Griffin Park, where Brentford have played football since 1904, is synonymous to most people as being the ground that has a pub on each corner, but to me, it’s much more than that.
It was as a 7-year-old that my Dad took me to Griffin Park for the first time. Saturday 28 October 1967, we beat Chester City 3-1. In the early days of frequenting the games, I can honestly say the most interesting thing to me, was seeing the aeroplanes fly over the ground, in and out of Heathrow Airport and wondering where they were going to, or coming back from.
My Dad, God bless his soul, got very animated at games. We used to stand in the same spot for every match: near the front, by the half-way line and in the New Road stand when it was all terracing. Some games, it got so packed, it was like shoulder-to-shoulder, with no room to move. Then the game would start and my Dad would get quite vociferous, bellowing out loud and urging our team on. He was so vocal, others around us would back off a little, which then created a little more space for little ol’ me, to enjoy the remainder of the game and see the planes fly by. Good ol’ Dad!
We used to travel on the trains to games. From East Croydon to Clapham Junction and then onto Brentford train station. Often, we would bump into the referee for the game that day on the same train and Dad would talk to them. I never saw any exchange of money being involved!
I can’t recall the first night game we went to, but remember the bright glow coming off the floodlights as we ventured down Clifden Road. It was and still is special going to the evening games at Griffin Park.
Dad used to tell me lots of related Griffin Park tales of old, that still resonate with me now and how he would go to games and there would be over 30,000 spectators in attendance. I still can’t quite fathom that and what it must have been like. The atmosphere must’ve been electric.
He said youngsters used to get passed over others’ heads so they could get to the front and were, thus, able to watch the games easily and some fans used to cycle on their bikes to games and leave them at adjacent resident’s homes and a place of safety. I wish I had been there then and savoured those days, when we were one of the leading league clubs from London. It must have been amazing.
I recall we played Guildford City in the FA Cup many years ago and we drew 2-2 at Griffin Park, after the initial attempt of a game was abandoned, due to snow (we had been losing 2-1 to the non-league side). It needed a replay at Joseph Road and Dad went, but I wasn’t allowed due to school the next day and we ultimately lost 2-1!
Some fans might have seen that Ripping Yarns episode on TV, called ‘Golden Gordon’; the one about Barstoneworth United Football Club. It was a bit like that. Mum had to hide all the china in the kitchen, before Dad got home, as he was very passionate about his team. They’d lost and he was likely to come home and crash the place as a result! It had been a bad night for the mighty Bees and Dad was quite upset for a few weeks after that defeat.
Over time, I became more involved with the goings on with the club and at Griffin Park. It wasn’t about the planes anymore, but more to do with the football, the club and the people I came in contact with and saw. The community. We were like a family. My family and the ground were my home. I came to love the place and where it all happened and everything that was involved in that.
Some of the special things I recall and have fond memories about Griffin Park; the red dot, emblazoned on an advertising hoarding behind the goals. Was never too sure what the significance of that was, maybe to try and assist our strikers, hitting the target accurately enough? The numerous characters associated with the club.
I recollect a great big Alsatian dog at every home game and situated on the terraces behind the goal and Ealing Road. It used to bark all through the game and run after the ball. I loved that dog. I came to know its owner some years later as Bernie Watson; he really was a character. I love the camaraderie at the club and ground.
Thinking of when we (the supporters) went and helped with things, in the club’s hour of need. Like clearing the ground of litter and painting before the season started and assisting in clearing snow off the pitch, when attempting to get a game played and not postponed. Walking 64 miles from Brighton to Brentford and overnight in 2007, 40 years after it was first done, to help raise funds and ward off the hostile QPR takeover. This time the proceeds went to the CRY (Cardiac Rick in the Young) charity.
Big Bee Radio in the Braemar Road stand, where all the sounds emanate from. I’ve had some really good requests played from those that run and work in there. Lifeline Society and going with my Dad to that first meeting that was announced in 1986. The Brentford Football Club Programme Collectors Club are a great set of people who have been in that club over the years and what a great job they do.
The numerous great games that have been played at the ground and on the flip side, some of the massive disappointments. Huddersfield in the play-off game that went to penalties comes to mind, but basically, it’s the people associated to the club and Griffin Park. We all have a common bond and the love of the club. Some of the players, John O’Mara our centre forward, my idol at the time.
Griffin Park has been there for 52 years of my life and I can’t comprehend it not being there anymore. I appreciate we need to move on. The last game at Griffin Park will be very emotional for a lot of people. I’ll be there to reminisce for the last time; going to games with my Dad and daughter, Lauren Elizabeth MacInnes, who are no longer with me.
Up the Bees and thanks Griffin Park for making my life complete over the past decades, you’ve always been there for me.
Keith's story was first published in this season's matchday programme against Birmingham City on 3 August 2019. To get your Brentford Story online, email Programme Editor Chris Deacon on [email protected] and we'll get back to you.
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