With ‘kit obsessive’ submitted for the Barnsley programme and Brentford in the midst of international break, I wasn’t going to bother today. Gibraltar shipping what is deemed to be the fastest ever World Cup qualifying goal last night (Christian Benteke’s strike now recorded at 8.1 seconds – although it seemed an awful lot quicker watching it live) perhaps now would be a good time for a bit more of a rest. And then I looked at the fixture list. Trips to Newcastle United and Derby County await before that Halloween showdown with QPR. And, of course, between the last two we have the prestigious moment of the aforementioned match at Griffin Park – our 4,000th game.
What a month October promises to be.
With the Bees currently one place out-side the play off zone after 11 games, nobody could deny we are where we are on merit. Sure, we’ve ridden our luck at times but, equally, we’ve take our chances when they’ve presented themselves. How long ago do the opening week defeats to leaders Huddersfield Town and then Exeter City in the EFL cup now seem?
But for all Scott Hogan has been banging them in. For all that Daniel Bentley has marshalled one of the tightest defences in the Championship (only Huddersfield and Brighton have conceded less). For all that Ryan Woods has been dominant in midfield, to name but a few of our standout players, there can be no resting on laurels. Instead, it is the time to see if we will push on and be genuine promotion contenders or should mid-table and survival at this level be a realistic target ?
This Saturday sees the trip to Newcastle United. When the Premier League die was cast and saw the Magpies, Aston Villa and Norwich City relegated there was palpable excitement in the air. A fixture list that already offered us Fulham and QPR now had the additional draw of these historical powerhouses of English football.
Yet if we’re being honest, Newcastle was the one out of all these we’ve been looking forward to the most. A big name to test ourselves against. A new ground for many. A return to a footballing Mount Everest for others. And that’s just the climb to the back of the away stand.
We haven’t played them in the league since 1992/93. Just to put that into context, Jim Rosenthal was presenting live football on ITV (bring him back. please) whilst Phil Holder was in charge of the Bees. A 2-1 home defeat in front of the cameras was followed a by a 5-1 loss on the road. I’ve a feeling that the Bees will be a different prospect this time around.
With Mark Devlin confirming we’ve sold close to 3,000 tickets you can already feel the anticipation building. It’s only Tuesday morning yet, already, I can’t wait to get on that train up to the North-East. Despite the early start, it promises to be a great day for the supporters. Whilst I hope the players enjoy themselves too, let’s also remember that this is ‘just another game’. Easy to say when I’m bigging it up but to play the occasion rather than the team you are up against can be a fatal error.
Newcastle are beatable. They’ve lost 3 out of 11 in the league this season. That’s over a quarter of their games (checks fingers) and sees them just four points ahead of Brentford. Certainly, a position not predicted by many pundits before the season began. Hello, Ian? Ian….? Has anybody seen Ian Holloway?
Can we do it? The optimist in me says yes. The head says I haven’t a clue. I’m just the numpty on the terrace who wears his heart on his sleeve and his funky bee on his chest. All I know is that whatever happens on Saturday it’s going to be a good , good day.
And that’s even before we then get to Derby County next Tuesday , Barnsley (home) and the televised encounter with QPR at the end of the month. Each of these has added significance in its own right but, Newcastle aside, it is the Barnsley game I’m really up for.
That may surprise many, given the rivalry with the Loftus Road mob but 4,000 games is a huge moment in our history. No doubt the club will have something special lined up for that one and it is bound to be a special occasion.
Still, all that’s for Saturday week. For now, all the focus is about this weekend. Can the Bees mix it with the big boys?
I can’t wait to find out.