Beesotted’s Jim Levack was one of the fortunate journalists who were at the bank spanking new Brentford stadium to witness the first-ever competitive match… here’s what he thought of the experience.
So the new era has dawned and it wasn’t as painful as feared. Yes, it was like driving to a new away ground, hunting for a parking space (thankfully it was Sunday) and yes the noon kick off prevented a little pre-match livener.
Walking up to the ground from the Great West Road, I spotted Cliff Crown chatting to some of the stewards. A familiar face to reassure me I was in the right place.
Then past the Wycombe coach and around to the media entrance where the Brentford coach was parked up. No walking to the ground for the players any more.
A well drilled army of stewards and information officers steered me towards the press entrance and after the obligatory temperature check, I was ushered upstairs.
A large concourse with a suitably lengthy bar – prepared to serve only Guinness at the moment – stretched out ahead of me, television monitors lining the walls.
First impressions. An amazing space but without any reference to Brentford on the walls, you could be pretty much anywhere.
“We’ve only had the keys for six days,” replied the Communications Director Chris Wickham, who manages the media side of things like a finely tuned orchestra with minimum fuss.
Fair point well made, but stamping the club’s heritage and presence on the new ground will be arguably the most important part of the process of making it ours.
Thomas Frank mentioned in his post-match presser that “it’s like moving home. You need to have friends over and have a barbecue before you start to put your mark on it”.
We’ve had the barbecue and it went well, so it will be interesting to see if the little touches have been added by the time Huddersfield come a calling in a fortnight.
Through the concourse and the magical walk towards the pitch, a square of green soon opening up into a perfectly manicured expanse of turf where dreams will be made and memories forged for decades to come.
More first impressions. The multi coloured seats that have been the topic of so much controversy aren’t actually that bad after all. As long as the club gets the internal branding right, it’s small beer that that won’t matter when bums are on seats.
Another one – as the video just prior to kick off proves, the acoustics are excellent and will be better still once we get the Brentford faithful back inside.
The broadcast gantry up in the gods offers a bird’s eye view of proceedings and is, I was reliably informed, the biggest or one of the biggest in the country.
The media area too is state-of-the-art, with monitors linked to a giant main screen to show play backs to the print and broadcast press.
Most importantly, there doesn’t appear to be a bad seat in the house. Even the highest section to the left of the West Stand looks a superb vantage point to watch the 2021 promotion push.
The new ground added to the sterility of the situation we find ourselves in means I face watching Brentford matches without the joy of being able to shout or punch the air in joy – and that is my overriding takeout from this and other behind closed doors games.
Without fans, especially our fans, it’s a hollow space. But that will change and hopefully sooner rather than later.
Match done and dusted – and yes, I did feel a slight pang of tension during the shoot out – it was downstairs to the media theatre to meet the managers.
A room further removed from the ‘friendly get together’ atmosphere of Griffin Park’s media room you couldn’t wish to find. So large with only a handful of media, people were whispering. But maybe we’ll get used to the new silent.
As I walked away, I felt much the same as I did after heading out of Griffin Park. I’d seen my team play, seen familiar faces and felt that this was my ground. And a pretty amazing one too, most definitely fit for the modern era.
That feeling will only grow as the season goes on, but it will only feel truly like home once our supporters are allowed back in.