The castle crest was used by Brentford from 1975 to 1993.
Promotion was won twice during that period, from the Fourth to Third Division in 1977/78 and from the third to second tier in 1991/92. The other highlight was a run to the sixth round of the FA Cup in 1988/89.
To celebrate the return of the castle crest on our 2022/24 second kit, we’ll be speaking with those who wore it best the first time around.
Our next interviewee is Jackie Graham, who captained the Bees to that aforementioned promotion in 1977/78.
Few Brentford players over the course of the Club’s history have proved to be as reliable as the irrepressible Jackie Graham.
The Scot arrived in West London as a 24-year-old in July 1970. A diminutive forward who had already played top flight football with Morton and Dundee United, Jackie spent time on loan at the now-defunct Dallas Tornadoes in the US and then dropped into non-league with Guildford City after moving to Surrey.
He came with solid pedigree, there is no denying that. But an exchange with Bees Manager Frank Blunstone in those early days changed the course of his career and set in motion the journey to writing himself into the Club’s history books.
“When I went to Brentford, I had a chat with Frank and he said he thought he could move me into a midfield role where I could get myself forward and score a few goals,” the 76-year-old explains, between sips of a cup of tea.
The fact he chooses to continue working for the small cleaning business he owns well beyond the usual retirement age is a notable reflection of the man’s character.
“I said I’d try it, but that was it. That conversation changed my game and outlook.”
Thereafter – and for the next decade - he became a mainstay of the midfield, amassing 409 appearances in all competitions, which is a tally that has only been bettered by five players in Brentford’s history.
Had the Club been flush with cash in the 1970s and able to bolster the squad sufficiently to facilitate rotation of some sort, that tally may well have been lower. But that was not the case, and, in Jackie’s second campaign in TW8, Blunstone led his team to automatic promotion from the Fourth Division with a true skeleton squad.
“When we got promotion under Frank, he used 14 players,” Jackie says. “That would never, ever happen again anywhere.
“A lot of the time you weren’t fit. You got a cortisone injection and away you went. I don’t think they knew much better back then. It would tide you over for the game, but the next day was hell and it would take a couple of days for the pain to calm down before you were training again. We wanted to play all the time anyway.”
A startlingly small squad aside, it was testament to Blunstone’s coaching that, in his first full season as Jimmy Sirrel’s successor, he ended the five-year stay in the bottom tier of the Football League.
Jackie, who excelled at set-piece delivery, adds: “Frank was an exceptionally good coach and he got a couple of good players, like John O’Mara, in. John was a good friend of mine and we used to go back in in the afternoons and Frank would put on a wee session for him to time his runs into the box, which never had before.
“He gave us a system to play that suited us all and a lot of it came off. John was six-foot-four and we played a lot of stuff around about him. I think we played a 4-3-3/4-2-4 formation, with John Docherty on one wing and Alan Mansley on the other; they were crossing balls in for him and we were coming forward from midfield to support.
“We thoroughly deserved the promotion – and we drunk Guernsey dry for a week afterwards! It was tremendous.
“We trained exceptionally hard, I must admit, but we partied hard, too. When we trained, we trained and when we partied, we partied.
“We knew all the local pubs around Griffin Park and were on first-name terms with the landlords. After away games, we used to knock on the door and they’d welcome us in until all hours of the morning.
“Coming back from trips like Barnsley, Bradford and Hartlepool, we’d have a beer at the back of the coach and, after a few cans, everyone would be like ‘you should have done this, you should have done that’ and that’s when the arguments would start!
“We socialised with the wives, went on holiday together and the camaraderie was great in that group. That was important. We stuck together and were always there to help one another, that was the good thing about being a small squad. If one of us got into a fight, we were all there.”
The return to the Third Division, unfortunately, lasted only a season. Brentford started with three wins and a draw from the first five league matches to set the cat among the pigeons, but never really got into a rhythm.
They lost 24 games that season, of which 13 were by just a one-goal margin. The fact they finished a mere four points from safety provided a reminder of just how important it is to be on the favourable side of fine margins in football.
The sale of O’Mara – who had scored 25 goals in 40 league games during the promotion season – to Blackburn for £15,000 in September 1972 was a hammer blow.
“A few clubs were looking at John that year,” says Jackie.
“As I said, we played around him with crosses coming in and he was on the end of a lot of stuff – he virtually got us promotion. When he went, Frank wasn’t going to stand in his way. It was a big blow, not only because we were the best of pals and still talk today.
“That season, I thought we actually played really well. We were losing silly games 1-0 against some of the top sides, but we just couldn’t get the rub of the green. It was a shock, really. I couldn’t believe it. It’s quite deflating at times when you sit back and look at it.
“But I felt sorry for Frank because he never got any back-up from the directors or the chairman after promotion. To go up with 14 players was amazing, but I think they might have thought, because he did it one season, he could do it again. And it doesn’t work like that.”
During Jackie’s ten years as a Brentford player, he played under five managers: Blunstone, Mike Everitt, John Docherty, Bill Dodgin Jr and Fred Callaghan.
Even half a century on, he can detail their methods and how they compared.
“Mike Everitt was a stocky, sturdy man. He would have us doing 50-yard passes in training as that was his style of playing, getting the ball forward. He was a very nice man, but he wasn’t a Brentford manager.
“On one occasion, he got us all sitting on the grass and he was standing there with his legs open, tight trousers and pointed shoes on, looking like a teddy boy. He said: ‘You boys might want to call me Guv’nor. No. You might want to call me Mike. No. What you call me is boss.’ I had a wee snigger and he clocked me right away – I couldn’t stop laughing.
“The next day, he came in with his training gear on and ‘BOSS’ right across his chest. It was so funny. He called me in and pulled me up about the wisecracks and, the following Saturday, he put me on the bench!
“I played with John Docherty and he became manager as well. He told me he wanted to make me captain and I turned him down. I didn’t want people to think that he had done it because we were both Scottish.
“His methods were very good and the training was good, but he wasn’t good at man-to-man management – in his words ‘I’m not taking any s**t’. He wouldn’t listen to players. His mind was made up and, right or wrong, he would do it. A lot of times, he was wrong.
“After John O’Mara left Blackburn, he went to South Africa and we were having a hard time; Doch was the manager, Dan Tana was the Chairman and he was giving Doch a hard time about where we were in the league. He asked if I could get him back to England and I said I’d try. He agreed to come back, but when he did, Docherty got sacked, Dodgin took the job and he didn’t want him!
“Bill wanted football players that could pass the ball and play attractive stuff that was good to watch, but John wasn’t like that. I couldn’t believe it. It was a shame that he got the sack, too. The Club wanted success, but they just wouldn’t pay for it.”
It was Dodgin Jr – who sadly passed away aged 68 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s in June 2000 - that left a lasting impression on Jackie.
“What a lovely man,” he says, with a touch of sadness in his voice. “I’ve always said that if he asked me to shoot somebody, I would have done it. He was that sort of man. He just loved his players.
“I had gastroenteritis once and I hadn’t trained for a whole week. I turned up on Saturday morning before a game against Swindon and he asked if I had my boots, but I’d left them in the boot of my car.
“He asked if I wanted to play and I said that of course I wanted to play! He goes ‘you’re playing’, even though I had lost about half a stone during the week and I was as white as a ghost!
“We were sharp in training and we played some really good stuff that was beyond that division, which was all down to him. We battered teams.
“Some of the boys would sometimes say they wanted to play golf and I’d ask him if we could finish a bit early. If you gave him a good five-a-side, that was it. Finish the game and away you go. When we got to the golf club, he was already there drinking his red wine! He was mad for his red wine.”
Jackie was as enthusiastic a trainer as he was a player – understandably so when playing under a manager such as Dodgin Jr.On one particular occasion in August 1977, though, he was granted time off… after the death of Elvis Presley.
“When we found out, Bill said to me: ‘I don’t suppose I’ll see you for a week, will I?!’ They put his films on every day for about a week and I said: ‘Nope. I won’t be here!’
The relationship between the pair was cemented when Jackie was appointed captain shortly after his arrival in September, succeeding Paul Bence in the role.
“That was a good time for me,” he adds. “Docherty left, Bill came in and then there was a call to say that he wanted to see me. The boys thought that was it for me! I was playing well at the time anyway, so if he had, I would have been alright.
“But he showed me my contract and said, ‘what about a loyalty bonus?’ I’d never had one. He told me my wages were coming on the Friday and there would be £400 in there. He then said that he was going to make me captain!
“Just before I went, he said, for being captain, he’d give me an extra tenner! He asked if I was happy with that – I was doing somersaults! He was probably the first manager that had done something for me and I repaid him by doing everything I could on the pitch.”
In 1977/78, he did just that by captaining the side that won promotion from the Fourth Division for the second time in six years. Brentford finished fourth in the table, two points above nearest challengers Aldershot.
He does remember a slight tinge of regret, despite the success.
“That was great feeling to get promotion again, so how those boys felt when they got promoted to the Premier League, I don’t know!
“I know we went up with Bill, but we were good enough to win the league. There were a lot of games that we drew that we should have won – I can still remember a lot of the games now - and I felt really sorry for the man that we didn’t win it for him. That said, he was delighted.”
Fred Callaghan replaced Dodgin Jr as manager in March 1980 and, that summer, embarked upon a drastic clear-out that spelled the end of Jackie’s time at the Club.
He knew, in his heart of hearts, that it was time to go. It was just the manner the news was delivered in that left a bitter taste.
“I read about it in the paper. Somebody should have said something to me,” Jackie says.
“I asked Fred why I had to find out in that manner and he said it wasn’t him that had done it, but it must have been him because he was the one that let me go. He tried to put the blame on a reporter that had overheard it.
“People have asked me since why I didn’t leave before that, but I didn’t know anything about any interest. Leeds had been in and I knew nothing about it. Sometimes it’s better that way. You hear about these things too late, but my girls were young and doing well at school and I wouldn’t have moved anyway. I loved my time at Brentford, I really did. If you’re doing your job and you’re happy, that’s half the battle.
“It was sad but you can’t kid yourself. A new manager always wants to get a new broom and have a clean start – and I understood that. Fred was alright. He was a bit full of himself, but he wanted to bring in his own players. It was just the way it was done and I thought he would have given me a bit more respect.”
It was written in the stars that Jackie – who went on to join Addlestone & Weybridge Town - would come up against his former employers in the FA Cup first round proper during the 1980/81 campaign.
The non-league outfit even managed to force a replay after a 2-2 draw that he remembers very well.
“Once we knew the draw, the players told me Fred Callaghan would come and watch me at Addlestone because I used to take all the corners and free-kicks and bend them into the near post.
“On the way up to the game, I said to one of the guys that we would try a different corner routine, which came off to a tee for the equaliser!
“But what I remember most from that day is that, when we were supposed to run out of the tunnel, I thought all the players were behind me, but they stayed inside without me knowing and the crowd started clapping and giving me an ovation as I was on my own!”
It was a fitting gesture for a man who had given so much to the Club for so long.
This interview first appeared in our Match Programme. Fill the gaps in your collection while stocks last.