Jeepers Keepers – Part Five – 29/4/15

wsToday we will conclude our review of all the Brentford goalkeepers from the past forty-five years, and we pick up the story in 2008/09 with loanee Ben Hamer firmly in possession of the position. His backup was Seb Brown, a self-admitted AFC Wimbledon fan who played once for us in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and saved a penalty in a shootout victory over Yeovil before signing for his favourite team where his two penalty shootout saves against Luton helped them gain entry into the Football League. Young Lloyd Anderson also had his moment in the sun when he came on to replace Hamer when he was stupidly sent off at Barrow and he conceded two goals for his trouble before finally ending up as perhaps the only other Brentford player since Keith Hooker to play for both Brentford and Brentwood Town. Mikkel Andersen was another one-game-wonder, as one Reading loan goalkeeper replaced another when Hamer was suspended. Mikkel could not have chosen a more exciting game to play in and he really looked the part too in our last gasp victory over Bradford City in which he was named Man of the Match. Not a bad way to mark your only appearance for the club. Mikkel is still only twenty-six and was stuck on Reading’s bench when we played them last Saturday, but I fully expect that he will eventually make his breakthrough and become an established top level goalkeeper.

With Hamer returning to his parent club, newly promoted Brentford were on the lookout for a new goalkeeper and they ended up playing four of them throughout the 2009/10 season. Andy Scott was apparently offered Everton’s John Ruddy on a season-long loan but changed his mind at the last moment and signed Derby County’s Welsh International keeper, Lewis Price instead. This was not one of the best decisions that he ever made given how well Ruddy has subsequently progressed and Price’s inconsistency. Lewis did made a phenomenal last minute save from Morgan Schneiderlin to earn us a meritorious point at Southampton, but, looking far smaller and frailer than his claimed height of six foot three inches, he never really convinced and conceded a bizarre last minute equaliser at home to Millwall from a forty-yard free kick from way out on the left wing which precipitated his replacement, but more of that anon.

The Bees also made the surprise signing of Aldershot’s Nicky Bull who, after being their undisputed first choice for many years, had decided to retire but quickly changed his mind and joined Brentford as back-up keeper instead. He spent a frustrating year largely kicking his heels after suffering a back injury but his rare appearances saw him go from the ridiculous to the sublime when firstly he dozily stepped over his own goal line whilst still holding onto Simon Francis’s seemingly innocuous long-range free kick against Southend before saving a penalty kick at Leyton Orient. Bull was soon forgotten when Scott then totally redeemed himself by making perhaps the most inspired signing of his managerial career in young Arsenal starlet Wojciech Szczęsny.

Not yet twenty years of age but already a full international for Poland, he saved a penalty kick in his second match and it was immediately obvious that we had a star on our hands. He remained on loan until the end of the season, conceded just over a goal per game and his incredible all-round ability and sheer force of personality shone through. He put on goalkeeping masterclasses game after game and some of the saves he made against Norwich, Leeds, Carlisle and Bristol Rovers in particular beggared belief. Have a look on Youtube if you doubt me and I guarantee that you will be as astounded as I was. His ability was merely confirmed by the general bemusement amongst Bees supporters when he had a rare off day and played appallingly against MK Dons and was totally responsible for two soft goals, but as the old saying goes – “the defects of great men are the consolation of the dunces.” He received the ultimate accolade of receiving a fully deserved standing ovation from the home supporters when he was withdrawn for Simon Moore to make a brief debut just prior to the final whistle of the last game of the season so that he could milk their applause. We will not see his like again as he was precociously brilliant and light years ahead of anyone else we had watched at Griffin Park, in my memory at least.

leeHow do you replace such an icon? Well Andy Scott seemed to have hit the jackpot when he brought in experienced Watford keeper Richard Lee, but he made a disastrous start and was rusty and unimpressive in his first two preseason appearances. Scott handled the situation poorly and instead of giving Lee, a keeper of proven ability and pedigree, the opportunity to settle in to the role, he immediately banished him to the bench and gave young Simon Moore a brief chance before bafflingly auditioning two more loan keepers who further muddied the water. Alex McCarthy was yet another Reading goalkeeper who followed the well-trodden path to Griffin Park but he was soon on his way back after a tentative and stuttering loan spell which saw six goals fly past him in only three games. McCarthy has subsequently proved himself at Premier League level but he was distinctly below average for us.

Like a bad penny, Ben Hamer was soon back for his third loan spell at Brentford replacing his own teammate Alex McCarthy. Again he did nothing wrong but by this time the Bees had embarked upon successful runs in both the Carling Cup and Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and Richard Lee seized his chance to establish himself as our “Cup Keeper” with some phenomenal performances. He impressed in a narrow win over Hull City before earning his spurs with a superlative match-winning performance against Premier League giants Everton. Lee made save after save to help keep us afloat before becoming an instant hero when saving Jermaine Beckford’s effort in the penalty shootout. Our Carling Cup run came to a cruel halt with a shootout defeat at Birmingham in the next round but it was in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy where Lee came into his own as the Bees won three penalty shootouts in a row against Orient, Swindon and Charlton on their way to a Wembley final appearance. I have written previously about Richard’s Three Card Trick against Charlton when he emulated Graham Benstead’s feat against Wrexham and made three consecutive, and indeed, outrageous penalty saves. Not surprisingly Lee soon took over in league matches too from the blameless Hamer who had become surplus to requirements. As if fate had not intervened enough, Lee’s roller coaster season ended with him being named as Player of the Year but also missing out on a place at Wembley when he dislocated his shoulder making a brave save against Orient.

Poor Richard never had much luck with injuries and eventually his recurring shoulder problems forced him out of the reckoning far too early and for good, and this enabled firstly Simon Moore and then David Button to establish themselves in the first team. He has remained in the background in a supporting role and as an overall good influence and will retire at the end of the season after a long and distinguished career that never quite rose to the heights that his undoubted ability suggested. Given his popularity and affability we will gloss over his recent short-term and career-ending loan at Fulham! His business nous and intelligence will surely provide him with a fulfilling and successful post-football career.

Goalkeeping Coach Simon Royce, a man who had already enjoyed an excellent career, deputised for Lee when he was sent off and subsequently suspended and clearly demonstrated in his brief appearances that it was time for him to pack up for good and concentrate on teaching rather than doing. Trevor Carson, a loanee from Sunderland, also made a brief cameo appearance at Sheffield Wednesday and was never seen again.

Simon Moore fought his way up from being an unheralded trialist from the Isle of Wight and, aided by Lee’s injury battles, he became first choice and quickly demonstrated his exceptional ability. Unspectacular, calm and competent he made few mistakes and picked crosses out of the air with consummate ease. Having secured his reputation as one of the brightest talents outside the top flight, he joined Premier League Cardiff City on the eve of the 2013/14 campaign for a substantial fee but his career has unfortunately stymied as he has so far been unable to displace David Marshall.

Unknown Frenchman Antoine Gounet emulated Gus Hurdle by walking unannounced into the training ground and earning himself a contract. He was small, agile and unorthodox and finally earned his opportunity when helping the Bees to an FA Cup replay victory over Bradford City before fading out of contention.

That leads us to the present day, and our excellent current pairing of David Button and Jack Bonham about both of whom I have already written extensively. We have been blessed with some exceptional goalkeepers over the past four decades or so and whilst comparisons are invidious, if pushed, my top ten in terms of a combination of talent and overall popularity would be as follows:

  • Chic Brodie
  • Steve Sherwood
  • Len Bond
  • Dave McKellar
  • Graham Benstead
  • Paul Smith
  • Wojciech Szczęsny
  • Richard Lee
  • Simon Moore
  • David Button

Please let me know if your verdict differs from mine, as I am sure that it will.

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Jeepers Keepers – Part Four – 23/4/15

oliThe New Millennium began with Brentford desperately looking for a new goalkeeper. Andy Woodman had not been the success that we had expected and was on his way out of the club and Jimmy Glass was no more than a short term stopgap. Ron Noades certainly pulled a rabbit out of the hat and bemused us all when the identity of the new goalkeeper was announced. Noades apparently followed the recommendation of Hermann Hreidarsson and signed his Icelandic International colleague Olafur Gottskalksson from Hibernian. Tall, slender and athletic, he had an exceptional first season before suffering a chronic shoulder injury which affected his confidence and mobility and he rapidly lost form, went walkabout on several occasions, conceding costly late goals which threatened to becalm our promotion drive and he was unceremoniously dropped and replaced by young Paul Smith. He retired late in 2002 but reappeared a couple of years later at Torquay and made a surprise return to Griffin Park in the notorious Leon Constantine hat-trick game on Boxing Day 2004 before fading away and later receiving a couple of prison sentences for violence back in his native Iceland.

Paul Smith first came to our attention playing as a young unknown trialist for Crawley against the Bees and soon after he signed for us. He made a massive impact replacing the injured Gottskalksson against Southend in the LDV Vans Area Final when he made a series of brave and brilliant saves against Southend. Ironically he conceded six goals at Swansea on his full debut but he soon proved that he was an exceptional young goalkeeper in the making once he took over as first choice in January 2002. He was calm and unflustered and scouts were soon sniffing smitharound him. Given the club’s financial woes his departure was a foregone conclusion and it was simply a question of getting the highest possible fee for him. Eventually Southampton offered £250,000 plus a series of lucrative add-ons that barely came to fruition as he failed to seize his opportunity on the South Coast, moved onto Nottingham Forest and ended up at Southend United, and what looked at one time likely to be a glittering career ended in anticlimax. Smith made a glorious return to Brentford when he played us seemingly single-handedly in a FA Cup Third Round replay early in 2013 and more than earned the standing ovation that he received.

Alan Julian was the obvious replacement for Smith as the former Junior had impressed in his few opportunities, including one incredible match-winning performance at Rushden & Diamonds but he was far too erratic and inconsistent to make the position his own and eventually embarked on a long career in the lower divisions and upper echelons of non-league football that has just seen him winning the Conference South title with Bromley.

Wally Downes settled on another untried youngster in Stuart Nelson and this time the gamble paid off. Nelson made an unwanted impact on his debut, seeing red for a foul outside his penalty area at Brighton but he soon made the jersey his own and went on to concede an excellent 1.32 goals per game throughout his stay at the club. At first glance Nelson really did not look the part with his shirt perpetually out of his shorts and eagerness to engage with opposition supporters when he was barracked.  He had his weaknesses and often came flying out of his goal to little neleffect. He was not the best in dealing with crosses and his kicking often defied belief with a constant series of shanks and slices into touch. But for all his shortcoming and eccentricities he was reliable and more than got the job done. He was agile and brave and it was rare that he let in a soft goal. His temperament was sound and he scored a crucial penalty kick in a shootout at Swindon and also had a goal controversially ruled out when his long clearance found the net at his former club, Doncaster Rovers. Nelson was a favourite of Martin Allen for whom he also played at Notts County and Gillingham, where he remains to this day.

Josh Lennie made his one and only Bees appearance as a halftime substitute in a long-forgotten LDV Trophy game against MK Dons before drifting into non-league. He memorably describes himself thus on Twitter: “London born & raised washed up ex-pro footballer for Brentford, Wimbledon and Chester, now full-time coach and scout in Connecticut.”

Ademola Bankole, a giant Nigerian international keeper who had previously played at Crewe Alexandra, was brought in as Goalkeeping Coach and also played a few games as a back-up for Nelson. He was tall, spider-like and gangly and, for a coach, worryingly seemed to have no appreciation or understanding of where his penalty area started and ended. He memorably punched away a cross when jumping way outside his area and somehow escaped a red card against Nottingham Forest and was thankfully not seen too often again in the first team.

Clark Masters was given the opportunity to replace the suspended and then injured Stuart Nelson at the start of the 2006/07 season and it was a case of too much too soon as he was patently unready for his premature promotion and leaked goals like a sieve. He played well on his debut against Blackpool but luck was never on his side as he suffered a harsh sending off against Gillingham and conceded seven goals despite impressing when replacing the sent-off Simon Brown at Peterborough. He proved to be out of his depth and his once-promising career never recovered and he soon dropped into non-league football where he remains today. Had he been given more time to develop then who knows how his career might have panned out. We might even have had another star on our hands.

2006/07 was an appalling season which culminated in a fully deserved relegation. By Christmas 2006 it was plainly obvious in which direction the team was irrevocably headed and Scott Fitzgerald tried to plug the gap in goal by signing Nathan Abbey from Torquay. He was exactly what we needed – calm and reliable, uninspired but competent and someone who rarely made an unforced error. He performed excellently and conceded a mere 1.25 goals per game despite having an awful defence in front of him. Despite his efforts he was released at the end of the season and his replacement did little to inspire confidence.

hamerSimon Brown had started out at Spurs and had several years as first choice at Colchester United before moving to Scotland where he played for Hibernian. He was the second goalkeeper to join the Bees from the Edinburgh club but he was never the keeper that Oli Gottskalksson had been and his stay was undistinguished. He rarely looked the part, losing his place to loanee Ben Hamer before being offloaded on loan to Darlington. Hamer arrived on the eve of the season from Reading when Brown suffered a late injury and he was to have three loan spells at Griffin Park making seventy-five league appearances in total. Confident to the point of cockiness he played a massive part in the Championship winning team of 2008/09, missing only one game. He dominated his area, had a vast prehensile reach and kicked the ball huge distances. It came as a surprise when his own poor judgement and recklessness cost him a red card, and the Bees a defeat in a televised FA Cup tie at Barrow. He was also the only Brentford player to successfully hit the crossbar in Soccer AM’s Crossbar Challenge. Ben returned for a third loan spell in 2010 as part of the beauty parade of goalkeepers auditioned by Andy Scott but his late arrival for a midweek match against AFC Bournemouth provided Scott with the excuse he needed to play his Cup goalkeeper Richard Lee in the league and Hamer drifted out of contention. He subsequently had a good spell at Charlton and is now at Premier League Leicester sporting a quite ridiculous bushy beard!

We are nearly at the end of our journey which will be concluded in a day or so.

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.

Jeepers Keepers – Part Two – 19/12/14

mckellarI meandered down memory lane a little while ago revisiting some of the Brentford goalkeepers from the 60s and 70s (http://tinyurl.com/qcah48p).

Players like Chic Brodie, Gordon Phillips, Steve Sherwood and Len Bond were all technically gifted goalkeepers who served us extremely well and were firm crowd favourites.

The 80s was a different kettle of fish as nobody made the position his own for very long and a bewildering number of players, fifteen in all, wore the green jersey.

With Len Bond falling out of favour after failing to agree a new contract, and Trevor Porter released, Fred Callaghan was looking for a replacement keeper for the 1980/81 season.

He managed to bring in a callow youngster in twenty-year old Paul McCullough who arrived from Reading on a free transfer. Paul had no league experience and was totally untested and he was intended to act as cover, but fate dictated otherwise.

Callaghan was unsuccessful in signing a more experienced goalkeeper and failed in bids for the likes of Terry Gennoe at Southampton and Glen Johnson at Aldershot. Either would have been welcomed.

Gennoe it was who played so well against us for Blackburn in all three memorable cup matches in 1988/89 whilst the balding Johnson whose rotund Dearden-esque figure did not prevent him from keeping us at bay whenever we came up against him.

So McCullough it was who started the season in goal and it soon became apparent that he was not up to the job.

His bravery was unquestioned and his tendency to hurl himself at the feet of onrushing forwards soon led to him earning the unflattering nickname of The Kamikaze Kid”.

He lasted for nine long games which saw him concede seventeen goals, and he made costly errors against Charlton, Reading and Fulham as well as being lobbed by his own defender, Mark Hill, at Walsall for a memorable own goal which must have caused great hilarity amongst the television viewers later that night.

This state of affairs couldn’t go on any longer, he needed to be taken out of the firing line, and eventually Callaghan got his man.

As for the unfortunate McCullough, who can hardly be blamed for being thrown into the lions’ den, he disappeared without trace at the end of the season after conceding thirty-two goals in eighteen reserve games and never played senior football again.

His replacement was the real deal and well worth waiting for, and is generally regarded as being one of Brentford’s best goalkeepers of recent times.

Dave McKellar had a twenty year long professional career beginning at Ipswich and ending with a year at Glasgow Rangers. In between he played for Derby County, where he had extensive First Division experience, Carlisle, Hartlepool, Hibernian, Newcastle, Hamilton, Dunfermline and Kilmarnock, as well, of course as the Bees.

Fred Callaghan plucked Dave from Derby reserves for what turned out to be a bargain fee of £25,000 and he soon established himself as an automatic first choice.

He was calm, unruffled, totally unflamboyant, utterly reliable and, unlike his predecessor, he filled his defenders with confidence.

You never really noticed him but he never let you down and you knew it would take a special effort to beat him. His record confirmed this as he kept thirty-one clean sheets in his ninety-two games for the club and conceded just over a goal per game.

One minor quibble, if I have to be picky, is that he never managed to save a penalty kick in nine attempts!

He was the best goalkeeper I had ever seen play for the Bees and I am not sure if we have had anyone better since.

Fred Callaghan was not the easiest man in the world to deal with – he was not one to turn the other cheek, and he managed to fall out with McKellar, just as he had with Len Bond, and this argument cost us an exceptional player who could well have played for us throughout the remainder of the decade.

Total madness, in my opinion.

Let Dave McKellar take up the story:

Petar Borota was given a free by Chelsea and came to Brentford.

He had no intention of signing as he subsequently played in Portugal, but Fred played him in the preseason friendlies.

It didn’t make sense as it prevented me getting match fit.

We had words and I left.

It was sad as I loved it at Brentford. My family was settled and I was looking forward to a long stay

Oh, in passing I almost forgot to mention that Paul Priddy sneaked back for yet another spell at Brentford as cover for McKellar and made a farewell appearance in November 1981, against Chester, his first game for over five years and deservedly bowed out with a clean sheet.

As mentioned, Petar Borota played in the preseason League Trophy competition in August 1982 before leaving us high and dry on the eve of the first league match.

rocheCallaghan was left desperately scrambling around trying to find a new goalkeeper and his scouring of the free transfer list was rewarded when he signed the experienced Eire International Paddy Roche from Manchester United a mere two days before the season began.

Lots of time for him to develop a relationship with his new back four then!

Roche had spent nine seasons at Old Trafford without managing to displace Alex Stepney and the jury was out on him given his propensity to drop clangers.

He settled down quickly, played in every game and was part of a dodgy defence that did its best to undermine the efforts of a wonderful midfield and potent strike force by conceding seventy-seven goals.

In truth, he did far better than we supporters expected, and was probably a better goalkeeper at thirty-one than he had been at any previous time in his up and down career.

He was still prone to costly errors and after making an elastic penalty save against Portsmouth, an effort which earned him a fusillade of golf balls from the frustrated Pompey fans congregated behind his goal, he then frustratingly fumbled an innocuous shot to gift the visitors a late equaliser.

Fred Callaghan decided to bring in some competition for Roche and after failing to capture Iain Hesford from Blackpool, Martin Thomas from Bristol Rovers and the wonderfully named Perry Digweed from Brighton, it was fourth time lucky when he signed the experienced Trevor Swinburne from Carlisle, with McKellar going the other way as part of the deal. swinburne

As has been so often the case, Brentford got the thin end of the wedge as McKellar inevitably went on to prosper and Swinburne, so often impressive in the past for Carlisle at Griffin Park, played more like a player rapidly coming to the end of the road and merely hung on for a couple of seasons, initially sharing the jersey with Roche, before fading out of contention the following season.

He played one unforgettable match when he somehow regained all his powers and inspired the Bees to a one-all draw at Bristol City but at other times he appeared to be no more than a mere shadow of his former self and he was replaced in December 1984 by Gary Phillips.

Phillips had impressed at Barnet and had helped the non-leaguers hold Brighton to a goalless FA Cup draw. This attracted Frank McLintock’s attention and he was signed for a bargain £4,000 fee, initially remaining as a part timer combining football with landscape gardening.

He made his debut in a spineless three-nil home defeat to Bristol Rovers on Boxing Day 1984 but soon established himself before crowning his debut season with a losing appearance at Wembley in the Freight Rover Trophy Final. phillips

Phillips soon became a crowd favourite and and missed just a handful of games over the next three and a half seasons. When he did, Richard Key, Tony Oliver and the mysterious John Power who materialised for two matches from Kingstonian at the back end of the 1986/87 season and then just as quickly disappeared, filled in for him adequately.

Gary was a spectacular shot stopper and saved four out of thirty-one penalties faced in his one hundred and seventy-one matches.

Let’s just look at that figure again for a moment – Brentford managed to concede thirty one penalty kicks in less than four years, which means we gave away around eight penalty kicks per season – an enormous number.

He wasn’t the most dominating or consistent of goalkeepers but he was more than good enough to hold a job in what frankly was no more than a mid-table third division team.

I am not sure that Steve Perryman was ever totally convinced by him and after a contractual dispute he was sold to Reading before eventually returning to Barnet and helped them win promotion to the Football League.

Perryman was looking to build a promotion challenging team and wanted to upgrade the goalkeeping position. Not unnaturally he looked to sign a player whom he knew well from their time together at Spurs and Tony Parks arrived in return for a frankly staggering £60,000 fee as Chairman Martin Lange unlocked his wallet in a preseason spending spell that also saw Richard Cadette and Neil Smillie join the club. parks

Parks had been the penalty saving hero in the 1984 UEFA Cup Final but had never managed to establish himself in the Spurs goal.

Small in stature, he struggled with crosses but read the game well and performed consistently for two years and he made some crucial saves in the 1988/89 FA Cup campaign against both Manchester City and Blackburn.

He was injury prone and that gave brief opportunities to a variety of deputies and loanees.

I have already written about John Smeulders, a loan signing from Bournemouth who made a match-winning penalty save in the last minute against Blackburn Rovers in the Littlewoods Cup.

England youth internatonal Jeremy Roberts was signed from Darlington as reserve goalkeeper and kept an impressive six clean sheets in his nine games before surprisingly being released and disappearing seemingly off the face of the earth – shades of Paul McCullough!

Keith Branagan and young Colin Scott also filled for a few games in 1989/90 and then, on the twentieth of March 1990, seventeen year old Ashley Bayes made his debut against Preston North End. ashley

All was going swimmingly, with the Bees coasting to a seemingly impregnable two goal lead, until poor benighted Ashley made a catastrophic unforced error just before halftime, completely missing his kick as he rushed out of his goal.

The game was drawn and this was merely the first in a catalogue of costly errors by a young keeper who was thrown into league football far too early.

There will be far more on Ashley and those who followed him in the next instalment on Brentford goalkeepers which will cover the 90s.

Jeepers Keepers – Part One – 30/10/14

bees4I was reading through some old Brentford programmes from the 60s the other day and saw a note congratulating Gordon Phillips on making his debut for the club in an FA Cup match against Margate.

Nothing really out of the ordinary, apart from the fact that the article revealed that after the arrival of Joe Crozier in 1937 Brentford only played nine different goalkeepers between then and the mid 60s.

A quite remarkable record when you consider how regularly teams change players, as well as how often goalkeepers get hurt.

For the record, throughout that thirty year period the Bees fielded Joe Crozier, Ted Gaskell, Reg Newton, Sonny Feehan, Alf Jefferies, Gerry Cakebread, Fred Ryecraft, Chic Brodie and Gordon Phillips.

What is even stranger is that the last four named played in successive games in 1963.

How often can a club have had different goalkeepers in four consecutive matches?

I certainly cannot think of any other examples and wonder if anybody else can?

Joe Crozier was unobtrusive and a model of consistency and was a key part of the Brentford team that took the First Division by storm in the late thirties.

What a bargain he was as he was signed for only one thousand pounds.

He played three wartime International matches for Scotland, conceding eight goals against England on his debut, and yet he kept his place for the next game.

cakeShades of Frank Haffey  at Wembley in 1961 perhaps?

After his retirement from football Crozier became managing director of Cory Lighterage and a Freeman of the City of London.

I have previously written about Gerry Cakebread and how he combined a career with the Admiralty with his football commitments.

He was the undisputed first choice for nearly a decade, and played one hundred and eighty-seven games in a row between 1958 and 1963.

In 1955 Gerry was named as reserve goalkeeper in the England Under 23 squad to Coventry City’s Reg Matthews.

Two players from the Third Division were recognised as the most promising young goalkeepers in the country.

It could never happen today.

Reg went on to win full International caps, but hindered perhaps by his part time status, Gerry didn’t, but many supporters think that he was the finest goalkeeper they have seen play for the club.

Remarkably, in his last season at Griffin Park, with his career winding down, Gerry was allowed to take a leave of absence of nearly a month to visit Russia for an extended business trip.

Can you see any manager granting a player similar permission today?

ryeHe also had a long and successful career after football and was awarded an OBE in 1995 for his work on Hydrographics at the Ministry of Defence.

Fred Ryecraft was his patient understudy from 1959-1964 and from the look of him he would appear to have spent much of his spare time eating and training in the local Wimpy Bar rather than in the gym, as he was a portly figure to say the very least, and was known to eagerly accept, if not solicit, sweets proffered by young supporters standing behind his goal.

He is the nearest that Brentford have ever come to Fatty Foulke, and quite how he ever managed to get his massive frame off the ground hardly bears thinking about.

He certainly filled the goal but, in truth, loyal deputy that he was, he wasn’t really up to the standard required and drifted off to Gravesend where he was also known to play at centre forward.

He wasn’t alone in that feat as Luton goalkeeper Tony Read was converted into a striker during the 1965/66 season and scored an impressive twelve goals in only twenty games, including a match-winning hat-trick against Notts County, before he ran out of goals and was moved back to his original position.

Vice-Wimpy-Streatham-exteriorTalk about lack of gratitude!

Chic Brodie was a wonderful servant to the club and was calm and composed in everything he did on the pitch.

He was an old style goalkeeper, nothing ruffled him, and he was consistent and totally lacking in flamboyance.

He was also one of the last goalkeepers I can remember who rarely, if ever, seemed to wear gloves.

Those were the days when keepers simply spat on the palm of their hands and hoped that the ball would stick.

Misfortune seemed to follow Chic around throughout his career.

He is best remembered for conceding nine goals to a rampant Ted MacDougall when playing for Margate, and, of course, for the notorious incident when a stray dog ran full tilt into his knee at Colchester practically ending his professional career.

Ted MacDougall has a clear recollection of poor Chic Brodie:

chic2The keeper always said he thought he was the unluckiest goalkeeper in football.

He said one day he went to put his flat cap on for a game because it was sunny and he found a hand grenade in it.

Then when he was playing for Brentford a Jack Russell ran on the pitch and smacked him on the leg and nearly broke it.

Then, during another game, the crossbar broke and fell on his head.

And then to top it off, I scored nine goals against him.

Chic suffered his final tragedy when he died far too young, but he was a skilled craftsman and, ever vigilant, he will always live long in my memory.

pkGordon Phillips was a local prospect who was initially behind Brodie in the pecking order given his age and lack of experience, but he made the goalkeeping position his own in 1966 for a couple of years, and he and Chic vied for the first team spot in the late 60s with first one coming out on top, and then, the other, and it was not until Chic’s retirement that Gordon became the undisputed first choice.

Given our customary lack of resources, Gordon was also named as an outfield substitute at Crewe in September 1970, but his services were not called upon on the night.

Gordon was an ever present in the 1971/72 promotion team and enjoyed a wonderful season, but things soon turned sour with Brentford suffering the ignominy of relegation at the end of the following season and Gordon’s time at the club was over.

Where Chic was solid and consistent, Gordon was smaller, slighter and more dynamic in his approach.

Soccer - League Division One - Watford v LiverpoolGiven his lack of height, he struggled with crosses, but he compensated with his speed of thought and reaction, acrobatic shot stopping and his ability to snuff out danger by diving fearlessly at opponents’ feet.

Another local boy, Paul Priddy, still an amateur, succeeded Gordon, but after an up and down couple of years he was replaced by Steve Sherwood who achieved the rare feat for a loanee of being ever present in the 1974/75 season and also being voted Player of the Year.

We apparently made a pretty feeble effort to sign him on a permanent basis, but Watford outbid us by shelling out a mere five thousand pounds.

Instead of buying a promising young keeper who would end up playing in the Football League until he was forty, we ended up taking a four thousand pound gamble that unfortunately did not pay off and totally backfired.

That was Brentford to a T!

Bill Glazier had a long and distinguished career at the top level, playing over four hundred and fifty games for Crystal Palace and Coventry City and three times for the England Under 23 team.

glazHe was only thirty-two when he was persuaded to put off his retirement and sign for Brentford, but he seemed to be far more interested in running his hotel in Brighton than in keeping the ball out of the Brentford net.

He was distracted, commuted from the South Coast, and seemed to lack commitment.

His performances were poor, culminating in an appalling and costly fumble that led to Brentford conceding a soft equaliser at Old Trafford just when it appeared that the Bees might be on the verge of pulling off a massive League Cup giant killing.

He soon shuffled off into retirement and Paul Priddy seized his opportunity and played for a couple of seasons without ever totally convincing either his manager or the supporters that he was the long term answer to our goalkeeping problem.

He had one unforgettable afternoon at Vicarage Road when he was unbeatable and touched by genius, saving two penalties and single-handedly earning Brentford a rare victory at Watford.

prOn other days he was less authoritative and consistent and Bill Dodgin, perhaps harshly, released him in 1977.

Another local boy who so nearly made it, but not quite.

Paul wouldn’t take “no” for an answer and even managed to sneak back for a third spell at the club as reserve goalkeeper in 1981, playing one farewell match against Chester, when he signed off with a clean sheet, before having a long and successful career as a well-respected goalkeeping coach.

The cheque book then came out and Dodgin paid Bristol City eight thousand pounds for Len Bond, and he repaid us with three good years of consistent and brave goalkeeping, before falling out with Fred Callaghan and leaving the club.

boWe made a profit on him, but his leaving was a real shame as he was still in his prime, and he subsequently had a long spell at Exeter, but he was stretchered off on a return visit to Griffin Park before being the largely blameless recipient of Brentford’s seven goal salvo at Exeter in 1983.

Brentford’s last goalkeeper of the 70s was Trevor Porter, a last minute emergency replacement when Bond was injured in a car crash, just before the start of the 1978/79 season.

Porter was an old friend of Paul Shrubb, and had also played under Bill Dodgin at Fulham, and we rescued him from oblivion at Slough Town for a fee of seven hundred and fifty pounds.

He lasted for a couple of seasons and did a steady, unobtrusive job when called upon, and, when he wasn’t, he kept up his previous career as a window cleaner.

So, Brentford fielded a variety of goalkeepers in the 60s and 70s, some good, some indifferent, but the only real shocker I can remember was Garry Towse, a talented all-round sportsman in his own right, but an average goalkeeper at best, who signed for the club from Crystal Palace and was in goal on that sad October afternoon in 1973 when Brentford conceded four goals in the opening seventeen minutes at Scunthorpe, and sank to the bottom of the Football League for the first time in their history.

The only way from there was up and I will reminisce about Brentford’s goalkeepers from the 80s and 90s in the near future.