I just thought that an opening blog of around 400 words was a bit short and putting a photo in was self-indulgent in the extreme and likely to scare away any potential readers unlucky enough to chance upon my site.
So what has happened over the past week at Griffin Park? Not a lot really if you want to ignore the end of the early bird season ticket sale which left us with a club record number of nearly 5,000 season ticket holders, the Carling Cup draw away at East London neighbours Dagenham & Redbridge, the publication of the new league fixture list and far too much unsettling speculation about the future of club legend and hero Clayton Donaldson.
It will be great to see a Griffin Park packed to the gills (that’s “gills” NOT “Gills” who we have hopefully left behind for evermore) at most games next season. Of course we are all excited at the imminent prospect of Lionel Road and recognise that progress and finances dictate that we have to move but I have had nearly 50 years of Griffin Park and it is seared into my soul. There is a magic about watching games at a real, old-fashioned football stadium hidden in the back streets surrounded by terraced houses – not forgetting the pubs on each of its four corners.
Night matches are something else with a packed and raucous crowd on the Ealing Road terrace (yes, that’s still a terrace) sucking the ball into the net as our boys rampage forwards towards that end ideally in the second half. Goalkeepers have learned to dread being serenaded with that cry of “It’s all your fault” as the crowd rejoices in their errors – not that most opposition goalkeepers have been anything other than inspired when they come to play us.
I feel a personal slight and insult when we are turned around at the coin toss and forced to attack the Ealing Road end in the first half. What are the opposition playing at? They can’t do that! We always kick that way in the second half!
But you know what, in an idle few minutes I looked at the facts – never let the facts get in the way of a good story – and the truth is that last season in our twenty-three home league games we attacked Ealing Road in the first half six times, against Shrewsbury, MK Dons, Port Vale, Wolves, Notts County and Crawley, and won five of them.
Indeed I remember Tony Craig to my utter bemusement choosing to play that way against MK Dons just after Christmas and my bellows of anger were answered in the best possible way by Clayton scoring a second minute gift goal when nemesis Dean Lewington lost David Button’s howitzer kick forward in the low setting sun. Shows what I know.
As for the opposition goalkeepers I think I just said how good they generally were against us and it is hard to remember any total Ashley Bayes-esque disasters and gifts coming our way.
Well Crewe’s Alan Martin did considerately dive over Clayton Donaldson’s far from fulminating twenty-yarder, but we were four up at the time and ironically the biggest and most helpful blunder and cock-up of the season came at the Brook Road end when Paul Jones somehow managed to pat-a-cake Jonathan Douglas’s less than bullet header into the net to settle the nerves and win that crucial late season game against Crawley.
Tuesday April 8th, the night of that aforementioned Crawley game, had to be one of the best nights of the season. The nerves were audibly twanging as the elusive goal failed to arrive until Jones’s faux pas. The three points calmed the nerves and made our promotion dreams ever closer to fruition particularly after Nigel Clough’s Sheffield United team of reserves and kids did the business over hated rivals Rotherham thanks to a glorious last minute penalty.
As for Paul Jones, he was rewarded for two seasons as an ever-present with the tin-tack and has joined Portsmouth where he replaces another flapper in ex-Bee loanee Trevor Carson.
For all his Dracula-like propensities, Jones was unbeaten in four penalty kicks in a row against the Bees. Billy Clarke, Myles Weston and Kevin O’Connor were foiled by him when he was at Exeter and Clayton Donaldson shot horribly wide at Crawley in 2013 before Adam Forshaw finally got one right earlier last season to give us a narrow away win.
I have jumped around a bit in this latest blog and will come back to the some of the issues mentioned briefly at the start in a day or so.