We are saddened to learn about the passing of Francis Joseph, a genuine Brentford legend from the 1980s, who was much-loved among the Griffin Park faithful – he will be sadly missed. ‘Jo’ was a good friend of Beesotted and we were fortunate enough to interview him several times, he also was one of the guests at a Beesotted Social event at the Fuller’s Brewery a few years ago where fans loved hearing his uncut memories of playing along-side Stan Bowles, Terry Hurlock and Chris Kamara as well as his goalscoring exploits in a red and white Brentford shirt.
Having broken into Wealdstone’s Southern League team at the age of just 15 he moved to Wimbledon from Hillingdon Borough and top-scored in his first season, prompting Fred Callaghan to pay £40,000 for him in the summer of 1982 – shortly after he returned from a second successive summer on loan in Finland. A spectacular debut was the signal for him to hit 50 goals in his first two seasons with his lightning pace and explosive shooting, prompting regular terrace chants of ‘Jo, Jo, ‘Ave A Go!”.
Early in the 1984/85 season he suffered a badly broken leg and made only a handful of appearances in the following three campaigns as he struggled to recover full fitness, adding just two league goals in the process. Following loan spells with Wimbledon and HJK Helsinki he was eventually sold by Steve Perryman to Reading for £25,000 in the summer of 1987 and his career petered out with Bristol Rovers (loan), Aldershot (loan), Sheffield United, Gillingham, Crewe Alexandra, Fulham and Barnet (non-contract) but he never recovered either his form or his goal-scoring touch. Brief stints in Belgium and the USA saw him drift thereafter into non-league football with the likes of Slough Town, Dulwich Hamlet and Chertsey Town.
The following interview is taken from my Big Brentford Book Of the Eighties and gives us a reminder of his great achievements for The Bees. RIP Jo, you will always be remembered.
I played with a fantastic bunch at Brentford, not only people like Terry Hurlock and Stan Bowles, but Gary Roberts, Terry Rowe,Keith Cassells, Terry Bullivant and Paddy Roche too. They were all great guys at Brentford to be honest. Like a lot of successful striking partnerships the players don’t always see eye to eye.
The fans certainly saw the goals we were scoring during the early part of the 82-83 season, but I’m not sure quite how many of them saw the rows that myself and Tony shared too. We’d run up to one another to congratulate each other whenever we scored a goal, but if either of us missed a chance and the other one was in a better goal scoring position, boy did we bicker. If he used to get a goal, it made me try even harder to get one myself and I’m sure it was the same in reverse.
But his loss was a big blow to the side for sure. I’ll never forget Tony Mahoney’s leg-break against Swindon – I was running right next to him when it happened. The reason why the injury was so bad in my opinion was because Tony was really frustrated during that match, things weren’t going the way he would have liked and he wasn’t happy at all. I remember I’d told him to calm down a couple of times and the challenge that he went in for, the one that caused the break, was absolutely crazy I thought. But then again, every prolific striker in a professional league has got to have an aggressive edge.
Even mild mannered, calm and polite men off the pitch need to turn in to something completely different on the field of play if they are going to get to the top in the game. It’s a hard game played by hard men, no matter what it looks like from the sidelines at times. Everyone got on with Bob Booker. He’s an unbelievably nice bloke. He was a very accomplished player too, I got the feeling that the fans didn’t always see quite how good he really was or appreciated what they had at the club sometimes. Bob had been at Brentford for a fair few years and in my opinion his move away from Griffin Park was the making of him as a player. I wouldn’t say that he’d been at Brentford for too long, but sometimes a move away and a new start elsewhere can give a long-serving player a huge boost in confidence and energy.
Stan Bowles was the best player l’d ever seen in my life, I remember watching him as a child, so to be playing with him was something pretty special. Chris Kamara; tall, skinny with great energy. He could really tackle and alongside Terry Hurlock you had a superb partnership in the middle. Terry Hurlock, TERRY HURLOCK, he could go through brick walls. He was like a cave man carrying a sledgehammer, a Chav, but very dangerous. But what a nice man too. They were tough guys those two together, if the going got tough on the pitch those guys would get involved, but first and foremost they wanted to play good football and succeeded in my view.
They both were rewarded with big moves after Brentford, which proved what good players they were. I felt sorry for Fred Callaghan I really did, I think that side was so close to achieving big things for the club. It was a missed opportunity alright. Finishing tenth that season wasn’t good enough because we had the potential to finish in the top two and win promotion without any shadow of a doubt. People can run out all kinds of excuses; Tony Mahoney breaking his leg, Danis Salman’s injury, the suspension of both Kamara and Hurlock at critical times during the season, but I think that’s all nonsense. We should have still gone up that season.
There were other decent footballers in the wings who used to come in to the side, players like Paul Walker. I used to think Paul was a super little player and most of the time he didn’t get a look in. If we could have gone up that season the club would have gone from strength to strength. In my view no Brentford side since has matched the skill of that squad. I also remember we just missed out on winning a big pot of money that had been put up by Capital Radio for the first London side to score a hundred goals in league and cup matches. Wimbledon had a midweek game and notched up goal one hundred to grab the loot just days before we smashed Francis Joseph Exeter 7-1.
I got on well with both Fred and Frank McLintock to be honest. The biggest difference I can remember was that you could have a falling out with Frank in training or after a game and he wouldn’t hold a grudge. The next morning it would be all brushed under the carpet, Frank was mature like that. With Fred, if you had a falling out, he’d let it brew and brew. Frank was a more understanding individual I thought, but with the same desire to win. The Frank McLintock – John Docherty manager and assistant partnership proved to be a successful one a year or so later at Millwall, unfortunately, in hindsight, they got the roles the wrong way round at Brentford.
Another thing to note was the fact that Frank would drop me from the side from time to time where Fred would always include me no matter what. The fans were always good to me at Brentford and I’ll never forget the reception I got when I came back from my broken leg against York City and scored my goal. To hear them all singing “Joseph is back, Joseph is back”, was amazing, I’ll always remember that warmth as long as I live. Then after the final game of the season hundreds of fans flooded on to the pitch and mobbed me, it was another great gesture, but I have to admit I shit myself a bit because my shirt, boots and shin pads all got ripped off me. I did have a laugh about it back in the changing room though.
I also remember a girl standing up against the barrier shouting at me from the Brook Road stand one game. While I was getting ready for a corner, I heard her scream out my name, so I looked up in the direction the voice had come from. She repeated what she’d shouted, “Jo, Jo, will you pleeeeease, have, a go!” Obviously she didn’t think I was trying hard enough, but when the corner was driven in it bounced off my head and into the net. As I looked over she was going crazy.