It has been another good week for Brentford as their burgeoning reputation was further recognised on the International front with Alex Pritchard making his debut for the England Under 21 team with two successful substitute appearances .
Young reserve central defender, Daniel O’Shaughnessy also started twice for Finland Under 21s, scoring a well-taken goal against San Marino, Stuart Dallas had to return home early through injury, and Will Grigg gathered splinters, sitting on the bench for Northern Ireland throughout their victory over Hungary.
I fully realise that Alex Pritchard is likely to be our player for only a limited period of time, given how highly he is regarded by Spurs, but it made my heart sing to read the England team sheet for both the Lithuania and Moldova matches and seeing the words “Pritchard (Brentford)”.
This is how far we have come in a short period of time.
What is totally beyond doubt is that given our new Championship status, we have totally upgraded the quality of our player recruitment and it is now pretty much the rule, rather than the exception, for most of the squad to have earned International honours at some level or other.
Looking back, I well remember the days when were in awe at the likes of Ashley Bayes, Danis Salman and Marcus Gayle who all won England Youth International honours, and, as a young child, I always used to glow with pride when I read about our former goalkeeper Gerry Cakebread being twice selected as a reserve for the England Under 23 squad, as it was at the time, way back in the 1950s.
It was often said of him that if he hadn’t remained a part time professional, spending his workdays poring over charts at the Admiralty, then he might well have won full International honours for his country.
Who knows if that was really the truth or merely the exaggerated comments of a supportive local journalist, but it was obvious that Gerry was far more talented than was the norm at the club.
I was far too young to see him play, or indeed the all-star international strike force of Johnny Brooks, Billy McAdams and John Dick from the early sixties, but for all their talent and short term success, it was patently obvious that they were all well over the hill and, indeed, coming down the other side.
Mel Scott, I certainly recall as a cultured centre half, who I could well believe had played for the Under 23 team whilst at Chelsea, and there was enough about Ian Lawther, a real favourite of Peter Gilham, to understand why he had previously earned four caps for Northern Ireland as a bustling striker.
But, as you can see, Internationals were in short supply in those days, as we had to cut our cloth accordingly, and rely on a combination of experienced journeymen professionals and local talent.
Brian Turner does come to mind, a combative attacking midfielder who arrived via Chelsea and Portsmouth and who should be known to all Brentford fans as “The Nearly Man,” as it was his low drive that thumped against the Hull City post and came within a whisker of putting the Bees two goals up, and on their way to the Sixth Round of the FA Cup.
Turner won over one hundred caps, and was an integral part of the New Zealand team in the 1982 World Cup Finals.
That fact leads me onto the obvious question, and my quiz for today:
I will be charitable and allow former loanees too.
Please leave your answers at the end of the blog.
My starter is the recent and obvious one of Wojciech Szczesny.
I hope you can all do better than that!
Other Internationals who played for Brentford in the 1970s were Jimmy Gabriel, a combative Scottish midfielder who was coming to the end of the road after a long spell at Everton and Bill Glazier, a former England Under 23 International goalkeeper, although you would never have known it given how awfully he performed in that Football League Cup tie at Old Trafford.
Going up the ladder, rather than down the snake, were Stewart Houston, a cultured left back, initially played as a striker alongside John O’Mara, who was soon to become a full Scotland International after his move to Manchester United, and Jim McNichol, who added to his tally of Scotland Under 21 caps whilst at Griffin Park.
A mention too for Canadian International striker Gordon Sweetzer, another one who blazed like a meteor across Griffin Park before fizzling out far too early.
The 80s saw former England International and maverick, Stan Bowles, grace Griffin Park and his performances and, indeed, commitment to the cause, live long in the memory.
He remains the best player I have ever seen play for the club, although, who knows, given the way we are progressing, maybe even his talent will be eclipsed by a newcomer within the next couple of years.
Terry Hurlock, his combative midfield partner, went on to win England B honours after leaving Brentford and was a devastating combination of brains and brawn, and I think he has been underrated even to this day.
Winger Gary Roberts earned one Wales Under 21 cap but rather under-performed in his career given his ability to ghost in undetected towards the opposition goal.
Other experienced former Internationals such as Ron Harris (England Under 23), Ian Davies (Wales), Ian Stewart (Northern Ireland) and Eire Internationals Paddy Roche, Henry Hughton (Under 21) and Jimmy Holmes all played a lesser role in the 80s.
Roche was a brilliant keeper on his day and a wonderful shot stopper but lacked overall consistency.
How about a mention for Northern Ireland international Tom Finney, surely one of the most unpopular players ever to play for the club?
I can still remember the home fans booing him for his over robust tackling against Bishops Stortford in the FA Cup.
Paul Merson had a brief loan spell with us whilst he was still a teenager. He looked a class act in the making even if he persisted in missing gilt edged chances to score.
Roger Joseph (England B), and Andy Sinton were truly excellent players who both went on to win International recognition after they left Brentford, and Steve Perryman still looked a class player whenever he decided to pick himself, always finding that yard of space or extra second on the ball.
My personal favourite was Graham Rix, holder of seventeen full England caps, who showed supreme quality and a magic left foot during a highly productive loan spell in December 1987.
I have always thought that Dean Holdsworth might have won more than a solitary England B cap given his excellent scoring record over his long career, and the decade ended with several other Bees Internationals in sweeper John Buttigieg, who failed to impress Phil Holder despite his ninety-seven caps for Malta, another disappointment in Eddie May (Scotland Under 21) and the emergence of Marcus Gayle.
He eventually represented Jamaica at the 1998 World Cup Finals, thus providing another answer to the quiz I set earlier.
As for the worst future International to play for the Bees in the 80s?
Without a shadow of doubt it was Les Ferdinand who made three appalling loan appearances in March 1988 and was a shadow of the fearsome striker he eventually became.
Next time I will discuss the International players who played for the club in the 90s, and a varied and eclectic bunch they most certainly were!