Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Frank relishing shot at claiming famous scalp

Posted on 16 January 2022 by Will Rogan

Stadiums – remarkable architectural and engineering feats whose inhabitants and events transcend the physical building. They are places where identities are forged, passions are realised and love affairs begin. These very tangible places play host to the intangible joy of sport, the physical manifestation of what an institution stands for.

Embed from Getty Images

Stadiums can take many forms from magnificent temples to humble chapels, and each means something different for a variety of reasons.

The return of fans to all stadiums following the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions has been well-documented. The fervour of their support is a far cry from the echoey caverns and piped-in crowd noise that characterised restriction-era sport.

Following the alarming spread of the Omicron variant that began late last year, it looked as though we would return to that soulless state of affairs. However, with government confident that the health services can ride out the wave without any strong restrictions, that threat looks to have passed.

The Scottish government this week announced the lifting of restrictions that prohibited more than 500 spectators in their stadiums. This will allow Scotland’s Six Nations matches at BT Murrayfield in Edinburgh to go ahead as planned.

Full stadiums mean the soul of British sport can endure and thrive in trying times.

Embed from Getty Images

 

Anfield stands majestic over Stanley Park, its recently rebuilt Main Stand imperious on the skyline of the city of Liverpool. This hallowed ground has seen some of the greatest faces achieve some of the greatest feats in football. A Collymore closing in, a lovely cushioned header, a corner taken quickly.

Football’s most famous anthem rings out at the beginning and end of every match, embodying the principles, beliefs and soul of the supporters from the city and around the world.

According to Co-Op Funeralcare, Gerry & the Pacemakers’ version of You’ll Never Walk Alone, the version played at Anfield, was the most played funeral song in the UK in 2021.

This version holds a special place in fan’s hearts, as the recently departed Gerry Marsden was from Liverpool. Another of his famous songs, Ferry Cross the Mersey, is a wonderful ode to the city and its welcoming and tolerant people.

Embed from Getty Images

Anfield manifests the undeniable soul and irrepressible spirit of the city of Liverpool and its people, as immortalised in the recent ITV drama Anne. The programme recounts the story of tireless campaigner Anne Williams, whose son Kevin died at the Hillsborough disaster in 1989.

Though the Kop looks mismatched from that which my grandad stood on (The Boys’ Pen is a thing of the past), banners, flags and chants in the unmistakeable accent ring round the ground, lauding figures past and present.

It is here that Brentford FC travel this weekend to face Jürgen Klopp’s European juggernaut.

When asked about Anfield, Brentford manager Thomas Frank said: “It is one of the most iconic football stadiums in the world.”

Brentford’s new Community Stadium opened in 2020 only has a capacity of 17,250, but the West London faithful make every voice count in the smallest stadium in the division.

Embed from Getty Images

They have been well worth their spot in the Premier League so far, having beaten Arsenal 2-0 on the opening night of the season.

Last time out against Liverpool, they achieved a 3-3 draw in one of the finest Premier League matches in recent memory.

They felt aggrieved not to earn points from their match against Chelsea, were it not for the inspired performance of Blues goalkeeper Edouard Mendy.

Their tactical innovation, smart financial policies, passionate manager and refusal to lie down for the big boys has brought well-deserved attention to the Community Stadium.

The new ground is nestled in the heart of the neighbourhood, just south of Gunnersbury Park and just a mile from their dear Griffin Park. It is the next step for a club on the up.

In a quote from Brentford’s website, owner Matthew Benham said: “I am absolutely confident that the unique nature of the site will result in a stadium that is still different to the majority of new stadiums, is small enough to create a fantastic atmosphere yet big enough to enable the continued growth of our supporter base and offers a brilliant matchday experience for all fans.”

The community side of their club is what Brentford pride themselves on. Managing to foster this whilst playing in the world’s most-watched domestic league is some feat. It is even more impressive to exist in a London football scene dominated by huge clubs and iconic stadiums and stay grounded.

Embed from Getty Images

The Brentford FC Community Sports Trust offer various schemes designed to give back to the local area. One of these initiatives is their Kickstart campaign aimed at giving opportunities to those aged 16-24 to build workplace skills to launch a prosperous career elsewhere.

When asked about mental preparations for the Anfield atmosphere, Frank said: “It’s difficult to prepare for it.”

But he was keen to see his team enjoy the occasion and emphasised that his team had already played in two Championship play-off finals, games where there is so much at stake.

These club’s respective stadiums reflect so much about their inhabitant’s character, responsibilities and aspirations.

Anfield stands as a footballing place of pilgrimage, home to one of the world’s biggest clubs. The home of this weekend’s visitors is the next step in their journey up the footballing ladder, upward mobility they are rightly praised for.

With all their community work, humble beginnings and realistic approach to life in the Premier League, Brentford certainly have their feet on the ground in their pursuit of the stars.

 

You can read more of our football coverage at: https://sportsgazette.co.uk/category/football/

Don’t forget to keep an eye on our social media too.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SportsGazette

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sportsgazetteuk/?hl=en