Tag Archives: legend

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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Sheer Bliss for Scott

1 Mar

It’s all about the teams south of the river today. With Brentford due to host Charlton Athletic on Saturday, Peter Gilham has been in touch with several supporter groups in regards to a special tribute in that game. Yesterday, meanwhile, Crystal Palace were the visitors for a development squad game that was noteworthy for the long awaited return of striker Scott Hogan. And we have news of a Brentford legend….

But we can only start with Scott Hogan. Nobody needs any reminding of the 18 months he has had on the sidelines, following the horrendous injury (and subsequent recurrence) suffered against Rotherham United early last season. Yet, finally, after what must have seen an interminable wait for the player, he was back in competitive action as Crystal Palace came to town.

And in a script writer’s dream, it took just 7(seven) minutes for Scott to show the Griffin Park faithful what they’ve been missing out on with the striker putting away the opening goal in a game that would eventually finish 2-2. Lasting an hour, Scott has been full of praise for the club’s medical staff and spoke, at length, on the clubsite afterwards.

Scott Hogan

Scott was clearly chuffed, publishing this picture afterwards

Fans were, rightly , ecstatic. Primarily it was just a general outpouring of good will and good vibes all over social media. Nobody wants to see any player go through what Scott has done and so to see him come out the other side of this in such a positive frame of mind has been truly inspiring.

It’s like a new signing” one New Road observer would later note whilst I saw a comment on facebook to say that the first team would be the ideal place to recover his fitness, adding “He can’t do any worse than the three incumbents currently vying for the position of lowest scoring striker in a season”.

A harsh observation or a fair one? Regardless, let’s not pin all our hopes on one man’s shoulders. The enthusiasm is clearly there but full match fitness will likely take a bit longer to come back. That said, just seeing Scott on the bench is sure to be a huge psychological boost for everbody.

The moment arrives

As for the Charlton game, you may have read about the untimely passing of supporter Dean Langford, who was tragically killed in a road accident last week . Peter Gilham has been in touch with Dean’s father and it has been suggested that maybe a minute’s applause in the 24th minute on Saturday, would be the ideal way to pay our respects to one of our own, no longer with us.

Social Media has been awash with tributes to Dean this week. What better way for supporters to show their own respects than joining in on Saturday.

Finally, Cult heroes. It has long been the topic for debate as to who scoops the ultimate crown. When the BBC ran the survey several years ago, Terry Evans came out on top. Would the winner be any different today?

Well, FourFourTwo magazine have undertaken a club by club poll in their online edition and the results are now in. You can find them here . As for the Bees, those visitors to the Facebook ‘Brentford FC loyal’ page have had an inadvertent hand in helping pick our winner, Gary Blissett.

I was fortunate enough to be asked to represent the club in this one and, whilst my decision would have been Bliss, it was nice to see so many other people with a similar viewpoint when the seemingly innocent question was put out there last month.

Congratulations, Bliss. Scott Hogan couldn’t have a better player to aspire to.

Bliss - with Mat Davis

Bliss – a hero to many. Then and now

Nick Bruzon

Brentford mourn Ken Horne – a true Bees legend

3 Sep

I was saddened to read the news about Brentford legend Ken Horne yesterday, after the club announced he had died at the age of 89. I never saw Ken play ; his time at Griffin Park through the 1950s after signing from Blackpool being somewhat prior to my own love affair with the Bees. However, I was fortunate enough to meet him back in 2010 for a ‘Where Are They Now’ interview that would later appear in the matchday magazine

Along with fellow team mate Jim Towers, Ken gave one of the most fascinating insights into life at Brentford in the 50’s. It’s fair to say that football was a lot different back then to the game we know today whilst other aspects, such as rivalry with QPR or suspicion of match rigging, were present even then.

Ken, who came over as a genuinely nice guy and warm individual, gave a remarkable account of his time as player. From the early days at Blackpool after the Second World War to his career at Brentford.

Extracts from the interview, which was conducted alongside his wife Joyce, are reproduced below.

Ken on first playing football after the war: “I had no ideas of being a footballer. I was brought up during the war and was thirteen when it broke out. By the time I was fifteen /sixteen I had become a member of a youth club. They had a football team and wanted to play but had no one to play as all the men were away. So we used to get on our bikes and arrange matches with prisoners of war and also RAF teams. We used to play the Italians and then have a cup of tea with them behind the barbed wire. Also the Germans but it was bit different as with them they had all the guards on the gate.”

They enjoyed a game of football and we’d sit down and have tea with them. The Italians were actually allowed to walk around the town. They had big patches all over them but we all knew they didn’t want to go back and fight! They knew when it was good here; they were fed and would go in the pubs and everything. But with the Germans all the sentries were on duty with the guns as soon as you walked through the gate. It was a different atmosphere but a great experience.

Often when we were due to play the RAF teams we’d get it cancelled. Then you’d read the news and see they’d been out over Germany during the night which is why they couldn’t play us.”

Ken on his trial at Blackpool: “ I thought it was a trial, all the young players talking to each other. I didn’t know who we were playing but it turned out to be Burnley A. Mid way through the second half I took the ball form the goalkeeper and took it on, right through where I slipped it to the centre half, it got back to me and I put it through the goalkeeper’s legs. They all mobbed me and I asked them afterwards, why does everyone know one another? “

He was told, “ They’re all professionals here and you’ve just scored the winning goal that’s given them the league.” He signed for Blackpool !!

Ken on Stanley Matthews: .”. I’d only ever seen him on cigarette cards so you can imagine what it was like. Even driving through Blackpool everyone was waving. I was a lad from the country and here I am sitting alongside the great Stanley Matthews.

He came and played in my benefit match at Brentford. It was all internationals we played against. It was a hell of a crowd and we even got a quarter of an hour live on television, which had never happened before in an evening programme. I went in to the dressing room afterwards, because I knew quite a lot of them.

I went round to thanks them all for coming and Stan said to me, ‘Ken, would you mind cleaning my boots.’ This is absolutely true. I took them out and just dusted them. “ Infact, Stan had made a real effort to participate in the game.

”He’d been training that morning and had come from Blackpool. He had a mac and pulled out a newspaper, wrapped his boot up and put it in his pocket then did the same on the other side. He went back that night on the sleeper train.”

Ken as a player : “When I came down to Brentford I’d never played full back before but we’d been a bit shy in front of goal so they moved Fred Monk from right back to centre forward and I stepped in there. He scored in eleven consecutive goals and we went on a wonderful run.”

It is at this point that Joyce joins in and gives her opinion. “He’d never be on the field now, he’d always be red carded! Lethal but legal He tackled hard and it used to be man, ball, everything.”

Ken concurs, “ I was a little bit……aggressive. One thing I was proud of was that I played at Brentford for eleven years and never, to my knowledge, got barracked. The crowd used to barrack quite a few of them.

I did get booked once at Bristol Rovers in a reserve game, where I was captaining and Tommy Lawton was the manager. The linesman was terrible and I was having a go at him all the time, trying to get the rest of the team playing and gee them up. Right at the end the ball came to me as the referee’s whistle went. I thought to myself, I’ve had enough, and fired the ball straight back into the crowd.

I ran off and as I was going down the tunnel and felt a tap on the shoulder from the referee who said he had to take my name and report me for ungentlemanly conduct. The linesman had told him that I hit the ball straight into the crowd.

I went in to training later that week where Tommy had received a letter from the FA. I told him it was true and said I would own up to it. No you don’t’ he said, got his pen out an put this reply to the F.A…

‘Just as the final whistle blew, the ball landed on my foot and as I was making the clearance it skewed off into the crowd, If I have caused any problems to anyone I do apologise wholeheartedly. It wasn’t intentional and would never happen again”

I signed it. We got away with it! That’s the only time I’ve been booked and”, he deadpans… “I don’t know why”,

Ken - as featured on the official site yesterday

Ken – as featured on the official site yesterday

Ken on the climax to the 1957/58 season – the old third division South and North, with only one team going up from each. The Bee’s final game was at home to title rivals Brighton.

“It was between them and us. I’d hurt the top of my foot and didn’t think I could play but had a pain killing injection. It was a really good game with almost thirty thousand there that night and I was so pleased to get though without any pain. We’re running off the field when Ian Dargie comes along, slapping me on the back and jumps straight on top of my foot. I couldn’t walk.”

However, Brentford held on to a 1-0 victory meaning Brighton had to win their last game, against Watford, to take the title.

“Jimmy Bowie, a betting man, went to Watford and said (so he claimed) we can offer you money to go out and beat Brighton for us. Jimmy named his price and got told – ‘We get more than that for losing to Brighton’. There was a lot of trouble after that match with the Watford captain. There was a lad making his debut for Brighton and Meadows, who was captain of Watford and who Jimmy had spoken to, was marking him. This lad was making his debut and scored five goals. In the first half.”

For the record, a subsequent probe by the Daily Mail the next season confirmed that some Watford players had taken a payment to let Brighton win but by that stage it was too late…

Ken’s career highlights: Brentford’s 1951 trip to play the Dutch international team.

“We flew from Heathrow on KLM and stayed there five days. We played n the Olympic stadium and we were better than them. The Germans had taken over Holland during the war so they were getting back on their feet. They wanted a good run out and so we gave them one. We were better than them although drew one all. It was a lovely trip, we gave them a very good game and they were happy; even gave us a reception and presentation afterwards.”

These days surely even the most loyal Brentford fan would struggle to cope with the concept of them outplaying the Dutch national side.

“1955 when we played Newcastle in the cup. We lost but they went on to win the cup and it was that last time they did so. We lost 3-2 but gave them some game. Johnny Rainford was brilliant that day. You’d have thought he was the first division player. He was playing against some famous players. Well, we all were. Kenny Coote was left back and he was up against Jackie Milburn and I was playing against Bobby Mitchell who was a Scotland international. All we heard all week was ‘ if you two can stop the two wingers we’ll do alright’. I think we did our job quite well.”

Ken has his eye on the ball

Ken has his eye on the ball

Ken on his teammates: Kenny (Coote)was such a nice fellow and such a good player. Quite honestly I think he was too good for us and it’s a pity he didn’t go higher.

I was also very friendly with Tony Harper who played just in front of me. He was wicked. He just never stopped running. He was everywhere, like Rooney. He and I had such a good understanding and he was such a nice fellow too although you wouldn’t think it when he was on the field. Very tough

It was a pleasure to play in those times.

That was the best team I played in. Ron Greenwood, Jimmy Hill, Billy Dare. It was a good side and hardly changed for weeks. I played about eighty games alongside Ron Greenwood. He was wonderful to play with. He used to make you play football and get it down, because sometimes in our day it was a lot of hoofing it but Ron wanted it played on the deck all the time and did so. He was really good to play with.

He was coaching, even in those days doing his coaching course already. Walter Winterbottom thought an awful lot of him, even then. My peg in the dressing room was alongside his so it was like we did everything next to each other.

Ken on playing QPR: They had a clever little winger called Ernie Shepherd. He was a good player but didn’t like me at all and he didn’t like tackles! I’m playing on the side where it was (then) all terrace and you’re very close to the people leaning up against the fence. They used to hate me over there and were all giving me the bird. About an hour through the game the ball went out for a throw in. I bent down to get it, looked up and they’re all going “you dirty so and so”. I looked up with the ball and just said to them “Has anybody seen Ernie Shepherd this afternoon?” After that they were all applauding me.

Not only did he manage to silence the Ranger’s fans, but even their children were loyal supporters, as Joyce elaborates. “ I used to take our eldest daughter who was only two and ever so good at the football. They were all calling out “You dirty bugger, Horne”. All of a sudden she stood on a seat and says, “That’s not a bugger, that’s my daddy”

After that the crowd all round us were all saying “Come on daddy” .

Ken gave a wonderful insight into life as a footballer in the 1950s

Ken gave a wonderful insight into life as a footballer in the 1950s

Nick Bruzon

Support Brentford, enjoy the Bright Sky and do your bit

18 May

I’m going to try and write a post FA Cup final Brentford column without mentioning Russell Slade and celebrating after yesterday’s game saw Arsenal, finally, win a trophy whilst Hull City AFC won friends the world over.

Anybody who missed the match in preference for the conclusion to ‘La Liga’ lost out on witnessing one of the most thrilling finals on record. Spain may have some of the biggest names in world football but for real excitement, I’m glad I keep things ‘domestic’ as the oldest cup competition reached an inexorable climax.

That was then; this is now. Having woken up on Sunday morning to warm weather and glorious skies over TW8, the footballing excitement looks set to beat even yesterday’s thrills. It is, of course, the second (now annual) run out for the Brentford legend’s team at Griffin Park.

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How the BBC website might have looked this morning. It’s not too late, chaps

This free to enter event, organised by club sponsors Skyex in aid of their ‘Bright Sky’ charity forms the denouement of the Community Day. Gates are already open (9.30am) with ‘the big game’ due to kick off at 2.30pm.

Those in attendance for last year’s game saw a competitive match with Brentford eventually running out as 6-4 winners. Can they maintain their 100% record? There’s only one place to find out.

What better way to spend a sunny afternoon than kicking back in the stand, catching up with your friends, seeing some Bees’ legends in action and, perhaps, enjoying a beer in the warm weather? Better still, its all for charity !

And if the Bees make it 2 out of 2, I’ve no doubt they’ll celebrate like they’ve won the etc etc etc

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Forget Arsenal and La Liga – THIS is what it’s all about