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Interviews

First, Best, Worst: Brian Statham

From a leg break at Bournemouth to a baptism of fire at Griffin Park, we chat to former right-back Brian Statham about his first, best and worst experiences in professional football

23 May 2018

Having come through the ranks at Tottenham Hotspur, Brian Statham arrived at Brentford in 1992.

Deceptively good in the air, he was part of the squad that clinched the Division Three title later that year. He would go on to make over 160 league appearances for the Club during a five-year stint, the last of which came during the one-nil defeat to Crewe Alexandra in the 1996/97 Play-Off Final.

Still involved in the game, Brian currently manages Billericay Town in the Isthmian League Premier Division.

 

FIRST…

Time you signed an autograph

It would have been when I was 17, just after I had broken into the Spurs First-Team squad under Terry Venables. It was quite surreal! As apprentices, we had to attend college one day a week with kids from the other London clubs. Kate Hoey, who is now a Labour MP, was our teacher and one of the things we learnt was how to write our autographs. It seems a little odd now, but, strangely enough, my autograph hasn’t really changed since then, so I guess it came in handy!

 

Game at Griffin Park

I went on loan to AFC Bournemouth before I signed for Brentford and played at Griffin Park. I was at right-back, up against Neil Smillie, and got myself sent off. It was quite a physical and aggressive game and I can remember walking down towards the tunnel and receiving a great deal of vitriolic abuse. As it turned out, three or four weeks later I was sent on loan to Brentford! That being said, the fans at Griffin Park have always been great and they took to me quite quickly. They understood the type of player I was and my win-at-all-costs mentality, so there was never any problem.

 

Time you played in front of the TV cameras

It’s strange because, when a match is televised, you go into the game with a slightly different mentality. It’s completely wrong to do so, as it should just be business as usual, but because being on TV was such a big deal 25 years ago, it changed your thinking. It adds a little bit more pressure and it is certainly in the back of your mind that the cameras are rolling and everyone is watching.

 

BEST…

Game you played in for Brentford

It would have to be away to Peterborough in the penultimate game of the 1991/92 season. Again, there was a similar type of pressure to being on TV. Because it was such a big game and we had to get a win, the performance went out of the window. It was all about the result. We didn’t play well but won by a goal to nil and secured promotion. So, as games go, that was definitely up there. The atmosphere on the coach trip and the crowd that met us at Griffin Park made it an exhilarating evening.

 

Superstition

I always said to myself that my superstition was not to have any superstitions, but I definitely had habits. For instance, I would always put my shin pads on last and I would always put my left boot on before my right. That was just part of my process in mentally preparing for a game.

 

Player you played alongside during your time at Brentford

There were a lot of good players during my time at Griffin Park. I played with Neil Smillie towards the latter part of his career and we had a fabulous understanding down the right-hand-side. Marcus Gayle was also great. He was a 6’4” left-winger which was quite unusual, but he had the pace, height and power to be a good asset. The best, though, was probably Dean Holdsworth. Every team needs a goal-scorer and he averaged about 25 goals a season. Whilst he wasn’t the most sublime finisher, he was a finisher all the same, so it was no surprise that he went on to have a good career.

 

WORST… 

Moment as a Brentford player

Without a doubt it would be breaking my leg at Bournemouth in the 1996 FA Cup. I was up against a left-winger on loan from Arsenal, who I had faced numerous times at youth level, so there was a bit of rivalry between us. I went in for a tackle, which I thought was fair, and he went over the top, snapping my tibia and fibula.

 

It was a really difficult time because, not only was I worried about playing again, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to walk again. I was out for about 11 months, four of which were spent on my back. I had injured my right leg, and I’m right footed, so I was worried about playing again. However, David Webb, who was the Manager at the time, constantly pushed me. By the end of my comeback season, I was at Wembley taking part in a Play-Off Final, which I count as a great personal achievement.

 

Thing you had to do in training

On average, footballers run about five or six miles per game and I always made sure that I was fit enough to do that, so pre-season was never a fun time! You’d be coming back following two months holiday, where, even if you had tried, you’d never be in the best shape. The words Richmond Park bring back awful memories, as there was a wonderful hill there that I’m sure they still run today! The worst thing was that you knew what was coming. You’d be driving to training, looking forward to seeing everybody, but also knowing that you’d be strapping on a pair of trainers and running hills for an hour! Although I remember being sick on several occasions, I always thought positively - every day saw me gain a bit of fitness

 

Sledging from an opposition player

There was a lot of racist taunting - it was a lot more commonplace back then. From the terraces down to the pitch, it was just part of the game, though I never saw any need to complain because I gave as good as I got. Naturally, I was on the receiving end of a lot of it, but it was never a problem because I felt that it was part of everyday life. I look at the reports of players complaining today and I understand that the world is different so it has to be stamped out. However, if it were me, I would try to come back. I just decided that if anyone was going to abuse me verbally, I would abuse them physically!


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