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Brentford supporter’s marathon trek begins today

11 Oct

What do you get when you add 92 plus 1?

10 Sep

As football challenges go, this one is up there with the best of them.

Regular users of ‘Twitter’ may have seen Brentford supporter Simon Cox’s recent postings about ’92 plus 1’. It’s his (and three friends) attempt to drive to each of the 92 league grounds in the top four divisions in a mere 92 hours.

Their 2,600 mile journey will start and finish at Wembley, sandwiched between the two World Cup qualifiers on 11th and 15th October. All of this in an effort to raise £10k of sponsorship on behalf of ‘Help for Heroes’.

I caught up with Simon in the build up to his challenge, to learn more.

Why on earth are you doing this? It’s complete craziness I know, but it’s something we as a team are looking forward to and that I’ve always wanted to do.

The visit to all 92 football clubs has been done in 89 hours and 94 hours before, but never sandwiched between two England internationals.

More to the point, how on earth will you do this? I’ve done the maths and that’s a distance of 28 miles an hour, every hour, for 92 hours. Forget the maths! We won’t have time to worry about it! It’s simply ‘do or die’ from the challenge point of view. We’ll get in a car and drive. The trick is to keep the vehicle going as long as possible without stopping and we have 100 stops planned. 92 football clubs, 6 fuel stops, 1 Nandos and 1 KFC!

Looking at your website, you have got a number of former players involved. Who has put their hands up to help? We have been touched by the support of people in football. It all started with a tweet from Peter Shilton, which has led to former professionals joining us on part of the challenge.

Bees Legend Paul Gibbs is joining us at QPR and will follow us across South West London. Micky Hazard (Spurs and Chelsea) has kindly offered to do the North London leg with us, whilst former Leicester City and Cambridge United striker Trevor Benjamin will be joining us between Sunderland and Newcastle.

Norwich City legend Daryl Sutch is joining us around Norwich and Wayne Fereday, once the fast man in football I believe, will be joining us on the South Coast.

We may have a couple of others to unveil nearer the time. It’s truly amazing that they feel they wanted to help us in some form.

Can supporters turn up at the grounds to come and meet you? Yes! We are encouraging football fans to meet us at their local grounds, even if they don’t support that club. Football fans from all clubs live around the world so why not be proud of your club and show your support for our challenge and charity! We would love to complete the challenge with photographs of fans across the UK. This is about uniting together for our forces.

What constitutes ‘visiting’ a ground? Is it a case of get out, get a picture and get going? Or do you have any more elaborate plans for certain stadia? For us, this is a challenge against time and time will not allow us to take in a game, have pitch side visits etc. It’s about driving to the grounds, checking in on social media to prove we have arrived and then taking pictures of us there.

Will your website be publishing a progress report / details of where & when you will be over the course of the 92 hours? The best place for progress will be our social media places and full directions will be on our www.92plus1.co.uk website. This will contain updates of the challenge, photographs and general football banter!

Will pictures of yourself at the grounds be published over the course of the challenge? Oh yes! We want people to see who we are and why we are doing what we are doing.

How and when will you sleep (will you sleep)? We will sleep on our travels in the vehicle. It’s not going to be comfortable, but neither is sleeping rough on the front line, which our forces people do to ensure we can sleep comfortably.

Tell us a bit about the four of you doing this? We are four football fans uniting for the 92plus1 challenge. Mark is currently serving in the RAF at Brize Norton and is an Aston Villa fan. The minute we received a good luck message from Paul McGrath, he turned into a five year old!

Darren is a Liverpool fan who served for 16 years in the RAF before being medically discharged. He enjoys doing charity work and is currently a college lecturer in Norfolk.

Mike is a businessman from Milton Keynes and was a former professional footballer at Wycombe Wanderers before he had his career cut short with injury and then there’s me, the lunatic, who runs my own business, but enjoys living every day as if it’s my last.

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(Simon Cox at a Wembley press conference – the rest of the team, presumably, held up in traffic)

Is there any ground you are looking forward to visiting in particular? Griffin Park, of course! I love the place and it will always be close to me. It’s a proper football ground. Personally, I am looking forward to visiting the various statues outside the grounds, seeing the Hillsborough memorial as I’ve never seen it and sparing a few moments of thoughts for those caught up in that tragic event. I am also looking forward to visiting the smaller clubs like Fleetwood and Morecambe whilst I’ve always bottled the trip to Carlisle so at least I can cross that one off the list!

I’ve never been to Old Trafford, Goodison Park or The Stadium of Light so they will be new experiences.

I read on Sunday that you may end up having to wear a ‘Fu***m shirt at Griffin Park? You support Brentford – surely this can’t be true -? How and why could this happen? I’ve done some crazy things in my life and this is up there with them. Not the challenge but the shirt thing. I have friends who follow the other “club” and trust me, the shirt was offered very quickly! They know this will hurt but it’s all in a good cause! We have a target of what we would like to raise for our charity and if it means pulling on a Fulham shirt for ten seconds, I will.

TV’s ‘Treasure Hunt’ had Kenneth Kendall. ‘The Interceptor’, Annabelle Croft.  Do you have a crack team at ‘home base’ (your control centre, not the DIY superstore) to give you help as the challenge unfolds? Yes we have some fantastic friends and family who will help us and feed us information. To be honest, the break away from the computer will do me the world of good! Saying that, I will be taking my laptop with me. I won’t be able to rest without communication so we will be geared up with communication on board.

Image  (TV’s ‘The Interceptor’ – Simon & team will be in something a bit more modest than a Maserati) 

What will be the toughest part of the journey? I think that will be the long drawn out stretch to Plymouth from Bristol Rovers. The leg of the journey is 126 miles and will see us over the 2,000-mile mark so it’s going to be mentally draining.

How can people get involved? There are a number of ways and we appreciate people’s help. They can help on social media by retweeting our tweets, sharing our content on Facebook and helping to follow us on Foursquare.

People can also visit our website www.92plus1.co.uk , download our flyer and email to people, promote it on their own social media or generally display the poster in their local pub or chip shop window.

Donations are gratefully received and we appreciate all the support we are receiving from our sponsors. There is a link on our page for donations and we are inviting people to donate to our nominated charity for this challenge. What our forces personnel go through in conflict is a concern and what both Mark and Darren have seen in service is the reason why we have opted for Help for Heroes as our charity.

How much interest have you had from the media and will we see you promoting this anywhere in the build up / over the course of the trip itself? The media interest has been amazing with local radio stations around the UK interested in covering the story. Phil Parry had us on his show a few months ago and we’re delighted to have received interviews from BBC Radio Gloucester, BBC Radio Sheffield and Heart FM in Wiltshire. There will be more to come!

The British Forces Broadcasting Services are currently promoting the challenge across their network as well which means it’s going as far as Cyprus, Germany and the Falkland Islands.

If all goes to plan, what time are you due to reach Wembley on October 15th? Presumably you have a car park space sorted? Parking space? What’s that! Yes of course we have one lined up. We are due back at Wembley at 5pm IF everything runs smoothly, but we all know what our roads are like!

And how on earth will you sit through an England game? They can be hard enough work at the best of times, let alone after you’ve pushed yourself through this. We won’t be watching the first game if I have my way! There is no way I will be able to sit still for 90 minutes for the first game when we need to go on the challenge. The second one will depend on how we are feeling. It’s a big challenge and it will be tiring and the last thing I want to do is sleep through a game – the last time I did that was in the 2002 Play Off Final against Stoke City when the beer beat me and I can just about recall the national anthems!

Simon – it’s been a pleasure. Good luck. And I hope we can catch up after the event so you can tell us how it’s all gone Thank you for your time Nick. I would be more than happy to catch up with you even if it’s to tell you how I really wore that F***ham shirt…….

If you’d like to read more about the challenge and follow the team’s progress, you can link to their website or twitter address of @92plus1. You can also donate here .

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Sheer Bliss…..for Philadelphia

4 Sep

With the excellent ‘Big Brentford Book of the 90s’ just launched, I’ve gone all nostalgic. The excitement; the promotion; the dodgy away shirts and, of course, the goals. As such, it seems an appropriate time to catch up with Gary Blissett – the man who, for many, was  THE Brentford player of that era. A headline writer’s dream (The Chronicle were never shy of a ‘Sheer Bliss for Brentford’) he helped knock his beloved Manchester City out of the FA Cup before scoring our title winning goal at Peterborough.

When I last caught up with him (for the very first ‘Where Are They Now’ in the matchday programme), Gary was living out in Germany and coaching at Elversberg. Things have moved on somewhat in the intervening years and now, alongside another Bees legend in Allan Cockram, he is based in the USA – still working in football but taking a very different approach to the traditional one of the ‘former pro.’ I spoke with Gary recently to hear more about it.

Soccer Sounds; Urban cage events – you seem to have gotten involved in various football related ventures. What are you up to at the moment and how is it all going? All’s going great and according to plan, although it’s been a long journey over the last two years. I am actually visiting my girls in Germany at the moment, and Allan is still in Philadelphia coaching Kids the ‘SoccerSounds’ Way. Its got to the stage where one of us needs to be there if the other needs to go home, which is good I suppose…

Why the States? It will take me all day to explain why the States, Nick. But once we arrived and met the people where we were, we knew there was something here that we could give to the kids over time. SoccerSounds grew and developed and more and more people got involved. It was then an easy decision to then decide we should stay.

How have they taken to it – both the football and the two ‘Brits’? We want first and foremost, the kids to have fun playing football. They are learning technique and becoming scholars of the game through the way we coach and teach. They seem to be taking to it and yes they seem to like the 2 Brits..

From what I’ve seen, most of the time it seems to involve you and Cockers on some sort of US road trip. Good fun? The road trip was a one off. We travelled from PA-LA in a truck and a 24ft Trailer that had 2 of our 3 Cages inside. A round trip of nearly 7000 miles for Mia Hamm Foundation and also Ethan Zohns Grassroot Soccer Foundation. And, yes  – it was good fun. Although we had a few scary moments.. (Editor’s note: if you check out the ‘SoccerSounds’ website / Facebook pages , the pictures and videos suggest that ‘good fun’ was definitely on the agenda)

What’s Allan like to travel and work with? Image        Cockers is great to travel with as he gives everyone on board the vast knowledge he has of life, and the world, in general. He can peel oranges like a World Champion and doesn’t fart so much, which really helps when 5 lads are travelling across America and back!! We are both old pros so easy to work with as we both have the same ethics when it comes to our beautiful game

Good social out there? Or is it all work? Its 95% work. We do have a social but it mainly consists of lying on the sofa watching Premier League at 7am on a Saturday morning through the day because of the time difference and having a couple of cheeky ones in the afternoon as Al is cooking the evening meal. (Not really a Social is it?)

There’s a picture of the lads with Billie Jean-King? How did they get to meet her? We do work for The Women’s Sport Foundation of which BJK is the founder. She really is a great inspiration to all sport’s people, especially kids, and she loves what we do and what we are all about.

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(Cockers and Bliss meet a sporting icon)

I’ve seen also on your site that you do ‘blindfold practice’. What’s that all about about? The Blind Sense Training is a way of accelerating the Muscle Memory (Myelin) Its something that’s revolutionary in training and I cant give to much away at this stage except to say Allan trained with The English National Blind Team for a week and it blew him away!!

What about Germany? The last time we caught up(then for the match day programme) you were out there. Is that still home? We actually live in an apartment in Philadelphia, but next year we will be putting into perspective of where home is and will be. We have 3 Year 01 Visas so we are looking to be here at least till 2015

Are you still involved with the football at Elversberg? I’m not involved with Elversberg anymore, no. 

Brentford have had a preseason tour to Germany the last two seasons – have you been able to take a look at all? Yes. I follow Brentford all the time whether it be a pre-season friendly or a League Game. I’m always interested in how they are doing as I have a lot of friends in Brentford who I am still in regular contact with.

And what is Uwe Rösler’s reputation like abroad? Do he or The Bees get much media coverage? Not in Germany or USA, where you only see Premier League. (It’s a shame really as they would see how real clubs survive and are supported). In Germany Herr Rösler is a well respected Coach, Manager and ex-player.

As for the Bees themselves, what do you make of preseason and the opening games? Good start.. May it long continue!!

What’s your opinion on Uwe? Uwe will be a Premier League Manager within the next few years if he continues the way he is, maybe Man City?

Where will the Bees finish? Top!!

Will you be able to get across to England for any / many games? Not looking good to get over unless I am back in Germany in May when I may have a cheeky trip to West London.

Knocking Man City out of the cup or getting the promotion-sealing goal at Peterborough? Winning the League was the highlight of my career……

It seems an appropriate comment on which to wrap up. With Peterborough already going great guns in the League this season, what price a Gary Blissett to pop up and do the same at London Road this time around?

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(The day we beat Manchester City in the FA Cup – signed by the great man himself) 

Always a legend – despite the suspect hammy

16 Aug

With no game having been played since the win over Sheffield United last week, ‘The Last Word’ took the chance to catch up with former Bee, Paul Gibbs.

Despite leaving Griffin Park Imageback in 2002, Paul remains as popular now as he was then – to the extent of organizing May’s ‘legends’ match aswell as being a current ‘BeesPlayer’ pundit. He shares his thoughts on the season so far, but first  – that legend’s game.

Over the summer you were pivotal in organising the Bees Legends game v ‘Showbiz XI’. How did you find the whole experience?  I loved it! Peter Gillham called me and asked if I could help with the game. I said ‘Absolutely’! I got in touch with all my old mates from 2000 and they were all happy to play.  I got to speak to other players that were before  and after my time a time at Brentford,  which was great as I knew of them but never got to meet them. After only a few weeks I managed to get around 16-17 players confirmed and got the help from some old bees fans to assist me so it was a bit of a joint effort

And personally, the ‘hammy’ went after about a half hour. All ok now? I played in a game two weeks before at Brentford and I pulled it then. I had two weeks physio and knew it would not last but I just had to be there. I even moved our family holiday so I could play in it… (editor’s note: this is true – despite risking the wrath of mother-in-law) .

It was a game I would not miss and to catch up with some great lads I just had to be there. I lasted about 25 minutes I think and, to be honest, I thought it was going well until I decided to make an overlap run! But It was still great to be a part of it all.

Is it any

 coincidence that the Bees team started to score after you went off? That’s because I wore them down in the first 25 minutes!!  I will have to say I was very impressed with the fitness levels of all of the lads. Some of us were in the late 30’s or early 40’s but I think we played some great stuff! Scotty P and BBB were fantastic! 



Will we see you out there again? Will there be another legends game? I would love to get the club to support an Official Bees Legends team. Plymouth have a fantastic set up for their Legends and support them on their travels whilst I have people that will help get it off the ground.

I would love to get us into the ‘Masters’ and organise a London legends event but this will all have to go through the club, so we will wait and see. However, we have been asked to go to Plymouth next year and play in a Devon competition against Exeter, Plymouth and Torquay so we will get a team together for that…

Which ‘legend’ didn’t play but you’d love to have had involved?  Bob Booker he is a great guy I would have liked Martin Rowlands to play too! We all love a villain! I will get him next time!

And who impressed you the most from those that did? All of them did but Ben Burgess was amazing and Scotty Partridge, too!, Glenn Poole is a class act and Nathan Elder was fantastic!!!

Even Mark Chapman (Bees media team) got a run out in the last ten minutes? To be fair I promised him 10 mins as he works for the club but you don’t get a chance to play with the guys you support. I thought It would be nice for him to get a feel for what its like in the changing rooms and on the pitch and he did well!!

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(The centre of the action – even off the pitch)

These days we can hear you popping up on BeesPlayer. How did all that come about?
 You certainly seem to enjoy it . Initially I was just asked to say a few words but it’s hard for me to say “only” a few words. I’m passionate about football and Brentford so it was easy for me to talk about the game. I really enjoy it and will be doing more this season, commentating with Mark on the game. So that will be fun!

Mark, Luis and the rest of the team are pretty slick, wouldn’t you agree?  Not bad for something they do as a ‘side project’. They are total pros and have a huge amount of passion for the bees. Its why Brentford its close to my heart as there are so many people that do so much for the club. I was very privileged to play for them so its my time to give something back

Will we hear much from you on ‘Player’ this season? I do hope so. Its’ a juggling act for me as I work away from my family through the week and weekends are for my kids but I will get to as many games as I can. It was 11 years ago that I left and all the fans still keep asking me if I have got my boots! It is lovely they still recognise me but, with this nose, I guess people cant forget me!

As for the Bees, what do you make of preseason and the opening games ? I don’t want to get carried away but I would be very disappointed if the Bees didn’t get automatic promotion this season. Uwe has done very well this season with his additions and watching the Sheffield United game showed a real strength in depth in the squad.

Does anyone stand out in particular? The whole team looked solid to be honest, but I always look at the centre spine of the team. If you’re strong through the middle you will do well and I think the gaffer has it right this year. I still think that you may need another striker but its looking very good this year.

What’s your opinion on Uwe ? It’s hard to say as I’m not in there with him but he seems to have the support of not only the board but the players, as it looks like they are really buying into what he is asking them to do. He seems to be very organised and methodical in his approach.. This season is a big one for him after last years effort and the fans will be expecting big things this year.

In the League cup Uwe fielded a very different team to that from the opening game of the league campaign. Is it something you agree with?  I ask you firstly as a player and then as a supporter.  As a player I want to play every game so I hate it when the managers do that! But its good for him to see what the other guys can do and it helps develop the squad so its a good thing (now I’m not playing)!

As a fan its a good thing as you get to see what the squad players are like and to see what youngsters you have coming through the ranks!


Is there any game – home or away – you are particularly looking forward to watching? Not really I just like getting to any game I can but the last game of the season when we are four points clear will be a good one!

Who is your dark horse to watch in the league this season? Coventry, I would say, as its all against them at the moment!

Where will the Bees finish? 2nd but I would love them to win it!! 

Wolves will be strong this year and I think Preston will do well.

You can read more about the Brentford legends at:

https://www.facebook.com/BeesLegends

And

http://www.griffinpark.org/forums/showthread.php?t=105612&highlight=bees+legends

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(‘Gibbs’ even popped up on ‘Soccer AM’ before the Doncaster game at the end of last season. With Max Rushden, Helen Chamberlain and the worst penalty takers ever – until 4.45 that afternoon )