It was some time in summer 2013 that Celtic’s pre-season friendly at Brentford was announced. The forum sites were delighted at the prospect of a day out down South, whilst I was glad to have a rare Celtic game near home. Once I realised that Brentford’s ground had old style terracing behind the goals and a pub on each corner of the stadium, I was even more excited, knowing that carnage was in store.
I phoned up the Brentford ticket office to get tickets in the terracing sorted early, having seen a lot of posts on the Green Brigade forum suggesting that the group had done the same. I knew I was now going to be right in amongst it with my Dad, his two friends and my pal from school.
Match day rolled around on 20 July 2013. I had just turned 17 a few weeks before and was under the instruction to not drink as were going on holiday to Tunisia in the early hours the following morning. It seems unthinkable to go to an away match, especially of this type, and not drink, but back then I wasn’t as bothered about the alcohol – it was all about the atmosphere and seeing Celtic.
The weather was boiling hot as we left Bournemouth for the two hour drive to Griffin Park at 8am. My Dad’s friends, Brian and Pete were in their 60s, thus when I inserted the Derek Warfield Songs For The Bhoys CD, they started retelling stories of old games hearing these songs in the Jungle. One thing that would be different from Brian’s Jungle days was that he was driving and thus not taking a carry out into the ground.
I’d grown up hearing stories of the famous Jungle already. I knew about the old songs that were sang and some of the less PC chants. I was told about the atmosphere, particularly on special nights such as when Ten Men Won the League and all the gory details of urine filled cans getting emptied on the floor or down the back of your legs. Aside of the urine, the experience sounded magical. Thousands of Celtic fans packed into a terracing, allowed to drink and sing what you wanted.
We arrived in Brentford just before 10am and were greeted by the sight of Celtic fans laying passed out all the way along the street outside the stadium. Then as we turned the corner, we saw the New Inn pub, which was packed inside and had about 400 people stood outside it. We parked out the way and I clearly recall the first song I heard when getting out of the car being Say Hello To The Provos. I had heard rebel songs at away games and in pubs before, but never that particular number which I had been told was a regular feature of the 80s at Parkhead. It was a sign of things to come as nobody was there to challenge the songs in London, nor did anyone have a clue what they were about.
When we reached the main street, we burst out laughing as a policeman dragged a Celtic fan out of a hedge inside someone’s front garden. Drunk and entirely disorientated, the guy had no idea where he was, until the officer informed him that they had received a call from an old lady who reported that a drunk man had been laying passed out in her garden for an hour!
It was up to the pub next as the atmosphere built and sun shone down on us all afternoon. Smoke bombs filled the air and among the drunk bodies and empty plastic cups, was a hammer found on buses to break the emergency glass! Moments later, we saw a gigantic huddle circulating a local bus and even fans getting on board singing. It was all good natured, but no doubt annoying for the locals.
The atmosphere just picked up more and more, my friend had not seen anything like this as he was used to watching Bournemouth. It was a bizzare day. An american guy with dreadlocks walked towards the pub and was immediately put into the middle of the crowd, who circled round him and started singing You Are My Larsson, followed by Larsson’s Back ‘Cause Thatcher’s Died. Then it was a spine tingling rendition of C’mon You Bhoys in Green spreading along the road from pub to pub. It was just widespread mayhem and an incredible sing song.
To give you an idea of how crowded the pubs were:
Going into the ground was an experience I’ll never forget. Celtic fans had three out of the four stands and our tickets were behind the goal. There had been warnings about people being searched so no alcohol or pyro would get into the ground. However, when we got to the turnstyle it was bedlam. Everyone swarmed in with carrier bags full of cans and we all leapt out of our skin as bangers were being set off every few minutes. We were stood just behind the Green Brigade banner and it was soon clear that pyro had made it into the ground too.
One thing that stands out is a particularly hair raising rendition of Lonesome Boatman before the game. The stand was well overcrowded and as everyone bounced up and down, I lost my footing and was carried three or four stairs below. The noise was thumping out of the ground and this particular moment, even after attending matches regularly since, remains the loudest I have ever heard in my time supporting Celtic. Videos never do it justice, but is better than mere words I suppose:
It was just a remarkable atmosphere with everyone drinking, smoking and singing throughout the day in 3/4 of Griffin Park. It reminded me of the stories I had heard of the Jungle, when people took alcohol into the ground, sang whatever they wanted, smoked and enjoyed a huge sing song.
Aside of the phenomenal atmosphere captured in the above video, which continued throughout the game, there were other points of note. The first being that when Brentford took the lead, one of their fans waved a Union Jack in our direction. He was met with a boo and then all three stands of Celtic supporters burst into a medley of the Broad Black Brimmer, Boys of the Old Brigade and Go On Home. These songs had been cracked down on at that time, so it was rare to hear them sung by so many… especially Go On Home! I remember hearing the Broad Black Brimmer getting started and slowly sweeping around the ground, until it reached those stood near us and the roof lifted at that boisterous line “A sam brown belt with the buckle big and strong.”
Celtic equalised soon after through Amido Balde and the singing didn’t even stop, it was as if the goal never happened. However, the break in play allowed some nutcase to leap onto the pitch with a scarf tied over his face and give the Brentford fans an IRA gun salute!
There two more pitch invaders during the game. One that sticks out is the mentalist, who leapt the barrier and took a goal kick as Zaluska stepped away from the ball. He then ran to the corner before returning to the stand. Sky Sports captured the footage.
Then at full time, everyone piled onto the pitch apart from myself, as my Dad had warned me not to get myself in bother before going on holiday! There was a huddle around the centre circle and a raucous rendition of COYBIG, whilst fans hung on the crossbar and stole the corner flags! In an attempt to get fans to leave, the home side put the sprinklers on to no avail.
Whether or not people believe that some of the songs that were aired that day should be left in the past is down to the individual. I’m not condoning the pitch invasions or taking alcohol into the stand, or smoking into the ground, or using pyro etc etc etc… basically all the rules that were broken that day. It may not have been morally correct, or one might think it was fine.
This article was just to relive the events that happened. The atmosphere will live with me forever as it was incredibly noisy throughout and we even got to see some youngster called Callum McGregor score the winner. The experience from standing on old school terracing, to the alcohol being consumed in the ground, to pitch invasions and an uncensored 70s songbook, leads me to believe that I got a taste of what the Jungle was like that day.
We went home in the car and I flew to Tunisia, where I picked up a newspaper in the airport that had slammed the Celtic support for the previous day’s proceedings. I had a feeling we wouldn’t be invited back to England after that trip. There was no trouble and it was good natured, but people were so drunk and it was just bedlam.
I couldn’t wait to hear what my friend had to say to our school mates about it all!