I was nine-years-old, sporting a baby pink Brentford FC beanie and a home shirt miles too tight around my chubby tummy. It didn’t stop me excitedly posing in my nan’s living room, though.
My younger brother, Nat, then seven, and I had no idea what we had let ourselves in for, but we were going to do what Mum and Dad did most Saturdays and that made us feel like grown-ups.
It was February 2006 and I was about to attend my first Brentford game, away at Charlton in the FA Cup. As my nan lives in Lewisham, we would often arrange a family visit to her when Brentford played, and with Charlton being only down the road, this visit fell perfectly. The only difference was this time Nat and I weren’t spending the day being dragged to see cousins, aunts and uncles - we were going with mum and dad to watch Brentford.
At that time Brentford was alien to me – I had no concept of geography and very little interest in football. What was Brentford? As far as I was aware, they were the reason Saturday afternoons were strictly off-limits for my parents in making plans or leaving the house. Or if it were the case that we were at my nans that weekend, it would be the reason they disappeared off for most of the day.
Looking back on it, that first game - my first insight into life as a Brentford FC supporter - would stick fondly in my memory. Especially when it came to meeting Charlton again this season and having an opportunity to revisit The Valley, where it all began for me. Like that 3-1 defeat in 2006, we had little luck there this season although the boat trip down The Thames to the game lightened my mood slightly.
From that day in 2006, I remember thinking “This is what Brentford is? I don’t get it, Mum,” as my parents frustratingly debated and analysed the afternoon’s performance. From that day, things were going to change dramatically in the Wayne-Barwell household and, little did I know, 14 years down the line I would be Brentford mad.
As I’ve mentioned, our Saturday afternoons revolved around Brentford and Mum tried to listen to her beloved Bees through the live match commentary. Due to living in Swindon and my brother and I being of such a young age, my parents didn’t attend as many games back then. This meant the shouting and screaming in response to the football scores was confined to our living room, where Mum would religiously be every Saturday at 3pm. I still didn’t understand why it was such a big deal.
Then, during the period between 2006 and 2010, our parents decided to fully immerse us into the world that was Brentford FC. Our home games involved a ritual of going to The Griffin pre-match, where we would be surrounded by strangers talking all things Brentford. We would sit in New Road – where we still are today – proudly wearing our red and white stripes. The best part of the ‘day out’ for me and Nat was the traditional fish and chips after the game, while our parents enjoyed (depending on the score) a post-match pint back at The Griffin. As I was hitting my adolescence, my interests were distant to the football world I had been brought into. I had no idea what was going on, except that these days spent at Brentford determined the mood of the car journey home. Brentford could both put a smile on my parent’s faces, but then the next week a frown. I still didn’t get it!
Then I got it. It was as if someone ignited a spark. Going to school in Swindon came with its challenges, but one of the main ones was, of course, being surrounded by Swindon fans. Their local club was also in League One at the time like Brentford, a detail which I was constantly reminded of once the boys at school realised who I supported (with no help from my mum who told everyone). Mondays would be filled with ridicule over the weekend scores, the week would drag with questions over “Why Brentford?”, and not to mention the amount of times I heard: “But has your team ever been in the Premier League, Miranda?”. I was, quite frankly, sick of it. I wasn’t going to allow these little boys to mock the team my family loved.
I suppose I should explain how a family living in Swindon, actually ended up supporting Brentford. My mum, Danielle, hails from a Brentford-supporting family, stretching back two generations as they came from Hounslow. Her dad, uncles and other relatives went on a regular basis. She first attended a game when she was six-years-old and Peter Gilham actually read a message for her on her 13th birthday! After losing her dad as a young woman, my mum wanted to keep up their traditions and has continued following Brentford to this day. She has even dragged in my dad, Paul, to her Brentford life, with his philosophy being ‘if you can’t beat them join them!’. Little did he know over 30 years down the line, he would still be supporting them as well. She has made some incredible memories and met some amazing people over the years, who she still sees now.
A major part of my Brentford story has been the increased rivalry between us and Swindon Town, especially in the build-up to our League One play-off push during the 2012/13 season. Their star player, Jonathan Douglas, joined us in 2011, which really rattled their fans – especially some of my school friends. Shortly after he signed, me and Mum actually met him in our local hairdressers in Swindon. My mum had foils in her hair – what an introduction!
During that season, the fight for promotion was the first time, at the age of 16, that Brentford massively played with my emotions; Trotta missing THAT penalty - on my brother’s birthday as well! Well, I’m not going into detail, but that was a dark day. This led onto us competing with Swindon in the play-off semi-finals, a tie which was tense for a Brentford fan living in Swindon! I had such confidence in my team, I remember marching towards that away end with my red and white stripes on, passing the faces of confused Swindon locals who knew me. Yet another last-minute penalty but this time it was scored! Good old King Kevin O’Connor! That penalty set us up for a pulsating second leg at our place, one that would further test my emotions with a penalty shoot-out. This confirmed my belief that watching Brentford is not for the faint hearted.
Despite the heart-breaking end to that season, the following 2013/2014 campaign showed everyone what we were capable of. One stand-out victory being a 2-1 away win against Bristol City where Mum and myself enjoyed a Tuesday night trip to Ashton Gate in the pouring rain. Looking like drowned rats was worth it! Another fantastic memory was Russell Slade’s post-match interview following our win over Leyton Orient – who were also pushing for promotion – in which Slade mocked us for “celebrating like we had won the cup”. This culminated in one of my favourite chants at GP and a brilliant sign of Slade’s head on a trophy, which we keep on the wall in the garage along with other shirts and memorabilia.
I have been incredibly lucky in my Brentford story so far. I have been a part of a generation of fans who have been exposed to some quality football and excellent players since attending that first game almost 14 years ago. Despite the ups and downs, that’s just football. I am beyond grateful to have seen a team transform, triumph and take on some of those ‘big teams’ that I know my mum could only have dreamed of when she was a young girl. The 2014/2015 season particularly sticks out as a stand-out campaign, where we unexpectedly finished fifth in our first season in the Championship. You cannot beat the thrills this club gives you!
And the players? Well it is too difficult to pin down just one player who stands out to me, we have developed some outstanding players in the time I have supported Brentford, shown by their movement into Premier League clubs, such as Neal Maupay, Andre Gray, Scott Hogan and James Tarkowski. My favourite? My heart will always be with Sam Saunders. The Player’s Ball back in May 2013, where Sam was sat on my table, NEXT TO ME, for the entire evening, is a memory I will never forget. You will always be my Number 7, Sam!
The one thing I can always be grateful for is the impact the club has had on my mum. In June 2014 she suffered a brain haemorrhage which affected her confidence and mobility dramatically, but the love and passion she has for Brentford hasn’t changed. She has not allowed her disability to stop her enjoying and supporting the team that filled her childhood with so many memories. No matter what, the trials and tribulations of supporting Brentford FC will always fill my mum’s world with joy, and no one can ever take that away from her. I think that is why Brentford has grown so important to me: it’s a place for family, it is my home. I have made so many friends for life here and I look forward to the continued memories I am going to make, home and away.
With our move to a new home imminent and our current campaign at the top of the league providing entertaining and nerve-wracking matches week in, week out, I’m excited for what is to come. To this day, when I say I support Brentford FC, I still get asked: “Why Brentford? That’s random”. I could explain the family history, I could explain my Brentford journey as I have done here. But it’s not just that anymore. They are the team I love. They are my Brentford FC and that’s all the reason I need. To adopt a popular expression: I’m Brentford through and through!
Miranda's story was first published in this season's matchday programme against Leicester City on 25 January 2020. 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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