Time to put THAT own goal in the his­tory book

The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE ONE - By Chris Dunlavy

CHRIS Brass, own goal. What­ever the new Bury man­age achieves in his ca­reer, those four words will for­ever dog his days.

Ten years ago, Brass was play­ing for the Shakers in a League Two match against Dar­ling­ton when he at­tempted to clear a loop­ing up-and-over.

To his to­tal dis­be­lief, he leathered the ball into his own nose with such force that it shot past a young Kasper Sch­me­ichel and straight into leg­end.

DVDs, click­bait lists, count­downs – al­most all are topped by the de­fender’s act of in­ad­ver­tent comic ge­nius. The YouTube video alone has more than 900,000 hits.

“I was stand­ing right next to Brassy,” re­calls Dave Challi­nor, a team­mate at Gigg Lane. “I’d put my hand up hop­ing the lino would flag and, as I turned round, Brassy’s some­how smashed the ball into his own face.

“It wasn’t a big sta­dium at Dar­ling­ton – maybe only 4,000 peo­ple – but each and ev­ery one of them was laugh­ing. We were aghast and I’m sure Brassy wanted the floor to open up.

“When we went in the dress­ing room, no­body said a word. Ev­ery­one was look­ing round at each other think­ing ‘Did that re­ally hap­pen?’”

Hav­ing seen Brass up­graded from care­taker to man­ager on the back of four de­feats in as many games, plenty of Bury fans are ask­ing them­selves that ques­tion all over again.

This, af­ter all, is a man whose man­age­rial CV amounts to 15 vic­to­ries from 75 games, rel­e­ga­tion from the Foot­ball League and a win per­cent­age of just 20 per cent.

Yet, if the 41-year-old’s record is wor­ry­ing, it is also mis­lead­ing.

Of those 75 games, all but eight were con­tested more than a decade ago when Brass, aged just 27, was lu­di­crously – and hope­lessly – tasked with keep­ing York in the Foot­ball League.

Hae­m­or­rhag­ing cash and lack­ing a man­ager, fol­low­ing the dis­missal of Terry Dolan, York’s in­ex­pe­ri­enced new owner Ja­son McGill needed a cut-price leader. The man at the heart of their de­fence was the clos­est he had.

In a sense, their logic was sound. As a per­son, Brass was in­tel­li­gent and ar­tic­u­late. A tal­ented scholar, he con­sid­ered A-Lev­els and univer­sity be­fore, iron­i­cally, a ca­reers ad­viser urged him to ac­cept a YTS at Burn­ley.

Fear­less

As a player, first at Turf Moor, then at York af­ter Stan Ter­nent forced him out, he was renowned for his tenac­ity and lead­er­ship abil­ity. “Chris was a good foot­baller, but his per­son­al­ity was his strength,” said Dar­ren Ed­mond­son, a team­mate in that York side. “He got on re­ally well with ev­ery­one, was al­ways in­volved in all the so­cial side of things. He com­manded a lot of re­spect. He didn’t have fan­tas­tic abil­ity, but he was com­mit­ted, fear­less and knew how to or­gan­ise a back four.” Un­for­tu­nately, he didn’t have the ex­pe­ri­ence or con­tacts to res­cue York. A work­able budget might have masked such flaws, but, with fans shaking buck­ets at ev­ery home game, Brass was badly ex­posed. Hav­ing started the 200304 cam­paign with four straight wins, York’s form nose­dived. After20 games with­out a win, they lost 2-1 at home to Don­caster and dropped into the Con­fer­ence for the first time in 75 years.

“It was in­cred­i­bly dif­fi­cult for Chris,” in­sists Chris Smith, a player in that side. “We were strug­gling fi­nan­cially, and with so many young play­ers, it af­fected us badly.

“I re­mem­ber, in our back three, I was the old­est at 21! That tells you what Chris was deal­ing with and we had such a num­ber of in­juries and sus­pen­sions that things just got worse and worse.

“The only good thing that came out of that sea­son was that we didn’t go into liq­ui­da­tion.”

McGill called the ap­point­ment his big­gest re­gret. Brass was more san­guine.

“It was tough,” he said, “but I’d hate to think that, at 35, I’d have fin­ished my ca­reer and won­dered what might have been. Ask­ing your­self, ‘What if ?’ can be a hor­ri­ble feel­ing.”

Pro­fes­sion­ally, the episode cost Brass more than his place in the dugout.

At 29, a de­fender who once marked Steve McMana­man to death and drew scouts from boy­hood he­roes Sun­der­land sud­denly found him­self loaned out to the likes of Har­ro­gate and South­port.

With typ­i­cal re­solve, he bounced back. “I just ap­proached ev­ery game like I was still play­ing in the Cham­pi­onship,” he said.

Chris Casper, a young man­ager at Bury, soon recog­nised that Brass be­longed in the Foot­ball League and, in 2006, snapped him up.

“He gave us at­ti­tude, ex­pe­ri­ence and mo­ti­va­tion,” said the for­mer Man United man. “He was ex­actly what we needed.”

En­dur­ing

It would prove the start of an en­dur­ing as­so­ci­a­tion with the Shakers.

Though his friend­ship with Alan Knill would take him to Scun­thorpe and Torquay as a No.2, Brass has spent the vast ma­jor­ity of the last decade at Gigg Lane, do­ing ev­ery­thing from restruc­tur­ing the youth sys­tem to man­ag­ing the first-team.

“I don’t think there is any po­si­tion at this club that I haven’t done,” he said.

“I’ve helped out with the kit, looked af­ter the youth set-up, been as­sis­tant man­ager, man­ager and helped clear snow off the pitch. This club gets un­der your skin.”

Now, with his coach­ing badges com­plete and the lessons of his York bap­tism banked, he has been handed a six-month con­tract to res­ur­rect Bury’s sea­son.

This time, reck­ons Andy Bishop, it won’t prove an own goal to match those of the past.

“He has the ways to mo­ti­vate play­ers. He knows and cares about the club im­mensely,” said the ex-Shaker. “He knows the level and is tac­ti­cally as­tute. He would be my choice.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Images

BOLD AP­POINT­MENT: Bury have put their faith in Chris Brass

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Images

LEADER: Brass in his Burn­ley days and the own goal that be­came a YouTube clas­sic

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