BillytheBee gets on his lederhosen as he embarks on Brentford’s pre-season tour of East Germany. And Leipzig!
The final leg of Brentford’s Germany tour was upon us. There was no let up in the temperature and even with a 7pm Friday evening kick off, we were still sauntering around in thirty degree heat. This game had a completely different vibe to it than the other two games. As we approached the main turnstile, we we’re redirected to the other side of the stadium … ‘the away end’. Hold on isn’t this meant to be a friendly? The idea of Brentford fans mingling on the terraces with locals for our final game was now a mere pipe dream. On the long walk around the stadium through a forest we must have passed four or five riot police vans. Were things going to turn a bit unnecessarily moody on our last day in town?
Once inside, we walked up the ramp to view a seriously old skool dilapidated stadium. It was like the Old Den, Millwall meets Boundary Park, Oldham …The first time I’ve had the pleasure of being caged in since the early 90s. We were given a bare soul-less corner as far away from any opposition fans as possible. Despite the stark facilities, they made sure they had there was a beer cart available to serve the 150 or so thirsty Bees fans who wasted no time in attempting to bring the soul back to their one corner of The Bruno-Plache Stadion.
The game got off to a bright start. As expected, Farid Al Alagui had recovered from his groin niggle and started up front with Donaldson. The Lokomotiv defence struggled to contain a lively Brentford attack and the Bees went one up with a shot just inside the area from Alaguai after being put through by Sam Saunders. However, while everyone was still celebrating, Lokomotiv went up the other end and scored an equaliser (we don’t think too many fans saw that goal up the away end). The ball was in the back of the net some fifteen minites later. Al Fayed, who seems to be a ‘right place at the right time’ type of player, shooting against the post and Jake Reeves bagging the rebound only to be ruled offside. However, five minutes later Bees were ahead again. Sam Saunders taking a corner which was nodded on by Donaldson and Al Fayed was on call to guide his diving header into the goal. Queue mayhem from the terraces. Half time score 2-1 to the Bees.
The second half was a bit of a blur to be honest. The terrace had turned into a fully fledged banter-zone with everyone in fantastic spirits (thirty degree heat and an unlimited beer flow had helped it has to be said) . In terms of a match report, the best we can offer from here (and we can’t seem to find anyone who can remember any of the second half of the match) is Al Fayed, Saunders and Donaldson seemed to cause Leipzig loads of problems. Sam Saunders is fast becoming one of those ‘first names on the team sheet’ players and is fast becoming a crowd favourite (he expressed delight after the match at finally being given the opportunity to play and felt he wasn’t given the best opportunity to show what he can do under the previous regime). Tony Craig (Captain material for sure) looked solid and committed in defence and his partnership with Harlee Dean looks strong. Harry ‘jls’ Forrester who came on in the second half looks very fit and lively (he proudly told us he finished 3rd in the dreaded pre-season bleep test when we chatted after the match).
It was also great that a few Germans were able to join us Bees on the terraces. St Pauli Bee, who came over to Griffin Park to watch Marcel Eger play for us last season but was so sold on Brentford he’s now been over to the UK a fair few times, made the 5 hour drive down from Hamburg for this match. Also hanging with us was Uwe the Lokomotiv Leipzig fan who informed us that of the 80 fans in the away end for their home game against Fulham, only around 20 were from London whereas the other 60 or so were locals who got a kick out of affiliating themselves with a premiership side (he also told us that his friend at the Dynamo Dresden game that same night reported that there were no more than 150 West Ham fans present at their game that evening). With Brentford fans in fine voice, the songs actually developed more of a local angle over the week. ‘We will follow the Brentford … over land and sea .. AND LEIPZIG .. We will follow the a brentford onto victory’ being the most popular… But also in the can was ’Uwe Rosler’s red and white army … Eine zwei drei vier’
But the chant which created the greatest ripple this day … Only one day after the juniors’ victory in Northern Ireland beat Everton in the final of the Milk Cup (the incredibly prestigious cup competition for half decent academy sides), was …. ‘We won the milk cup. We won the milk cup. Brentford is brilliant. We won the milk cup’ (to the ‘I want to go home’ melody). The ‘Brentford is Brilliant’ referring to a placard Bees fan Gibbo had bought all the way from London stating the obvious … ‘Brentford is brilliant’ … Which was proudly held aloft during the match. The sign caused much amusement amongst the travelling support.
At the end of the match, which ended off with a twenty minute non-stop rendition of The Great Escape, the players all came over to the away support and applauded them which was great to see … ‘Brentford is brilliant .. We won the milk cup’ still reverberating from the terraces long after the final whistle (as can be seen on the Germany video above). After the festivities were over, all the Brentford fans were invited around to the Lokomotiv Leipzig club bar where the frivolities went on well into the evening – ‘Brentford is brilliant’ being a recurring theme naturally. Talk of RB Leipzig (the team with stark similarities to MK Dons – bought by Red Bull and then ‘gained’ a place in the German football league without having to start at the bottom rung) created a bonding session between all sets of fans in the bar .. Bees …Leipzig … St Pauli … united in their passion for ‘real football’ and respect for real football fans.
Uwe Rosler came over to the Bees fans and thanked them personally for taking the time out to travel. He had told us earlier how beneficial this tour had been to the team … ‘great facilities … Good opposition … Hard but effective training … And best of all under budget’ … He then told us that he plans to do the same thing every year and indicated, with all the positives of this tour, that Germany was once again in the frame (although not confirmed).
On reflection, looking back on this week it has been more than a excuse to go on the piss … It has thrown up so many positives. Firstly, analysing our set up, it’s obvious how far we have come in just a few years. We look like a professional well-bonded outfit and I’m sure this has gone a long way in convincing well respected, in-demand players like Tony Craig and Farid Al Fayed to come to Brentford.
Secondly, the fact that the club went out of its way to encourage the team and the fans to bond was impressive. They invited us to stay at the team hotel and the players even hung out with fans on a night out in town. Uwe has always been vociferous in his belief that the fans are an integral part of any decent club and constantly cites German clubs he feels have great club-fan relations as ‘a great club’ (like St Pauli). Speaking to the players after the Leipzig game, they were truly amazed and impressed how passionate the fans were and were very thankful for the support (in my thirty years of supporting my team, this was the first time a player has actually thanked me for coming to a match). The thought process – if players feel closer to the fans and also understand their pain,they will gave that extra 10%.
And finally, with the juniors beating Everton in the milk cup final (a team that had won three of the four past finals … Apparently the Everton main website had all but named their team as the winner before the match) it was felt by all the supporters converged on that stark ugly terrace in East Germany that this tour was just the beginning of a lot more positive things to come. Brentford is brilliant? We ain’t arf ……. .