Tag Archives: Ashley Bayes

Paging Les and Gabriel. The amazing connection that goes from Brentford to Manchester City via Preston.

29 Dec

We would appear to be ‘game on’. Brentford host Manchester City this evening, both squads with at least the mandatory minimum of 13 outfield players seemingly available. No last minute crisis riding in to scupper the match as Newcastle United have just succumbed to. No rash of symptoms that were unable to be confirmed given the closure of the test centre – oh Bristol City, has it been a year already? Thoughts and prayers. Instead, we’re all off to Lionel Road to see if the improbable (16/1 is the price on a Brentford win at the time of writing) can become possible. Yet also, we finally get to square a circle that goes from Brentford to City via Preston North End (twice).

Nick Leeson. Martin Lewis (as unlikely a combo as one could imagine). Liam and Noel. Your boys are expected to give one hell of a beating. Manchester City being the only opponents in the division to give genuine concern pre-season and a team that have won their last three away games against promoted sides by an aggregate scoreline of 11-1.

The other 18, on a good day, you’d fancy Brentford could do something. Sure enough, we’ve all been here for the games with the big guns and household names. Liverpool. Chelsea. Arsenal. Everton. All have seen points taken or top drawer performances. Now we are at the next level. It is equal parts terrifying and exhilarating. We deserve to be where we are on merit. Now comes the time to test ourselves against the very best.

We’ve already spoken about the challenge of this one and looked back at the Brighton player performance. We already know the relative strength of the squads. There’s nothing further to be gained from overly diving in there. Nothing new that can be said. Instead, we’re now at the point where all that can be done is enjoy the moment of another night game. Of a nothing to lose scenario where that magic feeling of Brentford under the lights can take hold. Sure, we can reminisce about Gary Blissett. About Uwe. About Robert Taylor. Nice though it is, and it is, this all comes down now to what happens when it all kicks off at the somewhat unusual time of 8.15. That’s unbelievable, Jeff (Bezos).

Uwe’s ‘last hurrah’

For me, Clive, mention the name Manchester City and the memory goes off in a different direction to a different couple of names. Neither linked to the Gallaghers or finance. Instead, there’s Jim – who I met through / prior to the arrival of our Harry at NCT class nine years ago. Cripes, that’s flown.  

As staunch and longstanding as they come. Home and away. Season on season. Despite now living in West London, he’s always at pains to point out he’s not a bandwagon jumping fan. As, to be fair, seems to be the case with the vast majority where even in the third tier of English football in the late 90s, support remained huge. His take on the game is both good and bad, for Brentford fans: “You might get a heavily rotated squad as we play arsenal 2 days later. That being said, we’re pretty slick at the moment.”

Then there’s Gabriel Valentine. The chances of whose seeing this are slim to zero. However, back in the 89-90 season, yours truly took his first footsteps into the wide world of work (before promptly stepping away again). There was Mr. Valentine, another displaced City fan whom, along with the rest of the firm I was working for, was eventually worn down with all this talk of Brentford, Brentford, Brentford and came to Griffin Park for a game.

That was March 1990 and the moment of Ashley Bayes making his debut against Preston North End. I can still see it now. Funnily enough, they never came back.

“Dreadful mistake / That stupid goal” – not my words, Susan

Yet prior to this, we’d already been tied together on a footballing journey that lasted less than a week but, for a brief moment, could have seen life heading in a very different direction. Flushed with youthful naivety / blind-optimism, The Bruzon-Valentine partnership took the bold step towards managing a professional football club.

Why not? Preston North End were struggling and had just dispensed with the services of John McGrath. We were 18(ish, in his case) with spare time on our hands.

This was back before it became the popular thing to do based on one’s experience playing Football Manager (the nearest we had back then was the ZX Spectrum equivalent on cassette).

How could anyone fail with a Spectrum squad this strong?

Amazingly, our letter received a reply from chairman Keith Leeming. As did our phone call to Saint and Greavsie who then politely declined our offer to appear on the show. Their loss. The dream was still alive. This was it. The moment was set. And then Preston went for former player Les Chapman. Fair enough, I’d have done the same.

Where we now go full circle is that this is the same Les Chapman who would eventually become Manchester City kit man for 17 (seventeen) years before moving into their media department. Pretty much the dream career path: player, manager, kit guru, media.

Whilst Gabriel won’t be reading or present today, Les may well be at Lionel Road. If he somehow stumbles across this (and let’s be realistic here…) then imagine how life may have turned out had Keith Leeming decided to take a reckless punt on a pair of untried youngsters. Again, let’s be realistic, but one has to dream.

However, who knows what, if any, impact the mere presence of our names may have had on that longer term decision making process? Could we have tipped the dice in Les Chapman’s favour?

It’s a funny old game. As Saint and Greavsie didn’t say to us. Yet the excitement felt when that hand-typed and signed postcard appeared on the doormat is still up there as a moment when life was wide open. When anything, no matter how improbable, felt possible……. 😉

Bring it on. See you there

Keith never did write back to us…

Nick Bruzon

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

Sheer Bliss for Brentford on Boxing Day

27 Dec

It’s been a while since we’ve been able to trot out some Chronicle style 80’s alliteration but the occasion of yesterday’s visit of Brighton was one that also saw Bees legend Gary Blissett, finally, inducted into the Brentford hall of fame. We’ll get to Bliss shortly but can only begin with a draw 0-0 between the Bees and the Seagulls that we can, perhaps, count ourselves unlucky not to have won.

David Stockdale in the Brighton goal pulled off a number of second half saves to kept the scores level as the game opened up a bit. The Brentford midfield looked a tad flatter than normal as clean sheets and snuffing out the opposition seemed the first order of the day. That said, Alan Judge was once more the standout man from that area when the Bees did take the game forward, as a series of second half chances were carved out only for Stockdale to keep Brighton in it.

The first from Judge saw the Irishman (surely a ‘shoe-in’ for Euro 2016 on this form) cut in from the wing and unleash a ferocious drive which the ‘keeper was able to parry over. Next up, the would be poacher turned would be provider, setting up Tarkowski for a header and certain goal. Again, the athletic Stockdale had to be at his best diving full stretch to guide it around the post with a stunning save.

Indeed, Mark Burridge in the Beesplayer commentary box would go one better and describe it as “Phenomenal“. Certainly, subsequent review of the  highlights pay testament to the true quality of the save. Finally it was Judge once more, from distance, forcing the Brighton shot stopper to dive to his left and tip away for another Bees corner.

Three great stops that, perhaps, denied three points for Brentford. However, we were ultimately the architects of our own result. Philipp Hofmann had the best chance of all, earning space in the box to get himself on the end of a Tarkowski cross with the goal begging and just Stockdale to beat. From six yards out.

This time, sadly, the save was anything but world class and that’s no disrespect to Brighton. With the whole of the target to aim at , the big German guided his header straight down Stockdale’s throat for a comfortable catch. And with that, scores remained at 0-0.

“He could have been the hero”. Not my words but those of Mark Burridge.

Full credit to Brighton. They closed us out and made chances few and far between. Likewise, a point against the long term league leaders is no bad thing whatsoever when, but for a bit more luck in front of goal (or a different ‘keeper), we may well have taken the win.

But there you go. Such are the margins in football and, perhaps, somewhat telling that this was the day we welcomed Gary Blissett into the Brentford ‘hall of fame’ at half time. His absence from this institution has been somewhat of an enigma but great to see if finally remedied.

Gary’s record speaks for itself and he remains a hero to Brentford fans of a certain age. Over six years from 1987 to 1993 he terrorised defences across the old third, and for one brief season, first divisions (what we know today as the Championship) . Notching 105 goals in 291 games (a strike rate of better than 1 in 3) alongside a variety of partners – most notably Richard Cadette and Dean Holdsworth – his FA Cup goals against Manchester City and Blackburn are the stuff of legend whilst the promotion clincher in the 1-0 victory at Peterborough has earned him a place in Brentford folklore.

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Bliss makes it 3-1 in the FA Cup v his beloved Manchester City

His performance in ’92-’93, where as an ever present his goals almost kept us in the old first division, demands equal recognition. If for no other reason than he’d seen Dean Holdsworth replaced with Murray Jones (think of a twentieth century Nick Proschwitz – nobody could fault the effort but, sadly the end product was somewhat lacking).

It wasn’t just as a goalscorer that Bliss made his name. He was also emergency goalkeeper – making his debut half way through a Championship game at home to Southend United in 1992 whilst Ashley Bayes shouted directions from behind the goal. Direction that Bliss ignored in a game that saw our first league win of that campaign.

His sale in 1993 , with relegation back to the third tier of English football confirmed, was an inevitable one but his reputation at Griffin Park has never diminished. Even close to a quarter-century later,  he remains as much a hero to supporters – this one specifically – as he did in his playing days.

Congratulations, Gary. Thoroughly well deserved.

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

As a final thought, here’s a statistical question. When was the last time we played successive games against teams in day-glo yellow? Following the previous game at home to Huddersfield Town, Brighton turned out in an equally lurid yellow design that was easier to see than the stewards.

Despite what looked like a sell out away crowd, I counted less than three dozen on display amongst supporters – and they were easy to spot from 100 yards away.

I have no idea what Mark Devlin and kitman Bob have lined up for next season, if they even know as yet, but from this kit obsessive here’s a suggestion – perhaps neon isn’t the best look !

Black might be good (hint, hint).

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Neon yellow – not a great look

Nick Bruzon

TV is really making me cup, upset

5 Jan

I really want to watch the AFC Wimbledon v Liverpool FA Cup third round tie tonight but, to be quite honest, on Monday morning I’m struggling to summon up the enthusiasm. Whatever the BBC tell you about this being a repeat of the 1988 final, it isn’t – albeit seeing Liverpool humbled that day was a fantastic feeling for the neutral and, perhaps, the ultimate cup upset.

Nobody needs a lecture from me on the authorities allowing the shameful relocation and rebranding of Wimbledon to Milton Keynes in their ‘new’ guise as MK Dons to happen.

To read the rest of this article, season 2014/15 is now available to download onto Kindle (and other electronic reading device) in full. Containing additional material and even some (poor) editing, you can get it here for less than the cost of a Griffin Park matchday programme or Balti Pie.

Thanks for reading and all your comments over the course of the season. For now, I need to make more space on the site for any follow up. However, ‘close season’ will continue in full, further on.

Des prepares for the final , back in the day

Des prepares for the final , back in the day

T

We’ve been here before – the top ten of our last Championship campaign

7 Aug

With Charlton Athletic due to visit Brentford on Saturday in our Championship opener I made a somewhat outlandish claim in yesterday’s column as to where I think we’d finish the season. I stand by that and I’d hope history repeats to help this happen – the last time The Bees entertained Charlton at this level saw a 2-0 win for us back on Nov 7th 1992.

That said, I hope there aren’t too many more similarities between the forthcoming campaign and that one, given 1992/93 saw us return to League One (as is) after a solitary season. At times the season was exciting; at others, it offered nothing but the bitterest frustration.

Regular correspondent Bernard Quackenbush asked for ‘my memories’ of this and, whilst somewhat hazy, it did get me thinking. So here are the top five highs and lows from the last time we tried try our luck in English football’s second tier.

The lows:

5: Dean Holdsworth. If Wigan Athletic fans are wondering why Brentford supporters are so upset about the Adam Forshaw talk, this is why.

To read the rest of this article, season 2014/15 is now available to download onto Kindle (and other electronic reading device) in full. Containing additional material and even some (poor) editing, you can get it here for less than the cost of a Griffin Park matchday programme or Balti Pie.

 Thanks for reading and all your comments over the course of the season. For now, I need to make more space on the site for any follow up. However, ‘close season’ will continue in full, further along.

Ambassador – with these goalkeepers you are really spoiling us.

30 Jul

Farewell, Simon Moore.

When the news we all feared was finally confirmed on Monday the only real shock was not so much our goalkeeper’s departure to, ironically, tonight’s opponents but the fact that Cardiff DOES, infact, have a beach. A quick search of the news channels revealed that Cardiff Council recently purchased more than 300 tons of sand to create an artificial beach in the city’s Bay. So rather than being an elaborate smokescreen, perhaps Simon really had gone to the seaside and it was just a case of one thing leading to another, culminating in his transfer to the Premiership outfit.

Whatever the course of events, it was really pleasing to see the massive outpouring of good wishes from the Bees fans towards Simon, even before the news had been ‘officially’ released. Moreso compared to Harry’s departure, which barely registered a ‘1’ on the Richter scale. Simon, see you soon in the England jersey (and maybe tonight in a Cardiff one).

So, what next?

Well, if there’s one thing we seem to have the knack of in TW8 its …

 

To read the rest of this article, season 2013/14 is now available to download onto Kindle, in full. Containing previously unseen content, you can do so here for less than the cost of one matchday programme.

 Thanks for reading over the course of the campaign. For now I need to make space on this page for any follow up.  The ‘close season’ / World Cup columns continue in full, further on in this site.