Hey Jude

FA Cup, 3rd Round Proper (replay) – Brentford FC v Southend FC
Tuesday, 15th January 2013, 7.45pm
Griffin Park
Distance 9 miles, Attendance 6526
In football there are teams you watch and, there are teams you become attached to (and a few others that frankly do not merit any acknowledgement whatsoever). My wife would probably argue I watch too many teams but, to counter this I would state that there’s only a few that I’m truly fond of.
Whilst others revel in the ability to recall every Bigteam FC starting eleven of the 19xx title-winning season, my earliest recollections were filled with the more modest end of the beautiful game’s spectrum. In 1978 as Watford ran away with the 4th Division title, Southend United finished second closely followed by Swansea City and Brentford. The following season – whilst Swansea again came in third – Watford finished second behind Shrewsbury Town, and though I was too young to appreciate it at the time, Brentford and Southend were settled safely in mid-table. Though I may not be able to summon up a single starting eleven, the names, events and connections that drew me to the other four clubs are blissfully stockpiled for safe keeping.
Going up and down the league quick-smart, Swansea had Toshack (who played for Liverpool when they were great) and walloped Sliema Wanderers 17-0 when Europe had proper cup competitions. Shrewsbury had the delightfully named Gay Meadow and Graham Turner (whose exact age is anyone’s guess) but, the other two were very different beasts.
Many years before they generously offered us a Mooney-wonderland, Southend had the incomparable Bobby Moore. In addition they had Moody penalties (not a slang term), were present when Sam Ellis lifted the Division 4 trophy, and to an average ten year old Southend had the only ground name lifted straight out of the pages of Wind In The Willows.

130115 FACup 3Rr Brentford v Southend (14)b

In both Millen and the Lewington era Brentford’s connections may be much stronger still but, before all that came to pass The Bees had Steve Philips; an extraordinarily prolific forward whose ability rivalled our mighty front pair. And then there’s the stadium (this is a good point to sigh almost romantically). Nestled tightly in the surrounding community, the uniqueness of Griffin Park always made it – as time went on – our ground of neutral choice. The in-house turnstiles on New Road, the low Brook Road terrace roof, the flight path advertising, the floodlights, the fans, the pubs; Griffin Park really is everything that the concrete bowl generation are missing out on.
130115 FACup 3Rr Brentford v Southend (5)Taking the contrarian decision to attend this less glamorous replay, my initial desire had been to see how some current and former Hornets were getting on however, leaving the ground I knew I’d witnessed something far greater. Thirty-odd years after my first visit, standing on the very same Ealing Road terrace last night (now with roof and home fans) it was truly hard not to Hey Jude too.
Having earlier succeeded in the level-five parking ordeal, I’d been swept up in a convoy of supporters, hypnotically marching towards floodlights that peered from above the rooftops. About me families and friends – wrapped up for the cold, yet warm to the challenge – discussed the ultimate prize (that’s Wembley, not Chelsea). We weaved past corner inns, through ticket office queues, and on to the BIAS terrace where I intended – with Bovril and pie devoured – to be totally biased towards the home side. Demonstrating the horse meat issue was not affecting burger consumption tonight, there on a now (tragically) mythical safe standing area, a steady stream of supporters grabbed their “lucky spots” and awaited the ref’s whistle.

130115 FACup 3Rr Brentford v Southend (15)   130115 FACup 3Rr Brentford v Southend (20)

Astonishingly the halves were both amazing, and amazingly similar, in equal measures. Kick off was followed by ten minutes sportsmanlike prodding and poking where The Shrimpers almost got the upper hand, without seriously really testing Simon Moore. Then in a scene not witnessed since Michael Caine defended Rorke’s Drift, the next thirty-five saw wave after wave of attack, where The Bees carved open the away defence only to find old boy Paul Smith an immovable force; able to collect, block, and parry their every effort.
130115 FACup 3Rr Brentford v Southend (43)It would be impossible to detail every one of the numerous chances but – with Brentford shooting away from us – the first half was punctuated by a fantastic turn and cross from Lee Hodson which Paul Hayes tucked away. The second period saw Clayton Donaldson bought down and Paul Smith predictably save Harry Forrester’s subsequent penalty.  Barry Corr put the game back level before Donaldson – with the aid of a deflection – eventually managed to get a shot past Smith.
Leaving the match humming along to the local’s tune, I had more names to add to the list that will forever draw me to Griffin Park. Harry Forrester was sublime going forward, Jonathan Douglas tackles were wonderfully reminiscent of a bygone era, and Little Lee will hopefully be 130115 FACup 3Rr Brentford v Southend (49)bwelcomed back at The Vic soon. Naturally fan voting won’t always support my views but, not one voice about me doubted that Southend’s, former Brentford, keeper Paul Smith folded towels perfectly and had the greatest impact on the score line.
As players thanked fans, the repertoire behind me moved effortlessly from Que Sera Sera to By Far The Greatest Team via a buoyant warning to Chelsea that “We’re Coming For You”. When that Proper 4th Round tie kicks off, I think it’s safe to say which side I’ll be on.
Laa la la, la-la-la-laa, la-la-la-laa Brent-ford!
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
To happily misquote former Brentford trialist Rod Stewart, “There are two things I do well; watch football and sing averagely.” Last night – after decades of practice to become adept at both – I am pleased to say that in West London, I enjoyed doing both quite well.

130115 FACup 3Rr Brentford v Southend (40)

For far better photos of the night, check out the excellent work of both Simon Roe and Stuart Roy Clarke.
This entry was posted in 2012-2013, FA Cup and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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