Ten Traumatic Years

Despite some of the incredible success of recent seasons, the changes at Griffin Park at the end of last season and the plethora of ins and out at this start of this campaign have led some to doubt the system being imposed and rather more incredulously, the owner himself.

People have proclaimed that they don’t believe that the system will work. Perhaps it won’t and we will need another re-think later on down the line. However what I have found hard to understand is people doubting Matthew Benham’s honesty and Integrity. Some people have questioned whether he has Brentford’s best interest at heart. Once you have finished choking on these words, do read on!

It is well documented what Matthew Benham has done for the club, both financially and structurally. Although these days if you dare to have blind faith you may well be accused of being a sheep. Equally, raise any doubt and you may well find yourself tarnished with being an enemy of the system. For the record,I do believe it is right and healthy to question things but please stop short of doubting Benham’s motives.

I don’t want to cover old ground and churn out the same old quotes from the papers about “moneyball” and “statistical modelling” we’ve all read everything there is to read about it as we embark on this brave new world but when I stumbled across an old book the other day it led me to reminisce about seasons past and just how easy it is to forget what the dark days were really like. A part of me misses the days of Carlisle away and scrapping it out, I always loved the reaction when you meet new people and they ask who you support “Brentford” I would reply and almost inevitably they would respond with “yer, but what big team do you support” some people just didn’t understand what it was like to support an unfashionable club battling it out in the old fourth division and I always felt like Brentford was especially unique. Our remarkable ability to bottle the big occasions and snatch a defeat from the jaws of victory would always in some strange way make the fans closer and the team stronger. Because those days you would go away and stand with a couple of hundred other bees fans or when at home be part of a crowd just four thousand strong gave you a sense of real community. The club still retains that, it’s still just as magic but those days were different. Harder but still enjoyable. That’s why I relish being where we are now, why I enjoy every Saturday that little bit more, because despite loving those days away at the likes of Bury on a Tuesday night, this is what it was for, what is was all about. Getting to play against these teams in amongst these crowds was always the goal, it just always seemed so far away.

I stumbled across a copy of “Ten Traumatic Years” a history of the club from 1989 to 1999” ironically it finishes just as Noades has taken over and turned the fortunes of the club around. Optimism had returned to Griffin Park and you can tell that there was a genuine sense of turning a corner. Well we did turn a corner, unfortunately it was down an equally dark and painful road that it led. The book is written by Dave Twydell, Mark Chapman and John Hirdle and when you read it, you get these sense that it is written by fans, for fans. The pain comes across on every page and so does the pointless optimism. If Domestic Violence wasn’t such a serious subject, I would liken us to the battered wife. Always going back for more whilst everyone else around us is saying walk away.

If you are a new fan of the club and by new, I mean started to support the club in the last 5 years than excellent. I hope you have enjoyed what is happening and are still here in 50 years. This club will reel you in and never lets go. But if you can, go and pick up a copy of this book. Read it and you will get a sense of what it was like and what, if things don’t go our way, will be like again. When you doubt the man that has put so much money into the club and re-built the structure and philosophy than this little insight into a decades worth of our history will tell you why so many follow so blindly. I have heard one fan say and I quote “I don’t much like our owner either” when you have been through the Noades era or the Dave Webb times then you will know what it’s like to “not much like your owner” I wasn’t around In the dark days of the QPR takeover and 67 was almost the end. But those that were must feel like all their Christmas’ have come at once and to be so close to losing your club and then going through so much before Benham came in and to finally see some success feels fantastic.

Of course, maybe this is the greatest of highs that it is about to set us up for the greatest of all failures, may the coming crash will be worse than what we have seen before but somehow I doubt it. What Benham has done is move the club forward so much that even if he was to say enough is enough in years to come, the future, thanks to his purchase of Lionel Road, is now secure. That is why I trust the man implicitly, why I will always back him even when he makes a mistake. When he sold Dallas for less than what I thought he was worth, I was upset but I won’t go over the top. I can also just about forgive the man for buying Nick Proshwitz…..just.

I was reading through the stats at the back of the book and found one result from the 93/94 season. It was a Tuesday night at home to Hull who at that time were awful. Me, my Dad and brother set off for Griffin Park. “We’ll get a burger before the game” he said. We then walked down down the high street in the pouring rain looking for some food. After what seemed like an age we found shelter and devoured a barely edible burger and chips before heading to the bright lights of GP for the big game. I was about 9 years old at the time and as we walked into the ground it started to rain harder followed by sleet. We sat in Breamer Road and watched us get thumped 3-0. I was frozen to the core and as the taunts of the Hull fans rained down harder than the continuos rain shower, we sat there till the bitter end and as we made our way back to the car complete with glum faces I remember thinking that I would never warm up. And I loved it. That is what those days were like, hard and frequently very long.

When you walk through the cold gates of Griffin Park, whether you are an old fan or new, savour it. In a few years it will all be memories and we will move into Lionel Road but we have been incredibly luck to have secured a new stadium. Those responsible have had to work tirelessly to achieve it and it is necessary for the continued success of our club. But I will look back on those days fondly, no matter how painful.

Maybe the “Ten Traumatic Years” should be compulsory reading for all new Bees fans. It may make a few realise just how good we’ve got it.

Up the Bees.

Carl Massey

The BIAS blog is the space to challenge perceived wisdom, entertain readers and inform our members. The views expressed are those of the author and they don’t necessarily represent BIAS policy and (pay attention journalists) shouldn’t be attributed to BIAS.