New Years Eve. So often the most over-rated night of the year. The Emperor’s New Clothes of nights out where society dictates that you will enjoy yourself but then promptly laughs in your face by offering up Jools Holland boogie-woogying his way through another Hootenanny as a means of doing so. A turgid, self-indulgent affair whose primary function (aside from showing how many friends our host has – a musical Ian Moose, if you will) seems to be in proving that Roland Rivron remains alive. Take that, 2016 – here’s one you didn’t get your hands on.
And so it was at Griffin Park where Brentford and Norwich City were the pre-Jools entertainment in a televised game that would have had most of those watching at home asleep in their armchairs long before the former Squeeze man had begun tinkling on his ivories. Instead of the excitement we’d been promised by Sky. Instead of the pre-match buzz generated by the news that Jota was returning. Instead of (potentially) seeing Scott Hogan off in style we had nothing but an awful game of football. Sometimes you get them and this was up there.
Dean Smith seemed so intent on avoiding a repeat of the month’s 5-0 hammering at Carrow Road that he strangled the midfield and offered minimal width. The aforementioned Hogan looked off the pace and out of sorts whilst the slippery conditions did nobody any favours. That the Bees ended the game having no shots on target tells you everything you need to know as we were left unable to break through a Norwich team who played the last 15 minutes a man down, after Robbie Brady was shown straight red for a foul on Ryan Woods.
Watching the ‘highlights’ afterwards (and I use that word in the loosest sense) it didn’t seem half as bad as it had done live, with no chance of a replay. The incident, which happened right in front of yours truly, looked a nailed on ‘red’ with the Ginger Pirlo likewise able to demonstrate a nasty looking contact mark to both the referee and protesting Norwich players as Brady eventually trooped off.
Yet rightly or wrongly, Brentford had been handed an advantage. Here was a chance to go for it. Despite like for like subs already having been made (Barbet on for the ever impressive Tom Field and favourite son Romaine Sawyers replacing Josh McEachran) here was an opportunity to apply some pressure. Pull off a defender. Maybe Nico. Stick on the pace and trickery of Josh Clarke to run riot?
But no, it wasn’t until the scoreboard read 88 that John Egan was subbed by The Hoff. Why so late? There was hardly any time to make an impact. Why not inject some much needed pace and width? Why, if you are going to take off a defender, choose the player who is our second highest scorer for the season?
Even then, we still had chance. Hogan was played clean through, only to be denied by a wonderful last gasp tackle from Ryan Bennett. With the striker unable to unleash it meant we were denied a penalty kick although unlike the trio of bad decisions in the Boxing Day clash with Cardiff City, this one the correct call.
The Bees will stay up. The Bees won’t go up. We haven’t got a divine right to be any good and, at the end of the day, Clive, we haven’t lost. We looked the other day at viewing everything in both historical and long term context and that still rings true. Yet even allowing for that, it is still frustrating to see teams that we should be beating given the opportunity to run at us (there’s no denying Norwich City had the better chances) and around us as safety first and backwards seems to be the order of the day. Given the resources we do have, surely it is more a case of being able to get the best out of what we have and positioning them accordingly to react to, or even heaven forbid anticipate, the situation? When these players are on fire, they really can perform wonders.
In the end, but for Cameron Jerome’s woeful shooting (Cameron Diaz would have done better with one particular effort in the second half) we could have ended this one pointless. Which, ironically, is how all supporters finished the game. What seemed to be an announcement by Peter Gilham just prior to kick off that club shop loyalty points were going to expire that day, was then confirmed on social media and in an article published on the clubwebiste at 18.18 (that’s well into the first half of the game we were watching) to say these would expire at 19.45.
And sure enough, on getting home and ‘logging on’ my balance was zero.
No doubt this was all in the terms and conditions but would it have hurt to make an announcement a little more in advance to come over as a little better organised? Look, I may well have missed this and if so then ‘hands up’ but if not, it would seem a really poor way to end a promotion which is designed around encouraging supporters to spend and accrue. Which is a shame for no other reason than we’re normally so good at fan interaction.
Instead, 2016 closed with two promotion hopes at an end – that in the league and that in the club shop.
In its place, 2017 arrived. Off pitch Jools traded places for Robbie Williams to deliver a lumpen set of karaoke greatest hits. The phrase ‘going through the motions’ sprang to mind whilst as the traditional Auld Lang Syne ended, he was caught on camera wiping his hands with anti-bacterial hand sanitiser moments after high-fiving his audience. Stay classy.
At Griffin Park, 2017 brings more questions. How is Alan Judge? Will we see him, Macca or KK again? Will the club break ground at Lionel Road? Will Scott Hogan be sold? Will he play against Birmingham on Monday? Just who will any goal threat come from if he isn’t on the pitch? Could we see him and Jota in the same team? Let’s not forget that the talismanic Spaniard is winging his way back to Griffin Park and, apparently, it was he who initiated the discussions.
Whilst the pressure and expectation on his shoulders will be immense, there’s no denying the roof will be raised should he make an appearance on Saturday in the cup. Certainly he gives Dean Smith a wonderful option.
If used correctly.