The season of good will is well and truly over. Today I welcome Philip Evans to Regista to discuss the evil of Martin Rowlands. I wasn’t aware of this Rowland’s contentious back story, but he does come across as quite the bastard. Also, if you’ve wondered what it’s like to see all your rivals pumped full of cash while your club is left to feed off scraps, then read on. Over to Phil:
As a Brentford fan, I’ve grown used to seeing promising young players emerge in the golden sunshine ofGriffin Park only to be drawn away with the promise of achieving mediocrity in the Championship. It’s ok, that’s the life we’ve all come to know and tolerate.
Only the most deluded of supporters could really begrudge a League One player their opportunity to tear themselves away from the boredom of their cosy but success-free surroundings to more comfortable climbs, the bench at St Mary’s being a particular favourite it seems. And some players have even risen above my cynicism to reach the very top. Like many Bees fans, I’ve watched with interest the likes Marcus Bent, DJ Campbell and club hero Herman Hreidarsson in their valiant attempts to stave off relegation from the Premier League, in all of their cases with more than one struggling side, the plucky blighters.
But when it comes to ex-Bees that have disgraced themselves, there’s only one name that will immediately cross the mind of any right thinking fan, that of Martin Rowlands. It’s a shame it has to be this way. Rowlands was that rare thing, a lower league midfielder with a bit of pace who could run with the ball at his feet and had a decent shot from distance. Making his debut in the side that won the Third Division championship in 1998/9, his promising career was sadly interrupted by a long spell out after suffering a broken leg, and it’s after this that his frosty relationship with the fans began. Many maintain that even after the club had shown faith in him during his recuperation, his attitude changed dramatically. He wouldn’t train, then in matches he’d deliberately go in for reckless challenges hoping to get sent off, openly agitating for a move. What’s not in doubt is that he fell out with manager Wally Downes and, in 2003, after five seasons at Brentford, Rowlands was signed on a free by Ian Holloway, heading a QPR team that had tumbled into the third tier.
Moving to your local rivals will never endear you to fans of your former club, but there are ways of going about it with the tact and diplomacy that one expects of footballers. The ever so classy ‘refusing to celebrate a goal against former club’ goal celebration that has become popular is a good example. Rowlands didn’t go down this route. Instead, he took the kind of balls out, badge-kissing, fuck you approach that would later be perfected by Emmanuel Adebayor. After a tight 1-0 victory over Brentford atLoftus Roadin which he’d goaded the fans at every opportunity they gave him, instead of celebrating with his new fans, Rowlands charged up to the away end to revel in the vitriol. His behaviour that day was so bad it continues to supply a large proportion of his wikipedia page, though I hasten to add it’s not my work.
As such his name is one I don’t care to think about that often, even years after the event. Unfortunately it’s one that I was forced to remember while putting together my fantasy league team early this season. Scouring the bottom of the market for a space-filler who might facilitate my South American dream team of Agüero and Suarez, there he was, yours for a frankly laughable £4.5m.
It was as though I had seen an ex-girlfriend, years after the fact, having a fabulous time, still with the rich boyfriend for whom she had left me, now enjoying the kind of lifestyle I could never hope to have provided her, either then or now. It might not have been a particularly close relationship, the kind where you only really saw her at weekends and sometimes on a Tuesday night; you might have shared in their rapturous joy occasionally, but more often you’d be screaming at her for blazing it over the bar and not squaring it to Ijah Anderson, who was in acres. And ultimately, she didn’t really know your name or even who you were. On second thoughts, it wasn’t at all like seeing an ex girlfriend and this isn’t a very apt metaphor. Plus, even for a prick like me, ex girlfriends are more numerous than competent Brentford midfielders over the years, so in that sense at least, being reminded of his success was much, much worse.
Maybe it’s not his actions on the pitch that day that hurt. Maybe it’s what they represented as part of the bigger picture. Al Fayed’s millions had already dragged traditional bottom dwelling rivals Fulham into the gleaming lights of the Premier League, and forever away from the chance of another riverside derby. QPR’s decline had offered the opportunity for a return to a regularWest Londonrivalry that meant something to Bees fans. The sight of Rowlands rubbing their superiority in our faces seemed almost to presage the future in which we find ourselves now, one in which the romance and rich history that Chelsea, Fulham and QPR can all look back on meant football know nothings with money to burn saw potential in the faded football clubs of West London, pumping hundreds of millions into everyone but Brentford.
That kind of appeal, of Peter Osgood, Johnny Haynes, Rodney Marsh, is something Brentford simply don’t have and it has almost ensured we’ll never see in the future. While it’s meant that we haven’t had to suffer anyone as appalling as Ken Bates or Bernie Eccleston in charge, or even witness the unveiling of a statue glorifying the world’s most famous suspected paedophile outside the ground, it’s also meant we’ll never again enjoy the simple pleasures of a close rivalry against a team that lives on similar resources, that otherwise plays in a ramshackle stadium with a meagre gate except for those special derby days. Perhaps that loss, that knowledge of being left behind in a world that looks increasingly uncertain for lower league clubs, is what we all saw that day being thrown into explicit relief, by a player for whom months earlier, we would have been singing an entirely different set of chants.
Actually scrub that, he was just being prick. Fuck him and fuck those shitty Hoops.