Smart Money: The Fall and Rise of Brentford FC Alex Duff author

Thursday, 25 April 2024 | News, In Focus

If I could go back in time, it would be to have a beer at the Bricklayers Arms with Terry, Stan and Francis Joseph.” A Q&A with Alex Duff, who covered Brentford as a local journalist in the '90s and is author of ‘Smart Money, the Fall and Rise of Brentford FC  
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Alex Duff, author of Smart Money, The Fall and Rise of Brentford FC
A Q and A

Why did you want to write this book?

Mainly because it was a good story. I was intrigued by Matthew Benham’s background, first as a derivatives trader and then as a professional gambler and how he got involved with Brentford. It turned out he was using data analytics in financial markets 30 years ago, long before most British businesses, let alone football clubs. I also thought some people who watch the Premier League but did not know anything about Brentford might be interested in finding out more.

Researching and writing the book, What was it like for you?

It was a pleasure. I enjoyed speaking to former players, club directors, executives, and journalists about their memories of the club. There was plenty of nostalgia involved, particularly childhood memories of coming to Griffin Park first as a seven-year-old boy and later as a reporter for the Brentford & Chiswick Times. One of my heroes was Terry Hurlock, who talked to me about the colourful 1980s when he and Stan Bowles lived in Braemar Road. If I could go back in time, I would have a beer at the Bricklayers Arms on the Ealing Road with Terry, Stan, and Francis Joseph. There were some challenges with the book: perhaps needless to say, Matthew Benham did not cooperate! This is my third book and in all of them there have been characters who are, shall we say, publicity shy. On the flip side, the challenge of finding out stuff is fun and part of the attraction of being a reporter.

What surprised you about the Brentford story?

I knew a fair bit about the history of Brentford, the town, but I did not really know the story of the origins of the club. Hopefully the book explains why there is a football club in Brentford and how we came to be, for a short time, one of the biggest clubs in southern England in the 1930s. In the modern era, I was not aware of the extent of the personal sacrifice some fans made to keep the club going in the early 2000s. I was living abroad and only vaguely aware of what was going on. I saw people shaking buckets outside Griffin Park but did not know about supporters like Alan Bird – the interim executive director who withdrew funds from his own bank account to keep the club solvent – nor Brian Burgess and Chris Gammon who worked without pay to pursue the stadium plans. And that’s just to name a few people I spoke with. There were, of course, many more. I hope the book shines a light on the work of Bees United for those who do not know the story.

What has been the response to the book so far?

I have heard some nice things from Brentford fans – but also people who have never been to Griffin Park or the new stadium. Some people have had a gripe, but that’s fine – I was not expecting everyone to like it. To my surprise, it seems popular with people in investment banking and who talk about outside-the-box thinking – I’ve been invited to speak about the book at a conference of money managers in the U.K. and on a podcast in India. So hopefully it has a wide appeal and will hook a few new Brentford fans.

Alex’ match review, Brentford & Chiswick Times, 1995


Alex Duff
 Smart Money: the Fall and Rise of Brentford FC