They Played For Brentford And Fulham – Part Two 11/12/15

Today I am going to conclude my overview of the footballers who have played for both Fulham and Brentford. We had not yet reached the turn of the new century yesterday and yet the list was already pretty long and comprehensive.

Bees manager, Micky Adams, a former Fulham player and manager himself, made one forgettable appearance for the club as a substitute in the Auto Windscreens Shield match at Luton but thankfully concentrated more on his thankless task of attempting to save the club from relegation to the bottom division in 1997/98. He brought in several of his old boys to assist him and Paul Watson was one of his more successful imports. A right footed left back who excelled in swinging in dangerous curling corners and free kicks, he soon became a fan favourite but he was replaced by the quicker Ijah Anderson and left for a successful stay at Brighton.

Danny Cullip was a no-nonsense bullet headed centre half who took no prisoners but he lost his place after damaging his knee and, like Watson, moved on to help Brighton to promotion.

Darren Freeman of the long curly mane, was an effective if inconsistent winger or striker who was surprisingly released by Fulham and had a free scoring start to his Brentford career under Ron Noades before joining the exodus to Brighton.

Steve Sidwell proved to be one of Brentford’s most effective loan signings. Despite his youth and total inexperience, Arsenal entrusted him into the care of Steve Coppell and he quickly flourished into a wonderfully skilful midfielder with a eye for goal and the ability to open up a defence with a single pass. He was far too good to join us on a permanent basis, particularly when we failed to gain promotion in 2002 and he eventually made his mark in the Premier League with the likes of Reading and AstonVilla before providing excellent service to Fulham too.

John Salako made his name as a two footed winger with electric pace at Crystal Palace and later enjoyed a short spell at Fulham under Kevin Keegan. he was thirty-five when Martin Allen signed him but he found a new lease of life and produced some excellent spells on the left wing and some less good ones as an emergency left back. He was deadly from the penalty spot too – except when it mattered in front of the television cameras at Hinckley.

Michael Turner was a wonderfully strong and elegant centre half for the Bees and gave us wonderful service for two seasons before being spirited away by Hull City. He became a Premier League regular and last season he played against the Bees for both Norwich City and Fulham.

Darren Pratley continues in his career as combative midfielder who caused us many problems a week or so back when playing for Bolton Wanderers. He began his career at Fulham but made only a single appearance for them as a substitute before he had two successful loan spells at Griffin Park under Martin Allen before joining Swansea. He was hard running and strong with an excellent shot on him and did well for us until he fell out with some of the supporters after a mad and chaotic night at Gillingham in 2006.

Paul Brooker deserves an article all to himself! He was a tricky winger who was predominantly a super sub at Craven Cottage before establishing himself at Brighton. He joined the Bees on a free transfer but despite his obvious talent he never produced or did his ability justice on a regular basis despite scoring a solo goal of utter world class at Swindon and his spell at the club ended in acrimony after he fell out with supporters and management alike.

Junior Lewis drifted from club to club after making his debut for Fulham before making his mark at Gillingham. He joined the Bees as a non-contract player in 2005 and played an immense part in a Boxing Day victory over promotion rivals Swansea City when he totally controlled the midfield. An true on-field leader, he has since become a coach and manager.

Calum Willock was a total waste of over fifty thousand pounds when he signed from Peterborough as the last gasp replacement for DJ Campbell. It is really hard to understand quite why he was so inept given his previous track record as a regular goalscorer for Posh, whom he joined after unsuccessful spells at Fulham, QPR and Bristol Rovers. He scored a mere three goals for the Bees and never looked likely to become the player that was required to spearhead our promotion push. The one abiding memory of him was his farcical and appalling air shot against Barnsley that a naive referee embarrassingly interpreted as having been caused by an opponent’s trip and he awarded us the softest penalty kick imaginable.

Jamie Smith had a good spell as an attacking fullback at Crystal Palace and enjoyed a loan spell at Craven Cottage. He joined the Bees on loan from Bristol City in 2006 but never really impressed and missed a very presentable goalscoring opportunity in the playoff defeat by Swansea.

Robert Milson was a young red headed midfielder who along with his colleague Wayne Brown, a small but tricky right winger, joined the Bees on loan in 2008. Milson could certainly play and split the Accrington defence with a perfect through pass for Alan Connell to score an excellent goal and Brown too played an effective role in an improving team before they both returned from when they had come.

Richard Lee was an all-time Brentford favourite for his ability in goal allied to his sunny temperament and I have already written many times about him. He had fallen out of contention at Griffin Park initially through injury and made a surprise loan move to Fulham as injury cover late last season but never played a game. Despite that we still remember him with great fondness!

Pacy fullback or winger, Ryan Fredericks had a spell at Griffin Park on loan from Spurs but barely played a game. He is now at Fulham after a short stay at Bristol City.

We will end, appropriately enough, with Marcello Trotta who is written indelibly in Brentford’s history for what transpired deep into injury time against Doncaster back in 2013. He was brave and confident enough in his own ability to venture back to the club for a second loan spell from Fulham and he helped lead us to promotion and more than vindicated himself. He is now making a great success of his career back in his native Italy.

There are so many close links between the two clubs, so many shared hero and villains, and we have not even taken into account the careers of Brentford managers such as Bill Dodgin, Fred Callaghan, Micky Adams and Leroy Rosenior who all cut their teeth at Craven Cottage.

Roll on Saturday!

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Martin Lange – RIP – 14/10/15

01ASWTTZ; MARTIN LANGE Chairman, Brentford FC. COMPULSORY CREDIT: UPPA/Photoshot Photo URM 010092/B-12 08.08.1995

Martin Lange, the former Brentford Chairman died on Monday after a long illness. He was only seventy-one, no age at all in the grand scheme of things and he died long before his time.

He was also a man who was ahead of his time as he was rightly recognised for his innovative and original ideas and approach throughout his long career in football. He owned the majority shareholding at the club for a sixteen-year period, between 1981 and 1997 and also served as the Third Division representative on the Football League Board.

Like our current owner, Matthew Benham, Martin Lange was no outsider as he was Brentford through and through and he was first taken to Griffin Park as a small boy by his father.

His hobby soon became an obsession and after he became a successful property developer he was invited onto the club board at the early age of thirty-seven by the club’s then chairman, Dan Tana and soon afterwards he took over the reins for what turned out to be a real rollercoaster ride.

His new position was rather a poisoned chalice as he took over a club saddled with debt and his first task was to stump up the ludicrous seventy thousand pound fee decided by the transfer tribunal for Alan Whitehead’s purchase from Bury.

A salutary lesson for him about the economies of the madhouse that so often prevailed in football given how poorly the central defender was to perform and the size of the loss we incurred on him when we were finally able to offload him.

Lange wasn’t afraid to take tough decisions and one of his first was to replace the loyal and long serving Denis Piggott, who had become part of the furniture at the club but was soon swept out by the new broom.

He surrounded himself with exceptional people such as Keith Loring, Christine Mathews and Polly Kates but there was never any doubt who was in charge.

Just as the Roman Emperors ensured their popularity by giving their citizens games and circuses, so too did Martin Lange guarantee his place in Brentford folklore by coming up with the idea of signing Stan Bowles, a man who became a Brentford legend and singlehandedly revived the spirits of a supporter base who had had very little to get excited about in recent years.

Brentford were a middle of the road third tier club going nowhere, attracting small gates and Lange had to balance ambition with pragmatism and reality as he fought a constant and losing battle to balance the books.

Lange inherited Fred Callaghan as manager who was a terrific judge of a player and knew the lower leagues well. He bought players of the calibre of Terry Hurlock, Gary Roberts, Chris Kamara and David Crown and Martin also gained respect by always being approachable and he handled Terry Hurlock brilliantly as a combination of Father Figure and Dutch Uncle who ensured that the sometimes hothead always toed the line but was also persuaded to invest his money wisely in bricks and mortar rather than fritter it away.

Lange eventually decided to replace Callaghan – in retrospect a bit too quickly, as he gave in to the entreaties of the fans to make a change and his first appointment was Frank McLintock who proved to be a far better player and captain than he did a manager. John Docherty, a former Bees manager, surprisingly reversed roles and became Frank’s assistant but despite an abortive trip to Wembley and a Freight Rover Trophy Final defeat to Wigan in 1985, the combination did not gel and Steve Perryman was promoted from within.

Lange had got it right this time as Perryman proved to be a success both on and off the field and together they slowly improved the playing fortunes and infrastructure of the club. The team ran out of steam in 1989 and missed out on promotion when it looked within their grasp after an incredible run to the sixth round of the FA Cup with famous victories over Manchester City and Blackburn Rovers before bowing out with pride and dignity at Anfield.

Lange and Perryman fell out spectacularly apparently over the abortive signing of Gary Elkins and it appeared that the club would go downhill again but Phil Holder seized the opportunity as caretaker, and Lange was brave and astute enough to appoint him and recognise that very little needed changing. Holder was perhaps more chirpy and streetwise than Perryman and the team responded well to his promptings and after an abortive playoff campaign (now where have we heard that before) he led the Bees to the title and promotion in 1992.

Amazingly at the time of his greatest triumph Martin Lange was not there to share in the glory. As he said in his interview in The Big Brentford Book Of The 80s:

The sad thing was that I had to go over to America to oversee a big, four hundred acre development – it’s been well documented, but I simply had to be there, but I never actually saw Brentford get promoted!

It was sod’s law, as a lad I’d seen Brentford in the old Second Division when my dad brought me down in the early-Fifties, so I knew all too well how important it was to finally escape from the third tier again, so to miss the Peterborough match was devastating. Then to add to my frustration, the only two matches I was able to see in the 1992/93 Division One season were at West Ham and Bristol City!

Without his steady hand on the tiller, Brentford imploded. Dean Holdsworth was sold badly to Wimbledon, incredibly without a sell-on clause being included in the deal – total madness and poor business practise which cost the Bees dear when he made a big money move to Bolton Wanderers.

Money was squandered on a series of poor signings – Joe Allon and Murray Jones anybody? Relegation was confirmed after a disgraceful last day of the season surrender at Bristol City and the Bees were back from whence they came.

Phil Holder – perhaps unfairly, also did not survive relegation and Lange’s return to take day control of the club.

But things were never the same again and Lange admitted that the blow of relegation was the beginning of the end as far as I was concerned I think.

David Webb was rapturously received as the new manager and he embarked on a cost-cutting exercise, weeding out the older players and building a team in his own image that was tough, gritty and hard to beat but always had some inspiration and goals up front given the likes of Nicky Forster, Bob Taylor and Carl Asaba.

Promotion eluded the Bees cruelly in 1995 when they finished second in the one year when only the top team gained automatic promotion – its Brentford innit?

And two years later they collapsed spectacularly as they neared the finishing line in a manner that almost begged a Stewards’ Enquiry.

Exhausted and frustrated after the best part of twenty years in charge without being able to lead the club to the promised land, Lange decided to sell up and a consortium fronted by Webb and including Tony Swaisland and John Herting, bought fifty-one percent of his shares for the same price that he had paid for them so many years earlier.

There is no escaping the fact that Martin Lange was also responsible for pulling down the famed Royal Oak Stand and he admits to regretting his decision but he gave the following explanation:

The truth is that the back of the stand was condemned and the cost of repairing it was phenomenal. The combination of the dilapidated conditions and the club debt, plus me being a property developer, meant that redevelopment just had to be considered to clear the debts. And once the bank was off the club’s back, running the club certainly became a lot easier.

I understand passions still run high over the demolition of the Royal Oak, and in hindsight it has restricted Brentford’s scope to develop Griffin Park, but it was the right decision at the time, especially as I was constantly looking for a site to build Brentford a state-of-the-art new stadium at Western International.

Even if we’d decided to pull the Royal Oak down, rebuild it just as big, but with executive boxes etc, the council wouldn’t have let us.

Hindsight is easy but at the time, rightly or wrongly, it seemed the most sensible thing for him to do.

After selling the club Martin remained on the board until 2002 before withdrawing from the spotlight but he always remained a good friend of the club and was keen to do whatever he could to ensure its future success and he was highly supportive of Matthew Benham and his plans for Brentford.

Martin’s influence within the game spread far beyond the boundaries of Griffin Park and he proposed a number of changes to tackle falling attendances and hooliganism, including introducing the end of season playoffs in 1986 as well as supporting the introduction of individual squad numbers and names on each player’s shirt.

When asked to assess his time at the club, Martin Lange responded with characteristic modesty and self-effacement:

Looking back at my time as Chairman, in hindsight maybe I would have done a few things differently, some people, rightly or wrongly, have suggested I could have been more adventurous and spent big trying to get Brentford to the promised land, but as a custodian I think fans can look back and say that, when I was there, there was never a survival threat, there was never any real crisis to deal with, and I was a safe, stable and genuinely caring chairman.

That is not a bad epitaph and way to be remembered even if for the time being no Brentford fan can yet look kindly upon the introduction of the dreaded playoffs.

Martin Lange though was a thoroughly decent, pleasant and talented man who achieved so much that was good during his time at the club and we should all give thanks to him for everything he did for us, celebrate his life and mourn his premature passing.

RIP.

Splashing The Cash – Part Two – 9/7/15

The fallout from the QPR affair in 1967 left Brentford in a parlous financial position which resulted in a series of drastic cuts and the adoption of the new motto – Economy with Efficiency.

Attendances had plummeted, sponsorship, hospitality and merchandising revenues were unheard of and nonexistent and we relied totally on the income generated from gate money, director loans and the begging bowl.

Multitasker supreme, Jimmy Sirrel, took on the unique role of Manager/Coach/Trainer/Scout and was left with a squad of thirteen players with no reserve or junior teams. Balding striker Denis Edwards did become the club’s first ever loan signing but when we tried to make his move permanent, Portsmouth’s asking price of five thousand pounds was far too rich for us and he joined Aldershot instead.

Stringent economies ensured that the overall debt was slowly whittled down and with the side struggling for results and reeling from the body blow of losing to non league Guildford City in the FA Cup, twelve thousand pounds was scraped together to bring in Ron Fenton and Allan Mansley – a sum recouped when John Docherty was sold to Reading. The priority was simply survival with results on the field of far less importance.

1968/69 saw the emergence of Mansley as our own version of George Best and bigger clubs began to take notice of him. A large fee was in prospect before opponents, outclassed by his pace and effervescence slowed him down the only way they could, by kicking him, and he was never the same player again. George Dobson was another promising youngster whose career was blighted by injury after looking like he had a bright future.

A run to the Third Round of the Football League Cup raised spirits and put some cash into the coffers and with another injury crisis looming, ten thousand pounds was found from somewhere to bring in Arsenal winger Gordon Neilson. He had played at the top level and was tricky and a goal threat, but failed to establish himself and did not stay long at the club. Not the best use of the funds made available.

The cuts were having a beneficial effect with an eighteen thousand pound profit achieved, but at a cost given that Brentford entered the new decade still boasting a squad of only fourteen players. We might have been short in numbers but with the likes of Jackie Graham, Chic Brodie, Gordon Phillips, Alan Hawley, Bobby Ross and Peter Gelson, we were long in character, loyalty, grit and determination. Things slowly improved on the pitch under a talented manager in Frank Blunstone, with promotion just missed in 1970, a wonderful run to the fifth round of the FA Cup the following year and then a return to the Third Division in 1972.

The Man From Uncle, former manager Billy Gray’s young nephew, John Richardson, raised a welcome ten thousand pounds when he left for Fulham and twelve thousand pounds was invested in the elegant Roger Cross, he of the white boots, long throw and venomous shot, who more than justified his fee and was eventually sold for thirty thousand pounds, again to Fulham, who were happy to pick off our best players.

But old habits died hard when, despite scoring freely throughout a massively successful loan spell, the directors were content to allow Alex Dawson to return to Brighton when personal terms could not be agreed with the burly striker – a shortsighted decision in the extreme.

Stewart Houston was well known to Frank Blunstone from their time together at Chelsea and the fifteen thousand pounds invested in him, a massive sum that was only raised with difficulty after much discussion, was entirely justified when he moved back from striker to full back and was signed by Manchester United in December 1973 for a club record fifty thousand pound fee and went on to play for Scotland.

Brentford also hit the jackpot when the board decided to back manager Frank Blunstone’s judgement and paid an initial seven hundred and fifty pounds – chicken feed even by Brentford’s standards – on a tall, raw striker playing for Wimbledon in the Southern League. John O’Mara took time to settle down and initially looked awkward, clumsy and ungainly, but the ugly duckling turned into a swan by dint of his own hard work and Blunstone’s coaching ability.

His ability to hang in the air, his power and subtle skills on the ground led to a twenty-seven goal season and promotion back to the third tier. Instead of investing for the future, the board reverted to type and a few weeks into the next season, just as the Bees looked like they were beginning to find their feet in the new division, O’Mara was ludicrously sold to fellow Third Division Blackburn Rovers for a paltry fifty thousand pounds, much to the dismay of manager and supporters alike – a disastrous and myopic decision that set the club back years, particularly when his replacement, Stan Webb, signed for a not insignificant ten thousand pounds, despite a decent goalscoring record at his former clubs, Middlesbrough and Carlisle, proved to be a total damp squib.

With relegation looming on the horizon the board finally relented and paid around twenty-five thousand pounds to bring back Roger Cross and sign tricky winger Barry Salvage from QPR – too little – too late as the Bees fell straight back down to the bottom division and were almost forced to seek re-election the following season. Money was found to sign Dave Simmons, Willie Brown and Terry Johnson who all did well for the club, although Brown was mystifyingly sold to Torquay at a time when he was still scoring freely for the Bees.

But otherwise the cheque book was firmly locked away as austerity ruled again at Brentford in the mid-70’s until new manager John Docherty arrested the rot and a club record twenty-five thousand pounds was lavished in March 1976 on Andy McCulloch, an injury ravaged striker from Oxford United suffering from bad knees.

It took almost a year to get him properly fit but Andy eventually proved to be a talismanic signing as he formed a deadly fifty-eight goal Little and Large partnership with Steve Phillips – himself a four thousand pound giveaway from Northampton Town. McCulloch was eventually sold for a club record fee of sixty thousand pounds to Jack Charlton’s resurgent Sheffield Wednesday team, a figure that was far too low for a player of his ability, and less than Wednesday were actually prepared to pay for him if the Bees, as always, happy to cash in, had negotiated far harder than they apparently did.

Bill Dodgin built a team that won promotion in 1977/78 through playing exuberant and entertaining attacking football. He had a real eye for a player and built his team for a song. Playmaker Dave Carlton cost a mere three thousand pounds, stalwarts Paul Shrubb and Doug Allder were free transfers and only Len Bond (eight thousand pounds), Barry Tucker (ten thousand pounds) and Pat Kruse (twenty thousand pounds – a club record fee for a defender) cost real money. The sale of goal machine, Gordon Sweetzer for thirty thousand pounds to Cambridge United midway through the promotion season, went a long way towards balancing the books, but we shrugged off his loss and maintained our impetus.

Chairman Dan Tana was prepared to support his manager and as the Bees struggled to cope with the higher level Dodgin was permitted to make a record double transfer swoop with fifty-eight thousand pounds being spent on defender Jimmy McNichol, who cost a new club record fee of thirty-three thousand pounds from Luton Town, and striker Dean Smith from Leicester City. McNichol was a tough defender with a powerful long range shot who performed consistently over a number of years at the club but Smith flattered to deceive, never made the most of his abundant talent, fell out with Dodgin’s replacement, Fred Callaghan and eventually died tragically young in 2009.

The loss of McCulloch was a serious blow as he was bizarrely replaced by Lee Holmes, a part-timer from Enfield who unsurprisingly never really looked the part and it was not until March 1980 that the cheque book came out again and the club record was smashed when striker Tony Funnell arrived from Gillingham for a massive fifty thousand pound fee. Funnell was the total antithesis to McCulloch as he was small and nippy and found space in crowded penalty areas, but he was a strange choice by a manager now under pressure for results. Funnell struggled initially although he scored the winning goal on the last day of the season that ensured survival.

 

Many thanks to Mark Croxford and Paul Briers for their help in jogging my memory and providing me with crucial facts regarding our record signings over the ages.

Cover mock-up

AHEAD OF THE GAME

For anyone interested in reading my take on everything that happened both on and off the pitch last season, as well as the odd diversion into nostalgia, player profiles and club history, leavened with some (hopefully) pertinent and amusing comments, my new book Ahead Of The Game is available now.

Here are the Links to where the book can be purchased:

http://www.brentforddirect.co.uk/product/400/0000-4811

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ahead-Game-Brentford-2014-Season-ebook/dp/B00ZPO1OBU/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1434732211&sr=1-3&keywords=ahead+of+the+game

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ahead-Game-Brentford-2014-Season/dp/1910515140/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1434732211&sr=1-3

Published 17 June 2015 | 978-1-910515-14-3 | 408 pages | Print and Kindle | £15.99, £8.99

Jeepers Keepers – Part Two – 19/12/14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Total madness, in my opinion.

Let Dave McKellar take up the story:

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

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

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

We had words and I left.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

Fred Callaghan – Decent Manager Who Missed His Big Chance 18/11/14

fc2Today I am going to continue my review of all the Brentford managers from the last forty years and pick up my story in March 1980 when four consecutive defeats in a disastrous fortnight meant that the Bees were in free fall.

With confidence shot to pieces, they looked more than likely to plummet back down into the bottom division, and the writing was on the wall for manager Bill Dodgin.

The final straw was a listless one-nil home defeat to Rotherham marked by Steve Phillips’s remarkable fourth spot kick miss of the season.

Missed penalties seem such a recurring theme throughout every decade for the Bees.

This was too much for Chairman Dan Tana who gave Bill Dodgin leave of absence.

Tana accepted that it had been a hard decision for him:

The supporters had been demonstrating in the forecourt at Griffin Park prior to his departure and I’d spoken out on behalf of the manager, telling people that he’d been good enough to get us up and I thought he was good enough to keep us up too.

Bill and I spoke about the situation and he’d told me not to worry as he had every faith in being able to turn things around.

But after the Rotherham game Bill came over to my house and we analysed the whole situation.

Bill was no longer convinced that the team would escape the drop, so we came to a mutual decision that he should step aside.

I didn’t sack him. Bill was a very good man.

This was a sad and ignominious end to his spell at the club and simply reinforced the maxim that however successful a manager might be, memories are short when things start to go bad and there is only ever one inevitable outcome.

Fred Callaghan was Tana’s choice to replace Dodgin, who surely deserved better and was certainly a hard act to follow.

Callaghan had recent history at the club and was an obvious and easy choice as the new manager.

He had been a long-serving, dependable and popular fullback for Fulham, who played nearly three hundred games for the Cottagers before a serious back injury forced him into retirement at the end of the 1973/74 season.

His style as both a player and a manager was memorably described by a Fulham fan:

What he lacked in finesse he made up in shovel loads of panache.

Chin jutting out he would steam down the left flank in attack, and in defence he was a no prisoners taken left back.

After retirement he soon moved into coaching and enjoyed a successful spell with Enfield before he moved to Griffin Park in February 1977 to assist Bill Dodgin with coaching duties.

His initial stay coincided with an outstanding run of results and performances as the team soared up the table and at the end of the campaign he left to become manager at Woking.

Tana might well say that his decision to replace Dodgin was more than justified as the impetus and influence of the new man in charge revitalised Brentford, who escaped relegation after a fine late season run of results.

Callaghan was a tough taskmaster who soon set out to show who was boss and quickly put his own stamp on things.

It was certainly his way or the byway!

He instigated a mini clear out which saw the departure of firm fan favourites such as Len Bond, Dean Smith, Steve Phillips, John Fraser, Barry Tucker and David Carlton.

He wanted his own men in situ, ideally hungry young players with everything to prove, and, assisted by scout extraordinaire John Griffin, he brought in some of the finest prospects seen at the club for many years.

fc3David Crown, Terry Hurlock and Gary Roberts were all inspired bargain buys from non-league clubs.

Mark Hill and Barry Silkman were less successful purchases but David McKellar proved to be a calm and safe replacement for Len Bond after some eccentric displays from another inexperienced youngster in Paul McCullough who had singularly failed to impress.

Callaghan tightened up the defence and stabilised the club in his first full season before putting together perhaps Brentford’s finest midfield since the Harper, Greenwood, Hill combination when he swapped Crown for Chris Kamara and took a gamble on Stan Bowles who had been seemingly drifting towards oblivion at Leyton Orient.

Bowles sliced opposition defences apart with his precision passes, Kamara was tireless and did his running and covering for him and also had the energy to get into the box to finish off his chances, and Hurlock was “like a caveman carrying a sledgehammer” according to Francis Joseph, the Incredible Hulk, an impassable barrier who could also play the game as well as intimidate.

An unbeatable combination.

The team was beginning to gel although they were more dangerous on the counter attack, with a far better record away from home than at Griffin Park, where they struggled to break teams down.

Callaghan made a costly and catastrophic blunder with the signing of an average centre half in Alan Whitehead for a ridiculous tribunal assessed fee of seventy-eight thousand pounds but the Chairman’s and crowd’s frustrations were allayed when his midas touch returned with the signings of strikers Francis Joseph and Tony Mahoney which appeared to put into place the final pieces of the jigsaw.

Mahoney came from the scrap heap at Fulham and provided the strength, hold up play and aerial ability and Joseph was a potent combination of pure pace, bravery and finishing ability.

fc1The 1982/83 team was so nearly an exceptional one as was evidenced by the totally deserved victory over First Division Swansea in the League Cup.

Callaghan’s squad was lopsided incorporating the best strike force and midfield in the league, unfortunately backed up by one of the worst defences and goalkeeper.

Almost as fast as Joseph, Mahoney and Roberts scored at one end, Messrs Roche, Wilkins and Whitehead threw them in at the other.

Fifty goals were scored at home and forty-nine conceded away – a strange and unusual symmetry, and the soft underbelly coupled with the tragic loss of rejuvenated striker Mahoney with a broken leg, whose crack I can still hear to this day, ensured that only four games were won away from home, and the team finished an insipid and disappointing ninth when a promotion berth surely beckoned given the quality under Callaghan’s control.

A massive opportunity squandered through ill luck and under performance, and Callaghan’s chances of glory had gone.

The decline continued into the following season as players no longer seemed to respond to his approach and the football became ragged and uninspired, with Terry Bullivant a totally inadequate replacement for the retired Stan Bowles and Ian Bolton an even slower centre half than Whitehead.

Perhaps the playing budget had been cut, but his signings were no longer up to the mark.

fc4Our Third Division status was beginning to look under threat, and when the team collapsed spinelessly in the FA Cup at Gillingham, and a three-one lead was squandered in a twelve minute horror show, which saw four goals conceded, the writing was on the wall for Callaghan.

His brusque manner did not help his cause and Chairman Martin Lange fired him in February 1984 after almost four years in the post.

Lange had some misgivings over his decision:

I thought Fred was a good man and a decent manager.

He had some faults but was a good football man and a terrific judge of a player and knew the lower leagues well.

That was borne out by the calibre of the players he brought in like Terry Hurlock, Gary Roberts and David Crown.

Fred was a good first manager for me and it took a lot of soul searching when I decided it was time for him to go.

In my heart of hearts I do sometimes look back at that decision and wonder if I should have given him a little bit longer, but his departure was down to my inexperience and I was getting a lot of flack from the fans and took the easy way out.

Brentford were in decline once again, relegation beckoned and a new saviour was needed to help ensure that, at a minimum, our Third Division status was maintained.

The next managerial episode in our yo-yo existence will be discussed soon!

Jeepers Keepers – Part One – 30/10/14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

cakeShades of Frank Haffey  at Wembley in 1961 perhaps?

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

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

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

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

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

It could never happen today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Misfortune seemed to follow Chic around throughout his career.

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

Ted MacDougall has a clear recollection of poor Chic Brodie:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That was Brentford to a T!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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