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'74 years of hurt released in an instant'

Brentford fan and journalist Jim Levack summarises his thoughts of winning promotion at Wembley last week

6 June 2021

Jim Levack has travelled up and down the country reporting on Brentford. He is best known to many Bees fans as the former Brentford writer from the Hounslow Chronicle and latterly has covered the Club for Press Association. But, most of all, he is a Brentford fan. He was inside Wembley Stadium last week as The Bees won promotion to the Premier League. A few days later he composed his thoughts for us all..........

Bucket list breathtakingly completed, the thought of sitting down and writing anything worthwhile seemed daunting given the sheer magnitude of the achievement.

It was impossible to put into words the deluge of emotions that swept over me and every Brentford fan when the final whistle blew at Wembley.

So much happened that to pick a handful of moments to write about seemed so trite I didn’t know where to start saying anything new about the mosaic of unforgettable memories interwoven into one incredible story.

Each of us will take away something unique from the day, but the naked emotion at the final whistle was something I will never ever forget.

The tears threatened to come two minutes into injury time as the realisation that ‘we might finally do this’ crept into my head. I forced them back.

When Ivan kept the ball in the corner, I realised no human was going to get it off him. Then the whistle and that visceral roar. All 74 years of hurt released in an instant.

Sinking to my seat, I buried my head in my hands and let the tears flow as the smiling faces of my dad and grandad looking down filled my mind’s eye. How they and the Brentford fans long and recently departed would have loved to see this.

My wider family were with me though. Everywhere grown men and women were sobbing. My son, who grew up worshipping Partridge, Owusu and King Kev, was in almost as bad a state.

Through tear-blurred eyes I spotted a chap next to me, who looked like this kind of football dream happened every day, matter of factly taking a photo of me. I felt a little sorry for him for ‘not quite feeling it’.

What made the day so special – and something some former Manchester United supporting music presenters will never understand – is that it meant so much more because of what had gone before.

Cold Tuesday nights in Bury, snow-bound treks to Carlisle to see Carl Hutchings sent off, snatching FA Cup defeat from the jaws of victory in the last minutes at Priestfield. If you know, you know.

If you tried to sell the Brentford script cold to a producer, they’d have dismissed it as a fairytale so fanciful it lacked credibility. From humble rowing club roots to First Division to rock bottom seeking re-election after rubbing shoulders with Workington and Barrow. And now this.

We all know the stats the media who don’t know us love to reel out. Nine failed attempts – heartache at every turn – first time in the top-flight for aeons, takeover bids, ground moves, even a fire.

But this run-in felt different. The team, management, backroom staff all more relaxed, assured and quietly confident in the run-up without being arrogant. Always humble, always together.

The stars aligned on Saturday, but this was more than just fate. It was the culmination of an incredible season like no other’s work where our club rose from the despair of play off defeat to unforgettable glory, smashing records along the way. A gargantuan achievement both physically and mentally.

Part of the credit for that has to go to Thomas Frank – a genuinely good man with true perspective on football’s place in life – and his backroom teams, from medical through to conditioning. And of course Rob Rowan.

That aside, it was as if Saturday was our time… my time. It was my daughter’s 21st, my late switch from an old school shirt I’d worn to other finals to a Skyex one paid off and I, like many other Bees we meet beforehand, was calm.

That stopped when the game started, only the two early goals giving brief respite. Never arrogant, because history has taught us not to be.

Full-time meltdown under control, I soaked it all up. Sergi leading the rendition of Hey Jude. Tears. Peter Gilham being urged to lift the trophy with Pontus. Tears. Thomas being thrown in the air by the squad. More tears.

Grudgingly we left and there on the concourse, as if lined up just for me, were some of the people I have cheered and suffered with through the years. Dave Morley, Ian and Charlie Townsend, Mark Burridge, Mick Cabble, Ian Westbrook. Good people.

There were hundreds more because even if you don’t know someone well, if they’re in red and white and you’ve seen them at Torquay or along the roped edge of the pitch at Northampton… they’re family.

Now the dust has settled, I’ve answered around 60 congratulations texts even though I didn’t do anything and I’ve wandered round Tesco almost on a cloud, desperate for someone – anyone – to ask me who I support, I’m slowly getting my head back together.

It’s tough though. I’ll be doing something and suddenly the thought that ‘we’re Premier League’ hits me. Or I watch the Kew Bridge celebrations or listen to Phil Parry’s brilliant commentary. And smile.

The hard work starts now, but every Brentford fan who knows anything about our journey will know the forensic planning won’t stop.

Expectations will need to be adjusted but the management will aim high. Why not top half in time? We will surprise many next season and will still slip under the radar because it’s all about City and Chelsea. A good thing.

And if beating Bournemouth in the semi-final was the first page of a new chapter, then the first Premier League game will be the follow up book. Griffin Park belongs in the treasured past.

We’ve got less than a fortnight to wait for the fixtures. Only then, and the first time I can pick three Bees for my Fantasy Football team, will I truly believe it hasn’t just been a beautiful dream.


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