Clearly, Chippy wasn’t feeling so chirpy, and it wasn’t just a routine case of the Monday morning blues.
“Ok, fellas, I was hoping that Arsenal would win yesterday,” sighed Liam Brady by way of greeting to the journalists who’d gathered at Dublin’s Merrion Hotel for an ESPN-hosted chinwag with Irish football legends Brady and Kevin Sheedy. “That would have made this press conference a lot easier...”
All those years at Arsenal might have served only to intensify the pain of defeat to Spurs but the most famous Irish Gunner of all reckons this latest setback represents less a shift in the balance of power in North London than a reflection of the difference one inspirational player can make.
“I think the emergence of Gareth Bale has been huge for them,” he said. “He’s probably the outstanding player this season, along with van Persie and Suarez. Give us Gareth Bale and I think we’d be in the top four. We might even be in the top two (laughs).”
But even now, Brady refuses to accept that a top four finish is beyond Arsenal.
“No, no. Seven points, 10 games, 30 points — no, I don’t think so. It gives Tottenham a nice cushion but I think our demise has been exaggerated. I think we have a chance. We have a lot of winnable games. It’s obviously a blow but I’m still hopeful.”
Brady also believes that the bigger picture is prettier than the Arsenal manager’s critics are prepared to acknowledge.
“I think people calling for Arsene Wenger’s head is wrong,” he insisted. “He’s had to cope with a long period of time when the Emirates Stadium had to be built. And that had its impact on the team and what Arsene could do. But he accepted that without complaint because he could see the big picture. And he had to cut his cloth accordingly. A lot of players left when we would have like to see them staying. Because of that situation, it took its toll.
“Now we’re in a very strong financial position. I hope the Financial Fair Play thing kicks in. If that kicks in and you’re only allowed spend what you make, it’ll put us in an even stronger position. I hope that Arsene is given the resources to spend and have a go at putting us back where we were eight years ago. When you get beaten by your neighbours it can get a lot of people talking, particularly people ringing up radio stations and things like that. But I think we’ve got to keep it all in perspective. The majority of the fans are behind him, the staff are behind him and I think the board are behind him.
“The other thing I want to say about Arsene is that he’s only ever given young players a chance. That doesn’t happen at a lot of clubs because of the need to win — I’m thinking particularly of clubs where there’s lots of money to spend to bring in readymade players or seasoned players or players at the top of their game. But Arsene has been very good for the job I do, beginning with Ashley Cole and ending up with Jack Wilshere. So that’s another reason I don’t want to see any change.”
Brady’s offers his status as an employee of Arsenal as a reason for declining to address the defensive issues which have become such a source of concern at the Emirates. But his own employment status will change next year when he finally steps down as head of the club’s youth academy.
“I’ve been doing it for 17 years and I wanted a change,” he explained. “I’ll end up doing something in football, and it could well be with Arsenal.”
Or it could be with the FAI, especially in his specialist area of youth development.
“It’s a possibility. I think we need to produce better technical players than we’re producing. A lot more thought has to go into that. But it’s hard now for the FAI because they’ve had to take a hit financially and a lot of people have lost jobs, which is a pity. I think what we should do is scout the very best players around the country and have them in elite groups. But what you are going to have there is the obstacle of how important they are for their club teams and schoolboy clubs. 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 they are working in the best interests of the boy.”
And could Liam Brady be the man to do that? “I don’t know, I don’t want to sound like I am touting for a job,” he replied with a smile. “But that’s an area where we need to get the best nine and 10-year-olds. That’s what is happening all over Europe. But they are not having that here.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved