I’ve been a Brentford fan for nearly 18 years now having first started following them when I moved to London after university. I had been partially aware of them at the end of the 92-93 season as they got relegated from what is now the Championship along with my home-town club of Cambridge United. Even though I actually have Brentford on my birth certificate (to be more accurate, it says, Chiswick Sub-district of Brentford) it was not the first London club I went to see. Like all uncommitted fans, I and my university mate, Martin, started higher up the leagues with Chelsea. Even though it was nice to have seen what was, I believe, one of Glenn Hoddle’s last professional appearances and in a Stamford Bridge which had not yet become the corporate cathedral it is now (we sat in a rickety temporary stand where the hotel was going to be built) and in those distant days when you could routinely turn up to a Premier League game and just buy a ticket, it somehow didn’t appeal as something to do regularly. We also tried out Fulham (boo!) in its pre-Fayed days as a fading throwback to football in black & white. In fact, it was the New Year’s Day game in 1994 against Brentford where a couple of thousand Bees fans on the away terrace looked to be having the most fun out of everyone in the ground that encouraged me to discover that Brentford was a short direct train journey from Putney where I lived at the time. One game of “moshing” in the then terraced New Road stand and bundling forward when a goal was scored and the rest is history.
Little did I know then that the season before I started was the club’s high point in over 40 years and that nearly 20 years later, barring a couple of deflating Play-Off Final performances, that’s as near to glory as I’d get. Oh, and two similarly deflating Football League Trophy Finals.
But, of course, it never quite seems to work out and every season, it is the same thing, blind optimism. However, usually, this blind optimism follows a lacklustre pre-season, the departure of the few recognisably talented players for apparently derisory sums and uninspiring new signings. There have been exceptions – the two and a bit seasons under Martin Allen were never boring (except, truth be told, some of the flat performances towards the end where a limited set of players and tactics just couldn’t squeeze anything more out), and the 2001-02 season under Steve Coppell was one that will continue to be the basis of years of counterfactual reminiscence (“if only the ref at Peterborough hadn’t disallowed that perfectly good goal off Darren Powell’s bum we’d have gone up automatically and the squad and manager might have taken us on even to the Premiership instead of Reading”). The rest has only been enlivened by the two seasons winning League 2.
So, I suppose I should know much better now than to be optimistic about the season about to kick off tomorrow at home against Yeovil. Yet, I can’t quite bring myself to do it. Just look at the unbeaten pre-season including 19 goals for and a win over a Stoke side containing 8 of the starters from the FA Cup final! Listen to our new manager, Uwe Rosler, urging the players to pass a Premier League team to death when we are winning and down to 10 men through injury, rather than shouting to kick the ball into the corners and hold it up! Take an embarrassing pride in the Man City fans considering taking in the Yeovil game to show Rosler how fondly they remember him (many will be down in London already for the Charity Shield)! Secretly hope for a 10-0 home victory to let you be gracious to your Yeovil supporting next door neighbour! Realistically expect a home defeat. No, no, stay positive. At least until next weekend and the chance to go to a new ground for the game against Sheffield United and bring OMB along to show him an alternative to becoming a Leeds fan when he gets older (2 games, 2 wins – lucky mascot!).
So, in the immortal words of the New Road’s own Statler & Waldorf – “Push Up Brentford, Tight Brentford, Tight!”.
Oh me of little faith! 2-0 to the Bees.