Saturday. Match day. Time to renew one of the more recent, but unlikely, rivalries. For Brentford supporters the likes of Fulham and QPR are, of course, the ones to get the blood pumping when it comes to those ‘must win’ games. Yet for those of us supporting a little longer, Birmingham City have more than given us a run for the money and some high stakes battles over the years.
1990-91 saw us go head-to-head in an epic Leyland DAF Southern zone semi with the Blues. Having already disposed of them in the FA Cup second round, Brentford could have fancied themselves as knock out football favourites. But with Wembley beckoning , there are no prizes for working out who eventually won both legs to record a 3-1 aggregate win.
The 91-92 Third Division title race famously saw things go our way in the final game of the season as Huddersfield Town and Gary Blissett ‘did the needful’ at Peterborough. A moment made all the sweeter by Saint & Greavsie having already used their Saturday morning show to congratulate Birmingham on being champions.
Things weren’t so sweet the following season as the Blues just edged past us in the battle to be named the least bad of our respective sides. Both teams fought a desperate, and in our case doomed, battle against relegation from Division One (now the Championship) with that final game humbling at Bristol City being enough to sink the Bees and save the Blues.
However, the coup de grâce was delivered in 1994-95 where, thanks to the joys of Premiership restructuring, there was only one automatic promotion place to the Championship available. With both teams neck and neck at the top, one game stood out like a sore thumb on the fixture list. For months in advance the trip to St. Andrews, only three games before the denouement of the camapign, was the one we all thought would be the crunch match.
Sure enough, it was. In the pressure cooker atmosphere of a packed stadium, where a win for Brentford would have made it all but mathematically impossible for even us to stuff things up, it was The Blues who came out on top with a 2-0 win. To this day, I’ve been unable to watch half-time guest of honour Jasper Carrott. I’d love to blame psychological scarring from that result but, in fact, it’s more just his material. Ahhh, insurance claims.(kids, ask your dads).
Oh well, despite defeat at least we were still in the play-offs…..
And that then, three seasons ago, something wonderful happened. Brentford returned to what is now the Championship. With it, a chance to deliver some pay league back. Finally. Yet whilst our own campaigns at this level have seen wonderful finishes of 5th, 9th and the Bees currently five points off the play-offs, Birmingham have been somewhat of a bogey team. A solitary point from our four encounters to date being the best we’ve had to show for it – that, a 1-1 back in August 2014 .
So which way will it go today? Money where the mouth is – a Brentford win. Gut reaction was to call it 1-1 in a match preview for the Birmingham Mail yesterday but, I’ve been thinking more and more about this. For me, this has the look of a gritty game played out between two sides with rock solid defences. Yet, at the same time, I think it will have goals in it. Three to be precise. With the Bees coming out on top by 2-1. Lasse, Scott and, for the visitors, a certain Mr Donaldson.
Yes, the other highlight of today (not counting the free chili in The Hive) is the chance to see Clayton back at Griffin Park.
Always a hugely popular figure, even to this day, he’s a Brentford legend whose goals helped fire us to promotion and earn the chance to take on the likes of Birmingham once more. Of course, there’ll be no pleasantries when action begins (although hopefully fans will show him the respect due) but I’m sure I won’t be alone in feeling a pang of fondness for the big man when he’s out there.
As a final note, a quick follow up to yesterday’s piece in regards to Rainbow Laces weekend. Fans may already be aware of the special match day programme on sale in/around the ground whilst Captain Harlee Dean (who also gives an exclusive on his ‘coming of age’ and life at Griffin Park) has already been photographed with a special armband.
Fans expecting to see him sporting that one on match day may be disappointed. Infact, the rainbow captain’s armband is a promotional item and it is expected that regular versions will be used at the games this weekend.
Indeed, Stonewall have told clubs that they understand that players might not want to change their laces for a game. Instead, players can show and document their support in other ways, such as Harlee did in such wonderful fashion on Thursday.
I can fully get behind that. We all have our match day kit jinxes, rituals and comfort factors – magic pants, lucky shirt, the ragged old scarf from the 70s that all go towards Brentford winning. I was devastated when the lucky ‘spiderman’ undergarments went to that great bin in the sky. For the players, I can only imagine the importance of kit, footwear, boots and laces that they are familiar with is tenfold to that of us on the terrace.
Whichever way they are dressed, here’s hoping for a great game and the right result. It’s been a long time coming. 62 years, to be precise. Looking at the BBC preview this morning I was shocked to see the last time Brentford beat Birmingham in a league fixture at Griffin Park being a 2-0 back in March 1954. Top scorer Frank Dudley adding further to his tally with both goals on that day.
Perhaps time to look to history and revise that bet? 2-0 Brentford with Scott Hogan scoring is 22/1. Then again, the earlier 2-1 /scorers prediction comes in at a very handsome 177/1. On second thoughts, knowing my betting history spare coins will probably better spent on the aforementioned match day programme instead.
I wouldn’t want to jinx the team….