A popular figure at Jersey Road, Bob Oteng is into his seventh season as Brentford’s Kitman.
Having begun his career with Queens Park Rangers, Bob went on to work for Charlton Athletic, Watford and West Ham United. Following an eventful spell at Upton Park, it was Mark Warburton that convinced him to leave the bright lights of the Premier League and join then-League One side Brentford in summer 2011.
There’s more to a successful set-up than the XI who take to the field. Preparation is key in football and Bob is at the heart of that process, ensuring that the squad have everything they need to perform both during the week and when Saturday comes.
Here, we share Bob’s memories first published in the Birmingham City issue of BEES matchday programme.
Time you realised you could make a career out of football
My first role as a kitman was at Queens Park Rangers under Gerry Francis and then a string of other managers – I’ve known the dreaded Hoops! One of my close friends was kitman at QPR and I used to work as a sports therapist with the School of Excellence kids on a part-time basis. In my spare time I’d give my friend a hand with the kit. When he left suddenly one Friday afternoon the manager at the time said to me that they had no one to cover him and asked whether I’d help them out for the trip to Oldham Athletic. I worked the game and found it straightforward enough; back then you didn’t have names and numbers, it was one-size-fits-all.
There’s no obvious route into the job; I’ve known kitmen who’ve previously been the team’s coach driver or masseur, and there’s others who’ve come in externally due to a connection with someone at the club. There’s no one rule: the key qualities are knowledge, understanding and an ability to get along with people. Since my first role in football I’ve never had to apply for a job!
Game at Griffin Park
My first competitive home game was against Yeovil Town and I think we won 2-0. Having come from working in the Premier League it was an eye-opening experience! Although Brentford were in League One at that point, the people at the Club were fantastic which made the transition very easy. There were things that were better about working at West Ham, but your working week revolves around players and coaches and the playing staff here have always been very good. It helps that the facilities have now followed.
Manager you’ve worked under
I know it sounds as though I have to give you this answer, but I’ve got to say Dean Smith. He trusts me to get on with my job and he’s always there to provide support. In my eyes, the key to good management is communication and Dean and Aidy Boothroyd – another manager who I’ve worked with in the past – are both good with people. They make you feel comfortable to come into work every day. You don’t need to be a screamer and a shouter to be a good manager – there’s been times in the dressing room when I thought the players were going to get it and they haven’t, and other times where there’s been unexpected anger. If managers are too one-dimensional then their words can lose effect. Dean’s knowledge of how to play the game and deal with people is spot on.
Occasion that you’ve been involved in at Brentford
The promotion from League One and the celebrations in the dressing room after the game with Preston North End. I wasn’t sure if we could go up, but my sidekick, Chris Domoney, had worked out all the arithmetic the night before and took me through the potential scenarios during the car journey to Griffin Park. We needed to win and Crawley Town needed to beat Leyton Orient to allow us to gain promotion. Crawley did their job, we got the victory against Preston and the dressing room went off. On the way home Chris and I stopped for a photo outside Crawley’s stadium!
Dressing room prank
I was sworn to secrecy about this one, so I won’t name names! Shortly after names on the backs of shirts had become a ruling, a couple of players swapped over some of the kit in the dressing room. The player they targeted wasn’t the brightest, so he started the game with someone else’s shirt on! The whole bench was in stitches but the referee soon noticed and made him change.
Thing about your job
Working with the players and staff on a daily basis is a real privilege, but if I had to highlight one aspect it’s when Saturday comes – nothing beats a matchday. I enjoy watching Brentford and the style of football we play. I’ve converted some of my friends who were season ticket holders at Arsenal to come and watch their football at Griffin Park!
Thing about your job
The dressing room after defeat because emotions are so raw, particularly away from home when we’ve got to pack everything up and everyone’s feeling a bit lethargic. Other than Wolverhampton Wanderers, I can’t think of one defeat this season where we’ve deserved to take nothing from the game and that’s always hard to accept.
Telling off you’ve witnessed from a manager
At QPR we went 4-0 down to Port Vale very early on. Bruce Rioch – who could be a scary character at times - got the players in at half-time and teacups were flying! I was stood in the corner thinking that we were going to be in every day the following week. We were 4-1 down with eight minutes to go and ended up drawing the game 4-4! It was a telling off that had an effect.
Player you’ve worked with
I wouldn’t use the word ‘worst’, but Emiliano Marcondes stays at Jersey Road until seven o’clock every evening so it’s a challenge to make sure he’s got everything he needs. Whether it be foam rolling, extra stretching or watching cartoons on his phone, he’s always the last to leave Jersey Road which certainly isn’t a bad thing!
That would’ve been at West Ham. I’d asked Avram Grant for the squad list on the Friday and prepared for the names he’d given me, but at 1:30pm on the matchday the manager called me and told me that Frederic Piquionne - who was injured on the Friday - was now available. I didn’t have any of his gear and it was my responsibility to get it across the capital. It took plenty of phone calls and a courier but we got his kit over by 2:45pm! I always double check everything so that was my most stressful moment, particularly as the game was live on Sky. That day still gives me shivers!
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