With Brian Bradley it was always about the game. Never about him. Today, very sadly, it is about him.
And if ever an unsung football figure deserved a tribute it is the man who was truly “Mr non-league football” in South Yorkshire.
Brian was a friend to the game – and everyone. He was seemingly one of life’s indestructible characters, as perennial as the rich green of new-mown August grass and the smell of liniment in dressing room corridors. It is almost unthinkable that Brian – who so sadly died along with his wife Judith in Thursday’s M1 crash – will not be around when the ball starts rolling again next month.
His name may not have resonated with supporters of the Owls and Blades but he was never besotted with the glamour of the professional game. He was rooted in the game itself, as he lovingly demonstrated in his columns for The Star and Sheffield Telegraph.
Through Brian, quaintly named grounds like Muglet Lane, home of Maltby Main, became part of the local football vocabulary. He was passionate about everything he saw, the players, the managers and the referees. And he could be opinionated, but never personal and always with the greater good of the game at heart.
I’d had the great pleasure of knowing this encyclopedia of grassroots football since the early 1980s when he would present a non-league round-up on Radio Hallam, where I was sports editor at the time.
He would gallop excitedly through it, boyish in his enthusiasm and always humorous with it. Such was the respect Brian commanded, he could afford total honesty. Not that this was calculated, such was his unassuming nature.
But what he said was duly noted, whether people agreed with it or not.
Brian would broadcast regularly and with great authority on BBC Radio Sheffield, having at one time reported on Doncaster Rovers for the station. Typically, this was in non-league days!
He was a one-time director/treasurer of Sheffield and Hallamshire County FA and latterly had been made president of the H-K-L North Midlands League in recognition of his great contribution to the sport.
But it was the man who people will remember, the guy whose eyes would light up on meeting, the sage who would follow your career and impart some snippet of wisdom or helpful advice.
Above all, he was a loving husband to Judith and a father whose family reflected his wholesome attitude to life. To say at a time like this that you had never heard a bad word about him might be to repeat one of life’s clichés, but it was absolutely true of Brian.
On behalf of the football family, and this newspaper and its readers, heartfelt condolences to the Bradley family. The thoughts of so many are with you.