New Beesotted contributor, Jem Rampling, gives us a dollop of food for thought as he looks back on some of the defining moments in the changing fortunes of Brentford Football Club.
There is a paradox of motion which proposes that, because time can be broken into infinitely smaller parts, and that in a single instant all matter is static, movement is an illusion. It is impossible for an athlete to catch a tortoise because each movement towards the tortoise can be divided into smaller movements. You can close the gap by half, then by half again, then by half again ad infinitum, but that specific moment when the tortoise is caught by the athlete can never be qualified by the mathematics.
It is equally impossible to specify the moment when what Brentford used to be was superseded by what it now is. No single definitive moment exists; not promotion, not the stadium move, not even the emergence of Matthew Benham as club saviour and benefactor. Yet even as a 16 hour gimmick, Brentford sitting top of the Premier League embodied the completion of an extraordinary transition in the culture and standing of this humble club. The shift has been subtle, imperceptible to those of us outside the inner circle. But New Brentford is now unquestionably here, defined by self-confidence, rational intelligence and sustained progression, and we are now comfortable being the benchmark for optimising footballing potential within the UK and wider.
Those of us who lived it know what Old Brentford stood for; cycles of languishing, promising, disappointing and deconstructing, punctuated by intermittent threats to the club’s survival. “You don’t wanna go up” and “typical bloody Brentford” were the paddock catchphrases to define that era now gone. Driven by the investment and ideas of Benham and his team, old became new not in a single moment but over the course of the most wonderful decade in our Brentford supporting lives. And from this fan’s perspective, here are six key footballing moments that best define the metamorphosis of our club.
15 December 2007 – Wrexham 1 Brentford 3
After five consecutive games without a goal, including a 7-0 drubbing at Peterborough and successive 1-0 home losses to Morecambe and Grimsby, the club sat 87th in the football league and were drifting ever lower. Relieved from Terry Butcher’s awful tenure, his assistant Andy Scott was given the caretaker role and instantly oversaw a change in fortune and, equally, a change in attitude. Beginning with this 3-1 win against an incompetent Wrexham side, within 18 months Scott had overseen promotion to the third tier while Matthew Benham was planning a regular financial commitment to the club. This single game marked the turning point from the club’s decline into a sub-standard fourth tier outfit and Scott’s side were to lay the foundation for what would come over the following decade.
It was definitely still Old Brentford when, in April 2013, Marcello Trotta wrestled Kevin O’Connor out of the history books and we ended, at home to Doncaster, on our knees in their box with the ball down the other end in Simon Moore’s net. Yet having lost the Play Off final to underdogs Yeovil, the club made immediate positive noises of holding onto our best players and investing for another push. 2014 saw a comfortable, confident, anguish-free promotion once Trotta had achieved absolution at the season’s definitive game at Brisbane Road. This was a novel experience, a controlled promotion wrapped up prematurely and with some surprise on a Good Friday when all the stars seemed to align in our favour.
February 2015 – Schism
Our first season in the Championship was a glorious season of attacking football and overachievement, yet in the build-up to a crucial midweek game at home to Watford it was announced that Mark Warburton and his coaching staff would be moving on at the season’s close due to a difference of opinion with the Board over the future direction of the club. This was a test-case for the project, and the call divided opinion amongst fans with some loyal to a very popular and capable manager and others to the ethos of the Benham project. The club was unanimously ridiculed by national media, committed as they were to traditional football methods and traditional football men and, setting the club’s progression back considerably, the subsequent appointment of Marinus Dijkhuisen provided some vindication to the naysayers. But the hierarchy were honest enough to learn from this mistake and got back to where they needed to be in appointing Dean Smith before the year was out. Viewed from 2021 it seems obvious that the club should have stuck with principles over personnel, but at the time it was a bold call made in the face of opposition from within and outside of the club.
1 November 2017 – Birmingham 0 Brentford 2
Just a wonderful night. Two cheeky Maupay goals. Harlee Dean benched. Jota ineffective. Colin subbed after ten minutes. Had we been asset stripped by the Blues? Had we ‘eck? If a single match cemented confidence in the club’s recruitment methodology, this was it.
July 2019 – The Transfer Window
It seemed so unlikely when the news broke that we were making moves to sign arguably the best defender in the league from undoubtedly the biggest club. My Whatsapp group began buzzing on the Friday night and, by the end of the weekend, Pontus bloody Jansson was signing for Brentford. We were really going for it here, correcting the soft underbelly that had characterised our Championship failings to this point, spending £6m on the finished article, a master of gamesmanship, a strong leader and a very good centre-back. Looking back now at that Summer’s transfer activity, the progression in ambition is evident as we brought in much of the spine of our Premier League side for hitherto unimaginable fees. Raya, Nørgaard, Pinnock, Mbeumo and Jensen all came in but it was Jansson’s signing that demanded attention, marking us as serious contenders for promotion to the Premier League.
May 2021 – Brentford 2 Swansea 0
Another promotion built on the back of a play off final defeat, the club were by now the embodiment of the sporting cliché “we go again”. And to view this fixture with the secure objectivity of hindsight, it was a match without jeopardy won within twenty minutes. On the day of the final, Thomas Frank and the team were all charisma and self-belief and, in winning promotion through the play offs at the tenth time of asking, the transition into New Brentford was unequivocally complete.
What are your own personal ‘changing moments’ in The Bees’ recent history, please add them as a comment below.