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The Brentford View

By: Paul Stedman
Date: 01/05/2004

YOU know how it is, end of the season and time to wheel out the old clichés: "League tables don't lie. You are where you are on merit (or otherwise) for the season's endeavours."

The other one, of course, is that "it's not that crucial game in May that should be rueing, but the silly points you gave away in October, when it didn't seem so important."

Or in our case at Brentford, a disastrous run from November to March when the team won only once in 18 outings, including a trouncing from non-league Telford in the cup and culminating in two successive home defeats to fellow strugglers Notts County and Stockport.

The Stockport home defeat on 13 March proved the turning point; manager Wally Downes a genuinely likeable person, despite being bought up as a QPR fan, but one who had clearly lost the plot was swiftly despatched.

Come the hour, come the man and a Griffin Park legend in the making.

Martin Allen was poached from North London neigbours Barnet and in the space of six weeks has transformed Brentford Football Club.

On the night of his appointment, Allen declared to an impromptu supporters' meeting that the team would win that coming Saturday against Rushden, which we did. Just. Given Rushden's rather rapid descent we didn't realise, at the time, the significance of this result in terms of the league table for us, it was just a welcome reversal of fortune.


Under Allen the team have now gone seven games unbeaten, winning four and drawing three which has included polished victories at Barnsley and Hartlepool.

Just to make sure that we don't lose all sense of perspective however, there have been some knock-backs: two consecutive Saturdays (Chesterfield and Sheffield Wednesday) we looked to have secured all three points, only to be denied by equalisers on virtually the last kick of the game. Last Saturday we were fortunate to get a draw against a doomed Wycombe, which Martin Allen, again, called correctly by declaring beforehand as being our most difficult game.

So what has Martin Allen bought to the Club? Well, certainly no new players, in fact the squad is lighter by around half-a-dozen since he joined us. No, we are exactly the same personnel, but they just seem to be playing with a purpose, organisation and a commitment that was missing for the first three-quarters of this season and half of last season.

His relationship with the supporters is outstanding: from his touchline gymnastics; his rapport and acknowledgement of the supporters; his stock of handy quotes for every occasion and amusing anecdotes about training sessions it is not hard to see why.

Saturday's game at Grimsby just stares out at you from the fixture list, the significance is mighty for both Clubs. If Brentford can secure a victory, then we can be pretty sure we are safe for the season although, characteristically, we may have a nervous hour-and-a-half at home to Bournemouth on the last day. Whilst we are more than aware that Grimsby are in dire need of two victories to secure their own safety.

Another cliché: "The stakes couldn't be higher!"

(Paul Stedman is a committee member of the Brentford Trust (Bees United))

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