Tag Archives: Stuart Nelson

What a first year in charge! The top ten moments

13 Dec

Brentford host Blackburn Rovers today for a Championship match that signifies Mark Warburton’s first year in charge at Griffin Park. And what a 52 weeks it has been with some epic encounters against the likes of Wolves and Fulham aswell as those legendary scenes after Leyton Orient.

As such, the Last Word looks back on the top ten moments since Warb’s announcement as our manager, in place of the Wigan bound Uwe Rösler.

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 along.

Massive praise to the Beesotted chaps for their own 'Slade FA Cup'

Massive praise to the Beesotted chaps for their own ‘Slade FA Cup’

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The top ten moments of season 2013-14

2 May

How do you shrink a season where Brentford achieved a club record points, celebrated like we’d won the FA Cup at Leyton Orient, and been promoted alongside Wolves into one article? Quite simply, turn it into the top ten moments of 2013-14.

This is my opinion and I’m sure yours will differ but, as we approach the final game of the season against Stevenage on Saturday, I can’t help reflect on what an incredible campaign it has been for The Bees

10: Sam’s freekick v Swindon Town . I still don’t know if this was a genuine accident or just the worst bit of acting since the good people at ‘Just for Men’ decided that Luis Figo was their marketing lifeline.

However, after my usual terrace muttering of “And this is Saunders territory” , the perma-tanned demi-God then fell flat on his face as he approached the ball. Take two and the result was spectacular. Wes Foderingham was left rooted to the spot as Sammy found the top corner. Some would say beaten by the strike, others, still shocked by the audacity of even trying that routine

 

To read the rest of this article, season 2013/14 is now available to download onto Kindle, in full. Containing previously unseen content, you can do so here for less than the cost of one matchday programme.

 Thanks for reading over the course of the campaign. For now I need to make space on this page for any follow up.  The ‘close season’ / World Cup columns continue in full, further on in this site.

Floodlights! Cameras!! Action!!! It can only be Brentford

24 Jan

Like many Brentford fans, earlier this month I spent Friday night in front of the TV watching the Gillingham v Wolves game, optimistically hoping for the favour of a draw and being blown away by the home side’s last minute victory.

Three weeks later and the roles are reversed. With the Sky cameras at Griffin Park tonight, it is the likes of Wolves, Leyton Orient and, to a lesser extent Preston, who will be hoping for a similar favour from Gillingham.

To read the rest of this article, season 2013/14 is now available to download onto Kindle, in full. Containing previously unseen content, you can do so here for less than the cost of one matchday programme.

 Thanks for reading over the course of the campaign. For now I need to make space on this page for any follow up.  The ‘close season’ / World Cup columns continue in full, further on in this site.

My big, fat, (temporary) Gypsy wedding

3 Jan

“I support Brentford AND West Ham/Liverpool/Chelsea” (delete as applicable).

I don’t, of course. It’s a statement for illustrative purposes only. However, there are some fans who have as much interest in events at, for example, Upton Park or Anfield as they do in those at Griffin Park.

Good luck to them, if so. Personally, I struggle with the concept of also following a Premiership team. Largely, because I have too much pain/pleasure invested in supporting the Bees, without chucking West Ham or whomever else into the mix. Lionel Road is enough for me without having to worry about the Olympic park, too.

Then there’s the prospect of what happens should we be thrown together by the vagaries of a cup draw? This is a lose-lose scenario for ‘Johnny two clubs’. Go for the safety first option of the higher division team and it is a case of ditching cup romance whilst, at the same time, humiliation should they slip up on the proverbial potato skin.

To read the rest of this article, season 2013/14 is now available to download onto Kindle, in full. Containing previously unseen content, you can do so here for less than the cost of one matchday programme.

 Thanks for reading over the course of the campaign. For now I need to make space on this page for any follow up.  The ‘close season’ / World Cup columns continue in full, further on in this site.

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.’

Pies, points and padlocks

18 Aug

Free meat pie with every five visits to this blogsite.

As unsolved mysteries go, it wasn’t quite up there with ‘Who shot JFK’? or ‘How were the pyramids built’? However, with the respective ‘away game’ loyalty points finally being released it has meant we can now concentrate on other issues rather than, ‘How many do I get for going to Port Vale’?

The answer, for the record, and per the various updates over the last two weeks on the official site was:

To read the rest of this article, season 2013/14 is now available to download onto Kindle, in full. Containing previously unseen content, you can do so here for less than the cost of one matchday programme.

 Thanks for reading over the course of the campaign. For now I need to make space on this page for any follow up.  The ‘close season’ / World Cup columns continue in full, further on in this site.

“The maddest game of football that ever existed”

9 Aug

Not my words, but those of BeesPlayer’s Mark Burridge after last season’s promotion showdown at Brammall Lane between Brentford and Saturday’s visitor’s, Sheffield United.

The game – which finished 10-9 to United (in terms of players left on the pitch) and 2-2 (in terms of goals) – was, quite literally, the match that had it all. Four spot kicks; three red cards; the Dave Kitson guide to sportsmanship and fairplay; a successful Marcello Trotta penalty (that’s not a typo); and the infamous Mr Keith Stroud as the man in the middle (file alongside Biggar, Atwell and d’Urso in the volume labelled: ‘incompetent’). That’s before you even look to factor in Bradley Wright-Phillips’ ecstasy inducing last minute equaliser that sent Bees fans home delirious and stopped United’s season dead in its tracks.

Can the weekend’s game come anywhere close to that?

To read the rest of this article, season 2013/14 is now available to download onto Kindle, in full. Containing previously unseen content, you can do so here for less than the cost of one matchday programme.

 Thanks for reading over the course of the campaign. For now I need to make space on this page for any follow up.  The ‘close season’ / World Cup columns continue in full, further on in this site.