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With the visit of Walsall looming this weekend, Mark Croxford, co-author of the new Big Brentford Book of the Nineties, looks back at a far less exciting time in our club’s history.

The late Eddie May’s short reign as Brentford boss in 1997 was difficult, uncomfortable and, at times, embarrassing to watch as off-field matters began to rear their head and it became abundantly clear that all was not well following the David Webb-takeover. The team managed just four wins during his 15 league games in charge – all at Griffin Park, the last of which came against Walsall and produced probably the best 45 minutes of football of May’s tenure. The Saddlers arrived under the leadership of newly-appointed manager Jan Sorensen, the former Feyenoord star having replaced Chris Nicholl in the summer and they too had endured a tricky start to the campaign. Behind the scenes, May had started to try and re-jig his squad and a flurry of ins-and-outs during the preceding two weeks had seen the arrival of loanees Gareth Hall and Nick Colgan whilst Tamer Fernandes had been sent out on loan to Peterborough, Paul Barrowcliff had re-joined his former club Stevenage on loan and Richard Goddard had been loaned to Woking.

The first-half display gave some evidence of why the previous two games had ended in defeat but whatever magic May weaved at half-time, the second 45 minutes produced a storming second half display with some scintillating football and great goals. Marcus Bent moved up front, switching positions with Kevin Rapley who switched to the left flank and it took just four minutes to reap dividends when Bent held the ball up on the edge of the penalty area before sliding an inch-perfect pass to Robert Taylor and the big striker took one touch before drilling the ball into the net in emphatic fashion. The second goal, seven minutes later, was even better. Ijah Anderson won possession, played the ball down the left wing to Kevin Rapley and completed a delightful one-two, leaving Rapley to calmly beat a defender and the keeper before squaring the ball for the unmarked Ryan Denys to score from six yards. It was a glorious counter-attacking goal.

The superb display was capped in the final minute when Robert Taylor’s exquisite through-ball found Marcus Bent who strode on and fired the third with a touch of arrogance that the move fully justified. Many of the post-match plaudits were directed at Marcus Bent for his star performance. Bent himself was delighted with the recognition,

“I’ve always said my best position is as a striker, it’s the position I know best. David Webb asked me to play on the left wing and I think I struggled at first to learn the position. The he wanted me to play on the right, but it’s up front where I think I’m best.”

In a further sideways swipe at Webb, he added,

“Eddie and Clive (Walker) have been tremendous for me. They keep telling me how good I am and saying that they believe in me. I really needed to hear that. When people just eff-and-blind at you and tell you when you are doing things wrong, it’s difficult. Sometimes you just need people to say well done when you have done things right as well.”

Eddie May himself reserved even greater praise for his 19-year old striker.

“Marcus has everything you need to be a quality striker. He has got pace, strength and skill and he is a handful for anyone. He reminds me of Nathan Blake who I had at Cardiff. I moved him from the wing to striker and he never looked back. Maybe Marcus can do the same?”

Aside from the praise heaped on Bent, many supporters were left wondering just what had happened at the half-time interval to produce such a stunning turnaround and a brilliant second-half performance?

The romantic view could have been that the players were motivated by the interval introduction of two of the club’s greatest-ever players, with the legendary Ken Coote being joined on the pitch for the first time since 1961 by all-time record goalscorer Jim Towers. The two were guests of the club to help launch a new book by Graham Haynes, “The A-Z of Brentford”. The appearance of two such iconic figures couldn’t have failed to inspire the current crop of players, surely?

Eddie May had his own theory as to what he had done to change the course of the afternoon, “It was just a good old-fashioned half-time bollocking, that’s all!”

 Mark Croxford

Co-author of The Big Brentford Book of the Nineties