Tag Archives: Steve Coppell

That Sky One Harchester United thing. Dear Sky TV, Andy Ansah, Richie et al….

3 May

These pages usually talk about Brentford FC but, occasionally, we look further afield than Griffin Park. Today is just one of those. It is a time when we need to look back to look forward. And also ask the question – is it time for a footballing renaissance?

That Sky One Harchester United thing”. Not my words but those of Absolute Radio DJ Richie Firth, talking on Wednesday morning’s Christian O’Connell Breakfast show. Regular readers may well be aware of, amongst other things, the show’s role in resolving the Cameron Diaz / Brentford story (something which, for the record, our own club commentator par-excellence Mark Burridge also had a hand in at one point).

But this was not a discussion about celebrity fans (or lack of). Instead, it was talk of actor Ricky Whittle and his current role in TV series American Gods. The actor, who has also appeared in Hollyoaks and on Strictly Dancing, is probably best known for playing Ryan Naysmith on what Richie had called That Sky One Harchester United thing. Or, of course, Dream Team.

Ahh, Dream Team. Running for ten series, the show was centred around the ongoing and progressively more outlandish events at fictional football club Harchester United. Combining real life stadia and action (often Leicester City, Chelsea or Everton but with the contrast turned up to make their blue shirts look like Harchester’s purple) the show was as loved for its crazy plots as the frequent use of celebrity cameos. From Ron Atkinson to John Barnes, even one time Bee’s boss Steve Coppell had a go at channeling his inner Marlon Brando. It wasn’t good.

Yet perhaps the most famous of these actors was another former Bee (and member of our ‘top ten moustaches‘ club), Andy Ansah. Forget his later work on ‘Street Striker’ or numerous films and adverts though. For me his crowning glory was six series reciting variants of: ‘Get warmed up lads’ and ‘Alright, Gaffer?’ whilst playing himself, as the club’s first team coach.

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Ansah – wonderful Tekkers

I caught up with Andy a few years ago whilst writing a ‘Where Are They Now’ article for the Griffin Park match day programme. It goes without saying that the main topic of conversation was this wonderful, wonderful show. It was a truly privileged behind the scenes insight (and you can read more below) but, if I’m being equally honest, since finishing in 2007 the show has slipped from most people’s memory.

But then Wednesday saw Richie do his thing, even taking to Twitter where he noted, “Everytime I pass the Dragon’s Lair on the train at Millwall I get misty eyed. Bring it back @sky1”

Boom. Quicker than you could say Karl Fletcher, Lynda Block or Luis Amor-Rodriguez (think of a low budget Jota) the memories came flooding back.

Murder at the FA Cup final. The plane crash. The coach crash. The coach explosion at the Millennium Stadium. Liverpool (the real Liverpool) being linked in the papers with a £3.5 million swoop for Didier Baptiste back in 1999. Cue much egg on face when it transpired they weren’t actually bidding for a Monaco player but actually looking at a character from a TV show.

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L-R, John Black, Luis Amor-Rodriguez, Karl ‘Fletch’ Fletcher, Sean Hocknell

It wasn’t just me. Pick of the highlights to subsequently flood Twitter was that of @JohnDryden1 who noted: Lawlor in goal? That must of been after Jamie Parker held his team mates at gun point in the changing room.

As you do.

But now, ten years on, is it time to bring back Dream Team? Does Richie, a one time self-proclaimed soothsayer of scores, have his finger on the footballing pulse once again?
Would people watch it ? Yes, yes and yes have to be the answers to all three questions.

Sky 1, if you are reading (you probably aren’t ) how about it? Natalie Sawyer, any chance you could have a word with the bosses?  Andy Ansah (again, probably not reading), if anybody has the contacts it must be you?

With Griffin Park around the corner from Sky HQ and a new stadium on the horizon in Lionel Road, then what better time to bring this back with a progressive club filling the role of the new Harcehster? They’ve used Watford. They’ve used Millwall. They’ve even used Brentford (albeit as part of the May 2007 Open Day when a Harchester United team played the Community Sports Trust at Griffin Park.

How about Brentford doing it again – for real ?

If any show deserves a reboot, then Dream Team must be top of the list. If it worked for Doctor Who and Dallas then imagine what could be done now. Come on Sky, the world of football demands it.

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Andy dons the monogrammed tracksuit in his Harchester United days

And if anybody was in any doubt about the love for the show, this is what Andy Ansah himself had to say about it in that aforementioned interview:

Having finally retired from playing, all of a sudden Andy appeared on Sky one’s football based ‘drama’ series, Dream Team, playing himself at fictional club ‘Harchester United.’ A guilty pleasure for many viewers, myself included, but for all the wrong reasons! Wooden dialogue, outrageous plots and, as Andy himself offers, “The Lynda Blocks of this world”, its combination of beautiful women and real match action made it compulsive viewing for close to ten years. So how did he go from footballer to actor?

“I went to a Take That concert at Wembley, believe it or not. I made my decision then that I was going to retire from football. I met two people there and I said, ‘What do you do ?’ “ Oh, we do ‘extras’ work?” They were stand in doubles.

I thought that sounded interesting because I’d always liked acting and I love my films. Some friends of mine were on Dream Team doing the footballing extras although they were a lot younger than me. So I thought, ‘ok’, this is what I’m going to do. I’m going to stop playing pro-football, play a bit of part time, join ‘Dream Team’ and learn how to be an actor.

Subsequently, I joined as one of the football extras but because I was older than everyone else, I was thirty then whereas they were nineteen/twenty, I used to spend all my time with the directors and producers who were the same age. They used to ask questions about football all the time – how would we do this or that? I found myself directing the football for them and then within a year they made me the producer of football on Dream Team. It was crazy!”

Alongside the move to producer came a step up from ‘extra’ to acting role aswell, portraying the club’s assistant coach, Andy Ansah (!!) This also meant a few lines per show, with regular Ansah gems including takes on , “All right, you lot ! Get out on the field and warm up,” and “Leave it, gaffer. He’s not worth it.”

I put it to Andy that it must surely have been fun to be involved?

“I loved it, I loved it. Listen, it was brilliant. The show itself was low budget but it was built up on people. The people were fantastic and it had cult status. No matter how bad it was, you’d be able to say – I know who that is. That was Drogba’s goal for Chelsea against so and so. That’s what made it so much fun.

At the end, it kind of died a death. I was there for six years and when I left I was offered a Hollywood job with the film, “Goal”. That’s when I left and they ended up employing four different people to take up my one post on that show. That’s how much I did.”

As for those famous/infamous cameos? “The guys were great. Being honest, I should thank the likes of Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke and the West ham players. They mainly got me that producer role because I pulled in my contacts to get those guys on the show. One time, Andy had just got called back into the England squad and all the press were outside the training ground at Man United. I had to go and meet him at the training ground and came out the back door with Andy and Dwight , then drove to Stockport County so we could film them on Dream Team – for nothing. It was absolutely crazy. Can you imagine a footballer now using his image rights and saying, ‘I’ll come on your show for nothing’ but that’s how much of a cult status it was.”

After six seasons at Harchester United, ‘Goal’, and the lure of the silver screen proved too much, although not for the first time !

“Infact, whilst I was doing Dream Team, after two years I also did a film called : Mike Bassett England manager. I cast Terry Kiely from Dream Team (popular character, Karl Fletcher) and Scott Mean who used to play for West Ham to come and work on that film. I did all the choreography on that film myself, which was a big job! We shot at Wembley and also went to Brazil. I was there for almost two months, filming at the Maracana, Botafogo and everywhere.

It’s a hard job…!!”

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Bassett / Tomlinson – one of the many famous faces to film at Griffin Park

Nick Bruzon

Do we really want Griffin Park to become Jurassic Park?

21 Mar

Are Brentford on social media lockdown after #SwiftHipstergate overshadowed the post match press conference following the Blackburn?

And no, that’s not a typo but at present we can all take subsequent use of the word ‘debacle’ as a given.

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John Swift wasn’t smiling (or a hipster) after Dean swung the disciplinary axe

None of the usual suspects have tweeted anything football related, let alone gone again. Whatever your thoughts on that most awkward of phrases, the use of Twitter and Instgram (amongst other mediums) provides a valuable insight into squad morale and feeling. Both good and bad. Yet there has been nothing out of Harlee, Sergi, Sam, or Nico since the loss to Blackburn.

Has Dean Smith ordered a clampdown to try and maintain some semblance of control? Are the players taking a deliberate step back given the oxygen of publicity breathed into the situation by our head coach after he walked straight into Billy’s gentle probing with a very honest answer to Swift’s absence? Or is there nothing more to this than an overactive imagination from yours truly?

Personally speaking I think that although pushed into a corner from one respect, Dean has made the wrong decision here. Swift shouldn’t have started against Blackburn simply for the performance, or lack of, in the QPR game. But to then limit your bench options when there is a player who has apologised immediately, and must be chomping at the bit to prove doubters wrong, is very much the proverbial condemned man opting for canibalism as a final meal.

Casting the social media net that bit further afield to upper management, only Chief Executive Mark Devlin has dipped his toes into the waters of cyberspace on anything like a regular basis. Whilst Matthew Benham published his ‘cryptic clue’ last week, it was the first time he’d posted in a long while – albeit understandable given his prior absence (presumably as a result of some of the crazy abuse and comments being directed his way).

Chairman Cliff Crown and co-director of football Rasmus Ankersen, both previous exponents of Twitter, haven’t posted in almost a month. 27 and 22 February respectively, to be precise. Both of which is a huge shame for a club that has always been so big on fan interaction and, whether we like it or not, are going through somewhat of a rough patch on the field.

Whatever the reason I can understand why the players, at least, are taking somewhat of a backseat. Any attempt to pour oil on troubled waters at that moment would be more like chucking it onto an already raging chip fire. Indeed, such is the depth of feeling and emotion out there about our current predicament that I’ve seen people calling for Dean Smith’s head (metaphorically) and a return for the likes of Andy Scott or Martin Allen.

Say that slowly. Andy Scott or Martin Allen.

Both are men I loved in their day. Andy – both on the pitch and in his early stint as manager. Martin – well to say he is larger than life is probably an understatement to rank alongside suggestions that Steve Evans gives a calm and measured post-defeat press conference. These days though, Andy is more associated with highlights in ladies hair than on Football Focus whilst Martin Allen would, surely, be a step back into the Jurassic era?

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Martin – larger than life

Whilst I have huge respect for both men, they’ve had their time at Griffin Park. More importantly, would a fourth different Head Coach in less than a season be of any real benefit? Things aren’t working out at present, that’s for sure, but to bring in yet somebody else with so few games to go would be both a brave and risky call.

Much like the loan signings we are supposedly after, if anybody was any good they’d already be in employment at the moment. Unless, of course, Steve Coppell is reading (he isn’t).

Whatever the pitchfork wielding mob are calling for, I fully expect Dean to be at the reins when we start up again against Nottingham Forest in just under two weeks. Besides, IF Matthew was even contemplating a change (and its a bigger IF than Steve Evans) surely he would look for a short term internal fix?

Somebody who has their UEFA A coaching badges. A former player with diverse knowledge of the European game. A man who knows the players, who has a reputation as a motivational speaker and, now that FCM are out of the Europa League, may have a bit more time on his hands.

I’ll leave that thought with you…

Nick Bruzon

A goal scoring hero returns for TV clash

15 Jan

Brentford entertain Burnley this evening. On the one hand it is a battle for the promotion play-offs and a chance to get one over Sean Dyche but there is more to it than just that. Bees fans will, no doubt, be hoping our boys can teach him and Andre Gray a footballing lesson. Many remain unhappy about the net result of the striker’s sale whilst the unsettling rumours surrounding James Tarkowski and Alan Judge have been as welcome on the terrace as a visit from ‘the phantom farter’ (if you’ve ever stood in the vicinity, you’ll know). Chuck former QPR employee and motormouth Joey Barton into the mix aswell and, I think it would be safe to say, we might have quite an atmosphere tonight.

Will Tarks and Judge play? One would only assume so. I’ll be furious if either is missing. That said, Sean Dyche can’t be blamed for trying to both acquire and unsettle the players just ahead of the game. Dean Smith confirmed yesterday that the Burnley boss had put in a bid for our leading scorer and player of the season to date.

We saw the same thing happen with Andre Gray just before we played at Turf Moor earlier on the season. Dyche finally got his man with Brentford happy to sell for a lorry load of cash despite his scoring 2 from 2 against both Ipswich Town and Bristol City. The Bees very much missed his cutting edge in that game at Burnley although, equally, even with Dean Holdsworth, Robert Taylor and Lloyd Owusu up front I think we’d have struggled to score in that one.

As was noted in the Last Word at the time, Marinus seemed obsessed with ball retention and pass completion – to the point that out 62% domination saw the ball rarely cross the half way line as time and again it went across the defence and out to the midfield before heading back to David Button.

Hanging on to the ball at the back is all well and good, and we did that part very well, but the lack of any imagination, movement, cut and/or thrust when we tried to take it forward was, ultimately, what did for us.”

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The Bees at Turf Moor – as our pitch looked like a ploughed field, theirs was magnificent

So can we do any better in front of the Sky cameras tonight? It’s true that Burnley look in ominously good form with their 5-0 win on Tuesday night. Likewise, their mini slump has ended with them still sitting in an excellent league position. Whilst they’ve only won 3 times in the last 10, they’ve picked up 10 points out of a possible 15. Andre Gray leads the divisional scoring charts on 16, having now broken clear of a chasing pack that includes our own Alan Judge.

Yet we have our own incentives to win as noted at the top of this column. Likewise, three points will lift us up to 9th and within touching distance of that play-off zone once more. I’d imagine Sergi Canos will start this one, having moved back to the bench in midweek, although I wouldn’t be upset to see Sam Saunders hang on to his place. Personally, I thought the wing wizard gave a very good account of himself against Middlesbrough.

As ever, the main question is going to be one of where the goals will come from. Is Marco Djuricin ready to start? Will The Hoff be given a chance from the off? Or does Lasse Vibe retain his place? I have no clue as to which way Dean Smith will jump but, personally, would stick with Lasse given the current options.

Which, as I put the industrial sized crowbar away, talk of strikers brings us onto tonight’s guest of honour – Lloyd Owusu – who is being welcomed into the Brentford ‘Hall of Fame’. Signed by owner/chairman/manager Ron Noades from Slough Town in 1998, his impact was immediate. 25 goals followed, including the Third Division title decider against Cambridge United. The denouement of that season saw the final game of the season become a battle to be Champions at the Abbey Stadium and Lloyd was the right man in the right place to help Brentford bag the honours.

Leading scorer 3 times in his 4 seasons, he stayed with us right up to the end of the Steve Coppell era and that play off final (spoiler alert – we lost) at the Millennium Stadium against Stoke City. It was a sad end to a great career at Griffin Park and more so as, out of contract, he left for Sheffield Wednesday.

Three years later there was better news for Bees as the hero returned. Martin Allen brought him back to Griffin Park for a further two years. 2005-06 saw him bag a further 14 goals in 42 games that resulted in another play off appearance – we lost. Injury blighted his final season but, by that stage, the legend had been born.

The arms raised high in the air and the chants of “Ooh Ooh Ooh” from the terrace have become an iconic image, and sound, for those who frequented Griffin Park at the time. Equally, Peter Gilham going into meltdown every time he launched into a lung busting scream of “Owusuuuuuuu!

Here’s hoping for some more tonight.

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Lloyd Owusu – back at Griffin Park tonight

Nick Bruzon

Jay Tabb : Tractor Boy. Top Man

10 Oct

Earlier this week, I cited Jay Tabb as one of Brentford’s top ten ‘greatest’ transfers.

For six years, after making his debut as a 17 year old, he regularly ‘wowed’ the Griffin Park crowd before eventually finding his way to the Premiership with Reading. Now playing for Ipswich Town in the Championship, Jay spoke to us last night to update Brentford fans on how things have been going since we last caught up in February 2012 (for the matchday programme) aswell as sharing his thoughts on the Bees.

Looking at the League table, about a quarter of the way through the season Ipswich are in eleventh place and five points off the play offs. How do you feel it has gone? For the club it started a little bit slowly. We were playing quite well but not getting the results and lost to a couple of good teams; only by a goal although games we should have really drawn. Then we’ve had some good results at home, winning four out of five and just need to get that away win.

We had a bit of a shock the other night, being 4-1 up at half time and then drawing 4-4 with Derby, which was a bit of a kick in the teeth. But I think on the whole it’s been solid start and we’ve moved ourselves up to just outside the play-offs. Hopefully we can string a few more results together and see where it takes us

And personally? It started very well with a goal against Reading in the first game of the season. I didn’t score for Reading in my whole time there so it was nice to go back and score. Then I got a nasty shoulder injury in the next game, the League cup at Stevenage.

In the next few games it was quite sore and because we lost three of the first four the manager made changes, which is fair enough, and the lads that came in have done well since. So I’ve been on the bench but come on in most games, which is part of football, but obviously the team is more important and we’re getting good results.

As you say, it’s about the team. What is Ipswich Town’s target for the season? Presumably promotion? You never know what will happen in The Championship. Every year people say it’s getting tighter than ever but I don’t think that’s the case this year. QPR have started well but they are winning most of their games by one goal and so they’re going to have a blip. I don’t really see anyone running away with it.

There are a lot of good teams there, probably as good as each other, so it depends who has that run of form at the right time. I think we’re good enough to be up for the play-offs and pushing for promotion but there’s ten or so teams who would also say that about themselves. Obviously we’re ambitious but whilst we don’t want to build up our chances too much and end up looking silly, within our squad and with the manager we’re quietly confident.

You’ve mentioned the manager – Mick McCarthy. What is he like and how does he compare to the likes of Steve Coppell and Martin Allen who you served under at Brentford? He’s really good. He’s a manager whom a lot of people know a lot about and has been very successful. He called me last year to go on loan for the last two months of the season and I jumped at the chance. He’s managed the Republic of Ireland (whom Jay has represented 10 times at U-21 level) so has a good pedigree and he’s very honest. He tells you straight up, exactly how it is. He’s very passionate and loves the game but he’s very fair.

If you are playing well he treats the players well. We had some good results so have a few days off this weekend for the International break but equally if you’re not playing well he’ll make us come in and train. He’s just straight down the line honest.

Steve is a very quiet man who gets his point across in a controlled way. Mick’s definitely more fiery than Steve. Obviously Martin was great for my career and brought me on leaps and bounds, although I’d probably say that about all the managers I’ve played for  – Mick McCarthy, Martin. I’ve had loads.

You’ve had a great schooling. Yes. And all of them have added a little bit to my game. I’m looking forward to doing some more with Mick and Terry Connor (asst) who are a good combination as management.

At Brentford you were something of a youth prodigy. Who, in your opinion, is  ‘one to watch’ at Ipswich as a young ‘up and coming’ player? We’ve got a few who are in and around the first team squad. Our left-back Aaron Creswell, I wouldn’t say he ‘s a youngster as he’s in his early twenties but a lot of people have been bigging him up and saying he’s the best left back outside the Premiership. I’d fully agree with that.

As far as real youngsters go, we’ve got a striker called Jack Marriott who’s a very good finisher and only 19, so I think he could go far.

Putting Town to one side, who do you think will win the title in the Championship? I think QPR will probably go close, although the Brentford fans probably won’t like me saying that. To win games 1-0 back-to-back is the sign of a very disciplined team. Nottingham Forest could be up there aswell and with Billy Davies back, he could be key for them.

When we last spoke, you were with Reading in the Championship. The team was six points off second place with 18 games to go. You mentioned you didn’t think the playoffs would be needed, and they weren’t!  Was it ever in doubt from that point? It was just an amazing run in. I think out of the last 19 games we won 16, drew 2 and lost 1, which was just a ridiculous run of form. We’d been close every year I’d been there but I had a feeling that time that we would do something. To go on the run we did was all a bit of a freak but all so exciting. There were games we won where we didn’t play well and games where we were excellent.

How did it feel doing it? It was the greatest feeling. We played Nottingham Forest at home and West Ham kicked of fifteen minutes before us. We could see they had already lost at Bristol City, which meant that if we won we’d go up.  We scored with about ten minutes to go and it was holding on from then. In the last couple of minutes everybody was on their feet, ready to run on the pitch and then when the final whistle went it was just amazing. Its something I was really proud of.

Once you got there, how did you find the top flight? It must have been a phenomenal experience? It was really good. I was looking forward to it and knew the club would probably look to bring in a few players in the summer, so I had to take my time a bit. I made my debut away at Swansea in October and had about another twelve games in the team. I got to play against Arsenal, Man Utd and Man City.

It’s a league where the top five or six are head and shoulders above everyone else but apart from that it is quite even. It was a disappointment we didn’t stay up as we had good enough players to do so. The season goes so quick – one minute you’ve been promoted and the next its all over and you are back down. So it was a bit of a disappointment, even though it was enjoyable.

As someone who has fought their way up from Palace youths, through Brentford for six years, Coventry and Reading to get there, did you ever find yourself getting star struck? You are up against World Class players and some real household names. I was quite late getting into the Premiership. I was playing in that league when I was 28/29 and it was just weird. I still say that the most nervous I’ve ever been on a football pitch was making my debut for Brentford. Since then I don’t get nervous in front of big crowds because its just part and parcel of the game. Even at Man City away with a full crowd I just got on with it.

I think the thing that was most weird was being on ‘Match of the Day’. I’d done it with Brentford in the FA Cup, which was great, but to be there week in, week out and have the top panelists analyzing your performance was quite strange.

But as far as the players went, I didn’t feel star struck. It was just a case of trying to prove you could be as good as them and to match them.

Who was your toughest opponent – whether team or individual? I’d say when we played Man Utd at home. We’d been 1 up then 3-2 but once they went 4-3 ahead we didn’t see the ball. Arsenal and Man City have got the flair but United keep possession, have flair but also do the hard jobs like chasing down. That night, Phil Jones was great for them and so was Carrick.

Jack Wilshire was also very good whilst Yaya Toure – you couldn’t get the ball off him! You give the ball away to them and you don’t really see it again

Have you seen much of Brentford this season? How much are you able to? I always look out for the Brentford results and I watched the game against Leyton Orient the other night. It’s the team that is close to my heart and where it all started. If it hadn’t been for Brentford I wouldn’t be a professional footballer. Obviously last season was heartbreaking and I just couldn’t believe it. When I saw what happened I was just so gutted. Brentford are one of those teams where, if they get in the play offs, you don’t hold much hope. I thought last year was the one where we should have gone up as Champions or second. It was very similar to when I was there under Martin Allen and we lost out on second spot.

Will we see you at Griffin Park at all this season? I was supposed to play in the golf the other day but I was already involved in another charity event. I don’t tend to watch too much football on TV. If I get some time off I’ll try to get down to watch but I’m slightly addicted to golf and the golf course. I’m still dying to get back and play against the Bees. Every time the FA Cup or League Cup draw is made I’m always hoping for Brentford away. I’d love to go back and play there.

Are you In touch with any of your former Bees colleagues still? It’s changed so much. Kevin O’Connor is probably the only person in the squad who was there when I was. I still speak to Eddie Hutchinson every now and then and Matt Somner.

You must get sick of people saying this but you seem to have been around forever. I can’t believe you are only 29. What is the secret? I don’t know. I’ve got a brother who’s 27 and every time we go out they think he’s the older one. I’ve been around for a while and have been 12/13 years as a pro now. I just try to eat as well as I can, stay in the gym and train hard. Every day I train hard and try to stay as fit as possible – I never really slack off. A lot of it is realising just how lucky I am to do this job and not blowing the chance.

In out last chat you nominated your debut as your ‘career highlight’ so far, saying: “You work so hard to be a professional footballer and, whilst I know I wasn’t a pro at the time, to make your debut at a professional club, in front of a crowd in a league game, it’s still probably the proudest moment of my career.” Has there been any moment since then to overtake it or even come close? Winning the Championship and getting into the Premier League has got to come close but I still think making my debut has got to be really up there. I’ve still got the picture of me running out there in my shirt.

Winning the league, any league, shows you’ve had a great season as a group of players together. So to have that will always be a highlight but making my debut for Brentford is still definitely there.

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(Tabby – these days a ‘Blue Jay’ but still a Bee at heart)