Beesotted’s Jim Levack looks back at a night to reflect upon against Manchester City – it may have been a zero point haul against the Premier League Champions, but few saw the match as a total defeat.
Be honest. How many of us headed for Brentford the other night with a strange mixture of excitement and dread?
The thrill of watching the world’s greatest footballers pit their wits against an injury, illness and suspension ravaged Bees side didn’t have quite the allure an even contest might have done.
In the end though it was Brentford who earned all the plaudits – not from a Big Six-obsessed media obviously – for a display that showed why we love this incredible game.
A side that had scored 17 goals in its previous three outings facing a newly promoted side missing six of its regular starters. Words like massacre, slaughter, rout are the stuff of lazy journalistic supposition and maybe even a defence mechanism.
The eventual outcome was very different. City rattled, Foden punching the air with relief at full time, Guardiola dishing out superlatives… about a bus stop in Hounslow. It’s been quite a year.
The performance might have lacked a little second half bravery but when you’re facing City it’s an almost impossible balancing act. Push on and they’ll tear you apart, defend deep and you might just nick something.
Thomas Frank opted for the latter but wanted more after the break, and I’d say he got it pretty much spot on tactically. He too has grown in the last year to become one of the Premier League’s more refreshing, cliché-free, coaches.
He thinks differently and has developed a unity among the squad and the fans which, listening to the radio home in moaners, must be the envy of many to flight sides.
In decades of watching Brentford one thing has always been true. If the team put in a performance and show they care as much as the fans, then the fans will always respond.
So when City briefly went two up and the sides prepared to kick off at the hapless hopeless referee’s whistle, the response was among the most incredible I’ve ever heard. Griffin Park, Community Stadium call it what you like – the spirit remains the same.
It was hairs on the back of the neck stuff, repeated when the West Stand sang “stand up if you love Brentford” and then applauded as everyone did! Simple moments that ensure Griffin Park lives on in all our hearts.
But it was something a member of backroom staff said to me after the game that gave me the greatest food for thought and – again – showed how little I, and we as fans, know about the innermost workings of the club.
“If you played that team against the side that was out because of injuries, Covid and suspensions, they’d be pretty even games every time,” he said.
I have to admit I was surprised given the lack of Premier League experience in the side that faced City, but he was adamant. Sometimes it’s about training performances, balance, physiology, sleep, personal circumstances… stuff that we as fans have little concept of.
City was a proud watershed moment and more than any other in an incredible year, it marked Brentford’s arrival as a club to be taken seriously in the Premier League.
On our day we can give any side a good game, but as in League One and the Championship the key to success is making sure that “our day” comes more often than not. Consistency in performance is everything.
I’m now more convinced than ever that we will stay up, buoyed by returning injured players, a few additions in the upcoming window and a touch of luck. But it will need more performances like last Wednesday’s on and off the pitch to make sure.
One thing is certain. The year ahead will be far tougher than the last, but with the indomitable spirit that has drifted along the Thames and Great West Road, it’s going to be a great one.
A Happy and healthy New Year to all of you, full of everything you wish yourself both inside and outside of our “incredible” and “excellent” club… Pep’s words not mine.