Earlier this year, Brian spoke to Club Historian John Hutchinson about his career in football. Starting his career at Doncaster Rovers, he was a big player during the Blades’ back-to-back promotions, which saw them rise to the top flight in 1990. An England international, he also played for Leeds United, Benfica and Middlesbrough, before joining City in November 2001.
He scored the first two competitive goals at City’s new stadium in 2002 and his efforts that season played a part in the Foxes’ promotion at the first attempt despite the Club being in administration for four months.
Leeds-born Brian began his professional career at Doncaster Rover in 1985.
“All I ever wanted to do was play football,” Brian said. “I played for Leeds Boys but then I broke my leg when I was 16. I was in plaster for about six months. When I recovered, I wrote to clubs for trials. Doncaster’s chief scout, David Blakey, who had been at Leeds when I was there as a kid and when I’d had been on trial there, invited me down to Doncaster. Steve Beaglehole (City's current Senior Professional Development Phase Coach) was my youth team coach there. They gave me a professional contract when I was 17.”
Brian made his debut for Doncaster Rovers in the 1985/86 season and went on to play 66 times for them in the Third Division before they were relegated in 1988.
“The club offered me terms when they were relegated,” Brian continued. “But I didn’t think they were good enough so I exercised my right to leave. Luckily for me Sheffield United came in.”
This effort against Manchester United in August 1993 was the first-ever goal in the new Premier League.
Sheffield United had just been relegated from the Second Division and, in his first two seasons at Bramall Lane, Brian was a key figure in the side which won back-to-back promotions to reach the old First Division.
“(Future Leicester City manager) Dave Bassett brought me in. He was the right kind of manager for me at the time. He’s a very good man-manager. I was a young kid and needed guidance and he made me feel very at home and welcome. I’d had a lot of rejection as a kid and, for the first time, I had somebody telling me he had a long-term strategy for me.”
An early highlight in Brian’s first season at Sheffield United was a game against Chester City: “Playing Chester at home, I got a hat-trick in the first half. Tony Agana then got a hat-trick in the second half, but I ended up with the match ball. Everyone signed the ball. I was only a 20-year-old kid at the time and Tony gave the ball to me. It was fantastic. I must have been like a kid at Christmas! Tony was great for me. He was a very quick, left-footed forward. We had a really good symmetry between us. I was right footed but not as quick as him. We just seemed to hit it off. The style of football was perfect for us because it meant we were getting a lot balls over the top and we were running at people. It worked perfectly for me at that stage.”
Brian’s successful first season at Bramall Lane was followed up by a second successive promotion, which saw the Blades return to the top flight for the first time in 14 years.
I even get asked about it today. It’s great for me personally that I will be remembered for that as long as the Premier League lasts.Brian Deane
Thinking back, Brian recalled: “Progression was rapid for me. I’d scored 30 goals in my first season at Sheffield United and I scored another 24 goals and was heavily influential when we were promoted again. Our final game was at Filbert Street. We won 5-2. I scored the first goal. Everything that was happening that day. It was just surreal. It was fantastic. Some of our fans say that it was the best day of their lives. There were people coming to the game at Filbert Street in fancy dress. They couldn’t believe what was happening!”
In his next two seasons at Bramall Lane, the Blades finished 13th and ninth in the old First Division, with Brian scoring a total of 33 goals and then, on 15 August, 1992 Brian made football history when he scored the first-ever goal in the newly-formed Premier League in a match against Manchester United.
“It was the beginning of a new era,” Brian remembered. “I scored two that day. I like to score as quickly as possible so we can hit the ground running, so when I got the chance after four minutes and it went in, it took the pressure off. I was made up about that. The significance of scoring the first-ever goal in the Premier League came after I finished playing, when everyone kept saying: ‘Oh, Brian, you scored the first goal in the Premier League.’ I even get asked about it today. It’s great for me personally that I will be remembered for that as long as the Premier League lasts.
“That season, I scored a hat-trick at Burnley in midweek in the FA Cup. The next game, I scored another hat-trick against Ipswich in the Premier League, so I was after three hat-tricks in three games in the next game, an FA Cup match against Hartlepool. You’d have thought that was going to be the easiest game but it wasn’t. We won but I didn’t score!”
After a brief spell at Benfica, Brian returned to England and joined Middlesbrough in 1998.
At the end of the season, in June 1993, Brian moved to Leeds United.
“It was probably the right time for me to leave,” Brian explained. “I knew there was interest from other clubs. I turned down a move to Crystal Palace to replace Ian Wright, who’d gone to Arsenal. I’m a Leeds boy and going there seemed like going home. The fee was £2.9M, a record for Leeds. It’s been calculated that this fee would be the equivalent of £50M today! I was a local boy and there was a lot of pressure in that first year and I took a while to settle, but I spent four years there and scored a lot of goals in the Premier League.”
In July 1997, Sheffield United, keen to regain their Premier League status, paid £1.5M for Brian to return to Bramall lane, but six months later, Benfica’s manager Graeme Souness signed him for a fee of £1M.
“It was an interesting time,” Brian reflected. “I didn’t have any kind of support network. English football in those days wasn’t held in as high esteem as Italian or Spanish football. As an English forward, I had to gain the respect of the fans and, fortunately for me, I had some very good team-mates. Some of them played for national teams all over the world and I fitted in quite well in the end. When I went there, we were seventh in the league and, by the end of the season, we finished second to Porto and qualified for the Champions League, which I played in whilst I was out there.”
Brian left Benfica in October 1998.
I wasn’t planning on coming back,” Brian explained. “I wanted to see if I could go to Spain or Italy, but Middlesbrough came in for me. It looked a very interesting project with Bryan Robson. They’d got promoted to the Premier League and were making some good strides.”
Brian Deane & Dave Bassett
Deane linked up with former manager Bassett at Filbert Street during the 2001/02 season.
Three years later, in November 2001, his old Sheffield United manager Bassett took him to Leicester City at a time when the Foxes were engaged in an ultimately unsuccessful fight against relegation from the Premier League.
“Their position didn’t really bother me,” Brian said. “The way I viewed it, if we went down, the project would still be to get straight back up.”
City’s first game back in the second tier was also the first game at their new stadium and Brian made history by scoring the first two competitive goals at the Club’s new home in a 2-0 victory over Watford.
He added: “It was brilliant to do that. There was so much upheaval at the Club. There were some financial issues and the Club went into administration (from October 2002 until February 2003). I had come to Leicester on a good contract and then people were saying that the Club might go into liquidation. It was a very worrying time. I’d made a commitment to Leicester. I’d brought a place down here. These things were at the back of my mind, but I tried to block them out as a player.”
Paul’s career went up again when he came to Leicester. We had a really good relationship. He worked so hard. We fed off each other and got our fair share of goals. I enjoyed playing with him.Brian Deane
Despite the months in administration, Leicester were promoted back to the Premier League at the end of the season: “We had the ability to beat any team, but we could only do this if we worked as a team. The Club had managed to keep together a very good squad and as a result , we clubbed together as a group and said: ‘Listen, this is on us.’ We felt we were the ones responsible for going up. We had so many characters in the changing room, like Matty Elliott, Gerry Taggart, Jordan Stewart, Ian Walker, Frank Sinclair, Muzzy Izzet, Andy Impey, James Scowcroft and Paul Dickov. Then others came in, like Nicky Summerbee and Billy McKinlay, We had a Premier League presence about us. It was a great year for us.”
Brian and his strike partner Dickov scored 30 goals between them in that promotion season: “Paul’s career went up again when he came to Leicester. We had a really good relationship. He worked so hard. We fed off each other and got our fair share of goals. I enjoyed playing with him.”
An important young player that season was Stewart, who regards Brian as his mentor: “I liked to see young players like Jordan and Matt [Piper] doing well,” Brian continued. “I always tried to give them tips. Jordan and I moved into the same apartment complex and he was like a little brother. It was good to see him develop and do well.”
Leicester City promoted in 2003
Deane's best season in a Foxes shirt helped the Club to the runners-up spot in the old First Division.
Brian left Leicester City for West Ham United in October 2003, at the start of the Club's season back in the Premier League.
“It was the first time I’d left a Premier League club to go to the Championship,” Brian explained. “Their manager Alan Pardew wanted someone with experience. They had some very good players, like Jermaine Defoe, who I knew. It seemed like a natural move. I didn’t want to leave Leicester, but I’d been kind of told that I wasn’t going to play there, which I was disappointed about as I felt I’d had a big impact in getting the club promoted.”
During the next two-and-a-half years, Brian had a further spell at Leeds United, and short times at Sunderland and Perth Glory in the Australian A-League, before returning briefly for a third time, to Sheffield United where Neil Warnock wanted to use his experience in the dressing room.
Brian concluded by talking about his England career, when he won three England caps as a Sheffield United player in 1991 and 1992: “At the time, England had some fantastic strikers, like Alan Shearer, Teddy Sheringham, Les Ferdinand, Ian Wright, and David iurst. Gary Lineker was still there too. I wish in some respect I'd have had more belief in myself. If I'd have had the mental awareness and toughness to actually believe that this is where I belonged, I would have fared better. So, I only got three caps. I was actually in a lot of the squads, and on standby for a period of about two years. But I'm very proud. that I was able to wear the England shirt.”
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