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Billy Grant gets philosophical after Brentford’s defeat to Stoke. And recalls his meeting with Brentford Director of Football Phil Giles back in January where he amazingly predicted that Brentford would be in exactly this position – battling with West Brom for a place in the Premier League – come end of the season 

There’s no worse feeling than spending what seems like a lifetime chasing something you really want.

Then when you finally get the chance, letting it slips out of your hands

But it’s how you deal with that disappointment is crucial.

Picture this

Young Johnny Owusu

Desperately wants to go out with the beautiful Julie Loneghan

She’s love of his life. She just doesn’t know it yet

“She’s out of your league. Streets ahead”

everyone tells Johnny.

She doesn’t even look at him. Never mind speak to him.

Whats’ worse. She’s only got eyes for Bad Billy Brogan who’s older, cooler, more popular and has more money than Johnny.

He event got a car for his 16th birthday

Slowly over the weeks and months, Johnny keep chipping away at Julie. He did his research. He found out what made her tick

Her favourite band. Her favourite food. What she’s watching on tik tok

Then four months later, miraculously she agrees to go out with him. Johnny plans the big date.

Five Guys it is

He walks in. She’s sitting there.

He walks over to the table and just stands there. Clammed up. Silence ensues. For what seem like forever.

Five awkward minutes later, Bad Billy Brogan walks in. Julie Loneghan makes her excuses.

Her and Billy find another booth

Boom! Chance gone

Johnny is GUTTED

How Johnny is feeling at that very moment is how everybody associated with Brentford football club are feeling at this moment in time after the Bees clammed up at their ‘Five Guys date’ up in Stoke

Yes there is a chance that Julie Loneghan’s relationship with Bad Billy Brogan may end up being a disaster and Johnny might get one unexpected last bite of the cherry. But the fact still remains.

Johnny had his chance and blew it.

After an weekend of despair, anger and sadness, many Bees fans woke up on Monday morning with a much more balanced perspective on things. We reflected a lot of those views on the ‘Judgement Day’ pre Barnsley podcast (click here).

Once again fans began to appreciate how far we’ve come. And re-evaluating the situation, were quick to point out that we still have not just one … but two bites of the cherry.

Little consolation when you know you were ninety minutes away from needing only one point to see your team promoted to the Premier League.

But the key is. How do we pick ourselves up from here?

Back in January. I had one of my catch-ups with Brentford Director of Football Phil Giles.

Phil was his usual confident self but this time – and I’ve known Phil for five years – he was showing a different type of confidence.

His figures were telling him something very, very exciting.

So exciting, I never penned the article in the end.

And the reason (and I know this isn’t very journalistic of me)


I didn’t want to jinx it

The truth is – we’d had a stinker of a start to our season. We picked up only 12 points from our first eleven games which saw us in 17th place after the loss at Forest in October.

Ollie Watkins of Brentford celbrates scoring the winning goal. Brentford v Millwall, Griffin Park, London. Picture by Mark D Fuller/Focus Images Ltd . 19/10/2019

The following match – at home to Millwall – we were 2-0 down with 7 minutes to go. Fans were singing “You’re getting sacked in the morning” to Thomas Frank from the Ealing Road terrace.

When Ollie Watkins banged in the winner on 90 plus 4 minutes , our season turned around on a sixpence.

The day I met Phil, we were in 3rd place – 9 points behind West Brom.

It was the day before we beat QPR 3-0. Brentford had just drawn Leicester in the cup. We were starting to take off

We had made up loads of ground since our decidedly poor start. West Brom were top of the table at Christmas. Sheffield Wednesday were third and we were sitting in sixth place – 13 points behind the then leaders.

Championship Table December 25th 2019. 11 v 11.com

But Giles was confident we could make up the gap.

The figures were saying – in early January, Brentford were the second best team in the division. Leeds were the best. And we were ahead of The Baggies. By 0.15 of a goal*

I got the feeling that Brentford were confident that – if we continued what we are doing  – then we were on course for a 2nd place finish

If you listened to the pundits like Don Goodman and co back in January, they said that Leeds and West Brom were streets ahead of everyone and no one would catch them

Well the gap wasn’t actually that big. West Brom have been MASSIVELY lucky this season

That penalty they got against Preston – they got lucky.

The handball that wasn’t given for Brentford when we played them then they went up the other end and scored – again lucky.

If those two had gone the other way, we would be three or four points away from them. But there’s still plenty of the season to go

A lot of people were saying we hadn’t played well in certain games. But football is so random. And we had been very unlucky in so many games. Charlton. Birmingham. West Brom.

Conversely, West Brom had been massively lucky. They had more than their fair share of luck.

If we had more of the luck that West Brom have had, we could be much closer to them. Maybe two points ahead of them. Maybe even more

That was the feeling I got in January.

(* Explaining what the term ‘0.15 of a goal ahead’ means. In the gambling and stats world, you have to imagine two teams who play each other many times. From those results you could work out an average goal difference.

So ahead by 0.5 goals means that the average goal difference would be 0.5. So over two matches, if you draw 1-1 and win 2-1 that equates to a 0.5 goal difference. So if Brentford played West Brom one hundred times, and the score was 0-0 eighty five times and 1-0 to Brentford fifteen times, Brentford would be 0.15 of a goal ahead)

And needless to say, I was beside myself with excitement.

So much so, I never posted the article (which looking back of it would have been a corker).

I wanted to see how things panned out over the next few months. Rather than jinx it with an article that would give more ammo for opposition fans to shout “Spreadsheet w@nkers” at us.

Maybe if things go to plan, I will post it retrospectively (still not wanting to jinx anything) at the end of the season

So what happened next?

Everything went arse above face.

Pontus Jansson got injured. Our form took a dip.

Pontus Jansson v Preston North End. Deepdale. Sept 2020.
Photo – Mark Fuller. – Official Brentford Photos. officialbfcpics.co.uk

West Brom signed Grosicki and Robinson and picked up form.

We gained only one point from two home crucial matches – against Leeds and Nottingham Forest. And we lost against relegation-threatened Luton.

By the end of February, playoffs was deemed pretty much a certainty as the race for 2nd place was replaced by the need to beat Fulham to the top playoff spot.

Then came lockdown.

A three and a half month break was filled with all sorts of uncertainty.

Would the season start back up at all? Would the season finish? Would the players be fit? Will the teams’ form at restart be same form as before lockdown?

So many questions that no-one was able to answer with any spreadsheet.

I caught up with Phil again just before the season restart in June. I was interested to know if he was equally as confident as he was when I met him in January.

When we spoke, we had just beaten Arsenal 3-2 in a lockdown friendly.

Phil was confident but still very balanced.

His view was the team were as ready as they would ever be. In fact if anything, they were in better shape that before lockdown.

The players had kept themselves fit. Being professionals, it wasn’t something that the club had to drum into them.

There were also a few key players who had returned from long-term injury including Pontus Jansson. This would be huge for us.

The lockdown has been like pre-season for Brentford. January signings Shandon Baptiste, Tariq Fosu and Halil Dervisogulu had a few extra months to integrate and understand the patterns of play. They were looking excellent and they would give us a few added strings to our bow.

He expressed extreme confidence that the team would have a good post-lockdown run.

When I asked did whether he felt we could catch the opposition, he was more sombre.

He couldn’t say.

As it was out of our hands.

It depended on how West Brom (again no mention of Leeds) starts their season. If we won our first two and West Brom started badly then nerves start to hit and things start to get interesting.

Championship Table Before Restart. June 2020

But there was one thing he was adamant about. One factor that could cost us. Something that we had no control of.

Poor referees.

Apparently the referee in the first half of the Arsenal game was not the best. And Phil made the point that the officiating in our league could be, at times, better. Not for only Brentford. But for all teams.

No matter how good our form may be. No matter how tight our defence may be. No matter how potent out attack may be. No matter how clever we may be at seeing out games.

If the referee then turns the game by, for example, not giving an obvious penalty (like up at West Brom). Or giving a dubious decision against us. 
Those one or two decisions can have a huge impact on how our season pans out which either go against us as unlucky. Or for us as lucky

Roll on eight games later.

A refereeing decision in the Stoke game which saw Ethan Pinnock hauled to the floor in the penalty area – only for the referee to wave play on – could have seen a very different end to Brentford’s season.

Ethan Pinnock. Stoke City v Brentford June 2020. Photo – Mark Fuller

That doesn’t hide the fact that we weren’t at our best. But the reality is that decision also turned the game.

On a more positive note, Brentford have closed that 13 points gap since Christmas and are currently standing just 1 point behind West Brom – 90 minutes away from potentially being in the Premier League.

Ok things aren’t quite all in our favour at the moment.

West Brom need to beat QPR to guarantee their promotion not the top flight.

QPR currently have nothing to play for.

And QPR (as the song goes) f***ng hate Brentford.

But on the flip side, according to the ‘spreadsheet w@nkers’ QPR have 25% chance of taking at least one (if not three) points off West Brom.

Before the Fulham match which restarted the season, if you had asked ANY Brentford fan which option he or she would take there and then one of the following:

  • Having a 25% chance of automatic promotion if Brentford won their last league match of the season against relegation-threatened Barnsley
  • Play nine matches – including against Fulham and West Brom – and gamble we win all nine to guarantee promotion

you would have struggled to find one person who would have taken the latter option

Saïd Benrahma scores. Fulham v Brentford , Craven Cottage, London. Picture by Mark D Fuller/Focus Images Ltd. 20/06/2020

In all reality, we could have (and maybe should have) lost to Charlton.. and then beaten Stoke.

If that had happened, we would be in exactly the same position (points and position). But the difference. We would not be beating ourselves up saying that we were fluffed it at the last hurdle.

Charlton were equally as organised as Stoke were.

The difference between the Charlton game and the Stoke game – a couple of moments of brilliance from key players which turned the match. 

Unfortunately, those moments were just not there against Stoke.

All teams have off-days.

The day after we played Stoke, Man City were unable to break down a very organised Arsenal side. They lost – against the odds.

On the other hand, a few days earlier Leeds were also unable to break down a resilient Swansea side. Not until the 89th minute when moment of brilliance from Pablo Hernandez saw them snatch all three points.

It happens.
Embed from Getty Images
The reality is – we as fans expected Brentford to take two steps forward this lockdown

What we have done in fact is taken four steps forward and one step back

We’re ahead of where we (the fans and the pundits) expected us to be.

Amazingly, we’re actually there or there abouts where Phil Giles expected us to be.  Or Nostradamus I may start calling him.

Nostradamus, the French astrologer and physician whose prophecies earned him fame and a loyal following

We’ve done fantastically well.

But now we have to deal with what is ahead of us

On the Beesotted Pride Of West London post-Stoke match podcast (click here), the Stoke loss was described as our ‘Doncaster moment’ by some.

The moment when our destiny was handed to us right on a plate. Only for us to f*ck it up.

But let’s look at it another way.

Against Doncaster, we were never in the driving seat.

We were never as good a team as we were now.We were a decent side who were handed an opportunity out of the blue on the 90th minute when it looked like we had blown a gasket.

This time around, we’re Lewis Hamilton in his finely tuned Mercedes who has been forced to take a mis-timed pit stop. 

We may have fallen behind poll position in the race to the Premier League.

But Lewis Hamilton doesn’t become a bad driver overnight.

And whether we do it on Wednesday night. Or whether we have to go through the whole playoff malarkey once again, as fans we know in our heart of hearts this side is good enough to finish the job.

Yes of course we could be unlucky on the day.

Or have an off day.

Or come up with a side who has worked hard to nullify our attack.

But we all know there is enough quality in our side to achieve promotion – whichever route it we end up taking.

Back to poor old Johnny Owusu

After his catastrophic date, he wasn’t feeling sorry for himself.

He picked himself up and went again

The following week, he sent Julie Loneghan an instagram message. It made her laugh.

It’s back on … Bad Johnny Brogan has been kicked to the kerb

Johnny and Julie are an item

Johnny’s class showed through in the end

And so will ours

So go on and do this Brentford

It’s your time

You can catch up with all this discussion plus much much more on the Beesotted Judgement Day pre Barnsley Podcast. We talk to Paul from QPR podcast about the possibility of Brentford’s rival QPR taking points off West Brom. Plus we also speak to Joe from Red All Over podcast in our Barnsley match preview.