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I was saddened when I read the news that former Brentford chairman, Martin Lange, had died. Lange was a safe pair of hands as far as our club was concerned and a man who juggled his ambitions for his own business’ success with that of the football club for many years– Lange, just like his father, was a real Bee.

“I first went to Brentford with my dad in the early Fifties – we used to catch the trolley bus to Northfields where he’d play snooker for a while, before heading on to Griffin Park. The crowds were still very big in those days and I remember being passed down over the heads of the grown ups to an area at the front of the Ealing Road terrace where all the smaller children could see the game. So I grew up knowing what a great club Brentford was and enjoyed coming to matches with my friends, and then became a season ticket holder for many years.”

“I joined the board with a debt crisis on our hands and I remember the first headache I had to help solve was the payment of the fee the transfer tribunal had set for Alan Whitehead’s transfer from Bury. Brentford were right up to the limit on the bank overdraft, and it seemed the severity of that situation was being somewhat glossed over, but if that wasn’t worrying enough, we had to find another £70,000 or so for the new central defender. There were several suggestions, one of which was even to refuse to pay. But we’d announced the transfer to the press and to our supporters – we were also bound by Football League regulations. In the end there seemed to be only one option, for the board members to put their hands in their own pockets, and somewhat flashily I wrote a cheque out for £65,000 and, to his credit, Eric Radley-Smith stumped up the rest of the fee.”

Lange was a realistic chairman whose ambitions were framed by his belief that the club should never risk its survival, which sometimes meant taking some tough decisions, including the redevelopment of the Brook Road end of the ground.

“I think my first day as chairman coincided with a home defeat and a demonstration in the Braemar Road forecourt calling for the sacking of Fred Callaghan – the police warned me that there could be trouble, but I went out and talked to the crowd and it seemed to do the trick. I felt that I backed my managers, even sometimes against my better judgement, as I wanted to run a steady ship rather than chopping and changing all the time – it was important to give people a fair crack of the whip in my view.”

“I have to admit that one of my biggest difficulties was dealing with the fans’ constant demand for the club to spend money on new players, whereas, from my perspective, the solvency of the club was the most important thing, balancing that with still trying to be ambitious. The fact that my dad, who died when I was just eight years old, had taken me to Griffin Park, and having known how important the club was to him, meant that I knew it would have made him proud of me becoming the chairman.”

“Having to pull the Royal Oak down was one of the biggest decisions I ever had to make, and I do regret having had to make it on my watch as chairman. But the truth is that the back of the stand was condemned and the cost of repairing it was phenomenal. The combination of the dilapidated conditions and the club debt, plus me being a property developer, meant that redevelopment just had to be considered to clear the debts. And once the bank was off the club’s back, running the club certainly became a lot easier. I understand passions still run high over the demolition of the Royal Oak, and in hindsight it has restricted Brentford’s scope to develop Griffin Park, but it was the right decision at the time, especially as I was constantly looking for a site to build Brentford a state-of-the-art new stadium. Even if we’d wanted to pull the Royal Oak stand down, rebuild it just as big, but with executive boxes etc, I doubt the council would have let us.

On a personal level I had a huge amount of respect for Martin. He was calm and genuine, and I enjoyed his company. He was a friendly supporter of the fanzine and he always made time to talk, including spending the best part of a day being interviewed by me at his home in Surrey for his feature in the Big Brentford Book of the Eighties, from which these quotes have been extracted.

It was great to have a beer with him and Christine Mathews at the book launch that followed and watching him turning the pages and reminiscing was fantastic… Almost as good as the guided tour of his classic Ferrari collection I was given.

“Looking back at my time as chairman, in hindsight maybe I would have done a few things differently. Some people, rightly or wrongly, have suggested I could have been more adventurous and spent big trying to get Brentford to the promised land, but as a custodian I think fans can look back and say that, when I was there, there was never a survival threat, there was never any real crisis to deal with once we solved the initial debt problems and I was a safe, stable chairman who genuinely cared about the club and its future.”

My sincere condolence go out to Martin’s family and close friends. Rest In Peace, you were taken too soon.

Dave Lane


The full ten page interview with Martin Lange is available in the Big Brentford Book of the Eighties here