Many Hoops fans have been demanding sweeping changes in personnel for a long time. But with such a statement often went a contradictory clause, along the lines of, “just as long (insert your favourite player or players) isn’t one of the casualties.” Well, we’ve had sweeping changes and one of my favourite players has departed - Rufus Emmanuel Brevett.
When the great Footballing God in the sky was handing out cultured left and right feet, Rufus was elsewhere, probably defending another team-mate in a ruck against a St Peter’s Select XI. Silky skills were rarely a part of the Brevett cannon - but he was blessed with the heart of a lion, a low centre of gravity and legs of a type last seen holding up major road bridges.
He used what attributes he had to rapidly endear himself to the Loftus Road faithful, following his quarter of a million pound move from Doncaster. The PFA Footballers Factfile book describes him as, “strong in the tackle.” Strong isn’t the word for it. The boy Brevett thrilled Hoops fans by regularly launching opposing players into the upper tier of the South Africa and Ellerslie stands. Rufus was additionally gifted with a first name from footballing heaven. The up-down intonation is just perfect for chanting (see “Shear-Ra”).”Ruuuuu (slight pause) Fusssss.”
But crowds don’t just chant names because they sound good - players have to earn that. Rufus took the hard route to becoming a crowd favourite. Not gifted with great flair, or the height of a central defender to score crucial set-piece goals, like Macca used to, Rufus just worked and worked.
In a recent questionnaire, a glut of Danny Maddix’s responses to questions such as, “Who’s the worst dressed Hoops player?” and “Who would you least like to room with?” were all answered tongue-in-cheek with Rufus’s name. I always got the impression he was popular off-field with his team-mates even if he appeared less than hearty when consoling another player’s mistake on the pitch. I’m sure that Rufus’s name will crop up in future pub conversations between Hoops fans for a long time, in the same but contrasting way that opposition players and fans find it hard to forget the Brevett Experience.
Steve McManaman wrote a piece for The Times in 1996 about man-marking. In the article, he highlighted several players, including Paul Ince, who he had managed to outwit and set up or score goals against. In contrast, he also mentioned the first time he’d been man-marked.
“I remember the first time it happened, against Queens Park Rangers a couple of years ago, when Rufus Brevett shadowed me everywhere. I swear he was in the bath afterwards.”
Having scanned a fair few opposition fanzines in my time, the name Brevett also frequently appears. It is usually prefixed by a clutch of unprintable adjectives. He is not liked by opposition fans. That is a huge compliment for a defender. At his best, Rufus was uncompromising, put himself a bit and covered the left flank with the enthusiasm of a two-year old at Newmarket. At his worst, he was niggardly and wasted good defensive work with wayward distribution - but he has hardly been alone in that respect over the past few disastrous seasons.
I dispute that he was a maniac or a truly dirty player - the type who specialises in elbows in the face, nudges and attempts at getting opposition players booked. Rufus was far too busy correcting the ref’s spelling - “Nah, mate, one ‘v’ two ‘t’s” - to worry about other players’ cautions. He collected yellow cards like Arsenal collect Frenchmen, but for a tough-tackling defender, his Hoops career was surprisingly light on sendings-off.
That said, he was always up for a bundle, especially if he perceived that team-mates were under threat. How many times have we seen him sprint two-thirds of the length of the pitch to check out a potential ruck? On a Saturday night in a dodgy club on the wrong side of town, you’d always want him on your side. Well, I still want him in our side, like I still want Macca. Without them, I fret that we’re desperately lacking in grit, sheer heart and determination. Rufus was never a player for when things were going smoothly. He was unable to showboat on the rare occasion we have been a few goals to the good. But when things were bad, to my mind, he never caved in and never gave up. A lot of our current team could learn that from him.
I have so many abiding memories of Rufus. I remember his 88th appearance for the club, our 3-0 thumping of an awful Southampton side, which saw his first goal for the club. Sure, Francis Benali probably should have covered it, but no-one wearing QPR colours cared. We were delighted for him. Then, there’s the highly-distinctive Brevett set of hand signals. No fist-clenching a la Spenny or Alan McDonald for him. No, his signals were more varied and less obvious.
One: with palms outstretched, bend your fingers quickly back to your wrists in annoyance. Repeat rapidly. This was the signal to an errant midfielder to come short, before Rufus walloped a long ball down the line, usually to where the midfield player had been standing.
Two: with index finger pointed towards the ground in front of you, shake your head in disgust and violently waggle you finger. This was the admonishing gesture aimed at the crumpled foetal shape of an opposition player who’d had the temerity to suggest that the bone-crunching tackle Rufus had just delivered was in some way a little bit ‘iffy’ in its execution.
Three: with elbow bent and your fist on your chest, throw your arm away and down from your body in sheer fury, whilst at the same time shaking your head again. This move was most often used at another team-mate and/or official when a needless free-kick was awarded on the edge of our box. You see, Rufus never conceded an unnecessary infringement.
I’m not taking the piss out of Rufus. I just noticed these things because he appeared such a character and was eminently more watchable than many of our team. Unlike most of them, Rufus never appeared downhearted at conceding a goal, just completely furious. This was usually followed by a lethal tackle as soon as possible after the restart.
Ray Harford is probably right in re-shaping the side, but it’s still sad to say goodbye to a player who appeared to give his all. I’m sure many will dispute this, but I reckon a lot of fans saw a tiny piece of themselves in Rufus Emmanuel Brevett. We were his second club and he’d been with us a couple of weeks shy of seven years. I don’t pretend to know which team he supports - but I always felt that his presence proved he was a QPR man through and through.
So, good luck at Fulham, Rufus, I really hope things work out for you there. Hoops fans never got the chance to say goodbye, so how about badgering Simon Barker for an appearance at his testimonial game? There’s just one thing, just don’t propel any of our current side into the seating, please.
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