Easy Pickings! – 1/5/16

I took my Fulham supporting friend, Phil, to the local derby at Griffin Park yesterday afternoon and warned him not to make an exhibition of himself when seated in the Braemar Road stand, wear black and white or do anything else that might out him and reveal his true allegiance. If truth be told, the only time he became animated during what turned out to be a long and trying afternoon for him was when he heard his fellow Fulham fans jeering their team with an heartfelt and scornful chorus of you’re not fit to wear the shirt and it was only with difficulty that he managed to restrain himself from joining in, and I honestly could not have blamed him if he had.

I am reliably informed that back in the day, the Fulham programme used to include a prominently placed advertisement for The Samaritans and given their abject surrender and total lack of fight I suspect that it will not be too long before it reappears, and I can certainly think of one angry and sadly disillusioned supporter who might well avail himself of their services.

Fulham were a total disgrace on the day, lacking drive, positivity and commitment and really were not at all up for the fight. The fact that it was supposed to be a keenly contested local derby with West London bragging rights up for grabs barely seemed to have registered with them and they ran up the white flag and surrendered from the moment when Brentford hit them hard and early and scored two goals within the first seven minutes of the game.

Their highly paid team of mercenaries capitulated without a struggle or a whimper and for all their possession and neat football they barely threatened and apart from Ross McCormack who drifted in and out of the game but struck the woodwork twice and forced David Button into his only action of what was perhaps one of his easiest afternoons of the season, Brentford were the only team who looked as if they had any interest in either competing or scoring goals.

The Bees, by contrast were fully aware of how much this match meant for their supporters and how poorly they had played at QPR recently abd put in a massive shift in order to ensure that we all went home happy.

The quality of their performance was all the more praiseworthy and meritorious given how ludicrously stretched were our resources and our eighteen-man squad included two Academy products in Reece Cole, who spent the match on the bench and young left back Tom Field who made a remarkably composed and assured debut when surprisingly given the nod to replace the injured Jake Bidwell, who missed his first match of the season.

Lasse Vibe, Marco Djuricin and Alan McCormack were also late injury absentees and our selection problems for this match simply mirrored what has invariably been the case pretty much every week since last August as there has been a nonstop and seemingly ever-growing procession of players who have missed large chunks of the season, and yesterday was no different with the likes of Macleod, Bjelland, McEachran and Judge joining Bidwell, Vibe, Djuricin and McCormack on the injured list.

Hopefully we have now used up all our bad luck and next season will see us have a near full strength squad from which to choose. Scott Hogan, as last man standing, made his first ever Championship start for the Bees and Sam Saunders joined Woods, Yennaris, Canos and Kerschbaumer in a small but mobile midfield quintet.

Any nerves were settled within the opening seven minutes which saw the Bees take the game to their opponents who could not cope with their energy, drive, pressing, direct running and movement off the ball.

The appalling Ashley Richards, a total liability at right back where he proved to be a one-man fifth column before his merciful substitution at the interval, was forced back towards his own goal by Field and was robbed of the ball on halfway by Canos, perhaps illegally, but Mr.Haywood who let the game flow admirably all afternoon, saw no evil and Sam Saunders made a lung-bursting break from his own half and was criminally allowed to run opposed towards the edge of the Fulham penalty area. Canos picked him out perfectly and Sam’s finish was audacious, instantaneous and immaculate as he flicked the ball perfectly over the advancing Bettinelli with his first touch.

Fulham resorted to bickering amongst themselves and Parker and Ince gave their hapless teammate a real mouthful and the game was won and lost in that instant. Even better was to come when Yennaris and Woods combined to win the ball back in midfield, and Kerschbaumer played a perfect first time through ball in between the two slow and lumbering central defenders Ream and Stearman who were dozing in the sunshine blithely unaware of the danger, like a pair of wildebeest in the Serengeti totally oblivious to the presence of a lioness lurking in the long grass. Scott Hogan was too quick in both thought and action for both of them, he was switched on and alert and ran on unopposed and finished perfectly and without fuss into the corner.

Fulham were stunned and out for the count and spent the remainder of the half passing the ball sideways and backwards, going absolutely nowhere. Brentford pressed, harried and defended in numbers and never gave an inch and it came as little surprise when they stretched their lead from their first corner when Field’s perfect inswinger was thrashed into the roof of the net by the predatory Hogan – who else?

McCormack might have made a game of it right on halftime but squandered an excellent opportunity, hitting Button’s post when given a clear sight of goal and Fulham heads went down even further and team left the field to a deafening crescendo of boos and jeers.

Hogan had taken some knocks and sensibly was not risked after the break and he has now scored an impressive and unlikely five goals from eight attempts at goal in little more than ninety minutes of action and yet despite his absence there was no respite for Fulham who were as yellow as their shirts, as Canos went up top and ran his opponents ragged.

Fulham had most of the possession as the home team invited them onto them, but it was the Bees who created the best chances when they repeatedly used their pace and cohesion to create havoc in a demoralised defence. Kerschbaumer and Canos both might have scored twice but for Bettinelli who also saved brilliantly from O’Connell’s rising effort.

All three substitutes, Jack O’Connell, Andy Gogia and Josh Clarke played a full part in the victory and Gogia joined Kerschbaumer in coming so close to his first ever Brentford goal when he curled an exquisite late effort inches wide.

All fourteen Bees were heroes with Field making an exceptional debut before suffering a calf injury and he was given support and encouragement by all his teammates who talked him through the game. Both Dean and Barbet were peerless and largely snuffed out the threat of McCormack and second half substitute Dembele and Max Colin was also back to his imperious best. Woods, Saunders and Yennaris dominated the midfield and Alan McCormack’s physicality was barely missed.

Unfortunately this might well be the last that we see of Sergi Canos at Griffin Park and if so, he will have left on a high as he has been wonderful for us and we have been equally good for him. He can hardly have expected to have played thirty-seven times in the Championship as a nineteen year old and with six goals, including that incredible effort at Reading, his contribution has been immense and he has lifted everyone with his coltish enthusiasm and all he lacks is a tail to wag.

Fulham were rightly described as an embarrassment and shameful by their manager, Slaviša Jokanović and I suspect that there will be a clear-out at Craven Cottage given how narrow has been their escape from relegation to League One. In contrast, Brentford played as a team and this was their sixth win in a magical month that has seen them gain the incredible tally of nineteen points and score the same number of goals and rise from the edge of the relegation zone to the dizzy heights of tenth place in the Championship.

This is an incredible achievement which I will dissect in much more depth after our final game next weekend but so much credit is due to everyone at the club as well as the fans for the way in which we have all pulled together and this unity has been rewarded with a resurgence in results, performances and confidence despite the nagging and ever-present  problems caused by injuries and exhaustion.

The squad has been tested to its fullest extent and every player has responded brilliantly and risen to the challenge, and nobody has been found wanting, and despite the recent loss of one of the best players in the Championship in Alan Judge we have clearly demonstrated a grim determination to succeed and have fully deserved to rise up eight places in the league table.

We cannot match the likes of Fulham for the time being in terms of our income, squad numbers and, indeed, overall quality but where we leave them trailing far behind us in our wake is in terms of our spirit, shape, effort, planning, organisation, energy, ethos and determination never to give in, plus of course our exceptional team behind the team..

Brentford are a club to be proud of and Fulham, for all their riches, heritage and tradition could not live with us.

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Sitting With The Enemy – 13/12/15

Phil Mison used to do the commentaries on the Brentford match videos way back when in the days of Gary Blissett, Terry Evans and Keith Millen. He did a fine job but for all his on-air enthusiasm for the Bees he managed to conceal a deadly secret – he is and always has been a rabid Fulham fan – a revelation that might have seen him drummed out of Griffin Park had it become more widely known.

We have always stayed in touch over the years and he invited me to accompany him to yesterday’s match which I watched from the Hammersmith End, a solitary Bee in amongst a horde of Fulham supporters.

It was both interesting and illuminating to watch the game through their eyes and also observe the Brentford supporters – all five thousand of them – packed behind the opposite goal.

There is a feeling of muted anger, disappointment but also acceptance amongst the Fulham fans. They know that their team has massively underperformed over the last couple of years, that they have been landed with a series of managers who have been unable to turn things around and with the money expended upon the squad and the massive amount of talent within it they should at the very least be up and around the top of the Championship table and not languishing down amongst the also-rans.

But nobody seemed to get too worked up about it, they gently seethed in the wind and rain and politely put up with the multitude of inadequacies that they were forced to observe throughout the afternoon without overly criticising or subjecting any of their players to much vitriol or abuse.

Their supporters finally came alive when they scored and near the end of the match when the dangerous McCormack and Dembele were combining dangerously and looked as if they might earn their team an unlikely and totally undeserved victory.

There was no real feeling of emotion or anticipation or that we were at a West London derby match being played against a deadly rival where bragging rights were at stake and that the result really mattered and a defeat would cause the remainder of the weekend to be spent in a fog of despair.

The Brentford team and fans were barely abused, noticed or even referred to, we were simply another in a long series of teams outplaying their heroes on their own home turf and the only time the Fulham fans became really animated was to jeer when the Bees supporters celebrated in vain when Jota’ s late effort was controversially disallowed.

This was in massive contrast to the Brentford supporters who could be heard quite clearly from the other end of the pitch as they provided their team with nonstop encouragement and vocal support for the entire game.

That is the difference between the two clubs. We are on the way up and are revelling in the excitement of our journey and rejoice in the anticipation of even more triumphs and glories to come.

Fulham are merely faded glory and look likely to drift rudderless and fall even further until somebody eventually gets tight control over them and an inspirational and competent manager succeeds in clearing out the plethora of deadwood and getting the rest of their overpaid and underperforming former stars to put in a shift every week and, more importantly, learn how to defend.

Brentford looked a compact, well organised and talented team and in truth should have come away with all three points but they shot themselves in the foot by conceding a daft equalising goal close to halftime and by missing three golden opportunities to retake the lead early in the second half when they were totally dominating the game.

Fulham scored a well taken second goal totally against the run of play but, miracle of miracles, the Bees equalised almost immediately from a beautifully worked corner before seeing their celebrations stifled when Jota’s close range header seemed to have regained the lead but was adjudged to have been narrowly offside.

Diagouraga and Woods worked tirelessly to win possession back from a talented but immobile Fulham midfield which out passed but never outworked Brentford. Judge buzzed around as normal providing energy and inspiration in equal doses, Canos burst into life spasmodically before being booked for an unnecessary and overzealous tackle and praise is due to Kerschbaumer who finally looked comfortable and not out of place in the first team and produced a hard working display in which he used the ball effectively and could also have broken his goalscoring duck had his first half effort not been blocked and the keeper not got down well to save his close range poke after the break.

McCormack and Dembele are without doubt the two best strikers in this division and they were a real handful, particularly when they were joined by Woodrow and Smith late on and Fulham fielded a four pronged attack which stretched our defence to its limits. We coped well with Bidwell immense and inspirational, twice blocking goal bound efforts right in front of goal when Fulham threatened late on.

O’Connell and Tarkowski stood up well to the tough challenge they faced but Tarky lost concentration twice and his errors were extremely costly as he headed a McCormack cross almost out of Button’s hands into his own net and he also allowed Dembele to run off him onto McCormack’s subtle flick and he was outpaced and was unable to get in a tackle before the ball was despatched past Button for a goal of brilliant simplicity. Yennaris was as efficient and competent as normal and Button made one stupendous save from a rasping McCormack free kick.

Brentford took time to grow into the game but took the lead when Bidwell’s run into the area after a sweeping move was ended by a poorly timed tackle by Richards. The Fulham fans belatedly emerged from their torpor and bemoaned the decision. Never a foul and outside the area was their one-eyed verdict but the television evidence was damning and Judge took responsibility for converting our long-overdue first spot kick of the season and scored calmly and confidently.

Fulham had a lot of the ball but did little with it as we pressed them relentlessly and Parker and O’Hara never looked a convincing or effective pairing for our hosts and but for Tarkowski’s aberration we would have been in front at the interval.

Bidwell almost won a second penalty straight after the break but this time Fredericks timed his tackle perfectly. Woods frustratingly scuffed his shot when well placed and Lonergan saved well from Kerschbaumer and quite brilliantly from Vibe before Fulham scored with their first effort on target in the second half.

We responded quickly when Bidwell’s perfectly placed corner was flicked on by Tarkowski at the near post and converted jubilantly by Jack O’Connell for his first goal for the club. Swift and Jota made a real impact as substitutes and it was Swift’s centre that Jota flicked home with his head for what we all felt was the likely winner, but the assistant referee thought differently and all available evidence would suggest that he got the decision hopelessly wrong.

The last quarter of the match was frenetic with non-stop action and the game ended with Fulham pressing hard, but the Bees held out and the honours were even. Brentford are now a competent and above average Championship team with aspirations to progress far higher than that.

The foundations have been laid, there are yet more talented players to come back from injury and suspension and challenge for a place on the bench – let alone the starting eleven, and we look likely to get even stronger as the New Year approaches.

I enjoyed my afternoon sitting with the enemy and appreciated that I was allowed to walk directly towards Hammersmith after the match rather than being sent on the same circuitous detour endured by every other Brentford fan, but I know which one of the two clubs is going somewhere fast – and it certainly isn’t Fulham.

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!

They Played For Brentford And Fulham – Part One 10/12/15

The sense of anticipation and sheer excitement is mounting as we start to count down the days, hours and even minutes until Saturday’s massive clash at Craven Cottage where local bragging rights are once again up for grabs.

It is notoriously hard, if not impossible, to predict the outcome of local derbies as form so often seems to go out of the window and matches can be decided on one incident, a referee’s whim or a lucky bounce so I shan’t even try to do so at this juncture.

Instead I shall try my hardest to alleviate some of the tension that we are all surely beginning to feel by reminiscing about some of the footballers who have played for both the Bees and Fulham over the years.

Starting way back in the mists of time with a remarkable man in Tom Wilson who was hardly an archetypical footballer as he was also a qualified surveyor who played with distinction for both clubs throughput the 50s as a sturdy and reliable right back.

After retirement he returned to Fulham as a director of the club where he worked closely with his former team mate Jimmy Hill to negotiate the purchase of Craven Cottage from the Bank of England which saved the club from being merged with Queens Park Rangers and Craven Cottage from being sold for development.

John Richardson is a name that should have become well known throughout the football world as he seemed certain to become a star but it somehow didn’t happen for him and his career never reached the heights that at one time seemed likely. He followed his Uncle, Billy Gray, from Millwall to Brentford as a seventeen year-old and soon broke into the first team at a time when the Bees were concentrating on youth as they could not afford to pay older and more expensive players. Some, like Eddie Reeve, Phil Basey and Mike Ogburn soon fell by the wayside but Richardson was an exciting prospect who, despite his youth, dominated games from his berth at inside left until he broke his ankle in three places soon after scoring at Port Vale. He recovered but was never really the same and was moved to a more defensive role and the crowd were not the most patient with him either. He was sold to Fulham when still only twenty but his career fizzled out at Aldershot after a spell playing in America.

I have written many times about the late, great, Allan Mansley and I mourn him still as watching him sprint down the left wing leaving a trail of beaten opponents in his wake was one of the wonders and delights of my youth. Injury cruelly halted his career in its tracks when greatness beckoned and he had a brief and unsuccessful loan spell at Craven Cottage, playing once in a heavy defeat at Swansea before his career ended so sadly and prematurely.

Roger Cross is another who is pretty high up on my list of boyhood heroes. He of the flowing locks, white boots, long throw and howitzer left foot shot. He oozed elegance and class after his move from West Ham United and it was no surprise when after scoring fourteen times in his first full season he moved on to Fulham for a thirty thousand pound fee when the directors kept their word to allow him to return to a higher level if the opportunity ever arose.

He looked a different and lesser player in the Second Division, more cumbersome and less prone to take a match by the scruff of its neck and he soon returned to his natural home where he sparkled for another four years before making a surprise move to Millwall which never worked out for him. He is still involved with the game as a scout at Charlton and has enjoyed a long and illustrious career.

Barry Salvage forged an excellent career for himself as a quick winger with an eye for goal. He never left London and played for five local clubs, starting with a brief spell at Fulham before moving to Millwall and Queens Park Rangers. He enjoyed a productive stay at Brentford, often cutting in for a shot and I remember his winning goal after a mere twenty-four seconds against Charlton. He had a second spell at The Den and then moved to play in America and Norway before tragically dying very young.

Dave Metchick was a small and skilful ball playing midfielder whose career never quite took off. He started off at Fulham but failed to establish himself in the First Division and drifted from club to club before making a surprise move to Arsenal where he never played in the first team. He joined the Bees in 1973 on his return from playing in the North American Soccer League and made an immediate impact, pulling the strings in midfield and using the ball neatly and effectively. A really good player for us who shone in a mediocre team.

John Fraser joined the Bees after a decent spell at Fulham which included him playing in the 1975 FA Cup Final out of position at left back when Les Strong, also to play for Brentford later in his career, was forced to pull out through injury. He transformed himself from a fullback into an excellent ball winning midfielder who was a mainstay of the team until, like several others, he apparently fell out with a former Fulham colleague in Brentford manager, Fred Callaghan and ended up as a taxi driver.

Dave Carlton was a bargain signing by Bill Dodgin – another ex-Fulham stalwart – who gave us excellent service for four years. He had a wonderful eye for a pass and often switched the point of attack. He created many goals but could sometimes lose his head on the pitch and incur the wrath of referees.Fulham left him go as a youngster but Carlton established himself at Northampton Town before a mere three thousand pound transfer fee brought him to Griffin Park.

Steve Scrivens is another footballer who bemuses me to this day. A lithe and quick left winger who played a few games for Fulham as a teenager, he joined Brentford on loan in December 1976 and impressed everyone with his ability. Despite all our efforts, Fulham would not allow us to sign him on permanent basis and he returned to Craven Cottage – and never played for them, or any other Football League club again. Can anybody please explain why as it appeared to be a total waste of an exceptionally talented young player?

Paul Shrubb is quite simply one of the bravest men it has been my honour and privilege to meet. Rejected by Fulham after one measly appearance, he made a name for himself in South Africa before joining Brentford where he sparkled for five seasons and played nearly two hundred games for us in a variety of positions. He was consistent, honest, versatile and skilful whether he played as a central defender, midfielder, striker or even as an emergency goalkeeper. He gave everything to the team and was a wonderful clubman. He then gave equally good service to Aldershot where he also became a local hero and to this day he continues to be an inspiration to everyone as he fights Motor Neurone Disease. Shrubby, every Brentford supporter salutes you.

Barry Lloyd is one of the rare players who had spells at all three West London clubs as he started at Chelsea before making over two hundred and fifty appearances for Fulham and was on the bench for the 1975 FA Cup Final. He also captained the club and is best remembered for a superlative volleyed FA Cup goal against Leicester City’s Peter Shilton which wowed the Match of the Day viewers. For some reason he never captured the hearts and minds of Brentford fans and was subjected to some unpleasant barracking. He did decent enough job in midfield and contributed to our promotion push but his stay was short and he moved to America before a long and successful career as a manager and scout.

Most goalkeepers count the number of clean sheets but for Trevor Porter it was clean windows. He was Peter Mellor’s understudy at Fulham and did a good unassuming and unspectacular job when he signed for Brentford after Len Bond’s injuries sustained in a car crash. He remained at the club for a couple of seasons combining the role of reserve goalkeeper with his window cleaning.

Terry Hurlock is best remembered for his swashbuckling and rumbunctious performances for Brentford. A terrifying and unforgettable sight with his long flowing hair, beard and gold earring twinkling in the sunshine, he combined aggressive tackles with an unexpected range of more subtle skills and enjoyed a long and illustrious career which was finished off with a short spell at Craven Cottage where at the age of thirty-seven he retired after he suffered a broken leg after a tackle by Martin Grainger, ironically enough in a friendly match against the Bees.

Francis Joseph is another near-legend at Brentford who played a few games for Fulham in his swan song. He promised so much but never fully recovered from a badly broken leg, lost his greatest asset in his pace and was never the same player again. A terrible waste of an exceptional talent.

His partner during his golden spell at Griffin Park was Tony Mahoney. He was discarded by Fulham like an unwanted old sock after his early promise evaporated but he was revitalised after Fred Callaghan signed him for the Bees. He proved to be an exceptional target man who scored fifteen goals in only twenty-eight games before tragedy struck and he suffered a broken leg on an icy pitch against Swindon Town. And that was pretty much that for him as he never fully recovered form or fitness.

Left back, Les Strong was a Fulham stalwart for many years and is best remembered for missing the 1975 FA Cup Final through injury. He had a brief loan spell at Brentford near the end of his career but retired soon afterwards.

Terry Bullivant was another Barry Lloyd in that he did well at Craven Cottage as a midfield player who earned a big money move to Aston Villa but he never really impressed at Griffin Park where his over-aggressive style and inconsistent form ensured that his stay was short. He later returned to Griffin Park more successfully as part of Ron Noades’s coaching team and later became Assistant Manager to Andy Scott.

Tony Parks also had a loan spell at Fulham after he lost his place in goal at Brentford to Graham Benstead and he eventually joined Fulham on a permanent basis but he only played twice for them.

Striker Tony Sealey had two loan spells at Fulham before joining them on a permanent basis and was a regular goalscorer. Small, nippy and sharp, he made his debut for Brentford at Anfield in the FA Cup before scoring memorably after just thirteen seconds against Bristol City.

Striker Kelly Haag scored prolifically in the reserves and youth team but he found the step up to first team football a bit too steep and never managed a league goal for the Bees but scored a few times for both Fulham and Barnet.

Tony Finnigan was another player who never really settled down anywhere after leaving Crystal Palace and had brief spells at both Brentford and Fulham without much effect.

Gerry Peyton was a Fulham goalkeeping legend who played nearly four hundred games for the club. Despite being thirty-six years of age he was wonderfully calm and consistent when he had two spells at Griffin Park in our ill-fated relegation season of 1992/93.

Gus Hurdle never managed a first team appearance at Fulham but he was rescued from a career on the buses when he walked in unannounced to the Brentford training ground and had a decent career as an attacking fullback.

Glen Cockerill joined the Bees from Fulham as Micky Adams’s assistant manager but he played an important role on the field as a solid defensive midfield player despite being nearly forty years of age. He had enjoyed an illustrious career but still had something left in the tank.

As you can see there are so many links between the two clubs and I will finish my list of players who enjoyed spells at both clubs tomorrow.

How Much Longer? – 3/4/15

It really isn’t too long now! Like every other Brentford supporter I am anxiously and impatiently counting off the hours and minutes before our crucial and potentially season-defining local derby clash with Fulham. Who knows whether it really will be a Good Friday for the Bees and in reality my brain is pretty scrambled at the moment and I am making little sense whenever I try and analyse how we are likely to approach the game and, more importantly, whether it will all end up in tears of joy or disappointment. All I know is that it is well past midnight now and sleep will not come too easily tonight.

There is so much riding on the result. Local pride and bragging rights are at stake. A double over our near neighbours and close rivals, Fulham, would for so many of our supporters be the crowning glory of what has already proven to be a magnificent season. I will certainly be celebrating and screaming as loud as everybody else should we prevail but victory for me, however wonderful it would be, isn’t the be all and end all, but would merely be a means to an end and help us on our way to our final objective – namely winning promotion.

With seven games to go we are now entering the home stretch and there is no longer any margin for error. The Bees have fallen out of the top six for the first time in over four months and need to get back on track at Craven Cottage. A minimum of four points is surely a prerequisite from our next couple of matches if we are to have a realistic chance of going up. The international break came at just the right time for us as it gave us the chance to rest tired legs and regain some equilibrium as well as pick up some additional kudos from the excellent performances produced by Stuart Dallas, Alex Pritchard and Moses Odubajo whilst they were all on international duty. Thankfully they all returned to Griffin Park unscathed and should be bursting with confidence for today’s match. Dallas, in particular, so often the unheralded and unsung hero whose contribution often goes largely unnoticed, clearly demonstrated that he fully belongs at the highest level as he starred for Northern Ireland against both Scotland and Finland and Alex Pritchard contributed much to England Under 21’s excellent wins against Czechoslovakia and Germany. Moses Odubajo also made two sparkling appearances for England Under 20s and is surely tipped for even greater honours should he maintain his level of performance.

The conundrum for Mark Warburton will be choosing a team from what is practically a fully fit squad. Lewis Macleod did finally make his much awaited debut for the club last Saturday in the Development Squad’s defeat by Nottingham Forest but simply proved that the road to recovery and full fitness is a long and tortuous one and he surely has much work to do before he can mount a serious challenge for a first team place and I suspect that his time will come next season rather than this. We are blessed in midfield where we have a plethora of talent and the problem is more who to leave out rather than who to select. How on earth can you pick five from Douglas, Diagouraga, Pritchard, Jota, Judge, Toral and Dallas? You can make a serious and credible case for all of them to start and I do not envy the manager his task?

I forgot to mention that earlier tonight I also tried to still my beating heart and fortify my spirits for the morrow by watching the Brentford versus Fulham clash at Griffin Park and I almost wore out the remote control playing and replaying Jota’s magic moment. How many of you remember that both Dallas and Jota started that match on the bench and that they came on to help revitalise us and recharge our batteries midway through the second half at a time when, unimaginable though it seemed, Fulham looked as if they were going to commit highway robbery and emerge with three points from a match in which they were decidedly second best? Happily all’s well that ends well and the good guys deservedly came out on top but certainly would not have done had it not been for those substitutions. OK, for once, Nick Proschwitz also did fine when he came on too! As I said, Mark Warburton has much to ponder over when deciding upon the makeup of his midfield as Fulham are no slouches in that area, where the game will more than likely be decided. Chris Long was also on international duty but apparently returned early for treatment on a dodgy hamstring and I will lose more sleep later on tonight wondering if he will be fit enough to participate, even if only from the bench. Andre Gray provided a passable impression of Road Runner when he gave a lumbering Michael Turner the runaround and led him a merry dance  at Carrow Road back in January and  I hope that he can ideally repeat the performance later this afternoon. Talking of strikers, perhaps the best news of the week so far was the fact that Scott Hogan has returned to training after his sickening injury at Rotherham way back in August. He has been much missed and given a full recovery will provide an exceptional addition to our firepower next season.

We haven’t even mentioned our central defence yet where chaos and confusion remains. Dean and Tarkowski have resembled a pair of bears dancing on ice lately and we have been leaking goals given that the otherwise impeccable David Button has also started to look fallible at just the wrong time. Liam Moore has returned to Leicester after a horribly unimpressive loan spell and I still find it hard to reconcile the fact that a player apparently good enough to represent his country at Under 21 level looked so out of place in our defence. Go figure! Jack O’Connell has been recalled from Rochdale where he was quietly impressive and the question remains unanswered as to whether he is merely seen as defensive cover or if he might have far more than a bit part to play over the remaining few games. He certainly has the ability and from what I have seen and heard he also seems to have the temperament required. Could he be the joker in the pack and help revitalise what has become a porous defence?

So what I am looking for this afternoon? Three points, certainly, are paramount, and I would go down on bended knee for them but, I am also feeling greedy and would like far more than just a victory. I would also ask for the team to put on a performance, one that on the one hand fully restores our confidence but one that also puts the football world on notice that Brentford will not buckle to the pressure of their current situation but will rise to the challenge, just as we did a year ago. Good Friday 2014 was unforgettable, can we make Good Friday 2015 a worthy successor? Not long to go now!

Bees Up! – Fulham Down! – 22/11/14

I have finally woken up this morning but feel as if I am still in dreamland.

ful4Did we really win our fourth consecutive Championship match last night, the first time we have achieved that feat almost since there was a King on the throne over sixty years ago?

Is that us, little Brentford, sitting comfortably in fourth place in the league, a mere point off the top?

Was that really Brentford who came back seemingly from the dead, with two goals in the final ten minutes of a pulsating match, to win a game that we looked like losing despite totally dominating from start to finish?

Was that Griffin Park, ram packed to the gills with the roof seemingly coming off as the stadium erupted at the final whistle?

The answer to all four questions is an emphatic yes.

This has been a seriously good few days for the club as we begin to come of age.

The landmark 125th anniversary was celebrated by over six hundred guests at a glittering dinner held on Thursday at the Hurlingham Club in SW6 where Brentford took over Fulham.

The team repeated the feat last night, playing their illustrious visitors off the park and their sumptuous football provided yet another feast this time for the spectators at a sold out Griffin Park as well as the viewers of the live broadcast on Sky Sports.

I wrote recently about our dilemma.

Do we try and remain under the radar or shout from the rooftops about the incredible recent happenings at the club?

I am afraid that given what occurred last night the decision is going to be taken out of our hands.

The football world is finally waking up to the fact that there is a new power emerging in West London.

It is of course early days yet, and we must try and avoid getting carried away as in the greater scheme of things we have achieved very little, but we are certainly on a journey.

The force and momentum are with us, and on the evidence of what experienced Bees watchers have seen so far this season, who knows just how far we can go and where we will eventually end up.

Last night it was the turn of Fulham to challenge our new found self-belief.

The two teams were renewing a rivalry that flourished and grew in the 80s and came to a head on that glorious Sunday morning in April 1992 when the visitors were demolished by a four goal first half onslaught by the Bees.

Since that unforgettable day Fulham, buttressed by Mohamed Al-Fayed’s millions roared ahead and left Brentford trailing far behind in their wake, and seemed to have firmly established themselves in the Premier League until they imploded last season and were relegated with ignominy after a thirteen year stay at the top level.

Under Kit Symons they have been recovering from an appalling start to the season and fielded a team packed full of top level international stars, but there still seemed to be a sense of entitlement surrounding them and they gave the firm impression that they felt it it was all a bit beneath them to spend a Friday night slumming it against their poor relations at their dilapidated shack of a stadium.

Back in the day, one of my clients, Ericsson, sponsored Queens Park Rangers, and by virtue of my job I was sentenced to five years’ hard labour where I was expected to attend some matches at Loftus Road.

At that time, just like Fulham, QPR had been relegated from the Premier League and mistakenly pulled out all the stops to retain most of the overpriced so-called superstars who had totally under performed and got them into the mess in the first place.

Excellent players, like Trevor Sinclair, slept-walked their way through the season, making it patently obvious by their inertia and reluctance to sweat that they had no real interest in playing at a level they felt totally beneath them and only gave their all on the big occasion in an effort to attract a new club.

ful3For Trevor Sinclair read Brian Ruiz last night.

Fulham were a mirror image of that lamentable QPR team – all fur coat and no knickers as the old expression goes.

Brentford took the game by the throat and totally outplayed their visitors in a first half of total domination.

Brentford’s incisive and pleasing to the eye short passing style contrasting with Fulham’s prehistoric long ball assault.

The Brentford midfielders interchanged with alacrity.

Pritchard’s magic feet opened gaps in the Fulham defence, the rampaging Jonathan Douglas and the revitalised Toumani Diagouraga won every loose ball and passed it impeccably, the live-wire Alan Judge was at the centre of everything good we did and Toral showed further evidence that he is coming of age as a first team footballer.

All that was missing was a goal, but thanks to an inspired display from the marvellous Marcus Bettinelli in the Fulham goal we were somehow denied the two goal cushion which was the least that our first half display merited.

He stretched like a languid cat to foil Toral’s low header aimed into the corner, tipped over Craig’s header, acrobatically pushed Judge’s curling free kick over the bar and best of all, made a save from Toumani’s carefully sidefooted volley that defied gravity and belief.

It was a goal all the way until the keeper somehow stuck out a strong left hand to save his team.

David Button was a virtual spectator, but showed his sharpness when he plunged to his left to deny the dangerous Rodallega, who should have buried a close range header when set up by his partner Ross McCormack.

Games at this level are settled by such narrow margins, as for all their domination and effervescent, mesmerising football, Brentford could actually have come in at the break trailing, despite having played perhaps their best forty-five minutes of the season.

Football is such a strange game sometimes!

Andre Gray had led the lumbering giant Dan Burn a merry dance and he escaped his attentions yet again before being foiled by the keeper who smothered his close range poke.

Button too was called into action as Fulham finally roused themselves from their apparent deep slumber and made a sharp save to deny Rodallega.

But the Colombian would not be denied, and just before the hour, Brentford’s well oiled machine developed a kink in the engine as Dean’s short pass was intercepted by Williams, and ten seconds later the ball was in the Brentford net as McCormack easily set up Rodallega, the man over, who finished calmly and effectively.

ful1Their were many similarities to Norwich City’s first goal at Griffin Park in September, also donated by a generous home defence guilty of overplaying.

Tarkowski was the culprit on that occasion, Dean on this, but he simply rolled his sleeves up and determined to make amends, which he did in quite spectacular style.

As is normally the case, Mark Warburton’s substitutions revitalised us.

Jota and Dallas gave us fresh legs and renewed impetus, and Proschwitz finally looked the part when he replaced the exhausted Gray.

We survived a difficult fifteen minute spell when we dropped too deep as Fulham gained in belief, and surely thought that they were on the way to a smash and grab victory that would have been totally against the run of play.

We recovered, found a second wind and started to play our football again.

There was space on the flanks where Pritchard, Jota and Dallas tormented their defenders and Odubajo and Bidwell were tireless in their overlapping support.

The Fulham defence creaked but the door remained firmly shut until Dean took charge.

He picked the ball up near halfway, saw no obvious pass, and, like a modern day Beckenbauer, strode majestically into the Fulham half.

He found Dallas on the left wing who performed miracles to hold off three straining defenders and conjure up a low cross from the touchline when the ball seemed destined to go out of play.

Parker stretched to clear, but the ball fell to Dean near the edge of the area, who leaned back and struck a glorious right foot volley beyond Bettinelli and the helpless defender covering on the line.

The net bulged and Griffin Park erupted.

Game on, and a shell shocked Fulham did not know whether to stick or twist and got caught between two stools as they did neither.

They forced another sharp save from the excellent Button but were caught upfield in injury time when Judge bounced the ball off his head like a performing seal, shook off a tired challenge, turned and pinged yet another perfect fifty yard pass straight out to Jota stationed on the right wing.

His control was instantaneous and perfect, he cut inside his defender and there was only one thing on his mind.

His shot from just outside the penalty area was hard and well directed and kissed the outstretched and seemingly beseeching arm of Burn diving in a vain effort to block the shot, and the deflection took the ball into the corner of the net.

Cue disbelief and wild celebrations as the roof came off Griffin Park.

Fulham had a muted penalty shout ignored by the excellent David Coote, who officiated calmly and without fuss, and Proschwitz and Jota both forced sharp saves from Bettinelli as the Bees comfortably played out the remaining minutes of added time.

The whistle went to roars of appreciation as the players, management and fans were united as one in celebration of a famous and merited victory.

It is now time for everyone to believe and accept that we are quickly developing into an excellent team, with players who possess skill, pace, verve and confidence.

The balance of power is shifting in West London.

The Bees are on the rise!

Excitement? – You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet! – 14/8/14

I did my best to stay awake last night through ninety minutes of sheer, unalloyed tedium, halfheartedly watching Cardiff City meander past a horribly inept, disjointed and disinterested Coventry City side in the televised Capital One Cup match on Sky Sports.

fulMy interest was slightly piqued at seeing ex-Bees Simon Moore and Kadeem Harris in the Cardiff squad.

Moore was largely untroubled in goal and could pretty much have taken a book out onto the pitch with him, so insipid were Coventry, and Harris looked as if he had scored a well taken winning goal after a typical lung bursting run, but the replay showed that it was an own goal.

I was waiting for the opening act to finish before the main part of the evening’s proceedings – the hugely anticipated draw for the second round of the Capital One Cup.

Cup draws are normally carefully choreographed, bland and anodyne, but this one was shambolic and went spectacularly wrong.

Cues were missed, teams were misidentified and utter chaos reigned with the inept presenter resembling a rabbit caught in headlights.

But out of the confusion and incompetence one fact remained totally clear – Brentford had been drawn at home to Fulham.

The Bees had received an incredible windfall and an unexpected and perhaps even undeserved reward for Tuesday’s laboured and inglorious victory over Dagenham in that twelve goal thriller.

You wait seventeen years to play Fulham in a competitive match and then, like buses, three come along all at once.

The Championship match at Griffin Park in November has already been selected for live television coverage so the cup clash might not be similarly chosen, but all will be revealed in the next few days.

But wider coverage does not matter a fig – this is a private battle between two bitter local rivals.

Our paths have crossed a few times in cup competitions since the late eighties.

The two teams were drawn together in the Football League Cup in 1988/89 when a goal after eighteen seconds from Andy Sinton and that remarkable long range Exocet from Roger Stanislaus which has gone down in folklore, gave us a 2-2 draw at Craven Cottage.

fulThe Bees came out on top in the second leg when Gary Blissett’s extra time goal gave us victory in a match best remembered for an unsavoury incident which saw Fulham striker Gordon Davies stretchered off unconscious with Jamie Bates protesting his innocence and later being questioned by the police.

In the same season Brentford won a totally uneventful Sherpa Van Trophy match by two goals to nil at the Cottage.

The nineties again saw several Cup clashes between the two teams.

Graham Benstead gave a goalkeeping master class in a 1-1 Leyland DAF clash on a freezing night at Fulham who totally dominated the proceedings.

In 1992/93 Brentford were comfortable winners by four goals to nil on aggregate over two legs of a tame Coca Cola Cup First Round clash.

Fulham took some semblance of revenge the last time the two teams played against each other in a Cup tie in November 1995, when Tamer Fernandes allowed a harmless cross to squirm out of his grasp and drop just over the goal line to give Fulham a narrow victory in an Auto Windscreens Shield match.

As if this season wasn’t already exciting enough, now we have something extra special to look forward to.

This new campaign has already got off to a dramatic start with our home opener against Charlton followed by the non stop thrills and spills of the twelve goal cup tie with Dagenham & Redbridge, all underpinned by the drama, or rather, soap opera of the ongoing Adam Forshaw transfer saga.

Excitement? You ain’t seen nothing yet!