After 18 years as head of the the Arsenal Academy, Liam Brady is to leave his role at the end of the season.
It will mark the end of an era for a man who has given almost 30 years to the club, firstly as a player and then in a developmental capacity.
Liam will be taking on an ambassadorial role with the club from the summer onwards, but we caught up with him to discuss the nature of the position, how it has changed and what the future holds for him...
Liam, remind us of the situation when you joined the club in 1996?
Liam Brady: "After George Graham left, the club wanted a situation where the person in control of youth development wouldn’t be uprooted should a manager leave. So I was in control of building a structure for the club going forward. At that time, I had a blank sheet of paper. Pretty much from the outset I tried to move with the times, and we began to get players at younger ages.
Read the full interview with Liam in the matchday programme
"It took me a good year or 18 months to find out the lie of the land, but my job basically was to get as many good young players as I could into the club. It coincided with Arsène’s arrival, and he was very open to the fact that we shouldn’t only recruit in the UK. That’s why we saw an influx of European players coming in at 16.
"I created my own staff and very quickly David Court came in, because David had done some work for Steve Rowley when Steve was involved with our youth set-up. David approached me, we got on straight away and I thought he would be a very good right-hand man to have with me, and that proved to be the case.
"It went on from there and we were very successful in what we did. Roy Massey came in to oversee work with the development of the younger age groups at Hale End and he has also done a fantastic job and instrumental in so many players coming through our system and making a good career in the game."
The team’s success under Arsène must in actuality have made the job of getting academy players through to the first team more difficult...
"At a club like Arsenal it’s obviously very difficult to get players from the youth system to the first team because you’re operating at the very high end of the Premier League and European football. In all these years, as we know, Arsène has never missed out on a Champions League, so it was always going to be very difficult. We managed it with a number of players, but most notably to date Ashley Cole. Nobody made the impact that Ashley did. He was - and still is - outstanding.
"Also, let’s not forget the huge amount of players who have come through our academy who are currently playing in the four leagues in England. If you’re a West Ham or Southampton, who are doing very well with their young players at the moment, there’s less pressure, there’s a greater opportunity to blood younger players and I applaud all clubs who take the chance to do that. I was lucky that I had Arsène because he was prepared to do it. Arsène Wenger was prepared to give young players a chance and that helped me in my position."
So what’s next for you, Liam?
"I’m lucky that the club want me to stay on in an ambassadorial role, but I think the time is right for someone to take over the reins. It’s a big, big job and you’ve got to have drive and determination. I just want to take things easier for myself and my family and I’m just lucky the club have said they want me to stay on and help where I can help. I’m only too delighted to do that. Arsenal is in my DNA."
Arsène Wenger has paid tribute to Brady's work at the club and highlighted his "massive contribution" during his time as head of youth development.
"Before this season finishes, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Liam Brady for all his hard work and his massive contribution as head of youth development before he retires later this month," he said. "I think his greatest achievement is his consistent contribution to the success of the club.
"I’ve had a close relationship with Liam and he was always very helpful to me and always wanted the best for the club. He brought in some fantastic young players and he’s a big loss. He will stay with us as an ambassador and will still be helpful to getting people in for a long time.
"Recently we’ve lost Pat Rice and Liam Brady, who have been great figures for the club and have a red and white heart. That genuine contribution to the club and the genuine quality of these people is missed."
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