Get Him Off – Part Two – 13/7/15

All Brentford supporters of a certain age are already well aware of the details of the Murray Jones fiasco so I will not take up any more of your time by repeating the story of that entire sad and sorry episode that cost us so dear.

Given the subject matter of this article, all I would say at this point is that given how utterly appalling the hapless striker turned out to be, he was treated remarkably gently by the Brentford faithful who were left struggling to come to terms with quite how incompetent the long awaited replacement for departed legend Dean Holdsworth had turned out to be.

I suspect that their silence was caused as much by stunned disbelief at what they were seeing rather than simple good manners. We felt sorry for someone so patently out of their depth.

The same was the case with poor Ashley Bayes who proved to be a mistake waiting to happen whenever called upon in our goal. I’m as guilty as everyone else for giving him a hard time when he committed yet another bungling error, punched a cross into his own net whilst seemingly defying the laws of geometry or dropped the ball at the feet of a waiting opponent.

It was hard to take at the time but I now realise that just as had been the case with Paul McCullough before him, the fault really lay with the managers who exposed someone to potential ridicule who was patently unready to play first team football. Something similar happened years later to Clark Masters as well and we lost a potentially valuable asset far too soon.

Ian Benjamin was yet another non-striking striker with an abysmal goal scoring record. David Webb tried to talk up his ability to hold the ball up and act as a target man but we fans saw straight through this and recognised that we were watching yet another slow, superannuated over the hill journeyman.

Webb appeared to have pulled off a real coup when he persuaded former England Under 21 international Paul Davis to step down to join us. The thirty-three year old midfielder had played over four hundred times for Arsenal and it was expected that he would revitalise our fairly sedate and prosaic style of football. The reality was totally different as Davis found it impossible to adapt to football at the sharp end and could not cope with the culture shock of seeing balls fly over his head rather than being played to his feet.

That being said he gave the impression that he was just going through the motions and never demonstrated any real enthusiasm or relish for the task at hand. It really looked as if he did not want to be at the club and he played a mere five matches for us and eventually departed with the fans’ disapproval ringing in his ears. Wrong player – wrong time.

Winger Dean Martin initially looked a tricky customer but never recovered from a nightmare performance one Boxing Day on an icy pitch against Brighton. The Braemar Road side of the pitch was frozen and tricky in the extreme and Martin couldn’t keep his feet and suffered accordingly. The supporters got on his back and he soon drifted out of the reckoning. A shame and a waste of a good player as he had real ability.

Leon Townley was a rare Eddie May signing from Spurs but the central defender was awkward, slow and cumbersome, and tried to play football in all the wrong areas. I remember with a shudder Townley struggling in vain to cope with the pace and strength of Barry Hayles who showed him no mercy – neither did our fans who called him The Dancing Bear and were not impressed with what they saw.

Goalkeeper Andy Woodman also fell foul of the fans who wanted him to be more positive and dominate his area and thought him to be too tentative and reactive. He played out of his skin in the title clincher at Cambridge but otherwise rarely justified his record fee for a goalkeeper of one hundred thousand pounds.

Ron Noades brought in striker Steve Jones on loan from Bristol City with a view to paying an astronomical four hundred and seventy-five thousand pound fee for somebody patently past his best. The fans were up in arms at his below par performances and thankfully the mooted deal was not concluded and the money was not squandered.

Mark McCammon was yet another misfit who cost a significant fee. Despite looking every inch a footballer he signally failed to deliver. He is best remembered for his cataclysmic miss from a free header at Loftus Road which might have changed our recent history had he scored, as he surely should have done. And yet for all the criticism he faced, he eventually became a sort of anti-hero as fans recognised that he was always giving everything he had and appreciated his efforts even though he was just not up to scratch.

Eddie Hutchinson was another who eventually gained the grudging respect of the fans who were won over by his relentless energy and passion and were able to overlook his lack of technique. Two other hard tackling midfielders, Jamie Fullerton and Ricky Newman, were not so fortunate or well treated as they were considered to be too aggressive by far as well as average on the ball.

Darren Pratley was a different kettle of fish as the elegant midfielder on loan from Fulham became a crowd favourite before burning his boats after an unsavoury post match row with fans after a shambolic defeat at Gillingham.

Homegrown defender Karleigh Osborne took a lot of unfair criticism from impatient supporters who were not prepared to allow him to develop and learn from his mistakes. He eventually won them over but it was an uphill struggle for the talented youngster who understandably moved elsewhere.

Paul Brooker was another who flattered to deceive and throughout his career never did justice to his vast ability. He scored a goal of sheer brilliance after running the length of the pitch at Swindon, but on other days he appeared to be lethargic, disinterested and peripheral to the action. He did not take criticism well either from fans, or indeed, his manager, Terry Butcher, and reacted badly before having his contract cancelled.

That leads onto another point. Fans feel that it’s perfectly acceptable for them to have a pop at players, but woe betide the footballer who responds in kind! Unfair – certainly, but that’s just the way it is.

Peterborough striker Calum Willock was brought in at the last moment to replace the prolific DJ Campbell but never looked the part as our promotion drive petered out at the last hurdle. He never provided any real goal threat, proved to be a total waste of money, and the fans were, to say the least, not happy with the quality of his contribution.

John Mackie also never lived up to expectations after being brought in by Terry Butcher and being immediately named as captain. He had been inspirational at Leyton Orient but the spark had been extinguished, he looked old before his time and he did not last long at Brentford – another Ian Bolton, perhaps?

Given the quality of player brought in over the past few seasons and the success we have achieved over that period, perhaps constant barracking of players will become a thing of the past and it is hard to remember anyone receiving regular criticism under the regime of either Uwe Rosler or Mark Warburton, except perhaps for Niall McGinn who sometimes tried supporters’ patience with some tentative displays.


Splashing The Cash – Part One – 7/7/15

The news that Brentford had broken the two million pound transfer fee barrier when they signed Danish international defender Andreas Bjelland from FC Twente last week shook me to the core, as I am sure it did every other long-established Bees fan, brought up as I was supporting a club with a well deserved reputation for caution and parsimony in the transfer market.

This is the club that in recent times eagerly snatched the money on offer for star strikers such as John O’Mara, Andy McCulloch, Dean Holdsworth, Nicky Forster and DJ Campbell and replaced them instead with cheap nonentities and journeymen like Stan Webb, Lee Holmes, Murray Jones and Calum Willock. Oh, and in Nicky Forster’s case the stupendously idiotic decision was taken not to replace him at all.

That was then and this is now as the Bees have now paid three transfer fees in excess of a million pounds in the last year for Moses Odubajo, Jota and the aforementioned Bjelland and I suspect that there are more to come too.

In order to highlight just how much our approach towards investing in emerging young talent has changed since Matthew Benham took over control of the club, it is illuminating to look back over the past century and see how our record transfer fee gradually and slowly increased in value with a few blips along the way.

Middlesborough were the first club to pay a four figure sum for a player in 1905 when they signed Alf Common from Sunderland. Brentford took twenty years to match them when they invested one thousand pounds, or forty thousand pounds at today’s equivalent value, on centre forward Ernie Watkins from Southend. This was rightly seen as a massive sum for an impoverished and struggling club, but the gamble paid of as the threat of re-election was averted and he scored a club record twenty-four goals in the following season.

The wonderfully named fullback, Baden Herod, cost fifteen hundred pounds from Charlton three years later but Harry Curtis quickly cashed in on him when Spurs offered four thousand pounds for him in 1929, or one hundred and seventy-seven thousand pounds at today’s value.

Despite Brentford’s meteoric rise in the mid to late 30s the highest fee paid at that time by Harry Curtis was a mere six thousand pounds to Hearts for star striker Dave McCulloch, or just under three hundred thousand pounds in today’s figures. He also provided massive value for money, scoring ninety times for the club in three years and playing for Scotland, before surprisingly being sold to Derby County for a fee of nine and a half thousand pounds – a sum not far short of the then British record transfer fee.

So even at the time of Brentford’s greatest success, money still talked and our star asset was sold and then not properly replaced. How many times since then have we seen that self-same scenario repeat itself?

Jackie Gibbons and Ron Greenwood were brought in soon after the Second World War for eight and nine thousand pounds respectively and both were fine players, and the five-figure barrier was finally broken in 1952 with the astonishing signing of the legendary centre forward Tommy Lawton for an eye watering sixteen thousand pounds from Notts County. Lawton had scored almost a goal per game in twenty-three England internationals, but at thirty-two years of age he was well past his best. He was still a massive attraction though and the chance to watch a fully fledged star saw gates soar, with thirty-one thousand watching his home debut against Swansea. He performed decently on the pitch and became player-manager before a decline set in and he resigned before making a surprise return to the First Division with Arsenal.

Relegation back to the Third Division in 1954 saw the beginning of a near-decade of austerity where the club, particularly under the astute management of Malcolm MacDonald relied upon a conveyor belt of local youngsters and cheap imports from junior football in MacDonald’s native Scotland and transfer fees were a rarity. Despite the lack of investment he twice almost led his team back into the Second Division but fell just short, and with the end of the maximum wage and money in short supply a weakened and depleted squad dropped into the bottom division in 1962.

New Chairman Jack Dunnett blew out the cobwebs around Griffin Park and determined to spend in order to buy the club back to respectability. An all international forward trio of Johnny Brooks, Billy McAdams and John Dick supported by other expensive purchases in John Fielding, Matt Crowe and Mel Scott, reversed the slump and saw the Fourth Division title won in 1963 with a massive ninety-eight goals scored.

John Dick became Brentford’s record signing when we splurged seventeen thousand five hundred pounds on the experienced thirty-two year old Scotland international forward who had been West Ham’s top scorer in Division One just the year before. The football world was bemused at how the Bees had managed to persuade Ron Greenwood to sell him and suspected that the old boys’ network had come into play, but the West Ham manager knew that he had a young converted wing half called Geoff Hurst ready and waiting in the reserves to fill the vacancy upfront!

Over sixty thousand pounds had been spent in the transfer market in order to build a team that won promotion back to the Third Division and the spending did not end there, as within the next eighteen months additional major signings such as Dai Ward, Mark Lazarus, Allan Jones, Chic Brodie, George Thomson, Jimmy Bloomfield, Joe Bonson, Billy Cobb and Ian Lawther took the total expenditure on players since Dunnett took over to a sum in excess of one hundred and fifty-thousand pounds, a figure that would have been significantly increased if an audacious forty thousand pound bid for former international striker Gerry Hitchens, now playing for Torino, had been accepted.

Brentford had gone from famine to feast and to put all this expenditure into context, Dunnett spent the equivalent at today’s prices of over two million pounds on transfer fees, predominantly on a series of undoubtedly talented but in the main, experienced players whose best days had long since gone and who had little or no resale value. Indeed we did not recoup our investment on any of the players who he brought into the club. He gambled on getting the club back into the Second Division but after a narrow miss in 1965 an appalling turnaround saw the Bees back in the bottom division in 1966.

These were the economics of the madhouse and it was a policy that came within a whisker of destroying the club in 1967 when, scenting blood, QPR mounted an abortive takeover bid. Disaster was narrowly averted but we were holed beneath the water line and the next few years after Dunnett decamped to Notts County saw budgets slashed, squad numbers reduced and austerity rule. With priority naturally given to paying off the now massive debt, transfer fees would become a distant memory for the foreseeable future.

Final Cover 020615



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:

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

Still A Bee! – Part Two – 23/8/14

??????????????In today’s blog I am continuing with my chat with former Brentford centre forward Richard Poole who has lots more to say about his time at Griffin Park and how he is doing now.

I have been in France for the past thirty-seven years and had two hip and knee replacements before I was fifty and quite a few health problems too.

I do remember my league debut at home to Lincoln City in February 1974 and I still treasure the telegram I received from Alan Hawley that day, such a great man on and off the field.

And yes, I scored against Bradford City in the last home game of that season with the other goal being scored by Dave Simmons.

He was such a great help to me and I was so sad to learn of his death in 2007.

The only thing I do regret was in my third year at Brentford when I refused Frank Blunstone’s offer to join Manchester United’s youth team.

Richard then went on to talk about his managers and team mates as well as some of the characters behind the scenes at Griffin Park.

There is so much to say about Mike Everitt and Mr Blunstone.

Well Mr Blunstone was a great manager for the years before I signed as an apprentice as well as the season when we went down to the Fourth Division.

The problem from my view was Mr Piggott, not to slay him, but as apprentices, Kevin Harding and I had to take the first team training kit every Friday to the local laundromat in Brentford High Street and you can just imagine how we felt when we had to walk there!

When we were in the Third Division we were given a leather bag marked with “Brentford FC” on it to put our playing kit in.

Well when I was released four or five years later he asked for it back!

Anyway Mr Blunstone used to give Kevin and I extra training sessions in the afternoon with a football, which at that time was unusual.

I was so sad when he had his car accident as he used to give the apprentices a lift to the training sessions held away from Griffin Park.

Mike Everitt gave me my first team chance and it was not as easy as you might remember.

I got injured on my debut and came back on Easter Friday away to Colchester who were then top of the league.

I was twelfth man but at the meal before the match Roger Cross – well how can I say!

So I played all the game and the following day we played away to Chester and I played all the second half and the following Tuesday we played Colchester at home, which I think was my best game, and it finished 0-0.

I could go on, but now looking back, there were some differences of opinion between some senior players I think and Mr Everitt.

I prefer not to say who, but I think every Brentford fan could see, in particular, a certain one who became a manager afterwards.

Mr Everitt had to fight the Gods in the Boardroom, for they awarded me appearance money when I played in the first team as well as a bonus like all the rest of the first team players.

When I signed professional terms with Brentford I was earning, I think, £20 a week or a bit less, and a year after, when I was at Watford I was on £60 a week.

Yes of course I would have played for nothing for Brentford.

When I made my debut that season Mr Everitt brought some experienced players in like Jimmy Gabriel – well what more can a young sixteen year old at the time ask for?

As for Stan Webb, I do think you were hard on him.

He was a gentleman, always willing to help us youngsters and he always tried his best in a struggling team getting on in years and I never heard an angry word from him, and us apprentices heard a lot in our time!

When I was in my first year in France Mr Everitt phoned me as at that time in 1977/78, Southampton wanted to sign me, but Toulon would not let me go and six months later I had my career finished by my cruciate ligament injury.

In all my time at Brentford though, I am not sure there was another person who helped me more than the groundsman, John Stepney, who was very important to Brentford behind the scenes.

??????????????He was always giving us advice – mostly “get off the pitch!” when we were training in the afternoons.

He was a really great man.

Well that’s enough for now.

I could go on and on though, and thinking back, there was one person who I looked up to who left me feeling disappointed to this day and I think finished me at Brentford and certainly turned a small section of the crowd against me.

I remember coming back the year after I left for Watford and getting stick from the crowd of about ten people who were watching a reserve match.

Anyway that apart, I think you can see my love of Brentford both at the time and to this day.

You can quote me, no problem there, and I’ve still got lots to tell about my beloved Brentford

I am still living in the Southern French Alps, but always look out for Brentford’s result first and I am sorry about my English but after thirty-seven years abroad I muddle things up!

Keep up with the good work on Brentford FC

Thanks once more.

Mr R J Poole.

Still a BEE!

I hope Richard’s account has left you feeling as emotional and moved as I am.