When Liam Brady lit into Brian Clough for his dismissive Mick McCarthy comments 1 month ago

When Liam Brady lit into Brian Clough for his dismissive Mick McCarthy comments

"I'd much rather have my pair than their pair."

Back in 1988, Jack Charlton took his Ireland team to their first ever European Championships. Injury meant Liam Brady did not make the cut, but he jumped at the chance to travel to West Germany with the squad.


For Ireland's opener, as fate and the Euro 88 draw would have it, they would face England, with whom Charlton had won the World Cup with, in 1966. Added to the mix was the fact that Carlton had been snubbed by the English FA when he expressed an interest in taking over with the national team.

As it stood, the former Leeds and England star took over with the Republic of Ireland in 1986 and led them to their first ever major tournament at the first time of asking.

With only eight teams competing at the Euros, back then, it was never going to be easy for Ireland. When they were drawn with England, the USSR and The Netherlands, few saw a path for them to reach the semi-finals. Much would hinge on that opener with Bobby Robson's England, a side that had reached the World Cup quarter finals two years previous.

As part of their coverage of the game, ITV had another man that had long coveted the England job back in their studios. Brian Clough was 13 seasons into a long stretch at Nottingham Forest that had seen him win a league title and two European Cups.

Ahead of the game, Clough was highly dismissive of Mick McCarthy. So much so that ITV's host remarked Clough had just delivered the dressing room speech for Ireland. Clough declared:

"I'm glad, from an English point of view, that the Irish centre-half [McCarthy] is fit... I don't think he's international class, for a start, and I would have thought Peter Beardsley and Gary Lineker would be rubbing their hands.

"In fact, if they could have got together a few Deutschmarks to make sure he'd be even fitter, still, I think they would have slipped him a few. England want him in."

Ireland and England stand for the national anthems at Euro '88. Republic of Ireland (from right to left) Tony Galvin, Mick McCarthy, Kevin Moran, Chris Hughton, John Aldridge, Ray Houghton, Chris Morris, Ronnie Whelan, Paul McGrath, Packie Bonner and captain Frank Stapleton. (Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile)

The English side was packed with talent. They had one of the world's best goalkeepers, in Peter Shilton, a solid defence marshalled by Tony Adams, the likes of Chris Waddle, John Barnes and Bryan Robson in midfield and, as mentioned by Clough, a menacing front two of Beardsley and Lineker [they would end up with 57 international goals between them].

Ireland may have been taken lightly by many pundits, back then, but they had quality operators too - Liverpool midfielders Ronnie Whelan and Ray Houghton, Manchester United's Paul McGrath and Frank Stapleton leading the line.

Ireland got off to a brilliant start when Houghton headed past Shilton. England surged forward for a response but were repelled by the Irish defence and their goalkeeper, Packie Bonner.

With Ireland leading 1-0 at the break, ITV threw to Brady at the game for his take on the opening 45 minutes. The West Ham midfielder, who had picked some some punditry work at the tournament, lit into Clough.


"Brian wasn't very complimentary about our centre-back, but I know who I'd rather have in my team. I'd rather have my pair than their pair.

"Mick's not the greatest player on the floor, but he's won everything in the air. We're giving them problems."

Brady was showing no deference to the veteran manager, especially when he felt one of his teammates, McCarthy, had been slighted.


As it happened, the Irish defence marshalled by McCarthy went on to keep a clean-sheet as England were defeated 1-0.

Mick McCarthy celebrates after Ireland beat England at Neckarstadion in Stuttgart. (Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile)

Ireland went on to draw with the USSR but narrowly missed out on the semis when they lost to a Wim Kieft goal against the Dutch.


England, with their star-studded squad, were also eliminated at the group stages. Both sides would face each other again, at Italia 90, two years later and share the spoils as they headed towards runs in the knock-out stages.