For Brentford fans this book will act as a Bible of what was one of their most successful seasons of recent years. Ahead of the Game is a fans-perspective diary of blog entries of the 2014/15 season by hardcore fan Greville Waterman. The author has an admirable dedication to, and an almost encyclopedic knowledge of, the Bees, having been a match-goer since he was young and even completing a short stint on the club’s board.
As a neutral I must admit to knowing very little about Brentford FC before reading Ahead of the Game. It was refreshing not being familiar with all of the players involved, or the results of that season. It gave the book an almost novel feel, like it was sports fiction. I personally enjoyed the off-the-field passages more than the detailed match reports, like a real-life version of the Sky television show Dream Team.
The book begins in pre-season, with the author sharing his dismay at the exit of fans’ favourite Clayton Donaldson to Birmingham City. Greville’s joy at visiting Griffin Park for the first game of the season was palpable, and some of the away-day stories were brilliant. Often the result pales into insignificance against the enjoyment of a “day out” and as a reader these anecdotes were the most pleasurable to read. One of the highlights was a chance meeting with a Burger King-munching Oldham player at an M6 service station. The authors match day experiences with his kids were great too, including when he coincided an away trip to Forest with seeing his daughter who was studying at Nottingham University. The will-he-won’t-he Mark Warburton saga made February one of the most page-turning months, but perhaps the most excruciating for Brentford fans. I also really enjoyed learning more about the mysterious presence of Matthew Benham. The media-shy owner and his “moneyball” approach have been covered in the press but it was great to learn more about the man who has transformed the club in recent years.
The diary-format meant that the book could be easily digested in small, bitesize chunks, but at 400-odd pages it is a mammoth read. Some of the passages seemed a little forced and could have been reduced or even removed to make for a more fluid read, but the detail may appeal to certain Brentford fans.
Brentford are currently in mid-table of the Championship, having recently appointed former Walsall boss Dean Smith as the manager, the second since Mark Warburton’s exit to Ibrox. The ups-and-downs such as these are what makes being a football fan so great, and why it’s so fascinating to keep reading about the sport. A must read for all Bees fans and recommended for football fans looking for a detailed insight into another club.
Follow Dan on Twitter @winkveron