The morning ablutions complete I go to select the shirt of the day, but which one? The England cricket shirt? “I won’t be washing again before we go away next weekend”. That’s that then. The Arsenal 1971 yellow shirt? Good thinking, but then…
A question I was asked on Twitter this week flashes up in that point of the consciousness where random things crop up now and again. It was something like, was Liam Brady’s departure from Arsenal like the same as Cesc Fabregas jumping ship?
In 140 characters you cannot do justice to such a comparison. The going of both was never in doubt a year or two before they eventually departed, but the circumstances were hugely different. In a nutshell Liam left us at the end of his contract to test himself against the best footballers in Europe. In 1980 that meant going to Italy. Whilst wearing the red and white he never let a soul down at the club. He was a special talent, nurtured by us, but it was inevitable that the biggest stage would attract him.
Now Cesc was also bound to depart at some point. Introduced to the Barca way as a boy, we polished the skills he had already demonstrated because his hometown club showed a reluctance to promote him as a precocious teen. He gave us some wonderful memories I cannot deny, and was the cornerstone around which we were developing the third Wenger vision. With four years remaining on his contract last summer I think we were entitled to expect another couple of seasons from him. Unlike Liam he was already testing himself against the best in Europe, the world even, as an Arsenal player.
When he left Liam wasn’t turning his back on his adopted family to go home. He wasn’t breaking a half-completed contract to be a part of a club fighting to establish itself at Europe’s top table. Liam Brady never once refused the opportunity to pull that cannon over his chest. We understood the time had come and wished a magician with a special gift all the best.
I reached under the cricket shirt and pulled out the green grandad shirt. Then grabbed the green socks. I put an extra Guinness in the fridge. I know where my loyalties lay this week. This boy of Islington will be cheering on the spirit of Liam Brady, A great footballer, and a great man.
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