Turning My Back On The Premier League! – 6/7/14

lee price

There are some teams like Fulham and QPR who we Brentford fans see as deadly rivals, others such as the appalling MK Dons that we cordially detest.

On the other hand I have never heard a Brentford fan have a bad word to say about Dagenham & Redbridge who we will be visiting in the first round of the Capital One Cup next month.

So why is that?

Because we recognise that they are a true blue collar club, punching way above their weight and massively overachieving to even remain in the Football League.

In John Still they had a miracle worker as manager who every year seemed to produce yet another rabbit from the hat whose eventual transfer fee would help keep the club solvent for another season.

Dwight Gayle anyone?

I have never had much luck on my visits to Victoria Road – or the London Borough of Barking & Dagenham Stadium to give it its full title.

Back in March 2009 I decided to give the game a miss as it was due to be televised live on Sky TV but when I arrived home that evening I was bemused to discover that the match had been postponed owing to a floodlight failure.

By the time the game was eventually played in April, we were a win away from the title and all thought that we would be holding a promotion party after the match.

How wrong can you be?

Hubris was invented for moments such as this as we were taken apart on the night as two tricky wingers in Matt Ritchie and a certain Sam Saunders created chance after chance for the goal-hungry partnership of Paul Benson and Ben Strevens.

Future Bees goalkeeper David Button played for Daggers that night but I have no memory of his performance given that he was totally untested.

The score could and should have been in double figures but we limped away after a 3-1 mauling with our tail firmly between our legs and grateful that it was only three.

Promotion would have to wait for another few days.

Our final visit to East London came two years later after the Daggers had achieved the minor miracle of getting promoted to the First Division.

We arrived there one night in the dog days of the Andy Scott regime.

His time had surely come and he duly went immediately after the inept 4-1 defeat – or abject surrender in a game notable for the utter lack of effort from a Brentford team who slept-walked through the entire ninety-minute horror show.

Our last meeting came in the Capital One Cup last season when Uwe Rosler introduced us to his new and totally bonkers squad rotation principle and a severely weakened team scraped home 3-2 thanks to Farid El Alagui’s injury time winner.

We also made a triple transfer swoop on “The Dagenham Three” five years ago bringing Danny Foster, Ben Strevens and Sam Saunders to Griffin Park.

Foster was a sound and totally undemonstrative right back whose one amazing feat was to be arrested for vandalism after allegedly dancing in the streets of Aviemore, in the Scottish Highlands,wrapped in some lager advertising banners!

He soon drifted off to Wycombe where he was joined by Strevens who had been plagued by injuries at Griffin Park.

Sam Saunders though proved to be a keeper.

He managed to overcome a slow start when he fell out of managerial favour but has since proved to be a crucial squad member. Fitter and sleeker, the skillful Perma-tanned winger played a vital role in last season’s promotion both as starter and super-sub and his incredible pratfall freekick goal against Swindon last season still brings tears of laughter to my eyes!

It is good to know that we have also helped the Daggers out on occasion too.

Luke Norris had a productive loan spell there last season, Alan Connell played for them yesterday and goalkeeper Liam O’Brien – the invisible man at Griffin Park who went through the entire season playing one Development Squad match, will be trying to establish himself as the Daggers keeper next season.

If successful he will be replacing Chris Lewington, an inconsistent and unpredictable goalkeeper whose foibles and eccentricities have been lovingly portrayed by Sun journalist Lee Price who, disillusioned by the Premier League prima donnas, voluntarily removed himself from his pedestal as yet another Southern based Manchester United supporter to follow his local club throughout last season.

His account of the season, “Turning My Back On The Premier League” has just been published and is available on Amazon for £5.59 in paperback or £4.28 for the ebook.

In other words it will cost you about the price of a burger or hot dog at Old Trafford.

It is an original and thought provoking read as Price adroitly points out the differences between the two clubs in terms of the spectator experience and expectations, their affinity with the club, and the approach, attitude and lifestyle of the players.

What comes through is the life-affirming joy of following a “real” club which engages with the local community and listens to the opinions and bitches of its supporters as it needs every single one of them to remain on board if they are to survive.

Much of the football is hit and miss or dross but every so often comes a match touched by genius as was the case when Daggers made up a three goal deficit to promotion bound Scunthorpe and Luke Norris equalised late on after a storm of tropical intensity had flooded the pitch.

Price is an acute observer and recognises that the difference between say Wayne Rooney and the soon to be released Daggers striker Josh Scott is that whilst Rooney is predictably and consistently brilliant, lower league players like Scott have moments when they too can bring off the seemingly impossible feat of skill, punctuated, unfortunately, by pratfalls and far longer spells spells of mediocrity.

Price had a wonderful time following his new heroes, particularly given the bleakness of the short-lived David Moyes regime at Old Trafford.

His book should be required reading not just for lower league fans who will nod in recognition and appreciation of  his perception and accuracy, but more importantly for every supporter of a Premier League team who is blithely unaware of what happens below the top echelons of the game.

They are missing a potential treat.

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