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What position will Robbie Brady play at Burnley and will he suit their style?

The Ireland international left Norwich and finally completed his return to the Premier League on Deadline Day.

Robbie Brady has scored seven goals in 31 caps for Ireland.
Robbie Brady has scored seven goals in 31 caps for Ireland.
Image: Darko Vojinovic

Updated 20.21

AFTER HIS STARRING role for Ireland at Euro 2016 last summer, it seemed a matter of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ Robbie Brady would return to the Premier League.

As the Boys in Green stunned an Italian side that contained top-class players including Thiago Motta, Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli, Brady — who scored the match-winning goal with a brave header — was as impressive as any other individual on display at Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Lille that night.

The only surprise, perhaps, is that it’s taken until now for Brady to secure his big-money move.

Nevertheless, the Dubliner has continued to act professionally despite being faced with constant speculation surrounding his future in recent months.

The 25-year-old has made 26 appearances for Norwich since the start of the campaign, scoring four goals, including one in the 3-1 defeat of Wolves last month.

There have been moments of brilliance combined with some familiar problems for the ex-Hull player. Brady has attracted criticism for his defensive weaknesses having been sporadically deployed at left-back by the Canaries, rather than in his preferred position further forward in midfield.

On the whole though, the Ireland international has been an asset over the past 18 months for Alex Neill’s side.

Despite enduring the second Premier League relegation of his career last season (the first came when he was with Hull the year before), Brady managed to impress after securing a £7 million move the previous summer. He was runner-up in the Norwich supporters’ Player of the Season award with Irish colleague Wes Hoolahan third, and while Brady’s performances this season have been inconsistent at times, the Championship club have still made a reported £6 million profit on the deal that saw him surpass Jeff Hendrick as Burnley’s record signing.

The pressure is now on Brady to perform given the significance of the fee, but the Irish star is no stranger to great expectations.

Speaking to The42 last summer, Brentford defender John Egan — who played against Brady at youth level — recalled how he always stood out in underage games, while playing down his subsequent failure to make the grade at Manchester United.

“With Robbie, you knew from the age of about 14 or 15 that he was going to go on and do big things,” he said.

United is a gigantic club — probably the biggest club in the world when he was there. But no matter how good you were, it was always going to be difficult to come through. If he was given more of a chance, he could easily have fitted into United. He still might in the future, hopefully. He certainly has the ability. But in football, you need a break. You need a manager to give you a chance and the way he’s come back, he’s now a proven Premier League player. That’s a credit to his attitude. A lot of fellas can sulk away from the game but he’s gone about it the right way and he’s probably scored one of the most historic goals in Irish football history.”

Brady, of course, is well aware of what is expected of him. The star today told Burnley’s official website that he was eager to repay the faith that manager Sean Dyche has shown in him.

“For me to get the opportunity and the manager to give me the opportunity to play here is fantastic,” he said.

“I’ll grab it with both hands and hopefully I can do my bit to help out the lads. It’s a great move for myself and the people to show faith in me to take me here is something I’m very grateful for and hopefully I can repay them.

It’s massive [to be back in the Premier League], it’s so important, it’s where everyone wants to be.”

With Hendrick — a former teammate of Brady’s at St Kevin’s Boys — and Stephen Ward already at the Clarets, Burnley now have three key members of the Irish side in their squad.

Source: Footballer Game/YouTube

Where Brady fits into proceedings at Turf Moor will be interesting to see. Speaking to BT after the deal was done, Dyche suggested that the player’s versatility was a factor in the decision to sign him.

He can play two or three different positions,” the Burnley boss said. “We’re hoping to add a bit of pace, a bit of quality, a bit of know-how, obviously he’s played in the Premier League before.

“He’s someone we think can enjoy his time here.”

As Burnley’s record signing, it’s hard to envisage Brady not being a regular starter. While he can slot in at left-back, Ward has been having a good season and is unlikely to be displaced there. Similarly, central midfield is a position where Burnley are well stocked with Hendrick, Steven Defour, Joey Barton and Ashley Westwood all decent options.

The left-side of midfield, therefore, looks to be the position earmarked for Brady. Burnley’s failure to win the race to sign Robert Snodgrass, another technically accomplished footballer who tends to be played out wide, saw the club step up their efforts to sign the Irishman.

And like Snodgrass, Brady is a dead-ball specialist, with set pieces vital to lower-level Premier League sides such as the Clarets.

In terms of style, Burnley are not always easy on the eye. A study last month revealed that they had played more long balls than any other side in the Premier League.

In contrast with a team such as Norwich who invariably tended to keep the ball on the ground, even when in the Premier League, the concern would be that a small, technically gifted player such as Brady may be somewhat redundant in their aggressively direct system.

That said, Ireland are also a team renowned for playing more long balls than most, yet there is still scope for less physical, more skillful players in the side.

As with Martin O’Neill, Dyche will be hoping Brady can provide his side with balance and creativity amid the hard running and brawn that are already staples of the team’s game.

And with Burnley, who were only promoted from the Championship last season, currently flying high in ninth position in the league, it’s hard to view the move as anything other than a positive development for player and club alike.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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