Why Peter Lumley Loves The Bees – 8/1/16

Peter Lumley has already provided some wonderful memories of his many years watching the Bees and I am delighted to say that he was written another wonderful and evocative article which explains and expands upon his passion for the club.

I hope that you all enjoy it as much as I did:

Watching Gary Blissett receive his Hall of Fame accolade on the pitch ahead of the boxing day game against Brighton reminded me of one of my previous communications in which I named a Brentford team compromised solely of players with a surname beginning with “B”.

The players spanned the seventy-three years since 1942 when I first paid a visit to Griffin Park.

My Dream Team selection was as follows:

  • Chic Brodie
  • Paul Bence
  • Jake Bidwell
  • Jamie Bates
  • Wally Bragg
  • Bob Booker
  • Stan Bowles
  • Jimmy Bloomfield
  • Johnny Brooks
  • Gary Blissett
  • Peter Broadbent

I challenge anyone to name a more talented team compromising players sharing the same first letter in the remainder of the alphabet.

I am appending a brief note about each of my selections:

Chic Brodie: Perhaps the most reliable goalkeeper to don a Brentford green jersey. His all too short career was blighted by a bizarre incident at Colchester when a stray dog ran on to the pitch and in a “one on one” situation almost broke the keepers leg above the knee cap.

It left him with an injury that had a detrimental effect on the remainder of his career. His selection was marginal due to the excellence of three other contenders, Len Bond, Graham Benstead and David Button, who now has the potential to reach the very top.

Paul Bence: Loyal, versatile and reliable defender who was equally at home in the old fashioned right back or right half positions and you could count his off-days on one hand. A true Griffin Park servant and a wonderful example to aspiring young players at the time.

Jake Bidwell: There is nothing I can write about Jake that current Brentford fans do not already know. As the captain of the team he leads by example and his charges down the left with the consequential crosses into the box are a feature of virtually every Brentford performance. And now he has broken his duck as a goal scorer, let us hope there are many more to come.

Jamie Bates: Another long serving Griffin Park favourite and a natural successor to the iconic Terry Evans in the Bees defence. Like Terry, a great header of the ball both in attack and defence. Few strikers got the better of him in Fifty-Fifty situations but he was always resolutely strong but fair in a tackle. A possible candidate for future Hall of Fame recognition.

Wally Bragg: One of a long line of outstanding centre halves and in the same league as, for example, Joe James, Ron Greenwood, Jack Chisholm, Mel Scott, Stewart Houston, Pat Kruse, Peter Gelson and Leon Legge.

Bob Booker: There is nothing I can write about Bob that has not already attracted the attention of those with far mightier pens than mine. One of my all time favourites.

Stan Bowles: Another outstanding performer who came to Griffin Park quite late on his illustrious career but was an absolute joy to watch. Falls into that category of players who could be regarded as the most talented of all time.

Jimmy Bloomfield: I can remember a very young Jimmy coming to Griffin Park as an extremely talented inside forward who possessed exquisite skills on the ball. His play was as smooth as silk and I was desperately sorry when he left us for pastures new and subsequently I was saddened to learn of his death at a relatively young age.

Johnny Brooks: Came to Brentford after an illustrious career with Tottenham and England. In many ways he was an older version of the aforementioned Jimmy Bloomfield. His skill on the ball had to be seen to be believed and he possessed one of the most powerful shots in the game. A pity he did not join Brentford some seasons earlier.

Gary Blissett: Yet again another player to fall into that category where it is difficult to find words to add to those already written about him. Arguably the best out and out striker Brentford have ever had, certainly in the modern era.

My own personal highlight was to see him scoring the winning goal in that never to be forgotten promotion-clinching win at Peterborough. With members of the family I had to drive, somewhat hastily, back to Griffin Park to greet the team as they arrived back to a very noisy reception in Braemar Road. As mentioned earlier, Gary’s recognition as a newcomer to the Hall of Fame was the event that encouraged me to write this particular article.

Peter Broadbent: As the then Sports Editor of the local newspaper, now known as the “Ealing Gazette”, I struck up a friendship with Peter shortly following his debut as a Brentford player.

In fact I recall that the two of us as young unattached lads, going to Saturday night dances at Ealing Town Hall after a game on a number of occasions.

Again I was extremely sorry to see him move on to Wolverhampton Wanderers where he subsequently won a number of caps with the England team.

Another of my all time favourites who I was privileged to know as a friend. Other Brentford players who fell into the same category were Ken Horne, Tom Higginson, Jimmy Towers and George Francis.

My substitutes in this team would be a selection of seven from the following candidates:

Goalkeepers: Len Bond, Graham Benstead, David Button and Jack Bonham. ( With difficulty I have left out Ashley Bayes!)

Defenders: Billy Brown, Danny Boxall, John Buttigieg, George Bristow and Paul Brooker.

Forwards: Mickey Bennett, Mike Block, Micky Ball, Deon Burton and Willy Brown.

Quite apart from the players, I wish to extend the “B” theme to include other Griffin Park heroes. This is my list for starters:

Chairmen: Ron Blindell and Matthew Benham.

Managers: Jimmy Bain, Frank Blunstone and reluctantly, Terry Butcher.

Supporters: John Barr and his fire officer grandson, also named John Barr or “Little John” as we nicknamed him when he first visited Griffin Park as an eight year old.
Last, but by no means least, I nominate the incomparable Mark Burridge as my favourite Bees Player commentator.

Mentioning Len Bond earlier leads me into a postscript to this communication. My wife has a habit of waking up in the unearthly hours of five or six most mornings. She then trawls through the various early morning TV channels to ensure that I wake up at about the same time.

But one morning over the Christmas holiday, I could not believe my ears, or my eyes, when I heard the names of Len Bond, Danis Salman, Barry Tucker Jim McNichol, Paul Shrubb, Dean Smith and Steve Phillips beaming out from the TV set.

Quite by chance my wife had hit upon an ITV4 program entitled “Big Match Revisited”. The featured match was a 1970’s Third Division clash at Griffin Park between Brentford and Watford. The result was a thrilling 3-3 draw with Dean Smith and Steve Phillips (Twice) scoring for the Bees, his second goal from the penalty spot to earn a point. The scoring went as follows: 1-0, 1-1, 1-2, 2-2, 2-3, 3-3).

The respective managers that day were Bill Dodgin and Graham Taylor. One of the Watford goals was scored by Luther Blissett!

My Final thought, I am confident we will Be in the mix for a top six place By May.

And MayBe we could win promotion!

Thank you Peter and I hope some of you will rise to his challenge and name your own favourite teams comprising players with a surname beginning with the same letter.

Over to you!

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Shared Thoughts – 27/10/15

It is amazing how quickly things have turned around and how our spirits have been revived. That is what three wins in a week can do for you particularly as they came at a time when it was hard to see any light at the end of a particularly dark tunnel.

My delight and excitement was shared by all my regular correspondents:

Michael Ohl was bubbling over with happiness:

I have to say the turnaround is nothing short of miraculous, how a team essentially with the same players can be so different. Clearly the talent is there, yes, the opposition as we can see is struggling as much as we were, but even so . . . and whilst things might have been different if Charlton had taken their chances, who is to say the final outcome would have been different?

We just don’t know and I don’t think we can take away all the credit that is due to the team. Also, Lee Carsley must take a lot of the credit. I read in last week’s League Paper how in his playing days he was a lynch pin and he seems to have taken this with him to his role as Head Coach aka Team Manager.

I really am looking forward to this Friday’s game.

Alan Dally was a bit perplexed and struggling to understand why things had changed so quickly:

What a strange game football is.

From a very nervy and in honesty a somewhat fortunate win against Rotherham, we seem to have grown massively in confidence. As many said at the time the result was far more important than the performance. It also had an instant positive impact on the belief of the players, as we put in a very professional performance against Wolves and ran out deserved winners. Then after a slow start at the Valley we eventually controlled the game and were comfortable winners.

I take my hat off to Lee Carsley who has obviously addressed the problem areas and we are starting to look like a decent team again. I personally don’t see us being as impressive as last season, but compared to a few weeks ago, just like the players, I am also growing in confidence.

Long may it continue, specially this coming Friday, as I so dearly want to beat the rabble from Shepherd’s Bush.

beesyellow22 as is his custom tried to analyse the reasons for our success:

Same comments as above, really. A truly miraculous turn around in a remarkably short space of time. I can do nothing other than take my hat off to Lee Carsley and the players. Brilliant stuff.

The stand out things for me are as follows:

1. The 4-2-3-1 formation, with no recognised wide players – yet Diagouraga, McCormack, Woods, Swift and Judge have all been absolutely outstanding in the last two games, providing energy, width, pace, power and outstanding attacking intent

2. The form of Alan Judge. Never has he more rightly deserved the moniker of the “Irish Messi”

3. The transformation of Nico Yennaris. Still early days and presumably Colin will be knocking at the door once fit, but again, well done to Lee Carsley for seeing something in a player many of us had written off long ago

4. The sudden resilience of the back four. Two clean sheets in a row – fantastic

5. The increased strength of the squad once Jota, Macleod, Colin, Saunders, McEachran et al return. Dare we now dream of the playoffs or better

Like everyone else, I can’t wait for Friday! The confidence is back, the energy levels are up and we all feel that we can beat anyone!

We don’t know who our manager will be this time next year, but let’s relish what’s happening right now and rise to the challenge of QPR as one!

Rebel Bee had his own explanation for the improvement in our results:

An excellent summary and I agree with all the great comments too, beesyellow22 has nailed it with his five key points. We love football so much because it can do this to you like no other sport -desperation to elation in a week!

We’ve all had differing opinions over what has gone on at Griffin Park over the past months, it’s been emotional and we’ve fallen out with our own at times. Barring a few on both sides of the debates I felt a sense of healing and togetherness in the stand on Saturday – ironic that it should come at the very place where the cracks opened so nastily a few short months ago.

That’s the first time I’ve seen us win at The Valley and it was so worth the wait. We were superb after that dodgy first ten minutes. Such a good away day there, and to play well in an iconic old London stadium left me feeling drained and emotional.

Whilst Judgey will deservedly get the headlines, huge credit goes to the other boys in midfield, and in particular to Alan Mac, who had possibly his finest game in a Bees shirt.

I now feel it was a brave and correct call to make the managerial change, it wasn’t nice how it went down but it has potentially saved the season. Some won’t like this fact, but Lee Carsley has gone back to basics, playing a largely British team who look fitter and happier than a month back – confidence and passion abundant and the foreign boys are correctly being drip fed into the Championship, some may turn out OK – others won’t.

We have turned a corner but mustn’t get carried away, we’ve taken three scalps at just the right time, but far bigger tests await in in the next two games at Griffin Park.

Greville could I possibly ask that you work your magic on a fitting piece ahead of the QPR game?

I was trying to explain to some of our younger fans why to many Bees they are our bitter rivals – not Fulham or others. It needs the historical context and facts to be explained properly as so many just don’t know what went down back in the 60s. You have the knowledge and the writing ability to do this justice.

No pressure then and I am girding my loins preparatory to writing something about our rivalry with QPR. and why it is so deep-felt and intense.

Let me end with an enthusiastic comment from Richard Poole who also has some salutary words of warning for us all:

I am writing this from far away but I am so happy for my Bees and, if you remember, I commented quite a while ago about how difficult it is for foreign players to accustom themselves to our way of football and to living in a foreign land – remember Betinho last season! I am also glad to see some youthful passion and enthusiasm in the side.

I so wish I was able to see Friday’s match against THEM but there is no no chance marooned out here in France. But all the same I will look out and hope for good news, but remember that football is a funny game so let’s not get too carried away at the moment!

The Fans’ Verdict – 7/10/15

With ten games gone and Brentford wallowing in the nether regions of The Championship I wrote an overview of our current situation on Sunday and made a few suggestions regarding how I felt matters both on and off the field might conceivably be improved.

Here is what some of you had to say in response.

Richard Poole harked back to the past and the influence that an experienced old hand could have on his younger team mates as well as the importance of the fans maintaining their support when things are going wrong:

You’re right about Jimmy Gabriel.  I was playing alongside him at the time. Yes, he could hardly run but he did not need to as he totally dominated possession and was a total inspiration to us youngsters and someone to come into the team like him now would help a lot.

Jackie Graham also played in that Brentford team and even now you could take him out of retirement and I’m sure that he could help, if not on field at least in training even at his advanced age. He would put grit into the team and let everyone know exactly what it means to pull on that red and white striped shirt.

I can understand the effect of so many injuries and even that some players might not be up to standard but if I am reading correctly in between the lines these players are not coming off the pitch having given everything.  There’s nothing you can do if they not prepared to run and you fans know who is trying or not.

Yes it looks like we are going to be in a long relegation fight and I can understand the fans being disappointed after last season’s showing but that’s football – it turns so quickly.

We have just got to get behind our team, yes that’s what supporting a club means and I know so well how much you fans have suffered over so many years but I can tell you after what I experienced as a young teenager coming in to the side THEY NEED YOU FANS more than ever. We were nearly bottom of the fourth division but the supporters got behind us home and away. They were fantastic and we need that spirit again.

Larry Signy agreed that more independent representation was needed in the Boardroom:

Any form of dictatorship is a bad thing – so your fourth suggestion – “a couple of independent non-executive directors” – hits the nail firmly on the top of the bonce. It is, I would suggest, essential. I for one don’t want a backroom that is in my opinion full of yes-men and I include the two Bees United board men, who are outvoted in any case.

David M felt that it was simply a case of too much too soon:

Too much change too fast. We needed evolution not revolution. The players brought in on the statistical system needed time in the development squad building up their fitness and stature whilst getting well acquainted with our system of play. Meanwhile players already proven in this league should have been brought in to replace those sold on. Players that would slot in to the role they were replacing. And yes we need someone with some football league experience having some kind of say, someone who knows how to go about things in this league because at all levels we lack experience and the one thing that will get us out of this mess is someone who’s dealt with it before and knows exactly how to go about repairing the team.

Rebel Bee used an extremely pejorative term to describe what is going on – one that I do not concur or agree with:

The most positive thing I can find after 10 games is that we are fifth from bottom after an awful start. This suggests that the division isn’t as strong as last time and that there are plenty of other candidates for the drop. If we could find a way to finish the season in our current league position I’d bite your hand off for it right now.

Our problems are not simply coaching related, this team isn’t nearly strong or balanced enough at present. The vanity project is flawed and there is a startling lack of football experience in the club to put it right.

I would love to be proved wrong but I fear the worst, and I don’t want to describe how bad that looks.

Ben picked up on this point:

There is nothing wrong with vanity as it covers many things such as arrogance, pride, self regard, traits that most successful people possess. So I find that a cheap dig at Matthew Benham’s initiative.

However there are some some very good thoughts on here regarding the situation even if there are not many solutions that excite me. We look like the same team that finished last season at Middlesbrough but with only ten games under the belt rather than the fifty that team had endured.

I have worked out that all was not well with Marinus at the training ground but I can’t understand why that didn’t come to light in preseason training in Portugal some three months ago. I liked Marinus and thought that he would eventually have turned things round as he seemed like a good coach and proper football man. Lee Carsley hardly excites at the moment and his post match interview on Saturday was unrecognisable from the comments of fans who were at the game.

Rasmus gave a good interview in the week and seemed very laid back and assuring about Carsley’s position and admitted they got it wrong with Marinus but if we lose the next four games which is very possible, how long will he be given before he has to repeat these words? Why didn’t they just say Carsley was overseeing the first team for an indefinite time and save any more embarrassment. I would go for Karl Robinson, sort out who wants in and who wants out on the playing side and that goes for Dean, Judge, Tarks and anyone who is sulking on the pitch. I agree that this is a poor league this season and the hope is that there are a few clubs worse than us.

Rebel Bee came back as follows:

I think that analytics have some value and support Matthew Benham for looking at ways to make us more competitive. The concept has value I’m sure, but the forced pace of change culminating in Mark Warburton’s departure, and the subsequent outcomes from the decisions taken, in a results based business, totally justify questions and balanced criticism.

I would have preferred Warburton’s time at the club to have run its course, he wasn’t at all against analytics and was the perfect man to take Benham’s ideas forward. Warburton may well have left us ultimately, and then Matthew Benham could have pushed on further. So if the concept has value then I have to question its implementation, the way it has been communicated to the fans, and most of all the personnel entrusted to make it work.

So in summary I don’t disagree with the project in its entirety, what I disagree with is getting beaten every week by ordinary teams, and throwing away a brilliant platform that Matthew Benham and Mark Warburton built together. The damage seems self inflicted to me.

You defined vanity as “arrogance, pride, self regard” and I’d include all of those words in my description of this as a “vanity project”.

beesyellow22 summed it all up extremely well:

A fantastic response from Rebel Bee.

You have put it all so eloquently that I really have very little to add except for a big round of applause for what you said and the way you said it.

Unfortunately this is now the way things seem to be at Brentford. Matthew Benham has done so much for our club, that to be seen to criticise him in any way attracts criticism itself.

The forced pace of change has been horrendous and we are now seeing the evidence of that on the pitch, the table does not lie, we really have only won two games out of ten. Also, I agree that the people brought in have, so far, not exactly covered themselves in glory.

I like Ankersen and Giles as people. In interviews and at the fans’ forum they came across very well. But again, the proof of the pudding is where we sit in the table, the lack of any clean sheets and the way in which we have played.

Yes, we have injuries, but we also have the likes of Djuricin, Vibe, Kerschbaumer and Gogia playing. Players all brought in by our new Co-Directors of Football who have patently not yet performed to the required standard.

Like Rebel Bee I too do not disagree with the project and I applaud our owner for having the vision to seek success in a brave new way. But when you have your most successful season for eighty years and then do not do everything in your power to retain the person largely responsible, then that, in my opinion, is pure folly.

To call it a vanity project might be a little harsh on Matthew Benham. However, the fact is, he did allow Warburton to leave and was seemingly implacable in his belief that the Moneyball approach was worth the sacrifice.

We all hope the international break does us good, helps the players bond with the new Head Coach, hone things on the training pitch and ultimately bring a good win over Rotherham, which we can then build on. However, until we see a definitive turnaround on the pitch, including a bit of desire from the players, coupled with something resembling a game plan, then people will continue to question the actions of the owner and I believe they have every right to do so.

Interesting comments from everybody, some of which I feel are more balanced than others, but football is certainly a game that stirs the emotions!

It will be fascinating to see what happens over the next week as the Bees take the opportunity to recharge their batteries, concentrate on upping their fitness levels and working on team shape and will hopefully come out reinvigorated and refreshed for the tough challenges that lie ahead.

Last night saw perhaps the first chink of light at the end of the tunnel with the Bees winning yet again against the Old Enemy Queens Park Rangers in the Under-21 Premier League Cup. What’s more Lewis Macleod started the match, played for an hour, set up the opening goal and then scored the winner with a delicately flicked header from a delicious cross from Sam Saunders, who was also making his comeback from injury.

It is early days, of course, but Lewis looked full of energy and was one of the best players on the field. What a boost it will be to see him recover full fitness and start to make the impact that was so eagerly anticipated when he arrived at the club nine long months ago.

A View From A Blazing Meteor – 23/9/15

I wrote an article the other day inspired by Sergi Canos’s blistering home debut, about other young players who started off like a house on fire at Griffin Park and then fizzled out for a variety of reasons and never really made their mark.

One of the players I mentioned was 70s striker Richard Poole who has strong views on the subject:

Well Greville your list could go on and on. At the time when I was promoted into the First team I was playing for Brentford FC in the South East Counties Under 18 League against the likes of Chelsea, QPR and Fulham and we always tried our utmost to ensure that those  bigger teams knew that they had been in a game when they came up against the Bees!

As you know I came into the side as a sixteen year old apprentice in February 1974 and just a week later my friend Kevin Harding followed me into the first team. We were coming straight from junior football into a team that had just been relegated to the bottom division the year before and we were fighting a desperate battle to avoid the need to seek re-election. You must remember at that time in the Fourth Division there was no automatic relegation but the bottom club had to be re-elected by its peers and although I do not know the political ins and outs and how the system worked, I still wonder to this day what would had happened to us if we had needed to seek re-election to the Football League. How would our arch enemies QPR and Fulham have voted? Would they have done their best to see us kicked out of the League?

We could not take the chance of that happening so we just did our best to ensure that we finished out of the danger zone. So here we were like new born babies coming into a team that still boasted inspirational veterans like Peter Gelson and Jackie Graham. Kevin and I trained each day with our boyhood idols and we were welcomed with open arms and treated so well along with Roy Cotton, another promising player from the Under 18 team.

Having avoided the threat of re-election we all started the new season with fresh hope and enthusiasm but alas, things did not work out and John Docherty replaced Mike Everitt as manager midway through the season. So here I was with a new manager who had been my team mate when I made my first team debut and who now would sign me as a professional footballer on my eighteenth birthday.

Although I have made it clear previously that I seemed to fall out with him, it was only later on in my life that I realised certain things about that difficult time that I am still unable to put into words even to this day over forty years on.

Yes I did play a few games for him generally in midweek at the likes of places like Tranmere and Northampton and I always tried my best but I feel even now that I was not given a proper or decent chance.

The tipping point came in April 1975 after I came on as a substitute and helped the team to a good result at Lincoln. I was delighted to be named in the team the following week against Southport but was surprised to see that both Roger Cross and Micky French were in the team too. I must confess that I thought that having three centre forwards in the starting line up was bizarre in the extreme.

I did not see much of the ball in the first half and at half time I was replaced by Alan Nelmes – a striker replaced at home by a defender in a match that was still goalless. What did that say about my prospects at the club? No wonder I left soon afterwards! But I still treasure to this day the fact that I played in the red and white stripes of my beloved Brentford and no one can take that away from me.

Anyway before that fiasco, about half way through that season I came to a very difficult decision and asked to be put on the transfer list or even loaned to a non-league side as I just wanted to play first team football somewhere!

We had a reserve team that year and I always gave my best when I played for them but I simply needed to stretch myself and progress. Maybe I was not good enough but I thought I could do somebody a service if they gave me a chance!

Anyway John Docherty refused to let me go and said he needed me. And yet he barely played me and I was frozen out of the reckoning.

Nothing had changed at the end of the season and I was given a free transfer. We played an end of season game against Hounslow and several clubs approached me directly and said that they would come and watch me play as they knew I would be a free agent. This was an opportunity for me to put myself in the shop window and earn myself a decent move.

Little did I know what was in store for me! John Docherty announced the team just before the match and amazingly I was the only one of all the players who had been released not to be given a game. I wasn’t even put on the bench.

I could not believe it and when I spoke to the manager afterwards and told him that there had been clubs there to watch me play all he said was “You should have told me beforehand.”

To this day I do not know if he was scared that I might go to another club and do well and make him look bad, or if he thought I was not good enough to play in the Football League. Eventually I joined Watford although I was also asked to sign for SC Toulon, one of the top teams in France so I must have had something about me!

I still look back at the Brentford Junior team I played in and in my opinion it contained so much ability in the year I made my first team debut but none were retained apart from me and I can tell you I was by no means the best player in that talented side.

When John Docherty arrived we were swamped by a lot of fairly decent young players who he knew from his previous club, QPR, but not many of them lasted long or made any impact at Brentford.

It is a shame that I fell out with the manager and at the time I was a starry eyed kid who was living the dream but I think that today’s young players are not as naive as I was but despite everything I regret nothing and would not change a moment of those incredible five years I spent at Brentford as both an apprentice and as a professional footballer.

When John Docherty became manager I think he had the choice of running either a Youth or a Reserve side and even though I came straight into the First Team from the Juniors i think that not having an Under 18 team was a big mistake. Most of the time we had first team players coming back from injury, some of whom even refused to play in Reserve games.

We were in the Midweek League and going to places like Peterborough or Southend I think was not too enticing a prospect for some First Team players! We also had lots of trialists as well so you never knew who was playing with you from week to week whereas we knew each other in the Youth Team and could develop partnerships on the pitch.

I really think that the club wasted a massive opportunity as there were several talented youngsters who were not really given a chance to impress. Brentford and the management did not know how to bring these players into  the First Team.

John Docherty preferred skilful ball playing players but in the Fourth Division you needed more than that. Just look at some of the players he brought in. Some of the youngsters like Danis Salman did work out but not too many others did.

In my first year as a apprentice with Frank Blunstone in charge the Youth Team felt part of something great in the making and this even continued under Mike Everitt but I think when John Docherty took charge, and do not forget he inherited quite a few players he had played with and others who were brought in by Mike Everitt too, I really think that things did not go as well as they should have done.

Trenchant views and plenty of food for thought from Richard Poole who felt totally frustrated and stifled as he was forced to leave the club he loved and where he still thought he could have made the grade had he been given a decent chance to establish himself.

I will try and finish the article covering lots of other blazing meteors who promised so much over the years at Brentford but who never fulfilled their potential in the next few days.

I will end on a lighter note.

I was reading a programme from January 1987 today and my eyes were drawn to a letter from a certain Mr. R. P. Marsh from Ealing who ccould barely contain his excitement:

It made a nice change to hear that we had secured the services of David Geddis on a month’s loan with a view to a permanent transfer. I have long been an admirer of Geddis and the prospect of him playing up front with Robbie Cooke is the sort of Christmas present I could really enjoy.

Here’s hoping that Geddis and Cooke can give the new Brook Road stand the send off it deserves against Middlesbrough.

Oh dear!!

Geddis was a total disaster – a damp squib rather than a blazing meteor who missed at least three sitters in that aforementioned Middlesbrough game, was dragged off at the interval and his services were swiftly dispensed with – if not swiftly enough for most Brentford supporters!

What It Is Like To Be Booed – A Player’s View – 16/7/15

I wrote a couple of articles last week which, slightly tongue-in-cheek recalled some of our former players who we loved to hate – or maybe more accurately – hated to love. In response I received many suggestions of a whole raft of other players, many thankfully long-forgotten, who had also earned the displeasure of my fellow Brentford supporters and got it in the neck.

One key question that bugged me and remained unanswered was how does it feel as a footballer to be booed, barracked and abused from the terraces, particularly by your own so-called supporters? Does it inspire you to greater heights in order to try and stuff the critical words back down the throats from whence they came, or do players retreat into their shell and play less expansively, more cautiously and try to eliminate risk from their game determined not to make another mistake that could bring about even more criticism?

I decided to ask former Bee Richard Poole for his view on this contentious subject, as I thought that his opinion would be particularly apposite given that he played for the club during the early to mid 70s, an era where Brentford were not blessed with a plethora of talent and with budgets stretched, generally had to make do with whatever combination of players they could scrape together. Performances were inconsistent to say the least and veered from one extreme to another, and the fans were not slow to express their wrath and disapproval at some of the substandard fare that they were forced to endure.

Here is what Richard had to say:

I was really interested in your comments about Stan Webb as I watched him particularly closely during his spell at Griffin Park given that we both played in the same position. I really felt sorry for him as he was onto a absolute hiding to nothing from the moment he signed for us. His move turned out to be a poisoned chalice as he had the near impossible task of replacing a living legend in John O’Mara. The fans were furious at the lack of ambition shown by the club by selling him just after we had won promotion and saw poor Stan simply as a cheap replacement and they took their frustration out on him. I thought that he was a good influence around the club and he was really not a bad player at all. He had scored goals regularly in the Second Division at both his previous clubs and given half a chance I am sure that he could have done the same for the Bees.

I remember that he would stay behind with us apprentices for extra training in the afternoon and give us some advice, but maybe he was too nice a person which can be a bad failing for a footballer, whatever division you play in. He was strong and could certainly mix it but he was affected by the constant barrage of criticism and his performances suffered and he lost confidence. Given more time and a more sympathetic response from the Brentford supporters I am sure that he could have done much better at the club and I am sure that he must have been delighted and seen it as suitable revenge when he scored a crucial goal against us after he had moved on to Darlington.

I was also subjected to some very harsh comments from Brentford supporters when I came back to play in a reserve game for Watford a couple of months after I had left Brentford. My parents were watching the game in the stands and were really upset by all the abuse I received. It was so bad that some of my new team mates asked me what was going on.  The supporters who were giving me such a hard time lived really close to my family and that was very upsetting. There was certainly no love lost between Brentford and Watford supporters, but I needed a job, Brentford had released me which almost broke my heart, and Watford were now the team putting the bread and butter on my table and enabling me to support my young wife.

I have far happier memories of turning out for the Bees and being roared on by our loyal fans, something that always inspired me! I stayed a year too long at my beloved Brentford and in my last season I only seemed to be selected at difficult places like Tranmere Rovers and Northampton Town when we had players out injured or sick and we had very little chance of winning.

You do hear all the comments from the crowd, good and bad, particularly when there are not too many supporters in the ground and it certainly has an effect on your game. When I first came into the side as a youngster my concentration was totally on the game to such an extent that I really only heard the crowd noise when there was a lull in play just before a corner or free kick. I do remember an important home game against Colchester United at Easter on a Tuesday evening with Griffin Park full to the brim with almost seven and a half thousand fans packed inside. I was waiting for a corner kick to be played into the penalty area and I heard a voice behind the goal shouting “Come on Richard!” This really got through to me, inspired me, and made me feel ten feet tall. I looked straight at him and saw that it was an old school friend of mine and it seemed just like yesterday when we were in class – or detention together!

As for being booed by away fans, that simply meant that I must be doing my job properly and getting something right!  I clearly remember a game at Lincoln in April 1975 when I came on at halftime to replace fellow striker, Micky French (so much class but there was something missing) to partner Roger Cross up front. I remember we grabbed an unexpected draw against one of the division’s top teams with Roger scoring the equaliser. Well afterwards in the bar their centre half, the massive Sam Ellis came up to me and told me that I had always been a handful against them and even apologised for marking me so hard! He said all this right in front of my manager at the time, John Docherty, and given what a tough competitor Sam Ellis was, that made me really proud.

I suppose that’s why the following Tuesday Mr. Docherty put me straight in the side up front with both Micky and Roger in an end of season game against Southport. But he took me off at halftime and replaced with with a defender in Alan Nelmes! That really hurt and upset me and it was my last official game for the Bees. I suppose it was easier to take off an eighteen year old in his first year as a professional rather than a more established player who might have given the manager a hard time about his decision.

Going back to far happier times, I do so remember scoring that goal of mine against Bradford City at home. I saw everone standing up and applauding and for me it was like there were thousands and thousands of fans cheering me on and supporting me, and even now, over forty years later, writing this sentence I am getting goose pimples just thinking about that magic and unforgettable moment.

I got almost as much pleasure making goals for others which I think I was quite good at but it’s true, when you are a local boy and you are cheered on it gives you such a boost. I can only remember that horrible reserve match for Watford against Brentford when I was booed and it really affected my game. I also played in that remarkable match against Brentford for Watford at Easter at home when somehow (thanks to Paul Priddy)  we lost and also missed those two penalty kicks. I wasn’t booed that day, maybe because Brentford won!

Tony Craig – An Appreciation – 5/7/15

There was a universal reaction amongst all Brentford supporters to the news that broke yesterday that captain and inspiration Tony Craig had left the club and returned for yet another spell – his fourth including an earlier loan, to Millwall where he will become team captain. It was simply one of thanks and gratitude to TC for the three years of exceptional service he gave us, as well as pleasure and delight that he will now be given the opportunity to play every week, a privilege that would surely have been denied him if he had remained at Griffin Park.

Tony made his reputation at Millwall as a tough and committed central defender or left back and he led his team to promotion to the Championship. His arrival at Griffin Park in the summer of 2012 for a fee reputed to be around one hundred and fifty thousand pounds was seen as a real coup for the club and Uwe Rösler soon recognised his leadership ability and named him as captain. Tony played a prominent part in our success over the past three years. He was a real and visible presence on the field – you knew that he was in charge and he set a wonderful example as he never knew when he was beaten.

I will always remember him in the prematch huddle, with jaw set, eyes blazing and with his head bobbing up and down like a metronome as he exhorted his team mates to greater efforts and forcefully reminded them of their personal responsibilities. He made it perfectly clear who was in charge on the pitch and what winning the match meant to the club. Woe betide anyone caught shirking or falling short in his task.

Once the whistle went he was a human dynamo and set a massive personal example. He never gave up and that long left leg would sneak out to save the day when all otherwise looked lost. Not the tallest of defenders, he timed his leaps well and won more than his fair share of aerial challenges. Most importantly, he read the game brilliantly and could anticipate potential danger and snuff it out before any serious damage occurred. He was indestructible and was rarely injured and shrugged off fearsome assaults that left him covered in blood or cinder rash and would have resulted in lesser men leaving the field. He was our bionic man and a total inspiration.

No wonder that his three seasons saw the club rise to almost unprecedented heights of achievement with a promotion and two appearances in the playoffs to add to his already impressive CV. This was no accident and TC played a massive part in ensuring our promotion to the Championship and his central defensive partnership with either Harlee Dean and James Tarkowski was mean and effective.

Tony had played previously in the Championship with Millwall and initially he made a seamless transition to the higher level. He also embraced the club’s new found patient and short passing approach to the game and demonstrated calmness and a previously unsuspected and unseen skill on the ball. His left-footedness provided a much needed balance to the back four and he changed the direction of our attack by pinging any number of accurate long range passes to an appreciative and generally unmarked Jota or Odubajo on the right wing.

Tony started last season well and was consistent and competent and fully earned his contract extension. He made an inspirational return to his old stamping ground where he received a rapturous welcome from the otherwise subdued Millwall fans and he stood up bravely and brilliantly to Millwall’s aerial bombardment and helped steady the ship and cement our victory after we had conceded two quick goals.

However as the season progressed a few chinks began to appear in Tony’s armour as he came up against a seemingly never-ending series of canny, strong and experienced strikers. He struggled and came out second best in his personal battles against exceptionally talented players like Danny Graham, Grant Holt, Rudy Gestede and Daryl Murphy, looked vulnerable to balls played over the top which forced him to turn and Mark Warburton began to rotate his three central defenders as he sought to establish his best pairing. Tony finally lost his place and fittingly made his last appearance for the club in a thrilling victory over eventual Champions, AFC Bournemouth before being forced to settle for a cheerleader’s role on the bench.

This was no place for such a legend and with two new central defenders already having arrived at the club in the last couple of weeks, it was obviously best for all concerned that he was allowed to move on and it remains to be seen whether similar experienced players like Alan McCormack, Sam Saunders and Jonathan Douglas, like Craig, mainstays of the promotion team, decide to remain at the club and fight for the opportunity to play against increasingly strong competition, or also recognise that their time has time and that our levels of success and progress have overtaken them.

Tony’s disciplinary record was also good although he saw red three times during his spell at the club. An assistant referee bizarrely concluded that he had struck Dave Kitson at a crucial stage in  that momentous match at Sheffield United, a decision endorsed by our old friend Keith Stroud. Despite video evidence that seemed to exonerate him, Craig received a devastating three match ban and missed the last two league matches as well as the first playoff game against Swindon. Had he been on the pitch I wonder whether we might have got over the line without recourse to the dreaded playoffs and I am certain that he would have had something to say about Marcello Trotta’s fateful decision to take that penalty kick against Doncaster Rovers!

He took one for the team with a last man red card card against Carlisle and then fell foul of Mad Madley when he got on the wrong side of Clayton Donaldson and compounded his error by clutching at his former colleague, conceding a penalty kick and earning an early bath.

The most amazing statistic about Tony is that he never scored – and barely looked like doing so in his three seasons at the club. He came the closest when his memorable rasping long-range effort was brilliantly saved by the Peterborough keeper and his header from a corner against Leyton Orient was blocked on the line. He was also clumsily pulled down by Adam Barrett, earning us a spot kick against Gillingham, otherwise his efforts were invariably high, wide and not very handsome.

He will best be remembered for his heroic defending against Oldham Athletic in Mark Warburton’s first match as manager when a swift breakaway left him alone facing five opponents as they bore down on the home goal, but Tony was calmness personified and saved the day against seemingly insurmountable odds.

Then there was his wide-eyed celebration in front of a jubilant Ealing Road terrace after scoring a perfectly taken and utterly crucial penalty kick thrashed high into the roof of the net in the Swindon playoff second leg shootout, a feat he repeated in a less frenetic atmosphere last season at Dagenham & Redbridge!

We forgave him for his lack of prowess and threat in front of the opposition goal, we even overlooked the three own goals he scored in his first season at the club, one of them a perfectly placed unstoppable header from a corner which arched beyond the reach of the helpless Simon Moore and gifted Hartlepool an unlikely last minute equaliser at Griffin Park.

Tony Craig epitomises all that is good about professional football. He gave us everything throughout his three years at the club and inspired his team mates to greater heights of achievement. He has returned to his first love and I suspect that he will lead Millwall to promotion – and I will celebrate and raise a glass to him if he does so.

Tony Craig will live long in our memory and I thank him and wish him nothing but joy and success in the future.

Final Cover 020615Ahead 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

Having A Break – 5/6/15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Many thanks.

Greville Waterman