Walsall are through to the fourth round of the FA Cup; Brentford are out. This is the simple fact after The Bees went down 1-0 in torrential conditions. Don’t let the weather disguise anything though – the Saddlers wanted it more, they deserved it more and they made Brentford look very much second best. But it was the half time shenanigans involving FC Midtjylland which still leave a bitter taste in the mouth long after the final whistle has blown.
Let’s be clear – I don’t know where this club would be without Matthew Benham. The amount of investment he has made in Brentford FC, along with his bold vision for a new stadium at Lionel Road, have taken us from the brink of meltdown to the brink of the Premier League.
I also know he has numerous other business interests – primarily Smartodds, Matchbook and the aforementioned Danish Champions. Frankly, I don’t care about that when I’m at Griffin Park cheering on the Bees. Good luck to him and everything but I support Brentford. I wanted to see MY team try and progress in the FA Cup today.
What I didn’t want was the most sycophantic parading of another football club, on a lap of honour, around our pitch.
What I didn’t want was to be asked to applaud them for nothing more than being fortunate enough to be drawn against Manchester United in the Europa League.
What I didn’t want was to be reminded over the P.A. system that our co-director of football, Rasmus Ankersen, splits his time between the Bees and FCM where he is their chairman.
At a time when we were being played off the park after putting in one of the most abject first half displays I can recall for some time – Swift and McEachran in particular being totally anonymous (what do Chelsea put in the water of their youth team ?) – this was a time to focus on our team in our cup competition. Not one of Matthew’s other investments.
By this logic can we expect Smartodds employee of the month to be afforded a similar privilege against Middlesbrough on Tuesday night?
With fans fearing we’ve seen the last of Toumani Diagouraga – and if ever a game was crying out for him it was this one, although I understand he was injured – what I didn’t want was an over crowded and directionless central midfield.
I bumped into Rasmus outside the pub before kick off. I did have a chat with him about the FA Cup and he came across as very pleasant. However, that doesn’t cut the mustard when we then witness what happened next – both at half-time and during the game.
Imagination free substitutions (Judge aside) in a game where it was apparent after the first twenty minutes that somebody with the pace and experience of Sam Saunders was exactly what was required. Instead, we had sideways pass after sideways pass and then like for like changeovers. What Macca did to be hauled off I don’t know – along with Harlee, Jack and Jake he really stood out as wanting to get involved.
The only saving grace being that at least Alan Judge showed some invention when he came on and, as importantly, cup tied himself. Yet when we did get in on the Walsall goal, their goalkeeper Neil Etheridge was on hand to pull of a couple of stonking second half saves. Full credit to that man.
The FA Cup is HUGE in this country. With a direct parachute into the third round, even allowing for a handful of changes from the regular starting XI, I’d have thought we’d have been bang up for this one and a potential tilt at breaking the Wembley hoodoo. Instead, we had to stand through a first half no-show followed by the bizarre parade.
It was a monumental slap in the face to everybody who had paid hard earned money to get into Griffin Park. And I’m sorry if that bucks the corporate line. I’m not employed by Brentford FC and I’m certainly not a supporter of FC Midtjylland. Why would I be?
I have no connection with that club beyond knowing that, amongst others, one of the men most responsible for our transfer policy has his attention split between us and them. This is not a dig at the statistical model. Indeed, it genuinely hurts to say anything negative about the club I’ve supported since 1979.
This is a dig at the fact that when we should have been focusing on the FA Cup, instead there seemed to be a genuine expectation that we’d fawn at the temple of Midtjylland.
Good luck to them in Europe. For Matthew’s sake I’d hope they do well. But on a day when I helped my son make his first ‘tin foil trophy’, I’m ending it feeling thoroughly dejected about what happened today at Griffin Park.