This Sunday sees one of London’s less trendy football clubs step into the limelight, as Brentford take on Yeovil Town in the League One play-off final. The Bees are looking to return to the second tier of English football for the first time since 1992, though to do so they will have to overcome the weight of a fairly horrendous history in big matches.
It would be fair to say that lady luck has never had a soft spot for Brentford FC. The club’s ascent in the 1930s peaked with a fifth-placed finish in the top flight before the Luftwaffe decided enough was enough. Had you told a Brentford fan in 1942 that their triumph in the London War Cup would be their only trophy of note over 70 years later, you may well have been accused of talking through your fashionable felt fedora.
The club’s history of falling at the final hurdle actually began a year earlier, as they lost the 1941 London War Cup final to Reading. Not until 1985 did Brentford return to Wembley, losing the Freight Rover Trophy final to Wigan – a competition (now known as the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy) they would again fail to win in both 2001 and 2011.
The play-offs have also been quite disastrous over the years. 1997 saw defeat to Crewe in the third-tier playoff final at Wembley, and five years later the same sorry tale played out against Stoke. Three times the Bees have lost out in the semi-finals, so at least they’ve again gone one better this year.
Not that any Brentford fan wants to be in the play-offs this year. The tragedy of the final game of the regular season, when the Bees were a crossbar’s width from automatic promotion, will have many fans trudging to Wembley with pessimistic hearts on Sunday.
But things are certainly looking up for the club. Manager Uwe Rosler is highly regarded and promotion may well be needed for the Bees to hold onto him. And under owner Matthew Benham, a fervent fan of the club himself, Brentford have secured their financial future and plan to move to a new ground at Kew in time for the 2016-17 season. Fans will be sad to see the back of Griffin Park, which famously is the only ground in the country to have a pub on every corner (as highlighted in this excellent Guardian piece).
No-one, however, will be sad to put an end to the Bees’ dire record in important matches if they can secure the promotion they surely deserve this weekend.
By Chris Lockie