I slept extremely well last night, particularly between the hours of seven forty-five until nine forty-five pm as I kept nodding off throughout the Sky TV coverage of the Birmingham City versus Cardiff City clash.
What an appalling match between two teams who exemplified everything that is wrong with the game of football today as they both hoofed the ball forward at every opportunity and gave it away with monotonous regularity on the rare occasions when they attempted to play football.
Quite frankly the match was almost unwatchable as both teams cancelled each other out and seemed to be trying to outdo each other in terms of the number of unforced errors they both committed.
Perspiration, certainly, but so little inspiration and it was quite fitting and appropriate that the eventual result was decided by an appalling refereeing error.
There was plenty of effort, sweat, energy, passion, running, defensive organisation, covering and tackling but a total lack of imagination, guile or skill on the ball – and both these teams are ahead of Brentford in the Championship table!
How can this be the case? What can we learn from these teams?
Well, simply that success in football is evidently not obtained by possessing the most talented and pure footballers. Other attributes are required and we quite plainly lack some of them.
I would not for one moment change our style or the manner in which we play. Our football can be exhilarating and breathtaking at times and provides us with so much enjoyment and pride as a club renowned – or maybe the better word is perhaps notorious, in previous decades, for being massive proponents of the long ball game has now found the faith and metamorphosed into becoming one of the best footballing teams in the country.
I do not want to be too picky, and yet… and yet, there is still something missing from our game. We have become much more diligent and remorseless in our pressing and efforts to win the ball back higher up the field and we maintain a quick tempo in our game which can be impossible for opponents to cope with, but we continue to struggle against the larger, tougher, stronger, more neanderthal teams.
Both Birmingham and Cardiff have beaten us twice running and I well remember today’s opponents, Huddersfield Town bullying us off the ball, aided and abetted by a benign referee who did nothing to protect us, and then defeating us in our encounter last December.
I do not believe it is a case of our working less hard than these teams but more that we can at times be knocked out of our stride and put off our game.
That being said when we are really on song it doesn’t really matter how large our opponents are. I remember watching the Leeds United team emerge from the tunnel at Griffin Park last season and remarking that they looked more like the Land of the Giants and tag-team wrestlers rather than footballers, but we ran rings around them and played them off the pitch and they could not get anywhere near us on the day. We were simply too good and too quick for them to catch up with us and they could not kick us even if that had been their intention.
Earlier this season under Marinus Dijkhuizen, we slowed down our tempo and became far more predictable and teams were able to catch us and cope with us far easier and we found ourselves knocked off the ball and unable to dominate matches as we had done so often last season. Thankfully things have changed and we have now recovered our Mojo and reverted to a style that suits us far better.
In my view we must accept things for how they are. We will always be a bit vulnerable given the expansiveness of our play and the way our defenders play out from the back and support the attackers, and quite simply that is the price we have to pay, and for me it is a totally acceptable one.
What is less acceptable to me is when we shoot ourselves in the foot and contribute to our own downfall. This has been the case far too often recently when we have conceded a series of totally avoidable goals which have come about totally from our own stupid and unforced errors and lack of concentration. I am still replaying Tuesday’s defensive horror show back in my mind as I write these words.
I hope and expect that Dean Smith and Richard O’Kelly are already working hard on improving our defensive shape and that we will soon begin to eliminate these expensive errors from our play as we cannot afford to donate any gifts to the opposition given how narrow are the margins between victory and defeat in the Championship.
I am so grateful for the way that we play the game and watching the dross on television last night simply emphasised how fortunate we are to be able to enjoy a team as gifted and easy on the eye as Brentford. Moreover, we have proved categorically that such a positive style of play can and does bring success too.
As I keep saying, we are so close to becoming a really excellent team and with just a bit more care in defence we will become even more formidable opponents for the rest of the league and perhaps challenge for a coveted playoff spot.
I have not seen anybody at our level of the game play football with the verve and brio that we do and long may that remain the case.