“Have you heard?” Those were the words Sir Alex Ferguson told a young FebianBrandy in the corridor of Manchester United’s training complex to talk to him about interest from the mighty Barcelona.
Now 30 years of age, Brandy remains involved and active in the game through his latest venture ‘SKOUTED’, an app that is vying to bridge the gap between players and clubs.
Barcelona became aware of him during his early teenage years when he went to Spain for a tournament and played a slew of big European teams such as PSV, Real Madrid and Barcelona.
United didn’t even make the knockout stages but the nifty forward was so on form that he won player of the tournament.
Two weeks later, somehow a Spanish fella got his number and rang the phone at Brandy’s Mum and Dad’s house, proposing a move to the Blaugrana. Their response was that they’d get back to him.
And so after he’d finished a day’s training on the first-team side at Carrington, an exchange with Sir Alex ensued.
Barcelona have phoned up to enquire about you, how do you feel?” Fergie asked the youngster, who sensed that it was a test of sorts from the main man.
Being a Manchester lad and someone who had been with United since he was eight, he told the fiery Glaswegian he wanted to stay. “Good answer,” Fergie responded, before tapping Brandy on the head.
“It was nice to have and at the time Man United and Barcelona were kind of like on the same level so it was a no brainer being a Manchester lad doing well at United as a youth,”
“At the time everyone wanted to come to England but obviously it’s changed now where you get young players going to Germany in the Bundesliga.”
Spotted playing for his local team West End Boys, Brandy joined United from eight years of his age right through to being 21, turning out alongside the likes of Danny Drinkwater, Gerard Pique and Giuseppe Rossi, Fabio and Rafael Da Silva and Tom Cleverley.
In 2007, he memorably scored the winner against Juventus in the only edition of Champions Youth Cup final, a mini youth Champions League-like competition in Malaysia, where Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was the top scorer of the tournament having bagged seven for AC Milan.
But despite rubbing shoulders with the first team “all the time”, Brandy knew in his last year that he wasn’t going to be a regular at United – with Dimitar Berbatov and Wayne Rooney firing on all cylinders as well as Fraizer Campbell and Danny Welbeck banging on the door.
Loaned out to Swansea, Hereford and Gillingham, he never made a first-team appearance for the club. There’s a sense of disappointment that he didn’t quite make the grade but Brandy knows that the beautiful game can be a cruel one.
“There have been a few times where I’ve not fully fell out of love with football but I’ve been on the way. It is a ruthless industry but it’s an industry where you have to be strong mentally. With football there’s a lot of scrutiny with literally everything you do, from what you eat to where you are going.
“It is easy to fall out of love with football but it’s something I’ve always done. I put all that effort and graft into it, why forget it all in just one moment?”
When his deal at Old Trafford finished, he was poised to sign for Sheffield United as a free agent until he broke his metatarsal in the 93rd minute of the last reserve game of the season, against Wigan Athletic.
The second serious injury in his career left Brandy on the sidelines for around nine months because of recurring injuries. United were classy enough to let him use their facilities for his rehab and recovery.
“There are some injuries where you can still train, if you get a small hamstring tweak or whatever you can kind of sugarcoat it. But an injury like a metatarsal or a break, it can be a bit of frustrating.
“Basically you’re just bed-bound and you can’t live your normal life for five/six months or however long it takes to heal. It does mentally drain you but at United when you’ve got the players and staff around you, it gives you that boost of energy.”
From then on, Brandy dropped into the lower leagues with Notts County, Walsall, Sheffield United, Rotherham, Crewe Alexandra and Rochdale – along with unusual and indifferent stints in Greece and Thailand with Panetolikos and Ubon UMT Unitedrespectively.
His most recent outings have seen him play Non-League for Ebbsfleet United and Droylsden, turning out for a few games this season in order to build his fitness.
But despite having many offers, including some from abroad, Brandy’s focus lies elsewhere nowadays.
Skouted effectively serves as football’s version of LinkedIn. It promises to make life easier for both players and scouts.
“Me being in the football industry, from a young age until now, I just know how difficult it is to get spotted by teams,” he said, explaining how he came up with the idea.
“For example you have some talented players at football clubs (professional and non professional) and for whatever reason if they don’t get a contract they might not have the connections to find another club – making them eventually fall out of love for the game.
“With the app Skouted, players’ footage will constantly be up for clubs to see and there will also be fun features like player of the month and goal of the month.
“My app will allow football clubs, players who have been released, players who are not in the professional game, players who are Grassroots, of all ages, it’ll bring them all closer.
So clubs will be able to type in the search bar what type of player they are looking for.If a club is from London and they’re looking for a box-to-box midfielder from Manchester who’s 16, all the box to box midfielders from Manchester will be shown to the club who has searched for the specific player.
“We’ve just made it easier for clubs to find those hidden gem players of all ages and we’ve given a platform for those players who slip through the net a platform to showcase their talents to thousands of football clubs.”
Brandy makes a point of stressing that this platform is not merely on players who haven’t made the grade at professional clubs. There’s a strong Sunday League and five-a-side attachment.
“Those who play local Sunday League football we will give them a chance,” he stated.
“When I play five-a-side, I’ve seen so much talent and I’m like, ‘Are you signed with anyone?’ and they tell me, ‘Nah I just play five-a-side with the lads at Soccerdome’. I say, ‘You need to get yourself a club!'”
‘Book a Ref’ is also feature on the app, while another element that promises to be highly useful involves making it so much easier to find that all-important extra player for five-a-side.
To get further feedback before the official launch, which is coming soon, the beta version of the app will be trialed by an academy, a university and around 150 players.
And once it is fully live and operating, the objective for Brandy and his team is simple.
“The aim is literally just to find as many players that have slipped through the net and show that we’re working hard to get those players a club,” he summarised.
“Through my career, I’ve seen many players who have struggled to get the recognition they deserve. This started a fire that has grown into Skouted.”