Tag Archives: Michael Turner

When push comes to shove – The Last Word on….

26 Aug

Brentford host Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday and so, as part of the big match build up, we’ll move on from talk of Alan Judge to Newcastle United and look at our next opponents. It’s time for our new regular feature, The Last Word on…and today Wednesday are in the hot seat. Featuring a series of regular questions/ categories about the visitors , the results are picked using no more scientific criteria than personal taste. With apologies for any glaring omissions, here we go (again).

The Brentford connection (he’s played for both). Without the benefit of any super computer, I’m having to rely on my somewhat scattergun knowledge for this category. That, certainly, something which accounts for Stan Bowles missing out last time in the Nottingham Forest article. Sorry, Stan. And whilst I’m sure that similar gaps will appear this time around, a few names do spring immediately to mind.

There’s Deon Burton, whose time at the Bees included that epic season under Martin Allen in 2004/05 where his goals in a 2-1 win and 3-3 draw with Wednesday helped us towards an eventual play-off semi final place…..

How about his teammate Michael Turner? One of the classiest centre backs to ever grace Griffin Park and somebody who was last seen at the Owls during the previous campaign whilst on loan from Norwich City.

But the choice of standout name boils down to one of two Andys. Sinton was THE man at Griffin Park back in the late 80s. Back to back supporters player of the year in 86/87 and 87/88 he was an almost constant feature in his three seasons. Attacking play and goals were the order of the day as his form played a key role in our epic 88/89 FA Cup run the that would eventually end at Liverpool in the quarter finals. A transfer to QPR would follow where international recognition (12 England caps) and his move to Sheffield Wednesday came next. One of the all time Brentford legends.

But, for me, when you mention Brentford and Sheffield Wednesday there is one name that always strings to mind  – Andy McCulloch. 48 goals in 127 league games for the Bees from 76- 79 were match by an almost identical record at Hillsborough where he notched 44 in 125 following his transfer.

And it is that transfer which, in Andy’s own words, is one of the more unusual in the annals of football history footballing

It was a classic. I scored a header at Griffin Park and had my nose broken. I was on a stretcher, going into the dressing room and Ian St. John, who was at Sheffield Wednesday, pointed to me as I’m going in the door and said , “would you fancy coming to Sheffield Wednesday?” At Brentford –after I had just scored a goal. He tapped me up!

The deal was completed on the camera gantry  at Wembley stadium with their manager Jack Charlton. Andy explaining , “It was before a Scotland-England game, I think . I’d gone up there just to meet Jackie. It was the only way of meeting him in London.”

Andy McCulloch

That iconic image of Andy

The Brentford encounter (noteworthy game with the Bees). Our return to the Championship hasn’t seen great results. Last season, in particular, seeing us lucky to escape from Hillsborough having only gone down 4-0 after Yoann Barbet was shown the red card just five minutes into the game.

Instead, we’ll look at the aforementioned 2005/05campaign under Martin Allen. Again, the result was an equally painful one but, for a time, the prospect of playing Wednesday was nothing but the ultimate in excitement.

Having already seen a wonderful FA Cup campaign that finally saw us go out in a fifth round replay to Premier League Southampton, knockout football held no worries. And so we approached our play-off semi final with Wednesday in high spirits. A 1-0 defeat at Hillsborough soon took the wind out of those sails with the home team taking the lead on 12 minutes and never giving us a look in.

The return match at Griffin Park saw the Bees go down 2-1. Even then, Andy Frampton’s goal was nothing more than a very late consolation. Hardly a highlight in our history but one noted to remind us of the pain suffered in this end of season lottery. Moreso, given the hope that one day we will get it right. One day….

Favourite son  (their most famous former player ). The 80s and early 90s were, in particular, a time where the name Sheffield Wednesday evoked nothing but the best imagery. Mr Tom was on their shirt whilst the likes of Lee Chapman and the free scoring David Hirst were on the pitch. To that mix you can add Des Walker (who, of course, featured in this category last time out for Nottingham Forest and Chris Waddle although the latter was sadly bereft of ‘that’ mullet by this point.

From the more recent era, two names spring to mind for the neutral.  Benito Carbone channeled the spirit of Chris Waddle with exciting play, long, long hair and even his iconic ‘Alice band’. Yet it was another Italian who scoops the honours this time around.  Paolo Di Canio.

The club’s top scorer in 1997-98 and a firm fan favourite (apologies for the sub-Chronicle alliteration) he won their player of the year award that season. However, it was the following campaign that secured his cult status when he received an 11 match ban for pushing referee Paul Alcock over during a match against Arsenal.

Nobody could deny it was a flash of unjustifiable temper from the temperamental genius. Yet, at the same time, Alcock’s comedy pratfall certainly added to the seriousness with which the incident would be viewed

And the oscar for best fallover following a shove goes to…

Famous fan. Fast becoming a personal favourite category in this feature, Sheffield Wednesday don’t let us down when it comes to their celebrity supporters.

The biggest names here would seem to be the Arctic Monkeys – all of them, apparently. A fact further emphasised by the fact you normally see them described as ‘Sheffield band….’

Cricket’s Michael Vaughan and former England captain is also an Owl as is, of  all people, singer Jermaine Jackson. The one time Jackson 5 star supposedly began following the club in the late 80s and even wrote a song for last campaign’s play-off defeat to Hull City AFC.

Yet it wouldn’t be The Last Word without mentioning ‘That band’ . If not celebrities, they are certainly recognised faces.

Their moribund parping and off-key trumpeting, so long the bane of England international fixtures, also features at Hillsborough. Flaccid renditions of ’Love will tear us apart’ or their jingoistic movie medley “The Great Escape/Italian job’ being the last thing anybody outside of this self-appointed ‘supporters band’ wants to hear.

Sheffield wednesday band with trevor francis

That band. With Trevor Francis (inset)

Best Ever League Performance. In terms of pure scoreline, a simple one this week. Any excuse to crank out the brackets and a 9-1 victory over Birmingham City at Hillsborough back in December 1930 saw the Owls easily cruise past the 7(seven) goal mark

Moment of ignominy – ( what it says – opposite to above). I could pick ‘that band’ but we’re bigger than that.

Likewise, in terms of pure results then going back over a century to October 1912 saw Wednesday go down 10-1 at Aston Villa. In recent years, Villa have struggled to score 10 goals in an entire season let alone in one game

But the turn of this century saw them go on an eight game First Division (second tier) losing streak that lasted over a month: 9 September until 17 October saw their form guide read: LLLLLLLL. Beginning with a 0-5 home humping at the hands of Wimbledon, a Steve Harkness goal finally brought this dismal run to an end with a 1-0 win over Birmingham. Incredibly, they stayed up.

Manager of the century ( most famous /popular manager). Howard Wilkinson ? Big Ron? Erm. Move along, nothing to see here. Whilst the purist will likely go for Wilkinson, for me  you can’t knock the achievements of Trevor Francis.

Taking over as player-manager with the team back in the top flight, he lead them to third place in the league in 1992 and, with it, a hard-earned UEFA cup place. There was no entry to the league of fake Champions for coming third or fourth then.

His Wednesday team then took part in the first ever Premier League where they came 7th (seventh). However, the season was as notable for a double Wembley appearance where they reached the finals of bot the League and FA cup.

All time high ( the club’s defining achievement). First division champions in the ‘20s. The wonder years under Francis. Wednesday even won the League cup through the wisdom and guidance of Big Ron. Yet, for me all this pails into insignificance compared to the greatest thing not to come out of Sheffield.

That band doesn’t travel.

Nick Bruzon

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What a result! Could anyone have scripted this?

25 Jan

Brentford have only gone and done it again, this time against Norwich City. Saturday’s 2-1 win at Carrow Road puts us within a point of our next opponents, Middlesbrough, who themselves were focusing on the FA Cup with that magnificent / distracting (I hope) victory at Manchester City.

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.

Clem - could bet on black and red but still get the green 0

Clem – could bet on black and red but still get the green 0

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.’