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New Beesotted contributor Lewis Holmes shares his excited thoughts ahead of the curtain raiser (one sleep to go) with Arsenal on Friday night. Good to have you on board Lewis.

My last Brentford match was on the 7th of March 2020: that thumping 5-0 rout of Sheffield Wednesday. 522 days, just short of 18 months. So much has happened since then. The sad, subdued end of Griffin Park; the slow, almost tentative unveiling of our state of the art new home. The worst of play-off finals (but hey, we’re all used to them by now, am I right?) followed by the exact polar opposite at the end of last season (and wasn’t that the sweetest feeling ever?). Talismanic players have left, only to be replaced by even bigger, more totemic personalities. Even though changes were actually minimal, the team that finally clinched promotion feels like a different beast to the one that stumbled the year before: hungrier, leaner, steelier. Brentford FC has come so far since Covid came along and shook the world up.

I’ve watched all of this through a screen, like Fever Pitch run through the Black Mirror remake machine – not that Mark Burridge’s commentary belongs in a futuristic dystopia, obviously. It’s the most exciting time to be a Brentford fan that almost any of us can remember, and I saw nearly all of the journey on iFollow, from the decidedly unglamourous surrounds of my own saggy sofa. It’s been pale, rather distant, almost a facsimile at times. One of the worst days in all of lockdown for me was when we briefly opened up for a few games last winter. My matchday crew got to attend Lionel Road and, for various reasons, I did not. That was a really tough game to enjoy, even with a healthy supply of Fullers’ finest to hand.

But it’s always darkest before the dawn, right? 2021 has been incredible for the Brentford family, hitting that glorious play-off high in May, and on Friday night we’ll take the next step in this incredible, unprecedented episode in our history. A capacity crowd, under the lights, as little old Brentford opens the 2021/22 Premier League season.

I don’t normally get excited well in advance of things but full disclosure, I’m like a little kid already. It’s not even necessarily the fact that we’re #bigtime and facing Premier League opposition. It could be Gillingham or Doncaster or Swindon (no offence meant, Gooners). No, it’s more than that. It’s the feeling that football is finally, properly, back. The full matchday experience that’s been gone for so long: meeting up for beers in the Globe, followed by the (slightly longer, don’t forget) walk to the ground. Taking my comfy new seat and seeing the players – our players – come out onto the pitch to Peter Gilham’s primal roar. Perhaps even a sneaky chicken balti at half-time. Although that said, I do like a falafel and I’m pretty stoked to hear that that’s an option down at Lionel Road as well. Hell, maybe I’ll have both – the old traditions and the brave new world blended in perfect harmony!

All of it is going to happen in just 48 hours from me writing this. I’m under no illusions, it’ll be a tough test and the result is far from a foregone conclusion, but that just doesn’t matter. The excitement and anticipation that only football can bring, those feelings that have been muted for the last year and a half, they’re here, they’re back… and they’re in glorious goddamn technicolour. Bring. It. On.

Lewis Holmes