Saturday, 31 March 2012

Interview with Brian Deane - Part 3 (Broadening Experiences)

As we left Part 2 (which you can read here) Brian was facing a difficult time at Leeds. In the end he was at Leeds for one more season before a return to the Blades.

The Summer of 1997, was it a surprise to find yourself back at Bramall Lane?

Yes and No. I came to the end of my contract at Leeds. I bought into what I was being told by the Chief Executive at the time (Charles Green) as to what they wanted to achieve at Sheffield United. I was really up for it. They even offered me a two year contract and I said, “Look, I’ll sign a one year contract and we will review it”.

I had been in the Premier League with Leeds on Premier League wages, although nothing like what they are today. It was a contract where I thought that if we aren’t promoted it is going to be hard for the club to be able to afford it in this division. At the time I was thinking that I really want to be here and if you’re telling me that we are going to build a team that is capable of going up and then competing in the Premier League, then I’m in for that. I’d seen Paul Merson go up to Middlesbrough, he was still at the peak of his powers, so they obviously had a plan and I wanted to do the same at United.

Sheffield United is that big a club, I think that Sheffield United deserves to be up there amongst the top of the top, as one of the best twenty clubs in the country in the right circumstances. I saw an opportunity for me to be right in the middle of that. 

I think the fans were led to believe it was going down that route at the time as well. Did the adulation received on your return make up for the abuse you got from an idiotic minority when you returned with Leeds?

I never really took any of that stick seriously. If you leave a club maybe the ones that are most disappointed are the ones that didn’t want you to leave in the first place. I have to take that on board, I enjoyed coming back and scoring – I know that! It was only because I think I had that kind of relationship with the fans. If I had come back and not performed then they would have been fully justified in thinking he can’t do it anymore. I thought whenever I am coming back I want them to know that I am still the same person they used to cheer and support.
It was a turbulent time in the club's history, things going incredibly well on the pitch then, out of the blue, you and Jan Aage Fjortoft left on the same day? How did the Benfica move come about?
It came about quite suddenly. I had always wanted to play abroad and in my previous spell at United, whilst Harry was the manager, I had been told of overseas interest. One day Harry had called me into his office and told me of interest from Marseilles. At that time it was quite a big thing. Chris Waddle had been there and a few English players had been abroad and I thought if I could define my career with a successful spell abroad it would help set me aside from many other players. I was keen to do that and I backed myself that if I could get to the right club I could do well. I had spoken to Feyenoord in the summer when I had left Leeds and also at some stage I had spoken to Fenerbahce, but at the time I chose to return to Sheffield.
There is a lot about leaving United that I still cannot get to the bottom of. There are some things that I am still in the dark about. When I heard that I had wanted to leave, I wondered where that came from. I never said that.

Well if you are in the dark, the fans have got no chance.
When Benfica showed an interest I honestly didn’t appreciate how big a club they were. I obviously knew about the European Cup final against Manchester United, but it was only when I went over there I really appreciated it.
70,000 fans at home games and huge travelling support to the extent that they outnumbered the home fans at some grounds. I’d tested myself against some of the best defenders in the country back in England; Bould, Adams, Keown, Pallister, now it was time for a new and exciting experience.

What would you take away from your time in Portugal and would you recommend it to any ambitious footballer?
There were positives and negatives. Lots of things went on at the club which were a mystery; at times we didn’t get paid, the president at the time - by all accounts - is in trouble with the Portuguese authorities at the moment.  At times it all felt a bit unsavoury.

I’d still recommend going abroad though. I think that is why we don’t so well in international football, because we haven’t got any players who want to go abroad and sample something different.

I think probably your most prolific spell after that was at Leicester was that due to being back with Harry and the fact that he knew how to play to your strengths?
Possibly, but it was more to do with the whole atmosphere around the club. It was a great place to be. The changing room was perhaps the best I’ve been in, in terms of that togetherness. Sheffield United was a different stage in my life but very similar. At United we were the underdogs and that unified us, but at Leicester we had the problems with going into administration and we had to pull together. We became very tight as a unit, in the same ways as we did at Sheffield United. There were some characters in there, we had a right laugh; Frank Sinclair, Ian Walker, Andrew Impey, Gerry Taggart. All are good, down to earth lads; funny lads.

A final spell at United followed a brief time at Perth in the A League. Obviously you had been hit with injuries, did you see this as a swansong at the time or were you hopeful of prolonging your career further?
I knew I was coming to the end of my career, I’d had a few injuries and I had already kind of retired when I came back. I was visiting Bramall Lane as a guest on the pitch and Kevin McCabe had seen me. He got in touch with Mick Rooker and asked him to find out if I was interested in coming back to play. Of course I wanted to, but it wasn’t up to me to decide that. I met with Neil Warnock, we had a chat and he explained that he thought I’d be good to have around the changing rooms and help us get over the line. I jumped at the chance.

I met some good pros and good people – Rob Kozluk’s a very funny bloke and Nick Montgomery is a very emotional character. Everything means a lot to him. There are very few people I have seen as upset as Nick is at losing. He really does wear his heart on his sleeve.

A nice way to finish though, with Blades fans singing your name for a third time?

It was. By then I was 38 and when I came back from Australia Mick Rooker said to me “you can’t go out like that, Brian.” It didn‘t work out for me in Australia because the players were not of a standard that I needed. I didn’t have a support network and the players were not good enough to get the best out of me at that stage of my career. They needed a Brian Deane aged 30. I needed more intelligent players who would be doing the running. I remember playing for Leicester versus Coventry and Gary McAllister played himself in a 5 man midfield and they were all like little satellites buzzing around him. In Australia I needed the ball put into the box where I could try and use my nous. We didn’t play that way.

I took a bit of stick out there and I could have responded, but I took it for what it is and came back. I played in a reserve game for United v Stoke and got a hat trick which showed what I could do. Realistically, out there, I was in a no win situation and the best thing for me to do was leave.

I am grateful to United for allowing me to bow out on the back of the club getting promotion to the Premier League. Just being part of it, even if it was on the outside, it was nice to be there. I was trying so hard. I had come off the bench against Brighton and nearly scored, then in the final game against Palace I came on and Danny Webber could have played me in, but didn’t. I was like, “Aaahh!” That’s life; it wasn’t meant to be. It would have been nice to have signed off with a goal, but it didn’t happen.

Why did you set up the International Academy for Football & Education? Was it based on your experiences a youngster, where you kept up your studies whilst at Doncaster?
Yes but there have been a few things. My own experience of trying to get into an academy left me feeling undermined. I had gone down and asked the director if I could do coaching whilst working towards my UEFA B licence. I was encouraged to do my bit with the lads and then one of the coaches said we were doing different things and I was frustrated, I knew that I had permission to do what I was doing. There was no point arguing about it, I realised that I would have to find another way to do it.

I got involved with Leeds University. Three years ago we had best team in country we won the BUCS Premier trophy. One of the players, David Syers, finished his degree, went down to Bradford City, scored ten goals and won Players’ Player of the Year in his first season. I do believe that there are boys out there who are still developing between the ages of 18-21 and who can go back into the pro game. The clubs don’t have the time and money to keep coaching them so it is an idea to get a qualification behind them whilst pursuing their dreams of playing football. If they make it, they have a career and a qualification. If they don’t make it they have a qualification they can use. It is not easy, but it is very rewarding. Especially if you have got both sides of it like Dave Syers has.

It is not like being at a club, I’d love to be at a club but that has not happened to me yet. I’m doing my apprenticeship as such and I am enjoying doing what I am doing. Setting up games against other universities or football clubs, I get an insight into being a manager and a coach. I can be a little bit fiery – I have standards. Sometimes kids don’t understand what it takes to make it all the way and that is my frustration. I try and be a mentor/guardian and give them the best advice and they can’t always see it. Having said all that, I absolutely love it!

On that positive note our conversation ends. At a time with EPPP and academies very much in focus it is great to hear how Brian is ensuring that late developers released by clubs get a second chance, or at the very least have a great chance of forging a different career with qualifications behind them.

Once again I would like to thank Brian for taking time out of his extremely busy schedule to speak with me. Again, I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed putting it together.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Interview with Brian Deane - Part 2 (Making a Name and Switching Uniteds)

As we left Brian's story in Part 1, United were pushing for a second successive promotion and a return to the top flight for the first time in 14 years. It all came down to the final game of the season, where a win at Leicester would secure promotion and, depending on the Leeds result, possibly the title. The Blades won 5-2, with Brian scoring.
What are your memories of 5th May 1990? When I interviewed Tony Agana, he spoke about this incredible belief he had and felt that the team had that day as well, would you agree with that?

I think we knew we had done the hard work over the season. The likes of Newcastle, Sunderland had more experience and what was perceived to be a better squad. We had taken a couple of beatings that season, 4-0 by Leeds, 5-0 by West Ham, but looking back, if we had lost those games 1-0 we would have been champions. We knew that we were up there on merit, as good as anybody else those two results aside.

It’s interesting that in the excitement of promotion and Wednesday’s relegation, the small margin by which we lost the title to Leeds is kind of forgotten about.

Yes and we were as good as Leeds!

Your goal that day, where the ball came back off post, goalkeeper, rebounded off defenders and was eventually slammed home was recently described to me as an era defining goal. Not the classiest of goals, quite scruffy in fact, but what it meant and the way you sank to your knees in celebration make it stand out.

It’s my over-riding memory of the day. It was a really weird day, the fans all in fancy dress; it was like a festival of football. It was almost like the fans were saying, ‘Look guys, whatever happens, happens. We have had a fantastic time and thanks for everything that you’ve done for us this season; it has been a great ride. Whatever will be, will be.’

Playing in the top division of English football it must have been a dream come true walking out at Bramall Lane v Liverpool, especially after the setback as a young lad?

It was almost like a natural progression. We had an unshakeable belief that we could match anybody out there. We went out and Trace broke his cheekbone, but I think we didn’t disgrace ourselves. We were hungry for it.
It was an era where things were changing in football. Dave Bassett knew that he didn’t have a team that could compete technically with some of the better teams. We couldn’t afford some of the players that some of the other clubs had, they wouldn’t be attracted to come to Bramall Lane and play. But we found ways of equalising the situation by being a little bit more scientific in our approach to games.
I can’t say we were the first but we were certainly one of the first. If you look at what happened up to the point of us having four points just before Christmas; we actually introduced a new diet, we introduced new training methods, we had a fitness trainer (Ed Baranowski) come in twice a week and we became fitter and stronger than other teams. We scored more goals in the last ten minutes than other teams and they struggled to cope with us. In the end we survived because we adapted and changed and no one else had cottoned on to what we were doing. If they had been doing it, then the probability is that we would have struggled.

The 3-2 victory over Forest on 22nd December 1991, which you scored in, was a catalyst for a complete change around in form and some amazing results given what had gone before. To finish 13th - 12 points clear of relegation was a fantastic performance.

Going back to Liverpool, the goal against them past Bruce Grobbelaar the following season, is that your favourite Blades goal?

I think that, along with the goal at Leicester on promotion day are my favourites. I think people have this notion of me being just somebody who was big and tall and even now, some people I meet, they don’t understand (maybe they’ve never seen me play) how I played. They don’t realise that I had a lot of assists in those days. I could go wide and I could cross with either foot, I would set other players up.
That goal was a long time before you had David Beckham scoring his goal from the halfway line. I actually robbed the goalie and I’ve seen Stevie Nicol running back towards goal. That’s some skill really to score from there.

Does it gall you that you scored a goal that good and it doesn’t get the television repeats and acclaim that it deserves?

It does actually. Some people know their football and some don’t. If you ask me would I rather have scored that goal or the one that David Beckham scored I would say my goal because I had to beat somebody. It wasn’t just a case of taking a shot from the halfway line, Grobbelaar has come out and I’ve robbed him. As you can see I’ve then rolled it inside, I’ve rolled it back outside, I’ve looked up and I’ve had to do all that in a split second. I’ve then had to judge the flight. I almost didn’t have time to think, I instinctively did it.

I was right behind that on the Kop and the flight of the ball was inch perfect between crossbar and Steve Nicol’s jump on the line.

By then I had got used to not getting the credit I felt that I deserved. You just have to get on with and do what you do. Most of the influential reporters, shall we say, couldn’t be arsed going outside of the M25.


How does a Sheffield Derby match rank in terms of an occasion to play in?

I tried to divorce myself from that to be honest and get on with the game. I didn’t really try and take on the additional meaning so much, all I was bothered about was are we going to get three points and am I going to score. It is an occasion for the city really and I left it to the lads who knew what it was like growing up as a fan to enjoy and immerse themselves in it.

What are your memories of Sheffield at Wembley? Was it similar?

I treated it like another game. I didn’t think it should have been at Wembley, it should have been at Old Trafford for the size of crowd. It seemed wrong to have all those fans going down on coaches and having to spend lots of money down in London. It’s nice that people can say that they have had a day out at Wembley, but I feel that it should just be the final at Wembley and that’s it.

You did pick up England caps on the tour of New Zealand and it’s a dream to play for your country, but is it disappointing that it didn’t progress beyond those two caps?

Yes it was, because I don’t think I ever got a chance really. I never got a chance to settle into it and I sometimes saw players coming in to the England squad, players that I had heard so much about, and when I was training and playing against them I was thinking what was all the fuss about. It happens still today, there are players who are playing and I don’t get all the excitement surrounding them. They don’t get me excited, but they still seem to be darlings of the media.

Playing for my country was strange in the sense that it was so far away. For whatever reason, I never really felt as though some people thought that I deserved to play for England, even though I was 23 and I had scored a load of top level goals. It is quite hard to take, but I guess that there are ways, or better ways, to train yourself and your mind for that now, than at that time.  

What a strikeforce

How much do you hold to scoring the first Premier League goal?

It is a massive thing for me. As far as I am concerned I am very proud of that record and I am glad that people can look at me when they say that rather than me having to look at anyone else. I guess that will define me and wherever I go I am remembered as being that person. The day was even more special because I got both goals in beating Manchester United. It was a great day for the club and for me.

Did you ask for the move from United, or was it more the club seeing you as a valuable and sellable asset? How close were you to signing for Wednesday?

I went to see them, I spoke to Trevor Francis and the chief executive at the time, but I never really believed it. I thought there was a bit of an agenda to be honest; I couldn’t actually believe that they put a bid in for me knowing how fierce the rivalry was. So I didn’t really take it seriously and that is no disrespect to the club at all. It was just that I didn’t really see how it was going to work.
They were a big side at the time and the manager was looking to pair me up with David Hirst which would have been a good combination to be honest.
Hirst was also picking up his first England caps around that time.
Yeah, we were always on the periphery, I think we had to work extra hard to get any kind of recognition. Match of the Day, or whatever was always “What’s happening down at Tottenham.” There was the 6-0 victory over Tottenham in the 1992-93 season, we beat Chelsea 5-0, we beat Manchester United....Liverpool, without really being noticed.
Was it difficult adjusting to the expectation at Leeds? Was a £3m fee a heavy weight to carry?

It wasn’t at all. Let me clear this up now, it wasn’t anything to do with that. I’m not Lee Chapman and I never have been, yet that is who I was expected to play like. When I went there I found myself not playing with wide players. If you buy a player, a forward, then you’ve got to have an idea of what his strengths are. At that time for me it was all about being in the box quickly, getting past people using my pace. Yet, for a long period of that first season, I just felt as though I was like a wall-ball.

The team were playing lots of intricate football in the midfield area then, all of a sudden, they would lend me the ball, or expect me to get to the far post. That just wasn’t my game. My game was get the ball into me quickly and I fancied myself one v one versus any defender in the country. Yet for that first season my game changed, I found myself getting deeper and deeper, looking and searching for the ball, it just didn’t suit me.
I scored on my debut and to all intents and purposes I should have gone on. In each of my seasons I scored on the opening day of the season so it shouldn’t have been any different. It just didn’t feel like the priority of the team was to attack, I suppose. It’s a tough one, but for me the game is about creating chances and scoring goals and that is what a good team should revolve their play around.

Despite that frustrating first season, you are held in high esteem by Leeds fans and that must be a positive?
Yeah, we are talking about the first season and after that it changed a bit for me in that I played in a different position. We played a different type of football and it meant me getting back to what I liked to do and use my assets.  In fact I got Player of the Year in that second season and probably my favourite goal for Leeds was scored on the last day of the season away at Tottenham. I picked the ball up halfway into our half and I ran the length of the pitch and scored. We drew 1-1 and qualified for the UEFA Cup. Things turned round – I had a lot of highs and a few lows at Leeds.

The biggest low was the 1996 League Cup final against Villa. The week before the final we were on the box against Everton. We played a weakened team, but before the game Howard (Wilkinson) came up to me and said; “I haven’t decided on the team yet, it’s up to you whether or not you are going to play in the final”. I got man of the match and scored both goals in a 2-2 draw so I thought I must be playing. Then as the week started I could tell, in fact almost immediately after the game I could tell I wasn’t going to be playing. That was a big disappointment for me and at that point I wanted to leave the club, because I couldn’t really see where it was going.

I tried harder at Leeds than I did at Sheffield United, in terms of trying to fit in. I shouldn’t have done that. I tried to do it in the first season, the second season I did it my way and the third season I tried to be a team player again. Sometimes, when you offer yourself selflessly, you don’t always get what you deserve and that was an example to me. You have to get the balance right.

You were still a young player. This isn’t something you are taught, it’s something that experience teaches you.

Yes and it would have been hard for me to leave Leeds at the time, we had been a Top 5 club and then that third season had been a disaster. So if I left the club, where would I go?

Brian was to leave Leeds at the end of the following season and in the final part of the interview (which you can read here) he talks about two returns to Bramall Lane, his time in Portugal, happy days at Leicester (despite the club being in administration) and the work he is doing now with young players.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Interview with Brian Deane - Part 1 (Back from adversity)

Following on from recent interviews with former Blades players, Tony Agana, Alan Kelly and Jamie Hoyland; it was a great pleasure to have a couple of lengthy chats with three times Blade and England international Brian Deane. Even after such interesting conversations, there were parts of his career that we still didn't have time to touch on, but his story and recollections still make fascinating reading.

In Part 1 we look at his early beginnings and a career that at one point looked like it might be over before it had even begun.

After starting your career as a youngster at Leeds, how big a blow was it to be released by the club?

No, I wasn’t released. I went down on trial as a 14 year old; I was never an apprentice there, so I just carried on playing locally and ended up at a team called Yorkshire Amateurs, based in Leeds.

Whilst playing for Amateurs I broke my leg playing against a team from where I grew up, a team called Mandela from Chapeltown. The unfortunate thing about that was that I was playing against some of the lads I went to school with and it was through no fault of any of them. Some of the guys on the side of the pitch didn’t take too kindly to the fact that I wasn’t representing my local community. There were some lads there who were a lot older than me, they’re probably in their fifties now, and they were shouting from the side;

“Five pounds if you break Deane’s leg.”

“No, ten pounds if you break Deano’s leg.”

Unfortunately, I actually broke my leg in the game and it was actually a friend of mine so I hold nothing against the lad for the challenge because it was just one of those things, but there was this frenzy whipped up.

At that time I am only a 16 year old kid and these are grown men on the sidelines encouraging it. It was hard to take; I was only trying to better myself. I was trying to get into a team where I could be recognised. Having missed out at Leeds I was trying to find a pathway to get myself in a position where I was noticed by the right people.

So was there any malice in the tackle, given you said it was a friend?

It was from behind. I was through on goal and he took me from behind. He didn’t actively go out to harm me, but I broke my tibia and fibula and dislocated my ankle. Michael came to see me in hospital and it was particularly tough as my mum and my brother were there and they knew what my thoughts were on playing football and from their point of view, they probably thought it was over for me as well.

I had about eight months rehabilitation, at that time you had to have a full length pot up to your hip for about four months and then a shorter pot.
After such a horrific injury, how did the opportunity with Doncaster Rovers come about?

At the beginning of the following season I went down to Doncaster for a trial. Luckily for me Dave Blakey, the chief scout at Leeds when I was at Elland Road on trial, was working with Billy Bremner at Doncaster and he invited me down. It went from there really. I had a trial, then Billy Bremner left for Leeds and Dave Blakey went with him. Dave Cusack came in, took on the manager's job and he really liked me. He offered me a professional contract, I was seventeen.

At that time I was going to college, because at the back of your mind you’re thinking ‘Well I’ve broken my leg; I need to look at other options as the chances of me becoming a professional footballer are probably receding.’ I never knew if I would get back to playing at all and that injury could have been it for me.

Did you keep on with the study?

Yes I was studying at Leeds City College and playing part-time.

Deane at Doncaster

How easy was it to establish yourself in the first team and was it a big adjustment?

No really. I made my debut at 17, just before my birthday, I think it was Swansea at home. We drew 0-0 and then after that, if memory serves, we played Whitby Town away in the first round of the FA Cup. We were losing 2-1 and I came on and scored a late equaliser. I scored again against Wigan in the league and it kicked on from there.

You gradually established yourself in the Doncaster first team, bagging 12 goals, was it still a surprise when United showed their interest? How did it come about?

Dave Cusack had got the sack and Dave Mackay and Joe Kinnear had come in as the managerial team. I was a young lad; I think I was 19/20 by then. We got relegated that year and I went in to see them and said “Look, what’s happening?” They offered me a contract and I just thought, “Nah, it’s not good enough”.

I thought that it might have been difficult to leave Doncaster after they gave you an opportunity, but it doesn’t sound like it was?

We had scored 40 goals that season, I had got 10 of them, and I felt that they were insulting me so I spoke to Dave Cusack. He’s been a bit of a mentor for me to be honest and he put me in touch with John Rudge at Port Vale. He also spoke to Dave Bassett. I spoke to John Rudge first, but it was all a bit of a faff and didn’t appeal.

When I went down to United, you know where you turn over the hump and down into the car park and I saw the stadium I thought “Wow! This is proper football”. I’d been used to playing in the 3rd Division, which is where United had just been relegated to, but this was different. “Wow! If I can get a contract here it doesn’t matter about what money I am going to get. I just want to sign a contract at this place”.

Harry came out and introduced himself and then he told Geoff Taylor (his Assistant Manager) to show me around the ground. I was just awestruck by the size of the place. Bruce Springsteen was having a concert there at the time and it was all being set up. I was just thinking ‘Where do I sign? How do I get these people to offer me a contract?’
What are your memories of your early days at United?

I met Cliff Powell, who was roughly the same age as me and I found that Cliff and I had a lot in common and that just made it really easy for me to settle. They were just a great bunch of guys down there, you had Wally Downes, Francis Joseph, Tony (Agana) who was a really nice guy. Simon Webster, Graham know it was just a really nice place. You had Ian Bryson, who had come down on trial, who was quite a quiet character but fitted in well. It just seemed the right place for me to be to be honest.

You were thrown straight in for the first league game with Francis Joseph, in a team that was significantly re-shaped by Dave Bassett was it difficult adjusting?

No. I had scored ten goals in a team that had struggled and got relegated. I knew I could score goals at that level. When something traumatic happened to me, like the injury, it was like me getting a second chance and I was determined at that stage of my playing career to go out there and enjoy what I was doing. I wanted to show people the potential that I had.
Francis' injury in that game allowed the opportunity for the Deane & Agana partnership to develop? What was it that made it work for you?

It was just instinct. He was left footed, I was right footed. We complemented each other really well. We did opposite things on the pitch, so if one was coming short, the other would go long, if one was out wide the other would hit the box. If I didn’t score, he scored. We just supported each other really well.

I don't think anyone expected the club to achieve back to back promotions. What are your main memories of the first promotion season?

It was the way we went at teams, all-out attack. Fortunately for me, we played a kind of football that created lots of chances and it was perfect. We had a good blend of players, experience and youth, local lads like Chris Wilder and those from outside. Harry was the catalyst for me, he knew how to man manage a group of players.

He also knew how to find wingers as well; Alan Roberts, Ian Bryson, Paul Wood, Peter Duffield. We had this reputation for being direct but that does a dis-service to the team and the way we played and how we used the wings.

All we did was make sure we got the ball wide very quickly and people at the time moaned about it, but opposition teams didn’t know how to cope with the pace we had in the team. People say we were direct, but I would say we played into the holes, because we had players who could get on the ball in the holes. We also had tremendous full backs who could play diagonal balls and if you are going to get behind teams that is key.

There was Pikey (Martin Pike) on one side, Chris Wilder on the other and it worked really well as they just got the ball into the wingers quickly. We then had wingers who could take a defender on one-on-one and put a good ball in. It worked really well and if you play at that kind of tempo, it is extremely hard to play against.

United beat Chester 6-0 that season with both you and Tony Agana scoring hat-tricks; such a rare event in football. Do you still have the match-ball? Tony said he doesn't have it.

Yes, somewhere. I played against Chester the season before so I knew what to expect and how they played. People have a go at forwards now, there are good forwards out there who sometimes don’t get the right supply and it forces them to look like average players. I was fortunate to play in a team that played to my strengths and abilities so I knew I was going to score goals and they knew if they were to put the balls in the right areas I would score.

A deadly duo are formed - Deane (R) and Agana (L)

The following season, what was the expectation like in the team? I don't think even the most fervent supporter expected another promotion push.

I think our first game was at West Brom and you never know what to expect going into the league above, but the way we dismantled them at their place gave us real confidence. Harry had this ability to make sure we were never scared or intimidated by the opposition. He has taken a lot of stick over the years, long ball this and long ball that, but you look at the players he worked with and I wonder how some managers nowadays would have got the best out of them like he did. A lot to be said for the way Harry prepared us. You look at the way teams defend now, teams can’t defend.

You have a lot of media savvy managers, some of whom know what they’re talking about and, no disrespect, but some of them don’t know what they’re talking about. The biggest thing for me in management is knowing how to get the best out of players and keeping players on your side. If you can do that, it is more of a recipe for success than having the, I’m the Big Chief; I am the Alpha Dog style of management.
I remember both in interviews and also meeting you (I bought The Brian Deane Story on video and you signed it in the Club Shop - some burglars stole it!) you seemed quite shy and quiet. Is that perception right and did that make it quite difficult in a team of "characters"?

I think the lads accepted me for how I was. Don’t get me wrong, I was no shrinking violet, but I was just a guy who was enjoying what he was doing. I was probably not as streetwise at the time because I was concentrating on my football. I didn’t have any agenda.

You know people have a lot of agendas in football and I just wanted to play football. I was doing what I dreamt about doing and really wanted to do, from the time I was collecting Roy of the Rovers comics and watching games on television as a kid. Growing up I would see Cyrille Regis in the “Sign Please” section of Roy of the Rovers in his West Brom kit, all of a sudden that is me, a professional footballer. I was watching Bryan Robson on the pitch and suddenly that’s me. That’s why I was playing football, it was my career, and it was what I dreamed about.

In Part 2 which you can read here, Brian's memories of a glorious promotion with the Blades at Filbert Street, top flight football with the Blades, that goal against Liverpool, international recognition and being sold to Leeds.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

The Man Who Stole Football

Amidst much, gnashing of teeth at his words and hearty guffawing at his stumble into an ornamental fountain, the irony of the Premier League Chairman talking about the theft of the game was not lost on me.

Richards himself is a prime exhibit of all that is wrong with the commercial, yet conversely archaic, behemoth that football has become. A man with no great record in business (his engineering business went into administration) takes over the running of his hometown club. A willingness to be a central figure, to talk to the media, to  be seen and heard by the connected people, whilst behind the scenes barking orders at his minnions like a Bond villain with a cat in his lap. Then once his public exposure and pleasantries have allowed him to reach the position he wants, he walks away leaving behind a trail of financial decisions that lead to a financial time-bomb from which the club would struggle to recover.

Richards cast little thought to the club he supported as now, thanks to Ken Bates, he was on the Premier League board and on a fast track to chairmanship. He was the kindly faced uncle, the media friendly figure to wheel out on big occasion whilst remaining subservient to his paymasters. The fact he then received a knighthood for services to football, must owe more to friendships in government and sporting authorities than any real achievements. I challenge you to name one success, one achievement that can be attributed to Richards' stewardship or initiative.

As a Blade I should revel in the catastrophic contracts and commercial decision making Sheffield Wednesday undertook under Richards' stewardship, which took them to the brink of administration. And in a purely tribal way I do, however Richards is not a lone figure wreaking havoc . There are chairmen like him all over the country, the ones who demand the media attention above that of those on the pitch, that place personal attention above the club they profess to love.

The game was lost to its people, the fans, twenty years ago. When matches started being played at 12pm on a Sunday, or that trip to the other end of the country was moved to Friday night for TV. That's before Europa League games started kicking off at 6pm to maximise the number of televised games. Fans cannot associate with player salaries or lifestyles. They cannot understand how failed businessmen are allowed to take over their club, when the authorities have rules in place to stop them. Why claim to have Fit & Proper rules if they are such a blunt instrument and reportedly too financially prohibitive to administer? Then these same businessmen fail to pay over the tax that these supporters don't think twice about paying over in their everyday working and business lives.

As the club enters administration, it's the players and clubs who are protected, not the local businesses who have supplied them and could be put out of business themselves, not the local people exploited and paid a pittance for the pleasure of taking on menial roles for the club they love.

Then, every so often, the authorities and Premier League get involved, but only when they have their "product" to protect. Everyone else affected….forget it.

Yes, maybe I look back at football twenty years ago with rose-tinted spectacles. Not all was good in the game, but everyone had an opportunity to watch their team play, very few were excluded through price discrimination. Football was a game everyone could play and watch and feel a part of.  

Football was stolen away from the man in the street 20 years ago. It raised little stir at the time, many couldn't see it. A small petty theft, glossed over with the distraction of cheerleaders, half time entertainment and flash presentation. Once the thieves realised they had got away with, they looked at the mark and the plans became grander. The grand con was on; what we can now see was a staged heist of our sporting jewels. The game is now a "product", supporters are "customers" on "loyalty databases" measured by how much you can spend, those excluded by financial hardship sniffed at.

And then the coup de grace - The 39th Game.  Add an extra game to the season, only to take away the opportunity for the supporters, who spend a high proportion of their wages following their team all season, to see it.  All for the money and opportunity to take the "product" to the "geographic markets" that Richards so widely offended with his jingoistic comments yesterday.

His clear conflict of interest, between roles at the FA and Premier League, brushed under the carpet whenever it was raised. The FA is now impotent in the running of the professional game, it has admitted as much recently.  The subservience of Dave Richards to his Premier League paymasters makes him wholly complicit in allowing it to happen. If he is looking for a thief, he doesn't have to look far. The thing is, I am not sure he is intelligent or self-aware enough to see it. He certainly didn’t see that ornamental fountain.  


Monday, 5 March 2012

Interview with Jamie Hoyland - Part 3 (New Challenges)

As we finished Part 2 of the interview with Jamie he was describing going on loan to Bristol City during the 1993-94 season and that is where we pick up his story.

You were back at United and back in the squad when we visited Stamford Bridge on our final day relegation in 1994. I was up in the Gods at the top of the main stand that day and I don't think any fans there could believe we were relegated. Did the players ever believe it would happen and how did you find out?

Alan Kelly and I were subs and we were warming up. Ray Stubbs was there for the BBC  pitch-side and we kept asking him for score updates and each time it was, “Yep, we are alright, we are alright.” Then Harry put me on and I nearly scored. They got to two all and we were still alright, then suddenly a cross from Dennis Wise, Glenn Hoddle (who has never headed a ball in his life) has flicked one on and Mark Stein has come in at the far post and steered it home. Even then, we thought we were okay. I came off the pitch and said to Ned (Alan Kelly); “So are we alright?” and he said, “No, I think we’re down”.  I said; “We can’t be down? All the other results can’t have gone against us?”. He said; “No, we’re down!”. We got into the dressing room and a guy from The Star tried to come in and take pictures and he just got shoved out. It was a horrible day.

A few lads from the South stayed down, the rest of us came back to Bramall Lane. When we got back there were fans waiting for us, we thought we were going to get lynched. Yet when we got off the bus they were so emotional, draping scarves on us and I thought, “Wow! We have just gone down and they are treating us like this.”

It was like the end of an exhilarating ride.

Yes we’ve come to the end, we have had our photo taken, got the mouse mat and keyring. It was over. Harry had done everything he could do.  It was time to move on and start a new era. He did that with players, shifted them on after time because they’d had enough of him and he’d had enough of them. Harry always made us feel underdogs with a great team spirit, which was brilliant, but after a bit, once you’ve established yourself playing at a certain level, you know you are not the underdogs. “Don’t keep telling us we’re crap, we are alright actually.” Eventually, it plateaus out and I think that is where it had got to.

Do you still have warm feelings towards Harry, despite the issues you have mentioned and your subsequent departure, early the following season?

Yes I still have good feelings towards Harry. I fell out with him at times, but I have bumped into him a few times since and he’s brilliant. His machine gun talks, he is still funny and I have taken so much of what he taught me into my coaching career; about what you need to be a good team and how he built it. It’s not all about players, it is how you make them work as a group, how you motivate them. How you make them feel a million dollars and how you make them want to prove you wrong. He got players wanting to run through a brick wall for him and that ran throughout the club.

Was it hard leaving United early the following season? You turned down a move to Blackpool, what drove the decision to move to Burnley?

Blackpool came in for me, but I was always going to Burnley. It was similar to United; everyone in the town supported them. Okay Sheffield is divided, but you are either United or Wednesday. There are few shirts of the big clubs like you see in Preston.... Everyone in Burnley and the surrounding valleys is passionate about the club and if they like you, they are brilliant to you, if they don’t...oh my God. It is another historic, special club.

A good team spirit as well highlighted by your LEJOG for Parky?

It was another close knit group of players under Jimmy Mullen, the spirit was similar to United, even if the players were not as good. Still there was Steve Davis, Marlon Beresford,  David Eyres, Liam Robinson, Gary Parkinson, myself...we had a great bond; one in, all in. You really enjoyed training and I know that sounds daft when you are a professional footballer, but not a lot of players do.

 What changed at Burnley?

There were changes of manager; Adrian Heath followed Jimmy Mullen and then Chris Waddle took charge. I mentioned before about how Harry brought players together, got them working as a team, Chris Waddle couldn’t do that. That’s why he only lasted a year at Burnley. Chris Waddle was a brilliant player, yet couldn’t understand why everyone else was “rubbish” and he had no respect for anyone who couldn’t live up to his expectations. It was a waste of time, he was never going to be a good manager, even though he was a fantastic player.

I read a great story on a Clarets fan site about you fetching a pie for a fan from the other end of the ground at Bristol Rovers whilst warming up as a sub. The away end refreshment bar had run out, a fan approached you as you warmed up on the touchline and you popped off down the other end returning with a pie. Please tell me this is it true?

Yes it is. It was whilst Waddle was in charge and you know my thoughts there!

Waddle’s reign very nearly ended with relegation to the fourth tier though?

Over the course of the season Wadds had bombed all the experienced players out of the team, (Jamie had been out on loan to Carlisle) he tried to bring players in, tried to bring new ideas in, but he was never there. He managed from Sheffield. He gave players three days a week off a week and the senior players often ended up taking training. In the end he brought us back in for the final game of the season, a must win home game against Plymouth Argyle. Defeat and we were relegated. Thankfully two goals from Andy Cooke got us to a 2-1 win.

From Burnley you ended up at Scarborough for a season, what eventually led to your retirement?

Scarborough was a big mistake. The club had three owners, some months you wouldn’t get paid, then you would get it in cash and you wonder what the hell’s going on. Former Rotherham chairman Anton Johnson came in for a spell and thing were going awry, it was a mess. We went down to Jimmy Glass’ goal on the last day of the season and that’s when I made my mind up; I’m not enjoying it anymore. At 33 I wanted to look for a different avenue in football. I didn’t want non-league football, or six month contracts here and there.

Along with Ned (Alan Kelly), Kevin Gage and Billy Mercer we always used to meet up for an end of season drink. We were known as the Menzel’s Four. When Gagey had packed in and we were still playing he said, "You will know the day you want to pack it in" and I was always telling him that was rubbish. He was spot on.

Was it always in your mind to get into coaching?

I’d started dipping my toe into coaching waters working with the u15/u16’s at Bolton’s academy and I enjoyed it. As a player I always knew I was going to be a coach. Not being the quickest in the world I always had to talk to people around me to get them to do it. I knew what I was doing playing-wise, I enjoyed that part of the game.

You have had spells as Assistant Manager at Rochdale and working with David Unsworth as caretaker managers at PNE. Is there an ambition to move into management, or are you settled developing young talent?

I went to Rochdale working with the youth side and then had a year as assistant to Simmo (Paul Simpson). We had started in digs together at City and we are still best friends now. We had a turbulent year. He was still playing, one of the better players, so I was doing more managing than coaching, doing more of the talking at half time etcetera. I didn’t want to do that, I wanted to learn more about the coaching side, but it was still a good experience.

At the PNE academy it has gone well, we have had 13 players make their debut in two years. I would like to move on in my career at some point, be it coaching senior players, not sure about managing as you sometimes have to be lucky to drop into that. I do love working with the kids though, they absorb everything and it is a great feeling to watch someone you have developed make their first team debut and then kick on from there. We have some great talent coming through, just like Pembo has at United.

So finally, you have committed to a huge undertaking in May. Raising money for friend and former team-mate Gary Parkinson who suffered a severe stroke in September 2010.

(After suffering the stroke, the then Head of Youth Development at Blackpool suffered locked-in syndrome where his body shut down, but his mind remains active. His only means of communication with family and friends is by blinking. He lives at the Priory Highbank neurological rehabilitation centre in Bury. The aim is to raise enough money to get Gary home on a permanent basis)

I had this idea before Xmas, I want to raise some money for Gary. Believe it or not I did a New York marathon before I was 40, I’d had 8 operations on my knees so that was a challenge. For this, I wanted something  different that offered a similar challenge. I was never going to swim the channel, so it was something on a bike.

My dad never let me have one round here, so it is all a bit new, but the hills around where I live give me a good test. I put the idea out there and Chris Gibson (Burnley Head of Catering) had done Lands End - John O’Groats before, so he is doing all the logistics. Some ex-players are going to join us for bits of it, Alastair Campbell as well. The plan is to do it from May 6th to May 15th, 100 miles a day.

A mammoth task, but one that I am sure they will succeed with. If you want to know more about the Gary Parkinson Trust Fund visit To support Jamie on his cycling LEJOG a sponsorship form can be downloaded here

And with that we head to our respective cars and a short drive over to Hillsborough, where a much less enjoyable afternoon awaited us. It was a pleasure spending 45 minutes in Jamie's engaging company and I hope some of the stories and memories here are just as enjoyable to read as they were to listen to first hand.

You can follow Jamie on twitter at @HoylandJamie

Other interview you may like:

Tony Agana

Alan Kelly

Guy Mowbray (Journalist & Commentator)

Alan Biggs (Broadcaster & Journalist)