Brentford 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 http://www.brentfordfc.co.uk