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Time to make some history.

15 May

Welcome back / Crud, him again. Delete as applicable. We’ve needed a few weeks of ‘downtime’ on these pages for a multitude of reasons but that’s all finished. Been there, done it, bought the t-shirt. There’s been no room to talk about Brentford making a winning run to the end of the season. On Ivan Toney scooping the golden boot and breaking Glenn Murray’s Championship record with his 31st of the season at Ashton Gate. Indeed, no room to talk about the near coronary induced by the decision to keep him on the pitch when he picked up the yellow card in that final ‘regular’ game of the campaign prior to scoring. No place to talk about how the final four have played out for the play-offs. As we all know, Monday evening sees Bournemouth host Brentford followed by Swansea City visiting Barnsley. Perhaps most importantly, no real time to talk about the buzz of being allowed back into games from next week. The lucky supporters over the 3000 TAP point limit know they will be at Lionel Road next Saturday. Those entered into the ballot no doubt sweating on the results of that as much as the first leg.

Yet for everything that has gone on, the only real subject on anybody’s lips has to be the play-offs.  Positive though I have been about our promotion chances this season (spoiler alert: it’ll continue), there was perhaps a resigned inevitability about our chances of reeling in a Watford team recording win after win after win in the final few furlongs. Their own victory at Norwich City the point where deep down even the maths was too outlandish a leap of faith to make. Their 1-0 defeat of Millwall confirming a return to the Premier league. Now, Brentford are looking to join them with a tenth bite at the play-off cherry. A monkey on the back the size of King Kong. We all know the stats. We all know our record. Nine attempts. Four finals. Nine defeats. The whole process starting with Tranmere Rovers back in the early 90s and coming all the way up to Fulham last time out. An extra time defeat as much a triumph for brutality as it was football. In between we’ve had Huddersfield Town, Sheffield Wednesday, Swansea City and Middlesbrough in the semis along with final game slip ups against Crewe, Yeovil Town and Stoke City in Cardiff. That one followed up by the worst train journey ever. Apologies again to all impacted. Only Preston North End had experienced more attempts than us without success, albeit even they have finally done it. Ten play-offs ; one win. Can we do the same?

The play-offs. We all know what happened the previous nine times…..

The short answers is a categoric YES. For me, Clive, I’m convinced this is finally our turn. Dark horse for second place in ‘player of the season’ Sergi Canos popping up to get the winner at Wembley. Hey, one can dream. The simple fact of the matter is that despite the plethora of injuries we’ve readjusted our formation and hit our groove once more. Brentford are keeping clean sheets at one end and scoring goals at the other. Of course, we’d love Rico, Josh and Henrik back (and who knows what unlikely cameos may be made at some point? ) but the team have rediscovered themselves. Sergi at wing back, Tariqe in flames and Christian Norgaard alongside the centre backs a formation rejig that has seen the Bees back to winning ways. The other three teams doing their level best to trip over themselves in a bid to discover the most anti-form in the final lengths. 

Of course, football isn’t that simple. No matter how well one team is playing versus the other three, everyone has had a chance to reset and pick themselves up once more. All four teams go into this fresh and it comes down to one thing only – who holds their nerve? Swansea, Barnsley , Bournemouth or Brentford? Obviously we’re going to talk up the Bees where, perhaps, we can draw some historical parallels. Blow the dust off the previous column (during the war, Grandad) and it spoke about how we fell into the play-offs after being presented with a golden chance after Huddersfield beat West Brom in game 45. Oh, the pain of tripping up against Stoke and then home to Barnsley was indescribable. Of watching our ‘automatic’ chances slide away. An inexorable torture session viewed from behind the sofa with fingers over eyes. Played out in empty stadia as our hopes of hitting the Premier League were replaced with a ninth attempt at the play-offs. We all know what happened.

Yet, longer term, might this have done us a favour? Perhaps. Like ‘that penalty’ against Doncaster  (a pain only matched by the play-off penalty defeat to Huddersfield the season we came second when there was only one automatic slot), we bounced back in a style that had to be seen to be believed. Marcello Trotta and the team taking that pain, scrunching it up into a little ball and booting it into the net. The victory at Leyton Orient perhaps the most ballsy thing I have witnessed a football team ever do. Too right we celebrated like we’d won the FA Cup. Partridgesque levels of bouncing back following the most indescribable anguish.

This time around, rather than watching our team play in the Premier league with out us present, we’ve had to hit pause. We’ve reached the semi-finals of the League Cup. We’ve had that huge unbeaten run mid-season. We’ve discovered the most coveted goal-scorer in English football in Ivan Toney. If ever there was a shoe in for ‘player of the season’ it is him. The only real battle there as to who comes second? The fairytale ending is all lined up. A first season in the Premier League, to be played out in front of supporters, the prize at stake. Not to mention a few quid. If nothing else, a chance to avoid the most undesirable play-off record.

Who do you want in the play-offs?”. That, the most common question that has come in this direction in recent weeks. Honesty, I don’t care. Four tough teams. Four teams after the same thing. Only one can make it through. This comes down to nothing more than bottle. The fans will, of course, bring an additional aspect that wasn’t there last time out. And a good thing too. We all know how awful football in empty stadia has been. The echoy thud of the ball and the shouts from the touchline the only sounds to punctuate the players calling out to each other. Urghh, it has been grim. All being well, it is now over. Being part of the crowd against Blackburn  earlier in the season, the clamour of 2,000 fans was the most incredible noise. The sweetest of sounds. We’ll have double the amount in this time around. All four stands populated. If not heaving, certainly more present to lift the players further. Peter Gilham finally having a crowd to play up to. The players being roared on. 

Oh, I can’t wait for the play-offs. Not a typo. As much as anything else the chance to see a game of football. To enter this game of Russian roulette feeling positive is the most alien of feelings. Yet, perhaps, the depressing familiarity of what we do at this stage will finally work in our favour. There is no pressure. At least, not in our house. I’ve had the somewhat dubious pleasure of experiencing all nine of our previous attempts and have been finally numbed against the feeling of what comes next. We’ve nothing to lose because we only lose. The team can play with freedom. Without the albatross around the neck. The script is written. All we need to do is turn up and deliver.

All we need to do…… If only football were that simple.

Bring it on. Seen you next Saturday. In person.

Nick Bruzon   

“It had to be Barnsley, didn’t it.” Not my words. Those of, err, Harry….

15 Feb

If there is one positive to come out of Brentford losing 2-0 at home to Barnsley on Sunday it was when 7 (seven) year old Harry turned to me and said, “Daddy. I want to write a story about this one. The headline is going to be…. ‘Scumbags’.” I’m not sure whether he was talking about us, them or simply the combination of David Coote in the middle and Ian Moose in the press box.  On waking up this morning the desire to tell the tale was still there although, thankfully, the scumbags have been dropped in favour of the above headline. For those not familiar with H and his output, this was the take on our being held at Swansea City…..

Instead, over to H for his view on proceedings…

It had to be Barnsley, didn’t it?

I watched loads of Tom and Jerry yesterday which was probably better than watching Brentford vs Barnsley because Jerry slapped a frying pan around Tom’s face or the dog Spike would be punching Tom on every part of his body. The football match wasn’t so good. One, because Barnsley were pressing so high to force us to make mistakes. Two, because we weren’t really switched on our passing game. Pinnock has a good head for heading but not so good for when Barnsley try and nutmeg him.

Probably Rico played best for Brentford and Sergi did well but not that. The rest of them had their heads turned on their loved ones because it was Valentine’s day. Pinnock messed up twice to let them have the two goals. Barnsley were just concentrating on the game.

I didn’t really enjoy watching it. A bit but not much and it was pretty frustrating as we are normally on the gas. They did screw up our automatic last season, probably making them think they can beat us again despite how well we tried. I watched the game in the lounge with my mum and dad. My mum got so bored she even went out on a long walk and got some food. I don’t know why as we normally always watch it but that’s not why we lost as they scored both goals before.

I had my lucky shirt on but it wasn’t so much. I think I know why we lost though – my dad’s lucky socks stunk like a skunk’s fart (especially after he uses the bathroom). They barely ever stink. When we were losing a few last season we still kept the same lucky shirt even though my dad insists on changing it. I’ve got four other shirts in my draw, including a training top, so I think I’ll keep this one. Lucky shirts last all season.

Harry Bruzon

Better than Brentford. Yesterday.

Let’s just call this a bad day at the office and move on.

15 Feb

Well that was all kinds of awful. Brentford said farewell to the marathon unbeaten league run after going down 2-0 at home to Barnsley on Sunday. It was an absolutely deserved win for the visitors who pressed high, pressed hard and were first to everything. No sour grapes here and with the Bees not even close to being the second best team in this one, with too many players going inexplicably awol, the outcome seemed apparent from the off. A veritable … don’t do it, don’t do it, don’t do it….Valentine’s Day massacre. Urghh, did it. With it went the chance to retake top spot from Norwich City after the Canaries had swept aside Stoke City on Saturday. Instead, we start the week two points behind on level games played and looking forward to visiting Loftus Road on Wednesday evening. Norwich host Coventry and third placed Swansea entertain Nottingham Forest.

Let’s rephrase that a tad. It WAS awful but it is was as much frustrating. It is only one game. Nobody can keep going for ever and all teams slip up from time to time. Have the odd off day. Unlike last season, the Stoke City and Barnsley results haven’t fatally holed the good ship Brentford. Instead, they have provided some choppy waters and how navigate through the will be the real mark of this team. We all know just what they can do. How good the Bees are on the day. The inability to react to Barnsley and their approach was inexplicable but it happens. Certainly no indication that we are doing a Leeds United. Even they wobbled more than once last time out – see also West Bromwich Albion – and whilst this is the oldest cliché in the book, the league is a marathon not a sprint. 

The game had that feeling from the off with Barnsley coming at us and dominating. Yet again, Brentford conceded the opening goal but this time there was no  coming back at our opponents. No blitzkrieg assault with that free scoring form that has typified our performances this season. Instead, we looked lethargic. Sloppy. Out of sorts. Conor Chaplin making a Charlie of the Bees defence on 13 minutes to find himself totally unmarked and steer it home for 1-0. There was no answer. No reply. No nothing. A bit of huff and puff but Bryan Mbeumo’s inability to pick out Sergi Canos in acres of space summed it up. The screaming at the TV to play it out to the electric Spaniard could probably have been heard at Lionel Road, so open was the position. Alas, it fell on deaf ears. 

Bryan wasn’t alone in being off his game though. The normally magnificent Ethan had a stinker. The second goal, straight after the restart, also had the opportunity to to be snuffed out but instead Dike’s low cross bypassed the defender leaving Carlton Morris the easiest of finishes. Tariqe Fosu did nothing off the bench. Samman Ghoddos got into space but failed to capitalise. Josh and Vitaly invisible in the midfield compared to their normally dominant selves. Rico and Henrik off the pace. Ivan Toney had the first touch of a JCB. When he was fouled in the box, referee David Coote choose to perform his Arsene Wenger tribute act and instead elected not to see the incident. Barnsley were on it and got everything their performance warranted. This was not a stolen win but one which they fought hard for with the points going to the right team. For Brentford, nothing to do except wipe this from the memory and pretend it never happened.

Thomas Frank got it spot on at full time. “We know in this league you can lose to every team in this division if you don’t hit your highest level. We lost to a better team today. They won fair and square. We need to move on. It’s all about how we react on Wednesday.

He’s bang on the money here. We know only too well that there are no ‘teams like…’ in this division. That the Championship is the most exciting, toughest league in Europe with no foregone conclusions in any game. Just look at how Wycombe turned things around to win 3-2 at Huddersfield this weekend. What is more important is how we react at Loftus Road on Wednesday, at Coventry this Saturday lunchtime and further down the track. We may win or lose both of those. They won’t be season defining. What is more important is how we react. How we play. That we put this one behind us.

I’d much rather be where we are now (second on 57 points) than where we were last season after 29 games (fifth on 47 points having just gone down to Nottingham Forest). Even then, it felt good to be that high up. Knowing there were a whole stack of games and points  – 51 – still to go for. That destiny was still very much in our hands.

The same is true now. No side has everything their own way. Even the Premier League showed that this weekend with Manchester United being held by West Brom, Liverpool seeing their own title defence obliterated and Everton being undone by Fulham. Not a typo. If anything, the tech malfunction that saw us missing comms as the game started and the sight of Ian Moose pontificating before kick-off made me feel ill at ease and in mind that this was not going to be our afternoon. Presumably, the talk sh*te buffet burglar would have buried any of our half chances before posing for a selfie with one of his faux friends. How does that work in lockdown?

Look, we’re second in the table. Automatic promotion in our sights. We’ve ‘lost’ a game for the first time since October 24th last year rather than drowned a kitten. Still with a trip to Norwich City to come at the start of next month. The Championship still has plenty more twists to come. For what its worth, I’m absolutely convinced we’ll smash our hosts onWednesday evening. An empty Loftus Road and the opportunity to get straight back on the horse awaits. I cannot wait for that one – if only to get the stinky taste of Barnsley out of my mouth. 

I wouldn’t want to be in Mark Warburton’s shoes now. If Brentford do what we know they can it’ll be raining goals in West London. IF…..

The only possible explanation for Sunday – our visitors’ performance aside

Nick Bruzon

Time to exorcise some demons?

12 Feb

Say. We are top of th.., err. How about, quite well placed at present? Nahhh. Screw it. We ARE top of the league so why not enjoy the moment? The table doesn’t lie and our run of form is quite incredible. Brentford now 21 league games unbeaten. Only Spurs and Leicester City have overturned us since late October. Ivan Toney is leading the Championship goal scoring charts and the team are on fire. We’ve just overtaken Norwich City after that fine, fine win at Reading on Wednesday night. Frank out??? Where are you? Where ARE YOU? . Let’s be havin’ you! Come on. How far away is all that nonsense now? How quiet have the keyboard warriors gone? Even Sergi Canos is getting praise from the most ferocious armchair managers. Hmm – about five months too late and how magnanimous but there you go. Things are indeed good at present so why not enjoy the moment? Next up, Barnsley on Sunday and a chance to not only maintain the pace but, perhaps, exorcise one of THE demons of last season.

Cripes, we all know what happened. After that wonderful run towards the end of the campaign, Huddersfield Town did us that quite unexpected favour of beating West Brom on the Friday night. Thank you very much, Mark Devlin. All we had to do was beat Stoke City in game 45 and we were up into automatic. Instead, we did a Leeds. No matter, game 46 saw the ultimate in unexpected shocks – the Loftus Road mob got a result at West Brom. The door to the Premier League was still open. All we had to do was beat Barnsley at Griffin Park. The same Barnsley team facing their own unlikely battle to avoid relegation. Instead, they played their hearts out and we did a Leeds. Congratulations to the Tykes – a much more deserved victory than the time Toby was adjudged to have beaten Buzz in the half-time mascot race. For Brentford, there were still the play-offs……

Never forget the time the Toby and Barnsley ‘won’ at Griffin Park.

Which of course is why we meet again on Sunday. This time around Barnsley are looking super safe and, perhaps, may even have a surge towards the play-offs on their mind. The gap to Bournemouth in sixth is only 9 points. The relegation slots are way off and currently being occupied by Wycombe, Birmingham City and Wayne Rooney’s Derby County. Valérien Ismaël’s side may not have won in five league games but they are a different proposition the time around. Even Chelsea were made to work hard in last night’s FA Cup game (eventually running out 1-0 winnners) and their biggest problem at present would seem to be on social media where the club were forced to announce yesterday that…” Due to a copyright claim dated 2018, the official Barnsley Football Club Twitter account (@BarnsleyFC) has been temporarily suspended”. 

As one North Stand observer would comment on our WhatsApp Group – “It’s the sort of thing that would have happened to us a few years ago.” One can only imagine the admin oversight / other that lead to that one although the good news being they are now back in action. And good news it is too. The club being one of my favourites in the league with good times having been had on our travels, regardless of the result. Now they are the ones on the road in a game about as big as it comes.

Hoping for a better result than the previous rematch

The longer this unbeaten run continues the more incredible it seems. A metaphorical skyscraper of a performance but one which, equally, could feel like a Jenga tower. The more it continues the wobblier it feels. The pressure, perhaps, building although certainly not apparent from Thomas and the players IF that is indeed the case. Perhaps its just the glass half-empty approach of football fans. Natural pessimists, normally, although this time around loving the moment. Last season I wanted every game to come but there was that huge feeling of extra stress because we knew we were playing catch up and so, so reliant on others around us.

This time, there’s still that feeling of desperation to play again but it is with uber confidence. It is with wanting to see just how far we can go. It is with having supreme and unadulterated confidence in whomever is picked to start. Of knowing that despite conceding first (as we have done in the last four games) we have the firepower to blitz just about anyone. 17 (seventeen) goals scored in those same four games speaks for itself.

That’s not to be over-confident or arrogant. Likewise, we can’t go into Sunday’s game thinking it will be anything but the toughest of challenges. Once the whistle goes then forget the form, forget the other results and forget the league placings. Focus on Barnsley and just keep on doing what we’ve been doing. We can’t ask for more than that. Everything else comes off the back of it. 

Oh, I love football at the best of times but this is next level fun. Like all of us, I’m desperate to be there in person. I hate watching it on TV, knowing how close we live to the stadium and remembering just how incredible following the Bees is in person. At least we have Mark Burridge and team to keep us company. Temporary custodians of our massed physical presence at Lionel Road. The weight of the home supporters on the shoulders of our comms team and our board of directors. Oh, and Pontus Jansson who seems the one person on the planet even louder than Harry Potter / Simon. His shouting and encouragement clearly audible over the top of the audio and a joy to behold. Kicking and screaming his way to the top alongside the players out on pitch.

No doubt he’ll be back there on Sunday doing more of the same. We’ll all be alongside him, in spirit. I can’t wait for this one. Here’s to an extra special Valentines’ Day. Just hopefully without the cards. Oh, and if Stoke want to upset another promotion push, then there’s no better time than their trip to Norwich on Saturday afternoon to play that card. Come on. Lets be havin’ you…

21 and counting. Barnsley very much our ‘Karleigh Osborne’ game…

Nick Bruzon 

Banging the drum for our Triple J.

25 Nov

Another game unbeaten. Another clean sheet. Another goal for Ivan Toney. Another three points for Thomas Frank’s squad. Brentford left Oakwell on the right end of a 1-0 win over Barnsley on Tuesday. The run now up to six games without defeat whilst conceding a mere two goals over that period. The Bees are sitting within touching distance of the play-off zone – up to eighth in the Championship table ahead of tonight’s fixtures. Then there’s the small matter of the game on Friday night. A televised visit from the Shepherds Bush outfit.

Ivan does it again

The obvious talking point ahead of kick-off was the team announcement. Ghoddos out. Canos out. Janelt and Fosu both starting whilst Ethan Pinnock also made a return. No arguments with any of that although Mads Bech can perhaps count himself unlucky after impressing to date. As noted last time out, the performances against Wycombe and Middlesbrough had been somewhat of a ‘challenge’ to sit through. Defensively sound but stifled creatively. Most of the midfield / attacking force failing to impress and, whilst I still can’t get my head around the vitriol directed towards one player, it was clear some changes were needed.

Change is what we got. The addition of Janelt to the centre of the park adding more solidity. Doing to Barnsley what had been done to us in recent weeks. Good luck Thomas Frank once Christian Norgaard is fit ! With it came the added confidence to push up. Tarique Fosu finally unleashed and having a blinder, too. An early shot from the edge of the box coming close but Jack Walton in nets managed to keep it out. Rico Henry could also count himself unlucky with a similar effort as Brentford went for it from the off before the game settled down.  One smart stop from Raya aside, there was little else to recall. Barnsley barely given a chance to threaten as the Bees waited for what seemed like the inevitable goal. 

It was only a matter of time, suggested Mick Cabble on the Iplayer comms team. Mind you, we’d felt the same against Middlesbrough and Wycombe, only to see them end in those insipid 0-0 draws. This one was different though. The second half began with Marcondes (2019/20’s Canos – we need one every season, it seems) on for Josh Dasilva. All being well that’s nothing more than precautionary. Like Rico, Ethan, David and Ivan he’s been up there in our best and most consistent performers so far. Long may that continue – especially with Friday’s big one approaching.

Brentford pushed up once more (the absence of that chant another reason to abhor the current situation of empty stadia).  Mbeumo came close before who else but Ivan Toney was there to remind us of the way to goal? With just over an hour gone, he rose like a salmon to guide home a Mathias Jensen corner. 1-0. Game on. Pressure off. It really was a precision effort. The technique and the steer all about what made this one. Placement over power as Walton was left with a mountain to climb trying to get even half-way close.

It could have been double almost straight after. Toney charging Walton to force a hurried clearance which fell to Mbeumo via Marcondes. The wideman broke forward, sofas at home already relived of the pressure as we all leapt to our feet in anticipation. Nooo. He fired just high and just wide. It could, probably should, have been two. I can imagine the Twitter meltdown had it been another player 😉 . Instead of cruising over the line we were left hanging on to the thought that one freak moment, one mishap and things would be level. But it wasn’t to be. 

Canos and Forss both made it on to the pitch late, with the former cueing up the later for a chance that – like Mbeumo – the player may well be frustrated about not burying. That’s football. We got the win and the record books will reflect three more points to Brentford. The table does’t lie and we wake up this morning to see the Bees just one win away from third placed Bristol City. Frank out !

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, that’s for sure. I’ve never professed to be an expert when it comes to football but at the same time, it was clear something hasn’t been working. Personally speaking,  I loved the combination of Janelt, Josh and Jensen in the middle and will certainly be banging the drum for our Triple J once again. Probably a little more niche than the BMW or FT Index but if you know you know.

Niche

Of what is probably broader discussion on social media, could Thomas Frank’s rolling of the dice marked Fosu prove to be a key moment in the season? Certainly Tarique took his chance in some style and must be a shoe in for Friday. Only time will tell on the anger term choices but with the games coming non-stop, it won’t be the last change we see. Sergi will be back. So will Saman. Sometimes those selections will be expected. Others, not so. That’s the one thing we have been calling all season – that squad use is going to be pivotal. If for no other reason than the increased substitution ruling has given more flexibility. Yesterday’s game already seeing us make four changes mid-match.

For now, I can’t see any change for Friday. Injury aside. We’ve continued to look solid at the back but despite ‘only’ scoring one goal, it never felt in doubt. There was confidence and attacking intent. A midweek trip to Yorkshire in the cold has all the appeal of sitting down to watch the Mrs Browns Boys Christmas special (warning – it IS coming back. Again. Like cockroaches, I can imagine Mrs. Brown and her cardigan would be the only thing to survive nuclear war). 

However, we rose to the challenge and held firm when it counted. There won’t be any amongst us who wouldn’t have taken a 1-0 had it, somehow, been able to be offered prior to kick off. With Quarter Pound off Rubbish next up, Brentford couldn’t have found a better time to return to winning ways. Now, over to you Peter Gilham. Something about a team talk….

You know it would happen

Nick Bruzon

The morning after the night before.

23 Jul

Where to even start? What a soul destroying end to an incredible season. A punch to the stomach that even after sleeping on it, feels awfully numb. For sure it’s hurting now, Brentford fans, but we are still in this. We’ve now got a two-legged play-off semi-final with Swansea to look forward to. The dream of Premier League football is still on. We’ll just have to take the long way around. This, after our 91st minute defeat by Barnsley consigned the Bees to third place in the table. That’s still an amazing achievement but with West Bromwich Albion drawing at home to QPR, destiny would have been in our hands.

Alas, not. The chance was unable to be taken on an evening spent sitting in our friends’ back garden on Brook Road South, watching on TV but all ears on Griffin Park. Hoping against hope to hear the cheer from Peter Gilham that would have signified a goal before the tv footage caught up. It is a cheer that only came once – and we were so busy running around the garden in excitement, singing at the top of our voices, that I’ve still not seen Josh Da Silva’s 73rd minute equaliser. It is one that will now need to be repeated on Wednesday when Swansea visit for the second leg.

I’m already past caring about the facts of our 2-1 defeat. We don’t really do match reports at the best of times and it won’t change anything raking through the bones of this one. I’m sure the players are hurting as much as the fans. For a beautiful moment in the first half we were there. For a more incredible period we had the last quarter hour to get the one goal which would have seen us reach the top flight, assuming things stayed the same at The Hawthorns. QPR somehow levelling things up at 2-2 in their game with West Brom. 

Pressure built. Excitement mounted. The clock moved on way, way too fast. And then, on 91, the most almighty cheer from Griffin Park. Yesssss. What a time to get it. We’d done it. Odd that Peter hadn’t announced the scorer but perhaps he’d been overcome with the emotion of the moment. This one we weren’t going to miss and we ran back indoors, just in time to see Barnsley players celebrating their late, late winner. Oh. Ahh. Move along, nothing to see here. It was a winner which, combined with other results, means their Championship survival is assured. 

Heartbreaking. A son in tears the likes of which I’ve never seen before. A season and a week that promised so much, over. For now. But to remain upset (an understandable emotion) won’t help Thomas Frank and his team. It overlooks the fact of our highest league finish since the 1930s. It ignores the simple truth that we are still alive. We are still in this one. We’ve still got our second bite at the cherry. We’re still in the play-offs. 

That’s where we face Swansea, who hit the top six late into the evening. Their 4-1 win at Reading, combined with Nottingham Forest going down by the same scoreline at home to Stoke City, means it is the Swans who make it by virtue of a quite remarkable goal difference swing. One has to feel for the fans at The City Ground. If we’re feeling it today just imagine what they must be going through. 

It was news that put a smile back on HB’s face this morning. He’d been truly worried about the prospect of facing them. As much for footballing reasons as the fact that they broke Sergi earlier in the season.

It’s brief today. No need to pad it out with all that good stuff about picking ourself up and getting back out there. West Bromwich Albion have gone up so congratulations to them. Our turn is next. We know how good this team are. How stunning they have been this campaign. Now it’s down to Thomas Frank to recharge his players and remind them what they are good at – winning football matches.

See you on Sunday when it all starts again.

Nick Bruzon  

Last game at Griffin Park – all you need to know about tickets so far.

18 Feb

Contender, ready! Gladiators, ready! Thus demanded (or asked, I was never quite sure) referee John Anderson back in the day. And it has the feel of a titanic struggle as the Barnsley tickets go on sale this afternoon. On the surface, an innocuous fixture but in practice the last time Brentford will get to run out at Griffin Park (officially – there’s always the possibility of the play-offs….).  In the role of the plucky contenders, we have the non-season ticket holding members. Lined up in Wolf’s clothing, TAPS. And with the club already warning that “We have significantly more Members than available tickets for this game”, expect somebody to end this one unhappy.

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Who will end up unhappy?

What are the club to do though? Already the hard luck  / panic stories are coming out on social media and the tickets aren’t even on sale. Moreso given the apparent worry / fear of Griffin Park being flooded by tourists (especially those on apparent Scandinavian package deals). We’ve had high demand games before and things have generally worked out for those wanting to get in. Yet this is next level. As emotive as they come and demand is absolutely sure to outstrip supply – even with the Ticket Access Point (TAP) tiering.

Club Members with 900+ TAPs (one per Member):
From Tuesday 18 February at 4pm to Tuesday 3 March at 4pm

Club Members with 750+ TAPs (one per Member):
From Tuesday 10 March at 4pm to Tuesday 24 March at 4pm

All Club Members (one per Member):
From Tuesday 31 March at 4pm 

You can absolutely understand everybody’s desire to get in for this one. The club could charge double and it would still sell out. They could but they won’t. They don’t really have any alternative as to how tickets go on sale. These are member only (with ST holders guaranteed a place so excluded from buying) and then members raked by TAP rather than an ‘all-in simultaneously’ bundle or even a lottery. In my opinion, and for what it’s worth, this is the fairest way possible.

Absolutely somebody will miss out that almost certainly deserves to be in there. Somebody will buy a ticket for their brother/mother/cousin who has been once in a blue moon. We’ll no doubt have our usual contingent of visitors from abroad (something which, for the record, nobody seems to have had kicked off about previously). This one is different though…

This one is huge. This one will have Brentford fans that miss out up in arms. That’s natural. We all want to go. We’ve all got reasons for not being able to attend certain games. We’ve always used Season Tickets and TAPS as a means of attempting to reward the most loyal supporters previously.

How could it have been done differently? Delegate attendance to a random away game as a means of prioritising for tickets? We’ve done that in the past – oh, the joys of a midweek coach trip to Wrexham in the fog and rain. But what about loyal supporters with prior commitments that weekend? A lottery is even worse whilst giving all members simultaneous access was a recipe for website meltdown and even huger fan upset as ‘deserving’ supporters with a long history could well have missed out.

Reading Jamie Cureton 2002

2002 – demand was ferocious.

Brentford are in a lose-lose scenario here. Whatever they do will upset somebody. Only Season Ticket holders are guaranteed access and whilst it’s easy to pontificate in that situation, one can’t help but feel for those that do miss out. I’ve been there before back in the  dark days of being so skint there were weeks I couldn’t even afford a match day ticket for Division One fixtures. Let alone the luxury of a season ticket. Of having to hope somebody somehow had a spare or trawl around the outskirts of Griffin Park to get in to the promotion decider with Reading (thanks, Jamie Cureton). My own cousin Charles from Gibraltar, who has been bringing a close to 100% record with him since the 80s, will likely miss out. That’s how it goes, sadly.

The club have made the best of trying to untangle this Gordian knot of a problem. It was always going to be impossible to keep everyone happy in advance. Asking Keith Stroud to keep the cards in his pocket or getting a cat into a bath tub would have been easier. 

That said, before fans get any more anxious than they already (and understandably) are, the club has also offered a further rays of light should the tickets indeed sell out. The article on the subject, which you can read in full here, notes that : 

A limited amount of additional tickets are likely to become available at a later date once we have a clearer understanding of the requirements we need to fulfil for various parties, including, but not limited to, the EFL and Brentford FC partners, the opposition club and players. As such, further sales information will follow in due course.

Likewise, there is also the prospect of the Brentford Ticket Exchange closer to the time whilst I’d be amazed if Utilita don’t run some form of competition. This seems to be de-rigeur at present and, whilst they don’t announce the winners or even get kick off times correct, it is another avenue of possibility. Woudn’t have happened on Siracusa’s watch, that’s all I’ll say about our goal sponsors.

So hold steady. Don’t panic. Easier said than done, I realise. Just be ready to sign on at the appointed hour and then cross you fingers that our server is up to the job. Failing that, get following Utilita on Twitter. 

Otherwise, we’re relying on Leeds United not falling apart (nobody wants that) and the prospect of our last game turning out to be our penultimate game with the play-offs coming in to contention……

Nick Bruzon

Bees hit Barn door with abandon. Three goals and three points on a very Super Sunday

30 Sep

Well there you go. How about THAT for a Sunday lunchtime treat ? Brentford blew Barnsley away in a game that was as much dominated by Ollie Watkins head as it was the weather. Horrific conditions at Oakwell were no barrier to a Bees team that despite conceding the first goal before most of us had even sat down, ended up disappointed to have ‘only’ scored three times. There was to be no curse of the cameras and none of the way day blues that we suffered last season. Two wins on the road under the belt already and we’re still in September. All of which means that with the table one game away from being full formed (Wednesday night at home to Bristol City sees that mark being attained), we’re up to 14th in the Championship. One place behind Birmingham City and six points away from the play-off zone. For the record.

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We’ve had worse afternoons… Brentford ‘official’ put this one up on Twitter at FT

It was a stonker of a game. The hosts held all the cards for the opening quarter hour and opened the scoring with the clock having barely registered a minute gone. Cauley Woodrow curling one in from distance with the defenders, perhaps guilty of standing off, but still the player with no real right to score from there. Yet he did.

What an effort. Credit where it is due, he hit it well. Very well. David Raya on the six-yard line had no chance and the net rippled to the sound of groans all round the pub. The pub, given as there was no pretence at being even close to making this one. At least we had a nice lunch to console ourselves with. And Guinness. And warmth. 

One nil down and it could have been two. Barnsley started off at 100mph. Brentford getting used to their new look 4-3-3 formation. It was a formation we’d hinted at yesterday, suggesting that Kamo would be back and noting “Any line up change will likely be in midfield with the rest of the team pretty much picking itself. Is there room for Nørgaard, Jensen and Mokotjo in the centre?

Hey. Make enough guesses and sometimes you get things right. Although, to be fair, it’s been crying out for this sort of change. And sure enough the Bees began to find both their way and their feet in the slippery conditions.

Just after half an hour gone and it was 1-1. Ollie Watkins, with his head, from a Jensen cross. It should have been two at half time with the post, then the crossbar denying our goalscorer twice in as many seconds before Benrahma somehow steered it wide from ten yards out.

Ooooh, Oooohh, Nooooooooo went the collective groan around the pub. Even Sky chalked it up as a goal, momentarily, before resetting their graphic. So close yet so far. What can you do? Instead, the half ended with scores level and Brentford having weathered the early storm. No irony lost on that one given the Biblical deluge (is there any other sort?) unfolding over the stadium. 

Whatever is is about the away end at Barnsley, it must be infectious. If the hosts had come out the traps flying to open the scoring in the first half, the Bees were even quicker in the second. Sergi, electric down the right and playing a much higher line than in recent weeks, delivering an inch perfect cross to Ollie. He made no mistake with his head from close in and that was it. 2-1!! The Bees in the lead and one which they showed no signs of surrendering.  

On we pushed. The home side being out passed and out manoeuvred. Sergi breaking with abandon. Balls being delivered from midfield with all the finesse of Paul Daniels pulling the lovely Debbie McGee (TM) from a seemingly empty cabinet. A third goal was inevitable and when it came, it was an almost carbon copy of the second. Sergil delivering from the right ; Ollie close in with his head. Back of the net !! Liquid football (although that could has been as much due to the rain). 3-1 Bees. Get in there you beauties!! What a moment. What a finish. What a hat-trick. 

What a goal, daddy. What. A. Goal.” You can thank HB for that one. The intonation in his voice a thing of beauty. But he’s right. A wise head on six year old shoulders and if for no other reason than it saw Ollie rise to the top of the Championship goal scorer’s chart. No player has more than the man thrust into a makeshift role yet looking more and more comfortable with each passing game . As Thomas Frank would note at full time, “We’ve been working very hard with him to arrive in the box in the right positions and he definitely did that three times today…..I think he has all the qualities needed to play higher. That’s why we’re very pleased that he signed a four-year contract with us a month ago. Very clever! 

Sam Saunders on pundit duties was equally effusive but it was one of those performances, as always seems to be the case when we get ‘good’ Brentford, where overly singling anybody out would seem trite. Sergi and Ollie will, understandably, grab all the headlines but this one is as much down to the formation and the team’s ability to keep their heads held high in awful conditions after that horrific opener. Collectively, about as positive a performance as one could hope to see and what a reward to all those supporters who had made the effort to travel for this one.

Three points are in the bag. The Bees are back in West London. Next up sees the visit of Daniel Bentley and Bristol City on Wednesday evening. With The Robins flying at present, can Thomas clip their wings and see Brentford hit the top half of the table?

See you there when we find out ! 

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Thomas and Sam do their thing in the rain at full time

Nick Bruzon

Will Sunday Service resume? Have faith in our boys. Whoever they are.

29 Sep

Here we go. 7am Sunday morning and Brentford fans are beginning the trip to Barnsley. Personally, it’s a journey too far for yours truly. This one was covered off yesterday but, in summary, was a decision ratified the exact same second the people at Sky Sports Leeds decided to move us to a lunchtime kick off. That’s football these days and things could be worse. We might be suffering the vagaries of VAR being experienced by those teams a division up. With a rare period of Saturday sofa time able to be enjoyed yesterday, it was an excruciating afternoon of stop-start football as game after game was delayed (Aston Villa and Bournemouth providing the prime examples)  for this much maligned analysis of wafer thin decisions that would have been otherwise imperceptible to the human eye.

Choose your own VAR graphic

Still, at the moment any hope of being caught up in VAR frustration is a nice dream to have. First priority has to be getting back to winning ways. Brentford haven’t had as strong a start as hoped for, certainly given the way we finished last season, and two wins from our opening eight games isn’t form to set the world on fire. We’ve looked wonderful in places. Abject in others.

The decision to sell Neal Maupay was a huge one, no matter how much this was out of our hands (ahh, the joy of agents), which we’ve been slowly adjusting to. Said Benrahma missed a significant period out recovering from injury although is now back and itching to prove his invaluable role in this team. We’ve also been short of two midfield giants. Romaine Sawyers is currently top of the league at West Brom whilst Kamo has had to be content with a place on the bench following his own return and recovery time from an extended African Cup of Nations over the summer. 

Players need to recharge, of course, but I cannot wait to see him back in regular action. He was immense last season and surely, today, is the perfect opportunity for Thomas to shuffle his pack? If there is to be a switch in line up after three games unchanged then his is the obvious name. I’d love to see him start this one, although would be intrigued as to who makes place?

Likewise, it’s probably a bit too soon for Nikos Karelis to be starting a game although I’d expect him to put in an appearance from the bench at some point. We all know how well Ollie Watkins has done in adjusting to his new role but one can’t help felling it is only a short term positional change until we have a more traditional centre forward available. Then again, this is Brentford so who knows.

I had a message from an observer on the New Road last night that simply read ‘4-4-2’.

For a moment I thought he was live-scoring with the Strictly Come Dancing judges but after a moments reflection I questioned two things. 1) How did he know I was watching Strictly? I wasn’t, for the record. Just happened to be in the room at the same time as Mrs. Bruzon had it on TV. 2) It was actually his own suggestion of formation at Barnsley but would we ever go this far? 

Not a hope. There’s more chance of me watching ‘Strictly’. Something that hasn’t happened since the exact same second their best, ever, competitor in Judy Murray was voted off. The show has been dead to me since that moment. Nobody could reach the level she attained, although David James gave it a mighty fine stab last night and deserves to be booted out just for the gratuitous amount of chest hair on display. Not that I was watching. 

TX8 RESULTS SHOW

Safer with Anton than David. Don’t drop….

See also: Wagner being kicked out of the X-Factor. Not one of all those to follow in the illustrious footsteps of the (apparent) singer or dancer has come even half way close to emulating their efforts. If you are going to take part in these trials by TV then at least do it in style. As these two did.

You’ll be doing well to find a better moment than Anton du Beke precariously slinging Judy around a ballroom or Wagner making the effortless segue from ‘She Bangs’ to ‘Love Shack’ whilst positioning himself behind a giant pair of bongo drums.

Wagner bongos

Love shack, baby…. Better than a 0-0 v Stoke City

But we digress. Radically. The point being that Brentford won’t play anything as traditional as a 4-4-2 line up. No matter what prediction has been made by my fellow fan. So it’s Ollie or Nikos to start and, of course, it will be Watkins out of those two. Instead, any line up change will likely be in midfield with the rest of the team pretty much picking itself. Is there room for Nørgaard, Jensen and Mokotjo in the centre? Could any change to accommodate the South African come elsewhere? Or does Thomas keep faith with the team that destroyed Derby County but then struggled to break through against Preston and Stoke City?

One thing’s for sure, don’t take the advice of the numpty if you are looking for tactical insight. As we know full well, Brentford make a habit of constantly surprising us. On and off the pitch. Three games with a settled team is lovely but with a squad chock full of new and familiar faces, could something give when the referee gets proceedings underway at Oakwell? Roll on the 12.30pm team announcement (or 12.32pm on ‘official’) when we find out.

For those travelling to Barnsley, hats off and well done. It is a supreme effort when the game is, of course, available on BBC Radio London DAB or Sky Sports. The later of which is also being shown in the shadow of our own stadium at The Griffin pub.

Billy Reeves, Claire & Gerhard or Simon & Billy (Grant). Whoever you spend your afternoon with, enjoy the game. Win, lose or draw the season remains young and the table is still forming. There’s a LONG way to go in this campaign. Leeds United started at 100mph but things have started falling apart and the Elland Road outfit have dropped from 1st to 4th after picking up 4 points from the last possible 12 available. Beat Barnsley today and we’ll be on better form than Bielsa’s boys following our own 4 from the last 9.

Leeds will come good again. As will we. Starting today. I’m hugely confident about this one and am calling it now……. Away win.

The online bookmaker I use for research purposes also agrees and has us as ‘odds on’ favourites (marginally) at 19/20. Whilst not a game to bet the mortgage on, I take confidence in their faith. Let’s hope Sunday service is resumed at Oakwell.

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Let’s hope Brentford are more competitive today

Nick Bruzon

New signing ‘in’ and a look back at High Street shopping after horror kit reveal.

3 Jul

Sound the ‘incoming’ transfer klaxon. Brentford have confirmed the signing of centre back Ethan Pinnock from Barnsley. The player joined on Tuesday afternoon for a fee that is being widely suggested by local news sources as close to £3m. Elsewhere, Stevenage have launched their home and away kits with their somewhat unusual selections being met with widespread derision. Aswell as a suggestion that they have adopted a motif first set by Brighton & Hove Albion. And in the Women’s World Cup, there’s been horror for England – of more than one variety.

D-fymFkXkAA4TFU

First up, Ethan Pinnock. The news was revealed yesterday via, amongst other announcements, a somewhat ‘low key’ video reveal. No puffs of smoke, crazy graphics, jingles, cringey hashtags or foreign getaways – just a slow pan across the training ground to a distant shot of our latest acquisition. This can only be a good thing. Both the player and the sensible use of social media. 

He certainly has pedigree and was one of the players of 2018/19 as Barnsley secured a return to the Championship. The club’s player of the year, he had a hand in keeping 21 clean sheets aswell as being named in the PFA team of the season. 

Thomas Frank praised his aerial ability and left foot whilst Director of football Phil Giles told official that, “ The centre back position is an area we clearly needed to strengthen this summer, since both Chris Mepham and Yoann Barbet have left the Club in the last six months without replacement. Ethan fits the bill perfectly and follows a long tradition of good players who have chosen to join Brentford from League One and League Two. We welcome him to the Club and wish him every success”.

This certainly reads like a positive signing which will strengthen a defence that is also missing a goalkeeper after Daniel Bentley joined Bristol City. Presumably more news to come on that front at some point in the near future. Then again, Brentford being Brentford I wouldn’t hold my breath for anything anymore. One thing we continue to do is surprise with our transfer policy – both in and out. The only consistent thing being that, by and large, it is one which has seen us keep on improving as seemingly irreplaceable players are replaced for a fraction of the price.

Anyway, you can read the full story here and f you want to follow Ethan on Twitter he is at @EasyEatss.

Next up, new kit. As Bees fans wait for the 2019/20 away shirt to launch (come on, brown), we’ve been able to turn our attention elsewhere as more and more clubs offer up their latest designs into the public eye. Stevenage were amongst those going yesterday and, it would be fair to say, that theirs has not been well received. As a quick glance to the ‘reveal’ on social media will testify .

My word. Amongst those comments to really hit home were :

“Worst kit in the clubs history”, 

“Worst kit in football history tbh’, 

“Home kit looks like that sheet they put on the Burger King trays”  

“This has to be a joke surely”.

”Burger King as a sponsor and it looks like someone’s thrown mustard and ketchup all over the away kit.”

Although my personal favourite was…

Screenshot 2019-07-03 at 07.05.14

That was, until, Darren Thompson did his thing and pretty much nailed it.

Screenshot 2019-07-03 at 07.04.36

If for no other reason than it immediately put me in mind of Brighton and Hove Albion and one of their most iconic shirts – the 1989-91 effort produced by Sports Express. Much like the Stevenage Kwik Save now does, this was one of the first to model itself on a High Street carrier bag – the infamous Tesco design. 

Brighton Tesco carrier bag shirt 1989-91

Must.Resist.Deliberate ‘Tesco bag / shirt (l-r)’ caption mix up

That said, Brighton and Norwich aren’t the only club to have taken inspiration from the shops. Back at the same time as the Seagulls were doing the Tesco thing, Norwich City were aiming a little bit more upmarket.

Their own Asics ‘away’ shirt one which very much put one in mind of a Waitrose delivery van whilst, of course, who could forget the (incorrect) B&Q  / Sainsburys references inspired by our beautiful brown and orange last season?

Norwich Waitrose

Were the Norwich City club shop expanding their home delivery service?

All this does make me somewhat wary about what is going to happen whenever our own change option is revealed. There’s no way we can top 2019/20. Instead, it’s simply a case of crossing the fingers and waiting for Kitman Bob and Umbro to do their thing.

Last night also saw the semi-finals of the Women’s World Cup. England went down 2-1 to the USA, in a game that was, frankly, ruined by two things. Frist up, as ever, ‘that band’. Despite the sell out in Lyon, they were still allowed in – as they’ve been in all games previously – to sour the atmosphere with their moribund and off-key parping. Why? Why? Why? How? Regular readers to these pages know the rant off by heart at this juncture, I’m sure. But wit apologies for laziness, I’m going to repeat one of several variants.

I’m not going to mince any words here. I loathe them. Absolutely loathe them. When the Mexican Wave or Robbie Williams singing ‘Let me Entertain You’ (which you can find on: Now that’s what I call Stadium music, also featuring: ‘We Are The Champions’) have the moral high ground in the low brow sporting tedium stakes then there’s something seriously wrong.  

Given the choice of being gaffer-taped to a chair and subjected to them or Mrs. Brown’s Boys, I honestly think I’d have to side with Brendan O’Carroll performing his toe-curlingly unfunny Irish mammy/man in a cardigan routine. But enough about my private life.

Nobody is celebrating this news

Seriously? Who actually likes them? Who goes to a game thinking that their experience is going to be enhanced by the alleged band of England’s alleged supporters? This self-appointed bunch of footballing cuckoos in the nest. These tedious purveyors of off-key tromboning, repeating those ‘greatest hits ad-nauseaum. I’ve written it before – many times – and will no doubt do so again in future.

What this match needs to liven it up right now is some flaccid parping and a whiny rendition of ‘The theme from the Great Escape’, ‘The Italian Job’ or the National Anthem” Said Nobody. Ever.

So I was already in a bad place by the time VAR killed any remaining atmosphere stone dead. Talk about sucking the emotion, the passion and the excitement out of the game. A series of prolonged second half decisions , both of which were marginal at best, eventually denied England a hair’s breadth equaliser and then granted a soft looking penalty. Both were inconclusive. Both took an eternity. Both were wrong. Both killed the game. England deserved at least the draw. This time around, they had the ball in the et that would have given them that prize. Instead, another step was taken towards the beautiful game being slowly suffocated. Stop it now. Please.

And finally, as ever, I’d be hugely grateful if you were able to please download a copy of the Last Word season season review – containing the least bad of these columns from the World Cup to Aston Villa deserving to win the play offs. It also includes the World Cup aswell as all the ‘Park Life’ articles submitted for the matchday programme and so not previously available on these pages.  

ALL proceeds received are being donated to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust so what better way to remind yourself how brilliant 2018/19 was? To kill a bit of time on the commute to work / on your summer holidays / on the toilet etc You can download it , now, for your kindle , iPod telephone or other electronic reading device here.

At £1.99 it’s cheaper than half a pint so what’s to lose? Apart from £1.99 – which then goes to The Community Sports Trust anyway. Many thanks again. And enjoy.  

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