Thom McCann – the most intense reaction I’ve experienced

Thursday, 25 April 2024 | News, Match Reports, In Focus

I've seen Brandy Chastain rip off her shirt and was there to see Zidane’s headbutt. I watched Michael Jordan outplay the hometown Seattle SuperSonics but none of these moments compared to Brentford's home match against Man United. Thom McCann journeyed from Seatle WA, 4780 miles away to watch the Bees!  
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As a former University of Washington rower—famous for the “Boys in the Boat,” whose story was recently immortalized in a film shot near London—I developed an even deeper connection upon discovering the club originated from a rowing club in 1889. With all these ties, visiting Brentford to watch a Premier League match became an inevitable goal for us.

I was there when…

I’ve attended my fair share of big sporting events, including the Super Bowl XXXIX, NBA Finals, World Series playoffs, Rose Bowl, Copa America, and over 50 World Cup matches and qualifiers across 10 countries. I was there when Brandy Chastain famously ripped off her shirt after clinching the World Cup for the U.S. I was there when Ronaldo scored twice to defeat Germany in the final in Tokyo, and when Zidane’s headbutt in the Berlin final tilted the scales in Italy’s favor. I watched Michael Jordan outplay the hometown Seattle SuperSonics in the 50th NBA finals. And I was there when Andy Reid, leading my original hometown Philadelphia Eagles, came tantalizingly close to a Super Bowl comeback against Tom Brady and the Patriots.

But none of these moments compare to my experiences with the beautiful game, where the most intense reaction I’ve experienced was at the recent Brentford home match against Manchester United. My response to Manchester United’s undeserved ‘winning’ goal against Brentford was unparalleled.


I started following the Premier League in the mid-1990s, whimsically shifting my allegiances from one team to another for various trivial reasons. But in 2018, that changed. An article highlighting Brentford’s innovative, data-driven approach to building a successful team on a modest budget—without relying on a traditional academy system—caught my attention. This approach resonated, prompting my eight-year-old son and I to start following their journey then, in England’s Championship, the second tier of English football.

My 10-year-old daughter proposed a March spring break trip to London and Ireland, she had to see Harry Potter and some double decker buses but once we’d carved out enough days from our schedules balanced between London and Ireland, I turned to Brentford’s match schedule and realised that some huge stroke of luck was needed to allow us to witness the live match during our visit – Manchester Utd! Fortunately I had connected with Bees UnIted and with with Fran Carroll from Ireland, who heads the BU international supporters’ section and Fran turned out to be a godsend, guiding me through every detail and making the most of matchday in West London—from the best pubs to local attractions.

The Football was going great

Thom, Nolan and Hannah McCann on our Brentford walkabout


Our day began at Kew Gardens, where the gardens set a magical tone, especially as the weather was unexpectedly perfect.

Beyond the gardens, we enjoyed a leisurely walk-through Brentford, a great pub, and the growing vibrant atmosphere as we approached the stadium.

The pre-game excitement ramped up after we enjoyed a hearty meal at a local Brentford pub.




McCann family at GTech as the players bus rolls up


As we approached the Brentford Community Stadium, the timing was perfect—the team bus arrived just as we reached, allowing us a close-up view of the Brentford players disembarking and heading into the stadium.

Soon after, the away team arrived, and their famous footballers followed suit.

Before finding our seats, we visited the team store and dropped some coin on new Brentford merchandise.



The atmosphere inside the stadium was electric. Although it only holds 17,000+ spectators, it felt grand, echoing with the energy of a major sporting event. The match began with both teams cautiously sizing each other up, but it didn’t take long for Brentford to take control. They were a constant threat to the Manchester United goal, orchestrating play from the back with seamless attacks and nearly monopolizing ball control. The crowd could sense a goal was imminent, and the stands were alive with song, celebrating Brentford’s fluid play and the apparent helplessness of the opposition.

The pseudo-climax came when Ivan Toney brilliantly converted a superb pass into what seemed like a goal, only for the momentary joy to be quashed by an offside flag. However, the disappointment was fleeting; the collective sentiment in the stadium was optimistic—”no worries, another goal is on its way.” The chants and songs resumed, playfully taunting the subdued away fans, who seemed resigned to a major upset and big changes in their team.

Devastation and Deliverance

The tension built through the 90th minute and deep into extra time, especially after Bryan Mbeumo struck the crossbar. Then, in the 96th minute, from a throw-in deep in Manchester United’s half, the ball unexpectedly ended up with a United player and was quickly played down the field. A frantic sequence followed—a Brentford defender dispossessed one United player only for the ball to ricochet to another, eventually finding Mason Mount, who clinically finished inside the far post. It was, without a doubt, the most undeserved goal in football history.

The atmosphere in the stadium shifted dramatically. This was the second time this year that Manchester United had snatched a win from Brentford in extra time; at Old Trafford, United had secured a 2-1 victory with two late goals. A profound despair settled among the home supporters, witnessing a repeat of such heartbreak.

The reaction from the away fans only twisted the knife. as they burst out of their coma and into rapturous celebration as if they had clinched the title. It’s one thing if they just did a polite golf clap and said “sorry, we realize we don’t deserve to win, but that’s football sometimes”. But they had to continue their song and dance, assaulting the aforementioned karma and not realizing who was sitting in an Irish seat by tempting “filleann an feall ar an bhfeallaire.”

But then, a spark of defiance ignited within me. Sure, I’ve been on the field or at important games where my team has lost to its hated rival. But this was different. That pompous hoard had triggered an emotion that I didn’t realize existed. I was now not just a spectator, but a participant in this drama, embodying the frustration of the vast majority around me. Like others, I knew that it was the 98th minute of a match with 8 minutes of extra time added and realized: There’s still time left!

As the match entered its final moments, an almost electric anticipation hung in the air. Despite the setback, there was still time. Karma, Preparation, Opportunity Luck, Feall, our field leader and even the Norse gods were about to strike. Once more, the team surged forward, and Ivan Toney, after a deft dribble, set up Kristoffer Ajer who slammed the ball into the net. The stadium erupted, the home fans’ elation contrasting sharply with the sudden silence of the visitors sitting on their hands once more. My son and I joined in the jubilant uproar, releasing all the pent-up energy in a cathartic celebration that felt like more than just a draw.


This unforgettable moment marked our first live Premier League experience. It was a dramatic live introduction to English football for both my son and me, one that will forever bind us to Brentford. We left with hearts full, committed to follow the Bees wherever they might go.

Thom McCann
Seattle Washington