I wrote an article the other day inspired by Sergi Canos’s blistering home debut, about other young players who started off like a house on fire at Griffin Park and then fizzled out for a variety of reasons and never really made their mark.
One of the players I mentioned was 70s striker Richard Poole who has strong views on the subject:
Well Greville your list could go on and on. At the time when I was promoted into the First team I was playing for Brentford FC in the South East Counties Under 18 League against the likes of Chelsea, QPR and Fulham and we always tried our utmost to ensure that those bigger teams knew that they had been in a game when they came up against the Bees!
As you know I came into the side as a sixteen year old apprentice in February 1974 and just a week later my friend Kevin Harding followed me into the first team. We were coming straight from junior football into a team that had just been relegated to the bottom division the year before and we were fighting a desperate battle to avoid the need to seek re-election. You must remember at that time in the Fourth Division there was no automatic relegation but the bottom club had to be re-elected by its peers and although I do not know the political ins and outs and how the system worked, I still wonder to this day what would had happened to us if we had needed to seek re-election to the Football League. How would our arch enemies QPR and Fulham have voted? Would they have done their best to see us kicked out of the League?
We could not take the chance of that happening so we just did our best to ensure that we finished out of the danger zone. So here we were like new born babies coming into a team that still boasted inspirational veterans like Peter Gelson and Jackie Graham. Kevin and I trained each day with our boyhood idols and we were welcomed with open arms and treated so well along with Roy Cotton, another promising player from the Under 18 team.
Having avoided the threat of re-election we all started the new season with fresh hope and enthusiasm but alas, things did not work out and John Docherty replaced Mike Everitt as manager midway through the season. So here I was with a new manager who had been my team mate when I made my first team debut and who now would sign me as a professional footballer on my eighteenth birthday.
Although I have made it clear previously that I seemed to fall out with him, it was only later on in my life that I realised certain things about that difficult time that I am still unable to put into words even to this day over forty years on.
Yes I did play a few games for him generally in midweek at the likes of places like Tranmere and Northampton and I always tried my best but I feel even now that I was not given a proper or decent chance.
The tipping point came in April 1975 after I came on as a substitute and helped the team to a good result at Lincoln. I was delighted to be named in the team the following week against Southport but was surprised to see that both Roger Cross and Micky French were in the team too. I must confess that I thought that having three centre forwards in the starting line up was bizarre in the extreme.
I did not see much of the ball in the first half and at half time I was replaced by Alan Nelmes – a striker replaced at home by a defender in a match that was still goalless. What did that say about my prospects at the club? No wonder I left soon afterwards! But I still treasure to this day the fact that I played in the red and white stripes of my beloved Brentford and no one can take that away from me.
Anyway before that fiasco, about half way through that season I came to a very difficult decision and asked to be put on the transfer list or even loaned to a non-league side as I just wanted to play first team football somewhere!
We had a reserve team that year and I always gave my best when I played for them but I simply needed to stretch myself and progress. Maybe I was not good enough but I thought I could do somebody a service if they gave me a chance!
Anyway John Docherty refused to let me go and said he needed me. And yet he barely played me and I was frozen out of the reckoning.
Nothing had changed at the end of the season and I was given a free transfer. We played an end of season game against Hounslow and several clubs approached me directly and said that they would come and watch me play as they knew I would be a free agent. This was an opportunity for me to put myself in the shop window and earn myself a decent move.
Little did I know what was in store for me! John Docherty announced the team just before the match and amazingly I was the only one of all the players who had been released not to be given a game. I wasn’t even put on the bench.
I could not believe it and when I spoke to the manager afterwards and told him that there had been clubs there to watch me play all he said was “You should have told me beforehand.”
To this day I do not know if he was scared that I might go to another club and do well and make him look bad, or if he thought I was not good enough to play in the Football League. Eventually I joined Watford although I was also asked to sign for SC Toulon, one of the top teams in France so I must have had something about me!
I still look back at the Brentford Junior team I played in and in my opinion it contained so much ability in the year I made my first team debut but none were retained apart from me and I can tell you I was by no means the best player in that talented side.
When John Docherty arrived we were swamped by a lot of fairly decent young players who he knew from his previous club, QPR, but not many of them lasted long or made any impact at Brentford.
It is a shame that I fell out with the manager and at the time I was a starry eyed kid who was living the dream but I think that today’s young players are not as naive as I was but despite everything I regret nothing and would not change a moment of those incredible five years I spent at Brentford as both an apprentice and as a professional footballer.
When John Docherty became manager I think he had the choice of running either a Youth or a Reserve side and even though I came straight into the First Team from the Juniors i think that not having an Under 18 team was a big mistake. Most of the time we had first team players coming back from injury, some of whom even refused to play in Reserve games.
We were in the Midweek League and going to places like Peterborough or Southend I think was not too enticing a prospect for some First Team players! We also had lots of trialists as well so you never knew who was playing with you from week to week whereas we knew each other in the Youth Team and could develop partnerships on the pitch.
I really think that the club wasted a massive opportunity as there were several talented youngsters who were not really given a chance to impress. Brentford and the management did not know how to bring these players into the First Team.
John Docherty preferred skilful ball playing players but in the Fourth Division you needed more than that. Just look at some of the players he brought in. Some of the youngsters like Danis Salman did work out but not too many others did.
In my first year as a apprentice with Frank Blunstone in charge the Youth Team felt part of something great in the making and this even continued under Mike Everitt but I think when John Docherty took charge, and do not forget he inherited quite a few players he had played with and others who were brought in by Mike Everitt too, I really think that things did not go as well as they should have done.
Trenchant views and plenty of food for thought from Richard Poole who felt totally frustrated and stifled as he was forced to leave the club he loved and where he still thought he could have made the grade had he been given a decent chance to establish himself.
I will try and finish the article covering lots of other blazing meteors who promised so much over the years at Brentford but who never fulfilled their potential in the next few days.
I will end on a lighter note.
I was reading a programme from January 1987 today and my eyes were drawn to a letter from a certain Mr. R. P. Marsh from Ealing who ccould barely contain his excitement:
It made a nice change to hear that we had secured the services of David Geddis on a month’s loan with a view to a permanent transfer. I have long been an admirer of Geddis and the prospect of him playing up front with Robbie Cooke is the sort of Christmas present I could really enjoy.
Here’s hoping that Geddis and Cooke can give the new Brook Road stand the send off it deserves against Middlesbrough.
Geddis was a total disaster – a damp squib rather than a blazing meteor who missed at least three sitters in that aforementioned Middlesbrough game, was dragged off at the interval and his services were swiftly dispensed with – if not swiftly enough for most Brentford supporters!