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4 years on from €15 million transfer, Robbie Brady's future mired in uncertainty

It’s been a frustrating season for the Ireland international.

Robbie Brady's Burnley contract is due to expire in the summer.
Robbie Brady's Burnley contract is due to expire in the summer.
Image: PA

IT HAS been a frustrating season for a number of high-profile Ireland internationals.

Shane Duffy has had a difficult time and received criticism since his loan move to Celtic.

John Egan and Enda Stevens have had injury problems, as well as being part of a Sheffield United team that look set to be relegated from the Premier League.

Darren Randolph has struggled to get regular football at West Ham, while Matt Doherty has been in and out of the Spurs team.

Robbie Brady, too, has had a frustrating campaign at Burnley.

The midfielder’s indifferent form was apparent earlier this month, in a substitute appearance against Fulham.

After replacing the injured Johann Berg Gudmundsson in the 39th minute, he was at fault for their opponent’s goal, as he failed to clear Ola Aina’s effort off the line.

He had already been booked and appeared lucky to stay on the pitch for a challenge on Aina, before being substituted just 24 minutes after coming on. Afterwards, manager Sean Dyche insisted Brady had not been hooked for a poor performance, but replaced due to an injury.

“He’s been carrying a little bit of an achilles and we noticed he wasn’t running right,” the Burnley boss told reporters.

While cynics might have felt Dyche was simply creating a convenient excuse for the player — who suffered the inevitable wrath of social media following the game — the fact that he did not make the bench for a depleted Burnley in their subsequent Premier League match against West Brom would suggest the injury is genuine. However, reports across the water have indicated Brady could be back for today’s game with Tottenham, as he aims to silence the critics.

Nevertheless, the latest setback will only add to the uncertainty surrounding the Ireland international’s future at the club.

Dwight McNeil and Gudmundsson are currently the first-choice wide players.

21-year-old McNeil in particular has impressed since graduating to the first team. He has made the left-wing spot his own, featuring in all 38 of Burnley’s Premier League games last season.

And so Brady, when he does play, is often asked to operate on the right, rather than his preferred left-wing role.

He was linked with a move to Celtic in January and with his contract set to expire in the summer, his days at Turf Moor could be numbered.

It’s a disappointing situation for a player who emerged as one of Ireland’s standout performers at the Euros five years ago and went on to join Burnley in 2017 for £13 million (€15 million) — a club-record transfer at the time.

He has made 17 Premier League appearances this season, but only 12 of those have been starts, while he has completed 90 minutes on just four occasions.

Last season was a similar story. Brady made 17 top-flight appearances, six of which were starts.

The 2018-19 (16 appearances, six starts) and 2017-18 campaigns (15 appearances, 15 starts) weren’t much better, after encouraging early signs, as he scored a spectacular free kick in his second game against Chelsea and after signing in January, making 14 appearances (7 starts) that season.

All of which means that in just over four years at Burnley, the 29-year-old has made an overall tally of 46 starts.

In Brady’s defence, he has been unlucky with injuries since joining the club.

His best run of form came at the beginning of the 2017-18 campaign, but he played his last game of that season in December, after picking up a serious injury against Leicester, while he has continued to have niggling issues since then.

“He’s struggled,” says Alex James, Burnley FC writer at Lancs Live. “Since he had the serious knee injury three years ago, he hasn’t really got back to those levels.

“The last 18 months, he’s suffered badly with minor injuries. He hasn’t been able to get going and get a regular run.

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“And when he has played, he hasn’t really taken his opportunity. He hasn’t shown too much of the quality, which Burnley fans saw earlier on in his career at Turf Moor.

“The one thing he did have was great delivery. He’s even struggled to bring that into his game in the last 12 months or so. He just looks a little bit static and short of confidence, certainly short of a run of 10 games in a row.” 

There is therefore a growing sense among Burnley fans that Brady will depart in the summer. 

Last month, new contracts were announced for Matt Lowton, Kevin Long, Gudmundsson and Erik Pieters — at least some of whom would like Brady be considered fringe players — yet perhaps tellingly, there was no update on the Dubliner’s future. 

“Considering Burnley paid £13 million, their transfer record is £15 million, so it’s one of the most expensive deals in the club’s history,” says James. “To potentially let him go on a free just sort of shows how far he’s drifted down the pecking order really.

“But having said that, he’s still got something to offer and I do think a run of games would help him. 

“It’s not like he’s been absolutely woeful, he just hasn’t cemented his place in the side.

“But personally speaking, I do think he and Burnley would probably benefit from a change of scenery.”

There were high expectations amid Brady’s arrival at Burnley, yet ultimate disappointment with what has followed. 

A move could certainly prove beneficial, however. At Celtic or one of the better Championship sides, he might be afforded more freedom and licence to focus on attack than he currently has at the Clarets.

“The thing with Dyche, and it’s worked wonders, it’s very rigid in the system,” adds James. “Even Dwight McNeil, who’s a real creative attacking talent, spends as much of the game going the other way as he does going forward. And Burnley generally see less of the ball than whoever they’re playing.

“It’s just [about getting] that time on the ball and that ability to have a freer role. If he did find a team that he was able to have slightly more flexibility in, or certainly start week in week out, then it wouldn’t surprise me if he had a really good few seasons.”

About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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