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Easter is massive in the Premier League. Key matches around the holiday will play their part in deciding who wins the league, who faces the drop – and who will be in the running for a European title next season. The Bees’ match with high-flying Newcastle on Saturday is a clash to be much anticipated, especially after our 5-1 defeat at St James’s Park back in October. Victory will help keep our European hopes alive.

Back in December 2002, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger contrasted Easter with Christmas, as he weighed up Liverpool’s chances of contesting the Gunners’ claim on winning the Premier League. He said: “Liverpool are not out of the championship race. It would be premature to say that.

“Christmas is important, but not decisive. If it was Easter, then maybe I’d have to say ‘yes.’ But Christmas? No, it is too early to write them off.” The rest, as they say, is history, with Arsenal finishing runners-up to Manchester United at the end of the 2002/2003 season. Christmas is important, but Easter is decisive. That’s the Christian message of resurrection and new life in a sentence.

As a Church of England priest and lifelong Bees fan, I’m pleased to see Brentford FC marking Easter this weekend, with a family celebration at the nearby London Museum of Water and Steam. It’s part of the massive community programme that the Club operates. I’m sure that it will also be wishing us fans a Happy Easter, as we have journeyed through our second season in the top rung.

I’ve written before about the parallels between football and faith, and about football grounds, like Griffin Park, being ‘sacred’ places for many. It’s why some fans seek to have their cremated ashes sprinkled on or near the pitches of their teams.

But comedian and author David Baddiel put it far better than me in a recent interview. He said: “Football fills a God-shaped hole, I think. Because it makes you feel connected to something besides yourself. It is, in a small way, eternal.

“If you’ve been going to Chelsea, as I have, for 40 years, you think: ‘I have watched players come and go, and die. And I’m still here. And I feel connected to the a priori idea of Chelsea and football, which is sort of beyond the here and now. It’s identity and it’s tribalism, and it’s opposition to other tribes. It feels very religious.”

And replace ‘Chelsea’ with ‘Brentford’, and you get the way many fans feel about the Club. Players come and go, managers come and go, but the Club lives on.

Many top football clubs trace their roots back to local churches and, just this week, the Church of England has promoted the success of a football academy run by a Hounslow-based church.
Now, I don’t want to push the connections between football and faith too far. One post I saw describing Matthew Benham as our ‘lord and saviour’ seemed many steps too far for my Christians sensibilities, but I get the point that was being made.

So let’s all enjoy the Newcastle match, and cheer on our team to get a resounding victory, and also remember that it’s Easter.

Supporting the Bees in recent years has felt a bit like resurrection – abundant life at a new stadium in a new league. It’s almost a religious experience.

Rev Peter Crumpler