I 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.
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.
An 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.