Brentford entertain Burnley this evening. On the one hand it is a battle for the promotion play-offs and a chance to get one over Sean Dyche but there is more to it than just that. Bees fans will, no doubt, be hoping our boys can teach him and Andre Gray a footballing lesson. Many remain unhappy about the net result of the striker’s sale whilst the unsettling rumours surrounding James Tarkowski and Alan Judge have been as welcome on the terrace as a visit from ‘the phantom farter’ (if you’ve ever stood in the vicinity, you’ll know). Chuck former QPR employee and motormouth Joey Barton into the mix aswell and, I think it would be safe to say, we might have quite an atmosphere tonight.
Will Tarks and Judge play? One would only assume so. I’ll be furious if either is missing. That said, Sean Dyche can’t be blamed for trying to both acquire and unsettle the players just ahead of the game. Dean Smith confirmed yesterday that the Burnley boss had put in a bid for our leading scorer and player of the season to date.
We saw the same thing happen with Andre Gray just before we played at Turf Moor earlier on the season. Dyche finally got his man with Brentford happy to sell for a lorry load of cash despite his scoring 2 from 2 against both Ipswich Town and Bristol City. The Bees very much missed his cutting edge in that game at Burnley although, equally, even with Dean Holdsworth, Robert Taylor and Lloyd Owusu up front I think we’d have struggled to score in that one.
As was noted in the Last Word at the time, Marinus seemed obsessed with ball retention and pass completion – to the point that out 62% domination saw the ball rarely cross the half way line as time and again it went across the defence and out to the midfield before heading back to David Button.
“Hanging on to the ball at the back is all well and good, and we did that part very well, but the lack of any imagination, movement, cut and/or thrust when we tried to take it forward was, ultimately, what did for us.”
So can we do any better in front of the Sky cameras tonight? It’s true that Burnley look in ominously good form with their 5-0 win on Tuesday night. Likewise, their mini slump has ended with them still sitting in an excellent league position. Whilst they’ve only won 3 times in the last 10, they’ve picked up 10 points out of a possible 15. Andre Gray leads the divisional scoring charts on 16, having now broken clear of a chasing pack that includes our own Alan Judge.
Yet we have our own incentives to win as noted at the top of this column. Likewise, three points will lift us up to 9th and within touching distance of that play-off zone once more. I’d imagine Sergi Canos will start this one, having moved back to the bench in midweek, although I wouldn’t be upset to see Sam Saunders hang on to his place. Personally, I thought the wing wizard gave a very good account of himself against Middlesbrough.
As ever, the main question is going to be one of where the goals will come from. Is Marco Djuricin ready to start? Will The Hoff be given a chance from the off? Or does Lasse Vibe retain his place? I have no clue as to which way Dean Smith will jump but, personally, would stick with Lasse given the current options.
Which, as I put the industrial sized crowbar away, talk of strikers brings us onto tonight’s guest of honour – Lloyd Owusu – who is being welcomed into the Brentford ‘Hall of Fame’. Signed by owner/chairman/manager Ron Noades from Slough Town in 1998, his impact was immediate. 25 goals followed, including the Third Division title decider against Cambridge United. The denouement of that season saw the final game of the season become a battle to be Champions at the Abbey Stadium and Lloyd was the right man in the right place to help Brentford bag the honours.
Leading scorer 3 times in his 4 seasons, he stayed with us right up to the end of the Steve Coppell era and that play off final (spoiler alert – we lost) at the Millennium Stadium against Stoke City. It was a sad end to a great career at Griffin Park and more so as, out of contract, he left for Sheffield Wednesday.
Three years later there was better news for Bees as the hero returned. Martin Allen brought him back to Griffin Park for a further two years. 2005-06 saw him bag a further 14 goals in 42 games that resulted in another play off appearance – we lost. Injury blighted his final season but, by that stage, the legend had been born.
The arms raised high in the air and the chants of “Ooh Ooh Ooh” from the terrace have become an iconic image, and sound, for those who frequented Griffin Park at the time. Equally, Peter Gilham going into meltdown every time he launched into a lung busting scream of “Owusuuuuuuu!”
Here’s hoping for some more tonight.