This article is part of a series in which Untold writers have travelled the length and breadth of the country (well, the Midlands, London and the south) visiting other clubs on days when there is no Arsenal game. Today…
Brentford FC 2-0 Port Vale (Attendance 8,327)
On Saturday my brother and I made our way down to Griffin Park, home of Brentford FC who are currently sitting pretty at the top of League Division One. The Bees have just secured planning permission to start building a new stadium under a mile from Griffin Park and my brother is involved in the legal side of the development.
My first observation would be that Brentford certainly need a new stadium, especially if they have ambitions of establishing themselves in the Championship. Griffin Park has a lot of old world charm but it is no Craven Cottage. It is hemmed in by terraced housing and it looks old (it was originally built in 1904) and in need of some TLC. I must admit to being a little surprised and unnerved by the fact that the seating in the main stand is attached to wooden floors. Bradford City anyone?
It is a very friendly place however, from the woman in the box office who took my order over the phone and was brilliant and helpful (seats were £22 and you could sit where you liked) to the guys on the gate. The pies were good and the chips some of the best I’ve ever eaten.
They have a fans’ bar (the Hive) and lots of other outlets (even a pancake stall Tony). Ground staff told me the place holds 12,000 but their biggest crowd this season was 9,738 against Shrewsbury (and the visitors only brought 367). Bradford, Wolves and Preston all get bigger gates but for an aspiring London club Brentford need to attract move visitors.
And their football should do that because they play a quick passing game and are easy to watch. They started slowly against Vale which might have been down to a few team changes and a 10 day gap since they beat Peterborough away on New Year’s Day. Once they got going they dominated the first half. In Alan McCormack they have a tough midfield dynamo who really impressed. Up front Marcello Trotta (a sort of Italian Del Boy?) and Clayton Donaldson gave the rather shaky Port Vale defence all sorts of problems.
Trotta is on loan from Fulham and it was his goal on the half hour which settled the home side’s early nerves. He turned superbly to rip the ball past the despairing Vale keeper. He could put in a bit more effort when he doesn’t have the ball but overall he looks like a talent – I’m a bit surprised Fulham have extended his loan till the end of the season*. Donaldson has 13 goals and Trotta 7 this season but the team looks like it has goals in them from elsewhere too.
Brentford have taken Chuba Akpom on loan for a month (they had Szczesny in 2009/10 you might recall) and he’s in good hands with the League One manager of the match Mark Warburton. Whether he gets to play much is another question, but let’s hope so.
The Brentford fans were vocal but not especially noisy. The end to our right contained the standing home fans who serenaded us with ‘We’re top of the league, top of the leeeeeague, we’re Brentford Fc, we’re top of the league’, (which of course they are) and ‘Super Brentford FC, we’re by far the greatest team, the world has ever seen’ (which they most certainly ain’t).
Otherwise the support was polite and encouraging rather than being rabid and celebratory. Brentford are top but it’s very tight up there and last season they famously missed out on automatic promotion in the 94th minute of the last game
I hope they make it this year, establish themselves and move to their new 20,000 capacity ground in perhaps 2015/6. With a smart new ground (built without debt it seems), new facilities and closer to transit links, Brentford’s future looks assured. This is a club that has seen Tommy Lawton, Jimmy Hill, Frank McClintock, Steve Coppel, Uwe Rosler, Ron Noades and current FA chairman Greg Dyke all involved at some time and who were a major force in the top division in the 1930s. I’d like to see another decent side in West London to sit alongside Fulham.
In the second half Brentford huffed and puffed but struggled to score a second. I began to think Port Vale might nick an equalizer but a run of 14 unbeaten games breeds confidence and the home side took advantage of a mistake in midfield when the referee correctly played on, and Will Grigg made it 2-0 on ’88.
The Brentford fans poured out of the ground and crammed into the nearby Griffin pub to celebrate**. In all of this relocation it’s probably the pub that is likely to suffer. Maybe not, after all it’s not that far to run (0.9 of a mile) to the new Lionel Road site.
The sun shone, the rain held off, the football was good and I’d have to agree with the standing fans in the Ealing Road terrace that, for Saturday at least, ‘west London is wonderful!’
* Trotta was on loan last season too, so Fulham clearly don’t think he is ready for the prem just yet
** one little known fact is that Brentford is the only football ground in Britain to have a pub at each corner (the Princess Royal, Royal Oak and New Inn are the others, in case you wondered)
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