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 its return on our 2022/24 second kit, we’ll be speaking with those who wore it best the first time around.
For this issue, Dan Long caught up with one of our greatest-ever goalscorers, Steve Phillips.
For Brentford, the nightmare scenario of facing re-election to the Football League was a very real prospect in February 1977.
The season had begun with three defeats from the opening four league games, with John Docherty then resigning on 7 September 1976 following a misunderstanding in the boardroom. Bill Dodgin Jr – whose father had managed the Club from 1953 to 1957 - took over nine days later but, after five months, was still struggling to get a tune out of his squad.
In the lead up to the 1-0 defeat at home to Aldershot on 19 February 1977 - which left the Bees third-bottom of the Fourth Division – Dodgin saw fit to draft reinforcements, one of whom was Steve Phillips. The pair had worked with one another at Northampton and won promotion from the same division a season earlier.
Steve played every one of the final 19 games and scored seven goals as Brentford collected 39 points of the 57 on offer to finish 15th. It was a late-season cameo that gave a welcome glimpse of what was to come.
He started the 1977/78 campaign in fine fettle, scoring seven in the first ten games as Dodgin’s men shot up the table. The reason? The trust put in him by a manager who prioritised entertaining football.
“Dodge near enough always played 4-3-3,” said Steve.
“If I ever wanted to go and play up front for five or ten minutes or on the right wing, I would do it. There was no shouting or asking what I was doing – I just did it. If we were under pressure then I’d drop into midfield for 15 minutes and he trusted me. None of the lads took offence to it.
“When I played in midfield, I didn’t really pick people up, I was just playing in an area. Barry Tucker liked a lot of space at left-back and would just tell me to push on 12 yards in front of the other midfield player and he’d take two players. We all just had faith in each other, I suppose.
“I didn't realise until I finished and played under other managers how rare that trust was. But he trusted everyone. On an away trip, Dodge would knock on your room and bring in a crate of beers and tell us he wanted to talk about tomorrow’s game and ask our opinions.”
And there it is. Steve is often credited as one of Brentford’s greatest-ever goalscorers – and there is no denying that, with 69 goals to his name, he is right up there. But, by his own admittance, he was not a striker. “I probably played more games in midfield for the Club that I did up front,” he says.
With promotion looking likely in April 1978, Dodgin viewed that as the right time to move Gordon Sweetzer on. The Canadian frontman’s goalscoring record – 40 in 72 games – was outstanding, but, despite this, he had missed time out through injury and the Bees were able to command a £30,000 fee for a player they had signed from Queens Park Rangers’ youth set-up.
That was when Steve – who had won the prestigious Evening Standard Player of the Month award for March - stepped up to the mark in devastating style.
Once he moved forward to partner Andy McCulloch, he could not stop scoring and ended the season with 32 league goals and 36 overall. It was a haul that no other player in the Football League bettered that year and contributed to the second-highest team tally across all four divisions.
The secret to it is a surprising one.
“All we did in training was play one-touch, two-touch or five-a-side football,” says Steve – now 68 and retired. “I wasn’t the best at that because I didn’t run around!
“On a Friday we would train at Griffin Park and everything we did, apart from three or four days in pre-season, was short and sharp. Dodge always took the training and all we would do was sprints as everything was to keep us sharp.
“Everyone knew pretty much what the team was and, if you couldn’t pass the ball, you weren’t in the team. We didn’t have anyone in the team that could kick anyone. The way we played was probably similar to how teams play today, where they pass across the back four. We wouldn’t do it as much as that, but we all tried to play through midfield.
“In those days, you could pass back to the goalkeeper, so the only time Len Bond would hit the ball, he would hit it straight to Andy McCulloch and we fed off him. We didn’t larrup the ball around the pitch, everything was to feet.
“Bill just had a very laid-back attitude. I only saw him once lose his temper in all the time I played under him; that was at the train station at Darlington after Barry Lloyd had come to the Club. He signed and supporters were having a go at him there. Dodge picked up the medical bag and was going to hit one of them over the head with it! I couldn’t believe it. He protected everyone.”
A 2-0 win over Darlington at Griffin Park on 22 April 1978 secured promotion with two games to spare, from which Brentford took just a point. Did it take the pressure off? By all accounts, there was never any in the first place.
“It was no different,” Steve continues. “I don't think we ever played a game where we thought we were under pressure and had to get a result. We just went and played.
“But on the last game of the promotion season, we lost 2-1 at Grimsby and we should have beaten them.
“My only regret was that I didn’t score more. I gave two or three penalties away throughout the season, some to Sweetzer when he was on a hattrick. I’m not saying I would have necessarily scored them, though.”
Having finished fourth in the Fourth Division, behind Watford, Southend and Swansea, the Bees returned to the Third Division after five years away and were rewarded with a trip to Guernsey and a £500 bar tab – around £3,000 in today’s money - by Chairman Dan Tana, of West Hollywood restaurant Dan Tana’s fame.
Yugoslavia-born Tana held the role from November 1974 to September 1981 and brought a touch of glamour to West London. He was the salt of the Earth, too.
“Dan was brilliant and I got on well with him,” adds Steve.
“I remember telling him one day that I was looking at changing my car as I was driving around in an Austin Allegro and I was going to take out a loan. He told me not to get a loan and that he would sort it out. One day after training, under my seat was £2,000. When I left the Club, I said to Dan that I owed him £2,000 and he denied all knowledge of it and walked away!
“When we went up, we spent the night at Morton’s in Berkley Square with Dan, Bill Dodge, four or five of us and Rick Wakeman. Rick used to come training with us and Brentford against Watford was a big thing because he was at our place and Elton John was at Watford.
“After that final-day defeat to Grimsby, we came back, went round to Jackie Graham’s clubhouse and Dan came in with a newspaper under his arm. The News of the World used to have the transfer snippets in on a Sunday and he said to me that he wanted to have a word with me because there was something about me in the paper – Spurs had offered £120,000 for me.
“He asked me what I thought, so I asked whether he wanted to sell me. He said no. Then I asked Bill if he wanted to sell me and he said no, so I said I wasn’t going. Financially speaking, I should have gone, but we didn’t have agents in those days. But because I had been at Birmingham for six years where, realistically, I was Trevor Francis’ understudy, I didn’t want to do that again.
“At that time, they had just bought Steve Archibald, Garth Crooks and they also had Ricky Villa and Ossie Ardiles. There was only one thing I would be unless things were drastically wrong or I was flying – and that would be a squad player.”
Consequently, Steve stayed at the Club for the next two seasons and scored 26 goals as Brentford consolidated their place in the Third Division.
The second of those two proved problematic as the team struggled for both form and goals at the start of 1980. Two wins during a run of 18 games then saw Dodgin given a paid leave of absence, which led to former assistant Fred Callaghan being appointed caretaker until the end of the season.
“Did I get on with Fred? No,” Steve answers, quickly and resolutely.
“The funny thing was that, around the same time I signed for the Club, Bill brought in Fred as his coach. All Fred did was have a go at players, whereas Bill didn’t. At the end of the next season, everyone thought Fred would be coach again, but Bill got rid of him as he was upsetting all of the players.
“I couldn’t believe it as we’d just been on that run that ended in us staying up and Fred was coaching, but Bill liked doing his own thing and brought in Tommy Baldwin, who was one of the lads.
“When Fred took over, it was like the holiday camp had finished. One of the first things he did was tell me that I wouldn’t be playing and he was getting rid of me.
“He got rid of a lot of good players; Jackie Graham was released, Andy had already gone to Sheffield Wednesday and, within six months, Dave Carlton had gone back to Northampton, too. But he wanted his own people in, which I can understand to a certain degree.
“The first person Fred wanted to sign was Stan Bowles on £500 a week. I was on around £150 a week plus loyalty bonuses and things like that, but Dan had put a clause in my contract that no one could earn more than me, which meant I would have ended up on £500 a week, too! Fred had to get rid of me because he wanted to bring in other players.
“It was a bit soul destroying to leave because my heart was at the Club. I thought I would never leave. Brentford had bought me for about £4,000 and I finished up going back to Northampton for £40,000, so I think I gave them value for money. I just loved it there.”
Phillips was inducted into the Club’s Hall of Fame in 2019, joining former team-mates Danis Salman and Jackie Graham in the esteemed list.
Upon receiving the award on stage with Natalie Sawyer and Neal Maupay, he gushed about how special the Club was. And despite being less inebriated that he was that night, the sentiment remains the same today.
“I went up to the First Division with Birmingham at 17, went up with Southend and went up with Northampton. But, without a doubt, the one at Brentford was the best.
“I did a very similar thing at Southend later in terms of goals and games, but the enjoyment was nowhere near like it was at Brentford. It was totally unique and I’ve got nothing but praise for Bill and the Chairman Dan Tana. It was the best three-and-a-half years, possibly of my life.”
This interview first appeared in our Match Programme. Fill the gaps in your collection while stocks last.