Where are they Now? Jim Towers article originally appeared in the Charlton match day programme. The Where Are They Now Articles will appear again in next seasons match day programme priced at £3.
As anyone who has ever caught the 65 bus to a Brentford game will know, you invariably wait half an hour and then two come along at once.
As anyone who knows their Brentford history will be aware, we waited 65 years for a leading goalscorer, and then two came along at once.
The careers of Jim Towers and George Francis, Griffin Park's own "Terrible Twins" are hard to separate. From their time playing against each other for rival Saturday teams though National Service together and then part of the same Brentford team for most of the 1950's until a controversial sale to Queens Park Rangers, they truly are legends. With 163 and 136 goals respectively, Jim Towers still occupies the penthouse suite in the Griffin Park all time goals scorer's hotel. By which I mean he's at the top!
It speaks volumes for their pairing and the team of the time that that they were able to accomplish this simultaneously as, fifty years later, Francis is still our second place all time scorer. A feat made all the more incredible when you consider some of the goalscorers that have followed them through the years and had the chance to make this record their own - Sweetzer, McCulloch, Holdsworth, Forster, McCammon, Blissett and Owusu to name but a few.
"Where are they now" was fortunate enough to met up with Jim recently to find out how he got there, his opinions on the game today, his memories of the time and that move to Loftus Road.
In 1947 Brentford had been a top-flight team. Seven years later and they were back in Division Three, with a team heavily dependent on youth policy. However, this focus on youth, combined with the Club's slump in form, gave Jim Towers his opportunity.
"They had a fellow who ran Brentford juniors called Alf Bew. He didn't really know a lot about football but what he used to do, and there were quite a few Brentford players in this area, was sign everybody on amateur forms. Brentford had a few schoolboy internationals but anybody in the area he'd sign!
I came from Shepherd's Bush but when I turned professional there were quite a few schoolboy internationals who played for the first team but didn't really go on. Alan Bassam, Roy Philpott. All schoolboy internationals in this area but that was Alf's success. He just signed everybody on then other people used to look at them. It was a joke. You kept everybody and if somebody got injured, you got a chance.
I wasn't really in the limelight though. I played for a boy's club in Shepherd's Bush. We were drawn against Brentford in a little cup match at Boston Manor and that's how it came between me and Alf. We were a good team and beat Brentford juniors so he asked me if I would like to sign for Brentford Juniors. They had a couple of player's short; I played and scored about four goals against somebody. So then I was part of Brentford juniors."
From playing with the juniors, Jim's next move was one which took him by surprise, especially as he was about to head off to Germany with the British Army.
"Coming up to eighteen years old, nobody at that age played although these days you're in the first team. I was coming up to that age and going into National Service, which you had to do. Then they asked me if I'd like to turn professional!
It was out of the blue because I didn't think I was any better than any of the others and so I signed professional around June and then went into the army on July 4th. The only contact I then had with Brentford was minimal because I was in Germany all the time.
At that time there was a fellow called Jackie Gibbons here, who was a good player, and he was manager of Brentford. He was an amateur player but he was manager when I signed. When I came out of the army, Tommy Lawton had taken over so it was a matter of who knew me? Nobody knew anyone. Georgie Francis, my pal, had the same thing. He was stationed with me but got demobbed about seven months after so that's how it went. You just came along and were lucky if you got twelfth man for the reserves in those days. Other than that, you just used to go and watch another match."
Having come out of the army, although signed to the Club it wasn't a case of walking straight into the team.
Jim continues, "It took a year and as I said, when I came out the army in 53, it was mid-season. Then you had that year where, at the end, I could have been let go. There were lots of players not being kept and in those days you used to get a letter saying you are or aren't being retained. That's how it was.
Luckily, I'd played a couple of games but it seemed fast, ever so fast. I was playing for the British army and playing not bad football but this seemed ever so fast and I thought I'd never make a living at it. Then, after I trained and started scoring a lot of goals for the reserves, they retained me. Then they took a lot of older players, such as Georgie Stobbart. They didn't do all that well so they started putting in the Brentford youth like Dennis Heath, myself, Georgie Bristow - all those type of players. That's how it kicked off. I started scoring a few goals and luckily for me it just went on and on."
To say it went on and on is putting things mildly. Whilst Jim was on the books for ten years from 51-61, his goals came in an even shorter period if you consider he only started playing in 1954.
"I was what they a call a fixture, I was always in the team. At the same time, if you look at the Guinness book of records or any other book, you'll find that people who scored a lot of goals were at the club a long while. In my best year I got 37. Now, if somebody got 37 they'd be sold. No question. So, it's nice to have the record but it's a little bit artificial because players don't stay that long. To score what I did now, you'd have to be at a club a fair while and you're just not. Score twenty goals one year and you're gone.
Look at all the records of clubs in the Third Division South and there were three players playing for England in that league. John Atyeo, who played for Bristol City. Then you had Matthews playing for Coventry. They were actually in the England line up and you couldn't imagine that now."
There must have been more to it than just being a regular in the team. What did Jim put his goalscoring feats down to?
"I had two good feet. Everybody thought I was left footed but actually I was right footed. That's how good it was. If I had a penalty I'd take it with the right foot or the left foot, it didn't make a difference. Once the ball was moving a bit, it made no difference. In actual fact, that's what gives you the goal because you get that fraction of a second where somebody else tries to get it over and it's gone. Bang. You get the goal.
Even Shearer was right footed although his left was good, but when you don't mind what foot it comes on then it gives you the fraction of a second and that makes a big difference. "
Whilst recognising his own skills, Jim is fair enough to admit where he may have been slightly weaker.
"I wasn't all that good with my head, to tell you the truth. Infact, I used to take the corners sometimes although did score some with my head. If it was on the right, Dennis Heath would take them but if it was on the left, George McLeod had trouble hitting the corner over."
It wasn't just the ability to hit a ball with either foot but the ability to hit it with power, which was also key to Jim's prowess in front of goal. I had read that at one point he actually knocked a spectator out. Is this true?
"Probably! The funny thing about it, and I can always see the funny side, was that when you used to come out on to the field, and they don't do it now because they do all the run ups, everybody used to like a kick of the ball, even the defenders and everybody used to like a shot at the goal before the match started. There were often people not interested because the match hadn't started and it was like a minefield by that goal."
The type of ball probably accounted for a few casualties, as he continues.
"The ball was a lot heavier! The ball's changed. By the time I got in you had the white ball for floodlit matches and that was alright. The lace had gone. You've got to go back to 52/53 for all that so I missed the lace up ball. It was a bit before I got in the first team.
It's not just the ball that was different but the pitches, too. The playing surfaces now are beautiful compared to when I played and that must make a difference. I've walked on pitches that were all sand, like a bog. That makes a big difference."
The second part of this article will appear tomorrow at 1pm.