Non Match Reaction: Brentford


Image: Press Association

As we’ve suspected for some time the football authorities have now suspended the programme and all games are cancelled until at least April 3rd.

The news came too late for me though, not because I’d set off for the game from some far flung outpost but because I’d already written an introductory paragraph assuming our game would be played. In the circumstances I feel it would be a shame to deprive the Focus faithful of such a treat so here it is.

Although Friday nights have been kind to us this season, this particular fixture looked to be our toughest assignment yet. Although it hurts to say it, our lovely neighbours have been playing a very attractive brand of football all season. They’ve regularly been putting teams to the sword as evidenced by a goal difference of plus 31 and had thoroughly outplayed us in beating us in December.

Indeed Brentford have been a bogey side of ours for some time. In nine League games since our relegation in 2014, we’ve emerged victorious just once with a win at Griffin Park in 2016. In fact you’d need to go back 30 years to find our last League victory over the Bees at Craven Cottage. Steve Milton scored the only goal in April 1990 which was to prove crucial as we ultimately only avoided relegation to the bottom flight by the skin of our teeth.

For those dissatisfied with our performances this season there is comfort in knowing that we are at least challenging for promotion to the top flight rather than fighting for our very existence as we were in the late 80’s and early 90’s.

As you can guess from the above I was not wildly optimistic about our chances of three points so the news the game was off wasn’t too heart breaking. Indeed when you look at the bigger picture football really isn’t that important in what are unprecedented times for modern society. We are probably only at the beginning of what will be a very challenging period where health , jobs and the welfare of our nearest and dearest will be far higher priorities than how our favourite team are faring.

However as this a football website I’ll leave those bigger questions to the experts in that field and concentrate on Fulham instead. As we currently don’t know when the season will resume or even if it’ll finish, now is quite a good time to look back and summarise the campaign. It’s certainly been a weird one as although we’re in a good position to challenge for promotion there is still an underlying sense of frustration that we’ve not quite done ourselves justice.

If you’re in the anti Parker brigade you’d certainly be arguing we should have done better. Many pundits feel we’ve got the strongest squad in the Championship and as such were favourites for automatic promotion. We’ve an array of attacking talent that has rarely been let off the leash. One wise sage likened it to having a Ferrari but only using it to take the kids to school. There has been the rare exception, such as the Millwall game way back in August, but our possession based style has too often been pedestrian in nature.

The pro Parker faction will argue that Scott is doing very well in his first job in the hot seat. The Championship is a slog as we all know and we are finding a way to grind out results even when not firing on all cylinders. As mentioned earlier Brentford are winning plaudits for their Champagne style but sit 4 points behind us. In other words we must be doing something right. Huddersfield and Cardiff were relegated with us, with parachute payments to match but are nowhere near where Parker has us.

As you may have gathered from my previous scribblings I’m a fan of Parker. He took over amidst the rubble of last season’s disaster and has had to rebuild not only confidence but also mould a squad fit for an immediate promotion challenge yet be mindful of Financial Fair Play regulations. It’s not an easy circle to square for an experienced manager, let alone a novice in his first job. I’m disappointed that we’re not purring along like Jokanovic’s vintage play off teams of 2017 and 2018 but there were plenty of times early in both those seasons that we were struggling for form.

As it stands we don’t know if we’ll emulate Slav’s squad of 2018 and end up back in the Premier League. We can only hope that the current crisis recedes so that we at least get a chance to try. If not then I think it only fair that the current tables are confirmed as final ones and the top three are promoted. I’m sure our friends at Brentford will agree?!