The days, hours and minutes are dragging interminably as I am just waiting for 12.15pm on Saturday to come around. Judgement Day is looming on the horizon as we wait with bated breath to discover whether Brentford can obtain the playoff place that at one time looked so likely, but has been slowly and inexorably been slipping away from us over the past few weeks. Nothing else really matters at the moment and I am distracted and moody in the extreme and my family have learned to their cost over the past few horrid and torrid days to steer well clear of me and just let me get on with my suffering. Every possible permutation has been flashing before my eyes as I lie in bed tossing and turning each night. The dream scenario when Derby and/or Ipswich fail to get the result they need and we roar past them triumphantly from almost on the finishing line to win the glittering prize. That is the best of all possible options in what would in that instance certainly become the best of all possible worlds, however the nagging fear still remains that an opportunity will open up for us but we let ourselves down and fail to do the business against Wigan and allow the prize slip through our fingers.
I am not sure if my equilibrium could easily recover from such a blow which would guarantee that I would be in for a long and miserable Summer of recriminations and what-ifs, however this is “New Brentford” where we are not weighed down by the myriad shortcomings, expectations and failures of the past hanging like a millstone around our neck. Personally I am pretty certain that we will win but whether that will be enough is the imponderable question.
Who would possibly have predicted that the Bees would be playing for the chance of promotion against an already relegated Wigan on the final day of the season? What an amazing volte face as back in August, Wigan under Uwe Rosler were seen as overwhelming early season promotion favourites, a position strengthened even more when they swooped to relieve the Bees of their midfield inspiration Adam Forshaw, a move that to say the least was not well received by the Griffin Park faithful. We went to Wigan in October as underdogs and also-rans and quite frankly fearing the worst but this was the day that the penny dropped about how good we were as we eventually came away disappointed at only drawing a game that we totally dominated from start to finish without finding our touch in front of goal. Since that day the fortunes of both teams have diverged in quite spectacular fashion and it is quite staggering how comprehensively Brentford have overtaken a team that won the FA Cup so recently and one short year ago was separated from them by a chasm of two divisions.
Wigan have long been a bogey team for the Bees and our overall record against them is dire with only six wins in the thirty-two matches played between the two teams since our paths first crossed in 1982. The last time we defeated them at Griffin Park was way back in 1991 when Blissett and Holdsworth ran riot against a porous defence and we can can only boast one victory against Wigan since the Millennium. I also still have vivid memories of our abject performance and surrender when an inspired young Wigan team including several future stars ran rings round us at Wembley in the final of the Freight Rover Trophy in 1985, helped, though they were by referee Tom Bune who missed Mike Newell’s obvious handball that led directly to their opener.
Before October the last time we played Wigan was twelve years ago when Wigan were on the verge of their fantastic push towards the Premier League, but we have finally caught up with, and indeed, overtaken them. Revenge would be sweet and is long overdue given their successful record against us, but tomorrow is about far more than that as we seek the win that could keep the dream alive. There will be time enough to reflect on the amazing and totally unforeseen happenings of the past nine months once the season ultimately ends but we still live in hope and whilst we all might feel that our playoff place, if not indeed automatic promotion, could well have already been signed and sealed by this juncture had things turned out differently there is no point in rewriting history and we simply need to offer unconditional support and will the ball into the opposition net tomorrow.
As far as the makeup of the actual teams are concerned, one is an open book and the other a total mystery. Brentford pretty much field the same squad week after week and I have previously mentioned that all eleven players who started the season opener against Charlton featured in last Saturday’s squad at Reading and I do not expect anything to change tomorrow. Should that indeed turn out to be the case I might well put my anorak on and see if I can find any recent precedents for such a feat but I somehow doubt if I will be successful, and perhaps Mark Croxford can assist me as he is the undisputed expert on all things Brentford over the past forty-five years or so. Chris Long is still unfit with that injury incurred when he weirdly returned to Everton the other week for an Under-21 match and it is hoped that he will finally be available for selection should the season be extended beyond tomorrow’s game. Stuart Dallas will likely provide another forward option from the bench and he looked highly promising in that unaccustomed role in the last few minutes at Reading when he led the line well. Given the all or nothing nature of tomorrow’s encounter we might as well go for broke and also include young Jermaine Udumaga in the squad as I suspect that we will more likely be seeking more goals tomorrow rather than looking to close the game out and Jermaine, although raw and untried, has looked lively and inventive with a keen eye for goal in Development squad fixtures. Our team takes care of itself and we know exactly how it will be setup and the way we will play – after all, we have no Plan B! Wigan are a totally unknown quantity. Given that they are irrevocably doomed to relegation how will they approach the game and which players will they send out against us, the recalcitrant old lags who got them into the mess they now face or a set 0f eager youngsters looking to impress their new manager and cement a place in a new and revitalised squad looking to make an instant return to the Championship next season? There is talent in abundance in the Wigan camp, just a lack of morale and application, and I am certain that with the pressure off them we will face a team utterly determined to wreck our plans and deny us the celebration we so pray for and crave.
I was hoping that writing this article would be a cathartic experience for me and help take my mind off the torture that awaits us tomorrow but I am afraid that far from calming me down, I am now feeling even more anxious and nervous and I find myself preparing for a massive letdown tomorrow. I am pretty sure that most Brentford supporters feel exactly the same as me today even if deep down in the rational recesses of our mind we all know that we are more than good enough to win tomorrow but we are football fans, wired to fear and expect the worst, as we wait with trepidation for Judgement Day to arrive.