Michael Branch interview: I saw Goodison from prison van and thought: where did it all go wrong?

Tuesday, 19 November, 2019 27comments  |  Jump to last
Paul Joyce talks to the former Everton striker on the collapse of his career, his time in prison for drug trafficking, and the way in which he is painstakingly rebuilding his life as a counsellor with Everton in the Community.

» Read the full article at The Times [£]

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Anton Walsh
1 Posted 19/11/2019 at 23:03:01
It seems you need to subscribe to read the full article.
Steve Ferns
2 Posted 19/11/2019 at 23:10:17
Sadly so Anton. As a 16 year old, he seemed destined for greatness. He was fast, he broke record after record in the youth setup. It looked like he'd be our Fowler. In the end he had 17 starts, he came off the bench 29 times, and he scored just 3 goals. I don't know what happened to never fulfil his potential. Maybe it was a tough start coupled with a loss of confidence. But that would not explain how he tumbled down the divisions and how at the age of around 25, he was suddenly playing non-league football for Chester. I don't recall him having a bad injury either. I'd be genuinely interested to know what happened here. Does anyone else have a clue?

I suspect the article will talk about his drug issues. In the past he has said how he couldn't leave the big time footballer lifestyle behind and the only way to maintain that was through the drugs world and that he got sucked in and made some very poor choices.

I'd love to read some facts or theories on what happened to him.

Clive Rogers
3 Posted 19/11/2019 at 23:16:10
This is so sad, I feel for him. There are so many youngsters who don't make the grade and players who have retired who struggle to cope with the relatively mundane ordinary life. Drugs, gambling, drink and pursuit of easy money seem to be their downfall if they don't get the help they need.
Clive Rogers
4 Posted 19/11/2019 at 23:36:41
Steve, his record tells his story and the fact is that at senior level he just wasn't a goal scorer. Nowhere in his career did he get a decent number of goals.
Steve Ferns
5 Posted 19/11/2019 at 23:49:29
If that was really the case, that he was simply not good enough, then why did Howard Kendall throw him into one of the biggest games of the year for his debut at the age of 16, namely Old Trafford on Boxing Day? Surely he had shown in training that he had something special to give him a debut at 16?

He was lightning quick. A lot of his goals at youth level did not require anything more than a tap in, as he rounded the keeper or tapped it home. He never seemed to get into those situations in the first team, and he lacked a shot, as his pace always took him close to the goal, so perhaps he never developed his long range shooting and his pace and touch were not as effective at the top level. That said, he kept getting chances under Kendall, Smith and Wolves saw enough to buy him.

I'm convinced there was talent there and it had to be his off-the-field problems that haunted him after his career starting during his laying days. If anyone reads the article and he gives his take on it, let us know.

Steve Ferns
6 Posted 19/11/2019 at 23:58:41
This was an old interview (12 months ago) with John Paul Kissock on where it went wrong. He seems to think it was like a sliding doors moment. That someone got a chance in the first team that he didn't and had he it, he'd have gone on to make it, but because he did not he ended up in non-league.

It doesn't make sense that there can be such a fine line between Premier League star and non-league. But George Green is another who thinks he made it big in a parallel universe where he kept his head screwed on and lived his life off the pitch right.


Alan J Thompson
7 Posted 20/11/2019 at 01:39:38
How does the number of young players at Everton ending up with drug problems compare to the general community or other clubs?

It seems to stretch back as far as Billy Kenny although I would regard Albert Dunlop's purple hearts as more "performance enhancing" rather than "recreational" albeit neither seems an appropriate description.

I'm not saying that it is an Everton problem alone or that any blame is attached to the club but it does seem a recurring problem and is it due to lifestyle, money or just a trend in general?

Don Alexander
8 Posted 20/11/2019 at 02:22:07
Folks, the city of Liverpool was put into deliberately "managed decline" under early-term Thatcher, after decades of innocuous decline beforehand as a result of the colossal debts incurred by WW 1 & 2, together with a shift in import/export logistics nationwide in the '50s, '60s and '70s.

In all my 64 years, I cannot remember a player who was both a mentally and physically impressive figure generated by our club, not even Rooney.

Until someone tells me better, who from our youth system has ever achieved even a good career in the Premier League other than Rooney? (And had it not been for his oafishness and upbringing, he might have been up there with Cruyff as a European legend.) I can't remember anyone. Not one single player, with due (albeit modest) recognition of Shane Duffy.

Shane Duffy, the second-best player we've produced this century. Go figure.

Danny Broderick
9 Posted 20/11/2019 at 02:43:41

Let me refresh your memory a bit!

Who from our youth system has ever achieved even a good career in the Premier League other than Rooney?

Off the top of my head, since the Premier League started:

Davie Unsworth
Michael Ball
Franny Jeffers
Leon Osman
Tony Hibbert
Ross Barkley

Various other also rans:
Danny Cadamarteri
James Vaughan
Victor Anichebe
Jack Rodwell
John Lundstram

Other players to have made it elsewhere from the Everton academy:

Joey Barton
Leighton Baines
Phil Jagielka

There's far more than just Rooney and Shane Duffy!

Alan J Thompson
10 Posted 20/11/2019 at 02:55:36
Don (#8); It is difficult to name many but would you include Mustafi and Dier?

And would you include Davies, Kenny, Forshaw and Lundstram as future good careers?

And wouldn't any professional sportsman be regarded as physically impressive?

I have kept this to the Premier League but I'm a little puzzled as to the EPL and 64 years.

Jim Bennings
11 Posted 20/11/2019 at 07:58:51
I was shocked to hear this because I remember the lad being interviewed when he'd just made the breakthrough, he seemed rather timid and shy in personality.

Clearly he went badly off the rails and got involved with dirty no hoper no marks after his career went down the pan.

I don't think Branch was ever physically strong or sharp enough for a top flight career, he came through in a cloud of expectation and overhype which probably done more harm than good but after a few months it was evident he was no Robbie Fowler.

Back then were the days when very season we seemed to bring a kid striker through but finally hit fourth time lucky with Rooney in 2002.

Clive Rogers
12 Posted 20/11/2019 at 09:52:36
Joe Royle hyped him up massively, but the season before he was promoted to the first team he got only 7 goals in the Central League, I recall.
Dave Williams
13 Posted 20/11/2019 at 10:31:17
It struck me at the time that we were desperate for our own young striker because of what was happening at Liverpool. Branch was the only one we had and in all of the player interviews they pointed to Branch as the one most likely to make it.

To me, he had pace but not like Owen, he wasn't a poacher and never big enough for a target man. Not quite good enough, from what I recall, but a prime target for the wrong uns who latch onto young lads with cash to burn.

It is so easy for these young players to turn to drink or drugs or slacken off in training thinking they have made it because they are earning big money.

Branch, Kenny, Green are just three who fell by the wayside. A sad waste.

Kase Chow
14 Posted 20/11/2019 at 18:33:45
My recollection of Branch was that he was a decent player. Didn't see enough of him to know if he was more than that

Didn't seem to get a run of games which probably would have helped him. Was listening to an interview with Gary Lineker who said he himself was a late developer and he doesn't think he'd have made it if he was a ‘star' at 19

We are so desperate for success we herald players superstars way before they've proven anything. I recall Jack Rodwell being cited as better than Stevie G!!!! Rodwell had 1 great game v Manure and well that's my stand out memory of him

Meanwhile we don't really acknowledge the Osmans or the Hibberts and appreciate just how hard they work to retain a first team place

I'm making out like it's the fault of us fans apologies it's not. But in general our team (and our youngsters) play with so much pressure because we want so badly to be good, nay, to be great again

Pressure is stifling to creativity for all but the most mentally strong. We're a tough crowd (for understandable reasons). But that's a difficult arena in which to achieve great things in

Paul Birmingham
15 Posted 20/11/2019 at 19:06:52
It's hard to fathom but from, my recollection, I think the lad had been over-hyped and didn't have the confidence or belief to be transitioning to the first team.

Big Joe's insight would be interesting on how and why, but good to see that Michael's hopefully turned his life around for the better.

Ste Traverse
16 Posted 20/11/2019 at 19:18:32
Overhyped by the club was our so-called 'answer to Robbie Fowler'. I never fell for it as I didn't see much to suggest he was going be anywhere near Fowler's level.

I recall one of his early games at home to Sheff Wed when Andrei Kanchelskis scored at the Street End and Branch just gave Kanchelskis a dirty look and refused to congratulate him in any way.

Branch never really cut it at any level but glad to see he's getting his life back on track after his well-documented problems.

Ste Traverse
17 Posted 20/11/2019 at 19:27:52
Steve Fearns #5

That was Francis Jeffers, not Branch, who Howard Kendall threw on at Old Trafford on Boxing Day 1997. Branch had already long since made his debut by then.

Phil (Kelsall) Roberts
18 Posted 20/11/2019 at 21:20:23
With due respect to Michael Branch – he was an athlete. He was fast.

I always felt Jeffers was a better player (as was obviously Rooney) because he also had a "football brain".

You need both to make it at the top level and sadly Michael Branch – in my view – didn't. He was still a million times better than me but his natural ability was not high enough.

Steve Ferns
19 Posted 20/11/2019 at 21:25:34
Branch was the same age as me, whereas Jeffers is a couple of years younger. Branch made his debut in 1996, under Joe Royle against Man Utd. Then Jeffers did as well. I confused the two there, cheers Ste.
Kieran Kinsella
20 Posted 21/11/2019 at 03:37:04

JP Kissock is full of it. He claims his division 12 or whatever coach is the “best ever.” Plenty of other less-hyped kids quietly leave and go on to play at a decent level. Courtney Duffus and Hallam Hope are a couple of recent examples barely known about who are, post-Everton, playing league football making a nice living.

Andrew James
21 Posted 21/11/2019 at 23:32:15
Jeffers was the better player in the right system. I do recall Branch played for us in one game in the Autumn of 1996 and got rave reviews but didn't score. It was then you got the sense it might not happen for him.

I seem to remember it was around the time that Kanchelskis scored and nobody celebrated with him as he was weeks away from being off.

Steve Carse
22 Posted 22/11/2019 at 11:39:07
I had it with Branch when he missed two one-on-ones at Blackburn towards the end of a season in which we were in deep relegation trouble.
Dave Abrahams
23 Posted 22/11/2019 at 12:12:56
Dave (13), you had me going there mentioning Kenny, until I realised you meant Billy (a cracking lad by the way) and not Jonjo,who I expect to be back here next season, fighting for a regular place in the team.
Steve Ferns
24 Posted 22/11/2019 at 12:39:02
Dave, I hope Jonjoe is back next season too. But who to compete with? Coleman or Sidibe?
Peter Gorman
25 Posted 24/11/2019 at 18:41:52
Don - you remember Shane Duffy but forget Richard Dunne??
Jerome Shields
26 Posted 25/11/2019 at 07:25:52
Know a lad at 28 who earns £700 in his hand, moved back with his parents. Spends £350 week or probably more, on his Cocaine habit.

Rehabilitation costs £5, 500 for 12 weeks. It takes two years of personally committed rehabilitation to get clear, you can guess the cost. The other way is going down the NHS route which is more about maintenance and management. The resources are not available for full rehabiltation.

Branch has achieved a lot to have turned things around. Well done.

Paul Smith
27 Posted 25/11/2019 at 07:34:54
Jerome do you work in the addiction field you seem aware of the treatment system private and state funded ? Just interested.

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