I knew I was in trouble from the moment I arrived at Waterloo Station having already been on two buses and a trains from Crystal Palace. My booking at Queen’s Hotel in south east London seemed like an idea befitting those of absolute genius however, I failed to take into account the location in relation to transport. So one late bus meant for a series of near misses which led to even further disappointment when I arrived at Waterloo to find my train to Brentford was delayed by some seventy minutes! I was now faced with the predicament of missing the first half between Brentford and Fulham or just not going and heading back to my hotel. After all, I had only arrived in London from Australia some 12 hours before and was flying up to Glasgow to watch Celtic early the next morning.
Welcome ladies and gentlemen, to the life of an ambitious football traveller!
Greeted with my series of delays, I decided to push on regardless so stood about in the cold at Waterloo station, jet lagged and weary yet safe in the knowledge I would eventually be in the home end of Brentford FC watching them play somewhat of a London derby. My only problem remaining was getting over the fact I would miss the first half. In its entirety! For fuck sakes! Anyway, what can you do? For a football fan, this would be akin to taking over from some fella who’s got his leg over a bird and you swing in at the halfway point to take over. What’s more, imagine not knowing the fella and only kind of knowing the bird in question? Yep, you get it now don’t you? But fuck it!
Griffin Park lays a steady 7 minute walk away from Brentford station. Mind, on a misty November evening in London, it’s not hard to take the wrong turn and end up down a dead end street. This is what I did twice, turning my short walk into a run in hope of catching the start of the second half. The ground is a small one, only taking just over 12,000 supporters before the house full sign goes up. It’s been the home of Brentford since 1904 and has seen some memorable and not so memorable matches. Brentford won the old third division followed by the old second division just over 80 years ago. Not sure many of those folk would still be around the share their stories?
I should mention here that I had to collect my match ticket before going into Griffin Park. It’s an easy process if you can find the ticket office however, many small English grounds tend to have these little demount-able ticket offices that always appear impossible to find when you need them in a hurry. And, of course, the two stewards I asked both had no idea. Why are they stewards again? Anyway, I found the place and made my way inside the ground just as the second half kicked off. The away lot, that’s Fulham were already up 1-0 thanks to a goal from Sone Aluko in the 36th minute. I know, I know. Who the fuck is Sone Aluko you ask? He’s a Nigerian international who now plays for Reading in the Championship. He’s also played for Birmingham and Hull so he’s a bit shit really. Anyway. Moving on.
Moving on is exactly what the game didn’t do. It was a Sky TV Friday night match and the second half was a cagey affair with neither side wanting to push the envelope. Brentford showed glimpses of trying to get into the match but for the best part, they lacked the nous to do so. I soon realized that the most entertaining aspect of the match was watching the home supporters in the Brentford end finding a myriad of ways in which to entertain themselves during a dour second half that was unfolding before them. My god, even the woman were reciting some pretty rude songs about Fulham supporters. It’s always funnier when the birds get singing for some reason. I guess because you don’t often expect it? I had no idea the ladies of Brentford were open to such colorful language!
As the home team pushed for an equaliser, they were caught on the break and conceded a late goal to Tom Cairney in injury time which left the final score at 2-0 to Fulham. This enraged the home side supporters and they duly unleashed on not just players but each other in some quarters which made for an entertaining walk back to the station and even more pleasant laughter waiting for, boarding then riding the delayed train back to London Waterloo. I should mention there were splattering’s of Fulham supporters dishing it out as well. Football banter. Gotta love it!
By the time I arrived back at my hotel, it was 1 am and I was up again at 4 am to head to Luton airport for a flight to Glasgow. As you may have guessed, I was running purely on adrenaline by now and trying my best to ignore the jet lag that was not just knocking, but pounding on my door. Bastard! But hey, that’s the life of a football traveller.