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Rediff.com  » Sports » EPL: Unfashionable Brentford men closing on impossible dream

EPL: Unfashionable Brentford men closing on impossible dream

November 28, 2014 12:01 IST

‘We are the absolute world champion club in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory’

‘If we were 3-0 up with five minutes to play, ask any Brentford fan if we would win the game and 99 per cent would still be uncertain’

‘There is a great unity and harmony around the club right now, the atmosphere at the ground was outstanding’

Tommy Smith of Brentford celebrates

Tommy Smith of Brentford celebrates scoring. Photograph: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

The spotlight on London football usually shines on glamour clubs Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur or West Ham United but rarely on unfashionable Brentford who last played in the top flight nearly 70 years ago.

For decades Brentford have been the nearly men of the capital's footballing scene, trundling along in the lower divisions at their antiquated Griffin Park ground situated under the flight path to Heathrow Airport.

Greg Dyke, chairman of the English FA, is a long-suffering fan and a former chairman of the club who this week summed up the supporters' lot.

But for once there was real optimism in his words, not just self-mocking acceptance of repeated disappointment.

"Yes, we are the absolute world champion club in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, something we have been doing since about 1947 when I was born," he half-joked.

"If we were 3-0 up with five minutes to play, ask any Brentford fan if we would win the game and 99 per cent would still be uncertain.

"Having said that we are playing some great football now, the best I've seen in years. Is it an impossible dream? No, it isn't, let's see where it leads us."

It could lead the Championship club back to the top flight for the first time since 1947.

New owner

Brentford FC fans

Brentford FC fans cheer. Photograph: Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images

After years of lower division mediocrity, Brentford finally gained promotion from League One last season and are thriving under new owner Matthew Benham, a lifelong multi-millionaire fan.

He has invested heavily, bought land for a new stadium, developed a new training ground with much improved facilities and encouraged coach Mark Warburton to sign exciting young players and to play adventurous attacking football which has delighted supporters and re-awakened long-lost belief.

Not only that, but the club who celebrated their 125th anniversary this month with a gala dinner also now have planning permission to build a new 20,000-seater stadium a few miles from Griffin Park.

As if to emphasise Brentford's almost timeless under-achievement, Griffin Park, which now holds 12,700 but housed 38,000 for an FA Cup tie in 1949, is known more for, uniquely, having a pub on each corner.

Even in 1929-30 when Brentford set a record that has never been equalled of winning all their home matches in a league season, they still failed to win promotion.

Their heyday spanned the mid-1930s and 1940s when they spent 11 years in the top flight but only played five seasons in the old First Division.

Typical Brentford, the other six were lost to World War Two. They were relegated from the First Division in 1947 and have never been back.

Best run

Harlee Dean of Brentford celebrates

Harlee Dean of Brentford celebrates with team mates after scoring. Photograph: Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images

Brentford though have more than held their own in the Championship this season and are enjoying their best run at that level for 61 years with Friday's thrilling 2-1 come-from-behind win over Fulham their fourth successive league victory.

Currently fifth, their highest position since 1953, they are four points behind leaders Derby County.

While few are talking about promotion yet, there is a tangible sense of long overdue upward mobility in the air.

"There is a great unity and harmony around the club right now, the atmosphere at the ground was outstanding and the place just erupted when the winner went in," Warburton said after the win over Fulham.

"We had a good season last season and got the promotion we deserved. There are no targets being set now but look at what Burnley achieved last season when they won promotion, that gives us real incentive and hope."

The club were nearly killed off in 1967 when a merger with nearby Queens Park Rangers was narrowly averted and they do make headlines occasionally, often for the wrong reasons as in April last year.

Awarded a penalty in stoppage time in their last game of the season against Doncaster Rovers, Brentford were going up if they scored but Marcello Trotta smashed the ball against the crossbar, it rebounded back into play within seconds and the opposition scored at the other end to clinch promotion instead.

Brentford had to wait another year to go up but if they maintain their recent improvement their impossible dream could become reality sooner rather than later.

Source:
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