Tag Archives: Mail

Gloves are off as rivalry with Birmingham City resumes

26 Nov

Saturday. Match day. Time to renew one of the more recent, but unlikely, rivalries. For Brentford supporters the likes of Fulham and QPR are, of course, the ones to get the blood pumping when it comes to those ‘must win’ games. Yet for those of us supporting a little longer, Birmingham City have more than given us a run for the money and some high stakes battles over the years.

1990-91 saw us go head-to-head in an epic Leyland DAF Southern zone semi with the Blues. Having already disposed of them in the FA Cup second round, Brentford could have fancied themselves as knock out football favourites. But with Wembley beckoning ,  there are no prizes for working out who eventually won both legs to record a  3-1 aggregate win.

The 91-92 Third Division title race famously saw things go our way in the final game of the season as Huddersfield Town and Gary Blissett ‘did the needful’ at Peterborough. A moment made all the sweeter by Saint & Greavsie having already used their Saturday morning show to congratulate Birmingham on being champions.

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View from the terrace – Deano and Terry celebrate promotion at Peterborough

Things weren’t so sweet the following season as the Blues just edged past us in the battle to be named the least bad of our respective sides. Both teams fought a desperate, and in our case doomed, battle against relegation from Division One (now the Championship) with that final game humbling at Bristol City being enough to sink the Bees and save the Blues.

However, the coup de grâce was delivered in 1994-95 where, thanks to the joys of Premiership restructuring, there was only one automatic promotion place to the Championship available. With both teams neck and neck at the top, one game stood out like a sore thumb on the fixture list. For months in advance the trip to St. Andrews, only three games before the denouement of the camapign, was the one we all thought would be the crunch match.

Sure enough, it was. In the pressure cooker atmosphere of a packed stadium, where a win for Brentford would have made it all but mathematically impossible for even us to stuff things up, it was The Blues who came out on top with a 2-0 win. To this day, I’ve been unable to watch half-time guest of honour Jasper Carrott. I’d love to blame psychological scarring from that result but, in fact, it’s more just his material. Ahhh, insurance claims.(kids, ask your dads).

Oh well, despite defeat at least we were still in the play-offs…..

And that then, three seasons ago, something wonderful happened. Brentford returned to what is now the  Championship. With it, a chance to deliver some pay league back. Finally. Yet whilst our own campaigns at this level have seen wonderful finishes of 5th, 9th and the Bees currently five points off the play-offs, Birmingham have been somewhat of a bogey team. A solitary point from our four encounters to date being the best we’ve had to show for it  – that, a 1-1 back in August 2014 .

So which way will it go today? Money where the mouth is – a Brentford win. Gut reaction was to call it 1-1 in a match preview for the Birmingham Mail yesterday but, I’ve been thinking more and more about this. For me, this has the look of a gritty game played out between two sides with rock solid defences. Yet, at the same time, I think it will have goals in it. Three to be precise. With the Bees coming out on top by 2-1. Lasse, Scott and, for the visitors, a certain Mr Donaldson.

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Clayton – a Brentford legend

Yes, the other highlight of today (not counting the free chili in The Hive) is the chance to see Clayton back at Griffin Park.

Always a hugely popular figure, even to this day, he’s a Brentford legend whose goals helped fire us to promotion and earn the chance to take on the likes of Birmingham once more. Of course, there’ll be no pleasantries when action begins (although hopefully fans will show him the respect due) but I’m sure I won’t be alone in feeling a pang of fondness for the big man when he’s out there.

As a final note, a quick follow up to yesterday’s piece in regards to Rainbow Laces weekend. Fans may already be aware of the special match day programme on sale in/around the ground whilst Captain Harlee Dean (who also gives an exclusive on his ‘coming of age’ and life at Griffin Park) has already been photographed with a special armband.

Fans expecting to see him sporting that one on match day may be disappointed. Infact, the rainbow captain’s armband is a promotional item and it is expected that regular versions will be used at the games this weekend.

Indeed, Stonewall have told clubs that they understand that players might not want to change their laces for a game. Instead, players can show and document their support in other ways, such as Harlee did in such wonderful fashion on Thursday.

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Harley Dean shows his support

I can fully get behind that. We all have our match day kit jinxes, rituals and comfort factors – magic pants, lucky shirt, the ragged old scarf from the 70s that all go towards Brentford winning. I was devastated when the lucky ‘spiderman’ undergarments went to that great bin in the sky. For the players, I can only imagine the importance of kit, footwear, boots and laces that they are familiar with is tenfold to that of us on the terrace.

Whichever way they are dressed, here’s hoping for a great game and the right result. It’s been a long time coming. 62 years, to be precise. Looking at the BBC preview this morning I was shocked to see the last time Brentford beat Birmingham in a league fixture at Griffin Park being a 2-0 back in March 1954. Top scorer Frank Dudley adding further to his tally with both goals on that day.

Perhaps time to look to history and revise that bet? 2-0 Brentford with Scott Hogan scoring is 22/1. Then again, the earlier 2-1 /scorers prediction comes in at a very handsome 177/1. On second thoughts, knowing my betting history spare coins will probably better spent on the aforementioned match day programme instead.

I wouldn’t want to jinx the team….

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Nick Bruzon

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Call off the annihilation. Aston Villa to pack it in and fold after failing to beat pub team

15 Sep

Well that’s not a bad few days work. Brentford pulled it back to draw 1-1 with Aston Villa in a game which, arguably, the Bees can end up feeling disappointed not to have won. Certainly, based on a final ten minutes of frenetic pressure that built to a dazzling crescendo and almost an additional two points. Coming hot on the heels of Saturday’s win at Brighton, Dean Smith can probably allow himself an extra portion of coco pops this morning as reward for a job well done.

It was a point which was all the sweeter for having run the gauntlet of pre (and post) match abuse from a section of Villa home fans on social media. Da kidz giving it large from the safety of their keyboards is not uncommon these days but how delicious when it blows back at them.

To read the rest of this article, season 2016/17 is now available for download on e-book in the retrospective: Welcome Home, King Jota (Brentford FC season review 2016/17)

Priced at just £1.99, all sales are being donated to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust.

Likewise any sales from the previous titles – Celebrating like they’d won the FA Cup (2013/14), Tales from the football village (2014/15) and Ready. Steady. Go Again. (2015/16) – are also now going to the BFCCST.

Containing the least bad of the blogs from May 2016 to May 2017 along with a smattering of new material, you can pick it up, here. Its all for a great cause and,hey, you may even enjoy it…..

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Villa Park – prior to kick off. Annihilation imminent. Possibly

 

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Bees fans celebrate the equaliser in palatial surroundings

Nick Bruzon

ITV on the rise but will Sky scrape the barrel? And what of John Swift?

27 Mar

There was mixed news on the International front last night. Despite many enjoying the 3-2 win for England in Germany, it was the performance of the U-21 team that saw potential bad news for Brentford where Chelsea loanee John Swift limped off less than half an hour into the game with a bloody foot. Elsewhere (and I need to thank the statistical demigod that is Luis Melville for his Twitter tip-off) there was terrifying news from the Daily Mail.

But first, England. What a night – primarily because the alleged  Supporters’ band couldn’t be heard over the TV speakers. Were they even in Berlin? Who cares! The lack of jingoistic parping from their off-key trumpets was music to my ears. If I wanted to hear the theme tune to the Great Escape I’d simply watch TV on any Bank Holiday.

That was my on-field highlight. Yes, of course the goals were wonderfully taken although if you want any form of match report than, as ever, I’d suggest the BBC. The said, the win was hard fought with the ITV commentary team doing their best to jinx it at the death. Eric Dier’s injury time goal was met with declarations of “A winner in Germany” and “a winner on his debut”, despite there still being 90 seconds on the clock.

The other plus point was the performance of Lothar Matthäus  in the punditry position. Channelling the look of Paul Robinson – Neighbours, rather than Birmingham City or Burnley – he was that rare example of an ITV pundit who it was actually a pleasure to listen to. Dead pan humour, common sense and a great reading of the game. Let’s hope they snap him up for the Euros over the summer.

Kit wise, just about everybody has said their piece on this already. England opting for traditional red with burgundy sleeves and blue socks (very much Dagenham & Redbridge 1995, as one Twitter observer noted) whilst Germany elected to wear two tone black/dark green(?) with lighter green sleeves. And don’t forget the white stripes down the side from armpit to hem that looked like a somewhat unsightly deodorant stain.

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As the regular reader will (should one exist still) be aware, I’m all for the unusual and a bit of variety in team kit. These, however, both looked like the product of a “What might go well with jeans?” marketing meeting. And those blue socks should never see the light of day again.

For me Clive, this has surpassed the 1994 effort (oversized flappy collars, all those subliminal badges and a shade heading towards burgundy) as the worst ever England away shirt.

As a final thought on the game, what was with all the adverts for ‘Hooch’ that kept flashing around the pitch? Surely that died out in the 90s with Global Hypercolour t-shirts, VHS cassettes and ‘Eat my shorts’ ? Or are Student Union bars (three of the most terrifying words in the English language, to rank alongside ‘Rail Replacement bus’) about to see a resurgence?

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No longer the worst England away shirt

Next up, John Swift. With Josh McEachran still being reported out injured (and the club saying nothing to deny these stories, unless I’ve missed it) there would have been heart in mouth when he got injured last night. Despite my best searches of the internet – and it is frustrating how often a search for his name is thrown off track by: Taylor Swift, Dear John – the most we know so far is that he has a cut foot judging by the pictures circulating on Twitter.

How bad this is remains to be seen although I am sure we’ll learn more today. Whilst he has, for the most part , divided Brentford supporters during his loan spell from Chelsea, one thing we can all agree on is that another injury is the last thing we need at this pivotal point in the season. We all recall how Chris Long’s nasty gash impacted him at the tail end of the previous campaign and so let’s hope this isn’t a case of déjà vu.

I’m not a hypocrite. I don’t think Swift has had the best start to his career at Griffin Park. An over indulgence on the showboating and tendency to lose the ball has been a frustration yet, at the same time, he clearly has ability as we have seen in patches. The Wolves game in particular highlighted what he can do when we get his ‘A game’. Besides, you don’t get called up for the England U-21’s unless there is something there.

Equally, and as we are reminded time and again, he IS a young player who is still learning his game. These skills and judgement calls will come as his game develops. John has become an easy target in some circles but at a time we need everybody pulling together, let’s hope his substitution was a precautionary one and we have him back, on top form, this Saturday.

Ok. The Daily Mail. Or, rather, Mailsport online have run a disturbing story to suggest Sky will be revamping Friday night football next season to make it, what seems to be, a bit more ‘laddish’. Nuts magazine does football if you will, as guest presenters are suggested to include – brace yourself – the likes of James Corden and Holly Willoughby.

Before anybody mistakes this for any form of misogynistic rant, let’s be 100% clear. I’ve got no issues with women presenting football. Quite the opposite. I think Kelly Cates has been the shining star in the (initially at least) car crash that was Football League Tonight whilst Gabby Logan has been doing her thing, brilliantly, for almost twenty years.

And, of course, who could forget our own Natalie Sawyer who has had her feet under the presenter’s desk for so long that she probably knows more about the beautiful game than most of us put together. (Perhaps Sky should be looking ‘in house’ where, of course, Natalie has also shown her punditry skills on Football League coverage?)

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Natalie at the Sky Sports desk – feet not pictured

My issue is with novelty presenters. Comedians great. Football great. Just please don’t combine the two. Nobody needs another ‘Russell Brand’ guesting on Match of the Day.

Football punditry is three men or women, who know about football, sitting on a sofa and talking about the game. You don’t need to jazz it up anymore. We’ll still watch.

Will anybody, honestly, say: “It’s Chelsea – Leicester City tonight. I was going to give it a miss but Gary Neville is busy with Valencia so Holly Willoughby is presenting. Get the Hooch in and make room on the sofa” ?

Aside from the fact that I’ve got more chance of managing Valencia than Gary Neville next season I can’t believe that situation is going to play out anywhere. Who needs Lothar Matthäus when we could have the host of Surprise Surprise, This Morning and Streetmate (don’t remember that one)? I’ve nothing against Holly per-se but when her sporting pedigree peaks at ‘Celebrity Wrestling’ and ‘Dancing on Ice’, perhaps one to give a miss.

Comedians, alleged or genuine, don’t mix well on football

Nick Bruzon

Sam Sodje match fixing allegation – WATN interview

8 Dec

Say it’s not true. Please…

One of the real Brentford success stories under Martin Allen, Sam was today at the centre of accusations in regards to alleged match fixing. According to several sources including the Mail Online, Sam got himself deliberately sent off to aid a betting syndicate when he punched Oldham’s Jose Baxter, twice, whilst playing for Portsmouth.

The evidence presented seems pretty damming and makes you wonder, if true, how long this sort of thing has been going on for. Heaven forbid anything happened whilst at Brentford – campaigns that saw us narrowly miss out on promotion after botched play-off attempts. To suggest either way would be foolhardy, so I’m not going to do it.

Instead, I’ll share the interview I carried out with Sam for the matchday programme last year. A chance to remember the good times but, also, get an insight into his mindset whilst playing for the Bees….

SAM SODJE – Where are they now

As a young footballer hoping to get that ‘big break’ from non-league to a professional club, there are several ways to impress a potential new manager. For some, it could be a dedication to training and fitness. Others may rely on a series of strong ‘on pitch’ displays, perhaps backed up with a DVD show reel. However, today’s guest took the unorthodox approach – rough up his prospective new employer’s team before attempting to, literally, punch out his future boss. Thus saw the 2004 introduction to league football of today’s ‘Where Are They Now’ guest.

At the time, one of our more ‘controversial’ signings (thanks largely to the lengthy suspension this ‘unknown’ had arrived with) when he left two years later at the end of the 2005/06 campaign, this centre-back had been deemed one of our best ever. One of that rare breed to make his international debut whilst on Brentford’s books – the first of several appearances for the Nigerian national side – he has since gone on to grace the Premier League, alongside several of his former Griffin Park colleagues. These days lining up for Notts County with the likes of Stuart Nelson, Gavin Mahon and BBB, would you please welcome back to Griffin Park – Sam Sodje.

Whilst recent issues of WATN have also focused on this period in the club’s history, rather than dwell too much on certain games Sam provides us with an absolutely unique insight into his mindset at the time. Likewise some open and, perhaps, surprising opinions about his team-mates. He speaks with a genuine enthusiasm and appreciation of both the fans and his time at Griffin Park but we begin with his arrival  – which took place in that typical ‘Sam style’ we all came to love.

“My story about joining Brentford is a funny one. I was playing non-league for Margate. We were playing up at Barnet where Martin Allen was the manager.  I didn’t know who anybody was although my teammates recognised him.”

As if to quantify what came next, he assures me, “I really didn’t know who he was.  I was just playing my normal game the way I play, putting all my heart into it and he thought I was being rough with his players. He came onto the pitch and tried to tell me, ‘Why was I being rough?’

I just tried to punch him!

It’s not good but that’s what happened. I didn’t know who he was so just tried to fight him and he couldn’t believe that I did it. The next day I had the phone call saying he had joined Brentford and would like to sign me!”

I suggest to Sam that, in retrospect, he was somewhat of a brave man considering whom it turned out that he had confronted. Maybe he wouldn’t have done this had he been aware of ‘Mad Dog’s’ reputation?

“It didn’t matter. I wasn’t brave because I really didn’t know who he was. Brentford fans know I put my heart into everything I do and I play the game the way I live my life.”

Before Martin signed him, there were other opportunities with trials at both Chester & Yeovil, amongst other teams, which didn’t really work out. When these fell through, was there any thought that maybe his chance had gone or was Sam always hoping to make that step up?

To be fair, when I was first playing non-league I always knew I was going to make it. I was that arrogant about my ability. Going to Yeovil and going to Chester, I didn’t think of that as a downside. I just thought that it was only about time before I was in the Premiership.

I know it sounds cocky but I was very arrogant and cocky in those days and really believed in my abilities. Those trials were not a setback for me. They were something where, deep down I knew was just a matter of time before I played in the League.

I enjoyed them aswell. I just went there because I thought I should go but also I always knew the day would come where I was playing top-flight football.”

Clearly, Sam wasn’t alone in this belief about his ability with Martin calling him the next day, despite his best efforts to deck him! Was it that much out of the blue or were other clubs interested?

“Yeah. I had a chance to go to Leyton Orient at that time and had a couple of other calls. However, he called me up and I just wanted to play in the League, to be fair. He spoke to me and although I didn’t know who he was, he said to me: ‘Sam, it’s my job at Brentford and I want to sign you.’

No-one knew about me. I came to Brentford and thought I was going to play every week. I thought I was just good enough to be in the league.”

Having arrived at Brentford, the contrast to what he had known before was apparent!

It was the best I’d seen. Remember, I was coming from a non-league side in Margate where the training pitch was not the best whilst the club was part-time aswell so training was in the evenings. Then coming to Brentford, who has just moved to a new training ground, it was all I wanted. I couldn’t wait to start playing.

It was so funny though, because Martin signed me not knowing I was suspended for the first half-a-dozen games or so. I carried over a red card from Margate and people were saying ‘Who is this guy he signed?’

So I missed those games but then got my chance and I took it. It went from there, really. I just believed and, when I speak to young kids nowadays, I tell them how at that time I really believed I could make it all the way. My belief took me through.”

This belief seemed to spread through the entire team. For the spectators, it was a thing of beauty watching it all come together. For the players, especially one just starting his first league campaign, it must have been fantastic.

I loved it and the main thing that helped me enjoy it more was that I didn’t feel as though I was making the step up. I really thought it was where I was meant to be. I know it sounds arrogant but that is what I wanted and I thought I could be playing higher. I think that helped me and also in achieving my goals.

Even Martin Allen aswell. When you play for a club where the fans love you, it’s great. It wasn’t like a ‘first season’ for me. After the first three or four games I felt like a hero to the fans and it meant I had to reach a standard where in every game I did not want to play badly because I knew they rated me highly. So I was playing for the manager, my team-mates and I had good players around me. I just enjoyed coming to work. Every day !! That’s what young people should be able to do and I enjoyed it so much.”

Sam may have enjoyed it and none so more than in the FA Cup runs. His first season saw us paired with Premiership side, Southampton, in the fifth round. He talks about the first game as part of his ‘Career highlight’ and the 2-2 draw meant a replay at Griffin Park with the prospect of Manchester United for the winners.

Oh..My..God..! I tell you what. That year was the biggest of my career and even the build up to that game was too much. Martin called us into the office and spoke to a few of us. Brentford days were good days and we really believed that bringing them back to Griffin Park, we were going to win. They showed the class they had from the Premiership, though, but it was still happy days.”

Cup aside, that’s not forgetting we did very, very well in the league where The Bees got all the way to the play offs against Sheffield Wednesday.

“Yes. Sheffield Wednesday away was the biggest, loudest crowd we had been against. It was so loud but being a Brentford fan or player then, we knew we had the heart to go anywhere and to win. Unfortunately, we didn’t get through but the belief we had was incredible.”

If anything though, this incredible belief set Brentford up for that second season (2005-06) where it more of the same – exciting cup runs and table topping league action. Sadly, in the end, the outcome was also the same.

“I keep saying to people that if you look at the players who were in that team, they all worked hard and have gone on to do well. I WISH we had the chance to get that promotion because it would have been a different story. A lot of people think that I am just saying this but if we had won promotion, we would have been the Swansea City of today. The team had so much belief that we should be playing in the top flight.”

If season 2004/05 had been a nice surprise for the fans after the previous campaign’s ‘Great Escape’, to get so close again but fall at the last was a bitter pill to swallow.

“It was too much but thinking about it now, that’s something you will always remember and think about. If it had gone the other way, what would my career have been like? I loved Brentford. I had a few offers to leave (including one to Southampton in the midway point of that season) but I never wanted to – I thought we were going to go up. I’ve never seen a club where the fans loved the players that much. It was so much that I could never afford to, play a bad game.”

This relationship with the fans is something that Sam had mentioned before but he is happy to confirm it was that strong. As such, with Notts County due to visit next month, it could be interesting.

It (the relationship) was too much! They had my song and everything. I don’t think I’ve been back since I left. People at Brentford know me! I’m going to come there and play my heart out anyway. I left in a good way and still hold the fans strongly but that won’t stop me coming back and being Sam Sodje. If I have to score, I’ll score, but I’ll always have the Brentford fans in my heart.”

Aswell as interim success for the team, 2005/06 saw Sam triumph on a personal level. Domestically, he was named in the end of season ’League team of the year’.

“It was great. The same thing, again, though.  Now I find it a real achievement because I know what I did but at the time it was not a big deal because I thought – I prefer to go up with the Brentford team than to win this. Whether I was good enough, I wanted to get promotion.

People spoke to me before and said, ‘Sam, you sound really confident’. I just trusted my ability. It was my point of view. At that time, it was still a great honour to be named as one of the best defenders in that League but now I appreciate it all the more.’

Going further afield, Sam also made his international debut for Nigeria.

“I played against Romania, I remember. I’ve gone on to get more caps, play in World Cup qualifiers and it’s all from Brentford. Even when I go to Nigeria, people say ‘Sam – the Brentford days’, so the club always comes into the picture.”

Whatever personal success Sam achieved over his two seasons at Brentford, with the team failing to get promoted it seemed obvious that our better players would depart. As with Jay Tabb (see WATN v Carlisle) the opportunity to test himself at a higher level would prove to be too much.

“To be honest with you, it was too good a chance. To get that chance to go to a Premiership club. I could even have gone to a bigger team but because I was so cocky, again, I decided to go to Reading as I thought I’d get more games. I had a chance to go to Blackburn and travelled there but decided to go to Reading because I wanted to play in the Premiership. I thought that if I went to Blackburn I might not get my chance.”

It’s always interesting to ask our former players whom they really rated as players alongside them. Asking Sam this question, the answer is one that may come as a bit of a surprise to some.

“Both seasons we had a great back four. It was me, Turner, Frampton and O’Connor for most of those two seasons but, when I first came, Scott Fitzgerald was playing at centre-half. Coming from a non-league team, I learnt a lot from him. He taught me more, and might not know this, but I learnt so much from him. That is how I got into the Premier League, because I was watching him play. There are little things that you may not understand but as footballers, little tricks he did. As he was reaching the end of his career, I could understand where he was coming from. Just using my head around the pitch.

I don’t think he knows, even now,  what I learnt from him.

Then it came to me and Michael Turner and I had an understanding that I don’t think I’d ever had before. Even when he’d click his fingers, I’d know what he was going to do next. He’d shake his head, and I’d know what he was going to do next.

Talking about helping me out, Kevin O’Connor was very good with me. I’d just come from non-league and he was such a good talker. He probably made me look better than I was because he would just talk me through the game. He made sure I was in the right place at the right time. I was pacy and I was strong so he made sure I was winning the headers because he talked a lot. Andy Frampton, the same. Me and Jay Tabb were very good mates. He was one of my best friends.

It was the defence, though; I always remember that, because we kept so many clean sheets. We knew exactly what we would do. Michael Turner was one of the best players I ever played with because of the understanding. Even when he was turning his head I knew what he would do.

Stuart Nelson, aswell. We were similar in that we were mad and would always fight on the pitch. Best friends off it but we would always fight, every game. Now I get older I realise that he just wanted to win so badly, the same as me, which is good.”

Despite whatever on pitch runs ins there may have been, Sam and Nels are team-mates once more, this time at Notts County. Whilst Sam still retains the same love of playing, the style has changed a bit.

“I am enjoying my football although it’s different now. I’ve got an older head so it’s a bit more experienced. It’s different from the days of Brentford.

My game has changed dramatically because I have had an injury.  I left Brentford, went to the Premiership and had a knee injury – my cartilage. I have played all through my career with it, which is fine although I need a manager that understands me. I’ve had a few that didn’t – Charlton, for example.

I’ve done well in my career, even played internationals. So my game has changed where now I might play a little bit more like Scott Fitzgerald, with that bit more experience.”

What has become clear from my time talking to Sam are his love of playing football, an indefatigable self-belief that has driven him on and perhaps, most of all, the genuine warmth he still feels for both Brentford FC and our supporters. It is a combination of factors summed up as he reflects on his eventual move away from Griffin Park.

Things happen at the time and it didn’t take away how I feel about the Brentford fans. I hope they would be happy to have got a player from non-league who has since gone on to appear at Wembley and play for my country. I think Brentford should be proud of that. I was going through the airport the other day and met a Brentford fan who was loving me and I loved him because it was Brentford! I think me and Brentford are always going to be like the husband and wife thing who are together in life forever

CAREER HIGHLIGHT

“I’ve got three.

My first goal I scored, against Torquay (a 2-2 away draw and only his third game for the club). I think that’s what made me as a Bees player.

Second up, you cannot take away my goal against Southampton. That was just unbelievable. I’ve said it before – in that game people keep asking me what I remember about it.

What I remember was that we played a Premiership side but the team we had at that time thought that WE should be in the Premiership. I know if might sound arrogant, and looking back it is, but we really thought we should play there. The fans were loving it and I just thought, ‘that’s where I want to play’.

I think I actually played better in the big games. I didn’t think of that game as us playing a Premiership side but more ‘This is where I want to be playing every week’ and I think that is why we did well.”

Sam’s final selection comes from the FA cup fifth round tie, in his second season.

“If I say this one, you’ll be surprised. Against Charlton I was sick the day before the game and was struggling to play. The minute I came up from out of the toilets, the whole crowd were singing my song. They will have never known what that did to me.

It just made me go mad and I thought. ‘I don’t care. I’m going to play today’. It ended up that I had a great game and the fans were singing my name.’