Goal of the season in 2007/08 and 14 goals in his debut campaign in west London; on a personal level, Glenn Poole’s first full season in the Football League probably couldn’t have reached headier heights.
Plucked from non-league Grays Athletic in May 2007 as one of Terry Butcher’s primary acquisitions, the fleet-footed winger became a beacon of hope for the Griffin Park faithful as the struggling Bees – who had been relegated as League One’s basement club just months earlier – regained their footing after being coercively pinned to the ropes.
But what memories does ‘Pooley’ hold of his time in TW8? How did his career progress after departing in the summer of 2009, and what is he up to nowadays? Dan Long sat down with the 37-year-old to chat all things Brentford…
A SECOND CRACK AT THE FOOTBALL LEAGUE
Already something of a non-league nomad by 26, it looked as though a move to a professional club might never materialise, despite Poole’s clear ability – including a penchant for a wild, dipping volley. He enjoyed a stellar 2005/06 campaign with Grays and scored the second in the 2-0 FA Trophy win over Woking, before joining League Two Rochdale for a brief loan spell for the final six games the following season. Finally, a chance to make it in the pro game had manifested; Glenn Poole’s name was gaining momentum.
Just 16 days after his last appearance for Dale, Poole was a Brentford player. The aforementioned turmoil at the club, naturally, continued to evoke raw emotion but with former England skipper Butcher installed at the helm – renowned as a player for his brave, never-say-die attitude – a renewed sense of anticipation lingered.
“It all started off a little bit slow because I didn’t have much of a pre-season – I thought I’d ruptured my Achilles – so I didn’t really play too much of a part,” Poole tells BEES. “It took me a while to settle in but once I’d settled in, I was enjoying just being in the pro game because I’d worked so hard to get there – I was just enjoying every minute.”
As the season progressed under Butcher – currently in charge of the Philippines national side – it became quite clear that he wasn’t the man for the job and the reality of the pre-season optimism was alarmingly contrasting, with successive relegations entirely possible at the time of his sacking in December 2007.
‘I WOULD’VE SIGNED A FIVE-YEAR DEAL’
“Working under Terry Butcher was interesting,” Poole tells BEES. “As a man-manager and a bloke he was really good; he signed me which I will always be grateful for but I think he just suffered with the way the game was changing and got stuck in the past a little bit, but as a man, I can’t fault him.
“When Terry left, Andy Scott got the job and he was the one who really brought me to Brentford, actually; he used to come and watch me when I was at Grays, he knew what I could do. Once he got the job, with the confidence he had in me at the time, that made it easier to play and I was enjoying my football at the time. It bore fruit with all the goals I scored and all the performances I put in, in a team that evidently struggled so it was nice to be the shining light of that season.”
His incredibly respectable 14-goal haul wasn’t quite enough to secure a return to League One at the first time of asking as the Bees’ momentum slipped in the final few months. But with a young manager, who was building his own squad for the first time, was there a sense that the wrongs of 2007/08 could be righted in 2008/09? Poole is frank in his response.
“Collectively, I’d probably say no to be honest with you. Personally I didn’t really know what was going to happen with myself as my agent had had contact from various clubs, but I didn’t want to leave. We’d spoken about various things regarding my situation and it was a case of going and playing and seeing what happened with regards to signing a new deal. I would’ve signed a new four or five-year deal at the time, no question.
“I wasn’t sure where I was at, but I spoke to Scotty and he said that he was building a squad to challenge for the league but I wouldn’t say, honestly, without knowing who was coming in or out, that it was a realistic target. During pre-season he had said we were going for promotion but every club I’ve been at has said that. It wasn’t really until we got into the season that we thought, ‘We can probably do this’.
“I thought I played well and scored seven goals in 20 games and then it all changed. Still to this day I don’t really know why but that’s a story for another day. At that time I was on top of my game and it was a great period for me.”
A BITTERSWEET CAMPAIGN
“I can’t watch too much of that particular DVD, particularly after Christmas,” he jokes. Poole was an integral piece of Andy Scott’s side that worked its way into promotion contention with just two defeats in five months, or 24 league fixtures, but before long it was decided that his influence had waned and his presence from the start was no longer necessary.
Ironically it was the development of another former non-league player, in the shape of Sam Wood, that signalled the beginning of the end for Poole. Wood had bided his time following a summer transfer from Bromley and in December, he grabbed his chance with both hands, impressing so much that he was awarded the player of the season award following the title triumph in May.
For Poole, the levels of frustration were unimaginable, yet he retains no ill-feeling towards his successor.
“It was so frustrating because anyone that knows me knows how much I want to play football, it’s never been any different. I thought I was playing well enough to keep playing; I was still contributing with assists and playing well but I think it was the longest stretch I hadn’t scored for, five or six games. I’d lost my granddad at the time but I didn’t want any time off, I was still going in every day, working hard and it was very difficult to see. But I saw it coming in a strange way because as soon as he [Scott] came up to me and said can I have a word, we were playing Luton away, he said I wasn’t starting today and I knew that was the beginning of the end for me. It surprised me at the time, but I could just see it coming.
“Woodsy came in and was absolutely brilliant, I can’t say that he wasn’t, but it was so frustrating at the time because I felt my own performances didn’t justify the way I was treated, not just in that regard, but around the place as well. I was isolated a little bit and I’m not the sort of person who’ll just accept it – I wear my heart on my sleeve. I’ve always admitted that I could’ve perhaps handled things in a different way but that’s just me and I’ve never been any different.”
Perhaps owing to his adoration for the club, Poole continued to graft – ultimately in vain – but he was handed an opportunity to sign off in style with a part in the final few games of the League Two season. And he did just that; albeit from the substitutes bench, he was part of the squad that won the league after the famous 3-1 victory away at Darlington, before providing a trademark assist for Karleigh Osborne to head home the first in a 2-0 win over beleaguered Luton Town on the final day.
“I’m glad because there was a very strong chance I was going to Gillingham on loan and, to be honest, with things the way they were, I was really pushing to go because I didn’t want to be sat kicking my heels,” he admits.
“I was gutted when it didn’t go through in a way but ultimately, what came out of it was being a part of the last five or six games; coming on and actually contributing in those games, being involved. When all the fans were on the pitch on the last day, I was the last one out there because everyone was having photos with me and saying, “Please don’t go!” That will always stay with me. It was a very difficult time for me but at the end of the day, having that at the end of it was superb.
“Honestly, whenever I go to the ground, I do think ‘What if…?” but overall I’d say it was a success personally and collectively as well. I’m proud of what I achieved at Brentford. To still be held in high regard by the club is something that I take great pleasure out of and when I’m asked back to do things at the club, that speaks volumes.
CONTINUING THE ESSEX ADVENTURE
Following on from his premature departure, Poole briefly dropped out of the Football League for his second spell with Grays Athletic before back-to-back six-month spells with AFC Wimbledon and Barnet in the familiar surroundings of the fourth tier. Fortune did not fall in the favour of the midfielder during either, though, and when the whistle sounded on the latter club’s 1-1 draw with Shrewsbury in January 2011, his time in the league came to a close.
But though an extended spell in the professional game was no longer an option, his non-league career motored along nicely, going from strength to strength as the seasons passed; playing exclusively in Essex for the last seven years, turning out for the likes of Billericay Town and Canvey Island, with a third spell at Grays thrown in for good measure. A swift fall from grace, some might say, yet for Poole, it was a savvy plan, executed with the future at the very forefront of his mind.
“It was just the way it went, really,” he says. “I had offers to go to other clubs in the pro game but I thought, at the time, I just wanted to focus on the rest of my life really; I thought that running my coaching school would be more beneficial than chasing a contract for money that, the older you get, will dwindle so you just want to set yourself up for life really. I don’t miss full-time football and I think it was the best thing to do at that particular time. I took the decision to do that and I haven’t regretted it one bit.
“I played my last game in April. I was on the coaching team at Grays but I can count on one hand the number of coaching sessions I took. I’m just focusing on coaching in the schools rather that at a club. It killed me a little bit at Thurrock and at Grays because I went in as a coach but didn’t get to do anything, so I’m just focusing on my football school at the moment. It’s going really well and it’s all about expansion. It’s a full-time job now so it’s all good.”