100% VAR gets it right. 100%. But who will blink first?

13 Feb

With the midweek fixtures all played out, Brentford find themselves two points off ‘automatic’ and Leeds United still in second place. Just. For a while, it looked as though things may get even better with West Bromwich Albion behind and Fulham crying out for VAR (looked onside to me !) at Millwall. In the end, the Baggies got their win although the Cottagers ended things level. With Preston taking sixth and Bristol City warming up for Saturday’s trip to Elland Road after edging past Wayne Rooney by the odd goal in five, things remain as unclear and open as ever. Only West Brom starting to make a bit of clear air but, as we’ve seen all season, that can change in a heartbeat. Our own game at Birmingham City this weekend couldn’t be any bigger.

Before we go any further, I’ll likely mention Birmingham City a few times in the next couple of days. We’re due to play them  – why wouldn’t anyone do so in that situation? So to try, but no doubt fail, and avoid the usual nonsense about this tinpot team’s apparent obsession with their enormous club, the Griffin Park perspective on why I’ve absolutely relished our teams crossing paths in the Championship is noted further below. Why such pleasure is taken every time Brentford finish above Blues – which has been every season since our return to this level.

Sure… the financial misconduct, the managerial mayhem, that ten times better nonsense or the triple transfer swoop were factors – the sort of nonsense that makes football great in retrospect –  but nothing compared to what had gone before.

Anyway, getting back to the present, one almost had to feel sorry for Fulham last night. Almost. The brief window of opportunity I was afforded to watch that game before Kirsty and Phil started doing battle over Woodford Green property renovation (ah, the Wednesday night price of a green card for the trip to St. Andrews on Saturday is a huge one) saw two early goals and a huge controversy. Aleksander Miitrovic continuing to trade metaphorical punches with Ollie Watkins at the top of the Championship leading goalscorer charts before the Lions equalised with a goal so far offside even I spotted it first time out. Fulham were rightly incensed but, as we struggled to contain the laughs on our couch, the officials allowed it stand. 

100% VAR gets it right. 100%. But there was no VAR. No second chance. No reprieve and things were level. Millwall even had the temerity to miss a penalty and that’s how things stayed. Apparently. What would I know? The things you do for the long term footballing pleasure.  With that result, Fulham go level on points with Leeds United whilst Brentford remain two points off the pair of them. The Cottagers may aswell chalk up the three points now with a home game against Barnsley this weekend but Leeds – Bristol City promises to be another massive one. 

The Robins are just outside the play off zone. Only goal difference keeping them away from a top six that once again plays host to Preston. It really is a case of seeing who can hold their nerve. Who blinks first. Whatever else, something has to give with West Brom hosting Nottingham Forest. I’m beyond trying to figure out who I want to win in these games though. Let’s concentrate on ourselves and hope those favours continue to come.

Screenshot 2020-02-13 at 05.24.24

As it stands…

That said, we are now at the point of experiencing that additional factor of a promotion shootout. That moment where the run-in starts and every result of every club around us seems critical. Phones are refreshed mid-game as goals conceded and points dropped here, there and everywhere are celebrated with abandon. Where even a win for the Loftus Road team is to be celebrated if it comes against one of the teams in close proximity. Where shifts in the table are tracked, even ‘as it stands’, and all favours are grateful accepted. We’ve had it by the bucketload during this week’s fixtures with Brentford even sitting in second place until Leeds equalised. Walking past Griffin Park on the school run with Harry, we’ve been going through permutations of results and possibilities – it’s amazing how much that can help with arithmetic. So, If Leeds lose, how many points will they have? Where will Fulham be if they beat Millwall?

There are, of course, a lot of games to go. Almost a third of the season still. But with nobody really striking out on their own, albeit West Bromwich Albion have a few points’ breathing space (at present) one can’t help but get drawn in by the situation unfolding around us. Which, as much as anything else, is why Birmingham City is a massive one for us Brentford fans. Regardless of the history. The obsession. 

I’ll absolutely love it if we pick up the points. Might even sing a song at full time. Roll on Saturday – see you there.   

 

Until then, here’s my take on it. Birmingham City – the ‘obsession’

For me the fascination – and it is one – with Birmingham City goes back to the late 80s / early 90s. I’ve written about this before and so apologies in advance but some things feel as though they bear repeating. No matter how forlorn it may be. Yet it is as crucial now as a means of seeing how far we’ve come compared to how things were before. Those of us a bit longer in the tooth will be well aware how our paths crossed over and over back in the day. 

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.

Deano and Bliss

Things weren’t so sweet the following season as  Birmingham 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 campaign, 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 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…..

So, yes. Whilst I DO focus on Birmingham City (a lot) it is as much about the history. About showing how far we have evolved. Rising up out of the primordial swamp and leaving the dinosaurs behind us – in more than one case . Shrewd ownership has proven that you don’t need to spend big to spend clever. Can we take it to the next level? Perhaps Saturday will give a bit more of a clue, but I wouldn’t bet against this race going to the very last weekend of the season. 

Nick Bruzon

2 Responses to “100% VAR gets it right. 100%. But who will blink first?”

  1. Edward Soudan February 13, 2020 at 8:35 am #

    Hi Nick,
    I have sympathy for both Millwall and Fulham here (what?). Certainly looked offside but on the many replays did the Fulham defender touch the ball first? I think the assistant referee thought so and is the reason he didn’t raise the flag.

  2. BerksBee February 13, 2020 at 2:51 pm #

    I watched that Fulham Millwall game last night and as Edward Soudan mentions above, my first thought was that it came off the defenders head. Bearing in mind that the linesman on that side must have had the best view of anyone, he must have thought that was the case.

    Regarding VAR, I’m a big advocate of it. Yes, it’s not perfect, it has its flaws but the right/correct decision must be the over-riding factor. There’s too much at stake now for wrong/incorrect decisions to be allowed to change the outcome of matches.

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