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Act of god, my arse. Why did we turn up on a random school playing field?

7 Jun

Brentford and Bournemouth. For most of us, the connection is one that instantaneously transports us back to the recent Championship play-off semi finals. You know, the one where we came from 2-0 down on aggregate before reaching Wembley and the Premier league. Oh, Asmir Begović…. 😉

What an afternoon that was at Lionel Road

Yet for one supporter, Bernard Quackenbush (pretty sure that’s not his real name but it’s the one he goes by on social media), the connection runs much deeper. It is a story that, in part, those who follow him on Twitter may be familiar with but there is so much more to it. Following on from Kitman Bob and Natalie Sawyer, Bernard  – who is a regular to these pages –  becomes the latest of our special guest authors with his own tale of supporting the Bees in the most unusual of circumstances.

Enjoy……..

Quackenbush! Quackenbush! Brentford are on the playing field’. Those were the words (well the first bit I have changed) on some dreary Friday lunchtime in early January in 1987 at my school in Bournemouth.

I was 14 years old at the time, and I had been living on the south coast for 6 years already. Despite our overwhelming mediocrity, I was always very proud to be a Bee. That lunchtime, I had boy after boy come up to me in the playground, most of whom I had no idea who they were, but each one was telling me that Brentford were on the field. 

How the hell did the whole school seem to know that I was a Brentford supporter? Its not as if I went around with a Brentford shirt on, or even a badge or a scarf, but it seemed the whole school knew. It was then I realised I was a bit of a novelty in the school. It was known that the tall boy in the 5th form with the London accent was known as ‘the Brentford supporter’, and with it seemed to come respect. Being over 6ft, and built well, also seemed to help. The classrooms seemed to be full of Liverpool, Aston Villa & Southampton supporters, but I seemed to be unique in supporting a lesser successful side, although that was to change with the local team’s promotion to Division 2 later that year.

So, off I went down to the field, and there they were, like Greek gods, people I had posters on my wall at home. The likes of Ian Holloway, Paul Maddy and Wayne Turner were there, and whom I wandered past to get to the gods that were Francis Joseph, Robbie Cooke & Andy Sinton. I was astounded and awestruck, and then the question in my head was…. what the hell are they doing at my school? 

To this day, I have no idea, but I assume one of the sports teachers knew someone who knew someone else. But there I was telling anyone within earshot, most people had walked away, how wonderful and amazing these group of players were, despite the overwhelming mediocrity. For the record, the Bees played at Dean Court the day after for a dull 1-1 draw, the most notable incident being Micky Droy getting homophobic chants from the South Stand and then growled back at the crowd who consequently became more subdued.

When I first arrived in Dorset back in 1980, Brentford & Bournemouth were not in the same division, and this stayed the same until I finally got to see the Bees at Dean Court on New Years Day 1983. For some inexplicable reason, my dad did not take me to the away end, but instead opted to go in a stand which looked like a cowshed. We were then surrounded by the idiots from Townsend and West Howe, and therefore I wasn’t even allowed to celebrate a goal, as we lost to the odd goal in 7. 

This game sparked something in me. Whereas all Bees fans always look forward to facing the Putney RiverRats and Shepherds Bush, the game against Bournemouth became just as important to me. The times I have had to walk into a classroom or office to face ridicule and taunts, but then to be able to walk tall and proud into the same places after a Keith Cassells hat-trick or a Marcus Bean masterclass was just the best feeling.

I will add at this point that the vast majority of Bournemouth fans have always been supportive and generous in their praise of the Bees. Even these past couple of weeks, I have had messages from Cherries fans saying ‘what the hell was Begovic on?’ and ‘the best team won, and good luck in the Final’. As Bees fans, we can look to Bournemouth and their success in the Premier League as inspiration for us.

Of course, being so far away from GP, meant it was rare for me to get to games. Through the 80s I probably only went to a maximum of 10 games, and this same frequency continued after our sole Division 1 season, but of course, I would always get to the game at DC (or Dorchester), with additional trips to Exeter, Yeovil and Southampton. I even made it to some rather unusual settings for pre-season friendlies at Havant, Bashley & Hamworthy. You may need to look at the map for those ones.

In the mid 90s, I managed to track down a number of Bees fans living in the area. To my surprise, there were quite a number of us living across the conurbation, and the numbers to this day continue to grow. In recent years, I have seen cars with Brentford stickers parked in my local Asda, and sweet vans with a giant Brentford badge on the back going around the town. I have now worked in adoption for many, many years, and people will always say to me ‘oh I know someone who is adopted/an adopter’.  When people discover I am a Brentford supporter, I get just as many that say to me ‘I know someone who supports Brentford’. It’s happened at school with teachers, at college with lecturers and at work with managers. Everyone seems to know someone who supports Brentford far, far away from the confines of the M25. I’m sure if I ever traversed the great Tsavo reserve in Kenya to finally make it to a lodge with a waterhole whilst covered from head to toe in red dust gasping for some water, the first person I would meet would come up to me and say, ‘I know the real reason why Steve Perryman quit’.

If you ask most Bees fans to list their greatest ever matches. They will say the Play Off final last week, or Peterborough in 92 or Blackburn in the Quarter Final or of course Fulham on Good Friday. For me, i’d also include the win at Bournemouth when Karleigh & Powell had a punch up, or the FRT QF win when Kammy scored 2. There have been disaster games like Bournemouth’s Great Escape in 95. I even travelled on the Bournemouth supporters coach for that one! Or the day Neil Clement allegedly played, or the one where Rio Ferdinand played for the Cherries and it rained so hard they took us all off the terrace for safety reasons, but the greatest moment before the Marcus Forss winner 2 weeks ago was the Christmas game of 1993….. 

It had everything. My all time Bee, Denny Mundee banging in a penalty against his old club and booed, a Lee Harvey goal, two missed Steve Cotterill penalties, soft furnishings raining down on to the pitch from the main stand (that’s how middle class Bournemouth supporters are) and the best moment when Vince Bartram sliced it into his own net to seal noises. He claimed in the local press that it was an ‘act of god’. No Bartram, you were never Maradona, you were just crap. As my friend Ken the postman from Poole so eloquently and accurately put it in a fanzine, ‘Act of god, my arse’.

Denny Mundee – better file photo needed

I could waffle on forever about my life as a Bee away from London and in a county where motorways are yet to be invented, but I know im not the only one. There are Bees fans not only across Dorset, but also in the far flung reaches of these isles. With the advent of social media we are now hearing about Bees everywhere and all over this blue planet too. Those Bees fans are now producing new Bees fans and these fans would have never lived anywhere near the Great West Road, or ever will.

We have kept in touch from afar through the website, social media, or the dulcet tones of Mark Burridge. And thank you Mark, Marcus, and everyone else for keeping us in touch with our great club for so many years, when we have not been able to be there. It does not matter if you live in Brentford or Hounslow or whether you live in South Wales, Leeds, Scotland or even Australia. We are all Bees fans, we are all equally loyal, and wow, we are all about to embark on one hell of a journey over this next year!

Football has well and truly come home. Welcome back Woody.

23 May

We’ve spoken about what happened on pitch yesterday between Brentford and Bournemouth in the morning’s other column. If you want the full take , pictures and video on that one then it’s here. Yet perhaps as important was the chance to see familiar faces once more. For our tight knit footballing family to reunite. There was Uncle Justin. TC. Mandy. Greville Waterman. Nity Raj and even Matthew Benham walking up the street. We were only ‘Jumper man’ short of a full house. Yet, for me, one of THE big highlights was us bumping in to Woody and his mum at full time. I knew they’d got hold of tickets in the build up but being able to see the smile on his most recognisable of faces as we caught up with each other outside Lionel Road was just about perfect. Everyone close to the club knows Woody and his story. Yet I don’t think many of us, and I include myself in that, can appreciate just how tough this last year has been for him and them. Chatting away, we got onto the subject of how it would be to share just what yesterday meant from their viewpoint. So without further ado, here we go. Over to you, Nat……

The last year or so has been hideous for Woody. Imagine if you can, being able to  only understand real things, stuff you can touch, like footballs, people, chips.  Imagine if you could not talk and you love routine, Brentford is your life,  and  all of a sudden someone took all that away from you with an explanation in another language.  French or Italian, Spanish, any language you don’t understand  Would you be angry?  Sad?  Poorly? Confused?  At first Woody thought he had been ‘naughty’ and he was the only person not allowed to go to GP.  That was a tricky one and I will not share the way W expressed his lack of understanding…….. In desperation one day I drove him there to show him it was shut which was heart breaking but much needed. 


Woody signed Brentford with his hands and hope on his face everyday.  I sadly shook my head and said not yet….    
TV is not the same for Woody, this is not Wonka Vision, you cannot smell it, touch it or feel it.  Woody needed real football. Less than 24 hours to go we heard we had tickets for the game.  I am a horse lover, it was like being told Black Beauty was alive or I could ride Valegro.  The lack of build up was in fact a blessing because Woody only does NOW, he doesn’t do tomorrow or later.  


I was worried, it was not GP.  Our routine was gone….  It was new to us both.  

When I told him we were going,  I think he didn’t believe me, it was too good to be true, however he was awake at 4.30am so something must have sunk in.  We left early, Annika Pannika mum overthinking.  The journey was different,  I think he was sceptical but thank goodness he believed in me enough to take a different train journey.  
We get off the train….  different stop…. he sees the Giant Bee… he actually starts to believe me that we are going to a game.  We are super early ( my fault)  mum behavior, and I see him start to relax.  W sees people with Brentford clothes on, something he loves and recognizes and a year or more of horridness begins to melt away.

The next 90 minutes were nothing short of magic.  It was like a sensory explosion for Woody. A place where he could be his true self, make noise, and although its not totally comprehendible EVERYONE knew the intent. We have five senses, but today there was definitely another one, one that touched Woody and healed him.  So hard to explain but it was an energy, a togetherness, not 30 years of hurt but definitely at least 14 months. Whatever happened today made Woody,  Woody again and content.  


As a mum to see the peace on his face and the contentment was nothing short of magic. I feel frustrated when people misunderstand football, for us it is a safe haven, a giant pair of arms hugging us.  It is something that doesn’t need words, actions speak louder than words and feelings shout louder than than actions. 

Massive thanks to Brentford for the kindness and acceptance, it has completed us. 

Woody (right) and H do their thing together after the game.

Was this the best performance ever?

23 May

It was during the full time rendition of Hey Jude that I finally went. Bottom lip wobbling and tears streaming down the face. The emotion of everything that had gone before kicking in at the next level. Quite simply, the most incredible afternoon of football experienced as a Brentford fan. A 3-1 win home win over ten man Bournemouth (Special agent Mepham playing his own part to perfection) something where the scoreline alone can’t even begin to scratch the surface of the story. Swansea City now await in the final. Themselves, aggregate winners over a Barnsley side who couldn’t quite catch up in their semi. That’ll be a feisty one on Saturday but its not really a huge topic for now. What played out at Lionel Road was about as a special as it gets. To be part of it a privilege. A performance up there with Leyton Orient away. Burton Albion away. Preston at home – the one where we finally got promoted after the pain of what happened the season before. Oh for a repeat this time around.

It was an afternoon where everyone played their part even prior to kick off. The 4000 Brentford supporters making the place a cauldron of noise as the players warmed up. As the line ups were read out. As the players went back in. Peter Gilham doing his thing. Cripes, I was sounding like Madge Bishop after smoking 40 JPS by the time we made it to The Griffin last night. Can only imagine what his voice must be like now.

Bournemouth, warming up in our corner, left under no illusions as to the reception they were going to face when the game began. A crescendo of cat calling and jeers accompanying their own pre-match prep. Oh, I’ve missed being part of a crowd so indescribably. This little taster of what was to come sending goose bumps up the spine and that was even before Hey, Jude came over the P.A. For once, a ‘studio’ version rather than the rambling live one we were so used to at Griffin Park (“This time, just the ladies”) that, even better, seems to have edited down to cut quickly to the “Naaaa. Na-Na. Na-na-na-naaaahhhhh” . 

Then, our first blow of the day. This had all been going too well. The BBC match reporting revealed that Christian Norgaard had been replaced by Mads Roerslev. Himself, initially pushed to the bench to accommodate the return of Henrik Dalsgaard. True enough, Peter Gilham reading the teams out one last time confirmed we’d be needing an 11th hour rejig. Oh Brentford, it’s never easy. No matter. With Bryan and Emiliano starting this game alongside Sergi and Ivan, our attacking intent was still clearly the focus. Yet if this had us on a momentary backfoot, what happened next is one of those things that will go down in football folklore.

Thomas Frank had talked at length in the build up to this one just how important the crowd would be. We’d seen the videos and one even played out on the big screen. Of course we all knew this and were already doing our bit when, over in front of the main stand he started running down the touchline , gesturing to the supporters to raise the roof. Fair enough, until he turned the corner in front of the West Side. One North stand observer standing next to me said,”He’s going to do it. He’s going all the way.” Sure enough, he did. The crowd feeding off his energy. Thomas pumping them up. Taking fist bumps en-route. Arms whirling like some crazed dervish. Lifting the crowed and getting them whipped up in a manner that Delia Smith could only aspire to. Twelfth man? We were the entire squad.

Thomas turns it up to 11 prior to kick-off

And then it began. Brentford one goal down on aggregate but 90 minutes to turn it around.

And then it began. Brentford two goals down on aggregate but 85 minutes to turn it around.

If Christian Norgaard missing out was as bad as we thought it would be then think again. Danjuma broke at speed as the Bees attacked and with nobody but David Raya back, he had all the time in the world to bear down on goal ,  pick his spot and make no mistake. Crap. This wasn’t in the script. An absolute disaster of a scoreline. A catastrophe of a start. Yet if this was going to silence the crowd and take the wind from the sails, it was a case of anything but. Push up, Brentford? Oh yes. 

With a quarter hour gone (about one minute of actual game time, given the way that Bournemouth and goalkeeper Begovic in particular were time wasting – an injury free opening period seeing an additional ‘6’ awarded ) Brentford were back in it. Lloyd Kelly deemed to have handled Emiliano’s cross and referee Gillet pointed to the spot. I’ve seen them given, Clive. Cue pandemonium. Cue petulance. Cue Ivan Toney eventually being allowed to step up and do that thing he does, once more. Calm as you like and goal 32 for the season was the reward. The ripple of the net sending Lionel Road in to meltdown. An ear splitting wave of noise greeting the finish. 

Whilst I’ve not watched any of the replays as yet, Mark Burridge has shared this today. His own view (and comms) from the gantry. You want goosebumps? Take a look, and listen, to this….

1-1 on the day although a goal down still. Brentford kept going. Bournemouth kept it niggly. Trying to reach Wembley by not allowing a game to take place. The Bees pushed. Chris Mepham stumbled and there was Bryan Mbeumo to whip it off his toes. He rounded our former player and was clean through. A chance to run one-on-one at Begovic much as Danjuma had done to Raya. Except. Except. The sneakiest of rugby style ankle tap tackles followed as his out-stretched hand saw the flying winger felled. The decision was a no brainer. The photograph now doing the rounds to accompany it a work of art. I’ve no idea who took it but kudos. Straight red. No choice.

If a picture paints a thousand words….

Whether Bryan would have scored or Begovic smothered the chance we’ll never know. It doesn’t really matter. Instead, Bournemouth were left to play the final hour, and any possible extra time, with ten men. Frankly, given the performance of Beogvic over the course of the afternoon they were lucky it wasn’t nine. I’m still not sure how he only got one yellow. The time wasting aside, the ‘injury’ he suffered after running into one of his own players was about as cringeworthy and embarrassing as it gets. Still, that was their problem.

Half-time came at about a quarter past six. Brentford had been unable to add any additional goals despite our best efforts, our crowd and our team. Sergi was on fire. Emiliano showing just why he is so highly valued by the coaching staff. Matthias Jensen (and the second half especially) stepping up his game to new heights. Surely a second goal would come after the break? Surely?

Within five minutes, our prayers were answered. Vitaly Janelt scoring a goal that I’m still not sure how it went in. He seems to tackle one of our players, one of theirs, fall over and unleash a blockbuster of a shot all at the same time. Even seeing that on the screen in The Griff later in the evening, it defies logic. But in it went. In it flew. A strike of the most incredible sweetness. The aggregate scores tied. Any pretensions of holding on that Bournemouth may have had sent back in to the dressing room to keep Chris Mepham company. Lionel Road erupting once more. The aforementioned cauldron threatened to bubble over. Bournemouth, a team visibly falling apart in front of us. Piece by piece. Their meltdown as clear as Michael Douglas after he couldn’t get his McDonalds breakfast.

On we went. On we pushed. The Bees with an extra spring in the step. Bournemouth wilting. A punchdrunk boxer desperately hanging on and awaiting that killer blow. Set up Marcus Forss to deliver it. 82 minutes on the clock and boom, it was there. A deadly first time finish from close in. The hunter’s aim was true. The place exploded. The players celebrating in the shadow of the water tower. All except Henrik Dalsgaard who stood in front of the North Stand. A messianic pose. Veins bulging. Mouth screaming. The crowd being egged further on. The intensity etched across his face. The moment one that, in retrospect, I only wish I’d had more than a mobile phone to capture.

Its fuzzy, but….

But that doesn’t matter one jot. What matters being that there were now less than ten minutes for us to hold the lead. What a time to take it. What a response followed. We kept going. We tried again. Bournemouth waiting until the four minutes of added on time to finally threaten. Begovic heading up for a last, desperate gamble. The stress levels were, I’ll admit, there. If it were to happen at that point then….. but it didn’t. The defence remained rock solid. The Cherries not given a sniff from their flurry of corners and set pieces. The final whistle greeted with the most deafening of roars. One to wake the dead. The waves of relief palpable. The hugs and ecstasy clear for all. It was a moment to top them all. 

Our record in the play-offs is about as well documented as they come. Whilst the job is any half-done, the feeling at full time was one of really getting a monkey off the back. To come back in such style. To show such strength of character. For Thomas to get his tactics spot on, despite the blow of losing Norgaard so late. It was just about the perfect performance. To be part of it a true honour. I can only hope those watching in the pubs had as much fun. The next best thing to being there. 

Then Thomas did his thing, again. The full time lap of honour greeted with more photos. More smiles. Yet instead of giving his traditional ‘thumbs up’, this time around he gave something special. “One more to go”…..

One more to go

I’m not an idiot. Swansea City will have enjoyed their own moment equally and be as pumped for the final as we are. Like us, they’re only 90 minutes from the Premier League. It’s going to be one hell of a tense affair on Saturday. Yet having experienced last seasons and then this, any additional motivation we may have needed was delivered in bucketloads yesterday.

Talking to Mark this morning, he nailed it just about perfectly. “Yesterday, Lionel Road became our new home.” 

I can’t wait to move in. I can’t wait to see who we may be inviting around for dinner. Just got the small matter of getting Saturday out the way first…

What else is there to say? Hats off Thomas Frank. As much as anybody, he got it spot on yesterday. From that bonkers lap at the start, through enforced last minute changes, excellent tactics and key substitutions. A top, top performance from that man.

THANK YOU.

Nick Bruzon

Cometh the hour, cometh the fans.

21 May

Friday morning. Silly o’clock and I can’t sleep. This is now. Imagine then? Come 11.30am on Saturday morning there are likely to be cheers from some quarters and a mini meltdown from others. Brentford will be an hour away from starting the play-off semi final with Bournemouth, a goal down after the first leg but just 90 minutes away from a final game shoot out with Barnsley or Swansea City. The team will have been named and, with it, we’ll all know the decision from Thomas Frank as to his tactical approach. More of the same or welcome Rico and Henrik back in to the fold? Shake it around in the attacking zone and take the chance to perhaps start Emiliano or Bryan? Whatever happens he will be lauded by some and moaned at by others. That’s football. We’ve been seeing it all season. We all have our favourites. The difference being that for what feels like the first time in a month or two we actually have the ability to make some genuinely exciting decisions as to who starts.

From some respects, it doesn’t even matter. On their day, everybody in our squad has the ability to be a game changer. To be a matchwinner. Whomever Thomas begins with, this is all going to boil down to individual fortitude. To holding their nerve on the occasion. To how we start this one. Thomas has promised we are going to go for it from the off. An obvious strategy or a double bluff to try and force Jonathan Woodgate’s tactical hand? Again, it doesn’t really matter when a goal comes  – first minute or beyond – as long as we score first. Do that and everything is all square. Concede and we’ve got to get two just to bring party back. Again, something we can do on our day but a position I think we’d all prefer to avoid.

I was talking to a source close to the club last night and they nailed it quite succinctly. This is as all about how clinical we can be. As we all know, when this team is on fire the goals fly in. Ivan’s record speaks for itself but don’t forget the likes of Marcus Forss, Sergi Canos and Bryan Mbeumo also weighing in. We need to create the chances, obviously, but take them and this one could be out of sight.

Ivan Toney – his record speaks for itself

We had one penalty shout-ish and the one clear chance last week. That was it. As much a tactical feet finding of a game where Bournemouth came out flying, our own defence kept them out and one slip up saw us caught by a lightning fast break. The 2,000 fans present creating an apparent ‘electrical’ atmosphere. That wasn’t the vibe I got watching from home on TV but, then again, it could have just been the fault of the Sky cameras. 

It doesn’t really matter, to be fair. That was then and this is now. All the post-mortems in the world won’t change a thing. The result is the result. The performance has gone. It all comes down to what happens on Saturday lunchtime. We will have 4000 supporters present (14000 if Mark Warburton is counting) and as key to anything will be how loud they are. On a normal day this game would have easily been a sell out within minutes. Instead, access has been granted to those lucky enough to have cleared the TAP limit or won the ballot. Their reward a chance to see Ivan Toney in the flesh. His last game at Lionel Road as a Championship player. A chance to get inside our new home, perhaps for the first time. To be there when the boys have the opportunity to make history. 

With that opportunity comes the knowledge that they are doing it on behalf of all the fans. We’re fortunate enough beyond belief to be going but, my word, need to make up for that by generating an atmosphere. Peter Gilham will no doubt be egging us on from the off. Expect one of his famous renditions of ‘Hey, Jude’ at some point. 

Yet as much as the players hitting the ground running and going for it from the off, equally the onus will be on the supporters. Never more so than before will home advantage be that. An actual advantage. One sided support with the ability to get on the Bournemouth backs. To remind the ref and the linos the rules of the game. To sing songs. Make noise. Call for fouls. Raise the roof. For Angry Dad, Harry Potter and the rest of us to make those voices heard. Griffin Park was an incredible place when the crowd got going. Saturday sees our first real chance to try and do the same. There’ll be numbers behind us and a huge prize at stake. The importance of the supporters cannot be underestimated. The players talk about what a difference the fans can make. This could be the ultimate example.

The role of, and bond with, the supporters was always HUGE at Griffin Park

Wear your lucky shirt and magic pants. Bring your goal sweets and, please, extra strong mints. The difference that luckiest of omens could make cannot be put into words. Most importantly, bring your voices and make yourself heard. Obviously, that bit doesn’t need saying. I know the atmosphere is going to be immense. The desire to get promoted. The will to win. The excitement of being in our new home will all guarantee that. We all know the reward for victory and will all be shouting us on. If nothing else, I’m looking forward to a good old-fashioned, “Push Up Brentford” within the first two minutes. It’s been a long time coming. 

Yet perhaps, as exciting, will be hearing Peter ready to self-combust as he preps for kick off. Let alone should anything positive happen over the course of the game. That scream of “Brennnnnnttttttttt-fooorrrrdddddddd”  blasting over and around the ground. Every goal scored being sponsored by Siracusa, It’s a little Italian restaurant. At Brentford Lock. 

It’s the sort of game and day you can talk up for hours. Of course, we will. Rightly so. It’s part of what makes football. If nothing else, even just being able to meet for a pre-match pint is a novelty and ritual I am very much looking to. Yet nothing that goes before will change what happens when referee Jarred Gillett (who also took charge of our home game with Bournemouth this season) starts proceedings. The excitement is palpable and the anticipation up there with the possible cancellation of Mrs. Brown’s Boys.  Yes, its on Thomas. Yes. its on the players, But its also on us.

Cometh the hour, cometh the fans….

SEE. YOU. THERE !!!!

Thomas, Peter and the fans. All with a role to play. All hoping to be back at Carrow Road next season.

Nick Bruzon 

All to play for in second leg with key decisions to be made.

18 May

90 minutes from Wembley. Brentford a goal down after a 1-0 first leg play-off defeat at Bournemouth. A game our hosts may feel should have been out of sight after creating the lion’s share of the chances but, instead, we go into Saturday’s return fixture at Lionel Road with the deficit as narrow as they come. Indeed, it could well have been a case of honours even had Bryan Mbeumo managed to convert a glorious opportunity in the second half from six yards out. That’s football. The Cherries will no doubt be upset about not having a larger advantage after the combination of David Raya and a resolute defence combined to keep them out on all but the solitary occasion. The other semi final saw Swansea City hold on to a 1-0 win at Barnsley in a tie that, like ours, remains wide open.

All to play for, still

Positives? The tie is wide open still. Only an idiot would prefer to be behind rather than level or better but at 0-1, we find ourselves no worse off than last season against Swansea. The difference this time around being we’ll have close to 4,000 supporters lifting the roof off Lionel Road on Saturday lunchtime. Bournemouth manager Jonathan Woodgate would describe last night’s atmosphere as “Just unbelievable, it was electrical.” Imagine what it will be like for the second leg with double the amount of fans and Peter Gilham egging us on? If ever there was a time to welcome supporters back it is now. 

Last years’s return tie saw us storm out of the traps and the aggregate the lead restored within fifteen minutes. Thomas will no doubt be expecting the same, noting at full time that “We’re 1-0 down, so there’s plenty of time still to turn this round. We’ll be ready and come flying out 100%.”

It is the only way to approach the game. The noise will be incredible and the players will be chomping at the bit. Likewise, we’ll have Rico Henry and Henrik Dalsgaard available for selection once more. Both players made second half cameos from the bench to give Thomas the nicest of selection headaches for the return leg. Stick or twist? Sergi or Rico? Mads or Henrik? Revert to the mid season formation or keep on doing what we have for the last few months? Who’d be a head coach?

The obvious negative being we go into it a goal down. All the aspirations and parallels won’t change that. Having weathered the first half storm, it was a soft goal to give away. Pontus losing possession and Bournemouth breaking with devastating speed. Carving us open with no possibility of salvation. It was a blitzkrieg assault and a brutal finish. For once, Raya left with no chance. A lesson very much to be heeded for Saturday. For all we will approach this one differently, taking the game to our opponents from the off, one can’t under estimate their own ability to make something out of nothing. To turn a spark into a flame. I predict goals. I predict noise. I predict a riot (on field).

There’s not much left to really say this morning. We’ve all seen it and Bournemouth deserved to win on the night – they scored , we didn’t. It wasn’t even as though it felt stolen or against the run of play. We lost the battle in the midfield and didn’t create enough opportunities. The flip side being that , cliche alert, it really is only half time. Get it right on Saturday and last night’s result will count for nothing. A historical curio en-route to the final. IF we get it right…. You can bet that Bournemouth will have their own tails up. They’ll have their own decisions to make about approach. Go for broke as we will or look to stifle the game and run down the clock? If Thomas has selection decisions, Jonathan Woodgate will very much have tactical ones. 

Still, that’s their problem. For Brentford, we know exactly what needs to be done. I can’t wait for this one. Bring it on and hopefully see you there. As Thomas said at full time, “Bournemouth fans did an ok job… we need you guys. We need a hostile environment.”

This could be fun….

Nick Bruzon

Three games. Two weeks. One winner….

16 May

Congratulations Leicester City. Their 1-0 win in yesterday’s FA Cup final over Chelsea as much a victory for the fans in the stands and those back home as it was for the Foxes. With Brentford next up in enjoying supporters present (albeit of the ‘home’ variety only) for Monday evening’s play-off first leg at Bournemouth, one can only help this cautious return is one which can now escalate. The difference between an empty stadium and a ground not even a quarter full was palpable. The noise a cacophony with cheers and boos greeting every blast of the referee’s whistle. No more than when VAR once again proved itself to be as a big a passion killer as Mrs Brown smooching with Donald Trump whilst being serenaded by the England Supporter’s ‘band’. At least, if you wee a Chelsea fan. The jubilation that came from the Leicester end as the late equaliser was chalked off for the most marginal of offsides, the loudest noise off the afternoon. At least, until the cup was raised. If ever there was something for Brentford to try and emulate then there it was . The chance to enjoy the sweetest of triumphs in front of our supporters. Wembley sounding like the loudest place on earth despite the enforced emptiness of most seats. Not that anybody was sitting down.

Passion killer – VAR in ‘human’ form

That’s all a long way off, of course. First things first, Thomas Frank has to mastermind his way past Bournemouth. Brentford go into the mini tournament as 6/4 favourites with the bookmakers, followed by The Cherries, Barnsley and then Swansea City at 4/1. Scratch all of that. This is about as even as they come. This is as much to do with nerves and remaining calm as it is footballing ability and current form. Monday evening is going to be huge but I can’t wait. Genuinely excited. Of course, there is also a level of trepidation but after all that has come before us this season, we now have a chance to take those final steps towards the Premier League.

This time last campaign we were about as down as it is possible to get in footballing terms. The ultimate prize dropped on the line. Brentford had missed out on automatic and then went into the semi with a Swansea City team who had edged past Nottingham Forest to finish sixth in that most well documented and exciting of fashions. They had their tails up and won the first game by a single goal. Rico Henry saw red and, whilst Keith Stroud’s decision was eventually over turned before the return fixture, the evening felt like yet another step down that well trodden path signposted, ‘It’s Brentford, innit?’. The fortitude shown in the return fixture was immense. Unfortunately the final turned out to be a victory for Cheatrovic and some industrial challenges over a team who just ran out of steam and had no way through until it was too little, too late.

Keith Stroud…..not for the first time, Brentford suffered his thing in the play-offs

Hindsight it a wonderful thing, of course. Things haven’t exactly been a bed of roses for Fulham since going up. They’ve played out the campaign in an empty, three-sided ground and returned directly to the Championship. Do not pass go. Do not collect £200. We can’t tell what we would or wouldn’t have done but the important thing at this juncture is to take all of that and learn from it. The vast majority of this squad went through it all together. Hurt together. Kicked on again this season together. The primary addition to the group being Ivan Toney. A player in whom the way to goal is as instinctive as anybody with a three figure IQ reaching for the remote control whenever Mrs Brown’s Boys comes on TV.

All good in, theory.  Football doesn’t work like that. Just ask Chelsea. Cliche alert : this boils down to who wants it most. We know what we can do on our day. Insatiable going forward, Impenetrable at the back. We also know we can have our ‘Coventry away’ moments. That, as much as the form of Watford and Norwich City, the reason we are now facing a tenth stab at the play-offs. Finishing third for a second successive season is wonderful but now is the time to back it up with a genuine reward rather than good wishes from the footballing community. 

The other three teams fighting it out are going to feel equally deserving and will be 110% committed to winning this thing at any cost. Just turning up, expecting to win and being seen as the ‘nice guys’ won’t cut it. Thomas Frank is going to have to give the mother of all team talks on Monday. And Saturday. He has the talent at his disposal, that’s for sure. 

Yet, yet, yet. I still can’t but help feel properly excited by all of this. That’s not right. It’s the play-offs. We all know our record. It’s terrible – in terms of sheer horror, one to rank alongside the 2000 version of ‘The Great Escape’ that had the temerity to reach number 26 in the hit parade. We should be quaking but, instead, I’m buzzing with anticipation. An air of calm currently very much the vibe in our house. Table INSIDE the pub booked for Monday evening and as much the prospect of seeing old friends from a social distance a cause for additional excitement as is the game at hand. 

It really exists. People really bought it…

We are three games away from playing in the top flight next season for the first time in just about everybody’s living memory. Even our Methuselah on the mic, Peter Gilham. Three games away from hosting teams like Leicester City and Chelsea as well as those other names we are all so familiar with. Most importantly, we get the chance to see an actual live game of football again. Judging by the cup final yesterday, that in itself is a prize worth fighting for. A trip to Wembley something to be savoured. Something to be enjoyed. Something that, unlike previous attempts, won’t be something to fear. IF we can get past Bournemouth first. 

Cripes, the noise that came out of 21,000 yesterday was a thing of beauty to behold. A reminder of why football is nothing without fans. Here’s hoping there is more to come in the coming two weeks. For Brentford….

Imagine experiencing this….. What an aspiration.

Nick Bruzon

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   

Time to remember some heroes.

16 Feb

Brentford travel to Loftus Road tomorrow for a game with QPR. A game where we’ll be looking to get back on the horse after the humungous unbeaten run finally came to an end in game 22 at the hands of Barnsley. Oh well. We go… once more. Every team has an off day. That’s football. Whether a temporary wobble such as that experienced by Bournemouth in recent weeks or a more rounded falling apart. Again. Like Leeds United in recent season(s). However, even they eventually found their mojo and look at how the Elland Road outfit are flying now. Here’s to joining them soon and it starts on Wednesday evening when we take part in the 237 derby. We’ll look at that in more depth tomorrow but for now, we’ve another guest columnist (following Harry’s debut yesterday – and thank you all for the kind comments on the socials about that one) in Bernard Quackenbush. Elsewhere, Queens Park Rangers are appealing. Not a phrase I thought would ever be used and, perhaps, best to start there as they look to support the legend that is Stan Bowles.

We all know Stan. Know the stories. Know the legend. Know the mercurial talent who – along with the likes of Les Ferdinand, Ian Holloway and Yoann Barbet – are best known for their stints at Griffin Park. QPR are welcome to Martin Rowlands. Yet now a group of their supporters are looking for football fans’ help. Normally, such a distress signal going up from Loftus Road would be met with us telling them to kiss my badge but this is different. This is for Stan. This is to try and persuade the club owners to create a permanent tribute to the supporter favourite.

It takes someone special to unite the supporters of each club. To be equally admired by both. But if you saw him play, you’d know. So, for once, here’s the ask. Let’s help our neighbours. There’s a petition that can be signed here. If nothing else, it’ll force their owners to spend some money and perhaps we can see it in the FA Cup next season. Assuming we can go to football next season. In all seriousness though, Stan was a rare breed in his time on pitch – a player you’d pay to go and see in his own right. Here’s to signing off on this one and then getting back to usual tomorrow night.

Stan – genius!

Ok, on to the main business of the day. Our guest columnist. Regular readers to these pages and Bees based Twitter users will likely be familiar with the Bournemouth based fan. His comments are always worth a look and, like Harry, anything he adds to the main pages instantly makes me question why I waste my own time doing this. However, an opportunity for his own input is never one to be spurned and so with some food for thought, over to BQ……..

Way back in July when those final couple of games at Griffin Park reached their ‘denouement’, I wondered how to mark the occasion. I thought about doing a feature on the greatest players to ever play at the old girl, but then I realised I knew next to nothing about those heroes who graced the hallowed turf way before I was born….but then its struck me. Why not feature all those players I wanted to be in the local park when playing with my friends, and all those players I admired ever since I first saw that beautiful green turf on Saturday 28th April 1979.

So I got jotting down all those names of players I admired. There were plenty who would be on all of our lists, and one or two who may only be on a few of our lists. I had no idea how long the list would be when I started, but looking at the list when completed, I realised that the thread may end up taking longer than watching the whole of Mahabharat. It was purely accidental that the very last hero yesterday was number 150.

So what about the players themselves. Of course there were the obvious ones like King Kev, King Jota and King…er…Said, but there were plenty of heroes who got on my list just for what they did one game like Alex Rhodes (goal against Bounemouth), Jon Toral (hat trick against Blackpool) & Micky Droy (staring out a whole stand at Bournemouth). As you may have noticed, Bournemouth crops up a lot. I emigrated to the golden sands when I was still in infant school, and I have been here ever since. To me, a game against the Muff is as big as Fulham or Shepherds Bush. I have more friends who are Cherries fans than Bees fans, and so I always taken great delight in those Bournemouth related moments. Whether it was Marcus Bean’s midfield masterclass. Stephen Hunt down at Dorch, Lee Harvey and the raining cushions, Chris Kamara and the Freight Rover and the sight of a very drunk fancy dress adorned Kevin Dearden staggering past my flat in Boscombe.

Oh, Jota….

One of the joys of the hero thread has been hearing from you guys who have shared your memories too. Now if this had been one of those Channel 5 countdowns then Paul Tonkinson would have been David Goodwin, Paul Coster & one or two others and Grace Dent, has to be Deb & her camera down in Chepstow. I thank each and every one of you for your comments and memories Also it was really fun to see the heroes themselves passing comment. From Clayton Donaldson’s fist pump, to Lloyd Owusu going one further with raised hands, cant think why he did that! Lasse Vibe correcting me on when he left. I’m sure he knows better than I do! Marcus Bean lamenting Karleigh & Powell for coming to blows at Dean Court. Bob Booker being a gent & replying to all who commented. But best of all was Paul Gibbs and Leon Legge describing how they remember their time at GP with great fondness and particularly us the fans. A final word on this goes to Natalie Sawyer, who commenting on Jonathan Douglas simply said… ‘I guess he’s alright’.

I thank each and every one of you for your likes on the thread. It was fascinating to see some players I expected to be raining likes to get 1 or 2. Sadly, Alex Rhodes, Henrik Dalsgaard & Billy Clarke all got the usual United Kingdom score in Eurovision of nul points. We love you really guys! At the other end of the scale it was current player Christian Norgaard, closely followed by Richard Cadette who registered over 50 likes. Other notable giants of the thread included Paul Nicholas lookalike Neil Smillie, Alan McCormack, Kevin Godfrey, and the previously mentioned Vibe & Legge. Some heroes helped it along a little by liking themselves including Romaine Sawyers, Karleigh Osborne, Yoann Barbet, Nathan Elder, Paul Evans, Ben Burgess, Steve Sidwell, as well as Bean & Macca. Paul Gibbs liked his former captain, Evans and Glen Poole, not only liked himself, but also liked Ryan Dickson, Nathan Elder & Billy Manuel. Did he owe them all drinks or something?

Triple B. BIG… BENNNN. BURGESSSSS

It was great reading some of your comments too, from Luis Adriano’s debut pitch invasion after a Paddy Roche penalty save on the last day of the season. Tales of Joe Allon telling one fanzine writer that his most difficult opponent was his ex-wife. How Dean Holdsworth was asked by one supporter to get a hat trick for him that night, and managing to bag a brace. How someone else saw Terry Evans clatter into the back post and felt sorry for the post. Toumani being able to put in the perfect tackle with his Inspector Gadget legs. How Fred Callaghan seemed to fall out with literally everyone and your usual host of these lauded pages naming Gus Hurdle as one his all time favourite full backs.

Our heroes were not only noticed by Bees. Fans from deepest darkest Dorset remembered Denny Mundee, particularly in a game at GP. Posh fans remembered Robbie Cooke. Everyone Alan McCormack ever played for loved him, but the biggest word goes out to the Bairns of Falkirk who regaled tales of Richard Cadette and his goal against the Gers. A wonderful memory for fans of a club who sadly only able to see their heroes in old clips.

One of my all time heroes – Bliss – with Oohh Richie Cadette

There were of course many who didn’t make the cut. It was not because they were not good enough. This list was not about technique and skill. This list was about heart and about those who made me proud to be a Bee. Which leads me to my last choice. My all time favourite Bee, Denny Mundee. If there was one player who personified what its like to be a Bee, for me it was Denny. Chucked onto the football scrapheap. Denny was looking for a new home, and was taken in by Brentford. He was given a short contract and started off well enough at full back, but for some mad reason he was then given the opportunity to express himself in a way he had never been able to express himself before. Like the reveal of superhero, Denny went from run of the mill utility man to the Diego Maradona of the 3rd tier. Twiddling one way, shuffling the other way, unleashing a power shot from 30 yards out, and then he vanished just as quickly as he arrived.

My last thanks are to all of you who kept with me throughout the thread, but most of all my thanks go out to those 150, plus all the others who made Griffin Park a huge part of our lives. A place where we laughed, cried and screamed for joy, and occasionally invaded the pitch.

Denny. As stylish on pitch….
…. as he was off it.

BQ

Many thanks, indeed, Bernard. There’s not much more to add except, perhaps, my own personal thanks for allowing a trawl through both the photo archives and the memory banks. Good times. Good times indeed. Here’s to many, many more and a new breed of heroes coming to the fore.

And if you’d like to read more, the ‘hashtag’ #trophyfriends… I mean #MyGriffinParkHeroes is on Twitter where you can follow the whole countdown.

Until then, here’s another few of mine. Kevin Godfrey and Allan Cockram…

Kev-in God-frey. Kev-in God-frey.
Cockers……..

Nick Bruzon

Was this the performance that defines the season?

30 Dec

How good was that? Brentford with the king of comebacks. On the ropes from the off . Bournemouth raining early punches like Ivan Drago in Rocky IV. Our plucky heroes flat on their backs. Pontus scooping one off the line within seconds and, really, lucky not to be two down within the opening ten minutes. Yet the consummate display of determination, relentless pursuit of the prize and sheer balls saw the Bees turn 0-1 into an eventual 2-1 victory. Goals from Henrik Dalsgaard and Tarique Fosu sealing the points that saw us overtake Swansea City and move into second place. Norwich City, perhaps feeling they already had six fingers (one hand) on the league trophy, seeing the gap whittled down to just three points when full time came. It was a quite gargantuan performance of never say die football. Both teams giving it their all and, on this showing, sure to be battling it out for ‘automatic’ at the end of the season.

Fair play to Bournemouth. They flew out of the traps and should have been ahead within seconds. Dominic Solanke seeing Pontus somehow hyper-extend a leg as he chased down a nailed on goal before scooping it off the line to safety. Minutes later the same man had another glorious opportunity with Rico the one to this time hoick it clear after a butt clenching scramble. 

How Brentford hadn’t fallen behind is one to rank alongside the alleged popularity of Mrs. Brown’s Boys. Nobody knows or can explain. Instead, Brentford grew back in to it and we were off. Rocky picking himself up off the canvas to take the fight back to their opponents. A shot from Sergi Canos fired just wide. A trio of fine saves pulled out of the locker by Cherries’ ‘keeper Asmir Begović . Mbeumo and Toney working their magic. It was only a matter of time before the goal came and sure enough, it did. To Bournemouth.

Urghh. Dominic Solanke the man to finally get the goal his efforts had warranted. Credit to the player for picking his spot. The Bees defence carved open and no mistake made this time. 1-0 up and the visitors’ strength finally paying dividends. That midfield would have graced most top flight sides, let alone the Championship. Yet if anyone thought this was game over they were sorely mistaken. Mathias Jensen (the ultimate man of the match) turning provider for Henrik Dalsgaard little over ten minutes later. The Danish World Cup star heading home an equaliser that our performance may have warranted but which was in no way guaranteed. Nobody deserves to score. Unless, of course, you actually take your chance. And Henrik made no mistake with his.

1-1 at half-time and both teams, surely, well happy with that. Bournemouth probably ruing those early chances spurned but still alive and in it. Indeed, they started the second period much like they’d began the first. Pressure building, the goalmouth threatened but nothing of real substance coming. Dominance not rewarded with anything beyond recognition of their potent attacking prowess. Then Bryan Mbeumo popped up to do his thing and, with it, the game transformed. His work down the right legendary. A run into the box lit up with his dazzling footwork. One little back flick in the midst of this opening the Bournemouth defence like a can of tuna. His delivery across the penalty box absolute perfection. Tarique Fosu had already done his own thing to find the perfect position and by the time the ball dropped, he was given the freedom to gorge at the Bournemouth ‘all you can score’ buffet. One bite at the cherry was all he needed.

Boom. What a ball across. What a finish. Open the social media floodgates as the gushing began. And rightly so. The final ten minutes and additional time added on trickled by with no real fear of conceding. Pressure, yes. Panic, no. Game management to the max mixed with a couple of substitutions as the clock played out. Drago floored. Brentford triumphant. Thomas Frank making an emotional post match speech in which he’d note our awful first ten minutes, our efforts to close out the game and our opponents’ class.

The result was a cracker. Had we lost, then it wouldn’t have been fatal. Having won, it’s a wonderful way to end the year. It sees us breathing down the necks of Norwich City. Come on!! Where are you? Right behind. Swansea City overtaken ahead of their own game with Reading. The Bees now 16 unbeaten in all competitions. The ‘Frank Out’ brigade silenced once more. Instead, the u-turn of support that (yet) another win brings was evident.  

Next up, Bristol City on Saturday. Here’s hoping we have fit players. Josh Dasilva looked uncomfortable as he went off. Fingers crossed that was nothing serious. Only time will tell there. For now, though, we need to catch our breath. To marvel at a quite fantastic game of football between two top, top sides. Brentford took the points. Bournemouth will feel hard done by. Understandably. Yet I’ll leave the last word tonight to our Harry. Only 7(seven) years old but his bedtime summary of the game proving that age is no barrier to insight…

Harry: You know Bournemouth?

Me: Yes.

Harry: They must be devastated right now.

Nick Bruzon

Time to go ape once more?

30 Dec

Brentford are now fifteen games unbeaten. The 3-2 Boxing Day knockout of Cardiff City seeing us move to within touching distance of the top. Sergi’s hat-trick the stuff of dreams. Now Bournemouth await in a 5.30pm kick off this Wednesday evening. Both teams level on 38 points and knowing that victory will take them second above Swansea City, who don’t play until later tonight. Their game with Reading has an 8pm kick-off. Even a draw all see the Bees and the Cherries gain a position thanks to our superior goal difference. There’s everything to play for in the latest ‘Biggest game since…’ . A game made all the more interesting by table toppers Norwich City dropping two points at home to the Loftus Road mob on Tuesday.

Sergi got 3 out of 3 on, err, Saturday (I think)

I suppose we should be thankful there’s even a game taking place at present. With Corona virus seeing fixtures now being pulled across all divisions, Big ‘Sam’ Allardyce calling for a ‘circuit breaker’ hiatus to action and talk of tougher restrictions coming in at a national level, it may only be a matter of time before things grind to another halt. 

The plus point being it may allow everyone at our clubs to stay safe and restore some tired limbs. The down side being that Brentford are flying at present. The league and the cup have both seen us come into our own as the pressure has increased on divisional (and Premier league) rivals. The points gap being reeled in by some relentless displays and magnificent use of the squad by Thomas Frank. Those called in have more than done a job. Those who have been regular starters somehow maintaining their energy levels over a run of games that has been as exciting as it has been exhausting.

I have to be honest, I wasn’t expecting Bournemouth to be anywhere near as strong as they have been this season. So many times we’ve seen clubs drop out of the Premier League and struggle to adjust to their new surroundings. With players being shed and talismanic manager Eddie Howe leaving in August, things looked grim. To the casual observer. Instead, they’ve carved out a run of form that has only seen them lose twice since the start of November ( Sheff Wednesday ‘away’ and a slip up at home against Preston. Hmm – I think we can all relate to that.) 

Like Brentford, they have continued to astound. To perplex. To amaze. A club no doubt as tainted with the ‘teams like’ and ‘little’ moniker as we have been in recent times. Their own top flight residence lasting for five years until the end of last campaign. We’ve all got our own thoughts on howe they got there, of course. Who could forget the team they put together when going up in 2014/15 – cripes, that must have cost them a fortune – but once there they more than held their own at football’s top table. Now, they are back amongst us in the Championship and on current form giving every indication that this will be as short a stay as possible.

Nothing would give greater satisfaction than getting the win tonight. Memories of Mike Grella flooding back once more. His name was mentioned during Mark Burridge’s commentary of the Cardiff game as Sergi looked to add a fourth goal to his, and the team’s, total. Instead he had to be content with ‘just’ the match ball and all manner of plaudits. I can’t see it being anywhere near as comfortable as that 6-0 victory back in November 2011 when the gorilla went ape, but even a turgid 1-0 will do me come full time. Chance would be a fine thing. Bournemouth aren’t going to just roll over and anybody claiming to know how this will turn out is a better observer than me. So that’s everyone , then.  

The Gorilla went ape – for one night only

If I had to call it, I’d go for Brentford by the odd goal in three. But I don’t. So I won’t. Even knowing who Thomas will start with is as much a case of car-keys in a bowl as anything else these days. Josh Dasilva and Tarique Fosu were both amongst those to miss out in the starting XI against Cardiff. Sergi is on fire but must be knackered. See also Ivan Toney and Rico Henry. Surely Thomas will go for what he’d see as his strongest option on current form tonight? For me, that read him opting for : Raya, Henry, Dalsgaard, Jansson, Pinnock, Janelt, Dasilva, Jensen, Canos, Mbeumo, Toney. 

That’s my own hypothesis and the obvious one based on what we’ve seen to date. Who knows what Thomas’ longer term plan and tactics are?  Christian Norgaard doesn’t seem to be quite match fit after that prolonged injury but perhaps Tuesday and Spurs will do for him. Assuming the game even goes ahead. Equally though, one thing we can predict is that Thomas has cards up his sleeve and will be just as likely to mix things up. To try and catch everyone, including Bournemouth, cold. Cripes, who’d be a pundit or anybody trig to write something accurate. Roll on 4.31pm when the team is announced.

I have to be honest, I’m quite liking this 5.30pom kick off time. It’s totally untraditional but at a time when as many of us are able find themselves ‘working from home’ is a cracking way to move direct from the company laptop when the whistle blows directly to the sofa and TV. To start the night early and sill have time to put the kids to bed at full time. Plus it means we’ve less time to wait until the big match kicks off. Which given the way Corona Virus cases are spreading, can only be a good thing. Let’s enjoy this one before it is taken out of our hands.    

It’s a real six pointer. More than that, given the bigger picture impact. Twelve pointer? Double six pointer? Norwich City and Swansea, both in that immediate touching distance, no doubt hoping both teams can lose. Of course that’s not how football works and something will have to give at the business end of the table by full time. It’s live on Sky and i-player so, all being well, everyone has a chance to follow this one if you like pictures with your words.

Bring it on. See you there (in spirit). ENJOY !!!

Something has to give this evening, whatever the result

Nick Bruzon