Tag Archives: Morecambe

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.

Bliss Gary Blissett

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.

image1-copy1

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 .

brentford-fc-player-cards-2015-blissett

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

Nick Bruzon

Advertisements

Brentford supporter’s marathon trek begins today

11 Oct

What do you get when you add 92 plus 1?

10 Sep

As football challenges go, this one is up there with the best of them.

Regular users of ‘Twitter’ may have seen Brentford supporter Simon Cox’s recent postings about ’92 plus 1’. It’s his (and three friends) attempt to drive to each of the 92 league grounds in the top four divisions in a mere 92 hours.

Their 2,600 mile journey will start and finish at Wembley, sandwiched between the two World Cup qualifiers on 11th and 15th October. All of this in an effort to raise £10k of sponsorship on behalf of ‘Help for Heroes’.

I caught up with Simon in the build up to his challenge, to learn more.

Why on earth are you doing this? It’s complete craziness I know, but it’s something we as a team are looking forward to and that I’ve always wanted to do.

The visit to all 92 football clubs has been done in 89 hours and 94 hours before, but never sandwiched between two England internationals.

More to the point, how on earth will you do this? I’ve done the maths and that’s a distance of 28 miles an hour, every hour, for 92 hours. Forget the maths! We won’t have time to worry about it! It’s simply ‘do or die’ from the challenge point of view. We’ll get in a car and drive. The trick is to keep the vehicle going as long as possible without stopping and we have 100 stops planned. 92 football clubs, 6 fuel stops, 1 Nandos and 1 KFC!

Looking at your website, you have got a number of former players involved. Who has put their hands up to help? We have been touched by the support of people in football. It all started with a tweet from Peter Shilton, which has led to former professionals joining us on part of the challenge.

Bees Legend Paul Gibbs is joining us at QPR and will follow us across South West London. Micky Hazard (Spurs and Chelsea) has kindly offered to do the North London leg with us, whilst former Leicester City and Cambridge United striker Trevor Benjamin will be joining us between Sunderland and Newcastle.

Norwich City legend Daryl Sutch is joining us around Norwich and Wayne Fereday, once the fast man in football I believe, will be joining us on the South Coast.

We may have a couple of others to unveil nearer the time. It’s truly amazing that they feel they wanted to help us in some form.

Can supporters turn up at the grounds to come and meet you? Yes! We are encouraging football fans to meet us at their local grounds, even if they don’t support that club. Football fans from all clubs live around the world so why not be proud of your club and show your support for our challenge and charity! We would love to complete the challenge with photographs of fans across the UK. This is about uniting together for our forces.

What constitutes ‘visiting’ a ground? Is it a case of get out, get a picture and get going? Or do you have any more elaborate plans for certain stadia? For us, this is a challenge against time and time will not allow us to take in a game, have pitch side visits etc. It’s about driving to the grounds, checking in on social media to prove we have arrived and then taking pictures of us there.

Will your website be publishing a progress report / details of where & when you will be over the course of the 92 hours? The best place for progress will be our social media places and full directions will be on our www.92plus1.co.uk website. This will contain updates of the challenge, photographs and general football banter!

Will pictures of yourself at the grounds be published over the course of the challenge? Oh yes! We want people to see who we are and why we are doing what we are doing.

How and when will you sleep (will you sleep)? We will sleep on our travels in the vehicle. It’s not going to be comfortable, but neither is sleeping rough on the front line, which our forces people do to ensure we can sleep comfortably.

Tell us a bit about the four of you doing this? We are four football fans uniting for the 92plus1 challenge. Mark is currently serving in the RAF at Brize Norton and is an Aston Villa fan. The minute we received a good luck message from Paul McGrath, he turned into a five year old!

Darren is a Liverpool fan who served for 16 years in the RAF before being medically discharged. He enjoys doing charity work and is currently a college lecturer in Norfolk.

Mike is a businessman from Milton Keynes and was a former professional footballer at Wycombe Wanderers before he had his career cut short with injury and then there’s me, the lunatic, who runs my own business, but enjoys living every day as if it’s my last.

Image

(Simon Cox at a Wembley press conference – the rest of the team, presumably, held up in traffic)

Is there any ground you are looking forward to visiting in particular? Griffin Park, of course! I love the place and it will always be close to me. It’s a proper football ground. Personally, I am looking forward to visiting the various statues outside the grounds, seeing the Hillsborough memorial as I’ve never seen it and sparing a few moments of thoughts for those caught up in that tragic event. I am also looking forward to visiting the smaller clubs like Fleetwood and Morecambe whilst I’ve always bottled the trip to Carlisle so at least I can cross that one off the list!

I’ve never been to Old Trafford, Goodison Park or The Stadium of Light so they will be new experiences.

I read on Sunday that you may end up having to wear a ‘Fu***m shirt at Griffin Park? You support Brentford – surely this can’t be true -? How and why could this happen? I’ve done some crazy things in my life and this is up there with them. Not the challenge but the shirt thing. I have friends who follow the other “club” and trust me, the shirt was offered very quickly! They know this will hurt but it’s all in a good cause! We have a target of what we would like to raise for our charity and if it means pulling on a Fulham shirt for ten seconds, I will.

TV’s ‘Treasure Hunt’ had Kenneth Kendall. ‘The Interceptor’, Annabelle Croft.  Do you have a crack team at ‘home base’ (your control centre, not the DIY superstore) to give you help as the challenge unfolds? Yes we have some fantastic friends and family who will help us and feed us information. To be honest, the break away from the computer will do me the world of good! Saying that, I will be taking my laptop with me. I won’t be able to rest without communication so we will be geared up with communication on board.

Image  (TV’s ‘The Interceptor’ – Simon & team will be in something a bit more modest than a Maserati) 

What will be the toughest part of the journey? I think that will be the long drawn out stretch to Plymouth from Bristol Rovers. The leg of the journey is 126 miles and will see us over the 2,000-mile mark so it’s going to be mentally draining.

How can people get involved? There are a number of ways and we appreciate people’s help. They can help on social media by retweeting our tweets, sharing our content on Facebook and helping to follow us on Foursquare.

People can also visit our website www.92plus1.co.uk , download our flyer and email to people, promote it on their own social media or generally display the poster in their local pub or chip shop window.

Donations are gratefully received and we appreciate all the support we are receiving from our sponsors. There is a link on our page for donations and we are inviting people to donate to our nominated charity for this challenge. What our forces personnel go through in conflict is a concern and what both Mark and Darren have seen in service is the reason why we have opted for Help for Heroes as our charity.

How much interest have you had from the media and will we see you promoting this anywhere in the build up / over the course of the trip itself? The media interest has been amazing with local radio stations around the UK interested in covering the story. Phil Parry had us on his show a few months ago and we’re delighted to have received interviews from BBC Radio Gloucester, BBC Radio Sheffield and Heart FM in Wiltshire. There will be more to come!

The British Forces Broadcasting Services are currently promoting the challenge across their network as well which means it’s going as far as Cyprus, Germany and the Falkland Islands.

If all goes to plan, what time are you due to reach Wembley on October 15th? Presumably you have a car park space sorted? Parking space? What’s that! Yes of course we have one lined up. We are due back at Wembley at 5pm IF everything runs smoothly, but we all know what our roads are like!

And how on earth will you sit through an England game? They can be hard enough work at the best of times, let alone after you’ve pushed yourself through this. We won’t be watching the first game if I have my way! There is no way I will be able to sit still for 90 minutes for the first game when we need to go on the challenge. The second one will depend on how we are feeling. It’s a big challenge and it will be tiring and the last thing I want to do is sleep through a game – the last time I did that was in the 2002 Play Off Final against Stoke City when the beer beat me and I can just about recall the national anthems!

Simon – it’s been a pleasure. Good luck. And I hope we can catch up after the event so you can tell us how it’s all gone Thank you for your time Nick. I would be more than happy to catch up with you even if it’s to tell you how I really wore that F***ham shirt…….

If you’d like to read more about the challenge and follow the team’s progress, you can link to their website or twitter address of @92plus1. You can also donate here .

Image