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The reign of Derek Brain

Back in early summer, Danny Greaves became the third longest serving Frome Town manager having been appointed in May 2018. So, who are the pair who have occupied the Badgers Hill hotseat for longer?


Number two on the list is Derek Brian, whose spell in charge of the First Team spanned eight years and three months but he signed for The Robins as a player in 1966 from Weston-super-Mare.


Originally a left winger, his versatility saw him cover a number of positions and he became player-manager for The Reserves for the 1969-70 season, giving a young Colin Dredge his debut along the way.


Roy Bartlett stepped down from his role as First Team boss at the end of that campaign and in June, just when England were losing their world crown in the searing Mexican heat in an extra time thriller against West Germany, Brain was appointed from a short list of five.


His first season was a struggle and there was talk of the club resigning from the Western League but three wins from the last four games took them out of the bottom two and the threat to withdrawal to county football was lifted.


Other clubs did leave and for the 1971-72 season, the league consisted of a mere 14 teams (just one division then) and a subsidiary cup was introduced to pad out the fixture list and Frome topped their group to qualify for the final played at Bridgwater where they lost 0-2 to league champions Bideford.


The following campaign brought a fine run in the FA Cup and after epic replay victories at Welton Rovers and Southern League Salisbury, Brain’s resilient side were drawn at home to Banbury United (also of the Southern League) in the Fourth Qualifying Round.


1,140 witnessed a very physical contest which ended all square at 1-1 but the replay was lost 0-3 in heavy rain and in the half century since, Frome have reached this final stage before the competition proper just once.


By now, Brain’s appearances on the pitch were few and far between but he did have an eye for talent, signing the likes of Steve Gay, Dave Allen and Steve Walkey.

With the new club house being built and sponsorship from tobacco giants Rothmans, there was a feel good factor about the place and a relatively successful 1974-75 season (6th in the league) was capped by a run to the League Cup final where they would meet undefeated league champions Falmouth over two legs.


Hopes were high after a Pym Bailey strike had secured a fabulous and unexpected 1-1 draw in Cornwall, but The Ambers hit top form at Badgers Hill in a 5-0 second leg rout.


Frome exacted a degree of revenge the following season, inflicting upon Falmouth their first home defeat in two-and-a-half years and another highlight was their furthest ever away trip, a Rothmans Inter-League Cup quarter final at Blyth Spartans and although the tie was lost 1-2, it was a weekend that none who went would ever forget.


Eyebrows were raised when he signed forty-year-old former Bristol Rovers legend Ray Mabbutt, a veteran of some 400 Football League appearances (who would play against his son and future England international Gary in a pre-season friendly) and he scored the winner in a famous 2-1 FA Cup victory over Yeovil Town which had Badgers Hill rocking in September 1977.


The 1978-79 season began badly, however, with one win in seven and after mounting criticism from supporters and a 5-2 home defeat to Bideford, Brain decided to call it a day.


As honourable as ever, he stayed on to oversee one final game, a 1-0 win at Keynsham until the new man, which turned out to be Bob Boyd, was in place.


While trophy-less and steady in the league (never higher than sixth), Derek Brain’s long stint in charge of Frome Town was a period fondly remembered with many highlights.


League record (complete seasons)


Season Division Final position


1970-71 West Lge 16th

1971-72 West Lge 6th

1972-73 West Lge 10th

1973-74 West Lge 7th

1974-75 West Lge 6th

1975-76 West Lge 11th

1976-77 West Lge Prem 12th

1977-78 West Lge Prem 7th


With thanks to Kerry Miller’s fabulous book ‘The Boys on the Hill’ and Barrie Simmons.

 

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Gerry Urch
Gerry Urch
Aug 26, 2022

Derek was a very good left winger in the Western League - stocky, nippy and very fit - he had an eye for a goal and was also a good penalty taker. A really good 'team player.'

His overall record as a manager of Frome is very good and one that he should be proud of. 8 years in that job is enough for anyone! I'm pleased he's getting the credit he so deserves- he gave a lot to Frome Town football.

Urchie

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