On Boxing Day 2016 my brother and I went on a local pub crawl. It was something we had talked about doing when we were teenagers, but never got around to it. You can read about it here. On Boxing Day 2017 we went on another crawl (as noted in this piece), but we didn’t manage one in 2018, for reasons you can read here.
This year I booked tickets for the Boxing Day match at Brentford FC, one of our local football clubs. They were at home to Swansea City. Apart from my time away at university I have spent my entire life within 4km (2.5 miles) of three West London clubs: Brentford, QPR and Fulham. They all play in the Championship, the second tier of English football, and I have a soft spot for all of them, but will always be a Leeds United fan.
These days I live slightly closer to QPR but still within 2 miles of Griffin Park, Brentford’s home ground. At the end of this season the club will move to a new purpose-built stadium not far from Kew Bridge. I was keen for us to catch at least one match at the old ground during this farewell season. My brother lives in Spain and usually only comes to the UK at Christmas, so this was his final opportunity to say goodbye to the place that has been the club’s home since 1904.
Griffin Park is the only football stadium in England that has a pub on each of its four corners, and while planning our visit to the Boxing Day game I was hoping that we could call in at all of them before the 3pm kick-off. As things turned out, we postponed this planned bit of pre-match entertainment. Five of us went to the game (my wife, daughter, son, brother and me) and none of us really felt up to the 12 noon start that the Brentford FC pub crawl required. It was raining heavily all morning, in contrast to the bright sunshine of Christmas Day, heavily enough to soak you while walking from bar to bar. Instead of arranging to meet at one pub or other at opening time, we met in Ealing at 1.30pm, took the 65 bus a few stops down to South Ealing Road and were at the ground before 2pm.
The rain was just coming to an end and we did at least walk past all four Griffin Park pubs, namely The Princess Royal, The Griffin (appropriately enough), The Brook Inn and The New Inn. The first three were packed, at least three deep at the bar, and The New Inn had a sign saying “Over 21s Only” so we didn’t even look inside. We had time for a pre-match drink or two, and I was keen for us to have a bit of walk before the game, so we crossed under the Chiswick Flyover to The Globe, a Fuller’s Pub on Windmill Road a few minutes away. The last time I was there was in 1993 for a pub quiz.
There were spaces at the bar so we were served immediately: London Pride for my brother and me, served in glasses that announced that it’s the beer of Brentford FC, J2Os for everyone else. After that we went back to the ground and my brother and I had time for another pint of Pride before kick-off. As usual at football grounds you are forbidden from consuming alcohol within sight of the pitch so we finished our drinks quicker than we would have liked but were happy to support the local brew at our local club.
At half-time we considered necking down another pint but went for the family-friendly option, which you can bring back to your seat: meat pies and cups of Bovril. They really hit the spot. The match was good, a 3-1 win to The Bees which had them fourth in the table when the final whistle went. Sheffield Wednesday were leading at Stoke but two late goals for the home side lifted Brentford to third.
At some point before the end of this season I hope to complete the Brentford FC pub crawl, at least one pint in each of the four pubs named above. I feel that it should be before a match, but maybe not the next match that I plan to see at Griffin Park (the 7.45pm kick-off against Leeds United on Tuesday 11 February 2020), for so many reasons.