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History

My Brentford Story: Jonathan Burchill

A LOVER OF STATS FROM HIS EARLY DAYS AS A FAN, JONATHAN BURCHILL DESCRIBES HIS BEST AND WORST MOMENTS FOLLOWING THE BEES

23 May 2020

Regular purchasers of our matchday programme will have seen the My Brentford Story feature running this season. Contributor Dan Long has spoken to fans about their time supporting The Bees and there have been some great tales. We will be running some of these stories on brentfordfc.com as we await further information on the resumption of football and accessing our historic Griffin Park home again.

I like to think that one of the first sounds I heard as a baby was the roar from Griffin Park.

I was born in 1964 at West Middlesex Hospital, the same night Brentford welcomed Hull City to TW8 in the Third Division. Tommy Higginson scored the first Bees goal in my lifetime, though it came in an eventual 3-1 defeat.

It was fitting, perhaps, that I would grow up to become a Brentford supporter, though the story ran much deeper.

My Dad used to come to games in the 1940s and 50s. He was born in the registration district of Brentford in 1928 - classed as South Ealing today - as was his dad before that, in 1908, though I’m unsure if he ever visited Griffin Park. Funnily enough, though, when my grandma was pregnant with my dad's younger brother, she used to walk to the clinic in Lionel Road. She liked the name so much she named the baby Lionel! Thank goodness they didn’t inherit anything from my grandmother’s side, as she was born in Shepherd’s Bush. The less said on that, the better.

My Dad took me to my first Brentford game in January 1976 - an FA Cup Third Round tie against Bolton Wanderers. It was quite a big deal back then for us to be present at that stage of the competition. The Bolton team passed me by, but they had players including a young Sam Allardyce and Peter Reid on their books. The game was a bit of a blur and it was a 0-0 draw, so nothing to get too excited about. The Bees went and lost the replay 2-0.

Griffin Park 70s.jpg

I have to say that I wasn’t really into football at that stage, but at secondary school, I had a PE teacher who really got me interested in playing football and watching it. He actually taught former Brentford manager Wally Downes, too, though he was a few years older than me. His name was Gordon Spurgeon and he attended the London War Cup Final with Eric White, who was the programme editor for many, many years. Subsequently, he took me down to Brentford and a school group went there. That really got me into attending on a regular basis.

I was back at the end of the 1977/78 season, when we were promoted from the Fourth Division. With such celebration so early on in my life as a supporter, I thought this would happen regularly, not realising it would be 14 years until it happened again, and only one of five times in total. That set the bar pretty high. If I had to pick a favourite game, it would be the 4-0 win over Fulham in April 1992, which sent us up to the second tier for the first time in my life. It was just a day when everything clicked; everything was brilliant. It was short-lived once we got up there, unfortunately, but that was a great day.

I’ll get my worst memory out of the way early on. Like that of many others, I’m sure, it has got to be Marcello Trotta’s missed penalty in 2013 but I have to say, the Braemar Road fire was shocking when it happened in 1983. Brentford didn’t make the sports news, let alone the main news, and it was quite sad for that to happen to the club.

Trotta Penalty.jpg

My favourite player of all time has to be Keith Millen. As a young centre-back coming into the team, he looked completely composed from the first day and throughout his time with the club. When I used to play very poor level football, I would’ve loved to have been a centre-back of anything like his quality - that would’ve been my dream. I like to think that, back at his peak, he could possibly even get into the current team. Just one of the best defenders I’ve ever seen.

I’ve been a bit nomadic in terms of where I’ve sat in the ground, though it’s tended to be in the Braemar Road stand. In the early years, I used to sit in what was called Block X, which is the corner wing by Ealing Road, where you’d get a brilliant, panoramic view of the pitch. It was also where Peter Gilham used to have his Big Bee Radio box back in the day. Now I’m in Block 305, which is close to the halfway line. My son Jamie comes with me and he’s a season ticket holder as well. I first brought him along for the Gainsborough Trinity FA Cup game in November 2003, when Matt Harrold scored a hat-trick. He was about five or six at the time, so I started him young.

With Keith Millen.jpg

Some of you might recognise me from my Twitter account - @Jonathan77777 - I post stats about the club that aren’t readily available.

I started getting interested in the statistical side of the game when, apart from coming to the match, I used to come home and record the team on the grids in back of the programme, which you don’t really see these days. I used to replicate that on graph paper and, back then, it was always a bit of a challenge to find out what the team was when we played away.

If it was a Saturday game, you might get LBC covering it on radio and very often they went around the grounds before kick-off to report the teams and team changes, but it depended on how good the reporter was. You didn’t really know the team that was playing away at Preston or wherever else it might be. It wasn’t in the Sunday papers, but you might be lucky to get it in the local papers from the weekend. It would come in the programme eventually, but I started recording statistics and really got into the keeping of the records.

Every time we produced a book about the history of the club and every time Rothmans brought out a Football Yearbook, I bought it. Pre-Internet days, that was how you got your facts and figures, but now it’s all at your fingertips. I collect old programmes as well and I’ve pretty much got a copy of every single programme from 1960 onwards, along with a fair few before that as well.

Jon and Jamie.jpg

When I’m looking at the stats, I’ll often look back at old newspapers online and read the reports of games that were reported on. I would’ve loved to have seen the team of the 1930s who reached the top-flight just 15 years after joining the league. I’m fascinated by how good that team were and the idea that, in 1929/30, they won all of their home games, which nobody has ever replicated since. It’s 90 years ago now, but you can imagine what the hype would be like this season if we were going the home season unbeaten and the final game was against QPR, which was the case that season. They won 3-0 that year but Sky Sports would be all over it today.

Since taking ridiculously early retirement, I’ve put all of the stats onto various spreadsheets. For my own enjoyment, I look for patterns and trends and put them out on Twitter, as they aren’t readily available. Some people like them and that encourages me to do more. I always hate doing a negative stat, but at the end of the day they are all factual.

With a bit more time on my hands, I wanted to get involved with the Community Sports Trust and I’ve been down there a few times helping young people write CVs as, in my old job, I did a lot of interviewing and viewing of CVs. It’s just a case of giving them some hints, tips and guidance on how they might want to think about it and how they want to prepare it. It’s just a way of giving something back. Having been involved with the trust for a while, I’ve seen that the work they do is truly, truly amazing.

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Jonathan's story was first published in this season's matchday programme against Huddersfield Town on 2 November 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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