Brentford FC was saddened to report the death earlier this week of one of our greatest ever players – Peter Gelson. Peter died on Monday 26 April, at the age of 79. Tributes were paid to him as Brentford beat Rotherham United on Tuesday.
Peter discussed his experiences as a Brentford player in a feature that first appeared in 2018. As we continue to remember Peter, we thought fans would like to revisit the feature. From the Post Office to Griffin Park, first, best and worst with Peter Gelson.
Kicking off his career in 1960, Peter Gelson made 516 appearances in red and white, placing him third on the Club’s all-time appearances list.
A Division Four title-winner in 1962/63, he is still revered at Griffin Park and was inducted into Brentford’s Hall of Fame in 2014. Based locally, Peter holds a season ticket and regularly attends games with his son-in-law and grandson.
Time you realised you could make a career out of football
When I started I had a good job with the Post Office in telecommunications, so I played part-time for the first four years of my career. It worked pretty well as I was getting two wage packets, and was earning more than a lot of the full-timers. There were about four or five of us doing that during the early years, but eventually the Club decided to do away with part-time contracts. I ended up with less money initially! It wasn’t like today - £100 a week was big money when I was playing.
Game for Brentford
My debut was against Halifax Town at Griffin Park in 1961. We were beaten 2-0 and I found it a big adjustment to what I had experienced before. The captain at the time, Ken Coote, was really helpful and gave me lots of encouragement. It was a little unusual to be a part of the First-Team squad. I had already had quite a bit of contact with the players, but it was strange to mix with them before a proper game. For the first time I felt part of the squad.
We didn’t stay overnight regularly, so I don’t remember a specific room-mate. The longest trip, however, was Workington, which was a full weekend. If you got beat, it made for a bad few days! We would often have to rush away after the game as we didn’t want to take the overnight sleeper back home. We would sit with the fans during those train trips. Our supporters back then were very good; they didn’t give us much stick and would be there every week. As a result, we would often give away our free match tickets to travelling fans. I remember we once went to Carlisle United and decided to stay up north, as our next fixture was in York a couple of days later. When we got to York, the same supporters were there – they had hitchhiked across the country!
Game you played in for Brentford
I can’t recall a specific game in which I played my best. The most memorable though was playing Liverpool at Anfield in the 1974 League Cup. We were winning 1-0 at one point, but got beaten 2-1. They were a great side back then and had the majority of their First Team out. It was a great atmosphere and a one-off experience. I think I still have the programme somewhere! My best moment, however, was winning the Fourth Division Championship in 1962/63 and getting a medal. There was a pitch invasion after the game and it was a pretty special experience all-round.
Player you faced during your time at Brentford
The best player I faced was Kevin Keegan. However, there was also a forward at Aldershot named Jack Howarth, who was tall and good in the air. I probably had less success against him than against anybody else!
Friend at Brentford
My best friend was Gordon Phillips, the goalkeeper for much of my time at Brentford. We both still live locally and to this day remain best mates and godparents to each other’s kids.
Thing about being a footballer
It was just something that I had always wanted to do; being a footballer is every young boy’s ambition! It also offers you a very good lifestyle with six weeks paid summer vacation. Nowadays it’s so cut-throat, but it’s even more financially worthwhile. If my grandkids wanted to pursue football as a career path I’d encourage it of course, but it’s also important to stay on top of other options.
Moment as a Brentford player
My worst moment came in 1967 when it seemed as though Queens Park Rangers were going to take over Brentford. There were meetings going on behind scenes, and then the story broke in the newspapers. We honestly thought Brentford was going to go out of business. The Club was ultimately saved by the fans, who came to its aid and raised money. Eventually somebody new came in to take over, keeping the Club in existence.
Team-mate at Brentford
There wasn’t one! Everyone has their moments but they were always short lived. You simply can’t afford to keep bad feelings about. We always had a very close-knit squad and most of us lived locally, so we were able to bond off the pitch.
Telling off from a manager
You would get a telling off when you made mistakes on the pitch, especially if they were costly. There was no time in particular that I got in trouble, though I do remember one particularly bad game when I conceded two penalties and put one past my own keeper!
Sledging from an opposition player aimed at you
Some people used it as method of distraction, though I can’t remember any names off the top of my head. The opposition were always looking to gain the upper hand, but the best reaction was to ignore it. You had to respond by overpowering them with your feet, not your mouth. In all honesty sledging from the opposition almost came as a compliment! You just had to recognise that, when they were giving you a lot a stick, it was usually because you were playing well.