Bitten not Smitten by the FA Cup
BillytheBee explains his schizophrenic feelings for what used to be known as the greatest cup competition in the world
Since January 2006 I`ve had a bit of a love-hate relationship with the FA Cup. The feelings I have are reminiscent of those of a jilted lover - on one hand it has given me much joy … but then somewhere down the line it has then horribly cheated on me. Saying that, on Saturday 5th January 2013 I will be standing behind the goal at Roots Hall, rabidly shouting the Bees onto victory as I always do… But like a schizophrenic, at the same time, something inside me will be hoping that Brentford`s FA Cup adventure will come to an abrupt end. Why is that one may ask? Unfortunately, I`m now so paranoid that I feel any sniff of a half decent cup run is bound to end in disaster. Just like it did back in 2006.
It`s 4.49pm. It`s Saturday 28th January 2006 . It`s FA Cup 4th round day. Griffin Park is brimming with nearly 12k fans in the house. Its the 89th minute. The game against premiership strugglers Sunderland is poised at 1-1. Bees fans were making their plans to travel to Wearside for the replay. All of a sudden Nelson hoofs the ball into Sunderland`s half, the ball is headed forward and DJ Campbell makes a complete mockery out of Sunderland`s so called defence, bursting through to score the winning goal. Cue pandemonium. Pitch invasions and all sorts. This was the moment us Brentford fans had been waiting for. Glory. Ecstasy. The pubs did great business that night and there was even was the traditional piano sing-a-long in The Lord Nelson. This is exactly what the FA Cup was all about. Or is it?
Cue one month earlier. It`s Xmas day 2005. Brentford were flying high at the top of league division one. Spearheading their strike force was a young DJ Campbell who they had picked up from Yeading at the beginning of the season for £5k. He had made 27 appearances up until that fateful FA Cup weekend scoring 10 goals in the process. 10 of those appearances were actually from the bench and DJ had just started to bed himself in as a Brentford regular. The future was looking rosy for us. Then what happened? DJ pops up against Sunderland, scores another two goals. Steve Bruce gets a brainwave that DJ Campbell will single-handedly save Birmingham from relegation after seeing his performance on Match of the Day. And hey presto, within 48 hours and right bang on transfer deadline day our DJ was gone. Our season never recovered from that moment. We got battered in the 5th round by Charlton, the cup was quickly forgotten and we ended up just missing out on automatic promotion as we limped over the finish line. To add insult to injury, Calum Willock, signed as DJs replacement, managed to bang in an record-breaking 4 goals over the final five months of the season and we ended up losing to Swansea in the playoffs. We got £500k for DJ Campbell. We would have lost four times that and the rest not gaining promotion that year.
So ever since that day, I`ve had a love-hate relationship with The FA Cup. What would have happened if DJ Campbell had never scored? Would we have been the Blackpool of that era? Year after year I sit in front of the TV hoping we draw one of the big guns and it just never happens. Any of the big guns will do. Man United. Arsenal. Chelsea. Even Fulham .. Or QPR will do. Instead out pops Derby. Or Burnley. Or Luton. Or if we`re lucky we get an unglamorous premiership team like Sunderland or Charlton. So what`s the point? We compensate for the disappointment by saying 'Oh well …. They`re beatable` but in reality we know its rubbish. We live in hope that we will be able to despatch them and pray and hope that we catch a bigger fish in the next draw. But that never happens. So why should this year be any different?
I know all the arguments. Profile for the club. Money into the coffers. Day out for the fans. I`ve bought into all these arguments for 30 plus years. I even bought into Mad Dog`s argument for selling DJ at the time. But when he then buggered off to Leicester 12 months later leaving us to plot up yet another season in division 3 while he was cashing in on his 'almost success` at Brentford, I realised it`s always the fans left holding the baby. Managers, players and behind-the-scenes staff all eventually move on. The fans - we`ll always be here.
So if we beat Southend and draw Man United in the next round, is there any guarantee that Forester or Forshaw or Dean or Donaldson or Moore or Douglas or any of our precious stock being still with us after transfer deadline day? None whatsoever. And while the day out at Old Trafford will be pleasurable and make us loads of money, I have visions us spending most of what we will make desperately trying to get back what we already had over the next few years - Murray Jones and Callum Willock stylee. Coz it`s Brentford innit!!!
Anyway, gotta dash. Got a train to the seaside to get. 'Jingle all the way. Oh what fun it is to see Brentford win away`. I`m up for the cup. 'Follow follow follow. We`re off to Loftus Road`. 'Is there a fire drill?` 'And we`ll really shake them up when we win the FA Cup` etc etc etc etc …. Repeat ad nauseum till 4.50pm Saturday
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