Notes from West London · Sport

The 50th Premier League team

The Premier League began last weekend. As I’m sure you know, it is the top division in English football. This is the League’s 30th season. If you are under 40, or do not follow football closely, you might not remember its predecessor, Division One of the Football League. None of the current squad members played in that division. If they had, they would be at least 46 now, and the oldest player ever to play in the Premier League was 43 (John Burridge, in 1995). The last person to play in both the old Division One and the Premier League was (as far as I can see) Ryan Giggs, whose 672nd (and final) league appearance was in 2014.  

This season the Premier League welcomed the 50th different club in its history, my local team Brentford FC (nickname, The Bees). They last played in the top flight in 1947, 74 years ago. Their new stadium is closer to my childhood home than any football club is to anywhere I have ever lived, under 1.5 miles. These days I live less than a mile from where I grew up, but am still slightly closer to Loftus Road (home of Queens Park Rangers) than to the new Brentford stadium. Both are less than 2 miles away. Last weekend (on Friday 13th), when my son and I took a brief stroll during Brentford’s first home game, we could hear the faint sound of the crowd cheering in the distance. The Bees were playing Arsenal and as far as we could tell the cheers greeted Bukayo Saka coming on as a sub for the away team. I have never heard a football crowd while walking round the block before. Griffin Park (the former home of Brentford FC) is just over the river from Kew Gardens. When the children were smaller, we often used to go to Kew on a Saturday afternoon and heard the crowd from Griffin Park regularly.  

Although we are delighted that The Bees have won promotion to the Premier League, their 2-0 victory on the opening weekend was not much fun for my wife and daughter, both Arsenal fans. At the local parkrun the following morning the organizers asked all the runners to applaud the team’s performance, which was also rather unwelcome.  

We are only two fixtures into this current season, but it looks like Brentford (with a win and a draw) have what it takes to stay up. The same could not be said of Fulham this time last year. They are the third of my local teams (less than 2.5 miles from my front door) and were relegated immediately after returning to the top flight.  

As regular readers of this Blog will know, I have supported Leeds United since childhood and am undecided about the season ahead. An opening weekend hammering at Old Trafford followed by yesterday’s home draw with Everton has left the team with one point from two games. That is one more than we managed from the corresponding fixtures last season. Next weekend’s game at Burnley will help me to make my mind up: if it’s anything like the convincing 0-4 win back in May I will feel much more confident about the season ahead.  

This season’s final round of fixtures, scheduled for 22 May 2022, will see Leeds travel to Brentford. I am hoping, at the very least, that both teams are safe from relegation when the game kicks off. There are only three teams that have played a single season in the Premier League: Swindon Town, Barnsley and Blackpool. I do not expect Brentford to join that list.  

 

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