Many years ago when Brentford were going through one of their regular turmoil phases I remember a visit to a midweek night game away from Griffin Park.
I was working for the Chronicle then but, if I’m honest, I can’t remember the game or the situation, other than the fact that there was great unrest among the players towards the then manager.
It might have been Cheltenham away, but anyway, that’s largely irrelevant to the story.
Knowing about player discontent, and finding the information to run a story about it, are two very different things, so I did what all journalists digging for a story do.
I’d always had a good relationship with Kevin O’Connor and thought he would be the best man to confirm the brewing rebellion and anti-managerial feeling in the dressing room… even if it was off the record.
How wrong could I be? He fixed me with that friendly-yet-steely smile that countless opposition players will know… and completely rubbished the speculation.
He did a great job. By the end of our interview, which also took in the key aspects of a Bees defeat, he almost had me believing him.
Of course we knew things weren’t right and I’m pretty certain the managerial merry-go-round swung into action shortly after, but Kevin was a politician, diplomat and peace-keeper all rolled into one.
He stopped me getting the story, but as the years have gone, I’ve come to respect by that maturity and determination to keep things in-house for the good of the club he loves as much as any of us fans.
King Kev, whose last minute winner against Norwich averted extra time, a 2am return home and saved my marriage. King Kev, whose calm, assured reading of the game is a lesson to all young footballers. King Kev, who is, first and foremost – and maybe this is his trump card – a good bloke.
When my two lads were smaller, their schoolmates’ playground chatter was of Rooney and Beckham, Drogba and Scholes.
Being Brentford fans in Warwickshire can’t have been easy for them, but I always taught them that loyalty is a great characteristic that is often rewarded, and they’ve finally seen that this season while the Man Utd brigade have gone uncharacteristically quiet.
I’m also hugely proud to say that their playground hero has always been Kevin O’Connor, a study in loyalty the like of which we are unlikely to ever see again.
Knowing Brentford as I do, it’s almost a certainty that he will chalk up his 500th appearance on Saturday in what will be a fitting end to a magnificent season.
But I am equally certain that his many characteristics, diplomacy among them, will see him play an increasingly important part in the future of our club long into the future.
Why? Because that’s what Brentford do, and because the person who said nice guys win nothing got it all wrong when it comes to Kevin O’Connor.