Many fans on the two terraces arrived super early to ensure they could be at the front and 20 minutes before kickoff both terraces were full to capacity. Both sets of supporters went through their various set of sings completely independent of one another as they were too far apart to hear each other. This led to the quite comical (at least for me) instance when both teams were singing “And it’s (insert team name here), (insert team name here) F.C., we are by far the greatest team the world has ever seen” at the exact same time just out of sync by a couple of seconds. Another thing to note about the pre-match chanting was that when Middlesbrough sang their rendition of the “Hello, Hello we are the (insert team name here) boys” chant, the line that usually goes “And if you are a (insert rival team name here) fan surrender on your life” was not how I expected to hear it. I had expected to hear either Newcastle United or Sunderland inserted, but instead they put Brentford in. Although there is almost no history between the two clubs (they have played against each other 10 times since World War II), the tie is so important to them that Brentford are now referred to as the enemy. Many of the songs sung by Middlesbrough had references to “going up” and the classic chant of “Que Sera Sera” which I had not heard since Tottenham’s run to the League Cup final. The singing before kickoff was so loud that none of the public address announcers’ words (although the PA system was not very good) could be heard. The atmosphere was unlike any other I have experienced, hardcore fans packing terraces making as much noise as possible. This was the closest I will ever come to replicating the atmosphere of an English soccer match before Hillsborough and the subsequent Taylor Report.
The match kicked off and the opening exchanges were very nervy. Neither team wanted to concede and when there were chances the players often made abnormal mistakes. Middlesbrough started the game off very rough, hard tackling and picked up four yellow cards very early on. It was classic Championship soccer; hard tackling, hardcore support and sometimes lacking in cutting edge quality. After one particularly daft challenge the Brentford faithful were up in arms, chanting “you dirty Northern bast*rds” at the Middlesbrough players and supporters. On a day when most of the headlines were occupied by the general election where the Labour Party got decimated in every part of the UK besides London (where they gained seven seats), this was another display of the cultural differences between London and the rest of the country and how they really do not agree or like each other. After Middlesbrough striker Patrick Bamford made a mistake on a counter-attack the Brentford fans chanted, “you’ll never play for Chelsea” which I found pretty comical and even more comical when I subsequently found out that Jose Mourinho was in attendance at Griffin Park. Nothing like taking a shot at a player that is owned by one of your West London rivals.