I make no apologies – one of my favourite films is Back to the Future. The bit where Marty races against time to alter the course of history by getting his mum together with his dad… as his family portraits fade into oblivion. Spoiler alert for the five people who haven’t watched it – he saves the day.
Fast forward a few decades and Brendan Nevin is our modern-day time travelling hero with his work on a Brentford book that is nothing short of a masterpiece.
His labour of love and skill in colourising long forgotten or undervalued black, white and sepia images of the people and places that have made our club what it is, is bordering on genius.
With the support of fellow Bees fan publisher Dave Lane, he has achieved the impossible and brought the likes of Towers, Francis and Holliday back to life.
They’re club giants who need no first name introduction, but whose place in Brentford folklore existed only in grainy black and white images as unrelatable as the feats they achieved. Until now.
Brentford Reimagined is a beautiful landscape-style hardback book that’s hard not to pick up and flick through. Each time you come back to it, something new will catch your eye. Guaranteed.
It pains me to say it as a writer, but the phrase “a picture speaks a thousand words” was almost coined for this 200-page ‘wow-fest’.
More recent shots of Hurlock, Kamara and Bowles – how did they not take us up? – and my childhood heroes of Ross, Graham and Houston are seen for the first time in print in glorious, rich colour.
I watched them all grace the red and white stripes, but this is the first time I’ve seen them since, captured in time – because newspapers used only black and white shots back then.
The book’s designers haven’t fallen into the trap of using only football action shots either. This is a social pictorial history more poignant, evocative and emotive than any other book I’ve ever seen about the club.
Children gathered in Brentford Half Acre near a poster advertising the Bees’ 1896 clash with the 2nd Grenadier Guards and a sign for stewed eels at is a bewitching glimpse into the past that I struggled to stop looking at for the tiny details.
The book doesn’t stick to a timeline, which is wonderful and reinforces the feeling that whatever our age or longevity of support, we’re all Brentford.
From the moustachioed, bowler-hatted, claret shirted players in the oldest known 1892 team shot to stars of their day in kits down the years from gold to green to blue and even a Palace-style sash kit I’d completely forgotten about.CLICK HERE TO BUY YOUR COPY OF BRENTFORD REIMAGINED
The words are minimal, just brief captions, because each carefully chosen image reveals more of its own story with every look.
Like the stunning double page shot of Brentford away at Man City in 1932 in front of a massed bank of tens of thousands of fans. The colour brings it to life. Goosebumps.
Or a clever half and half shot of George McLeod scoring against Peterborough in the 1961 season. Posh in black and white contrasted by the two elated Bees in rich red and white – ensuring even the most mundane moment has its place in our history.
This, possibly more than any other Brentford book I own, is the one that truly makes me aware of my place in our club’s heritage and the debt we owe to those that came before.
As I sat down to write this review, I drew up a list of pages with my favourite shots worth mentioning. I gave up when I hit 25.
But if I had to pick five for the memory bank, they are:
- The young ballboy in 1970s Bukta kit, his tongue poking out as he tries to get his tracksuit bottoms off ready for kick off.
- Steve Phillips’ in red and white, with that orange T-shirt. No explanation needed.
- Brentford v Spurs at Griffin Park 1906 – a picture that could have been taken last week.
- Brentford return to Division Two in 1947 against Fulham – the haircuts reveal footballers have always been on the ball when it comes to their barnets.
- A shot looking towards Lionel Road with trams and the Fullers Star and Garter Hotel in the early 1900s – a nod to the next chapter.
Perhaps one day someone will produce a book about the Bees’ magical moments at Lionel Road as we make new memories.
Until that day, this is the perfect historical photographic jigsaw of our first century and a bit – and definitely something every Brentford family should pass on.
Jim LevackCLICK HERE TO BUY YOUR COPY OF BRENTFORD REIMAGINED