On this day in 1991, Kieron Brady was preparing to prove his manager wrong in as reserve team outing at home to Barnsley, after Denis Smith gave him a public dressing down over his ‘weight problems’ and ‘overall attitude’, which had halted the 19-year-old’s progression.
Brady had been around the first-team set up for two seasons now, impressing when given a chance in the top flight the year before, however according to Smith he’d returned for the new season in far from ideal shape – blasting Brady for “depriving the public of something they should have.”
Smith told The Journal’s Brian McNally:
It’s frustrating, It’s like losing a player.
I’m even having to battle with our coaches to keep him in the reserve side.
In number 34 of an occasional series of ‘managerial comments that were definitely of their time,’ Smith continued:
He gets fined for being overweight but it doesn’t seem to bother him. He says he is not overweight, and we say ‘what chin are you talking with now?
At 19 he should be getting some self-discipline. We will persevere and hopefully, one day, it will click. At a lot of clubs he would have been kicked out by now.
Brady for his part admitted some responsibility, but pleaded with Smith for understanding.
I used to have a craving for chocolates and sweets, I eat in moderation now. But my weight seems to go up and down. I can’t seem to control it. It’s unreal.
I don’t think the manager understands how hard it is to control it.
It’s harder for me than for other people.
Brady played the full 90 that evening, and helped seal a 3-2 victory for a strong reserve side which included Tim Carter, Anthony Smith, Richard Ord and Peter Davenport.
After being 2-0 after 30 minutes, the side came back to level, before Brady produce a ‘dazzling dribble’ in front of the watching Smith to lay on the winner on for Simon Guthrie.
A missed opportunity for Smith & Brady
While Brady’s Sunderland career is looked back on very fondly by supporters, especially those who witnessed his performances against West Ham, Bradford and Sheffield United during 1989-90, it’s fair in the interests of balance to note Brady didn’t help himself on many occasions, as he’ll readily admit.
However Smith’s blast was telling, symptomatic of a manager under pressure, who believed Brady was the key to the team performing well, but unable to use him.
In reality, 91-92 should have been Brady’s season – after two years on the fringes, and playing well in the top flight, he should have had a regular starting position now the team were back in Division Two. But, unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way.
Brady did force his way back into the first team a few games later, scoring from the bench in an away defeat to Middlesbrough (on the day Peter Beagrie, another talented left winger – made his debut on loan from Everton), and forced his way into the starting XI away at Port Vale in October, where he scored a brace.
That was Brady’s last significant contribution under Smith’s management, however, and Denis departed after a 3-0 defeat to Oxford. Tellingly, Smith – who’d been under mounting pressure prior to that game – selected Brady as a starter.