Beesotted regular Nemone Sariman has press-ganged her hubby Nick to a festive fess-up as he looks forward, as we all do, to the visit of Tottenham Hotspur on Boxing Day.
Okay. I’ve got a confession to make. Here we go: I’m a proud and very engaged Brentford footy fan, but I haven’t always been. The truth is, I’ve followed two other teams in my previous life (let’s call it Life Before Brentford).
“Heretic!” scream the prosecution. ‘You can’t be a true footy fan and change teams. Where’s your loyalty? You must be a glory hunter.” And to paraphrase a recent prominent politician: “You. Are A. Disgrace.”
So let me say a few things in my defence and explain my journey to becoming a Bee.
My Dad was born in Tottenham in 1918 and lived less than a mile from White Hart Lane. So, obviously, he was a Spurs fan. Natural footy law dictates that Son (no, not THAT Son) Must Support Dad’s Team, so I proudly wore the white cockerel shirt at birthday parties during my very early years. The problem was that we didn’t live in Tottenham, because Dad had moved to Stafford many years before I was born. Opportunities to see Spurs were limited but I do recall the first ever game that he took me to: May 11th, 1968, at Molineux where Wolves won 2-1, though I did have the pleasure of seeing Jimmy Greaves score a wonderful goal. Sadly, as far as being a Spurs fan went, that was about it in those years, and my hometown Stafford Rangers were then competing in the Cheshire League (not a great pull for a then 8-year-old).
Then we moved.
Fast forward a few years: now living in Epsom. I did finally get to visit White Hart Lane with Dad to see Spurs win the first ever UEFA Cup, ironically beating Wolves. Then things changed. A combination of becoming a moody teenager with the resulting rebelliousness and my older (by 4 years) brother being a Man Utd fan meant that I, too, started following Man Utd. “Glory hunter”? Hardly. This was the season that the team that was “too good to go down” went down to the then Second Division. Of course, some 20 years later, the Red Devils finally won what we now know as the Premier League and didn’t look back (at least, not until more recently – 13th August 2022, anyone?).
In the late 70s I lived in Manchester for 3 years, so I attended a fair few fixtures at Old Trafford. In the 80s, having moved back to London, I still managed to attend games but most of my support became the armchair variety via TV. Things became more and more intense, with enough silverware to keep the Royal Mint in business and, of course, European glory. Then something changed again.
I became disillusioned with the commercialisation of the Premiership, the non-stop TV coverage with every Sunday becoming more “Super” than the last, the players’ extravagant lifestyles becoming front page news, WAGs included, Bentleys everywhere and Dickheads in them. I felt that football had lost its soul, and I decided that enough was enough: I had to kick the habit that I’d developed since I was a nipper.
Going cold turkey from a drug that’s been in your blood for years isn’t easy. I cancelled my Sky Sports subscription and promised myself to watch “alternative” sports on Eurosport. Somehow endless tennis, golf, cycling and other far more obscure sports didn’t really make up for my lack of footy fix. My wife would catch me guiltily listening to the results and I would try to convince her that I hadn’t fallen off the wagon, and that I could stop anytime I wanted. My weekly phone conversations with Dad became more awkward as we couldn’t discuss the weekend’s matches anymore. Boy, I was missing something. Rehab was not going well.
Then, once again, things changed. At this time I was running a small business based in Brentford, and a member of my team encouraged me to contact the local football team regarding some form of minor sponsorship. This was, perhaps, a valid excuse to re establish at least some connection with the game. I was invited to attend a game at Griffin Park and was somewhat sceptical about the whole thing.
But I went. And that was it.
My addiction was resumed with a ferocity that is hard to explain. Except that you all get it. You’ve experienced the pull of Griffin Park and the Bees. Not only are you all addicts, like me, but you even join me at our weekly meetings.
My wife and I moved to Brentford, our new home in the shadows of the floodlights, so obviously it was season tickets all round. Each season, our involvement grew. “You’ll get sucked in!” warned my neighbour. And we did. Rehab was abandoned to a new, stronger and purer form of my previous drug. Griffin Park became our second home. The noise, the proximity to the pitch, standing behind the goal, the highs and lows of the results, seeing the players wander down Braemar Road post-game, the banter, the pubs, travelling to away games … all that became the norm. It became OUR LIFE. Until, of course “that season” when iPlayer was our favourite watch on TV. Play-offs, Wembley (2nd time around), I’d heard all about the 9 previous play-offs, but this was my first … and what a first.
Now I’m back in the league that I’d dumped seasons before. It hasn’t changed but I now feel that I’ve become a true supporter of a club in the league, not just a generic footy fan who followed a club just because. And Brentford is a club with real values, a No Dickhead policy. I look forward to every game week, home and away. I’ll always be envious of my fellow Bees fans who recall their stories of days in the lower divisions, as hard and traumatic as they sound, but I realise how privileged I am to have finally discovered what it really means to have a club.
So that’s my journey. My brother still follows Man Utd and still can’t talk about “That Brentford Game”. My Dad is no longer with us, but I think he’ll understand why I’ll be jumping for joy if we can finally put one over on Spurs on Boxing Day.
A Toney penalty, anyone? COYB!