Time to make some history.

15 May

Welcome back / Crud, him again. Delete as applicable. We’ve needed a few weeks of ‘downtime’ on these pages for a multitude of reasons but that’s all finished. Been there, done it, bought the t-shirt. There’s been no room to talk about Brentford making a winning run to the end of the season. On Ivan Toney scooping the golden boot and breaking Glenn Murray’s Championship record with his 31st of the season at Ashton Gate. Indeed, no room to talk about the near coronary induced by the decision to keep him on the pitch when he picked up the yellow card in that final ‘regular’ game of the campaign prior to scoring. No place to talk about how the final four have played out for the play-offs. As we all know, Monday evening sees Bournemouth host Brentford followed by Swansea City visiting Barnsley. Perhaps most importantly, no real time to talk about the buzz of being allowed back into games from next week. The lucky supporters over the 3000 TAP point limit know they will be at Lionel Road next Saturday. Those entered into the ballot no doubt sweating on the results of that as much as the first leg.

Yet for everything that has gone on, the only real subject on anybody’s lips has to be the play-offs.  Positive though I have been about our promotion chances this season (spoiler alert: it’ll continue), there was perhaps a resigned inevitability about our chances of reeling in a Watford team recording win after win after win in the final few furlongs. Their own victory at Norwich City the point where deep down even the maths was too outlandish a leap of faith to make. Their 1-0 defeat of Millwall confirming a return to the Premier league. Now, Brentford are looking to join them with a tenth bite at the play-off cherry. A monkey on the back the size of King Kong. We all know the stats. We all know our record. Nine attempts. Four finals. Nine defeats. The whole process starting with Tranmere Rovers back in the early 90s and coming all the way up to Fulham last time out. An extra time defeat as much a triumph for brutality as it was football. In between we’ve had Huddersfield Town, Sheffield Wednesday, Swansea City and Middlesbrough in the semis along with final game slip ups against Crewe, Yeovil Town and Stoke City in Cardiff. That one followed up by the worst train journey ever. Apologies again to all impacted. Only Preston North End had experienced more attempts than us without success, albeit even they have finally done it. Ten play-offs ; one win. Can we do the same?

The play-offs. We all know what happened the previous nine times…..

The short answers is a categoric YES. For me, Clive, I’m convinced this is finally our turn. Dark horse for second place in ‘player of the season’ Sergi Canos popping up to get the winner at Wembley. Hey, one can dream. The simple fact of the matter is that despite the plethora of injuries we’ve readjusted our formation and hit our groove once more. Brentford are keeping clean sheets at one end and scoring goals at the other. Of course, we’d love Rico, Josh and Henrik back (and who knows what unlikely cameos may be made at some point? ) but the team have rediscovered themselves. Sergi at wing back, Tariqe in flames and Christian Norgaard alongside the centre backs a formation rejig that has seen the Bees back to winning ways. The other three teams doing their level best to trip over themselves in a bid to discover the most anti-form in the final lengths. 

Of course, football isn’t that simple. No matter how well one team is playing versus the other three, everyone has had a chance to reset and pick themselves up once more. All four teams go into this fresh and it comes down to one thing only – who holds their nerve? Swansea, Barnsley , Bournemouth or Brentford? Obviously we’re going to talk up the Bees where, perhaps, we can draw some historical parallels. Blow the dust off the previous column (during the war, Grandad) and it spoke about how we fell into the play-offs after being presented with a golden chance after Huddersfield beat West Brom in game 45. Oh, the pain of tripping up against Stoke and then home to Barnsley was indescribable. Of watching our ‘automatic’ chances slide away. An inexorable torture session viewed from behind the sofa with fingers over eyes. Played out in empty stadia as our hopes of hitting the Premier League were replaced with a ninth attempt at the play-offs. We all know what happened.

Yet, longer term, might this have done us a favour? Perhaps. Like ‘that penalty’ against Doncaster  (a pain only matched by the play-off penalty defeat to Huddersfield the season we came second when there was only one automatic slot), we bounced back in a style that had to be seen to be believed. Marcello Trotta and the team taking that pain, scrunching it up into a little ball and booting it into the net. The victory at Leyton Orient perhaps the most ballsy thing I have witnessed a football team ever do. Too right we celebrated like we’d won the FA Cup. Partridgesque levels of bouncing back following the most indescribable anguish.

This time around, rather than watching our team play in the Premier league with out us present, we’ve had to hit pause. We’ve reached the semi-finals of the League Cup. We’ve had that huge unbeaten run mid-season. We’ve discovered the most coveted goal-scorer in English football in Ivan Toney. If ever there was a shoe in for ‘player of the season’ it is him. The only real battle there as to who comes second? The fairytale ending is all lined up. A first season in the Premier League, to be played out in front of supporters, the prize at stake. Not to mention a few quid. If nothing else, a chance to avoid the most undesirable play-off record.

Who do you want in the play-offs?”. That, the most common question that has come in this direction in recent weeks. Honesty, I don’t care. Four tough teams. Four teams after the same thing. Only one can make it through. This comes down to nothing more than bottle. The fans will, of course, bring an additional aspect that wasn’t there last time out. And a good thing too. We all know how awful football in empty stadia has been. The echoy thud of the ball and the shouts from the touchline the only sounds to punctuate the players calling out to each other. Urghh, it has been grim. All being well, it is now over. Being part of the crowd against Blackburn  earlier in the season, the clamour of 2,000 fans was the most incredible noise. The sweetest of sounds. We’ll have double the amount in this time around. All four stands populated. If not heaving, certainly more present to lift the players further. Peter Gilham finally having a crowd to play up to. The players being roared on. 

Oh, I can’t wait for the play-offs. Not a typo. As much as anything else the chance to see a game of football. To enter this game of Russian roulette feeling positive is the most alien of feelings. Yet, perhaps, the depressing familiarity of what we do at this stage will finally work in our favour. There is no pressure. At least, not in our house. I’ve had the somewhat dubious pleasure of experiencing all nine of our previous attempts and have been finally numbed against the feeling of what comes next. We’ve nothing to lose because we only lose. The team can play with freedom. Without the albatross around the neck. The script is written. All we need to do is turn up and deliver.

All we need to do…… If only football were that simple.

Bring it on. Seen you next Saturday. In person.

Nick Bruzon   

4 Responses to “Time to make some history.”

  1. Brighton Bee May 15, 2021 at 7:41 am #

    Nick, excellent stuff. Despite everything that has happened this season and on the previous nine occasions in the play offs – I am convinced that this is finally our year! C’mon you Bees

  2. Lichfieldbee May 15, 2021 at 9:26 am #

    Just a personal grip regarding the allocation of tickets for the 2nd leg, I have around 2,500 TAP’s and didn’t freeze my ST this year but couldn’t get a ticket.
    A mate of mine who has over 3’000 points but asked for a refund on his ST automatically gets a ticket.
    There again life’s not fair I guess

    • nickbruzon May 16, 2021 at 7:15 am #

      Sorry to hear that. For what it’s worth, even our Harry and Mrs B haven’t got in. Don’t envy the cub having to split this one up, given the restrictions outside their control. That said, I thought it was only limited to current ST holders who also had the TAPS.

  3. Ken Luckett May 15, 2021 at 2:44 pm #

    Pleased to see you back, Nick. Now, the plays offs are not the end of it. A few years back now for some, but not me, with only one team promoted from the old 3rd Div. Brentford came 2nd. The next season promotion was extended to Two teams. Brentford came 3rd.
    I wont predict, but by golly I am going to take up praying.

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