Pointing The Finger!
Feature by Footymad
Updated Thursday, 27th December 2001
Falling attendance's at Griffin Park have been blamed on many things in the past, so will the excellent new initiatives thought up by Brentford address the problem of dwindling gates?
You may call me a bit of sad git when I own up to the fact that I spend my Saturday evening's watching Brentford video's.
Ok, so I'd like to say that I spend most weekends clubbing and knocking back a dozen or so bottles of Beck's with a string of blondes hanging off my arm, but life has changed somewhat over the past few years, mainly due to a couple of extra additions to the Junior Bees brigade. Anyway, I'd promised the wife a special night in so I thought an hour or so's viewing of the '98/99 season was a perfect way for me to show my affections towards her! Can't understand why she got all excited when I promised her one of my special videos from my very own private collection? Her faced soon dropped though when she saw Peter Gilham flash up on the opening credits!
Now for anyone who doesn't buy any of the Brentford 'Vids' from the club shop then I'd say that you've been missing out.
I'll be the first to admit that most things this football club have thrown at us in the past have more often than not flattered to deceive, but generally the videos that get dragged out every time my Fulham brother in law outstays his welcome, which is at times bordering on the ten minute mark, are an excellent way for any Bees fans to relive those past memories and near misses.
The 'Inside Out' video, which covers everyday life in and around Griffin Park following our return to the second division back in 1998, is certainly no exception to that rule and highlights virtually everything that was good about the club at that current time. Yet true to life with this damn football club, no sooner does everything seem to be taking a turn for the good, something, or in this case someone, always manages to bugger it up for us. Enter Mr Noades for centre stage!
I'll give you a bit of background to the video first. Now bear in mind that this little production was assembled on the back of a great championship season and was also being filmed during the early months of a tremendous start to our campaign on our return to the Second Division - So there is no shortage of optimism flying around!
The production team set about interviewing the supporters, who can't say enough positive things about the team and the direction the club are seemingly heading. The fans reaction was certainly of no surprise, after all many were caught by the camera just minutes after the thrilling 2v2 home draw against the highly impressive Preston.
The players came across as also being incredibly upbeat, with Paul Evan's resembling a Cheshire cat, still fresh following those two fantastic lobs against North End and Burnley at Turf Moor a few weeks earlier. That mixed with the likes of Messr's Gilham grinning from cheek to cheek, who proudly comments on screen that he has never felt so good about the club in all his years as a supporter, you could be excused of thinking that this video was talking about the fortunes of some other club a million miles away from Griffin Park.
But as I said earlier, just when things seem to be going well around the place, for some unknown reason matters always take a turn for the worse where Brentford are concerned, and Uncle Ron doesn't disappoint by managing to spoil the final five minutes of my evenings entertainment by yet again knocking the Brentford support for their lack of numbers instead of acknowledging everything positive that had happened around the place over the past fifteen months or so.
"Here he goes again love" I shouted to my wife, who had been given leave to do the dishes, "Moaning about the bloody crowds again" I said.
"Does that bloke ever smile?" she quickly replied.
Now that was a tough one to answer, so I asked for a 'time-out' and allowed her to finish off the drying up before I came back with my answer!
I along with the majority of supporters had become sick to the back teeth of Ron Noades continuously putting the fans of this club down since his arrival. Every fan has expressed the same argument when they say that he knew the score when he bought the club, and that Noades must have done his homework before he handed over the cheque to Mr Webb. So therefore has little grounds to start shouting the odds.
In the past, whether through this fanzine or via direct consultation with the club, I believed that I had personally given a fair defence to my reasoning behind the dwindling crowds at Griffin Park, and more importantly thought I possessed all the magical answers as to how, and when, those missing three thousand or so would return in their red and white stripes to help balance the books and move a step closer to putting a smile back on Ron's face!
We've all been through it time and time again as to why we've not been getting the gates and I'm not going to start repeating everything that has been well and truly flogged to death in every issue of this fanzine over the past few years!
A decade of false dawns, poor customer relations and ever increasing price hikes to watch second grade football pretty much covers it doesn't it?
So you may be surprised to hear that after three seasons of defending the clubs poor support and questioning Noades' constant stream of attacks on the fans of this club, that I'm beginning to come round to his way of thinking in a strong way!
So what, forty eight hours on from watching that video, the very same video that made my blood boil at Rons little outburst at the lack of response he was getting from the supporters, made me have a drastic change of heart and feel much sympathy for those at the club that believe that their efforts deserve a better response?
For the record, the night I watched that video was Saturday 25th August. It was a couple of weeks into the new season and I was looking forward to Monday's game against Cambridge United. Mainly because that due to Bristol City not playing until the following day, on the back of three impressive league results Brentford had the opportunity to hit the dizzy heights and claim top spot at such an early stage of the season.
Only a few days earlier we'd experienced a night that will stay in the memory for a long time when Kevin O'Connor spectacularly knocked out Division One outfit Norwich City in the final minute of the Worthington Cup. Norwich had previously beaten Kevin Keegan's Manchester City and followed that up with an equally impressive away victory at Wimbledon the following Saturday whilst Steve Coppell's eleven were securing a smash and grab at Chesterfield, and to make things even better, we didn't have too long to wait before we drew the plum draw away to Newcastle United in the second round. Combine all that with the Football League's decision to block our move to Woking, then you could be excused for getting carried away with thinking that this was possibly the greatest August in the club's history!
So the Cambridge match was on Bank Holiday Monday. The season was still fresh, the weather was blistering hot and not only had the club given the supporters back our home end but we could now watch our beloved Bees, undercover, for an amazing £10. Surely this was the recipe for a bumper crowd wasn't it?
Wrong? Brentford managed to drag in a handful over four thousand six hundred that day, of which around five hundred were travelling supporters!
So the fact of the matter is, despite some excellent football, some fine results and a start to the season that was beyond even our wildest dreams, only a paltry four thousand or so Brentford supporters could be bothered to turn up and watch a club that had a realistic chance of topping the Second Division table! Now if that wasn't a poor show then I don't know what is?
Maybe it's a pointless exercise for me to be ranting and raving about those that no longer turn up to Griffin Park. After all, anyone reading this is probably one of the die-hards that has kept this club afloat over the past few years and in turn prevented any further embarrassment when rival supporters scour the attendance figures in the Sunday papers! I am of course preaching to the converted!
And before anyone decides to pull me up on this, I am fully aware that a few swallows don't make a summer. I've supported Brentford for over twenty years and am not naive enough to believe that a couple of victories in August is going to overturn a decade of under achievement, after all, It would be a fair bet to say that by the time this article hits the terraces, around October/November, Brentford could well have done their famous disappearing act and resumed normal service somewhere around the midriff of the table.
But that isn't really the point here is it? For goodness knows how long, as supporters we've been hammering home to Noades, to the club, and even back in the Lange/Loring days, the reasons why Brentford has failed to drag in the support that we feel it rightly deserves to match some of the bigger clubs in this division.
But now that club have actually listened, done something about it and physically implemented all such ideas, unless we can start to back the club and add a few extra thousand to our gates then we will have little or no grounds for complaint when they come to question the fans loyalties in the future.
It is without question that we now have the finest marketing department in the club's history. We can no longer use the '£15' entrance fee as a defence for failing to attract the supporters. We can no longer use the 'no home end' card anymore and we certainly can't accuse the club of sitting on their backsides and waiting for the customers to come to them, as has certainly been the case in the past! To be perfectly honest, I don't mind going on record and stating that this club has done more to encourage supporters through the gates in the past six months than any other club in the whole league structure - and that includes the Manchester United's and Arsenal's of this world!
This season, those Brentford fans that have sat at home on their backsides for the past few seasons on a Saturday afternoon rather than making the pilgrimage to Griffin Park, the same one's that still feel they have the right to criticise every defeat and every decision made by the club as if they were an active partner, have the perfect opportunity to prove that everything they have complained about in the past was justified! Now that the club have addressed our grievances it's time for those very people to put something back into this club, meet them half way and get themselves down to Griffin Park and start supporting the club like a Brentford fan rather than the stereo type Manchester United fan located in deepest Devon!
On Saturday 13th October, Brentford literally open their gates for the Peterborough game. Whether this article will have hit the terraces by then is still not known, yet no matter how many holes you want to pick in the 'FREE' Peterborough game, you cannot deny that this is the best thing that the club has ever done in the attempt to boost crowds at Griffin Park.
If Brentford fans fail to force the club to dust off the 'Sold Out' signs for this initiative then not only have the club been badly let down, but both you and I have been as well.
Following that game, the next big encounter will be against Queens Park Rangers in November. Now I have heard a few rumours that the club are considering handing over the whole of the New Road to the away fans. Had this have happened last year then I would have filled this page with my utter disgust at the club's decision. Now though, if Brentford fans can't show the club they're worthy of restricting QPR to the fifteen hundred or so on an open terrace then yet again we can have little or no grounds to complain when the club try to cash in on someone else's strong following! - I wonder who will shout the loudest? Probably the one's sitting on their arses drinking tea and watching Teletext, whilst we're the real ones to suffer the consequences!
I'm personally extremely proud of the four thousand or so that just about keep this club ticking. I'll also be extremely proud to see those return to Griffin Park that are big enough to put past differences with the club to rest and realise that this time around everything possible is being done to rectify past misdemeanours. But for those that will still prefer to criticise this club from a distance when the next player exits Griffin Park to make up the difference, I have little or no time for.
There have been many fingers pointed as to who is to blame for our clubs apparent demise. Lets just hope that when Brentford deserve a bumper crowd, we can show the club, in our numbers, that we are equally prepared to do our piece in providing a way forward for Brentford - and if we fail? Maybe the fingers should be pointed a little closer to home!
As a footnote, Brentford have just topped the table following our 4-0 demolition of Tranmere Rovers. Five thousand two hundred is maybe heading in the right direction even if it does seem like an extremely slow process. In all honesty though, such a fantastic days entertainment deserves at least in excess of eight thousand wouldn't you agree?