GARY BRAZIL

Chris Dunlavy pro­files the Not­ting­ham For­est care­taker man­ager

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE: - By Chris Dunlavy

GOOD player. Bad tim­ing. Those four words will prob­a­bly be etched on Gary Brazil’s grave­stone.

For all the goals, tricks and deft touches that prompted leg­endary Pre­ston boss John McGrath to de­scribe his striker as a “prize rose”, the 54-year-old had a re­mark­able knack for join­ing big clubs in their bleak­est hours.

Sh­effield United’s only rel­e­ga­tion to the Fourth Divi­sion in their 127-year his­tory. Pre­ston’s slump to 91st in the ta­ble, a po­si­tion that forced the Li­ly­whites to beg for re­elec­tion.

New­cas­tle’s post-Gas­coigne de­scent from the top-flight, Ful­ham’s mid-90s nadir in the base­ment divi­sion be­fore Mohammed Al-Fayed saved the day. Like Alan Rick­man in

Prince of Thieves, Brazil was the star per­former in a ter­ri­ble movie, his goals – of­ten spec­tac­u­lar – il­lu­mi­nat­ing dark days and bar­ren af­ter­noons. Rel­e­ga­tion was a con­stant com­pan­ion.

“He was a ter­rific player,” said for­mer Pre­ston team­mate Garry Swann. “You just have to look at his record. Ev­ery­where he went, no mat­ter what the cir­cum­stances, he scored goals.

“The sea­son Pre­ston fin­ished sec­ond-bot­tom of the Fourth Divi­sion, he scored 18 times. How many play­ers would man­age that?”

Born in Tun­bridge Wells and raised watch­ing the flam­boy­ant Chelsea side of the early 70s, Brazil’s ac­quain­tance with foot­ball mis­ery started early.

Re­leased by Terry Ven­ables’ Crys­tal Palace in 1980, he was signed by Sh­effield United and al­most im­me­di­ately rel­e­gated to the Fourth Divi­sion.

Yet it says much about Brazil’s qual­ity that he was reg­u­larly re­tained to lead the fight­back. At Bra­mall Lane, it was Ian Porter­field who kept the faith, his young for­ward hit­ting ten goals in 72 games as the Blades scrab­bled back to Divi­sion Two.

Then, af­ter the shame of 1985-86, when gates at Deep­dale av­er­aged just 3,500 and even the flood­lights went on strike, McGrath crafted a spearhead of Brazil and John Thompson and was re­warded with an ex­hil­a­rat­ing surge to the Divi­sion Four ti­tle.

Out­stand­ing

“John used to call them his prize roses,” re­calls mid­fielder Oshor Wil­liams. “He said to the likes of me and Sam Al­lardyce - ‘I want peo­ple to come and see my best roses so you pro­tect them be­cause they will be the finest in Lan­cashire’.” Brazil scored a ca­reerbest 18 league goals that term and was named Pre­ston fans’ player of the year. “John was a won­der­ful man­ager who gal­vanised the whole club,” said Alex Jones, an­other mem­ber of that side. “But Gary was ab­so­lutely out­stand­ing that sea­son we won pro­mo­tion. I don’t think we’d have done it with­out him.” Fleet­ingly, the big time beck­oned. Un­like many a lower-league striker of his day, Brazil was no brain­less bruiser. Skil­ful and quick, he largely re­lied on tech­nique and po­si­tion­ing for his goals.

Those qual­i­ties im­pressed Jim Smith and, in 1988, Brazil joined a New­cas­tle side fight­ing for their top-flight lives. Eigh­teen months, eight starts and a rel­e­ga­tion later, he was a foot­note in Toon his­tory.

“I spent too much time in­jured, but the qual­ity of strik­ers they had was de­cent, too,” he said. “I was work­ing to get in against peo­ple like Micky Quinn and Mark McGhee. Good play­ers.”

So to Ful­ham, with 59 goals in 254 matches and six years that, for all Ful­ham’s strug­gles, are fondly re­mem­bered – at least by most.

“Gary was a Mar­mite player, very much the To­masz Radzin­ski of his day,” re­calls fan Jonathan Sim. “Per­son­ally, I loved him. He was a nim­ble­footed, skil­ful for­ward rather than an out-and-out goal scorer, but any­one who fol­lowed Ful­ham home and away dur­ing this time will re­mem­ber some stun­ning strikes.”

Brazil’s tech­ni­cal qual­i­ties al­ways sug­gested a fu­ture in coach­ing and so it proved. Fol­low­ing a pre­ma­ture dip into man­age­ment with Notts County in 1999-00, he has worked at Don­caster, Ful­ham and, since 2012, Not­ting­ham For­est, forg­ing a rep­u­ta­tion as one of the UK’s finest acad­emy coaches.

The City Ground pro­duc­tion line is tes­ta­ment to that: Oliver Burke, sold for £13m to RB Leipzig, Ben Os­born, a tar­get for New­cas­tle, Matty Cash, ex­ten­sively mon­i­tored by Chelsea.

“I’ve got to say thank you to my coaches and par­tic­u­larly Gary,” said Burke be­fore leav­ing in Au­gust. “With­out his in­put and help, I wouldn’t be the player peo­ple are talk­ing about to­day.”

Cash, who made his de­but on the open­ing day of the sea­son and was this month sub­ject to a £4m bid from Leipzig, ex­pressed sim­i­lar sentiments.

Qual­i­ties

“Gary’s been a mas­sive part of my pro­gres­sion in the last year and a half,” he said. “When I was on loan at Da­gen­ham, he was al­ways ask­ing how I was get­ting on and al­ways had his eyes on me.

“He was al­ways in con­tact, which is a mas­sive thing from such an ex­pe­ri­enced coach. At other clubs, you do not get the same qual­i­ties they give to young play­ers here.

“They make sure you do things right – on and off the pitch – and that is why so many play for the first team.”

Mark Pem­bridge, who worked un­der Brazil at Ful­ham, said: “He’s a great coach, re­ally in­no­va­tive and full of ideas. I’d watch his ses­sions and pick up lit­tle tech­niques that I’d use with my Un­der-15s. And they in­vari­ably worked.”

Pro­moted to re­place Philippe Mon­tanier on a care­taker ba­sis ear­lier this month, Brazil’s stay in the dugout is likely to be brief.

With so many pro­teges on the pitch, how­ever, his legacy should last con­sid­er­ably longer.

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

FOR­EST WAR­DEN: Gary Brazil is in tem­po­rary charge at the City Ground

FONDLY RE­CALLED: Gary Brazil play­ing for Ful­ham

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