As Manchester United and Birmingham City took to the Old Trafford turf on Sunday afternoon few eyes would have settled on the figure of Keith Fahey, Birmingham’s Irish midfielder.
It has been a long journey for the former Arsenal and Aston Villa trainee but on Sunday Fahey finally arrived on the biggest stage of all. Fahey has not travelled the well worn path of many in the Premier League but at the age of 26 he looks set to establish himself.
He looked to the manor born at the Theatre of Dreams but it has been a long road from teenage prospect to Premier League player. Fahey grew up in the same area of Dublin that produced the likes of Robbie Keane and Richard Dunne, a vast, sweeping suburb that churns out footballers on a regular basis.
Whereas Keane fell into life in England with ease Fahey found it difficult to settle when he pitched up at Arsenal as a teenager. Precocious yes, but at a vital time in your life if you are not happy what is the point? With the help of Arsenal’s youth development manager Liam Brady the youngster moved onto Aston Villa, but his failure to find the right balance away from the training pitch hampered his future.
Villa had him pegged for the first team squad at 17 but eventually lost patience and cut Fahey loose to piece things together for himself. He is not the first teenager to flounder in unfamiliar surroundings and Fahey has always felt that Villa’s decision was the best thing for him.
Upon landing back in Ireland Fahey dabbled with some amateur football before he was tempted back to St. Patrick’s Athletic where he rediscovered his passion for the game in a familiar environment. That could have been the last people heard of Keith Fahey on English shores but in his five seasons with St. Pat’s he grew into a player of substance aswell as guile proving those right who picked him out years before.
During that time Ireland’s Premier League went through something of a renaissance in terms of the quality on the pitch. Whereas before Irish club sides had been on the end of some real hammerings in Europe the now professional sides had some memorable European adventures.
It may have been one of these oddyseys for St. Patrick’s last season that caught the eye of Birmingham City manager Alex McLeish. St Pat’s took on Hertha Berlin in the final qualifying round of the UEFA Cup last summer and Fahey excelled, bossing a midfield containing more heralded opponents.
Birmingham finally took a punt on the midfielder in January and he formed a key part of the team that gained promotion to the Premier League. Fahey slotted into the unfamiliar role on the left hand side of midfield and even chipped in with a few important goals as Birmingham clawed their way over the finishing line.
Not a player that would have raised many eyebrows among the Brum faithful on his arrival but they can only hope that fellow Dubliner Jay O’Shea can have a similar impact as Fahey in the few months he has been at St. Andrews.
Fahey is not the type of character to get carried away but it is heartening to see that second chances are out there for those who are spurned as teenagers.