The Beesotted contributor formerly known as AMOKFOS (adidas made our kit for one season) shares his thoughts on the euphoria that surrounded the kit manufacturer’s arrival in the early 1980s – and the misery of not getting a replica kit that, or any other, Christmas. He’s clearly been scarred for life… ‘PENALTIES’, a football based crime novel by Luis Adriano (his new name), is available exclusively for Kindle on Amazon.
Like many other Bees in their early forties, I have an affinity with the ‘Bukta Boys’ of the late 1970s. The likes of Steve Phillips, Doug Allder, Jackie Graham and, the man in green keeping goal, Len Bond, were the players who graced the Griffin Park grass when I saw my first game – a freezing 0-0 draw with Carlisle on the penultimate day of 1978. There were a few memorable games in the remainder of that season (the Big Match TV cameras, Luther Blissett, Graham Taylor and six shared was certainly one) or the next, but no promotion, relegation, Finals or even Big Boy Cup ties.
At the end of 79/80 season, Bukta quietly waved goodbye as the club’s shirt manufacturer along with the aforementioned players who weren’t the only ones who would fail to see eye to eye with new manager Fred Callaghan.
Callaghan, the future Black Cabbie and master of non-League, brought in many new acquisitions during the 1980/81 close season. While we had to hold out a few weeks for a gypsy looking hero by the name of Hurlock, the majority of new faces failed to make any real impression on most fans. Bond’s replacement, the pasty, Cornish, Paul McCullough, would make Ashley Bayes look like Lev Yashin. With arguably better hair, but definitely inferior tekkers and attitude to Allder, Barry Silkman came in to play the first half of the season in midfield before becoming another one of Fred’s cast-offs – due to what rock bands call ‘creative differences’.
Some of the Bukta Boys survived and continued to play their part, such as the versatile Paul Shrubb, the hardest kicker of the ball I can remember, Jim McNichol, Pat Kruse and Danis Salman, who went on to grace higher league football with Millwall. However, if you ask Bees fans who were around at the time to pick their Most Memorable Eleven Players, I doubt any will have featured in the team photo taken for the start of the 1980/81 season. For me it’s different. From physio Eddie Lyons (RIP) at the back left, to apprentice Simon Pullen at the front right, each of those men is a legend of epic proportions to me – and it’s purely for what they’re wearing.
At the age of eight and three-quarters, and with a brother as ancient as ten, I was already becoming aware of style, having got my first pair of adidas trainers, some blue Elan’s, that summer. I don’t know what it was, whether the simplicity of three stripes or the distinct original ‘trefoil’ logo, but there was something magical about adidas gear. By the way, yes, it’s a proper noun, but do not ever spell adidas with a capital A. adidas, even here at the start of a sentence, has to be spelt all in lower case.
At primary school in Hounslow, few, sorry, NO, kids were ever showing off any Bukta clothing and only us ‘coolest of the cool’ eight-to-eleven-year-olds were wearing adidas. Before leaving for the 1980 summer holidays, I had the confidence to ‘out’ myself as a Brentford fan amongst many wannabe Scousers, a couple of Arsenals and a Chelsea. Nobody ‘down Saaarf’ gave a shit about Dave Sexton’s Man Utd back then. By the time I would return to school, Brentford would be far cooler than any of those other teams who all had their kits made by Umbro.
By September’s return to what is now called Year Four, I had seen MY team play in their adidas. I was already a collector of football kits and no words could describe how much I wanted the new Brentford strip. Come the middle of the next school holidays, though, I would find myself deeply questioning whether Santa Claus existed or was just a Watford fan. I had yet to class Fulham or QPR as rivals.
The white bearded fatty failed to deliver items One (Brentford home shirt), Two (Brentford away shirt), Three (Brentford home shorts), Four (Brentford away shorts) or even duo-optioned Five (Brentford socks – home OR away) on my list. I can’t even remember what he did drop off that year. For what I guess were ‘supply issues’ the adidas kits were never made commercially available in the club shop. Some lucky fuckers saw sense and literally ripped the shirts off players’ backs at the last game of the season, but when May arrived, I was still adidas-Brentford-shirt-less, and not very happy about it. As you know, a year is a long time to a kid, well, it was more than 10% of my life, but when the next summer came around I geared myself up for what the new adidas kit might look like.
This time, the supply might have been sorted and I imagined the shiny display in the hut, which housed the so-called ‘club shop’. The word ‘shop’ was stretching it a bit, it was perhaps smaller than Adnams Newsagents in Brentford High Street, and it would have been hilarious if they had decided to call it a Superstore back then.
Living close-by, I attended the club’s pre-season open evening and, on a tour round the ground, got a tip off from Bob Booker that they were having their team photo the following day. How brilliant. I would be there at the unveiling of the latest Adi Dassler (yeah yeah, I’m allowed to spell his name with capitals) creation for the Bees. I don’t think I slept much that night. If I did then my dreams would have come in lines of three and I set off to the ground at the agreed time with camera in hand and anticipation burning in my heart. I walked through to the pitch and saw chairs ready for the front players to sit down in their adidas attire.
I don’t recall who I saw come from the changing rooms in the far corner first but, to be honest, it was all a daze. The red stripes on the shirt were far fatter than the previous season – actually, that reminds me, it was Paul Walker I saw first. The V-neck was fatter too and didn’t come down so deep. I was disappointed with my first impression. I think even then I was hoping for a touch of black on the shirt. It was just red, a less pinky red it must be said, and white. Not even the three stripes on the sleeves were… Hang on… There were no stripes on the sleeves! Paul Walker must have thought I was some weird kid as I stared at his right breast area. An oval globe? WTF? Osca? WTF? I wanted to cry.
Looking back now, I can appreciate the craft of all the Osca kits from that era but, in July 1981, I was distraught that adidas had been sent packing, or had run off, from supplying the Bees kit. Fred Callaghan was extremely friendly at the photoshoot and even asked me who I’d like my picture taken with. I chose Terry Hurlock (scared not to), Bob Booker (as a thanks for the tip off), Danis Salman (my single parent mum fancied him so I thought maybe he’d become ‘dad’) and Dave McKellar (I was my school’s goalkeeper at the time). Fred didn’t hear me properly and sent over Walker in place of McKellar, and I think I probably freaked him out even more by, again, looking at his breast area in disgust at the lack of trefoil.
I didn’t really ever get over that disappointment. As I grew up through my teens, twenties, and thirties, I kept an eye out whenever our kit supplier contract was up for renewal. Surely we could go back to adidas. Osca were eventually replaced by Spall. Various other two-bob companies came and went such as Hobot, Chad (great year on the pitch), Core, Super League and Lonsdale. Hummel were perhaps the closest we came to a decent make (shit year on the pitch) before Puma took the contract in the dark days of Terry Butcher. When I started to post on the old Beesotted Rivals site, my username paid homage to the boys and kit of 1980/81. ‘amokfos’ stood for ‘adidas made our kit for one season’.
I was sure by then, around 2005, that it would remain for one season. Although there was a growing number of lower league clubs using adidas template kits, I was sure we wouldn’t join them and I continued to be obsessed with the team of 80/81. I even tried stalking some on Facebook. Simon Pullen, pictured above, has not changed facially in the thirty-plus years since he sat there next to Terry Rowe, so I was confident when I sent him a message and a ‘Friend Request’ that it was THE Simon Pullen. THE Simon Pullen who I believe has a few minutes as a first team player in his Brentford career stats. What a legend. Iori Jenkins – defender, back row, far right? Legend. Everyone in that photo – the lesser known Barry Bowen and Kevin Teer? All legends. Even McCullough and his aversion to preventing a ball from going in his net is a legend for the three white stripes he used to wear on his black shorts – mind you, there were no three stripes on the plain green goalie shirt back then.
Pullen was actually kind enough to ignore the dangers of being a social media stalking victim and let me know through Facebook that the reason everyone is wearing tracksuit tops in the team photo is because adidas didn’t send through enough home shirts in time! adidas and supply issues? Who have thought?
More social media stalking was necessary when it became evident the Puma deal (six years rather than five) was coming to an end last season. The ever responsive @MarkDevlin7 admitted he was meeting with a number of suppliers including adidas, regarding taking over the responsibility of putting some stripes on at least half a shirt. He remained professional among some calls for more information saying an announcement would come in due course.
The announcement did come and this 41-year-old man momentarily returned to his nine-year-old self. adidas had won the contract and eventually managed to get some Brentford shirts into our much-improved club shop. amokfos had to be laid to rest. It’s now ‘adidas are once again making out kit for at least another season’ but ‘aaoamokfalas’ doesn’t have much of a ring to it. With all the problems we’ve had with this season’s shirt and associated leisure wear, it’s been mentioned adidas have even offered us stripes on the back of next year’s shirts. To be fair, though, if the team keep performing at their current level, I’m all for the backs permanently being all red. Just make sure they continue to have three narrow stripes, preferably red, running down the sleeves.
The Big Brentford Book of the Eighties is still available here or via the Brentford FC club shop