I’M PROUD TO HAVE BEEN A ONE CLUB MAN

GOOD BAD & UGLY: KEVIN O’CON­NOR

The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE ONE - By John Lyons

WHAT was the worst job in football – be­ing Kevin O’ Con­nor’s agent! In 15 years as a pro­fes­sional, O’Con­nor never moved from his beloved Brent­ford.

In to­tal, the lo­cal lad notched up 501 ap­pear­ances to earn fourth place in the Bees’ all-time ap­pear­ance chart be­fore hang­ing up his boots this sum­mer.

Now 33 and work­ing as as­sis­tant man­ager of Brent­ford’s Un­der-21s, the ami­able O’Con­nor can pass on plenty of ad­vice to the young lads in his care.

“My dream was to play pro­fes­sional football and I got to an okay stan­dard,” said the for­mer Bees cap­tain mod­estly. “I think I got the most out of my abil­ity.

“I’m very proud to have stayed at Brent­ford – I think I’ve been good to them and they’ve been good to me. It’s great to see the way the club is go­ing now.

“I re­mem­ber the dark days when the club was strug­gling, but now it’s in the Cham­pi­onship and on an up­ward curve.

“Peo­ple ques­tion if I ever came close to leav­ing, but there was never a stage when fees were agreed be­tween clubs so it was never in my hands. I don’t re­gret that, though I would have liked to have played at a higher level.

“Maybe some­thing could have hap­pened, but I was al­ways happy and con­tent at Brent­ford. I knew a lot of peo­ple and they looked af­ter me well. I just worked hard ev­ery day and tried to en­joy my ca­reer.

“There are new play­ers and man­age­ment at the club now and it will take a lit­tle time for things to set­tle down, but the fu­ture is def­i­nitely bright.”

FIRST CLUB

Brent­ford. I´d been at Southamp­ton for two years as a school­boy, but noth­ing came of that. I then got a trial at Brent­ford and played for the Un­der-15s and Un­der­16s. Just be­fore my 18th birth­day I was told the club were go­ing to of­fer me a two-year con­tract. I made my league de­but on the day I signed the con­tract – it was at home against Wy­combe Wan­der­ers in Fe­bru­ary 2000 and it was a 0-0 bore draw!

BEST MAN­AGER

This is a re­ally tough one as I had a lot of good man­agers over the years. It would be un­fair of me to pick one, so I’m go­ing to say it’s be­tween Steve Cop­pell, Martin Allen and Mark War­bur­ton.

Steve was quite quiet and re­served, but when he spoke you lis­tened. He was very knowl­edge­able about the game.

Martin’s per­son­al­ity was the op­po­site of Steve – he was an ex­tro­vert char­ac­ter.

He was very loud and in your face, but in a pos­i­tive way. He wanted the best for ev­ery­one and pushed you in a lot of dif­fer­ent ways.

I was player-coach last sea­son and gained a lot of re­spect for Mark. His man-man­age­ment was ex­cel­lent, and he knew how to mo­ti­vate play­ers and get the best out of them. When things weren’t go­ing right, he kept calm and stuck to his plan.

BEST TEAM-MATE

Another dif­fi­cult one, but I’d go for Adam For­shaw for his abil­ity on the ball. He’s not the quick­est, but over ten yards he’s very sharp and gets away from play­ers. A cou­ple of play­ers who would run him close are Alan Judge and Jay Tabb. Both have got a lot of qual­ity.

FIRST PRO­MO­TION

It was when we won League Two in 2008-09. I re­mem­ber I was on the bench in the early part of the sea­son and I was ques­tion­ing what was go­ing to hap­pen. But then I got in and stayed in. The team spirit was un­be­liev­able. We used to grind games out and some­one would pro­duce a bit of magic. We got on a roll and kept it go­ing. Win­ning pro­mo­tion is the best feel­ing – that’s what you play the game for and it was my favourite sea­son.

Among oth­ers, we had Char­lie Mac­Don­ald scor­ing lots of goals, Jor­dan Rhodes on loan, Mar­cus Bean was my mid­field part­ner and Sam Wood play­ing his first full sea­son.

FUN­NI­EST PLAYER

I’ll go with David Hunt and David McCracken who liked to play the odd joke or two. One time they hid a few sar­dines in dif­fer­ent places in Michael Spil­lane’s car and he didn’t know where the smell was com­ing from.

I think he even­tu­ally found a cou­ple of them, but couldn’t find the last one. No-one knew who had done it for a long time and it wasn’t un­til af­ter they’d left the club that the cul­prits, who were in a car school along with Craig Wood­man, were dis­cov­ered.

FUN­NI­EST IN­CI­DENT

Martin Allen was quite fa­mous for swimming in rivers and I re­mem­ber the first time he did it at Hartle­pool, though it was more of a stream.

He stood on the edge of the bank and then asked who would bet him that he wouldn’t swim to the other side.

He took his top off, but then he slipped – and had to swim across. I don’t know if he’d have done it if he hadn’t slipped, but that’s where the leg­end started and he did it at other places.We were all laugh­ing when he ran back to the ho­tel drip­ping wet.

BIG­GEST ACHIEVE­MENT

Win­ning pro­mo­tion from League One to the Cham­pi­onship in 2013-14. I was on the bench quite a lot, but the qual­ity of the team was top drawer and it was amaz­ing to be part of.

You’ve got to give Uwe Rosler some of the credit for get­ting the

ball rolling but Mark War­bur­ton, who had been sport­ing di­rec­tor, then came in and we kicked on again. Reach­ing the play-offs last sea­son was another great achieve­ment.

LOW­EST MO­MENT

Rel­e­ga­tion from League One in 2006-07. That was a hard sea­son, noth­ing we tried seemed to work and I didn’t play well my­self. It was a hor­ri­ble time.

I had been there a long time and I was ques­tion­ing my­self, ques­tion­ing whether I was good enough to be a foot­baller. That’s what hap­pens when you have a sea­son like that and it wasn’t a good sum­mer. It was also part of the rea­son why pro­mo­tion in 2008-09 was so spe­cial.We had put that wrong right.

TOUGH­EST PLACE TO GO

Sheffield Wed­nes­day had one of the best at­mos­pheres. When it’s bounc­ing it’s dif­fi­cult, but for­tu­nately I won at Hills­brough once or twice. MK Dons was a tough place to get a re­sult.

TOUGH­EST OP­PO­NENT

I’ve made a few play­ers look good over the years! When winger Ben Mar­shall was on loan at Sheffield Wed­nes­day he gave me a real runaround. I didn’t like pacy play­ers and Leroy Lita was another dif­fi­cult op­po­nent in his Bristol City days.

Graham Ka­vanagh was a tough op­po­nent in mid­field and I used to have some good bat­tles with Alan McCor­mack. We used to kick lumps out of each other and we had a laugh about that when he joined Brent­ford.

FAVOURITE PLACE TO GO

Wy­combe Wan­der­ers. Adams Park was a lucky ground for me – I scored there two or three times and seemed to do well when I played there.

AM­BI­TION

I’m as­sis­tant man­ager of Brent­ford’s Un­der-21s and I’m do­ing my coach­ing badges – I’m work­ing to­wards my A-Li­cence now. I want to learn the whole coach­ing side, work my way up and see what hap­pens.

I’m en­joy­ing the coach­ing now, but I would like to be a man­ager one day. Peo­ple ask me if I would like to man­age Brent­ford and if the chance arose I would have a go, but that’s a long way off.

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

Joint-best man­ager: Steve Cop­pell Best team-mate: Adam For­shaw First pro­mo­tion: Win­ning League Two in 2008-09 Tough­est place to go: Hills­bor­ough CAP­TAIN MARVEL: Kevin O’Con­nor leads Brent­ford out

Fun­ni­est in­ci­dent: Brent­ford boss Martin Allen Favourite place to go: Adams Park Tough­est op­po­nent: Ben Mar­shall

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