In all 129 years of Brentford Football Club’s existence, just one man has won the league as both a player and a manager. The name of that man? Andy Scott.
The forward was picked up by Micky Adams for £75k in November 1997 having begun his professional career with Sheffield United five years earlier. With Premier League experience under his belt, the move was an attractive proposition, though the outlook for the Club became bleak as the 1997/98 season advanced.
Shaun Smith scored the winner as Crewe Alexandra edged David Webb’s Bees in the 1997 Division Two Play-Off Final. Just a year later, 50 points from 46 league games spelled a return to Division Three for the first time since 1992.
“When I first arrived the club was in a precarious position in the league,” Scott exclusively explains to BEES. “I scored on my debut at Oldham, but I think everyone knew we didn’t have a side good enough to cope at that level, though we had a few really great players.Embed from Getty Images
“We ended up getting relegated, Ron Noades came in and no one knew what was going to be happening. Fortunately, we brought in a lot of good players, I kept my place and we had a fantastic year.”
Though Noades would go onto become public enemy number one after bringing the club to its knees, he guided the Bees to the Division Three title – the second time they’d achieved the feat in eight seasons – and gave Scott the platform to enjoy one of the most goal-laden spells of his 14-year professional career.
“You set out each season to win the league but only one team can do it,” he continues. “We really believed that we could do it with the coaches and players that we had; it was one of those seasons where you just knew we were going to win it.
“We got to Cambridge at the end of the season and there were fantastic celebrations at the end of it. It was a very memorable year and when you win a championship and it’s a long slog, you realise why you put all the effort in and you want that same feeling again.”
Eight years after leaving, his wish for a repeat experience came true.
But it wasn’t before a cardiologist discovered a heart condition in early 2005 – hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – that brought his time at Leyton Orient – and ultimately his playing career – to an abrupt halt. As luck would have it, a backroom staff reshuffle at Brisbane Road a few months earlier had seen current Bees boss Dean Smith promoted from youth team coach to assistant manager, presenting Andy with an opening from which to seamlessly transition into the next phase of his career.
BACK WITH THE BEES
At the end of the 2006/07 season, his rise up the managerial ladder accelerated when he swapped east London for west. Brentford had just been relegated from League One, finishing bottom of the pile under the disrupted stewardship of Leroy Rosenior, Scott Fitzgerald and later Barry Quin. They needed a new direction and appointed former England skipper Terry Butcher as manager. With five previous managerial roles behind him, Butcher seemed to provide the experience, grit and guile required to restore the Bees to the third-tier, but having not managed in English football since a short spell with Sunderland in 1993, he needed a figure who knew the club and knew how to deliver on such expectations. Given Scott’s situation, there was only one realistic candidate.
“I was contacted by David Heath who was on the board and was my sponsor when I first came to Brentford as a player. David asked me if I’d be interested in coming for an interview so I went to see him and Terry, we had a chat and I let them know how I thought they could improve. Clearly I made an impression and they offered me the job.
“It was a big step for me to leave Orient after everything they’d done for me, but the pull of coming back to Brentford and with Terry being such a well-known figure in English football was one I couldn’t turn down. Unfortunately, for us as a management duo it didn’t work out for one reason or another and by the time December came, we’d been very, very poor and Terry lost his job,” he says.Embed from Getty Images
“Ultimately, I was part of that duo and it was partly my responsibility as well but I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to take charge of the team. That was my chance to put into place something that I thought we needed to change and it turned out very well. We had a dip towards the end, which I thought was only natural as we had an ageing squad, and sometimes the dynamic of the group wasn’t quite there which we found out throughout the year.
“That was a big learning curve for me, seeing how we played and what we were capable of but the difference between our good games and our poor games were marked with differences. We needed consistency, more energy and power and we needed to be stronger down the spine of the team so that really gave me the impetus to go and recruit in the summer.”
Scott expertly steadied the post-Butcher ship and navigated the Bees to a comfortable mid-table spot, before being given the chance to mould a squad of his own. And, in the pre-season of 2008/09, recruit he did. In came the likes of Ben Hamer, Marcus Bean and Alan Bennett, while the spine of the squad remained in place despite a testing financial climate.
“The club was going through some very tough times with finances and we had a mediocre budget for the league at that time, but we did have an opportunity to bring in a lot of new players. There was a big turnaround in numbers at the beginning but we felt that we had a really good group and we made it clear from the outset how we wanted to work.
“We got everyone fit, strong, powerful, organised and the great thing about it was that the characters of those players was phenomenal, they managed themselves. We had people like Kevin O’Connor still there and they basically ran themselves in the dressing room, dictating how they wanted to behave and they looked after each other so that everyone towed the line. It is very rare to get a group that actually do that but when you do then you are usually successful and I was very lucky to have a good group of lads come in.”Embed from Getty Images
The one common denominator members of the squad has noted when revisiting the title-winning campaign is the 1-0 win over Bournemouth at Dean Court on 13 April – Andy is no different.
“In the period leading up to Bournemouth, we drew three or four games and we hadn’t won for a month. We were in the top three and we had some momentum but the wins just weren’t coming. It was a bank holiday weekend and we had an unbelievable following down on the coast and we came off the pitch that day thinking we could do it – the workrate was phenomenal.
“When Darren Powell was sent off, we went 4-3-2 rather than 4-4-1 and Billy Clarke was up front. Him and Charlie worked their socks off, Sam Wood, Kevin O’Connor, Marcus Bean ran miles and miles in midfield and we defended doggedly. We never looked back after that and that’s the one game of my managerial career that still gives me goosebumps.
“We then had a poor result at Dagenham – which seemed to be my bogey ground – and if we’d have won we would have got promoted, but it all turned out well at Darlington because we won 3-1. Looking round at the end, Dave Carter said to me, “We won it” and I said I knew, but he said, “No, we’ve won the league!” It was unbelievable how it all happened in one go.
“The whole week after Darlington the lads didn’t want to have any days off, they just wanted to come into training and be with each other. After the troubles the club had been through and myself with health and everything like that, to be able to look among the group of players and the fans coming onto the pitch at the end of the Luton game, you don’t often get those times as a manager and you have got to relish them. I remember that very fondly and I still speak to the majority of that squad that I had there because that’s the bond you have when you win leagues. You develop a bond between yourselves because you know how hard you had to work and what you had to do to get there.
“To celebrate lifting the trophy in front of our own fans was retribution for me really, taking the job and the club sticking by me.”
ALL GOOD THINGS…
With Scott having signed a five-year deal in the pre-season prior to the title win, the future looked promising for the Bees; the club had returned to the third tier, with a bright young manager at the helm and, at the culmination of the 2009/10 season, they announced that lifelong Bees fan Matthew Benham was to invest £1 million per year until the 2013/14 season. The mood soon started to turn.
Two wins from the first 11 games in 2010/11 conjured an air of pressure, but if the Griffin Park atmosphere was perceived to be toxic at that point, six defeats from the first eight league games at the turn of the year meant Scott’s position soon became untenable. Despite the dramatic disposal of both Hull City and Everton in the League Cup, coupled with reaching the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final, the screw turned after a 4-1 defeat at Dagenham. On 3 February, he was dismissed.
“I was devastated,” he admits.Embed from Getty Images
“I’d made mistakes with recruitment, but I felt that with the effort and what I’d done previously, we weren’t going to go down. It got to the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final and I felt that I deserved the opportunity to make amends in the summer, but that wasn’t to be. There was a feeling among fans that they wanted to change things and obviously Matthew decided that was the case.
“I was very disappointed that I wasn’t given longer but as a manager, you know you are going to get sacked at some stage and it’s Matthew decision, it’s his money, it’s his club and he wanted to go in a different direction – that was his choice. Yes, I made mistakes but I would’ve loved to lead my team out at Wembley and that’s my biggest regret in football, the fact I wasn’t able to do that. But it shows the relationship I’ve got with Matthew that we left it amicably and he employed me several years later in another role. For me, that shows I did the right thing and acted in the correct manner.”
ONCE A BEE, ALWAYS A BEE
Four years later, having managed Rotherham and Aldershot in the interim, Scott made the conscious decision to explore alternative careers within the game and linked up with Benham’s company Smartodds. Initially scouting for both the Bees and FC Midtjylland, there was ‘a natural progression’ in the role and before long, Scott was heading up the club’s recruitment department on a full-time basis, playing a key role in the permanent transfers of players such as Rico Henry, Florian Jozefzoon and Sergi Canos.
In November 2017, after less than 18 months in the role, Scott was on the move once more as he joined Watford to take up a similar role as UK Football Recruitment Director at Vicarage Road. But severing his ties with Brentford for a third time proved challenging, the 46-year-old reveals.
“The biggest thing for me when I left – and it was a very, very tough decision – was that if it wasn’t for a Premier League side, I wouldn’t have gone – 100 per cent. Working in the division is a great thing for my CV and to be involved in; it was an opportunity I couldn’t afford to turn down and everybody understood that. I spent about 10-11 years at the club in total so it’s a long association and I really want them to do well.
“We’ve set up a UK recruitment department and I’ve learned from the areas in which we did well at Brentford, developing the areas that I wanted to put into place at Watford. My role involves the structure of the academy, looking at how the first team work and all the staffing issues. We are implementing lots of changes to the training ground and I’ve got a lot of responsibility for that, so it’s an all-round football director role alongside a recruitment role. Working at that level with the players, the finances, the hullaballoo around a top-flight match and all the preparation that goes into it, the media and the focus on it is fantastic.Embed from Getty Images
“Having worked in the Premier League, I really feel that the structure Brentford have in place could really cope if they got promoted. The way they’ve gone about things in the last 5-6 years puts them in a good position to survive because everybody knows how they work and that’s really going to hold them in good stead if they get there.
Scott’s burgeoning behind-the-scenes career appears to be going from strength to strength, but does he ever envisage a return to the dugout?
“Absolutely not!” he exclaims. “I had a very good 7-8 years in management and, like players, you get managers who have their best spells at certain clubs because they just fit right and I fitted right at Brentford. To win the league and to speak to fans about games such as the Everton Carling Cup game, that’s great because I’m part of that, I’m partly responsible for those memories.
“But I was in management for a reason and that was to develop players, organise teams and get everyone playing the way I wanted to play. Realistically, where I was going to go after Aldershot was scrambling around at that level, I didn’t want to be a journeyman manager applying for every job. Now I’m forging out a new career where I’m fortunate to be in the position I am in. Again, that’s down to the people at Brentford and Matthew for giving me the opportunity they did.
“The first thing when organising pre-season at Watford was to ring up Brentford and see if they wanted a game! It just goes to show that I’m never too far away and I always enjoy coming back. I loved my time at Brentford and you never know, I might be back one day…”
Originally featured in BEES Issue #3 v Nottingham Forest (1 September 2018)