Thursday, July 18, 2024

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Football Away Days: Brentford FC and Griffin Park

Griffin Park (courtesy of At the Final Whistle)I've been watching football for years, decades even, but am well aware of my failings when it comes to visiting enough football grounds. With that in mind I decided to be proactive and change this, starting with a trip to Griffin Park, home of Brentford FC. I have to admit that my initial motivation for this football away day was the claim to fame the ground has for being the only one in the football league with a pub on every corner. Sadly one of these is currently closed but me and my cohorts still managed to have a drink at all four corners of Griffin Park, following the game against Bristol City on April 1st...

Tickets & Travel to Griffin Park

When it came to booking the tickets, what appeared to be a simple and straightforward process ended up becoming a bit convoluted. I got as far as entering my card details and clicking confirm on the Brentford FC website, and then nothing, just a blank page and no confirmation. After some chasing up with the club itself, it transpired that my purchase had been cancelled due to my address being within the same city as the away team.

To allow me to finally get some tickets I had to send them evidence of my football allegiances to Arsenal, and this was enough to reassure Brentford that I wasn't a Bristol City fan infiltrating the home terraces! I understand that this was an effort to avoid any trouble, but it completely ignored the 2 other tickets that I was buying at the same time and smacked of tokenism. As it happened they were going to a Chelsea and Tottenham fan, so in the end we made for an interesting trio amongst the home faithful.

Due to some (mostly) unforeseen diversions and delays caused by the M4, me and one of my friends arrived at Griffin Park with ten minutes to go until kick-off. Without the traffic issues we would have arrived with about an hour and a half to spare, but as it turned out we were just thankful to be able to buy a programme and find ourselves a spot not far from the goal in the Ealing Road Terrace.

Griffin Park

The ground has that classic design that comes from having been around for more than a century and being incorporated within an inner-city suburb, it's fairly compact and the fans are close to the pitch. Its name comes from the logo of Fuller's Brewery, who once owned an orchard on the site. Surrounded by 4 streets of houses, with the aforementioned pubs situated on each corner, Brentford FC have been a central part of the local area since 1904. Bearing that in mind the facilities weren't too bad, and any lack of mod cons simply adds to the charm of the place.

The club are due to move to the 'Brentford Community Stadium' in time for the 2019/20 season, an event that will no doubt be a huge wrench for the fans. Whilst a ground move is seen as a natural progression for a football club, being able to increase their capacity and hence profit margins, the sad part of this is that it's not really possible for a modern development of such scale to remain entrenched within the surrounding community. The vast majority of new football grounds are built within their own urban oasis, and so the unique, claustrophobic camaraderie that is felt when a stadium is surrounded by a neighbourhood, is lost forever.

That being said, Brentford's new home should amount to a best case scenario. The distance between it and Griffin Park will be roughly a mile, and just a 15 minute walk, which means that the club are genuinely staying within their natural surroundings, underneath the constant flow of the Heathrow airport flight path! And hopefully the pubs and businesses that rely upon the crowds, will remain a key part of fans pre and post-match rituals.

Brentford vs Bristol City

As for the game itself, Brentford started on the front foot and stayed on top for the majority, whilst Bristol City looked like a team that were devoid of confidence and worrying about Championship relegation. With them being an under-pressure away side it was imperative for Bristol City to be defensively tight, frustrate the home crowd and hope to snatch a win. However, this plan was quickly overthrown and it was no surprise when Brentford scored the opening goal after just 18 minutes, courtesy of Sergi Canos. It started from a free-kick that was roughly 30 yards out, the initial strike came back off the defensive wall but fell straight to Ryan Wood who expertly crossed it into the penalty area where Canos found himself with far too much room and was able to roll a composed finish into the middle of the goal.

The situation quickly got worse for Bristol City when they found themselves 2-0 behind in the 26th minute. Once again the goal started from a set-piece routine, this time a corner that went deep to the far post where Yoann Barbet was able to head it down to just inside the penalty area. Two miskicks followed and the ball looped up for an alert Lasse Vibe to continue a rich vein of goalscoring form. It was all too easy for Brentford and not one Bristol City player was able to react quick enough to the 5 touches that led to them conceding.

At this point we expected the home side to confirm their dominance with a few more goals, and whilst the remainder of the 1st half was controlled by Brentford they were unable to increase their tally. After a collective burger and bovril at half-time, the 2nd half saw Bristol City put up a lot more fight, presumably after some abuse from Lee Johnson! The game became more even and the away side hit the post via a Tammy Abraham header, however they were unable to make the breakthrough that could've made it difficult for Brentford and 2-0 was the final result. Throughout the game I was particularly impressed by the energy and tenacity that Jota brought to The Bees, he created several problems for the Bristol City defence with his runs down the right side of midfield and could be a real asset for a promotion push in 2017/18.

A Pub on Every Corner

The Princess Royal, BrentfordUpon leaving Griffin Park it was time for us to sample the local watering-holes, and immediately on the doorstep of the turnstiles is Fuller's pub The Princess Royal. As we supped a pint of Guinness outside, we were heartened to see several of the Brentford first team players walk past us as they made their way towards home. Stopped by fans for a selfie and autograph, it was another reminder of what makes these old, community-entrenched football grounds special.

The New Inn, BrentfordFrom there we moved on down Ealing Road to the New Inn, where we discussed the fortunes of our own respective teams and found sticky carpets, a love for Irish rugby and a small beer garden. Over 150 years old this appeared to be the pub with the most character, and we would have stayed for another but at this stage we were determined to move on to each corner of Griffin Park before we settled down. However, at the bottom of New Road is The Royal Oak and this is the pub that has sadly been left shuttered up and closed since 2015. As a result we decided to get ourselves to the 4th and final pub on our tour, The Griffin (another Fuller's), which was probably the busiest of the lot.

We enjoyed a couple of beers in the early evening sun before we headed back down Brook Road to have a token drink outside The Royal Oak, taking advantage of a small newsagents opposite. If anyone feels inspired to once again make Griffin Park the only football league ground with 4 (open) pubs on every corner, it appears that it's still up for sale, plus I always feel a sense of regret when a pub and all that history is replaced by a supermarket.

The Griffin, BrentfordPeckish after an afternoon of football and exploring, we made the rather clichéd decision to go for a curry, choosing Albany Spice a few minutes walk south of Griffin Park. We'd recommend it for the next time that you end up in Brentford, it is 'bring your own' but handily there's a shop next door to cater for your needs.

Overall we had an enjoyable day as honorary fans of Brentford. It was fun to experience a game back amongst the terraces, and I can understand why there is movement to introduce 'safe standing' within the Premier League. As for the pubs, they all seemed jovial and hospitable enough, with a decent selection of beer to choose from. Only once (and briefly) did we witness any signs of trouble between rival fans, outside The Princess Royal, and this was quickly pounced upon by the police.

If you haven't been to Griffin Park yet then you should before it's too late. Who knows, we may make a return trip and see you there...






Click this link to read about our other football away day adventures

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