Historically, Brentford have tended to have a knack for plucking youngsters from Premier League and Championship clubs and developing them sufficiently for them to go on to much bigger and better things.
In the 2008/09 season, boss Andy Scott signed new fewer than 14 players on a temporary basis for varying lengths of time, and though a handful of the loanees who enjoyed success over a longer period will be the focus of individuals features later on in the season we’re going to take a brief look at each one, how they fared at Griffin Park and where their careers have taken them since…
Mikkel Andersen – 1 app
One game, one win, one man-of-the-match award; Danish stopper Andersen’s stay in west London was short, but sweet. Signed on an emergency loan after fellow Reading loanee Ben Hamer had been sent off in the FA Cup second round defeat to Barrow 15 days earlier, he was thrust into the spotlight for the game with promotion hopefuls Bradford, who were three points ahead of the Bees, having played a game more. The match – which took place four days before his 20th birthday on 13 December – was his first taste of the English professional game, having spent similar spells on loan with Torquay and Rushden & Diamonds the previous year.Embed from Getty Images
He coped well on the boggy Griffin Park turf, making some excellent reflex saves and generally looking sharp, in spite of his lack of first team action. The performance in the 2-1 winearned him a spot in the Team of the Week and perhaps alerted Brighton to his abilities; he spent a month on loan on the south coast later that season. One-and-a-half seasons on loan at Bristol Rovers led to 18 loan appearances for Portsmouth, before he returned to his homeland on a permanent basis in 2015, where he now, incidentally, plays for Matthew Benham’s FC Midtjylland.
Frankie Artus – 2 apps, 0 goals
A Bristol City academy graduate, Artus spent 15 years at Ashton Gate until he was released in the summer of 2010 without making a single first team appearance for the Robins. He did, however, spend a significant period of time away on loan, with Brentford being the second stop of his eventual six-club temporary adventure. It was with the Bees that he made his Football League debut in the 2-1 home victory against Dagenham & Redbridge, though he’d already pulled on the red and white four days earlier, playing 83 minutes as the club ousted Yeovil from the Football League Trophy on penalties.Embed from Getty Images
Those games proved to be Artus’ only first team appearances in TW8 and in 2010, he joined Cheltenham, with whom – by this point – he’d already enjoyed two loan spells. The versatile midfielder departed after just a year, though, before playing for Grimsby, Hereford and, most recently, Bath City, for whom he signed in 2014. Now aged 30, the Bristolian remains an important part of the Romans’ setup and is approaching the 160-appearance mark, having scored 16 goals.
Alan Bennett – 47 apps, 1 goal
One of the most likeable characters to step onto the Griffin Park turf in recent years, Brentford fans will struggle to forget Alan Bennett in a hurry: the thick Cork accent, the wide smile, the rugged presence in the back four. Though only on loan from Reading, Alan – who had already made over 150 league appearances for Cork City – hadn’t settled at the Madejski and was looking for somewhere to call home – Griffin Park was just that place. Alongside James Wilson initially and Mark Phillips later, he helped Reading team-mate Ben Hamer to the League Two Golden Glove award after 20 clean sheets, appearing in all but two domestic fixtures.Embed from Getty Images
He joined permanently the following season, but his influence waned and he joined Wycombe. After spells with Cheltenham and AFC Wimbledon, he returned home to Cork and captained the Rebel Army to a league and cup double last November. At 37, he has just one more year on his contract at Turner’s Cross, but has been preparing for a life off the pitch for quite some time. As well as holding a UEFA A licence, he has a degree in Journalism, a Business Marketing degree and is currently studying for a Masters in Personal & Management Coaching.
Dean Bowditch – 9 apps, 2 goals
By the time Dean Bowditch arrived in TW8 on Halloween 2008, he was already an established Football League name, with over 80 senior appearances for Ipswich under his belt. He became the club’s youngest hat-trick scorer when he netted a treble against Watford at Portman Road in March 2004, but his progress was hampered by a series of injury that prevented him making the desired impact at Portman Road. Dean provided an instant spark for Andy Scott’s men, though, after scoring on his debut in a 2-1 defeat to Rochdale the day after he joined and nailing down a starting spot for eight of his nine outings; he also scored in his final game for the Bees in a 2-2 draw with Lincoln.Embed from Getty Images
He joined Yeovil after Ipswich decided he was surplus to requirements at the conclusion of the season and thrived at Huish Park, scoring 25 goals in 75 appearances – a ratio of one in three. The best was yet to come, though. Snapped up by MK Dons boss Karl Robinson, a two-year stay became a six-year stay, all told, and when Dean left last year, he’d amassed 227 appearances and 48 goals. He is yet to score for current employers Northampton, though netted twice during a loan spell with Stevenage earlier this year.
Billy Clarke – 8 games, 6 goals
The importance of this man to the club getting over the line cannot be understated. Signed to cover injured Ipswich team-mate Jordan Rhodes – who himself was brought in to reinforce the frontline – Billy’s signing was almost the last throw of the dice for the Bees; they needed goals to win the league and he was their brightest hope. He didn’t let the fans down. He salvaged draws against Bradford and Exeter in April and, perhaps most iconically, netted twice against former loan club Darlington in the 3-1 win that secured the league title.Embed from Getty Images
His loan success couldn’t tempt Tractor Boys boss Roy Keane to offer a new deal and he later joined Blackpool, though agonisingly missed out on the Seasiders’ first experience of the Premier League with a knee injury sustained in pre-season. He had a pair of great spells with Crawley and Bradford between 2012 and 2017, but has suffered rotten injury luck with current side Charlton, having returned from an ACL injury in early November having been sidelined for 11 months.
Ben Hamer – 49 apps
From the Conference to the Champions League, Ben Hamer has almost done it all. But it was his years at Brentford that really put him on the map. He’d already made 21 appearances as the Bees consolidated in League Two in 2007/08 and returned the following year to become one of the key players. He was awarded the Golden Glove for 20 clean sheets kept during 2008/09, but in truth he was seldom troubled on plenty of occasions due to the calibre of the four defenders in front of him. After a season away, he returned between the sticks in 2010/11 but soon lost his place in the side when he got stuck in M4 traffic on the way to a clash with Bournemouth, which effectively kickstarted Richard Lee’s Brentford career.Embed from Getty Images
Astonishingly, the 80 appearances he made during his three seasons with the Bees is the second-highest he’s made for any club after Charlton, where he made over 120 appearances from 2011 to 2014. He spent four years as Kasper Schmeichel’s deputy at Leicester – it was during this time he made his European debut in a 5-0 away defeat to Porto – and started this season as Huddersfield’s number one. He put in unconvincing displays early on, though, and conceded nine goals in just two games against Chelsea and Manchester City. He played just 13 minutes against newly-promoted Cardiff in the next game and has been kept out of the side by Jonas Lossl ever since.
Leigh Mills – 0 apps, 0 goals
Mills was brought in by Andy Scott on a season-long loan from Tottenham in the summer of 2008 and went on to play six of the seven pre-season friendlies arranged by the club. As such a prominent figure in the season’s preparations, it was hoped the 20-year-old – who joined Spurs from Swindon at 16 for a reported £150,000 fee – would play an important role, particularly given the fact he’d just signed fresh terms at White Hart Lane.
On the eve of the season, though, the defender was recalled by his parent club and shipped him out to Gillingham instead. After eight appearances at Priestfield, he was released by the north London club and has since played for non-league clubs including Winchester and Eastleigh. During the switch to part-time football, nine months after his professional career came to an end, Mills became a PE teacher at the Wellington Academy in Wiltshire, and in 2016, graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University, with a first-class honours degree in Sports Science.