The late American comedy actor W.C Fields is alleged to have once said: ‘All things considered I’d rather be in Philadelphia’ and one of my fellow writers for this esteemed publication Robert Banks wrote a great book entitled ‘An irrational hatred of Luton’.
I am sure that if Fields was a West Ham fan and Robert was rewriting his book, they might have swapped Philadelphia and Luton and replaced it with Brentford. Let’s be honest, when the fixture list places us with future games against our west London neighbours a favourable result is never guaranteed and that is a true analysis of our games against the Bees this season.
Maybe I am being a little over dramatic, after all history shows that we have only ever had 50 competitive games, excluding friendlies, against Brentford and only two of those have been in the top flight but both those ended in defeat.
So will Brentford join Brighton as another one of those teams that on paper we should beat but instead fear?
Maybe they were our glory years
It’s amazing to note that of those 50 league and cup games over half of them occurred before the war and I’m not talking about the Gulf, Falklands or even Second World War. Twenty-six occurred before the First World War, that’s prior to 1914, and most of those games occurred in the Southern League First Division. In those bygone years all was pretty rosey in the West Ham garden with 15 wins and eight defeats, the rest being drawn games. But just maybe those were our glory years against Brentford?
Between the two wars it seemed that the writing was on the wall. Although we only met the Bee’s six times, we only came away with two wins and were even booted out of the FA Cup back in 1927. It was after the Second World War that Brentford became the ‘Killer Bees’ – five wins, seven draws and six defeats is our record since the 1940s. Each and every one of those games occurred in the old Second Division.
This season were our first games against Brentford in the top flight. It may be a case that we are not great historians and had forgotten all about the rise of Brentford into being a member of the West Ham bogey team grouping along with honorary members Kidderminster Harriers and a catalogue of lower league sides.
We didn’t have a competitive game against the team housed just off junction one of the M4 motorway since 1993 in a season where we won convincingly at Upton Park and took a draw at their place. If we think an 18-year gap in games is large before those games in the First Division, we had not played Brentford since 1954, a season in which we lost both games.
Not a formaility
Amazingly all those occurred even before I was born so I too fell into the trap of feeling that wins against a newly promoted team against a West Ham team coming off a great season would be a formality and six points in the bag, but how wrong was I?
Let’s take that league game back in October. The statistics will show that the Brentford winner from substitute Yoane Wissa came late into stoppage time when all of us at the London Stadium felt that the referee should have already blown the final whistle.
But let’s be honest, if we had got anything out of that game it would have been a tragedy. Brentford had largely dominated the whole game, playing with no fear. Their striker Ivan Toney was running our defence ragged and Bryan Mbeumo was simply outstanding. Having already hit the bar, it was Mbeumo who gave Brentford the lead. This did seem to spur us on and we did see a better second half, drawing level with Jarrod Bowen scoring in the 80th minute.
But it was Brentford that wanted the game more and richly deserved that additional time winner and to take all three points to west London.
Not a guaranteed three pointer
The return leg just a few weeks ago was therefore not a guaranteed three pointer for us Hammers. We had, of course, visited the new Brentford Community Stadium earlier in the year winning a tight pre-season friendly by the only goal. The league game was sandwiched between those two important European games against Lyon so that may not have helped with the result.
It’s also a fact that with the stadium being so small the usually large away following was reduced.
It needed a massive 59 priority points to get an away ticket for this game. I had enough points (69) to get a ticket although as my daughter didn’t have as many points as myself I bought her ticket separately as I didn’t want to risk not getting any seats.
Brentford is on the side of London easier for me to access, so it was almost a no brainer to attend. Parking was a problem but nevertheless it would be another stadium ticked off. But as for the game, it seemed as if we had not learned our lessons and once again it was Ivan Toney and Bryan Mbeumo who dominated proceedings.
One shot on target
In a game where we had just one shot on target both Toney and Mbeumo were on target and the result was a 2-0 Brentford win. Once again we walked away with no points and many of us worried about the up and coming Lyon game. As we all know we need not have worried as we secured an excellent victory against the team from France.
Many of us with rose tinted glasses will see that Brentford game as insignificant and an irrelevance should we win the Europa League and secure European football for another season. But Brentford are currently just one of three teams, the others being Arsenal and Manchester United, who have done the league double this season over West Ham – Manchester City could join them.
So could Brentford join the likes of Brighton and Ivan Toney join the likes of Calum Wilson who us West Ham supporters should fear? Well only history will tell but as mentioned earlier don’t look too far back at our history against Brentford or should that now be the ‘Killer Bees’?