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A few weeks had passed since the exit of manager Bill Dodgin on “leave of absence” whatever that meant. To many Bees fans, it had been a painful departure. Dodgin had brought free flowing, attractive, attacking football to Brentford which had culminated in a promotion from Division Four and the team more than holding their own in Division Three the following season. Even after he left, the song “There’s only one Billy Dodgin” echoed around the ground at matches, such was the affection for the man.

By December 1979, in their second season back in Division Three, Brentford had reached the heady heights of second place with a 1-0 home win over Colchester. However, it all went pear shaped thereafter with the team losing form and barely picking up a win over the following three months. Dodgin’s tenure hung in the balance after a spectacular 1-6 loss away to Colchester (fantastic atmosphere created by the Bees fans on the wooden planked away terraces of Layer Road), which was on “the Big Match” the following day.

I vividly remember the TV commentator saying that Brentford had “capitulated” and quickly running off to my pocket dictionary to check what I thought it meant – which it did! The following game was a miserable 0-1 home loss to Rotherham resulting in Dodgin’s departure. Brentford were in free-fall and heading back to Division Four.

Bring on the savior – Fred Callaghan. Ex-Fulham pro Fred may well have been well known amongst the cognoscenti at Griffin Park having positively helped with coaching a couple of seasons beforehand, but to me, a 15-year-old from south London who continuously experienced a wartime-like news blackout on my club, the information was met with “Fred who?”

“Fred who” had an impact though. The Bees went four games unbeaten with two wins and two draws, which pulled Brentford towards safety. More importantly, the defence seemed to be regaining control, even though the attacking options still looked poor.

So, it was with a fair amount of optimism that I ventured forth to Brentford’s penultimate home league game, against Carlisle, thinking that one more win and maybe a couple of draws would see the team firmly grasp the safety net and avoid relegation.

In the first half of the game, the Bees started brightly, but then came the choker. Carlisle scored after twenty-odd minutes and basically shut up shop. Brentford huffed and puffed but after 45 minutes, the score remained the same. I stood at half-time by my favorite drainpipe on the Royal Oak stand hoping (with a chocolate Wagon-Wheel in hand) whether the force of our midfield and forwards would break down the solid yellow Cumbrian wall of our opponents.

I was soon to find out. Almost immediately after the re-start, the visitors scored making it 0-2. The players’ heads began to drop and it was no surprise that half way through the second half, Carlisle scored again; 0-3 and game over. On the pitch, there were all sorts of mix-ups occurring and the good work that had taken place in the previous four games seemed to be evaporating in front of our eyes.

One vivid memory I still have of this game is the speed at which the 6,000-odd home fans exited from the ground after the third goal. The crowd seemed to vanish so that by the final whistle, there was probably a thousand or so people left inside Griffin Park.

A miserable journey home ensued with the stark realization that despite ditching their snazzy, but seemingly “unlucky”, Bukta kit in favour of an old set found in the laundry basket in the corner of the changing room, and despite Fred working some discipline into them, this was still the same side that had wobbled its way down the table after Christmas and was sorely lacking in confidence. A 1-2 loss away at Hull the following weekend piled on the worry.

Thankfully, we all had a fairytale happy ending with Tony Funnell’s late second-half solo goal against Millwall on the last day of the season, keeping us up. I’ve never celebrated quite as much as that before or since!

Hopefully the result against Carlisle will be far more positive this weekend!

Cris Glascow