Brentford Quiz – The Answers – 30/3/15

Ten days ago I set you all a quiz and posed eighteen extremely tough questions relating to affairs at Brentford over the past forty-five years. Thank you to everyone who had a go and tested your wits and your memory. I received several entries and out of all of you, Paul Briers did the best and made a truly valiant effort but not even he, despite his encyclopaedic knowledge of the history of the club, came close to getting all full marks. So today I will reveal all and let you all know the answers to my conundrums.

1. How many appearances has Kevin O’Connor made for the club?

Kevin has made 501 appearances (420 in the League, 31 FA Cup, 20 in the League Cup and 30 in other games). He is fourth on our all time appearance chart behind Ken Coote (559), Jamie Bates (524) and Peter Gelson (516). He is highly unlikely to play for us again and for all his wonderful achievements he must be a little bit frustrated that he will probably end up only a season and a half short from topping the list. So near – so far.

2. What did Kevin O’Connor do with his last touch of the ball to date in a Brentford shirt?

He calmly slotted away the winning penalty kick in the shootout at Dagenham in August 2014 beating former Bee Liam O’Brien low to the keeper’s right hand side, exactly where he would surely have placed the ball had he been allowed to take that fateful penalty kick against Doncaster Rovers in 2013

3. Who are the top five goal scorers for Brentford since 1970? One of them did score for the club before that year.

Gary Blissett – 105 goals, Lloyd Owusu – 87 goals, Roger Cross – 79 goals, John Docherty – 78 goals, Dean Holdsworth – 76 goals.

4. Who has been shown the most red cards for Brentford since 1970, and how many times has he been sent off? Who are second and third in the list?

Jamie Bates was sent off eight times, Martin Grainger, six times, with Brian Statham in third place with five. Statham also managed to get himself sent off twice against Brentford too, playing for Reading and Gillingham.

5. Which current Brentford player has been sent off three times for the club?

Tony Craig who was sent off by Keith Stroud (see the next question) at Sheffield United. He has also seen red twice at Griffin Park, last season against Carlisle and against Birmingham City this season.

6. How many Brentford players has Keith Stroud sent off – so far?

A quite ridiculous six! Ricky Newman for an alleged stamp against Huddersfield in 2006, Stuart Nelson in the 2006 Playoff match at Swansea, James Wilson at Wycombe in 2009, Tony Craig and Clayton Donaldson in THAT match at Sheffield United in 2013 and Jake Bidwell recently at home to Watford. Of the six, Newman’s red card was expunged on appeal and Nelson, Craig and Donaldson were dealt with extremely harshly by a man who always appears to be extremely quick on the draw.

7. Which Brentford player has missed the most consecutive penalty kicks since 1970, and how many in a row did he miss?

Steve Phillips scored eight of the first ten spot kicks he took and generally succeeded in placing the ball unstoppably in the top corner of the net. Then it all went wrong for him and he totally lost his touch, missing his last four penalty kicks in 1979/80, although it has to be admitted that he did score from the rebound after the keeper saved his initial effort at Southend United.

8. Who has scored the most penalty kicks for Brentford since 1970?

Kevin O’Connor has scored nineteen out of the twenty-four kicks he has taken. Leaving aside shootouts, the last penalty he took for us was that majestic last second equaliser in the Playoff Semi Final at Swindon in 2013 when in a high pressure situation he took the best penalty kick I have ever seen by a Brentford player, giving vent to the anger and frustration that I am sure he felt after the Doncaster fiasco.

9. Name the eight Brentford players who have a 100% success record from the penalty spot and have taken more than one penalty for the club?

As we long suffering Brentford fans well know, the award of a penalty kick is generally no guarantee of a goal with a success rate far lower than we would prescribe for our galloping pulse rate. Mark Croxford has informed me that since 1970 we have in fact been awarded 269 penalty kicks of which 194 have been scored and 75 spurned. In other words we have scored just under three out of every four kicks. If it is any consolation when reading through match reports in old Brentford programmes from the 30s and 50s, guess what? Yes, every penalty kick was an adventure even back in those days. We just are not very good at taking them and nothing seems to have changed over the years. Terry Johnson, Joe Allon, Roger Cross, Barry Tucker, Warren Aspinall, D J Campbell, Paul Gibbs and Alex Pritchard (I hope I am not tempting fate here) are the only Brentford players who have a 100% success rate from the penalty spot and have taken more than one kick for the club.

10. Who was the last Brentford loanee to score two goals on his debut for the club? (Clue: It was in 2009.)

Well I pretty much gave this one away as the answer was John Bostock who scored twice against Millwall, including a goal scored direct from a corner and I might well ask in my next quiz who else has managed to achieve this rare feat? At one time it looked like he would become a worldbeater and at only twenty-three years of age, time is still on his side however he is now playing in the Belgium second tier at Oud-Heverlee Leuven which seems a level far below his potential. He started like a house on fire at Griffin Park but struggled to show consistency or impose himself on games.

11. Who was the last Bee to score four goals in a game?

This was also a no-brainer for all of you. Mike Grella scored four times in that amazing six-nil thumping of, it has to be said, a pretty lethargic and disinterested AFC Bournemouth team in a JPT clash in November 2011. Incredibly those were the only goals he scored for the club in a less than distinguished stay.

12. How many hat tricks did Lloyd Owusu score in 1998/99 and which club did he score two hat tricks against that season?

Lloyd took the division by storm after we plucked him form non-league obscurity at Slough Town. He scored three hat tricks in 1998/99, two against Southend United and one at Rotherham.

13. Which loan goalkeeper was ever-present, named Player of the Year and conceded under a goal per game for Brentford?

Another one that fooled none of you. Steve Sherwood was brought in to challenge a faltering Paul Priddy and proved to be a massive success. He had two highly successful loan spells and conceded only 45 goals as an ever present in 1974/75 and was an easy choice as Player of the Year. We then shilly-shallied over signing him on a permanent basis, lost out to Watford and ended up with Bill Glazier in goal – go figure!

14. Ashley Bayes played twelve games for the Bees (it really seemed like it was a hell of a lot more!) How many goals did he concede?

I have written more than enough about Ashley recently so I will simply state without further comment that in twelve games he conceded a total of thirty-four goals, an average of 2.83 goals per game.

15. Name five Brentford outfield players who have played in goal after the first choice was sent-off or injured?

This flummoxed most of you and me too I think! The ones that I can recall are: Paul Shrubb, Jim McNichol, Gary Blissett, Andy Scott and, most recently, John Mousinho

16. Who never missed a game and played 157 consecutive league games before he left the club?

Steve Phillips played in 157 consecutive league matches between February 1977 and May 1980. He came on as a substitute in his last match against Millwall. He also played ten cup matches, making a total of 167 games. 17.

Who was sent off in the twelfth minute of his Brentford debut and never played for us again?

Poor Wally Downes was forced to scrape underneath the barrel when it came to player recruitment in 2003 and a seemingly unfit puffing billy named Peter Beadle, way past his peak, was given the opportunity to play up front. He lasted twelve minutes on a blisteringly hot day at Tranmere, received what was generally acknowledged to be a harsh red card and never played for us again.

18. Name five players who were nominated as team or club captain?

Take your pick from a vast choice including: Bobby Ross, Alan Hawley, Gordon Riddick, Paul Bence, Jackie Graham, Terry Hurlock, Chris Kamara, Wayne Turner, Keith Jones, Terry Evans, Jamie Bates, Paul Evans, Michael Dobson, Ricky Newman, Kevin O’Connor and Alan Bennett

TieBreak Question: Which Brentford personality was involved in the 1933 FA Cup Final between Everton and Manchester City?

Denis Piggott, the long serving club secretary was a  ball boy at the 1933 FA Cup Final. Amazingly several of you anoraks got this question right. Thanks again to all of you who entered. I hope you enjoyed the quiz and I shall endeavour to compile another one at the end of the season. If any of you have any Brentford-related questions that you would like me to include then please let me know.

Agent Lee As Fifth Columnist leaves for Fulham? – 28/3/15

lewisWell the loan window slammed shut on Thursday afternoon with barely a whimper from Griffin Park. As expected, no fresh blood arrived as Mark Warburton has made it patently clear on many occasions recently that he feels that his current squad is quite strong enough and fully capable of winning promotion from the Championship to the Premier League and deserves to be allowed to finish the job that has been started so effectively. There could still be an addition to our numbers given that finally after a three month injury hiatus, the so-called Invisible Man, Lewis Macleod, is expected to make his long-awaited debut for the club today in the Development Squad fixture against Nottingham Forest and if he can prove his fitness in that game as well as in a behind closed doors friendly arranged for early next week, he might yet come into contention for first team selection. Fresh legs, ideas and enthusiasm could prove vital at this crucial stage of the season when minds and bodies are feeling increasingly tired and jaded and he might just produce the spark that we require to climb back into, and then cement our position in the top six.

Alan Judge looked far more like his old self when he came on in the second half against Millwall last Saturday and he produced an outrageous piece of skill that brought about the penalty award for the first goal, and he revitalised us when it appeared as if we were bashing our heads against a brick wall and perhaps running out of ideas. Our form since Christmas has been patchy at best and there are many reasons for that, however the absence of Alan Judge who missed seven weeks of action through injury has perhaps been the biggest hurdle that we have had to overcome as he is the man who keeps Brentford playing, the inspiration for so much that is good about our play.

He is a total dynamo who combines energy and nonstop running with the vision and skill to both see and execute a long range pass and change the direction of the attack in an instant. I can still picture that rapier like thrust to the heart of the Brighton defence when he cut it open and sent Moses Odubajo darting inside their left back to score a sorely needed and confidence boosting opening goal. All the oles have understandably gone to Jota for that magnificent last minute, game winning finish against Fulham, but who was it who had the energy to win one final midfield battle and fight off the tired challenge from his opponent, bounce the ball seal-like on his head and then ping the ball unerringly fifty yards to Jota lurking unseen on the right wing – Alan Judge, of course? He was rushed back before he was fully recovered from his injury and we have had to nurse him carefully, and hopefully the international break will have enabled him to rest up as well as strengthen his knee, as a fit Alan Judge could be the difference between our gaining a Playoff spot or narrowly missing out. We also had a nasty shock when it was reported that Everton were considering recalling Chris Long, given injuries to two of their other strikers, but, thankfully, this has so far proved to be a false alarm and the Bees will rely on Long and Andre Gray to share the load upfront and hopefully score the goals that we need over the course of the next seven, or Please God, ten matches.

Our remaining conundrum is to decide the makeup of our preferred central defensive pairing, given that we have conceded six totally avoidable goals in our last three games and we cannot continue to donate goals as if we were a charitable foundation if we are to have any chance of gaining promotion.  Harlee Dean and James Tarkowski are the men in possession but Tony Craig is breathing down their neck and perhaps his experience and leadership might be just what we need to get us over this period of defensive instability? Liam Moore is off with the England Under 21 squad, played for them last night, and is not around at the moment to challenge for his place. He has pace in abundance, an asset that his rivals do not possess and I just wonder if his time will come again, as it seems really strange that a player considered good enough to start for his country cannot establish himself in the Brentford team. I fully accept that his performance at Ipswich was ghastly in the extreme and the manager was entirely correct to take him out of the firing line, but given how porous we have remained, perhaps we now need to reconsider? I’m glad that this is Mark Warburton’s decision and not mine as I am totally bemused and perplexed at this problem and really am not sure what the optimum solution is.

Whilst nobody arrived at the club, two more went out of the exit door to join the evergrowing phalanx of Brentford players plying their trade away from the club on loan. Manny Oyeleke has joined Lionel Stone at Woking where they will both benefit from facing the pressure of a Playoff assault. Oyeleke has impressed every time I have watched him play but I can honestly see no real future for him at Brentford and I just hope he can get himself fixed up for next season and beyond. The other move came out of the blue and surprised everyone. Richard Lee, who recently leeannounced his retirement at the end of the season has moved on loan to our neighbours and rivals, Fulham. His move was greeted by supporters with some degree of annoyance and disappointment on social media and he came in for some unnecessary criticism and personal abuse, but my view is totally different. You are a long time retired and if Richard sees this as a final chance to stay involved and maybe even play a last couple of first team matches before the curtain comes down on his long and distinguished career, then good luck to him. He cannot play against us and given that he was seemingly confined to Bees Player duties at Griffin Park, then how can anybody deny him this opportunity?  OK, I will also let you all into a closely guarded secret, Richard will be writing a chapter for my forthcoming book on the season at Brentford and he has made the move to Craven Cottage purely so that he can provide a Fulham-orientated and related viewpoint on next Friday’s match and add fresh colour and perspective to his writing! Seriously though, I wish Richard all good fortune, and hope that he will be seen on the pitch again this season.

Sam Saunders and Nico Yennaris have also extended their loan spells at Wycombe Wanderers until the end of the season. They can be recalled to Griffin Park should the need arise, although I samthink is highly unlikely that the services of either player will be required. I watched eight current and ex-Bees play in the televised clash between Luton and Wycombe on Tuesday night and it was a slightly surreal experience – the ghost of Christmas past. Saunders ran the whole game and always seemed to find time and space in what was otherwise a frenetic promotion clash. Yennaris was good on the ball but was often caught upfield and easily bypassed in defence. Another Brentford player, Alfie Mawson, has been at Wycombe all season and he scored a wonderfully inventive winning goal on Tuesday and also looked so comfortable on the ball. Whether he can defend to the standard required in the Championship is another question and a decision will shortly need to be made on his future given that his contract expires at the end of the season. Like Aaron Pierre who defended stoutly on the night, and Luke Norris, he might well hayesdecide that he needs to move on but I hope that we manage to persuade him to extend his contract so that we can send him out on loan again next season and see how good a player he can become. Former Bees Paul Hayes, Marcus Bean, Sam Wood and Fraser Franks were also involved in the match and Hayes and Bean in particular showed their experience and ability and were highly instrumental in Wycombe’s victory. Hayes even managed to score with a perfectly placed penalty kick!

Jack O’Connell has been quietly impressive since he rejoined Rochdale on loan in January and it is clear that we have a major asset in the tall, blond defender who has also proved to be a massive danger in the opposition area at set pieces, an attribute that our current incumbents would do well to copy. He too could be recalled if Mark Warburton feels that a fresh face is required but he is probably one for next season, when I fully expect him to make his mark. Nick Proschwitz remains at Coventry City but seems to have disappeared into a black hole as he has not been seen in recent games for the Sky Blues following an apparently gruesome open goal miss that cost his new team a crucial victory against Bradford City. Well the die is cast, there is no more room to manoeuvre and Mark Warburton now has to play with the cards that he currently holds. Will they be strong enough or will we fall just short? I can hardly wait to find out!

Jeepers Keepers – Part Three – 25/3/15

bennoWatching David Button’s goalkeeping masterclasses this season reminded me of some of the other excellent keepers that have played for us in past years, so I thought it was time to continue my review of Brentford goalkeepers and go back in time to the 90s. The decade began with Graham Benstead who was signed by Steve Perryman to replace Tony Parks for the 1990/91 season. Parks had been decent but he wasn’t the dominating type of keeper that the manager wanted. Benno cost a massive £70,000 from Sheffield United, at the time a record fee paid by the club for a goalkeeper, and most fans were questioning the wisdom of that investment when he conceded six goals to Chelsea in a preseason friendly at Griffin Park – shades of Richard Lee, twenty years later who similarly introduced himself to the Brentford faithful by conceding five goals to neighbours Fulham in Kevin O’Connor’s testimonial match.

Like Richard, Graham recovered and ended the season in a blaze of glory by winning the Supporters’ Player of the Year Award. Graham was tall and agile if a bit gawky in stature and had the ability to inspire his teammates by making the seemingly impossible save look commonplace. He performed miracles by saving three consecutive Wrexham penalty kicks in a shootout, eerily, another feat matched by Richard Lee against Charlton in the same competition, and he was largely responsible for a hardworking team, but one that had major weaknesses at left back and upfront, where Dean Holdsworth struggled all season with injury, overachieving and reaching the Playoffs. Graham more than maintained his standard for the next two seasons but missed several matches each year through niggly injuries which allowed Perry Suckling and the evergreen Gerry Peyton to prove that they were both highly impressive deputies. Peyton was so good at the advanced age of thirty-six that we even forgave him for having been a Fulham favourite for so many years.

Ashley Bayes was the reserve goalkeeper at this time and was also called upon to deputise twelve times, conceding a massive thirty-four goals, and never looking like keeping a clean sheet. He was patently unready, unprepared and undercooked and whilst it is easy to point fingers at him and make him a figure of fun and derision I more blame the manager and coaches who exposed him to the spotlight and allowed him to become an Aunt Sally. In truth he was always a mistake waiting to happen and would intersperse saves of real quality and agility with a series of catastrophic and costly errors that sometimes beggared belief. Benstead withdrew late from the season opener against Leyton Orient in August 1991 with a hamstring strain, and I was horrified to see Ashley warming up in goal. We won a nail biter by four goals to three and he was sensational, making a series of saves from close in efforts by Nugent, Burnett and Sayer that saved our bacon on a sizzling afternoon when rampaging winger Ricky Otto tore poor Simon Ratcliffe to shreds. Ashley was also more than decent in a narrow League Cup defeat at White Hart Lane but reverted to type in the second leg where he proved to be a one man fifth column that reduced a certain commentator to despair! He reached his nadir when with Brentford clinging onto a narrow one goal lead against fellow strugglers Luton Town, he arched backwards like a dying swan and, under no pressure except perhaps from within himself, punched Chris Kamara’s wayward cross into his own net for an equaliser of spellbinding ineptitude. Horrified by his example, his team mates downed tools and we subsided to a late loss which proved crucial at the end of the season. On another day, striker Gary Blissett was forced to replace the injured Bemstead against Southend and I still have a vivid mental picture of Ashley kneeling behind the goal coaching Blissett through the game to assorted cries from the crowd of “Don’t listen to him Bliss!”

Football is all about opinions and new manager David Webb made it clear that Benstead, always awkward with the ball at his feet, was not to his taste, substituting him at halftime at Rotherham and it was evident that he was on borrowed time. Dean Paul Williams, not to be confused with the equally anonymous striker Dean Anton Williams, was his exceptionally average short term replacement before Webb pulled a rabbit out of the hat deardenby signing Kevin Dearden from Spurs. Just like another former Tottenham goalkeeper, David Button, Dearden had trawled around the lower league circuit and he had had loan spells at nine clubs. Rejected, dispirited and broken, he was apparently on his way to sign for Kettering when the fateful call came from Webb. Finally the Ugly Ducking had found a home. Known as the “Flying Pig” just as Liverpool’s Tommy Lawrence had been before him, Kevin looked like Fred Rycraft’s slightly thinner younger brother and was short, stubby and rotund. He looked more like a Sunday morning parks player than a professional footballer, but in his case looks were totally deceiving. Grateful for his opportunity, Dearden rewarded Webb for his trust in him with countless performances of true quality, bravery and agility that belied his shape and size and he was justifiably rewarded with the Player of the Year Trophy at the end of his first season with the club. Kevin played more than two hundred and fifty games for the club and conceded little over a goal per game, testament indeed to his ability, consistency and the level of understanding he developed with his defenders. Yes, he was caught out from time to time by his lack of stature, particularly by Andy Booth in the Playoff semifinal second leg in 1995, but we supporters loved him and forgave him everything because he represented Everyman and gave further proof to our sad misconception that we could all have played professional football given half a chance.

Young Tamer Fernandes, who had changed his surname from Aouf, initially deputised well for Dearden when required but indelibly blotted his copybook when he fumbled a harmless low cross into his own net against rivals Fulham. Nobody could recover from a gruesome error of that magnitude and he retired soon afterwards and became an estate agent. Dearden was then challenged for his place by loanees Nick Colgan and Mike Pollitt who were both highly competent but he fell out of favour when Ron Noades took over. He brought in the experienced Jason Pearcey who was calm and unobtrusive and did little wrong but Noades remained sceptical and splurged £100,000 on Northampton’s Andy Woodman.

At the time I was delighted and excited by his capture as he had been woodya model of consistency for many years, but for some reason, despite a return to his London roots, Woody never really convinced nor was he widely accepted by the supporters who were unimpressed by his reluctance to leave his line and, on the rare occasions that he did, his flapping at crosses. This was surprising as he had demonstrated that he was a real talent but it never came together for him at Brentford apart from on the one day when it really mattered when he was unbeatable in the winner-take-all clash at Cambridge United on the last day of the 1998/99 season when his saves broke the heart of the home team and striker John Taylor in particular and Lloyd Owusu’s goal brought the title to Griffin Park. The magic soon faded, however and the decade ended with an unexpected hiatus in goal with Woodman out of favour and exiled on loan, Pearcey forced into retirement after a seemingly innocuous injury against Wigan proved to be far more serious and journeyman Jimmy Glass acting as a short term stopgap. Who would answer the call and fill the gap? All will be revealed next time.

One Point – I’ll Take It! – 22/3/15

GW Birthday 2015 1With barely five minutes left on the clock in Saturday lunchtime’s clash with neighbours, Millwall, it looked as if it would all end in tears. Particularly Chez Waterman where my wife was waiting on tenterhooks for the result of the match, knowing as she did – and I didn’t – that she was planning a surprise birthday dinner for me on Saturday evening and she didn’t want the so-called guest of honour sulking in a corner and reduced to a series of monosyllabic grunts. I was surprised and delighted when my son, Nick, unexpectedly asked to accompany me to the match as normally he is a more than reluctant attendee who needs to be bribed with the promise of a lift back to his old haunts in Leeds, but I didn’t realise that his presence had a more nefarious purpose. He seemed to spend the entire ninety-four minutes with his head buried in his iPhone rather than concentrating on what was happening on the pitch and little did I realise that he was sending my wife a constant series of texts updating her not only on the score, but, more importantly, he was providing her with a barometer on my state of mind and my likely temper later in the day.

There was a time when I would allow a defeat or poor performance to spoil my evening as I would allow myself to fall into a deep funk and replay the horror show on a continuous mental tape loop, and woe betide anyone, friend or family member alike, who had the misfortune to have to spend time with me for the next twenty-four hours or so. Now things have changed, maturity and old age have finally kicked in – not before time I would add, and I no longer allow results on the pitch to interfere too much with the rest of my life and I am delighted to say that despite the events at Griffin Park yesterday we all had a wonderful time last night, with much merriment, eating, drinking and good conversation which lasted well into the early hours of Sunday morning. So please excuse me if today’s article is not as polished as I would like but I am a bit bleary eyed today and not thinking too straight.

On reflection I am extremely pleased that last night I was able to take my mind off matters at Griffin Park as yesterday’s performance was disappointing in the extreme and Brentford were more than fortunate to emerge with a point from a match where despite their customary overwhelming amount of possession they gave further truth to that old adage, “It’s not what you have its what you do with it.” Millwall proved to be tough and resilient opponents who came with a game plan which worked perfectly for them. They packed their defence, pressed us high up the pitch and then funnelled back denying us space and room in the final third where the visitors were more than happy to show us outside onto both flanks where we were impotent and created little danger. We played a constant series of passes, but mainly backwards and sideways. Gray was left isolated in the penalty area and when on the rare occasions he did manage to escape the close attention of the giant Jos Hooiveld his finishing was wild and inaccurate.

We started the game slowly as if finding it hard to adapt to the early lunchtime start and our customary skill on the ball and clever runs into space were rarely evident as we lacked our normal tempo and we were reduced to slinging a series of wasteful balls into the penalty area which were meat and drink to their tall defenders. Apart from an excellent header from Jota that dipped onto the junction of post and crossbar and a long range effort from Odubajo straight down the keeper’s throat, we seldom threatened and were put onto the back foot by Millwall’s other tactic – one which we should be more than used to by now, as they were the latest in a long series of teams who have clocked our Achilles heel. They simply played a series of long balls over and behind our central defenders in an effort to find space and make them turn. Gregory and O’Brien were a pair of eager and pacy runners who caused Dean and Tarkowski no end of problems, if not running them entirely ragged, and the alarm bells had been ringing well in advance of Millwall’s opener when Upson played the ball over the top of our non-existent defence, Button came out, more in hope than expectation, but was easily beaten to the ball by Gregory who had escaped Dean’s attention and slotted home. Yet again we had fallen for a sucker punch, just as we had against Cardiff, twice, and Blackburn.

GW Birthday 2015 3It could have been worse when Gregory fired over before we finally woke up and came to our senses, managed to string some passes together and forced four excellent saves from Forde who stretched backwards to tip over a beautifully executed Dallas lob, then denied Douglas and Dallas again from close range before tipping a long-range Pritchard free kick round the post. These were crucial saves which denied us the fillip of an equaliser before the interval. As it was we pressed forward early in the second half and Gray had two early sights of goal which he spurned. Millwall were playing deeper and more cagily but received a massive boost when Dean lost possession and we were swiftly punished with Douglas the only Brentford player attempting to prevent Woolford standing up a perfect cross which took Button out of the game and allowed the gangly O’Brien to nod in from almost on the goal line. Another terrible goal to concede and one that was totally preventable, and but for a brave block from Tarkowski it could have been three shortly afterwards. As it was we looked shellshocked and impotent and despite the presence of Judge who gave us fresh legs, imagination and impetus, we did little with the ball which would invariably progress up either wing where Moses and Jota on one flank, or Bidwell and Pritchard on the other would eventually run into a blind alley and the chance would evaporate.

Smith and Toral came on as we went to three at the back but despite another sharp save by Forde from a Jota effort the game seemed to be ebbing away from us until finally the tide turned. Judge ran along the byeline with the ball seemingly tied to his bootlaces and invited Woolford to lunge into him and he suitably obliged. An obvious penalty which Pritchard calmly converted. Now it was panic stations at the back as Millwall tried desperately to hold onto the win that their bravery and organisation fully deserved, but in injury time Pritchard jinked, dropped a shoilder and his low cross was only half cleared by the straining Nelson and Odubajo buried the chance low into the corner. There were three minutes remaining but we lost our shape and discipline as we poured men forward in a Kamikaze attempt to force an unlikely victory and there was almost a sting in the tail when the Sumo-like Gary Taylor-Fletcher showed strength and subtlety in bursting past Bidwell and cleverly used Tarkowski as a screen before curling the ball inches wide.

One point is better than none but we were poor yesterday and fell far below the high standards we have set over the course of the season. We looked tired and flat, lacked our normal pace and invention, ran out of ideas and our defence creaked ominously whenever Millwall attacked. I am not sure if all the blame should be laid at the door of Dean and Tarkowski who were both unimpressive in the extreme. Perhaps they lacked cover and were left far too exposed as we pressed forward, but they were both a mistake waiting to happen and perhaps we now need yet another new defensive partnership. The truth remains evident, we have become a soft touch and have conceded six goals in our last three games, all of which were totally avoidable. We now come into the final international break of the season and we find ourselves outside the playoff places for the first time this year. Perhaps this might take some of the pressure off and be to our advantage, or maybe I am merely clutching at straws? But games are rapidly running out and over the course of the next twelve days we have to rest tired legs, recover our poise and composure, and, most importantly, our defensive solidity before we go into the final countdown. Goals have never been easy for us to come by this season given the formation we employ and we cannot keep having to overcome the burden of needing to score three times to win a match. There is no more time for excuses or learning curves, now is the time when we need to perform or the season will end on a whimper rather than the crescendo that we deserve.

Brentford Quiz – 20/3/15

stroud1Tomorrow’s match is looming ominously ahead of us and given the fact that so many of our rivals are playing against each other, a victory and three points against a Millwall team fighting for their life at the bottom of the table is an absolute imperative. Like every other true Brentford supporter I have total faith in our team to produce the goods when it is necessary and I am very confident that not only we will put on a decent performance tomorrow lunchtime but we shall also come away with the points.

Given that we are fast approaching “squeaky bum time” as it is so inelegantly called, I thought that I would do my best today to take our collective minds off what is certain to be a nervous encounter tomorrow and instead I am setting you all a Brentford Quiz. Apart from the tie-break, every question concerns Brentford players and matches since 1970 so there is really very little excuse for the vast majority of you not to be right on the money with all your answers. So here we go:

1. How many appearances has Kevin O’Connor made for the club?

2. What did Kevin O’Connor do with his last touch of the ball to date in a Brentford shirt?

3. Who are the top five goal scorers for Brentford since 1970? One of them did score for the club before that year.

4. Who has been shown the most red cards for Brentford since 1970, and how many times has he been sent off? Who are second and third in the list?

5. Which current Brentford player has been sent off three times for the club?

6. How many Brentford players has Keith Stroud sent off – so far?

7. Which Brentford player has missed the most consecutive penalty kicks since 1970, and how many in a row did he miss?

8. Who has scored the most penalty kicks for Brentford since 1970?

9. Name the eight Brentford players who have a 100% success record from the penalty spot and have taken more than one penalty for the club?

10. Who was the last Brentford loanee to score two goals on his debut for the club? (Clue: It was in 2009.)

11. Who was the last Bee to score four goals in a game?

12. How many hat-tricks did Lloyd Owusu score in 1998/99 and which club did he score two hat tricks against that season?

13. Which loan goalkeeper was ever-present, named Player of the Year and conceded under a goal per game for Brentford?

14. Ashley Bayes played twelve games for the Bees (it really seemed like it was a hell of a lot more!) How many goals did he concede?

15. Name five Brentford outfield players who have played in goal after the first choice was sent-off or injured?

16. Who never missed a game and played 157 consecutive league games before he left the club?

17. Who was sent off in the twelfth minute of his Brentford debut and never played for us again?

fa18. Name five players who were nominated as team or club captain?

TieBreak Question: Which Brentford personality was involved in the 1933 FA Cup Final between Everton and Manchester City?

Good luck to everyone, please leave your answers in the comments section below this article and I shall announce the winner in the middle of next week. Cheating is allowed if you can find the correct answers anywhere in reference books or online, and as for the prize…. If anyone gets them all correct they shall receive £20 credit from me which they can use in the famed Brentford Programme Shop.

BBB At Blackburn – 18/3/15

bbb1I worked late last night and then, just to cap it all, had to sit through a boring committee meeting that dragged on interminably. I kept sneaking looks at my watch and after a couple of earlier failed attempts that brought down a cascade of dirty looks on me from my colleagues who seemed more than happy to spend the entire evening chewing the fat, I managed to slip out of a side door almost undetected accompanied by a few last gasps and hisses of disapproval, and with a sigh of relief, rushed home where a far more urgent and pressing appointment awaited me.

It was almost kickoff time before I was able to switch on Bees Player and my Herculean efforts were immediately rewarded when I was able to catch the last moments of the prematch build up so expertly provided by Mark Burridge and his guest summariser Ben Burgess. Ben has established a niche for himself as a lucid, knowledgeable and entertaining contributer to the coverage of Brentford matches in his native North West of England, and, as always, he did not disappoint. Big Ben Burgess, or Triple B, as he became known, almost singlehandedly transformed our fortunes when, as a callow and unknown teenager, Steve Coppell brought him in on loan from Blackburn Rovers in August 2001. Finally we had a dual threat up front and someone to take the weight off Lloyd Owusu who had been forced to plough a lonely furrow for far too long.

Scott Partridge, so elusive and effective on his arrival, had been found out at the higher level and his threat snuffed out, and, as for Mark McCammon, his signing was an aberration – another bad joke inflicted upon us by Ron Noades. I was just this morning speaking about McCammon on the telephone with a friend of mine, a fellow Brentford fanatic, who interrupted my stream of consciousness with the terse, pithy and heartfelt description of him as “that useless lump!” I couldn’t have put it better myself. Poor Mark certainly looked the part and had pace, power and strength in abundance, but whilst he was certainly an athlete, he was never an effective footballer at our level of the game. The ball clanged off him, he always arrived just a millisecond too late to capitalise on chances and for those of you who wonder how lethal he was with the ball in the air, I would just refer you to his glaring missed headed chances in the Cup Final against Port Vale, and even more crucially late on at QPR when he managed to bounce a simple late headed chance down into the ground and over the bar from almost under it.  If that had gone in, as it surely should have done, then our history might have been rewritten as we would only have needed to draw that fateful last game of the season against Reading. He tried hard and never shirked, but whilst the flesh was willing he never justified the fee reputed to have been paid for him, and we would surely have been far better served by the elusive Trevor Benjamin who teased us by seeming to be on the verge of signing for us for the best part of a season but somehow always evaded our desperate clutches.

Ben Burgess made us all stand up and take notice when he announced his arrival with a precocious and beautifully taken goal to clinch victory against Port Vale with a twenty-yarder curled perfectly into the bottom corner, and he immediately looked the part. He was well built, strong, powerful, deadly in the air and impossible to knock off the ball. But he was far more than a mere bruiser as he had a subtle left foot that could open a can of peas and he also had an excellent eye for a pass. He formed a deadly partnership up front with Owusu, and but for Noades’s parsimony we would surely have obtained automatic promotion. Coppell was forced to manage with one hand tied behind his back and late on in the 2001/02 season had to sell important squad members in Paul Gibbs and Gavin Mahon. Most crucially, he was apparently not allowed to bring in a loan replacement when Burgess damaged his hamstring when playing for Eire Under 21s. Echoes indeed of the fateful injury suffered by Owusu when playing in a friendly for Ghana against an obscure German team which cost us his services in the promotion run-in in 2006 and contributed heavily to yet another promotion choke.

After incurring his injury, Burgess was little more than a passenger, forced to limp through the remainder of the season, bbb2playing like a stork on one leg. His goal threat was seriously diminished and he scored only once more – unfortunately at the wrong end, deflecting a free kick into his own net in the Playoff final against Stoke City. Once promotion was lost our squad was dismantled and the next couple of years were a desperate struggle, ironically with McCammon becoming our number one striker by default, initially partnered with another young loanee in Rowan Vine, an indication of how far we had fallen so quickly.

As for BBB, there was never a chance of our signing him on a permanent basis and he went on to have a career at Stockport, Hull and Blackpool that, whilst decent enough, due to a series of niggling injuries never touched the heights that once looked so likely. He came close to notching twenty goals for us and left us with some indelible memories, in particular that unforgettable, acrobatic overhead volleyed goal in our televised four-nil victory against Brighton, where he demonstrated an almost balletic beauty that totally belied his bulk.

As for last night, Burgess revelled in Brentford’s skill on the ball as well as their dogged determination not to be defeated despite conceding two goals which were largely due to poor defending, lack of concentration and giving the ball away cheaply in dangerous areas of the pitch. He would have been particularly impressed by Jota’s delightful solo equalising goal when he ran unopposed over half the length of the pitch with Long’s clever decoy run creating the space and room for the Spaniard to slot the ball unerringly into the corner of the net from just outside the penalty area. On second thoughts I can’t imagine Ben ever choosing to run fifty yards if there was any other viable alternative! Ben would also have taken great pleasure in Brentford’s other two goals last night. Chris Long provided further evidence of his determination to shoot on sight and received his just reward when his shot was deflected over the helpless keeper. Substitute Andre Gray scored the winner with a close range predatory finish from Jota’s half-saved shot and proved that he was Johnny-on-the-Spot for the second match running.

Last night’s hard-fought three-two victory has given a massive boost to our Playoff aspirations and will have restored confidence after the disappointment of last Saturday. All in all I had a great night’s listening at home with the exception of my disappointment at the slovenly early goal conceded and I had barely finished celebrating Long’s equaliser when, given the presence of my wife in the room, I had to stifle my fury at the concession of a second goal immediately afterwards. But all’s well that ends well and there is now everything to play for as we enter the home stretch, and victory on Saturday against Millwall is a prerequisite given that Ipswich and Wolves both won last night and are hot on our heels. Bolton’s tattooed striker Craig Davies has never been a particular favourite of mine, and he went even further down in my estimation last night when he missed a point blank header that would have given his team a last minute equaliser at Ipswich. He proved far less deadly in front of goal last night than he had been when he scored unerringly against us last year into an empty net from way out on the right wing. That being said it is simply up to Brentford to keep on the front foot and win as many of their games as they can without paying too much attention to our rivals as they hopefully keep taking points off each other.

As for Ben Burgess, it was such a pleasure to listen to him and last night brought back so many splendid memories of his past performances. Bob Taylor shared many of the same attributes as Ben. But with the exception of Marcello Trotta who possesses some of his languid skills, we have seen nobody quite like him since he left us thirteen years ago. BBB Mark Two would be a magnificent addition to our ranks next season.

Mark Burridge – Part Two – 17/3/15

beespBrentford play a quite crucial match away at Blackburn Rovers tonight, and they face no easy task against a team bang in form and justifiably full of confidence after three league wins in a row and a meritorious draw at Anfield in the FA Cup. The Bees on the other hand must still be smarting after Saturday’s ludicrous self-inflicted defeat to Cardiff City and need to get back on track immediately if they are to retain their limpet-like hold onto that crucial final playoff place in the Championship table.

A midweek away game in Lancashire, particularly on a work night, is too tough an ask for most of us and I salute all of those rabid Bees supporters, heroes each and every one of them, who will shortly be setting off on their long and hopefully rewarding journey to Blackburn. I am sure that I will not be alone in keeping in touch with events as they unfold at Ewood Park by tuning into Bees Player and listening to Mark Burridge describe all the action in his normal calm and professional manner. Which leads me on to the second part of my recent interview with Mark, where he expounded on all things Brentford and shed further light on the role of Bees Player.

How honest can you be?

Very. All of us just say what we see and feel. The media team have always been good with us that way, we are trusted to say it how it is. Common sense has to prevail in certain areas, if there’s a player who is having a poor game you should say, everyone has a bad day at the office, but being completely disrespectful to our own players is crossing the line.

How did you get the gig in the first place?

I saw an advert at the back of a fanzine for volunteers to commentate for the blind supporters back in 1997. The first game I did some commentary on we beat Gillingham 2-0 and the first Bees goal I had the pleasure to call was by Bob Taylor. By 2001/02 when clubs were encouraged and expected to cover away games too (in the trial period) Gary Hargraves asked me to commentate at Newcastle for the League Cup game. I sat about three yards from Newcastle legend Malcolm Macdonald and they couldn’t get us a phone line, so we had to use Gary’s phone. I gave out my own number in case anyone wanted a message read out. At half time I discovered there were thirty-eight texts to read! The Bees were one up through Owusu’s early goal and it was a great experience.

Gary then asked if I could do the away games that season and I did all but three, covering away games with Mark Chapman. It was a great season, tremendous fun and we so nearly gained promotion. I am not sure exactly how many games I’ve been involved in commentary for Brentford over the years but I’d estimate it’s been around six hundred.

The Bees Player team of commentators and analysts

Our current squad comprises Billy Reeves, Alan Denman (over forty years with both the blind scheme and Bees Player) and I on commentary, our summarisers include Chris Wickham, Mark Chapman, Ciaran Brett, Dave Morley, Natalie Sawyer and Mick Cabble, plus players when they are available .

Working with players and guests – do’s and don’ts

Be respectful and have fun. With players you simply cannot ask them to criticise their team mates, or even a fellow professional who is guilty of a very bad challenge. Try and bring them in as much as possible and if the opportunity arises take the topic off the game for a few seconds. The players can come up with some enlightening and light hearted stories about their team mates, all in good humour, of course!

Unforgettable games – good and bad!

So many memorable ones, particularly this season. I loved Forest away, total domination by Brentford. The first half at Cardiff away this year was mesmerising. The win against Derby. Preston and Peterborough away last year, that first away game I ever covered at Newcastle. All were very memorable. Bradford City at home on a rain sodden pitch with Nathan Elder’s late winning header in the title winning season. Blackpool away in 2002, with a brilliant opening goal from Lloyd Owusu in a superb and important win.

Mind you, nothing will ever match Sheffield United away in 2013 will it? Keith Stroud, four penalties, three reds, numerous yellows (was it nine?) and a late equaliser from us too. two-two and we felt robbed. Anyone who was there will never, ever forget that night.

Bad ones? Well nothing was more painful than the last fifteen minutes of the Reading home game in 2002. It was like being punched in the stomach when Cureton scored. I only got over it last year with our three-one win against them !! (Seriously!)

As for football of a quality I hope we never see again, the very word “Macclesfield” can send shivers down my spine, the one-nil loss on a Tuesday night there under Terry Butcher was about as difficult to commentate on as I can remember. Morecambe at home too with a one-nil loss. In both games, the football was as bad as I can remember -we were fifty shades of diabolical!

Best and worst interviewees and analysts?

I think it’s fair to say all are good in their way. We’ve added “Fan Interviews” to half/full time, which seem very popular and it’s great to try and hear how different supporters came to follow the Bees. Of the players we’ve worked with there’s no doubt Richard Lee and Sam Saunders have a potential career in media, indeed they’ve both already worked for Sky. Richard has a brilliant radio voice and I wouldn’t be suprised to see him on Sky’s Soccer Saturday at games next season.

Hopefully it’s decent media training for players anyway, if they are injured/suspended, to get involved with a live game and express their thoughts.

“It’s raining goals at Griffin Park !” – Discuss

Up there with “They think it’s all over!” Even the very best of commentators are lucky if they come up with one gem in their career. You have yours Greville. It’s in Brentford folklore. I do use it, tongue in cheek, if there’s a goal rush at Griffin Park.

How far can we go and how quickly?

Well, we can get to The Premier League next season. Nine games left and eight great teams going for two automatics and four playoff places. Our run in looks fairly good compared to others but its about standards and keeping them high, as Mark Warburton always says. Such is the quality of this League that if you only play to around 60% of your best then you’ll get beaten. It’s going to be a tremendously exciting six weeks. Personally, I’d love sixth place right now! What an achievement that would be for Matthew Benham, Mark Warburton and everyone at the Club – and I’d fancy us in the play-offs for sure! Next season? Well who knows –  there are going to be a few changes and it would be a brave or wise man to say at this stage. I am neither brave, or wise!

Beesplayer – the legacy 

Whichever way the service goes I do hope we keep it “in house” as having a slightly biased commentary does make fans feel more connected with the service. At present the listeners appear to like the way it all knits together, though with ever changing technology we must adapt to what the fans desire. Speaking for myself, though, I’m sure all the others in our team echo this sentiment. It’s been a joy to work on Bees World/Bees Player as I’ve met some great people, made strong lasting friendships through this experience with both fans and colleagues and if the media team are happy with what we do and the supporters enjoy the service, then I’m happy too. After all we are one big family in every way and that’s what makes us proud to support Brentford Football Club.

To catch all the commentaries and interviews plus up to date news, you can subscribe to Beesplayer for less than 10p a day at

Sh*t Happens! – 15/3/15

Apologies for the directness and bluntness of today’s title. It really wasn’t what I’d originally had in mind. My initial intention had been to write a piece themed around the idea of “catching up” with all the news, rumours and scuttlebutt in and around Griffin Park after returning from my trip abroad, but my plans were rather overtaken by the ultimately frustrating events of yesterday afternoon which have necessitated a total change of emphasis. Things had started so well with a lovely relaxing lunch at The Weir followed by the post prandial passeggiata stroll through the splendour of The Butts and the nearby maze of terraced houses, then past The Griffin, and finally inside the ground where I eagerly sought out the company of some badly missed old friends.

I had been far away for over a week and really needed a fresh fix of all things Brentford. How had we played at Ipswich, was there any transfer gossip, who should start this afternoon in central defence and upfront, Liam Moore or Harlee Dean, Andre Gray or Chris Long, how fit is Alan Judge? I needed the answers to these and many other pressing questions from established Brentford sages such as Billy Reeves, Mark Burridge, Paul Briers, Matt Casey, Phil Coffey, Dave Morley and Ian Townsend. I paced up and down the Braemar Road forecourt and into various byways and bolt holes in order to seek them out as I needed to reconnect with them, hear their opinions and even argue the toss with them. Some I found, others I didn’t but, overall, my endeavours were rewarded, as by the time the two teams emerged I felt replenished and reinvigorated, really back where I belonged and totally re-immersed in the DNA of my beloved club.

Three points against a mid table and seemingly disinterested Cardiff City team that appeared to be going through the motions in a first half totally dominated by the Bees seemed to be a formality and Brentford should have been leading by more than a single goal at the interval. For all their possession, imagination and energy Brentford did not create as many chances as they should, but after Jonathan Douglas had a goal ruled out after he challenged ex-Bee Simon Moore in the air and Stuart Dallas miscued badly after a dazzling run by the mercurial Jota, Andre Gray tapped in from close range after Moore could only paw away a long range free kick by Alex Pritchard, reminiscent of his recent effort against AFC Bournemouth.

Cardiff were totally out thought and outplayed and time wasted shamelessly almost from the outset without interference from a weak and benign referee. Morrison and the moody Macheda both saw yellow for niggly fouls and Brentford let the visitors off the hook by not going for the jugular and securing the second goal that would surely have sealed victory and left the visitors dead and buried.

The second half started as the first had ended with the Bees on top, and only a sharp low save from Moore prevented Gray from scoring at the near post. And then, having been under no pressure whatsoever Brentford, not for the first time this season, exposed their soft underbelly and self-destructed. This time the unexpected kapore-hun, or “scapegoat” for those of you who do not speak Yiddish was goalkeeper David Button, so often our salvation this season, who now showed his less positive side when he spilled an easy ball when he collided with the covering Harlee Dean and Macheda was left with an open goal. Dean was the innocent fall-guy in this instance but Tarkowski was also beaten far too easily in the air by Alex Revell in the lead up to the goal. Unusually the heads seemed to go down after this bolt from the blue and another gift was soon in the offing when Macheda played the ball in behind an advanced defence, Button came, then stopped, left himself exposed and high and dry in no-man’s land, and was easily lobbed by Revell. Two goals from two chances and both were easily avoidable and came from totally inexcusable defending. Even more galling was that they were Cardiff’s only efforts on target throughout the entire match.

Brentford came back strongly but for all their dominance in possession and flurries in the box, created very little. Jota and Pritchard schemed in vain but ran into blind alleys and even when Judge came on to add his energy and change of pace not too much fell our way as we were smothered by the sheer weight of numbers. Tarkowski and Toral headed wastefully over. Moore tipped over a lame header from Bidwell and that was it until Cardiff were reduced to nine men with former Brentford loanee Kadeem Harris dismissed for a high tackle on Judge which probably looked worse than it was and Macheda receiving a long overdue second yellow card for a raised foot on Tarkowski.

The last ten minutes saw Cardiff under siege but Brentford lost their heads, stopped playing their football, went Route One and played into Cardiff’s hands with a series of aimless crosses which were meat and drink to their huge defenders. Smith’s deflected volley just wide and a heated late appeal for hand ball were the closest that we came to an equaliser.

This was a tough but not necessarily mortal blow to our promotion prospects as we beat ourselves and allowed a horrible, sly and negative team to walk away sniggering with three totally undeserved points. Once again we gave away soft goals through failing to do our job and defend properly. We have to work so hard to score ourselves and yet we are so profligate at the other end. No wonder we appeared so demoralised once we had conceded the first goal. At the other end, some of our passing was a joy to watch but the final ball rarely fell kindly or was often overhit.

For all our possession and clever, intricate play, Simon Moore was rarely extended and we only tested his supposed weakness from long range once and hit the jackpot when he spilled Pritchard’s free kick. Surely an opportunity wasted and a mere five shots on target from twenty-four attempts tells its own sad story.

This season has been so exciting and successful that it almost appears carping to criticise but we really should not be repeating the same errors at both ends of the field in March as were being made in September. Margins are so slim and there are certain to be many more peaks and troughs over the last crucial nine games, but today was a massive missed opportunity and our prospects of automatic promotion now look slim. We simply need to regroup, put today down as just one of those games and ensure that we do not return empty-handed from our long, tough trip to a resurgent Blackburn Rovers on Tuesday night. We will certainly need to defend far better than yesterday and snap up whatever chances we manage to create. Ipswich and Wolves are breathing down our neck and we need to ensure that sixth place at a minimum remains ours. We deserve no less after our incredible exploits this season, but we certainly make life hard for ourselves sometimes, and yesterday was a prime example.

Mark Burridge – Part One – 13/3/15

burridgeI have just returned from a wonderful relaxing break courtesy of my wonderful wife, Miriam. Eight days of pure bliss and total unwinding. I have to confess that despite the idyllic surroundings, tropical weather and my modest and long-overdue achievement of finally learning how to snorkel without being subjected to a deluge of water entering my mouth and, as a consequence, finally unlocking the door to the amazing world that lurks just beneath the surface of the ocean, I did allow myself a minor distraction last Saturday. I simply did what every self-respecting exiled Bee does on match day – tune into Bees Player.

Mark Burridge, Chris Wickham and special guest, Scott Barron, transported me from my exotic climes to the more prosaic surroundings of Portman Road. I shut my eyes and it was as if I was there in the stands alongside them. As always, they did a quite magnificent job, acting as they do as the eyes and ears of all Brentford supporters who, for whatever reason, are unable to attend a match. From personal experience I know just how hard it is to make sense of what is happening on the wipitch below you and how difficult it is not to let your emotions and bias run amok and somehow manage to provide a balanced, coherent and accurate description of the match as it unfolds.

Mark Burridge is the consummate professional, with a wonderful relaxed tone of voice, he paints vivid verbal pictures and yet he knows exactly when he needs to bring in his co-commentator or player summariser. Having listened to some of the efforts from other clubs far more exalted than Brentford, I just have to say how blessed we are with the whole Bees Player operation which is streets ahead of the service provided by the overwhelming majority of our rivals. I caught up with Mark recently and over the next couple of articles I will let him tell you all about Bees Player, how it came about, and what it means to him. Thanks also to Chris Wickham for his help in providing this information.  

Why Brentford?

My father has always been a staunch Bees fan . When he was a table tennis international he trained with the Brentford players. He also helped set up the Junior section many years ago in Frank Blunstone’s days. I believe he was the first Chairman, or President of Brentford Juniors. At one time he was invited on to the Board but declined due to having taken up golf and didn’t want to be committed to watching us play home and away each week. I have no idea what my first game was, probably around 1965. I remember the Cup games at Cardiff and Hull. We went back with the players on the coach to the station. I have probably only missed ten home games in the last thirty odd years. It’s fair to say most people who know me realise Brentford is massively important in my life.

Bees Player – a potted history

It started off as Bees World in the 2001/02 season as a free service for two seasons. We used the same rota and team that commentated for the blind supporters. It then became a subscription service for commentary, then came all the other additions such as interviews etc. With Bees Player as a whole there is so much content for subscribers as well as the match commentary. We started off doing this either talking through a standard old fashioned phone, at many away games doing it on a mobile phone. At Cambridge United in 2001 I was sat amongst the home supporters, trying to relay the action. It was a bit strange, as were the looks we were getting! Long time subscribers will know that over the years it has changed from starting a few minutes before the kickoff to being a full MATCH DAY LIVE programme, where listeners have a programme that runs from 2.30pm, right through to 5.30pm, including buildup, pre-match discussion, half time interviews with various guests, and the post-match thoughts of the manager and key players with interviews from Billy Reeves.

When Chris (Wickham) was involved on the commentary side he was keen to get players involved as summarisers where possible and that takes the experience for fans to a whole new level. Not only does Richard Lee work as our summariser at home games (if available) we’ve also enjoyed the wisdom of Alan McCormack, Sam Saunders, Kevin O’Connor, Harlee Dean, ex-players Paul Gibbs and Glenn Poole plus Ben Burgess at games in the North West. We must also pay homage to Luis Melville who was the ultimate professional for me when working on MDL, his enthusiasm and attention to detail helped take the whole programme to another level. 

So the product has come a long way from the early days and a lot of preparation goes in to trying to put on a good match experience for subscribers. Fans can also get their own thoughts across via Twitter @brentfordfc #beesplayer. It’s ‘”the next best thing to being there” is how we like to describe MDL, so fan interaction is important to us and the listeners. Further emphasising the progress of the whole experience, Brentford have invested in state-of-the-art equipment in recent seasons to ensure we deliver the same sound quality as you would enjoy on mainstream radio broadcasts. With the addition to the media team of Sean Ridley (Video Content Manager) subscribers will have seen added extras this season such as the 30-40 minute-long highlights footage less than twenty-four hours after the game, synchronised with our ” live audio” commentary. This is really useful for long-distance fans who don’t get to see the players in action very often, and it has been very pleasing to hear how much subscribers love this additional service this season. Sean works through the night to get this ready on time and the Club continues to increase its spend in all the highest spec. equipment to make sure our fans get the most comprehensive portfolio of essential Bees viewing. Seeing more of it up close this season, it’s fair to say the thorough professionalism of the media team as a whole is a testament to all the hard work that goes on in the week and on match days, whether its covering Youth Team, Development Squad or First Team games.

Helping the disadvantaged keep in touch?

The Blind Commentary Scheme at Griffin Park has a long and proud history. Brentford were only the second English Club to introduce such a scheme which started back in August 1951 with Eric White and Peter Pond Jones covering the game against Rotherham. As hard as it is to believe, Bees manager Jackie Gibbons assisted them throughout the match with his own contributions. Brentford won 2-0!! Alan Denman, who still assists in some home matches each season, has been a contributor for around forty years and others such as the late Mary Farley, Alan Rogers, Geoff Buckingham and Steve Leggett have given their valuable services freely over the years to enable this proud service to flourish.

Through the generosity of The Brentford Lifeline Society, our blind and visually impaired supporters (and visiting fans) can hear the commentary through a UHF Radio system, which operates anywhere within the stadium up to a range of two hundred metres. Not only is this available at Griffin Park, our fans can also pick up the full MATCH DAY LIVE service at away games too. We had four blind fans at MK Dons last season who were able to pick up Brentford commentary on the day, rather than a “home club” service.

Apart from the huge privilege to be involved in bringing the game to our blind fans we have been fortunate to get to know some of them personally too, many having been coming to GP for several years. I’ve driven Andy Godfrey to several away matches and anyone who knows him will say the same, that he is non-stop entertainment and fun, is blessed with an incredible memory of Bees games from yesteryear and football in general. Andy has also come across quite a few Bees fans over the years as he is a school teacher in languages – I wish he had been mine as I’m sure I would now be fluent in French and German ! Brentford still actively encourage new blind & partially sighted fans to come along so if anyone reading this knows of someone who could benefit from the club’s service with a match day visit to Griffin Park, the scheme will offer them a great welcome.

Best and worst working conditions?

Bramall Lane is excellent, high up, plenty of room, a proper long gantry. Plus you can stand, which I far prefer. Basically the higher up and more central you are , the easier it is to see what is happening. Bolton’s this year was very good and from seasons ago Reading’s gantry view was impressive so I’m looking forward to going back there soon. Wembley is, as you would expect, just amazing, a great experience plus a great meal beforehand ! Shame we haven’t yet turned up as a team. Maybe this year? The old Saltergate was a nightmare, simply no room at all, a real hazard, to be brutally honest. Anywhere behind a glass enclosure isn’t good as you don’t get the atmosphere , although we have not had any this season.

What does Griffin Park mean to you?

Well it’s a spiritual home for all of us. Even if I’m simply driving into London I get a buzz from passing it, tinged with disappointment I’m not going to a game! I’ve seen all the changes over the years and, like many others, a big part of me doesn’t want to leave, yet we know it has to happen.

Finding your own voice and style?

I guess we all have professional commentators we like and don’t like. The best radio commentator for me is Alan Green. He has this ability, like no other, to bring listeners the goal as it happens. His timing and tempo is different class. My view is simple – the excitement is when a commentator can work up to “a chance”, that split second when you know a player is going for goal and you wait for the crowd to erupt to know it’s in the back of the net. Listeners want to know the basics first and foremost, ie where’s the ball on the pitch, are Brentford attacking or defending? If there is an attempt on goal then tell the listeners straight away what’s happened. So basically, I will try and get a good tempo for the game and keep with it. Remember you are “painting a picture in words”. 

Be honest. If Brentford are playing very poorly, say so. Our fans respect that far more. They won’t want to read message boards after a game and discover those at the game said we had played badly whilst we were relaying all throughout game that Brentford were matching the opposition. That’s a sure way to lose trust of your subscribers. Be fair and respectful to the opposition. As fans we are, naturally, pro-Brentford but give credit where it’s due to our opponents. Also, try and be light hearted and have good banter with your co-commentator. Some effort at humour does mix it all up for listeners.

There will be more gems from Mark shortly.

Another’s View – 9/3/15

As most of you know I am away at the moment being pampered and utterly spoiled by my wife as we celebrate my forthcoming birthday in the Maldives. Over the last few wonderful days I have taken the advice of more sensible people than me and done my utmost to switch off and I have paid very little attention to what is going on outside our little island.

Saturday afternoon, or mid-evening, given the six hour time difference, was a rare exception, and after an early dinner I came back to the room, switched on Star Sports and was regaled with live coverage of the QPR versus Spurs match and took massive delight in watching our local rivals subside to yet another damaging home defeat. Wouldn’t it be quite amazing if we manage to avoid playing them next season for the best of all possible reasons – our promotion and their relegation? Stranger things have happened.

Simultaneously I started fiddling desperately with my iPad with no real expectation of success, and to my surprise and pleasure I was soon graced with the dulcet tones of Mark Burridge ably assisted by Scott Barron and was able to listen to Beesplayer’s excellent coverage of the Ipswich match. It is sheer torture having to rely on someone else describing the action and you feel totally helpless as you wait for confirmation of what has actually happened. After ninety-six minutes of torment we finally emerged with a potentially crucial point which I celebrated long into the night along with Mark Warburton’s selection as London Manager of the Year and Clayton Donaldson’s unexpected but very welcome late, late show at Derby.

I am totally unqualified to provide a first hand report of the happenings at Portman Road so I am really grateful to fellow Bees fan Stephen Burke who has provided all of you with an excellent match report. Thank you Stephen for taking the time and trouble to do so and for getting me off the hook!

It wasn’t the greatest game of football played by Brentford this season, but the one-one draw at Ipswich was one of the most compelling and tense Bees matches I have seen. And it was Brentford’s first draw since October (surely a club record?), and only the fifth this season. After Ipswich’s comfortable win at Griffin Park on Boxing Day, I was nervous before the game. And the nerves got greater in the first twenty minutes. Ipswich were all over us, pressing high up the pitch, denying us space. Button had no one to pass out to and we resorted to the head tennis that is Ipswich’s forte.

It was no surprise that Ipswich took the lead after nine minutes, inevitably through Murphy, albeit a soft goal following a corner when Moore was out jumped and the ball fell kindly to the predatory striker. We just couldn’t get our normal passing game going and Ipswich chased and harried us all over the pitch which was poor and bobbly. Gradually we got into the game and one of our better moves led to the equalising goal with Douglas heading in after twenty five minutes following good work by Gray and Dallas. Gray and Judge also both came close to giving us the lead before the interval.

Again we were very slow off the mark at the start of the second half and Murphy amazingly missed the sitter of the season when it was surely easier to score than miss. He was also denied when clean through but Button made one of a series of great saves. The Bees got stronger and started to win the second ball which we had failed to do early on. Toumani, Douglas and Pritchard began to run the game although Judge naturally looked rusty after his long lay-off and was replaced after the hour.

Credit must go to Tarkowski who will be feeling it on Monday morning as Murphy and Sears (and then Wood) were niggly, tough opponents who really made him work. Moore, however, was out of his depth and struggled throughout. Moses too found it particularly difficult dealing with the Ipswich challenge down the left from Parr and Mings.

None of our substitutions changed the game. Jota struggled to get into the game when he came on for Judge while Gray had worked his socks off with little reward before giving way to Long. Dean however did well replacing Moore for the last twenty minutes as we finally tightened up at the back.

The Bees held on and a draw will have been welcomed by both teams, particularly given the results elsewhere. At the end of the game both sets of fans were left breathless as they headed home.
Two very different style of teams had in effect cancelled each other out. Ipswich’s long ball in the air game forced Brentford to adopt a similar approach at times, much unlike our normal patient passing game. Ipswich just didn’t give us the time to play, on occasions supported by a referee who let them foul away with apparent impunity. But we stood up to them and all credit to the Bees for earning the point in a real game of Championship football.

It was also great to see Jay Tabb (‘he’s a Brentford fan’, went the chant) again and he was central to a lot of Ipswich’s more creative play. He returned the respect, acknowledging the Bees fans and not milking a couple of hard challenges on him. So ten matches left and with five points covering the top seven teams, it’s still anyone’s promotion.