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.

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Billy Reeves Speaks! – 8/1/15

sebEvery football club has its fair share of characters and personalities associated with it, and Brentford is no different in this respect, and one of the most popular is Billy Reeves, who is well on the way to becoming a legend in his own lifetime!

Billy is a born performer and made his name initially in 1996 as the founder and leading light of Britpop group, Theaudience. Fronted by the inimitable Sophie Ellis-Bextor, their one self-titled album reached number twenty-two in the UK charts, with two of four singles released also reaching the Top 40.

His musical career was cut short by a near-fatal car crash in 2001 and after recovering from his injuries he has reinvented himself as a talented and well-respected producer and broadcaster on BBC London 94.9 where his unique, quirky and engaging style of broadcasting and witty repartee has won him a host of listeners and admirers.

He is the voice of Brentford FC on local radio and is also a long-term fan of the club.

I caught up with Billy the other day and he expressed some perceptive, heartfelt and trenchant views on the club and his profession in general – so please sit back and prepare to be stimulated and entertained:

1. Music v Travel v Sports Reporting – discuss

In the UK we are somewhat uncomfortable with the ‘portfolio’ career; but I am jack of all trades, master of none, which I is why I do it. Traffic reporting is about empathy. I used to be a lorry driver and I have a degree in Broadcast Journalism – combine the two and I can make agenda-decisions (what to say) and understand why I’m saying it. If you’re stuck on the M25, we feel for you at BBC London 94.9, we’re there for you! I’m not a sports reporter as such; I’ve tried but the only sport I know anything about is football.

It’s been very interesting following one club; I have learned much about the football industry. Playing music (as I did in my teens and then again in my early thirties) is much more about showing off. There are similarities between the music business and the football business; both take a risk on talent. I’ve got to know a lot of DIY musicians of late and it seems that you can make a living outside the traditions of venture-capitalist record companies, I wonder if this can be done in the football industry..?!

billyreeves_230_it2. Developing your own voice – being yourself as a broadcaster plus any influences you had

We’re left to our own devices at BBC London which is nice; if there’s a ‘house style’ it’s one of slight irreverence. My biggest influence is Mark Burridge, no-one’s commentated on more Bees games than he.

3. Sophie Ellis-Bextor or Jota – beauty personified?

Sophie is a friend, but Jota I admire from afar. No other manager would’ve signed him, he’s slight, never really made it in Spain, his English is minimal, and he’d never tracked-back in his life. (Sophie’s never tracked back either, mind you.) The Brentford Beatles – Matt, Mark, David & Frank – are geniuses for getting him to come to London and turning him into one of the most useful players at this level. I like his new haircut.

4. Living for today, the only policy? – intimations of mortality

I assume this is a reference to my near-death experience? Bizarrely it was fascinating. Watching NHS professionals dealing with horrendous working conditions has made me a rabid supporter of their rights. I became a brave soldier, planning the ten things I’d do once I got out of hospital. Coming to Griffin Park for the first time after the crash, barely being able to walk was the point where I knew I’d be OK. (6th April 2002. Bees 3 Huddersfield 0 – three up at half time).

5. What is so special about Brentford as a club?

The fact that we’re not special. There’s no overriding sense of a golden era that hangs over us as a reminder of better times. There’s no trouble. There’s a sense of community where the club’s been in financial peril. There are no posh seats in the stadium. We have the West London moral high ground, surrounded as we are by the gruesome threesome.

6. How far can we go?

As far as our imagination. It’ll be how we deal with any decline is what will make us or break us over the next ten years. Once we get to the Prem, we must check our privilege and not do what Charlton or Fulham did.

7. Tiki-taka – do we take it too far?

No. We’re working to a budget. We develop ball-players at the expense of muscle and brutality. Football clubs need to understand branding. FC St. Pauli has it. I want us to be known as the ball-playing, attack at all-times, develop young talent, nice, friendly, modern football club. I’d much rather we play this way. It’s brilliant.

8. Mark Warburton and empowerment and positive reinforcement – is it the best policy?

Warbs/Weir is still in the experimental stage. The Brentford Beatles are intelligent individuals backed up by a big-for-this-level analysis department. So far, so good. Too early to say.

9. Working with players and management

Everybody has to be nice to me; I’m wearing a BBC pass. Footballers and backroom staff know how to behave. There’s a sense of propriety. I’m grateful that at the all-new modern Brentford that I’m made welcome at the training ground, the inner sanctum. But I’m acutely aware that I must keep a ‘journalistic distance’. I represent the fans. Uwe and Scotty understood that perfectly, I was their conduit to the supporters when they had the hump. Whether you support the club you’re reporting on or not, there’s a licence at a local level to want the team on your own patch to win. It makes gathering audio afterwards easier. I am not the pet of the club, however – my duty is to the listener and the supporter, I get to ask questions on their behalf.

10. Interviewing players and managers – do’s and don’ts

As mentioned, reporters must never think they have a relationship with the manager. The representatives of the club understand they’re using exposure in the media as PR to promote the club. Reporters therefore should understand this and give them a hard time, ask the difficult questions. It’s the managers that understand that batting back awkward questions, asked immediately after games, is what makes them look good, or bad. Managers are now bigger stars than ever, watch the TV coverage – they get plenty of screentime (to help us understand what just happened on the pitch, as we couldn’t work it out for ourselves) – last term it was drinking from water bottles (Arsene being, seemily, the thirstiest). This season it’s all about note-taking…

Anyway… Players are much more intelligent than people give them credit for. They are on their guard, so are careful about what they say, so this is why they often slip into the comfort of the football lexicon. It’s up to the interviewer to steer them away from cliché. Tommy Smith, Alan Judge and Sam Saunders are all excellent. Richard Lee will make a good reporter, he understands what’s required and, as he has said, punditry needs a goalie.

11. Your overall views on the season to date, things we need to learn and how you expect us to do in the New Year.

I expect signings. We’re not going to get forty points in the second half of the season, but the atmosphere at Griffin Park must not quieten. The players love playing at GP in front of a packed house and the results in 2014 suggest there’s some empirical evidence that it helps. And we’re all about stats & maths at Brentford these days…

Managing Bees – Part 2 – 6/1/15

greenwI recently covered the first batch of former Bees who had gone onto become managers since 1970, and today I am going to complete the list, and a very long one it is too.

Goalkeepers only rarely seem to go on to become managers and Gary Phillips joined their number when he took over as player-manager at Barnet in 1993 before being replaced by another goalkeeper in Ray Clemence. He subsequently managed at Aylesbury United and Hemel Hempstead Town but quit after just seventeen games. After a number of coaching roles, he was appointed as manager of Grays Athletic before returning to Hemel Hempstead Town. He has since worked as a goalkeeping coach at both Barnet and Stevenage.

Robbie Cooke often ploughed a lone furrow as a Brentford striker in the mid-80s but he thrived after retirement and had a long spell as David Moyes’s chief Scout at both Everton and Manchester United before recently being hired by Burnley.

Keith Millen remains well in the public eye given his recent spells as caretaker manager at Crystal Palace and it is good to hear that Alan Pardew will keep him on now he has taken over as the asintnew manager. Keith is an experienced coach and also had a year managing Bristol City.

Andy Sinton was mentioned in despatches a couple of times as a possible Brentford manager, given his illustrious spell at Griffin Park as a player, but it remained a pipe dream. He became manager of Isthmian League Division One outfit Fleet Town in summer 2005, having spent the previous season as the club’s Football Development Officer and stayed there for five years before being appointed as manager of AFC Telford United in the Conference North. In his first season he won promotion to the Conference via the playoffs, and he remained in charge until January 2013, when he left after a sixteen match winless run, the worst in the club’s history.

Ian Holloway had an unhappy time at Griffin Park and was never really able to demonstrate his full ability on the pitch owing to illness but he has had a long and chequered managerial career experiencing the highs and lows of managing at all levels of the game at Bristol Rovers, Queens Park Rangers, Plymouth Argyle, Leicester City, Blackpool, Crystal Palace and Millwall. He is a bubbly, eccentric and effervescent character who is as crazy as a fox and far more astute than he is generally given credit for.

Steve Perryman could well have become a Brentford managerial legend had he not decided to quit in mysterious circumstances on the eve of the 1990/91 season, apparently when he was refused permission to sign Fulham left back Gary Elkins. Let Steve tell the story in his own words:

I’d done my homework and found out Fulham would let him go on a free. The chairman didn’t want to sign him . . . in one conversation he said one reason he didn’t want me to sign Elkins was because Terry Bullivant had told Lange that he thought the Fulham player had ‘shifty eyes’!  What the chairman was inadvertently telling me was that he’d rather trust the judgement of one of his players than his manager, not based on footballing ability, but facial expression. 

That was the end of his reign at Griffin Park on a point of principle, just when it appeared that he had finally built a squad that was on the verge of a promotion push. A terrible waste, although Phil Holder succeeded him and certainly put his own stamp on things, but it was a team largely made up of Perryman signings that won the league in 1992. Steve went on to manage Watford and enjoy success in Japan as well as having a brief stint back at Spurs as assistant manager before becoming director of football at Exeter City.

Ex-Brentford loanee Paul Merson (did he play for anyone else?) had an unhappy spell as manager of Walsall which ended one cold February afternoon in 2006 when his team visibly gave up on him and subsided gently to defeat to a Brentford that was not made to work very hard for their five goal victory.

Colin Lee will never be forgotten for his four goal debut for Spurs in a nine-nil victory over Bristol Rovers. He made his name as a youth coach but had managerial spells at Watford,  Wolverhampton Wanderers, Walsall, Millwall and Torquay.

Graham Rix had a wonderful loan spell at Brentford and he inspired a run towards the playoff positions which tapered off after his departure. He had brief but unsuccessful spells as manager at Portsmouth, Oxford United and Hearts.

Paul Buckle started well as a manager, leading Torquay to promotion from the Conference and then to the League Two play-offs, and being touted as a man to watch. It all turned sour for him at Bristol Rovers and after getting the plum Conference job at Luton Town he quit and moved to the United States in order to accompany his wife. He is now trying to restore his managerial reputation at Cheltenham Town.

spDean Holdsworth had a very successful reign at Newport County, before having a two year stint at Aldershot Town . His team mate, Marcus Gayle, has just lost his job at Staines Town, where he at least had the consolation of taking them to a First Round FA Cup tie at Griffin Park last season.

Steve Perryman did not make one of his more inspired signings when he spent a lot of time, effort and money in bringing Maltese international John Buttigieg to the club. His obvious skill and ability to read the game as a sweeper did not fit in with the manager’s chosen style of play and he was too often left on the sidelines. He returned to his homeland with Floriana and Valletta after which his coaching career reached its zenith when he became Maltese national team head coach between 2009 and 2011.

Eddie May was another highly priced disappointment and gave the impression that he could not wait to scuttle back over the border to his native Scotland, and as soon as he did his career was miraculously resurrected. He then had a short spell as manager of Falkirk.

Brian Statham’s career was severely restricted by injury and he will best be remembered for his two red cards against Brentford, for Reading and Gillingham and for being sent off in the Wembley playoff final disaster against Crewe. He combined a career working in the City with managing Heybridge Swifts and Billericay Town.

Chris Hughton ended his long and illustrious playing career when injuring his knee in the warm-up for Brentford before the Christmas match against Derby County, which resulted in Grant Chalmers, who thought he was not going to be needed, having to sit on the bench whilst still digesting the pie he had just consumed. No wonder the substitute was substituted!

Chris led Newcastle United back into the Premiership before being surprisingly sacked just months later and becoming the boss at Birmingham City and then Norwich City, before his recent appointment at Brighton, where he led his new team to an FA Cup win at Griffin Park, costing us a plum home tie to Arsenal!

Shane Westley was a panic buy replacement for the injured Terry Evans in 1992 and never really looked the part, being agricultural in the extreme. He did well at Lincoln City, and led them to promotion before eventually leaving the game to become a personal trainer.

Tricky winger Paul Stephenson, who never made do with beating two men when he had the chance to take on a third, had a spell as caretaker manager at Hartlepool and is now First-Team Coach at Blackpool.

Nicky Forster could yet make a successful return to management, as after the sacking of Andy Scott he was Matthew Benham’s surprise choice to take over the reins. He gave the team a new impetus and confidence, aided as he was by Mark Warburton – now what on earth happened to him?  He enjoyed a successful three month spell in charge and led the team out at Wembley in the JPT Final. He was not retained at the end of the season before having an unsuccessful spell at Dover Athletic.

Andy Scott is still in the game as manager of Aldershot but it might so easily have been so much better for him. He replaced Terry Butcher in 2007 and had an immediate impact, righting the ship when it was listing perilously close to the choppy waters of Conference football, before winning the title in his first full season in charge. At one time being touted for higher profile jobs, he apparently came within a whisker of being appointed at another one of his former clubs in Sheffield United before it all turned sour for him and he was sacked in February 2011. He then won a plum job at Rotherham which also ended badly before taking over the reins at Aldershot Town as the club dropped into the Conference.

Micky Adams is also one of football’s survivors and is seen now as a lower division firefighter but he has achieved much in his long career and is unfortunate not to have made a bigger name for himself. He started off well at Fulham before being unceremoniously dumped for Kevin Keegan and after a bizarre thirteen-day stint as boss at Swansea City he was appointed Brentford manager in November 1997 before leaving the club when Ron Noades took over. His managerial career continued at Nottingham Forest as caretaker, two spells at Brighton, Leicester City, Coventry City, Port Vale and his boyhood team Sheffield United. He then returned to Port Vale where he achieved the fourth promotion of his career as he led the club out of League Two.  He is now trying to keep Tranmere Rovers in the Football League.

Scott Fitzgerald was handed a poisoned chalice when he took over a poor and dispirited squad from Leroy Rosenior and was peremptorily sacked as soon as the inevitable relegation was confirmed, before returning to youth team management at Gillingham and Millwall. Chris Hargreaves was an honest toiler and midfield dynamo and is currently struggling to return Torquay United to the Football League.

Steve Claridge came and went in the blink of an eye, and that was maybe too long for some people, as he was well over the hill when Martin Allen surprisingly signed him in late 1994, and he and Deon Burton formed a totally ill-matched strike duo of waxwork dummies with neither prepared to run the channels.

He eventually had a thirty-six day spell as manager of Millwall in the summer of 2005 and was sacked before a ball was kicked in earnest. He is now the media pundit we all love to hate but could well return to the dugout next season at the reformed Salisbury City.

As you can see, many former Bees have ventured into the managerial hotseat after ending their playing days, with many of them being ejected fairly quickly.

I started my review in 1970, but I would be remiss if I did not end with a brief homage to Ron Greenwood, perhaps the most successful former Bee to become a manager. He enjoyed three great years at Griffin Park as a cultured centre half and his thirteen years in charge at West Ham saw the Hammers gain a deserved reputation for style and elegance. He led his team to FA Cup and European Cup Winners Cup victories in successive years and ended his career with a successful spell as England team manager before being replaced by Bobby Robson.

Let’s hope that one day another ex-Bee can emulate his success. Kevin O’Connor perhaps?

Managing Bees – Part 1 – 2/1/15

hoThe recent news of Chris Hughton’s appointment as Brighton manager and the realisation that there would now be a familiar face in the opposition dugout on Saturday sent me scurrying to the record books in search of the answer to the question that I am sure is on all of your lips, namely, how many other former Brentford players have become managers in recent times?

Before I start I wonder if anyone would like to hazard a guess?

No, I thought not.

I did and I found that I was miles out with my answer.

I didn’t have too long to spare for my research so I decided to make the arbitrary choice of 1970 as my start date, and I hit pay dirt straight away.

John Docherty had an incredible five spells at Brentford, three as a player, one as manager and finally, as assistant to Frank McLintock.

His most successful times as a manager came away from Griffin Park, firstly at Cambridge United where he performed near miracles on a shoestring budget and, after leaving Brentford for the final time, he and McLintock bizarrely swapped roles with Doc taking over as manager at Millwall with Frank as his number two, and together they led Millwall into the top flight for the first time in their history.

A truly remarkable achievement given their resources.

Docherty’s next stop was at Bradford City, in March 1990.

He was neither popular or successful there and I remember murmurings against him after Brentford won there with a late Neil Smillie goal in 1991, and he eventually returned for a second spell at Millwall before leaving the game for good.

Brian Turner is best remembered for hitting the post late on in that FA Cup match at Hull in 1971, but there was far more to him than that as he earned over one hundred caps for New Zealand and later became national team manager.

roger-cross-west-ham-united-4472959I can still picture Roger Cross, resplendent in his white boots, and the elegant striker had a long and distinguished career within the game as youth team manager at Millwall and as a coach at Queens Park Rangers and Tottenham Hotspur, where he was also assistant manager to Gerry Francis, and then back where he started, at West Ham, as coach and chief scout.

Other stalwarts from the 70s in Paul Bence, Jackie Graham and Terry Scales managed in non-league at Wycombe Wanderers, Staines Town and Hoddesden Town respectively.

Stewart Houston was perhaps one of the biggest managerial names that Brentford have produced.

He coached at Plymouth Argyle before becoming George Graham’s assistant during Arsenal’s successful spell in the early 90s and he twice held the caretaker reigns at Highbury, leading the club to the final of the European Cup Winners’ Cup, where the Gunners lost to a last-minute freak goal – “Nayim from the halfway line!”

Perhaps unfairly, he became known as the “Cone Man,” a title apparently dreamed up by Ian Wright but QPR were impressed enough with his credentials to name him as their manager in 1996.

I got to know him at that point as I worked closely with the club managing Ericsson’s sponsorship.

gg-sacked-1995-2To call him dour might perhaps be a tad harsh but I certainly did not find him the most expansive of personalities and any conversation beyond football was strictly limited, until one day, stuck for something to say to him and with the silence lengthening, I somehow started burbling on about a show I had just seen, and suddenly Stewart came alive.

He was passionate about musicals and from that day on we had something in common and a point of contact!

His time at Loftus Road was not a success and after the inevitable parting of the ways he had further spells coaching at Ipswich Town, Tottenham Hotspur, where he was re-united with George Graham, and finally at Walsall, before returning to Arsenal as a scout.

Alan Murray came and went quickly at Griffin Park, ending up as top scorer with a miserly total of seven goals from midfield in our dreadful 1972/73 relegation season, testimony indeed to the folly of the Board of Directors’ decision to sell John O’Mara without allowing the manager to bring in an adequate replacement.

Murray began his management career at Hartlepool United in 1991 when, with boss Cyril Knowles battling against a brain tumour, Murray made the unusual shift from chief executive to manager.

He then moved to Darlington before working for Graeme Souness at Southampton, and then as assistant manager at Newcastle.

David Court was also long past his peak and came and went in a blink of an eye, but lasted for years back at Arsenal as Assistant Academy Director and Assistant Head of Youth Development.

Keith Pritchett also had a short stay at Griffin Park before impressing at Watford under Graham Taylor.

Eventually he emigrated to New Zealand where he managed the New Zealand national team, taking charge for the first time in June 1996. New Zealand won two, drew one and lost eight of his eleven games in charge.

Ironically the player with almost the shortest playing record for Brentford has had one of the longest and most successful managerial careers!

Harry Redknapp lasted a mere thirty-eight minutes as a triallist at Aldershot before suffering an injury and leaving the club following the arrival of Bill Dodgin as manager a few days later.

He cut his managerial teeth at Bournemouth and survived a nine-nil trouncing in his first match as caretaker manager at Lincoln in December 1982.

It was an icy day, and Bournemouth could not afford AstroTurf boots, so they could barely stand up and Lincoln slalomed past them at will.

After the game Harry was asked if he was disappointed and apparently complained bitterly that the seventh goal was offside.

redThings could only get better after that and Redknapp has now been in the hot seat for over thirty years at West Ham United, Portsmouth (twice) where he won the FA Cup, Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur and Queens Park Rangers as well as being widely touted at one time as England national team manager.

His record certainly bears scrutiny as he has achieved a creditable forty per cent success rate in over thirteen hundred matches in charge.

Tony Burns had a decent loan spell at Brentford in 1977 and the former Arsenal keeper went on to manage Tonbridge three times as well as Gravesend & Northfleet.

He was Millwall’s goalkeeping coach for fourteen years and was appointed joint caretaker manager of Millwall for a month in April 2006.

Remarkably, at the age of seventy he joined Gillingham in July 2014 as senior goalkeeping coach where he works with Stuart Nelson, still impressing in the Gills goal.

Neil Smillie finished his long career with two years at Gillingham as player/coach, including a spell as caretaker manager, before moving on to Wycombe Wanderers as youth team coach and later becoming first team manager.

He always struck me as being far too nice and decent a man to succeed as a manager in the cut-throat world of professional football!

Barry Lloyd is also a survivor as after managing at Yeovil and Worthing, he took over at Brighton as long ago as January 1987.

He guided them to promotion in his first full season and they also reached the Second Division playoff final in 1991 before money got tight and he eventually resigned in 1994 just before the roof fell in.

He took the well-trodden path into scouting and has been at the club for the past seven years as chief scout.

Bob Booker is a rarity as he has become a folk hero at no fewer than three clubs, Brentford, Sheffield United and finally Brighton where he became assistant manager and continued to serve the Seagulls in a variety of roles for over a decade, including two spells as caretaker manager.

Ron Harris parlayed his experience of playing over seven hundred games, predominantly for Chelsea, into a brief term as player-manager at Aldershot but he soon tired of football management and turned to property development and after dinner speaking.

Roberts_G“Gasping” Gary Roberts was a firm favourite at Griffin Park, apart from with Francis Joseph, who always complained that the winger was far too greedy and never passed to him in front of goal!

Maybe Gary knew what he was doing as he managed to score sixty-three goals for the Bees, including a hat trick scored in four amazing minutes against Newport.

He has combined his new career as a policeman with over eleven years as a successful manager at Cambridge City where he remains today.

Chris Kamara led Bradford City to promotion before not doing as well at Stoke City and correctly coming to the conclusion that television punditry was a better and more secure way to spend his time.

Striker David Kemp only played a handful of games for the Bees as a loanee before injury struck and he has managed and coached for nearly thirty years as the number one at Plymouth Argyle, Slough Town and Oxford United as well as having a plethora of jobs as assistant manager, including spells at Wimbledon, Millwall, Portsmouth, Stoke City and then back at Crystal Palace where he became technical coach in 2014.

He has worked extensively with Tony Pulis and will doubtless be following him to West Bromwich Albion.

Full back Les Strong was far too sensible to enter the dog-eat-dog life as a manager in England, but instead spent three years as manager of the Anguilla national team in the West Indies.

I spent my honeymoon there and it is simply paradise on earth.

Midfielder Terry Bullivant took charge at Barnet and Reading, where he signed Carl Asaba from us, before he returned to Griffin Park in 1998 as a member of Ron Noades title-winning coaching staff and he stayed for almost three seasons before quitting in April 2001 and having spells at Crystal Palace, Watford and Birmingham City.

In March 2008 he made a third return to West London as assistant manager to Andy Scott and once again helped the team to a championship success before teaming up with Scott again at Aldershot Town where he remains today, and I watched his team give Conference leaders Barnet a tough match yesterday afternoon.

wignallSteve Wignall started his managerial career at Aldershot Town before taking over at Colchester United followed by shorter spells at Doncaster Rovers and Southend United.

His autobiography is well worth reading and reveals much about life at the bottom of the football league.

I will end this article with the amazing tale of Rowan Alexander, whose underwhelming stay at Griffin Park soon came to an end and he returned to Scotland with Greenock Morton where, ironically, he rediscovered his shooting boots, before moving into management with his first club Queen of the South.

He then moved to Gretna where he benefited from the largesse of Brooks Mileson and enjoyed huge success and led the tiny club to the promised land of the Scottish Cup Final and the Premier League before the money ran out.

So many former Bees who became managers in recent years, and yet, I have barely scratched the surface, as will be revealed tomorrow.

Manager of the Month – 16/12/14

I posed a question recently after Mark Warburton was named as Manager of the Month for November.

I asked if anyone could list all the Brentford managers who had previously won this award.

I received a few replies, and many thanks to everyone who responded, but I am afraid that nobody came anywhere near providing a comprehensive list.

To be honest, at the time I set the task, I really had no idea myself of what the correct answer was, so I had to do my own research as well.

Wikipedia was of no help in this instance so I consulted the oracle, Mark Croxford, co-author and inspiration of the Big Brentford Book series.

Mark has unparalleled records of everything that has happened both on and off the field in and around Griffin Park for the past forty-five years.

Nothing, however seemingly inconsequential, escapes his eagle-eyed attention and everything is recorded for posterity – or indeed, the next Big Brentford Book.

Mark received my request with total equanimity, he is always totally calm and unflappable, traits that I do not share as I crack at the first sign of pressure.

Within the hour an email slithered into my inbox with the answer, and I was totally amazed at what I read.

Before letting the cat out of the bag I will simply ask the following question:

How many times have Brentford managers won the coveted Manager of the Month Award?

Five, eight, twelve, Fifteen times, perhaps?

blunWell I was staggered when I added up the numbers.

Mark Warburton’s selection in November was the twenty-second time that a Brentford manager has won this coveted award.

Frank Blunstone won twice, both times during the momentous 1971/72 promotion season, in September 1971 and again in March 1972.

September saw Brentford win three out of five matches and hammer Hartlepool and Peterborough at Griffin Park with eleven goals scored in two memorable home games, and March included a promotion clinching run of five consecutive victories inspired by the return of John O’Mara from his harsh five week ban.

dochJohn Docherty took over the manager’s job from Mike Everitt in early 1975 and revitalised a struggling team.

His efforts were recognised in April when, with Roger Cross and Micky French scoring eight goals between them, the Bees won four times to finish in an excellent eighth place in the league table.

Bill Dodgin’s team played wonderful football throughout the 1977/78 season which was deservedly rewarded with promotion and what is surprising is that he only won the Manager of the Month award once, but there again, Watford, under their own inspiration, Graham Taylor, finished eleven points clear at the top of the table!

dodgDodgin won in March, which saw eight matches crammed into the month and Brentford rose to the challenge with six victories.

Over a decade was to pass until a Brentford manager again caught the eye of the selection panel and the reigns of Fred Callaghan and Frank McLintock passed without reward, as, unsurprisingly did that of Mike Everitt in the early seventies!

Callaghan might have gone close in his first month in charge, April 1980 when his new team went on an undefeated run of four matches before results deteriorated but even in his most memorable season of 1982/83 when his team scored eighty-eight league goals, the results were far too inconsistent for him to have come into serious contention for the award.

The mid-eighties were a time of mediocrity when an average team played unmemorable football in front of poor attendances, and apathy ruled.

Momentum was restored under Steve Perryman, who was the next Brentford manager to win the award in January 1989.

This was a wonderful month which saw seven matches pass undefeated and Walsall and Manchester City defeated in the FA Cup.

I will pause for a moment now and ask the question, which Brentford manager has won the Manager of the Month award the most times?

Given where I have got to in my narrative I suspect that most of you will have guessed that the correct answer is Phil Holder, but what is even more praiseworthy is that he won the award four times in his three seasons in charge.

Phil Holder first won the award in December 1990 when an unbeaten run of five matches saw Brentford begin their challenge for the Playoffs.

Brentford fell for the first time in the Playoffs that season but the following season saw the Third Division title won and Holder’s magnificent achievement was recognised twice, in November 1991 and in April 1992.

November saw a cagy draw against fellow promotion aspirants, Birmingham City, a four goal hammering of a poor Wigan team and the amazing come from behind recovery from a two goal halftime deficit to beat a John Williams, “the Flying Postman”, inspired Swansea.

April saw a procession of five victories including the unforgettable mauling of Fulham as an inspired Brentford team totally delivered at the business end of the season and strode triumphantly towards the title.

Holder’s overall managerial record at the club was highly impressive as he won fifty-nine out of one hundred and thirty-eight league matches over three seasons. There were many other factors than poor management that caused our relegation in 1993 and his achievements merit massive credit.

Indeed Holder even won the Manager of the Month award in our relegation season, in December 1992, when the Bees went undefeated for five matches and ended the year in a comfortable mid table position, looking upwards towards the top of the league rather than down towards the bottom.

Unfortunately our optimism was to be misplaced given how the season ended.

Holder’s successor, David Webb won the award twice, in January 1995 and in August 1996.

Both seasons were to end in Playoff disappointment, but January 1995 was capped with a scintillating six-nil thrashing of Cambridge United, which saw all the goals scored in the last twenty-five minutes as the opposition, down to ten men after ex-Bee, Billy Manuel saw red, finally capitulated.

August 1996 was a time of renewed optimism as our new front four of Nicky Forster, Carl Asaba, Bob Taylor and Marcus Bent threatened to steamroller the opposition, and the month ended with Carl Asaba scoring the club’s fastest ever hat-trick in eight minutes at Shrewsbury.

Unfortunately, the season turned sour after the sale of Nicky Forster and we limped into the Playoffs and a Wembley embarrassment by Crewe Alexandra.

1997/98 was a horrible season marked by fan disaffection and revolt, the exodus of our best players and a fully justified relegation to the bottom division.

Amazingly, new manager Micky Adams, replacing the doomed Eddie May won the award in March 1998 when he inspired his strugglers to three wins and an undefeated five match run.

1998/99 saw an immediate promotion and the appointment of multitasking Owner/Chairman/Manager Ron Noades whose arrival was generally welcomed given the that truth of his “investment” in the club had not yet emerged.

wallyHe won the award in August 1998, one of the few times when a manager won the award in his first ever month as a Football League manager, a feat, of course, matched by Mark Warburton in December 2013, as well as by a more unexpected name in Wally Downes.

Noades and his support team built a vibrant young team packed full of hungry, young, talented players from Non-League and promotion and the title was won in a canter.

Steve Coppell came within a hairsbreadth of leading Brentford to promotion in his one season in charge and he won the award in October 2001, a month of breathtaking achievement when the Bees won all five matches, including wonderful away wins at the two eventually promoted teams, Brighton and Reading.

Wally Downes inherited a sinking ship, a team bereft of its best players who left the club after Playoff defeat to Cardiff and with no money to play with.

Despite these handicaps, it all started so well for him and he won the award in August 2002 when he motivated a team of kids, loanees and journeymen to a six match unbeaten run.

Unfortunately there was only one way for him to go from such a wonderful start and he never threatened to win the award again.

Martin Allen’s arrival undoubtedly saved the club from another relegation and he led the club to two marvellous FA Cup runs to the fifth round and two unsuccessful Playoff campaigns.

He won two Manager of the Month awards in September 2004, after three wins and a draw, and February 2006 which saw a thrashing of Paul Merson’s sleepwalking Walsall team and an excellent win over league leaders, Southend.

Andy Scott turned the club around after the disasters of the Leroy Rosenior, Scott Fitzgerald and Terry Butcher eras and led the Bees to the title in 2009.

His achievements were recognised in April 2009, a month in which the title was finally won.

scottHeroes can turn into dunces so quickly in football and Andy Scott went from winning the Manager of the Month award in October 2010 to the sack after the Dagenham debacle in early February 2011.

That leads us onto the reigns of Uwe Rosler and the current incumbent, Mark Warburton.

Uwe won the award in November 2013, which saw five consecutive victories and after his unexpected departure to Wigan, Mark Warburton simply took over the mantle and
ensured that the award remained at Griffin Park as he oversaw four wins in December 2013.

Phil Holder has set the bar extremely high with four awards, can Mark Warburton equal or even surpass him?

All will be revealed over the coming months and years but I fully expect that he will eventually achieve this momentous feat.

One final thought.

What a shame that such an award was not in existence during Harry Curtis’s long and successful reign at the club.

He would surely have set new records for the number of times a manager received this award!

When You’ve Got It, Flaunt It! – 13/11/14

scMy last article suggested that the less recognition Brentford received for their incredible start to the season the better, and that it would be far more beneficial for us if we remained firmly under the radar, and our achievements to date remained largely unnoticed.

Several of our early opponents seem to have totally underestimated us and have ended up with a bloody nose for their trouble, and I was concerned that forewarned is forearmed, and we might well find the going tougher in the future once teams become less complacent, and begin to recognise that we are by no means a soft touch.

Given how cautious, superstitious and reactionary I thought most long-term Brentford fans to be, I fully expected that my comments would be well received and that the overwhelming majority would vote to tick the box for no publicity.

Not a bit of it!

I certainly misread the prevailing mood as quite a few of the responses I received certainly came from the Max Bialystock school of “When you’ve got it, flaunt it” and Eric Taylor, writing from Somalia, best summed up that viewpoint:

To be honest, you disappoint me a bit.

You write excellently and I follow you religiously.

Your writing is spot on, and for a Bees fan in Africa it’s how I keep up to speed with how The World Famous Brentford FC are doing as we speed towards immortality.

But I think you’re a bit tactical when you need to be more strategic. 

You need to marshall some basic facts.

We are Brentford fans.

Very few individuals are given that privilege.

We support the best team ever and only people mainlining heroin whilst smoking crack could possibly argue against that.

This month we are sixth in the Championship.

As the best and most real football club in the division (real in being we have no glory fans – nobody supports Brentford unless they are blessed) we’re destined for promotion to the Premiership.

The strategic bit, which I’d welcome your advice on, is how we beat Real Madrid in the Champions’ League final in forty-eight months’ time?

Ditch the small scale stuff about how we beat Manchester United in eleven months time, 0-1 (Saunders, 97 mins) or how Benham refuses Mourinho’s begging on his knees to manage us as Warburton signs a twenty year contract, and focus on the real big picture stuff !

Come On You Bees, and keep up your great work.

How can you fail to smile and nod your head in agreement with his comments and positivity?

Peter Herman was slightly more constrained and conflicted in his opinion and seemed to be betting each way:

I am still finding it all a bit hard to believe after so many years of disappointments, interspersed with a few short lived triumphs.

It sounds crazy, I know, but now I am actually beginning to worry about the possibility of our being promoted before we get to Lionel Road!

But as a Bees pessimist, my next thought is that we have still have a long way to go before we can even be sure of staying up.

Patrick Sutton is another one struggling to come to terms with the Brentford of today, but happy to accept things at face value:

As per usual your posts are written in such a dream way that I always have to slap myself when I have finished reading.

For me as a supporter of forty-six years I feel it is vital that I remain prepared to shed many more tears for my beloved Brentford, and that, in my humble opinion, is why I believe that as a club, first of all, we are now in a stable and healthy position thanks to Mr Benham’s shrewd business head, and secondly as a football club we have come so far, so let’s skip being under the radar and simply forget who is watching and talking about little old Brentford.

As a parent I get such a buzz every home game when I watch how excited my seventeen year old son is about travelling from our home in Wimbledon to watch the Bees, an excitement I have seen grow on his face since he was six years old.

I guess my point is though excited, blessed and proud to be a Brentford supporter I will always take it one game at a time and no matter how far up we go or how far down, I will always be a Brentford man and, in return for the way we are now, I can look back and say that all the tears in the past were well worth it.

Hope that all made sense.

Andre too sums up some of the confusion and ambivalence felt by so many of us:

I’m torn.

I’d obviously accept promotion at the drop of a hat.

But I wonder whether it would be in the longer term interest of the club if it happened this year.

Griffin Park is totally unsuitable for Premier League football and the new stadium won’t be ready until 2017 according to current estimates.

We’d have to negotiate a groundshare, pay for the privilege, and lose income as a result of being tenants elsewhere.

Inevitably resulting in less atmosphere and no fortress Brentford.

This is not an old fashioned and reactionary ‘nah, they don’t want to go up’ kind of comment.

But I’d rather hear about Brentford’s three year record in the Premier League against Manchester United, Arsenal, Spurs and Chelsea rather than experiencing one season of crash and burn.

However, even that is better than nothing at all.

There’s no way of telling what the future will bring.

I’ll happily take the opportunties if they come.

Hence my confusion.

With hindsight, losing to Doncaster and Yeovil turmed out to be a good thing, however much it hurt at the time.

We are so much better prepared for the Championship this year.

But of course, we now know what happened the following year.

At the time, we could only feel the pain.

I can’t help feeling that the prospect of promotion this year scares the bejesus out of me.

But before then, there’s the small matter of picking up those twenty-three points for safety, and sixteenth would still be fine and dandy, just as it was at the beginning of the season, although on the evidence so far, we’re much better than that.

What am I thinking of?

The mere fact that I’m worrying about the prospect of playing in the Premier League, rather than wondering about what Conference football might be like, all in the space of seven years, says it all.

What progress.

Carpe diem.

Being promoted too early is such a luxury problem !

But let’s get those twenty-three points first.

butI think the fact that the words “Premier League” and “Brentford” can now even be mentioned in the same sentence without attracting guffaws of laughter or expressions of total incredulity and disbelief, really says it all.

Andre is quite right.

A mere seven years ago we were in freefall and it looked like we were only going in one direction, and it was backwards towards the Conference and likely oblivion.

AFC Brentford anyone?

Lucky not to be sacked at the same time as Terry Butcher, and probably only saved the axe as we could not afford to pay out any more compensation, Andy Scott somehow managed to turn the ship around and stabilise us, before winning a crucial promotion from the bottom tier the following season.

His achievements have not, in my opinion, received enough accolades as he laid the initial foundations, underpinned, of course by Matthew Benham’s financial support, which have been built upon so well by Uwe Rosler and Mark Warburton.

brI still have to pinch myself when I stop to think about how far we have come in so short a period of time.

Do you remember the days, not so long ago, in truth, when we fielded the likes of Simon Brown, Lee Thorpe, Craig Pead and John Mackie?

Honest journeymen professionals they all most certainly were, but how can you compare them to the turbocharged thoroughbreds we are so fortunate to be watching nowadays?

As long as we never start taking things for granted and become insufferably smug and develop a sense of entitlement, like the supporters of some other teams we could all mention, then I think we will be all right.

In the light of the above, Ithorpe have reconsidered my position and I now think that every Brentford supporter should simply take a deep breath and enjoy the ride.

We know we are in good and safe hands and that the future of our beloved club will never be put in jeopardy by our enlightened ownership.

Let’s just recognise and take joy and pride in the undoubted fact that after being mediocrities and also rans for far too long, nearly all the component parts seem to be coming together at the same time.

We have a squad, a management team, an approach and a style of play that we should justifiably shout from the rooftops about.

peadWe really are that good and given a fair wind, some good fortune and no more crucial injuries, we are more than likely to get even better as we grow in experience and self-belief.

Who knows just how far we can go.

Certainly, we need Lionel Road and its enhanced revenue streams to come on board as soon as is humanly possible, but the future is so bright for Brentford.

As for the Premier League, is it a mere pipe dream, could it become a reality or are we in danger of becoming guilty of hubris and perhaps laying ourselves open to the prospect of nemesis?

mackieI have no idea but, you know what, I am becoming far more comfortable at the prospect of outsiders recognising and commenting about our achievements.

It makes such a pleasant change from being patronised and ridiculed.

Brazil Nutted! – 9/7/14

luiz2

So who expected that?

Has anyone ever seen anything quite like it?

What a humiliation!

Brazil one, Germany seven! I have just typed those words and I still cannot really believe it.

Talk about blowing it and choking and the images of Brazilian supporters in tears and a state of shock will stay with me for a long time.

The 7-1 scoreline was equal to the worst defeat in the history of Brazilian football and was also Brazil’s heaviest World Cup defeat, the next being their 3-0 loss to France in the 1998 Final.

It was also the first time that Brazil had conceded more than five World Cup goals since 1938, although on that occasion they managed to comeback to beat Poland 6-5 after extra-time.

Furthermore, Brazil had not let in seven goals at home… ever!

No other team has ever scored seven goals in the semi-finals of the World Cup and Germany’s six goal victory was the heaviest semi-final defeat in the tournament’s history, ahead of West Germany’s 6-1 defeat of Austria in 1954 and Uruguay’s win by the same scoreline against Yugoslavia in 1930.

I have never seen a top international team – or come to think of it, a Sunday League team after a night on the beer, defend so awfully as Brazil did and as somebody so memorably tweeted last night: “Well at least when your team gets a drubbing next season you can truthfully sing it’s just like watching Brazil!”

Brentford nemesis David Luiz was on his knees and in floods of tears at the end of the match, as would have been any defensive coach analysing his appalling performance in which he went totally AWOluizL.

Brentford supporters – still fuming at his cowardly and totally unnecessary assault on the diminutive Jake Reeves could easily be forgiven for their feelings of schadenfreude at Luiz finally getting his comeuppance – a true flat track bully being brought down to size!David Luiz collides with Jake Reeves

For their part, Brentford have also suffered some terrible hidings over the years, conceding seven goals on six occasions, most recently on that appalling November afternoon back in 2007 at Peterborough.

In its own way that was as much a capitulation as Brazil’s last night as Peterborough inflicted a joint record heaviest defeat on ten-man Brentford.

Bees keeper Simon Brown was sent off in the first minute for conceding a penalty which Aaron McLean tucked away and Clark Masters came on to do his best to stem the tide, like Canute trying to hold back the waves – and with about as much success!

McLean volleyed the second, put another penalty against the bar, and sealed his hat-trick before Chris Whelpdale scored from close in.

George Boyd’s low shot made it five, Craig Mackail-Smith ran free to hit the sixth and Rene Howe fired the seventh before Boyd had an effort disallowed.

As you can read from this brief match report, no mention of any Brentford attacks.

What is even more telling is that despite the severity of the defeat, not one Brentford player earned a yellow card which highlights how resigned they were to their fate and their lack of fight on the day.

Peterborough declared at seven, they were scoring at will and could doubtless have reached double figures had they been so inclined.

Looking at the Brentford team that fateful day, it has to be said that it was poorly led by Terry Butcher and was paper thin.

It included such luminaries as John Mackie and Matt Heywood forming an immobile and porous central defensive partnership that was no match for the pace and skill of Mackail-Smith and McLean.

Darius Charles and Charlie Ide represented the younger generation and journeymen Glenn Poole, Craig Pead, Ricky Shakes and Lee Thorpe also turned out.

Ironically Bees loanee Emile Sinclair, ploughing a lone furrow up front, must have done something right as he eventually joined the Posh a few seasons down the line!

The Bees eventually plateaued out under Terry Butcher and Andy Scott arrested the slide and led the team to promotion the following season.

For all of his subsequent failings, Scott’s achievement should never be minimised and he deserves much credit for restoring pride, passion and structure to what was a pretty disorganised rabble.

Just as Brentford recovered from their humiliation at London Road, so will Brazil from theirs last night.

The odd disastrous result here and there can be quite good for the soul and can also lead to introspection, re-examination and change.

Brazil will tear their team and infrastructure apart and will be the better for it, just as was the case with Brentford.