A couple of months ago I began to tell the story of some of the Brentford players who began their career at the club so well but merely flattered to deceive and who all fizzled out for a variety of reasons without fulfilling their seemingly once abundant promise.
I ended the last article in the early 90s and will pick up the narrative with Lee Luscombe. He joined the club from Southampton and in fact cost us a fee of up to fifteen thousand pounds predicated totally on appearances. He was clumsy and ungainly but when he occasionally managed to get every part of his body working in unison he could be devastating and he scored some incredible goals including a soaring header in a vital promotion clash against Stoke City and a wonderful angled volley against Charlton. He was plagued by inconsistency and was released after our relegation in 1993 and soon faded out of the game. A waste of an excellent talent.
Mickey Bennett was a makeweight in the Dean Holdsworth deal but for a short while it looking like we had signed a gem as he initially showed directness on the right wing and an eye for goal, but his impact was to be short-lived and he was slowed down by a chronic injury. He missed a crucial penalty at Bristol Rovers when his weak shot was saved easily by a goalkeeper in Brian Parkin who should never have been on the pitch after rugby tackling Bennett in front of a gaping goal and escaping with a yellow card when a red seemed inevitable. David Webb played him as a striker but with little effect and his Brentford career ended in ignominy after Joe Allen was left with a broken jaw after a notorious training ground incident.
Grant Chalmers should have been a star and I still do not understand why he did not have a long and successful career in the Football League. He made an immediate impact as a ball playing midfielder on his arrival from Guernsey and made a massively impressive debut at Peterborough where he ran the entire game before being one of the best players on the pitch against Spurs in the Coca-Cola Cup. He scored a well taken goal in the five-one romp against Bristol City but soon faded out of contention.
Famously he was dragged out of the club bar just before the kick off against Derby County on Boxing Day when Chris Hughton was injured in the warm-up but he was himself substituted after apparently suffering from the effects of a now unwanted pre-match pie! Phil Holder, ironically a skilful midfielder himself, never seemed to trust Chalmers and he lost confidence, drifted away and out of the game before returning to Guernsey.
Craig Ravenscroft was another home grown player who started well with a goal at Huddersfield but he could never quite overcome the handicap of his lack of height and strength and dropped into Non League.
Scott Canham looked a world beater throughout his loan spell from West Ham in 1996 and he was massively influential in leading us to safety when a relegation battle looked far more likely. He was small and compact but played with his head up, put his foot in and showed vision in his passing.
He returned to Upton Park but unexpectedly signed for the Bees at the beginning of the following season for twenty-five thousand pounds. I had tried to get my client Ericsson, the club sponsor to help underwrite the move but their assistance wasn’t necessary. He looked a totally different player on his return and failed to secure a regular place in the first team before joining Orient where he also struggled to establish himself.
Allan Glover, Lee Frost and Pim Balkestein are three other players who similarly enjoyed wonderful loan spells at the club but singularly failed to impress when signed on a permanent basis. I am sure that we will never be able to fathom out the reason why!
Kevin Rapley was asked to shoulder too much responsibility too soon and I believe that this hindered his future development. He scored eleven goals in his first full season when he was our main striker and one of the few successes in an awful season that ended up in relegation. Who can ever forget his brilliant last minute winner against Burnley from a dramatic scissors kick and the wild celebration that followed with his manic run half the length of the pitch triumphantly waving his shirt above his head?
The following season he fell out of favour with Ron Noades and was loaned to Southend before leaving for Notts County for whom he scored on his return to Griffin Park in the game made infamous by the exploits of Gary Owers. For a striker of his quality and potential to score a mere thirty-three goals in his entire career was a major surprise and disappointment given how well he had started.
Tony Folan should now be enjoying his retirement after a glittering career and at least one hundred Republic of Ireland caps under his belt, such was his outrageous ability. As it was his career was beset by a constant stream of niggling injuries and he was never able to make the impact that he promised after his series of outstanding displays when he joined the Bees from Crystal Palace in 1998.
I can still picture that mesmerising dribble and goal against Peterborough and the Folan From The Halfway Line effort against Cambridge United. He had so much time on the ball and he possessed elegance and grace and opponents just could not get close enough to tackle him. Unfortunately he was unable to overcome the injury jinx and off field problems and his career simply petered out far too soon and well short of what he could and should have achieved had he been granted a modicum of good fortune.
Mark Williams was another local boy who almost made good and for a time it looked as if he might establish himself as a speedy winger but he became typecast as a Super Sub and set a new club record for substitute appearances with seventy-one in total.
Striker Mark Peters arrived at the club with a great fanfare and a glowing reputation from Southampton. He soon proved his ability in front of goal and he scored twenty-one times in thirty-two reserve team matches. He even scored for the first team against QPR, a sure fire way to gain instant hero status but it never happened for him with stories of off field and attitude problems.
Martin Allen soon cancelled his contract and he then played for a plethora of local teams without ever making the impact he should have done in the Football League. Football is not just about ability but also about hard work and dedication.
A nodding mention here to Alex Rhodes, of whom I have already written elsewhere at great length. It was a real tragedy that his career was blighted by injury and misfortune as he was such a promising talent and will always be remembered for scoring the solo goal against AFC Bournemouth that secured The Great Escape from relegation in 1994.
Karleigh Osborne has made a decent career for himself and is still playing well for AFC Wimbledon but somehow you feel that it might have gone even better for him given his ability. Perhaps he was promoted to the first team a bit too quickly and I remember Andy Booth giving him a fearful bashing but he persevered and established himself in the team as a powerful and pacy central defender who surprisingly failed to flourish at either Millwall and Bristol City.
Remarkably, Charlie Ide is still only twenty-seven years of age and is playing at a level of the game far below his true ability. He started off so well for the Bees and shone in that dreadful relegation season of 2006/07 as well as scoring some valuable goals. He never appeared to show the dedication necessary to make the grade and his career disappeared as rapidly as it had flourished.
Sam Tillen established himself in the first team as an exciting attacking left back and scored a great equalising goal at Leyton Orient with a perfect angled volley. He was even selected for a Football League Under-21 match against Italy but he went backwards rather than developing and he was released by Andy Scott and is still playing in Iceland.
Ross Montague had his embryonic career wrecked by a stress fracture in his back and a torn cruciate knee ligament otherwise he might still be our current first team centre forward, so talented did he appear to be when he broke into the team as an eighteen year old.
Gary Smith looked like he was the answer to our midfield problems after he joined in 2007 and he blossomed under Andy Scott but the injury jinx hit and he was never the same player again.
I am not sure if Nathan Elder deserves to be mentioned in this context given the tragic nature of his injury at Rotherham but until that terrible collision with Pablo Mills which I can still clearly recall with horror and which left him with a double fracture of the cheekbone, fractured jaw, triple fracture of the nose and impaired vision, he was a bustling centre forward and a clear crowd favourite.
He had been sent off twice that season at Gillingham when he defended Marvin Williams and far more contentiously by Stuart Attwell against Notts County and he was totally devoid of luck and good fortune. He never played for the Bees again and his career never recovered. A tragic loss.
Thinking about some of these players and how fate conspired against them has deeply saddened me, others have nobody else to blame but themselves for not making the most of their ability. Let’s just hope that there are not many names to add to this list in the near future and that our players all fully realise their potential.