100 up! Brentford FC’s centenary as a football league club

A 100 years ago today (31 May 1920) Brentford joined the English Football League, the world’s oldest continuous league competition. The motion, approved at the league’s AGM, created a Third Division. It gave 20 other clubs an escape from non-league football.

At the time, The Bees were Southern League members for 22 years, then the premier non-league competition South of Birmingham. It was a remarkable turnaround in fortunes for The Bees. When war broke out in August 1914 the club was in a precarious financial state. It ended that season fielding a team of amateurs. They were also anchored in the Southern League Second Division, relegated in 1913.

By May 1919 and with war at an end, Brentford were London Combination champions. The competition set up by Metropolitan clubs to decrease travelling costs in war-time. This title win no doubt helped their Southern League First Division election cause.

Alongside Coventry City they took their place in an enlarged top division. The competition re-started in September 1919, and Brentford finished 15th, with Portsmouth top.

Expanding the Football League was the brainchild of Charles ‘Chas’ Sutcliffe. He was a prominent member of the League’s Management Committee. Sutcliffe had instigated promotion and relegation in 1898. Prior to their introduction, two-legged ‘Test Matches’ decided any movement between the two divisions a Victorian version of the play-offs.

Sutcliffe was a lawyer by trade. In court he defended the controversial ‘retain and transfer’ system, which kept footballers professional slaves to their clubs. He was also responsible for compiling the annual fixture list. His method was used until computerisation took over in the late 1960s.

He turned his sights to extending the league’s franchise. At that point, only Arsenal (1894), Orient (1905), Fulham (1907), Tottenham Hotspur (1909), and West Ham (1919) had joined from the South East. This bold move would ensure the league was a truly a national competition.

The Southern League clubs sensed their chance to finally join. On 15 May 1920, 14 of them – including a representative from Brentford – met 24 Northern clubs in Sheffield to further the case for league expansion. Among those were newly-formed Leeds United. The Southern League clubs deferred on a joint resolution. They prefered to wait until their own divisional meeting three days later.

That took place, at Anderton’s Hotel in London. They passed the following resolution: “that this meeting is of the opinion that the time has arrived for application to be made to the Football League to form a Third Division of Northern and Southern sections. Further, that the clubs competing in the Southern League (Division One) be eligible to join the Southern section en bloc.”

Following this, a six-man Southern deputation met their Northern counterparts again on Saturday 22 May 1920. Things would have to move soon; the Football League’s AGM would take place nine days later.

The Football League management committee met the Northern and Southern combined deputation two days before the league’s AGM. This was to decide if they would allow them to make a case for expansion before member clubs. The deputation recommended Northern and Southern sections with promotion and relegation to the Second Division.

The vote took place early Monday morning on 31 May 1920 at the Connaught Rooms Hotel in Holborn, London. Among the usual business, the main agenda item was to decide who would keep their place in the Second Division via a ballot. Ambitious non-league clubs would line-up against the bottom two trying to keep their league place (Lincoln City and Grimsby Town).

All member clubs were entitled to vote for their top two candidates. Phoenix club Leeds United topped the poll. They were formed after predecessor Leeds City were thrown out of the league a year earlier and the club expunged. This was for making illegal payments to players during World War One. Leeds had also attended the Third Division meetings as an insurance. Southern League Cardiff City finished second, ahead of Grimsby Town and Lincoln City, who both faced non-league oblivion.

Business then turned to a proposed new Third Division, proposed by Sutcliffe on behalf of the league’s management committee. He reported back on the meeting with the deputation two days earlier. While he was pleased with the standard of Southern League clubs joining the league, the proposed northern section did not meet to Sutcliffe’s liking. He commented they were not “clubs of sufficient and playing and financial strength.”

Tottenham Hotspur’s representative, Mr Cadman, suggested electing the Southern League top tier outright. Everton proposed an amendment. The topic should be considered at another meeting to give clubs more time to consider – Preston North End seconding the motion. The Toffeemen’s intervention gained only eight votes, and so Division Three was born. The entrance fee to each new club was set at £100 and a ten guinea yearly subscription.

Cardiff City’s election to the Second Division gave Grimsby Town a reprieve. Alongside Brentford, the following became founder members of the Football League Division Three.

  • Brentford
  • Brighton and Hove Albion
  • Bristol Rovers
  • Crystal Palace (inaugural champions in 1920/1921)
  • Exeter City
  • Gillingham
  • Grimsby Town
  • Luton Town
  • Merthyr Town
  • Millwall
  • Newport County
  • Northampton Town
  • Norwich City
  • Plymouth Argyle
  • Portsmouth
  • Queen’s Park Rangers
  • Reading
  • Southampton
  • Southend United
  • Swansea Town
  • Swindon Town
  • Watford

It’s remarkable to note at the time of writing, only two clubs in have not survived. In both cases (Merthyr Town) and (Newport County) have reformed, the latter joining the Football League in 2013. In Brentford’s case, it’s not 100 years of interrupted league membership. Along with 15 other clubs, they were expelled in the summer of 1941 for organising the London War League without the league’s permission. However, all clubs were re-admitted 12 months later.

So with permission granted by the Football Association on July 10 for the League to expand their membership, Brentford looked forward to their first match as a Football League club on Saturday 28 August 1920 at Exeter City.

Thomas Henry Mahadoo Bonell: Brentford’s first goalscorer

T.H.M. Bonell wrote himself into the history books when he scored Brentford’s first ever goal against Kew on 23 November 1889.

Not much was known about him until recent research revealed his background. He was born on 28 April 1862 in Birmingham to Joseph and Hannah Bonell and employed on the railway.

The 1891 census revealed him living in Hanwell with his mother and sister, Eliza. Married in 1919, he died on June 20, 1932, in Poole, Dorset, at the age of 70. He left £4,883, seven shillings and seven pence to his widow Daisy Ann Bonell.

How much cash has Matthew Benham put into Brentford Football Club?

Below are the latest available figures, provided by Companies House. As you can read, by summer 2018 his total financial commitment to Brentford Football Club stood at £113.9m. It first began in 2006 when he provided 500,000 via an investment vehicle that enabled Supporters’ Trust Bees United to take the majority shareholding in the club, which he later bought in the summer of 2012.

SeasonFinancial profit/ lossCumulative investment by Matthew Benham

1890/1891 season

Brentford’s second season started with the Club having compiled a full fixture list of friendlies and entered their first cup competition, having become members of the West Middlesex Football Association. After a heavy defeat to Isleworth-based side Pears’ Athletic in their first game, Brentford travelled to Ealing Dean to take on Bohemians FC. In their ranks was forward Thomas Bonell, who had the distinction of scoring Brentford’s first ever goal the previous year.

Brentford were now members of the West Middlesex Football Association and entered their premier competition, the West Middlesex Cup. The draw pitted them with an away tie at Southall, a long established and Club in the area. After two draws and two defeats, Brentford travelled to Southall on 8 November hoping for a cup upset. But it wasn’t to be. The home side scored six without reply to end any hopes of silverware that season.

However, worse was to befall the club as Archer Green, a co-founder, died. He was taken ill on the evening of 15 November, after umpiring a Brentford match at home to Friars. He was suffering from erysipelas (red patches on the skin) and blood poisoning. This had confined him to bed by the Monday. Despite the town’s surgeon – Dr Bott – attending to him, he died at approximately 10am on Wednesday 19 November 1890 at the age of 27.

Both first and second XI matches against Bohemians the following Saturday were cancelled as a mark of respect. His funeral on Monday, 24 November saw a crowd numbering around 600 to 700 hundred people attending the procession.

It began from the service at St Paul’s Church and ended at his final resting place in South Ealing. The blinds were drawn at the Conservative Club, and the flag flown at half-mast.

The West Middlesex Standard newspaper said this of Green: “To speak of Mr Green’s qualities, his never failing bonhomie, tact and prudence in regard to all the undertakings with which he was connected, is superfluous. They were known to all the town, and gained for him a reputation of the highest character.”

His death was to see little press coverage of the Club thereafter that season; one of Brentford’s brightest sporting sons was to be deeply missed.

A complete list of Brentford FC Chairmen

Brentford Football Club formed a limited liability company in August 1901. Below is a complete list of Chairmen.

Charles Joseph Dorey (1901-1908 and 1911-12)

Brentford’s first Chairman of the board of directors after the club became a limited company. Born in 1854, he was a member of the District Council, Local Board, and Chairman of the Brentford School Board. His second spell as club Chairman may have proceeded 1911 and extended past 1912, as research has not been completed.

Harry Blundell (1908-1909)

Chairman for a single season. Little is known about his life or time at Griffin Park but he was a director of the club into the 1920s after being associated with the club since the late Victorian period.

Jason Saunders (Edwardian era plus 1920-1922 and 1924-1926)

Born in 1853, Hilton Jason Saunders was Brentford’s Chairman for two spells, the first a lengthy one that spanned the Edwardian period and past the First World War. He retired to Folkestone in the summer of 1926 and became involved in the town’s football team, later being appointed Vice-Chairman. He died in September 1941, aged 88.

George Pauling (1922-1924)

A short tenure, and at present little is yet known about his working life, apart from a spell as Mayor of Wimbledon (1923-1925) and a justice of the peace. He was on the Brentford board of directors shortly after the First World War and was Vice-Chairman in 1927/28, where he appears to have departed thereafter.

Albert William Bradford (1926)

Mr. Bradford was Mayor of Ealing for two spells, in 1918/19 and 1919/1920. He resigned in December 1926 after only months in the role. Born in 1873, he died in 1949.

William Flewitt (1927-1928)

A local councillor with Brentford and Chiswick, Alderman Flewitt’s chairmanship coincided with the opening of the new Braemar Road stand in September 1927. He died, aged 68, in Heston on 4 March 1948.

Louis Paul Simon (1928-1943)

With three trophies during his reign, Louis is the most successful Brentford Chairman ever. Born on 10 March 1871 to French parents (who had emigrated 20 years earlier), Louis joined the Brentford Board of Directors in 1924.

He worked as Managing Director of Pier House Laundry, Strand-on-the- Green, and for Messrs. Camille Simons Ltd., soap powder manufacturers, the family firm named after his mother.

In April 1935, Simon was elected the first life President of the club with promotion to the top flight of English football secured that month.

He died, aged 72, on 4 November 1943, having resigned as Chairman due to ill-health two months earlier.

Prior to the match played between Brentford and Tottenham Hotspur at Griffin Park two days later. a period of silence was observed in the memory of his death, and the Brentford side wore black armbands.

Frank Davis (1943-1961)

Frank, born Frank Albert Fladgate Davis on September 9 1891, was one half of a pair of brothers that were directors of the Club for more than 30 years.

Frank Davis was known as Mr Frank to all those at Griffin Park, and together with his brother, were instrumental in the rise from Division Three (South) to the First Division in the 1930s. He was a publican and Harry a builder, the last Brentford residents to own the club.

Frank Davis became Chairman in late 1943 after Louis Simon died. After the Second World War, Brentford’s decline was rapid in Davis’ tenure, slipping down from First to Third Division in just seven years.

Despite some promotion challenges under Malcolm MacDonald in the late 1950s, Brentford’s attempt to regain a higher Football League status was stalled, and crowds dwindled. He stepped down as Chairman in 1961, having spent 33 years as a Director, but would remain on the Board until 1974, when in a coup, three former Brentford Chairmen left the Board of Directors.

He died in Isleworth, aged 86, on January 25 1978.

Jack Dunnett (1961-1967)

Jack Dunnett ranks alongside Ron Noades and David Webb as one of the most controversial figures in Brentford’s history. His tenure was short but enough to ensure the ramifications of his six-year stay would be felt at Griffin Park for decades.

Born John Jacob Dunnett, on June 24 1922, he was educated at Whitgift Middle School, in Croydon, and Downing College, Cambridge, before becoming a solicitor.

He subsequently served as a councillor on Middlesex County Council from 1958-61, and on Enfield Borough Council 1958-61. Having been appointed to the Brentford FC Board in the summer of 1961, by October he had been elected Chairman, purchasing the controlling interest in the Club.

This began an immediate period of heavy capital investment, both on and off the pitch. Brentford had been relegated to the Fourth Division in 1962, shortly after he took over, and Dunnett gave Manager Malcolm MacDonald the funds to return after one season, which they did.

Griffin Park had not seen such improvements since the Second World War, new floodlight pylons were installed, a club bar plus new offices for administration staff.

By 1964, his political ambitions were being realised as Dunnett was elected at the 1964 General Election as Member of Parliament for Nottingham Central (and held the seat until it was abolished in boundary changes for the 1974 election).

Thousands of pounds were spent trying to regain the club’s Second Division status, but after missing out narrowly in 1965, Brentford were relegated back to the Fourth Division a year later.

In that year’s AGM, Dunnett revealed the club was losing £500 a week, a huge sum, which may have acted as a warning sign for what was about to come.

With Brentford still losing hundreds of pounds a week in the bottom tier, Jack Dunnett met with Queens Park Rangers Chairman Jim Gregory in early 1967, which led to a plan that involved Rangers moving into Griffin Park and The Bees dissolving.

This caused a sensation in the football world, with a massive outcry from supporters keen not to see Brentford die.

Eventually, after weeks of negotiations, a syndicate of businessmen – with the help of donations from supporters – agreed to take over Dunnett’s financial obligations, and more importantly, his shareholding, to rid him from the club.

He later owned Notts County, and would later see them rise to the First Division in the early 1980s. Jack retired from the House of Commons at the 1983 General Election, when Nottingham East was won by the Conservatives.

He was also President of the Football League in two spells, in 1981-1986 and 1988-89.

Ron Blindell (1967-69)

Succeeding Dunnett can be genuinely described of one of Brentford’s unsung heroes, Ron Blindell.

Born in 1906, Ronald J R Blindell was the front man in a syndicate that came to the rescue in order to purchase Dunnett’s shares in 1967, guarantee the Club’s overdraft and provide a 12 month bridging loan of £104,000 to ensure the Brentford was kept alive.

Ron was installed as Chairman, and one of his first tasks was to sack Billy Gray, who Dunnett had appointed the previous year. He lived in Tittenhurst Park House in Ascot until his death in 1969, which was subsequently bought by John Lennon, who composed the songs Imagine and Jealous Guy at the house.

His son, Ron junior, owned 550 shares in Brentford, which equates to 0.3 per cent of the total shareholding, but sold them to Matthew Benham.

Les Davey (1969, 1972-1973 (joint) and 1974)

Les Davey was part of the original 1967 syndicate, and was appointed as a temporary Chairman in 1969 following Ron Blindell’s death.

He was an owner of a building firm, based in Harrow. Davey is said to have provided a bulk of capital to keep the club going after the Dunnett/Queens Park Rangers crisis in 1967.

He eventually locked himself in a battle, mainly with Walter Wheatley, over the running of Brentford Football Club, until the mid-1970s. Davey wanted the club to move to the site of Brentford Market, now occupied by the Brentford Fountain Leisure Centre, in contrast to Wheatley, who wanted on-pitch success first.

March 1974 was to see him remove Wheatley from the Board at an Extraordinary General Meeting but Davey was also left, as he and his son Peter had not attended the requisite amount of Board Meetings in the previous 12 months.

He found himself back on the Board later that year but would give way as Chairman to Dan Tana in November 1974.

Honorary Press Officer Eric White, who edited the Brentford programme for over 30 years, wrote in the book 100 Years of Brentford that he liked Davey intensely but “was, in my opinion, his own worst enemy.

“He hated facing the public over unsavoury matters and kept well in the background using others to put forward his views.”

Walter Wheatley (1969-1971, 1972-1973 (joint) and 1974)

Walter Wheatley was part of the original 1967 syndicate that helped save the club, and after the 1969 AGM, replaced the late Ron Blindell as Chairman.

By that time, he had become Brentford’s biggest creditor as in 1968, Walter – known as Bill to his friends – stepped in to pay off Blindell’s huge 1967 loan to the football club, which was then down to £67,000, and personally guaranteed it himself.

However, without a significant shareholding, his powerbase dwindled with every repayment of the loan, and relinquished his Chairmanship after a rift with Les Davey, and was replaced by Eric Radley Smith in January 1971.

He returned as joint Chairman with Davey 12 months later, becoming sole Chairman for a third time in January 1974, before being removed at a March 1974 EGM.

Wheatley’s sons, Peter and Timothy Wheatley, both transferred their shareholding in Brentford to Matthew Benham, as part of the Bees United/Benham funding partnership in 2009, and a third son Colin was on the Board of Directors in the early 1970s.

He became President of the Club in his later years and died in 1998.

Eric Radley Smith (1971-1972)

The son of an engineer, Eric John Radley was born on March 31 1910 at Norwood in Surrey; and would later add his wife’s maiden name to his own, becoming Eric Radley Smith.

Graduating in 1933, he became a surgeon registrar at King’s College Hospital and later house surgeon at the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases.

In 1938, at the age of 28, Radley Smith was appointed consultant surgeon at the Royal Free Hospital.

Radley Smith’s association with Brentford Football Club began in 1938, when he became the club’s consultant surgeon.

He treated many footballers’ knee injuries from clubs all over the South East, and was attend to medical matters for Brentford right up until he became the club’s president in 1998, when he resigned as Director after Ron Noades arrival, becoming President.

He was one of the longest serving directors in the Football League, having been appointed in 1956.

He was the man in the middle between Les Davey and Walter Wheatley for control of Brentford Football Club, and was appointed Chairman in January 1971, overseeing a successful period on the pitch, with Brentford reaching the Fifth Round of the FA Cup, losing 2-1 at Hull City.

If the club travelled to an away game north of London, the team coach would often pull off the M1 to pick him up outside his house.

He died in January 2003.

Dan Tana (1974-1981)

Tana was a flamboyant character, in complete contrast to Davey, and his Hollywood connections ensured sparkle was brought to Griffin Park.

Born in 1935, Tana moved from his native Yugoslavia to America, where he became an actor and movie producer.

In the early 1970s, he moved to London, and in a chance meeting, Frank Blunstone invited Tana to come to watch a game at Griffin Park. It lead to his appointment to the Board of Directors in the summer of 1974, becoming Chairman in November that year.

He was Chairman in Brentford’s promotion season in 1978 but gave way to Martin Lange in 1981. Tana also owns a Hollywood restaurant, Dan Tana’s, where A-list celebrities like to hang out.

He continued as a Director until resigning in February 2002, after 28 years on the Board.

Martin Lange (1981-1992 and 1993-1997)

Another controversial figure in Brentford’s history, who oversaw huge changes in the way the Brentford was run.

Martin Montague Lange was born in 1943, and coming from a background in property development, spent a short time on the Board before being elected Chairman in 1981 in place of Dan Tana.

His first major task, two years into his ownership, was the fire in the Braemar Road stand in February 1983 that would take over £1m to rebuild.

After dispensing with Fred Callaghan in 1984, he appointed Frank McClintock, and 12 months later, the Scot led Brentford to Wembley in the Final of the Freight Rover Trophy, but Brentford lost 3-1 to Wigan Athletic.

Sacking McClintock in 1987 after a poor run of results, he found a readymade replacement in Steve Perryman, and the team enjoyed an FA Cup run to the Sixth Round. By that time Griffin Park had changed further, with the Brook Road stand demolished in 1986 and rebuilt, helping to clear some of the Club’s debts.

It was a decision that angered many Brentford fans, and some resentment remains, even to this day. By 1992 those debts, mostly loans by Lange into the football club, were at £1.5m.

That year, Manager Phil Holder had won the Third Division title, but Lange, having taken 11 years to reach this point, wasn’t there to see it, having moved outside the UK temporarily for tax reasons. He returned a year later, to find a Club with increased debts and sliding towards relegation.

Lange sacked Holder in May 1993 and then appointed David Webb, who was tasked with reducing the wage bill, building a winning team, and selling players on for transfer fees that would help reduce Lange’s long standing financial commitment.

Webb did as he was asked, but the hammer blow for Lange was losing to Huddersfield Town in the Division Two Play-Off Semi-Final in 1995. Seemingly losing interest in owning the Club thereafter, Lange sold Brentford to a consortium headed by David Webb in 1997. He was then repaid his loans totalling £1m into the Football Club. Shortly after that repayment, Brentford were relegated.

A strong advocate of bringing aspects from American sport into English football, he successfully argued to bring Play-Offs into Football League competition, which was adopted in 1986.

Lange died in late 2015.

Gerry Potter (1992-1993)

Whilst Martin Lange was overseas due to tax reasons in the Division One season of 1992-1993, Gerry Potter was asked to take the role of Chairman.

Having been elected to the Board in the early 1980s, he was appointed in April 1992 just in time to see Brentford clinch the Third Division Championship at Peterborough United.

That was the highlight of Potter’s reign, as he sanctioned a succession of what can now be assessed as poor buys by manager Phil Holder in the summer of 1992, which led to an immediate relegation to the third tier a year later and increased the debt of the club still further.

On Martin Lange’s return to the United Kingdom, Potter stepped down as Chairman and left the Board later in 1993, subsequently becoming a director of Wycombe Wanderers.

Tony Swaisland (1997-98)

Born in 1944, Anthony Ernest Swaisland was front man for the three-man syndicate with John Herting and David Webb that purchased Martin Lange’s controlling interest in Brentford Football Club in 1997.

Swaisland’s tenure as Chairman was brief and unsuccessful and it came in Brentford’s relegation season of 1997/98. It was a poisoned affair, with regular demonstrations and unrest by supporters, who deemed Webb’s ownership of the club undesirable.

He left the board of directors in November 1998, shortly after Ron Noades arrival, and later joined AFC Bournemouth, becoming Chairman.

Ron Noades (1998-2003)

Ron Noades was a figure that Brentford supporters acted firstly cautiously to, embraced, and subsequently fell out with. His tenure as Brentford Chairman and owner was never dull, and often controversial. He was a divisive figure, often provoking fierce arguments between those in the pro and anti-Noades camp.

Ronald Geoffrey Noades was born on June 22 1937, and began his involvement in football as a referee.

He bought non-league Southall FC in the mid-1970s, later taking control at Wimbledon Football Club, overseeing their rise into the Football League in 1977.

Four years later, with neighbouring Crystal Palace in financial meltdown, Noades sold out and bought Crystal Palace. He stayed there until 1998, but sold when he received a large cash offer from Mark Goldberg for the football club, but with Noades still retaining ownership of Selhurst Park.

His first job as Brentford owner in June 1998 was to sack Mickey Adams and appoint himself as Manager, surrounding himself with three coaches, Brian Sparrow, Ray Lewington, and Terry Bullivant to do the training, with Noades in charge of team selection.

His first season was successful, winning the Nationwide League Division Three title in May 1999 after finishing the season with the last 16 games unbeaten run. However, the financial cost was huge, with a £1.5m loss in just 12 months.

After a patchy 1999/2000 season, where Brentford rose to second place in Division Two by November, but then fell away badly, he stood down as manager in November 2000 after an embarrassing 3-1 home FA Cup defeat to Kingstonian, subsequently appointing Ray Lewington as caretaker.

That was the signal for an immediate raft of financial cuts, removing expensive players off the wage bill, and then changing Training Grounds to a cheaper one from his Godstone base.

Three more years passed before he stood down from day-to-day management of the Club, with the Club’s bank overdraft standing at more than £4 million, Brentford having been relatively debt free five years earlier when he took over.

He eventually sold his shares to Bees United, The Brentford Supporters’ Trust, in January 2006, and was relieved of all financial obligations to Brentford a year later, with supporter Matthew Benham funding the repayment of his loans to the football club.

Eddie Rogers (2003-2006)

Becoming Chairman in Easter 2003 in succession to Ron Noades, Eddie was appointed a Director at Griffin Park in 1999 after a background in property development.

Taking a keen interest in Sunderland before also becoming a Brentford fan, he was elected Chairman after Bees United took over day-to-day management of the club.

Eddie can be seen at the majority of home and away games, and was appointed joint Vice-Chairman in the summer of 2013, along with fellow director Donald Kerr.

Greg Dyke (2006-2013)

Perhaps the highest profile Chairman Brentford has ever had, Greg Dyke joined alongside Bees United in their successful attempt to purchase the controlling shareholding from Ron Noades.

After a career in journalism, Greg branched into broadcasting, becoming very successful at London Weekend Television.

His first Directorship in football was at Manchester United in 1997, then listed on the Stock Exchange.

Dyke received an approach from a supporter about whether he’d like to be involved in the Bees United takeover and he agreed, lending £100,000 to the Supporters’ Trust.

He became Brentford Chairman in January 2006, having first watched them in the 1950s due to his brother Ian playing for the Youth Team at the time.

At Brentford, he oversaw four changes of manager in eighteen months – one of the most turbulent periods of the Club’s history – with Martin Allen, who resigned, plus Leroy Rosenior, Scott Fitzgerald and Terry Butcher (all sacked) leaving Griffin Park.

He resigned as Brentford Chairman in the summer of 2013 after accepting an offer from The Football Association to become its Independent Chairman, with Cliff Crown appointed in his place.

Cliff Crown (2013-present)

Cliff, a Chief Financial Officer and business adviser to a number of companies in which Club owner Matthew Benham has a financial interest, was appointed as a Club Director in July 2012.

He is a chartered accountant and replaced Greg Dyke as Brentford Chairman in June 2013.

(Some of original text for this article was published in 2013).

George Sands

This feature is dedicated to a former journalist who wrote his last Brentford match report in 1976, but has never been forgotten. When the Club celebrates 200 years of Brentford, they will look back and name George Sands as the premier local journalist to have covered the club in its history.

He completed an incredible record of reporting on 1,126 consecutive Brentford First Team games for the Middlesex Chronicle from 1953 to his death in 1976, a feat that is unlikely to be surpassed. If it wasn’t for illness during Brentford’s Christmas fixtures with Oldham Athletic around Christmas 1953, that figure would have been nearly 1900.

George William Sands, son of Henry William Sands and Alice Sands (nee Brown) was born in Islington on May 18 1901. He had an elder brother Charles, and two younger sisters Alice and Katherine.

The 1911 census shows that the Sands family were living at 116 Grove Road in Hounslow, with Henry’s profession described as an Apron Maker. He was educated at Grove Road Elementary School (1909 to 1913) and Isleworth County Secondary School (1913 to 1920), where he passed a London University Matriculation with distinction in English, Mathematics, and Chemistry.

After leaving school, he signed up for the Corps of Military Accountants, and after military and technical training in Mill Hill in Christmas 1920, began his service on New Year’s Day 1921, and given army number 7733989. His headmaster, W.J. Kenwood, recommended him for the post, and in his letter to the army, described him as “thoroughly reliable, honest, and truthful in conduct.”

The recent digitisation of military records provides a glimpse into George’s early life, with a letter dated April 8 1921 remarking that he had “very good grasp of the principles of double entry bookkeeping” and recommended him for a pay rise.

Army records also show he was promoted to Writer Lance-Corporal in early 1922, and was posted to Egypt. He embarked from Southampton docks on February 24 1922 on the ship SS Glenforn Castle, his eventual destination Cairo.

George eventually qualified as a Military Accountant on July 28 1924, and was discharged on January 2 1926 after completing five years service. After military service, it was journalism where George would find his calling.

His escape from the army was due to the so-called Geddes Act, which reduced expenditure on armed forces in the 1920s, and George found work at The Egyptian Mail, based in Cairo. He approached the newspaper, and became their sports writer on racing and football.

After four years there, he left Cairo for London but spent four months unemployed, and slept in the Crypt at St Martin’s or Embankment because he was “too proud to go home and let my folks know I was out of work.”

In late 1929, he found work, not in London but Leeds with The Daily Chronicle, but again luck was against George, as the newspaper folded in January 1930. Another nine months of unemployment followed until he found work with the Parks Department at Heston and Isleworth Council.

He helped build Redlees Park, Spring Grove School grounds plus Alexandria School. Nine months later he was transferred to the Treasury Department at Hounslow Town Hall, presumably leaning on his accountancy skills developed in the army.

Brentford’s ascent to the top flight provided a need for Hounslow’s premier newspaper, The Middlesex Chronicle, to emulate the coverage provided by rivals Brentford and Chiswick Times, Middlesex County Times, and Middlesex Independent.

George began writing match reports for the Chronicle part-time in 1935 under his initials – G.W.S. – and reported throughout the Club’s pre-war matches in Division One. This would involve travelling up and down the country to report on Brentford, not least his favourite player, Jack Holliday.

In April 1937, he became Sports Editor of the Middlesex Chronicle, a position he held until his death. The Second World War broke out in September 1939, and with George too old to enlist, he continued to report on the Club’s matches, now contained to regionalised football.

Throughout the seven-year period of temporary competition, George missed only a handful of games in that time. His particular annoyance filing reports during war-time was being the victim of the censors, who would strike out any mention of the weather, despite the game being played up to seven days earlier.

It was at Christmas 1953 that George’s first incredible run of reporting on 723 consecutive Brentford matches came to an end, as he was hospitalised for the home and away games against Oldham Athletic.

Matchday programmes had taken a leap forward with Chelsea’s first post war season offering a magazine format, and Brentford were playing catch up. In 1952, he took over the editorship of the Brentford programme in addition to his job at The Middlesex Chronicle, replacing the staid notes of Secretary-Managers before him, which neither had the time or inclination to dedicate successfully to the role.

His pseudonym was ‘Scanner’, and he began the task of upgrading the programme into an informative journal, giving supporters news on Reserve Team and Junior fixtures, something that his paper did regularly.

This relationship with The Club was to end in May 1957 when Brentford’s Board of Directors would dismiss Bill Dodgin Senior after four years as manager, after finishing mid-table in the Southern Section of Division Three.

This incensed George, and he resigned his programme editorship, cut all official ties with the Club, and travelled separately from the players and officials at considerable inconvenience, although the latter was restored in time.

He also wrote a column despairing at the news, which although stern then, would be considered relatively tame by today’s standards. George would be at a Brentford game, regardless of its location, and by January 1960 had clocked up 80 grounds in either supporting or reporting on The Club.

With 800 games attended in a row, he was presented him with a cake by Brentford Chairman Walter Wheatley, and was mentioned on ITV’s The Big Match to commemorate the event. Four years later, he celebrated his 1,000th consecutive game at home to Newport County on Boxing Day 1973.

It was a feat unparalleled in football at the time, and one entered into the Guinness Book of Records. Eric White, who later took over as programme editor in 1959, wrote in the official centenary history of Brentford published in 1989, describing George “was perhaps a little gruff which basically covered a shyness, but he had a tremendous sense of humour.”

He would be able to turn yet another match into unique prose, in which Brentford fans have recounted in a thread on the Griffin Park Grapevine message board.

Geoff Buckingham recounted George writing that “the Brentford performance was so good that I swear I could see the gasometer in the High Street leaning forward and beaming with delight” after Brentford’s 4-0 defeat of Mansfield Town in October 1963.

Brentford defeated Stockport in an evening game in the late 1960s just a few days after beating Southport, George wrote: “The Bees downed their second port in a few days and a couple of tasty sips they were too.”

Perhaps the quote to top them all was after Brentford’s 7-1 thrashing of Norwich City, in which George remarked in the match report that “Irish international John Gavin, normally a winger – left or right – had a thin time against Dargie.

“It must be said, however, that he kicked off very nicely on eight occasions.”

As Brentford’s Press Officer, Eric White would receive a call every Thursday from George at 7.30am sharp, checking for any news before the Chronicle went to press. His tenure at The Chronicle coincided with that of Ernie Gifford, who served that paper for over 30 years as Sports Editor of The Richmond and Twickenham Times.

They would both be seen waiting for players and officials outside the dressing rooms at Griffin Park, then located at the half way line before the Braemar Road fire in 1983. He stayed single all his life, seemingly married to Brentford, and lived in Hounslow with his sister Katherine.

George’s health started to fail him in 1976, which caused him to miss his first Brentford match since 1953. He died in Balham on December 8 1976.

A charitable fund was set up in his name after this death, with Brentford playing Chelsea in a pre-season friendly on August 1980, with the proceeds going towards the fund, in which Brentford won 3-0.

Today’s local journalism will never see his like again, and in this age of Social Media and reliance of the internet to carry news rather than printed matter, George’s legacy will never be bettered.

(Thank you to Paul Briers in help with this feature, some of which originally featured in Brentford’s home programme with Swindon Town on 26 December, 2013).

Did Bradley Walsh play for Brentford FC?

Yes, he did play for Brentford! The comedian and game show host of The Chase was a professional at Griffin Park between 1979 and 1980, also appearing for Barnet on loan in the late 1970s. He did not make a first team appearance but was a regular in the reserves.

Bradley was born on 4 June 1960 in Watford and after leaving Brentford, he played for non-league clubs Dunstable Town, Tring Town, Boreham Wood, and Chalfont St Peter.

He remains a good friend of former team mate Bob Booker.

1889/1890 season

The town of Brentford was changing by the time its football club had played their first match against Kew on 23 November 1889. The railway station had been refurbished and the new recreation ground, a driver for the Club’s formation, had been opened on 17 October after almost three years planning.

The rowing club, having created a winter sports arm on 10 October, organised further matches on most Saturdays until the season ended in late March 1890. A majority of the games were played adjacent to where Clifden Road is situated now, with a handful of away matches organised over the course of the season.

Given the playing members lack of experience, the results attained were quite credible. They rounded off the campaign with a 3-0 win at Hounslow Standard, their second meeting of the season.

As a result of recent research undertaken at the British Library, more has been learnt of the Club’s forefathers. Between them, the backbone of the side were not only members of the rowing club but patrons of the Brentford Philanthropic Society, local Conservative Club, and Boston Park Cricket Club. The latter would become the Club’s home in 1900 before the move to Griffin Park.

The games laws were significantly different to today: goalkeepers could handle the ball in their own half (this wasn’t outlawed until 1912) and the penalty area – and kick – was yet to be invented.

The formation of Brentford Football Club

Having secured a home ground adjacent to Clifden House, near to Brook Road South, the Club now needed players. The West Middlesex Standard edition of 26 October 1889 carried news of Secretary Archer Green asking for potential players to assemble at the field adjacent to Clifden House on 2 November for 3pm, with subscriptions set at a ‘modest’ five shillings for the season.

The first practice match were sides chosen by the captain Mr Curtis and vice-captain Mr Bailey, the County of Middlesex Independent newspaper recorded that the former side won. The newspaper also noted that the Club should be grateful to Edwin Underwood for his decision to let Brentford use his field for home matches.

The field was enclosed, which enabled admission charges to be levied for matches. The entry was in Brook Road, between numbers 60 and 62. The entrance is still visible to this day, opposite the Club’s first club house, The Griffin.

Another practice match between members was held on 9 November, with members of the Pears Club swelling the numbers of both sides, the match ending a 2-2 draw.

The historic first match against opponents took place on 23 November at home to Kew FC. Until 1999, modern Brentford historians did not know much about the match or even the full team line-up, but contemporary newspapers were rediscovered, and a reprint of the match report is published here from the 30 November 1889 edition of the West Middlesex Standard.

BRENTFORD – On Saturday last, in rather damp weather, the first match played by the new Brentford F.C. took place on their own ground which in spite of a good deal of sharp play on the part of their own opponents, they managed to hold their own., the game resulting in a draw, one goal to one. It was easily to be seen that neither team had had a long existence, and many faults could be pointed out on both sides but as it is a newly-started venture, we will be kind. The first goal fell to Brentford, being kicked by Bonell, who played excellently throughout, as did also Bloomer and Beavor. Sterling service, it may also be mentioned, was rendered by Drabble and Gatrell. This was close after the commencement of the game, and the hopes of the Brentonians, at such an auspicious start, ran high. For a considerable time nothing wild play all round the field, in the course of which the lack in both teams of practise in passing was clearly demonstrated, resulted, when a very narrow squeak happened for Brentford The ball was kicked to the goal very swiftly, but was stopped by the action of Edwardes (goal) and the cross-piece. As it fell, however, a Kew Bridge man pushed the ball through with his hand, whereupon, after some excited discussion (which was fully frequent during the afternoon) a free kick was awarded by the umpire to Brentford. The ball went to the other goal with a rush, and shortly afterwards returned, and the Brentford goal fell to a fine kick by A. Day. Corners, free-kicks and outs were then the order of the hour, and in spite of a skilfully managed kick against the goal-posts by Bonell, no further advantage was gained by either side.  The following were the teams:- Brentford FC – H. Leslie Edwardes (goal); J.J. Curtis, capt, J.H. Bailey, vice-capt. (backs); A.C. Drabble, C. Almond, H.W. Dodge (half-backs); G.H. Bloomer, H. Gatterell, R.D. Beaver, C.S. Burness, T.H.M. Bonell. (forwards); umpire, Mr. Burr (late of St. Mark’s College, F.C.) Kew F.C. – F. Smith (goal); A. Day, O. Lister (backs); G. Pring, H. Pring, W. Stone (half-backs); Arthur Pring, R. Gale, H.A. Brill, H. Salter, W. Brown (forwards); umpire, Mr. Alan Pring.

Referees did not officiate on the pitch until 1891; until then they acted more as a fourth official with two umpires, one normally recruited from each team, present in each half of the pitch to make decisions. When the referee eventually officiated in the middle both umpires retired to the sidelines to become linesmen.