Marcus Bean pulls no punches when he addresses the profound impact his move to Brentford had on his career.
“For sure, Brentford definitely saved my career and rekindled my love for the game,” he affirms in an exclusive chat with BEES.
“I wouldn’t say that’s too dramatic, because it really could have been the end of me. I like to think of myself as a strong character but, before that, I was at a real low point.”
The low point? The midfielder’s ill-fated spell at Blackpool, in which he made just 23 appearances for The Seasiders over the course of three miserable seasons on the Lancashire coast. Simon Grayson snapped up Bean from boyhood club Queens Park Rangers in January 2006 and deployed him on 17 occasions as he guided the relegation-threatened side to Championship safety. All looked rosy as the new season dawned three months later. The reality couldn’t have been much harsher.
A LONG WAY FROM HOME
“It started off great. At the time Blackpool were in relegation trouble; I came in with a few other signings and felt that we made a really big impact.
“I was then offered another two-year contract and thought I would’ve at least been in the manager’s plans, playing regularly, but, for whatever reason, that didn’t happen.
“The next two years were just terrible and, to be honest, I lost my love for the game. I said to myself that I needed to get back to London. Blackpool was four hours away from my family, I was on my own and I wouldn’t like to say I was depressed because I wasn’t diagnosed, but I guess it was the closest you could get.
“I think my time at Blackpool was probably my worst in football. I said to myself in the summer, when I was leaving Blackpool, that if I didn’t get a club in London or closer to my family I could possibly call it a day, I was that fed up with football. It was at that point that Brentford came in.”
On loan at Blackpool (2006)
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DIVIDE
Let’s rewind to the start of Bean’s extensive professional career, which started back in 2002 with The Bees’ sworn enemies QPR.
Prior to the breakout of current star Ebere Eze, The Rs had produced just three First Team players in 15 years: Richard Langley, Raheem Sterling and Marcus.
On a warm summer’s afternoon in August 2002, Rangers boss Ian Holloway handed Marcus his debut in the second half of a fiery contest with Wycombe Wanderers; just eight minutes later he’d been dismissed.
Marcus thought it was the end of his career, but a forgiving Holloway brushed off the misdemeanour. In the face of financial turmoil, QPR were promoted from the second division in 2003/04, Marcus was named as the club’s Young Player of the Year and a prominent role seemed a mere formality.
Yet disappointment beckoned and, after playing a bit-part role, he joined League Two Swansea City on loan.
“It was very frustrating,” he says. “I think the gaffer wanted to go forward with more experienced players in a higher league, though I felt I was ready to play.
“That friction ended up with me leaving the club, in hindsight prematurely because Holloway didn’t want me to leave. However, I felt that as a young player making my way, it would be best for my career to go away and try to play regularly elsewhere. I was still young and could’ve learned a lot by staying around, but I have no regrets.”
There was a feeling of déjà vu the following season. A bit-part role at Loftus Road, brightened by another loan at now-League One Swansea, before the doomed move to Blackpool in January 2006.
His hellish two years at Bloomfield Road need no re-introduction, but the stats that accompany it make it difficult not to empathise with The Bees cult hero. From 22 August 2006 to 20 October 2007, Bean made just 24 appearances for both The Seasiders and loan employers Rotherham United. By the time he made his Brentford debut on 9 August 2008, a 294-day spell without First Team action had elapsed.
BACK IN THE CAPITAL
Andy Scott’s interest heralded a new beginning.
“My agent at the time said there was interest from Andy Scott and, to be honest, I didn’t think twice. I was buzzing; they could’ve handed me anything and I would’ve signed it at the time.
“I snapped their hands off because I was back in West London, I was home. Anyone who’s played football will tell you that your best performances come when you are settled in your home life and happy. I was so happy to be back.”
Early performances garnered little attention, and Bean – who was sent off on just his second appearance against Swansea in the Carling Cup – became aware of the elephant in the room: his past spell with arch rivals QPR.
“I wouldn’t say there was animosity, but I felt I had to play twice as well to gain recognition,” he explains. “I didn’t really get much recognition early on, which was to be expected as I’ve experienced the same at other clubs having played for their rivals. You have to win fans over regardless of your past, but I had to work extra hard at Brentford because there is bad blood between the two clubs. That was another one of my proud moments, the fact that I managed to come over to Brentford and, in the end, win the fans over.”
PLAYING FOR THE BADGE
The central midfield partnership between Bean and Kevin O’Connor grew stronger with each week and it soon became the fulcrum of Andy Scott’s burgeoning side.
An understanding developed between the pair, giving the one-time Jamaican international licence to roam and record a remarkable career-high tally of nine goals.
He reminisces with a proud smile: “I’ve got so much love for Kev – what a great guy. He was a model professional and made the game easy for you. You always knew what you were going to get: if you gave him the ball, you were going to get it back. You knew that he was willing to track his runner, and you knew that he was going to put his foot or head in. That goes a long way.
“He’s a player that every manager wants in their team because you can trust him. It was the same when I was playing next to him. I knew I could get forward because I could trust him to hold the fort; that’s why I managed to score a few goals that season. I was able to break into the box and get further forward and a lot of that is down to him.
“I’ve been promoted four times and the common denominator is that the dressing rooms were amazing. It was a bunch of down-to-earth boys at Brentford - no prima donnas - who worked their socks off for the badge and for each other. We won the league and didn’t have one player in the Team of the Year; I think that was down to the fact that teams hated playing against us and refused to put any of us in the team!”
AN UNWANTED DEPARTURE
After helping The Bees to two ninth-place League One finishes in three seasons, Uwe Rösler called time on Bean’s spell in West London in the summer of 2012. With more than 150 appearances, 15 goals, a League Two winners medal and an international cap to his name, his journey came to a halt.
“I was gutted. I didn’t want to leave but I respected Rösler’s decision and his ideas to take the team forward. That’s football and you just have to get on with it, really. At times we flirted with the Play-Offs and I would’ve loved to have got promoted out of that league with Brentford, but the boys got the job done a few years later.”
It wasn’t too long before there was a reunion. Alan Judge’s penalty had secured promotion against Preston North End on 18 April 2014, and there was little to play for in the three games that remained with Wolverhampton Wanderers leading the charge by six points. Colchester United – who Bean subsequently joined – posed little threat to Brentford’s bid to hit a high note in the final away game of the season as they hovered dangerously above the drop zone.
The threat was minimal, on paper at least, yet the game didn’t follow the script. Bean struck first for Colchester after 29 minutes, before his team-mates added a second, and then a third before the break. Stuart Dallas thundered in to reduce the deficit on the stroke of half-time, but when Brian Wilson added his second with 25 minutes to play, The Bees were left chasing shadows.
“That was crazy because we were flirting with relegation for the whole season. That day we were all fired up knowing that if we won, we’d survive. I remember scoring that goal and I didn’t celebrate out of respect to Brentford. That was a bit of a crazy game because Brentford had such a strong squad at the time and we didn’t expect to win!”
THE NEXT CHAPTER
The clash at The Weston Homes Community Stadium could prove to be the final Football League meeting between Bean and The Bees, though the anchor man is far from done in the professional game.
He achieved a fourth career promotion last season with Wycombe and continues to offer an experienced option for boss Gareth Ainsworth, who was once a team-mate at QPR during the early 2000s.*
And though a clear gulf exists between The Bees and their former League Two rivals, Bean says he can draw clear parallels between the two clubs.
“Wycombe is a great family club run the by the fans and you get that sense of camaraderie. The gaffer has signed players based on their social skills and it shines through in the team. After getting promoted last season, I think this is a big season for us to stabilise, stay in the league and then kick on from there.
“We’ll punch above our weight again as we have done before. There have been so many Bees here it’s like a retirement home for ex-Brentford players with the likes of myself, Sam Saunders, Paul Hayes and Sam Wood, but it is good when you see old faces come back around and you play with them again. We always talk about the old days.
“As clubs I think Brentford and Wycombe are very similar. Like Brentford, the young boys always seem to do well here because there isn’t that crazy pressure – people aren’t expecting amazing performances, there’s a degree of realism. The players that come in play with freedom and without pressure.”
Bean celebrated making his 500th professional appearance in The Chairboys’ 1-0 Checkatrade Trophy win at Northampton Town, a career milestone he once never thought possible.
“I’ve said this to a few people, I only dreamed of making one appearance,” the ever-gracious 34-year-old says. “To step on that pitch and to make 500, I feel truly blessed. I do something I love and I know how lucky I am.”
Marcus Bean’s move to Brentford proved to be his making, allowing him to overturn a period of turmoil and develop into the experienced figure he is today. Not bad for a former QPR player, eh?
*Interview conducted prior to Marcus' departure from Wycombe Wanderers