Bob Booker began his professional career at Brentford in 1978. He would go on to spend a decade at Griffin Park, making over 230 league appearances whilst also chipping in with a handy 42 goals.
After leaving for Sheffield United in 1988, he spent three seasons at Bramall Lane before returning to Griffin Park to conclude his career.
A true Brentford legend, Bob was inducted into The Bees’ Hall of Fame in 2014. First seen in BEES matchday programme, we chat to Bob about his career in football.
Time you signed an autograph
It was probably during the 1978/79 season, just after I had turned professional. It was a flattering feeling; I had been working in a furniture factory, so becoming a professional footballer was quite big change! I remember signing things and not really remembering how to do my autograph. It changed quite a lot until I found one that I could get used to. I always used to sign so that people could read it – modern footballers just leave squiggles and nobody can make head or tail of who it is.
Game for Brentford
I made my debut as a 19-year-old in 1979 against my local club, Watford. We were at Vicarage Road and I think we lost 2-0. It was quite a big step up for me as there were 15,000 people there and I was used to playing in front of 100!
After playing against Watford, I was in and out as a substitute. My next full appearance was against Hull City and I scored a hat-trick! It didn’t work out like that all the time as I was quite inexperienced, but to score three goals on my second league start was completely bizarre. One minute I was working in a furniture factory and the next I was on Match of the Day! Nevertheless, I’m quite proud of it and I would count that as one of the best things that happened to me during my football career.
Over the years you pal up. Terry Hurlock was one of my room-mates and Terry Evans, too. It varies from season to season, depending on who is still there and who has left. But Terry Evans was my main room-mate - we had quite a strong relationship on and off the park. We both had very bad knee injuries, too, so we were able to bounce off each other and get through rehabilitation. We never really got up to anything too crazy. There’s social time and work time; you have to find the right balance. It was alright to have a couple of beers now and again as long as you worked hard the next day.
Player you faced during your time at Brentford
I was lucky enough to play against George Best when the San Jose Earthquakes came over on tour. I have a nice picture in my scrapbook of me trying to stop him and the only way to do that was to pull him down! He was just a natural footballer. He had two good feet, balance, a great first touch and his brain was quicker than everybody else’s. Certain players like him and Paul Gascoigne have the full package. You didn’t have to coach them, you just let them go out and do their thing. Talent like that comes few and far between.
Player you lined up alongside during your time at Brentford
I would say Stan Bowles or Terry Hurlock, who were both very different players. Bowles was a flair player who was of the same sort of ilk as George Best. Terry Hurlock was a completely different animal. He could tackle, he could score and was so underrated, though he did go on to play for Glasgow Rangers. He’s what I would call a proper footballer!
Thing about playing for Brentford
It was my first club so just to put pen to paper and become a professional footballer is something that not many people can say that they’ve done. It was a great honour and it’s certainly something that I’m very proud of. It was great to get paid to do something that you love - it doesn’t get any better than that. Especially in the modern day, with all the money that players earn, they shouldn’t take it for granted.
Thing you had to do in training
The worst thing was having to run up ‘Pork Chop Hill’ in Richmond Park. It just went on and on and on. When we used to run it during pre-season it was a struggle to get to the top - players used to keel over on their way up!
Sledging from an opposition player
You used to get a mixture of stuff. Some players were quite verbal but it didn’t used to bother me at all. I was one of those players who could control my aggression, so I always found the best course of action was to ignore any verbals. I used to find that that wound up the opposition more than anything else and I used it to my advantage.
Match you played in for Brentford
I played in a few to be honest! When I was quite young and inexperienced I used to take a lot of stick from the crowd, and, although a lot of the backlash was fair, it was quite a challenge to overcome that and get the fans on side. To get by, you have to be quite strong both mentally and physically. You can’t let things affect you and, though it’s hard, you find that you are a bigger and better person when you come out the other side.
For all your Brentford news, views and interviews, pick up a copy of BEES every home matchday for just £3.50.
Bob Booker will also be in the Stadium Shop from 2.15pm on Friday to sign copies of OOH-AAH: The Bob Booker Story