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Tinpot !!!

There I’ve said it …

Never has a phase meant for derision and ridicule been so reclaimed by it’s victims ….

When Sturridge scored his last-minute goal against Wales in Lens to send the England fans into ecstacy, thousands of England fans prematurely booked rooms in Paris for their impending knockout game.

When Christiano Ronaldo scored Portugal’s equaliser against Hungary to ensure Iceland, rather Portugal, faced England in Nice for the round of 16 knockout game, England fans up and down the country were jumping for joy.

As the song goes “You started singing too soon”.

Yes we did.

Being an England veteran (12 tournaments now with zero return), and a follower of a lower-league football team – Brentford- that constantly has to prove their worth ‘against the odds’, I was a little bit more nervous for our match against Iceland than most.

Yes it was a match that England should win.

Yes the atmosphere would be great as the Scandinavians are quality party guests.

But this game always seemed like a banana skin to me.
Both Iceland and Wales have had to fight for respect from the day they entered the finals.

Those teams had far too much to prove.

Their squads were full of players who wanted to show the world that there is very little difference on the day between teams filled with players from the best teams in Europe and teams with a hotch potch of players from random ‘lesser’ clubs around the continent  IF YOU HAVE THE RIGHT SPIRIT AND A MODICOM OF A PLAN ON THE PITCH

Plucky little Wales.
Iceland the country with a population the size of Brighton.

Both teams upsetting the applecart and who could, quite feasibly, face each other in the European Championship Final if past performances are anything to go by.

I wrote in my Euro 2016 Blog Diary a few days ago that England couldn’t do any worse if they decided to mix and match the team – picking players from teams lower down the football pyramid to play alongside players like Dele Alli and Daniel Sturridge.

Sounds a stupid idea right?

Any more stupid than picking injured players, out of form players and putting players in their wrong positions?

Wales and Iceland are rightfully where they are in the European Championships because of their desire to succeed. The incredible bonding of the team and the fans – who all seem as one.
They all came to France to do a job – and stuck to the task in hand.

Meticulously.

Wales manager Chris Coleman will be the first to admit, when facing players like Ronaldo … and Muller … and Ozil .. and Pirlo … he doesn’t have the most technically gifted players in the world. But his team are organised. They have heart. And they are willing to go out there and attack the opposition against all the odds.

Iceland manager Heimir Hallgrimsson knows the limitations of his team but, after beating Austria 2-1 with a winning goal in the final seconds of their final group game in Paris to set up a tie with England, professed

“I’m not afraid of England. We don’t mind what other people think of us”.

And there you have it. In a nutshell.

As a Brentford fan, I can 100% rally behind Iceland and Wales. We have had a similar experience – but in a football league way.

#TINPOT is the phrase.

The arrogant ‘bigger’ teams see teams like us … And Iceland … And Wales … as sh!t on their shoe.

A temporary inconvenience that can be removed with a quick wipe of tissue.

But you know there are some times, no matter how much tissue you use, you can never get rid of that last lingering piece of sh!t.

It brings you down.

And the aftermath … the smell seems to last forever.

Iceland took out England … against the odds.

Wales took out Belgium … against the odds.

Last season, lil olde tinpot Brentford got to the playoffs to the Premier League .. against the odds.

What did all three teams have in common?

Teflon team spirit. That was something that so called bigger clubs like Derby. Or Leeds. Or Blackburn. Or Nottingham Forest. Or Sheffield Wednesday could not buy that year.

Have a look at the make up of the Wales and Iceland team.

Players playing for some of the best teams from leagues around Europe standing side-by-side with players from the not-so-best teams from leagues around Europe.

For Wales – Gareth Bale from Real Madrid and Aaron Ramsay from Arsenal quite happily playing alongside Sam Volkes from Burnley and Andy King from Leicester and Joe Ledley from Palace and Chris Gunter from Reading and Hal Robson-Kanu from … well no team at the moment (he was at Reading last season) .. and Johnny Williams from MK Dons (just relegated to Division 1 playing some woeful football) and Dave Cottrell of Birmingham (Championship) and George Williams from Division 1 Gillingham (who didn’t even make the playoffs).

  • Andros Townsend didn’t play for a ‘big’ enough club to go to France …
  • Middlesboro had one of the tightest defences in the football league with Deno Ayala and Ben Gibson as rocks in the middle with George Friend on the left and Emilio Nsue on the right … players who would walk into the Wales or Iceland side if they were from that country ….
  • Andre Gray, who Brentford transferred to Burnley for £9m last summer, plays alongside Volkes up-front for Burnley. He scored 7 goals more than Volkes did for his club last season – 23 goals in total … just saying
  • Bournemouth were a quality side when they were promoted from The Championship – most of their players would walk into a Wales or Iceland team …
  • Leicester, Swansea and Palace players are not glamorous enough for England. But will feature in the semi-final for Wales and possibly Iceland too

Journalists would laugh at the idea of say for example an Andre Gray being put in the England squad. But why not? With the right set-up around him and a decent manager who understands how to get the best out of superstars AND lower league players, would he do any worse than the current shower?

Plus he would have the ‘Michael Owen World Cup 1998’ factor.  Burst on the scene like a wonder kid with no fear. Kind of like Rashford could have – who we saw wee glimpses of.

As a manager, I love Eddie Howe. He has zero international experience. But he is a quality manager who knows how to deal with players, is humble and gets his team to play to a game plan that they players all understand.

For Iceland, Gylfi Sigurdsson from Swansea and Birkir Bjarnason from Basel and Birkir Sævarsson from Hammarby and Jon Dadi Bodvarsson from Kaiserslautern can comfortably play beside Johann Gudmundsson from Charlton (relegated to Division 1 last season), Kolbeinn Sigthorsson from Nantes (who didn’t even finish in the top half of the French Div 1) and Aron Gunnarsson from Cardiff (who sacked their manager after failing to make the playoffs to the Premier League this summer).

Quite a few of the players in these two squads came from teams who did not even come close to Brentford’s 9th position in the championship – and that was seen by a failure by many Bees fans.

So tell me what is going on here?

Iceland still have one major hurdle to jump – hosts France –  if they are to reach the semi-finals. But at this stage, anything is possible.

And, like Wales, they seem to have the right balance between experience, gameplan, guts and desire.

Iceland and Wales may be #TINPOT …

But just like AFC Bournemouth – who have held their own against all odds in The Premier League this season and who rode the #TINPOT wave last season aimed at them by the likes of fans of so called ‘bigger’ clubs – they both won’t mind wearing the tinpot helmet …..

…. If means a Sunday night in the Stade De France on Sunday 11 June with an army of fans going absolutely garrity behind the goal.

We – at Brentford – and most fans of so called ‘less glamorous sides’ in the UK will be 100% behind you.

Pob lwc cymru !

Afram Island !

Billy Grant

@BillyTheBee99