Thomas Frank is sat behind his desk with floppy hair, a big grin, and a smart Umbro jacket.
He’s engaging, friendly, and one of those people you can tell eats football for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Gobbles it up. I ask him about the difference in stadium culture between here and Brøndby. He laughs a big Scandi laugh and talks about the South Side at Brøndby, which is, by all accounts, a nuts place to watch the game from. But then he bangs his hand really hard on the table and talks about the atmosphere at Griffin Park being more encompassing. More rock ‘n’ roll. The whole stadium cheering rather than just one stand.
I think about their engagement with the community, and ask him what makes the club different. He tells me that beyond science and algorithms and models: it’s about people. Plain and simple. “I would say that Brentford, in many ways, is a unique club,” says Franks. “You can call it innovative; you can call it forward thinking, creative and all that. Offensive football, sure. Nice. But I’ll just say there’s one word that we do better than everybody else in the football industry: that is togetherness. And that togetherness is created by the people who are in the club. We’re not doing anything special or thinking about it every single day; I just think that the one thing we’re very aware of is that the people we are getting in, staff or players or chefs or whoever, they need to be good people. That’s key. Number one. You need to be a good person. And that unique togetherness is what I think you can see getting ingrained into everybody. When new players see other players saying hello to people, they think, ‘Oh that’s what they do here, they go and say hello to you’. When we speak to people, they can see that we care. When we have these community projects, everything from Christmas and summer events to the postcards before the game, to everything—the mascots, everything. You can just see that with the players, it’s not a thing that they are forced to do, but they care and they like to do it. So we are a club that lives, feels, breathes, and produces togetherness.”
Moving to a new stadium isn’t like moving to a new house. It’s like trying to move thousands and thousands and thousands of people to a new house—no, a new home—all at exactly the same time. Whether we realise it or not, whether we tease our elders about getting the same pint from the same place from the same person every week or not, football fans are people of habit. Routine. We like to park in the same place; we like to walk the same route, eat the same things, sit in the same place, week after week, year after year, season after season. And, changing stadium changes all of that. But, with moving the things that count, Brentford are trying to do things the right way: by focussing on people, focussing on community, focussing on the things that makes football good.
This is an excerpt from a piece in MUNDIAL Issue 21, written by James Bird with photographs by Jon Barmby. MUNDIAL magazine reminds people why they love football, and you can read the full article on Brentford by buying Issue 21 here and getting it delivered to your door. You can subscribe to MUNDIAL here.