Bees in the States: Partying Like It’s 1889

Friday, 11 August 2023 | News

Charlie Corr's on top of Brentford's first top-division Stateside trip as part of the PL Summer Series. A festive experience for North American and European supporters.  
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With each passing day, Brentford is breaking new ground and adding to its rich history, dating back to its inception in 1889. Yet in most of that time, the Bees hadn’t created much of an international foothold from a supporters standpoint.

This July was a watershed moment, as the Bees made their first top-division Stateside trip, competing in the six-team Premier League Summer Series – a three-match preseason tournament in the United States.

The 2021 jump to the Premier League naturally kickstarted an uptick of international fandom, with a growing number of American-based supporters groups latching onto the allure of this humble and passionate Brentford community. This summer provided the first tangible moment for new Brentford fans and longtime supporters to converge as one. The matches and results were secondary – it was all about the camaraderie, while tasting the flavor of what has drawn us to the club in our unique ways.

The USA’s east coast locale was a convenient one for most, and the first major Brentford international trip also drew some well-traveled supporters. Many West Londoners headed across the pond, with the highly touted Beesotted podcast crew chatting with supporters on a daily basis throughout. In America, fans from as far as the Pacific Northwest came in, notably Jose Castillo who made it to all three matches. And it was difficult to miss folks such as ​​Bjørnar Bruun from Norway, who was at every Bees function on the itinerary.

Attendees got as little or as much out of the event as they wanted to, whether it was purely for the stadium experience, the pre-match meets, or for folks traveling here for the first time, maybe some sidetracks to run up the famous Rocky Steps (Philadelphia Museum of Art) or visit the numerous monuments and memorials in Washington, D.C.

Ringing the Liberty Bell

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was the first stop for all fans to finally see Brentford live and in person Stateside. John Kenkel, who created the Brentford USA Supporters Club back in 2014 and is based near Washington, D.C., helped work with the club and put some of his own personal flair into the get-togethers and activities surrounding this trip.

The day before the match, supporters convened at McGillin’s Olde Ale House for a meet with the club, followed by a pre-match get-together at Tankie’s. It should be noted that Levar Riley, a devoted member of the New York City Bees, steered organizers toward both locations.

McGillin’s drew more than 100 supporters, and the club brought in Josh Dasilva and Aaron Hickey as part of the celebration.


The mix of raffles, giveaways and a bevy of Bees-clad supporters launched the festivities in a big way.

The following early afternoon at Tankie’s also brought in a heavy dose of support, as Brentford flags draped along the front of the pub, with one flag eventually making its way to the back of a pickup truck to show Philly who was in town.

Club ambassadors Gary Blissett and Marcus Gayle, household names during their run with the club in the late 1980s and early 1990s, were incredibly accessible during both pre- and post-match opportunities. Not only did they have a huge role on site, but their activity and responses on social media are quite extensive.

One noteworthy Philadelphia-related backstory: During the Summer Series, if you spotted a Brentford flag with “Passey 90” on the upper left corner, that is remembrance of Colin Passey’s father, who was a devoted Bees supporter and passed away just a few months before they were promoted in 2021. Passey grew up in West London and he now lives in the Greater Philadelphia area.

Philly Match Day Moment (23 July): Second-half goalkeeper David Raya made a noteworthy diving save on Willian, but it was his postgame recognition to the Bees supporters that stood out. After most of the club had already walked toward Section 130, Raya drew some delayed extra cheers by the time he ventured over. Turns out, Raya’s salute to the crowd probably represented his final time on the pitch for the Bees, and the Stateside crowd was there to witness it.


Midweek at the Pantheon

Atlanta Bees at Mercedes-Benz Stadium: Michel Cowdery, Jacob Gowler, Allen Kinzley, Katie Jordan and Paul Kowalczyk

The club headed to Georgia for a midweek clash.

Atlanta-based supporters Katie Jordan and Michel Cowdery provided some valuable assistance in the lead-up to Brentford’s match day minus-1 get-together at Wild Leap Brew Co. Defenders Ben Mee and newcomer Nathan Collins met supporters, took a bunch of photographs and were generous with their time.

Club ambassadors Gary Blissett and Marcus Gayle were on hand for a second straight match.


“I chatted with Marcus about the ethos and DNA of Brentford, and he spoke about the genuine, rich connection with the community of supporters,” Cowdery said. “I also met several supporters from the UK, some of whom said that Gary was their hero when he played at Griffin Park. So to be at that event with him is something they’ll cherish. Gary and Marcus couldn’t have been friendlier and more thoughtful.”

Peter Gilham, the voice of Brentford, was a staple of the meet-ups and greeted numerous supporters throughout the week. In Atlanta, Gilham’s role took front and center when he was pitchside to introduce the club before the Brentford-Brighton match

The game took place in the state-of-the-art Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home of MLS’s Atlanta United and the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons. Anyone heading to the 70,000-plus capacity stadium is impressed with the graphics and the Roman Pantheon-inspired roof – the latter, folks were probably just happy to have a closed-roof, air-conditioned stadium on one of the hottest days of the year!

Atlanta Match Day Moment (26 July): Keane Lewis-Potter had two near scoring chances in the first half, including a shot saved off the goal line by Brighton’s defense. The Bees have been itching to see what KLP can provide after an unfortunate knee injury in training last season.


Culmination in the Capitol

The Bees’ USA preseason training home and the locale of their Summer Series finale was the perfect spot for American-based fans.

Kenkel and the D.C.-area Brentford fandom, the Potomac Bees, call the Hawk & Griffin their beloved Bees home, so the club capped off the journey at an incredibly familiar ground from an American Bees standpoint.

Two days before the final match, Kenkel started things off with a pool and barbeque party at his Virginia home, and the following day was another 150-plus-supporter event at Hawk & Griffin. Bees ambassador Paul Buckle, another stronghold in the early-’90s era, mingled with supporters and soaked in the atmosphere.

With FedExField situated in the far outskirts from D.C., the buildup to the Brentford-Aston Villa finale included a memorable morning tailgate: Food, drinks and boisterous Bees fans (approximately 75 different folks throughout various moments) converging in a celebration more aligned for an NFL or college game. One noteworthy difference: London Pride in a keg.

Pitchside, famed NBC Sports footballing anchor Rebecca Lowe – wife of Buckle – also interacted with some of our supporters, notably laughing during the broadcast as she was regaled with ‘There’s only one Paul Buckle’ sung by the Brentford faithful, and later touted that “Thomas Frank might be my favourite ever manager.”

D.C. Match Day Moment (30 July): Eager for Brentford’s attack to break out, Josh Dasilva rose to the occasion, burying an absolutely perfect left-footed, bending ball inside the far left post, well out of the reach of World Cup champion goalkeeper Emi Martinez. The Bees’ 2-0 lead was their high point of the tournament.







Will this be a frequent offseason excursion for Brentford moving forward? The USA is, after all, a massive market that will also be the center of major international footballing events for the next several years: Copa America (2024), FIFA Club World Cup (2025), FIFA World Cup (2026). Brentford didn’t hit any of the biggest metropolitan markets, either: NYC, Los Angeles and Chicago.

You can’t deny that this isn’t a league-driven money grab, commonplace for Americans who are used to this business approach. Nevertheless, the end justifies the means here. Brentford is in its infancy as a budding international club, and as Brentford and the Premier League conduct their respective analyses, they’ll likely come to the conclusion that there are still many untapped benefits in continuing this preseason spectacle.

PL Summer Series Results:

23 July: Fulham 3, Brentford 2 – Philadelphia, Pa.

26 July: Brighton 2, Brentford 0 – Atlanta, Ga.

30 July: Brentford 3, Aston Villa 3 – Landover, Md. (D.C. area)

Charlie Corr

John Kenkel, Katie Jordan and Michel Cowdery contributed to this recap
Charlie Corr is a co-founder/organizer of the New York City Bees supporters group