PETER GELSON 1941-2021

PETER GELSON 1941-2021

  • PETER GELSON RIP

Like every Brentford supporter of a certain vintage, I was deeply saddened and indeed, devastated, to learn today of the death of one of my earliest heroes, Peter Gelson.

I thought long and hard about how to commemorate him and decided that rather than just write an anodyne account of his career and reflect that the 516 games he played for the Bees puts him behind only Ken Coote and Jamie Bates in the all-time Brentford appearance list, mention his ability to outjump the tallest centre forward – with the notable exception of Aldershot’s Jack Howarth – I decided that I would simply include this wonderful photograph of the Brentford team that won promotion from the Fourth Division in 1972.

Why?

Because even now nearly 50 years later it gives me goosebumps and makes me feel nostalgic for a lost age and Peter Gelsonwas an integral part of a squad that embodied and exemplified everything that is right about football and community.

Oh, and just look at those haircuts and sideburns too!

It was also the first time since I started supporting them six years earlier that a Brentford team actually won anything.

Under the managership of the wily Frank Blunstone, Brentford became a team to reckon with.

Hard, tough and mean at the back where Gelson and Alan Nelmes, who played a mere 316 games for the club, formed an almost impassable central defensive partnership. Nonstop running and harrying in midfield and real quality and vision up front plus the aerial threat and battering ram that was John O’Mara.

What a team, and but for the club’s decisions to cash in on Roger Cross and a year later, John O’Mara, who knows how high we could have climbed rather than crashing and burning and returning immediately to the bottom division.

Amazingly given today’s move towards squad rotation Brentford only used eighteen players throughout the entire season of whom four made a mere twenty-four appearances between them.

In fact, eleven of the squad played over thirty times so there was a consistency of selection and a determination to grit your teeth and play though injuries.

Brentford supporters of a certain age will relish recalling the names of those who played in that momentous season

Peter Gelson

Alan Nelmes

Gordon Phillips

John O’Mara

Alan Hawley

John Docherty

Bobby Ross

Jackie Graham

Paul Bence

Stewart Houston

Roger Cross

Mike Allen

All names to conjure with, and OK, I will admit it, they are still heroes to me.

No wonder that team was successful given the grit, character, determination and of course, skill that it possessed.

But they also possessed another quality, something intangible, something that no amount of money could buy – loyalty allied with their love of the club

Between them the twelve players mentioned above played a total of 3,338 games for the club and stayed at Griffin Park for 94 years.

These are truly staggering figures and by way of comparison only four current Bees players, Rico Henry, Josh Dasilva, SergiCanos, and Henrik Dalsgaard have played over one hundred times for the club andonly the last two named have played over 150 games for the Bees.

Another surprising statistic is that no current Brentford player has been with the club for more than four years.

Of course the game has changed beyond recognition from what it was fifty years ago, and in many cases for the better.

The modern-day player is far more likely to move on quickly given freedom of contract and the desire to better himself both professionally and financially, whereas in those days there was generally no financial incentive to do so. Peter Gelson might well have had opportunities throughout his long and successful career to move on, but given the circumstances, why should he have left a club, situated close to home, who valued his services and whose fans adored him and supported him with two testimonials?

When I helped compile The Big Brentford Book Of TheSeventies several years ago, Dave Lane, Mark Croxford and I invited some of our heroes to a launch event at the club.

Knowing how awkward and difficult some present day players are reputed to be, we were all very concerned about whether anybody would show up.

We really shouldn’t have worried as the bush telegraph started working and it proved remarkably easy to get Alan Hawley, Jackie Graham, Peter Gelson, Paul Bence, Terry Scales, Pat Kruse, Andy McCulloch and Alan Nelmes to attend.

Even the reclusive John O’Mara, who generally keeps himself to himself was there and had a great time. In fact we had players asking us if they could come!

What struck me was how grounded, modest and pleasant all of them were – and how much Brentford meant to them.

They were, without exception, totally delighted to be remembered and were happy to talk with supporters and remember past times.

Alan Hawley even came up at the end of the evening and thanked us for inviting him. He really didn’t realise that the honour was all ours and that we were privileged to be in the same room with him.

What a gentleman!

It was a night that made me proud to be a Brentford supporter and reminded me, yet again, of what a great club we have.

Togetherness off the pitch and a strong team spirit generally translate to success on it and they’re both traits that we stillhave in abundance today.

Peter Gelson and the rest of these immortal names from the past will always be a hero to me, he was a perfect embodiment of what Brentford representsand I feel as confident about the future of this club as I am proud of its past.

As for Peter Gelson, his memory and example and what he represented will live forever.

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‘I HAD TO STUMP UP 25 GRAND RIGHT AWAY’ JOHN HERTING REMEMBERS THE WAY IT  WAS.

‘I HAD TO STUMP UP 25 GRAND RIGHT AWAY’ JOHN HERTING REMEMBERS THE WAY IT WAS.

He first went to Griffin Park in the 1940s, was a club director through the ‘ducking and diving’ days of David Webb and Ron Noades right up until the Matthew Benham take-over, he sponsored the team shirts when nobody else would and to this day he’s an advertiser on the electronic boards around the new stadium.

So the name Herting as in ‘Hertings, First for Fixings’ may be familiar to Bees fans but its Chairman, John Herting, has never sought the limelight at Brentford. When he first became a director in 1992 he was described as ‘the big mystery man’. An article in the programme for a Division Two game in November 2003 is headlined; ‘John Herting, the mystery football ‘nut’ unlocks his secrets’. But there’s no photograph of him.

However don’t mistake this for John not wanting to have to have a word in an occasional ear. The article called him a ‘tough-speaking elder statesman’.  He once told a manager at a board meeting ‘what you’re really telling us is that you don’t know what you are doing. I think the best thing you can do is leave the club now’. But perhaps the key moment in his time at the top of Brentford was when when deliberately gave up a say in the way the club was run and helped hand control to Matthew Benham. 

The John Herting Story began after the Second World War when Fred Herting used to set off for Bees games from his home near Ealing Broadway with his schoolboy son John . Fred was a merchant supplying equipment to engineers and John joined the family firm when he left school at 15. When Fred passed away in 1969, John, by then aged 27, says he ‘was thrown into moving the business forward’. Which is something of an understatement. The most recent accounts of F. P Herting and Son PLC’ show that the son has developed it into a ‘supplier of fixings and ironmongery to the construction industry’ with a turnover of over £30 million a year and an average annual profit before tax in recent years of £5 million. He still runs it as a family business with his wife and two sons on his board.

John’s business link to the Bees first came about through one of the suppliers to his company who was on the board at Brentford. The chairman at the time was Martin Lange and among the other directors was the California restaurant owner Dan Tana. In 1992 they invited him onto the board and he went with the team to the Anglo-Italian Cup games at Cesena and Ascoli. The Bees were defeated in the final by Derby County. John didn’t have to invest in the club at that point because “I was producing revenue for the club, paying for advertising and getting suppliers to advertise. I brought in my own money and other people’s money. I was then on the board for the next 21 years”. 

He had a front row boardroom seat during the controversial reigns of David Webb and Ron Noades. We put it to John that history had not been kind to the reputations of either of them, was there anything to say in their defence? John did not rush to defend them. “Both saw Griffin Park as a piece of property rather than past of a football club. It was the only asset the company had. You had no team in terms of any value”. 

John Herting in his favourite seat in the directors box at Griffin Park.

David Webb, then best known as a former Chelseas player, was brought in by Martin Lange in 1993 as a manager but then moved up to the boardroom and in a shareholding restructure John Herting paid £250,000 for Lange’s shares, effective giving John a 10% stake in the club. “Webby was an absolute ducker and diver of the first order. He knew a lot of people in football. Webby used to stay here at my house from time to time to avoid having to drive to and from his home in Southend. When he appointed Micky Adams as manager the deal was done in my sitting room”. 

When the club was sold to Ron Noades in 1998 ‘all sorts of people came onto the board. Noades owned golf courses and for a time Brentford board meetings were held at one at Godstone In Surrey. “I didn’t get on with Ron Noades, he was a dreadful person” says John.. 

His memories go back to a very different time in Brentford’s history. “I was asked to look after Martin Allen while he was manager. I will never forget it, I was in bed on a Sunday night, the phone rang and it was Martin on the line. He said  ‘I’ve just signed Paul Merson’. I said ‘No you haven’t’. Martin said ‘He’ll get £1,800 quid a week, he will come on for the last 15 minutes and he will score goals. that’s what he does. I’ve signed him and he’s coming in tomorrow’.I  said ‘he’ s not. We haven’t got £1,800 a week, forget it’. He got really angry with me, he threw the phone down and I never heard from him for about a week”.

John Herting presents a Man of the Match award after a pre-season friendly at Hayes & Yeading in 2009

 

“During the times when we had no money my son Paul volunteered to  become the unofficial kit man. I think that if things had carried on like that ultimately we would probably have gone bust. There was no investment whatsoever and we lurched from season to season”.

In 2006 Bees United, then a fans pressure group, became majority owners and John believes this ‘enabled the club to wrest itself away from people like Mr Noades. BU steadied the ship. Brian Burgess rang me up and asked if I agreed that it would be a good idea if Greg Dyke became the club chairman. I said that is an excellent idea”.  But money was always a problem. “One year we couldn’t find a shirt sponsor, nobody else would do it so I said ‘I will have to do it’.

When everyone wore Hertings. Kevin O’Connor and the 2008-9 League 2 Champions, shirts sponsored by Hertings.

Then one day I was flying back from Spain and the phone rang the minute I got off the aircraft. The Finance Director of BU said ‘John, John I must have £25,000 now or the revenue are going to shut us down. So I had to stump up 25 grand right away”.

On the upsides John particularly enjoyed the away trips – ’some of them were unreal’- and recalls a long drive to Barrow for an FA Cup game in 2008. “A director couldn’t restart his car after a long lunch break in Cheshire. He’d put petrol in a diesel car’. A taxi and a train ride got them to Barrow in time, then ‘the goalkeeper Ben Hamer got sent off for handball outside the area, we lost and came back on the team bus arriving home around dawn’. 

In 2009 Bees United members approved a deal with Matthew Benham in which he invested and had an option to become the owner in 2014. In fact the deal was speeded up and in 2012 Matthew became the sole owner with the minority shareholders exiting. The money they had put into the club had helped it survive but their stakes were arguably of little value by now.

‘David Merritt who was the BU chairman rang me up and said ‘unless you give me your shares Matthew’s takeover, known as ‘Project Gekko’, isn’t going to happen. My quarter of a million pounds was still in so I actually gave BU my ten per cent free of charge. I didn’t want to hold up the take-over, I didn’t want to be the big bad wolf. I wasn’t in it to make any money, far from it. This enabled BU to go ahead with what was called Project Gecko to enable Matthew to own the shares with BU getting a golden share’. John was among those who left the board and became Associate Directors of the club. 

Some Associate Directors have been able to attend games in the new stadium. Left is John Herting, right is former Chairman Eddie Rogers.

That article in the November 2003 Division Two programme ends with a quote from John: ‘we have got to keep the club going. Remember I am first and foremost a supporter and as a supporter I am optimistic about the future’. But even he never imagined that Brentford would one day be among the top clubs in the EFL Championship. ‘Without Matthew’s investment and the team he has got around him absolutely not. It was never going to happen’. 

He has no regrets at never becoming Chairman of Brentford FC at some point. ‘I was running my own business so I couldn’t give Brentford 100% attention. What the club needed was somebody to get hold of it in an almost full time manner. The only person who has done this is Matthew Benham through investment. It is not only about the players, it is about what he’s done, the training ground, all the people who are employed, it goes on and on. When I was involved we were running the entire playing squad on £1.35 million. Now we are in a totally different ball game’.

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‘OUR CENTURY AS A BEES FAMILY’

‘OUR CENTURY AS A BEES FAMILY’

My grandfather, Cyril Baker, lived in Eccleston Road, West Ealing, with six brothers, two sisters and his parents. Nine of them, though perhaps never all at once. Their father was a tea dealer and accountant but the family fell upon hard times when he died just before the birth of his youngest son Hubert, affectionately known as Bunnie.

The children grew up with few material possessions but they were blessed with a love of the outdoors and sport. Soon after the turn of the century the boys made their first journey to Griffin Park. We think that it might have been in the very earliest years of the stadium’s life, around 1904 when Cyril, was ten years old. 

The Brentford players of 1904-5 that the Baker boys would have watched.

In all likelihood they walked there past Victorian town houses and London brick cottages, cutting through unmade lanes and across fields until they stopped just short of the river and bustling docks. Perhaps they stopped at The Plough Inn or the Globe for brandy or porter – though some of the boys owned Temperance Society badges so maybe they lingered at Edwards Dairy instead.

Bunnie was football mad. In his late teens he co-founded a sports society that we think was called Drayton Athletic Club. Our photos suggest that the ‘Athletics’ club was largely about soccer.

‘Bunnie’ Baker is centre, middle row.

Bunnie features in all the pictures, surrounded by team-mates in sturdy leather boots, shirts laced at the collar and wool stockings and flanked by an entourage of gentlemen in three piece suits. 

Bunnie is back right of those in white.

By this time six of the boys were working for the Great Western Railway and they had a passion for steam engines which endures today in our family. They played cricket and bowls at the GWR Sports Club in Vallis Way. Then came the Great War. Each Baker Boy volunteered and, whether by luck or judgement, all joined different regiments. All bar Cyril. Cyril’s childhood friend Harold had somehow enlisted in an Australian regiment and served in Gallipoli. He was home on leave in Eccleston Road. We suspect Harold did not altogether meet with approval from Cyril’s family. One day he took Cyril for a ride through Ealing in the sidecar of his motor bike. I suppose that, after the horrors of the Dardanelles, Castlebar Hill didn’t offer much of a challenge to Harold and he may have been a little cavalier in his attention to road safety. An accident occurred and Cyril was taken to hospital with a broken leg which meant that he was not accepted into the armed forces. Good old Harold I say.

The supporter’s badge that belonged to Sharon’s grandfather Cyril Baker.

With hindsight we count ourselves lucky that six of the seven brothers made it through. Only the baby, football-mad Bunnie, did not return.

Private Hubert ‘Bunnie’ Baker,London Regiment.

He lost his life in 1917 in the Third Battle of Ypres a few months after arriving in Flanders. Heavy shell fire destroyed part of the battlefield burial ground and for a while the family did not know where he lay. It was left to one of his brothers, Stan, to discover that he had been reburied in Railway Dugouts War Cemetery in Zillebeke, Belgium.He is also commemorated on a family gravestone in Kensington and Chelsea cemetery, Hanwell, and on the GWR Roll of Honour on Paddington Station.

Bunnie’s grave at a British military cemetery in Belgium

 

The remaining Baker boys at what was the GWR ground and is now Ealing Trailfinders Rugby Club.

The Baker Boys married and dispersed. Only sister Edith was left in the house in Eccleston where she took in lodgers, including Graham, a lad up from the West Country who married Cyril’s daughter Iris, thereby narrowly escaping the awful fate of being a Swindon supporter. Thus a second generation of Bakers, my parents Graham and Iris and her brothers Tony and Clive, followed the family footsteps to Griffin Park. And yes, they really did pay to leave their bikes in the gardens of enterprising Brentford folk. 

Brentford were sliding down the divisions but still drew big crowds to those shallow-stepped, open terraces. My mum and her brothers talked fondly of their heroes of those days – Hill, Crozier, Harper, Greenwood, Hopkins – at family gatherings for decades afterwards. 

In 1960 Graham died suddenly leaving Iris to bring up two small children – my sister Cathy and me – and later that year Cyril was killed in a motor accident. There was no time and little money to spend on football, and probably no heart for it either. Until the spring of 1967. 

Uncle Clive came to our house and said simply “I think it’s time we got you two along to Griffin Park”. Cathy remembers her first visit clearly. Exeter City, an evening under floodlights, the Royal Oak End. Hooked.

We migrated to a spot with a better view on New Road and adopted our ‘own’ crush barrier. Though I was mortified to have to queue under a sign that read BOYS ENTRANCE it wasn’t long before I’d bought the rosette, knitted the scarf and had a black and white photo of Alan Hawley taped inside my desk lid. Iris and Tony soon returned and we befriended three lovely people who stood close by, Joyce and Bill Neate and Betty. 

Cathy and I were the third generation, watching fourth division football. One substitute, one bag of monkey nuts, one ladies’ lavatory with a big hole in the wall, gates of 5,000. Wreathed in cigarette smoke and diesel fumes we watched our own heroes – Phillips, Ross, Nelmes, Gelson, Higgie – take on Bradford Park Avenue, York City and Barrow. The pitch was bald by Christmas and at half time the ‘crowds’ on Ealing Road and the Royal Oak swapped ends by charging along the rain-filled ditch at the bottom of the New Road terrace. 

Early in the 70s one of the Baker Boys, possibly the last, died. At the funeral Clive and Tony met Phil. He said he was Stan’s son. He was a Brentford supporter. Soon Phil was coming to games with us. The quietest, gentlest and most good-natured of men, he might be remembered for brief spasms of wild and vitriolic high-pitched shrieking  when Brentford displeased him. His children, our second cousins, came though curiously often chose to stand in a different part of the ground. 

How I wish they could see Brentford now. The Brothers, my Mum and Dad, Clive, Tony, Phil. They would not believe their eyes. And how I’d love to go back in time and watch them at Griffin Park. Today, a fourth generation of our family comes to watch the Bees, my daughters and Phil’s grandchildren. 

I tried to explain how it felt to be leaving Griffin Park.

It’s like…it’s like putting our family home up for sale, the house where my grandparents lived, where they brought up their children. Where our parents raised us…and where my home is now.

Actually, I realised, that’s not what it was ‘like’. That’s how it really was.

Sharon Adlem

 

Cathy Adlem

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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MY 52 YEARS  WITH THE BEES

MY 52 YEARS WITH THE BEES

I have been a Brentford supporter 52 years (today is actually the anniversary!) when the Club was a consistent Division 4 (League 2 Club. I frame my Bees supporting life as a game of “Snakes and Ladders” with more
snakes than ladders ! Thankfully there are more ladders than snakes nowadays ! I have been both an active member of BIAS and Bees United, fully involved in many fundraising activities to not only fundraise but also promote supporter involvement, which I am passionate about.

Jon Gosling fund-raising for the Bees.

I have served on the Bees United Board in two stints for more that half the time the Society has existed.  I was privileged to be elected as the BU Supporter Director on the Club Board between 2006-2009.  It was then when I acquired my most precious momento of Bees United supporting time, being in the pre-season squad picture of Andy Scott’s Championship winning side in 2008-2009.  That season was the start of the Club’s rise to better things and who knows where it may lead us next?

Jon is second from right in the middle row

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BEES FAMILY HEIRLOOMS- MY UNCLE’S RATTLE

BEES FAMILY HEIRLOOMS- MY UNCLE’S RATTLE

My Dad (Tom) and my Uncle Fred (his brother-in-Law) were both Brentford supporters in the pre-Second World War days.  Dad rarely saw the team play as he worked on Saturdays in the grocery trade.  Uncle Fred, was one of the several Cook brothers who were enthusiastic fans, and they became quite well known at Griffin Park.  Uncle Fred followed the Bees for many years after the War.  

He not only went to first team home matches, but every other week saw the reserves at Griffin Park.  He suffered a serious accident in the early days of the War, and his injury resulted in him being discharged from the Army.  Consequently he was able to continue watching The Bees, not only that but he kept most of the programmes.  When he stopped attending matches, in the late 1950s he handed to me his programme collection, which started in the early 1940s.  The programmes during these early years, due to Wartime restrictions were incredibly flimsy and printed on poor quality paper. Many were single sheets, and yet he kept them all in an immaculate state, with no tears or folds.  

Towards the end of the 1950s he gave me, a schoolboy, his Brentford rattle which presumably he had taken to matches.  The rattle was in fact an ARP (Air Raid Precautions) rattle, manufactured by Clement and Sons in 1939.  Uncle Fred no doubt used it during the war period, and although such items are rare now, in the post-war years many war ‘adapted’, i.e. painted in football club colours and with a team name.  Such was the one I inherited, suitably painted with red and white stripes, and inscribed ‘Up The Bees’.

In those relatively non-violent days of the 50s and 60s, such rattles were a common site at matches, as was mine, and it accompanied me to games, both home, and on my travels to away games.  When we were drawn ‘away’ to First Division West Bromwich Albion, in the fourth round of the F.A.Cup in 1959,  I travelled to the match by train from Ealing Broadway, along with several friends.  There was massive support for The Bees, and after we alighted at Birmingham’s Snow Hill Station, we were greeted by the local Press.  The Birmingham Evening Post chose to use a photograph on the front page of their next edition that had been taken of me at at the forefront of our group, complete with home made red and white painted hat, and brandishing my rattle.  

Dave Twydell in glasses and hat, plus rattle, in 1959. If you were also in that picture let us know at admin@beesunited.org.uk

It was an exciting day out, but we lost 2-0 before a crowd of nearly 42,000.  There was, however, was one compensation after the girls in our small group decided we would wait and greet the team outside, after the match.  The delay meant we had missed the buses taking supporters back to the train station.  The team took pity on us, and allowed us to travel back to Snow Hill on the Team Coach.

Another match was particularly memorable, when I traveled to Vicarage Road in the 1961/62 season.  Although we lost 2-1, in my enthusiasm I used the rattle to good effect when we scored… and accidentally hit a Watford supporter with it, who was sitting next to me.  He was not sympathetic or supportive!

The days of taking rattles to matches soon dwindled, and within a few years they were banned completely.  But I still have Uncle Fred’s rattle, now silent, to one side.

You can read more about Dave Twydell and his Brentford collection in our previous article about the models of Griffin Park he made and the video he produced.

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BEES FAMILY HEIRLOOMS -A DAD’S WW2 AUTOGRAPH BOOKS

BEES FAMILY HEIRLOOMS -A DAD’S WW2 AUTOGRAPH BOOKS

Starting in 1943 13 year old Mike Cabble set off  from his home in Isleworth for Griffin Park with a mission for the rest of the Second World War; to collect as many players’ autographs as possible. When he secured the signature of an especially famous player, such as Ted Drake of Arsenal and England, he would record their name in his own immaculately neat handwriting.

After Mike passed away in 2017 his two autograph books became the proud property of his son .You may know him better as Bees iFollow co-commentator Mick Cabble.

Mick says one of his dad’s favourite hunting grounds was South Ealing Station where players would get the tube into London after a game. There were no team coaches in wartime London. “My dad would follow the players out of the ground, continue with the crowds up the road to South Ealing and stand on the platform with the players collecting autographs as they waited for the tube. That’s where he got the autograph of the famous winger and England international of his day, Leslie Smith, who was one of his heroes and his favourite player.

“Dad also kept a record of every game he went to and always bought two programmes, one to write on and one to keep clean. He was a keen amateur artist and once sent off beautiful drawings to Disney’s cartoon studios hoping for a job. He told me that the wartime years were fascinating times. By 1943 Brentford were well supported and despite air raids over London the Bees played regularly around the capital”.

For thirty years Mike and Mick were to experience a story in every part of the country in their own travels with the Bees. Mick says: “ When he was aged 78 I took him up to Darlington for the promotion game in League 2 , a day he treasured with three generations of his family, his daughter LIz, granddaughter Siobhan and me, he loved it. I took him to his hundredth league ground. Hereford United, in his 80th year. Then he declared saying he’d visited 100 league grounds watching the Bees it was time to watch just the home games from now on.

Mick Cabble and daughter give grand-dad a grand day out at Darlington.

“Dad was a Brentford  supporter for 73 years. A lot of people don’t have relationships with their father but I was very fortunate because through Brentford I went with him everywhere from Sunderland to Plymouth and Swansea to Norwich. One of my favourite photos captures his face as Brentford beat Preston in 2014 to get promotion to the Championship, he was with my daughter Siobhan”.

Now Mick himself reckons hes been to about 1,500 games, more than 350 of them away and has co-commentated on over 100 of them.

One of the most interesting names recorded in his father’s autograph books is that of Frank Soo who played for Brentford from 1943-45 while serving in the RAF.

Frank Soo, wrongly listed as J.Soo, alongside other wartime Bees

It was common during the war for players registered for one club to play as ‘a guest’ for others, sometimes in areas where they were doing military service. Frank Soo started 26 games for Brentford, one of which was abandoned, ,scoring two goals (against Spurs and Arsenal. He had a Chinese immigrant father and an English mother, was born in Derbyshire, raised in Liverpool and signed for Stoke City at the age of 19 in 1933.

Frank Soo while at Stoke City.

He became the first player of Chinese heritage to appear in the Football League when he made his first team debut against Middlesbrough. Soo made his international debut against Wales in May 1942 which made him the first non-white player to wear an England shirt. But the FA decided they would not recognise wartime international fixtures as ‘official’ matches.

Frank Soo, far right, before an England wartime international. Joe Mercer and Stanley Mathews are also in the line-up.

Bees fan Rob Jex, who has an extensive archive of Brentford match reports, says “Brentford manager Harry Curtis had tried to sign Soo or his fellow Stoke City wing half Jock Kirton in October 1938 when Brentford were bottom of the First Division, but Stoke turned down his ‘substantial bid’. I suppose, therefore, that when his RAF posting brought Soo south, it was only natural that Harry Curtis would be interested in securing him as a guest at some point”. Rob has found the programme for the 1944 away game at Spurs where Soo is shown as left half . Somebody has written 1 against his name to denote the fact that he scored in the  2-2 draw. The programme advises fans that ‘in case of emergency take cover under the stands’ . 

Rob says “The all too rare references to Soo in the reports of his matches are always complimentary: “classy touches”, “an artist who knows every move on the board”, “the complete artist”, and he, along with another Brentford war time guest, Matt Busby, are held up as the top left half backs in the game”. Mick Cabble says his father talked of Soo as a ‘very popular player’.

According to Rob Jex “There is some debate about whether Frank was the first non-white player to play for Brentford. Some Bees historians feel that it might be either Trinidadian Felix Leotaud, who was on the club’s books in the 1890s and later became President of the Trinidad and Tobago FA in the 1930s, or Frederick Corbett, who was born in Essex in 1881 and died in Brentford in 1924, who played for the Bees in the Southern League”.

If you have a Bees family heirloom that you’d like to share with fans please email admin@beesunited.org,uk

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