Taken from Nick Bruzon's 'Last Word' Column, legendary Bees kitman Bob Oteng guides us through the week building up to that special day at Wembley last Saturday. Enjoy!
Kitman Bob, he writes what he wants. A week before destiny.
Brentford are in the Premier League. Repeat. Brentford ARE in the Premier League. If the Bournemouth play-off semi-final was immense, Saturday at Wembley against Swansea was next level. I’m still smiling now. Then, when it couldn’t get any better, it did. The chance to share the build up from inside the Bees camp arrived, courtesy than none other than the legend that is Big Bob Oteng.
Our club Kitman and all-round Bees' hero has collected his thoughts from the end of that epic encounter with The Cherries right through the build-up to Swansea and the final whistle at Wembley. A sneak-peak behind the curtain of just what went on and just why we won. But written in his quite wonderful words.
So without further ado, over to you Bob and….. A week before destiny.
It’s 4:55 PM and we've just won 3-1 in a game that had everything a football fan could wish for. As long as you're on the winning side that is!!
The players have done the usual applauding of the fans in every section of the ground and I follow behind after making sure the old footballs were present and correct in certain sections. I'm greeted with the obligatory ‘Big Bob’ song !
As I enter the dressing room there seems to be different vibe and I mean a totally different vibe to a dressing room that has just won a football match. Brian Mbeumo give us a little speech prompted by Thomas who then brings the room to a silence, says one more and then retreats to his office. As I head back to the kitroom it’s the first time in these play offs to allow myself to start thinking of lions on the new shirt !!!
Arrive at the training ground early Monday morning, 6.40am Thomas is already there which in itself isn't unusual but there are a number of other coaches also present. During the weekend Wembley emailed requesting how I would like the dressing room set up. As I can see it we are in the East as we were last season. Also during the weekend I’ve had countless DM messages from fans requesting to know what colour keep we will be playing in. This continued throughout the week until the reveal on Friday.
What I had done previously on the Saturday evening is ask all the players what they wanted to play in. Each one of them just said RED & WHITE. It was such an air of confidence when they all said what they wanted to play in. The curse of red and white at Wembley was about to get smashed.
Thomas had already told the players that he wants to build up to Saturday to be like an ordinary week. For the last two days nobody had really discussed what happened on Saturday because we were all there, we all witnessed it and there was a quiet air of confidence at Jersey Road.
On a Tuesday before a Saturday game is when I start to prep the match kit for the weekend but this was no ordinary game. I had to apply NHS Badgers to each playing shirt, to show gratitude for such a wonderful service that has served us all through such difficult times and not just during the last 18 months. As I prepped all the outfield players kits I started asking myself if they will get us to the promised land? Even a last-minute David Raya header would be welcome,
WELL EARNED DAY OFF FOR PLAYERS !! However, I went as new tracksuits and polo shirts are being delivered for the big day, ( no white suits )…
Today was quite relaxed for me. I'd prepped all the kit Tuesday / Wednesday and now I was waiting for the final squad to be confirmed or any additions from Saturday.
I walked over to pitch 2 with a hint of curiosity and have to say the boys looked absolutely on fire. For me Saturday couldn't come soon enough. Brian Riemer confirmed the squad was as per Saturday. I did my final checks and left Jersey Road with such a nervous feeling inside of me. Two more sleeps !!
Friday was a late report. 2pm for 3pm start. Thomas had gone round to every member of Jersey Road staff requesting that they be on the training pitch for 3:45 precisely. At 3:40 all the staff slowly ambled from the pavilion across the pitch. Training was still going on ( patterns of play) - looked very nice these patterns !!
Training over ran. Brian, Thomas and Kev drilling down certain instructions to the squad. Once it finished, Thomas called over all the stuff to join him in the players. We all formed a massive circle - it was actually the circumference of the centre circle. Thomas stood in between Pontus and Christian and delivered a speech that would have got me ready to play tomorrow. Two VIP coaches arrive at 4pm, we have a light snack and everything is loaded and we depart for the Hotel (dinner 7pm).
I keep my routine the same. Ring home and speak to the family. My little man is excited, he actually predicted that Vitaly would score, (his favourite player).
SATURDAY THE DAY !!
Especially on away games I like to get up by 7am and go for a walk before breakfast. On my walk I passed the bar called The Hive. I also think about my friend Rob Rowan, I'm not really one for superstition but 95% of me thinks today is going to be our day !!
I arrive at the stadium 10:45am to set up. The dressing room looks magnificent. It feels different to the last year. I set the players up in a totally different formation. Pontus likes to sit in the corner of any dressing room but this is going to be hard to achieve as it's shaped like a black horseshoe.
There are two dressing rooms with a smaller one for the staff. Take 10 minutes to have a look around and have a look outside, beginning the best bit of the day for me ! By 12:30 I'm happy and everything is done. 12:45 the Swansea kit man pops in to have a catch up. We both have a laugh about not going to each other’s respective stadiums next season.
The players arrive at 1:15pm. I sit in the corner of the staff dressing room playing word search on my phone and attending to the odd request for a change of socks. I've done 5 levels on my word search game and then it's time for the warm up. The dressing room looks the same as it does on every away game. Flip flops everywhere Emiliano's sliders always in the centre of the room.
The nerves are kicking in now and I try and find work to kill the time. The boys coming do their rituals pads on shirts on then it's huddle time. Christian delivers an emotional speech and again I wish I was going out to play.
The 1st 45 minutes for me are the best in 25 years. I can remember it all which is very rare for me. At half time the boys are really calm. Thomas is calm, all the messages are delivered in a calm way and I know that today is our day. I'm so confident I didn't emerge for the second half until the 92nd or 93rd minute. Those last two minutes went really quickly but at the final whistle I went over to Mike I the Swansea kit man and wished him commiserations. I didn't run onto the pitch, join the huddle and just started jumping around. I don't remember much after, hence I've watched the game back in full twice and the celebrations countless at times on social media.
This day and this season I will never forget both personally and professionally. It has sunk in for me because I always knew the at one point the Brentford would reach the promised land, and I am so grateful and privileged that I was a small cog in the wheel of this wonderful bus stop in Hounslow!!
Nick Bruzon's The Last Word column can be found online here.