Bees push sparks happy memories

Friday 12th April 2013 11:34

Brentford fans: Celebrate with fans of 'sister club' Falkirk

Brentford fans: Celebrate with fans of 'sister club' Falkirk

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Fanzoner Billy Grant hopes parallels can be drawn between Brentford's push for promotion this season and their memorable success in 1991/92.

As the League One promotion race heats up for Brentford and Falkirk prepare to do battle with Celtic in the Scottish Cup semi-final, Billy 'theBee' Grant recalls how a series of events over the last few days brings him back to 21 years ago when he and a bunch of Brentford fans stood toe to toe with a load of Falkirk fans ... all dressed in ponchos and sombreros .... on a terrace in Aberdeen .... singing Brentford promotion songs. Confused? Read on.

What a difference a week makes. At 5pm on Saturday 6 April at The Ricoh Arena, Brentford fans were pulling their hair out. Dominating games and not picking up full points has been the bain of our season. Once again we had dominated Coventry but couldn't make it count. Three points would have reinforced our position in the automatic promotion places.

With only one point gained, Brentford fans were now completely and utterly resigned to more play-off hell.

Having been involved in the most number of Division 1 play-offs (six) and having lost the most number of Division 1 play-offs (six), it's not hard to see why, with automatic promotion within touching distance, Brentford fans were distraught at the idea of being involved in the extended-season lottery.

Three days later, something incredible happened that has changed the course of the season.

With the promotion door being practically slammed shut in Brentford's face, top-of the-league Doncaster and promotion rivals Sheffield United and Swindon all surprisingly lost against so called 'inferior' opposition.

Suddenly a chink of light appeared in Brentford's closing automatic-promotion door crack. The following day the Brentford team, knowing what they needed to do, were dispatched up to Crewe to finish the job off.

They did it with a fantastic display of professional football securing an invaluable 2-0 victory. It should have been much much more.

For more 'mature' Brentford fans, this scenario will remind them of the Phil 'Noddy' Holder promotion season of 1991/92 - the last time we were promoted to what is now known as the Championship.

With two games to go, Brentford were in a similar position - firmly lodged in a play-off place. Stoke City and Birmingham looked like they would nab the automatic spots as they had by far the easiest run-ins. Brentford fans had resigned themselves to the play-offs - which was still a bit of a novelty for us at the time.

It was the penultimate Saturday of the season. I was standing with another 20 Brentford fans and 2000 Falkirk fans on the away terrace of Aberdeen's Pittodrie stadium.

Why? Cutting a very long story short, in the early 90s a number of Brentford players had made the exodus from Griffin Park, Brentford to Brockville Park, Falkirk. Richard Cadette. Eddie May. Tony Parkes all became Falkirk heroes after initially plying their trade at Brentford.

A number of Brentford fans started to make regular pilgrimages up to Scotland to see their former players in action. This spiralled into a love-in between Brentford and Falkirk fans with Brentford becoming a cult sister club for Falkirk.

The local sports shop sold Brentford shirts down Falkirk High Street. Falkirk fans would wear Brentford shirts to games. Brentford and Falkirk fans would swap songs on the terraces. Falkirk club directors even turned up at an music event that the Falkirk fans had put on for their Brentford friends. "We just came down to meet the Brentford fans" they said. Completely bizarre!

So here we were. A coachload of Brentford fans standing on the terraces with their Falkirk buddies watching them play Aberdeen. Meanwhile down South, third place Brentford had a day off - playing local rivals Fulham the following day - and second place Stoke City were playing relegation-threatened Chester City at home.

A win would have all but promoted Stoke and practically confirmed Brentford's play-off place.

Back in Scotland, the Falkirk game was winding down to a 1-1 draw. It was the 75th minute and I remember this moment so clearly. A Falkirk fan called Bertie came up to me and said "Billy. Did you know Chester are beating Stoke 1-0". These were the days before smart phones. Way way way before the internet. Gossip was generated by good old-fashioned word-of-mouth. Bertie has been watching the match with his headphones while tuned into good old Radio 5. He was the information god!

I remember the adrenaline rush as I turned around to the assembled masses of Brentford and Falkirk fans, raised my hands out wide and started singing "The Bees are going up". All 2,000 fans behind the goal joined in: "And now you're going to belie-e-ve us ... The Bees are goin up".

It was the most unbelievable moment!

As it goes, Stoke lost to Chester that day and Falkirk drew. Our coach left Aberdeen for an long overnight journey back to Brentford (with a five-hour beverage stop in Falkirk en-route) for our clash with Fulham the next morning. With the knowledge of what they had to do (just like at Crewe this week), Brentford dispatched Fulham 4-0 with a solid professional performance meaning that a win and even possibly a draw in our last game of the season would clinch us promotion.

As it goes, we beat Peterborough and with Birmingham losing to their last two games, we surprisingly won the league that year (the Football League actually drove the championship trophy up to St Andrew's before the match to present it to Birmingham after their last game. Quite bad!).

So rather convoluted maybe .... but as Falkirk fans prepare for their Scottish Cup semi-final this weekend ... and plan their trip to see Brentford play up at Hartlepool next weekend, I will always think back to 21 years ago and can't help thinking that a remarkable parallel is being drawn here.

When the two sets of fans were united. When news was revealed on a terrace in Aberdeen which changed the course of the season for Brentford. When our rivals subsequently lost their last few games to hand us the championship. Just like this season.....? Funnier things have happened.

By Billy Grant, FanZone's Brentford blogger. Follow him on Twitter at @billythebee99 - follow the Beesotted fanzine and don't forget to follow @FanZone too!

You can see a rare video of Brentford fans' visit to Falkirk's Brockville Park in the 90s here:

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