I have been enjoying Peter Gilham’s daily description of the cutting edge fitness facilities available at Brentford’s training camp in Florida so when I saw a recent thread on the subject on the Griffin Park Grapevine, my thoughts turned to how the squad prepared themselves last time they were promoted to the second tier of English football back in 1992 and how it compares to this preseason.
Brentford came up on the rails to snatch the Third Division title by winning their last six matches of a pulsating 1991/92 season. A team turbocharged by the goals of Dean Holdsworth and Gary Blissett held off the challenge of rivals Birmingham City and sent their supporters into delirium.
I have just gone through the local papers and also The Big Brentford Book of the 90s in order to confirm my memories of that Summer of 1992.
Brentford’s preparation for their first season back in the second tier of English football since their relegation in 1954 differed by not one iota from what was customary at that time.
There was no preseason tour and certainly no special training camp.
Instead the team prepared for their new challenge with lung-bursting runs and stamina training in Richmond Park as had been the case for many years beforehand.
Surely some big name foreign team was enticed to play us in a preseason friendly?
Indeed that was in fact the case as we travelled to a foreign land to meet the might of Merthyr Tydfil and came away chastened after being hammered by four goals to one.
The only consolation from that defeat was that new signing and Dean Holdsworth’s replacement Murray Jones paid off the first instalment of his £75,000 transfer fee from Grimsby by notching our consolation goal.
That was, incredibly, his only goal in our colours, ignoring a one-on-one he scored against England International keeper David Seaman in a behind closed doors friendly against Arsenal.
Our opponents that preseason were Chesham, Merthyr Tydfil, Windsor & Eton, Queens Park Rangers, Slough, Uxbridge, Woking and Harrow Borough.
Eight non league teams (Oh alright then, seven non league teams plus QPR) were considered sufficient preparation for us to face the might of Newcastle United and West Ham United in the coming season!
The fans did their bit too with over five thousand attending the “Fun Day” in May and a record two thousand two hundred season tickets were sold.
The average attendance was almost eight and a half thousand, a figure unequalled since.
As for the team, we were holed beneath the waterline when Dean Holdsworth was transferred with unseemly haste to Wimbledon soon after the 1991/92 season ended.
There are claims and counter claims about how hard the club tried to keep him or whether they were reconciled to his departure, or indeed wished to cash in on their star asset.
What is certain is that the inadequate fee we received for him was not wisely invested and if strong rumours that we failed to insist on a sell-on clause are in fact correct, then that would surely sum up the haphazard way that the club was run back in those days.
Not much came in to strengthen what was thought to be a pretty decent squad.
As part of the Holdsworth deal Wimbledon unloaded Detzi Krusynski and Mickey Bennett onto us.
When on loan the previous season, Detzi had played a key role in our late promotion surge as his calmness on the ball and passing ability made him stand out in what was a very direct team, who got the ball forward quickly and without fuss.
Unfortunately he proved to have an aversion to training and time keeping and he soon drifted away from the club – a real waste of talent.
As for Mickey Bennett, he started out like a house on fire as a direct and goal hungry right winger and we thought we had discovered a new star, but he too flattered to deceive and perhaps his most accurate shot was on the jaw of team mate Joe Allon after a training ground spat the following season.
We all waited agog for Dean Holdsworth’s replacement, tried and failed to sign John Goodman from Millwall and finally, one sultry Summer’s day, the news broke, we had signed Murray – Who?
Murray Jones was apparently a friend of our star defender Keith Millen and was a journeyman striker who counted Exeter City and Grimsby amongst his previous teams.
His goalscoring record was non-existent and to add insult to injury we forked out seventy-five thousand pounds on a player that Grimsby supporters gleefully told us was about to be released on a free transfer.
Not one of our proudest moments as Jones proved to be as incompetent as he was inept and, as previously remarked, never scored a competitive goal for the club.
To put things into context, Manager Phil Holder was allowed to spend no more than ten to fifteen percent of the money brought in for Holdsworth on his replacement – and this was to strengthen a team about to compete in a higher standard of football.
That surely speaks for itself and eerily echoes 1972, when the club, newly promoted to the Third Division, shamefully sold star striker John O’Mara against the wishes of manager Frank Blunstone, greedily accepted the first offer of £50,000 from Blackburn Rovers, replaced him with the utterly appalling Stan Webb and deservedly suffered relegation.
Anyone see a pattern repeating itself?
The most interesting newcomer was midfielder Grant Chalmers who came on trial from the Channel Islands but his vision and passing ability didn’t fit in with how manager Holder wanted his team to play.
The squad totalled twenty-five but that figure included a number of youngsters and first year professionals who were hardly to figure in the first team.
It is interesting to look at the team photograph and count the support staff. They totalled five, with Manager Phil Holder backed up by Player-Coach Wilf Rostron, Graham Pearce, Joe Gadston and physio, Roy Clare.
Now contrast that situation with what is the case now.
Over five thousand season tickets sold.
A large and ever improving squad packed full of emerging young talent.
Again, we have lost our top scorer straight after promotion, but I confidently expect that the ghosts of Stan Webb and Murray Jones will be fully lain when Clayton’s replacement eventually arrives at the club.
Training facilities to die for in a superb training camp in Florida.
Top level foreign competition in Nice and Espanyol who will provide a stern test to our squad in forthcoming friendly matches and a first class and growing support team of fitness experts, analysts, nutritionists and specialist coaches.
The comparison with 1992 is boggling.
As golfer Gary Player memorably stated: “the harder I practice the luckier I get.”
Let’s just hope that Brentford’s incredible organisation and preseason planning this Summer bears fruit and that we end the coming campaign in a far higher position than was the case in 1993 when we suffered relegation on the last day of a torrid season.