The Republic of Ireland legend recently stepped down as head of youth development at Arsenal, once a hotbed of young Irish internationals.
Now, though, there is no Irish starlet making a mark with the London giants, even though the Gunners are reputed to be interested in Cork City defender Brian Lenihan.
In Brady’s playing days, he was part of an Arsenal side that featured David O’Leary, Frank Stapleton, Pat Jennings, John Devine, Pat Rice and Sammy Nelson. Brady is plugged in to the network of underage development in Ireland, but warns the future looks bleak.
“If the players are not there, what can you do? I’ve told [FAI chief executive] John Delaney this years ago, it’s scary.
“There are simply no Irish players coming through. The last Irish player Arsenal signed was Anthony Stokes. I really, really hope I’m wrong, but I don’t see anything coming through from Ireland. And it scares me,” he says in an extensive interview on his time at Arsenal, to be published in tomorrow’s Irish Examiner.
“It’s already evident in Irish sides, and affects what Martin O’Neill is trying to do, and what [Giovanni] Trapattoni was trying to do. When I was with Giovanni, the media was always bleating about ‘look at him, look at him, why isn’t he playing?’. But who has come through? Seamus Coleman is one of the very few who has come up to standard.”
In the interview, Brady offers a revealing insight into the changing world of youth development, where money dictates everything. A starlet from his own club in Dublin, St Kevin’s Boys, was Robbie Brady, whom Arsenal lost out on to Manchester United.
“He came to Arsenal at one stage, then it became a bit of an auction with Man United and we backed out of it. It became a bit rich for us.”
And Brady admitted that, at clubs like Arsenal, making the breakthrough is getting more difficult.
“You always want talented players at your club, but if you’d asked me when he was 16 whether Robbie Brady would play for Arsenal’s first team, I’d have said maybe not. However, he’s done really well and is making his living in the Premier League, but at the time, Arsenal decided it wasn’t worth going to the levels I knew we would have to go to.”