It’s FA Cup Time Once More – 8/12/15

The draw for the third round of the FA Cup is traditionally one of the more anticipated and truly magical moments of every season as it is the time when dreams can come true and David gets the rare chance to put Goliath firmly in his place.

A favourable draw can help put a minnow on the map and even mean the difference between surviving for another season or even falling into the ravages of administration.

Just put yourself in the place of Whitehawk’s manager Steve King whose team fully deserved their last gasp equaliser at Dagenham & Redbridge yesterday. They are now just a replay win away in a game that seems certain to attract live television coverage from a money-spinning tie at Premier League Everton, one that will offer an outside chance of glory, put their players in the shop window and probably earn the club more in an afternoon than in an entire season in the confines of the National League South.

Given the occasion, I made a special effort and rushed home from work last night in order to catch the draw which was apparently set for seven o’clock. In retrospect I really needn’t have done so, as like every other sap who was imbued with romantic memories of sepia-lit FA Cup ties in the dim and distant past who had done the same as me, I had to sit through fifteen interminable minutes of boring and sterile filler material – a series of totally unnecessary interviews and highlights intended to set the scene and build the atmosphere and sense of theatre before the numbered balls were drawn out of – not the traditional velvet bag – but a soulless Perspex container. Where had the magic gone?

There was one snippet of previous action that I did enjoy watching over the weekend, Scott Hogan soaring in the air to score a beautifully taken header for Rochdale against Leeds United. We can but hope that we will be seeing him in similar goalscoring action for the Bees in the not too distant future.

Apparently I am now a supporter of one England’s so-called elite clubs given our fairly new-found Championship status and somehow that also makes things feel rather different given that we now enter the competition at the Third Round stage and have not had to fight our way through two previous ties to get to this point.

So what was I looking for from the draw, once it finally began? A matchup against a Premier League big boy and the chance to test ourselves on national television? A lower league team at Griffin Park? An away game at a minnow? Death or glory?

What we actually received highlighted the wonder and the unpredictability of the competition. A home tie against either Chesterfield or Walsall, Division One opposition who should both surely be beatable at Griffin Park. Or so you would thought as you can take nothing for granted when it comes to predicting the outcome of cup matches and as we know to our cost the Bees have been the victims of giant killing themselves. Does anyone else remember Guildford City turning us over in 1968 and the likes of Barrow and Wrexham too in more recent times?

Chesterfield earned a replay with a late scrambled equaliser on Saturday and should they come out on top next week then that would set up the first ever FA Cup meeting between the two teams.

Walsall are a far more enticing prospect given the recent arrival of their former manager Dean Smih as the new Head Coach at Griffin Park. Their supporters would doubtless relish the opportunity to obtain some quick revenge against the team that enticed him away from The Banks’s Stadium.

Since his move was first mooted the airwaves and social media have been buzzing with harsh, ribald and ill thought through comments from diehard Walsall fans on the one hand damning their former manager and his achievements on their behalf with faint praise and also suggesting that he has barely bettered himself by moving to Brentford. Fighting talk indeed and Brentford supporters will also be looking for the chance to refute their assertions.

Walsall currently boast several of the lower divisions’ finest young prospects within their ranks and the Bees will welcome the chance to view the likes of Tom Bradshaw, Rico Henry and Romaine Sawyers at close quarters particularly at a time when the transfer window will have recently opened. It would be an enticing prospect if one or more of them ended up using this match as an audition before a move to us – we can but dream!

Should Walsall earn the right to play us next month then it would be the fourth time that the two teams had been drawn against each other in the past forty-five years and the Bees have come out on top on every occasion to date. Hopefully another good omen.

The Bees defeated Walsall in the Second Round in 1970/71 when we reached the last sixteen of the competition and eventually went out with full honours to Hull City. The match against Walsall was closely fought and after Gordon Phillips had foiled the evergreen Colin Taylor with a series of excellent saves, Roger Cross finished off a carefully choreographed move from a free kick to settle the match.

It was a similar situation in 1988/89 when we reached the Sixth Round before losing at Anfield. Walsall were higher division opponents and a Keith Jones goal earned a draw at Fellows Park before the replay was settled by Allan Cockram who scored joyfully from close range after Fred Barber had parried an effort from Kevin Godfrey.

Our most recent meeting was in 2009/10 when newcomer Leon Legge gave an all action display, winning the match with a typical towering header from a corner and saving it with a perfectly timed and executed sliding tackle to rob Walsall striker Steve Jones who had a clear run in on goal. Unfortunately we were not destined to have a long FA Cup run that season as we went out in the next round to Doncaster Rovers.

Whoever we play it will be certain to be a tough and closely fought match against a team determined to bring its so called better down a peg or two. We now have three home games in a ridiculously short six day period and with promotion challengers Middlesbrough and Burnley due to visit Griffin Park immediately after the cup tie neither League game can be termed a gimme.

The management has always spoken of the need to build up a large squad with excellent cover in every position and our depth will surely be tested as changes will need to be made over this period to ensure that the players are well rested. Lee Carsley certainly picked practically the same team for every match but squad rotation will be a must over this packed period of activity and thankfully, with our stars returning from injury we will be able to cope with the challenge.

It is now almost three years since we last had a decent FA Cup run and I still find it hard to believe that we did not beat Chelsea in that epic Fourth Round clash at Griffin Park but that is a story for another day.

After a slow and difficult start, this season is finally gaining momentum and promises much excitement as Christmas approaches. An FA Cup run would simply be the cherry on top.

 

 

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Statto’s Delight! -18/8/14

kePPI spent a wonderful hour or so last night indulging myself in one of my favourite winter pastimes.

Lying on the sofa with a glass of wine going through all the team line ups, counting how many former Bees were involved in Saturday’s matches in the Premier and Football Leagues and summoning up my memories of some of them.

There is also an added bonus for me at this early stage of the season – trying to recognise and identify some of the new names appearing for the first time in league football.

So, there I was, wine glass in one hand, iPad in the other as I checked out exactly who that new left sided midfielder was at Northampton, and rejoicing at old favourites like the indestructible Kevin Ellison of Morecambe, who at thirty five years of age and looking more like Pete Postlethwaite with every passing year, has survived the cull and lives to fight another day, and indeed scored two excellent goals on Saturday.

But I digress, as it was ex-Bees that I was hunting for – and I found an awful lot of them.

In all fifty eight of them were involved on Saturday afternoon, a figure that doesn’t include two current squad players out on loan in Will Grigg and Alfie Mawson.

If you really want to know, twenty seven players who have previously been loaned to Brentford and thirty one others who were permanent signings at the club were on display.

Wycombe Wanderers took the individual honours as their team against Carlisle included Paul Hayes, Aaron Pierre, both of whom scored, the ever popular Sam Wood plus the aforementioned Mawson.

The number of ex-Bees still plying their trade at a decent level has increased exponentially over the past two years as the Benham/Rosler/Warburton Revolution has taken shape and gathered momentum.

We have pretty much turned over our entire playing staff since Uwe Rosler arrived a mere three years ago, with only Richard Lee, Kevin O’Connor, Sam Saunders, Jake Reeves and Toumani Diagouraga surviving from the squad that he inherited.

None of them are first team regulars either, with Kevin more of a coach than a player nowadays.

llThe quality of the players who have arrived at Griffin Park over the last three years is highlighted by the fact that so many of the old guard, ousted by the new, continue to find employment and remain in demand.

Myles Weston has left Gillingham and now plays with Paul Smith at Southend United for whom he scored a well taken goal against Stevenage on Saturday.

He was rarely as composed in front of goal when he played for us!

Leon Legge remains the mainstay of the Gillingham defence however Stuart Nelson has just damaged his thumb and will be out of action for a couple of months.

Interestingly enough, Antonio German is still at the club and started the match on Saturday against Yeovil ahead of Luke Norris, who remained on the bench.

There are also three former Bees at Crawley, who have started the season really well with three straight wins.

Ryan Dickson and Lanre Oyebanjo are their new full back partnership and Gavin Tomlin is challenging for a place up front.

Tomlin was a Leroy Rosenoir signing who quickly faded out of the picture and never looked like making the grade, but all credit to him, he returned to the non league game with Fisher and scored enough goals to be granted a second chance which he has certainly taken.

cwCongratulations are also due to Academy product Michael Onuvwigun who made his Football League debut as a last minute substitute for his new team, Chesterfield.

Harry Forrester has started the new season like a man with a point to prove, as I am sure he is, but he blotted his copy book with a red card against Port Vale.

Reuben Reid did little at Brentford under Andy Scott and merely made up the numbers, but he has since proved himself to be an excellent lower league striker who could develop even further, and he too was on the mark against an Exeter team which included the evergreen Craig Woodman at left back.

Dean Wells has also experienced a long and tortuous journey since he made his one and only appearance for the Bees as a late substitute against Sheffield Wednesday over ten years ago, but his displays at Braintree earned him a move to Stevenage where he is now establishing himself in the team alongside Darius Charles, another former Bee who showed real promise and was dispensed with far too early for my liking.

Nicky Adams has rejoined Bury where he first made his name.

He was a curious one as Andy Scott, who seemed to make a habit of stockpiling right wingers, made herculean efforts to sign him from Leicester, but he soon fell out of favour and joined the Bermuda Triangle where I am sure other Scott signings such as Marvin Williams and Cleveland Taylor reside.

I was also delighted to see that Alan Bennett and Mark Phillips are both at AFC Wimbledon, along with the injured Andy Frampton and former loanee Sammy Moore.

Bennett and Gillingham loanee Adam Barrett formed an impassable if none too mobile barrier that earned a rare clean sheet at Luton Town on Saturday.

Will Grigg has started well for the MK Dons, with a goal and assist in his first two games.

The better he plays the more likely that we will get a reasonable transfer fee should he leave us on a permanent basis over the course of the season, as I suspect will be the case.

Clayton Donaldson impressed for Birmingham as they defeated Brighton and the former fan favourite returns to Griffin Park next Saturday.

I have already written extensively about my feelings regarding his disappointing departure and would just add that a few words of gratitude and thanks from him to Brentford and, indeed, us fans who gave him unconditional support for the past three years, would not have gone amiss.

At the other end of the scale former loanees such as two goal Saido Berahino, Wojciech Szczesny, Liam Moore, Jeffrey Schlupp and Steve Sidwell all featured in the Premier League and a brief shout out to Keith Millen too, manager for the day for Crystal Palace at Arsenal, after the sudden departure of Tony Pulis.

Lewis Grabban also notched his first goal for his new club, Norwich City, following his three million pound move from AFC Bournemouth.

Joao Carlos Teixeira made his debut for Brighton after his loan move from Liverpool and hopefully the talented youngster will be given more opportunity than he received at Brentford early last season.

So, an interesting hour or so was spent devouring the newspaper, and maybe there will be some new names for me to look out for, as Brentford might well be looking to loan out a couple of their surplus squad players over the next few weeks.