Football: Brady starts work on Brighton apathy: Mike Rowbottom on the 1-0 defeat by Bradford sustained by the new man at the Goldstone Ground

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The Independent Online
THE FORECAST that Liam Brady's first match as manager of Brighton would bump up the Goldstone Ground gate proved correct. It drew the largest home crowd of the season - all of 6,535.

The man who, in his illustrious time, has known Highbury and the San Siro in their full glory, went out of his way to thank everyone for coming.

After a lumbering, haphazard affair in swirling rain, which was the antithesis of everything Brady stood for as a player, he spoke carefully about his expectations at a club which came within an hour of being wound up in the High Court just over a month ago.

He acknowledged that defeat - through a 68th-minute penalty by Gary Williams after Stuart Munday had tripped Paul Showler - was not the required start. But he derived some encouragement from the undoubted effort his players had expended. There was little else to be encouraged about.

'There's always a beginning,' he said. 'There's always somewhere to start.'

It is, of course, not the start of Brady's mangerial career. His two barren years at Celtic until he resigned two months ago have taught him much about the hard nature of the career he took up after retiring as a player in 1990.

Even at Parkhead, he found himself dealing with men who could not aspire to the level of performance he had reached. That is even more the case now. In Brady's new world - second from bottom of the old Third Division - patience is the key.

'I won't be bollocking, I won't be growling,' he said. 'If the players give me what they are capable of doing, that will do me.'

Which is fine, and sensible. But such pragmatism sits uneasily with the perceived image of Brady as an innately gifted player of immense subtlety. He has made his name. He has amassed a comfortable living from clubs in this country and Italy - Celtic paid him pounds 120,000 a year. Why bother with all this?

The word on his lips was challenge. 'There is an awful lot wrong with this club that we want to put right,' he said. 'There is an apathy in the place we want to get rid of. It needs cleaning up, sprucing up all over.'

When Brady talks of 'us', he includes David Bellotti, the former Eastbourne MP who has restructured the finances of the club since taking over as chief executive four weeks ago. Pressing debts of pounds 600,000 have been paid and arrangements are in hand to pay the seven squad members still owed money. Bellotti and Brady are now negotiating with the League to regain the right to buy new players.

Coincidentally, Brady's first opponents in his new job were managed by his old Arsenal and Republic of Ireland colleague, Frank Stapleton, who provided the game with one of its few interesting moments with an attempted 30-yard shot from the touchline which drifted just over the bar with the keeper stranded.

Stapleton - like Brady, 37 - articulated another reason for his friend's arrival on the South Coast. 'We were talking before the game about him getting back into football. You realise how important it is for you. A couple of months out doesn't sound like a long time, but it is. I can identify with that. It's in your blood. You can't walk away from it.'

Goal: Williams (68) 0-1.

Brighton: (4-4-2): Rust; Munday, McCarthy, Foster, Pates; Edwards (Simmonds, 78), Wilkinson, Codner, Chapman; Bissett, Nogan. Substitutes not used: Book, Wosahlo (gk).

Bradford City: (4-4-2): Bowling; Williams, Sinnott, L Duxbury, Richards; Oliver, M Duxbury, Robson (Showler, 20), Reid; Stapleton (Hoyle, 90), Tolson. Substitute not used: Tomlinson (gk).

Referee: P Alcock (Redhill).

(Photograph omitted)