Brentford host Norwich City on New Year’s Eve with supporters wondering if this could be our last chance of seeing Scott Hogan in a Brentford shirt. With the transfer window due to creak open on January 1st prior to the inevitable ‘slam’ shut (tm) at the end of the month, the free scoring front man is currently being linked with everybody from Newcastle United to West Ham. Even Aston Villa have been mentioned although anyone who had the misfortune to sit through the turgid encounter with Leeds United will realise it’s not so much a centre forward they need as a few crates of Red Bull. And that’s just for supporters. (please note : other energy drinks are available).
With fees as high as £15million being quoted, one really can’t see anybody blocking this move if that sort of money is genuinely on the table. Brentford have a new ground in the offing whilst have made no secret of the need to sell players over the last few seasons to ensure financial fair play criteria are met.
It is surely just a question of when rather than if? If the Christmas build up was all about the excitement of what we might receive, this next period is the opposite for supporters of a club like Brentford. The fear of who we could lose.
Like it or not, that’s the reality the club find themselves in. Being honest with ourselves, the play-offs look a leap too far at present. Much as I’m a footballing romantic and never say never, the simple fact is that we have too much quality ahead of us in the league table. Too much consistent quality.
Were Dean Smith’s team putting in the performances game after game then fair enough. But sadly, we aren’t. For every last twenty minutes against Birmingham or Cardiff is a performance like the respective first halves in those games. For every defeat of a Brighton(a) or Reading is a Barnsley or Fulham no-show.
The manager is still struggling to settle on his best team and formation. Substitutions seem haphazard whilst certain players are untouchable; others can’t get a look in. At times we look like world beaters. At others, a side lining up to let the opposition dominate.
You have to remember, also, that historically we’ve rarely (if ever) had things so good. After years of mediocrity results wise, we had that wonderful period under Uwe Rosler before Mark Warburton got us over the League One line. Since then, we’ve more than held our own in the Championship. The. Championship.
Whilst everybody wants wins and results , things need to be put a little bit into context. To see 10,000+ crowds week in, week out. To see Brentford on the cusp of a fourth season at a higher level after decade upon decade of League One or Two mediocrity. To have players that other teams are prepared to pay us millions upon millions of pounds for.
All of this is just a bit surreal. Even now. I’m still of the belief that we could, probably should, have gone up to the Premier League in 2014/15. But for village-gate who knows what might have been. Equally though, that’s behind us and the aforementioned context now needs to be the thing with which we view our longer term prospects.
But if we are unlikely to go up, this time, what about the other way? Allowing for the rose-tinted glasses of home support, going down would seem a tough act for any team in Brentford’s position. Even if we were to lose our principal goal threat.
Rotherham lost, again, last night whilst Wigan are doing their level best to join them on a trip back to League 1 ( sorry, who’s on fire did you say?). After that, QPR, Blackburn and Cardiff City are slugging it out for third spot. I’m still hoping Ian Holloway’s pre-season prediction of a West London relegation comes true. Moreso with the Bees due to host the hapless hoops towards the end of the campaign.
Other sides and other supporters have it no easier than us. I’d much rather be in our shoes than those of former Premier League champions Blackburn. For all that, at times, we’ve frustrated on the pitch in recent months, Brentford aren’t alone.
Just watching the fare on offer between Aston Villa and Leeds was a stark reminder that a gritty form of combative football followed by a final fifteen minutes of frenetic thrusting is not uncommon. And this was from two, so called, giants of the English game. Teams with genuine aspirations to return to a top flight they graced for so long. With aspirations to return to European competitions they’ve previously performed heroics in – something that looked a long way off on Thursday evening.
Should Scott Hogan leave us for Newcastle United, West Ham or other then I’ll be gutted. Likewise, if Alan Judge says farewell or Jota fails to return from Spain. Both are equally possible. But I’m also realistic about our position and how the club works. Given where we are this season then, for now, it seems a case of cashing in and holding station. A case of taking a tactical gamble whilst still picking up points and goals from other sources.
I’ve seen some supporters say they’d give it up for the season if the aforementioned triumvirate leave in January. I don’t believe that for one second. I may be a numpty on the terrace. There may be twits on the sidelines or over enthusiastic keyboard warriors in a banana republic. That’s football and we all have opinions. However, the one thing we also all have in common is that we’ve supported this club for far, far too long. And it’s great.
We know we sell. We know we make things hard for ourselves. But we all know how much we love it supporting the Bees, no matter what fate throws at us.
Dean spoke about Norwich City yesterday, saying: “It is an important game for us because we want to exorcise the demons from the Carrow Road defeat”
This much is true, but should Scott Hogan be sold then it could also see those of us who are a bit longer in the tooth needing to exorcise a more familiar demon. That of history. Dean Holdsworth, Gary Blissett, Nicky Forster, DJ Campbell and Andre Gray to name but a few.
Will it happen? Next month, we find out. Until then, here’s to stuffing the Canaries. See you there.