The game against Sheffield Wednesday felt like any other; no one was to know on that spring afternoon last March that it would be our last together at Griffin Park. 116 years of highs, lows, tragedy and triumph, brought to a heartbreakingly premature end.
I, like all of you, hold so many special memories of Griffin Park. Generations have been connected by a common Saturday routine; my grandad was a Bees fan, as was my dad, my brother is a season ticket holder along with his son, Adam, and also my son, Joe. We’ve all been robbed of a final farewell together, but no one can take those memories away from us.
Albeit the most challenging year in my working life, together we’ve made some significant strides forward. While we were all disappointed with the defeat at Wembley, our football last season - particularly during that eight-match winning streak - was a joy to watch and something we were all incredibly proud of. We’ve made a strong start to life at our new home and, at the time of speaking, sit fourth in the Sky Bet Championship. We’ve also enjoyed a record-breaking run in the Carabao Cup, seeing off four Premier League sides en route to the Semi-Finals. This is the first time our Club has reached the last four of a major domestic competition – a truly remarkable achievement from Thomas, the staff and our fantastic squad of players.
Our stadium move was decades in the making and represents a new era for our football club. It is an outstanding place to watch football and we can’t wait for the day that it’s full to the rafters with Bees fans. It was fantastic to have 2,000 of you with us for the Blackburn game, and again for the visit of Derby Country. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one with a lump in my throat hearing that first roar when the players came out of the tunnel at our new home.
If 2020 has proved one thing, it’s that football is nothing without fans. Although you haven’t been with us in person, we have felt the spirit and passion of our supporters throughout the pandemic. The response of our Season Ticket Holders and Premium Seat Holders to our request to freeze their seats was incredibly important to the financial wellbeing of our Club - we are very grateful for your support. When it is safe to do so, we can’t wait to welcome you to our new home again and begin to share again our unique spirit of togetherness and matchday friendship. Let’s hope this day arrives in the not-too-distant future.
In early January we welcome Kevin Yusuf Coleman to the Club as Head of Diversity, Equality and Inclusion. We have a dressing room, staff, sponsors and family of supporters from many different walks of life and we are proud to represent everyone, no matter their heritage, colour, religion, sexuality or gender. We have made the ambitious and bold statement of wanting to become the most inclusive club in the country and with the help of Kevin we will do absolutely everything we can to ensure our new home is a haven for all fans.
Despite the obvious challenges and disappointment, we have so much to look forward to. Under Thomas, Neil and Karleigh we have an outstanding group of players, coaches and backroom staff capable of achieving great things. We have an ambitious owner whose commitment and vision is the envy of many clubs and we have a dedicated and wise board who have been a great support to me throughout a roller coaster 20 months as CEO. I would also like to put on record my thanks to the staff at Jersey Road, The Bees Store on Braemar Road and 27 Great West Road for their unrelenting resilience. In the past 12 months they’ve risen to the challenge of saying farewell to Griffin Park, opening our new home and everything else the pandemic has thrown at them - I am proud of them and honoured to be part of the team.
Finally, we’d like to thank you for the support you’ve shown our great Club throughout this most challenging of years. These are incredibly worrying times; some of you may have lost loved ones during this pandemic, some of you may be facing Christmas alone. If you’re feeling low, please speak to someone and discuss how you’re feeling. Please look after one another.
Take care, merry Christmas and let’s all hope for a brighter 2021.