brewing despite the general high regard that the fans felt about Brady as a person. Celtic finished the league season as far behind as they ever were as when Brady had taken over, and really at the end of the second season he should have stepped down as manager but he carried on for longer than he should have. The board should have moved him on, but as they didn't it likely was another example of their lack of backbone and judgement.
Once he did start to spend money, things actually worsened surprisingly. A number of his major player purchases during his time with Celtic proved to be flops, most infamously the purchases of Tony Cascarino, Frank McAvennie and Gary Gillespie.
Tony Cascarino was bought in the belief that he would be a great purchase for scoring and providing goals as he knew the player well, having previously been his agent. Tony Cascarino was a disastrous signing and ultimately laughable, and their relationship deteriorated during his short time at the club which saw the player happy to escape at the first opportunity to Chelsea whilst we got Tom Boyd in exchange (best piece of business Brady did).
As for Gary Gillespie, the less said the better, just that the Liverpool manager (ex-Hun manager Graham Souness) was said to be laughing at how much he got out of us for the perennially injured player. Gillespie was way over the hill and made countless errors on the pitch which cost us points and too often he was out injured.
In a similar vein to Cascarino, Brady having played with the mercurial Stuart Slater, thought that he could bring the best out of his undoubted natural skill. Stuart Slater was a great skilful player but he never delivered enough on the pitch for the talent he definitely had. He lacked confidence and direction, and Liam Brady has to take the criticism for his lack of development in the side.
The most embarrassing transfer was buying back Frank McAvennie. By this time, McAvennie had sunk so low that he was about to sign for Partick Thistle (he even waved a scarf above his head for a photo shoot) before Brady for some reason nipped in to buy him. McAvennie was a shadow of his old self, at this point having just gone through the height of his "coke and burrdz" phase of his life at West Ham. He was a poor shadow of his old self, simple as that, although admittedly got a handful of goals but he wasn't the answer to what we needed. It was a move backwards.
Other buys were poor or basically not good enough. In fairness, buys like Andy Payton and Rudi Vata weren't bad but they were hardly great players although they did the best they could in the circumstances. Andy Payton did a very fine job with a number of goals into the bargain but family reasons forced him back down south when we wished he could have stayed with us for a bit longer.
There was poor luck for Liam Brady which inadvertently turned to Celtic's benefit later on. Tony Mowbray was bought to help bolster the Celtic defence. A back-to-basics defender, he saw the malaise at the club and set about rectifying it. However, injury put paid to his involvement from practically the start, and Brady's curse continued. Nevertheless, for Celtic Tony Mowbray's purchase turned into much more than expected, as Mowbray experienced the whole Celtic club culture, and after some successful stints as a manager at Hibs and West Bromwich Albion, in 2009 was announced as the new manager of Celtic. Sadly that stint wasn't too successful, and crudely some people were paralleling Mowbray's reign with Brady's, which was wrong as they were both under very different environments.
In a frank admission in an interview reflecting back on his time as manager, Liam Brady admitted: "If I've made excuses with regard to how difficult it was with the board then I have to admit that my signings didn't really come off, and on the pitch is where I failed." A genuinely honest admission of his time at the club and marks him above others who he had to work with at the time (e.g. the board).
Any positives or was it all just bad luck?
Not being too negative, it has to be said that as a manager he did make Celtic play some great football. With players like McStay and Collins in the team it was not too difficult but he imposed on the team to play a passing game, likely matching his own philosophy on how to play the game as similar to his own playing style. No matter how poor our results were in some games, we were still entertaining to watch (far better than the turgid rubbish the more successful Rangers teams were getting away with).
Another important point is that it should be said that contrary to popular belief that actually Brady was not a large net buyer (taking in transfer fees). A round-up of "ins and outs" to provide a net figure showed that he was given overall a measly sum, and he actually did well in getting rid of surplus players. Okay, this doesn't take into account upfront transfer fees or wages but it's still something to note. In fairness, the board did give funds to Brady to build a new team as can be seen from the outlays on Cascarino and Slater but it can be argued both ways.
The only trophy we won under Brady was the winter Tennents Sixes tournament in 1992. A good fun win in the mini indoor football tournament (which is really aimed at kids for viewing) but embarrassingly was played on by Celtic board member Michael Kelly in a radio interview as vindication that we had achieved some kind of success, and it cringingly took the shine off the win in part. Nice win but nothing significant.
It has to be noted that most of his time at Celtic was overshadowed by rumblings over the direction in which the club was being taken by the board management (it was the days of "Sack the Board").
The whole situation was a vicious circle, with off-field affecting on-field and vice versa, although it could also be an inconvenient excuse to deflect attention away from the first team on the park. Lack of success and an inability to get into any finals (losing ignominiously to Motherwell in a Scottish Cup semi-final) long saw the writing on the wall for Brady. Sad trivia fact was that he was the first Celtic manager to manage a Celtic team to lose both legs of a European tie (v Borussia Dortmund), however by that time we were far from our old European superpower days and we all knew it, so it was no great surprise.
He tendered his resignation following a league defeat v St Johnstone at Perth on 6 October 1993, which not surprisingly Kevin Kelly (the Chairman at the time) took without any attempt to convince him to stay. He was the first Celtic manager ever to step down entirely of his own volition, however it is fair to say that he should have left earlier for his own sake at least. The job was simply beyond his ability and experience at the time. He was out of his depth.
Curiously, Joe Jordan who was Liam Brady's assistant claimed in his biography that there was an unwritten working rule that Brady would pick the team but it was Joe Jordan who would be in charge of training, coaching and team talks. If a true reflection of the team management at the club, then the main question is possibly what was Liam Brady actually doing and was he really in charge? Could also ask if he actually even grasped what was required to be done in the role, and could the board not have sensed this early on and brought in an older head to help teach him the ropes. Everyone from the time of Brady's tenure come out of it badly if Joe Jordan's comment is correct, as it just seems hard to fathom it could be entirely true. The last time that Celtic were in as close to a similar situation where the first team had a near impotent manager was under Jimmy McGrory and his tenure ended up with a barren spell of no trophies spanning 1958-64.
A further foray into management at Brighton was also unsuccessful (ending any managerial ambitions). Since then, he rejoined Arsenal in July 1996 as Head of Youth Development and Academy Director (he oversaw the club's FA Youth Cup wins in 2000 and 2001), and he admitted in interviews that he was not interested any more at all in being a club manager ever again. However in 2008, he joined the Irish national side as the assistant manager/coach to Trappatoni to help guide them in their failed attempt to reach the World Cup in 2010.
Since leaving as Celtic manager he had only once been back to Parkhead over the following ten years or so, such was the hurt and disappointment from his experience due to the press and the board. However, he did contribute an interview to a set of DVD's on the club's history and was very candid on his time, even able to joke and raise a smile whilst displaying a still honest love and respect for the club and support.
Despite the heartache of his tenure, he definitely represented dignity personified through his difficult time at the helm, and we wish him all the best for the future.
Management Career at Celtic[table required]
Honours with CelticTennant Sixes tournament
Clubs (as a player)
- 1973-80 Arsenal
- 1980-82 Juventus
- 1982-84 Sampdoria
- 1984-86 Internazionale
- 1986-87 Ascoli
- 1987-90 West Ham United
- 1991-93 Celtic
- 1993-95 Brighton & Hove Albion
Quotes"I was told when I joined about Celtic's ''paranoia''. Now I know it is true. We are hard done by. Religiously and politically, there are people against us."
Liam Brady, Celtic Manager, October 1992
"To be allowed to manage a club like that [Celtic] is something special."
Liam Brady 1992
"Celtic should be in Europe every year and win at least one domestic trophy every season."
Liam Brady 1991
"I couldn't have imagined the intensity of feeling in this city [Glasgow]… The shock of how big the thing [Celtic v Rangers] is, of how everyday it is, is hard to overcome."
Liam Brady (The Guardian) 14 Mar 1992
“In my eyes the most important aspect of winning is to reward Celtic supporters. I have come to understand why our supporters are so exceptional and so attached to this club… I am under no illusions of what is required.”
“Winning trophies is a necessity for this club. It is necessary to maintain the club’s high profile and reputation worldwide. It is necessary too for financial reasons: a winning team attracts bigger crowds, better sponsorships and lucrative television deals.”
"At the end of October we travelled to Switzerland to play Neuchatel in the second round of the UEFA cup...It was one of those awful nights when anything that can go wrong does go wrong; and when I wasn't giving the ball away, I was tripping over myself ... Liam pulled me off early in the second half. We were hammered 5-1 and the fans had a real go as we walked from the pitch. Liam was incensed in the dressing room. His team had played shamefully. His first managerial signing was making a mockery of him.
'What the **** is going on, Tony? You were a disaster! I've never seen you play so badly!'
'Yeah, I dunno ... I just ... I was just crap.'"
From Tony Cascarino's biog after the 5-1 defeat to Neutchatel Xamax in the UEFA Cup
"He has done the honourable thing in resigning."
Celtic chairman Kevin Kelly on Liam Brady's resignation 1993 (shame the Celtic board didn't follow him at the time also).
"If I've made excuses with regard to how difficult it was with the board then I have to admit that my signings didn't really come off and on the pitch is where I failed."
Liam Brady in an interview for the book "Head Bhoys", a very frank and honest admission marking him a step above certain members of the board he worked with and who still don't admit faults
"Celtic fans are great when the team are up against it. There´s nothing like the Celtic support."
“I’ve worked at Celtic Park and I know that when the team is up against it, the fans respond by making the kind of ear-splitting noise that shows they want to help the players.”
Liam Brady (2013)
“It’s a great club and if you want to work in management you want to be at a place like Celtic.”
Liam Brady (2013)
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