Gillingford – Part Two – 5/7/14

Yesterday I had a look at the players who have signed for the Bees from Gillingham over the past few years – and a pretty motley crew they mostly are!

Nicky Forster excepted, none of them really made a lasting impression on the club or supporters and, if truth be told, we have not really been the recipients of too much quality from the Medway.

But it is when you look at the moves that have been made in the opposite direction you can see that there is a totally different story to tell and one that has subtly changed over the years.

The first thing to remark upon is how many players have left us to join the Gills.

Without taking too much time to think, I came up with the following names over the past twenty or so years:

Neil Smillie

Simon Ratcliffe

Barry Ashby

Paul Smith

Robert Taylor

Brian Statham

Myles Weston

Leon Legge

Antonio German

Luke Norris

This list also doesn’t take into account Carl Asaba, Stuart Nelson and Alan Julian who made the same journey but by a more circuitous route via Reading, Orient and Stevenage respectively.

In the mid to late 1990’s Gillingham, managed by the combative Tony Pulis and then Peter Taylor, were ambitious, well funded by Paul Scally and on the rise.

They saw Brentford, holed beneath the water line, as easy pickings and a fertile hunting ground for proven talent.

In seemingly no time at all several of our best and most established players left Griffin Park for Gillingham, some on Bosman’s, others via tribunal rulings and transfers and the talent drain encompassed such talent as Paul Smith, Barry Ashby, Brian Statham, Robert Taylor and Carl Asaba.

Brentford supporters were left sickened and horrified by these moves which were seen as proof of our own lack of ambition as well as asset stripping on a large scale.

We felt bereft and denuded as so many of our favourites were allowed to leave the club and generally for far less than we felt they were worth.

Asaba and Taylor in particular formed a lethal twin spearhead that lit up Wembley in that never to be forgotten Playoff Final classic against Manchester City.

Paul Smith played over three hundred games for Gillingham as their midfield powerhouse and dynamo and Barry Ashby proved to be an impassable barrier at the back.

The thought remained that they should still have been performing in a red and white striped shirt rather than in the blue of Gillingham!

Eventually we rebuilt under Ron Noades after suffering relegation to the bottom division with a side of makeweights and nonentities, but the bitterness remained and Gillingham were seen as nouveau rich and deadly rivals purely out of our envy and jealousy.

Now the boot is very firmly on the other foot.

Gillingham eventually fell on hard times and are only now re-establishing themselves in the third flight.

We, on the other hand, are on the crest of a wave.

Instead of losing our best and brightest assets we are now sending Gillingham what we could unkindly term as our rejects.

That is not to say that they are anything other than very decent established third division footballers, but for the most part they had outlived their use and were not really up to the magic carpet ride that we are currently on under Uwe Rosler and now, Mark Warburton.

Leon Legge, in particular, was a firm fan favourite and there were certainly times last season when his height, strength and physicality, not forgetting his threat in opposing penalty areas, would have come in very useful, but for the most part, as an old-fashioned stopper, he was struggling to play with the ball at his feet – a pre-requisite in the new Brentford style of play.

Myles Weston too ran into one blind alley too many and was jettisoned despite being a match winner on his too infrequent good days.

Stuart Nelson was a firm favourite at Brentford under Martin Allen who also installed him as his first choice at Gillingham where he has been impressively consistent, managing to minimise the mad rushes of blood and poor kicking that so marred his spell at Griffin Park.

The latest export from Brentford, Luke Norris could in fact turn out to be absolutely anything.

He has already demonstrated that he has an excellent eye for goal and is a calm and clinical finisher capable of both the tap in and the spectacular alike.

He was highly unlikely to feature much in the Championship for Brentford next season and has quite understandably decided to move on.

He is unproven in League One and much responsibility will be thrust upon him at Gillingham where he will vie for a starting role.

Will he rise to the challenge?

Who knows, but I would be very surprised if he does not score at least ten goals for the Gills next season given his striking ability.

Time will tell and perhaps we will bemoan our not doing more to persuade Luke to stay and I suspect that we will in time come to regret his departure.

The road to and from Gillingham has been well trodden and perhaps there will be even more moves over the next year or so.

Maybe more of our squad players will end up plying their trade at the Priestfield Stadium and I certainly would not be unhappy if bright young talent such as Bradley Dack ended up coming in our direction.

Let’s wait and see but in the meantime the Gillingford connection is as strong as ever.


4 thoughts on “Gillingford – Part Two – 5/7/14

  1. Thankfully I wasn’t there that horrible day when we collapsed.I think Tony Cascarino and Terry Cochrane destroyed us but wasn’t Ian Bolton marshalling our defence – in which case, enough said!


  2. Although by no means a direct route from Griffin Park to Priestfield, what about the Brentford ‘reject’ who attained cult status at Gillingham at the age of 38 when he scored the winning goal in a Wembley play-off final … Steve Butler!

    Another one who got away? (no, probably not!!)

    (David Crown probably was in that category, though – a goal almost every other game at Gillingham)


  3. Steve Butler……… a name to conjure with. He scored a brilliant goal with a curling shot in a 3-3 draw with Derby and I thought “a star is born”. Next game his penalty kick v I think Chesterfield or wa sit York nearly hit the cornerflag. The term “enigma” was invented for him!

    David Crown – good player. We missed a trick there as he became a really good lower league striker, but we did get Chris Kamara in exchange for him though.


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