Managers – Who’s The Best? – Part One – 8/11/14

curtThere has been a lot of discussion lately amongst Brentford fans concerning who they feel is the best Brentford manager of all time.

Given how well the current incumbent Mark Warburton has performed since his appointment almost a year ago, it is hardly surprising that many fans voted for him.

How though can you compare him to, say, Harry Curtis or Malcolm MacDonald, who both also had marvellous spells at the helm and maintained their success over a period of many years? Curtis took the Bees from the very depths of the Third Division to near the top of the First, as well as managing us to a War Cup Final victory at Wembley.

How can anyone else match that?

But, out of sight, out of mind and there are very few people remaining who have first hand memories of his incredible achievements.

What about Jimmy Sirrel and Frank Blunstone whose records bear comparison with any of their successors and surely merit extra kudos given the financial constraints under which they worked?

Time and distance often provide a sense of perspective and enable the emotions to die down and a more reasoned and objective analysis to be made than was perhaps the case at the time.

In retrospect, the achievement of Wally Downes in keeping the Bees in the third tier of English football, avoiding relegation and also leading us to the fourth round of the FA Cup in 2003, despite working on a shoestring and relying on a ragtag and bobtail of untried kids, the remnants of Steve Coppell’s nearly men of the previous season, journeymen and loanees, merits far more praise than he actually received.

I can only comment on those managers who I have seen at work over the past forty years or so, and over the course of a few articles I will give you a brief reminder of all of them, which might help you all to make up your own mind.

Frank Blunstone became the club’s tenth post-war manager when he left his role as Chelsea’s junior team manager to take over at Griffin Park in December 1969 to succeed Jimmy Sirrel.

He narrowly beat John Bond to the job but soon put his own stamp on things.

We just missed out on promotion in his first season with a team that gave little away at the back but also struggled for goals.

But for the width of the post and a referee’s benevolence we would also have beaten Hull City the following season and found ourselves in the last eight of the FA Cup. doc

Blunstone brought defensive solidity and organisation, and his contacts at the top level of the game enabled us to bring in real talent such as Roger Cross and Stewart Houston.

He also spotted the potential in a raw, young and temperamental striker playing at Wimbledon and he brought out the latent ability in John O’Mara and turned him into a potent threat who spearheaded our promotion drive in 1972.

Blunstone was far more ambitious than his board of directors, who restricted him to a squad of just fourteen players but, incredibly, he overcame all the obstacles to win a promotion based on the goals and aerial ability of O’Mara, the flair of John Docherty and Bobby Ross, Jackie Graham’s industry and a tough uncompromising defence that gave little away.

The Board unforgivably, but not unexpectedly, failed to invest after promotion was won and could not wait to sell major assets in Cross and O’Mara.

The replacement of John O’Mara by Stan Webb bore an eery resemblance to the Dean Holdsworth/Murray Jones scenario twenty years later and was an equally imbecilic decision.

Relegation in 1973 was inevitable and Blunstone, worn out from having to make bricks without straw, had had more than enough and resigned. He soon fell on his feet at Manchester United and their gain was certainly our loss as an enormously talented young manager was allowed to walk away.

Frank is certain that a massive opportunity to progress was totally squandered:

The Chairman didn’t have a clue.

He came up to me once and asked me why we didn’t have better players and when I told him it was because he wouldn’t pay decent wages or transfer fees, he didn’t like it.

He wouldn’t even give the players a rise when they won promotion.

In the end the Chairman refused to become more ambitious and I just couldn’t continue working in those conditions.

I simply couldn’t get on with him – everything was always such a struggle.

What a sad epitaph and even today, those comments leave me feeling sad, angry and frustrated.

His replacement was Mike Everitt, a largely inexperienced player-manager at non-league Wimbledon who polarises opinion.

He was undoubtedly a cheap option and received little support from the directors (now where have we heard that before) and did his best with a wafer thin squad.

His approach did not go down well with some of his players and he brought in a number of tough bruisers.

Under his management, Brentford declined rapidly, fell to the bottom of the Football League and barely escaped the need to apply for re-election.

Alan Nelmes was particularly disparaging about Everitt:

He didn’t have the technical expertise that Frank had and you felt as if the club wasn’t going anywhere with him.

Frank was very advanced in his thinking, ahead of his time, really, and it was a step backwards to have Mike.

With the club at probably its nadir, he lost his job in January 1975, to be replaced by John Docherty, who, at thirty-four years of age was a three-time former player and crowd favourite.

‘Doc’ had only one full campaign in charge and left in September 1976 at the end of a disappointing stay.

He did his best to bring in youngsters who he had developed during his coaching spell at Queens Park Rangers and Nigel Smith, Micky French and Gordon Sweetzer were promising talents, but it just didn’t fall into place for him.

Richard Poole played under Blunstone, Everitt and Docherty and has his own first hand view about the three of them:

Mr Blunstone was totally fed up with the board room. He was such a good manager for Brentford and a man who loved to work with us youngsters, and when he left for Manchester United it really was Brentford’s loss.

Then we come to Mr Everitt who gave me my chance in the first team for which I will always be grateful.

Yes, he did bring in some hard players but then at that time it was what was needed, and I still believe to this day that with a little more time and help from the board he could have turned things around for Brentford.

He also did well after leaving us too, as he went to Leicester as well as Southampton, though not as a manager, and then ended up managing in Egypt where he was very successful.

Then there was Mr Docherty, who was certainly an old Brentford favourite.

He did totally the opposite to Mike Everitt, bringing in lots of ball players, and getting rid of the hard boys.

As for now, I think our Bees have got just the right blend and I hope everyone from the fans upwards, and everyone  associated with the club will be just a little more patient because for once we are going in the right direction, although as you know, football changes so quickly.

After a couple of unsuccessful appointments the club finally got it right with Bill Dodgin, an experienced coach and manager with four promotions under his belt, and a man whose father had managed the club in the 1950’s. dodg

He took over a club at a low ebb and going rapidly into free-fall.

Gradually he imbued the team with confidence and introduced an attractive style of play underpinned by the dynamism of Jackie Graham in midfield and the hard running, bravery and innate goal scoring ability of Sweetzer.

He began to bring in talented young players who could pass the ball, such as David Carlton and, a real favourite of mine, John Bain and he hit the jackpot when he stole a surly disaffected underachiever from his former club, Northampton Town.

Steve Phillips repaid the derisory fee paid for him with thirty-two league goals and his partnership with a rejuvenated Andy McCullough, with the pair of them fed chances by the ebullient winger, Doug Allder, ensured that promotion was won to the Third Division.

Dodgin was a football purist who was worshipped by his players who he treated like grown ups.

They were allowed to slip the leash from time to time and rewarded him with their devotion and unstinting efforts on the pitch.

He was unorthodox and often backed a hunch.

A rampant Gordon Sweetzer ran amok one Saturday afternoon and scored a hat trick against Torquay. We all shook our heads in amazement when he signed the Torquay centre half the following week, but Pat Kruse became a Brentford legend, a footballing centre half despite being well under six feet tall, he formed an effective defensive partnership with the even smaller Paul Shrubb, who read the game brilliantly.

Dodgin had an eye for a player and his signings were generally on the money with the exception of one major aberration when the tiny Tony Funnell was brought in at vast cost to spearhead our attack, a task totally beyond him.

After a slow start to the 1978/79 Third Division campaign, a superb second half of the season raised hopes of another promotion to follow and Dodgin rejected an offer to join Chelsea as assistant manager, in retrospect a mistake on his part.

Although the new season started in great fashion, results declined after Christmas to such an extent that in March 1980, with relegation looking distinctly likely, the board gave Dodgin leave of absence and dispensed with his services a few weeks later.

A poor reward for such an excellent servant to the club.

Ironically it was the misfit, Tony Funnell, who finally came good and scored the winner against Millwall that kept the Bees up.

Fred Callaghan took over and we will talk more about him next time.

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2 thoughts on “Managers – Who’s The Best? – Part One – 8/11/14

  1. well greville i played for three of the mangers you stated Mr Blunstone yes i think he was fed up with the board room such a good manger for Brentford an like working a lot with us youngest and when he left for Man U it was Brentfords lost .Then we come to MR Everitt i do disagree with you about yes i know it was Mr Everitt who gave me my chance and yes he did bring in so hard player but then at that time it what was needed i still believe to this day with a little more time and help from the board he could have turned things around for Brentford and after leaving us i the game he was well fancied he went to leicester as well at southampton thou not as a manger as well to south arabia i think and then there was Mr Docherty yes a old brentford favorite ect but then he done the opposite to Mr Everitt bringing in lots of ball playing players and getting rid of the HARD Boys lol but i would like to say i think our bees have got just the right blend and i hope everyone from the fans and right through the club will be just a little more patience because we going for once in the right direction thou as you know football changes so quick

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