I’m writing this article in my study and whenever the words dry up and I am desperately seeking inspiration, I just look at the wall behind the computer where hangs a picture of one of the best Brentford squads of all time, the team of 1935/36 which competed in our first season in Division One.
The squad oozed talent with players of the calibre of Jack Holliday, Joe James, Duncan McKenzie, Leslie Smith, Arthur Bateman, Dai Hopkins, Billy Scott and Ernie Muttitt, all of them true greats and Brentford legends.
Before the War brought an end to Brentford’s aspirations and ambitions, the squad, strong as it already was, was bolstered still more with an array of Internationals such as Bobby Reid, Dave McCulloch, Joe Crozier, George Eastham, Dai Richards and Bill Gorman to provide us with a playing staff of unprecedented quality and ability.
Over the course of the near fifty years I have followed the club I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to see players of rare ability pull on the Brentford shirt – along of course with a load of dross!
Names such as Stan Bowles, Terry Hurlock, Andy Sinton and Hermann Hreidarsson spring readily to mind, but in truth they have been few in number, something which accurately reflects the fact that I have only seen the Bees perform outside the bottom two divisions for one forlorn season.
The gifted all-international trio of Johnny Brooks, Bill McAdams and John Dick were before my time, and Brooks certainly was a magician with a football, subjugating it to his whims, and he too fully deserves to be included in the pantheon of Brentford legends.
I was reminded of the strength, depth and quality of the immortal 1935 squad when I started to think more closely about the players who represent the club today and are about to embark upon their final preparations for tomorrow’s epoch making first Championship game of the season against local rivals Charlton Athletic.
Please indulge me if I now take the time and trouble to list our First team squad in full:
1 Richard LEE
2 Kevin O’CONNOR
4 Adam FORSHAW
5 Tony CRAIG
6 Harlee DEAN
7 Sam SAUNDERS
8 Jonathan DOUGLAS
9 Scott HOGAN
10 Moses ODUBAJO
12 Alan McCORMACK
14 Marcos TÉBAR
15 Stuart DALLAS
16 Jack BONHAM
18 Alan JUDGE
19 Andre GRAY
20 Toumani DIAGOURAGA
21 Alex PRITCHARD
22 Jake REEVES
25 Raphaël CALVET
26 James TARKOWSKI
27 David BUTTON
28 Nico YENNARIS
29 Charlie ADAMS
30 Josh CLARKE
33 Montell MOORE
34 Daniel O’SHAUGHNESSEY
39 Nick PROSCHWITZ
I have wracked my brains and my fading memory but on final reflection I cannot believe that Brentford have possessed so many players of such ability since those heady days of almost eighty years ago.
Some of the football played last season in Division One was of a calibre not seen at Griffin Park for over fifty years – I have certainly never seen anything approaching it in my time watching the club.
Sometimes I could hardly believe that it was a Brentford team that I was watching – an opinion shared by my Premiership team supporting mates when I brought them to Griffin Park.
Intricate passing moves, players running at opponents, a relentless attacking policy, strength in the tackle, accuracy of passing, players who have resurrected the long lost art of dribbling.
This team had almost everything and were so so good to watch that it was easy to fall in love with them.
And guess what, hard though it is to believe, the squad for the new season is even stronger than the one that ended the old one.
Certainly we will need more ability and strength in depth to overcome the far stiffer challenges and stronger opposition that we will shortly be facing but I have few doubts that the team will be up to the task and will not just survive but actually thrive at this new level.
Trotta, Saville and Donaldson did us proud last season and will all be missed but their replacements are all of equally high quality.
Alan Judge and Marcos Tabar will provide experience, know how, calmness and crucial ball retention in midfield and the Moses Odubajo, Andre Gray and Scott Hogan troika will terrorise defences with their pace, dribbling, running on and off the ball as well as their sheer brio and youthful enthusiasm.
If Plan A doesn’t come off then we can throw on the towering Nick Proschwitz to provide an aerial threat up front, as well as Tommy Smith, who has seen it all before, to calm everyone down and get us playing again.
Proschwitz has much to prove given his previous lack of success at Hull City and I suspect that we have signed a player who will be hungry and determined to succeed and will have a formidable season.
Alex Pritchard is still learning the game but will be out to dazzle and, given consistency and discipline, his magic will create chances and goals, many of them spectacular, for both himself and his colleagues.
He will certainly light up the division and perhaps even take it by storm.
If we lose Adam Forshaw – on our terms and our terms only – then it will be a sad day but one I am sanguine about.
He too would add enormous value to our squad but I have no doubt that the Warburton/McParland/Benham Brains Trust will produce another rabbit from their hat and, if necessary, a suitable replacement will be found, perhaps initially on loan.
The goalkeeper is sound and his accuracy of distribution is perfect for our system and the defence combines ruggedness and tough tackling with the patient passing ability from the back that the manager demands.
Chairman Cliff Crown responded to my article of a couple of days ago urging me to temper optimism with a sense of reality particularly given the problems imposed by conforming to the requirements of Financial Fair Play.
Maybe he is correct and consolidation of our place in the Championship would be a solid achievement.
So what do I expect?
Firstly that we continue to develop our footballing ability and positive attacking style of play. The players must show respect but no fear – we are there on merit.
We will be a breath of fresh air in this division and whilst there will be times that we come under the cosh and are forced to defend for our lives, I fully expect us to take the initiative to the opposition both at home and away.
Maybe we will come a cropper from time to time but I expect our crowd to be patient, supportive, appreciative and also forgiving where necessary.
The team is young and inexperienced in parts and will make some naive mistakes.
None of us quite knows the standard of the opposition we will be facing, however we will be coming up against international players in almost every game we play and there will be no easy matches or pushovers.
Most of all I am just feeling so bubbly and excited about what lies ahead.
My eyes are open but I really do not think that we have anything to be afraid about.
We will be fully prepared and ready for the campaign and this Brentford team will comfortably establish itself in the new division and make many new friends given our quality and positive approach.
There is still some space on my study wall and maybe, just maybe, there will be a new team picture going up on it very soon, next to the one from 1935.