From sore heads in the south west to lining up against Souness, we chat to former forward Gary Roberts about his first, best and worst moments at Griffin Park
A First Team regular, he is best remembered for his performance in the 1984/85 Football League Trophy Southern Area Final, in which he notched four goals as Brentford routed Newport County 6-0.
Having retired in 1986 as the result of a long-term ankle injury, Gary moved into management. After spells at Baldock Town and St Albans City, he took up the post at Cambridge City in 2003, remaining in the role until 2016.
Person that inspired you
Jimmy Greaves - I thought he was among the best English players ever. Although people inevitably focus on his goal-scoring, he was a real all-rounder. I met him a couple of times and played against him when he was at Barnet. It was a bit odd being on the same pitch as him, and it was a bit sad too as he was going through the worst stage of his alcoholism at the time. Regardless, you could still see what a player he was and it didn’t alter my opinion of him. I just thought of all the good things that he had done in the game.
Game for Brentford
My First-Team debut was against Carlisle United at Brunton Park. We won 2-1 and I came off with cramp after about 75 minutes. I remember that we played well, as we weren’t expected to win up there. We travelled up the night before on the coach and the next morning Fred Callaghan decided to run through a few set plays on a school pitch beside our Travelodge! It was literally a kiddies’ pitch in a primary school, so it wasn’t very salubrious at all!
Time you realised you could make a career out of football
I realised I had a chance of cracking it after my third or fourth game for Brentford, away at Fulham. It was the Boxing Day or New Years’ game and I came on as a substitute when we were losing 1-0. The ball was knocked back to me on the edge of the box and I volleyed it into the far corner past Jim Stannard. It was a cracking goal and it managed to secure the draw.
It would have been Bob Booker, though I had a few including Paddy Roche and Paul Roberts. One occasion I do remember was before a twelve o’clock kick off away at Plymouth on New Years’ Day. Frank McClintock had banned us from leaving the hotel, so Terry Hurlock organised a room party. We got through nine hotel fridges up in his room playing cards and watching the fireworks until three in the morning! Terry didn’t fancy it the next day so he pulled one of his fast ones and went sick, leaving us to get on with it! I lasted sixty minutes and we drew 1-1 - how we got a draw I’ll never know!
Player you faced during your time at Brentford
It would have to be either Kenny Dalglish or Graeme Souness – the pair of them were just class. Souness was a proper player. He could look after himself, but he could play as well. Dalglish, on the other hand, was so clever it was unbelievable.
Prank you saw played on a Brentford team-mate
On one occasion, we got Andy Sinton on the day he signed for us. We took him out for a celebratory drink in The Griffin and got him very drunk! We took a few pictures of him as he lay prone on the toilet floor. He was the new star coming in, but he didn’t look too clever at about four o’clock that afternoon!
Manager you played under
They both had different qualities. Callaghan was a good organiser and McClintock was a good coach. Although he was less great on the management side, Callaghan could definitely coach people well.
Moment as a Brentford player
It was having to retire through injury, without a doubt. Frank had decided that the Club would try and get some money for me, but the injury came along and that put people off. It then transpired that it would be very difficult for me to get back to playing professionally. It wasn’t a great period because, if I had got proper advice back then, I might not have had to retire, but these things happen and there’s no use in me holding a grudge now. It wasn’t just the Club, the Footballers’ Association should have given me better advice too, with regards to career threatening injury.
Thing about being a footballer
The worst thing is not getting the right advice with regards to nutrition and training. As a Manager, I hope I steered my players in the right direction. I managed to sell 14 players up into the Football League and to do that I had to create the right environment to showcase their talents.
I think the worst one was away at Rotherham on a Tuesday night. We ended up getting back at three or four in the morning and then had to make our own way home from there. On the old pitch at Rotherham there was a wall about two feet from the side-line which was a bit dangerous. I was running down the wing and some blokes leant over it and started ripping into me. Three years later, I was in my neighbour’s garage and I noticed some old Rotherham programmes. When I told him I used to play for Brentford, we realised that he was one of the blokes who had leant over the wall!