1:21pm Friday 19th March 2004
By Tony Flood
BRENTFORD bowed to fan power by sacking manager Wally Downes by telephone on Sunday - and yesterday appointed Martin Allen, the boss of Conference club Barnet, in his place.
The Second Division strugglers switched to Allen after their former manager Steve Perryman, now director of football at Exeter City, turned them down on Saturday - the day before Downes was told of his dismissal.
Allen, the former QPR, West Ham and Portsmouth midfielder, will be in charge of the Brentford team for this Saturday's home league game against Rushden and Diamonds (3pm).
Brentford director John McGlashan told me yesterday: "I spoke to Steve Perryman on Saturday night and asked him if he would be interested in the job. I asked him to give me a yes' or no' answer and he said no'.
"We also considered Weymouth manager Steve Claridge, Woking boss Glenn Cockerill, a former Brentford midfielder, ex-QPR chief Gerry Francis and ex-Southampton manager Stuart Gray, but Martin Allen was strongly recommended to us by people in the game.
"I contacted his chairman on Tuesday and when he spoke to Martin he said he wanted to talk to us. We spoke to Martin on Wednesday and he fitted the bill. He is fully aware of our financial situation and has been working under severe financial restrictions at Barnet."
Allen, 38, is a member of the famous Allen footballing family, and was previously assistant manager at first Reading and then Barnet becofre being promoted a year ago.
Downes was sacked following Saturday's 2-0 home defeat by fellow strugglers Stockport, at which a section of the crowd called for him to go. Downes had also been the target for abuse after the recent 3-2 home defeat by Notts County and a few fans emailed Brentford threatening to stop sending in subscriptions and donations unless the manager was replaced.
The defeat by Stockport took Brentford's depressing run to just one win in 19 matches and left them next to bottom of the table, five points short of safety. The directors immediately put Downes' 44-year-old assistant Garry Thompson, the former Coventry and Aston Villa striker, in charge for Tuesday's game at Blackpool, with first team coach Jim Stannard assisting him.
Downes, appointed in June 2002 after being assistant manager to Steve Coppell, told me: "I am very disappointed. I worked within the limited budget I was given." In fact, it was one of the lowest in the Football League. He is now waiting for a settlement on his contract which ran until the end of the season.
Chairman Eddie Rogers revealed: "The fact that fans were calling for Wally to go was an influence because we are a club which listens to our fans. But if we had felt it was right to keep him we would have done. When I phoned him on Sunday to tell him he was shocked.
"We had to make a change because we have won only once since November and after losing five games in succession were staring relegation in the face. I really did not think it would come to this. But after defeats by Notts County and Stockport Wally's position became untenable.
"It was a very difficult decision to make because Wally is an excellent coach who did a good job last season and for the first half of this season."
McGlashan added: "We did not make a knee-jerk decision. After the Notts County defeat on February 28 we received emails from some fans threatening to cancel their subscriptions and donations to our supporters trust Bees United unless Wally was replaced. Subscriptions to Bees United amount to around £6,500 a month and there is a total of £100,000 a year including fund raising. But we made our own decision - not because of threats to withdraw funding."
However, he admitted the directors had done a U-turn by revealing: "Wally asked us a month ago if we were prepared to offer him a new contract for next season and we said yes', on the same terms, but added that we could not commit ourselves at that stage."
Thompson said: "Wally's sacking has upset me. I loved working with him. He kept to the financial constraints he was given and warned that by doing so things would be difficult. After the Notts County defeat there was so much flack that some of the players were reduced to tears. But the players are carrying on doing what Wally wanted them to do.
"Ironically, his last act at the club was to set up the loan transfer of centre-half Scott Fitzgerald from Colchester. I went ahead and signed him because I agree with Wally that Scott is exactly what we need - a talker and an organiser.
"Wally also signed striker Matt Harrold, who has only made two starts but now must be given his head."
* Brentford Reserves gained their first win in the Combination by beating Southend 3-2 on Wednesday when play started an hour late due to Southend being held up by traffic. The Bees came from 2-1 down to win with goals by Martin Peters (penalty), triallist Craig Dobson and Stephen Evans.
Bees Reserves: Lennie, Allen-Page, Wells, Smith, Fieldwick, Peters (Gauci, 62), Evans, Hughes, Rhodes, Harrold, Blackman (Dobson, 54).
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