JIM WALSH’S TOP TEN AWAYDAYS

JIM WALSH’S TOP TEN AWAYDAYS

Watching Brentford this season – home and away – has been an absolute pleasure. The football has been sumptuous, and the club are in danger of being known for something other than a pub on each corner of the ground (or Brentford Nylons – for older Bees fans). 

There’s something special about following the Bees on the road – as I’m sure all away regulars will tell you. I travel to away games, usually by train, with fellow Bees Keith and Terry and – win, lose or draw – we always have a great day out (and yes, a lot better when we do win). We always meet up with familiar faces at grounds all over the country and have made many great friends.

I’ve picked out 10 games from our travels following our beloved Bees over the last season.

July 13th Drew 0-0 with Dynamo Kiev (played in Austria)

Jenbach Station, Austria. Jenbach played host to Brentford’s pre-season friendly with Dynamo Kiev.

It all started last Summer and Brentford’s pre-season training camp in Austria in what has become a regular European break for Keith, Lance (another Bees Home and Away regular) and I – if you haven’t yet done this I can highly recommend it. For this trip, we based ourselves in Munich for a few days and took the train from there into Austria for the game on the Saturday.

At the end of a week’s training camp in Austria, Brentford took on Dynamo Kiev in a friendly match played at the home of SK Jenbach, in the beautiful Tyrolean foothills. Around 60 Bees fans watched the team, including the summer signings, play out a 0-0 draw in a picture postcard setting. The result didn’t really matter and there was already enough to hint that this might just be a very good season. After the game the travelling Bees were able to chat and have photos with the team before the players and staff headed off to the airport for their flight home.

The Brentford and Kiev teams take to the pitch for the 0-0 pre-season friendly in Austria.

 

Fellow Bees fans Lance Southcombe and Rob Hartgroves with Summer signing and new Captain Pontus Jansson.

 

10th August. Won 1-0 at Middlesbrough. 

There are a few reasons for picking this game. Although one of our furthest trips, it’s a pretty good train journey from Kings Cross and the Riverside is a fabulous stadium. However this is included because having gone over 80 years without a win at Middlesbrough, we now had two in less than 6 months. It was our first away game of the season and gave us our first win (having somehow lost 1-0 at home to Birmingham on the opening week) and it was Watkins first goal in a dominant display that merited far more than a 1-0 win.

24th August. Lost 1-0 at Charlton Athletic.

The boat trips are a real highlight of the season. Here, our boat full of Bees fans is approaching Tower Bridge enroute to Greenwich for the game at Charlton.

Two weeks later we were off to The Valley – a much shorter trip. This was one of our regular boat trips to watch the Bees (in recent seasons I’ve organised boats down the Thames for games at Charlton, Chelsea, Fulham and THAT game at Leyton Orient – when we celebrated like we’d won the Cup). On a beautiful summer’s day, we set off from Kew – sailing down the Thames, seeing the sights of London and entertaining the tourists with our Brentford songs as we went – down to Greenwich, (where several of us enjoyed pie, mash and liquor at Goddard’s) disembarking by the Cutty Sark.

 

Disembarking at Greenwich, alongside The Cutty Sark.

Onto the game. How did we lose that one?!! Despite having all the possession and nearly all the chances, a mixture of good Charlton defending, good fortune for Charlton, some out and out gamesmanship and a goal from Chelsea loanee Conor Gallagher was enough to give Charlton the points. This was our third defeat – all 1-0 – in the opening 5 games! It was to become a familiar scoreline (by the end of the season we had lost 12 of our 46 league games, 11 by a single goal – 9 of those 1-0).

14th September.  Lost 2-0 at Preston North End.

Okay, maybe not a highlight, but still worth including. Preston is always a good day out. It’s a quick journey of just over 2 hours by train from Euston, followed by a nice 25 to 30-minute walk to the ground – which is a wonderful stadium, modern yet retaining enough heritage to do full credit to this historic club. In recent years we’ve had a pretty decent record there too.

Not many (in fact I can’t recall any!) Brentford highlights in the game itself in what was possibly our worst performance of the season and it was obvious that our new signings were going to need a bit of time settling in. I’ve included this in my “highlights” – the 2-0 defeat was to prove our worst of the season and it is the only time this season that we have lost by more than one goal all season.

29th September. Won 3-1 at Barnsley.

The game was moved to Sunday lunchtime for the Sky cameras. Train times meant we were cutting it fine but after a relatively short walk from the station we were at the ground 10 minutes before the kick-off.  Having gone 1-0 down the Bees stormed back to win comfortably with an Ollie hat-trick and a sublime performance from Said (with the famous Sam Saunders quote on Sky that he could “nutmeg a mermaid”). This was our first away win since Middlesbrough and the day I thought we can do something this season.

October. 

Another 1-0 defeat, this time on the banks of the Trent, away to Nottingham Forest at the start of October was followed with two great wins at Swansea City (3-0) and QPR (3-1) at the end of the month. I was on a family holiday in Orlando so missed these two – although I did I manage to keep a track of the score from the Bush via my iPhone whilst at Hollywood Studios.

9th November Won 3-0 at Wigan Athletic. 

Another good day out on the train from Euston and another good performance from the Bees. We completely dominated the game with an early goal from Bryan and second half strikes from The General and Josh Dasilva (which was an absolute pearler). This was our third away win on the spin and the first half of what was to be a 3-0 double over Wigan. Quite incredible given Wigan’s run of form in the last quarter of the season.

21st December. Drew 1-1 at West Bromwich Albion.

The team warming up in front of us before the game at West Brom.

We started December with a disappointing 2-1 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday and ended 2019 with a disappointing 1-0 defeat (that score again!) at Millwall. In between those trips the Bees played very well and deserved more than the 1-1 draw we got at The Hawthorns. This was a big performance and we were denied a clear penalty which would have made it 2-0  and surely a win. On the journey back to Birmingham New Street we were highly praised as “the best team we’ve played” by West Brom supporters.

1st January. Won 4-0 at Bristol City.

If 2019 had ended with a bit of a damp squib, 2020 started with a bang. Ollie showed how good a striker he was becoming – not just his goals (2 more in this game as the BMW all got on the scoresheet) – but his overall play, standing up to experienced pro Ashley Williams who ended up being red carded early in the game. The scoreline actually flattered Bristol City and I’m sure the Bees would have won comprehensively even if they’d managed to keep 11 players on the pitch. This was the game with Benrahma’s now famous rainbow flick. Said and Brentford’s performance prompted a petulant response – and some unnecessary words to a clearly shocked Thomas Frank – from Lee Johnson after the game. Thomas, ever the gent, refused to go into details and laughed the matter off.

1st February. Won 5-1 at Hull City.

We always seem to play Hull away in the Winter! This was another match moved for the Sky cameras – clearly our entertaining performances were rightly attracting media attention – this time to Saturday lunchtime. Keith and I decided to stick with our original outward train booking, pulling into Hull about 10 minutes before kick-off. There were several Bees fans on our train and luckily for Keith and I, one of them had pre-booked a cab and offered to share it with us – if you’re reading this, thank you sir!!

We entered the ground as the game started, in plenty of time to see Benrahma give us an early lead. Said was returning to the side after the recent sad loss of his father and turned in a terrific display, marking it with his first hat-trick of the season (and his second against Hull in his Brentford career). The goal celebrations between Said and Thomas were emotional and joyful – although Said was booked for showing his “JE TAIME PAPA” t-shirt tribute to his late father.

29th February. Drew 2-2 at Cardiff City.

With disruption on the trains we decided to do the relatively easy drive down the M4. Brentford stormed into an early 2-0 lead, including Luca Racic’s first goal for the club and with quarter of the game gone it looked like it was going to be another comfortable win. However, Cardiff fought back and made it 2-2 on the stroke of half-time – ironically from a long throw from Will Vaulks. Vaulks should have been sent off earlier in the half for kneeing a prone Christian Norgaard in the head.

Sadly, this was to prove to be the last time we were able to attend a Bees away game this season – before the Coronavirus lockdown.

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WHO WAS THAT MAN IN THE RED SHIRT?

WHO WAS THAT MAN IN THE RED SHIRT?

“I was just walking up the pitch collecting footballs, Thomas was coming across and he was all happy.” That how the man with his back to us in the picture, Brentford’s groundsman Steve Honey, explains how it came about. But behind that story there’s another one because the reason Steve was collecting footballs as well as looking after the pitch is COVID. “We are now ball retrievers as well as ground staff, we have to collect the balls and wash them after each game.” Steve’s extra duties are just part of what has been a strange 2020 for him and his team.

At Bees United we first met Steve Honey in 2018 when we made a video about how the Griffin Park pitch was torn up after each season and relaid. At the start of the year Steve knew this summer would be different. With Griffin Park closing at the end of the season the pitch wouldn’t need to be relaid because it would never be played on again. Instead Steve and his team would turn their focus to ensuring the pitch in the new stadium was in top condition for the first game scheduled for August. 

Steve Honey after the victory over Swansea in the last game at Griffin Park

Then came complete lockdown, the 2019-2020 season came to a grinding halt and many wondered if it would ever be completed. “We let the pitch at Griffin Park go completely for a time because we thought we are not coming back to play here, the season is going to be null and voided. We did the bare minimum.Then all of a sudden we were told ‘we are playing in two weeks’. If you’d seen it a fortnight before the first game you would have thought how are we playing here. But we started cutting it and whatever else to get it back into shape”.

Steve and his team now faced a triple site challenge: get Griffin Park ready for match action and keep it that way, make the new stadium pitch ready for the next season whenever it started and ensure the Jersey Road training ground stayed pitch perfect.  And do all three things within the Government’s COVID rules and the EFL’s protocols. 

They came up with a plan. “There are five of us so we split in half so that we didn’t cross-contaminate the training ground with the other two sites. Me and two others were doing Griffin Park and the new ground and the two other team members did the training ground. We were the only ones on the sites for some of the time. It was like a ghost town, quite surreal to be honest.

“In case we were stopped by the police on our way to work the club organised a letter explaining why we were essential, after all the grass wasn’t going to stop for COVID, we had to keep going in. To be honest we are pretty worn out at the moment. Two stadiums and one training ground, all looked after with limited people. We are still very careful, we do what is necessary, we try to keep ourselves safe.”

Steve wants to pay tribute to all his team who’ve worked tirelessly and also to the Operations Department at Griffin Park for all their help and support through this period and the three years he and his company Elite Ground Care have been contractors to Brentford. “We are part of the Brentford team, that’s how we feel.” 

During lockdown he decided to spread some good news:  “I took photos of the new pitch which looked really good, the sun was out, we’d just cut it so it was all nice and stripes.

“We’ve got a WhatsApp group with the first team staff who were all sat at home so I posted the pictures of both grounds to keep a few spirits high and to assure them we weren’t letting things go to rack and ruin and that they still had a pitch to play on. It would have been a bit odd if they’d come back and found a load of sheep out there.”

Brentford’s sports psychologist Michael Caulfield, who is in the business of keeping spirits up, confirmed in a post on LinkedIn that Steve’s idea had worked. He posted the picture of what he said was our ‘humble but highly effective head coach, Thomas Frank, showing immense gratitude to his head groundsman Steve’. But that, Michael Caulfield wrote, ‘was only half the story’. He explained: “During lockdown, Steve worked in isolation for nearly three months tending to not only Griffin Park, but the new stadium the club move in to next season.  He would often send pictures of the pitches to let us know how they were progressing, and the results were phenomenal”. 

 

A groundsman’s eye view of Griffin Park as it was prepared for its final games. All pictures courtesy of Steve Honey,

“At the final whistle on Friday, Thomas Frank, made a beeline for Steve, to thank him as the pitch was like a snooker table, which helps the team so much.  So often it is the players, managers or others who get all the praise, but it is the likes of Steve who make things possible, in all walks of life. They work what I call “Invisible Hours” so please do share this as the likes of Steve deserve it.”

Looking ahead, Steve thinks the new stadium is “fantastic, absolutely brilliant. We’ve been going in there to do the pitch since it was laid by a specialist firm called Hewitt Sportsturf who lay a lot of big grounds.”

As for Griffin Park Steve says; “we fertilised it the other day and I said this could be the last time we do this. When we prepare the pitch for the final game it is going to be quite emotional, we’ve had some good times there haven’t we?

The Bees United 2018 video of Steve and his team at work  ‘Meet The Groundstaff” can be seen here

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HOW THE HISTORIAN BEES SAFEGUARDED THE BEST OF OUR PAST

HOW THE HISTORIAN BEES SAFEGUARDED THE BEST OF OUR PAST

In 1990 Rob Jex was voted Brentford’s first ever ‘Supporter of the Year’, beating off competition from Peter Gilham for an award for an ‘outstanding contribution to the centenary year’. Almost every Saturday for two years he’d gone to the British Library Newspaper Library to research match reports from 1889 onwards for use in the book ‘100 Years of Brentford’. 30 years later Rob, now retired, has got more than 50,000 digital items about Brentford FC on his computer. He’s spent more days than he cares to remember digitising everything from match reports to fans’ scrapbooks, club programmes, player contracts plus photographs of cups and shirts.

Rob Jex ‘Supporter of the Year 1990’

The knowledge and commitment of Rob and the rest of the Brentford Historians Group – Paul Stembridge, Paul Briers, Mark Croxford and Dave Lane – has meant the jewels of the Bees archive can be safely stored while other artefacts can be released for sale to benefit the club. Before launching an auction the club needed to make a full inventory of what was in Griffin Park and the club’s storage facility. The first version was done by Neil Cooper, a Bees fan with a Masters Degree in Museum Studies, and it took him 230 hours. Neil is the son of BU Board member Ron Cooper whose devotion to the club’s history is such that for many years he has been welcomed into Griffin Park to clean the cups in the Boardroom and The Hive. Ron and Neil also worked with the family of the late John Pitt to transfer his extraordinary collection of Brentford memorabilia from his garage, attic and garden shed. There were three days of careful and sensitive work moving the objects into a safe space in the club’s care.

A glimpse inside the John Pitt collection of everything Brentford. Picture courtesy of the Pitt family.

The Historians were then invited to sift through the full range of items in the storage facility. Most of these are Brentford’s property but there are also personal collections like John Pitt’s and the Arthur Charlton collection which have been bequeathed to the club and will be kept intact. Paul Stembridge, a recently retired archivist, began photographing everything that was in storage, the Hive and the Boardroom and building on the original inventory, and with Rob Jex put the 1500 + pictures in a database with all the relevant details. Whatever was later decided to do with each item a photograph and a detailed description of it would always exist.

A Brentford season ticket from the 1890s, part of the Arthur Charlton collection

Thanks to the Historians, club officials were able to decide which were the most important items to be kept for future display. These include such gems as a ‘1892-93 season ticket and fixture list with gold foil emblem on front’. Everything else on the database was then made available for auction if the club wishes to sell them and anything not sold can be removed knowing that at least a digital record exists.

The 1937 contract for Brentford Hall of Fame centre half Joe James

Sally Stephens, Brentford’s Fan and Community Relations Director said; “I can’t thank everyone involved in this project enough. It’s been a painstaking task over a number of months and we simply couldn’t have completed this without the dedication and the time offered by all the people involved so far. Thanks to them, we can ensure that items that are important to the Club’s history are retained and cared for appropriately and others can feature in our Farewell Griffin Park auction to allow fans to own a little bit of our history, including many old shirts and framed pictures that once adorned the walls somewhere in Griffin Park.”

Rob Jex’s own connection to the Bees goes back to his father David who’d gone with his own father to an FA Cup game against Preston in 1936. Rob’s own first game was in February 1967 against Bradford City and he’s been a regular since 1973. “I’d always been fascinated by the history of the club and I heard that although the date of Brentford’s first ever match was known nobody knew what the score was or who played. I thought that’s a challenge, I’ll see if I can find it out and I did. The club were impressed and I was asked to research the early years – 1889 to 1920- for a book to mark the centenary in 1989.” 

From that he developed a plan to create a digital record with as much material as possible about every game in Brentford’s history. “I’m a kind of match by match person looking for as many different reports on each game as possible. With a digital archive you can include fans’ own reports. It’s a labour of love really.”

Rob with just a part of his 30 year ‘labour of love’

With the current squad making fresh history this labour of love already covers about 8,000 matches and now increases every match-day. Rob is happy to share with like-minded souls and last year began to pool his work with others and build a digital collection covering their different interests. 

“Dave Lane was the driving force behind setting up the Historians Group. We have different interests; Dave is producing his books, Mark Croxford is helping him with that but has also got his own digital archive of more recent stuff, Paul Briers is interested in the early days, Paul Stembridge helps my work. I’d like to get more people involved who have similar archives, the individual collections could be joined up technically, maybe via a digital hub.”  

Rob says of his own collection: “I don’t want to hoard it, I want to share it but on a limited basis. We don’t want the Historians work exploited by people selling copies of what are other people’s private property.” Rob still keeps all his own hard copies but “the ultimate objective in these paperless days is to get rid of them, to not keep what you don’t need. Having cleared out the homes of late parents the last thing I want to do is to burden my children with a whole mountain of stuff that they don’t really want.”

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A DUTCH FAN SAYS A ‘MELANCHOLY’ FAREWELL TO GRIFFIN PARK

A DUTCH FAN SAYS A ‘MELANCHOLY’ FAREWELL TO GRIFFIN PARK

My friend Dan Suh will be a father in a few months. Somewhat symbolic: the end of his carefree life coincides exactly with the end of Griffin Park, Brentford FC’s football stadium for 116 years.The stadium where we have visited dozens of times, on unforgettable Saturday afternoons in West London. Entering through the creaky red turnstiles, and then swarming over the tight circulation behind the stands, right along the back gardens of Ealing Road.

Dan, Perry, David and the rest were here countless more times than I was. Every week, for decades, they found a place in this charming, rickety little stadium, sandwiched between the model workers’ houses of Brentford, one of London’s least cosmopolitan neighbourhoods.They have walked all conceivable approach routes to Griffin Park, from the Thames in the south, or from the bus stop on Windmill Road (bus line E2). They know every crazy corner in the stadium, every crooked wave, every clumsy pillar ruining the view.

At the four pubs on the corner, which have gradually grown into a football cliché, they know every bar employee by first name. Especially in The Griffin, the neighbourhood pub with the longest history, and with the best burgers on top: freshly baked in the front garden on Saturdays.(True Brentford fans also know the “fifth pub”: The Royal Horseguardsman a little further on.)

Picture by Sjoerd Mossou

Can you be deeply in love with something as lifeless as a building or an old football stadium? Can you love a grandstand dearly? Can you cry about it? In the case of Dan, an emotional London Korean who speaks 24 hours a day, I’m pretty sure he’s going to start crying soon, not necessarily for the birth of his daughter.

Brentford will play its last league game against Barnsley tonight. What should have been an unforgettable farewell turns into a historic ghost duel on the borderline between glorious and deep sadness. Griffin Park also remains empty because of Covid-19. To camouflage the lack of audience, they have covered the stands with banners. It looks listless, sad.

And that while Brentford has the Premier League at their fingertips more than ever. Since football resumed football, it has set an unprecedented series of eight games in a row: the gap at promotion spot 2 – now owned by West Bromwich Albion – is only one point.

If it does not work directly through the competition, then it must be done via the play-offs. It’s been a sensational feat for a small West London club for decades, in the shadow of its much wealthier neighbours Chelsea, Fulham and Queens Park Rangers.

When I first got there nearly twenty years ago, Brentford was still anonymous in the depths of the third division. Love happened to bloom. The flat where I lived at the time was nearby. The Sunday morning soccer team I went into played with was just Brentford fans. The rest went without saying: one visit to Griffin Park and I was hooked for the rest of my life.

Football was not to be seen in those years, the money was always used up, you hardly saw football tourists. Brentford is a touchable, uncomplicated and very local club, untouched by the glamor and polish of English football. It is hard to imagine that this club now plays the best football of the Championship, leaving big clubs like Stoke City, Middlesbrough and Birmingham City behind.

The advance started a few years ago, but it is still getting used to Dan Suh and his friends. Sometimes they suddenly roar desperately for the ball to be old fashioned – bloody hell, hoof it, mate! – must go forward. Sometimes they still can’t believe that clubs like Sheffield Wednesday or Blackburn Rovers at Griffin Park are completely off the mat.

It also makes pride natural. Since supporter and data entrepreneur Matthew Benham took over the club in 2012, Brentford has grown into an exemplary club in England. Benham is a kind of youthful version of Frans van Seumeren: rich, smart, committed and a child of the neighbourhood. Many other English clubs, often in the hands of foreign investors with dubious motives, look at it with great jealousy.

Brentford is now widely known in England for its sophisticated scouting, data analysis and attractive way of playing. The club has made transfer profits of tens of millions of euros in recent years, often by buying unknown players with a scratch – and guiding them perfectly. Saïd Benrahma and Ollie Watkins are the next gems, playing in a team where the fun drips. Former Sparta player Halil Dervisoglu also achieved the same training plan.

Sjoerd (right) with his father and son

Until corona, I saw Brentford play once every month this season, in a brave effort to end Griffin Park with a small, personal farewell tour. In January I went with my father and son. A week later with my soccer team. In February with former colleague Chris and friend Lucas.

The last months of the season should have reached the climax. In April I would go with my girlfriend, for the first time in seventeen years. Tickets for the farewell game against Barnsley (original date May 2) had also been secured for a while.

We mused endlessly about a festive field storm – and then a long drunken evening at The Griffin or The Princess Royal. Melancholically I always noticed the large announcement board in the corner of the stadium, on which the matches were counted down. I bought the special shirt with “Farewell Griffin Park 1904-2020” on it. I received a beautiful photo book from Dan: “The big book of Griffin Park”.

But then there was corona. The pandemic that at first seemed to run wild, but quickly paralysed all life, including football.

The new Brentford Community Stadium, about a mile to the east, is all set to go. From the M4 ring road you can see the shiny silver-coloured roof protruding above the houses. The stadium is beautiful, it is also nearby, in an area that is slightly more expensive and richer, on the border with the posh Kew district.

The architects have done their best to make it something special, the design is asymmetrical, the stands are compact and close to the field. Still, it feels mostly depressing and clinical. Economically, sporty, practical and marketing technically it would be fantastic to promote to the Premier League now, but from a sentimental point of view it is three times nothing.

For months I have been hoping for good news: that Brentford will play its cup games at Griffin Park next season, for example, as has often been suggested in supporter forums. Or that there will still be a real, great farewell match, say against neighbour Chelsea, and that Dan Suh can then take his newborn daughter with her: hooray for the circle of life.

But for the time being, everything points to an anti-climax. Three weeks ago an email came in about how you could get a “refund” for your purchased tickets. An inevitable message, but it hurt: it was now final. The farewell game against Barnsley was going to be played without an audience.

It is sad, even sad, especially for Dan and his friends. I especially feel like a glorified football tourist, a sympathiser. They are the real fans, for whom Griffin Park was the common thread in their lives, not a Dutchman who happened to come by.

‘Together with Perry in May 2004, when Brentford escaped relegation to the Third Division (4th level) on the last day of play’. Picture from Sjoerd Mossou.

Perry grew up overlooking the stadium. Paul worked for years at The Griffin’s bar. Dan has been closely involved in all kinds of supporter initiatives for years. We played football together on Sundays in Gunnersbury Park, a stone’s throw away. The Beesotted FC players all lived or lived nearby.

It may be minor suffering, in the broader perspective of the corona crisis, but a football stadium is not just any building. Griffin Park has been crying and laughing, enjoying and praying, cheering and singing for 116 years. A place that deserves to be expressed in a grand and compelling way. Even promotion to the Premier League would not mitigate that lack.

We first wrote about Sjoerd and his love of Brentford back in January. You can read that here 

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‘SO CLOSE TO GLORY’

‘SO CLOSE TO GLORY’

Brentford gave Griffin Park the send-off it deserved on Wednesday night with a high energy “top, top performance,” as Thomas Frank might well have said, that Swansea City had no answer to.

After the 3-1 victory the dream continues as the season now goes into its 49th and final match next Tuesday evening at Wembley Stadium when Fulham  will stand between Brentford and a first ever promotion to the Premier League and a return to top flight football after a 73 year-long wait and hiatus.

The last couple of weeks have been a recurring nightmare for all Bees fans with the team seemingly running out of oxygen when within touching distance of the summit and failing to take the two seemingly gilt-edged opportunities to earn automatic promotion that presented themselves before West Brom finally managed to stumble over the line.

The Playoffs and Brentford go together like Superman and Kryptonite and the doom-mongers amongst us have been harking back to our previous eight unsuccessful attempts rather than simply looking forward and embracing the fact that there still remains a route available to the promised land of Premier League riches and the so-called delights of rearranged games, hype and VAR!

The Playoff first leg defeat at The Liberty Stadium on Sunday night was a bitter pill to swallow. The Bees appeared refreshed and re-energised after two stilted, hesitant and below par performances against Stoke City and Barnsley and were certainly up for the fight. They more than matched a skilful Swansea team which was on a massive high after snatching the final Playoff place from a self-combusting Nottingham Forest on the final day of the season.

Watkins, Benrahma and Jensen missed presentable opportunities to give the Bees the lead their slick football deserved, but the tide turned on the hour. A trip on the dangerous Brewster gifted the home team a penalty but Raya’s brilliance denied Ayew. Rico Henry, perhaps overcome with the tension and excitement of the moment then launched himself into a firm but fair looking tackle on Roberts who crumpled and howled like a stuck pig. The home bench and team rose as one in protest and apparently at the behest of the Fourth Official – who just had to be called David Webb – the red card was raised with a flourish against a Brentford player for the seventh time by the ineffable Keith Stroud.

The tide turned after this body blow and the Bees conceded an admittedly brilliant team goal scored with an impressive volley by Ayew. It was a backs to the wall effort from the ten men and the tie ended with a deeply frustrating third consecutive defeat in yet another match in which the fates and Gods had laughed at us.

There is nothing more dangerous than a wounded animal and the Bees were distinctly irritated both at the red card decision itself, which was harsh in the extreme, as well as the reaction from the Swansea team and officials.

Thomas Frank was defiant and insisted that the decision would be rescinded on appeal and he was proved right when on Tuesday lunchtime the Bees received the first good news for which seemed likes aeons when the FA decided that the red card had been awarded in error and that Rico was free to play in the second and decisive leg.

A smile finally crossed my lips when I learned of this but this was simply the righting of a wrong as poor officiating had almost certainly cost Brentford at least a draw at the weekend.

After many decades of watching Brentford and seeing the cup of triumph dashed from our lips on so many previous occasions – and no, I will not depress everyone by listing them again, I was not feeling too confident before the second leg – but this is new Brentford that I am talking about, one that is not weighed down and hamstrung by previous failures and inabilities to rise to the occasion and get the job done.

The performance on Tuesday night could hardly have been bettered with the team showing an unbeatable combination of pace, imagination, organisation, determination, energy plus, of course, pure brilliance in brushing aside the challenge of what was a pretty decent Swansea team that must surely have been expecting to complete the job started on Sunday.

There were thirteen heroes on the pitch who were well aided and abetted by the coaching and support team and a mention has also to be made of the referee Chris Kavanagh who controlled the game calmly and efficiently, was not taken in by diving and rolling around by the visitors and let the players remain at centre stage rather than trying to be the star of the show himself.

So what happens next? Can Brentford replicate or even improve upon their last performance and win the day at Wembley? We will know the answer very soon but in the meantime we can all be delighted and bolstered by the fact that Griffin Park tasted victory in the last of the 2,638 games it has hosted over the past 116 years. And what a victory it was.

Let’s just wait and see if we can overcome the last obstacle and achieve glory next week. We are so close, now let’s just go and get the job done!

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BRENTFORD’S OTHER AWAY TEAM

BRENTFORD’S OTHER AWAY TEAM

Under EFL rules for behind closed doors matches each club can have ten ‘Directors and Executives’ at each home and away game. After the 3-0 win at Reading, club photographer Mark D Fuller captured the moment Brentford’s ten representatives gave an ovation to the victorious Bees.

From left to right they are Donald Kerr (Deputy Chairman), Jon Varney (CEO), Rasmus Ankersen (Co-Director of Football), John Herting (Associate Director), Nity Raj (Director), Cliff Crown (Chairman), Monique Choudhuri (Non- Executive Director), Phil Giles (Co-Director of Football), Stewart Purvis (Non-Executive Director) and Eddie Rogers (Associate Director). The other Non-Executive Director on the board, Mike Power, was not able to be present.

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