Febian Brandy has had his fair share of ups and downs during his football career.
A star going up through the ranks of Manchester United‘s youth teams, he suffered numerous injuries and countless loan spells, but his love for the game has never waned.
He is now using his vast experience to help the players of today with the introduction of a new app, Skouted.
He tells talkSPORT.com all about his new venture, Sir Alex Ferguson and life at Old Trafford.
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Manchester, Wales, Thailand and Greece. No, this is not the introduction to the latest Michael Palin travelogue, but instead the journey in which Brandy has taken in his quest to find football success.
London is Brandy’s latest destination, only now he is not thinking purely about his own route back into the game; he is considering how to help others, too.
He is late to our meeting, albeit not by much, but this could be down to a lack of sleep.
It becomes apparent in the interview a bit of shut-eye is not high on his agenda.
“We’re up in the morning until 3/4 o’clock,” Brandy says.
“Talking in the WhatsApp group and because we’re all so passionate about it, waking up at that time to talk about it seems normal.”
The other night owls keeping Brandy company at unearthly hours are co-founders, Keita Orelaja, a Loughborough University student and rugby player, entrepreneur Raj Sharma and computer scientist Harjot Singh.
Along with sleep deprivation, the group are bonded by their passion for Skouted, distinguished with a ‘K’ it is a mobile and online football app, launching next week.
The initiative has been designed to help players and potential recruiters find each other.
A year in the making, it is the football equivalent of LinkedIn, the same network that brought this collaboration together.
“What Skouted does is it offers players a platform, to promote themselves, upload highlights to be viewed and assessed by hundreds, thousands of scouts and clubs,” Orelaja explains.
“It’s really quite cool how we have done it because scouts and clubs can search, not only via your name, but through really key filters, such as age, radius from the training ground, position, their playing style, what foot they are, so we are talking about 10 filters to narrow it down and then they can go through and if they like them, take it from there.
“Academies are scouting players from under 8/9 age groups and at that age it helps with who you know to get you seen by the right people and if you get missed around that age and you’re not still around the system come 13/14, scouts rarely tend to look beyond that and it’s rare you will get a look in.”
To become a footballer is the aspiration of many, a relentless dream pursued in the hope of eclipsing your hero, hoping for that faint chance to make it as a professional.
The pressure is usually self-inflicted, Skouted are keen to stress there is no guarantees the site will create the next David Beckham, it is fun sprinkled with a hint of seriousness, depending on what you are aiming for.
“Not everyone who comes on here will be signed by Manchester United, but if you are hoping to be scouted, we have so many different levels, that you can be picked up by a club that matches your standard.
“We have a competition where players will send us videos and we might feature it on our profile,” Orelaja adds.
“I always get these DMs (direct messages) from really talented players and when you go on their profile they have no videos or highlights at all.”
The app has already had sign-ups from clubs in the Premier League, the buzz is growing.
Players such as Jay Rodriguez, Danny Simpson and Sky Sports presenter Hayley McQueen have shown their support for it.
“If you take the whole scouting element away from it, what we really have is a beautiful social platform, where people can upload, share, collaborate and talk about football and secretly clubs are keeping a watch.
“We are not making this entirely serious; there will also be a load of fun features such as goal of the month, player of the month.
“We want to end that stigma that oh it’s too late to be a footballer. If your clips are good enough and you are good enough, someone will find you.
“Look at Charlie Austin, Jamie Vardy, they were all playing non-league.”
Football history is filled with tales of late bloomers, rags to riches stories that offer a glimmer of hope to the optimists. Rickie Lambert was called up to the England squad aged 31, Didier Drogba joined Chelsea at 26.
Vardy’s non-league route is well-documented.
The most famous and widely used example, Ian Wright, played Premier League football with Arsenal for the first time at 26; he almost gave up four years earlier after disappointing trials with Southend and Brighton. The rest is of course history.
Brandy had been at Man United since he was eight; he immediately impressed and continued to do so. Quick, skilful and with an eye for goal, his talent was apparent from early on.
He had won the best player award at a prestigious youth tournament in Spain, with Barcelona heavily interested in him.
Brandy wisely remained tight-lipped about contact when confronted by Ferguson, Manchester was his home, the boss was not a man to cross. Even at 14, he learned quickly.
While his reputation as a fiery, no nonsense man was well documented, Ferguson had a compassionate, caring side.
He once phoned an injured Brandy, out of the blue, the call was well received and meant a lot. It was typical of the boss.
“Sir Alex, he was first class with me, legendary, the respect for him is just different,” Brandy recalls.
“He didn’t have to do that, I’m probably way, way at the bottom of the list and for him to go out and do that shows what kind of person he is.
He treats everyone the same, from [Cristiano] Ronaldo, Rio [Ferdinand], Gary Neville, the reserves, the youth, the janitors, the receptionist, he is literally the boss, but he never makes it out that way, he just commands that with his aura.”
Ferguson was not the only one to take time out to offer advice. A number of first-team players such as Paul Scholes, Ferdinand and Ryan Giggs followed suit, a ‘family orientated club’ as Brandy puts it.
Team-mates, but friends first, Brandy witnessed a number of players fail to make the cut.
Hindsight suggests Skouted would have been beneficial years earlier.
“When I was at United, we were coming up to 14/15 that’s your scholar stage and obviously I was fortunate,” he says.
“But there was other players who were there and didn’t get a professional contract and some of them were friends of mine and we would speak.
“I would ask them if they had anything else lined up and they would say no, accept the situation and eventually fell out of love with football.
“If Skouted was available back then, all of their clips would have been uploaded and alright, they might not have had the ability to break through at Man United, they could have made it a team further down the league and restarted their career, instead of feeling they have reached the end of the road.”
While the football machine had been ruthless to some, others such as Brandy were forging ahead, he continued to shine in academy and reserve sides that featured the likes of Tom Cleverley, Danny Welbeck and Danny Drinkwater, all three future Premier League winners.
His form earned him recognition at various levels for England, injury and fate intervened in the cruellest of ways, a broken foot in what would be his last appearance for the reserves under current first team manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the latest in a long line of bad luck.
But rather than dwell, Brandy, now 30, smiles as he reflects, refreshing in his acceptance that it is part of the game.
“I’ve always had a smooth career, there have been injuries that have slowed me down a bit, but being with Man United, the England set-up, I’ve been quite fortunate throughout,” he says.
“I’ve broken my metatarsal and for England I’ve broke my fibula, this slowed me down, but the way my career has panned out I wouldn’t change it for anything.
“From the age of 19, I could see I was not going to be a first team regular, I was banging on the door at that age, but not enough.
“I realised at that age I was not going to be here, so started preparing myself for leaving.
“If I had been injury free and kept training the way I was training, I do believe I would have put myself into contention, all the signs were there.
“I was being called up to England all the time, with the likes of Daniel Sturridge and Scott Sinclair, but that’s football, injuries happen.
“Andy Carroll said Febian was meant to be the next Ronaldo at one stage, “Sharma adds.
The West Ham striker is well-versed in dealing with injuries himself.
Loan spells with the likes of Swansea City, Sheffield United and Gillingham followed, a far cry from the days of scoring the winner in the final of the Champions Youth Cup against Juventus, a period Brandy calls ‘the best of his career.’
While some would shout this from the rooftop, or continuously name drop, Brandy is modest and credits his humble outlook to that of his parents.
“It’s down to my upbringing, I’ve always been grounded, my mum and dad always told me to remain that way.
“The area I grew up in, my mum and dad would never let me get carried away.
“When I speak to people they say ‘oh you’re not the everyday footballer, but what does that mean, how am I meant to be. I am just a normal person, that’s just how I have been raised.”
While Brandy remains reserved, his future plans will hopefully turn the next normal player into a superstar.