Andy McCulloch was not bothered about dropping from the Second to the Fourth Division when he signed for Brentford in March 1976.
At 26 years old, the striker was on the verge of reaching his physical peak, but a knee injury sustained at Oxford was holding him back and preventing him from playing the game he loved.
That is when the Bees stepped in to sign him for a club-record £25,000 fee.
“I just got totally fed up with Oxford and I was delighted to move away, to be honest,” the 73-year-old admits.
“I was still in contact with Terry Venables at the time. When I joined QPR, he was still playing and I got on so well with him. I think he instigated it all for me to go to Brentford, basically because I had a bad knee and I couldn't get it sorted out.
“I just wanted to get my body and everything right. There was a famous doctor called Eric Radley-Smith who used to work for Brentford and he got my knee completely right after I got the move on an injury clause. He realised it was a cartilage problem in one of my legs and Oxford hadn’t been doing the right things for it.
“I honestly thought I was finished, but they turned it all around for me, so I went on from there – and I love Brentford because of that.”
Despite Andy’s history at Loftus Road – and the fact he joined less than a decade after QPR’s notorious 1967 takeover attempt – there was no bad blood upon his arrival.
In fact, the only negative for him was the fact that Brentford Nylons went into administration a month before he joined and a lot of stores closed a couple of months afterwards – “I did love the Brentford Nylons, so that was a bit annoying!” he says.
He made 13 appearances during the last two months of the 1975/76 season, scoring three times and then hit ten in 20 games in an injury-hit following year, sometimes playing alongside top scorer Gordon Sweetzer. The Canadian took the league by storm, with 44 goals in 79 in all competitions and had left West London by the age of 21.
“I did play up front with him, probably once or twice,” Andy adds. “In fact, Sweetzer, Steve Phillips and I might all have played together at one point. Sweetzer was a crazy person and you never knew what to expect next.
“It was good fun, especially with Jackie Graham shouting you on in midfield.”
Bill Dodgin Junior replaced John Docherty in September 1976 and steered Brentford away from the lingering threat of re-election. He was the man to guide them to promotion the following year, too, and Andy recognises that his ways and means of working were somewhat unorthodox.
“He was probably an unusual manager, in a way, in terms of his methods. I got on fine with him and had no complaints at all. Sometimes he wouldn’t be at training for long, and then you’d find out he was on the golf course. He loved his golf and playing at West Byfleet.
“I thought he had brought together the right blend of players, definitely. I think the spirit in the side was very good and Bill helped with that as well by the training we did. We weren’t out there all day, but we put 100 per cent in.
“In pre-season, we ended up in places we never even knew existed just running to get fit. We were pulling each other along in those days, so if someone was struggling, we’d get hold of him and drag him along with us.”
It was Dodgin’s decision to pair McCulloch and Phillips in attack during the 1977/78 season – and what a masterstroke that proved to be. McCulloch netted 22 goals in 45 Fourth Division matches, with Phillips adding 32 in 46. Together, they scored just under a whopping 63 per cent of the Bees’ total league goals.
“It was a good partnership,” Andy says, modestly, “we just had an understanding.”
Brentford wrapped up promotion to the Third Division with two games to spare, but while some players might have been on the beach already – indicated by the 1-1 draw with Watford and 2-1 loss to Grimsby that followed – he was not about to join them.
In the close season, an opportunity arose to cross the Atlantic and play in the USA throughout the summer. It was a memorable period in more ways than one.
“After promotion, I went over to America and played on loan for Oakland Stompers,” Andy explains.
“It was a great experience, to play out in San Francisco. The football out there was a bit crazy, mind you, but just to see a different world was fantastic. We would spend a week away doing three or four games on the other side of America and then fly back.
“That’s another thing I thank Brentford for because it wouldn’t have happened without them. They just wanted to keep me happy and that was lovely.
“My late wife Sally was waiting on her divorce papers at the time, which came through when we were in America, so we decided to get married in Las Vegas! I then had to pull someone in off the street to be a witness – it was unbelievable!”
He returned to Brentford ahead of the 1978/79 Third Division campaign, with him and Phillips each scoring 14 goals to secure a respectable tenth-place finish. His goal in a 3-1 win over Bury, however, would prove to be his last for the Club.
In June 1979, he signed for fellow third-tier side Sheffield Wednesday, leaving for a Club-record £60,000, which represented a £35,000 profit for Brentford. It did not come out of the blue, though.
“One time I was playing and I got concussed from just heading the ball, so I got carried off on a stretcher.
“I was going into the changing room and Jack Charlton’s assistant Maurice Setters woke me up on the stretcher and asked if I fancied coming to Sheffield Wednesday the next season!
“They had a great name in those days, so I took the opportunity when it came along.
“I think it was the right time for me to leave Brentford. I was offered good money and moving up to Yorkshire was just a great experience to see the place and play for the club.
“We used to have some great crowds there. They still sing about the Boxing Day massacre today, when we beat Sheffield United 4-0 at home, and I set up two. There were just short of 50,000 people inside Hillsborough that day, which is incredible.”
McCulloch spent four years with the Owls, before returning south to play for Crystal Palace and then finishing up at Aldershot at the age of 35, with a knee problem contributing to his decision to retire from playing.
He is currently in the process of retiring for a second time, having worked in the cleaning industry ever since.
“We clean anything, really: carpets, upholstery, curtains and all that,” he says. “I'm always getting people ringing, but I’m getting too old! The reason I didn’t go into management is because all my mates were getting sacked and it’s such a precarious business.
“I’m trying to close everything down because I’ve had enough and I’m ready to retire. I sadly lost Sally four years ago, but I have a wonderful daughter called Kirsty, who lives nearby and a wonderful ten-year-old grandchild called Olivia.
“I’ve got a few other things I want to do in life, and I want to get them done before it’s too late.”
Andy still has an affection for Brentford, 42 years after leaving the Club, and he is always happy to return to TW8, given the new lease of life the Bees gave him when he first arrived all those years ago.
Recently, he attended an event put on by the Club for older fans suffering with dementia.
“They are doing this three or four times a season now,” he adds. “There were about 70 people in attendance and it was me and Bobby Ross as the ex-pros, answering any questions. I didn’t realise Brentford did that and it was just amazing.
“My time at Brentford was a very enjoyable part of my growing up and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
“They saved my career and I’ve always had an affection for them. It was just a great experience and I’m delighted I got to be a part of that team.”
This interview first appeared in our match programme. Fill the gaps in your collection while stocks last.