Despite living in the USA for over 40 years, Reggie Gee (@ReggieGeee) isn’t one of the new breed of Brentford supporters the club has inherited after making their way to the top of the footballing pinnacle. Being born in Isleworth and going so school literally a hop skip and a jump from The Globe pub in Brentford, Reg would say he is Brentford through and through.
But for most of those years, the ability to actually watch his team was non-existent until fairly recently when Championship games started to get broadcast across The Globe. Now he is able watch is team play week in and week out. And he isn’t the only one.
Last weekend, American Premier League fans from all over the country descended on Orlando for Premier League Mornings Live Fan Fest from Universal Citywalk. This is the eighth in a series of events hosted by NBC Sport in which fans come together from all over and hang out at America’s biggest ‘Watch Party’. At the event, the fans watch their teams in action alongside loads of other Premier League fans while pundits and special guests provide their analysis during the network’s TV coverage.
Reg, and a number of other Brentford fans including ex Brentford players Gary Blissett and Paul Buckle, headed down to Orlando to see what the fuss was all about.
When Brentford got promoted to the Premier League, suddenly the club was exposed to a whole new set of people who have embraced the English top league, enthusiastically taking ‘soccer’ under their belt.
Many of these fans have never set foot in an English stadium but that hasn’t stopped them from embracing teams across the board. Naturally first up, you get plenty of fans supporting the easy options. Your Arsenal fans. And your Man United fans. Your Liverpool fans and your Tottenham fans. Not to mention Man City fans and Chelsea fans.
Although I did meet a Man United fan Devin who flies to Manchester at least half a dozen times a season from Tampa to go watch his team fair play.
Then you get some fans who have gone a slightly off-piste – backing the likes of Leicester City and West Ham and Aston Villa.
Dare I say it, there are a fair few Fulham fans, off the back of their time in the Premier League in the noughties.
Then you get the proper left-fielders. Those who made the decision to back the least glamorous sides in the division. The likes of your Wolves fans. And your Crystal Palace fans. Your Bournemouth and Forest fans and Southampton fans. Ones who backed your Norwiches and Burnleys.
And then there are the ones who made the decision a few years ago to support the mighty Bees.
Having lived in America for years, I have found it hard to come across fellow Brentford fans. In fact it was very rare to find anyone who had heard of Brentford. When I had my 6-a-side team’s name changed to ‘Brentford’ several years ago, none of my Tallahassee teammates had ever heard of the club. So the fact that the club is now in the limelight due to their Premier League promotion is quite a novelty for me.
So when Premier League Fest was announced in “nearby” Orlando, I didn’t hesitate on deciding to make the trip – quickly making plans to drive four hours with my youngest son Jadon in search of fellow Brentford fans, very few of whom can be found in north Florida where I live
Paul Buckle played for Brentford starting in the Steve Perriman era (1989), played right through Phil Holder’s promotion era and leaving in the Web Era (1994). He started life at Brentford as an apprentice, coming through the junior ranks with now club ambassador Marcus Gayle. These days, he is the Technical Advisor at USL team Hartford Athletic (second tier) in Connecticut. His wife, Rebecca Lowe, is one of the presenters on NBC’s broadcast of Premier League Live.
As Buckle socialized with fellow Bees supporters during the Orlando Fan Fest, he told me he is extremely proud of his former team and is enjoying watching their success.
“Living in America and seeing Brentford get into the Premier League was one of the best days of my life,” Buckle said
“Obviously, being there as an apprentice and as a pro, to win the league (Third Division) in 1992 with Gary Blissett, who’s here today, yeah, amazing. And to have my wife present the Premier League couldn’t be better.”
Buckle’s former Brentford teammate Gary Blissett was a guest on the NBC Premier League Live broadcast. Blissett played for Brentford from 1987-1993, appearing in more than 200 matches and scoring over 100 goals. He is the Director of Coaching for Youth Soccer club Florida Premier FC in Zephyrhills, situated 80 miles west of Orlando.
Blissett said no one should be surprised if Brentford continues performing in impressive fashion and stays in the Premier League for a while.
“They’re fearless. They’re brave. I think Thomas Frank must win Manager of the Year,” Blissett said
“I think he’s done an unbelievable job and we don’t have the superstars at Brentford. We just have a great team.”
The majority of fans who attended Orlando’s Fan Fest on Sunday were from the big clubs. Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal fans were in full effect wheras Brentford fans were definitely in the minority. Ironically, the fans who attached themselves to Brentford have said that has been a major reason for the club’s appeal.
Ian Anderson is from Virginia Beach, Virginia, and he recently adopted Brentford as his favourite team.
“I didn’t want to support Man City or the big clubs. I wanted, kind of, that underdog, and when they got promoted I had a friend, a Chelsea fan who knows a lot about soccer. He just started telling me this is the first time they’ve been up since the 40s.
The story of them coming up through the Championship (and) finally making it. I really liked the underdog story and I started following them. I didn’t have a team and I thought that was going to be the best choice.”
Steven D’Amico is from Orlando and didn’t have to travel far for the event. He has been supporting Brentford since summer 2021. He said he was laid up with an illness and began watching a lot of Premier League football. When it was time to choose a team to follow, for him the choice was obvious.
“They’re the small underdog club with the right attitude, with the right culture, friendly and unity driven with an owner who isn’t a jerk,” he said.
“And all of that combined made it the team to support. Because I was new to watching Premier League football … it would be really lame to root for Arsenal or (Manchester) City or (Manchester) United.”
Colin Passey was born in Brentford and has been following the Bees for 58 years since his dad and longtime Brentford fan, James Passey, took him to a match at Griffin Park when he was 4.
“My dad used to take me home and away and then I moved out here. But I still try to follow the Bees.”
Colin now splits his time between living in New Jersey and Florida.
“I’m used watching to the Division 1 playoffs and losing and then having another season there and then going up to the Championship,” he said.
“Then when we got close and we’re beaten by Fulham I was like, ‘That’s it.’ But they’ve done it and now they’re showing they can actually stay there.”
Dawn Crow travelled from Simpsonville, South Carolina, for the event. She’s been following Brentford for about three years and summed up why she roots for the Bees.
“They have passion and they’re scrappy and they have fight, and I just love rooting for the little guy instead of the big teams,” she said. “I like watching them all but I like the little Bees.”
At the event, Brentford fans watched their team draw 0-0 with Leeds to cement their Top 10 Premier League spot for another weekend, finishing the day in 8th place. It may be a long way to go for us USA fans to check out the Bus Stop in Hounslow. But the journey has certainly been worth it.
To check out more Brentford action, subscribe to the Beesotted podcast, as many USA based Bees fans have done, by clicking the link above