Martin Lange – RIP – 14/10/15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RIP.

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Stan Is Still The Man – 22/6/15

SBLike everybody else I was shocked and distressed to hear the sad news over the weekend that Stan Bowles has unfortunately developed a form of Alzheimer’s disease. There was a picture of Stan on his Facebook site celebrating Fathers’ Day and thankfully he looked to be in good spirits. It was good to see him with a smile on his face as he gave such pleasure to untold millions of football fans with his skill, joie de vivre and overall approach to life.

The term genius is thrown around with gay abandon and often applied to merely the very good rather than the rare one-offs and special ones, but nobody could ever quibble or complain at Stan being so described. He had a wonderful career that spanned the best part of twenty years and he played nearly six hundred games, testimony to the fact that he was not a luxury player who picked his games but he loved to play and was a tough competitor.

Immaturity, massive competition for places and some dodgy off-field connections cost Stan the opportunity of early stardom at Manchester City but he rehabilitated himself in the nether regions of the Football League at Crewe and Carlisle and whilst other teams dithered, Gordon Jago took the gamble and signed him for Queens Park Rangers  in September 1972 for what turned out to be a bargain fee of £110,000. Rodney Marsh had long been the idol of all QPR fans who had bemoaned his transfer, ironically to Manchester City, of all places, but Stan proved to be the perfect replacement and became an instant hero at Loftus Road and the hallowed number ten shirt soon had a worthy new owner.

Stan stayed seven years at QPR and was in his pomp during that period, but despite his ability and consistency and excellent goalscoring record he failed to convince successive England managers of his temperament and played only five times for his country – a terrible waste of talent and an indictment of the cautious and puritanical establishment running the game at the time who could not cope with free spirits like Stan. He joined fellow mavericks such as Frank Worthington, Alan Hudson, Charlie George, Peter Osgood and Tony Currie who were treated with suspicion and never fulfilled their undoubted ability at international level.

Stan was not the first footballer to fall out with the mercurial Tommy Docherty and was sold to Nottingham Forest – out of the frying pan, into the fire, where he also fell foul of Brian Clough, ruling himself out of playing in the 1980 European Cup Final. His career looked like it was drifting towards its conclusion when his next move to Leyton Orient left him treading water but he was revitalised and enjoyed one last hurrah when Fred Callaghan and Martin Lange persuaded him to join Brentford in October 1981 for what proved to be a giveaway £25,000 fee.

It was an inspirational move for the club as Stan re-found his enthusiasm for the game and revitalised players and supporters alike with his sparking presence and twinkling feet. Despite his advancing years, he provided marvellous value for money and played nearly one hundred games for the Bees, scoring seventeen times in all and assisting on countless others. He has also gone down in Brentford legend by forming the final leg in what became perhaps our finest midfield trio since the Second World War.

Terry Hurlock was passionate and aggressive and took no prisoners, Chris Kamara was a marvellous box-to-box runner who also provided goals and heading ability and Stan was just Stan. He didn’t do a lot of running, confining himself to the left side of midfield, but he didn’t really need to as the other players did it for him. He simply conserved his energy and sprayed the ball around and cut helpless opposition defences wide open with his rapier-like passes.

The fans adored him and a season’s best attendance of nearly seven thousand crammed in to see him make his debut at home to Burnley. Three days later he pulled all the strings as the Bees destroyed Swindon with a convincing win at The County Ground and he maintained his consistency for the next eighteen months. He also scored regularly, six times in 1981/82 and he managed a remarkable eleven goals the following season when he played over fifty times and laid on goals aplenty for the rampaging forward line of Tony Mahoney, Francis Joseph and Gary Roberts although sometimes he was too clever for them and they could not read his intentions.

Stan could seemingly do anything on the pitch, he was the complete master of the football and his left foot was like a wand. He scored eleven out of twelve times from the penalty spot, languidly strolling up and sending the goalkeeper and the crowd behind the goal one way before stroking the ball effortlessly into the other corner of the net. I still cannot believe that he actually missed one kick and remain sceptical, as no photograph seems to exist of that rare happening one Friday night at Wrexham. Would that he could provide some expert tuition in the long lost art of penalty taking to the hapless Brentford players of today who seem to find the task of scoring consistently from the spot totally beyond them.

Not content with that, Stan also produced his party piece of scoring direct from a corner kick against Swindon and he was naturally deadly from long-range free kicks as Wimbledon’s Dave Beasant could attest. Stan was a star and you simply could not take your eyes off him, but he also mucked in and was just one of the lads and was universally popular with everyone at the club. There were no airs and graces, he always played to win and gave everything that he had rather than merely going through the motions and playing only when the mood took him.

Stan provided full value and lit up Griffin Park with his wonderful ability and ever-present smile and the fact that he had been a hero at our massive rivals QPR was soon forgiven and forgotten as he so obviously gave everything to the cause throughout his spell at Brentford. He is fondly remembered by everyone associated with the club and we all salute him and send him and his family our best wishes today.

Final Cover 020615

Ahead Of The Game

For anyone interested in reading my take on everything that happened both on and off the pitch last season, as well as the odd diversion into nostalgia, nonsense, 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was certainly his way or the byway!

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

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

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

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

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

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

An unbeatable combination.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lange had some misgivings over his decision:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One Out Of Three IS Bad – 7/8/14

penWho can tell me what the following figures refer to?

Sorry there are no prizes on offer though!

  1. 33%
  2. 69%
  3. 54%
  4. 57%

No ideas?

OK, I will put you all out of your misery.

These figures represent the percentage of penalty kicks that we have actually managed to score over the past four seasons.

Woeful aren’t they?

To put a bit of flesh on the bones:

In 2010/11 we managed to score a princely three out of the nine penalties we were awarded.

I really cannot bring myself to say anything more about that pathetic record.

The following season we scored eight of our first nine, and even when Gary Alexander missed, Niall McGinn managed to score from the rebound away at Colchester.

trottaThen it all went pear shaped and we missed two of the next four kicks including the fiasco at Stevenage when we threw away our last chance to reach the Playoffs when Donaldson and Saunders both hit the woodwork rather than the back of the net.

All in all, though, nine out of thirteen (plus McGinn’s effort) represented an adequate, if not startling success rate.

The last two seasons have been appalling.

We managed to only score seven out of thirteen in 2012/13, culminating in Marcello Trotta’s epic failure in the promotion decider against Doncaster.

Last season we actually improved, and scored eight out of fourteen penalty kicks, a figure that was indelibly tarnished once Alan Judge took over the job late in the season and missed three out of his four efforts.

Confusingly enough what also has to be taken into consideration is our perfect record of six out of six successes in the promotion playoffs and shootout in 2013 – where we excelled in high pressure situations.

Go figure!

There really is no rational explanation.

JudgeWhat also is interesting is just how many penalty kicks we have been awarded since Uwe Rosler and Mark Warburton have taken charge at the club.

Forty penalty kicks coming our way in the past three seasons just highlights how attacking we are and the success we have in getting quick players to run at the opposition in their penalty area.

Some of the individual penalty records of our players also merit comment.

Kevin O’Connor has scored nineteen times in twenty-four attempts and has taken more penalties than any other Brentford player since 1970.

Pretty decent but still only a 79% success rate.

Stephen Hunt was very reliable and but for a great save from Kuipers would have notched an almost unprecedented hat trick of penalties against Brighton and in total scored twelve out of fifteen.

Steve Phillips started well but incredibly missed his last four kicks yet somehow managed to keep hold of the job until he left the club.

Paul Evans too only missed once and memorably scored an arrogant dinked “Panenka” kick against Oldham back in 2001.

Stan Bowles had the most casual approach, swaggering up to the spot, before dummying the keeper as well as the crowd behind the goal with nonchalant ease and rolling the ball into the corner.

I never worried when Stan took the kicks and what amazes me is that he actually missed one of his twelve kicks.

forshawClass, total class.

Back in the 70s Terry Johnson was a perfect seven out of seven and Roger Cross never missed either.

Bobby Ross, my first Brentford hero won us promotion in 1972 with a perfect penalty kick against Exeter.

I remember Bill Dodgin going ballistic on the touchline when Andy McCulloch was invited by his team mates to notch his hat trick with a late penalty kick against Tranmere.

Hubris triumphed as the keeper smothered his weak effort.

I remember Peter Gelson blasting a vital last minute spot kick against Aldershot into Brook Road and Steve Butler almost hitting the corner flag against Chesterfield.

Horrid, horrid memories!

How about Andy Sinton who was entrusted with a last minute penalty kick on his Brentford debut against Bury and showed nerves of steel by slotting in the winning goal?

In more recent times Adam Forshaw scored five out of six last season by varying his approach yet he always looked like missing his second attempt at Peterborough where it was patently obvious to all observers that he had no plan for how to take a second kick in the same game.

Clayton Donaldson started with a successful kick at Preston before his crucial miss at Stevenage.

He also totally failed to hit the target with his last two gruesome efforts at Scunthorpe and Crawley where his pathetic first minute attempt that skewed wide of Paul Jones’s post earned me an immediate red card from our living room as my barrage of choice epithets was not well received by my wife or, indeed, the dog.

One of them growled menacingly at me, and – no – it wasn’t the dog.

Some missed penalties have a knock-on effect on the player’s career.

Who can say how Will Grigg’s season would have gone if he had managed to mark his home debut with a hat trick against Sheffield United – maybe he would have scored twenty goals and would now be looking forward to starting a new season in the Championship at Griffin Park instead of slumming it at the Moo Camp?

What about Paul Hayes?

Would he have gained some much needed confidence had he scored that penalty he missed against Yeovil soon after he came on as a substitute on his debut?

Maybe he too would have gone on to justify Uwe Rosler’s faith in him?

griggThe margin between success and failure in football is so narrow.

In these cases no wider than the length of a goalkeeper’s arm.

Sam Saunders too, for all his dead ball prowess, obviously finds it easier to score from twenty-five yards out rather than twelve as his meagre 40% penalty kick success rate indicates.

His costly miss at Sheffield United in 2013 also seems to have slipped under the radar and escaped censure given the euphoria after our last minute equaliser.

I really do not know whether the best approach is the side foot, as exemplified by Bowles, or the Martin Grainger thunderbolt.

Both were pretty much equally successful.

As for why our recent record is so poor, heaven only knows as players like Trotta, Saunders, Forrester and Judge are all excellent strikers of a ball – sorry Clayton, but anyone on the Ealing Road terrace who was forced to spend much of the prematch shooting practice ducking Clayton’s misdirected slices as they screamed into the crowd would agree that he wasn’t the cleanest striker of  a football.

Maybe there is such a feeling of confidence that we believe that we are bound to score goals anyway and needn’t pay too much attention to penalty kicks?

Perhaps with forty such awards in the past three seasons there is a subconscious feeling that if we miss one there is bound to be another one coming our way fairly shortly?

Your guess is as good as mine.

I don’t want to hex the current Adam Forshaw saga but it would appear likely that we will be looking for a new penalty taker next season.

Allan McCormack and Andre Gray have both scored from the spot, as, more memorably, did Harlee Dean and Tony Craig in the Swindon Shootout.

Kevin O’Connor, I fear, is unlikely to figure enough in the first team to merit consideration.

Jonathan Douglas followed Leo Roget’s example by hitting his effort at Barnet into the stratosphere so is unlikely to figure high on Mark Warburton’s list.

My money is currently on Alex Pritchard unless we bring in a new striker who qualifies.

I predict that the number of penalty kicks we receive next season with be less than half that of last year, but given that I am sure that every goal will count next season, we will score a far higher proportion of them.

Let’s hope that this is not a jinx!

In passing many, many thanks to my friend and fellow Bees author, Mark Croxford for providing all the facts that I have mangled in this article!

The Seventies Revisited – 1/8/14

team-picture-1977-78-large1


As the years go by your memory seems to fade and incidents seem to merge into each other or get lost completely into the mists of time.

Whilst faces, appointments and names are forgotten and my glasses and mobile phone remain permanently lost, there is still one decade that remains sharply in focus to me – namely the Seventies.

Why should that be when so many other years have gone totally blank?

Maybe because it was my formative years, the time of my teens, “O” and “A” levels, learning to drive, going to University (or in my case, three of them!), leaving home, my first job – even my first girlfriends, and the Seventies have forged some indelible memories into my psyche that I can still remember as if they occurred yesterday.

It was the era of Progressive Rock – all those bands with ridiculous, pretentious names like Focus, Hatfield and the North, Caravan and Gong that you are now forced, on pain of death, to listen to alone in the car with the windows wound tightly shut.

It was the time of Abba, M*A*S*H, Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, the first colour televisions, decimal currency, the Three Day Week, flared trousers, loon pants, sideburns, the baking hot Summer of 1976, the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, Punk Music, The Winter of Discontent and the election of Margaret Thatcher – and you can all add your own favourites.

Bringing matters back to football, who can forget Brazil and The Beautiful Game in the 1970 World Cup?

The Gordon Banks save from Pele, Mavericks such as Peter Osgood, Stan Bowles, Tony Currie, Alan Hudson and Frank Worthington, the Chelsea versus Leeds FA Cup Final replay kicking match at Old Trafford, and for me, most evocative of all: Barry Davies’s iconic commentary:

“Lee…. interesting….very interesting. Look at his face, just look at his face”

as Francis Lee’s fulminating twenty-yarder screamed into the roof of the Manchester City net.

brentford-photo-graham1As for Brentford, the Seventies saw two promotions, a relegation, and an FA Cup run to the Fifth Round – a bit tame perhaps for a normal Brentford decade given the excitement and non-stop action of subsequent years!

I can still vividly picture great talents such as Roger Cross, John O’Mara, Pat Kruse and Andy McCulloch, the moody genius of Steve Phillips, the loyalty of characters such as Peter Gelson, Paul Bence, Bobby Ross, Alan Hawley, Gordon Phillips and Alan Nelmes and the steely determination, skill and commitment of the man who, for me, best symbolised what being a Brentford player is all about – the immortal Jackie Graham.

brentford-photo-phillips1As for individual moments that encapsulated the decade, what better than Bobby Ross’s coolness personified penalty against Exeter that clinched promotion in 1972?

Any goal by John O’Mara, Roger Cross, Gordon Sweetzer, Andy McCulloch or Steve Phillips, beating Cardiff in the mud bath at Ninian Park, Alex Dawson’s last gasp winner against Gillingham in the FA Cup, Paul Priddy’s Superman impersonation at Vicarage Road, saving those two Watford penalties, poor Stan Webb attempting the impossible by trying to replace the legend that was John O’Mara – a real Dean Holdsworth/Murray Jones scenario.

How about Bob Booker’s legendary hat-trick against Hull, Lee Holmes riding pillion on the motorbike on the way to his wedding after defeating Southend, Bill Glazier literally throwing away the chance of an historic League Cup win at Old Trafford, the exciting smooth-as-silk attacking football of the Bill Dodgin promotion team and winning the first set against Crewe by 6-4?

One other name to conjure with – John Bain – bar Stan Bowles, has there been another midfielder as cultured and skilled at the club since his short stay came to such a premature end?

There was a real sense of togetherness between the players and the supporters with many memorable trips to distant away games at such far-flung and uncharted territories as Workington, Southport and Darlington.

Most poignantly, who can forget the packed Royal Oak, the two 18,000+ crowds in 1971-2, a triumphant promotion season where we attracted crowds of over 10,000 to fifteen Football League games and wonder where they have all disappeared to now?BFC 70s crowd

I still bemoan the lost opportunity, the last one for some considerable time, when lack of vision, ambition and investment saw the club crash straight back into the bottom division in 1973, a calamitous fall which saw us hit the bottom of the entire Football League in the very next season.

Let’s not hark back on sad memories, instead we should concentrate on the things that gave us all so much joy.