Brentford celebrates thirty years this year after being formed in July 1990 when Roger Crook founded the club in response to his daughter Amy’s passion for the game. They were then based at Feltham Arena in Hounslow. The pair are still an integral part of the club today.
The club started out as an Under 14 team playing in friendly matches, before entering the Greater London Women’s League in the 1991/92 season. Their division comprised just four teams with Arsenal, Wimbledon and Walton & Hersham. By 1995/96 the group were eligible to play senior age football and so the club made the move to the Greater London Women’s Football League.
1995 saw interest in the female game increase enormously with the upcoming European Championships in 1996, and it was a time of progression as Brentford merged with a team from Smithkline Beecham to become Brentford Beechams.
By 2003/04, Brentford were competing in the Greater London Women’s League Premier Division. Two years later, the Bees merged with Viking Ladies and expanded to six teams: Ladies First and Reserves plus ages U15, U13 and U11A and B. In the early part of the 2010s the first team made the jump to the London & South-East Women’s League.
Since 2014 there have been both ups and downs. The team are now playing in the Greater London Women’s Football League Premier (tier seven) and currently consist of a First Team and a Development Team, comprising players aged 16 and over with a total of forty-seven players across the two teams.
The club is still run by Roger Crook and daughter Amy, who now works for Brentford FC and is in charge of their two women’s teams. Amy Crook also highlights the fact that we have “a team of committed and qualified coaches headed up by Brentford legend Karleigh Osborne.” Talking about the potential of the side, Amy tells us that she believes “we are capable of playing at FA Women’s National League level.”
The women’s teams are supported by the men’s team and have played several home games at the Griffin Park stadium prior to the club leaving their famous old home this summer. “Brentford have also recently employed me to run both women’s teams and match day activities. There will also be opportunities to play a home game or two in the new Community Stadium, a 17,500 all seater arena once the pandemic is over and fans are allowed back into stadiums.”
In terms of the challenges that the club face, Amy recognises: “There is a lot of competition for players in West London. But the ones we do attract stay with us – one has been with us for twenty years now. In terms of the coronavirus situation, training has been difficult as Swift Road, where we usually train, has been closed.”
The short-term aim for the coming season is at least promotion for both teams, and there is a genuine feeling that this is realistic and achievable. Amy believes that the key to this success is: “Treating all players well at whatever level of talent – allow them to develop organically or allow them to move on and develop. It’s also important to have a real honest, open and trustworthy respect for all players, staff and volunteers.”
In terms of the future of the women’s game, Amy believes that whilst coverage is increasing at the top levels, it is not filtering down to the lower levels: “It’s very slow at grassroots level. We hope that with the professional men’s team behind us, we can attract more talent to push us towards the FA Women’s National League. Money needs to be invested and there needs to be more coverage for clubs at our level and lower to progress.”