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Tuesday 21st September 2021 ko 19:45

EFL Cup 3rd Round

BRENTFORD 7 (Forss 3p 16 44 60 Wissa 38 87 Diarra 43og)


Att 12,819

Entry (Railway Lounge Hospitality) £35

Programme – Included (£2)

I think my wife Robyn calls this “92 Hopping,” but my running total of EFL and Premier League grounds was below 90 for the first time in years, mainly due to the pandemic. I think just about everyone loved Brentford’s former home at Griffin Park and I’m so glad I managed to show Robyn the place before it closed. There is absolutely no way you can replace a ground of 100-plus years with a pub at each corner, but that’s precisely what Brentford managed to do.

Just writing the words doesn’t do the achievement justice. Getting planning permission for an 17,250 capacity stadium isn’t easy, more difficult in London, and a mile away from Griffin Park incredible. A parcel of land was bought just north of Lionel Road, formerly in use as a waste transfer station. The plot is a triangle, formed from three railway lines with Kew Bridge station adjacent to the south. Or, putting it another way the club moved one station east on the Hounslow Loop Line! The site isn’t as big as an architect would like, and you can see the challenges the space made at every angle of the place, particularly as to help fund the move space had to be found for housing development too. 

That triangle theme is a motif you’ll find throughout the stadium’s post-industrial design and yes by far the most straightforward way to get to the Brentford Community Stadium is to take the train to Kew Bridge. We parked up at Staines Station and every piece of advice we heard was that parking anywhere near to Lionel Road is all but impossible. The nearest Underground station is Gunnersbury on the District Line; but we used Kew Bridge and found access and egress straightforward with the caveat that at some point the street lighting on Lionel Road will need to be improved. 

I must admit I approached Brentford’s promotion to the Premier League with mixed feelings. My sporting soul celebrated a smaller club’s achievement while the inner groundhopper winced as to how on earth I’d pay the place a visit? As ever cup competitions offer the easiest route into usually full to capacity stadia so as I sat watching QPR beat Oxford United in the second round quietly hoping Brentford won their tie against Forest Green and got a home draw. For once we got a little luck!

As is the way these days tickets were heavily discounted, to £10 in all non-premium areas. That does point to the stadium’s large amount of premium seats- 1,937 is a lot in a capacity of 17,250. My feeling this that is aimed at the rugby market, with London Irish installed as Brentford’s tenants here. I didn’t pick up on it at the time, but apparently the lighting in the concourses can be switched quickly from Brentford red to Irish green, in an echo of the Tele-2 Arena in Stockholm. 

I must admit that for me the hospitality seats were a classic upsell. I’d set up a ticketing account, then spotted that the upgrade was the cheapest I’d ever seen for this type of lounge- I’d paid £50 for Bristol City vs Wolves in the FA Cup (albeit with a meal) a couple of years ago. So I decided to surprise Robyn, told her I’d bought £10 seats and surprised her at reception! We took advantage of the meal – pulled pork rolls, halloumi bites and slaw discounted to £10 before 7pm. In fact the only facet that wasn’t good value was the programme- a fold-out poster affair, with one side a picture of the stadium imagined as a Transformer, and no editorial on the night’s game!

The stadium really is excellent, we enjoyed both the aesthetics and the attention to detail. I could pick holes, yes you can tell space is at a premium, and clearly if Brentford do manage to maintain their Premier League status, long-term that capacity is going to become a massive issue. Here it wasn’t and in all honesty I couldn’t have dreamt up a less competitive game. 

A horrendous mixture of incompetence and nepotism from the owners has left Oldham Athletic rock bottom of League 2 and went into this game only able to name 4 substitutes, and that included 2 scholars. To give you an idea of their fall from grace, back in the 1992 Oldham Athletic were founder members of the Premier League, and Brentford were in what’s now called League 2. 

I remember as we took our seats Robyn saying she hoped Oldham wouldn’t concede early, but with just 3 minutes gone Carl Piergianni’s clumsy challenge allowed Finnish stiker Marcus Forss to convert from the penalty spot. From then on a largely second-string Brentford team took their visitors apart, with Forss collecting 4 and Yoanne Wissa scoring the seventh with an overhead kick that evoked Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s effort against England in Stockholm, in 2012. Come to think of it, that was to complete a four goal haul too!

I’m sure my reader is well used to me writing about obscure clubs and grounds with only the most basic of facilities. I’m not used to halloumi bites at football grounds! But variety is always the spice of life, even if it’ll be back to the grittier stuff next time!

My thanks to Emma Briden for her help and advice on getting to this game!