So many of us Bees fans remember being taken to Griffin Park for the first time by our fathers so dads were well represented on our online memorial. One of the first nominations we received was for Edward Baldwin from his son Philip:
‘My Dad passed away in 2006 age 96. He was a lifelong Bees supporter. He never achieved his dream of seeing his beloved Brentford play in the Premier League. Please remember him’.
One of the saddest was from Dan Bird:
‘I recently lost my father who has been a Brentford fan since the 70s…. He lived long enough to see us promoted to the premier league but unfortunately didn’t see any games’.
Ralph Collins told us of his father’s refugee journey to Brentford:
‘My dad was a German Jew from Hamburg, born in 1923. In the 30’s we toured Germany and played his home town club. He escaped the Holocaust on the kindertransport in 1938 eventually joining the British Army and volunteering for the Commandos. He never forgot about Brentford and in 1960, when he and my mum had managed to save for the deposit, they moved out of London and bought a flat in Hounslow….Coincidence? I don’t think so…He was a season ticket holder and took me to my first game in 1962…He would have loved to see us get promoted at Wembley. He often talked about how he remembered us as a first division club and that we were Arsenal’s bogey team.For his protection during the war his complete identity was changed by the Army. Francis Peter Collins. Died September 1973′.
Equality poignant were parents remembering sons, like Cathryn Shilling:
‘I would like you to add my son to the list. He was a lifelong Bees supporter although his life was far too short. He would have been so happy with this wonderful manager, team and of course the new stadium. Oliver Shilling died in 2009 aged 20’.
Brothers remembered brothers:
‘Raymond John Lancaster, died 8th October 2018. I took him to his first Bees match in 1969 (home v Peterborough which the Bees won 5-2) and he became a fan from that point. I managed to get to the home match v Nottingham Forest in September 2018 with my brother which was the last match he attended before he had his bone marrow transplant that sadly, was unsuccessful. He supported them for 49 years. Many thanks. Trevor Lancaster.’
‘If it’s not too late I’d like to remember my younger brother Paul Alan Flaherty who passed away in 2006. He and I would get the 91 from Osterley on Saturday afternoons to have wonderful times at GP watching our idols. He would have loved to see Brentford in the Premier League and like the rest of us would be very proud of the club as a whole and grateful to Matthew’s vision, belief and investment.Thank you. Regards Peter Flaherty.’
Uncles got a mention too:
‘Could I put in a mention for my uncle Harry Abbett, a Bees United member who died in 2012 he was at the last game in the old 1st Division in May 1947..Kind Regards.John Abbett’.
A much missed fan and respected club servant was remembered too:
‘The Memorial list is a fantastic idea. Please can you add my old mentor Eric White who did so much for this club over the years. Kind Regards. Brendan Nevin’.
As word spread of the online memorial and people realised it wasn’t just for family members there were moving memories from friends of Bees fans who had passed on in tragic circumstances:
‘If possible could you please add my friend Sean Kerrane to the memorial page? He was a big Brentford supporter since the 80’s. Whilst on his way to a Bees match in 1995 or ‘96 aged just 21 he was tragically run over and killed while crossing the A40 to rush home and get his season ticket which he had forgotten… Keith Loring at the time very kindly arranged for the whole Bees squad to attend his funeral at The Visitation church in Greenford and lay a wreath….Many thanks. Jonathan Foy’.
And finally in this small sample of all the emails we got, here’s one of our favourites :
‘Good afternoon.I would like to put forward my late husband Charlie Callaghan for inclusion on the Memorial page. Charlie or Chas as he was known in later years, watched the Bees from 1962 when his parents moved to Brentford until he passed away in 2015. He also told the story that having travelled back from a mid week game at Hartlepool and walking home, he was stopped by the police asking him why he was out on the streets at 3am. They refused to believe he had just returned from Hartlepool as “who would travel up there when you have work the next day?” At this point Charlie reached into his bag and pulled out the Hartlepool programme. Come on you Bees! Linda Soltysiak (formerly Callaghan)’.
As Brentford begins its first Premier League season the Club will remember its past and the role of its fans and the local community. ‘Farewell Griffin Park- the Fans Story’ will be a special exhibition at the London Museum of Water and Steam, next door to the Brentford Community stadium. It will be open throughout the Premier League season.The Brentford Supporters Trust ‘Bees United’ has teamed up with the Club and fan historians to bring together a century of fan memories about the club’s former home using video, photographs and memorabilia plus the highlights of the club’s own archive.These include four fan collections which have never been displayed before:
- a recreation of the extraordinary garden shed where the late Bees fan, John Pitt, stored Brentford scarves, programmes, mugs, posters and his own personal match reports.
- a model of Griffin Park made by a Bees fan.
- the club’s first season-tickets from the 19th century
- a collection of Division One programmes from the 1930s
The exhibition will also tell the role of fan groups on the journey from Griffin Park to the Club’s new home in Lionel Road. The names of early donors to the cause – who included the former player and later TV pundit Jimmy Hill – were recorded on souvenir bricks and these have been recovered and will be displayed. There will also be a chance for selfies in a recreation of the Griffin Park dressing room and in an iconic Griffin Park dugout chair.The London Museum of Water and Steam will give a special ‘fans for a fiver’ admission price on match-days when the season begins.
Our picture of Griffin Park by Karen Reader is one of the photographs in the exhibition.
‘If possible, I would like to add my son to the memorial name list.
Henry Fenton was born at 22 weeks, on Sunday 30th May. A few days before, he was diagnosed with an extremely rare and inoperable heart condition, which sadly meant Henry would not survive.
I sadly couldn’t make it to Wembley despite having a ticket, so had to watch on Sky as my brother, dad and sister cheered us to victory.
Miraculously, Henry’s heart was still beating for a few hours after he was born, passing away peacefully in the early hours of 31st May.
In his short time with us, Henry only knew the Bees as a Premier League team, and was blissfully unaware of all those cold winter trips to watch us lose to the likes Macclesfield, Chester & Hereford.. not forgetting the 7-0 to Peterborough!
He was buried with a Brentford bear and we’re going to try and make him an honorary ‘Babee’ for the coming season.
Hope its okay to add him to the list.
We sent our condolences to Joe on his loss and told him that of course Henry’s name would be added in the next edition of the Memorial and it now has been. With Joe’s agreement we published his email and the accompanying photograph on this website. Joe has set up a memorial page for Henry where donations can be made. Money raised from the page will go towards the maternity bereavement suite at Leeds General Infirmary and will help support other families in Leeds who go thorough similar experiences. Joe lives in Leeds, his connection with Brentford came through his father who was born in Brook Road.
The longer you’ve been with us shouting for the Bees to win, you know it’s not always been a smooth journey and even new fans look at the history books and wonder how such a bumpy ride kept the wheels on the bus! Nothing would have, could have, happened without Matthew Benham but nothing would have, nothing could have happened, without you, the fans, and your bloody minded determination to support the Bees.
Nine years ago in late June 2012, Bees United sold its majority shareholding in Brentford FC to Matthew Benham but our marathon journey started way before that.
.From the beginning
This past month, June, was BU’s birthday and it has been a journey of 20 years from our formation coming out of BIAS, in June 2001. Those were tough times, the same year when Ron Noades had applied to the Football League for the notorious ground share proposal with Woking FC. In the words of Paul Stedman (BIAS Chair), “whichever way you looked at it, the club was dying”. To add insult to injury that April, the Bees lost the LDV Vans Trophy to Port Vale at the Millenium Stadium, but Bees fans have been forever optimistic, and things were changing.
John McGlashan, the Bees United inaugural Chairman, stood in front of 200 fans at Hounslow Civic Centre that June and declared; “The time has now come to move forward’. By the following year BU had unveiled a vision for a new ground at Lionel Road and Luke Kirton had won his seat as a councillor for Brentford for the ABeeC party set up by fans to campaign for the new stadium.
In the background, BU’s dual focus was to reduce the club’s operating losses and also to buy the club itself. Ron Noades was looking for a way out and in 2003, the tide was turning, BU was allocated three seats on the board of Brentford FC and was granted an option to buy the majority shareholding in Brentford FC. But it would need to find £4.5m to achieve that goal and had until May 2005 to do it. The option was later extended to that September. We tell the full story and the success in raising those funds, from you, the army of Bees supporters, in our book “Bees, Battles, Buckets and Ballot Boxes” .
A familiar name joins the cast
Just before the September 2005 deadline, at the eleventh hour, it seemed like the club was on a cliff edge and there was a real risk of going into administration. Club chairman Greg Dyke and BU Chairman Brian Burgess met a supporter who thought he might be able to help move things forward.That supporter was Matthew Benham, a Bees fan from his teens, whose physics degree in 1989 from Oxford took him, via the Bank of America, into the world of statistics, probabilities and football.
You the fans raised much of the funding required to buy out Noades thanks to the legendary bucket collections, fund raising walks plus an invaluable loan note scheme. But more money was needed and to part finance the deal in 2006 Bees United agreed a £500,000 interest free loan (and another £500,000 facility) to come from Matthew, In January 2006, Bees United bought out Ron Noades’ majority shareholding of 60% in Brentford FC which thus became London’s first professional football club owned by its supporters. Soon after Bees United’ s proposals for a new community stadium at Lionel Road won support from the then London Mayor, Ken Livingstone.
More …. Money money money – the lizard called Gecko
By the summer of 2008 the Bees finished mid-table in Division 2 after being demoted from Division 1 at the end of the previous season. The talk was of better results and more money – more stability and a more sustainable future and in July 2009 a new deal with Matthew, agreed by BU members and subsequently announced by Greg Dyke was approved by the shareholders of the club.
A gecko lizard
In all the Bees United paperwork the deal project is called ‘Gecko’ which happens to be the name of a breed of lizard which sheds its skin at regular intervals. But some believe this was a mis-spelling and the original intention was to call it ‘Project Gekko’ after the character in the film ‘Wall Street’ played by Michael Douglas who was named Gordon Gekko. He was the font of a whole series of relevant quotes among them; ‘I look at a hundred deals a day. I pick one’.
With hindsight the deal he picked here was really ‘Gecko One’
The Gecko deal and momentum
This deal felt good, a five year deal from July 2009, to provide £1m each year over the five years increasing Matthew’s equity to 35% plus an option to transfer the ownership of Brentford FC from Bees United by 2014. By now Matthew had secured operational control in order to utilise his unique analytical approach to football management. It felt very good. In the penultimate match of the 2008/09 season Brentford, under player manager Andy Scott, won the Division Two Championship with a 3-1 win at Darlington. In 2011 the Club visited Wembley again in the 2011 Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Final, but we were beaten 1-0 by Carlisle United. The Bees would have to learn to be patient at Wembley
The Gecko momentum – Gecko Two
9 years ago on the 28 June 2012, the lizard changed skins again and another deal evolved that resolutely pointed Brentford FC to the future that we now know to be real. Bees United accelerated its option to sell to Matthew Benham and he purchased the controlling shareholding of the Club from ‘Brentford Football Community Society Limited’ – Bees United! Other smaller shareholders followed suit in selling.
In accordance with our Society rules the BU Board held a special members meeting, on June 18th to explain the proposals to you, our members. We couldn’t reschedule the Euros that year to accommodate our meeting, so 400 of you, not at the meeting, possibly watching Italy beat the Rep. of Ireland 2-0, voted by proxy. Including everyone at the meeting, there was overwhelming support for this resolution:
“We support the recommendation of the BU board to sell its entire holdings of Ordinary Shares in Brentford Football Club Ltd, Brentford Holdings Limited and Griffin Park Stadium Limited to Matthew Benham in accordance with the Summary of Terms provided to the membership.”
And under the terms of the agreement, section 2.4, on 28th June:
“On completion, Bees `United will transfer the entire issued share capital of Brentford Holdings to MB. The total consideration payable by MB for such shares will be £1”.
Donald Kerr, a BU Board member for many years and now the club’s Deputy Chairman, remembers “Dave Merritt and Chris Gammon were the key people on the BU team. My overriding emotion when BU members approved the takeover by Matthew was relief. Success in those days was survival as a Club, and I thought the greater financial stability which the deal offered might at the very least secure our long term football league status. How terribly pessimistic and unambitious that now seems, but perhaps the years since the late seventies when I adopted Brentford as my local team had conditioned my expectations. Thankfully the same will not be true of new fans now”.
Our new future rooted in the past
So now in 2021 with the taste of Wembley glory still fresh and ready to close a 74 year gap since we last played Arsenal in the top flight, Matthew’s words from 2012, to the Bees United board, 9 years ago, were possibly prescient;
“My commitment to the club is a serious one. In exercising the option, I would be capitalising several million pounds worth of loans which were made interest free to the club. I have every incentive to make sure the club is looked after properly, and I reiterate my comfort in BU retaining a golden share in relation to the club stadium.“
So, Bees United remains on the board, now, of a Premier League club and we exist to safeguard Brentford Football Club (BFC) so that it has a stable and sustainable future as a professional football club. Our role is to represent you our members, the supporters of BFC and our community to ensure that BFC remains a club we can all call our own and we got here because of you looking forward, wet and cold (!!) on that bumpy road.
Thank you to Matthew from all Bees United members all over the world and all Bees fans.
We say thank you to Bees fans past and present over the years for the support you gave without which there might be no Matthew.
Like every Brentford supporter of a certain vintage, I was deeply saddened and indeed, devastated, to learn today of the death of one of my earliest heroes, Peter Gelson.
I thought long and hard about how to commemorate him and decided that rather than just write an anodyne account of his career and reflect that the 516 games he played for the Bees puts him behind only Ken Coote and Jamie Bates in the all-time Brentford appearance list, mention his ability to outjump the tallest centre forward – with the notable exception of Aldershot’s Jack Howarth – I decided that I would simply include this wonderful photograph of the Brentford team that won promotion from the Fourth Division in 1972.
Because even now nearly 50 years later it gives me goosebumps and makes me feel nostalgic for a lost age and Peter Gelsonwas an integral part of a squad that embodied and exemplified everything that is right about football and community.
Oh, and just look at those haircuts and sideburns too!
It was also the first time since I started supporting them six years earlier that a Brentford team actually won anything.
Under the managership of the wily Frank Blunstone, Brentford became a team to reckon with.
Hard, tough and mean at the back where Gelson and Alan Nelmes, who played a mere 316 games for the club, formed an almost impassable central defensive partnership. Nonstop running and harrying in midfield and real quality and vision up front plus the aerial threat and battering ram that was John O’Mara.
What a team, and but for the club’s decisions to cash in on Roger Cross and a year later, John O’Mara, who knows how high we could have climbed rather than crashing and burning and returning immediately to the bottom division.
Amazingly given today’s move towards squad rotation Brentford only used eighteen players throughout the entire season of whom four made a mere twenty-four appearances between them.
In fact, eleven of the squad played over thirty times so there was a consistency of selection and a determination to grit your teeth and play though injuries.
Brentford supporters of a certain age will relish recalling the names of those who played in that momentous season
All names to conjure with, and OK, I will admit it, they are still heroes to me.
No wonder that team was successful given the grit, character, determination and of course, skill that it possessed.
But they also possessed another quality, something intangible, something that no amount of money could buy – loyalty allied with their love of the club
Between them the twelve players mentioned above played a total of 3,338 games for the club and stayed at Griffin Park for 94 years.
These are truly staggering figures and by way of comparison only four current Bees players, Rico Henry, Josh Dasilva, SergiCanos, and Henrik Dalsgaard have played over one hundred times for the club andonly the last two named have played over 150 games for the Bees.
Another surprising statistic is that no current Brentford player has been with the club for more than four years.
Of course the game has changed beyond recognition from what it was fifty years ago, and in many cases for the better.
The modern-day player is far more likely to move on quickly given freedom of contract and the desire to better himself both professionally and financially, whereas in those days there was generally no financial incentive to do so. Peter Gelson might well have had opportunities throughout his long and successful career to move on, but given the circumstances, why should he have left a club, situated close to home, who valued his services and whose fans adored him and supported him with two testimonials?
When I helped compile The Big Brentford Book Of TheSeventies several years ago, Dave Lane, Mark Croxford and I invited some of our heroes to a launch event at the club.
Knowing how awkward and difficult some present day players are reputed to be, we were all very concerned about whether anybody would show up.
We really shouldn’t have worried as the bush telegraph started working and it proved remarkably easy to get Alan Hawley, Jackie Graham, Peter Gelson, Paul Bence, Terry Scales, Pat Kruse, Andy McCulloch and Alan Nelmes to attend.
Even the reclusive John O’Mara, who generally keeps himself to himself was there and had a great time. In fact we had players asking us if they could come!
What struck me was how grounded, modest and pleasant all of them were – and how much Brentford meant to them.
They were, without exception, totally delighted to be remembered and were happy to talk with supporters and remember past times.
Alan Hawley even came up at the end of the evening and thanked us for inviting him. He really didn’t realise that the honour was all ours and that we were privileged to be in the same room with him.
What a gentleman!
It was a night that made me proud to be a Brentford supporter and reminded me, yet again, of what a great club we have.
Togetherness off the pitch and a strong team spirit generally translate to success on it and they’re both traits that we stillhave in abundance today.
Peter Gelson and the rest of these immortal names from the past will always be a hero to me, he was a perfect embodiment of what Brentford representsand I feel as confident about the future of this club as I am proud of its past.
As for Peter Gelson, his memory and example and what he represented will live forever.
He first went to Griffin Park in the 1940s, was a club director through the ‘ducking and diving’ days of David Webb and Ron Noades right up until the Matthew Benham take-over, he sponsored the team shirts when nobody else would and to this day he’s an advertiser on the electronic boards around the new stadium.
So the name Herting as in ‘Hertings, First for Fixings’ may be familiar to Bees fans but its Chairman, John Herting, has never sought the limelight at Brentford. When he first became a director in 1992 he was described as ‘the big mystery man’. An article in the programme for a Division Two game in November 2003 is headlined; ‘John Herting, the mystery football ‘nut’ unlocks his secrets’. But there’s no photograph of him.
However don’t mistake this for John not wanting to have to have a word in an occasional ear. The article called him a ‘tough-speaking elder statesman’. He once told a manager at a board meeting ‘what you’re really telling us is that you don’t know what you are doing. I think the best thing you can do is leave the club now’. But perhaps the key moment in his time at the top of Brentford was when when deliberately gave up a say in the way the club was run and helped hand control to Matthew Benham.
The John Herting Story began after the Second World War when Fred Herting used to set off for Bees games from his home near Ealing Broadway with his schoolboy son John . Fred was a merchant supplying equipment to engineers and John joined the family firm when he left school at 15. When Fred passed away in 1969, John, by then aged 27, says he ‘was thrown into moving the business forward’. Which is something of an understatement. The most recent accounts of F. P Herting and Son PLC’ show that the son has developed it into a ‘supplier of fixings and ironmongery to the construction industry’ with a turnover of over £30 million a year and an average annual profit before tax in recent years of £5 million. He still runs it as a family business with his wife and two sons on his board.
John’s business link to the Bees first came about through one of the suppliers to his company who was on the board at Brentford. The chairman at the time was Martin Lange and among the other directors was the California restaurant owner Dan Tana. In 1992 they invited him onto the board and he went with the team to the Anglo-Italian Cup games at Cesena and Ascoli. The Bees were defeated in the final by Derby County. John didn’t have to invest in the club at that point because “I was producing revenue for the club, paying for advertising and getting suppliers to advertise. I brought in my own money and other people’s money. I was then on the board for the next 21 years”.
He had a front row boardroom seat during the controversial reigns of David Webb and Ron Noades. We put it to John that history had not been kind to the reputations of either of them, was there anything to say in their defence? John did not rush to defend them. “Both saw Griffin Park as a piece of property rather than past of a football club. It was the only asset the company had. You had no team in terms of any value”.
John Herting in his favourite seat in the directors box at Griffin Park.
David Webb, then best known as a former Chelseas player, was brought in by Martin Lange in 1993 as a manager but then moved up to the boardroom and in a shareholding restructure John Herting paid £250,000 for Lange’s shares, effective giving John a 10% stake in the club. “Webby was an absolute ducker and diver of the first order. He knew a lot of people in football. Webby used to stay here at my house from time to time to avoid having to drive to and from his home in Southend. When he appointed Micky Adams as manager the deal was done in my sitting room”.
When the club was sold to Ron Noades in 1998 ‘all sorts of people came onto the board. Noades owned golf courses and for a time Brentford board meetings were held at one at Godstone In Surrey. “I didn’t get on with Ron Noades, he was a dreadful person” says John..
His memories go back to a very different time in Brentford’s history. “I was asked to look after Martin Allen while he was manager. I will never forget it, I was in bed on a Sunday night, the phone rang and it was Martin on the line. He said ‘I’ve just signed Paul Merson’. I said ‘No you haven’t’. Martin said ‘He’ll get £1,800 quid a week, he will come on for the last 15 minutes and he will score goals. that’s what he does. I’ve signed him and he’s coming in tomorrow’.I said ‘he’ s not. We haven’t got £1,800 a week, forget it’. He got really angry with me, he threw the phone down and I never heard from him for about a week”.
John Herting presents a Man of the Match award after a pre-season friendly at Hayes & Yeading in 2009
“During the times when we had no money my son Paul volunteered to become the unofficial kit man. I think that if things had carried on like that ultimately we would probably have gone bust. There was no investment whatsoever and we lurched from season to season”.
In 2006 Bees United, then a fans pressure group, became majority owners and John believes this ‘enabled the club to wrest itself away from people like Mr Noades. BU steadied the ship. Brian Burgess rang me up and asked if I agreed that it would be a good idea if Greg Dyke became the club chairman. I said that is an excellent idea”. But money was always a problem. “One year we couldn’t find a shirt sponsor, nobody else would do it so I said ‘I will have to do it’.
When everyone wore Hertings. Kevin O’Connor and the 2008-9 League 2 Champions, shirts sponsored by Hertings.
Then one day I was flying back from Spain and the phone rang the minute I got off the aircraft. The Finance Director of BU said ‘John, John I must have £25,000 now or the revenue are going to shut us down. So I had to stump up 25 grand right away”.
On the upsides John particularly enjoyed the away trips – ’some of them were unreal’- and recalls a long drive to Barrow for an FA Cup game in 2008. “A director couldn’t restart his car after a long lunch break in Cheshire. He’d put petrol in a diesel car’. A taxi and a train ride got them to Barrow in time, then ‘the goalkeeper Ben Hamer got sent off for handball outside the area, we lost and came back on the team bus arriving home around dawn’.
In 2009 Bees United members approved a deal with Matthew Benham in which he invested and had an option to become the owner in 2014. In fact the deal was speeded up and in 2012 Matthew became the sole owner with the minority shareholders exiting. The money they had put into the club had helped it survive but their stakes were arguably of little value by now.
‘David Merritt who was the BU chairman rang me up and said ‘unless you give me your shares Matthew’s takeover, known as ‘Project Gekko’, isn’t going to happen. My quarter of a million pounds was still in so I actually gave BU my ten per cent free of charge. I didn’t want to hold up the take-over, I didn’t want to be the big bad wolf. I wasn’t in it to make any money, far from it. This enabled BU to go ahead with what was called Project Gecko to enable Matthew to own the shares with BU getting a golden share’. John was among those who left the board and became Associate Directors of the club.
Some Associate Directors have been able to attend games in the new stadium. Left is John Herting, right is former Chairman Eddie Rogers.
That article in the November 2003 Division Two programme ends with a quote from John: ‘we have got to keep the club going. Remember I am first and foremost a supporter and as a supporter I am optimistic about the future’. But even he never imagined that Brentford would one day be among the top clubs in the EFL Championship. ‘Without Matthew’s investment and the team he has got around him absolutely not. It was never going to happen’.
He has no regrets at never becoming Chairman of Brentford FC at some point. ‘I was running my own business so I couldn’t give Brentford 100% attention. What the club needed was somebody to get hold of it in an almost full time manner. The only person who has done this is Matthew Benham through investment. It is not only about the players, it is about what he’s done, the training ground, all the people who are employed, it goes on and on. When I was involved we were running the entire playing squad on £1.35 million. Now we are in a totally different ball game’.