Time Person of the Century - Ronnie O’Brien!
(Posted on 25/02/16)
Time person of the Century you think of the great and good who made a difference to the planet in more than one way. Ghandi made peace and liberated the oppressed in India, Churchill dragged the small island of the United Kingdom through a hellish war and came out free on the other side and Martin Luther King campaigned and eventually gave his life in a bid for equality of African Americans less than a century ago.
So what other names belong with them in terms of sport? Muhammad Ali? Jessie Owens? How about Ronnie O’Brien? Yeah we didn’t know him either. However when the famous magazine Time ran a poll for the ‘Person of the Century’, his name kept cropping up, so much that the magazine changed it’s rules and struck him from the list. Ronnie O’Brien is an enigma in American sport, and you probably didn’t even know it.
Born in Ireland in 1979, this ex Middlesbrough trainee was released by the Boro in 1999 and was expected to fade out of the game. However this wasn’t to be the case as Italy’s flagship club Juventus came knocking. Nobody expected it, let alone O’Brien himself, a County Wicklow born midfielder released by a Premier League club who at the time’s most recent success was a 1998 FA Cup Final appearance.
Don’t get us wrong, he was a talent, part of the prestigious Irish Under-16’s that won the European Championships alongside the likes of Robbie Keane, Richard Dunne and Damien Duff.
Juve seemed to have high hopes for the youngster loaning him out several times to the likes of AC Lugano, Crotone, Lecco and even ended up washing up back on British shores turning out six times for Scottish Premiership side Dundee United. Dundee proved to be his final call in 2002 as the Old Lady didn’t renew him contract following four years in Turin, and he moved stateside.
They say everything’s bigger in Texas, and it seemed it was here in the fair city of Dallas that O’Brien’s career would take off over four season’s as US Soccer began to take off, but way before the likes of Pirlo, Gerrard, Beckham and co, O’Brien was a pioneer.
This shirt from his first season is a part of US Soccer history, where the sport began to be taken seriously in the States. O’Brien’s opening games showed his ability, where he was a standout member of the side and a fan favourite, putting the Irishman in demand.
He’d go on to make over 100 appearances before moving north of the border to play for Toronto FC in 2007 and finishing off in 2008 for San Jose Earthquakes. But his time at Dallas was his most successful in a huge period for the sport in the country. As can be seen this shirt is the definition of retro and defines the early noughties, with kits in the MLS now modern and more in keeping with new wave technology put into kits in Europe and South America.
His number can clearly be seen on the front, something the American style defines and is extremely rare to see, this is an item that doesn’t crop up at all often and seriously won’t last long.
Here at Vintagefootballshirts.com, we love the obscure, the weird and the wonderful, and that’s what this shirt is, a story of one of sports greats. He may never have won the World Cup or even the MLS, he was in the team of the year from 2004 through to 2007, but most importantly, he’s our person of the year.