Best Brentford goalkeeper in the last 25 years?

Last updated : 01 July 2003 By

When one analyses the number of quality goalkeepers that have served Brentford with great distinction over the last quarter of a century, it has made choosing just eight for the latest Bee Hive reader poll, an extremely difficult one for the editor.

To help you, the reader, to decide where to cast your vote, The Bee Hive focuses on the men chosen (Len Bond, Trevor Swinburne, Gary Phillips, Tony Parks, Graham Benstead, Kevin Dearden, Oli Gottskalksson and Paul Smith) to remind you of their time at Griffin Park.

Many older readers will remember Len Bond with great affection, who, as a member of the side managed by Bill Dodgin (Junior), helped the Bees to gain promotion from the old Fourth Division at the end of the 1977/78 campaign.

Bond was an extremely consistent goalkeeper, who excelled in organising his defence and was a hard act to follow when he departed West London for now Nationwide Conference club, Exeter City in 1980.

After a couple of seasons, in which the two ‘Davie Macs’, McKellar and McCulloch vied for the number one position, Trevor Swinburne arrived from Carlisle United, in an exchange deal that took McKellar to the Cumbrian outfit.

The experienced Swinburne made the goalkeeping jersey his own until a spell of glandular fever struck him down midway through the 1984/85 season, an illness that was to claim the Sunderland born stopper his Brentford career.

Gary Phillips had already been signed for £5, 000 from non-league outfit, Barnet, as cover and, when given his chance due to Swinburne’s misfortune, excelled as his replacement, especially during the Bees’ momentous run to the 1985 Freight Rover Trophy final, so much so, that Swinburne moved on in the summer of that year.

Phillips however, was soon to become something of an enigma, a great shot stopper, but a keeper who was prone to a calamitous error, and he never really reached the heady heights again after being permanently installed as the Brentford number one.

Tony Parks
After Phillips had returned to Barnet, Tony Parks had a spell at Griffin Park.

Parks had arrived at Brentford in a bid to revive his flagging career from Tottenham Hotspur, where he had failed to earn a regular spot in the first team after his penalty shoot-out saving heroics in the 1984 UEFA Cup Final against Belgian side, Anderlecht had assured him instant fame.

Parks showed glimpses of that form for the Bees during his time in West London, but before long, he was on his travels that were to encompass a number of league clubs during his career.

Graham Benstead arrived at Brentford for £60,000 from Sheffield United in the summer of 1990 and became something of a folk hero during his time at Griffin Park.

Benstead: A Championship winner in 1991/92 with the Bees
Agile, commanding and an excellent reader of apparent danger, Benstead played 112 league games for the Bees in a three-year career, the highlight of which undoubtedly, was the role he played in the Barclays’ Third Division championship success of 1991/92, his excellence ensuring the champions-elect were able to post five clean sheets in their last seven games during the run-in that particular year.

However, all good things come to an end, and following Dave Webb’s arrival as a replacement for the departed Phil Holder, Benstead had a well publicised fall out with the new manager and ‘Benno’ was soon on his way out of Griffin Park.

After a short spell when Dean Williams was entrusted with the custodian duties, Web turned to Kevin Dearden, who had been released by Tottenham Hotspur, a bit like Parks a few years before him, the youngster arriving in West London after failing to make the grade in the big-time at the North London club.

Six years at Griffin Park
Dearden proved a resounding success during a six-year spell with the Bees, especially early on, a fact borne out by the fact he picked up both the players and supporters player of the year awards at the end of his first season, 1993/94.

Dearden performed admirably throughout, save for a couple of misdemeanours, and the stocky keeper remained in charge of the goalkeeping duties until Ron Noades arrived at the club and decided to revamp his new purchase, in a bid to lift Brentford out of the basement division, following their relegation in 1998.

Jason Pearcey and Andy Woodman both had brief periods as Brentford’s last line of defence, before the Icelandic, Oli Gottskalksson, was bought in from Scottish Premier Division outfit, Hibernian, during the 2000 close season.

‘Oli’ became a popular figure during his two and a half year tenure at the club, with supporters being heard to sing loudly the ‘Oli’ theme song.

Gottskalksson’s professionalism was evident for all to see, and he became an integral part of the side until a serious shoulder injury at Stockport County in November 2002, ultimately finished his career, after 89 league appearances in Brentford’s colours.

Since then, Paul Smith has had exclusivity to the goalkeeping jersey.

Smith: The Bee Hive player of the season 2002/03
The 23-year old Smith impressed from the outset, starring towards the end of the 2001/02 campaign as Steve Coppell’s squad came excruciatingly close to securing a Nationwide First Division place.

Smith confirmed his growing reputation last term with a number of excellent performances, form which alerted a number of Premiership clubs, and enabled him to easily run away with supporters and indeed the Bee Hive ‘player of the season’ awards, accolades the young superstar fully deserved.

So as the article clearly illustrates, Brentford have been extremely lucky to have had a number of exceptional goalies over the period, and the placing of your vote for the ‘Best Brentford Goalkeeper in the last 25 years’ is going to be a difficult one.

Please register you vote now, by clicking here.

Good luck!