The Eighties Revisited – 21/8/14

Stan BowlesThe Eighties – what memories does that decade still conjure up for those of us of a certain age?

They were probably the most formative years for me as they saw me take on most of the trappings of adulthood such as taking out a mortgage, moving abroad, buying a car, running a business and finally getting married, even though inside I still felt that I was a teenager – as indeed I still do!

It was the decade of Pac-Man, Rubik Cubes, Betamax VCRs, The AIDS pandemic and E.T.

Shoulder Pads, The launch of MTV, Christa McAuliffe and the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.

Michael Jackson’s glove, Live Aid, the assassinations of John Lennon, Indira Gandhi and Anwar Sadat, Human League and that wonderful video for “Don’t You Want Me?’

The Exxon Valdez oil spill, and ABC’s “The Lexicon Of Love”: thirty-two years on, and still for me, a truly unforgettable album.

These and many other such incidents, songs and videos have been seared into my memory where they will remain until my dying day.

As far as football is concerned, who can forget the pantomime villain Maradona’s goal as he slalomed through the entire England defence?

The first sponsored football shirts, the tragedies of Heysel and Hillsborough, the introduction of three points for a win and the dreaded Playoffs – so long Brentford’s nemesis, Holland’s Total Football and short shorts.

Ricky Villa’s mazy run that won the FA Cup for Spurs, Andy Gray’s Nat Lofthouse impression against Watford at Wembley and the fantastic Coventry v Spurs FA Cup Final.

blissAs for Brentford, the Eighties were a time of consolidation with the club remaining in the third tier of the Football League.

Progress seemed minimal with the club stagnating in the middle part of the decade and looking back now I was surprised at how low many of the home attendances were.

The managerial appointment of Steve Perryman revitalised the club, improved its level of professionalism and saw Brentford end the decade on an upward curve with seemingly much to look forward to in the Nineties.

Much of the excitement and pride came from the Cup competitions, culminating in the 1985 Freight Rover Trophy Final appearance at Wembley with so many lapsed supporters coming out of the woodwork and then the incredible march to the FA Cup Quarter Final in 1989, and the humbling of Manchester City and Blackburn Rovers before bowing out bravely at Anfield against the best club in the country.

The aforementioned Manchester City and Blackburn games showed how well the team could perform, combining skill, pace, organisation and a tenacious will to win.

But rather than thinking about the Brentford teams of that era, I prefer to think back and reminisce about some of the great characters and talents who graced Griffin Park during the Eighties.

News spread far slower in those days long before the internet, wall-to-wall digital television and radio and social media and I well remember coming in from playing cricket late one Saturday evening in August 1980 and switching on my television set and seeing to my amazement that Brentford were being featured on ITV’s Big Match and, what’s more, we had managed an impressive and unexpected 3-2 away win at Walsall.

Was this really Brentford wearing an unfamiliar sky blue away kit and if so who was this fearsome long-haired, bearded figure marauding around the midfield leaving bodies prostrate in his wake, with his earring flashing in the late Summer sunshine like a Norse God?

That was my introduction to Terry Hurlock who later joined Stan Bowles and Chris Kamara to form the best midfield I have ever seen play for the club.

Stan Bowles and Neil Smillie were two of the most skilful players to grace Griffin Park delighting with their massive ability, brio and sheer joie de vivre.

man cWho can forget Smillie’s wonder goal against Shrewsbury after a breathtaking box-to-box run and the utter class of Bowles who combined a marvellous ability to see a pass with unflagging effort in the cause?

Watching Brentford take penalties has understandably always been a source of great stress to me over the years and I have never known whether to focus my attention on the goal or fix it on a point five feet over the crossbar where the ball was next likely to appear once it had been struck, yet with Bowles I never worried.

His ability and seeming arrogance meant that a goal was inevitable as he swaggered up to the spot and gently rolled the ball to where the goalkeeper wasn’t, and until photographic evidence is produced to prove otherwise, I still refuse to accept that he actually missed a penalty at Wrexham back in 1983!

There were many other massive talents like Francis Joseph – how far could he have progressed if the injury demons had not struck? Robbie Cooke, Andy Sinton, Keith Jones, Roger Joseph, Richard Cadette and Gary Blissett.

What about Tony Mahoney?

Seemingly in the last chance saloon with his career petering out, and on the dole when signed on trial after a undistinguished spell at a club I will not mention, who suddenly transformed himself into the second coming of Roy Race until injury cruelly intervened.

Fred Callaghan certainly had an eye for a player and was responsible for bringing great talent to Griffin Park and unearthing Non-League gems such as Hurlock, Gary Roberts and David Crown.

Brentford has always been a family club with players showing loyalty and an affinity with the supporters and long-serving heroes such as Gary Phillips, the immortal Bob Booker, Terry Evans, Jamie Bates, Simon Ratcliffe and Keith Millen were all stalwarts of the Eighties.

We all have unabashed favourites and mine was Allan Cockram.

Those of you who know me will surely snigger and accuse me of total self-delusion and wishful thinking when I say how much I wanted to have hair like Allan’s plus also a modicum of his footballing ability – surely not too much to ask for?

Of course he was a luxury player but what pleasure he gave with his passing, bamboozling free kicks, his exuberance and obvious love of the game, which transmitted itself to every supporter.

lpoolOn the other hand I can well remember my sense of frustration at some of the players who tried their best but for whom seemingly nothing ever came off.

Paul McCullough, Lee Frost, Graham Wilkins, Keith Bowen, Ian Bolton, Tom Finney, Steve Butler, Ian Holloway, Wayne Turner, the dreaded David Geddis, and even Les Ferdinand – the players we loved to hate.

In retrospect I would like to offer them all my belated thanks for all their efforts and apologies for the boos!

That being said, poor Ashley Bayes made his debut right at the end of the decade, but maybe it’s best if we leave him for the 90s!

There was also a massive development indicative of the changes in society one memorable October’s day in 1987 when the Brentford team for the first time ever included five black players in Roger Stanislaus, Keith Jones, Roger Joseph, Paul Smith and Paul Williams and I was proud to say that very few supporters even batted an eyelid.

A decade of mixed fortunes perhaps, but one that brought me much joy whilst following my favourite club.

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