As 2009 ends, Brentford can look back on a year packed with success and celebration as well as disappointment and frustration.
The year began with the Bees placed second in League 2 after a great start to the 2008/09 season. Buoyant supporters saw manager Andy Scott’s target of promotion remain well on track despite trailing runaway leaders Wycombe by seven points.
January proved to be a troubling month though, with seven points being wastefully squandered. These slip ups lead to a table where just two points separated second placed Brentford from eighth placed Darlington. A team which appeared solid defensively and ruthless up front had hit a purple patch, throwing away points with poor performances, leading some to believe that Brentford could end up falling back into the play-offs.
A long-time supporter said at the time: “We must go up as champions! We never scrape an automatic place and we ‘don’t do’ the play-offs”. This opinion was well-founded. Brentford have had three promotions in 17 years but only ever as champions. This period has also seen six play-off campaigns, each one ending in heartbreaking failure.
PLAY-OFFS AVOIDED: Martin Allen and Brentford fans are left devastated after another Play-Off defeat in 2006.
As anxiety swept across supporters, Andy Scott called for his squad to prove their strength. His team’s response was fantastic, winning six out of the next eight games.
A rainy Tuesday night trip to Grimsby in March proved to be a defining moment. Charlie MacDonald secured a narrow 1-0 win and 222 away fans headed home with the Bees top of the table – a position they never relinquished.
Second-placed Wycombe visited Griffin Park on March 14 in a promotion showdown. The match was a thrilling 3-3 draw, with the lead swinging back and forth throughout. The result opened up a seven point gap at the top and fans began dreaming of League 1.
That dream became reality in late April. Brentford beat Darlington 3-1 in front of a rapturous away end to secure promotion and the League 2 title. Andy Scott said at the time: “I am delighted to get over the line and that we have achieved our goal, I feel that we have been the best side in the division”
CHAMPIONS: Brentford celebrate with the League 2 title after beating Luton Town 2-0 infront of 10,223 fans at Griffin Park.
Scott rang the changes over the summer with five new additions featuring in the victorious 3-1 opener against Carlisle. The signings included big-name forward Carl Cort and ex-Premier League striker Steve Kabba. These former top-flight pro’s fuelled ambitious hopes of a double promotion.
Early season form was promising, with a five game unbeaten run. The match at Charlton saw the first defeat though, a narrow 2-0 loss. This was the breaking of the flood barrier as only two wins were recorded in the next 10 games. The new signings were performing far from expectation. Kabba had yet to score and Carl Cort’s disinterested attitude lead to his axing.
The final straw for Scott was a woeful 2-2 draw against non-league Gateshead in the FA Cup. Numerous loan signings were subsequently announced. Tottenham wonder-kid John Bostock, Arsenal ‘keeper Wojciech Szczesny and Ipswich defender Pim Balkestein all put pen to paper.
Scott proved his prowess in the loan market the season before, signing then unknown sriker Jordan Rhodes. The latest wave of loanees made a similar impact. Bostock in particular left fans amazed, scoring a debut double against Millwall in a 2-2 draw.
HOTSHOT: Loan signing John Bostock has helped guide a recent turn around in Brentford’s performance.
December’s 0-0 draw against Leeds may have marked a turning point. If Brentford can hold onto the young loan stars and make a few transfers in January, 2010 could be a promising year. Though promotion is beyond the Bees, a solid mid-table placing could prove a great foundation for a successful 2010/11 campaign.