The four pre-War years between 1935 and 1939 had seen Brentford, under Harry Curtis, establish themselves as one of the leading clubs, not just in London but in England. Three top six finishes and a visit to the FA Quarter-Final took the club’s standing in English football to unprecedented and, to this day, unequalled, heights. However, the seven-season break for World War Two which brought a halt to professional football in England and cost many players the best part of their careers, also brought to a sharp stop The Bees upwards progression.
When football returned in 1946, The Bees had an aging squad and struggled to bring in replacements given the financial constraints six years of war had placed on football. Joe James and Jack Holliday had retired, Dai Hopkins and Billy Scott were touching 40, and Joe Crozier, Bill Gorman, Ernie Muttitt, and Buster Brown were all over 30.
Despite an average age of 31, and a team that contained nine players who had played for The Bees before the war, things didn’t start too badly with four wins from five seeing Harry Curtis’s side top the early table. However, as Autumn turned to Winter the wins turned to losses and The Bees entered 1947 firmly in a relegation battle.
Better results in the early part of the new year encouraged a season-high crowd of 34,791 turn up to Griffin Park in mid-January for the visit from high-flying Wolverhampton Wanderers. George Wilkins, pictured scoring above, a spring chicken in the team at 27, and a fellow George, Stewart, both netted in the opening six minutes with Len Townsend and Alan Smith adding the extras in a 4-1 win.
The game would prove to be the last time, to this day, that The Bees took maximum points in the top tier at Griffin Park as just one win from the next 17 ended the five season stay in Division One.
It was also the final goal Wilkins scored for Brentford before tabling a transfer request and moving to Bradford Park Avenue the following month. Townsend too would depart at the end of the season for Bristol City with Smith and Stewart both only playing a handful of games in Division Two before they too left.
It wasn’t the last involvement Wilkins would have in West London football however as two of his sons, Graham and Stephen, turned out for Brentford while another son, Ray, made more than 350 league appearances for Chelsea and QPR and earned 84 caps for England.
As for the mastermind Harry Curtis, he stepped down in February 1949 after more than 22 years in charge where he had taken the club from Division Three South to the very top. He was inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame posthumously in 2015 shortly after being named our Greatest Ever manager in a 2013 Football League poll.