James Little goes back to October 1977 to recall a memorable game at Griffin Park
Memories of getting to this game are hazy – Dad must have picked me up from a nearby station, and caught up in traffic we blocked someone in on their drive and raced to the ground, arriving after kick-off; as it turned out we left early too, for the one and only time ever.
Confirming it was still 0-0 we sat down in the main home stand with a big crowd – 14,500, unusual in those days – and the extra frisson of an away game under lights. However, it was quite normal to pay cash at the turnstile to sit where you wanted. It was a big local derby, both teams having started well and holding promotion aspirations. In the row in front were some west London old boys in heavy coats and flat caps, getting their moans in early. It felt like a big ground, and the old boys would remember Brentford’s seasons in the First Division in the 30s.
We weren’t confident. In recent years the lads had been good at home but poor away. At this stage I’d ventured to six away games and seen us lose the lot, scoring only one goal and even having two men sent off at Bournemouth in the days when that was hard to do.
Before long we get a corner far away to our left. The big lads, Garner and Ellis, go up. The first ball is cleared back out to the wing, but the return is headed in unstoppably by Sam Ellis, in an unforgettable moment of slow-motion glory, a bit like another goal more than 35 years later. The net bulges, in a way the modern nets just don’t. It was the first time I’d seen us take the lead away. “Could see it coming” says the old boy in front. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
Minutes later the ball comes to Alan Mayes on the edge of the box. I have a vivid memory from the previous season of Mayes getting the ball on the corner of the box and running along the whole 18-yard line to the other corner, without shooting or passing. Tonight he just jinks past the defender and drills low into the corner. 0-2.
This felt like a bit of poetic justice. The previous March we’d gone to the same fixture and seen us concede three in the first 15 minutes, with a chap called Gordon Sweetzer playing like a Fourth Division Gerd Muller. Worse was to come a few weeks later in April when we lost our proud unbeaten home record 0-1 to the Bees after missing not one but two penalties.
At half-time Dad suggested we move along to an empty bit of the stand, possibly as we were getting looks from the locals. There was a third to come from Ross in the second half; but my main memory of him in this game was his superb tackling back, clearly under instruction.
Sam Ellis’s goal was my favourite ever until Allan Smart’s at Wembley (and is now third, obvs). But I wonder if anyone else remembers it.
But the best was still to come. Evening games then finished at 9:10, and after leaving early to move our car we were home in time for the Radio 2 Sports Report at 10 o’clock. We knew we’d stayed above Brentford and in the promotion places. But the announcer told us that after our fine win we’d gone… top. To my 12-year-old self it was a mystical moment, beyond all hope and belief, and even now is one of my happiest Hornet memories.
It seemed that new manager Graham Taylor was indeed the man to lead us out of Division Four.