As Terry Evans racks his brains on a blustery afternoon in early October, something clicks and he suddenly draws a comparison, which turns out to be quite apt: the 1991/92 title-winning Brentford side, traveled a similar path as the team. who triumphed in the Play-Offs to reach the Premier League earlier this year.
“We were a fairly young team and I think the little disappointments we had before – the FA Cup run in 1989 and the Play-Offs experience the year before – only made the team stronger.” , he explains.
“As we gained experience, things kept evolving. It’s quite similar to the current team, albeit in a higher division; they were almost men for a few years, missed the Play-Offs, then went up last season. If you keep the core of the team together and accumulate experience, that’s something you can’t buy.
As the six-foot-five captain of the Bees, the irrepressible Terry – who had made an almost unbelievable 163 appearances in all competitions over the previous three campaigns – towered over many of his opponents and was one of the most important figures . in Phil Holder’s team.
Having grafted himself into the slums of the Third Division, he knew something good was on the horizon.
“I don’t think it was ever talked about, but we knew we were bubbling as a decent team,” he said. “We knew we were going to be there or thereabouts. We could take care of ourselves – travel is pretty tough in this division, go up north to play tough, fighting teams – but we could defend and support each other.
“I don’t remember thinking there was any pressure. I always talk about the environment because it was led by the team – the dressing room took care of itself. Phil was very good at what he did tactically and things like that, but you wouldn’t get away with much on the pitch or making mistakes. Someone was always on your case – in a nice way! There was a very good team spirit. I always thought we were a strong team.
By the time the 91/92 season rolled around, Terry and Keith Millen – who had recently taken over as Carlisle United manager – had forged an enviable partnership at the back and, in an earlier interview with the club , he explained how they were the best. buddies off the pitch, too.
Driven by slightly younger understudy Jamie Bates, the pair have become a formidable force at the heart of the back four, bound by an intuition that has continued to blossom.
“You get this real understanding with each other. It’s hard to explain because you just get that sixth sense; you know where it’s going to be. Milly and I were very close, but some days we would dig each other on the pitch and then after the game we would sit with one arm around each other, no hard feelings.
“We wanted the best out of people and we wouldn’t take anything less, really, so you’d be happy to tell someone if they weren’t making their weight. I made my money on the road, playing in the north where I had to compete, lead as a skipper and take on the battle. But I had great people around me, so it made it easier for me.
“I made my money on the road. I had to face it, lead as skipper and face the battle”
If his impressive appearance tally and strong defensive presence weren’t enough, an eight-goal league comeback was only bettered by forwards Gary Blissett and Dean Holdsworth in 91/92.
“It was all down to good service,” he laughs. “With my size I should have hit a few and if the boys put the ball in the air I would try to finish it off.
“Neil Smillie and the boys taking the corners and the set pieces were brilliant. They put the ball in there after Phil came up with a good set piece plan and it all fell into place. I was just lucky they stuck it on a sixpence for me.
The conversation soon turns to the run-in. “It was our best race of the season,” said Terry proudly.
To win six games in a row is striking, but to do so at such a crucial time in the season – particularly after a difficult start to the year – and only concede two goals along the way is something.
“It would be nice to say it was all down to great defending, but the best form of defense is attacking,” he said. “Against Fulham, the boys put them four in the first half and it made life so much easier for them. I’d like to take all the credit, but you’re as good as the boys around you.
“It was very strange to end the season like that because we got to this mentality that we thought was unbeatable. It was surprising how confident we were – there weren’t really any nerves. It was a funny old thing. We drove over Fulham and hoped we could play Peterborough the next day! That was the mindset of the boys. It was a real crazy vibe around the place.
“On a match day Milly and I usually wouldn’t get up until around 11am and then come downstairs for the pre-match meal, but when the Peterborough game finally came we were up by eight!” We were so excited to go out and get the job done.
In the end, Terry assisted with the goal which saw the Bees crowned champions at London Road. He connected with Brian Statham’s free kick just after halfway, saw his header swing over the crossbar and back into the path of Blissett, who guided a simple header from close range, which went turned out to be the winner.
It’s the memories of a great defensive performance that stand out for him, though.
“I think they must have had a lot of possession against us, but we could have been there all day and I felt confident enough to keep a clean sheet. We were hitting the ball long and it was coming straight back at us, but that probably helped us because we could defend deep, absorb it, let it all in and then clear it. It’s crazy how comfortable it is.
“I never liked that we were under pressure; I felt confident and relaxed there. A few years earlier, Steve Perryman had persuaded us to be happy defending and we were. I watched the game back and there were a few near misses for Peterborough but back then you think ‘over my dead body’ – we could have been there for ten hours and they wouldn’t have scored!
The Bees had to hold onto that invaluable lead for over an hour – unaware that their closest rival Birmingham were losing at Stockport and were about to drop top spot at exactly the wrong time. Pure jubilation followed.
“We knew if we won we’d be promoted but we had no idea Birmingham’s result. We celebrated we were on our feet and it wasn’t until we got to the dressing room that we found out we were champions.
“It’s the thing we dreamed of when we were children. I know everyone wants to win the FA Cup, but lifting that trophy as captain was probably the second best thing I could do. It was just awesome and I think I was on the p*ss for about two weeks after! I loved every minute.
“To lift that trophy as a captain – that’s what you dream of as a kid. I was on the p*ss for about two weeks afterwards!
The 1992/93 campaign, however, was less than positive for player and club; an injury meant Terry was limited to just 11 appearances as the Bees suffered immediate relegation to the third tier. Holder was sacked as a result, with David Webb named as a replacement.
This decision spelled the end of the defender’s time in red and white.
“I would have stayed at Brentford all my career,” he continues.
“But I didn’t really have a choice, to be honest. Webb was just chasing senior players and I didn’t even get a chance to make the team. He got rid of people like me, Smillie and Milly because he just wanted young guys he could handle.
“I had no problem with anyone else, it was a great club with great people, it was just that Webb wanted to do it his way – and obviously he didn’t do much for the club at the end. I was extremely sad to leave. Looking back, he probably wasn’t the right guy to bring in.
Martin O’Neill then loaned him out to Wycombe, before making the move permanent for around £40,000 around two months later. And although injury sidelined him for the final months of the 1993/94 season, Terry’s first season with The Chairboys ended with their promotion via the Third Division Play-Offs.
Terry spent a further three years at Buckinghamshire, his final season as a player ending in a third career promotion, when he captained Kingstonian to the Isthmian Premier title in 1997/98. Shortly after retiring at the age of 33, he returned to Wycombe in a new position that paved the way for an off-court career that continues to this day.
“It fell into place, really,” he says. “I’ve always loved the training side of the game and was planning on going the fitness and personal training route. I had a really good physio at Wycombe who was called Dave Jones and he helped me with the knee problems I had suffered there as a player.
“He knew I was interested in this stuff and told me to start getting my qualifications because there was a job at the academy. After doing a distance learning program I joined and graduated and then worked within the academy until 2004. After that I left to run a gym for a few years and then returned to Wycombe in 2006 as a coach of strength and conditioning and then took on a similar role at Wasps two years later.I always loved my rugby – I played in school and it was always my second sport.
“I later returned to physio with London Welsh and am now at Ealing Trailfinders, where I do a bit of everything: diagnosis, assessment, management, treatment – the whole shebang. I also go to the theater and watch surgery, and I have good relationships with very good surgeons.
“I feel so lucky to have been in professional sports all my life. It’s just great to be around the guys and it keeps you young.
A frequent visitor to TW8, Terry admits it’s still humbling to remember the club where he made his name, even 28 years after he left.
“It’s really amazing that I’m going back and people still remember me to this day. I guess I stand out a bit, which helps! It’s a great club. There’s a new stadium , but there are a lot of old faces left, which is great to see.
With his 285 appearances for the club making him one of the top 20 appearance makers of all time for Brentford and a 2013 poll naming him the greatest captain ever, Terry Evans’ name is one that will not be soon forgotten. .
Fields: Terry receives a bottle of Barclays champagne for scoring the fastest league goal of the season against Preston North End