The Chester’s and Griffin Park

Thursday, 23 May 2024 | News, In Focus

Jim was 11 for his first trip to GP, with his Dad in the 1948-49 season. The year before Jim went to his first football match, at Chelsea, where he saw Tommy Lawton play, from the Shed with the game seeming miles away the other side of the Dog Track. It's been a 76 year journey from GP to the Gtech. Jim recently celebrated his 87th year.  
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The Chester family moved from Edmonton to Isleworth in 1942 when my Dad, Harold, became the manager of the Stowell’s off licence just outside Isleworth station.

We lived in the flat above the shop.

When I had asked him “Where is Isleworth?” The reply was, “Somewhere the other side of Brentford gas works.”

The first time I had heard of Brentford.



My Dad, was nick named “Lofty Chester”, 6ft was tall in those days and he had played non-league football in the Bradford area after his Navy service during the First World War. He had, I believe, turned down approaches from Bradford City and Bradford Park Avenue, preferring to continue his apprenticeship in the wool trade.

During this period he was capped by Yorkshire Amateurs, the northern equivalent to Corinthian Casuals and when competitive football started up after the war our occasional Saturday football watching was split between the Bees at Griffin Park and Hounslow Town at Denbigh Road.

Dad even spent his Wednesday afternoons watching Borough Road College whose team included such players as George Robb who later played as a part time professional for Spurs and once for the full England team. Later Bill Slater was also at Borough Road.

I suppose that we really became full time Bees fans when they had an FA Cup run to the 6th round in 1949.

All their games were played at Griffin Park.

They beat the mighty Middlesborough and Wilf Mannion in the 3rd round

That was followed by victories over Torquay United and Burnley before losing 0-2 to Leicester City in front of a record crowd of 38,678.

Dad was always late
My Dad had to shut the shop at 2.30pm and frequently arrived late. He stood behind the goal in the Brook Road stand where he used to meet up with Charley Figg, our local shoe mender and a well-known leg puller. When Dad arrived about 15 minutes after the start of a game with Bury, he asked Charley the score (there was no score board in those days). Charley replied 3-0 to Brentford. Dad did not believe him and bet Charley £5 he was kidding. Dad turned to a glum Bury fan standing next to them and enquired about the score. The answer came back 3-0 to your lot. The Bees eventually won 8-2. I don’t know if Charley ever collected his fiver.

New Road – standing on bricks
I watched the Bees with my friend Geoff Rowe from the front of the New Road, about level with the goal area. The only problem with being small kids was that the front of the New Road was often full of water. We overcame this by finding some house bricks which we stood on to avoid our feet getting too wet. Later we came in Wellington boots. On Saturday afternoons we always arrived early and spent time by the players entrance at the back of the Braemar Road stand pestering the arriving players for their autographs. They helped by signing our programmes where their names appeared. We then returned to the New Road in time to get our place at the front on our bricks.

Autographs from Ron Greenwood, Jimmy Hill and Bill Slater
I spent my secondary school years at Isleworth Grammar next door to Borough Road College.

In 1952 the school footballers had a coaching visit from 3 Brentford players.

This was too good an opportunity to miss. I got all their autographs.

The players were Ron Greenwood, Jimmy Hill and Bill Slater who played a few games that year as an amateur while studying at Borough Road College. He later went on to have a long career at Wolves and play 12 games for England.


I think that my autograph album possibly contains the autographs of the best half back line that Brentford never had.

My visits to Griffin Park became very infrequent in the late 1950’s as I spent 2 years doing National service in the RAF and afterwards most of my Saturdays were later taken up playing hockey for Hounslow at Church Meadow,and after getting married in 1961, for Richmond. My interest in the Bees continued and they were always the first team whose results I looked for in the Classified Saturday evening paper.

My absence in the RAF and my early married years coincided with the Bees decent Division Three (South), Division Three and finally to Division Four.

They then proceeded to yo-yo between Divisions Three and Four until my next visit to Griffin Park in September 1987. Our third child Adrian was in West Middlesex Hospital being treated for an irregular heart-beat. I was visiting him with my wife Angela and Daughter Claire when two of his college friends arrived to see what he had been up to. Angela suggested that we disappear for a while. I knew that the Bees were at home to Rotherham and they had just signed a new half back from Chelsea. To my surprise Angela and Claire agreed to spend a couple of hours watching the Bees. The ladies were treated to seats in the west end of the Braemar Road stand and we watched the Bees draw 1-1 and Keith Jones score on his Bees debut. My only other memory of that visit was the distinct lack of leg room in the stand. I spent the game sat sideways to avoid damaging my knees.

I was back at GP next year to see the FA Cup replay with Walsall. When I got to the ground it was almost kick off time and I could see a queue at the New Road so I nipped in to the Ealing Road and stood quietly with the small contingent of visiting fans. With the score 0-0 at half time I managed to persuade the steward to let me into the New Road so that I could encourage the Bees. It obviously worked, we won 1-0.

The Bees then drew Man City at home in the next round and with my 3 sons we cheered the Bees to a 3-1 victory. Keith Jones scored again followed by 2 from Garry Blissett.

I was now hooked again and I became a regular stander on the New Road, about level with the penalty area at the Ealing Road end. On the rare occasions that the Bees started the game attacking the Ealing Road end, at half time I would transplant myself to the Brook Road end to see the second half action at closer quarters. Generally, I was not too disappointed with what I saw.

The Derby manager said #### off
On Boxing Day 1992 we brought my eldest Grandson Adam (aged 5) to his first proper football match against Derby. For this game we stood in the Braemar Road enclosure at the Brook Road end. After about 20 minutes Adam wanted to visit the toilet with his Dad. When they got back, Joe Allom had just scored and Adam burst into tears. No action replay was available. He was not to be disappointed long. Goulooze, the Derby left back managed to fire the ball into his own net. At half time, Arthur Cox, the Derby manager, was returning to the dressing room, rather crest fallen, Derby had not scored many goals recently. As Mr Cox walked past I said to him, “Mr Cox, why don’t you put your left back up front? At least he seems to know where the net is at this end.” I was not too surprised at the reply that I received. “F+++ off.” Derby did manage to score after half time but perhaps Arthur Cox had the last laugh, despite winning 2-1, we got relegated at the end of the season.

After the Bees relegation back to what was then Division 2, I was a fairly regular sufferer at Griffin Park as the Bees soldiered on in the 3rd tier of English football. All my memorable matches during these years were in the FA Cup.

In September 2002, as the Bees were trying to free themselves from their obligations to Ron Noades, I became a shareholder in Bees United. This together with a monthly donation, helped me to identify more with the Club.

In 2005, having come from two goals down at Southampton to earn a replay. I arrived for with plenty of time to spare for the evening replay. After crossing the Brook Road railway bridge, I was surprised to find a queue to get into the New Road stretching half way down Hamilton Road. The queue moved slowly forward and by 7.50, as I had just passed the Royal Oak, there was a roar from those who were already in the ground, Hutchinson had scored for the Bees. I eventually got into the ground just as Southampton equalised. We lost 1-3 and I had my first sight of Peter Crouch who came on as a substitute for Southampton.

Next season we entertained Sunderland in the 4th round and beat them 2-1 thanks to two DJ Campbell goals. Before our next round tie at Charlton the Bees sold DJ to Birmingham City.

2007 was a big year for me but not a very good one for the Bees. I needed some-where to celebrate my 70th birthday. Brentford were at home to Cheltenham the day before my birthday so 24 members of the family enjoyed lunch in the Beehive, a tour of the ground and a seat in the main stand. I had volunteered to represent the Bees in the “Centre Circle Challenge”. Determined not to let the side down, I purchased a full size football and took myself off to the pitch on Sheen Common to practice. I was very relieved when I found however hard I kicked the ball, it just about reached the centre spot. On the day, my practice was rewarded when I beat a young Cheltenham fan 4-1. Unfortunately the Bees who were already losing 0-1 at half time were not inspired by my efforts and went on to lose 0-2 and get relegated at the end of the season.

At the end of their second season in Division 2, the Bees were back in Division 1 and from there their fortunes took a turn for the better.

The arrival of Uwe Rösler lead to the Bees playing a different kind of football. It took a while to get used to seeing the Bees playing the ball out from the back instead of punting it forward and hoping to pick up knock downs or second balls.

This change of tactics bore fruit in 2013 when we should have beaten Doncaster with a last minute penalty and would have been automatically promoted. Unfortunately Marcello Trotta hit the crossbar and Doncaster went down the other end to score the winner. I and 10,478 other Brentford fans, were distraught. This was followed by another failure in the Play Offs.

In December 2013 I was amongst about 1,000 Bees supporters at the Lionel Road planning committee hearing at Hounslow Council offices. I was very pleasantly surprised how well behaved the fans were and they were all ecstatic when the application was approved about mid night. On the way home, whist waiting for a train on Hounslow Central station, I phoned my eldest son Peter with the news that we were getting a new ground. His reply was that he knew as he had followed the hearing on line. He then told me that although we were getting a new ground we had lost our manager. Uwe Rösler was going to Wigan.

When Mark Warburton took over things went from good to better.

Peter, whilst living in the Wirral, attended many Bees matches in the north and over the years got to know several fans who were also refugees from Griffin Park. Kev and Old Mike from Llandudno and Keith McInnes from Malpas. Since then Keith has provided them with transport to games from the midlands to all points north. They also make it to GP for lots of home games and Peter now even has a season ticket with me, my youngest son John and my brother in law Paul in the New Road.

The North West Bees and several other friends and family will be enjoying Griffin Park hospitality in the Legends Lounge prior to the game with Preston North End.

The “Preston plumber”
I have particular memories of games with PNE. The 1950-1 season had started badly but things took a turn for the better after we beat Southampton 4-0 on Boxing Day. After that we were unbeaten at home until Preston turned up with Tom Finney, the “Preston plumber” and beat us 2-4 with Finney scoring two. One from about 20 yards that nearly broke the net. Undeterred by this defeat, the Bees continued to improve and if the season had run from Boxing Day for 42 games would have amassed 56 points which would have been sufficient to get us promoted in either of the 1950-1 or 1951-2 seasons.

My Youngest son John’s wife, has friends who live in Preston and he frequently managed to visit them when the Bees were at Deepdale. A few season ago when PNE were at Griffin Park his friends came to GP with us. They were not keen on being with the home fans so we joined them at ground level in the Brook Road. It was a most enjoyable to be amongst the visiting fans and they entertained us more than what was on offer on the field, a 0-0 draw. I can still remember the continual chanting, “Jump up and down if you hate Blackpool”. After a few minutes they were joined by the PNE trainer who leapt up and down in the technical area. It looked like they had a view of the Seasiders, similar to ours of our neighbours from Lofthouse Road.

South stand at Gtech

Four members of the extended Chester family now enjoy the view from the South stand at the Gtech.

They are also active members of the North Western Bees, a group of supporters living mainly in North Wales, the Wirral, Chester and Preston co-ordinated by son Peter and Keith McInnes from Malpas, just south of Chester.

Thank you Brentford for many entertaining, if occasionally frustrating hours at Griffin Park and much better entertainment at the Gtech.




Jim Chester