Tag Archives: Allan Cockram

From Manchester City fan to Brentford legend

3 Mar

Money can’t necessarily buy you success. Of course, at Brentford having the sort of finances available to the likes of the teams at the top end of the Premier League is just a pipe dream. Yet it made last night’s results all the more interesting as this most captivating of top flight seasons continued. Despite their mega-millions, Manchester City (at mid-table Liverpool) and Arsenal (hosting relegation candidates Swansea) both lost against opposition they’d have been expected, on paper, to breeze past.

The flip side to this is that when you are operating on a reduced budget, unearthing that game changing player is a truly joyful experience. And this is where Brentford come into the equation. The previous column looked at, amongst other things, the FourFourTwo magazine survey on your club’s ‘cult hero’ over the top four divisions.

It is genuinely a fascinating read (my own contribution aside) with the results, being published on-line now showing clubs A-M. Starting with Accrington Stanley, it has so far gone through Brentford, along with the aforementioned Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City to the point they had, at the time of writing, got as far as Morecambe.

So few of these players are the big money signings making the headlines today but each have their special place amongst the fans. And the reason for mentioing this again was, specifically, the chance to talk a bit more about Brentford. Or, rather, our own nominee – Gary Blissett.

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All time cult hero, Gary Blissett

Given the constraints of the Four FourTwo site, somebody like Bliss (not to mention those who ran him close when the question was put out there on Facebook last month) deserved more than the 100-150 words available. So here is the full, unexpurgated version.

Gary Blissett – cult hero

Where do you start when looking for a cult hero? For a team like Brentford, where the trophy cabinet is more an aspiration than anything else, most people outside of TW8 probably know us for the sort of thing that would make TV’s “What happened Next…?” rather than the record books.

Goalkeeper Chic Brodie having his career ended by a runaway dog. Millwall fans throwing a hand grenade onto the pitch (November 1965, for the record). The failed takeover bid by QPR that would have seen Brentford cease to exist and our bitterest rivals move into Griffin Park. Eight play-off defeats out of eight (the least successful of all English teams when reaching football’s ‘final four’).

Then, of course, there was ‘that penalty’ in the final minute of the final game of 2012/13. A winner takes all encounter with promotion rivals Doncaster Rovers.

Only one team could make it to the Championship and, with the scores locked at 0-0, the Bees were awarded a 90th minute spot kick. The subsequent tussle for the ball involving club captain Kevin O’Connor (approaching his 500th game), and Marcello Trotta (on loan from Fulham, of all places) is one as familiar as the Italian’s subsequent effort thudding off the crossbar and, with Bees players prostrate on the ground in despair, our opponents going down the other end where they scored to secure promotion and the title.

That’s how we do things at Griffin Park. Glorious failure being as familiar a taste as the pre-match hot dog. Yet when we do win things, it makes them all the sweeter. Every now and again it happens. And even when we don’t, we still have a lot of fun along the way. Thanks, largely, to those figures you’d label as Cult Heroes.

Big John O’Mara who, in his first season, scored 25 goals in 40 games. Centre back Peter Gelson, who made 471 appearances in a Griffin Park career that stretched from 1960 to 1975. The legendary Jim Towers and George Francis aka The Terrible Twins. Playing together for most of the 1950s, they still remain (respectively) the club’s first and second highest all time goal scorers.

Hard as nails players such as Terry Hurlock, Terry Evans and Martin Grainger.

Long serving players Jamie Bates and Kevin O’Connor.

The skilful wing wizards like Andy Sinton and Neil Smillie.

Those who just seemed to exude personality and had the crowd eating out of their hand – Allan Cockram, Lloyd Owusu and Marcus Gayle (just don’t sing that song near your granny).

Modern day heroes including Jota – the last minute goal being his own personal calling card. Toumani Diagouraga – “Toumani scores, we’re on the pitch” went the Ealing Road. He’d last done it in March 2013 and we had to sit through another 111 games without him troubling the scorers before he was sold to Leeds at the end of January. Less than 40 minutes into his full debut….

Or how about Sam Saunders? The perma-tanned wing wizard (and former tube worker) so beloved of fans that most would allow him to ‘have relations’ with their wives, if the terrace chant is to be believed.

But when it comes down to it, there can be only one winner. The moustachioed legend that is Gary Blissett. aka ‘Bliss’.

79 goals from 223 league appearances (105 from 291 total) in a 6 year career from 1987-1993 don’t even tell half the story. His brace against boyhood heroes Manchester City in the 1988-89 FA Cup fourth round sent Griffin Park into meltdown as the Bees earned a 3-1 passage into the fifth round. There, Bliss repeated the feat as his late pair at Blackburn Rovers helped Brentford to a deserved 2-0 win. Sadly it wasn’t to be in an Anfield quarter final as the Bees bowed out despite giving all-conquering Liverpool (kids, ask your dads) an almighty scare.

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Bliss does the business against his beloved Manchester City

His defining goal was probably the final game of the 91/92 season. With the Bees having won the previous five on the spin, including a 4-0 demolition of Fulham, we travelled to Peterborough knowing a win and some good fortune could make the impossible, possible.

Bliss was the man who popped up with a first half header as we then sat through an awful lot of ‘squeaky bum time’ for a famous 1-0 win. With other results going our way, including a shock defeat for a Birmingham City side that Saint & Greavsie had earlier congratulated on TV for winning the League, we snuck up the blind side and became Champions. Sometimes, it happens.

Gary was an ever present the following season as, despite the sale of strike partner Dean Holdsworth, his goals almost kept us in English football’s second tier.

But there was more to Gary than short shorts, a luxuriant ‘tache and goals, goals, goals.

A wannabe goalkeeper, he was the man who donned the gloves during a Championship game with Southend United after injury, and no spare on the bench, meant we got to enjoy that wonderful moment where an outfield player goes between the posts. Bliss promptly ignored every piece of advice being shouted to him by youth ‘keeper Ashley Bayes and kept a clean sheet.

But it was his red card at Craven Cottage after what we will politely call a ‘coming together’ with Fulham ‘keeper Jim Stannard that is a moment as popular with Bees’ fans as that goal at Peterborough. Bliss left the field to a standing ovation in a game that showed us the West London derby meant as much to the players as the supporters.

All the money in the bank can’t buy a player like Bliss. The £60,000 we paid Crewe back in 1987, even now, still seems like the bargain of the century.

Like Marcus Gayle and Allan Cockram, Bliss still visits Griffin Park. Catching up with him briefly in the week, he told me, “ I follow every game and after my beloved City Brentford are of course the team I want to see succeed more than any other team or club in the world.

I am sure MB will have Plan B, C, D and more and will one day be playing at The Ethiad IN THE LEAGUE

For those amongst us feeling slightly down about things on the pitch this year, these are surely words to put your trust in. If a demi-God such as Bliss believes, then that’s all the inspiration we need .

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Gary still features in the Junior Bees Top Trumps (style game)

Nick Bruzon

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From Street football to Soccer Sounds – rounding up the weekend

4 Jan

With the Birmingham City result now consigned to history, for the majority of us Brentford fans it’s time to look forward to the FA Cup against Walsall whilst, also, gritting our teeth for the inevitable flurry of transfer rumours (in and out) that we are sure to be inundated with.

But before we look at that, and the rest of the League games heading our way faster than a Ryan Woods piledriver, the Last word ‘inbox’ has been hit with both a response to yesterday’s article about punditry along with an update from former Bee, Allan Cockram.

Starting with Bees Player, Trinity Mirror Sports Editor Tim Street has been in touch to clarify the comment I called into question regarding the yellow for Jon Toral being acceptable because Jake Bidwell hadn’t been hurt. Well, fair play to Tim who has taken the time to qualify that and, equally, talk through the pressures of matchday punditry from his side.

You can read the full exchange in the ‘comments’ section on yesterday’s article but the main jist of this is contained within the statement :

The irony is, it was because I knew I was doing a half-time summary with Mark that I was doing some of things I save for half time, like processing pictures (each one we use has to be cropped nine different ways!) during the first half and thus missed the worst of Toral’s foul. When pressed on it at half-time, I admit I kind of blurted out something which, in hindsight, was nonsensical (Mark’s expression told me that straight away) to avoid sounding hesitant. Perhaps just admitting I missed it would have been better, but I’m sure I’m not the first, and won’t be the last, to be caught out by the ‘immediacy’ of broadcast media – as I’m sure most football managers would testify!

I still stand by my punditry opinions in general. That said, they are less to do with half time guests such as Tim (where I’d agree its always good to mix things up) and more with the long haul performance over the build up and game.

For sure it’s a big ask and I wouldn’t fancy it. Perhaps, also, we’ve been spoiled in recent years with access to injured squad members who are able to add that unique perspective that only a player can. Richard Lee, in particular, always came across as a very eloquent and considered individual when in the hotseat.

Enough on that, though. As ever I’ve digressed and this was really just meant to say “Thanks” to Tim for taking the time to give his perspective on how things work.

Next up, Allan Cockram .

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Allan at Griffin Park

Whilst the hair may be a bit shorter than it was in the 80s, he still retains all the enthusiasm for football that he had in his days at Griffin Park. Very much the Sam Saunders of his day, Cockers is back in Brentford and about to launch his Soccer Sounds Technical programme.

The regular reader may recall we spoke to Gary Blissett about this a year or so back, as he and Allan were working out in the U.S. on this project .

Now Allan is back home and looking to launch Soccer Sounds in West London,

Starting on Friday 22nd January in West Acton/Ealing . The poster below explains more whilst he can be contacted via registration@soccersounds.com if anyone is interested.

Likewise, the Soccer Sounds website is up and running if you’d like to take a look.

Enjoy.

Soccer Sounds

Cockers is back

Nick Bruzon

 

Is it time to give Adi,Das Boot up Der Backside?

17 Sep

It almost feels like heresy asking this question.

For years, the legendary 1980-81 Adidas top has been the ‘Holy Grail’ for Brentford fans and shirt collectors. A ‘one season only’ deal with the German giants, you’ve more chance of Keith Stroud keeping the red card in his pocket (latest beneficiary – Shane Lowry, Millwall v Derby, Sept 15th) than finding one of these. As stylish as a night out with Sam Saunders, Shaleum Logan and Allan Cockram ‘dressed to kill’ (not literally, that would be murder) the optimistic request to see if anybody has a spare is a regular visitor to the GPG. Indeed, you can see where it ranks in my all time top ten home shirts (not that I have one) further along.

As such, when the rumours and leaked photographs were confirmed, and the announcement was made that Adidas were returning as our technical sponsor, the excitement was palpable. Moreso given the previous campaign’s lack of stripes on Puma’s ‘tea bag/string vest’ effect back.

ImageInitial reaction was positive. A bold yet simple design whilst an unperforated back meant there was no way you’d leave a sunny game looking as though you’d fallen asleep on a bed of nails. There were still no stripes on the reverse (league regulations – to which Sheffield United were immune – apparently) but, at least, a vivid red akin to the British Lions rugby team.

Dare I say it; I actually find this a good look (although I also have a penchant for the white yoke of the Osca ’83). A touch of black, perhaps on the famous stripes, would have been the cherry on the sartorial cake but that aside, a very well received shirt.

So far, so good. Until you tried to get hold of one. Initial supplies were delayed, despite advance order, to the point where even the players had to go on the pre-season tour of, ironically, Germany in generic training wear and last season’s strip.

Whilst our female supporters have been spared the indignity of having their bra straps on show this time round, they’ll have to do it in a man’s shirt (or, ‘home’ as it is branded). The world’s most famous sport’s manufacturer doesn’t do a female fit shirt, although to be fair this also seems to be an issue for the clubs they supply in the Premiership. Look at Southampton or Fulham’s websites, for example, and you see the same ‘home’ shirt.  Indeed, you have to go up as high as Chelsea before finding an English team for whom they produce a female specific fit. Welcome to the 21st century!

Then there were the issues with the sponsor on the away kit before, finally, new supplies were received yesterday (Monday).

Except if you are an adult ‘XL’. You’ll have to wait until Christmas if you’d like one of those but, hey, at least it’s not a common size.

Now I don’t hold the club particularly responsible for this. They have been at pains to make out how they have been let down. That said, it seems a farcical situation. Do Adidas want to have their cake and eat it- a massive branded shop, a contract with an upcoming club but then no supply? Have the club sold their soul for the thirty pieces of silver that is the panache of an Adidas deal, and now have to suffer the consequences of a supplier who doesn’t appear to give a monkey? Have the Germans even made a statement of apology to the club and fans?

It’s a massive shame as it is a great kit and, with stripes on the back already confirmed for next season, there is still hope for a ‘best ever’ Brentford shirt. Assuming we’ll have them in the club shop.

I just hope somebody in Brentford’s marketing team is able to renegotiate the deal in our favour because, as an outsider looking in, we seem to be over the proverbial barrel. After the Puma sizing debacle you’d think we’d learn. Fingers crossed, then, that someone is given an almighty boot in the Adidas branded ball bag and pulls their finger out. Its time we earned our stripes.

The top ten Brentford home shirts.

Much to Mrs. Bruzon’s despair, my side of the wardrobe is taken up with Brentford shirts I’ve collected over the years. Various tops have become ‘the lucky one’ before some previously unforeseen twist of fate (usually Stroud related) has necessitated a new ‘lucky one’. Over the summer, I was talking to Mark Chapman about the feature the club have now started on old shirts in the match day programme and it got me thinking. I’ve already published my top ten league horrors from this season but what are my top ten Brentford classics? Well, with a bit of help from the good people at the ‘historical kits’ website (which is well worth a mooch around), here they are….

Image10:  2004-05 Our Sponsor is St George. Why not add a horizontal red bar to fashion a St. George cross? As marketing ideas go, it’s so ridiculous it’s genius.

 

 

 

 

 

Image9 : 1998-2000 Memories of Hermann, Ron Noades (there were a couple of good ones), Lloyd Owusu and that last game ‘winner takes all’ title decider at Cambridge United. We won.

 

 

 

 

 

Image8: 1992 -94 Farewell Osca. Goodbye Chad. Welcome Hummel. Finally, a brand you’d heard of outside West London.  The great Danes supplying a shirt that had the honour of seeing Brentford’s brief foray into the second tier of League football.

 

 

 

 

 

Image7: 1904-05 Its not red and white but was worn in our first ever season at Griffin Park. Bonus points awarded by the humungous error that saw the ‘Toffs’ retro shirt company try to reproduce this from a colourised b&w photo – oops.

 

 

 

 

 

Image6: 2000-02 Play off pain but Paul Gibbs; BBB; Paul Evans. We had fun getting there and looked good to boot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image5: 1976-77 Central badge; no sponsor. Awesome stuff. We should try it again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image4: 1988-89 Pin stripes & a funky bee. They shouldn’t work. They didn’t. But, actually, time is a great healer and the memory od seeing Gary Blissett & co embark on THAT cup run probably helps this sit higher up than it has any right to do so.

 

 

 

 

 

Image3 1980-81 This is it. The Adidas effort. Everybody wants it .I love it. Could we be going down this route next year?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image2: 1983-84 This. Is. Brilliant. The Marmite of Brentford shirts. To some, an abhoration. To others (well, me) it’s brilliant. Given the choice, I’d take this over the Adidas every time. What WERE they thinking?

 

 

 

 

 

Image1 1990-92 KLM sponsored. Chad manufactured. Title winning. Simple but stunning and the most evocative of memories. My all time favourite, hands down

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)