- Paging Rob Manfred, Galactical Disgrace – August 1, 2020
- Looking at the Table – Sabado Lesser Thread – July 25, 2020
- Looking Forward to Shempions Entropy (and Other Lesser Matters) – July 18, 2020
Please consult with the infinite wisdom of Chuck D:
I swear to holy tittyfuck, it’s like Manfred’s raison d’être is to make The Shield look sane, humane, and competent. Eat shit, you boot licking motherfucker.
In better/Lesser news, our beloved Mighty Whitey survive and advance to face the Bees (nae Moose Hornets) for that last, precious ticket to promotion. Methinks our Imaginary Friend Litre died like 10 times during the 2nd half of the Raging Semi leg, but hey. Ain’t nobody EVAR say that precious #WhiteVictory would be easy.
Here’s a great article from The Athletic, and please subscribe:
The Princess Royal is closed, a ghost pub on the corner of what will, in four hours, become a ghost stadium.
The Brook and The Griffin are shuttered too, although small clusters of Brentford supporters do still congregate outside the latter, gripping cans and making plans.
They all face a dilemma. Do they watch on their sofas, hoping that the knots in the depths of their stomachs slowly unravel? Or do they spend the evening on the roads surrounding Griffin Park, roaring themselves hoarse in an attempt to recreate the terrace fervour that circumstances have denied them?
By rights, this should be a gala occasion, a chance to acclaim the future of this upwardly mobile football club, but also a chance to celebrate the stadium’s place in their history. This lovely old jumble of Meccano and concrete is hosting its final football match, 116 years later. A century of memories, of fitful success and black-hole failure, all destined for the sweet hereafter. Beyond the pressing business of dispatching Swansea City, this is an opportunity reflect on the past, then lay it to rest. Melancholy and nostalgia adorn the heavy July air.
A rough consensus slowly emerges: find a TV, then rush back if things take off. “When I’ve shouted outside, we haven’t done well,” a woman tells a friend, philosophically. “So I’ll save it for inside. Unless we score. Then you’ll hear me.”
A chalkboard outside The Griffin bears a message of support for Brentford’s players. It also contains a winking dig at referee Keith Stroud, who swung this tie in Swansea’s favour when he wrongly sent Rico Henry off in the first leg. A one-goal deficit is hardly terminal for Brentford, but three defeats on the spin — including that shock final-day capitulation against Barnsley — appear to have sapped momentum. Their season, so eye-catching and impressive, is in danger of petering out.
The head coach, Thomas Frank, has talked a good game, calling for “one last magical moment” to get them over the line. Yet even without fans, there is no avoiding the tension inside the ground. At the end of the Never-Ending Season, with the Premier League and new digs beckoning, this is crunch time and everyone knows it. Failure here, against a team that barely scraped into the play-offs, would be a special form of compound heartbreak.
The mood before kick-off is leavened slightly by the stadium announcer, who has picked out a moving poem to honour Griffin Park — presumably by some Brentford fan from the distant past, or perhaps a writer with links to the club or the local area. Except wait, no. Isn’t this..? Yes, thought so. It’s the lyrics to a Madonna song. It is very naff. It is also, in its complete lack of pretension, quite admirable, as well as very Griffin Park.
Brentford start well, shaking off the dust with a series of probing attacks down the left. Emiliano Marcondes pings an early effort at goal, then Pontus Jansson climbs for a corner and leaves three Swansea defenders skittled in his wake. The Brentford staff, who create a pretty respectable amount of noise throughout, purr accordingly in the Braemar Road Stand.
Then, 10 minutes in, the warm relief of a breakthrough. David Raya flings the ball to Mathias Jensen, who dips inside from the right touchline and drills the ball, left-footed, through the heart of a disorganised Swansea backline. It is the sort of pass that convinces you that the universe must have an overarching logic to it. Ollie Watkins cannot miss and doesn’t.
Marcondes adds a second, guiding a header home from Said Benrahma’s precise cross. With his peroxide hair and countless tricks, Benrahma is somehow even cooler in reality than in concept. The Algerian playmaker sees a shot skid off the inside of the post after performing what can only be described as an exorcism on his marker (move directly to afterlife, do not pass GO, do not collect £200).
Swansea look tired and lost — doubly so when Bryan Mbeumo makes it 3-0 moments after half-time. But they show admirable fight in the second half, tapping into reserves of grit to make a contest of it. Connor Roberts brings a flying save from Raya before the sparky Rhian Brewster pulls one back, lifting the ball into the net from the edge of the area. Jansson, whose training for the Hubris Olympics appears to be paying off nicely, will probably want to avoid replays.
Are Brentford rattled? Not especially. Frank probably wouldn’t be averse to one or two of his forwards taking the ball into the corners rather than trying low-percentage shots from 25 yards, but what Swansea make up for in effort, they lack in quality. Andre Ayew runs down a thousand blind alleys and a late Hail Mary sprint upfield by goalkeeper Erwin Mulder ends in nought.
The final whistle blows. Some bodies slump to the turf, others erupt. That is the nature of the play-offs: they can make your soul sing arias and they can punch you right in the face. That Brentford are objectively a much cannier, much better team will be little consolation to the defeated Swansea players at this juncture.
Outside, there is a mad rush from living rooms to the main gate, and the chanting begins. Beers have been consumed; that much is evident. Brentford’s beloved owner, Matthew Benham, appears from the main stand to salute the fans. They respond by singing his name, followed by that dog-eared classic about going to Wembley. The brave new world that they have permitted themselves to dream about is closer now than ever before.
An hour or two later, once the sugar rush has worn off and these streets are empty again, the moment will come to lock Griffin Park up for the final time. The gates will close, the key turned in the latch. And the lights will go out, one by one, like fireflies to sleep.
One day later. West London is sticky and hot and glorious. It is sit-in-the-park-and-think-about-nothing weather. The thought of 22 young men having to run around and decide their futures in this — at the end of actual July — seems vaguely inhumane. At least they’ll all get a nice long holiday before reporting back for the 2020-21 campaign. Or, you know, not.
Fulham and Cardiff City are basically in a doomed relationship at this point. They went up to the top flight together, got relegated together, and now here they are, fighting to keep the wee ‘uns. The hosts look like they are in the driving seat: a 2-0 victory in Wales means they will have to try pretty hard to avoid setting up a local derby in the final next week, even if Aleksandar Mitrovic’s continued absence leaves them looking a little polite in attack.
For the visitors, the first task is to jangle some nerves and hope for the best, and they make a good start: Sean Morrison causes havoc from a long throw into the area (copyright Sean Morrison, 2007-2020) and the resulting corner is nodded home by Curtis Nelson in the golden evening glare. But that foothold turns to dust just a minute later, when Neeskens Kebano capitalises on some nap-time marking to prod home an equaliser.
The remainder of the second half settles into a predictable pattern. At one end, Anthony Knockaert does his slightly frantic thing, whizzing about like a wind-up car and shooting at every opportunity. Cardiff are slightly low on nuance but look dangerous every time they win a set-piece and send the heavy artillery forward. Morrison especially is a menace, always winching himself into position high above the Fulham defenders. “Centre-back” doesn’t really cut it as a description of Morrison’s skill set… “freelance chaos merchant” might be more appropriate.
Fulham get to half-time, then promptly concede just after the restart. Another ball hurled into the box, more hot potato, an instinctive finish from Lee Tomlin. Further chances for Cardiff — one for Josh Murphy, another for Danny Ward, a man whose DNA is 90 per cent wardrobe — reinforce the feeling that the tie is shifting in their favour. “Slow it down!” shouts an exasperated Scott Parker, to no one in particular.
There is no slowing down, and only the goalkeepers keep the scoreline on the stingy side. Cardiff’s Alex Smithies makes two extraordinary stops to keep out matching Aboubakar Kamara efforts before Marek Rodak acrobatically denies Will Vaulks. This all proves far too exciting for Parker, who replaces Knockaert with Denis Odoi — the ultimate mood-killer substitution.
In fairness, it just about works. Fulham survive a late scare when Cardiff substitute Robert Glatzel volleys over, but there is to be no equaliser, no extra time, no reprieve for the visitors. No return to the big time at the first attempt. Just a long coach journey back home at the end of a madcap, maddening summer. Empty hands to go with empty tanks.
For Fulham, as with Brentford, one hurdle remains. Tuesday night, under the arch, a year and two days after the Championship season started. It has been a long old campaign and has felt even longer, but those whining limbs must be ignored, any jitters swallowed whole. Glory, untold millions, bragging rights, the lot, all resting on 90 minutes.
That is the wonderful, sicko nature of the play-offs. They are a treat and they are torture. They are heaven and they are hell. No half measures, no in-between. You’d have to be crazy not to love them.
Oh, and a little thing called the FA Cup final (12:30, ESPN+) is today. We gots a bk109/Horatio v. rockingdog Derby, y’all. Be there (I mean here), or be LAME AS FOOK.