How many of you died-in-the-wool Brentford supporters remember dear old Jimmy Sirrell?
For those of you who don’t recognise that wonderful buck-toothed grin, Jimmy was chief cook and bottle washer at Griffin Park way back in the late sixties.
A tenacious Scottish inside forward at Celtic, Bradford, Brighton and Aldershot, Jimmy eventually ended up at Brentford as trainer.
A trainer in those days was generally a medically unqualified loyal retainer whose job was to run onto the pitch and squeeze a freezing cold wet sponge onto any injured part of a player’s body.
Some did more harm than good but Jimmy progressed beyond that role when in September 1967, after the departure of Billy Gray, as last man standing, he became team manager.
But with the parsimony that Brentford was justifiably renowned for in those difficult days soon after the abortive QPR takeover, he was not allowed to relinquish his old post and for a couple of years a minuscule first team squad was led by the doughty Sirrell who combined the roles of manager, coach, scout, physio and trainer.
It was an immense challenge but one that the taciturn Scot, a man of few words who actively discouraged media attention (not that anyone could ever understand or decipher what little he said), rose to with flying colours.
He had just seventeen players, no reserve or junior team and a back-up staff which consisted of Club Secretary Denis Piggott and Ann Lamb on the administrative side, a few dedicated volunteers – and that was it.
As Sirrell stated at the time: “Griffin Park was like a ghost town some days, so few people were around. I even had to turn my hand to washing the kit at times.”
Eventually he had had enough and quite understandably Jimmy Sirrell rejoined former Brentford Chairman Jack Dunnett at Notts County where he totally justified his move by eventually leading the Magpies into the top division and becoming a Meadow Lane great.
Jimmy Sirrell was a true footballing legend, but his versatility was by no means unique and I well remember the stories about Harlepool manager from the mid-fifties, Fred Westgarth, who in quiet moments used to pot pigeons with his shotgun from the roof of the main stand at Victoria Park!
So why remember Jimmy Sirrell today?
His name came back to me when I read the announcement on the Brentford FC website of the hiring earlier this week of Matt Springham who joined the club from Brighton as Head of Conditioning, replacing Chris Haslam who followed Uwe Rosler to Wigan.
Matt will head up a three-man conditioning team incorporating Tom Perryman and James Perdue and will be working with Neil Greig, Head of Medical and the Medical Department.
I thought then that I would check upon the number of support staff currently employed at the club.
The list is long and varied comprising such titles as:
Development Squad Manager,
Youth Team Manager,
Assistant Youth Team Manager,
Head of Academy Operations,
Head of Academy Recruitment,
Education and Welfare Officer,
Head of Performance Analysis,
Head of Medical, Head of Conditioning,
First Team Physiotherapist,
Academy Conditioning Coach,
Assistant Kit Man
Player Liaison Manager
The list is endless and boggling to us traditionalists and emphasises the total professionalism of the club nowadays where nothing is left to chance and every opportunity is taken to gain a competitive advantage given that the margins between success and failure are so slim.
Matthew Benham has to be thanked yet again for his largesse in funding this massive contingent of back room bods but the ends so far more than justify the means given the results on the pitch, the number of late goals scored by virtue of the squad’s impressive fitness levels, the ever diminishing injury list and the plethora of hungry young Academy graduates pushing for a professional contract.
Cynics might say that as in Parkinson’s Law, that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion, but despite the numbers this is a close knit team where everybody knows his role and pulls his weight and there is a development pathway for everyone.
Jimmy Sirrell is probably looking down enviously from above, wishing that he had received similar amounts of support but those were different times when football was far less scientific and the club was run on a shoestring.
But for all their defined roles and professionalism, one question remains unanswered at Griffin Park – who is responsible for shooting the pigeons?