Young Liverpool loanee Sergi Canos’s mesmerising and eye-catching home debut as a second half substitute last Saturday who turned the game on its head and inspired the Bees to victory has persuaded me to recall some other youngsters who made an immediate impact for Brentford.
I missed John Bostock’s memorable debut against Millwall when he took the game by the scruff of its neck and scored twice from a clinical volley and then direct from a corner. I had a bad back, my Achilles’ heel for anyone interested, and it’s lucky that I was safely tucked up at home in bed as I suspect that all the excitement would have given me a relapse and put me into spasm!
Unfortunately Bostock flattered only to deceive and could not maintain his form and he soon fell out of contention and eventually drifted into obscurity in Belgium where he remains to this day.
Being a half-empty kind of guy I’m going to concentrate on some other eventual failures – players who began like worldbeaters and blazing meteors but for a variety of reasons soon blew themselves out and became damp squibs who never really made the impact that had at one time had looked likely or even inevitable.
So where shall we start?
How about with Andy Woon, a tall, powerful and raw long-haired striker who arrived from non-league Bognor Regis and was soon thrown into the deep end and asked to inspire and reinvigorate a toothless Brentford team on its inevitable and irrevocable journey towards relegation. Stan Webb had already proved beyond doubt that he was not an adequate replacement for the departed John O’Mara, and Woon made history and an instant impact when he became the first Brentford player to score a hat trick on his debut in a totally out of the blue five-goal thrashing of a listless Port Vale team.
Nobody could be expected to keep up that type of form and Woon inevitably suffered from unreasonably raised expectations. Andy hung around for a couple of seasons, even scored a few more goals but he never threatened to repeat the magic he displayed on that unforgettable afternoon in February 1973 when he looked like an absolute world beater and everything he hit went in.
Richard Poole became the second youngest ever Brentford player when he made his debut at the age of sixteen years and five months. The crowd took to him straight away as he was a local boy who was playing for the team he had always supported and his coltish enthusiasm did much to inspire the Bees to pull away from the bottom of Division Four.
The future looked bright for the tall, rangy target man but it just never happened for him. He fell out with the new manager, John Docherty, and disappeared from the scene. He had a short spell at Watford where he played against us in the unforgettable Paul Priddy double penalty save match before moving to France where injury sadly brought a halt to a once promising career.
Paul Walker captained the England schoolboy international team and a glittering future was predicted for the diminutive midfielder. He made his first team debut as a fifteen year old schoolboy but despite his obvious ability it just never happened for him.
He had great vision and passing ability and could ghost past players but he never looked fully fit or a well honed athlete and his early promise was never fulfilled. Fred Callaghan seemed to believe in him and he scored a memorable volleyed goal at Walsall in Terry Hurlock’s televised debut match but he eventually ended up playing in South Africa.
I watched sixteen year old striker Gary Rolph made a massively impressive debut in the FA Cup at Colchester where he showed a maturity well beyond his tender years and scored a coolly taken goal, but that was as good as it got for him and he soon fell away.
Willie Graham arrived as an unheralded trialist from Northampton Town but Bill Dodgin saw something in him and he slotted in perfectly in midfield alongside his namesake Jackie Graham and David Carlton as the Bees won promotion from the bottom tier. The magic only lasted a season as he was unable to cope with the demands of the higher division and he was never a major influence again.
Billy Eames was a diminutive winger who scored on his debut and was man of the match on his debut as a trialist against Lincoln City. Surely Bill Dodgin would offer him a contract, but for some reason he didn’t and Eames retired and became a teacher.
Lee Frost took Griffin Park by storm as a marauding winger during a productive loan spell from Chelsea but he was a totally different player when he joined us on a permanent basis two years later. He was moved inside to partner Gary Johnson where he totally failed to impress and looked lightweight and he soon left the club and the professional game.
Tony Spencer was another who lost a promising career to injury. A composed young defender who was on the verge of establishing himself in the team, he suffered a serious knee injury from which he never fully recovered and he was forced to retire before his twentieth birthday.
Tony Lynch was a speedy winger who promised far more than he ultimately delivered before Frank McLintock released him. All credit to Lynch as he fought his way back to the Football League with Barnet for whom he played against Brentford.
Robbie Carroll was an underrated striker who scored regularly when given a chance but couldn’t manage to establish himself in the team. He never appeared to be particularly valued by the management and rejected the offer of a monthly contract and signed for Fareham Town.
The immortal Steve Thorne of fanzine fame scored a long range thunderbolt on his debut at Gillingham and ended up scoring the winning goal in his one and only Football League appearance.
Paul Birch cost ten thousand pounds from Portsmouth and scored an excellent goal at Fulham. He looked full of promise and hard running but surprisingly retired from football when barely twenty years old and became a successful businessman.
Andy Driscoll made an immediate impact with a wonderful solo goal against Blackpool as an eighteen year old winger of immense potential. His promise was never to be fulfilled as he never recovered from a serious knee injury and he eventually became a personal trainer. A tragic loss as he could have been a star.
Kelly Haag was a prolific scorer at junior level notching fifty goals in a season but he was unable to make the step-up to senior football with Brentford but played for Fulham and Barnet with more success.
Winger Rob Peters is best remembered for a free kick goal at Huddersfield that helped us earn a playoff berth in 1991 but he never really made the grade.
I will try and complete this list in a day or so.