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Like most sad old gits of my age, I never tire of telling anyone who’ll listen, that things just aren’t as good as they were “in my day”. Football, in particular, I say, just doesn’t have the same buzz that it used to, and that today’s players aren’t a patch on those from my youth.

But I’m starting to question my theory, because there’s a young whippersnapper by the name of Harry Forrester who’s come along and ruined my antediluvian ideas, which date back to the year dot. He’s something special is our Harry – one of ‘the old type’.

Mind you, memory is fickle and the game has changed so much that it’s difficult to accurately match players from one era with those from another, and most of the great Bees inside-forwards (attacking midfielders as they call ‘em now) of my memory played in the old-fashioned, more physical era, when players could use brute force to batter and beat each other. That made it easier for an inside-forward to deliver a pass into the danger area for a centre-forward to barge his way onto.

Not so now – the rules are different, and there is no longer the same contact in football… more’s the pity. Strikers have to be careful not to touch a defender, so it is easier to mark them out of the game, while the providers face a far more difficult task in trying to weave the ball to them. Speed, and the timing of a striker’s run, are more important now than the pass itself it seems. But let’s take a look at the inside-forwards who have make a mark on my memory box – the players I’ll try and compare to our Prince Harry.

Well, there have been a lot of exciting players in my time – sublime players like Jimmy Bloomfield (I met his son recently – he writes for the Barnet programme – and even found that quite a thrill, so much was the fame of his dad); superlatives like Johnny Brooks; Stan Bowles (like Johnny, an experienced player by the time he reached the hallowed GP); Rowan Alexander; Jackie Graham; John Rainford (often overshadowed by having the Terrible Twins, Francis and Towers, alongside him to score the goals he provided); Andy Sinton; Tony Folan (most like Harry, but something was apparently missing); the tremendous Peter Broadbent; Jay Tabb; and even (yes even!) Martin Rowlands. I’m sure you can think of a name or two to add to that list of attack-minded talent too. Recalling those names, drooling down my chin a bit as I sip my cocoa, I know that all those mentioned were great players, one and all, and I feel perhaps Charlie Ide is another who could almost fit into that category.

But all of the inside-forwards on my list are plucked from my fading grey matter more for their first-class passing and vision rather than for their dribbling skills – but Harry seems to combine both.

By using pure skill, like old-fashioned wingers Matthews and the great Tom Finney (not OUR Tom Finney, the Preston plumber) to beat defenders, Harry can beat a defender with a shuffle, a swerve, and a drop of the shoulder – skills that aren’t too common these days. It’s interesting, and possibly significant, that although Harry seems to describe himself as a striker, he plays like an old-fashioned winger-come-inside-forward.

What it adds up to this doddering old Braemar Road relic is that although my memory might not be as accurate as fact, we have actually had some truly skilful players put before us to entertain over the years. Harry looks like another.

So let us just revel in Harry, Harry, Harry Forr-es-ter while he’s with us. I think (hope) he will stay for a bit – after all, he was bright enough to choose Brentford over Ajax, as he apparently thought there was more chance of first-team football while he was leaning the game, and I hope he is level-headed enough to continue to think along those lines rather than becoming a reserve elsewhere, albeit in a higher division.

So, long may Harry remain a Bee – long enough so that in 2060, some old geezer just like me can say; “Yes, he was one of the Bees’ greats, when football was football, and not the robotic rubbish it’s become these days!” We can hope, can’t we?


Larry Signy