Pat Bryne

Former Player Remembers: Pat Bryne

Earlier this month, Pat Bryne, a midfielder who spent two years at Filbert Street playing for Jock Wallace between 1979 and 1981, spoke to Club Historian John Hutchinson about his distinguished career in football, both as a player and as a manager.
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A Second Division title winner with Leicester City in 1980, Pat also won promotion with Heart of Midlothian, and six League of Ireland titles, together with four FAI Cups, playing for Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers. As a manager, he won a further League of Ireland title and the FAI Cup with Shelbourne. He played for Jack Charlton’s Republic of Ireland team and represented his country in the Olympic qualifying rounds. 

Pat began by recalling that football wasn’t on the curriculum at his school in Dublin.

“I went to a Christian Brothers Catholic school,” he said. “The sports there were all Gaelic because there was a ban on English games, but I always loved soccer. However, Gaelic football was great for building stamina and strength.

“The first time I had to make a choice between Gaelic football and soccer was when I was about 12. One Saturday, I had to play for the school in a Gaelic football semi-final and play soccer for my local club. On the Friday, I told the Christian Brother that I wouldn’t be playing in the semi-final the next day. He said, very strongly, that I had to play. I went home and my mum said that if I wanted to play soccer, that’s what I should do, so I did. When I went to school on the Monday, they’d lost the semi-final. I was given six of the best in front of the class.

“I still played for the school afterwards. I grew up with Kevin Moran, who won national titles in Gaelic football before going on to play for Manchester United, and Gerry Ryan, who later played for Brighton. We went to school together and we played in the same Gaelic football and soccer teams. They were good times.”

In 1974 Pat, aged 18, signed professional forms for the Dublin club Bohemians.

 “We won the league (in 1975 and 1978) and the Irish Cup (in 1976) when I was there,” Pat continued. “Then, (in 1978) I was supposed to sign for Fulham. Everything was agreed and then it was knocked back. Fulham were penalised for money problems and they couldn’t buy players.”

Instead of signing for Fulham, Pat joined Philadelphia Fury in the NASL.

I also played against Franz Beckenbauer, Carlos Alberto and Giorgio Chinaglia. They were the kingpins at New York Cosmos.

Pat Bryne

“The same scout who was looking for Fulham also had connections with Philadelphia Fury,” Pat explained. “He recommended me to Philadelphia Fury and I signed for them.

“Playing in America was like fantasy football. It was surreal. Although we only had crowds of 5,000-10,000, we’d play in these huge stadiums that could hold about 100,000 people. You had to get an elevator to get to the pitch at ground level.

“World Cup winner Alan Ball, Chelsea’s Peter Osgood and John Dempsey and Leeds United’s Johnny Giles all signed for us. Johnny Giles was a fantastic organiser of people. He knew the game inside out. He stayed back with me after training. He was very straight. Alan Ball was lovely too. He died far too young. I also played against Franz Beckenbauer, Carlos Alberto and Giorgio Chinaglia. They were the kingpins at New York Cosmos.

“When we played Cosmos in New York on a Sunday afternoon, the place was heaving. It was one of those special days. They beat us 2-1 but it was a fantastic game. It was end-to-end stuff and there was a bit of showmanship.

“It was incredible in America. Every team you played against had a few stars.”

Pat’s next move, soon after his 23rd birthday, was to Filbert Street in July 1979.

Following Leicester City’s relegation from the top flight in 1977, Jock Wallace was about to start on his second season as manager. He young side had finished his first season towards the bottom of the old Second Division but the following year, Pat’s first at the Club, saw the team promoted as Second Division champions.

He added: “When I left Philadelphia, I was supposed to go to Shelbourne in Dublin because I had to come back to my own country before I could go anywhere else but I went straight to Leicester.

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Leicester City in 1980/81
Leicester City in 1980/81

Pat Bryne was a member of Jock Wallace's popular Foxes side in the early 1980s.

“Martin Henderson, who had been with me at Philadelphia Fury was at Leicester. Also, I’d played against Jock Wallace’s Rangers in the European Cup when I was at Bohemians and Jock asked Martin, who had also been at Rangers, about me.

“Jock was great. I was lucky enough later on to play for Jack Charlton’s Ireland side. They were exactly the same. Jock was old school. He was very strict but fair. I had loads of time for him although he used to wind me up sometimes. He was great when we had our son and daughter who were both born in Leicester. He was very generous with that.

"His assistant at Leicester was Ian McFarlane, who was also very old school. When we went to Sweden for pre-season training, we were up every morning at about seven to go for a run and then we had to carry people up sandhills, come down and carry them back up again. Your legs were bulging. It was very intense.”

Pat then talked about some of his Leicester City team-mates: “Larry May was brilliant. He reminded me of a young Paul McGrath (Manchester United and Ireland). He had a lovely touch, was good on the ball and was so athletic.

“Paul Ramsey was very good and great fun. Eddie Kelly was really good with the young players, always giving up his time. Then there was Martin Henderson and Alan Young. Mark Wallington was very experienced and there was Tommy Williams and Andy Peake, who came into the side and had a great time. Gary Lineker was coming through too.”

All the people from the Club were there. The people behind the scenes were the backbone of the Club, and I always took this on board when I was a manager myself.

Pat Bryne

At the end of Pat’s first season, Leicester City were promoted to the top flight as Second Division champions. They won eight of the last 10 games and the title was clinched in the last match of the season, a 1-0 victory at Orient.

“The happiness we had that day was just incredible,” Pat recalled. “We had a celebration in the Holiday Inn afterwards. All the people from the Club were there. The people behind the scenes were the backbone of the Club, and I always took this on board when I was a manager myself.

“The players all got on well with each other. The lads were fantastic company, and we all looked after each other. I loved playing at Filbert Street. I felt a bit overawed sometimes. When I reflect on playing for Leicester, I don’t think I played as well as I should have sometimes. There was more in me.”

A highlight for Pat the following season, with Leicester City back in First Division, was when he scored in the victory which ended Liverpool’s unbeaten run of 85 home matches. This result also completed the double over the Reds, who were soon to be crowned European champions.

“That was unbelievable!” Pat recalled. “The game at Anfield started off at a hundred miles an hour. We were chasing shadows at times. They scored first when the ball deflected off Alan Young’s head, and then I got the equaliser. Then, just after we kicked off following my goal, I went to close down a Liverpool player and the next thing I know I was knocked over and was seeing stars. I couldn’t see straight and I had to come off. The sub, Jim Melrose, scored the winner. The atmosphere from our own supporters was brilliant that day.

“I also scored the winning goal against Spurs at White Hart Lane. I was very lucky that things like that happened. People say to me now that if I was playing today, I’d be a millionaire, but I wouldn’t swap my time for the world.”

At the end of the season, Leicester City were relegated and Pat left Filbert Street to spend two seasons at Heart of Midlothian.

Pat explained: “I left Leicester as they were cutting back because we’d been relegated. They weren’t renewing my contract and Hearts came in for me. It was a different challenge and a different place to play and I wanted to see what it was like.  

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Pat Bryne
Pat Bryne

Pat Bryne won the Second Division title with the Foxes.

“I got promoted with Hearts. In my second year there, we lived in Dublin and I was flying between Edinburgh and Dublin each week. It was the time of the Troubles and my wife had got a strange phone call. It wasn’t nice. I’d come over from Dublin on Thursday, train Friday, play Saturday and fly home on Sunday, unless we were playing a midweek match, when I’d stay until the following week. When I was in Dublin, I trained with Shamrock Rovers, which is how I ended up signing for them (in August 1983).”

Pat’s return to Ireland heralded four very successful years at Shamrock Rovers: “They were a big club. They’d not had recent success, but I signed for them as captain. We put a team together. In the first season, we won the championship and reached the cup final and then we won the double for the next three seasons.”

During these four years, Pat was voted the PFA of Ireland’s Player of the Year in 1984, won eight full caps for the Republic and also had five selections for the Olympic qualifiers.

“My first cap was against Poland at Dalymount Park in Dublin,” he continued. “I was walking on air. Playing for your country is such an honour. My first manager was Eoin Hand and then it was Jack Charlton. They were brilliant and, in the squad, there were players like Liam Brady, Packie Bonner, Paul McGrath, John Aldridge and Ray Houghton. It was like a club side really. Jack did a fantastic job for us. When he went for a drink in Ireland, he never had to pay. That’s how much he was loved, but when I went for a drink with him, I had to pay when I got my round in!”

In 1988, Pat became player-manager at Shelbourne, a team he had watched with his father as a boy.

I still watch football every week, either Shamrock Rovers or another of the Dublin clubs. But when I think of Leicester, I remember walking out onto the grass and just looking round the ground. It was like the best thing ever!

Pat Bryne

He said: “Winning the League of Ireland with them in 1992 was a career highlight as they’d not won it for 30 years. We won the cup the following year. We played in European Cup (in 1992/93) and in the European Cup Winners’ Cup (in 1993/94).

“I enjoyed management, giving players opportunities and seeing them progress. Having some success also helped! I picked bits and pieces from managers I’d had but I liked to do things my own way. I was fair and I’d treat everybody exactly the same. Once people put in the time and effort I’d stick with them, although when I saw real quality, I would forego them having to do all the donkey work.”

Pat left Shelbourne for League of Ireland side St James Gate in 1994 and, two years later, he returned to Shamrock Rovers.

“I went back because their ground had been sold,” he explained. “I was involved in getting a new stadium built. That was my big thing. The Dublin City Council gave us the site for a peppercorn rent in what was then a disadvantaged area. It’s now a fantastic site with a lovely stadium. I can walk to it from my house. Real Madrid came over to open the stadium for us.”  

Pat, who has run his own building company since leaving football, concluded: “I still watch football every week, either Shamrock Rovers or another of the Dublin clubs. But when I think of Leicester, I remember walking out onto the grass and just looking round the ground. It was like the best thing ever!”

Leicester City Crest

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