This charming article (it’s well worth a proper read) appeared in the Daily Telegraph in September. The journalist (and former National Hunt jockey) Marcus Armytage told of a cousin of his who had become an actor. The cousin’s first name was Deighton (the surname wasn’t mentioned) and his agent had advised him to create a stage name. He was a keen Brentford fan and he finally chose Mr Brent Ford.
We set out try to find Mr Ford. In the database which records all appearances in films and TV Brent Ford was only listed as having appeared in a 1994 episode of ‘Red Dwarf’ and a 2004 episode of ‘Teachers’.The only photograph we could find was one in a social media profile.
Eventually Mr Ford was kind enough to talk to us and confirm the main points of his cousin’s article.Yes he had been told by his agent to create a stage name, yes it was Brent Ford and yes he was a Brentford fan. He explained that it happened in his early twenties, the agent said the new name had to be something simple and easy to remember. He said he talked and still does talk about Brentford all the time ‘probably every day of my life’. His friends always noticed this and one of them suggested he called himself Brent. Using the surname Ford followed on from that. It wasn’t a testament to show his undying love for the club. In fact he now regretted his decision, being ‘Brent Ford’ didn’t particularly help his career as an actor although it may have helped sell some of the novels he’d written under the same name, particularly in the American market. But he’d learned to Iive with the fact that more people knew him as Brent Ford than under his real name and he still loved the Bees.
The Government have announced a pilot scheme which will allow some fans at Premier League and Championship clubs to stand while watching matches. Clubs have until 6 October to apply to become ‘early adopters’ of the scheme which would begin on January 1st.
The ban on standing in the top two English leagues goes back to the Hillsborough disaster in 1989, when 97 Liverpool supporters were killed in a crush. ‘Safe standing’ areas which use guard-rails or barriers to prevent fans falling forward have been used in Germany and Scotland including Celtic’s ground.
Back in 2017 when the campaign for ‘safe standing’ was gathering momentum Brentford said: “Legislation currently does not allow safe standing in the top two divisions. If that legislation were to change it is something Brentford would consider for our new Community Stadium.”
Now that the stadium exists the club’s position is that it remains supportive in principle of having a safe option installed at the stadium for those fans who want to stand during games. However, it says “there would be significant cost involved in converting areas of the stadium so this will ultimately be a financial decision”. The Club is currently investigating the cost options for dual purpose seating in different areas within the West Stand and the upper area of the away section in the East Stand.
“In the meantime, the stadium remains all seater but the Club acknowledges that supporters in the West Stand tend to be on their feet cheering on the team more often than in other parts of the stadium. However, there are some fundamental safety rules that must be adhered to in all areas within the stadium including that supporters must remain in their ticketed space with no migration from other areas of the stand into the middle (or sharing spaces with other fans); and all stairs, aisles, entrance and exit areas must be kept clear at all times.”
The nickname ‘Zanka’, as Mathias Jørgensen is commonly referred to, came about during his youth career at the Danish club B.93 (Boldklubben af 1893). After an away game, Zanka felt there were a lot of people in the car that was taking the players back home, and he mentioned it felt like a bobsleigh. Because of that comment, Johan Lange, who is now the Sporting Director of Aston Villa, started calling him Zanka as a reference to Sanka Coffie from the popular movie ‘Cool Runnings’, which is about bobsleighing.
Born in Copenhagen to a Danish mother and a Gambian father, Zanka signed his first full-time contract with FC Copenhagen at the age of 17. He played there for five seasons before Dutch side PSV Eindhoven bought the young defender. However, his stay at PSV was rather unsuccessful and he returned to FC Copenhagen after two years, where he would stay for three more years. After three years, he moved on to newly Premier League promoted Huddersfield, which proved to be a massive success, as he played an integral part in Huddersfield’s successful relegation battle. It is undoubtedly this Premier League experience that influenced Brentford to take the opportunity to sign Zanka when his contract with Fenerbahce was terminated.
In fact, this is not the first time Brentford have tried to sign Zanka. In an interview with the club, Zanka revealed that it wasn’t just a sudden interest, but that Brentford have previously contacted him on multiple occasions: “There have been talks between my agent and the club, which is the Danish connection, and I have previously played under Brian Riemer at FC Copenhagen. So there have been talks in previous years about the possibility of joining Brentford. And this year we actually made everything come together and I’m really pleased about that.”
This relationship with Brentford’s Assistant Head Coach Brian Riemer is another major reason why Brentford signed Zanka. In an interview with the Danish football magazine, Tipsbladet, Riemer clarified the reasoning behind the signing: “My biggest responsibility is the defence, which is obviously heavily inspired by how we did things at FC Copenhagen. Just like me, Zanka has also been formed by the time at FC Copenhagen with Ståle Solbakken as the manager. The principals we work with now are actually very similar to those we worked with at FC Copenhagen. So, we have brought in a player who doesn’t need to learn our way of playing as he is already accustomed to it”. Riemer continues: “He is clearly a player that we have faith in, and we hope he will play a significant role, both as a backup, but also as someone who will play more later on in the season. Ultimately, the amount of playing time is up to Zanka himself. If he does well, he will play more. But we know we have a player we can trust”.
Many Danish football fans were quite sceptical of the move and feared it would be a so-called “bridge-transfer”, where Brentford sign Zanka and loan him out for little to no money to Matthew Benham’s second club, FC Midtjylland. However, this fear and scepticism were soon put to rest by FC Midtjylland’s CEO Claus Steinlein who blatantly denied all the speculation by saying Zanka will never play for FCM: “We already have a lot of good defenders. But it’s funny that he is now playing for our sister-club. However, Zanka is basically ‘Mr. FC Copenhagen’, so it will never happen.”
The speculation was also put to rest against Wolverhampton when Zanka was subbed on in the 82nd minute and performed well. After the game, Thomas Frank praised Zanka’s performance and said: “He is a solid and experienced defender who contributes with composure, control, leadership, and communication, and he had some amazing clearances. It was really good to see”. With Mads Bech Sørensen out, Zanka will most likely be getting some very important minutes in the next period of time, and he will be just as important off the pitch where he will continue to contribute with his experience and leadership.