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With the signing of what can arguably described as Brentford’s most high-profile player ever – Christian Eriksen – Beesotted contributor Tim Street (@StreetboyTim) looks back at Brentford’s previous high-profile incomings 

Whatever Christian Eriksen achieves on the pitch, his status as Brentford highest profile signing ever has already been assured as we discussed on this week’s Transfer Deadline podcast (above).

And indeed, although the club’s hierarchy will be hoping it’s on the pitch that the Dane makes the most impact, in a midfield which has been crying out for a guiding hand of experience and creativity, his impact away from the grass cannot be underestimated either.

The kind of numbers Brentford’s announcement of their new signings did on social media yesterday was like nothing the club has seen before – not to mention new followers – and like it or not, these things are an important aspect of the modern game.

Then there’s Brentford’s wider profile as an attractive club to play for. This has already been assured to a certain degree for young up-and-coming players, who have seen the likes of Benrahma, Watkins, Maupay, Konsa and so on achieve their dreams of top flight football achieved through developing with Brentford. It will now be seen as a club which can turn the head of the very best of players, even if it was health-related issues which conspired to bring the Bees onto the radar of one of the world’s most prestigious talents.

Because that was Eriksen indeed was in the not-so-distant past – and he’s still only 29. Indeed, he might still be with Italian giants Inter Milan if he’d been allowed to play in Serie A with his cardioverter-defibrillator. And you don’t need a YouTube compilation to remind you of the many wonderful moments Eriksen provided over seven years in a Spurs shirt – they weren’t all that long ago and are still fresh in the memory.

Which is more than you can say for most of the surprise big name signings Brentford have made down the years, many of whom were well past their best. There are some, though, who were in their prime, attracted by a big pay day in those very rare eras, pre-Matthew Benham, when Brentford have had some cash to splash (or at least thought they did until reality proved otherwise). Then there are those, in more recent times, attracted either by the promise of promotion to the Premier League, or by Premier League football itself.

Here, then, is a non-definitive list of some of Brentford’s highest profile signings down the years. Not necessarily those which have been successful or who would go onto to achieve great things elsewhere, but those which, for whatever reasons, will perhaps have gained some attention outside just the usual confines of TW8 when pen was put to paper.


Tommy Lawton

To be fair, the real shock had come five years earlier, when Lawton, having fallen out with the hierarchy at Chelsea, dropped down from the First Division to the Third to sign for Notts County. This was a striker, after all, who was still at the peak of his powers – one of the top flight’s most feared forwards who had also scored 22 goals in 23 games for England. It probably helped that he linked up once again at Meadow Lane – where gates suddenly increased by a reported 30,000 – with his former friend and masseur at Chelsea, Arthur Stollery.

After five years at County, in 1952, he joined then-Second Division Brentford for a club record £16,000, and the crowds at Griffin Park saw a similar uptick in numbers as in Nottingham. A year later, Lawton was installed as player-manager in place of Jimmy Bain, and he brought in two more high-profile signings, former England international Frank Broome and former Arsenal title-winner Ian McPherson. But it did not work out for Lawton, and after a poor start to the 1954-54 season he handed in his resignation and joined Arsenal as a player.

According to the book Tommy Lawton: My Friend, my father by Tommy Lawton junior, the Griffin Park crowd mocked the frontline of Lawton, Broome and McPherson, which had a combined age of 104, with a chorus of ‘Dear Old Pals’.


John Dick, Bill McAdams and Johnny Brooks

When Brentford signed John Dick and Bill McAdams in the autumn of 1962, to add to the arrival of Johnny Brooks a year earlier, it sent shockwaves through the Fourth Division. Brooks, who had only five years previously played alongside Stanley Matthews and Tom Finney for England, was still only 30 when he signed from Chelsea in September 1961, but even his silky skills couldn’t prevent the Bees slipping into the Fourth Division for the first time.

As the Bees bid to bounce back at the first attempt, they recruited Scottish international Dick, who the previous year had been top flight West Ham’s leading scorer, for an unheard of fee for a Fourth Division club (and club record) of £17,500, and Northern Ireland international McAdams, who two years before had scored a hat-trick against West Germany, for £10,000. The all-international forward line took the Fourth Division by storm as Brentford won the title, but it wasn’t before long before chairman Jack Dunnett was declaring Brentford’s big-spending days to be over (despite a £40,000 bid a year later for Torino’s Gerry Hitchins, which would have been an even bigger headline-maker).

Within three years, Brentford had been relegated again, and in January 1967, Dunnett struck a deal with QPR that would see the Bees’ West London rivals move into Griffin Park and Brentford cease to exist. Fortunately, a fans-led movement made sure his plans were scuppered.


Herman Hreidarsson

Hermann Hreidarsson Vs Oldham Athletic – Nationwide League Division Two 14/08/99 

The Icelandic international had already made a name for himself when new Brentford owner Ron Noades persuaded Hreidarsson to drop two levels from Crystal Palace, newly relegated from the Premier League, to the Bees, newly relegated to Division Three (fourth tier). The fee of £750,000 was a record for both the club and division as the big-spending Bees looked to win promotion at the first attempt. Further recruits included Paul Evans and Scott Partridge from divisional rivals Shrewsbury and Torquay, but it was Hreidarsson who set Griffin Park alight as fans more used to centre-backs putting the ball into row z if necessary were wowed by his exciting forays up the pitch.

One memorable goal against promotion rivals Cardiff in particular saw Hreidarsson travel the length of the pitch before applying the coup de grace. Brentford memorably won the title on the final day of the season, and within a few games of the following season, Hreidarsson was on his way to top flight Wimbledon for £2.5m, which remained Brentford’s record transfer fee received until Adam Forshaw went to Wigan some 15 years later.

The big spending was not to last, however, and when Noades stepped down as manager a year later following an embarrassing FA Cup defeat at home to Kingstonian, it soon became clear that the spree had been funded against the value of Griffin Park rather than some philanthropic gesture, and some rocky financial years were ahead for the Bees.


Stan Bowles

Stan Bowles, Brentford FC

The mercurial genius had made a name for himself down the road at QPR in the 1970s, and although 33 by the time he arrived at Griffin Park from Leyton Orient, there was still some of that magic left in the boots. Bowles tells the story that he went straight to White City dog track with his £4,000 signing on fee and pretty much blew the lot. Still a fine dribbler and passer of the ball, Bowles formed one part of what is still remembered by Bees fans as one if its finest ever midfields, alongside Chris Kamara and Terry Hurlock.

Ultimately, it wasn’t good enough to get Brentford out of the Third Division though, and Bowles lit up Griffin Park for two seasons before announcing his retirement in 1983. He made a brief comeback the following season but retired for good after nine games after manager Fred Callaghan was replaced by Frank McLintock. Callaghan later said: “Stan was a committed trainer who never liked to be beaten, a genuine man when it came to football. The younger lads looked up to him and he was a model professional.

I used to try to help him with his finances by paying half his wages on Friday and the rest on Monday so he could survive ton the next pay cheque.” Bowles stayed living locally and, in retirement, could often be found in one of the many watering holes around Griffin Park. Indeed, when a fire broke out in the Braemer Road stand in 1983, it was Bowles’ wife who raised the alarm. Hurlock, who Bowles formed a friendship with, would later recall a frustrated Bowles standing in the middle of the road, bemoaning the fact that wind was blowing in the wrong direction and so preventing him claiming on his house insurance.

Brentford would also make headlines outside TW8 by signing two other ageing top flight stars, Chelsea legends Ron Harris and Mickey Droy, around the same sort of time – but neither would have the impact of Stan the Man.


Paul Davis

Another ageing top flight star coming to Griffin Park to wind down his career, there was nevertheless a real buzz of excitement when the former Arsenal midfielder arrived in TW8 in September 1995. Davis had been a huge part of the Gunners’ resurgence under George Graham in the late 1980s, winning the League Cup in 1987 and playing a part in the title triumphs of 1989 and 1991, before adding the European Cup Winners Cup to his medal haul in 1994.

Released in the summer of 1995, and following a short loan spell at Norwegian side Stabaek, Davis joined a Brentford side struggling to recover from the heartache of finishing second in Division Two (third tier) the previous season but not going up due to a restructure of the Premier League – and then losing to Hudderrsfield in the play-offs. David Webb’s side were in the middle of a run of four straight defeats when Davis made his debut in a 2-0 home defeat to Shrewsbury Town, in which he barely moved outside the centre circle. Four more equally anonymous performances followed before Davis’ Brentford career came to an end after just five games, and given his previous glittering career and the excitement when he signed, he has gone down of one of Brentford’s most disappointing signings ever.

Davis hung up his boots after dropping out of the reckoning at Brentford and would later emerge as Paul Gascoigne’s assistant manager at Kettering Town. He has since worked for both the FA and PFA and is currently part of the England U17 coaching set up.


Pontus Jansson

Pontus Jansson with the play-off trophy
A legend at Leeds, the Swedish international was not the sort of signing Brentford fans were expecting to arrive in the summer of 2019. The Bees had comfortably transformed themselves into a top 10 Championship side without ever really threatening the play-off places since that first season under Mark Warburton, as their policy of unearthing young and under-appreciated talent before developing and selling for a profit saw the Bees regularly outperform bigger-spending and bigger supported rivals.

The undoubtedly talented Brentford sides of the late 2010s were often lacking something in leadership, however, and that was something they moved to address in the summer of 2019 as the Bees took advantage of Jansson’s falling out with Leeds boss Marcello Bielsa to secure the shock signing. Jansson was one of a handful of arrivals that summer intended to take Brentford to the next level, to real promotion contenders, but his first season ended in heartache as Brentford lost the play-off final while his former club went up automatically. There was to be no repeat a year later, however, as Jansson led the Bees into the Premier League for the first time ever with victory over Swansea City at Wembley.


Neil Shipperley

Neil Shipperley, Brentford FC

Brentford were on a real downer as December 2006 turned into January 2007, and Shipperley was held up to be their saviour. The season had started promisingly enough under Leroy Rosenior, despite a slashed-to-the-bone budget, but had soon turned sour, and after Rosenior was sacked in November, Scott Fitzgerald failed to halt the slide. Supporters trust Bees United had taken control of the club a year previously, but it was saddled with massive debts from the previous owner and struggling to keep afloat a club which two years before had come perilously close to going into administration.

With money tight and something desperately needed to turn things around on the pitch, a Fighting Chance fund was set up which saw supporters raise £35,000 for Fitzgerald’s war chest. In came Shipperley, who had forged a decent top flight career knocking in goals for the likes of Chelsea, Southampton, Crystal Palace, Nottingham Forest and Wimbledon – also scoring three goals in seven games for England U21s. Although 31 by the time he joined the Bees from Sheffield United, Shipperley was still seen as someone who could certainly score goals in the third tier, and who could lift Brentford away from the dreaded drop zone.

There was a buzz of anticipation leading up to his debut at home to Carlisle, but that soon disappeared as a clearly overweight Shipperley struggled through a goalless draw. The Bees went on to win their next three games, but any misplaced optimism soon faded as 10 defeats in their last 13 games saw Brentford relegated by Easter and Shipperley depart without a single goal in his 11 games. Brentford went down to Division Three (fourth tier) with their worst Football League season on record, while Shipperley resurfaced a couple of years later on the local non-league management circuit, with Bedfont, North Greenford United and Walton Casuals.


Kristoffer Ajer

Kristoffer Ajer, Brentford v Valencia CF. Brentford Community Stadium, Brentford
Picture by Mark D Fuller/Focus Images Ltd 07/08/2021

Brentford more than doubled their record transfer fee paid to bring in the centre-back from Celtic last summer, much to the consternation of fans of the Scottish club, who couldn’t quite believe little old Brentford were taking players off them. The Norwegian international won five successive Scottish Premiership titles north of the border, but the fact that the Bees could attract him away from as big a club as Celtic shows the pull of the Premier League compared to its Scottish equivalent.

Brentford’s first Premier League ‘statement’ signing has proved to be a classy operator bringing the ball out of defence but has unfortunately missed a large chunk of the season through injury and is still getting back to his best.


Alex Dawson

One of the original Busby Babes at Manchester United, Dawson made his debut as a teenager in a season that United won a second successive First Division title, before the side was ripped apart by the following year’s Munich air disaster. Dawson quickly became a regular in a side rebuilding itself from the tragedy, scoring an FA Cup semi-final hat-trick before appearing on the losing side in the final, and remained a regular going into the early 1960s.


A move to a Preston side just relegated from the top flight followed, where he once again appeared on a losing FA Cup final side, before helping Bury to promotion to Division Two. Dawson was still only 30 and in excellent scoring form when he joined Brentford on loan from Brighton in 1970, and netted seven goals in just 11 games, but the Bees failed to make the transfer permanent in a £7,000 deal and he instead dropped into non-league football to see out his career with Corby Town.


Dawson had helped a side without a win in the first nine games of the 1970-71 season turn things around, and although the Bees were still in the Fourth Division drop zone when he left, they managed to pull away to finish 14th. The highlight of the season was a run to the fifth round of the FA Cup, the proceeds from which helped pay off the first instalment of the club’s loans which helped save the day in 1967. The following season saw promotion achieved with a third-place finish, followed by a subsequent relegation.


Javi Venta

Javi Venta, Brentford

The Spanish full-back had made more than 200 appearances for Spanish top flight side Villareal, with who he won the Intertoto Cup twice, when he joined Uwe Rosler’s Bees on a one-year deal in the summer of 2013. Despite being aged 37 at the time of his arrival, he sounded far more exciting a prospect than the usual exotic signings Brentford ended up with, like Lorenzo Pinamonte and Jean Phillipe Javary.


He appeared in two League Cup games for the Bees, including the infamous 5-0 hammering at Derby County in which a young Brentford side were ripped apart by a full-strength Rams side, and scored his only goal for the club in a 5-3 JPT win over AFC Wimbledon. Venta’s only league action was as a 16th-minute substitute for the injured Jake Bidwell in a 1-1 draw at Gillingham, and by the end of September his contract had been terminated by mutual consent, as he returned to Spain for personal reasons.


Honourable mentions

Spurs legend Steve Perryman, who won the FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup with the north London side, had spells as player-manager and then manager in the late 1980s and early 1990s with the Bees, and it was mainly his side which former Spurs team-mate Phil Holder led to the Division Three title in 1992. Around the same time, Brentford signed a number of Perryman’s former Spurs team-mates, including Tony Parks,Paul Miller and Chris Hughton.

Other top flight veterans to wear Bees colours in that era were Clive Goodyear, FA Cup winner with Wimbledon in 1988, and Kenny Samson, winner of 86 England caps. In later years, at the other end of the pitch, would come veteran Premier League strikers Carl Cort, whose time at Brentford was beset by injuries, and Irish international Clinton Morrison.

Keeper Bill Glazier once commanded a world record transfer fee for a goalkeeper of £35,000 when Coventry signed him from Crystal Palace, but when he joined Brentford a decade later, in 1975, an unwillingness to keep commuting from his Brighton home brought his Bees career to an end after just 12 games.

Harry Redknapp was not yet the managerial legend he was to become, but had nevertheless enjoyed a good career with West Ham when he signed on trial for Brentford in 1976, but after going off injured in his one and only appearance, a Fourth Division game against Aldershot, ‘Arry left the club.

Striker Ian Stewart, who was the first British footballer to be endorsed by Nike, joined Brentford on loan from Portsmouth just two years after representing Northern Ireland at the 1986 World Cup, and six years after scoring the winner against European champions West Germany – but he failed to net in seven games for the Bees.

Another former Northern Ireland international, Ian Lawther, was a useful capture for the Bees in 1964, but it was the nature of his signing which captured the headlines – it having taken place at the House of Commons, where Bees chairman Jack Dunnett served as MP for Nottingham Central.

So, there you have it – a list of some of Brentford’s most eye-catching signings to have become before Eriksen, who all had varying degrees of success. Should Eriksen contribute to keeping Brentford in the Premier League, it could probably be argued he will have had the biggest impact of all on the pitch as well as off it. Welcome to Brentford, Christian. No pressure!

Tim Street