Just a single appearance in Wivenhoe Town colours would not normally be sufficient for an individual to warrant being included in this series of articles. However, this name from the world of professional football and more latterly horse racing and radio, is undoubtedly known to millions of people up and down the country (and Scotland!). Whilst he will be fondly remembered by some in these parts for his achievements at Ipswich Town, Alan Brazil’s contribution to The Dragons 1991-92 season failed to reach similar glorious heights !
Indeed on the basis that his only game for the club was away from home, there were very few supporters of Wivenhoe who actually witnessed it.
Brazil’s professional career has been well documented and most people of a ‘certain age’ will probably be quite familiar with the details, but for those of you who are not, here’s a brief review.
He joined Ipswich’s youth set up having been spotted by them playing at Celtic Boys Club. The Glasgow giants missing out on this exciting prospect as he was smuggled south to deepest Suffolk. Great success was to follow at Portman Road as a UEFA Cup winner and runner up in the First Division, as it was back then. Two hundred and eleven First Team appearances yielded eighty goals and thirteen full Scotland International caps, including representing his country at the World Cup Finals in Spain in 1982. Scoring all five goals for Town in a 5-2 League win over Southampton (which I was personally fortunate enough to witness) was probably his finest personal achievement during that time.
Ipswich Town Legend and now a popular radio talk show host.
Moves to Spurs, Manchester United and Coventry City were blighted by back injury, which would eventually end his professional playing career. A very brief spell at QPR was followed by a drop into non-league football with Stambridge, Witham Town, Chelmsford City and Bury Town, with moves to Australia (Wollongong City) and Switzerland (FC Baden) thrown in for good measure. In his latter playing days he also turned out for Felixstowe Town and Achillies in Ipswich, and it was during this particular time that his briefest association with Wivenhoe occurred.
The 1991-92 season was hugely traumatic for all connected with The Dragons. It was a time of financial crisis, wholesale changes in playing personnel and general uncertainty regarding the club’s actual survival. Sounds familiar doesn’t it ?
The summer of 1991 had seen nigh on everyone connected with the coaching and playing staff leave the football club following the previous financial backers being unable to continue to bankroll the team.
Only four players stayed loyal and remained – Lee Hunter, Steve Wright, Phil Coleman (who became player/manager) and ‘keeper Steve Lowe. There was little money to rebuild the team, so local players with no experience of playing at the level the team was competing at (Isthmian League Premier Division), were thrown in at the deep end.
The tone was set for the opening months of the season with a 5-1 defeat at Basingstoke on the opening day. Every League and Cup game was lost up until the end of October 1991 when we broke our duck with a 1-0 win over fellow strugglers Bishops Stortford. Even before this first win Coleman had resigned as manager after a 6-0 hammering at Wokingham Town, but to his credit he remained involved in a playing capacity.
Ex-Dragons player/manager and Colchester United stalwart Steve Foley took charge of coaching duties temporarily and then in the football clubs hour of need another former Wivenhoe manager in the shape of Mick Loughton stepped forward to offer his services in the hot seat. In fact it was in Loughton’s first game in charge that Alan Brazil made his sole appearance. He was one of many surprise faces in the line-up for the visit to Bromley on Tuesday 15th October, having signed for the club on the day in order to lead the forward line.
Records show the Dragons team that day was :- Jon O’Brien, Lee Hunter, James Goodwin, Steve Wright, Danny Schneider, Phil Coleman, Simon Gray, Mark Radford, Steve Restarick, Sean Duffett and Alan Brazil. Substitutes were Julian Lamb and Scott Young. Attendance 422.
Brazil played the entire ninety minutes of a match where The Dragons outplayed their opponents for the majority of the game, but still went down to a narrow 2-1 defeat. Scott Young came off the bench to hit the underside of the bar in the last minute of play as we came within inches of rescuing a point.
At least Alan could glean some small consolation from the evening, as he scored our only goal with a back header that looped over the Bromley ‘keeper. An independent report suggests that he was somewhat short of match fitness, spending a large part of the game within the centre-circle, rarely venturing out of it, but was still deemed to be in a different class despite his lack of mobility as his touch, vision and ability to pass the ball had not deserted him.
Unfortunately that one game was enough for him and he very quickly went off to join Chelmsford City, where he apparently turned out for their Reserve side.
The only other noteworthy connection to Wivenhoe occurred in the summer of 1994, when the club was searching for a new manager following parting company with previous boss Chris Symes. He attended our 4-1 pre-season friendly at Stanway Rovers to consider the possibility of taking the hot-seat at Broad Lane. Despite the teams impressive result that day it clearly wasn’t enough to impressive Brazil sufficiently enough to want to take the job.
With hindsight it is clear that Alan’s future career was to be best suited to talking about the game, rather than being a coach or manager, as he has carved out a very successful role for himself on his TalkSport radio show – memories of his association with Wivenhoe Town FC long since forgotten!
With thanks to Richard Greenfield for contributing this article.