Griffin Park – A Part Of My Life – 24/12/14

gpNews broke yesterday that an agreement has finally been signed with developers Willmott Dixon to deliver the new Lionel Road stadium and its associated facilities, as well as to convert Griffin Park into a residential development once the new stadium is completed.

The clock is now ticking as we prepare for the eventual move from Griffin Park, our spiritual home since 1904, and the scene of so many milestones, triumphs and disasters in the club’s long and chequered history.

This is wonderful news that is also tinged with sadness.

We all know that progress is inevitable and that we have outgrown Griffin Park and its dilapidated facilities.

We need the room to accommodate the new wave of supporters that cannot fit into Griffin Park, and we have been hamstrung by the lack of corporate facilities which has resulted in our commercial revenue being seriously restricted.

lr1Lionel Road, once completed, will ideally be the answer to all our hopes and dreams and, most crucially, we are rapidly developing a team whose marvellous, incisive football is so successful, attractive and easy on the eye that it could well enable us to fill it to its twenty thousand capacity.

That is for the future and, for the time being, Griffin Park remains the present.

I have been going there for far more years than I really care to remember – in fact next March it will be fifty years since my Dad took me there for the first time to see us thrash Queens Park Rangers by five goals to two.

Given that I have been watching Brentford regularly since 1966, save for three years spent in New York, when even then I managed a couple of visits per season, I would estimate that I have been to well over one thousand matches at Griffin Park, and the ground has played an integral and important part in my life.

Even the journey has become part of the ritual.

Should I chance taking the North Circular to Hangar Lane and risk getting snarled up in traffic chaos around Brent Cross or Park Royal?

Would it be better to take the back doubles through Willesden and Acton?

Much less direct but generally free from congestion until the inevitable and dreaded log-jam in Tubbs Road near Willesden Junction.

Swings and roundabouts, as on a good day I can get to the ground in twenty-five minutes, but on a bad one, the journey can seem interminable.

Even coming home can be fraught with peril particularly when Transport for London arbitrarily decides to close the Brent Cross flyover without the courtesy of providing any advance notice to us unsuspecting drivers.

There is nothing worse or more annoying and frustrating than getting caught in an unexpected traffic jam at ten o’clock at night, particularly after a home defeat.

Even when I get there I still have to decide where to park.

There was a time when I could roll up with impunity at a quarter to three and find a space without any trouble within sight of the turnstiles.

Now, with five figure sold out crowds the rule rather than the exception, you need to arrive a good hour and a half before kickoff if you expect to park in the same postcode as the ground.

And no, I am not going to let slip where I still generally manage to find a convenient parking spot before most matches.

Do your own research!

I never fail to get an anticipatory feeling of excitement whenever I turn the corner into Braemar Road.

Going to Griffin Park is just like being back at home.

I feel safe and happy there and it has become a major part of the fabric of my life.

I have laughed and cried there, smiled and frowned, cheered and jeered, made long-lasting friendships, vowed never to return and yet found myself steering a path back there a fortnight later.

Griffin Park is seared into my soul, as are the memories, sweet and sour, of matches long since passed, of players good, bad, indifferent, and now, maybe even great!

I have calculated that over the course of the past forty-nine years I have spent over one hundred days of my life in and around the stadium, firstly anticipating the match about to begin, then moaning, groaning, criticising, encouraging, celebrating and commiserating during the course of every match and finally rejoicing or mourning on the walk back to the car, a mere skip and a jump away when celebrating victory, an interminable trudge following a defeat.

This article is about the stadium itself rather than simply supporting the club, and yet the two are inextricably intertwined.

For a few unfortunate years a decade or so ago, I was inveigled into buying two season tickets for Arsenal as a means of entertaining some clients and contacts of mine.

God forbid that I tried to entice them into attending a match at Griffin Park, the Bees were then in the nether regions of the Third Division and it was a hard, if not impossible task to sweet talk business contacts into watching them.

To be candid, I also wanted my company to be seen as a Premier League outfit rather than as a third rater.

Given the vagaries of the Premier League fixture list there were surprisingly few fixture clashes between the two clubs, as they existed in totally different stratospheres, and I was rarely faced with the difficult decision about whether to watch Arsenal or Brentford.

I enjoyed visiting both Highbury and The Emirates Stadium as there was always a sense of occasion, and the lush, padded leather seats at Highbury found great favour with my son, but the atmosphere at both grounds was always sterile and could not compare in any shape or form with the febrile excitement of a packed Griffin Park.

Whilst I wanted Arsenal to win, in truth I didn’t really care about the result, matches never stirred my emotion as they did and still do at Griffin Park, and I certainly never lost any sleep or gave a second thought should they lose, something that has happened on many occasions after a Brentford catastrophe.

Over the years I have changed my allegiance from D Block in Braemar Road, to the Paddock, to Ealing Road, then to New Road and finally back to Braemar Road.

Each area has its own individual characteristic and identity however I made my decision to return to where I started given it provides the best and most complete overall view of the pitch, has the Programme Shop close to hand and enables me to kibitz and gossip with all and sundry.

There is and will be far more to say about Griffin Park over the coming months and even years as the clock runs down, and in the meantime I shall relish what time we have left at this iconic edifice as when Griffin Park dies, so will die a small part of me, as I am sure it will for most of you too.

I would just like to wish Brentford fans and their families a very happy, healthy and successful festive season and New Year and thanks again to all of you for reading my blog.

I have been bowled over by the numbers of you who have taken the time and trouble to do so as well as by the generosity of your comments.

PS Just to reassure everybody, since publishing this article I have received the following tweet from Brentford Chairman Cliff Crown which will help put every supporters’ minds at rest and allay their fears:

Cliff Crown ‪@CliffCrown‬

‪@grevwaterman Great article full of warmth and good feelings – we will do everything we can to make Lionel Road as rewarding an experience

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16 thoughts on “Griffin Park – A Part Of My Life – 24/12/14

  1. Thank you Greville for your latest epistle. They are always so well writtem, so much enjoyment – and yes, getting to eager anticipation! 51 years and counting for me so far despite living in Suffolk for over forty years, but it was Brentford that gave me my first taste of league football and they have always been the only team for me. At least I will have a novelty this year – I swill be able to WALK from home to a Bees away match! Thank you again, and have a great Christmas – topped off with three points on Boxing Day

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    • Rob, you cannot begin to know how delighted comments such as yours make me feel. I write these blogs in the hope that people share and enjoy my experiences and that theirs are similar to mine.

      Have a lovely Christmas and here’s to three points on Friday!

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  2. Lovely read, thank you. Though totally in favor of new ground it will never be for me. Just recognize all those younger than me need it,want it,and that I respect.
    A new ground will just not be GP or anywhere near it. I have seen many old ground new grounds round the country and struggle to think of one that keeps its character. Even the rebuilds at same grounds destroyed the history as an entity. As for some of the stupid names its like I have gone loopy and wonder what has happened.
    There are I am old and value what has been in my 57 years of going GP and understand that none of the above counts. I could spill so many emotions but younger people deserve their chance,though in some cases younger people just don’t.understand how I feel.
    I think a few years ago I would have valued it but it never happened. I just hope I go on long enough to walk out of GP for the last time with pride. There is also a worrying element to me. My club will go to a new ground which won’t be a shadow of what GP was and not for the right reasons That’s all folks and sorry,just hope you understand.

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  3. Firstly I wish you and you’re family a wonderful and peaceful xmas and wow griffin park. I feel that all I feel about the grand old stadium after over 4 decades of going is and will remain silently in my heart. Yes we need a bigger stadium however griffin park……………………..happy memories my happy memories 🙂

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  4. Excellent read Greville. Really captures the feelings of many of us, I’m sure.

    January 2nd will be the 37th anniversary of my first match at Griffin Park. We all know we have to move on, but many of us will undoubtedly shed a tear or two.

    I will treasure the remaining games.

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  5. well for me you can understand it will be a part of me that will die thou i can understand the need for everyone from the club to the our fans to have a new ground is a must if we want to go forward. And well now it will be impossiable i let you into a secret when i die i wanted my ashes to be scattered on that pitch i so loved and had the privalge to play thou it would most proplery would not had been allowed i had eveything planned i hope one day to go back to what well is my second home so close to my heart which gave me so many good dreams (oh yes there were bad dreams lol)so all you lucky fans there at home have a great Xmas thanks for your blog Greveille keep the good work up
    PS Here on Bein sports this xmas got to suffer the same teams on the tv I think NOTTS something etc lol i have to watch MAN U the club i should had go to when 16 but then i would had never had lived my boyhood dream at 16 in the No 9 shirt of my beloved Brentford and all that brought me and keeps me warm in my heart to this day HAPPY XMAS

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    • Thank you so much for this! The 5 -2 defeat of QPR was also my first match at Griffin Park – my friend’s dad took me and from then on I became hooked. My regular patch was behind the goal – Chick Brodie my first footballing hero. I have been living in Africa now for the last seven years so do not get to many games. However I was at the last home game and had to pinch myself – this must be the best Brentford team in my lifetime – it was a joy to see the play and a very emotional game for me. I am now back in Kampala, Uganda as I write this. I really enjoy your blogs and wish you and your loved ones a very happy Christmas.

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      • That is a wonderful co-incidence Michael and I am so pleased my blogs help you to keep in touch. MY first two Brentford games were both against QPR and we scored eleven times! T thought every match would be the same. No such luck!

        Happy Christmas to you and yours too.

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  6. Greville

    Another very good article. Keep up the good work. I have been coming to GP for more than 50 years and, while I understand the need to move to a new ground, will hate leaving the old place. Players, management and fortunes on the field change but the ground is the constant for supporters. It’s a great feeling just entering the place, which is so special. And these are such heady days for us all. My grandfather was a season ticket holder at Brentford and saw the team in the old First Division and a few years ago I would not have believed we would be so near the top division. Happy days!

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  7. For those of us who have spent the majority of our lives watching God’s gift to mankind being played at GP, a move to the new stadium will take a very long time to come to terms with, I suspect. Everything about watching a Brentford home game will be alien to us. Younger fans will get over the move from GP quicker than us older folk.
    But, we must move on for the greater good and the knowledge that the people in charge of our wonderful club, have its future prosperity first and foremost, in the decisions they make.
    Onwards and Upwards

    You Reds

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