When Stanley bowled over the Mackems

Stan Bowles (Image: QPR)
Stan Bowles (Image: QPR)

A look at Brentford's history, and a meeting with a football maverick.

There used to be a pub on each corner of Griffin Park; The New Inn, The Griffin, The Princess Royal (once owned by Brentford), and The Royal Oak (closed April 2015).

Brentford’s lovely old ground is a relic to football’s past with covered terraces behind both goals, narrow walkways, and corrugated-iron roofs, one of which used to be adorned by the world’s biggest advert, right in line with the flight path to Heathrow Airport.

Speaking of relics, a few years ago – the infamous match when Glenn Murray had a strop at the final whistle and neglected to applaud the fans – some friends and I were enjoying a pre-match beverage in one of the aforementioned hostelries when we bumped into the inimitable Stan Bowles, the 1970s’ maverick who achieved legendary status just down the road from Brentford at QPR.

We got chatting about his infamous stunt at Roker Park, shortly after the Wearsiders had shocked the mighty Leeds United with an underdog victory in the 1973 FA Cup Final. Prior to the game, Bowles and his team-mates had a bet to see who could knock the famous old trophy off the table positioned at pitchside. Needless to say, within the first ten minutes he launched a venomous crossfield pass at the cup and sent it flying through the air, and the Sunderland fans flying into a catatonic rage! To rub salt in their collective wounds, he scored twice and there was a pitch invasion at full time!

Then, rather abruptly, Mr Bowles’ acquaintance – think Gazza’s old sidekick, but with 12 bellies – motioned his hand towards our faces and suggested “that’s enough boys”. A strange, but amusing, experience.

In the 1930s, Brentford were an established top-flight outfit under the expert tutelage of Harry Curtis. From 1935 to 1947 – not forgetting World War II – the Bees went toe-to-toe with the big boys, finishing fifth in 1936, as London’s highest-placed club. Sunderland were champions that season.

They lasted a further season in the First Division after the end of the conflict before dropping into the second tier. From 1954 to 2014, Brentford spent every season – bar one – in the bottom two divisions but this will be their second successive campaign in the Championship. As a fan-owned club, the Bees are planning to depart their home of over 100 years soon to move to a new development at Lionel Road South, less than a mile east from Griffin Park.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading the Albion pages each week over the course of 2015.

From me and the team, we wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

Up the Albion!