Born in 1959 in the Govan district of Glasgow, Brazil started his career in England with Ipswich Town in 1977, where he stayed until 1983, appearing a total of 210 times and scoring 80 goals. In 1978, he was loaned to the Detroit Express in the North American Soccer League, appearing in 21 regular season games and 3 playoff games, scoring 10 goals in total. He was not in the Ipswich squad that won the FA Cup in 1978, but was a key player by the 1980-81 season, when they won the UEFA Cup and finished runners-up in the league. Ipswich finished runners-up once more the following season, when Brazil scored 22 goals, making him the second-highest scorer in the First Division after Kevin Keegan, who scored 26 for Southampton. One of his finest games in an Ipswich shirt came on 16 February 1982, when he scored all of their goals in a 5–2 league win over Southampton.
Brazil moved to Tottenham Hotspur in March 1983 for £425,000, scoring six times in 10 appearances. In his only full season at White Hart Lane he scored three goals in 19 games, while his fellow Scot Steve Archibald scored 21 times. In June 1984 Brazil joined Manchester United for a fee of £625,000. He stayed with United for two seasons, but a recurring back injury restricted him to a total of 41 appearances in the League, the League Cup, the FA Cup and the UEFA Cup. Competition for places at Old Trafford was very fierce, with Irish International Frank Stapleton, Mark Hughes of Wales and Peter Davenport all in contention. Brazil scored just 16 goals during his time at the club.
In 1986, he was transferred to Coventry as a 'makeweight' in the deal that took Terry Gibson to Old Trafford. He made 15 league appearances, scoring twice, and was given a free transfer at the end of the season, with his back problems becoming more evident. Joining Queens Park Rangers, he made a total of four appearances, scoring once (the winner against Blackburn in the FA.Cup), and went on to play for Bury Town, Chelmsford City and Stambridge United. Brazil left British football in 1988 to join Wollongong City (now the South Coast Wolves), a New South Wales-based club in Australia's National Soccer League. He returned to Europe to spend his final season (1988–89) with FC Baden of the Swiss Challenge League, the country's second division, before his playing career ended due to the serious back injury that had plagued him for seasons.
Brazil made 13 appearances for Scotland, the most notable of which saw him playing in the World Cup finals in Spain. He was the youngest member of the Scotland squad at the finals. His debut came against Poland in a friendly in Warsaw on 28 May 1980, which Scotland lost 1–0. His last full international came on 1 June 1983 in a 2–0 Home Championship defeat to England. He scored once for the Scottish national side, in his penultimate appearance on 28 May 1983 in a 2–0 Home Championship win over Wales.
His international appearances were limited as Scotland had a number of other strikers at this time such as Kenny Dalglish, Charlie Nicholas, Mo Johnston, Steve Archibald, Paul Sturrock, Joe Jordan, Frank McAvennie, Davie Dodds, Frank McGarvey and Andy Gray who were preferred to Brazil.
Brazil was a sports analyst for breakfast TV station GMTV in its early days. Soon afterwards, was invited to join Andy Gray in The Boot Room on Sky Sports. When Sky Sports gained rights to the Football League and the Football League Cup, Brazil worked as a studio analyst and may have done some work as a co-commentator.
He later worked as a co-commentator on matches covered by Anglia TV in the 2001/02 season.
In the late 1990s, Brazil joined radio station Talk Radio to present evening sports programming, titled "It's Just Like Watching Brazil". When the station became Talk Sport in early 2000, he became co-presenter on the weekday 6–10am programme. The show has since been renamed the 'Alan Brazil Sports Breakfast'. He has had various co-presenters over the years, including Mike Parry, Graham Beecroft and Ronnie Irani. Since Irani left the show in 2013, there has been a variety of co-presenters including Matt Holland, Ray Parlour, David Ginola, Dominic Cork, Neil Warnock and Brian Moore.
Brazil missed a show in March 2004 and was dismissed by the station, but he was reinstated three weeks later.
While reacting to the death of actor Robin Williams in August 2014, Brazil said on his talkSPORT show that he did not have a lot of sympathy for people who commit suicide as it leaves their families in a "diabolical" situation. Many listeners criticised Brazil for not showing any regard for Williams having suffered from depression. The station apologised for offence caused and said it did not agree with his opinion.
In the early 1970s, Brazil was subject to abuse at Celtic Boys Club, by Jim Torbett. When Torbett was charged and tried in 1996, Brazil was a witness for the prosecution. Torbett was found guilty on child abuse charges and sentenced to two years in prison.
Having retired from English league football aged 27 due to injury, for several years in the 1990s Brazil ran the Black Adder pub in Ipswich. This business venture failed and Brazil was declared bankrupt.
A fan of horse racing, in 2003 he formed the Alan Brazil Racing Club based at Newmarket near to his home in Suffolk. In 2006 Brazil published a book co-written with Mike Parry called There's an Awful Lot of Bubbly in Brazil. This was followed in 2007 by Both Barrels from Brazil: My War Against the Numpties, again co-written with Parry.
In September 2007, Brazil was arrested near Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk on suspicion of drink-driving. He was convicted, banned from driving for 20 months, and given a £750 fine, as well as being ordered to pay £450 compensation to the court.
In 2011, Brazil brought out a range of bar nuts named 'Alan Brazil's Nuts', a play on Brazil nuts. The packages have barcodes readable by smartphones for accessing Talksport-related media. The nuts are produced at an Intersnack factory in Haverhill, Suffolk, with profits going to the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation. Robson, who died from cancer in 2009, was Brazil's manager at Ipswich. The range of salted and dry roasted peanuts was due to be extended to cashews and chilli nuts in 2012.Ipswich Town
UEFA Cup (1): 1980–81
UEFA Cup (1): 1983–84