The eyes of the football world will be on Griffin Park this evening but most watching will not be aware of a special Brentford FC anniversary that is also being marked this week. On 28 July 1990, the first steps were taken to form Brentford Women's FC. Three decades on Brentford face Swansea City in the last ever match at Griffin Park and many of the players from Brentford's women's teams that have also graced the turf will be watching and remembering their days on the pitch.
The team was formed by Roger Crook in response to the demands from his daughter Amy to play football. Both are part of the matchday team at Griffin Park and work with Brentford FC Community Sports Trust. They took the time, after the Brentford Women's season was halted by the Covid-19 pandemic to tell the story of 30 years of female football at Brentford.
Read more below...........
Along with everyone else, our women’s teams have not been able to play football or even attend group training for months. In addition, the Greater London Women’s Football League called a halt to the season meaning all previous results were null and void, with the last games being played in March. As such, this seems like a very good time to look at the history of Brentford Women’s FC as it celebrates 30 years this year of the formation of what is now an integral part of the Bees family.
The story starts in July 1990 when Roger Crook formed BWFC based at Feltham Arena in Hounslow, in response to daughter Amy’s passion for football. This started out as an Under-14 team playing in friendly matches, before entering the Greater London Women’s League in the 1991/92 season. Their division comprised just four teams with Arsenal, Wimbledon and Walton and Hersham making up the numbers.
In what is probably a record year for Brentford, The Bees conceded 161 goals including a record loss of 26-1 against Arsenal. At the time the Arsenal manager was Vic Ackers OBE who went on to win numerous trophies as manager of Arsenal Ladies. As we often hear these days, it was a steep learning curve as we finished with no points after playing each team three times. It would also seem that “not many questions were asked of the other teams”.
In 1992/93 the division expanded to nine teams, and in 1993/94 we joined the Thames Valley League Under-15 league to keep travelling times more reasonable. In 1994/95 we moved again to the Southern Girls Youth League Under-17’s. The final move was the re-join the Greater London Women’s Football League in 1995/96 as the group were now eligible to play senior age football. Throughout this, Roger with the incredible support of his wife Maureen managed and coached the team as well as orchestrating and administering the changes to ensure the team were competing in the correct age group.
1995 saw interest in the female game increase enormously with the upcoming European Championships in England in 1996, and it was a time of progression as Brentford merged with a team from Smithkline Beecham to become Brentford Beechams. This meant the facilities and training ground of our neighbours became available, and The Bees had a successful season finishing second. One away match in Southend that season, resulted in the players and coaches descending on Roger’s brother in law’s house nearby for an impromptu tea party after the game.
Sensibly in 1997/98 the league re-organised their divisions into geographical areas, and Brentford stormed Division Three that season and were promoted as Champions to Division Two, moving up to Division One in 1998/99. 2002 saw the finest hour so far and the first taste of silverware as we beat Viking Ladies 4-1 in the Middlesex Junior Cup final. That year also saw the proof that, as per Roger "We were the brightest team around” as The Bees made their TV debut alongside Julian Clary and his dog in a DAZ advert.
2003/4 saw more success as Brentford were now competing in the Premier Division after promotion at the end of the previous season, only to be relegated back to Division One in 2005 after two seasons of fighting relegation. Another key achievement was in 2004 as the club was awarded the FA Charter Standard Award and are proud to continue to attain this every season.
In 2005/06 the Bees merged with Viking Ladies and expanded to six teams: Ladies First and Reserves plus ages Under-15, Under-13 and Under-11A and B, with the Under-15 and Under-13 girls both cup finalists that season, and in 2007/2008 the two younger teams winning their respective divisions.
Age plays a major part in girl’s football as teams move into the next age group or in some cases jump a year, and after Under-16 it then becomes open age. Over the next few years there was considerable success even if the evolving age groups doesn’t necessarily show how each squad has moved on.
Under-12 Capital Girls League Champions and Middlesex Cup winners.
Under-14A Capital Girls League Runner’s Up
Under-14B Capital Girls League Champions
First Team promoted to London and South East Women's Regional League
Reserves called Brentford Bees Runner’s Up in the league and semi-finalists in a Cup competition.
Under-13 Girls Teams were showing the way forward and both became Capital League Champions.
A landmark season for the Club as the First Team became treble winners as Champions of Division One and success in the John Greenacre Memorial Trophy (League Cup) and the Middlesex County Intermediate Women's Cup.
Since 2014 there have been both ups and downs. These days competition for players is fierce and with many strong clubs in and around West London there are always plenty of openings for female footballers and quality coaches. Currently BWFC consists of a First Team and a Development Team, comprising players aged 16 and over. The Club is in a very strong position and is still professionally run by Roger Crook and daughter Amy, who was the motivation at the start 30 years ago. There is a team of committed and qualified coaches headed up by Brentford legend Karleigh Osborne, and the future is decidedly rosy with a very real positive feel around the club.
The short-term aim for the coming season is at least promotion for both teams, and there is a genuine feeling that this is realistic and achievable. There is a group of talented footballers from the youngest at 16 to the most experienced players who have been there for as much as 16 years. Over 30 years some 1,500 players have passed through, and sincere thanks must go to all.
The Bees awards night has been attended by some high-profile people from inside and outside of the game, with Chris Mepham doing the honours during his last season at Griffin Park. Finally, it is important to say that Roger is the force behind this fantastic journey and is still as determined as ever to push the club on while being true to his principles of integrity and professionalism. Daughter Amy is a very large part of that, but sadly the rock behind them both, Maureen Crook, passed away in December 2018.
Development is still ongoing, with players taking coaching badges, coaches continuing their own personal development, family members and friends training as referees, and individuals playing a part in league and FA administration and governance.
Brentford Women’s Football Club is an important part of the Bees family, and values the support of Brentford FC. Sincere thanks to those that have watched the Griffin Park games over the last few years and who follow the teams on social media. Thanks also to those sponsors that have helped the club to progress and prosper through some challenging times.
The new season will be starting at some point, and the enforced break has instilled a determination to improve and develop in preparation. Virtual training has been a regular feature via Zoom, and personal and group targets have been in place and monitored. Fitness has been key as the girls prepare for the re-start, and many miles have been covered by bike and running shoes. Pre-season training should commence soon and friendlies will be arranged for a later date.
Here’s to a fantastic season ahead and many more years to come.