On Saturday 7th May 2022, as the Bees take on Southampton and we hopefully get closer to confirming our place in the Premier League next season, there’s a chance to remember a landmark day 30 years ago. It seems a world away but is just like yesterday to one squad of Bees players. On 2nd May 1992 the score in League Division Three was Peterborough United 0 Brentford 1 which made the Bees Champions of the Division and promoted them to Division Two (now the EFL Championship). One of the best bits of a memorable day was that everybody went back to Griffin Park afterwards for a right old party.
The whole thing was captured in a video of the team being announced one-by-one as they came into the Braemar Road stand to greet the fans on the Griffin Park pitch. Marcus Gayle, now the club’s Ambassador, in a natty red and white cap,Gary Blissett with a child in either arm and then the triumphant manager Phil Holder. No fewer than seven of his team had joined the Club at youth team level. The video is here,spool down to 45 minutes in. It is well worth a look.
Members of that squad have stayed in touch over the 30 years but they’ve never got together for a full reunion. Until now. At half-time in the Southampton game please stay in your place to salute:
Graham Pearce (reserve team coach)
and hopefully also, Jamie Bates and Neil Smillie.
Mike Sullivan, who looks after Brentford’s Legends at every home game, is organising it all. Special thanks to him. Some ex-players will be travelling long distances, Paul Buckle, the subject of a special BU profile earlier this season, is travelling from California. Marcus Gayle will be coming all the way from his usual seat in the South Stand. Afterwards there is the chance that a glass or two will be taken at a local hostelry as Brentford’s class of 92 complete a day to remember.
Pictures courtesy of Mike Sullivan
To try to identify as many people as we could amidst partners and children we turned to Paul Stedman who was the co-ordinator of the BIAS Stadium Action Group from 2001 -2003, the leader of the ABeeC Party in 2002 and the Chairman of BIAS from 2002-3. Here’s his guide:
‘First on the left = Caleb Johnstone-Cowan (he never had a formal role, but he was an early “evangelist” about this triangle of land being suitable for a stadium and would bang on a lot about on messageboards etc);
2nd left = Paul Brownscombe (ABeeC candidate – Cranford);
4th left (at the front) = Sacha Syed (ABeeC – Heston Central)
6th left = Steve Cowan (ABeeC party agent)
7th left = Joanne Swell (ABeeC – Heston West)
9th left = Dave Minckley (at the back with blue BFC tracksuit top) (BIAS secretary)
11th left = Dave Bond (with baseball cap) – ex Mayor of Ealing
15th left = John McGlashan ( first chair of BU and a bit of legend in my book)
16th left = yours truly
19th left = Jon Bishop (ABeeC – Hounslow South)
20th left = Phil Marchant (ABeeC – Hounslow West)’
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.