September 13, 2014
Walking down the South Ealing road towards Griffin Park, the feeling of home becomes more evident. A first match that’s sure to be remembered.
The walk to Brentford’s home stadium resonated with me. The trees, the greenery, the modest homes surrounding the stadium. It felt like walking from Fagan’s Pub to Croke Park, something that was a little too familiar for this young Armagh fan growing up.
The atmosphere that encompasses Griffin Park is like no other. The only ground in Britain to have a pub on each corner, matchday is awash with a carnival-like atmosphere. There’s a family feel both inside and outside, something that has become synonymous with the club.
Goals from Moses Odubajo, Andre Gray and Jonathan Douglas helped Brentford to a 3-2 win over Sami Hyypia’s Brighton that day.
For someone harbouring a love/hate relationship with football, one trip to Griffin Park was enough to warrant a following that has continued more than five years later. Circumstances change but the admiration remains.
Two months after that game and having returned to Ireland, patrons of the local GAA club watched on in bemusement as last-minute goals from Harlee Dean and Jota sent this out of shape footballer dancing around the club in a frenzy.
The game marked a 2-1 win over Fulham in the pair’s first league meeting in 16 seasons. Nobody understood the rivalry or why someone in Lurgan was interested in it but that’s what happens when you get bitten by a bug.
Brentford FC are a club to be admired. Not just for the family values and wholesome reputation it carries but for how it does business.
It is a selling club and makes no bones about it. *Note that none of the aforementioned players are still with the club.*
The reason for one’s love/hate relationship with football largely stems from the money-driven system that engrosses it. Brentford work on a budget. They know they can’t compete financially so they’ll use brains rather than cash. They have perfected a model that has made them one of the most profitable clubs in Europe.
Once scoffed at for using analytics and data to scout low-level players, they continue to assemble one of the best squads in the Championship on a yearly basis.
In the last 10 years, Brentford FC have spent £63.2m in the transfer market. They’ve recouped £130m. Nobody is laughing now.
Brentford have adopted a style of football and sewn it into the club’s fabric. After growing increasingly frustrated at developing talent only to lose them to bigger clubs for paltry sums, they made the controversial decision to scrap their academy system in 2016.
The result saw a “B Team” formed. One where many of their low-budget statistically-pleasing signings would cut their teeth and learn the Brentford way before being indoctrinated into the first-team.
These are all traits to be admired.
I won’t claim to be the biggest fan in the world because I’ve met some of the biggest. But ever since that September day, Brentford got a hold on me.
It’s the one result I look for on BBC’s Final Score. While living in Thailand, they were the only football team I remained interested in. Back home, they’re the only team I watch with any desire to win.
Last night’s result was devastating. What makes it worse as a fair-weather supporter is realising how broken some of the true blue Bees fans I came to know will be feeling today.
— Brentford FC (@BrentfordFC) July 29, 2020
The 2019/2020 was to be one of fairy tale stuff. A final season in Griffin Park after 116 years, a first promotion to top-flight football in over 70 years, It all seemed very possible.
Unfortunately, not all stories get their fairy tale endings. Brentford will have to pick themselves up and start again, in just a few weeks. The new ground will be the 17,250-capacity Brentford Community Stadium, which will be home to London Irish rugby club also.
Since promotion from League One in 2014, they’ve finished in the top 10 five out of six seasons.
Premier League football isn’t coming next year but it is coming. For Brentford, it’s a matter of when not if. They’ve got a system in place that has proven beneficial and a style of football that will prevail. They do football the right way and in time, they will reap the rewards.
Griffin Park didn’t get the fairytale ending it warranted. Maybe the new home will grant them a fairytale beginning. Either way, this fair-weather fan, as well as the thousands of other dedicated Bees supporters, will be there every step of the way.
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