Move over, Mourinho, here comes the demented diver of Brentford

FA Cup countdown: West London's other ego can claim prize of Manchester United tie with slaying of the Saints
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The Independent Online

Back in the early Sixties, the old Third Division was no territory for the cerebral; no place for those who would dwell on the ball. The late Dennis Allen was a player apart, a sublimely balanced, laid-back exponent of the inside-forward's arts, so much so that at Reading's original ground, Elm Park, he bore, good-naturedly, the epithets "Dolly" and "Daisy". They were terms of endearment, not derision.

Back in the early Sixties, the old Third Division was no territory for the cerebral; no place for those who would dwell on the ball. The late Dennis Allen was a player apart, a sublimely balanced, laid-back exponent of the inside-forward's arts, so much so that at Reading's original ground, Elm Park, he bore, good-naturedly, the epithets "Dolly" and "Daisy". They were terms of endearment, not derision.

Forty years on, no one could ever endow his son, Martin, with such a description. Indeed, quite the opposite. Clearly, this Allen - yet another member of that prodigiously gifted footballing clan - had a gene bypass. His somewhat intimidating, and occasionally confrontational, playing style at Queen's Park Rangers, West Ham, Portsmouth and Reading conspired to earn him the not entirely imaginative nickname of "Mad Dog".

In his managerial guise, he tends to be regarded in some quarters as just plain barking. Taking a skinny-dip into the Tees, before the FA Cup replay at Hartlepool, and into the Solent, too, prior to that remarkable FA Cup tie at Southampton - "like Mark Spitz", as he described it - has scarcely disabused the footballing world of that perception of him.

It is more than just showmanship from a manager some have suggested is a mini-Mourinho. His dives into immortality are said, at least in this quarter of London, to demonstrate to his players what the human body is capable of; to make a point about fear and how to overcome it.

As a coach at Reading, under Alan Pardew, his, shall we say, enthusiasm on the touchline was frequently a source of conflict with opponents' benches. Perhaps it is no wonder that of the club rules he has imposed since becoming manager of Brentford 11 months ago, offences relating to the manager include: "Fighting the opposition: manager, players or supporters". That is liable to a £100 fine.

Some may suggest that there is one west London ego too many already. The manner in which Allen milked a standing ovation from the home supporters here yesterday on the way to the dug-out, and danced - well, dementedly would be the most accurate description - down the touchline after Stephen Hunt's added-time equaliser, confirms that he believes there is room for another.

Say what you will, there is a method about this character, who has succeeded in elevating Brentford from a club being sucked into the relegation morass when he arrived to one with the play-offs, and an enriched life in the Coca-Cola Championship, on their minds. Not that such a target was on his mind after yesterday's 3-3 draw with Sheffield Wednesday. For Allen, that point was one which ensures his team's survival -- his first priority before promotion, certainly before FA Cup feats, can be entertained.

An FA Cup run is welcome; particularly so for a club desperate to relieve themselves of financial pressures. They don't come any more attractive to a club's bean-counters than a home quarter-final tie with Manchester United, which would be the result of victory in Tuesday's replay here.

Asked whether he had seen anything of the early kick-off Southampton-Arsenal game, he responded self-deprecatingly: "I'm not clever enough to watch other football matches when I'm preparing my own team." He added, more seriously: "I've no fear about playing a Premier League club. The first game was, emotionally and mentally, very draining. We went straight up to Hartlepool [for their League game] and the only training we did was having a snowball fight in the hotel car-park. It's all a unusual experience for a lot of players who are all new together."

Allen has introduced a whole gamut of players, who are expected to respond positively to his sometimes eccentric approach. They include last Saturday's goalscorers, Isaiah Rankin, highly travelled (although mostly on economy class) since his days as an Arsenal trainee, and the Nigerian Sam Sodje, who was plucked from non-League Margate. The manager doesn't necessarily demand clones of himself; but the Bees manager doesn't want drones, either.

However, he has introduced strict rules for players, among which are: no "dissing" of ground or club and staff. Fine £20. Recently, off-field events have given supporters plenty of excuses to "diss" their club, specifically the error made on the ticket allocation for the original South-ampton game in asking for a mere 3,200.

Wednesday still harbour ambitions of automatic promotion, and always dominated this contest from the moment Lee Peacock half-volleyed an opener from 20 yards. The home keeper, Adeola Bankole, was at fault in conceding Peacock's second near half-time. Deon Burton produced some relief with a contemptuously struck 20-yard volley, but a Lee Bullen header increased the visitors' advantage. A goal from Brentford substitute Ryan Peters produced a frenetic finale, in which Steve Hunt scored the equaliser in added time.

Allen was a man possessed... One can only imagine what his dad would have made of it.

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