The Nineties Revisited – Part Two – 4/9/14

hurdleI wrote an overview of the first part of the Nineties the other week, but had to stop after 1995, as I was still traumatised by the lasting memory of how we first threw automatic promotion away and then compounded matters by blowing it in the Playoffs.

Now what happens?

I carry on with the Nineties narrative today and pretty much start exactly where we left off when I come to review the 1996-97 season!

They say that history repeats itself, and they are words that are never truer when it comes to describing Brentford’s fortune, or lack of it, in the Nineties.

After a nothing sort of season in 1995-96, where we suffered a massive hangover after the previous year’s disappointment, livened up solely by a magnificent FA Cup victory at Norwich City, the following year saw yet another lost opportunity.

In January 1997 we were well clear and comfortable at the top of the league, and looked destined for automatic promotion.

Being Brentford, we then shot ourselves in the foot, totally collapsed, with promotion being thrown away and we finally limped into the Playoffs after a second half of the season collapse following the sale of top scorer Nicky Forster to, where else, Birmingham City, in a transfer that surely merited a stewards’ enquiry.

David Webb promised an instant replacement of similar pedigree – we are still waiting David – and we ended up with Steve Slade, a journeyman striker from QPR, whose loan spell promised little and produced less.

Top scorer Carl Asaba was then mysteriously moved to the left wing from his centre forward berth where he had terrorised the opposition.

taylorWhat on earth was going on?

Answers on a postcard please.

The only surprise was that a team seemingly dead on its feet, somehow revitalised itself in the Playoffs and beat favourites Bristol City home and away, and looked good in the process.

Does anyone else remember Gus Hurdle’s beautiful curling cross at Ashton Gate which was sublimely converted by Bob Taylor with a glancing header?

As for the embarrassment of our total non-performance at Wembley, where we had a wonderful first two minutes of total domination, and then gently subsided with Carl Hutchings playing Crewe seemingly on his own, words almost fail me.

We suffered the indignity of the biggest one-nil thrashing in history, had a player sent off in the process and we lost a lot of supporters that sad day, who were totally disillusioned by what they had seen.

The core of the team was immediately dismantled and largely decamped in a fire sale to Gillingham, of which I have written previously, and the aftermath of the disastrous Webb takeover saw a team of has-beens, journeymen and Non-League nonentities bumble its way to an inevitable relegation in another season marked by anger, disillusionment and eventual fan revolt.

Richard Goddard, Leon Townley, Simon Spencer and Ricky Reina, anybody?

Our stars were Charlie Oatway, Kevin Rapley, Graeme Hogg and Glenn Cockerill which just about says it all.

I well remember the fall guys in Eddie May and Micky Adams who were left holding the baby after the heart of the team had been ripped out.

They both ended up trying to make bricks without straw given the hodge-podge of a squad they were stuck with, and they were rewarded with the sack.

The only surprise is that we took it until the last game of the season before relegation was confirmed.

webbAn appalling season both on and off the field, where the only redeeming factor was the action of the supporters who banded together to demonstrate their fury at what was going on, and their determination not to put up with it.

Who was to ride to our rescue on his white charger but Ron Noades, and the decade ended on a high with a promotion based on the acquisition of several young, vibrant, talented youngsters from Non-League and the incredible record purchase of Hermann Hreidarsson.

After the sterility of the football in the previous season what a pleasure it was to watch exciting young players like Darren Powell, Lloyd Owusu, Gavin Mahon and Martin Rowlands leavened by the more experienced Warren Aspinall and Paul Evans.

At this time of understandable euphoria few looked at the small print, and little did we know how the Noades era was to end and who was actually paying for his “investment.”

It was an exhausting and exhilarating decade where we were blessed to see some of the best and worst players to have graced Griffin Park since the war.

Strikers of the calibre of Dean Holdsworth, Gary Blissett, Nicky Forster, Bob Taylor, Carl Asaba and Lloyd Owusu contrasted with the likes of Murray Jones, Matthew Metcalf, Drewe Broughton, Leo Fortune-West and Julian Charles who were perhaps less prolific to say the least!

The heroics of Graham Benstead, and, yes, I was one of the few who watched his gravity defying three penalty saves that frozen night against Wrexham, and the consistency of the amazing Flying Pig Kevin Dearden.

And let’s also remember Ashley Bayes – “another nonsense from Ashley Bayes” as the feckless, overmatched young keeper committed yet another offence against reason or belief against Brighton, Luton or Spurs.

I am glad that the once poor, hapless Ashley Bayes recovered from his traumatic start and became a survivor who had a long and respected career.

He even made a decent return to Griffin Park for Conference South Basingstoke in an FA Cup tie three years ago and received a warm welcome as indeed, he fully deserved to.

So many players, so many incidents, so many memories to conjure with, but I will end by briefly touching on the enigma and would-be genius that was Tony Folan and mourn what might have been had he gone some way towards fulfilling his boundless potential – but for whatever reason, it was not meant to be.

I can still clearly picture in my mind that outrageous long range lobbed winner that settled a key promotion tussle against Cambridge United and his unforgettable slow motion dribble against Peterborough.

And yes – I still hate Birmingham City.


5 thoughts on “The Nineties Revisited – Part Two – 4/9/14

  1. Poor Ashley, It was just fated never to happen for him at Brentford. I don’t think he ever recovered from his debut when he made a complete hash of a back pass to let in a goal at the Ealing Rd End and the Preston fans were chanting ‘back to school tomorrow…’

    How bad was the 1997/98 team ? Well it sometimes felt like the average age was about 34, the team filled with players whose only ambition was to collect a few final paychecks before retiring.

    And then, in rode a whiite knight. How naive were we about Ron Noades? I suppose the fact that he wasn’t David Webb contributed, For me, the realisation ddin’t begin to dawn until about January/February 2000 and truly sink in untill the end of the season ,but that’s outside the 1990s scope.In spite of what later transpired,

    p.s. I too remember the 3-0 penalties win against Wrexham, Three saves at the Brook Road end. ,Cold as hell. How deighted was I that it went to extra time and penalties, since I’d lost all feeling in my feet after about 75 minutes.


  2. Poor, poor Ashley. A mistake just waiting to happen. Great shot stopper but…..

    I found myself nodding at every word you wrote.

    Maybe you should write a book about the 90s!

    I think I was colder at the Barnet game in 1996/7 though!


    • Maybe you should write a book about the 90s!

      I believe you already have 🙂

      Anyway, regarding cold and Wrexham, I particurarly rembember a Tuesday night abiout Feb/Mar 2005. I’d arranged a meeting in Stoke – the reason being that I’d be guaranteed a voucher for the last game at Bristol Rovers. As 0-0 draws go, this was a classic. Essentially, nothing happened. Brentford had no shots on goal, neither did Wrexham. It was a game with no redeeeming features. Took me some time to scrape the ice off the car windows


    • Richard Lee made me laugh when he was talking about ‘goalkeeping punditry’ recently on BeesPlayer. Said that “great shot stopper” isn’t a great phrase to describe a keeper as they should all be! If you’re not a great shot stopper then you shouldn’t really be a professional keeper! To be honest, I don’t even recall Ashley being one during his time at Brentford. Only seemed to be great at gifting the opposition goals.

      Great stuff though and a defining decade of Old Brentford. Apart from #Champions92, everything seemed to go against us.

      I have never felt as low as the Crewe POFinal.

      Matthew Benham said he hated the Yeovil game but at least even after that you sensed we would go better next time round. Crewe was just sod this for a game of soldiers.


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