The Nineties Revisited – Part One – 28/8/14

holdsworthThe Nineties – what a wonderful rollercoaster decade jam-packed with incident and activity and an intoxicating mixture of ups and downs.

No I am not talking about events at Griffin Park, but for those few who are interested, I am referring to my own life, as it was a decade that saw the birth of my two wonderful children, the launch of my own business as I had finally realised – long after everybody else, that I was totally unemployable, and to my total amazement seeing the company take off and thrive and allow me the opportunity to deal predominantly with a variety of football, cricket and rugby clubs as well as a number of major blue-chip brands – total joy rather than hard work!

Enough of the self-indulgence and back on track – the Nineties saw a similar level of excitement for Brentford, as the club seemingly either climbed a ladder or slithered down a snake pretty much every season throughout the decade.

The Nineties saw two promotions, three unsuccessful Playoff campaigns and two gut-wrenching relegations, as well as the sporadic highs and lows of the Webb and Noades eras.

As fans we were taken to the heights and then dropped down to the depths, and by the end of this momentous decade we ended up pretty much where we had started, back in the third tier of the Football League, but what a journey we had undertaken, one that we both relished and endured throughout this bitter sweet decade.

Phil Holder took over the managerial reins after the surprise resignation of Steve Perryman and his legacy should never be diminished or forgotten, as he was the only Brentford manager since Harry Curtis to lead the team to promotion to the second tier of English football – a feat now matched, of course, by Mark Warburton.

He changed the image of the club and its playing style and no longer were we a soft touch particularly away from home.

He inherited a wonderful platform from his former Spurs colleague but he moulded the team into one that was the antithesis of the diminutive manager, a ball playing midfielder during his own career at Spurs and Crystal Palace.

We were big and tough and very hard to beat and in Dean Holdsworth, Gary Blissett, Marcus Gayle and the immortal Neil Smillie we had a front four to fear.

Perhaps the Asaba, Forster, Taylor, Bent axis in those heady early days of the 1996-97 season comes close but for me Holder’s Heroes were the best front four we have had in my time supporting the club.

evansYes, we relied extensively on set pieces and long balls with the midfield often ignored, but we could also play, particularly in the opponents’ final third and 1991-92 was a season of total pride, joy and excitement as we timed our late run perfectly, came up on the rails, and took the title on that unforgettable final day of the season at Peterborough.

I can still taste the horrendously expensive bottle of Perrier-Jouet champagne that I contentedly glugged down to celebrate this massive achievement.

I might not have bothered had I known then what was to happen the following season!

We threw away our hard earned higher status after a catastrophic season of cock-ups on the pitch, in the dugout and in the boardroom which culminated in the final day capitulation at Bristol City which saw a relegation that never should have happened.

Everybody was to blame!

The memories are still painful as I believe that we had the ammunition but not the vision or foresight to remain and then consolidate in that division.

This was a massive opportunity thrown away and I will just touch on the following and allow others to fill in the details:

  • Murray Jones
  • Bigger
  • Buying Joe Allon rather than Stan Collymore
  • The opening day injury to colossus Terry Evans, and wasn’t it great to see him back on the Griffin Park pitch on Tuesday when he became a worthy member of the Brentford Hall of Fame
  • Missing key penalty kicks – now where have I read that one before?
  • Marcus Gayle’s season defining late open goal misses against Newcastle and Sunderland
  • Making late, irrelevant panic buys perhaps better suited to Masters Football

I could go on, but I will digress:

90sI heard a story that apparently came from a Charlton Athletic player who performed at Birmingham City on the final day of that calamitous season.

Birmingham needed to win to escape the drop and Charlton had nothing to play for.

We had long since raised the white flag at Ashton Gate and were relying upon our fellow Londoners to do us a massive favour and save us from relegation.

No such luck, as allegedly the Charlton team who had dominated a scoreless first half at St Andrew’s were warned by a senior policeman, who came uninvited into their dressing room at the interval, that their safety could not be guaranteed if they won.

That was the end of the visitors’ threat and a late horrendously offside goal from Paul Moulden allowed by officials perhaps intimidated by the vociferous crowd sent us down.

A farcical end to a farcical season and one that we took years to recover from.

Nearly twenty years on I have just about come through the trauma of Brentford missing out on promotion in 1994-95.

The one season that only one team received automatic promotion owing to League re-organisation – and guess who finished second?

It’s Brentford innit!

Yet we had only ourselves to blame, The FT Index rained goals at Griffin Park but a late season hiccup at home where we allowed relegation haunted Chester and Bournemouth to snatch vital points and a capitulation at St Andrew’s – yes Birmingham again – allowed our arch rivals to snatch the title, much as we had three years earlier.

Frankly we choked and have nobody else to blame except ourselves.

I shall draw a veil over Bob Taylor’s miss at Huddersfield and the penalties at Griffin Park, as my psyche cannot take it even so long after the event.

Shortly I will take a deep breath and continue my review of this tumultuous decade.

Now pass me the tranquillisers please!

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