Brentford's novice coach and veteran captain ready for a taste of Wembley

Final is a day of firsts for Bees' Nicky Forster and Kevin O'Connor, writes Paul Newman

Nicky Forster takes his Brentford team to Wembley for tomorrow's Johnstone's Paint Trophy final against Carlisle United after less than two months and just 13 matches as manager. His longest-serving player, captain Kevin O'Connor, has waited 14 years for his chance and will play for the first time at the national stadium in his 430th appearance for the Bees.

Forster, a 37-year-old striker who has scored goals for Gillingham, Brentford, Birmingham, Reading, Ipswich, Hull, Brighton and Charlton in a career spanning 19 seasons, returned to Griffin Park as a player last summer but was offered the chance to begin his managerial career when Andy Scott was sacked in February.

"I got the position almost by default as I was the most experienced player here in terms of my age and the games I've played," Forster said after a training session this week at Brentford's training ground at Osterley. "I was obviously disappointed for my predecessor as he had played a big part in getting us to Wembley. The chance to manage came sooner than I had imagined, though I'd always wanted to stay in the game and I've done my coaching badges."

Forster's first spell with Brentford was between 1995 and 1997, which was the year when O'Connor signed for the club. "My uncle was working with a coach at Brentford and asked him if I could have a trial," the 29-year-old midfielder recalled. "I played at under-15s level and things moved on from then.

"I've always been happy here. I've always been involved under every manager, which always helps, and Brentford have been a brilliant club. I can't speak highly enough of the people who work here. A lot of them have been at the club for years."

Forster, who has not played since he took the hot seat, has made a promising start, winning eight of his 13 matches in charge including the last three, the latest a 2-1 victory last week over tomorrow's opponents and a 3-1 win at Sheffield Wednesday on Tuesday. The improvement is probably too late to resurrect the chance of winning a place in the League One play-offs, but the manager is pleased with his team's form.

"We're playing some good football," he said. "We know that momentum is key. I think getting into the final has given a buoyancy to the club. I was concerned that we might suffer a bit of a dip going into the final as players would try to protect themselves for the big day, but thankfully that hasn't happened."

Which of his managers had he learned most from? "I've taken bits and pieces from all of them," Forster said. "Alan Pardew and Steve Coppell both taught me a lot at Reading, as did Joe Royle at Ipswich. I liked Steve Coppell's calm approach. He didn't rant and rave. Whenever he spoke you listened. I don't think you can shout and bawl at players these days because they'll just switch off and they won't respond."

O'Connor, who played for the Republic of Ireland's Under-21 team, also has good memories of Coppell, one of 10 managers he has served under at Brentford. His first was Ron Noades, who was both owner and manager of the club.

In O'Connor's second season in the team, Brentford played in the final of the LDV Vans Trophy – the same competition in which they have reached this season's final but with a different sponsor – but he was injured and did not feature at the Millennium Stadium. He came on as a substitute when Brentford returned to Cardiff a year later, when they lost to Stoke City in the play-off final.

"I've never been to Wembley as a player," O'Connor said. "I'm really looking forward to it. I've been a couple of times as a spectator. I went to the Carling Cup final. A few of us were in a box and it was an amazing view. It's a fantastic stadium and it's hard to believe now that I'm going to be playing there.

"I thought the chance of playing there might have passed me by. I've got about 30 family or friends coming to the match. My brother works out in the Cayman Islands but he's coming back for the match."

The one major disappointment for Brentford is that their goalkeeper, Richard Lee, will not be playing because of a shoulder injury. Lee had played a crucial part in Brentford's run to Wembley, which featured penalty shoot-out victories over Leyton Orient, Swindon and Charlton.

Brentford have sold more than 24,000 tickets for the match, which should draw a crowd of around 40,000. Carlisle, their opponents, are the tournament specialists. This will be their sixth appearance in the final, the most recent having been a defeat to Southampton 12 months ago.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest in Sport
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'