Premier League: Bucket collections & spaghetti on toast – Brentford’s rise through those who lived it
The Premier League is the most watched football league in the world, with nearly 4 billion people tuning into each season. This year has been no different, with the top four teams all winning their respective games and Chelsea taking home the trophy after a dominant run of form.
The british premier league is a soccer league in England. It was founded in 1992 and consists of 20 teams. This is an article about Brentford’s rise through those who lived it.
Brentford manager Thomas Frank guided the Bees to their first promotion since 1947.
When Brentford coach Kevin O’Connor looks back, he can’t help but laugh.
O’Connor is speaking about Brentford’s trip in the week before they return to England’s top division for the first time since 1947, against the last club they played before relegation 74 years ago – an Arsenal side with whom they have shared a city but nothing else for three-quarters of a century.
He’s recalling the time between 2007 and 2009, when Brentford was in the fourth division of English football, ending one spot below the doomed Bury, and when supporters conducted bucket collections before games to gather money to keep the team alive.
There was a time when the training field just had one structure.
“The canteen served as a gym,” recalls O’Connor, who played for Brentford for 16 years and made 501 appearances before joining the club’s coaching staff and eventually joining Thomas Frank’s first-team group. “The cook was also the kit guy.”
“He was a kind guy, but he only knew how to cook beans on toast or spaghetti on toast.”
“There was a partition wall, but it didn’t go all the way up to the ceiling, and I remember doing pull-ups and being able to see what people were eating for lunch from 10 yards in front, over the partition wall. You’d be trying to exercise and people would be eating spaghetti. The smell was horrible.”
“You have to go through such experiences in order to appreciate what you have today.”
Brentford finally acquired a decent kitchen as well as a professional gym.
While O’Connor acknowledges the training field resembles ‘Portakabin city’ owing to the many temporary structures currently in use, it serves as a reminder of where longtime fan Matthew Benham’s ambition – and financial support – has led them.
Brentford were denied promotion to League One in 2013 after missing a last-minute penalty against Doncaster in the final game.
‘Our goal was to be promoted to League One.’
Brentford finished 14th in League Two in 2008, behind Bury. Wrexham, a team with a comparable size stadium and average attendance, was demoted to the National League. They’ve never come back.
The Bees never really fell into the relegation zone, although they came close.
Ian Westbrook, a longtime Brentford supporter and contributor to the award-winning Beesotted podcast, says, “At that moment, the extent of our ambition was believing we could get into League One.”
“I would have laughed if someone had told me we’d be in the Premier League in 15 years; it’s something you never, ever expect to happen.”
“I’ve been watching Brentford since 1971, when our average attendance was 5,000, and we’ve only been out of the lowest two divisions once, in 1992.”
Westbrook – and those like him – have certainly paid their dues as Brentford supporters. He was there for the historic Doncaster game in 2013, when they missed an injury-time penalty that would have put them up to the Championship, and for the 1995 play-offs, when only one club was promoted and the Bees finished second, losing to Huddersfield. Brentford fell 6-0 to Southend on Monday, October 31, 1983, and he was there.
Although some may be tired of the Moneyball narrative, it is impossible to deny that Benham’s initial cash injection and subsequent strategy for how a club at that level should run has transformed their fortunes. Benham is a professional gambler and lifelong fan who attended his first Brentford game as an 11-year-old in 1979.
Find players, give them a chance, help them win matches, and then sell them for a profit. It seems to be straightforward.
Getting rid of the academy and relying on failures
Recruiting is difficult, though, when Chelsea, Fulham, and Queens Park Rangers are all less than six miles apart. Brentford controversially decided to close its academy in 2016 and instead concentrate on acquiring cast-offs from other teams after players reached the age of 16.
Brentford’s co-director of football Phil Giles recalls a season when Newcastle, Aston Villa, and Leeds were all in the Championship. “You can’t compete with such teams just on the basis of money.”
“In retrospect, the academy move was bold, but it seemed reasonable at the time.”
“Spending money on kids who would never make our first team was a waste of resources; the goal was to make our first-team group as excellent as possible on a budget.”
Brentford formed a B team because they believed the gap between Under-18 and Under-23 football and the main team was too wide.
“It wasn’t innovative in any way,” Giles adds. “All we needed to do was borrow ideas from other places.”
‘A new epoch in a new location’
Griffin Park, or at least its characteristic four floodlights, are recognizable to everyone who has driven into central London from the M4.
In addition to the contemporary façade, Brentford now have a large club logo on their home field, the 17,250-capacity Community Stadium, which is about a mile from Griffin Park.
Given that it is hemmed in on three sides by railway lines and has little room for growth, the stadium itself is a testimony to how space can be used.
If there is any sorrow associated with Brentford’s promotion to the Premier League, it is from the fact that Griffin Park, the club’s home for the last 116 years, is no longer in use.
Officials at the club are crossing their hopes that the unique environment can be replicated in their new home, and visiting teams are finding it just as uncomfortable.
“As a young team player, one of my duties was to clean the away dressing room at Griffin Park, so I know firsthand how bad it was,” O’Connor adds.
“There wasn’t enough space for a start when teams came down with 20-man squads. It was small, with a concrete floor, one toilet to sit on, and a door that didn’t shut. It was terrible.”
Westbrook adds, “I would have liked to have seen all of this unfold at Griffin Park.” “I’ve been coming there since I was a young kid; it was our home,” says the author. “But it’s just a mile away; you can park in the same spot and do the same things. It’s a new period in a new location.”
- premier league games
- premier league season length
- english premier league scores