A brief history of Brentford Football Club from 1889 to present
The formation of Brentford Football Club in 1889 is owed to the decision by the Brentford Local Board [a forerunner of today's councils] to open a new Recreation Ground in the town. At a meeting convened on October 10 at the Pavilion of the Oxford and Cambridge Public House, adjacent to Kew Bridge, it was resolved that a Club should be formed to utilise the land for sporting purposes.
Six days later, a vote took place to decide which code of football would be played by the new side – association or rugby – with the round ball game winning by eight votes to five.
Negotiations to use the Recreation Ground broke down, but the decision to form a Club continued, Brentford playing their first game against a Kew eleven on November 23, 1889 that resulted in a 1-1 draw. The Club became successful in County FA Competitions in the late Victorian era, winning the Middlesex Junior Cup in 1894, with further victories in both the Middlesex Senior and London Senior Cups four years later.
In 1899, Brentford were found guilty by The Football Association of paying their players, an act common with most leading amateur clubs in London but illegal.
As punishment, The FA effectively forced the Club to turn professional.
By this time, Brentford were competing in the Southern League, the leading organisation for clubs based in the South of England.
Eighteen months later, Brentford won the Second Division of the Southern League, and were promoted.
A NEW HOME: GRIFFIN PARK
On September 1, 1904 Brentford played their first game at their new home - Griffin Park - a draw against Plymouth Argyle in a Western League fixture.
The Edwardian period was one of struggle for the Club, now nicknamed “The Bees”, eventually being relegated back to the Second Division of the Southern League in 1913. With the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, along with all the leading professional clubs in London, Brentford sought to cut down their travelling costs during war time and joined the newly formed London Combination in the summer of 1915.
Brentford become London Combination Champions in 1919 with help from several star footballers who were stationed in London at the time and guested for the Club. It was this success that persuaded the Southern League management committee to promote Brentford to an enlarged 22 club top division without kicking a ball. A year later, the Club was elected to the Third Division of the Football League, England’s premier professional competition.
In May 1926, former Football League referee Harry Curtis was appointed as Secretary Manager. Curtis would transform Brentford, taking them from a struggling third tier club to the First Division in only nine years. An FA Cup run to the Fifth Round in 1927 was followed by winning all 21 home league matches in 1929/30, an achievement still not bettered. The 1932/33 campaign saw Brentford become Football League Division Three (Southern Section) Champions, swiftly followed by the Football League Second Division title two years later, which gave the Club a place in the top tier of English football for the first time.
THE TOP FLIGHT
In the Club’s first season in the top flight, they finished in fifth place, the highest of any London club, above Arsenal and Chelsea. Attendances at Griffin Park averaged around 25,000 with Brentford enjoying a halcyon period alongside football’s big names. The Second World War broke out in September 1939, and, like the Great War before it, football returned to regionalised league and cup competitions with guest footballers. In May 1942 Brentford defeated Portsmouth 2-0 at Wembley Stadium to win the London War Cup in front of nearly 70,000 spectators, England international Leslie Smith scoring both goals.
The first peacetime league campaign in 1946-1947 saw the Club relegated to the Second Division. Seven years of second tier football followed before a further demotion in 1954 to Division Three (South). Following the decision by The Football League to run four national divisions in 1958, Brentford’s descent from First to Fourth Division was completed by relegation in 1962. Under the Chairmanship of Nottingham MP Jack Dunnett, the Club bought several highly-paid players in an attempt to make their stay in the Fourth Division a short one. The tactic proved successful in the short-term as Brentford’s were crowned Fourth Division Champions in May 1963, scoring 98 league goals in the process.
However, the strategy of spending thousands of pounds and running at a large weekly loss in order to bring success was brought to a head in January 1967.
The shock news broke that Dunnett had secretly arranged with Chairman of local rivals Queens Park Rangers - Jim Gregory - for Rangers to take over Griffin Park the following season and close Brentford down. Brentford, by now back in the Fourth Division after relegation in May 1966, appeared to be finished.
However, a consortium of businessman - with significant help from supporters - bought out Dunnett’s shares, Ron Blindell guaranteeing the Club a significant loan to keep it operational.
To repay this sum, a period of austerity was brought in, the Club scrapping its Reserve and Youth Teams. It was 1972 before Brentford again rose out of the Fourth Division, under the management of Frank Blunstone. This lasted only a season before immediate relegation back to the basement division, with many supporters blaming the sale of star striker John O’Mara early in the campaign as a major contributory factor. Five more years of Fourth Division football followed before promotion to the Third Division in 1978.
The eighties would prove to be largely uneventful, except for a Wembley appearance in 1985 in the Freight Rover Trophy Final and reaching the FA Cup Quarter Finals in 1989. However, one significant development was the creation of the Club’s Football in the Community Scheme in 1987, which since that time has evolved into a Charitable Trust that engages with thousands of people in the local population. Griffin Park was also changed significantly, firstly due to a fire in the main stand in February 1983, and the demolition of the Royal Oak covered terrace in 1986.
THIRD DIVISION CHAMPIONS
Having reached the Third Division Play-Off Semi Finals in May 1991, under manager Phil Holder’s reign the Club would go a step further the next season, winning the 1991/1992 Third Division Championship on the final day with a 1-0 victory at Peterborough United. Despite being in the top half by December 1992, as in 1972, history repeated itself with the Club relegated immediately back to the lower divisions in May 1993. Unsuccessful Second Division Play-Off campaigns in 1995 and 1997 then followed before relegation to the bottom tier in 1998 after a turbulent campaign that saw demonstrations by supporters against new owner David Webb’s running of the Club.
THE RON NOADES ERA
Former Crystal Palace owner Ron Noades bought the Club from Webb in June 1998 and installed himself as Chairman and Manager, Brentford winning the Third Division title at the first attempt. His approach mirrored Dunnett’s from the 1960s, as the Club lost several thousand pounds a week in the pursuit of further success.
Having stood down as manager in November 2000 after an FA Cup defeat at home to Kingstonian, Noades subsequently declared he would sell the Club to new owners. New manager Ray Lewington steered the Club to an LDV Vans Trophy Final in April 2001 but despite taking the lead, Brentford lost 2-1 to Port Vale.
Ex-Manchester United winger Steve Coppell was appointed manager that summer and led the Club to the 2002 Second Division Play Off Final in his sole season in charge, but Brentford lost 2-0 to Stoke City at The Millennium Stadium. Ron Noades then relinquished management control to newly formed Supporters’ Trust Bees United in the spring of 2003.
Three years later, with financial help via loans, supporter donations and Brentford fan Matthew Benham, Bees United bought out Noades’ controlling shareholding in January 2006 to become London’s first professional football club owned by its supporters. The Club was in the middle of an extremely successful period, reaching the FA Cup Fifth Round and League One Play-Off Semi-Finals in successive seasons (2005 and 2006). With the departure of manager Martin Allen in the summer of 2006, a disastrous campaign followed - arguably the Club’s worst ever - that saw it relegated to League Two in bottom place. Former player Andy Scott was appointed manager in January 2008 and 18 months later guided his team to the League Two Championship with a 3-1 win at Darlington.
Bees United and Matthew Benham - a Brentford supporter from his teenage years - entered into a five-year partnership agreement in 2009 whereby he would invest significant amounts of capital in return for the option of owning the Club should the Supporters’ Trust not wish to repay his investment. The Club made it to Wembley again in the 2011 Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Final, but were beaten 1-0 by Carlisle United. In 2012 the Bees United Board indicated to its members that the option be brought forward, and after an overwhelming vote in favour, Matthew Benham purchased the controlling shareholding of Brentford Football Club from The Trust.
In the summer, the Club announced it had purchased the land intended for a new stadium located in Lionel Road South, Brentford. The Club came within a last minute penalty kick of being promoted in an emotion-charged match with Doncaster Rovers in April 2013, but Marcello Trotta's strike hit the bar, Rovers subsequently scoring from the resulting clearance and were promoted instead. The Club reached the Play-Off Final three weeks later but were beaten 2-1 by Yeovil Town at Wembley.
Brentford's players overcame that double disappointment in 2013/2014 to finish in second position, thus securing a place in the Sky Bet Championship for 2014/2015, Alan Judge's penalty kick enough to seal promotion on April 18 against Preston North End. The success was achieved despite the departure of manager Uwe Rösler to Wigan Athletic mid-way through the season, his replacement being the Club's Sporting Director Mark Warburton,
The former Watford Academy coach led Brentford to the Sky Bet Championship Play-offs in his first full season, but were beaten in the Semi-Finals by Middlesbrough on aggregate. Brentford finished ninth in their second season back and remain in England second tier for the 2016/17 season.