There’s been so much going on in the last week that one could be forgiven for being distracted by the main event for Brentford. It’s been all West Ham this, West Ham that over the alleged £15m sale of Scott Hogan to the Olympic stadium team. Likewise, Chelsea have been at the forefront of our attentions as the FA Cup draw has paired us with the current Premier League leaders once more. There’s even a case for adding Norwich City into the mix, given the paper talk about Sergi Canos – the only piece of transfer gossip to have the longevity of the Hogan rumour. Yet amongst all this I’ve not seen many people getting excited about Newcastle United in social media.
This Saturday sees one of THE games of the season as the Magpies are the visitors to Griffin Park. The match was, of course, originally moved to Monday night for the benefit of the TV cameras before a last minute rejig (and the inevitable travel chaos that will be caused for many) as a result of their FA Cup draw with Birmingham City.
This is a huge occasion and was without doubt one of the first games we looked for when the fixture list was published last summer. Yet now it is here, such are the other distractions at present that Newcastle United seem to be the last team on anybody’s radar.
Which, for me, is just great. Whilst nobody can deny our visitors’ history, let’s go into this as just another game rather than any form of special occasion. Newcastle have earned their place in the Championship through top flight ineptitude just as we have done through hard, hard work. Now, both teams are competing in the same division on the the same terms. If not financially then certainly in terms of opposition, games, TV rescheduling and even just the random level of refereeing.
Despite a blistering first few months to the campaign, the wheels are starting to fall off the ‘Rafalution’. Relatively speaking. Not only have Brighton caught up with the one time runaway leaders of the Championship but they now sit two points clear with a game in hand. Indeed, should Reading win their home game with hapless QPR tonight then the gap between second and third place will have shrunk to just three points.
That’s not to say I won’t be looking forward to Saturday’s game. It’s not every day that Rafa Benitez comes to town – the last time seeing him leave Griffin Park as the beneficiary of a very late draw in the FA Cup with his then Chelsea side . I’d love to see us go one better this time around, and if only to avenge the 3-1 defeat his team inflicted on us at St. James Park back in October. At one stage, that looked like it was going to be a real drubbing as the Bees were somewhat overawed by the occasion and the venue in the opening quarter hour.
Yet, equally, that can work to our advantage. There can’t be too many of the Newcastle team to have played in such a compact stadium as Griffin Park. A place where the changing rooms are less ‘palatial’ and more ‘garden shed’. A place where the fans will be on top of the pitch and on top of the opposition. A place where songs about table service will, no doubt, be sung in the vicinity of the away dug out.
So our approach to this one has been quite low key. That’s good. The Chelsea game will happen regardless whilst West Ham will, by all accounts, need to invest in a bigger calculator before even considering an investment in of our prize assets. If these things act as smoke screens to take the pressure off in the build up to Saturday then all well and good. If John Swift and Reading win tonight to heap the pressure on Newcastle then even better.
Best of all though, with all of this going on there’s been no room to focus on the most horrific story of all this week. One worse than the image of the soon to be President Trump indulging in whatever golden medal wining video performance he is alleged to have indulged in. Yes, the BBC have announced the return of Mrs Brown in a new prime time Saturday night show.
The blurb from the Beeb tells us that the new show will featuring celebrity guests and allegedly outrageous stunts. Even more scary is the promise of ’shenanigans’. See also: ‘zany’ and ‘crazy’ in the list of words used to massively over compensate for extreme tedium.
I want to beat Newcastle United. I’d love the Bees to get promoted. Yet, if we are to find ourselves in the Championship in 2017/18 then, at least, there’s the consolation of not having to sit through this tediously unfunny nonsense (It’s a man. In a cardigan.) whilst waiting for Match of the Day to start.
See you at Griffin Park on Saturday.