They say the person who laughs last, laughs loudest. As I hope to be around for many seasons more, I don’t yet want to think about who will have the last laugh in my football following life and when that will be. So, for me, football rivalry is all about laughing whenever you can. Despite what teachers at school tried to instil, that includes laughing at, and mocking, those less fortunate than yourself. I stay away from sticks and stones (and knives and guns) but finding humour in the psychological hurt of your rivals is absolutely fair game.
This works both ways. Supporting the Bees, there have been plenty of opportunities for fans of teams who dislike us to roll about in hysterics at our misfortune. Since I first visited Griffiin Park as a seven year old in 1978, falling in love with Len Bond, Danis Salman, Steve Phillips et al there isn’t enough internet capacity to detail all the times BFC Haters have had the chance to mock us.
The Play-Offs for example, were born from an idea of our ex-chairman Martin Lange. Oh hahaha at the fact we have made them seven times yet never come out the other side. Semi-final penalty shootout defeats, failing to turn up for finals, losing as underdogs, losing as favourites, we’ve given rival fans so many opportunities to laugh at each and every one of these.
The Freight Rover Trophy, the Johnstones Paint Trophy, the Whatever-You-Want-To-Call-It-Mickey-Mouse-Lower-Division-Cup-Trophy; we’ve reached the final but no, we’ve never seen OUR captain lift it aloft. Yeah, go on, laugh out loud.
Yet, all these events, however much others may have laughed at the tears rolling down our supporters’ beaten cheeks, pale into comedic insignificance compared to the last game of the 2012/13 season. There is no need to describe those events again. The fact it was a Fulham loanee who grabbed the ball and demanded to take that kick made the aftermath all the worse.
Some, including the Member of Parliament for Rutherglen & Hamilton East, Tom Greatrex, labelled young Marcello #AgentTrotta pretty much immediately he took the kick. That’s pretty much immediately after he had kicked the ball, it crashed against the crossbar, bobbled around in the area for a few seconds, found its way out to Billy Paynter arguing with his bench out on the wing, got taken into the Brentford half, then crossed for James Coppinger to tuck into an empty net.
Possibly football’s biggest epic fail had been bestowed upon us. I think back now and imagine it happening to a team I don’t like (Fulham, QPR, Birmingham City, Leyton Orient, MK Dons, Hampton Rangers Under 14s Team of 1986 etc etc). Would I have laughed? Oh yes I would have guffawed like the Laughing Policeman. I’d probably still be chuckling now. Had that been a Brentford player on loan to any of those teams, I certainly would not have been able to conceal my delight. Imagine say Farid going on loan to QPR, telling Charlie Austin he was taking the kick then crashing it against the bar. His Brentford legend would be up there with the likes of Matthew Benham, Peter Gilham and Kevin O’Connor.
There was understandably a distinct lack of humour then for Bees fans in the summer of 2013. The Lucky 7th appearance in the Play Offs went the same way as the previous six, despite the penalty shoot out redemption against Swindon in the semi-final second leg at Griffin Park. In the previous game, oh how we tried to laugh at the irony of King Kev converting a last minute spot kick at their place.
Onto the new season and the Shadow Energy Minister must have felt his ribs tickling at the news his Special Agent had signed for another spell just West down the Thames. Many Bees fans failed to see the funny, or serious, side of the return of the young Italian. However, If Marcello was an Agent for the likes of Greatrex, Lily Allen, David Hamilton and Hugh Grant then they might want to send someone out for him. His performances this season, including some important goals, most notably at Leyton Orient, have proved him to be Italy’s most illustrious Double Agent.
We might not be laughing last, but us Brentford fans are laughing now. Terrace wit and wisdom and the growth of this FSF nominated website has meant, to paraphrase Spinal Tap, the volume of our laughter has been turned up to Level 11. That old Cockney favourite ‘Knees Up Mother Brown’, cleverly reworked as ‘Bees Up Fulham Down’ was sung for weeks before both our promotion and their relegation had been confirmed. QPR failing in the Championship Play Offs, especially to former manager Uwe Rosler’s Wigan, will result in a delicious West London Triumvirate with the prospect of further belly laughs.
Although #BeesUpFulhamDown has provided the most satisfying laughs of this beautiful season, the loudest have come following the bitter post-match interview given by Orient boss Russell Slade after Marcello’s winner. Referring to the behaviour of Bees’ players, management and fans at the final whistle, he complained, we had all, “celebrated like we’d won the FA Cup”. Knowing what a vital win it had been in the battle to kill off the hurt from last season and many before, it felt a far more important victory than just picking up some 130ish year old trophy. Slade’s phrase quickly became ingrained in a reworking of Tom’s Hark, “we’re Super Bees and we’re going up, we’ll celebrate like we won the Cup.” Chuckle, chuckle, chuckle.
The East vs West London battle to leave League One has been a memorable one. The Os from Leyton to be fair, have kept plugging away and might yet still join us via the end of season lottery we’re so pleased not to have to buy tickets for. Our last game of the season, the party where we celebrated Super Kev finally making his 500th appearance for the club, will also always be remembered for the #RussellSladeCup. The hundreds of FA Cup cut outs adorned in the middle by a smiling Russell Slade provided many a chortle. Although our Eastern neighbours still fail to see the funny side, there has been plenty of Westside laughter at these Slades which were waved around during many renditions of the ‘We’re Super Bees…’ song.
These laughs at the expense of Leyton Orient, Fulham and hopefully soon QPR, have been a long time coming for us Bees fans. After all we’ve been through, in our long term and short term histories, it’s no surprise we’ve been so loud in expressing our joy at the failings of our rivals.
Come August though, we all start again. The set up at our club fills me with optimism that our stay in the Championship won’t be as short and disastrous as last time. The structure our wonderful owner has put in place, coupled with the contacts Warburton has throughout European football, mean the step up should be viewed with excitement rather than trepidation. Without wanting to laugh too much at Yeovil and Doncaster’s quick relegation back to League One, I’m certain we will be far better equipped than either of them in the Championship.
There may be times next season when other teams will have a brief chance to laugh at us. I’m ready for that. I’m pretty damn certain though that there will also be many more times where we ourselves can giggle and hopefully quite a few more that will have us howling. We might not be laughing last yet, but let’s continue to laugh loudest.