Bob Booker believes Brentford have the potential to follow Brighton into the Premier League once they get into their new ground at Lionel Road.
Both clubs are close to Booker's heart, having coached at and played for the Bees over two spells and held a variety of management positions with the Seagulls.
Booker was back at Griffin Park last Saturday to watch the win over Millwall after holding a book-signing event – his life story having been released earlier this year after being penned by life-long Bees fan Greville Waterman.
The cult hero admits the club is a world away from the one he knew so well in the 1980s and early 1990s and reckons they will keep growing, just as Brighton have, once settled in their new ground.
“Brentford really need to move into their new stadium,” Booker said. “It took Brighton 15 years, so hopefully it won't take Brentford as long. They're geared up and ready to move up, and I still see Brentford as a sleeping giant.
“Look at what Brighton have achieved, and that's got to be the goal for Brentford as well. They went from playing in front of 6,000 at Withdean to 26,000 at The Amex, and it's a stadium players want to play in as well. I don't see why Brentford can't do the same."
Booker reckons Brentford are on the verge of being a very good side on the pitch too, and was particularly impressed with Ryan Woods and Dan Bentley against Millwall.
“I like Woods, he's quality,” he said. “He plays with instinct, plays with two touches. He sees the pass and is the sort of player who can open doors – Brentford need to keep him. I also like the keeper, who has good feet and excellent distribution as well as making quality saves.
“I thought both teams played some great football but it wasn't going anywhere in terms of chances. Dean Smith is doing a great job but I just think Brentford need a bit more cutting edge – a little more goal threat so there's more end product.”
Booker admits he was taken aback when he first learnt a book was to be written about him. By his own admittance, he was always more about honest endeavour than natural skill. But it was precisely those down-to-earth qualities which made him such a hero at Sheffield United as well as the Bees.
“It was a surprise,” he said. “but a pleasant one. I was quite honoured and taken aback by it. First and foremost, I though who would want to write a book about me? I'm not one of your superstars, but having thought about it more, it made sense.
“I would spend three to four hours at a time with Greville and a dictaphone, which could be quite gruelling, and it took about a year. But we were the perfect partnership – my memories were still quite fresh and Greville knew all the stats. He did all the work really.”
Bees fans would probably plump for his hat-trick in the 7-2 hammering of Hull City in 1979 if prompted for their best Booker memory.
But the man himself is far fonder of an important goal he once scored at Gillingham, and his best memory is merely signing for the club from non-league Bedmond, despite the fact he could earn three times as much as his first weekly wage of £60 by staying on the factory floor.
On the flip side, there was the time Brentford announced his return from Sheffield United on Clubcall under the headline 'Bees to sign First Division star', which Booker felt was a bit naughty.
“I didn't particularly like the headline,” he said. “I wasn't a star, I was the same Bob Booker I had always been, albeit with some top flight games under my belt. I think the Bees fans were expecting something else.
“Going back isn't always the right thing to do, but I let me heart rule my head. I should have seen out my contract in Sheffield or just packed the game in. I got injured straight away, and it wasn't the way I wanted things to end.”
After more than 250 games for Brentford and over 100 – not to mention two promotions – with Sheffield United, Booker spent a decade and a half in various coaching roles but is now happily working as a driving instructor.
“Football is a bubble you think you're going to be in for ever,” he added. “I miss the day to day banter of the dressing room, but I certainly don't miss the travelling. It's about quality of life – I'm my own boss now, and it's not 24/7.”
OOH-AAH: The Bob Booker Story is still available to buy at https://www.amazon.co.uk/OOH-AAH-Booker-Story-Greville-Waterman/dp/1910515590