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WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

Posted on: Thu 31 May 2012

In Brentford's match day programme over the course of the 2011/12 season, Nick Bruzon found out what happened to some former Brentford stars.

www.brentfordfc.co.uk reproduces Nick's article on Kevin Dearden below.


What is it about Brentford FC and goalkeepers?

Over the years we have been fortunate with the high quality usually found between the Griffin Park posts and today's 'Where Are They Now' guest is no exception.

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Following directly on from Graham Benstead, he was unchallenged for the gloves from his debut in October 1993 (a 2-1 victory over Wrexham) until he moved on at the end of the 97/98 campaign with over 200 appearances under his belt.

A regular return visitor to TW8 in his current role as goalkeeping coach and chief scout for Leyton Orient eagle eyed viewers may also have seen him on Sky TV last month, representing Birmingham City in the 'Masters' football tournament alongside those other Brentford legends, Nicky Forster and Martin Grainger.

Affectionately known as 'The Flying Pig' (a nickname whose origins we will explore), would you please welcome - Kevin Dearden.

Kevin joined the Bees from Tottenham a few months into a 1993 campaign that saw the side, now under the management of David Webb, back in Division Two after a solitary season in League One (now, The Championship).

Incredibly, he had been on loan at nine different clubs since 1989, whilst waiting for his chance at Spurs.

Was it a hard decision to finally leave White Hart Lane and sign full time for another team?

"No, not really," he said.

"Ossie Ardiles had taken over as manager and he had intimated to me that maybe it was best I moved on.

"There wasn't a 'Bosman' at the time so you didn't just walk out.

"I still had a contract at Spurs but he made it fairly clear that he didn't think there was any future for me there.

"So it was quite an easy decision to make to come to Brentford."

Brentford had the untouchable Graham Benstead as first choice going into the season (at least publicly, with Benno starting the first five games).

Had they come looking for Kevin?

"I'd put my name out a little bit and Brentford had Graham as well as taking Dean Williams from non-league," Kevin explained.

"They suggested first of all that they weren't really looking for anyone.

"Then a little while into the season, maybe a month or two but I'm not really sure, I don't think David Webb was happy with either goalkeeper and he asked, 'Would you come in and join us'?

"I said 'Yeah, definitely, I will do' as I didn't see any future at Spurs."

Over 200 games later, the rest is history and it must have been great to finally get a decent run and settled in a team?

Kevin Dearden

"Obviously it was really difficult to get into the side at Tottenham and making only two appearances," said Kevin.

"You have to be extra special and unfortunately I wasn't considered to be that level but all I wanted to do was play football.

"That's why I had so many loan clubs.

"Brentford gave me the opportunity to do that.

"The first season I joined was very much, for Brentford, a transitional season with being relegated from the championship and a lot of players, who had been there under Steve Perryman and Phil holder, leaving.

"A lot of players came in during that year, then the one after a lot more went and a lot more came in.

"It was a real sort of revolving door."

Perhaps 'transitional' is the perfect word to describe this era.

Look at the players whom Holder left at the Club and those we had in the first season under Webb, where the team finished 16th.

Then the likes of Nicky Forster started coming in and suddenly Brentford had a tasty team starting to form.

As the man who saw it all unfolding in front of him, Kevin concurs.

"That's what I thought," he said.

"Slowly with the few players who were still there like Jamie Bates and Simon Ratcliffe, and with Carl Hutchings coming through, then the additions of Barry Ashby, Grainger, Paul Smith, Forster, Rob Taylor and Lee Harvey a decent side started to develop."

Hearing all these names together you forget how many high calibre players Brentford had under Webb.

The form was there and the team finished 94/95 in second place, having gone neck and neck with Birmingham City for the entire season.

"Birmingham at the time were spending stupid money on players and any other year, second gets you promoted," said Kevin.

"Unfortunately that was the year the Premier League was beginning and they were readjusting the League so only one went up that season.

"In the end the money told because Birmingham were spending fortunes."

This big spending manifested itself in the likes of six foot seven Kevin Francis (these days following a somewhat different career path as a Police office in Canada) who signed in January for £800,000 from Stockport.

Even then it went to the wire, with Brentford playing Birmingham three games out.

It was a full house at St. Andrews with an incredible atmosphere.

As the last line of defence and against his old club, in a ground full of supporters that would have known him, how did Kevin cope and set himself going in to that sort of showdown?

"When I look back we used to love it," he said.

"People always go on about team spirit but we really did have a great one.

"We just looked forward to each game.

"There weren't any nerves and we just really enjoyed it.

"We enjoyed playing with each other and each other's company too.

"We just looked forward to every game."

Despite the pressure or the occasion of certain games?

"We were all just young lads who had been given a chance," said Kevin.

"We didn't actually know any better than just going out and enjoying ourselves!"

It must have worked because, but for the Premier League and Birmingham City, Brentford would have gone back up again.

"Birmingham were spending crazy money but it worked for them as it got them up," said Kevin.

"Unfortunately we were left in second and had to play Huddersfield in the Play-Offs.

"Both games were really tight and we should have, maybe, won the game up there.

"To then lose it on penalties at home was a real blow."

The team had done fantastically well to get into that position but it was Kevin versus the world, in effect, to keep Brentford in the Play-Offs, how did he handle that spot kick situation?

"There wasn't the coverage there is now," explained Kevin.

"We didn't know who would be taking the penalties and where they might go whereas you would probably know that now.

"It was really just a case of knowing that you can't be the villain as a goalkeeper.

"You can only really be the hero.

"It was a case that I just had to try and guess the right way and hope it's my day.

"Unfortunately it wasn't that night."


Part two of Nick Bruzon's interview with Kevin Dearden will be on the Official Site tomorrow.

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