They’re going to miss it when it goes. The rows of terraced housing penning it in, the compactness, the stanchions, the tightness to the pitch. The history, the tales, the four pubs. Griffin Park – they’re going to miss it when it goes.
These four stands will be etched in the memory of many a football fan long after they go, it’s got that charm that the old grounds do. The plonked-right-in-the-middle-of-everything-and-life-carries-on-around-it-for-the-majority-of-the-year kind of charm. The sort of place you can imagine the game being played in a century ago, so little has changed, and why should it?
Especially on midweek games like these, as the evening buzz generates around the stands, inside and out. As you walk over the train line, and the floodlights come into view, one by one.
As the sun sets behind the Ipswich fans in the Brook Road stand and the sky goes from blue to crimson to peach to indigo to black, and sun kissed evening rolls into chill swept night, and the Ealing Road Terrace fills with the same folk it has always filled with, nattering the same nonsense they always have, doing the same pre-match rituals they always do. There’s something special about this place under the lights.
The aforementioned Ipswich fans have come en masse, and they’re making noise, a lot of it, as kick-off approaches. They’re Ipswich ’til they die, they say. This season more than most will have pushed that adage to the extreme.
A year to the day after Mick McCarthy’s unceremonious departure from Portman Road – as the securing of another lower-mid-table finish did not cut the mustard with the Tractor Boys boys – the same fans travelled to South West London with barely half a nostril above the hastily rising water that is League One. They’ll still be singing next year though, even in Burton, even in Accrington, they’ll still be singing.
Brentford fans know the feeling, ten years ago they were languishing in the doldrums, knocking around in League Two, far from the glossy side on show today. There was no Neal Maupay banging them in, no Romaine Sawyers pinging balls left and right, no Said Benrahma gliding along the turf, times were different.
For a while they had Alan Judge, ah, Judgey, the dinky, jinky, and sometimes damn right kinky playmaker, who entertained the masses round here for years. Tonight he dons blue and white, not without an ovation from all sides of the ground beforehand.
The way Maupay, Sawyers and Benrahma play the ball, there is almost no need for the floodlights tonight, their flair and panache enough to light up the place by itself. The word on the street is they’d be lucky to have these three play in red and white next season, and you can see why from tonight’s showing. The grace, the pirouettes, the vision and forethought, all in abundance. It’s the Benrahma-Maupay combo which creates the first goal, as Neal bangs one in after Said has left a trail of Tractor Boys in his wake.
That’s exactly what they are tonight, Tractor Boys. Academy graduates galore, with Teddy Bishop, Flynn Downes and Andre Dozzell among the half dozen to feature, as Paul Lambert tries some new blood in the eleven.
He may not be winning over the fans with the results on the pitch, but his no-nonsense on the touchline at Norwich, and saying yes to the youth has definitely got them on side. These boys are tipped for great things in years to come, the one shining light in a season of suffering for the Suffolkers. Even if the present is shite, the future looks bright.
They’re still going as well, in both tiers of the away end, all 1600 odd of them. They’re taking their shoes off because they hate the scum, and sitting down because they hate the scum, and standing up because they hate the scum, they’re relentless, and they hate the scum.
Then they’re going to bounce in a minute. Then they’re bouncing. Then they’re singing que sera and what will be will be and that they’re going to Shrewsbury, and not even another Brentford goal can dampen their spirits, they’re just here for the party, so they say. If only all parties involved elongated and repeated ‘aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh’s after every goal kick.
Good job they’re in party mood off the pitch, because in truth, they’re dreadful on it. Colin Quaner chips a chip which chips the post but apart from that, the Brentford goal remains untroubled throughout. The hosts come the closest, as Watkins blazes a couple wide, and Benrahma clips the bar, but on the pitch this one wont live long in the memory. Just another nail in the tractor tyre, as the season’s journey comes to a slumping stop as the inevitable end grows nearer.
A penny for the thoughts of Sirs Alf and Bobby, on the demise of the club that brought them such success. As Marcus Evans drives the club to its lowest ebb in over half a century, there’s not even despair from the fans, there is acceptance. League One beckons, but if there was ever a man to get them straight back up again, it’s the man at the helm. The boys up in Norfolk will vouch for that.
They’re going to miss it when it goes. The playoff near misses, the UEFA Cup run, the Old Farm Derby, the buzz around Portman Road. The Championship – they’re going to miss it when it goes.
As for Brentford, another season of Championship football awaits. A season of sendoff for the old girl, as turnstiles get ready to be clunked, seats to be slumped on, drinks to be drunk, all for the last time.
Each remaining game is a sacred pilgrimage, to the church of 115 years, the same one it always has been, and many thought it probably always was going to be.
There won’t be many more of these nights under these lights.
All photographs/Adam Le Roux