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“The natural state of the football fan is bitter disappointment, no matter what the score,” wrote Nick Hornby in ‘Fever Pitch’, his brilliant 1992 book, looking at life as an Arsenal supporter. 

And no doubt Hornby would have been disappointed – to put it mildly – when the Bees beat the Gunners 2-0 on that amazing, jubilant Friday night back in August when we made our Premier League debut.

But for me and other Brentford fans, disappointment is a long way from being our emotion looking back over the past 10 months since that crazy summer evening.

I have been loving the ride, living the dream and enjoying every match from the South Stand – even if the result did not go the way I’d have wanted.

The latest research shows that people’s attention spans are getting shorter and shorter, yet the intense concentration from fans on every ebb and flow of the games has proved that wrong. 

Even ‘away’ fans, who have cropped up near me from time to time, seem to have enjoyed the experience. One climbed a TV gantry to get a better look until a steward coaxed him down. Apparently, he would be receiving a strongly-worded email from the Club…

I kept one national newspaper’s predictions for the new Premier League season, published last August. They wrote: “Brentford’s recruitment is so impressive. They use a data-led approach and have a style of play that is very pleasing to the eye. They’ve spent about £30 million since coming up, and they get so many more transfers right than wrong.” The sports reporter added: “The club is so well structured that it gives them a chance of survival” and generously predicted a 16th place finish.

I’m confident we can beat that prediction.

And, by and large, we have beaten all the predictions, confounded the critics and proved we deserve a long-term future in the Premier League, with its potential global audience of up to five billion people. That’s a far cry from the crowds of 3,000 or so watching us play in lower leagues at much-loved Griffin Park.

Looking back on the season as a Church of England vicar and lifelong Bees fan, I’ve been thinking about what we’ve learnt, beyond the frustrations and joys of VAR, a random drone stopping play and fixtures moving for TV at short notice.

We’ve learnt about community – our Club is much more than what’s happening on the pitch. The increasing diversity of the crowd, in all kinds of ways, reflects the Club’s growing appeal. The months – and lives – lost to Covid have shown us how much we value being together, sharing emotions, cheering on the team, celebrating the highs, lamenting the losses. 

Strangely perhaps, I can see many parallels between matches and church services: the singing, the rituals, the fellowship. If only we could always see the same passion on a Sunday morning. 

We’ve learnt about heritage – ‘we never forget where we’ve come from’ was the slogan on the  Griffin Park billboards. I loved the brilliant ‘Farewell Griffin Park’ exhibition at the nearby London Museum of Water and Steam. It tells the Club’s history with a special focus on the role of the fans and the local community. (Its last weekend is May 7/8). The ‘bus stop in Hounslow’ may now have a global following, but we’ve remembered our roots, especially when the historians point out how many decades ago we last played the big names in the league. 

We’ve learnt about the power of the team. Commentators will focus on Christian Eriksen and his story. He’s made a tremendous contribution to every match he’s played in. For me, Eriksen has shone because he’s been a team player. His set pieces and passing are amazing, and he’s formed a strong bond with the fans really quickly. I think my prayers for Eriksen have been answered. 

But the team is much more than Eriksen, and I could pick out any number of players who have risen to new heights. Fill in the names yourself… Will Eriksen stay? I hope so, and I wish him a long and successful career.

Looking ahead, I’m confident of another year of great football at ‘New Griffin Park.’ I’m sure of another good showing in what will be a strange Premier League season, with the World Cup played out in the middle. 

And I find myself wondering how many of those top international stars we’ll see playing on our pitch…and maybe in our strip…in the coming season.

So thank you, Bees, for an incredible season…and yes, I know it’s not over yet. 

Peter Crumpler