This week’s ‘Where are they now?’ segment focuses on former Irish International footballer and general cult hero, Gary Breen.
Gary Breen was born on 12th December 1973 in Hendon, London. Breen started his fledgling career at Charlton Athletic but never made a first team appearance for the Addicks. He left Charlton to join Maidstone United in 1991. At Maidstone, Breen made his debut at the age of 17 and went on to make 19 appearances in his one and only season with the club. Breen then moved onto Gillingham where he played 51 times in two seasons.
His form at Gillingham earned him a move to Peterborough United and he then went on to sign for Birmingham City for £250,000. After less than 12 months at St. Andrews, Breen moved to Coventry City for a fee of £2.5 million. He was a major success at Coventry, playing five seasons at Highfield Road, four of which were in the Premier League. He was released by Coventry in the lead up to the 2002 World Cup, a tournament Breen would save his best performances for.
Breen was born to Irish parents in London and was brought up dreaming of playing for the Republic of Ireland. His form at Birmingham earned him a call up to Mick McCarthy’s squad.
He made his international debut against Croatia in June 1996. While at Coventry he cemented a starting place in the team and was a vital player in Ireland’s team at the 2002 World Cup, playing every minute of Ireland’s games and scoring against Saudi Arabia.
Following his outstanding performances at the World Cup, Gary Breen was linked to several top European clubs including Barcelona and Inter Milan. In a 2009 interview with Sky Sports, Breen claimed that he had agreed a move to Inter Milan but failed a medical.
After the World Cup he joined West Ham, but after they were relegated from the Premier League he moved on again.
The Irish international signed for Sunderland on a free transfer, where he linked up with former Ireland manager Mick McCarthy. At Sunderland he was made club captain and they were promoted back to the Premier League for the 2004/2005 season.
However, the Black Cats were relegated after just one season back in the top flight and Breen was released.
McCarthy, now manager at Wolverhampton Wanderers signed Breen again after his release from Sunderland. It was during this season that Breen finished his international career after he was not selected by Steve Staunton for a friendly game against Holland. He earned 63 caps for Ireland and was seen as a cult hero for many of their fans. The song ‘We all dream of a team of Gary Breens’ to the tune of ‘Yellow Submarine’ being a particular favourite of Irish fans.
In his second season at Molineux, Breen was made club captain. It was a frustrating season for Breen, missing several months of the season. In March 2008, himself and McCarthy had a major falling out and he was released at the end of the season following Wolves’ failure to make the Championship Play Offs.
Breen joined Barnet as a player/coach in December 2008. The following year he was promoted to assistant manager, before leaving the club in 2010. Breen was appointed as first team coach at former club Peterborough United in June 2013.
He may be gone from the international scene, but Gary Breen will forever live on in the memories of the Irish fans that chant his name at every opportunity.
We all dream of a…..
John Keogh, Pundit Arena.