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History

My Brentford Story: Ian Westbrook

48 YEARS SINCE HIS FIRST GAME, IAN WESTBROOK WILL FIND IT HARD TO SAY GOODBYE TO GRIFFIN PARK

25 March 2020

My first game was 2 October 1971. My dad David and my grandfather Manny started going to Griffin Park after World War Two, sharing their time between Brentford one week and Chelsea the other.

They started going to Brentford permanently in around the late-1940s and that was their team. They lived in Staines and it was the nearest league team. My dad used to tell me about watching a backline of Jimmy Hill, Ron Greenwood and Tony Harper.

I’d been on at him for a while to take me with him before he finally did. He took me to the game against Northampton, but 35 seconds in, we were one-nil down thanks to a goal by Dixie McNeil. We equalised before half-time and ended up winning 6-1, with John O’Mara getting a hat-trick. After a game like that you are hooked, aren’t you? We got promotion from Division Four that season.

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John O’Mara (pictured above), who was my first Brentford hero, got sold to Blackburn – who were in the Third Division with us – about two weeks into the new season and we got relegated. I remember how my dad told me; I was about seven and had done drawings of the players over the summer, sticking them on my bedroom wall. He came in and said, “You won’t need this one anymore,” and took O’Mara off the wall. I was quite upset at the time.

I was a regular with my brother, Hugh, who started going in 1975 and still goes now. My dad and my grandfather liked to sit down at games, so I’ve always been somebody who sits rather than stands on the terraces. We were in Block B of the Braemar Road stand, which is now the second block from the right, where the offices used to be before they moved. Our seats were D1, D2 and D3 and we sat right by the dividing wall.

After the Bradford fire, they closed the wooden bit of the stand where we had sat for years and told us to relocate to somewhere new. I went down one summer evening to choose seats for me, my dad, my brother Hugh and friend Edward who sat behind us. I went into the stand, as it was common practice to physically choose your seats in those days. That night, I found the seats that we’ve still got today, more than 30 years on. I remember that day I first sat in the seats, looked out on to the pitch and there was Terry Hurlock walking his dog.

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The group has now grown to eight people, though my dad sadly died in 2001. At one point, both of my kids were going. My daughter, Juliette, who is 22, doesn’t go anymore, but my son, Saul, who is 19, has a season ticket and goes when he’s not at university. My nephew and niece, Noah and Maya, go with my brother, and my other friends Edward, David and Ollie go, along with Mark and Kate sometimes too, so it’s a real ‘family and friends’ thing.

I have loads and loads of memories, too many to mention. Beating Preston and going up was particularly special as my kids were there, but my favourite before that was always the Peterborough game in 1992. Having watched Brentford in the lower divisions for my entire life, the thought of actually getting into what was the Second Division for the first time was just amazing. I remember the game, I remember going back to Griffin Park afterwards and I remember the celebrations on the pitch when the players came out.

The coaching staff and players went into the Boardroom and then came out one-by-one. The pitch was packed with people and everyone made speeches, it was fantastic. The following season was a bit of a disaster because we came straight back down.

I’ve seen us lose in the play-offs eight times and in three Football League Trophy finals in their different sponsorship guises. Going to the first one of those, seeing us play Wigan in 1985 was particularly special because, again, it’s one of those things you don’t think you’ll ever see – Brentford playing at Wembley. Obviously now it’s a lot different, but at that time, there was no way we were ever going to get there playing in the FA Cup or the League Cup. We decided that day that we were going to splash out and get the top price tickets, which were £8, and I had to buy 16 of them. In typical Brentford style, we lost the game, as I’m sure many remember.

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I’ve probably seen Brentford play on about 80 or 90 grounds. At one point, when I was younger, we were in Division Four, the only local games were Watford, Reading, Aldershot and Oxford. When I started driving in my late teens, we were in Division Three for the whole of the 80s and that meant that, every season, there were seven different clubs coming in, so I did a lot of ground-hopping then. Last season, I probably did two thirds of the away games but I actually saw every home game. Normally I miss one or two, but I’ve only done the whole season a handful of times, so I was quite proud of that.

I did video commentary for a few years around the late-80s, early-90s with Greville Waterman. Occasionally the Club tweets an ‘On This Day’ video and you might hear me screaming when the goals go in. I enjoyed doing it, but it’s hard to control yourself and when we scored, I was very loud. In the end, I stopped doing it because I just wanted to watch the games again. I also did the blind commentary for a season, in a box right in the corner at the back of the Braemar Road stand next to what is now the away end.

I wrote for the programme for 29 years, starting under Eric White in the mid-80s. I will always be grateful to him for giving me the chance because it helped me end up writing for a living. When I first wrote, it was in the pre-computer days, so the articles were handwritten and then typed out and often - in order to make the pieces as up-to-date as possible - I would drive to Eric's house very late on a Monday night to put them through his letterbox. That way they could include details of the previous weekend's matches.

I wrote different columns over the years. The first regular one was Third Division Scene - a round-up of news from other clubs in Division Three with us, including transfer deals and managerial changes, all sourced from Ceefax's News in Brief page on 312. There were hardly any other sources of lower division news in those days.

I then added player interviews and the first guy I spoke to was Wayne Turner. He was a great interviewee and gave me some good answers, but my second interview didn't go so well. I won't name the player concerned but I learned a good lesson. Among my ten or so questions were a lot of closed ones - that could be simply answered yes or no without saying anything else - and by the time I got to question seven, I only had six words written down.

In those days, Eric would simply give me the player's phone number and I would call them at home, hoping that they answered. There were no mobiles then, so I had to catch them at the right time.

That finished the season we got promoted, so now I preview the home matches for the Beesotted website. In 1989, I helped produce the Club’s official centenary history book ‘100 Years of Brentford’, filling out the stats pages. When we went up a decade later, Peter Gilham and I wrote the Diary of the Season. (Pictured below, Peter and Ian on the pitch at this season's Bristol City match).

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I live in north London and having your kids supporting your team is a big deal. I took my son to his first game when he was four to try and make him a Brentford fan and it worked. There was a lot of Arsenal and Spurs influence at school.

My worst Brentford experience was the Huddersfield penalty defeat in 1995 – that was the only year when the second-placed team didn’t get promotion. We finished second, they finished fifth. We drew 1-1 in the first leg of the play-offs up there and drew 1-1 at home so it went to penalties and we lost. The first play-off defeat in 1990 against Tranmere wasn’t that bad as we only snuck just into sixth place, so it was a bit of a bonus. But this one, we’d been in the top two all season and lost out to Birmingham. To come that close, when that shootout finished, that devastated me. I remember people leaving the ground in total silence and it took me the whole summer to get over it. It was horrible.

I will be very sad to leave Griffin Park; I have so many memories that are personal to me. Going with my dad, sitting with him in different places, watching my kids grow up there. It’s about the people that I’m there with, really. I understand we’ve got to move, and we can’t stay in the Championship at Griffin Park forever, but I’m very sad about moving. The new stadium will be great, it looks fantastic and I want the club to play in the top two divisions for as long as possible.

I’ll miss my routine. Parking by the Ealing Park Tavern, walking over to the ground, and going through the same turnstile every game. Me and my dad would always go through number 12, which is now number 10, even if there was a queue outside. He’d wear the same pair of socks every Saturday, his lucky pair.

The countdown clock in the corner of the ground is starting to make it very real. I am dreading the Barnsley game. To say goodbye to somewhere I have always returned to will be hard. As a kid, a teenager, an adult, living in five different places, for my entire life I have always come back to my familiar home. I’m sure there will be a new generation of fans creating new experiences at our new home, and while I am sad to go, I’m excited for that to begin.

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Ian's story was first published in this season's matchday programme against Bristol City on 2 October 2019. To get your Brentford Story online, email Programme Editor Chris Deacon on cdeacon@brentfordfc.com and we'll get back to you.

To catch up on a previous edition of the Matchday Programme, all of the issues from the 2019/20 season so far can be bought online from our supplier Curtis Sport. Click Here.


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