Part three of this series looks at a cult hero from Sunderland’s past. He burst onto the scene in 1989 with some outstanding displays. However he was forced to retire at just 22-years-old.
For parts one and two of the series please click the links below.
They Could Have Been One Of Football’s Greatest: Part Three – Kieron Brady
43-year-old Kieron Brady currently runs the Celebrate Identity, Challenge Intolerance organisation. This group educates in the areas of racism, religious intolerance as well as other various forms of discrimination. Back when he was a teenager though, Sunderland fans who were lucky enough to have seen him thought they had a future star at their club when he burst onto the scene.
An early sign of his talent was during a youth game at York. Sunderland kicked off and Brady was the player to receive the ball from the players on the centre spot. The ball came back to Brady, who was inside his own half. He flicked it up and volleyed it at pace over the head of the oppositions goalkeeper, who was off his line, hardly expecting to concede a goal in the first few seconds to a piece of pure genius.
Brady made is debut at Roker Park as an 18-year-old in November 1989. It was his man of the match performance in that same season that fans still talk about to this day. The visitors to Roker Park that day were West Ham United. It was a top of the table clash, both teams fighting for promotion back to the top flight of English football.
That Saturday afternoon on March 24th 1990 saw Brady tear the West Ham defence apart with a stunning display. He scored with an overhead kick and set up two more goals as Sunderland recorded a 4-3 victory. Every time Brady got the ball he tortured the West Ham defence with a master class in skill and trickery. A bright future almost certainly lay ahead for this young man from Glasgow.
Brady scored the winner in his next game away at Bradford City. He made twelve appearances that season scoring twice, helping Sunderland to promotion. The next season Brady only made a further 16 appearances, missing much of the season either through injury or by the then Sunderland manager Denis Smith trying to protect his star teenager. Kieron has admitted he was maybe too eager to get on the field when a teenager but still believes Denis Smith could have adopted a slightly different approach to his man management to have got the best out of him.
Off the pitch Kieron developed a reputation as a “drinker”. In an interview with Roker Report, Brady had this to say on the subject “I think there is a justification in forming that view. I was young and in retrospect I did act in a manner at times which was incompatible with being a professional footballer and athlete”. Being young, a potential star of the future and having a liking of the nightlife may have contributed in Denis Smith being sterner with him in the hope of protecting him.
In Denis Smith’s Autobiography ‘Just One Of Seven’, Denis Smith had this to say about Brady. “Far too many people have never heard of Kieron Brady. He had the talent of a Gascoigne or a Best, and a wayward nature to match. He was that good – and bad. That lad had more talent than anybody I ever managed”. Smith went on to add “Kieron had frightening ability but he’d got no responsibility. Someone of that unbelievable talent should have gone on to be somebody you talked about as one of the greats”.
The liking of the night life in Sunderland ultimately was not his downfall. An extremely rare vascular condition, Popliteal Artery Entrapment Syndrome was the cause of his eventual retirement from the game in 1993 at the age of just 22. Brady went on to take Sunderland to court after he believed that the club had failed to properly diagnose and treat his career ending condition. In 1998 Sunderland were cleared of any blame for Brady’s condition but the following year Brady won a settlement with two doctors who worked at Sunderland hospital.
Kieron Brady only made a total of 40 appearances for Sunderland, scoring seven goals. He also played four times for Doncaster Rovers, scoring three goals. Without an unfortunate and very rare condition Kieron Brady, with his wonderful naturally talented left foot could easily have been a Sunderland great and an excellent international player having represented the Republic of Ireland at U18 and U21 levels. Ex-Sunderland player and now TV and radio pundit Michael Gray has said that Brady was “the most talented footballer he ever saw”.