Mar 31 2011 By Tim Street
YOU will probably hear the cheers from Brentford if the Bees take an early lead at Wembley on Sunday - but Kevin O’Connor will be a bit more cautious.
The utility man was a rookie watching from the stands when the Bees played Port Vale in the 2001 final at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.
And no Bees fan will need reminding that, despite taking the lead through Michael Dobson only a few minutes in, Brentford went on to lose 2-1.
O’Connor had in fact made his debut in the previous season’s competition, as Brentford were knocked out at Exeter City, and by the Port Vale final he had 19 games under his belt.
But the veteran of more than 400 games for the Bees is honest enough to admit he probably would not have been in the starting XI anyway, had he not been injured.
O’Connor said: "I was up there in the stands, suited and booted for the Port Vale final, along with the other lads who weren’t playing.
"I was carrying an injury, but if I’m honest, it was only my first full season, and I had been in and out of the side, so probably wouldn’t have started the game anyway.
"I remember Dobbo scoring early on and the fans going crazy, but if ever there is an example of scoring too early, that was it.
"We stopped playing our natural game after that and tried to defend our lead instead, but Port Vale won it with two late goals.
"I also remember Gavin Mahon, who was playing as a sweeper, making the mistake which led to their winner, which was a bit harsh on him as he had had a brilliant season up to then."
Twelve months later, Brentford were back at the Millennium for a Division Two play-off final against Stoke City.
This time, O’Connor, with another full season under his belt, came on as a late sub for Martin Rowlands as the Bees lost 2-0, which led to the break-up of Steve Coppell’s brilliant side.
O’Connor said: "It was a real shame. That Brentford side deserved to play at a higher level, but when we lost the play-off final the team just broke up.
"To be honest, there had been rumours even before the game that all the out-of-contact players were leaving, and it was a strange atmosphere.
"Too many players had off-days in both finals, but this time we’ve just got to go there full of confidence - and perform."