Happy Birthday Brentford! – 12/10/14

bees6Let me join the torrent of well-wishers celebrating our beloved Brentford’s one hundredth and twenty-fifth birthday, a heady milestone that was reached a couple of days ago.

There is so much water that has flowed under Kew Bridge since that momentous day back in October 1889 when the decision was taken by a narrow margin to form a new football club.

Much of it has been captured perfectly in the wonderful “100 Years of Brentford Book” which is as comprehensive and fascinating a read today as it was the day that it was published in 1989.

In the time since its publication, the Bees have been promoted four times, relegated on three occasions, lost two Associate Members’ Cup Finals and suffered through seven, yes seven, unsuccessful Playoff campaigns.

The events of the past quarter century are pretty much a microcosm of our beloved club’s topsy-turvy existence since its foundation where we have climbed ladders and descended snakes with apparent impunity.

Given the stability of our current ownership and finances as well as the likely impetus from the planned move to a new purpose built stadium at Lionel Road, perhaps supporters now feel that the tide has turned and that fresh triumphs await us.

Hopefully it is simply a question of how far and how quickly we are able to climb.

How high can we go?

Now that is the question that many of us are afraid to utter and will not answer for fear of becoming a jinx.

After so many years of heartache, pessimism and scepticism I finally feel that the mood has changed amongst our long-suffering supporters who are now firm believers that the best has yet to come.

I can honestly say that the well-used and notorious statement “It’s Brentford Innit”, so redolent of bitterness, failure and the acceptance of life’s quirks and bad fortune has barely been heard this season and perhaps will finally become a distant memory as the years pass.

bees5Just before the season began (http://tinyurl.com/mg5dzgw) I made what on the surface seemed a totally ridiculous and off the cuff statement when I claimed that our current squad is perhaps the best in terms of pure footballing ability that we have had since the heady days of First Division success in the mid 30s.

With the recent death of veteran supporters and first hand observers like Bob Spicer, it is becoming harder and harder to grasp just how good that Brentford All-Stars team was in the years leading up to the Second World War and there are several articles from that period that seriously proclaim that the Bees were in the mix to challenge for both the First Division title and the FA Cup alike.

I find it hard to believe that however talented that squad was, with illustrious names such as Reid, Smith, Bateman, Holliday, Hopkins, James, Crozier and McCulloch, that they could have produced football as breathtaking as we have been blessed with so far this season.

Perhaps in time names such as Tarkowski, Bidwell, Judge, Jota, Odebajo and Gray will similarly become Brentford legends in their own right?

The players we are now recruiting are of a standard and quality that is far beyond anything that I have ever seen in my time watching the Bees and I know that my view is shared by many of the fellow Brentford supporters I have spoken to recently.

By the way, it is very easy to pick out a Brentford supporter nowadays as you only have to look at their expression of stunned amazement and bemused gratification to recognise their identity!

I fully realise that the season is barely two months old and we have played a mere eleven matches, and perhaps my words will be thrown back in my face by the time the long winter nights draw in – but I honestly do not think so.

Brentford are for real.

We now possess a team which is packed full of talent, and that plays flowing attacking football with verve and panache, and most, importantly, totally without fear.

bees4For Harry Curtis, who led us from the Third tier to the promised land of the First Division, read Mark Warburton, for legendary Chairman and Life Vice-President of that period Louis P. Simon, read Matthew Benham.

The parallels might be eerie but they are also totally apparent to me.

Given a fair wind and head of steam, and the luck that every successful team requires, I can see no reason why our momentum and phenomenal rate of progress cannot be maintained over the coming years.

The transformation since the appointment of Uwe Rosler, a mere three years or so ago, has been astonishing and the foundations he laid have been more than built upon by his successor, Mark Warburton, who has put his own unique stamp on things and taken us on to even greater heights.

His overriding belief in giving young talent its head, playing attacking football in every game, encouraging his players to express themselves and not being afraid to make mistakes has released them from the shackles imposed by Rosler’s more painstaking and cautious approach, and seen the club take massive steps forward, culminating in last season’s fully merited and universally popular promotion, and the manner in which we have so far taken the rise in stature totally in our stride.

These are exciting times to be a Brentford supporter and quite frankly, we are entering new and unexplored territory for many of us, inured as we are to the disappointments, inadequacies and lost opportunities of previous decades.

I think I am writing in this vein today as I spent much of yesterday going through what are the final proofs of the forthcoming Brentford 125th Anniversary Book which is about to be sent to the printers in time for its publication and launch in the middle of next month.

You all have an absolute treat in store!

bees3It contains almost three hundred pages of pure nostalgia, and I am sure that every reader will be captivated and mesmerised by the selection of old photographs, cartoons, caricatures, match reports, interviews, editorial comments and memorabilia that Mark Croxford and Dave Lane have managed to unearth.

Most of the items had not seen the light of day for many years and were totally new to the three of us.

Even though the language and tone of voice changes, what the book tells me is that there is so much that remains the same and unchanged between different generations, as the Brentford supporter of say, the nineteen twenties and nineteen sixties in many ways faced similar concerns and frustrations as we do today.

They just expressed them in a different manner.

Hooliganism too reared its ugly head, although one notorious incident in October 1921 when a Brentford fan, Percy Sands, actually jumped the barrier and physically assaulted a Charlton player, was explained away in court by mention of the assailant’s shell shock suffered in the Great War.

You will find many similar snippets of trivia and information all the way through the book and it was not until we researched it that I totally understood how big and successful a club Brentford really was in the four years leading up to the Second World War and quite how tumultuous and dramatic was our fall from grace once football resumed after the end of hostilities.

Just as the Brentford supporters from that era were taken on a wonderful and intoxicating magic carpet ride from the third tier of English football to almost the top of the tree, through the efforts of Harry Curtis and his band of men, I feel that the fans of today similarly have so much to look forward to and, who knows what fresh achievements will be recorded in a mere twenty-five years time when we come to celebrate Brentford’s one hundred and fiftieth anniversary?

It promises to be an exciting and exhilarating journey and I, for one, cannot wait!


10 thoughts on “Happy Birthday Brentford! – 12/10/14

  1. Very well summed up Grev. In my 43 years of supporting Brentford this is definitely the most exciting for where we are in the league, the style of football we are playing and the potential for the future.

    If things keep going as they are then we could emulate Charlton’s years of Premier League stability once we get there!


  2. We have never had it so good Grev. The solid foundations are being laid for a really exciting decade ahead. A level headed owner is building the club up from its roots. Our support base is growing rapidly, swelled by the quality of players signed and football played, and will surely only swell further when the new stadium is finally delivered. Having lived through the dark days of the old 4th division and all the false dawns and heart breaks this really is a dream to me.


  3. “I find it hard to believe that however talented that squad was, with illustrious names such as Reid, Smith, Bateman, Holliday, Hopkins, James, Crozier and McCulloch, that they could have produced football as breathtaking as we have been blessed with so far this season.”

    My father, who has been coming to Griffin Park since 1932 and was at the recent Birmingham game, reckons that we were Arsenal’s bogey team in the 1930s. I can’t speak for the football, and besides which, all comparisons are invidious, but I don’t believe the current team can be compared with the one that topped the First Division in 1936.

    When we are regularly overcoming Arsenal in the league, then maybe we can compare the two teams. On paper, there is no comparison by league standing nor probably by full international caps.

    Which is not to say I don’t share your enthusiasm Greville. When you’ve watched a dull Fourth Division 1-1 draw between Torquay and Brentford from a standing position in the Paddock on a miserable wet November afternoon, as I have, the current success is beyond my wildest dreams.

    Even as recently as my sojourn on the Bees United board, we were anticipating a “Conference playing budget’. How times have changed!


  4. I agree that we were much higher up the food chain in the mid to late 1930’s but the question remains unanswered – how good was our football then compared to what we are seeing now?

    I only wish someone could answer it for me.


    • I’ll try asking my father whether he regarded the 1936 team as a footballing side. He is one of the few people alive who could try to answer you, given that he saw the Birmingham game recently, but he was only 14 in 1936. But even if he can remember, we may be applying a modern concept to another era. Given that the formation was 2-3-5, the boots were like clogs, the balls were like cannonballs and the tactics unsophisticated by moderm standards, apples and oranges aren’t in it!


      • Too true Mike and the players were all so much smaller as well.

        It would be wonderful to try and understand just how they played back in those days.

        can they be compared to any current players in terms of their style etc?


  5. From what you read, football back then was more direct, due to having permanent wide men and a strong towering no 9, along with 2 forwards either side of him. Football was more Wimbledon (1980’s/90’s style) than Arsenal (2000’s style).

    You cannot really compare 1930’s Brentford to the current, 2014 vintage, crop of players. Each period had its own style and it’s own identity.

    The 1937-38 side was the best, in terms of what they achieved, top of the league for a few months and in the quarter finals of the FA cup. Quoted at the time as possibly, “the first club to do the double this century.” Sadly, it went to pot after losing to Preston and Brentford finished 6th.

    A full international forward line, Hopkins, McCulloch, Reid, McKenzie & Scott, with well respected half backs, full backs and keeper of note.

    Compared to now, I believe we’re on a pathway very similar to 1932/33 to 1934/35. A small club, on the up, with a manager and backroom team to match any club in and outside of the premier league. Including several Players who could perform easily at a higher level. With, possibly, a missing link of one or two top quality forwards, but they cost money!

    It’s a good time to be a Bees supporter, probably the best time since the 1930’s and one I’m enjoying.



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