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Time to do another Arsenal? Or will a returning hero ruin the party?

11 Sep

Saturday and the Premier League is back. Brentford host Brighton in our second top flight fixture at Lionel Road following the game with Arsenal. As if anybody needed any further reminder about that one. A 2-0 home win that saw us hit the dizzy heights of first place and sent Mikel Arteta’s team to the bottom of the table. A place they still occupy with a total of no points and no goals. For the Bees, unbeaten and a record of WDD is a wonderful start with the opportunity to try and kick on again today. With Wolves (a) and then Liverpool (h) next up For Brentford in the league, nobody could deny the intensity of games or ongoing calibre of opposition at this level. Even Arsenal. Still, that was then and this is now. Brighton are coming and with them, of course, one particular name. One particular man. One Neal Maupay.

Maupay – a work of art

Shithousery. That’s the word (I’m assuming the editor has resisted the temptation to include it in the ‘family-friendly’ programme article today – although if you want to find out its available around the ground for the price of £4) . The undisputed master of this dark art. And we loved him for it. Absolutely loved him. The goalscoring wasn’t bad either. Ruining Fulham’s promotion push at the last minute or just ruining Leeds United. The pint sized magician was as skilled with the ball at his feet as he was with his studs on the opposition. He swore he’d stay. We were distraught when he left. We’ve all moved on. Now, we have a chance to offer a welcome back and then see how both he, and Brighton, have progressed.

Leeds United. Ruined. Many, many times

I have to say I’m excited going in to this one. Plus ça change. Table wise, Brighton have finished bottom quarter in the four seasons since we parted ways in the Championship and they hit the top flight. Don’t let that fool you into thinking that makes them (relatively) ‘easier’ opposition. Just to maintain this level is a feat in itself whilst, as the preview on ‘official’ notes in 2020/21 “Graham Potter’s side played far better than their results suggested last term. On expected goals, Albion finished fifth, with 20 points more than they actually earned, and with the third meanest defence in the division”.

Whilst the table doesn’t lie, performance needs to be noted. If nothing else, they currently sit above the Bees having already picked up six points. The one blot on the copy book coming at home to Everton last time out.    

For Brentford, everybody is fit barring long term injuries Mads Bech and Josh Dasilva. Our squad has been bolstered by the signing of Danish International Mathias Jørgensen, aka ‘Zanka’. He’ll be filling the Winston Reid role of emergency centre back and comes in as cover for Mads on a one year contract. With a wealth (is there any other sort? Gamut, perhaps) of experience, including Euro 2020 and World Cup 2018 he sounds like a shrewd acquisition. One can only presume bench, at best, today. The key question being whether Frank Onyekareturns in midfield or will be left…waiting for Ghoddos to lose his place. Sorry. Apologies. I’ve finally done it. But given Saman has been with us since September 2020, that’s not bad going.  

With that Portuguese chap set to debut for Manchester United today, it’s a safe bet we won’t be first up on Match Of The Day this evening. To be fair, the only thing stoping us being ninth in the running order is the fact there are only eight games taking place this afternoon. Fair enough. Reputations need to be earned. Praise not just handed out for the sake of it. With ghoulish fascination about the fate of Arsenal aswell as Spurs being handed the opportunity to stride further clear at the top, it doesn’t take a genius to pick the setlist. That’s football. 

Yet this afternoon’s game has all the hallmarks of a really close fought battle. A hotly contested encounter which will be played out in front of a full house. The raucous crowd sure to lift the players as they have done in the previous three games.  Hey, get it right and Gary Lineker may even have us on his couch before Watford – Wolves. 

I can’t wait. For the game (I’ll be asleep by the time MOTD comes around). Roll on 3pm.

See you there. And don’t forget your Covid pass…..

Full time against Arsenal – more of the same would be incredible….l

Nick Bruzon

Safe passage and a tasty warm up for Saturday.

25 Aug

Brentford safely through to the third round of the League Cup after coming from behind to defeat Forest Green Rovers 3-1 on a night that also saw six goals for Aston Villa. Amongst others. Saturday’s opponents falling one short of the magical 7(seven) that would have seen the brackets brought out of cold storage. For the Bees, a much changed line up did the needful with goals from Yoane Wissa, Bryan Mbeumo and Marcus Forss sufficient to see us into the next draw. That one takes place at around 9.45pm(ish) tonight, following the conclusion of the game between Arsenal and West Brom. Perhaps the Gunners will even manage to score. With Manchester City next up in the Prem, failure to do so could leave them scratching around the archives for entries to August’s goal of the month competition.

For a while it looked a bit iffy

For Brentford, relatively safe passage was as much as could be hoped for. We’re in the third round and, all being well, will be able to select our normal seats for that one. Should the reward for last night’s win be a home tie. Confusion and frustration the order of the day with fans displaced following a free for all on seat selection. How hard is it to get this sort of thing right? We go where we do for a reason. Whether dodgy knees requiring seats these days or simply a case of preferring to put the stand into the West Stand singing section as the action hots up. Nobody can deny the atmosphere that generates – come on already the ‘rails seats’ if that’s what it takes.

Still, we’re through. Forest Green making it tough and having the temerity to take the lead. Bravo and well played. Only Ethan Pinnock and Vitaly Janelt surviving from those who started the Premier league game with Crystal Palace. It was still a strong enough team and one further reinforced by the additions of Ajer, Canos, Mbeumo and Frank the Tank as events unfolded. Yet with the team playing catch up eventually strength told as the Bees cranked up the pressure. Yoanne Wissa on the hour, followed by Bryan and then, with opponents down to ten, Marcus Forss rounding things off. 

Loved this image from ‘official’ and their Twitter feed

Thomas Frank magnanimous enough to note both his opponents aswell his own tactical decisions at full time, telling the BBC that, ”I need to praise Forest Green Rovers, Rob Edwards and his staff, I think they did a top job and I think they were the better side in the first half” whilst his own tinkering with the formation, “maybe that didn’t help, maybe I didn’t help the boys as much as I should have done.”

Still, we’re through. We’ve Aston Villa in the league at the weekend. They warmed up for that one with their own win. A 6-0 away win at Barrow. With a quarter hour remaining when they hit the sixth it really was looking like brackets but, alas not. Still, they’ll be buzzing for that game and the Dean Smith reunion. I can already hear him telling the press corps that his team will have deserved to win. Regardless of whatever result transpires. With Ollie Watkins sitting out the season so far, not facing our old boy will be an advantage (of sorts) although the Villans looked imperious at the weekend. Newcastle United put to the sword in some style. Jack who now? 

Prior to all that is this evening’s draw. You can follow it on Sky, amongst other sources, although as it stands (8am) the ball numbers remain a mystery. Seemingly. Nobody has them up on club or news sites as yet. Not even on the Carabao Cup home page. With nothing more than click bait at present (stories titled along the lines of : get all your third round draw details, here, seeminlgy nothing more than a chance to list the 18 highest placed teams in the Premier league, and then Arsenal, it can’t be long until we find out our numerical fate. 

Whatever number we are bequeathed is not going to change too much. The most important thing being that we are through. If we are given a home tie then all the better. After missing out on our entire run to the semi-finals last season, the chance to watch live football and progress further is one that has us all chomping at the bit. How often would we say that about the League Cup in recent years?

Nick Bruzon

One Flying Ant does not make Flying Ant Day. Can we deliver another kick up the Arsenal?

21 Aug

Arsenal despatched. Victory for Brentford over the hapless Gunners was only last week yet already it seems a lifetime ago. Eight days later and now we have the chance to do it all again. This time, a much stiffer challenge in the road trip to Crystal Palace. A short hop to Selhurst Park and the question of whether the Bees can recapture that spot at the top of the Premier League which was held for a tantalisingly brief period at the start of the weekend. Hey, the table doesn’t lie and it was enough to see Thomas Frank secure the League Managers Association award for performance of the week. Yet with Liverpool hosting Burnley at 12.30pm, we could find ourselves going in to this one 3 points off the top (a situation which would also see number 26 and his team rooted to the foot of the table).

Award winning

Look. We’ve done the Arsenal game to death. They were about as uncohesive a unit as one could ever see. An impotent shadow of their former selves. A team in big trouble with Chelsea and Manchester City up next. That’s their problem though. You can only beat who is in front of you and Brentford were magnificent. Calm. Confident. Dangerous. Clinicial.

Sergi’s goal a stunner. Oh, the smile that lit up Lionel Road as that one was celebrated. Absolutely priceless. How much egg on how many faces? Christian Norgaard doubling the lead as an Arsenal defence which would have struggled to mop up the floor, let alone a ball into the box, stepped aside to let him through. It could have been more. Frankly, who cares. The win was all that matters.

Yet as the old saying goes, one flying ant does not make flying ant day.  Brentford? Check. Slough? Check. Boston Manor? Check. At least three seperate sightings before you can be happy we’ve reached the most celebrated day in the Heaxapodal calendar. Before we can get too carried away. Everything from last week has now been and gone. Fun though it was.

Instead, we have the memories and confidence to push us on against Crystal Palace in the search for that second win. In the battle to oust Liverpool from the place at the top of the Premier League which they will presumably be occupying when we begin our own game.  

Oh, and that award for Thomas. I have to be honest, I wasn’t sure if somebody was trolling Leeds United by presenting him with a mini-whiteboard but a trawl back through the archives shows this is their standard. Fair enough. Let’s just hope that there isn’t a ‘Curse of the LMA performance of the week award’.

Thomas Frank’s whiteboard was the gift that kept on giving.

Thankfully, there are no new injuries and the squad remains as it is, albeit with the possibility that Tariqe Fosu may return. Prepare for incoming floods from certain quarters. The BBC report that Palace will again be without captain Luka Milivojevic but, regardless, one can only assume they will be chomping at the bit to make up for lost time. The thankless task of a trip to Stamford Bridge to open proceedings hardly an ideal one for new manager Patrick Vieira. Chelsea considered real contenders for the title by many respected pundits. And also Ian Moose. Now they will be back amidst what is sure to be a raucous atmosphere at Selhurst Park. 

Whilst the result is, as ever, impossible to predict we can at least rest easy in the fact that the Bees faithful will do what Arsenal failed at so miserably. Namely, making some/any noise. The home support sure to be given a run for their money by the 2000 or so from West London.

I can’t wait to get back on the road. I’ve not seen Brentford away since Luton Town in the sleet back in February 2020. About as soul destroying a defeat as could be imagined and one which ended with the ultimate indignity of Jan Zamburek’s shirt being stolen from the dressing room and ending up on ebay. Apparently. Just a few weeks later, Lockdown restrictions started to kick in and we’ve not travelled since. At least, until Wembley. Remind me what happened…..

Roll on 3pm. See you there.

Last Friday was immense. Now, time to move on…

Nick Bruzon

Still under the radar ? Time for a last first.

19 Aug

Almost a week later, there aren’t enough words to describe just how incredible that first week of Premier League football felt. Brentford magnificent. Arsenal awful. Manchester United party poopers. Crystal Palace, like Leeds, ceremonial lambs to the slaughter lining up away to genuine title contenders. Then again, such is the vibe at Lionel Road you could say the same about Arsenal. Nobody has a positive word to say about a performance that saw them out played, out thought and out muscled by Thomas Frank’s rampant swarm of Bees. Their supporters taking the library on the road as the vociferous home crowd ripped the roof off the Brentford Community Stadium and took us, however, briefly, to the top of the table.

Ok, so Manchester United destroyed that dream in little over 12 hours but what a feeling to wake up to on Saturday morning. There we were as headline makers in all the papers. Brentford at the top of the table with as many pictures of Woody as there were of goal scorers Sergi Canos and Christian Norgaard. It was quite the surreal way to end the most spine-tingling day and night. For once, this bus stop in Hounslow the very epicentre of the global football world. And then Leeds United forgot to pack their defence. Or, rather, the Red Devils went on the sort of hot streak that does beg the question about what could happen to us at some point this season. You can’t win them all, that’s for sure.

Headlines and heroes on Saturday morning

You can be damn sure we’ll be giving it out best at the weekend though. Brentford’s second top flight fixture sees the short trip to South East London. Crystal Palace licking their wounds after being mauled by Chelsea. New boss Patrick Viera mad keen to start his first home game with a win. The Bees faithful just wishing kick off was right now, such is the good feeling around TW8. Such is the excitement and enthusiasm surrounding just about anything to do with the club. How Thomas Frank gets the balance between over confidence, getting carried away and just playing our free flowing football will be one of the key tactical cards to be played. Sergi and Bryan were rampant on Friday. Ivan everywhere. See also: Vitaly. Ethan Pinnock a rock at the back when called upon. Even David Raya had his wits about him despite Arsenal being so second best that he had nothing much to do for the opening 85 minutes. Had he failed to pull of that save it would have been itchy bum time for sure. But he did, quite wonderfully, and it wasn’t. Instead, tears of joy and a well, well deserved win.

Now, though, time to move on. Crystal Palace await and tickets are in hand. Mostly. Errr… The away stand is sold out and it promises to be as raucous as Friday night. If not moreso given the opposition are sure to make some noise too. Their ground as compact as Griffin Park once was. We had a pub in every corner. The Eagles have a supermarket at one end. All four stands bang on top of the pitch, unlike the behemoth running tracks and wide perimeters found at so many newer stadia. Albeit, the Selhurst Park capacity is double that of our former home. Its going to be tasty, that’s for sure.

most tickets have been posted out

The ‘my work’ derby, a reference so niche only about three people will get it (one of whom is me) is almost upon us. For the rest of us, its quite simply Brentford’s first ever away game in the Premier League.

Granted, these ‘first ever’ references will need to stop soon or we’ll be entering West Ham territory. The 1966 World Cup winners saw just about anything to do with their being gifted the Olympic Stadium deemed: first ever insert missing words  at their new home: game lost. half and half scarf worn. Season ticket holder arriving to find their seat didn’t exist.

See also: last ever  insert missing words at the Boleyn Ground as the media love in with Upton Park reached as sickening an over saturation point as repeats of Mrs. Brown’s Boys: away coach attacked. Bubble blown.  So bad its amazing film made  (being Final Score, of course).

Instead, let’s just focus on the game in hand. We’ve done the first / new thing. Now its time to keep on doing our well worn ‘under the radar’ act. Certainly, neither Arsenal or the pundits knew quite what to expect. Here’s hoping the same applies at Crystal Palace on Saturday. 

I can’t wait for this one. See you there. 

Have the Bees finally emerged from under the radar?

Nick Bruzon

A wonderful weekend gets even better as Friday fallout continues.

15 Aug

You don’t want to get into The Champions League, Brentford. Frank Out. Sack the board. Where’s the money, Benham? Thursday nights, Channel Five. Sadly, the Bees no longer sit at the top of the Premier League after Manchester United went on the rampage at Old Trafford yesterday lunchtime. Leeds United shipping five in a game that, as much as anything else, was a Fantasy Football nightmare with yours truly the only one in our house who hadn’t made three goal Bruno Fernandes their team captain. Hefty wins for Liverpool, Chelsea and Everton also seeing us overtaken and having, for now, to be content with fifth place in the table. It was a set of results that even saw Arsenal nudge clear of the relegation zone. For now. Their own next couple of fixtures are what one could politely call ‘challenging’.

Sunday morning. The head still spinning although this from impromptu Saturday afternoon barbecues rather than still celebrating Brentford beating Arsenal. Even though we were doing that too. The shopping trip that had to be undertaken prior to that one punctuated by shrewd acquisitions. The Times – packed full of top, top quality Brentford content – and the much anticipated long player from The Helicopter Of The hill Ghost. BBC Billy Reeves and Mark Morris from The Bluetones, amongst others, combing to produce this critically acclaimed slab of vinyl.

For once, even shopping was fun…

It was whilst mooching around Eel Pie Records in search of the aforementioned record that the Whataspp group swung into action. “Well that was fun while it lasted”. Sure enough, a quick check on the BBC and Manchester United were running riot. The Fernandes inspired goal difference swing seeing the Red Devils leapfrog the Bees in the nascent table and cause much amusement from H and Mrs. B. Oh well. That’s why I’m the numpty on the terrace and they’re going to leave me rooted to the bottom of the table once more. Much like Arsenal on Friday night. Not even pointing out the Brentford appropriate chemists on the high street enough to cause sufficient distraction.

Wasn’t he on the bench, Friday night?

Nooo. We’re third in the league.” Not my words, those of Harry as Mo Salah made it three for Liverpool in the Match Of The Day rerun. Cripes, if he’s upset now it could be trouble when Manchester City play this afternoon. Still, at least we’re sitting in the Europa League slots and the trip to Crystal Palace presents the next opportunity to reclaim top spot in the Premier League. The Eagles taking a tonking from Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. About the only positive they could take was the 1980’s Meyba branded Barcelona kit they have chosen to emulate for their change colours. A thing of beauty and perhaps some consolation for being unable to resist the goal hungry Blues? Probably not but things could be worse. Just look at Arsenal.

Sergi Canos and the rest of the Brentford team have been responsible for diplomatic incident, upsetting none less than the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, who took to Twitter following our 2-0 victory. 

What?? It’s football,it’s a loss of Arsenal at/to Brentford. Brentford deserved to win and they did. The game itself aside Arsenal and the fans don’t deserve to kind of get used to this….NO !!! I say this as one of the big fans of Arsenal. The change has taken to long to come!

He continued in this vein, closing with a flourish that saw The President channelling his inner Piers Morgan:

We just must NOT excuse or Accept mediocrity. A team has to be built with purpose to win win win. So that when we lose….it was not to be expected! I am sure we all know on whose shoulders the heaviest burden rests. I hope they know too or even accept it!!! End.

The next Ambassadorial reception could be fun. Still, even Paul and Piers combined haven’t managed to match the levels of sour grapes from this visiting supporter. It could be a best ever ‘Teams like Brentford.’

Where to even start? Beyond crying with laughter. My favourite line, of many many wonderful cuts, being:

I imagine they will hope to draw in a new fan base from the thousands of new build flats rising in and around the area. A bunch of key workers who fancy a day out. They will probably try and take Fulham’s tag of being “London’s friendly club” and have “neutral end” for most games. Please, DO go take a look.

As for Brentford,  the other highlight was our debut on Match Of The Day. One watched this morning and what a way to clear the head. “Listen to the noise” said Jonathan Pearce as Sergi celebrated the goal. You could hear that one all the way from West London to Rwanda. The decibel levels rising every time the Bees broke forward. A touching nod to Rob Rowan and that wonderful moment of Bukayo Saka being applauded on the pitch from all four sides of the ground. 2-0 Brentford and then almost three as balls into the box continued to cause mayhem. A wonderful shot of Ian Wright looking somewhat glum and then that was it. Sergi and Thomas bigging up the fans and the team. 

Brentford. They absolutely battered Arsenal”. Alan Shearer leading the praise and continuing to big us up. I could get used to this.    

Until then, time to get that LP on. Fingers crossed Billy has peformed his expected magic…

Nick Bruzon

From Tinky Winky to top of the Prem. What a journey.

14 Aug

Get the heck in and when you are done, get in some more. That was just magnificent. Immense. Amazing. There aren’t enough superlatives to describe how incredible it felt as Brentford beat Arsenal 2-0 on Friday night. As Sergi Canos scored our first goal at this level. As Brentford went top of the Premier League. Top. Of. The. Premier. League. Don’t @ me. The table doesn’t lie.  The Bees flying high at the top. The Gunners rooted to the bottom. Champions Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea and the rest of the chasing pack now left having to play catch up. This self-proclaimed bus stop in Hounslow now having half an eye on their crown already. Whether we can retain these lofty heights remains to be seen but that’s a conversation for another day. For now, we’re waking up with sore heads and even sorer throats. The noise in the Community Stadium so loud as to be positively deafening. The smiles on the  faces before, during and after nothing but beaming. Enough about Thomas Frank though.

Thomas. No words needed.

We got to the ground almost an hour before kick off. As much to do with wanting to be part of the build up as, being honest, not quite trusting the new fangled ticketing system to work. Oh me of little faith. It was seamless although a good thing we did arrive early. The crowds outside were huge ; the atmosphere building. Lionel Road everything it had promised to be in pre-season and now, finally full for the first time, it was just the most fantastic arena. Peter Gilham giving it his all on the microphone. Stu Wakeford his partner in p.a. crime barely able to contain the excitement. So this is what it’s like with a sound system you can actually hear? Except, of course, we couldn’t. The noise was through the roof. If it had felt loud for Bournemouth this was off the scale. Reports coming in from back home suggesting that the interviews couldn’t be heard above the crowd. Sergi Canos unable to hear the questions by the moment full time came around.

As for the game? Wow. Just wow. Much like our last competitive match, the play-off final, the opening exchanges were cautious. Brentford taking a few minutes to find feet. To absorb what little attacking intent could be mustered. Yet Arsenal, missing Aubameyang and (as Prince almost once sang) the prolific Lacazette, had little to offer up front. Both reported as ‘sick’. Presumably like the dog that had just eaten the homework

Slick passing and breakaway speed are all well and good but if you can’t do anything with it then what’s the point? Toothless. Impotent. A spent force. But enough about Piers Morgan, whose griping from Twitter was a quite beautiful sideshow. It wasn’t until the 85th minute that I recall David Raya having anything meaningful to do. A quite magnificent save from the Gunners’ one danger source, Emile Smith Rowe, which he had no real right to get even half-way close to. Yet when called upon, there he was. Up until then the most he’d had to do was make himself a delicious Löfbergs coffee. Mmmm, Löfbergs. Apparently. 

With Brentford settling into the game, the chances started to come. Bryan Mbeumo having the best of the early opportunities with a run and shot on the angle that was only kept out by the woodwork. With threat building, it was the unofficial king in our house, Sergi Canos, who opened proceedings. Oh, Sergi Canos. You absolute beauty. Little over twenty minutes on the clock and the roof came off the Community Stadium. Bernard Lemon in goal for Arsenal close but no cigar as our beautiful number 7(seven) slammed one past him to send the place nuts.

No? No? Yessssssss!!!!! Not even a hint of VAR referral. Straight in and straight back for kick off. I’m still grinning like a lunatic now thinking about that moment. Top of the blinkin’ league. A goal up in our first Premier League fixture. Playing Arsenal off the park. Stroking it about like pros. Just having a blast. Mbeumo back to his best. Ethan Pinnock colossal when needed. Vitaly Janelt pulling the strings.

My good friend (with apologies for going all Ian Moose) Annette summing it all up quite beautifully on Twitter:

I remember when Sergi Canos posted a r.i.p tribute to the Tinky Winky teletubby when the actor died, and now here he is scoring our first Premier League goal. What a journey.

The Bees’ threat continued to build but failed to turn into a second goal. The doubts, perhaps, starting to build that we might come undone. It’s Brentford innit? Except it isn’t. Not any more. Wembley should have taught us that and what a feeling when Christian Nørgaard popped up to do his thing on 73. Powering through a crowded defence to head home a trademark long throw from the newly abbreviated Mads Bech.  If the place had gone berzerk for Sergi’s opener, this was next level.

Not only another goal but now with the safety buffer of going two clear and little more than a quarter hour left on the clock. F me. The ears are still ringing even now. Lionel Road erupted.  £50m Ben White left floundering as the Danish midfielder doubled the lead.  Surely not even Brentford could blow it from here? Surely…?

Not these days….

It was never in doubt. The one real scare coming with the aforementioned save from Raya. Had it gone in then who knows what would have happened to our nerves. But it didn’t. The ‘keeper showing just why Arsenal had coveted him so openly last season. Their loss, on and off the pitch, very much our gain. The five minutes of time added on passing in a blur and then.. the moment !!!

Full time. One final orgasmic eruption of noise to greet Michael Oliver calling an end to proceedings. Arms held aloft, voices raised and flags waved. Hey Jude sung led and proud. A moment we’d dreamed of now turning into reality. Those Arsenal fans who hadn’t already slunk off, left to trudge out in brutal despair. Their side propping up the rest of the league. Brentford sitting at the top of the pile.  

With full time came a lap of appreciation, as we’d become so used to at Griffin Park. Thomas Frank and the players enjoying the moment with the fans. Woody, in particular, coming in for the mother of all celebrations from our head coach. My word, that grin, You could see what it all meant to Thomas. To both of them. To all of us. 

And to the players aswell. Christian leading the charge to the supporters, one amazing boy in particular, with the rest following.

I want to be humble right now. To stay grounded. Let the Arsenal fans pick over their own performance. Brentford were just incredible last night. Nobody can deny that. The Premier League shaken up. For sure we’ll take beating at some point but you can only play who you are up against and what a way to do it.

For now, we are up and running. For now , we are top of the Premier League. Whether that is still the case at the end of the weekend remains to be seen. Manchester City aren’t going to just hand over their title and their top dog status. Quite frankly, I don’t care. This is all about the moment and they don’t come much better. 

Now bring on Crystal Palace. See you there! 

Nick Bruzon

Put simply, I can’t wait. See you there.

12 Aug

This is it. Thursday morning. One more wake up to go until Brentford open the 2021-22 Premier League. Arsenal the opponents in a much publicised fixture and the event of our first game at this level, the top flight of English football, since 1947. Cripes. It’s all getting a bit close. And as if that wasn’t enough, we’ve the pleasure of a home tie with Forest Green Rovers in the second round of the league cup which takes place the week after next. A chance to see if we can go one step further than last season’s epic run and eventual semi-final defeat by Tottenham. Ahh, VAR.

Insert usual cliches and well worn tropes about little Brentford. Exciting. First fixture (sorry, done that one already). Underdogs. Tinpot. Bus stops. Stats. XG. Moneyball. Thomas Frank’s luxuriant hair.  Underachieving Arsenal. A club currently sitting in the shadow of North London neighbours Spurs (last season’s table doesn’t lie). Fan TV. 

Come on. It IS luxuriant. Almost Ginola-esque

There we go. That’s about five paragraphs saved from pretty much any article about tomorrow’s game. Including this one. We’ve done Premier League excitement to death. I won’t deny I’m still absolutely buzzing about what will be over the next 9 or so months but it is as much about the chance for us to be part of a full house crowd once more. To have a pre-match pint with friends. And a few after. To share that mutual thrill whenever a new campaign begins. Only alphabetical order keeping Arsenal above Brentford at present. The Bees entering the game in the knowledge that victory on Friday evening, should it happen, will see us the highest placed club in English football. Three points clear of the rest and only 37 games to go.   

Throw it all out the window. The simple fact of the matter is that nobody knows what to expect. Nobody knows what will play out. Will record breaking goal machine Ivan Toney inspire the Bees to victory? Pick up where he left off last season? Who will even start? Two centre-backs or three?  Who plays at right wing back? How will new signing Yoanne Wissa ( the wide man now confirmed on ‘official’ after his being photographed in the crowd during the defeat of Valencia) fit in? Does Frank the Tank start? The only thing we can say for sure is, as suspected / known by just about everyone, Josh Dasilva is out long term. This, something confirmed by Thomas Frank in yesterday’s press conference.

Welcome Wissa etc etc

Ah, Thomas. Head coach par excellence and the man who steered us over the line of play-off hoodoo and into the Prem. His stock is as high as it has ever been amongst the Brentford faithful. Aswell as those dissenting voices from last season. Coventry away, anyone? He also used the occasion of meeting the press to talk about his hopes for, firstly, the Arsenal game: 

I expect two things from Friday; my players will run themselves into the ground and the fans will be right behind us through every minute. This is the kick-off to a new world where we have never been before.

As for longer term, he explained that: “There are two simple targets for me. One is to win the next game which is on Friday against Arsenal. Two is to finish as high as possible. We want to be positive minded and attacking for as many minutes as possible.

Oooh. This could be fun. Kevin Keegan style kamikaze football? Full tilt attack? Or go for broke, grab a goal and then lock things up? The full quota of possible attacking minutes having been reached at that juncture?

For me, Clive, our methodology has only ever been one of taking the game to the opposition. The best form of defence is attack and all that. The play-off final, about as high pressure a game as one would expect, being the consummate example. We attacked from the off and kept going. Swansea City not given a look in. It’s not our way to play overly cautious and as common as anything else to see attack minded substitutions made late on. Even when winning.

Come on. It IS luxuriant (attacking football, I mean)

The difference now being we are going to be playing at a higher level. The step up in quality of opposition about as huge a gulf as they come. Obvious, of course, but something which does call into question how much attacking will be possible. Will we have the nous, or inclination, to put the brakes on as and if needed? Will our attacking threat keep up the drive that has seen 7(seven) goal bracketing become a more regular thing in recent seasons and our GD go through the roof? More importantly, how much of a challenge will they find the step up?

Questions. Questions. Questions. That nobody gives us a significant hope is clear to all. Just look at the bookmakers’ (for research purposes). They’re rarely wrong when it comes to picking winners yet, in truth, nobody knows how this is going to go. Either on Friday against Arsenal or longer term. Brentford are the great unknown. A new team at this level and one looking to become only the 7th (seventh) to win their first ever Premier League fixture. It’s a huge ask, on paper, and there’s going to be a massive global audience on Friday night as things get underway. 

Put simply, I can’t wait. See you there.

Nick Bruzon

Now that, Alanis, is ironic.

9 Aug

A strange, strange feeling. Football began at the weekend yet there was no involvement for Brentford. At least, officially. Whilst Fulham and QPR both earned 1-1 draws in the Championship, the Bees were missing. That’s because we’re in the Premier League this season. I’m not sure if it has been mentioned yet but, quite frankly, it cannot be repeated enough. At least in our house. We don’t start competitive action until Friday evening when Arsenal visit Lionel Road. (Home games with Brighton, Liverpool and Chelsea follow). Finally, the dream has come true. We’re there. The top flight. The West London derby one which will take place against the Champions of Europe, Chelsea, rather than at the other end of the 237 bus route. The whole thing is nuts and I can’t wait.

It’s normally at this point in the season that Brentford have lost that opening game of the campaign – strong starts were never our speciality. We’d be getting ready to berate Gary Lineker on the forthcoming Saturday night when he tells Match Of The Day viewers that “Football is back.” No Gary, it was back last weekend when the EFL kicked off. Now, we’re the ones who are going to be on the BBC’s flagship football programme. For the first time since, well ever. A few fleeting FA Cup performances aside. All being well, shown at the business end of the schedule rather than slipping down the pecking order to the final few games. Hey, I’m a lightweight and have usually fallen fast asleep on the couch by the time Arsenal and the other clubs outside the top six are being shown.

The Bees on Match of the Day in 1989 – ‘That’ FA Cup quarter final at Liverpool

Instead, we’re waiting to kick off the campaign and already having games moved with abandon. Aswell as Arsenal (h), Wolves (a) and Liverpool (h) those with Leicester City (h) and West Ham (a) both being put back a day as a result of our opponents’ European adventures. Traversing the length of the Jubilee line on a Sunday to watch football from 100 yards behind the goal. Sounds fun.

Likewise, the home game with Chelsea due on October 16th remains a Saturday but now has a 5.30pm kick off to accommodate TV coverage. Saturday 3pm very much becoming an aspiration rather than a lifestyle choice. Something we always expected but what an intense way for it to kick in. 

Hey, at least the trips to Crystal Palace and Aston Villa kick off when we’d expect. Assuming we are able to buy tickets. Come on already. The game at Selhurst Park is on Saturday week and no sighting (as it stands). Not that I particularly want to have to use the overdraft facility but if it needs to be further decimated then what finer way than a trip to South East London?

Safe to say we’re excited. The game against Valencia saw our family able to sit together for the first time since Brentford were playing at Griffin Park. Sheffield Wednesday, in March 2020. It’s now August 2021. Cripes, that’s been tough. For all of us and for so many reasons. Each different. Each as hard as the other. Harry loved it. Even Mrs. B was impressed with our new seats. That’s no reflection on her or Lionel Road but, more, the relief. Yours Truly having been assigned the role of donning the virtual reality headseat back in January 2020 to choose seats on behalf of our group.

The fate of 7(seven) supporters resting in the hands of my dodgy eyesight and the reliability of the Brentford FC super computer. Thankfully, both worked to perfection. It’s been a long wait for that seal of approval to be delivered. If for no other reason knowing who will be sitting along side us. Knowing who will be replacing Alex, Courier Man and Missa Partridge in our immediate vicinity. So far, so good on that front. Hello Mary, John et al.

Computer simulation v actual reality

Talking of Alex (Austin), regular readers to this column will be well familiar with the enjoyment that came from his dishing out advice to the referee and his assistants. Those timely reminders of the actual rules of football. Those helpful explanations as to how a flag should be raised. Advice which, whilst hilarious to those of us sitting in the proximity of the touchline, was probably the last thing they wanted to hear. The sigh of relief from FA headquarters almost tangible as finally the move to Lionel Road and everybody being assigned new seats meant that gauntlet was one that no longer needed to be run.

The referee and his assistant often chose to ignore all reminders of the rules

Except…. Post of the week came up on Facebook during the Valencia game. Alex and his family are still on the touchline. Yet, if anything, in an even better position to dish out the helpful advice. Not only to the lino but, now, the fourth official. In his own words, “Referee review screen. I guess they asked for this to be in-front of me given my years of helpful advice to the linesman on the Braemar Road.” 

Sure enough, the accompanying picture is one that already tells its own story. Now that, Alanis, is ironic.

I do wonder if this showed up on the magic helmet or whether the footballing gods have simply delivered the most unexpected of helping hands? Either way, a year and a half on lockdown means we all need to sharpen our skills if the VAR performance on Saturday was anything to go by. No pressure, Alex. Keep it loud against Arsenal.

View from the seat…

Nick Bruzon

Time for more football acting? One can only hope.

5 Aug

I’ve got to be honest, this column hasn’t gone in the intended direction. Thursday morning, 6.30am and that first line has just been written last. We were going to focus on last night’s TV coverage but then I caught up with ‘official’ and the news that we are gong to be welcoming back some old friends. Oh well, here goes.. Should we be excited or worried? Brentford host Valencia on Saturday evening, our final warm up game before Arsenal visit next Friday in the Premier League, and it seems we will have special guests present. Not just the living legend that is Martin Allen but People Just Do Nothing stars Kurupt FM who will be performing live before the game. Elsewhere, did you catch the feature on the Bees last night? Both BT Sport and Sky Sports running a half-hour documentary on Brentford, our history and how we reached the top flight. Club historian Rob Jex leading the charge in a fascinating look at the club that will, hopefully, be repeated as often as Yours Truly’s ill-fated appearance on Bargain Hunt. Albeit for totally different reasons. One was absolute quality. The other was Mrs Bruzon and myself arguing over antiques.

An hour long show distilled into five seconds

First up, Valencia. The programme article(s) have been written and the tickets gone on sale. We’ve little over 48 hours until kick off and I can’t wait. A chance to see Brentford in action once more and the possibility we may even get a look at Kris Ajer. All being well Thomas Onyeka is healthy following the injury he appeared to suffer in the game with West Ham last Saturday but the rest is up to Thomas. We’ve seen plenty in action so far, with Shandon Baptiste amongst those to really stake a claim for a starting berth against Arsenal following his performances up at Old Trafford and then last weekend. 

To be fair, you could say the same about pretty much the entire squad. We’ve looked solid and, whilst friendlies should always be taken with a huge pinch of salt, it’s surely better to be playing well than badly. Besides, confidence should be sky high. We‘ve won the play-offs and achieved a life’s dream – reaching the top flight. We’ve bought a few players (with word on the street suggesting two more are incoming) whilst, incredibly, there’s nobody really being linked with the out door. Rico Henry returned in style and, as it stands, supporters are still allowed to attend games with corona virus restrictions a thing of the past. Just a sexy third kit and healthy fitness report about Josh Dasilva needed for a full house.

Optimism is understandably high. It was coursing through the veins when the aforementioned documentary was filmed last month and nothing has changed since to change that view. Instead, we’re just 8 days away from hosting Arsenal in a league fixture. This, followed by home games against Brighton, Liverpool and then European Champions Chelsea. It’s nuts. There’s just nothing to be down about. Only excitement and anticipation ahead. The stresses of last season from certain quarters nothing but a distant memory. The abiding image that of Peter Gilham raising the play-off trophy above his head in the Wembley sunshine. With the added bonus being he even stayed on his feet. 

I’ve missed football dreadfully. Watching on TV just isn’t the same. Moreso when we were rattling around an empty stadium. Now, that’s done. We’re back. We’re  allowed in. We can even get a pie and a pint at the game. Valencia presents another excuse, as if one were needed, to get back inside Lionel Road and see the team in action. See old friends and familiar faces. Of getting a first look at jumper man (who will, presumably, be sporting summer fatigues).  

There’s also the visit of Kurupt FM. On the one hand, promoting their new film ‘Big in Japan’. On the other, seeing if they can engage in another masterclass with our chief exec. Inside the actors studio, it wasn’t. “The Varney/Kurupt FM cringe off” , as one North stand observer described it at the time.

It was one of those ‘so bad it’s amazing moments’ . So toe curling you needed a pair of Genie’s slippers yet, at the same time it was utterly, utterly compelling. Jon Varney playing along in a moment akin to those times a ‘real’ footballer, manager or commentator would put in a cameo on Dream Team. For the record, former Bee Andy Ansah uttering his stock line of “Get warmed up” doesn’t count. We’re thinking more Steve Coppell or Richard Keys attempting to blend in seamlessly and, ordinarily, failing.

What came next was, well…..

In the previous column we spoke about those quite wonderful moments when non-footballers do football type things. For example, and I’m just going off the top of my head, stadium announcers filming goal celebration videos. To that list you can also add Jon Varney doing his Kurupt FM thing. Here’s to round two on Saturday afternoon. You can read about it all on ‘official‘ .

Although, in retrospect, perhaps the Dream Team moment surpasses even that. And not in a good way.

Nick Bruzon

Harry nails new kit. Hollywood walk of fame or shame?

17 Jul

Friday was Brentford kit launch day. It should have been the most exciting date on the calendar. One to rank with 13th August when the Bees walk out against Arsenal or perhaps even the moment which will see one North Stand observer finally marry his beloved in a few weeks’ time. For clarity, not Buzzette.

Buzzette – still got it!

Yet the pressures of work meant that, sadly, any excitement (or otherwise) as the new designs dropped had to be parked. There was no flurry of over excited tweets from this self-proclaimed Kit nerd. Indeed, social media was barely touched so I can’t account for Luis. Yet now, the laptop screen has been slammed shut firmer than a transfer window at the denouement of deadline day and we can take a more considered view.

Boom. From nowhere they appeared. The days of Mark Devlin’s strip tease are long gone.  A 7(seven) day preamble of brief flashes before the full reveal – the kit rather than our then chief executive.  Instead, without warning it was with us. Much like an ‘emergency’ episode of Mrs. Brown’s Boys when the originally scheduled programme has to be cancelled due to an over running news report / football fixture, it was in our faces with no time to prepare. Home. Away. Goalkeeper. But what do you think?

The Brentford 2021/22 Umbro shirts are here

In a way, the enforced delay from yours truly has probably been no bad thing, in hindsight. I may not have been responsible for my actions. And not in a good way. We have a new sponsor – Hollywood Bets – and being blunt, gut reaction to the logo was that it looks horrific. A jarring clash of a graphic and their colour scheme no way to replace the otherwise absent traditional black trim on the Brentford shirt. Moreso when you see how lush the mocked up versions from Jamie Maison on Twitter look . Oh Fullers, wherefore art thou? 

What might have been….

The plus points are that stripes are bang on. Quantity and thickness. The red is a great shade and striped arms are great. I’m also a sucker for a round neck collar so top marks there – even if the two tone colour scheme is a missed opportunity. All white would have been immense. The Bee logo on the back of the neck is another lovely touch. 

As for the away version, this is the initial pick of the bunch. Buttercup (apparently) yellow with black sleeve trim and badges, a v-neck and the sponsor (whilst still jarring) seeming more blended into this design. Then there’s that subliminal diamond motif shading within the kit itself. It is, and I quote, “An eye catching design”. Not my words Carol, the words of Brentford official. Who could disagree?

Umbro are up there with Hummel in my favourite kit manufacturers and so I’m, personally, thrilled we have them for a third season. At least. Then again, I do need to get out more. Yet until New Balance take over – and I get a monogrammed shirt for the price of a regular one – we couldn’t have a better technical sponsor.

David Raya will be wearing all green. His shirt features “A pixel graphic sleeve and tonal crew neck”. This time, a design described as “Exciting”. 

Pixel perfect?

Take your pick. Something for everyone? Whilst perhaps not up there as an all-time classic, that’s less to do with Kitman Bob and the kit design ; more with the marketing team and our choice of commercial partners. Money talks and all that. It’s not even a case getting snotty about betting companies – we’ve had 888, Matchbook and LeoVegas before so the ship has long since sailed about the ‘evils’ of gambling. It’s just that on the initial reveal it looked awful. 

Perhaps it’s just me. Perhaps other love it. Do you? Perhaps time will ease the pain on the eyes or it will look much better in the flesh. I was privileged enough to see the amazing brown/orange for real before that was revealed to the world and have to say that it knocked my socks off. Up there with our best ever. The reaction from others on seeing the pictures first was, we could politely say, the opposite.. Perhaps, the same will apply here. 

Let’s not be stupid. I’m still going to buy one. As Mrs Bruzon said last night, “It’s The Premier League shirt”. Plus the first 1000 through the door when it goes on sale next Saturday (a club shop exclusive launch prior to online sales ) get Premier league badge printing for free.

Yet as Harry also said to me, “Dad? Where are the black bits?”.  And his child-size kit, presumably bereft of sponsor, will have none.

The Jaffa cake – up there with our best, ever.

As one, final thought…Might a dip into the Umbro back catalogue and the laced necks of the early 90s have been another alternate to the trim colour / collar conundrum? Just saying…..