STATS SPECIAL

STATS SPECIAL

BRENTFORD FC: TOP DIVISION MISCELLANY

HOME LEAGUE RECORD v FELLOW PREMIER LEAGUE CLUBS 2021/22
Club (First season) P W D L F A Last Win Last Home
Watford (1920/21) 32 15 10 7 56 38 2021 1 May 2021
Brighton and Hove Albion (1920/21) 31 16 6 9 65 45 2014 5 Feb 2017
Norwich City (1920/21) 26 13 6 7 52 33 2009 27 Oct 2020
Leeds United (1935/36) 19 8 8 3 31 19 2019 11 Feb 2020
Southampton (1920/21) 18 8 6 4 28 18 1958 30 Apr 2011
Crystal Palace (1920/21) 15 10 2 3 36 21 1963 7 Sep 1963
Wolverhampton Wanderers (1935/36) 13 7 2 4 26 15 2016 26 Aug 2017
Burnley (1933/34) 12 5 4 3 19 14 1997 15 Jan 2016
Leicester City (1937/38) 10 2 3 5 13 17 1952 9 Jan 1993
West Ham United (1933/34) 10 3 5 2 15 12 1954 20 Dec 1992
Everton (1935/36) 8 5 2 1 16 8 1953 3 Oct 1953
Aston Villa (1935/36) 6 3 0 3 9 9 2019 13 Feb 2019
Arsenal (1935/36) 5 4 0 1 8 2 1938 26 May 1947
Chelsea (1935/36) 5 3 1 1 5 4 1938 15 Mar 1947
Liverpool (1935/36) 5 2 1 2 10 9 1938 17 May 1947
Manchester United (1933/34) 5 2 1 2 12 10 1937 12 Apr 1947
Manchester City (1935/36) 4 2 1 1 6 7 1951 3 Mar 1951
Newcastle United (1933/34) 4 2 0 2 6 4 1948 14 Jan 2017
Tottenham Hotspur (1947/48) 3 1 1 1 4 5 1948 20 Aug 1949
231 111 59 61 417 290
AWAY LEAGUE RECORD v FELLOW PREMIER LEAGUE CLUBS 2021/22
Club P W D L F A Last Win Last Away
Watford 32 6 13 13 36 51 1977 15 Dec 2020
Brighton and Hove Albion 31 7 5 19 32 60 2016 10 Sep 2016
Norwich City 26 5 5 16 23 44 2017 3 Mar 2021
Leeds United 19 3 6 10 15 29 2015 21 Aug 2019
Southampton 18 4 5 9 27 31 2010 11 Dec 2010
Crystal Palace 15 3 2 10 18 27 1957 11 Jan 1964
Wolverhampton Wanderers 13 4 1 8 17 27 2015 2 Jan 2018
Burnley 12 2 4 6 13 20 1996 22 Aug 2015
Leicester City 10 4 5 1 11 13 1953 19 Sep 1992
West Ham United 10 3 2 5 10 17 1953 17 Apr 1993
Everton 8 2 0 6 6 21 1946 24 Feb 1954
Aston Villa 6 0 4 2 7 15 22 Aug 2018
Arsenal 5 1 3 1 6 6 1938 12 Oct 1946
Chelsea 5 1 0 4 8 10 1939 9 Nov 1946
Liverpool 5 1 2 2 6 7 1937 26 Oct 1946
Manchester United 5 2 1 2 7 9 1937 7 Dec 1946
Manchester City 4 1 0 3 4 8 1937 14 Oct 1950
Newcastle United 4 1 0 3 7 11 1934 15 Oct 2016
Tottenham Hotspur 3 0 1 2 1 7 17 Dec 1949
231 50 59 122 253 413

Never played outside the top tier against: Arsenal; Chelsea; Liverpool

Never played in the top tier against: Brighton; Burnley; Crystal Palace; Newcastle; Norwich; Southampton; Tottenham; Watford; West Ham (9)

TOP DIVISION RECORD AGAINST FELLOW PREMIER LEAGUE CLUBS 2021-22
T1

Seas

Other Home Away Total
P W D L F A W D L F A W D L F A
Arsenal 5 0 10 4 0 1 8 2 1 3 1 6 6 5 3 2 14 8
Chelsea 5 0 10 3 1 1 5 4 1 0 4 8 10 4 1 5 13 14
Liverpool 5 0 10 2 1 2 10 9 1 2 2 6 7 3 3 4 16 16
Manchester U. 3 2 6 1 1 1 6 5 1 0 2 4 8 2 1 3 10 13
Everton 5 3 10 3 2 0 12 4 2 0 3 7 12 5 2 3 19 16
Leeds United 5 14 10 1 3 1 8 6 2 0 3 7 12 3 3 4 15 18
Wolves 5 8 10 4 0 1 14 5 1 0 4 7 15 5 0 5 21 20
Aston Villa 3 3 6 0 0 3 3 8 0 1 2 4 12 0 1 5 7 20
Manchester City 3 1 6 1 1 1 4 7 1 0 2 4 4 2 1 3 8 11
Leicester City 2 8 4 1 1 0 3 1 1 1 0 2 1 2 2 0 5 2
31 17 34 128 138
FIRST DIVISION RESULTS 1935-1947 V PREMIER LEAGUE CLUBS 2021/22
1935/36 1936/37 1937/38 1938/39 1946/47
H A H A H A H A H A
Arsenal W 2-1 D 1-1 W 2-0 D 1-1 W 3-0 W 2-0 W 1-0 L 0-2 L 0-1 D 2-2
Chelsea W 2-1 L 1-2 W 1-0 L 1-2 D 1-1 L 1-2 W 1-0 W 3-1 L 0-2 L 2-3
Liverpool L 1-2 D 0-0 W 5-2 D 2-2 L 1-3 W 4-3 W 2-1 L 0-1 D 1-1 L 0-1
Everton W 4-1 W 2-1 D 2-2 L 0-3 W 3-0 L 0-3 W 2-0 L 1-2 D 1-1 W 2-0
Leeds United D 2-2 W 2-1 W 4-1 L 1-3 D 1-1 L 0-4 L 0-1 L 2-3 D 1-1 W 2-1
Wolves W 5-0 L 2-3 W 3-2 L 0-4 W 2-1 L 1-2 L 0-1 L 2-5 W 4-1 W 2-1
Aston Villa L 1-2 D 2-2 L 2-4 L 0-5 L 0-2 L 2-5
Manchester City D 0-0 L 1-2 L 2-6 L 1-2 W 2-1 W 2-0
Manchester United W 4-0 W 3-1 L 2-5 L 0-3 D 0-0 L 1-4
Leicester City D 1-1 W 1-0 W 2-0 D 1-1
BRENTFORD’S FIRST DIVISION RECORD 1935/36 TO 1946/47
Home Away
Sea Posn P W D L F A W D L F A W D L F A PTS
16 5th 42 11 5 5 48 25 6 7 8 33 35 17 12 13 81 60 46
17 6th 42 14 5 2 58 32 4 5 12 24 46 18 10 14 82 78 46
18 6th 42 10 6 5 44 27 8 3 10 25 32 18 9 15 69 59 45
19 18th 42 11 2 8 30 27 3 6 12 23 47 14 8 20 53 74 36
20 21st  42 5 5 11 19 35 4 2 15 26 53 9 7 26 45 88 25
210 51 23 31 199 146 25 23 57 131 213 76 46 88 330 359 198

CHAMPIONS

1935/36 Sunderland

1936/37 Manchester City

1937/38 Arsenal

1938/39 Everton

1946/47 Liverpool

2021/22 Chelsea or Manchester United?

First Top Division Match: 31st August 1935: A v Bolton Wanderers W 2-0 (Jack Holliday 2)

Most Recent Top Division Home Match: 26th May 1947: v Arsenal L 0-1

Most Recent Top Division Away Match: 24th May 1947: v Sunderland L 1-2

Most Recent Home Win in Top Division: v Wolves (4-1) 18th January 1947

Most Recent Away Win in Top Division: v Leeds (2-1) 5th April 1947

Latest top division scorer: Len Townsend A v Sunderland (1-2) 24th May 1947

Latest Home scorer: George Stewart H v Liverpool (1-1) 17th May 1947

Brentford have played 3375 League matches since their last tier 1 match

Brentford have scored 4696 goals since their last tier 1 goal

782 players have made their debut in League football for Brentford since the last tier 1 match

Brentford Ambassador Marcus Gayle played 204 Premier League games (174 starts and 30 substitute appearances), just six games fewer than Brentford have played so far!

This will be Brentford’s 95th season since they were elected to the Football League in 1920

Brighton and Watford will, next season, join Grimsby and Huddersfield as the only clubs Brentford have met at all four tiers of the English game. The Bees also played Brighton and Watford in the Southern League.

When Brentford play on 13th August 2021 it will be 74 years 2 months and 18 days since the last top division match (27,108 days) and 85 years 11 months and 13 days since their first top division match (31,394 days).

CURRENT TIER 1 RECORDS

Top 10 League Appearances (1935-1947)

Dai Hopkins 185

Joe James 157

Billy Scott 149

Joe Crozier 119

Dave McCulloch 117

Duncan McKenzie 111

George Poyser 108

Bobby Reid 103

Jack Holliday   96

Bill “Buster” Brown   92

63 players have played top tier football for the Bees

Top 10 League Goalscorers (1935-1947)

Dave McCulloch 85

Billy Scott 40

Dai Hopkins 34

Bobby Reid 34

Jack Holliday 28

Gerry McAloon 12

Len Townsend 12

Duncan McKenzie 10

Tommy Cheetham   8

George Wilkins   7

33 players have scored for Brentford in the top division

Scoring

Home

6-0 Derby

5-0 Wolves

1-5 Sunderland

2-6 Manchester City

Away

4-2 Preston

3-0 Huddersfield

1-6 Grimsby/ Sheffield United

0-5 Aston Villa

TOP OF THE LEAGUE

First time 16th October 1937 to 16th February 1938 (except 23rd October 1937) – 4 months

And 31st August 1946 (first week of the season!)

Share
RICK REVEALS ‘I WANTED TO OWN THE BEES’

RICK REVEALS ‘I WANTED TO OWN THE BEES’

Rick Wakeman told the Griffin Park Grapevine message board in 2020 that he had once offered to pay to use the Griffin Park roof as an advertising platform for a record company. But now in an interview with BU to mark his recent CBE  Rick says his investors actually wanted to go further and buy the whole club in order to control the roof space.

The story of how Rick nearly became the owner of the Bees goes back to 1976 when professional soccer was just starting in America and Rick was playing concerts there regularly. His record company was Atlantic Records which was owned by the Turkish-American brothers, Nesuhi and Ahmet Ertegun, who had  bought the New York Cosmos franchise. Rick takes up the story: “the Erteguns said to their artists ‘why don’t you buy a club’. So  some of us bought the Philadelphia Fury franchise . My job was to help sign the players.We came to England and bought Alan Ball, Peter Osgood,Terry Mancini. and others. 

“Then one day in 1976 I was in Toronto playing with ‘Yes’ and Nesuhi Ertegun, who really knew his football, asked to see me.  He said ’You have associations with Brentford don’t you. I want you to buy the club’. I said ’what?’ . He said ‘I think the grounds in England are tired, they are old and they are dangerous’. He was so right. He said ‘I hate to say it but Griffin Park is one of them, it is a tinderbox waiting to happen. But if you buy it I will give you a million dollars to start with’, which was a fortune back then, ‘and you can assemble what you want’.

“I said why do you want to do this?’ He said ‘what I want is the roof. I want ‘Warners Welcomes You to Britain’ on the flight path to Heathrow’. He owned the Warner Music Group. He said ‘That’s what I want and we will pay every year to keep the roof.That way you can keep Brentford out of any financial difficulties.You could probably bring enough good players to buy your way out of that division.” Brentford were then in the Fourth Division.  “Nesuhi wanted me to sit on the board as their representative”.

“I was very excited, got it all in writing and went to the Brentford board of the time, and made a presentation. But they clearly didn’t like this long-haired rock and roller and I was told ‘Do you think we are some kind of cheap advertising hoarding? We are a professional football club’.I was sent out with a flea in my ear.

“Nesuhi foresaw what would happen in football, the stadium disasters, the involvement of big companies, he was way ahead of his time. A couple of seasons later that same Brentford board leased the roof to KLM for an absolute pittance compared to what Nesuhi Ertegun was offering . It rattled in my throat for quite a long time.”

Rick Wakeman and Elton John (then Chairman of Watford) at a Brentford v Watford game in 1978

A few years later Rick became a Brentford director but not an owner. “It was a really bizarre time. Brentford was then a yo-yo club between the third and the fourth divisions, I had became a Vice-President which I was very proud to be.Then I moved to Switzerland, living in Montreux, I was a friend of Brentford director Dan Tana and he called me up and said ‘Rick you’ve just been voted onto the Board of Directors’. I went ‘wow’, it was a childhood dream but in retrospect I should have said that’s very kind of you but now is not the right time. I was going through a phenomenally expensive divorce and living in Switzerland going to games wasn’t exactly a case of I’ll just pop round to Griffin Park. It was a big mistake. I flew over for some games and board meetings for about a year but I had to resign. I sadly walked away from something I should never have walked into in the first place.”

Despite these two unsuccessful brushes with Brentford hierarchies Rick, who was born in Perivale and educated at Drayton Manor School, has remained a staunch supporter of the club since he first went to a game at Griffin Park. 

“My dad and his father were both Brentford supporters, and they lived in a little place in Hammersmith and they used to walk to Griffin Park for the games. One Saturday when I was five and we were living in Sudbury my Mum told me she had knitted me a red and white bobble hat and scarf. She said you can wear this today because your dad is taking you to Brentford.There were no merchandise shops then, your mum knitted you everything. My dad drove me to the ground in his old 1938 Morris Eight, the ground seemed huge back then and it held about 30,000 people.”  

His father sent him through the junior turnstile and told him to wait the other side. “There were a lot of people and I couldn’t see my dad for love or money. I got shoved down the front, somebody gave me a packet of Percy Dalton peanuts, and I semi-forgot about my dad. I watched the game, these were the days of Jim Towers and Gerry Francis, Ken Coote and Gerry Cakebread. At half-time there was an announcement over the tannoy, it was a but blurry and I vaguely heard my name mentioned. I didn’t think anything about it and watched the second half.

“At the end the man on the tannoy said ;’ Will Richard Wakeman go to the General Manager’s office where his father is waiting for him’. When we were reunited my dad was furious. I said ;’I watched the game’ and he said ‘well that’s more than I bloody did’. 

When we got home my mum said ‘Hello Cyril, how did they get on’. He replied ‘ask your bloody son, I missed the game’.That was the start of it all. I must have 500 programmes dating back to 1953. 

“My Dad got us season tickets and that was fantastic. He would tell me about the glory days of the First Division”. But Cyril Wakeman, joined by his son, witnessed the slide down the leagues to the bottom tier. This was one of the lowest points in the club’s history. ‘It was really gutting when we were relegated down to the Fourth Division in 1962 but we had a team that would have graced the Second Division with Johnny Brooks, Billy McAdams, John Dick, Mel Scott, Chick Brodie”. Brentford were promoted back as champions of the 1962-3 season. “ I remember going to the last game of the season against Workington, we needed 6 goals to make a hundred goals in that season and at half-time we were four-up, we were taking Workington apart .There were 17,000 people there for a Fourth Division game which was astonishing. In the second-half it all went terribly wrong,Workington scored three goals, we didn’t score any more and we hung on for a 4-3 win. Everybody ran on the pitch at the end to celebrate promotion and we stood in front of players in the stand. It really was a most wonderful time. One of the things I remember really well and I still have it somewhere was the local paper, the Middlesex County Times, and on the back page the next week it was a picture of the Brentford squad and there was a headline ‘Destination Fame’. I cut it out and it was on my bedroom wall for years.That was 1963 so it has taken nearly 60 years for that prophesy to come true.Whoever wrote that was a bit slow, but he was right.”

Rick has a truly extraordinary memory for games from that period. As an example take this match in 1963: “I can remember a Tuesday evening we were playing Wrexham and I can remember the gate, 12,000 people which was the lowest gate that season. Brentford had just bought Dai Ward from Watford and they won 9-nil. It was an absolute slaughter. I can remember the newspaper report saying lowest crowd watches biggest win’. What our fact check showed was that Rick has got almost all the details right.

The programme for the 1963 game: Brentford 9 Wrexham 0

“Throughout my years of going since 1953 I’ve seen some periods of time when the football was what my dad used to call ’head in hands’.” When he moved into tax exile Rick decided it was “a bloody long way to go from the Isle of Man to Griffin Park” and started going to Manchester City who at that time had gone down to the third tier of football. “ I discovered that Brentford was so many people’s favourite second club, they had such a soft spot for Brentford. I realised ‘wait a minute, everybody loves Brentford’.” Now living and recording in Norfolk he follows the Bees on TV and not surprisingly for a fan who was on the terraces when things were at a low ebb he now celebrates Brentford’s return to the top tier.

“I watched the play-off final on TV, and I don’t think there’s any player in any division other than Ivan Toney who could have taken that penalty with that confidence. Once that went in Swansea heads started to go down. They looked like we did against Fulham.

“I had expected us to beat Fulham in the previous season and it is so disappointing when you just lose out but that’s where I take my hat off to all the players, when they came back their heads never dropped in what was such a strange season in so many ways. At one stage when we were top I thought we might pip Norwich but no team that goes through a season where everything goes absolutely right. I just loved our whole managerial ethos of never panicking, never complaining about the ref. That’s what made me proud of the team.” 

In June this year  the news of his CBE honour was a “total and complete shock. I got a strange call from somebody claiming to be at the Cabinet Office I thought it was a hoax. Then I got an email saying Richard Christopher Wakeman was going to get  a CBE. I thought this is a gag, this is one of my mates pulling a flanker, thought nothing about it . Then I got another call and I thought ‘hold on maybe there is something in this’.It was nice to get it for my services over nearly 60 years for music. COVID means there will be a huge delay in going to the Palace to collect it, so I will probably get it when I’m 90.”

Share
BU RULES OK – IT’S OFFICIAL

BU RULES OK – IT’S OFFICIAL

We revised our rules after 20 years in order to do lots of tidying but in particular to improve our communications, to strengthen our anti-discrimination statement and to create more protection for BU – your – assets.

If you recall, it goes back to 31 March 31 . We were just a Championship Club in those days when over 100 of you, loyal BU members, registered and zoomed up to our very first online AGM.  BFC CEO Jon Varney kicked us off and his Q&A session started emotionally with Jamie Powell, back from treatment in America, looking great, who asked the first question. All the proper details of our AGM followed straight after and we covered a rare topic not covered since our launch back in 2001. We asked you to approve a complete change of our rules which had been part of our Board discussions since June 2020, sponsored by ex BFC and now BU board member, Jon Gosling

It started with a tidy up then grew into a root and branch review and you were happy and now so is our regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority. The finished job is here.

Several things about the old rules were bugging us!

1.Improve communications

The old rules lived in the world of paper with newspaper ads, letters, multi location events, snail mail.You all know that “fit for purpose” for an international, premier league, organization means online, email, voting at the press of a button and the knowledge that, COVID rules or not, we can all #Beetogether online. Our March AGM was a truly international gathering with BU members dialing in from Canada,  France, Ireland and Israel.

2.Inclusivity – no discrimination

We feel the time is right to shout loud these principles for our international community, club and fans – as a large supporters group of nearly 3000 members, we restate our beliefs 20 years on. Online meetings include everyone but we wanted to do more. We wanted to emphasise, to strengthen, our BU principle that inclusivity means no discrimination. Our rule that states we will not tolerate discriminatory behaviour was strengthened and it was moved to the beginning of our rules, to our “Objects,” Rule 3!

3.More Protection

You know we are here because we have a unique role ensuring that our club is one the fans can call our own. We have a seat on the board of Brentford FC and a ’special share’ to safeguard its long-term future. BU members saved the club from financial disaster back in 2006 and began the partnership with Matthew Benham. Now, we have changed our rules to safeguard BU from attacks such as 100 new members joining from “near to another club” wanting to hijack your money. We closed that gap.

And we haven’t stopped being a bus stop in Hounslow!

Share
OFFICIAL REVIEW BACKS GOLDEN SHARE

OFFICIAL REVIEW BACKS GOLDEN SHARE

Tracey Crouch MP and her expert panel of advisors heard over 100 hours of oral evidence from fan groups, leagues and clubs at every level of the professional game. Among them were the Chairman of Bees United Stewart Purvis, the Chairman of Brentford FC Cliff Crown and  the owner Matthew Benham. Gemma Teale of BIAS and LGBeeTs was part of a panel representing the Football Supporters Association. Ms Crouch also received over 70 documents of written evidence and conducted a survey which had 16,000 responses.

In her update to the DCMS Secretary of State,Oliver Dowden, she sets out what she calls her  ‘preliminary findings and recommendations’ and stresses ‘there is much work still to do’. 

However she wants to put on record now that she has reached one concision which is that ‘in order to protect the future of key aspects of our national game a new Independent Regulator for English Football (‘IREF’) is needed.’

It is interesting what she thinks such a regulator should do and not do. “I believe that IREF should be established to address issues that are most relevant to the risks to the game and already at least partially a matter of English law – particularly financial regulation, corporate governance and ownership’.… However, I do not believe that IREF should cover ‘football issues’ such as the running of league competitions, video technology, the national game, Wembley Stadium, the delivery of a grassroots strategy and other such matters which should remain with the existing bodies’

Some organisations had argued against a new regulator arguing that the FA is the governing body of football in England but clearly she doesn’t think the FA is reformed enough to do that. Instead she says: ‘It may also be that at some point in the future a substantially reformed FA could absorb the functions of IREF, though evidence received indicates this possibility is some way off’. It is a stinging criticism of the FA.

You can read the full document here.

From the Bees United point of view (see our evidence in the June newsletter) the sentence which caught our eye was this : ‘I therefore intend to develop proposals with the Panel to offer greater protection for these important assets through a ‘golden share’ for fans, giving veto powers over reserved items, to be held by a democratic legally constituted fan group’. Bees United has a ‘special share’  in Brentford FC which gives us veto rights on certain issues. 

We welcome this. As to what particular assets would be protected by such a share she writes: ‘The most pressing of these has been the many clubs who appear to have lost the rights to their home grounds, but much evidence was also received of concerns relating to items such as club badges, location, colours and competitions”.

On the equally important subject of club governance she is very positive on the importance of independent directors. Brentford FC has a good record on this compared to some clubs which have none.

Although Bees United was very positive about our experience of having a representative on the club board  it appears other fan groups were not. Tracey Crouch writes: ‘To date, there has been no consensus in the evidence presented to the Review on the correct vehicle for such fan engagement, with suggestions such as fan appointed directors not universally favoured by supporter groups. Indeed, evidence was received from existing fan elected directors of some significant difficulties that they face’. It appears that the case for fan elected directors is dead. But Bees United will continue to argue that case whenever and wherever is appropriate. 

Share
REMEMBERING THE EUROS

REMEMBERING THE EUROS

In the end, it was tears before bedtime. But what dreams of glory had flourished throughout the country before England’s impressive challenge for the European Championship fizzled out as midnight approached last Sunday.

The day it seemed just like that on any other sleepy weekend. Pubs with gardens or terraces in Chiswick and Brentford were doing brisk business at lunchtime, with families enjoying lazy lunches and, for the less hungry, beer and wine brought to their tables. At the Express Tavern, in the shadow of Brentford Football Club’s handsome but barely used new ground, plastic containers of draft Bass were dispensed to occasional callers in search of takeaway refreshment.

Conversation dipped in and out of the day’s big event: England versus Italy at Wembley Stadium for the culmination of Euro 20, a year late because of Covid but remarkable also because the host nation’s team had reached the final, the first such achievement in a major football competition since 1966.

All was right with the world in this end of the enormous Hounslow borough. Well, for a while at least. As kick-off time approached, pubs – those with TV screens ready to bring the action from Wembley into homes and hostelries –   began to fill up, soon to be overflowing. 

Now chatter concentrated on England’s path to the final, especially the semi-final in which they had beaten a Danish team with a distinct Brentford flavour. Included in Denmark’s squad were two prominent members of the one that boosted the Bees into the Premier League in their recent glorious season’s end. Midfielders Christian Norgaard and Mathias Jensen started the final on the substitutes’ bench, but both were propelled late into the fiercely fought game. Jensen, the last substitution, soon suffered a leg injury and had to vacate the field, leaving the Danes with only ten men. Bad luck, agreed the pre-match drinkers. Not for England, pointed out others.

With 60,000 socially-distanced fans inside the stadium, and several hundred more – without tickets if course – battling stewards in order to get through the turnstiles, the preliminaries did little to enhance the reputation of the English football fan. The marauding crowd caused a temporary lockdown to restore order and the Italian national anthem was roundly booed. What film star spectator Tom Cruise made of it all, heaven knows, although his constant flashing of one of the world’s most famous smiles indicated that he may not have noticed anything amiss.

So, to the game, which began with a firecracker of a goal that sent the spirit of England fans soaring and reduced the appalling behaviour of jerks inside and out of the ground to a minor note in history. Kieran Trippier’s perfectly crafted cross was met by Luke Shaw with a thumping half-volley that zipped past goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma. Two minutes gone. England 1-0 ahead. Oh, happy day! 

And Gareth Southgate’s spirited side continued to look like winners until Italy manager Roberto Mancini shuffled his pack with the skill of a Mississippi cardsharp and turned a good team into polished unit that shoved being sucker-punched to the back of their minds and set out for revenge.

From then on England struggled to survive, a task made even harder after 67 minutes when Italy scored a goal: an untidy, scrambled goal by Leonardo Bonucci following Jordan Pickford’s splendid save of Marco Verratti’s header, but a goal, nonetheless. 

The substitution of Jack Grealish for Mason Mount added sparkle to an England side by now in dire need of some spit and polish and he might well have had a penalty when fiercely clattered by a rampant Jorginho but for referee Bjorn Kuipers’ disinterest bordering on somnambulism. But it was too little, too late and Southgate’s introduction of Marcus Radford and Jadon Sancho with only minutes left to play was patently aimed at providing two deadeye marksmen for the penalty shootout to come.

Only it didn’t work, with a trio of misses – 19-year-old Bukayo Saka inexplicably was drafted to complete the final humiliation – ending England’s excellent and sometimes inspired campaign. 

So tears of some players and many in the crowd was all that remained of just another Sunday. That and the litter, beer breath, a shroud of disappointment and what-might-have-been discussions that would last into the night.

Oh well, there’s always the World Cup next year, said a fan at a neighbouring table in the pub. ‘And only five weeks to Brentford’s first game in the Premier League’ said my mate Charlie. ‘How bad is that?’ 

This article appeared first in Chiswick Calendar.

Share
‘I CAN BARELY SLEEP AS THE FIRST MATCH DRAWS CLOSER’

‘I CAN BARELY SLEEP AS THE FIRST MATCH DRAWS CLOSER’

There is always a sense of anticipation before the start of a new football season but none more so this year as we eagerly and impatiently look forward to Brentford’s first season in the top flight since there was a king on the throne – or 74 years, to be more precise.

August 13th – the day we have been looking forward to and dreaming about since the end of May – is fast approaching and for my part, I can hardly wait.

It will be the first day of what I fully expect to be the most momentous, important and exciting season I can remember since I first started supporting Brentford way back in 1965.

Watching Brentford play in the Premier League for me is something that, to be quite frank, I never expected to see in my lifetime – or even those of my descendants, and is the reward for all those freezing days in midwinter with the icy wind chilling my bones, watching and groaning as inept journeymen like Eddie Hutchinson, Jide Olugbodi, Paul McCullough, Clyde Wijnhard and Fola Onibuje stuttered and fumbled their way to inevitable defeat.

This season in the sun will hopefully be the start of many, and is payback time for those nine Playoff failures and pathetic capitulations at places like Cheltenham, Peterborough and Macclesfield – grounds that we fervently hope with fingers and toes crossed never to have to visit again.

This season makes up for all the smug comments I have had to endure over the years from all my patronising Premier League supporting friends and workmates who are slowly and reluctantly beginning to understand that there is something special happening at Brentford which has led to us rising from the bottom of the Pyramid to the top in a mere 12 years.

August 13th is the day we take our first step along the road to what we hope and pray, will be the first of many seasons in the Premier League

Whether it eventually turns out that we are good enough or not to meet the challenges ahead, one thing that we can be assured of is that we will be ready for what awaits us.

Our preparation has been sharp, focused and committed – we would expect nothing less from Brentford.

The new players are bedding into the squad which is strong and of a depth and strength unsurpassed almost in living memory.

Our transfer record fee has already been smashed twice in a week with the arrival of players of a quality even beyond what we have come to expect in recent years, with the likelihood of more to come.

Our future is also assured with the recruitment of players for the B Team with massive pedigree and potential exemplified when they outclassed an almost full-strength Cambridge United recently. 

Young players of promise are beating their path to our doors as they understand the pathway that exists for them with us.

We have also for the first time I can remember since promotion to the Championship in 2014 not sold a star player in the close season

For our part as supporters, we are also relishing the prospect of being part of sell-out crowds at our magnificent new Brentford Community Stadium and getting back into the habit of going to football matches again after far too long an interval.

There is a feeling of almost palpable excitement and anticipation in the air.

We are preparing to do our bit and sing and encourage our boys to victory.

My head is reeling as I mentally tick off the team that I would select for the first game. There are so many possible permutations that I doubt if any of us will get it right. 

Will we keep to the 3-5-2 formation that ultimately paved the way to promotion or revert to the previously favoured 4-3-3 system? 

Will Sergi Canos figure as a wingback? Is Rico Henry going to be fit? Will Brian Mbeumo or Marcus Forss partner Ivan Toney up front, and how will our 33-goal striker and talisman adapt to the rigours of the top flight? Will Josh Dasilva make a full recovery and feature at all next season?

So many questions and so few answers – but all will be revealed over the coming weeks.

How will the opening game with Arsenal go?

Will we win and get off the mark with our confidence boosted to an even greater degree?

With the eyes of the world on us as we kick off a day earlier than anyone else, will we perform to the best of our ability and put on a show and prove that we are no longer “Little Old Brentford” and we fully deserve to be where we are?

Will we freeze on our big night out in front of a packed stadium and get off to a faltering start and have to play catchup?

No wonder I can barely sleep as the first match draws ever closer – and I am sure that I am not alone.

All around the country there are supporters with similar thoughts in their head as mine – and yours too, I am sure!

To prove my point, and rather than trying to explain exactly how I feel, I am instead going to quote you a passage from one of my favourite football books which hopefully sums up exactly how we are all feeling at the moment.

“Only A Game?” was written nearly 50 years ago by the then Millwall and Eire International midfielder Eamon Dunphy.

I will allow him to explain in his own words, far better and more lyrically and lucidly than I can ever dream about, what the eve of the new season really means to players and supporters alike:

Tomorrow the first game. I am confident. Not certain, for that is impossible. 

The season begins tomorrow and for nine months our lives are committed to the business of winning games.

This is a very special day for football people. 

Small children lie restless in bed dreaming of the conquests they and their heroes will make tomorrow. 

Their dads, pints in hand, talk cynically in pubs – “They will be just as bloody terrible this year.” 

But in a small corner of their hearts, they too nurture a dream that this will be “our year.”

More than anyone, the pro dreams tonight. He is more than a dreamer, he is a dream maker. 

No matter how long you have been in the game, how cynical you have become, or how terrible you know your team to be, tonight you push the past and present behind to dream of the future, which for you is nine months long.

This year I am confident. There are no certainties, but when I look rationally at Millwall, I cannot see us failing. 

We have everything. Skill, character, experience, a good crowd. We only need the luck. 

We should not fail, but we might…. I believe in what we now have at Millwall…. Of course I have my reservations. Yet I still believe.

Millwall finished the season in twelfth place and Dunphy found himself dropped, transfer listed and sold by the end of November – but you have to dream don’t you?

Share