Rough guide to
About this rough guide
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Rough guide to...Brentford
4 July 2003
Relationship with Division Two
Having spent just two seasons outside this tier since 1978-79, Brentford are very much a second division side. They are also the very model of inconsistency, though - since returning from the first in 1993-94, they've finished all over the shop, settling for 16th last season, when a promising start saw them briefly top the table. A slide in form, though, blamed on financial problems, resulted in a slide down the table. They managed good home form for most of the season but were weak away from home. Beating Derby in the fourth round of the FA Cup presented a brief spark of light in a season that was otherwise dim and unspectacular - but acceptable given the upheaval behind the scenes that led to the loss of so many experienced players last summer.
The Bees spent five years in the top flight either side of the second world war, even finishing fifth in 1935-36 following successive championships in Division Three (South) and Division Two. In recent years the one brief sojourn to the second flight in 1992-93 represents their biggest achievement. They've also won the old fourth division (1962-63), the old third division (1991-92) and the current third division (1998-99).
QPR are undoubtedly the Bees' biggest rivals. The clubs are situated only four miles apart and being in the same division only adds to the competition. Some fans also consider Fulham and Chelsea as rivals, but realists realise these west London teams are far too exalted for Brentford.
Brentford struggled to score last season, with top scorer Rowan Vine managing only ten league goals (and that's struggling?), but he was on a season-long loan from Portsmouth so won't be around in August. Winger Stephen Hunt bagged seven but he looks to be following Steve Coppell to Brighton. Next highest scorer was Mark McCammonn with six, and he's now at Millwall. They need to replace these players or will continue to struggle. In March Brentford signed former Norwich, Wimbledon and Grasshoppers Zurich striker Efan Ekoku from Sheffield Wednesday but he made no appearances, and at 36 is hardly one for the future.
It's very much a transitional period for the club. The summer of 2002 saw many experienced players leave, and now the side is young and developing. There is hope for the future but not many are expecting much in the immediate term. Goalkeeper Paul Smith had an outstanding season last year, and is highly rated as a shot-stopper. Much is expected of the 23-year-old this season. The re-signing of Senegalese under-23 captain Ibrahima Sonko was a major fillip for the club. He's a highly influential defender and is very popular with the fans. Jay Tabb and Mark Peters are youngsters with exciting futures ahead of them, especially striker Peters, while Ireland under-21 international Kevin O'Connor is already a key member of the starting XI. Left-back Lee Fieldwick is another to watch.
It's impossible to mention the Bees nowadays without thinking Ron Noades. For a long time he was Mr Brentford, as owner, chairman and manager of the club, but stepped down as manager in 2000, after a two-year period at the sharp end, and as chairman in April 2003. Most Brentford fans I contacted consider him to have screwed the club up good and proper, although that feeling is not universal. Trying to sell off the ground hasn't endeared him greatly. Especially as the plans for the site are for housing and will make Mr Noades a healthy profit, allegedly.
The club has a very active supporters' trust (Bees United) and independent supporters' association (BIAS), which has raised £200,000 over the past two years, nominated three or four directors for the board, fielded a winning candidate at local elections, and signed a two-year option to acquire a controlling majority shareholding in the club from Noades. The trust is also heavily involved in the purchase of a site for a new stadium, plans for which include a transport interchange, community stadium, a hotel, leisure and entertainment development, housing and office space. It's an ambitious project and there's even been talk of a bid for the new stadium to hold the hockey tournament should London land the 2012 Olympics. Considering the site has not yet been purchased, these plans are a long way from fruition. There are plans to increase capacity at Griffin Park to 15,000 in the meantime using stadium improvement grants.
Noades also tried to screw Kingstonian too, it seems. He wanted to buy the Ks in order that he could liquidise them and use the ground to house Brentford until the Bees' new ground could be built. This was seen as a way of cashing in on the housing deal on the Griffin Park site and cutting and running.
Next season will be Brentford's 100th at Griffin Park, which incidentally is the only stadium in the country to have a pub on each corner, known as the Pylons. Famous Brentford fans include Sarah Cracknell of St Etienne, Adam Derlin of the Bluetones, Rick Wakeman, Kenny Lynch and Dean Gaffney.
How will they do?
They'll either push for promotion or finish in the bottom half. Inexperienced manager Wally Downes seems to be doing a reasonable job and if he can bring in enough experience, especially in the centre of midfield, to support the youth in the team then they should do better than last year as the kids improve. Fourteenth.
As usual there's the Rivals site, the MAD site (I love the statistics on those sites, and the editor was very helpful) and the official site. The Griffin Park Grapevine is a pretty active forum site. There's the Brentford Independent Association of Supporters (although the site is undergoing development and is unavailable), and the Brentford Supporters' Trust, but my favourite, purely on the basis of sheer optimism, is for the Brentford Affiliated Scottish Supporters Association. Current membership: three.