So a third posting on football-related maters which is unusual for me. But I couldn’t let today go by without congratulating my home time team Blackpool FC having won promotion to the Championship from the Div 1 play-off final. Wey hey. They beat Lincoln City 2-1 at Wembley after conceding a first minute own goal. Kenny Dougal was the 2 goal hero and a bit of a poster boy. Do you know that Blackpool are the play-off kings having won 6 finals – a record! God knows how they’ll do in the very competitive Championship but that’s all for tomorrow. After the years of mis-management by the detested Oystons it’s a time to celebrate. Let’s have a look at one of the goals being scored…
Now just to show I’m not totally partisan, celebrations too to Brentford FC for securing promotion at last to the Premiership at yesterday’s Championship play-off final, beating Swansea 2-0. They’ve been knocking at the door for the last few seasons and I couldn’t have been more pleased to see them achieve it. Did you also know that this ended a losing run of 32 play-off campaigns and 16 finals by teams wearing red and white shirts and black shorts? Well there you go. You cannot say I don’t keep you peppered with the occasional interesting fact.
In case you don’t know we lived for a v happy couple of years in the old Barratt HQ overlooking the M4 flyover in Brentford…
It was a rather cool converted Art Deco building and we lived within 200 yds of the old Brentford stadium which as all keen footie fans will know was the only stadium in England with pubs located on each of the 4 corners. It also had the best chippy located on the S Ealing Rd corner which was mobbed on match days/evenings. Whilst at the Barratt apartment we used to look after after two beautiful youngest grandsons and collected them 4 days a week from nearby Chiswick. We had some fab times with them especially in Gunnersbury Park across (or at least under) the busy M4. The boys were about 3 and a bit and 1 and a bit and both needed a little morning/midday sleep to take the edge off. Elliott was always a sweetie and a 5 minute car ride was all to took to get him dozing. Younger grandson Noah was always more of a pickle and he never fell for the car trick always wanting to be taken for a buggy ride with bottle. And you needed to walk a good mile or so before he’d deign to drop off. I may not have attended too many matches at the old ground but I must have walked around Brentford’s stadium at least 100 times and knew every frigging brick and rusting stand wall. It wasn’t a pretty ground.
Brentford the town was rather strange mash up of old municipal blocks which featured in the fab tv series People Just Do Nothing and high chic apartments overlooking the Thames. There were also sections along the river which were really run down including old boat and scrap yards and council estates and incredibly wealthy new apartment living blocks alongside the Grand Union Canal which joined the Thames at Brentford. Historically it was a huge waterways intersection linking London with the industrial centres to the north. And this juxtaposition between the old and the new was the ongoing architectural and social battle going on in this intriguing bit of west London (in fact it may just sit outside London).
Funnily enough all the time we were there we witnessed a major bit of the gentrification/re-development battle with the building of the new Brentford Community Stadium amidst what used to be some grim old re-cycling grounds. For two years it rose from the ashes of the derelict area behind the old Leisure Centre and it looked a fine stadium in it’s aluminium-clad v contemporary styling…
But since then a host of office and apartment skyscrapers have been constructed around it and it’s virtually impossible to now see it from the main roads surrounding it which is a shame. You sense that the old Brentford town straddling a grimy bank of the Thames across from leafy Kew Gardens with its narrow boat trading history, demolition yards, boat building sheds and muddy griminess will have disappeared inside 10 years to be replaced by riverside-view apartments and marinas. But they’ll have a great stadium and now a Premiership football team at its heart like every upwardly mobile community now has.
That’s the thing about football’s development which intrigues me. There will still be a place for the likes of Blackpool FC to achieve and do well for a time. But the centre of footballing achievement is gradually moving away from its heartland of Lancashire, Yorkshire, North East and Midlands towns and cities towards the wealthier south. Some big clubs will obviously survive but look at the rise of clubs like Chelsea, Brentford, Crystal Palace, Southampton, West Ham, Brighton and despite recent setbacks, Bournemouth, Fulham, Reading. Look at the fabulous new stadia at Tottenham and Arsenal and MK Dons. It’s as clear as day to me that Brentford’s model is the future. I admire it and regret at the same time that proud older clubs like Preston, Blackburn, Bolton, Sheffield Wednesday, Coventry, Nottingham Forest, Sunderland even will ever aspire, realistically, to top level football again. There are always exceptions but say Burnley lost Sean Dyche and Leicester Brendan Rogers and Leeds Bielsa, you’d worry about them inside two seasons. That to me is the new reality of football.
Blimey that was a bit deep. Let’s just hail the success of two great clubs and sigh that Chelsea secured another Champions League trophy last night. The future’s Brighton, and it’s probably not tangerine.