One can’t over emphasise the importance of Brentford having inflicted such a comprehensive defeat on Ipswich Town over the weekend. Three successive wins also saw another three goal display, following the previous victories over Bolton Wanderers and Nottingham Forest. But, for me (Clive), it was the calibre of the opposition that was just as pleasing this time around.
Make no mistake, Ipswich were still harbouring play-off aspirations. The key word being ‘were’ – it’s safe to say those are dead in the water now. Likewise, it would be equally fair to say we’ve struggled against them since our promotion to the Championship. Two tough draws and that heavy Boxing Day defeat at Griffin Park, where victory would have seen Mark Warburton’s Bees go top of the table, have placed the Tractor Boys close to the Middlesbrough category when it comes to teams we’ve struggled with.
Equally, I’ve heard some naysayers talking about the quality of the opposition prior to that game. Bolton were doomed whilst Nottingham Forest had hit freefall and, even by their own supporters’ admission, put in one of the worst performances seen in that second half.
Hey. As has been said before, you can only beat who is in front of you and we’ve struggled against poor teams in the past. But it does make the next few games – home to Bristol City and Cardiff City – very interesting.
Nobody needs any reminding of what happened to Alan Judge on Saturday. That said, the universal reaction of love and support from the Brentford fans aswell as many from Ipswich – shocked by Luke Hyam’s brutal assault – has provided some small level of comfort. Likewise, you can only have been moved by the philosophical approach and positivity shown in the subsequent statement and photograph that the Judge released.
Being pragmatic, we still have those Bristol and Cardiff games to prepare for and they are going to provide Dean Smith with further selection challenges. Alan would, of course, have been one of the first names on the team sheet but we know that is not going to happen again this season. So what will Dean do?
Konstantin Kerschbaumer, like the rest of his team mates, gave a very well received performance coming off the bench at Portman Road. Does he keep his place? What about Nico Yennaris? He, of course, playing in his new midfield role had scored in those two wins prior to Ipswich before missing that one through illness. Does he walk straight back into the team?
Then, of course, there is John Swift. He probably presents the trickiest of all decisions. Since his and Josh McEachran’s injury enforced absences the team has started to win. And win. Whilst, like Alan, we won’t be seeing Josh again this season, surely John’s gash will have healed sufficiently to allow him to be in contention this Saturday?
Whilst commons sense would suggest he will have to be content with, at best, a place on the bench this Saturday could that also be a longer term thing? Or will he walk straight back into the starting XI ?
Clearly a player admired for his talent and skill, he has come in for equal amounts of criticism for those misplaced passes, getting caught out of position and being generally lightweight at times. Oh for the Swift of the wins at home to Wolves or QPR rather than the no show at Loftus Road. Too often though, we’ve seen the latter from a player who is, let’s not forget, still learning his game and packed with potential.
There are only six league games left. The Bees are safe. Being honest, most of us were preparing for life without Alan Judge although due to his inevitable, post Euros, sale rather than the subsequent injury related reason. But what about John Swift? Don’t forget he is only here on loan.
Does Dean use these last few games to now look at his full time squad members for next season? Giving them a consistent run to see just how well they can do? After shuffling his pack these last few months, he does seem to have hit a winning formula.
Will that also see Swift going back to his parent club when the season draws to a close? Or is the England U-21 in his and Matthew Benham’s longer term plans? Indeed, will Chelsea even want to sell him to the Bees ?
Certainly, these are questions that won’t be answered any time soon and I’d be amazed if we learn anything this weekend. Then again, I’m just the numpty on the terrace so what do I know? Just putting it out there to see who bites and what people think.
The other selection problem faced by Brentford is, of course, in the Bees Player commentary box. Nobody doubts that Mark Burridge does a stunning job talking us through the season. It is for good reason he is called ‘the commentator par-excellence’ and rivals the mellifluous Billy Reeves with his own, wonderful style.
Yet.Yet. Yet. His recent trip to the Augusta Masters has seen him, like John Swift, miss the last three games. And we all know what happened in them. 9 goals and 9 points.
Could this be the ultimate case of the commentator’s curse? Will Matthew Benham be revoking his press pass? Or will we be welcoming Mark back with open arms?
I only hope the latter. He does a stunning job for those displaced Brentford fans who can’t make the games and it’s always a pleasure listening to him. Instead, let’s put those three wins simply down to his own excellent delegation skills rather than any jinx !
Whilst I’ll be at the Bristol City game on Saturday, here’s to hearing Mark and Ciaran talking through another win on Sunday’s highlight’s package.