As I wandered into the Ealing Road Terrace with my dad, who had made the trip over from France especially to see a promotion decider, echoes of Reading in 2002 were ringing rather worryingly in my ears.
Eleven years had passed since we had watched that fateful Cureton equaliser drop over the head of Paul Smith, yet still it lingered fresh in the mind as if it were the previous week. Yet here we were again, father and son, to see an identical scenario take place at Griffin Park with Doncaster our visitors.
I jokingly said before the game that, due to being right behind the bar, we weren’t at the risk of getting a rogue ball to the face – but after the rattle of the woodwork rang in my ears after the Football League Show’s seemingly only fact about Brentford was born, I wouldn’t have felt one get me right between the eyes.
On the way back home, I made a prediction that we’d get to the play off final, lose it, go mid table for a year, lose Uwe and go into a few years of struggle while we reset (potentially avoiding relegation along the way) before we even had a hope of getting near to another near miss a few years later.
The Brentford cynicism had been practically embedded in my head from birth and the years that ensued did little to prove it otherwise, having been to see us three times in a big stadium only to fail every opportunity – I wasn’t looking forward to visit number four. I promised myself I wouldn’t go as it would be a complete waste of eighty quid, or that I would probably need to go to work, that I needed my hair cut that day… or any reason not to go.
Eighty quid and a disappointing performance at Wembley later, I arrived home. Justifying it as a great day out (which it was… honest). But suddenly my prediction was sounding worryingly right.
Being as I worked Saturday afternoons through last season, and the vast majority of this one, I was unable to justify the season ticket again so had to stick with Beesotted twitter updates whenever I got a free moment to sneak a look.
As Uwe spent the opening weeks playing Tinker Tactic Shift the Squad and Beesotted Tweeted “oooh”, I found myself getting more and more annoyed that I was probably right – history well and truly coming back to repeat itself with us slumping in form every time it looked like we’d found it.
Then came Stevenage and boy, did things change.
The squad settled, the team started to fight and suddenly each week I was feeling more and more enthused. Even the Tweeted “Ooh’s” seemed more excited.
By the time we’d reached December, and I’d made as many Tuesday night games as I could, I no longer worked Saturday afternoons and was going every week – witnessing the rise and rise of the Bees as they charged from mid table to the top. Suddenly I felt like I was watching the class of 2002, who up until then I’d hailed as our best squad (in my time at least); but still it lingered – “it’s Brentford innit?”.
However – even after Uwe’s departure and the ending of the ridiculous 11 men in the box defending corners we still kept charging.
After last season and many more before that, nobody dared sing anything about promotion – that is until that Tuesday night when suddenly Brentford had luck, results elsewhere went our way and GP erupted more than it had for any goal I’d seen all season.
Fast forward to Preston which was (typically) the first game I couldn’t make since December. I sat at home and listened to the game on my phone, had Final Score on my laptop and had my iPad trained on t
Twitter and suddenly it was very real.
At just gone 5pm, having scared my other half several times with shouts and whimpers as the Wolves score became a cricket one, I saw her roll her eyes as I danced around in my Brentford shirt and at last I could rest easy. We had done it. We were up.
The thing that I’d only ever seen possible in Football Manager, had happened – for the first time I was actually happy to be proved wrong, the heartache at Reading and Doncaster now made it all the more sweeter.
So as we head onwards and upwards, let’s join with our relegated counterparts on Saturday to sit back, watch and enjoy as King Kev leads the boys out for our League One swansong. Hopefully the last time Griffin Park will play host to a Division One (Three!) match.
Here’s to GP, here’s to the Championship… and here’s to the boys that finally made it. The best squad we’ve had in many, many years.