A Tooting-born midfielder who joined the Jersey Road ranks as a 16-year-old, Jay Tabb became a firm favourite during his six-year spell in TW8.
Having racked up over a century of appearances in West London, Jay would go on to represent the likes of Coventry City, Reading and Ipswich Town during a career which spanned over 15 years.
Now chasing a different shaped ball on a Saturday having taken up rugby last year, BEES took Jay down memory lane to discuss his time with Brentford.
Game for Brentford
It was a strange day. The players were training at Griffin Park the lunchtime before the game and myself and one of the other youth team lads were told to turn up and join the First Team squad. Wally Downes listed off the starting XI and I was among the names on the team sheet – at first I thought he’d made a mistake! I got on the phone to my friends and family to make sure they got themselves tickets. I remember being very nervous for most of the game. It didn’t go too well to start with – we found ourselves two nil down by the 50-minute mark – but we managed to pull it back and get the draw. I’d gone from playing Youth Team football straight into the First Team – it was some experience.
Time you thought you could make it as a professional
All the players in the Youth Team had the belief that they were going to make the grade, but when you get the recognition of playing in the First Team at such a young age you do start to realise that the management must see something in you. Following my first two games for the Club, which both came in May, I went away for the summer – I was offered a professional contract upon my return.
Time you signed an autograph
I imagine it would have been the day of my debut. I used to go and watch Chelsea play when I was a child and would collect autographs from the likes of Dennis Wise, so to be the one being asked was a special feeling.
Player you came up against
We played West Bromwich Albion in the League Cup one year and Jason Koumas was part of their midfield. He was unbelievable – a very, very good player. Kevin Phillips stood out when we played against Southampton – everybody knows what he’s about – and I also faced Leighton Baines when he was playing at left-back for Wigan Athletic. Playing in League One you come up against a lot of young players who move up the ladder and into the Premier League.
Moment in red and white
One of my favourite memories is coming off the bench and scoring in the 90th minute against Wycombe Wanderers – it was literally the last kick of the game and gave us a 2-1 win. We were shooting towards our own fans and I nodded one in at the back post and the fans erupted. It had been a set-piece routine that we’d been working on a lot during training. The feeling of scoring a goal and seeing the reaction of the crowd – some of whom had walked to Adams Park that day – was an amazing experience.
Dressing room joker
We had a great bunch of guys there. Some of the older lads had some great banter – the likes of Scott Fitzgerald, Stewart Talbot and Ricky Newman were all so funny. No one took it too far; it was a great group to be part of.
Thing you had to do in training
I never enjoyed the running in pre-season following the summer break. We’d run around the perimeter of Richmond Park and then up through the woods past the dog walkers. Once the season starts it’s okay as you work your way into a routine, but pre-season was the part of the footballing calendar that I looked forward to the least.
Moment as a Brentford player
Failing to achieve automatic promotion during my last season was a real disappointment. With ten games to go we were second with a couple of games in hand, but we ended up dropping into the Play-Offs. We got a draw during the first leg at Swansea City, but came back and lost two nil at Griffin Park. That’s my worst memory as I was aware that I’d most likely be moving on that summer – it was a bitter pill to swallow. I don’t have many bad memories from during my time at Brentford because I had such a great time there, but not achieving promotion is a bit of a regret.
Telling off from a manager
That would have been from Martin Allen. I can’t remember who we were playing but I was told on the Friday that I was due to start the game the following day. By the time matchday came around he’d pulled me out of the squad altogether. I lost my head; as soon as the game kicked off I went home. The boys lost and Martin came back into the dressing room at full-time, looked around and realised I wasn’t there. When I came back in for training the following Monday he ripped my head off. It wasn’t one of my proudest moments, but I was only young and you learn from your mistakes.
Thing about being a footballer
Football during the festive period is great for the fans, but as a player you can’t let your hair down because there’s always a game around the corner. Then again, it’s only a week of the year and a sacrifice you’re more than willing to make if you’re a professional footballer. There was always a good atmosphere around the training ground in December, but it is nice now that I’m removed from it to be able to enjoy the social side of Christmas and not worry about having a few drinks.
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