Bees Player – 16/11/14

bp1I thought I would give it a couple of months for the dust to settle before I commented on the Bees Player situation.

Like all Brentford fans, I am delighted that, not before time, matters were finally sorted out satisfactorily between the club and the commentators and that normal service was resumed.

Well almost, as Luis Melville is no longer a member of the Bees Player team, at least for the time being, and I only hope that time will heal all wounds and that he will eventually return to the fold, as he is sorely missed.

Not least for the massive amount of preparatory work that he would undertake in terms of preparing stats, background information and the running order before every match.

All the necessary grunt work that makes the difference between the show being a success or an also-ran.

bp2Without betraying any confidences and revealing behind the scenes information, I would simply state that I hope that everybody has learned a lesson from what happened at the beginning of the season, that the impasse between the two sides is never repeated and that all necessary budgeting and negotiations are concluded well in advance in the future.

Bees Player Matchday Live is a Brentford institution, and is an unique service, prepared and delivered with love and dedication added to massive levels of knowledge, preparation and utter professionalism.

The entire team fits together like a glove and every individual adds his or her own individual skills and quirks to the whole.

It just works and everybody is to be congratulated.

bp3Mark Burridge is the glue that holds everything together and he is aided and abetted by Natalie Sawyer, Mick Cabble, Dave Morley and Alan Denman in particular.

Injured squad players such as Richard Lee, Sam Saunders and in past seasons, Kevin O’Connor and Scott Barron provide valuable insight with their expert analysis and we are blessed to have so many intelligent and articulate footballers at Brentford who straddle the line perfectly between indiscretion and vacuous blandness, and their contribution adds immeasurably to the proceedings.

When the main team isn’t available Billy Reeves takes over with his eccentric, passionate and inimitable style of commentating.

He is a breath of fresh air and his enthusiasm is contagious if sometimes over applied, when, despite his banshee howls of celebration, the ball doesn’t quite go into the opposition net as anticipated – ah well, nothing comes easy to us Brentford fans and it is good for us to suffer!

Chris Wickham and Mark Chapman also do an excellent and understated job when called upon.

It wasn’t always like this though, as in the deep and distant past things were done on a much more informal and ad hoc basis.

Every Brentford home match used to be filmed by Newsonic Video Productions, a small husband and wife run company that provided the same service for one of our major rivals, and commentary was generally provided by a local journalist and radio broadcaster, Phil Mison, who, if the truth be known, was, and remains, a rabid Fulham fan!

He did a decent job but when his other committments meant that the position became vacant I seized the opportunity.

I started doing the Matchday Video commentaries, as they were known at the time, on Sunday the third of December 1989, a date indelibly etched in my memory, when, as a season ticket holder in D Block, I noticed that there was no longer anyone filling that role.

Fifteen minutes before the massive local derby against Leyton Orient I approached the camera crew, asked them if there was a vacancy and lied my head off when questioned about any relevant experience I might possess.

Well, I had watched Match Of The Day since childhood, and one brief conversation later, I was on the air there and then.

I was very fortunate in that my first game was the ultimate cliched seven goal thriller with the Bees finally coming out on top.

Neil Smillie had the dubious honour of scoring the first goal that I celebrated on air and I also had three penalty kicks to remark upon.

All in all not a bad introduction to the job!

Well, from that day on I took over the commentary duties which I eventually shared with Ian Westbrook, and we were forced to learn on the job – no media training for us I am afraid.

More’s the pity as I could really have done with some expert advice, help and constructive criticism but was forced to soldier on and probably repeated the same errors every match.

What I hope came over was my total enthusiasm for the job and all things Brentford, and that I gave the role the hard work, dedication and respect it deserved, as I had the ultimate responsibility of being the eyes, ears and voice providing information and insights that would eventually be shared with Brentford supporters all around the world.

Working conditions were appalling as I was wedged into a seat situated high up in D Block directly behind the video camera.

I had to avoid being distracted by ignoring the constant and relentless barrage of advice, comments, abuse and non sequitors coming from everybody who was seated near to the commentary point, and there was really no escape or hiding place from them.

kfIt was also well-nigh impossible to read the illegible numbers on the back of the shirts of some club.

Who else can remember that appalling early 90s kit of Stockport County which resembled a psychedelic disaster where the numbers were tiny and merged into the pattern on the actual shirt?

Kevin Francis was easy to pick out but as for the others….

I also remember every match having to peer into the Bermuda Triangle down by the right hand corner flag at the Ealing Road end, which was never in clear view of my commentary position, and trying to guess what was happening.

I worked hard to show my support and encouragement for the Bees whilst also maintaining some sort of balance and perspective and although I certainly did not jump for joy when the opposition scored, I hope that I gave them some credit when it was due.

I also tried to be honest.

Viewers can’t be fooled and they know when the game or performance they are watching is unacceptable and you cannot defend the indefensible.

I always did my homework so that I was able to talk with some degree of knowledge and insight about every player on the opposition team.

I also realised that my bon mots or, more likely, cliches and inaccuracies, would only be heard by fans who actually bought the video of the match I was commentating on, as well as by all the purchasers of the end of season highlights tape.

Please excuse my self-indulgence at this juncture as I did have so much fun at the time, and hopefully some of my occasionally more inspired descriptive terms and expressions remain in vogue even today:

My personal favourites were:

“It’s raining goals at Griffin Park” when Terry Evans scored the winner in that incredible opening day four-three victory over Leyton Orient in August 1991 and “Another nonsense from Ashley Bayes” as the poor, young benighted keeper committed yet another offence against reason and belief against Spurs.

Apparently I found it all too much when Brentford threw away a vital promotion clash against Bradford City in 1992 and was heard to utter on air:

“Oh Brentford what have you done” but I confess to having no memory of that one!

Richard Cadette was always “The Wriggler” as he squirmed his way through opposition defences, but that is more than enough and I just hope that some of you appreciated my efforts and forgave me for my errors.

I kept going until, I think, the 1997/98 relegation season when the games were generally appalling and were like watching paint dry.

It also became totally impossible for me work up any enthusiasm for them, particularly as there was so much else going on off the pitch at the time and I found it hard not to be able to make mention of them on-air.

I therefore thought it was time to lay down the microphone and let someone else have a go.

A decision that was totally justified by what has subsequently happened, which is light years ahead of the service that I could offer.

Congratulations to everyone involved with Bees Player today, it is quite brilliant and I just hope that I was a worthy predecessor.

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7 thoughts on “Bees Player – 16/11/14

  1. I still have loads of videos purchased from the 1990,s with yourself and Westy commentating. Newsonic video productions. Loved the passion and enthusiasm of the two of you. Haven’t got Beesplayer as I am present at most of the matches, but I am sure Mark Burridge and crew are every bit as good.

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  2. Thanks John. I have lots of tapes too – great times though not afraid to admit I got carried away every time we scored when I was commentating!

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  3. Yep, great work on these services from everyone involved from back in the early 90s to the present. I certainly used to enjoy the over enthusiasm from yourself and Mr Westbrook. Fond memories of a time when you couldn’t envisage seeing us where we are now and where we are heading.

    For me, LM is a massive loss to the BeesPlayer service. As you say, so much background work and prep with fascinating outside of the box statistics. I’m not privy to the politics of what went on but I wish he was still there.

    While discussing this, I’d add a special mention to the Beesotted crew who offer a superb independent alternative and should be celebrated by club and fans alike. There is room for both types of communication. Their in match tweets bring much humour and their videos deserve more awards, not just nominations.

    Continued good stuff with the blog, so thanks?

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