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Paul Bracewell (1992/93 to 1994/95)

Paul Bracewell
Paul Bracewell
Bth 19/07/62 Heswall Cheshire
P/H/W Midfielder 5ft 8in
Jnd 12/06/92 Sunderland £250,000
Deb 15/08/92 Southend (H) D1
Dep 05/95 Sunderland £50,000
A/G 75 (12) 4

Paul Bracewell’s time on Tyneside was impacted badly by injuries, but there is no doubt that he made a massive contribution to United’s promotion in 1992/93 and their subsequent establishment as a Premiership force.

When Sunderland only offered Bracewell, who was their captain, a one-year deal in the Summer of 1992, United moved in like a shot to offer him a two-year contract.

Although Sunderland were furious that he had agreed to the move without letting them make another offer, under Freedom of Contract Bracewell had the right to leave under his own terms. The clubs could not agree on a fee so it went to a transfer tribunal with the £250,00 fee being far closer to United’s offer of £200,000 than Sunderland’s demand for £700,000.

Keegan knew he had got a bargain as not only was he a quality player, “he has leadership qualities and bags of experience and, not only that, he is used to success”.

With Keegan’s tactics involving so many players with attacking intent pushing forward he knew that it was vital that there was a defensive midfielder in there who could act as the “anchor” of the team. As he once said himself: “you need someone to sit tight and pull things together”.

Tough-tackling, he played with a controlled aggression that added bite to the United midfield. And despite numerous injuries throughout his career he continued to be a fierce competitor, playing with a steely determination and never shirking a challenge.

Bracewell was also a skilful schemer, combining expert control with tactical awareness and passing ability. A steady and calm influence, always playing for the team.

His undoubted skills were backed up with non-stop commitment which enabled him to protect the defence and allow the more attack-minded players to express themselves with more freedom.

And he also had an ability to shoot with considerable force and accuracy from distance as demonstrated during his debut against Southend and in the home match with Villa at the end of the 1993/94 season.

As had been the case at numerous times during his career he was hampered by injuries which restricted the number of appearances he made. Keegan nicknamed him “the ice man” because he had to put his feet in a bucket of the stuff after every match.

At the end of the 1994/95 season he returned to Sunderland.

Season by Season

pre Toon

Bracewell began his career with his home town club, Stoke City, in 1980 and after one season at Sunderland he moved to Everton in 1984. In his first season at Goodison he won the League and European Cup-winners' Cup and reached the FA Cup Final. A challenge by Billy Whitehurst on New Years Day 1986 (when he was playing for Newcastle) resulted in a severe ankle injury which sidelined Bracewell for almost three seasons. Having lost his place at Everton he moved back to Roker Park where he helped Sunderland to promotion in 1990 and the Cup Final in 1992. He played for England at U23 and Full (3 caps) level.

1992/93 (23/8 - 2)

He suffered from a niggly ankle tendon injury at the start of the season after getting injured against Bristol Rovers which limited his appearances, but got back to full fitness in March and played a vital part in the 11-match promotion run-in.

1993/94 (36 - 2)

Had another outstanding season despite a persistent groin injury.

1994/95 (16/4)

It was thought that Bracewell was going to miss out on the whole season and there were even fears that he might not play again. He was diagnosed with inflammation of the pelvis which required complete rest, but he made a surprise return on Boxing Day at Leeds. He had played and lost in four FA Cup Finals so when the Magpies reached the Quarter-Finals he was dreaming of finally being a Wembley winner. Unfortunately his old club Everton beat United.

Post Toon

Returned to Sunderland for a couple of seasons and then joined Kevin Keegan at Fulham for another two.


Painting by Piotr