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Last Updated: Sunday, 7 May 2006, 17:19 GMT 18:19 UK
Liam Brady on Highbury's magic
By Chris Bevan

Liam Brady
The Wigan game is going to be hugely emotional and it will be a time to say goodbye - Highbury has been a big part of my life that is going to finish now
Liam Brady
For Liam Brady, Arsenal's move away from Highbury is like losing an old friend.

In his own words, the Gunners legend "grew up" at the famous old ground - and admits he would rather the club were not leaving their home of 93 years for Ashburton Grove at the end of this season.

Brady told BBC Sport: "It is a case of necessity over emotion.

"I don't think anybody at the club is relishing the move because the fans, staff and players have grown to love the place - it is a very special stadium and I will miss it badly.

"But we all recognise why the board of directors made the decision. It is necessary if we are to be able to continue to compete at the level we are at the moment.

"In football these days financial power is a big factor and it is important for Arsenal to have a capacity comparable with the biggest clubs in the world.

"The new stadium is terrific and of course it is better for the club to have crowds of 60,000 than it is to have 38,0000."

Brady signed for Arsenal as a 15-year-old apprentice in June 1971, made his debut in October 1973 - and was to be the main creative force in the Gunners midfield for the next seven years.

His left foot has not graced Highbury since he departed for Juventus in a 514,000 move in 1980 - but his heart remained at the club and Brady returned in 1996 as head of youth development and academy manager, posts he still holds.

BRADY FACTFILE
Full name: William Liam Brady
Position: midfield
DoB: 13 Feb 1956, Dublin
At Arsenal: 1971-80
Games: 294
Goals: 59
Honours: FA Cup winner 1979, PFA player of year 1979, three times Arsenal player of the year

On Sunday Chippy, as he was affectionately known by fans and team-mates alike, was in the stands when the Gunners beat Wigan 4-2 in the last competitive game to be staged at the stadium.

"It was hugely emotional and was a time to say goodbye," said Brady.

"Highbury has been a big part of my life that is going to finish now.

"I first went there as a 13-year-old boy from Dublin and once I joined the club I spent so much time at that place.

"In the '70s the club used to train there quite a lot - using the facilities behind the south stand or running around the pitch."

"So I spent most of my youth there and was lucky to have been part of some really good teams, making some lifelong friends.

"My first game at Highbury was as a 17-year-old versus Birmingham. That stands out for me as a memory I will always treasure.

"But there have been many, many enjoyable seasons and games.

"I was never lucky enough to win a match that meant winning a trophy at Highbury myself but I have been there for every triumph since.

"Even when I haven't been working at the club I have been there as a supporter and have witnessed some great occasions."

Liam Brady
For the club to be in the Champions League final is a fitting epitaph to the place and to win it and bring the trophy back here would make it extra special
Liam Brady

For Brady, some of the reasons why Arsenal are moving down the road are the reasons why Highbury is so treasured.

"It is a beautiful place," the former Republic of Ireland international said.

"It is a brilliant stadium to play in. You are so intimate with the fans because they are so close to the pitch, it is a real old-school ground, with so much history and tradition."

"We have seen in the past few weeks against Villarreal and Juventus that Arsenal fans are at their best when the team is up against it and they are a part of the ground too.

The Gunners will have a chance to bring back one last piece of silverware back to their old home when they take on Barcelona in the Champions League final on 17 May.

And Brady is glad that reaching the final allows the club to bow out of Highbury on a high note, despite a disappointing season in the Premiership.

"Leaving Highbury means it is going to be a memorable end to the season for Arsenal - no matter what happens in Paris," stated Brady.

"For the club to be in the Champions League final is a fitting epitaph to the place and to win it and bring the trophy back here would make it extra special.

"It is sad to leave but the future of the club is in good hands and this is the start of an exciting new era for us."




WATCH AND LISTEN
Report: Arsenal prepare to leave Highbury



SEE ALSO
Highbury farewell photos
04 May 06 |  Photo Galleries
End of an era
04 May 06 |  Arsenal
Highbury memories
04 May 06 |  Arsenal


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