Towards the end of the season we were all sitting in the changing room at our training ground when Steve unexpectedly walked in and announced his resignation. We were all totally shocked and the gossip started about who his successor would be and what changes the new boss would make. It’s amazing how football changes within seconds and players careers are thrown up in the air because a new manager might play a different style or system and you may not be part of his new plans. Any player could go over-night from being the golden-boy to the golden-goose and all this insecurity turns players into live for today ‘merchants’ and that is why at the end of their careers they sit down and realise that they haven’t secured anything for their future. It’s quite sad what happens to players because through injury or rejection your footballing life can end at any given time and I believe there should be more emphasis on your education and re-training of new skills while you’re still in the game. There should be people from the PFA holding regular meetings at every club to push home the facts about retiring and be firm about the reality of finishing because on the whole footballers are lazy and blind and very child like so a firmer hand needs to be taken with them. Believe me, when you finally sit down when it’s all finished and wonder what the hell am I going to do, it’s one of the most empty, dejecting feelings you will ever have, so make sure you ‘nip it in the bud’ before it’s too late. GET EDUCATED.
Sorry! I just totally digressed there for a moment but I feel passionate about this subject. Back at Brentford, Steve moved onto the Manager’s post at Watford and his life-long friend and assistant, Phil Holder, took over at the helm at Griffin Park. It was my worst fears, because not only were Phil and I different personalities but I had already been told that we were going to play a more ‘direct’ game. It’s funny how coaches come up with the word ‘direct’ or in other circles ‘pressure’ as if they feel more comfortable describing the game they want to play. Whether they wanted to play a ‘direct’ game or a ‘pressure’ game it meant ‘whack’ or ‘welly’ to me and signalled the end of midfield play and sadly the end of my Brentford career.
Phil’s personality was naturally aggressive and everyone was treated the same. It was his way or no way and in my opinion his management style was in complete contradiction in how I believed a leader of men should handle his privileges. I suppose when football, and I use that term loosely, is played in this ‘direct’ manner an aggressive and dominant Manager is needed to make his ‘foot soldiers’ obey him.
In one season my career went from a highly-rated Mid-field player that Brentford turned down a substantial fee from Coventry for, to a free transfer and a regular benchwarmer. My final words to Phil in his office at the end of the season was that I was proud that I stuck to my principles and didn’t get sucked in to his abhorrent style even if it may have cost me my career. I walked out of his door and out of the main gates and only in recent times found the heart to go back to my Brentford.
My time at Brentford was more or less filled with great football, great memories and great people. I would like to think I had a good relationship with the supporters and that I tried to entertain them and produce some quality for them to remember. I always tried to respond to them if they sung my name and when I scored, and to be named in the supporter’s all time great Brentford team was an honour. I would hope that I left with pride, honesty and principles that didn’t crumble no matter what sacrifice I paid and maybe in years to come there might be another player who can ‘wiggle it just a little bit’.