Where are they Now? Gordon Phillips article originally appeared in the Stockport match day programme. The Where Are They Now Articles will appear again in next seasons match day programme priced at £3.
"Goalkeepers are different," says the phrase. Call it a cliché but in the case of Gordon Phillips it certainly seems to be the case. Softly spoken but with strong opinions, he is a man who ran up 227 appearances for the Bees during the sixties and early seventies. A man who has played in some of Brentford's biggest cup matches. A man who has played with the Club's leading appearance holder (Ken Coote), has trained the man second in the pecking order (Jamie Bates) and is still firm friends with his former team mate and third in that list (Peter Gelson). If you were to encapsulate the post war history of Brentford Football Club, Gordon Phillips would seem to be the man who was in the right place at the right time.
However, rather than blow his own trumpet what comes out of our conversation is a sense of total respect and admiration for those players he followed, those he played with as well as those he worked with years after retiring from the professional game.
Indeed, he starts by paying his respects to a few of those who were there at the start of his career, including his fellow goalkeeper Gerry Cakebread: "I was there with Gerry. When he was finishing, I came along. He was a lovely, lovely fellow. The last time I saw him, was at the Griffin Park Centenary day when they had all the players there. Gerry was there and was as white haired as me!!"
And Ken Coote?
"The Club, it's like a small world. We saw this when word got around about Ken passing away. He was such a nice man. If you saw him in the dressing room you wouldn't even think he was a player. He was such a gentleman. I don't think I ever heard him swear."
As someone who never saw Gordon play, I asked him what sort of player he was and how he would have got on in today's game.
"My reflexes were good. And I wasn't put off by getting amongst people's feet. I think that was one of my strong points, shutting people down and being quick off the line. Spread myself and to try and use what you've got."
Whilst this last point may not seem an unusual one, he explains:
"I couldn't have played now. I know that - I'm too small!!
It's all six foot two, three, four now. I'm only five foot nine and a half. They wouldn't even entertain looking at me nowadays. When I had the chance, I was very fortunate in how they would organise the defence. You had Gels (Peter Gelson) who would attack everything that wasn't in the six-yard box - along the line or just outside it and he would attack.
You'd get somebody else picking people up and you'd get big John O'Mara on the edge of the six-yard box for corners. If it came flat and short he'd hit the half way line with it. We had a couple of mishaps and slips but the success of that defence was down to organisation. I loved it - I must admit!"
I suspect Gordon is underselling himself a touch. You don't play that many games if you can't handle yourself! The competition for the number one jersey with Charles "Chic" Brodie would seem to reflect this as the Club were fortunate enough to be blessed with two outstanding goalkeepers.
"It was unfortunate for Charlie. I think he came about two weeks after I signed and I had to play in this cup game against Gravesend. I was doing alright and in the last quarter of an hour or so this header's dropped down. Instead of dropping on it like I probably should have - tried not to be too flash - I've got my body behind it to try and scoop it up and it's gone in the goal. So I think they got Charlie in on the back of it - a quick one. So he came in and was a quality 'keeper!
"The relationship I had with him was brilliant. He did nothing but encourage me and that's true. There were times when I did get in the side but he used to come in the dressing room before the game, bang me on the shoulder -"Come out noisy; don't change your mind".
I always respected that and thought it was brilliant.
"That's the one situation (goalkeeping) that's a bit different to being an outfield player. There, you can adapt to a couple of positions. When we used to train, we didn't have specialised training in those days. We used to get together, kick a ball about, go running with the rest of them and then pulled out to do a little shooting or whatever."
There was no specific goalkeeping coach although Gordon admits, " I'd have loved that." However, it may explain the path he followed later in life.
"I did a bit of work with the Club - just doing the goalkeepers. I started right at the end of the time Steve Perryman was there. I was just there when Steve was there and then Phil Holder took it over. I got on well with him. He gave me as free a reign as he could and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
"One day we had Ashley and somebody else injured. I'm looking around and there aren't too many goalkeepers out there. I asked, "Who's your reserve goalkeeper" and said - what about Bliss? We'll use Bliss (centre forward - Gary Blissett).
"He couldn't wait to get the gloves on!
"What I admired about him so much was that he took it so seriously. He did everything Benno (Graham Benstead) did and that I asked him to do. Smashing. I used to love it.
"I was there that Championship year and the next one where, unfortunately, they went down in the last game of the season at Bristol.
"I loved working there. I used to go and get my shifts done in the morning and I'd go down there in the afternoons or on my rest day. Graham Pearce, who I played with at Hillingdon Borough, was involved.
"To say I coached is a little bit strong; I just trained them and the younger lads who I used to give a bit of advice to.
Benno, Tony Parks and Gerry Peyton (who came down from Everton at the end of his career) they were all brilliant and I learnt off them as well. It was only fitness and agility stuff but I used to love it."
It wasn't just the goalkeepers of the early nineties that excited Gordon to be working with, but also the outfield players. In particular, Jamie Bates.
"Batesy - I liked him. The thing I really liked was nothing to do with him playing. He and big Terry Evans, they were always quite close together. Put me in mind of us three when we were there (himself, Gelson and Alan Hawley) - but to a different standard. These boys were quality players; stalwarts of the side. Batesy was having a good season and I always remember what impressed me about him was when he came off training.
The second part of this article will appear tomorrow at 1pm.