The news that Brentford’s match at Bolton Wanderers has been called off due to strike action by the Trotters’ protesting players is unprecedented in recent times – but The Bees have been no strangers to industrial action, or no-play protests, down the years. Here’s a few examples.
In the not too distant past, Bees fans will remember the actions of James Tarkowski, who refused to play after being selected for the televised Griffin Park match again Burnley in January 2016 – the defender deciding it was better for his career to down boots rather than turn out against a club that had expressed transfer interest in him.
Tarkowski’s decision sparked outrage at Brentford – anger that was further fuelled by ’shock-jock’, Adrian Durham, who wrote in his Daily Mail article; “On the face of it, a player refusing to play for his club seems unforgivable. But Brentford defender James Tarkowski got it absolutely correct when he opted not to take to the field for Friday night’s defeat by Burnley in the Championship…. why would he play for Brentford and try to take points off a side who he is hoping to win promotion with this season? It’s bizarre to even ask him to do that.” Both men are now detested by Bees fans.
However, back in 1945, as a top flight club, the Brentford players were unanimous in their support of the Players’ Union’s call for strike action over pay and the maximum wage – in fact at the time it looked like all First Division teams were set to back the Union’s call to withdraw their labour.
The Daily Mirror from October 29, 1945, reported; “The Football Players’ Union, meeting in Manchester today week, will include representatives of league-leading Charlton and star studded Arsenal, each armed with mandates to quit. In other clubs, players think the same, and Daily Mirror reporters have been gauging feelings at other top clubs. Chelsea: Solid behind the Union; Birmingham: Ready to stop at once; Brentford: Strike the only possible course; Aston Villa, Derby and Everton: Unanimously backing the Union.”
Things really got out of hand in West London back in 1857, when 150 of the bricklayers employed to build the docks at Brentford went on struck and rioted for an increase in wages… from 5s to 5s 6d per day. According to the Surrey Comet of June 27, “When the sum was refused by contractors, the men quitted the ground and proceeded into the town of Brentford, most of them betaking themselves to the public houses. At noon many of the Irish workmen on their way to dinner, were attacked by the English bricklayers, and in the afternoon a battle-royal took place in the market place, when blood flowed freely from the heads of many of the combatants, most of them using heavy cudgels against each other.”
The National Coal Strike of 1912 also affected the attendance numbers at Brentford’s game against Stoke, with the Staffordshire Sentinal reporting; “There was a very poor crowd at the Victoria Grounds this afternoon to witness the Southern League match – the strike no doubt was responsible, for with the club doing better just now there was every reason of expecting a good gate.” The game ended 1-1 with Jack Sibbald scoring for the visitors.
Back in January 1974, in the midst of the national energy crisis and the three-day week, the Brentford players were forced to travel to the game at Doncaster Rovers in a fleet of cars when the coach failed to turn up and the team turned out in a kit of green shirts with pink numbers, which had been borrowed from Slough Town. Fourteen days later, the players had to endure a repeat performance when the coach again failed to arrive for the trip to Crewe.
Then, in the summer of 1979, Bees full-back, Danis Salman, also did ‘a Tarkoswki’ and was transfer-listed after demanding a move and later stating that he would not train with the team and would never kick another ball for the club after failing to report for pre-season training. A month later he signed a new contract.
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