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It was hell on earth. Could the same happen again?

24 Oct

Sunday morning and another early start. The eSpresso has been drunk, last night’s washing up done and the cat fed whilst the rest of the family still sleep. Even the cat.  Hey, never let it be said that yours truly doesn’t lead a rock ’n’ roll lifestyle. Yet all of this mundane normality will explode out of the blocks in a few hours time. Brentford host Leicester City knowing that victory combined with a win for Liverpool could propel the Bees to fifth in the Premier League table (one of the teams having to get some combination of points in the Spurs – West Ham game makes fourth just out of sight). Having performed so well in recent weeks, moreso seeing how fellow promoted teams have fared against teams we’ve taken all the way (Chelsea hitting Norwich City for a 7(seven) goal bracketing yesterday), means we go in to this one with tails very much up.

A typical early morning in TW8

Bloody hell. The atmosphere, and performance, in the Chelsea game (Brentford rather Norwich) were like nothing else. Then again, we said the same after West Ham away and the 3-3 with Liverpool. Every time you think that things have got as good as they can, the team and the fans rewrite the form book. Last Saturday evening had just about everyone channeling their inner Dean Smith. We actually did deserve to win. It’s a real ‘break glass in case of emergency phase but for once, it rang so very true.

Of course, the record books will show we didn’t. Ben Chilwell’s goal separating the teams. True enough. Talking to friends and colleagues last week, all anyone outside TW8 could say was just how the heck had we been denied at least a point? The reaction was almost universal. Match of The Day showing the collection of wonderful saves, posts rattled and last gasp defending that kept us at bay. Kudos to Chelsea, btw. They did what they needed to and won the game. Yet seeing them dismantle Norwich City yesterday put it truly into context. Perhaps even more dramatically than Watford being obliterated by Liverpool the week after we were denied a famous victory over the Anfield side by nothing more than an offside flag.

It was a case of less Canaries and more headless chickens at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea with their pedal to the metal. Norwich, stuck in reverse and about as clueless as a Glenn Hoddle punditry masterclass. Just as at Lionel Road, the game started with the Champions of Europe pouring forward. Unlike the game at Lionel Road, the opposition crumbled and had no idea how to counter (or even contain) their opponents. The half-time assessment that with some substitutions Norwich might be able to play for the draw (they were 3-0 down at this juncture, having previously scored just 2 goals all campaign) was about as far fetched as it was just plain stupid. Instead, all we got was the aforementioned bracketing.

Let’s be clear. I’ve no particular love for Chelsea. Or any other club. At most, a lot of admiration for Norwich after they way they treated our Harry a few years back. Likewise, today’s opponents given the much needed shot of footballing romance they gave us all a few years back. If nothing else, the proof that the ‘elite’ don’t have it all their way.

Good times at Carrow Road. Pre kick-off

Ultimately though, in our house it’s all Brentford. At the same time, seeing how the three promoted teams have performed against the best in the land shows such a marked contrast as one can’t help but try to draw parallels. The respective results speak for themselves.  Watford 0 Liverpool 5 to Brentford 3 Liverpool 3.  Chelsea 7(seven) Norwich 0 to Brentford 0 Mendy Chelsea 1. Last season’s performance in the Championship counting for nothing now we’ve all stepped up. 

The one clear difference being that we were at home for both. My word, home. Talk about making that advantage count. Talk about not just raising the roof but ripping it off. The noise levels being generated have been stratospheric. Gargantuan. Like nothing we’ve ever experienced before. “It was hell on Earth, the last 20 minutes” being the considered verdict of Ben Chilwell last time out. 

Hell on earth at Lionel Road, last time out

We may not have the financial clout to match but we certainly have the passion. I’ve been in stadiums where we’ve played European Champions and missed out on promotion by play offs. And the atmosphere at Lionel Road is ten times better than that. It’s just about getting the balance right.

We had it at Griffin Park, of course. Who could forget the denouement to the 5-0 against Birmingham City or that afternoon against Preston North End? Then lockdown came, we were all stuck at home and denied football for the best part of an entire season, not to mention the end of the one before. Yet upon return its almost as if all the frustration of missing out has been bottled and the stopper now released. Seriously, being part of these crowds has been as much cathartic as anything else. Makes the missing out and the early morning washing up all that bit more bearable. Mostly, though, it plays a HUGE part in stifling our opponents and making Lionel Road a place to be feared. A genuine fortress. 

Leicester City are about as tough as opponents get. Just like Brentford, they’ll have the top quarter of the table in sight and, of course, have experienced their own huge morale boost. Namely that of coming from 2-0 down in Moscow to stride out as eventual 4-3 winners. Jamie Vardy spent the evening on the bench, with the Foxes four coming c/o of Patson Daka. Joy, another goal threat to contend with today and Kasper Schmeichel a man mountain at the other end. Having finally said farewell to one top class shot stopper in Edouard Mendy, we’re straight back up against another. Nobody sad it would be easy at this level !   

Foxes in Europe. Laboured wordplay and a half hour spent on photoshop yesterday so damn well going to use it again

Can I call it? No hope. All we can say is that if the Brentford faithful keep it as loud as we have done all season then we’ve every chance of lifting the boys onwards and upwards.

The bookies have the Bees as the outsiders, plus ça change, although at least we are deemed a little bit closer than in previous weeks. To be honest, it counts for naff all barring curiosity. All that matters is how we hit the ground at 2pm – on and off the pitch.

The bookies give Leicester the edge

Bring it on. See you there. If nothing else, there are Panini Cards to swap. Our Harry has a stack of doubles and is all set for the 1pm swap meet underneath the Family Section in the North West corner of the stadium. You can read about that on ‘official’.

Fingers crossed, the team can match his, and our, enthusiasm…..

Nick Bruzon

You’re Donald Trump, you are !! Although if Channel 4 are reading….

23 Oct

You don’t want to get into Europe Brentford. Frank out. Where’s the money, Benham? Fans were in outrage last night after the Bees slipped to tenth in the Premier League table. Last week’s mugging by Chelsea followed up by a win for Arsenal (not a typo) over Aston Villa in the weekend’s opening fixture. It was a result that saw the Gunners overtake the Bees prior to our game with Leicester City. That one held back until Sunday to allow for Foxes in Europe (if ever a TV series was just waiting to be made  – Edward, Amelia, Ruel, Megan and Michael J travelling around our favourite continent in a charabanc. Hilarity and chaos ensue. Lifelong friendships are forged. Brush and Fox get their own spin off series as a maverick detective and his ‘by the book’ partner) although their quite amazing 3-4 win at Spartak Moscow a game which eventually took place on Wednesday evening. Clearly, nobody was Russian back home.    

Foxes in Europe. We’d watch it? Yes? Maybe? Err….

Wastes half an hour on another flight of photoshop fantasy…..

All of which brings us back to reality. Of course there’s nobody calling for Thomas’s head (this season – we heaven’t forgotten….) and Channel 4 are unlikely to commission a fly on the wall road trip. Albeit I’d pay good  / some money to see Basil Brush giving it his all at St. Basil’s Cathedral. Oh Mr. Derek, will you ever learn? And instead, we’ve got the quite delicious prospect of Brentford V Leicester City to look forward to. Bring it on.

A game which comes hot on the heels of our own showdown with Chelsea last weekend. A game where I am still dumbfounded as to just how the equaliser failed to go in. Bravo, Edouard Mendy. What a ‘keeper. But the frustrating fact is that despite the best efforts of referee come panto villain Anthony Taylor, Brentford came away with nothing. League leaders Chelsea kept their place at the top of the table. That’s football. We put it behind us. Crying won’t change anything and, at least, we might get a decent referee this time.

Curse that ‘keeper. And that post

Checks fixture list. It’s Simon Hooper. Adopts foetal position and sobs gently on the kitchen floor. Simon ‘flipping’ Hooper. A man we crossed swords with many times in the EFL prior to his ascendency to the top flight. A man up there with Mr. Stroud in the ‘names to fear‘ list. Sometimes, life just isn’t fair. 

Hey, perhaps things are different now. Maybe he has become more settled? Here’s hoping. Moreso because a look back through the Last Word archives brings a somewhat frustrating reminder of just why there’s a need to be cautious. So, instead of talking more about the game we’ll wrap up here for the day and leave you with a selection of his greatest hits…..

For starters..

Meanwhile, Will Vaulks had drawn the wrath of the normally mild-mannered Thomas Frank following one obscene challenge on Norgaard. Referee Simon Hooper and his assistants failing to produce the red card required in such a situation. But this summed up Hooper – for both sides. He had an absolute stinker from start to finish. That’s not meant as bitterness – he was as poor towards the home side as he was the visitors. Both sets of supporters ending the day feeling hard done by and, being honest, Cardiff City probably more as they cranked up the pressure in the second period.

How about….?

Man of the match Lewis Macleod and Ryan Woods pulling the strings in the middle whilst referee Simon Hooper pulled our legs erm, in the middle. His sending off of substitute Romaine Sawyers for two yellow cards, the second of which was softer than than the avalanche of snowflakes that filled the air, rounded off a poor afternoon for the man in black. The visiting players surrounding a referee who should have been stronger after what was, at best, an accidental coming together. Yet his missing the opportunity to insist on an orange ball (one day, it will come back) should have perhaps warned us what to expect.

Then there’s our headline (that’ll be what sitting near Alex ‘Angry Dad’ Austin does. The culprit remains nameless…)

“You’re Donald Trump, you are”, shouted one young fan at referee Simon Hooper. The yellow card waved at the Bristol City man engendering the wrath of supporters who had been closer to the assault than the man in the middle. Thankfully, the enthusiastic young Bee (Sergi, rather than our own political commentator) was soon back on his feet to administer the perfect payback – an opening goal as he fired home from a parried free kick on 18 minutes.

Moving swiftly on….

And, as ever, we start at Griffin Park where there isn’t a huge amount to add off a game where referee Simon Hooper dominated affairs. A shame, as it meant that first time around  we were denied moments such as this…..

And one last hit…

Talking of Christmas puddings (oh, the crowbarring…) referee Simon Hooper was giving out no gifts (the penalty to Cardiff for their opener, aside) as he enraged the Griffin Park faithful, management and players – with Harlee Dean being awarded a yellow card for his (correct) protests at yet another stonewall penalty being turned down.

Bring it on. I think. See you there. Hoping a leopard has changed his spots…

Come on Simon. Please prove us wrong.

Nick Bruzon

Bee keeper (outer) wins plaudits and game. What an evening at Lionel Road.

17 Oct

It was hell on Earth, the last 20 minutes”. Not my words Carol, but those of Chelsea goalscorer Ben Chilwell. Ordinarily a phrase used to describe being in the studio audience for a recording of Mrs. Brown’s Boys but this time a reference to Brentford throwing the kitchen sink, and more, towards the impregnable goal at the West Stand of Lionel Road. My word. With the Bees trailing to the England man’s piledriver just prior to half-time, it was a final phase of gameplay as intense as just about any ever seen. Goalkeeper Edouard Mendy was in inspired form, using everything from his hands to his face to keep Brentford out.  When he was finally beaten there was Trevoh Chalobah to clear off the line, Bryan Mbeumo saw one crash back off the post (not for the first time this game) whilst there were more scrambles than an early 80’s video arcade. That’s before you even chuck the machinations of ‘referee’ Anthony Taylor into the mix. Cripes, he was utterly horrific. The Bees were incredible but came away with nothing beyond heads held high. Moreso given the earlier results which saw fellow promoted team Watford absolutely hammered at home to Liverpool. 5-0 to the visitors the final score there.

Crudely photoshopped match analogy. Sorry, but it’s too early for quality control.

What can you say? The usual phrases of pride and deserving to win. Perhaps this is what Dean Smith means when he uses his oft quoted line. But we didn’t. Frustratingly. Brentford dominated the later stages of the second half to such an extent that, surely, it was only a matter of time before the equaliser came? Surely? The arrival of Marcus Forss for Frank the Tank giving new impetus and drive as we took the game to Chelsea. Yet every time we broke, there was a wall of blue to somehow keep it out. There was Mendy, that magnificent man in orange, to pull of a series of worldies that had Bees fans so far off the edge of our seats we cold have been on the pitch with them. Willing the ball in and kicking every ball alongside.

When Christian Norgaard suddenly found room in stoppage time, his control and bicylce kick had an almost slow motion feel to them. Matrix style bullet time playing out around us as the Dane positioned himself, caught the ball on his chest and executed a quite wondrous strike with his back to goal. Yesssss!!!! 1-1. Nooooooooo….  There was Mendy to get an outstretched hand to it and push the ball on to the bar. An incredible effort and a save equal to it. A save better than any he had already pulled off and showing why there is such uproar at his lack of nomination for the Ballon d’Or .

It was intensity like none seen before. The team willed on by another vociferous Lionel Road crowd as we chased a game that had looked for so long like slipping away. Chelsea started this one with Brentford not even able to get close. Given no room to make space as the European Champions pinged it around with ease and snuffed out any attempt by the Bees to push forward as easily as blowing out a candle. We weren’t even second but then, as against Liverpool,  confidence arrived and we were in a game. Bryan hit the post in a crowded box when for a moment it seemed he would emulate Ethan in that previous home game. Immediately, Chelsea stormed down the other end for Romelu Lukaku to find the back of the net, only to be denied by the Lino’s flag. 

But with the game alive and Brentford, at times, feeling as though we were hanging in there, Chilwell was left unattended on the edge of the box and hammered one through a crowd of players, past the despairing dive of David Raya and into the back of the net. A thunderbolt shot and nothing that could be done the moment it left his boot. It had been coming. The visitors dominant in that opening period but never quite striding clear, until now. Referee Anthony Taylor beginning to earn the wrath of the home fans. Something that only escalated as the game progressed.

For those among us grateful at Keith Stroud missing out on promotion to the top flight, be careful what you wish for. Taylor was everything the Chelsea supporters had built him up to be and beyond. Ivan Toney in particular given zero protection from an official set to random. 

There are no words to describe how seemingly inept he was. Hey, perhaps things look different at pitch level. Likewise, the approach adopted by Chelsea to counter our second half resurgence. Next level shithousery with players tumbling like skittles and clocks being run down for fun. Actually, I’ve no complaints about any team trying this. It’s a facet to our game that until recently (how are those gloves, David?)  has been long missing and if the ref is going to be this spineless then why not do anything you can to disrupt the flow? 

What is more telling is the fact that the Champions of Europe and league leaders had no choice but to resort to his level of gamesmanship against us. Against Brentford. There was no wining by outplaying the opposition but more in grinding the game down. As Mrs Bruzon said afterwards, “I’ve never seen them have to do that.” Perhaps we don’t watch enough TV football or maybe MOTD airbrush the cynicism away. For me Clive, that’s the biggest mark of respect we could have earned.

Close but, in the end, no cigar. Bees fans are talking about how proud they are and, whilst that is true, I’m ultimately left with a huge feeling of what might have been. We should have had a point and the fact we were kept at bay after playing so well is about as frustrating as it comes. You don’t get anything for being plucky. For playing out of your skin. By having some dubious moral justification to have earned something. Instead, its balls in the back of the net that count and despite the clear heroics, Chilwell’s howitzer was the ultimate difference between the teams.

We’ll learn from it. The key thing now is how we take what we’ve done, bottle it and then uncork the stopper when Leicester City come to visit next week. Brentford WERE immense. There’s no point crying over spilt points. Instead, its about picking ourselves up and using that combination of perceived injustice and what we’ve achieved so far this season to go forward.

And if you need a yardstick as to how well we are doing, then we only have to check the results from earlier in the day. Of course, our last home game had been that titanic 3-3 with Liverpool. They were back in the capital (or its hinterlands) for a trip to Watford. That one ended with the visitors humping the Hornets 5-0. Mo Salah with the pick of the bunch, waltzing through the home defence, the ball tied to his foot with a piece of string.

So, yes. I am feeling hard done by this morning. It was a stunning game of football and one has to acknowledge who we were up against. Compared to Watford and Norwich who both finished above us in last season’s Championship, Brentford have so far looked the strongest by a country mile. So far. The season still has along way to go but if we carry on like this then things are going to be alright. Just as long as the injuries don’t bite…

Until then, here’s to Brentford. Here’s to the Champions of Europe. Here’s to a visit from Leicester City. Bring them on and see you there.

Bryan was denied by the post. Twice. This one in the second half

Nick Bruzon

Is this the Chelsea starting XI? Time for more football romance and stupid dreams.

16 Oct

Silly o’clock. Been awake since 3.37am and there’s nothing, absolutely nothing, going on at this ungodly hour. Mrs B and little H are both fast asleep. Even Bentley the cat is yet to howl the house down at the first tread on a creaky floorboard. The internet has been surfed and vinyl I can’t afford bought. Hey, those Bluetones records missing from the collection aren’t going to buy themselves. Brentford shirts are yet to be acquired but the usual sites have a dearth of anything even vaguely interesting. We’ve got Chelsea this evening and I’d love to say the early start is due to excitement at the prospect of their visit but it isn’t. Nothing more than a warped body clock combined with good old fashioned insomnia. Hurrah! 

On the plus side, it IS the weekend. We’re back in action and at the time of writing, social media is already a litany of anticipation. Trips to Lionel Road already underway (Paul Ridley via Barcelona, we’re looking at you in particular) but there is also trepidation about referee Anthony Taylor building. Primarily from the Chelsea fans, it seems. Is there some beef there? 

Goes to Internet. Checks. Ah, yes. It would appear to be the case. The Daily Mail – with apologies for adding to their ‘hits’  – describes Mr Taylor as the club’s ‘nemesis’. Blues fans apparently ‘dreading’ the return of a man they launched a petition against after sending off Reece James for hand ball in the season opener with Liverpool. 

Been there. Done that. Had Keith Stroud on numerous occasions. Pain shared. Albeit attempting the route of petition is a step not even Brentford fans have undertaken. A gesture as futile as having a studio audience for a live recording of Mrs. Brown’s Boys. Any ‘laughs’, surely, coming from the canned track.   

Blue isn’t the colour

Of more importance is who Chelsea run out with today. Good luck getting that right. The usual barometer of starting XI selection, Fantasy Football scout, is predicting several absences (Ampadu, Batshuayi, Thiago Silva, Emerson, Pulisic and Rüdiger aswell as several doubts). You can read their full fat appraisal here. However, even accounting for missing faces it is a line up that still looks immense. What hope do Brentford have in stoping this? In winning the West London derby and stopping our visitors from setting a record of 7(seven) wins on the bounce again teams in the capital. Aside from Anthony Taylor?

Predicted line up from FF scout

Well the great news is that Kris Ajer and Vitaly Janelt are both fit again after missing out at West Ham. Oh, those salty tears from the home fans are still as sweet as they were two weeks ago. Wissa you bloody genius. Shandon Baptiste misses out – a dislocated shoulder will do that to you – but otherwise we’re all good. A central three of Vitaly, Frank the Tank and Christian Norgaard is about as obvious as it comes. Rico and Sergi as wing backs with Ivan and Bryan up top. I can’t imagine any surprises from Thomas with a line up that should have the right balance of silk and steel to upset the bookies (still 26/5), the record books and the opposition.

Hey, one can dream. You have to though. The whole Premier league experience has been so utterly ridiculous thus far that why not keep on riding the crazy train? Wishful thinking and blind optimism have long overtaken common sense and logic. Results coming the way of a team and fanbase who are having nothing but fun. An experienced squad, bolstered by shrewd aquisitions, playing out of their skins in a consequence free environment. Nobody expects us to win. Nobody gives us a hope. Yet, somehow, the points keep on coming. Somehow we keep on defying the odds.

It still feels like relatively early days but after today we’ll be over a fifth of the season done. Brentford go into the game four points behind league leaders Chelsea. European Champions Chelsea. My word, if ever there was incentive to go for the win then here it is. Not that we ever play for anything except a win (the end of Brighton aside). 

The return of Buzz ended up being the highlight of the Brighton game

It was said pre-season that the only club we genuinely thought would outplay us were Manchester City. So far, there’s been nothing to alter that perception albeit we’ve had to be at the absolute top of our game. The way Chelsea have started, and played, only a fool would fail to lump them into that bracket of likely Champions and top ranked teams. More than a few FIFA setting above the Bees when you look at this with a factual perspective. But, as has been noted, we don’t do that.

Sure, they’d beat us 9 times out of 10 if you run the numbers. Perhaps even 10 out of 10. But football doesn’t work like that. Lionel Road is no ordinary place. Brentford a quite unique team. A bus stop club stepping out against a fleet of limousines. A fan base who raise the roof like no other. Give me our football romance and stupid dreams over squads worth hundreds of millions any day of the week. It keeps the blood pumping. The anticipation of a win rather than the expectation gives added edge so sadly lacking for those clubs for whom three points and silverware are the de rigueur lifestyle choice.

I go into this one with utter respect for what they have achieved. For where they sit. No question. And the same feelings are extended to Chelsea. Our boys have had a magnificent opening few months. Can it continue tonight? Roll on kick off. See you there.

West Ham away – last time out was wonderful. Especially the 94th minute

Nick Bruzon

A Twitter spat, illustrious opponents and swaps. Just another day in the top flight.

15 Oct

Magnificent. We’ve woken up to another ‘Teams like Brentford’ meltdown and the somewhat unusual phrase of Brentford 4th trending on Twitter. The reason being that, apparently, that’s where a supercomputer has predicted we’ll finish the season. Saturday’s opponents Chelsea are, apparently, going to be champions with Liverpool and Manchester City joining us at Europe’s top table next campaign. What quite makes a computer ‘super’ over a regular one I have no idea but its all good fun. Primarily the reactions from supporters of other clubs. 

Cripes, I’m as confident as the next fan but even I’ve only settled for the Europa League next season. Whatever the ZX Spectrum (or whatever machine was used for this in no way clickbait calculation) has come up with, this sort of story is ten a penny every year. In every division. They’re never right but they get us talking. So why not? Anything that winds up Leeds United supporters is all the better in my book. Moreso, given it has them way down in 16th. Hey. Perhaps there is something in it.

Leeds defend another attack

It’s all a nice distraction ahead of tomorrow’s big game. We spoke a bit about the West London derby yesterday. Brentford host Chelsea in a 5.30pm kick off which is sure to be blighted by travel chaos. South West rail is out of action with no trains stopping at Brentford, Kew Bridge or Chiswick. Likewise, Gunnnesbury tube will be out of action before and after kick off.

Instead, those three awful words (not : Mrs Browns Boys) have surfaced: Rail Replacement Bus. May whichever deity you believe in have mercy on your mortal souls.

With Corona Virus checks now in place after the soft launch for the Liverpool game, never has it been more widely advised to aim for an early arrival at Lionel Road. On the plus side, there’ll be cheap beer and food, the dulcet tones of Stu Soccer AM doing his thing with Peter Gilham whilst for anyone collecting Adrenalyn XL (the Panini cards rather than an energy drink), our Harry has a huge favour to ask. 

Has anyone in the North Stand anyone got any swaps? Assuming we can access it, he’ll be there by the Junior Bees bit at around 4.45 prior to kick off and then out the back of the vomitaries at half-time. Will tweet a location. For reasons unknown, although perhaps the £1 a packet cost has something to do with it, these aren’t hugely popular at his school. And whilst we have a surfeit of Bryan, amongst others, Sergi and Ivan are currently missing. Collecting has reached the stage where new packets are littered with more doubles than the darts and so if anyone can help then it would be hugely appreciated. 

Some of the many, many swaps that have caused the hole in my overdraft facility

As for the game, well its live on Sky for anyone that can’t make it. Lionel Road is again sold out with another racous atmosphere expected. It was tasty as when Liverpool came to town. Of course inside the stadium where we had the loudest away fans outside of Oldham in the cup but also outside. Prior to kick off Kew and Brentford were buzzing. There were even not one, not two but at least four half-and-half scarf sellers for us all to ignore. Truly, those fetid rags are the last refuge of the footballing damned. The crass hipsterfication of our beautiful game showing a real ugly side. If you really want a souvenir, buy a shirt or a programme. Then go get a beer with the change. 

Why? And don’t look at the socks

And talking of shirts, the alleged Jamie Bates matchworn has resurfaced on ebay. Good luck anybody bidding on that. The last month has already seen this one sold more times than Steve Claridge. Much as yours truly is always on the look out for anything old (and if anyone does have any they’d like to sell then I’ll always pay a very fair price) getting involved in this is a step too far.  

Somebody may want it..

Finally, just a HUGE thank you. For those slightly more regular visitors to these pages, the summer months had their usual flood of season review e-book activity. The story of our reaching the Premier League (primarily a load of these aswell as all the content produced for the programme) has been bundled up for Kindle / other and available for download. All money received from Amazon is then being donated to Rob Rowan’s CRY fund. Well, it has finally started trickling in (after Jeff has taken his cut) and is now being passed on each month. So a massive thank you for anyone who has downloaded. If you still wanted to then the link is here. Spoiler alert: for once, this one has a happy Wembley ending. Alternatively, anybody wanting to go direct to Rob’s page, you can find that one here.

Ok. That’s us done for today. Check out the BBC, Twitter, Beesotted and all the other usual sources for the actual quality content. For me, its all about family time and football this weekend. I can’t wait. Bring it on and see you there. Ideally, with cards…..

Could this be the shock of the weekend? Or is it now expected?

14 Oct

We’re back. Brentford host league leaders Chelsea this weekend with another international break done and the chance to see if we can build on the quite wonderful performances at home to Liverpool and then, last time out, away at West Ham. Final thoughts on those are in the forthcoming edition of the matchday programme (along with other nonsense, subject to editorial discretion, including one covid related tale of woe). Alternatively, the previous columns from these pages are here (Liverpool) or here (West Ham) for those wanting one more look back at what happened as the games unfolded and the aftermath was very much enjoyed. It all seems a lifetime ago already. There’s been a trip to Gibraltar for the World Cup qualifier with Montenegro in between and now, of course, we have the prospect of a visit from the European Champions.

West Ham away – wonderful. Especially the 94th minute

“We’re coming for you. We’re coming for you. Champions of Europe. We’re coming for you.” Thus went ‘that’ song. Ad-nauseam it felt at the time, as the Bees prepared for a 2013 FA Cup tie against the Stamford Bridge outfit. A strong opposition were held 2-2 at Griffin Park, with a late equaliser from Fernando Torres sparing Chelsea from copious amounts of egg on face.

For me, Clive, of course it was an exciting build but oh that song went on. And on. Much like Oldham’s. Focus on f’ing promotion rather than singing to opposition that weren’t even there, listening or gave a monkey about what was happening in League One.

Chelsea were almost given the elbow at Griffin Park in 2013

That was then. This is now. Better form in the FA cup, several seasons in the Championship and our own reaching the Premier League mean that as it stands games like this are the norm rather than ad-hoc flashes in the pan demanding their own song. A blistering start to top flight life means we’re currently sitting 7th (seventh) in the table. A win would put Brentford just one point behind the leaders and whilst, in theory, that sounds about as far fetched an aspiration as they come, the season has already been packed with more drama and wonderful performances than an episode of Dream Team. Get warmed up, lads.

Much missed. Especially former Bee Andy Ansah

Arsenal. Beaten. Liverpool. Held in that epic 3-3. West Ham. Crying. Wolves. Humped. Raya. Gloves needed changing. Only one defeat and that in the final minute of Brighton’s gamesmanship masterclass. The new signings bedding straight in, Kris Ajer especially, whilst Yoanne Wissa is already well en-route to becoming a cult hero. Come for the late goals. Stay for the celebration.

It has been quite the incredible start to a season that has seen this little bus stop in Hounslow punching above the weight and expectation levels of just about everybody outside TW8. Those inside the circle knowing what we can do and what to expect, even if at times it does seem against the realms of probability. That Liverpool game being the quintessential example of our never say die attitude and desire to attack until the death. The one time we’ve played super cagey, the last quarter of Brighton’s visit, our undoing had an almost Bees like inevitability about it. It’s Brentford, innit.

Wiiissssaaaaaaa. As calm as Peter Gilham isn’t

That’s not to say we’ll turn up and beat Chelsea. Cripes, if the fixtures so far have been tough then this is next level. A quick check on my Fantasy Football squad this morning is a bleak reminder of the strength they have in depth, let alone the starting XI. Whichever one they opt to go with.

For Brentford, subject to injury –  Shandon Baptiste’s shoulder being the primary concern – its a safe bet who will start this one. As ever. Thomas Frank has enjoyed the luxury of his preferred starting XI playing to such a level that the only real selection decision has been who to bring on and when. Thomas Tuchel could probably chuck the car keys in a bowl and still come up with a team that the bookies would fancy to romp home. 

Indeed, the Bees are this morning priced at 26/5 to take all three points. As ever, nobody gives us a real chance. No surprise. Our opponents are as strong as they come. Their record and consistency over the last twenty years speaks for itself. If we’ve hit the ground running then they’re next level. Romelu Lukaku looks like he’s never been away whilst only Manchester City have taken a win off them. So far. 

Which is what makes football just the exciting thing it is. Nobody gave us a hope against Liverpool. There was similar from the other 6 games. We know what we’ve done and what we can achieve when all guns are firing. The funnest season ever is now cranking up even more, reaching previously unimaginable levels. That final moment at West Ham was about as good as things got. Now to see if we can pick up where we left off.

Of course it’s going to be tough. Some might say nigh on impossible. But if that’s the approach then why bother turning up? Genuinely, I’m convinced we will do this. As we’ve been saying all season, forget the calibre and reputation of the opposition. Play the moment. Play the game. Play as we’ve played so far. Of course we HAVE to be aware of who we are up against but there’s a distinct difference between being respectful and being in awe. 

I can’t wait for this one. Quelle surprise. Even that game at the Victoria Stadium to see Gibraltar go down 3-0 to Montenegro now feels second fiddle. Fun though it was. The home side weren’t given a prayer in that one, either, but I’ve got a rock solid belief we’re going to pull a few more pants down on Saturday evening.

If nothing else, this is a West London derby. THE West London derby. Move over Fulham. See you later Loftus Road. Brentford and Chelsea are currently the two best placed clubs, not only in this quarter but the entire capital. Bring it on and see you there.

International football provided relief in the absence of Premier League action

Nick Bruzon

Hail Ants. Who will be the last starter in this toughest of challenges?

25 Sep

The day has come. The one we’ve had marked on the calendar is now upon us. Brentford face a visit from, quite possibly, the most fearsome of all Premier League opponents. Being realistic we haven’t a hope but that doesn’t mean that we won’t be dreaming of the impossible come 5.30pm on Saturday afternoon. My word. Forget playing the likes of Manchester City or Chelsea. This is next level. This is the moment. Our Super Bees are going up against none other than… Stuart Atwell. Groan. I’m sure Liverpool fans feel the same about today’s ref. We’ve all been there. We’ve all suffered. As if it wasn’t going to be hard enough when Jurgen Klopp and his galaxy of stars descend upon us, we’ve this rogue element chucked in to the mix. Hail ants.

Hail ants, indeed.

At best, its the same for both of us. We can’t change anything so let’s go into this one fearing the worst but hoping for the best. Focus on Liverpool and beating them rather than getting overly het up about arbitrary elements. At least, until they happen. If they happen. Hey, you never know. Even Keith Stroud mellowed with experience. A bit. Instead, the question is more one of who Thomas is going to start with? 

Surely more of the same after the defeat of Wolves last weekend? Thomas Frank used his press conference to declare, “There will be 10 of the same starters and then I need to find the last one.” . Yet with, apparently, no injury concerns is this nothing more than gamesmanship? The Bees boss indulging in faux guessing games when the answer is already staring us in the face on the back of last weekend’s matchday programme? 

If my maths are correct, Shandon Baptiste served his red card suspension against Oldham Athletic in the midweek bracketing so could feature. Will his place be taken by Frank the Tank? Is Saman, impressive in the league cup, due another start? Might player 11 be Rico or Pontus? Answers on a postcard please. And remember, no entries can be returned. I’ve no clue but if everybody is available (barring the long term injuries) then surely the same XI has to be the way to go. Play your best team and let the opposition adjust their game to suit. 

Not that Mr. Klopp should have any major concerns about his own selections. Such is the wealth of talent available he could chuck the squad car keys into a bowl, pull out any 11 and aside from a somewhat unsavoury image for a family friendly publication, still come up with a team to beat just about anybody in this division.  Liverpool are currently on a 15 game unbeaten run and have only conceded one Premier League goal this season. That coming in their season opener against Chelsea. The Blues, of course, our next opponents and the only team higher than the Anfield outfit, courtesy of no slimmer margin than alphabetical order. In a statistical anomaly, their records are otherwise identical. 

As it stands…..

Let’s not forget Brentford though. We’re ninth in the table and well aware of our own record and form. Last weekend at Molineux was out best performance of the season by a country mile. Dominant. Dangerous. Cagey when we needed to be. Even a streak of shithousery added to our game. Yet for me, Clive, it was the way we played when down to ten men that was the most impressive element. Of course, Ivan grabbed the headlines but the defence  – especially Kris Ajer and his wonderful tackle – kept us in it. Moreso, given both Pontus and Rico were subbed out in the final quarter hour. It was undoubtedly tense to watch and you could see where the six minutes of additional time came from (hey, those gloves weren’t going to change themselves). 

This had the Wolves fans up in arms. Hey, gloves get holes in them.

I’m not stupid. I’m aware we are being served up as plucky underdogs. The team that many admire but just about everyone expects to go down to a something nil defeat. That Mo Salah will try and use the occasion to progress to that magical numerical mark. Not a 7(seven) goal bracketing (although I wouldn’t put it past him) but more reaching 100 Premier League goals. With the race for the golden boot already looking like it will be a four way fight between him, Cristiano Ronaldo, Romelu Lukaku and Ivan Toney you can bet he’ll fancy his changes to both step up form his current 99 and move ahead in that particular race.

Salah – has scored a few and will be looking to add to that haul

The bookies don’t fancy us, that’s for sure. We’ve come in slightly but are still at a general 6-1 this morning. For the home team in a two horse race, that tells you all you need to know about how we are perceived and how tough the opposition is. Liverpool rather than Atwell. Although also Atwell. Then again, we were similar longshots  in the season opener against Arsenal and look what happened there! Yours truly ended up laughing all the way to the bank that day with 888 having to cough up for a very tasty pint of Guinness at full time. Ker-ching !! 

Then again, this is how we love it. Under the radar. Tinpot. Unfancied. Nothing more than a bus stop. It’s going to be as raucous as they come. The supporters up for it and set to welcome rival fans who actually know a thing or two about making some noise of their own. Cripes, Arsenal may aswell have brought their library with them, such was the lack of atmosphere being generated from that far corner. Oldham were ten times louder and they had a third of the numbers present. This will be different though. Hey Jude v You’ll Never Walk Alone. 

It’s going to be immense. And that’s just before the game kicks off. Bring. It. On…. And see you there.

More of this would be wonderful

Nick Bruzon

I, for one, welcome our Turmeric overlords.

29 Jun

Irony is alive and well when it comes to all things Brentford. Or life. It’s amazing how things can come back to bite you but the announcement teased on Twitter by Brentford ‘official’ last night suggested we may have a new commercial partner incoming. In the Euros, there were plaudits all round for ITV and their coverage (not a typo) following the Croatia – Spain game. This, for the performance of Emma Hayes, manager of Chelsea women, in the co-commentator’s seat. Then there’s the small matter of England – Germany.

First up, Brentford.  Let me take you back to March 2021. The home game with Nottingham Forest. Yours truly’s programme column started as follows… 

“How much turmeric does one club need? Quite a lot if you are Swansea City, who announced a partnership with The Turmeric Company to become their official supplier for the rest of 2020-21. Rather than for the traditional use in flavouring curries, their products are quickly becoming the gold standard for individuals looking to support their health and wellbeing through nutrition, with their bespoke formula containing key powerful natural ingredients. Not my words, the words of Hal Robson-Kanu. The Wales international being co-founder of the company rather than an amazing leap into the world of Accidental Partridge. Good luck to them. It sounds incredible (much like mushroom based coffee – remember that from a few years ago?) although no explanation is given as to whether it negatively impacts the players’ balance when in the opposition penalty box.”

Fast forward to yesterday afternoon and this announcement from Brentford official….

What does this mean? A new commercial partner incoming? A new shirt sponsor, even? Perhaps nothing more than Matthew Benham taking control of our Twitter account once more and launching another of his cryptic clues ? The best translation I could get for that one would be us signing Tom Ince, son of Paul.

For those old enough to remember, the self-monikered ‘Guvnor’ was also one of the so-called Liverpool Spice boys alongside Robbie Fowler, Steve McManaman etc back in the 90s. For the record, the name based on hit parade topping all girl pop combo The Spice Girls rather than any laboratory made illegal substance.

We digress, as ever.  What’s happening in the world of Turmeric? If it is kit related, could we see the new Brentford shirt at the same time? Will the big reveal come today? Might we go for the holy trinity of a Frank Onyeka signing photo being published, whilst wearing a Turmeric sponsored top (suddenly thinks: please, no, not the away colours…….) and brandishing a half-chewed biro?

Who knows? All we can say is that domestic news must clearly be very thing on the ground. On a personal note, and I make no apologies for mentioning this again, the season review e-book was last night up to #5 in the Amazon kindle download charts for football. The meat in a Gareth Southgate / Harry Redknapp sandwich.

The reason for continuing to push this is that ALL monies received from anyone kind enough to download one go to the Rob Rowan Memorial fund for CRY. If you could pick up a copy, it would be the most incredibly received gesture whilst may even provide a few moments of entertainment. A Last Word compendium looking back at how we made it onto the Premier league aswell as including all the programme articles from the season, columns which have never been published on line before (there may be a reason for that). As ever, the link is here.

Next up, ITV football. Cue rant about commentators. About adverts. About Hoddle Twaddle style punditry as cringey as The Spice Boys nickname. About cliche by numbers. Yet for those of us just coming in from work last night, the Croatia – Spain game brought us Emma Hayes in the co-commentator’s seat. My word, how good was she? Somebody who actually explained how the game was unfolding, what the teams were doing and the thought process around it rather than just repeating what the anchor had said or we had all just seen. A genuine breath of fresh air in a seat which has so long been the home of repetitive sound bite by numbers. With the Chelsea manager earning what felt like universal acclaim, all of a sudden ITV may not be the poison chalice it might have been when we come down to the decision of which challenge to watch the final on.

All being well, England will be present in that one. Tuesday evening’s game with Germany is about as big as it gets in terms of history. In terms of occasion. Expect mention of 1966 and penalties. Of ruthless efficiency. Of Joachim Löw sniffing his fingers, wherever they may have been moments prior. Cripes, we may aswell just get a bingo card together right now. 

But also expect England to progress. For all Germany are the historic powerhouse of European football, their performances have so far been a very mixed bag. England, on the other hand, may not be setting the world on fire in terms of blockbusting wins but with 7 (seven) points out of 9 from the group stage and no goals conceded, it is perfect progression. Perfect cup football. Get another win on the board and keep going. Gareth Southgate’s game management spot on, so far.

One could almost say, ruthlessly efficient….

Nick Bruzon

Last chance to get it free. Or pay through the nose.

25 Jun

The Premier League is inching towards us. Fixtures are out and, by now, there can’t be any among us aware that Brentford will kick things off at home to Arsenal on Friday 13th August. Instead, with the Euros on brief hiatus we can amuse ourselves waiting for the announcement about Frank Onyeka joining from Midtjylland, figuring out how we can get into the pre-season friendly at Old Trafford, looking at who might be charging the most to watch the Bees next season (Chelsea and Manchester United amongst the not unexpected candidates) and there is, as ever season review downloads to, err, download.

We’ll start with the last point first. Today, Friday, is the last day in the current promotion that all past season reviews can be downloaded for free. If anybody wants to get the last 7(seven) or so seasons’ worth of e-books for kindle / reader then you can do so here. If I could keep them up for free I would but Amazon like to charge for their services so please, dive in today if they are of interest.

The most recent edition – 2020/21 – is also available. You can get that one here. As a new release, that does cost but its a great story (poorly told, I grant you) and, more importantly, any monies received are going to the Rob Rowan memorial fund for CRY. So please, if not for the endless frustration with Mrs Browns Boys, download a copy to help a wonderful cause.

Next up, corporate hospitality. Trevor from the GPG has been sharing some of these on social media. It’s mentioned more for curiosity than any genuine shock value. We all know the cost of football keeps on going up and up. The stories of our ‘elite’ clubs are well documented. So no surprises as to what comes next but if you are able to get a ‘regular’ ticket for next season then the following options are also available.

Manchester United – £600 to see Brentford in action. Their ‘No.7’ package includes a luxury, padded seat as well as blankets to take pitch side . Plus champagne, five course dining and the usual bar options.

Arsenal – £1440 for a pair of Heritage tickets. Includes cocktails, five course dining and bar. No mention of blankets

Chelsea – £840 for the Diamonsd suite which includes a four course meal, balcony seat and complimentary bar. At that price, and they’d want to be less complimentary and more kissing my butt for three hours.

Does anyone charge more? Possibly. Life’s too short to plough through the websites of the other 19 other clubs in the league. Good luck to them. Good luck to those who can afford it. This is hardly some ‘Watchdog’ style expose. Free market economy and all that. For me, with an ST at Lionel Road still coming in at less than one ‘top price’ game at Manchester United (let alone elsewhere) I know where my money is going. All being well, we’ll be able to travel away this season and can then take our place with the rest of our fans once more.

Cripes, I’ve missed away games so much during lockdown and can;t wait to get back on the road. Even if it is a Monday night shlep to Burnley. £600+ is a leap too far though. If it comes to that then it’ll be a case of dodgy internet feed or hoping the game is on TV .

Otherwise, there’s not much going on. The waiting game continues. Primarily for the nre kit. In your own time, ‘official’. The transfer rumour mill is relatively quiet beyond our wondering if Frank Onyeka will chose state of the art pen or a half chewed BIC. Fantasy football is now up and running, with the Brentford squad available. Ivan Toney is, apparently, in the top five of all selections. At that price, no real surprise. He’s almost cheaper than VIP treatment at Chelsea.

My front line is set

Where did all the noise come from?

20 Jun

Exciting times. Brentford now know we’ll be first up in the Premier League. Our opening game, the visit of Arsenal to Lionel Road, now brought forward for TV and will be played under lights on Friday 13th August. A fixture list already bristling with early season promise – Liverpool, Chelsea and Leicester City all due in TW8 before the clocks change – now sees the third placed Bees with an opportunity to top the pack and send Arsenal bottom of the fledgling table. It’s going to immense. We all loved Griffin Park, no question, but if we learned one thing last season it is that our new home at Lionel Road is a cauldron of noise. Just ask Bournemouth. And that was with 4,200 present. Imagine the noise when full? Imagine walking out of there on the Friday night, sitting at the top of the Premier League… One can dream.

How did we get here? That’s not something posed in any metaphysical sense but more asked to reflect on how we are even able to entertain the lunacy that is us talking about topping the Premier League. Our little bus stop in Hounslow could be sitting above the likes of Liverpool, Champions of Europe Chelsea and the other 17 (seventeen) illustrious names we’ll be playing. I mean, we are already but points in the bag are ten times better than alphabetical order. All we need to do is beat Arsenal. Easy. In theory.

And to answer the question….well, it’s that time of year once more. Season review time. As ever, the collected ‘Last Word’ posts aswell as all the match day programme blog columns (not previously published online) have been collated in e-book form for our 2020/21 retrospective.

A look back at the strangest of Championship seasons. One played out in mostly silence (barring the ‘200’ we smuggled in for the QPR game) from that opening fixture against Birmingham City in September through to the play-off final at Wembley and beyond.   

The latest volume is available now for kindle and other e-book reader devices / apps from the Amazon store. You can get it here. 

Normally the few quid it raises is then given to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust although things are a little different this time around. Should anybody be kind enough to download a copy, any and all monies received from this / previous volumes will be going to Rob Rowan’s memorial fund. 

There can’t be anyone associated with Brentford who isn’t aware of Rob’s work as Technical Director or his tragic passing from an undiagnosed heart condition at the age of just 28. His family have been supporting CRY (Cardiac Risk in the Young) since his passing, a charity whose aims include preventing young sudden cardiac deaths through awareness, screening and research aswell as providing bereavement counselling for affected families. 

Rob’s memorial will fund future screenings to allow young people between ages of 14-35 to be checked for free (something the government doesn’t currently support).

A first screening was held at Syon Park back in 2019 although the pandemic has meant that these have been unable to be held since. The next intent being to hold a full weekend in Fife, Scotland, and another in Brentford (hopefully at the new stadium) allowing over 400 young people to be screened. Dates for those are hoped to be known soon.

It would be fair to say that Rob’s vision played a monumental part in helping us reach the holy grail of top flight football. Without him, who knows where we’d be?  For anybody wanting to know or more about CRY or donate directly, you can do so, here.

Nick Bruzon