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.



Managing Bees – Part 2 – 6/1/15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What A Bargain! – 4/12/14

Don’t you find that everything is getting so much more expensive nowadays and the extra cost just seems to creep up on you insidiously?

Deep in the mists of time, way back in the late 70s, I can still remember taking my girlfriend out to dinner and spending what seemed to me back in my student days, the eye-wateringly enormous and extravagent sum of five pounds a head for a slap up dinner for the two of us in Chelsea.

You can barely buy a small cup of tea and a sandwich for a fiver today.

I bought one of my favourite Freddo Chocolate bars yesterday and was horrified to discover that it now cost a princely twenty-five pence when I can still remember buying one for ten pence not so very long ago. Mind you it tasted great and is still value for money even at the new price!

That reminds me that if you look hard enough there are still bargains to be had, and one of them can be found at Griffin Park.

Next time you are wandering around the Braemar Road concourse with a few moments to kill before a match I would strongly suggest that you seek out and visit the Brentford Programme Shop which is tucked away in a small cupboard-like room situated underneath the main stand.

Just keep looking and eventually you will find it.

There you will receive a warm welcome as you enter an Aladdin’s cave of riches with hundreds of programmes on display from Brentford home and away matches over the past decades as well as a smattering of programmes featuring other clubs.

Interesting though they all are, what I am referring to is their selection of Bargain Bundles.

For a mere one pound, yes, one pound, you can buy a shrink wrapped luckybag selection of fifteen Brentford home programmes, all from matches played over the last thirty years.

You have to take potluck as, given the packaging, it is quite impossible to tell which games have been included in each bundle, bar the ones on either end, but whatever you end up with I can guarantee that it will be money well-spent.

And, to be frank, what else can you buy nowadays for the same paltry sum that provides as much satisfaction and stimulation?

I have to say that it is rare for me not to visit the shop at every home game and emerge with at least one packet of programmes which I will savour later on.

Occasionally there will also be a bundle of programmes from away matches on display but these are particularly highly prized, and are a rare and special treat which do not remain unsold for long given the fact that there is a long queue of aficionados eager to snap them up.

I find it enormous fun to sit back at home during the following week and read through these treasures which remind me of past matches, players, managers and key incidents and happenings otherwise long-since forgotten.

Sometimes too you read something which makes you challenge your own memory or even probe and question the current accepted truth of an incident that took place in the deep and distant past.

I just thought that I would illustrate my point by noting down some of the things that I found particularly interesting or noteworthy when perusing the latest batch of programmes which I purchased before last Saturday’s match against Wolves.

Roger Stanislaus’s long range Exocet of an equaliser against Fulham in the Littlewoods Cup in 1988 has long since entered Brentford folklore and the distance from where he unleashed his shot has increased with every telling until he was practically in another post code. The Brentford programme for the Second Leg tie against Fulham puts paid to these exaggerations and firmly states that the actual distance was nearly thirty-five yards.

Ashley Bayes starred in goal in a penalty shootout victory over Southend United in the Presidents Cup back in September 1991. After a two-two draw, Brentford finally won by nine goals to eight in the shootout with Ashley making the match winning save from Michael Jones.

The hapless Murray Jones never scored a competitive first team goal for the Bees in twenty appearances in 1992/93. What is not so well known is that he was far more successful in the reserves, scoring twice in a Middlesex Charity Cup win at Edgware Town in January 1993.

In addition, he notched a highly impressive, indeed, almost prolific, six goals in twelve Capital League games which included what was incredulously described as a spectacular close range overhead kick against Gillingham. Normal service was resumed against Cambridge United when a clearance from the goalkeeper hit Murray Jones on the side and flew into an unguarded net. Obviously he had found his level.

A match report of the Brentford versus Cambridge Sunday morning match in 1993 brings back memories of that notorious and frankly bizarre incident when referee Roger Wiseman, having first booked our nemesis Steve Claridge for having his socks rolled down in trademark fashion, then sent off Cambridge midfielder Paul Raynor for arguing too aggressively with his own centre half, Mick Heathcote. Shades of Darren Powell and Karleigh Osborne at Bournemouth in 2009, perhaps.

Anyone who has seen Raynor’s more than animated behaviour on the bench alongside Steve Evans at Rotherham will not have been too shocked at this incident. Oh, and by the way, despite the man advantage, Brentford still lost thanks to a goal scored by another former Bee, Steve Butler.

Brentford beat Welling United by seven goals to nil in a Capital League match in October 1995. A surprising scoreline in itself, but what stood out was our first goal, scored by our new exciting, all-action midfielder, Paul Davis. Now whatever happened to him?

Does anyone else remember the traffic chaos before the Bristol City home game in 1996? The match kicked off late at 3.15 pm after a security alert in the area that caused a massive traffic snarl-up. Many Bees fans were unable to get to the game in time.

Buzz Bee was launched as Brentford’s new mascot back in 1996 and supporters were urged to invite him to attend their youngsters’ birthday party.

The chaotic manner in which the club appeared to be run was highlighted by the following news snippet in October 1997: Dean Holdsworth’s big money move to Bolton Wanderers didn’t earn Brentford any money because there was no sell-on clause in his £720,000 transfer from Griffin Park to Wimbledon. However if Marcus Gayle ever moves on then Brentford will receive twenty percent. So that’s all right then!

Gary Alexander was asked in 2012 which one player he would sign from our division and replied: Bradley Wright-Phillips from Charlton. He’s been excellent since joining  them and always looks likely to get on the score-sheet. Gary obviously has a future as a scout when he finally hangs up his boots.

Phil Holder was a guest of honour for the home game against Exeter in 2012. Remarkably this was his first visit to Griffin Park for almost nineteen years since he was sacked after relegation in 1993. Time does eventually heal all wounds.

I will let you know if I unearth any more gems in the near future and hope to see some of you in the programme shop before the Blackburn match.

Preseason Comparisons: 1992 Versus 2014 – 7/7/14

detzifixturesmurray jones

I have been enjoying Peter Gilham’s daily description of the cutting edge fitness facilities available at Brentford’s training camp in Florida so when I saw a recent thread on the subject on the Griffin Park Grapevine, my thoughts turned to how the squad prepared themselves last time they were promoted to the second tier of English football back in 1992 and how it compares to this preseason.

Brentford came up on the rails to snatch the Third Division title by winning their last six matches of a pulsating 1991/92 season. A team turbocharged by the goals of Dean Holdsworth and Gary Blissett held off the challenge of rivals Birmingham City and sent their supporters into delirium.90s

I have just gone through the local papers and also The Big Brentford Book of the 90s in order to confirm my memories of that Summer of 1992.

Brentford’s preparation for their first season back in the second tier of English football since their relegation in 1954 differed by not one iota from what was customary at that time.

There was no preseason tour and certainly no special training camp.

Instead the team prepared for their new challenge with lung-bursting runs and stamina training in Richmond Park as had been the case for many years beforehand.

Surely some big name foreign team was enticed to play us in a preseason friendly?

Indeed that was in fact the case as we travelled to a foreign land to meet the might of Merthyr Tydfil and came away chastened after being hammered by four goals to one.

The only consolation from that defeat was that new signing and Dean Holdsworth’s replacement Murray Jones paid off the first instalment of his £75,000 transfer fee from Grimsby by notching our consolation goal.

That was, incredibly, his only goal in our colours, ignoring a one-on-one he scored against England International keeper David Seaman in a behind closed doors friendly against Arsenal.

Our opponents that preseason were Chesham, Merthyr Tydfil, Windsor & Eton, Queens Park Rangers, Slough, Uxbridge, Woking and Harrow Borough.

Eight non league teams (Oh alright then, seven non league teams plus QPR) were considered sufficient preparation for us to face the might of Newcastle United and West Ham United in the coming season!

The fans did their bit too with over five thousand attending the “Fun Day” in May and a record two thousand two hundred season tickets were sold.

The average attendance was almost eight and a half thousand, a figure unequalled since.

As for the team, we were holed beneath the waterline when Dean Holdsworth was transferred with unseemly haste to Wimbledon soon after the 1991/92 season ended.

There are claims and counter claims about how hard the club tried to keep him or whether they were reconciled to his departure, or indeed wished to cash in on their star asset.

What is certain is that the inadequate fee we received for him was not wisely invested and if strong rumours that we failed to insist on a sell-on clause are in fact correct, then that would surely sum up the haphazard way that the club was run back in those days.

Not much came in to strengthen what was thought to be a pretty decent squad.

As part of the Holdsworth deal Wimbledon unloaded Detzi Krusynski and Mickey Bennett onto us.

When on loan the previous season, Detzi had played a key role in our late promotion surge as his calmness on the ball and passing ability made him stand out in what was a very direct team, who got the ball forward quickly and without fuss.

Unfortunately he proved to have an aversion to training and time keeping and he soon drifted away from the club – a real waste of talent.

As for Mickey Bennett, he started out like a house on fire as a direct and goal hungry right winger and we thought we had discovered a new star, but he too flattered to deceive and perhaps his most accurate shot was on the jaw of team mate Joe Allon after a training ground spat the following season.

We all waited agog for Dean Holdsworth’s replacement, tried and failed to sign John Goodman from Millwall and finally, one sultry Summer’s day, the news broke, we had signed Murray – Who?

Murray Jones was apparently a friend of our star defender Keith Millen and was a journeyman striker who counted Exeter City and Grimsby amongst his previous teams.

His goalscoring record was non-existent and to add insult to injury we forked out seventy-five thousand pounds on a player that Grimsby supporters gleefully told us was about to be released on a free transfer.

Not one of our proudest moments as Jones proved to be as incompetent as he was inept and, as previously remarked, never scored a competitive goal for the club.

To put things into context, Manager Phil Holder was allowed to spend no more than ten to fifteen percent of the money brought in for Holdsworth on his replacement – and this was to strengthen a team about to compete in a higher standard of football.

That surely speaks for itself and eerily echoes 1972, when the club, newly promoted to the Third Division, shamefully sold star striker John O’Mara against the wishes of manager Frank Blunstone, greedily accepted the first offer of £50,000 from Blackburn Rovers, replaced him with the utterly appalling Stan Webb and deservedly suffered relegation.

Anyone see a pattern repeating itself?

The most interesting newcomer was midfielder Grant Chalmers who came on trial from the Channel Islands but his vision and passing ability didn’t fit in with how manager Holder wanted his team to play.

The squad totalled twenty-five but that figure included a number of youngsters and first year professionals who were hardly to figure in the first team.

It is interesting to look at the team photograph and count the support staff. They totalled five, with Manager Phil Holder backed up by Player-Coach Wilf Rostron, Graham Pearce, Joe Gadston and physio, Roy Clare.

Now contrast that situation with what is the case now.

Over five thousand season tickets sold.

A large and ever improving squad packed full of emerging young talent.

Again, we have lost our top scorer straight after promotion, but I confidently expect that the ghosts of Stan Webb and Murray Jones will be fully lain when Clayton’s replacement eventually arrives at the club.

Training facilities to die for in a superb training camp in Florida.

Top level foreign competition in Nice and Espanyol who will provide a stern test to our squad in forthcoming friendly matches and a first class and growing support team of fitness experts, analysts, nutritionists and specialist coaches.

The comparison with 1992 is boggling.

As golfer Gary Player memorably stated: “the harder I practice the luckier I get.”

Let’s just hope that Brentford’s incredible organisation and preseason planning this Summer bears fruit and that we end the coming campaign in a far higher position than was the case in 1993 when we suffered relegation on the last day of a torrid season.