You Are A Long Time Retired – 21/5/16

I make a point of reading The Football League Paper every Sunday and I always make a beeline for the Where Are They Now column. Every week it features a grainy black and white team photograph dating back up to forty years or so and provides an update on what the players have been getting up to since they retired. Some, but a very small minority remain household names to this day, predominantly as managers and coaches, but the overwhelming majority have faded away into relative obscurity, their glory days long-since passed and they now work in a variety of common-or-garden or mundane jobs. A worrying number have also passed away and I find it hard to realise or accept that a gnarled veteran in his early thirties when I first started watching the game fifty years ago is now in his dotage – or worse. I well remember researching the whereabouts of some of our former Brentford heroes from the sixties when working on the Big Brentford Book series and making the shocking discovery of how very few players from that era still remained with us.

So what happens to footballers when they retire and how do they cope with being out of the spotlight and no longer being a global, national or local hero? What happens when they have to adapt to the dull and prosaic reality of having to manage their own affairs, make their own travel arrangements, find alternative employment, adjust to a massive reduction in their earnings and even look after their passport rather than having it held for safekeeping by their club?

Retired footballers have on average around sixteen thousand days to fill from the time of their retirement until their death and it is not surprising that many former footballers find this transition difficult if not impossible to manage. Many fall upon hard times and the results of the loss of their former fame, glory, stature and even sense of purpose can be drastic and catastrophic with over one hundred and fifty ex-footballers ending up in prison, predominately for drug offenses. Others suffer from mental health issues and bankruptcy. Divorce is rife with a staggering one third of all footballers ending their marriage within a year of hanging up their boots and, tragically, suicide is also all too common.

Writer and award-winning stand-up comedian Alan Gernon has now produced a well-researched, thought-provoking and comprehensive book that is certainly not a barrel of laughs. Retired provides a disturbing analysis of the never-ending variety of troubles and problems that footballers can face once they stop playing; what can and does happen to them, and what support and help are available to them when things begin to go wrong as they attempt to readjust to normal life. Liberally illustrated with a plethora of case studies of ex-players whose difficult and sad stories are either already in the public domain or who have been brave enough to go public with their recollections within this book, Retired is a much-needed and long-overdue cautionary tale of the problems and pitfalls that can await every footballer once he leaves the spotlight.

Mr. Gernon has ranged far and wide in his research and has obtained insights, some of them excruciating in their honesty, from former players such as David Bentley, Lee Bowyer, David Busst, Geoff Thomas, Jody Craddock, Mark Ward, Richard Sadlier, Gary Stevens and John Newsome, amongst others, who between them have suffered from a myriad of problems since the end of their glory days.

Some of the statistics are mind blowing. Research undertaken by XPRO, a charity set up to help, support and advise former professional footballers highlights the following:

  • There are over sixty thousand former players living in the UK and Ireland
  • Two out of every five Premier League players, who earn an average of forty-two thousand pounds per week, face the threat of bankruptcy within five years of ending their career
  • One third of footballers will be divorced within a year of retirement
  • Eighty percent of retired players will suffer from osteoarthritis

World players’ union FIFPro also revealed that thirty-five percent of former players faced problems with depression and anxiety, particularly if they had suffered serious injuries during their playing career, more than double the figure for the general population.

What about the young kids who dream of becoming footballers but have their hopes and dreams shattered? The odds are heavily weighted against them. Former Liverpool schoolboy player Michael Kinsella’s story is typical of so many like him. Thirteen members of his schoolboy side joined professional clubs with only two enjoying long-term careers. Six ended up in prison, with Kinsella himself receiving a ten-year sentence for drug offences.

Some players are fortunate enough to become managers or coaches, others seek the Holy Grail of a pundit’s role within the media but these opportunitiesare few and far between with demand massively exceeding supply. There are nowhere near enough jobs to go round and the majority go to the biggest names.

Some players even die early from the effects of heading the old-style heavy leather football which resembled a cannonball when wet. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a brain condition becoming more common among footballers. Jeff Astle, a renowned header of the ball for West Bromwich Albion and England in the sixties and early seventies died tragically young in 2002 and the coroner concluded that he suffered neurological damage from heading a football and his illness was later diagnosed as CTE.

Former West Ham player Mark Ward struggled after retirement and turned to alcohol and was short of cash. He rented out a property which was used to store drugs and he ended up in prison. Michael Branch was a special talent at Everton who ended up serving a seven-year sentence for supply of Class A and B drugs.

The book is relentless featuring tale after tale of players who have fallen foul of a variety of problems and pitfalls and it can be so hard for footballers who can resemble thirty-seven year-old newborns emerging from what Niall Quinn has so memorably described as an adults’ playground to adapt to what they have to face in the real world. Thankfully there is now far more support at hand and it is no longer considered a weakness to cry for help.

Hopefully this quite brilliant book will help raise awareness of the seriousness of the situation and reinforce the fact that there is now expert help available whenever it is required.

This is help that perhaps former Southampton player Bobby Stokes could surely have done with. Never a star, but a solid, dependable, all-action midfield dynamo whose place in Southampton legend is assured by virtue of the dramatic and unforgettable winning goal he scored in 1976 to win the FA Cup for The Saints against Manchester United. He was the toast of the town and became that rarity, a Portsmouth boy who became a hero for their hated rivals in Southampton.

He died far too young in straightened circumstances and life after football was not easy for him. Mark Sanderson has lovingly recorded his life and achievements in Bobby Stokes: The Man from Portsmouth Who Scored Southampton’s Most Famous Goal.

It is a biography that has been written with sympathy, affection and respect by a man who has a light and deft touch with words and possesses an immense knowledge of his subject.

Both books are highly recommended.

Retired By Alan Gernon And Bobby Stokes By Mark Sanderson are both published by Pitch Publishing.

Don’t Miss This Book – 16/4/16

Some books are hard to get into but are eventually worth the struggle, others make my eyes glaze over almost from the opening pages and bring about an irresistible urge to fall asleep, but just sometimes you hit the jackpot and pick up a book which engages and delights you from the opening paragraph and you find yourself totally captivated and nodding in agreement with the author’s comments as well as totally identifying with everything that he says.

Apologies for the radio silence over the past couple of days but I have just been indulging myself and was totally engrossed in a wonderful new book mysteriously and enigmatically titled Gus Honeybun, Your Boys Took One Hell Of A Beating by Simon Carter.

So what on earth is this all about and who or what is Gus Honeybun? Quite simply, Simon Carter is a journalist who has enjoyed a love affair with Exeter City for the past thirty-seven years and the book is almost four hundred pages worth of an intoxicating mixture of ecstasy, joy, pride, shock, horror, resignation and shattered expectations as he recounts his memories of following a mediocre lower league football club in their fight for survival against almost insurmountable odds.

As for Gus, he was a Janner, a nickname for all those unlucky enough to be born and (in)bred in Plymouth. He was a popular rabbit puppet who appeared on local television for almost thirty years and helped celebrate children’s birthdays by doing a series of on-air bunny hops and winks. That all sounds pretty harmless and uncontentious to me but unfortunately Gus was also a rabid Plymouth Argyle supporter and would appear on-screen proudly wearing a green and white Argyle scarf whenever they had a whiff of success – pure provocation and something that used to infuriate young Simon as a died in the wool Exeter fan who took particular delight in his club’s rare victories over their local rivals.

Fans of every other Football League team will identify with the exploits and adventures recounted in this book. Taking a total of ten supporters to midweek games up North in the depths of Winter, travelling away with no hint of expectation when actually scoring a goal, or at least winning a corner, was the most one could hope for. Losing miserably and spinelessly to the like of Warrington in the FA Cup with the further embarrassment of seeing your team’s myriad shortcomings transmitted to the entire nation through the live television coverage on BBC. The sense of utter frustration when you just know that your team will let you down whenever it really matters, but, never mind, you will still be there for the next game or the following season with the slate wiped clean knowing full well that further embarrassments and disappointments await you.

Carter writes well and concisely with short, sharp, staccato, tight sentences and he has a keen eye for a headline and an article that grabs your attention in the opening paragraph, draws you in and then never lets go. He is a fanatic without being an anorak or statto and non-Exeter City fans will be able to stay with the book without too much trouble as it deals with a multitude of themes and subjects that will resonate with every football fan without going into mind numbing detail of obscure games, players and events from long ago which would have far more limited appeal.

Carter does celebrate local heroes such as Tony Kellow, a squat goalhanger who, back in the day, often put Brentford to the sword, the late and much lamented Adam Stansfield, goal machine Darran Rowbotham and Peter Hatch, still living in Exeter thirty-five years after spearheading a massive four goal giant killing of Newcastle United, who Carter interviews and then writes about with much poignancy and pride. Sometimes it is good to actually meet your heroes when they turn out to be even better men in the flesh than in the imagination of a young boy.

Supporting a no-hoper is all about patience and tolerance and being able to take pleasure in small mercies and then relishing and celebrating the rare triumphs and achievements when they do come along and there is much here about the glory of winning the Fourth Division Championship in 1990 and gaining promotion back to the Football League in 2008 through the dreaded playoffs. Who can begrudge him the opportunity to play the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool in the FA Cup and achieve meritorious draws against both Premier League giants as well as earning enough money from the ties to help keep the club afloat?

Brentford fans will enjoy his account of the quite ridiculous 1982/83 season which saw Exeter barely escape relegation despite scoring eighty-one goals – generally enough to ensure a promotion bid, but Exeter also inconceivably found a way to concede a staggering one hundred and four times and their forty-six matches saw an incredible one hundred and eighty-five goals scored, or four goals in every match.

Eight of those goals came in that unforgettable game which Brentford won by seven goals to one. Carter witnessed this humiliation yet he was back, undaunted, bright eyed and bushy tailed for the next game which saw a massive improvement as his heroes only lost by five goals to one to Orient!

Football is also about friends and companionship and there are many amusing tales of derring-do as Simon and his mates travel the country more in hope than expectation and somehow manage to get back unscathed to their South Western outpost. Bizarrely he also comes across the likes of Brad Pitt, Freddie Starr and Uri Geller in the course of his adventures.

There is gallows humour in abundance and the book is an easy, fulfilling and amusing read but Simon’s account of his unrequited passion and love affair also has the power to stir the emotions and move you at the same time.

This is a book that should not be missed and it is highly recommended for supporters of any football club from Aldershot to Yeovil – apart of course from Plymouth Argyle.


A Nice Surprise – 4/12/15

Please forgive me if I blow my own trumpet a little bit today. I woke up yesterday to a lovely and totally unexpected surprise – a long and detailed review of Ahead Of The Game from Rob Langham, the co-founder of the quite excellent Football League website and blog, The Two Unfortunates.

Here is what he had to say:



logo9nobannerThis is a remarkable book from Greville Waterman. Weighing in at a colossal 400 pages, it’s a sumptuous chronicle of one of the best seasons in the history of Brentford Football Club, a warts and all expose of club’s march to the Championship play-offs which, although predicted (kind of) in these quarters, obviously came as a surprise to the nation’s press and the bulk of their opponents, such was the inability to cope with the Bees’ fluid passing style and shrewd tactics in 2014/15.

So how did Greville Waterman, an autogenic therapist, find the time to compile such a tome? The answer is incrementally. By piecing together contributions to his excellent blog, BFCTalk, Waterman has opted to republish the whole set of exhaustive posts within the covers of a print edition, supplemented by the odd new entry.

It’s a format which various blogs have followed before, most notably the pioneering sites Pitch Invasion and In Bed With Maradona and serves a useful purpose. Few of us read every word a website produces so to have them gathered under one roof is a logical summarising statement. IPads notwithstanding, there is also the ease of digestion that a hard copy brings.

Of course there are disadvantages – the immediacy of online commentary as a medium is hard to beat and one becomes used to immediate feedback on one’s work via twitter, comments sections and other social media. That’s less the case with a book where the pedestrian process of printing and distribution and the difficulty punters have in immediately responding can leave one wondering what people think of your writing. Hence, a club based project for the specialist reader will rely on distribution through channels such as the club shop and the community of fans – Brentford are one of the best represented among football league clubs in this respect, the excellent Beesotted sitting alongside Waterman’s blog as a home for considered, thoughtful opinion.

Of course no discussion of Brentford in 2014-5 can avoid the unceremonious parting of the ways with manager Mark Warburton in the season’s run in. Avoiding the inclination to side with club policy, Stalinist style, Waterman takes care to provide opposing points of view and this is the correct decision given that none of us know the real story behind the ex-city trader’s departure and the unusual way in which it was handled.

On the face of it, Warburton, now shooting turkeys in charge of Glasgow Rangers, seemed the perfect fit for Matthew Benham’s stat attack. With a background forged among metrics and variables, the fit was obviously a good one and it seems that less than 100% control over recruitment was the sticking point. Waterman correctly predicts the emergence this season of an ‘I told you so bandwagon’ and no sooner was 2015-6 underway than that particular vehicle could be seen riding into town. But Brentford have stabilised quite well under Lee Carsley and have now managed to tempt Dean Smith away from Walsall. Only a fool would write them off just yet.

Meanwhile, Waterman continues to type away and his musings provide much of interest, not just to Brentford fans, but to supporters of all clubs in the division, not to mention football as a whole. That comes on the back of 50 years supporting the club through thick and, let’s face it, mainly thin. So, the enthusiasm that pours from the page at such a stunningly successful season for the Bees is unsurprising; leaving anyone with an ounce of emotion warm inside.

Ahead of the Game by Greville Waterman
Published by Bennion Kearny 2015 : £15.99 from Amazon

I was totally bowled over by Rob’s kind words and for once almost find myself struggling to know what to say in response – a rare feeling as I am sure you all fully realise.

Recognition from an acclaimed football writer like Rob – even if he is a Reading fan – makes it all worthwhile as does the realisation that your words do matter as they are having an effect upon somebody and that readers are really enjoying and identifying with what you have written.

I love writing this blog and I am giving you all an advance warning that I am already well over one hundred and twenty-five thousand words into next year’s book with the season still less than halfway over and with much more activity anticipated at Griffin Park over the coming months. More grist to my mill I am sure!

Even though there is so much fertile material about the club and everybody associated with it that just begs to be written about, discussed and analysed, sometimes it is hard to find the time, energy and motivation to get it all down on paper, so to receive a boost like I did yesterday from Rob makes it all totally worthwhile.

Thank you once more and now – back to the grindstone!

“Ahead Of The Game” – Book Review – 19/7/15

Final Cover 020615Many apologies for the blatant self-promotion but I hope that you all can forgive me for enclosing this wonderful review of Ahead Of The Game which was written by Tim Street – obviously a really talented and observant book critic – in today’s online newspaper Get West London.

Many thanks Tim for your kind and perspicacious words! I am really knocked out by them.

Brentford blogger documents a season to remember!

New book covers Bees’ most exciting season in decades – and more is to come

It all started by trying to kill some hours on a flight home from Spain by writing about his favourite football club.

A year later, the end result was a book documenting Brentford’s most exciting season in living memory, as they took the Championship by storm and so nearly landed a top flight spot for the first time in 70 years.

Over the course of the season, Greville Waterman, who was, by delightful chance, celebrating his 50 year following the Bees, wrote more than 200 online blogs which he has now put into print with a book, Ahead of the Game .

He said: I was sitting on a plane back from Spain last June with some time on my hands and just started writing, and the words began to flow.

There weren’t any times I struggled for inspiration. Frankly, it was harder to stop writing than start as I wrote over 225 blogs, and nearly 300,000 words, over the course of the season.

My favourite was one I wrote one last December about what Griffin Park means to me and how it has become part of my life, which I am pretty proud of.

As for my least favourite, I could have done without all the articles immediately after Times-Gate last February (when the fact that popular manager Mark Warburton would be leaving at the end of the season whether the Bees were promoted or not was leaked to The Times).

And yes, last season would have been too soon to go up both on and off the pitch, but carpe diem, when the chance comes you need to grasp it and we let it slip. Harsh but true.

If you read Ahead of the Game, you will see that my expectations changed after the Bournemouth away match in August. I was concerned until then, but after we had totally outplayed the ultimate champions on their own turf I knew that we would do far better than establish ourselves.

I have to confess that on the long drive back from Leeds in February (Brentford won 1-0 at Elland Road) I allowed myself to dream of the promised land of the Premier League – and then Times-Gate broke a few days later.

One of the consolations for failing in the play-offs was two more derbies against QPR, relegated from the Premier League, next season, which are bound to bring the memories flooding back for Waterman of his debut season half a century ago – when Brentford’s last glory era was coming to an end and years of decline were about to set in.

He said: My first game was in 1965 as a callow youth, and we beat QPR. 5-2. On my second visit we beat them 6-1. I thought Brentford were world-beaters. Not for too long though!

No other era in the past 50 years can come anywhere close to what we are so privileged to witness now. It’s as if someone up there has said to me and others like me ‘you’ve suffered so much for so long, now it’s your time in the sun.’

As for next season, with so many changes on the pitch and behind the scenes, I suspect that it might take us a little time to gel. As long as the players buy into the new coaching team and we retain the amazing team spirit and will to win of last season we will do just fine. Maybe even better than last season as we are certainly bringing in quality players.

But will next season – under the new era of Marinus Dijkhuizen as head coach, with players scouted using, alongside more traditional methods, a ground-breaking stats-based approach – be blogged and documented too?

Waterman added: I have started writing articles already this pre-season, and my blog, BFC TALK, can be found at I hope to write a new book the same length next year as I am sure that there will be lots of new material both on and off the pitch.

Ahead of the Game, by Greville Waterman, is available in the BFC Superstore and can also be be obtained as a paperback or eBook on Amazon. The book is 408 pages long and includes a paragraph of endorsement from Brentford owner Matthew Benham.

Having A Break – 5/6/15

Final Cover 020615Thanks to everyone who responded to my last article. I was quite overwhelmed by some of the comments that you left. To my surprise, but I suppose, delight too, pretty much everybody wanted me to continue writing the blog next season, although perhaps not so often.

When I started, all bright eyed and bushy tailed in the middle of June last year I set myself the task of writing something different and original every day. Fool that I was! I soon learned that that was a ridiculously optimistic target particularly given the length of some of the articles I wrote and the time it took to compose them. I ended up writing about four times each week and the final count was 224 articles and the best part of 300,000 words.

Funnily enough, whilst I am sure that there was quite a lot of repetition as the same subjects and topics came up from time to time, it was rare that I sat down at the computer and struggled to find something to write about. And that really takes me back to where I started, as next season seems certain to be even more exciting and incident packed than the one that has just finished and I therefore think that I will almost certainly keep the blog going but perhaps cut down its frequency.

I would also like to suggest that some of you help me out by writing your own contributions about what is going on at the club and if you send them to me via I would be happy to publish them. Similarly if you feel that you have a particularly interesting story to tell about your own involvement and association with Brentford FC then I can arrange either an interview or a Q&A session.

In other words I would like to make the blog more interactive and incorporate the views of as many of you as possible as we do have something in common, after all, being committed supporters of the Bees. That does not mean, though, that we cannot query, question and criticise where necessary and appropriate. Hopefully this blog has not been a hagiography and I think that I have bared my teeth when it was called for but it must be said that there is so much happening at the club that is truly incredible and ground breaking.

I am going to take a break for a couple of weeks or so, maybe even until the beginning of July, as I want to get my breath back after the exertions of the pastyear and also concentrate on the launch of my new book Ahead of the Game which should be publsished later on this month.

I had to write a few extra articles for the book last week which have not appeared on the blog as well as induce the likes of guest stars Richard Lee, Billy Reeves and Jim Levack to step up to the plate. This they have certainly done and their contributions are quite brilliant, witty, analytical, fervently written and totally on-point.

Cliff Crown has also provided an excellent Foreword and I have also been fortunate enough to receive a quote from Matthew Benham endorsing the book too. The final page count is 406 and there are also some fantastic photographs kindly provided by Mark Fuller.

Given its size, the RRP is £15.99 and I hope that you will all feel that it provides value for money. I will be showing a copy to the Club Shop Manager as soon as it comes off the printing press in ten days or so, and I very much hope that they will decide to stock it. Please feel free to ask them for it!

It will also be available on Amazon and I will provide you with full details as soon as I have them. I have included the final proof of the book cover at the beginning of this article and I really hope that some of you will want to buy it when it comes out. I will be back in touch shortly and in the meantime, please feel free to send through any comments or articles that you would like me to publish.

Many thanks.

Greville Waterman

I Like Neil Warnock! – 13/7/14


THE GAFFER: THE TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS OF A FOOTBALL MANAGER BY NEIL WARNOCK – Available at Amazon for £8.00 (paperback) or £4.99 (ebook)

I like Neil Warnock – there, I’ve said it and got it off my chest and I await the brickbats that are sure to fall around my head when you read this, but the truth is that I have always admired him for his success in the game and determination to get the best out of every team that he has managed.

I also felt that he showed good sportsmanship when, back in 1995, after Brentford’s shocking Playoff defeat on penalties to Huddersfield he took the time and trouble to shake the hand of every Brentford player as they either lay on the ground or left the pitch in a state of utter despair.

There was no gloating or over-celebrating and for that I admired him.

So when I saw that his latest book was out in paperback I couldn’t resist buying it – and I am very glad that I did.

I would describe Neil Warnock as marmite – the manager you love to hate when his team plays yours but conversely somebody you know will get your own team organised, structured and winning games if he is in charge of your own club.

The football might well be limited and fairly unsophisticated but he makes the most out of what he has and his teams aren’t half organised and never give up.

More importantly he has been a manager for over 30 years so he has been at the forefont of so many changes in how the game is played, how footballers’ attitudes have changed and how the manager’s job has evolved.

He is certainly a traditionalist but he is by no means a dinosaur in his approach although there is much that he bemoans about the way footballers behave and the cosseting that they require nowadays.

The book covers the end of his time at Crystal Palace and how they coped with administration before dealing with his stay at Queens Park Rangers and how he led them to promotion and dealt with all the massive egos and politicking on and off the pitch.

He describes in tortuous detail how he came to lose his job at Loftus Road – something he is naturally bitter about – before his brief and ultimately unsuccessful stay at Leeds.

Yes of course this book is opinionated and yes, there is generally another scapegoat when things go wrong and he is not too quick to criticise himself, but the book provides a wonderfully evocative and thorough insight into the trials and tribulations of how a manager has to cope with the modern day footballer and his temperament as well as all the outside influences.

You need to take some things with a pinch of salt but the book is well put together, has captured his voice perfectly and is never less than fascinating.

DUNPHYTHE ROCKY ROAD BY EAMON DUNPHY – Available at Amazon for £6.29 (paperback) or £3.99 (ebook)

If we are talking about opinionated, then Eamon Dunphy might well be near the top of  most people’s list.

Some of you might remember him as a skilful, slightly built midfield play-maker at Manchester United, York, Millwall and Reading and then as the author of a groundbreaking account of the angst and reality of being a footballer.

“Only a Game?” changed the way I looked at the sport and opened my eyes as to how footballers thought and were treated – generally as replaceable serfs. Published over forty years ago it is as fresh and relevant today as it was then.

When I was at university I used to watch him play at Reading where he orchestrated a team containing the wild, untamed talent of the mercurial Robin Friday to promotion from Division Four.

He seldom wasted a pass and he was always in possession, cajoling and encouraging and keeping the ball moving – an inside forward from the old school who deservedly won twenty-three International caps for Eire.

Knowing how garrulous and articulate he is, I eagerly awaited the publication of his new book which was well worth waiting for.

“The Rocky Road” is again beautifully written and indeed paints elegiac pictures of his poor but happy childhood.

It then provides the best written account I have read about a football career and how he served at the whim and behest of a variety of megalomaniac managers and chairmen.

Not without learning pains, he then reinvents himself as a writer and journalist where he is not slow to castigate cant and hypocrisy wherever he finds it.

There is much here about his feud with Jack Charlton who he thinks brought Irish football back into the dark ages despite his success.

The book ends abruptly in 1990 so there is hopefully more to come and more gaps to fill.

I have to say that a proportion of this book was lost on me, dealing as it does with the Dublin political and media scene, but more than enough remained for me to luxuriate over – a lovely, lyrical and thought provoking read that demonstrated Dunphy against the world and how he sometimes but not always came out on top.


Finally, much closer to home fellow Bees Blogger and former match day programme contributor, Nick Bruzon has published his own individual and wonderfully idiosyncratic account of last season’s triumphs at Brentford FC.

Nick’s writing is fresh and engaging and his account is breezy, well written, amusing, insightful and never less than fascinating.

His diary ranges well beyond matters at Griffin Park and he uses the framework of the happenings both on and off the pitch at Griffin Park to cover many of his favourite hobby horses.

I hoovered this down in an evening and was left wanting more, always a good sign.

This little gem deserves a wider audience than just Brentford fanatics and is highly recommended.

In passing I should also say that reading Nick’s work over the last year helped motivate and inspire me to start writing my own blog – so he really does have something to answer for!

Can We Take Any More Excitement? – 10/7/14

SergioSomewhere in the dark recesses of Youtube I am sure you can find some long-forgotten blurred and faded black and white footage of a Watney Cup tie forty-four years ago between Hull City and Manchester United.

That game in a short-lived preseason tournament, heralded the first ever penalty shoot-out in a professional match in England.

The first player to take a kick was George Best, and the first to miss was Denis Law.

Ian McKechnie, the rotund Hull goalkeeper who Brentford fans still have clear memories of from THAT Cup tie in 1971, saved Law’s kick, and was also the first goalkeeper to take a kick; but his shot hit the crossbar and deflected over, putting Hull City out of the Cup.

The penalty shootout has become recognised as perhaps the best, the fairest, the most heartbreaking and certainly the most exciting way to settle a drawn Cup tie and last night was no exception.

As always there was a hero and a goat.

Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero was the match winner plunging to make two decisive saves whilst Holland’s hapless Jasper Cillesen was unable to break his duck as four penalties whizzed past him. two of which looked eminently saveable.

As for Tim Krul, who had thwarted Costa Rica so effectively if controversially in the last round, he remained helpless on the bench as Louis van Gaal was unable to produce another rabbit from his hat, having already used all three of his substitutes.

Poetic justice perhaps as Krul’s gamesmanship in the previous shootout, aided and abetted by a weak referee had stuck in the craw of all but the most rabid Dutch fan.

Anyone wishing to understand more about the subject is recommended to read Ben Lyttleton’s new book “Twelve Yards”, a groundbreaking and fascinating exploration and explanation of the art, psychology, history and culture of the penalty kick – and how not to miss them.

Given that last night’s was the fourth match of the 2014 World Cup to be settled by a shootout then perhaps you feel that some of the teams could have done with an early sight of Ben’s book!

Brentford fans are no strangers to the horrors and delights of the penalty shootout and whilst it has been unpleasant, if perhaps cathartic, to dredge up some of the memories, there have also been some triumphs.

Perhaps the most painful shootout was in 1995 when a Brentford team finished second in the Second Division in the only season which saw only one automatic promotion place owing to Premier League restructuring – it’s Brentford Innit!

We should have won comfortably in the Playoff Semifinal at Huddersfield where Bob Taylor’s open goal miss still rankles and amazes and the referee missed Andy Booth’s climb all over Kevin Dearden for their equaliser at Griffin Park.

Penalties it was and Denny Mundee, who ironically had scored two penalties against Huddersfield in the League that season, managed to outguess himself and missed.

Argentina’s Ezequiel Garay showed how a centre half should take a penalty last night, driving an Exocet of a shot into the roof of the net, straight down the middle but unfortunately Jamie Bates did not follow his example and his weak effort was easily saved by Steve Francis and the Bees had lost.

I can still hear the eerie quiet that descended like a blanket of fog around Griffin Park as we filed out after the match struck dumb by shock and disbelief.

Richard Lee had a wonderful penalty shootout record for the club back in 2010/11.

He needed something to go right as his start at his new club had not gone well and he was out of favour with manager Andy Scott. A succession of loan keepers came in but Lee played in the Cup ties and his overall performance and then penalty save in the shootout from Jermaine Beckford won Brentford the tie against Eveton.

Better was to come in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy as he masterminded an unprecedented three successive penalty shootout victories against Leyton Orient, Swindon and then Charlton, when touched by genius, Lee saved three successive spot kicks, a feat only previously achieved by Graham Benstead against Wrexham in 1991.

Richard’s account of how he prepared and psyched himself up for these shootouts richard leemakes for fascinating reading and I can highly recommend his book “Graduation” to all budding goalkeepers.

Brentford’s last penalty shootout remains fresh in the memory as victory over Swindon in the dreaded Playoffs was secured after five perfect penalties from Sam Saunders, Paul Hayes (yes, Paul Hayes!), Harlee Dean, an emphatic thump from skipper Tony Craig followed by a wild-eyed celebration and Adam Forshaw’s cool coup de grace.

Simon Moore too played a match winning role by saving Swindon’s fourth effort and the side taking their penalties second won the day, a feat only achieved in 40% of all penalty shootouts.

Love them or hate them penalty shootouts are here to stay but penalty kicks have proved to be Brentford’s nemesis on so many occasions recently and I am sure that we will return to this subject as soon as I can face it!