Like many of the best ideas at Brentford it came from a supporter, this time it was from a married couple who are both Bees fans. Bob and Rosie Winstanley phoned club chairman Cliff Crown saying there were some elderly fans who would appreciate a call in these difficult times and they gave him three numbers which he might call. Cliff says ‘that was the catalyst for me and other directors to start making calls, initially to all season ticket holders in their 80s. Having called all of them we began calling supporters in their 70s’.
Cliff is no stranger to calling fans but normally it is when he and fellow director Nity Raj phone fans who haven’t renewed their season ticket. They and other directors make the calls to try to understand the background, what’s changed for the supporter over the previous 12 months.
The response to these new lockdown calls has been even more positive. Cliff says ‘People seem to be in remarkably good health, many are happy to chat about the club, to ask about the new stadium. I don’t think you would find a Premier League club doing anything like this’.
Chief Executive Jon Varney said he found making the calls was ‘rewarding’. Among the people he’d spoken to were three brothers, all in their eighties.
One supporter, who didn’t quite catch the name of the club caller, took the trouble to write on his and his wife’s behalf to ’Mr Secretary’ and say ‘It was so kind and thoughtful of you to ask how we two were coping during this crisis.Your call gave me so much pleasure’.
There has been a positive response too on social media. Commentator Mark Burridge tweeted: ‘My Dad just called to say Cliff Crown had phoned him to ask about his well being. A wonderful gesture, even our Chairman taking time to call our older supporters at this difficult time. What a club we are lucky to support. Thank you BFC ‘. Football reporter Jim Levack tweeted: ‘Great, heartfelt and genuine work from all concerned’.
A common theme in the calls was fans looking back to their first games at Griffin Park. Club Vice-Chairman Donald Kerr said: ‘One supporter remembered his first season was 1946 when we were last in the top division. He saw us down and hoped to see us up again after a 74 year gap. And a second chap whose first game at GP was Christmas 1952 against Barnsley mused on the fact that his last game at GP would also have been against Barnsley’.
One of the most interesting anecdotes came from Bees fan Peter Rosier who, when called by a director, remembered the day back in 1965 when he had been reporting on the game against Millwall. He noticed that goalkeeper Chic Brodie appeared to pick something up during the game and put it in the back of the net at the away end. After the game Peter asked Chic what the object was and it turned out somebody had thrown a hand grenade, fortunately it was a dead one. Peter says there’s no doubt in his mind a Millwall fan was responsible.