Archive | England RSS feed for this section

Coming home or going to Rome? Mowbray or Matterface? Doctor, no.

11 Jul

Sunday. Not long now until England face Italy at Wembley to decide who will be crowned Euro 2020 Champions. Will football be coming home or going to Rome? Yet the main team battle will, of course, be between ITV and BBC. Which channel will viewers opt for? Which set of pundits and commentators will the viewing public choose? Back in Brentford, we’ve the usual transfer rumours (Liverpool  – Harry Wilson – and Celtic – Kris Ajer –  the latest clubs linked to the Bees) although any actual substance is about as rare as somebody joining the England Supporters Band fanclub. So we’ll gloss over that unless time permits.

Besides, it’s all about Wembley today. A chance for the Three Lions to finally get their hands on some silverware. Assuming the Jules Rimet doesn’t count (for those unaware, England  / West Ham did lift that golden trophy back in 1966. If only somebody had said). It’s going to be huge. It’s going to be exciting. It’s going to be laden with cliche. It’s going to be a titanic battle. It’s going to be ITV v BBC. But which way to go?

The head and heart immediately lean away from ITV. And there are only two words needed. Sam. Matterface. An over excitable puppy of a commentator, well out of his depth on a big occasion and doing everything possible to get on everybody’s nerves with his OTT enthusiasm. Think Scrappy Doo with a microphone. How many people lost their jobs this week as a result of his giving us all the day off? Oh, the scenes. (cringe).  

What about the BBC? The calm experience of Guy Mowbray in the commentary box. Lineker, Shearer and Lampard in the studio. Along with Rio Ferdinand (used to play for Manchester United. Mentioned it once). The rock solid Gabby Logan out on the touchline with Alex Scott and Jürgen Klinsmann. Plus the benefit of no adverts – although I wouldn’t put it past them to sneak one in there for Doctor Who. They’ve got form at this sort of thing. Sadly.

Who could forget how during the 2014 World Cup final they crowbarred the trailer for the then forthcoming new series into the middle of the half-time analysis. It was a horribly awkward moment. Lineker, for once, seemed genuinely lost for words as any momentum for the second half was immediately washed away. It was a moment that caused the remote control to switch channels to ITV, and for that to happen… 

Then, in 2016, there was the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley between Everton (not a typo) and Manchester United. It should have been one to get the juices flowing but instead, the BBC once again delivered a Tardis shaped turd by using the game to announce the identity of Doctor Who’s new…. ‘assistant’. Not even the eponymous Doctor (like Fox, not a real doctor) but merely his sidekick. 

Please. No. As was noted at the time I like Doctor Who (much to Mrs Bruzon’s chagrin) and have what could politely be called more than a passing interest in the great game of football. Yet to jam them together just seems like some cheap-arsed attempt to boost audience figures. It is one that detracts from both events. To be honest, even making ‘an event’ out of a new cast member for the Sci-Fi classic seems like an unnecessary stunt, anyway.

So sure, the BBC may have a strong team but they always have the threat of a rogue timelord. Don’t put it past new ‘companion’ John Bishop (a Liverpool fan, I’m led to believe) putting in an appearance to kill the football vibe. 

Let’s not forget, either, that ITV have two absolute trump cards up their sleeve.

Firstly, the wonderful Emma Hayes on punditry duty. We’ve waxed lyrical about her already on these pages and I can never hear enough of her in-game analysis. Then, there’s the jewel in the crown of TV football – Roy Keane. He’s worth the admission money alone for what could politely be called ‘forthright’ views. His duels (think of a cat toying with a spider) with Adrian Chiles were the stuff of legend and he still continues to shine.  

It really IS a tough choice. The BBC aren’t the shoe-in that, at first glance, you might think. Could Keane and Hayes pull Matterface out of the… deep end? His time will come, just perhaps for now he needs the support.

Might the beeb run themselves out with their own self promotion? A hare and a tortoise of a commentary race with an equally surprise ending? Like England v Italy itself, I can’t call this one. It’s too tight. Home or Rome? Matterface or Mowbray? It should be Rocky v Drago. The underdog v the Colossus. But shocks can happen. Cripes, if Brentford can win at Wembley then anything is possible. Roll on 8pm when we find out.

Nick Bruzon

Current body state is….

8 Jul

Can’t. Function. Got a P.T. session scheduled to start in less than an hour. In between then and now, a school run to prep for. A packed lunch to make for H. Thanks a bunch Harry Kane. Thanks England. Thanks Gareth. I blame you all. In the nicest possible sense. My word. I want to talk Euro 2020. I want to look back on that marvellous 2-1 win over Denmark. About the pain and pleasure of a penalty kick being rolled up into one snapshot moment. About how, watching it in The Griffin, we were spared the ITV commentary (reports this morning suggest it was ‘challenging’, even if Sam Matterface has, apparently, let us all have the day off) given the excitement and noise being generated by the rest of the pub. About finding to find that Brentford connection.  

So instead, it’ll be a case of being shouted at for an hour by a QPR fan out in the park for my own inability to complete a press up. About rather than taking the usual sandwiches, fruit and other things to school today H can make do with a box of sugar puffs for lunch.

If you want the Brentford aspect then we’ve still got The Last Word 2020/21 season review available on line. All proceeds go to charity (CRY) and that has more Jensen / Norgaard news than you can shake a stick at. And if you would like to read more then you can do so here.

I’m sure I’m not alone. Current body state is :

Have a good day. Here’s to everything being right and proper by the time 9am comes around. Here’s to Mrs. B making the sandwiches today !

Nick Bruzon 

What do ‘that’ band see when they look in the mirror?

7 Jul

This is it. Later tonight England host Denmark in the Euro 2020 semis. At stake, a place in Sunday’s final against Italy. Themselves winners in the penalty shoot-out on Tuesday evening. Aside from the much noted Brentford connection, there’s also Bees news from closer to home with the game against Liverpool and the trip to Wolves also joining our visit from Arsenal on the early season TV fixture list. For those wanting ‘in’ to those games, yesterday’s announcements about tickets and memberships will certainly have a huge impact so do read up on that one. 

First up, the Euros. I’ve woken up this morning to ‘Kasper’ trending on Twitter. Hmm, who could they mean? The Korean rapper? Former Australian cricketer Michael Kasprowicz? The friendly ghost? (getting tenuous, now). Of course, it could only be Denmark goalkeeper Schmeichel. He appears to have upset a lot of people with his response to the question: 

What would it mean to you guys to stop it ‘coming home’ tomorrow night?” in yesterday’s press conference. 

Call it banter. Call it fact. Call it what you want. There was no denying the sabre rattling with his response:  

 Has it ever been home? Have you ever won it?” 

Good man! Love it. And to be fair, with his dad in the team that actually won the tournament back in 1992 one could argue that football has, at least, been to the Schmeichel home. Yet at the same time, nobody could deny the revival of the incredible Euro ’96 anthem (the less said about the subsequent re-recordings the better) has been a galvanising force of nature. The fans adore it in a manner that the England Supporters’ ‘band’ can only look on and marvel at with envious eyes.  A Wicked Witch staring into the mirror but rather than seeing Snow White, instead casting eyes on Frank Skinner, David Baddiel and The Lightning Seeds.   

When the England Supporter’s ‘band’ look in the mirror…

The radio is playing it to death. It was amazing being a part of it back in ’96 and now we’re there once more. Regardless of past prowess, it’s the England fans’ song and their moment. Of course it is going to be of insignificance to Denmark. Their focus can only be on their own progression. Of course they’ll look to play it down. Yet, equally, only a fool would ignore the huge advantage that what is effectively home support will bring.  

Gareth Southgate has, as ever, attempted to play things down. Even seeming to mirror the thoughts of the Denmark ‘keeper, as he noted that, “We don’t have as good a football history as we like to believe sometimes. 

That’s all true but you can’t deny the feeling of excitement in the air. The game against Germany in 1996 saw England come within an outstretched boot of making the final before succumbing to the inevitable heartbreak of penalties. Denmark, winners four years earlier , will also be looking to history for inspiration. Something has to give when kick-off comes around. With Mathias Jensen and Christian Norgaard both coming off the bench on a regular basis, what are the odds it’ll involve the Brentford contingent? Roll on 8pm when we find out. 

clunky photoshop for our boys

Back home, we’ve had a few days off on these pages. In between, it was confirmed that along with Arsenal, two more Brentford games have been moved for TV. The trip to Wolves on Saturday 18 September now has a 12.30pm. kick off. That one’s on BT Sport. The next weekend’s visit from Liverpool has been pushed back a few hours to a tea-time 5.30pm kick off on Sky Sports. The date remains the same. Saturday 25th. No real surprises here and it least it means the trips to Crystal Palace and Aston Villa can now be planned with some degree of accuracy. Albeit subject to whatever curtailment of Lockdown and social distancing is announced on July 19th  

For those wanting ‘in’, Brentford official have now announced that no more season tickets will be sold. Instead, the remaining allocation of seats at Lionel Road will now be available to on a game by game basis, with priority going to members. At the same time, our new membership scheme has launched with the club making the promise that subject to a few understandable conditions, supporters signing up before August 13 will have guaranteed priority to at least one home league match during the 2021/22 season. 

Full details are on the website. You can read them, here. Please do if you want a chance of getting in to a game this season. If the atmosphere against Bournemouth in the play-off semi was anything to go by, this is going to be immense… 

And as a final thought, the entire Last Word from 2019/20 aswell as all the programme articles (previously unpublished on line) and our season-finale guest columns from Natalie Sawyer and Kitman Bob remain available for download. The later in particular, my favourite column of the season as the inside story of the big build up to Wembley was revealed.

With all proceeds going to Rob Rowan’s memorial fund for CRY, we couldn’t be looking to try and help a better or more personal cause to Brentford FC. If anybody can spare a few quid to help and wants to get hold of an amazing story, told averagely, then they can do so hereTHANK YOU.

Nick Bruzon

Dark arts and fine goals. Plenty to keep us talking whilst waiting on the kit.

4 Jul

England humped Ukraine 4-0 in the Euro 2020 last eight, setting up a Wednesday night semi-final against Denmark. This, despite the best efforts of one Brentford legend. The Danes earlier victors over Czech Republic with dynamic Brentford duo Mathias Jensen and Christian Norgaard once again helping see that one out. A 60,000 crowd will be present at Wembley to see what has already been dubbed: Phil v Rasmus. At least, in TW8. By one person. And in domestic news, or rather, lack of domestic news we’re only six weeks away from the Premier League kick off with Arsenal yet still remain in the dark about what we’ll be wearing. Come on Bob, show us the kit.

First up though, the Euros. Wasn’t that quite the stroll in the end? The Denmark game certainly whetted the appetite for what felt like the main event later in the evening. Their 2-1 win crowned by a defence splitting pass from Joakim Maehle with the outside of the boot to tee up Kasper Dolberg for the Danes’ second just before half time. It was a moment of sublime skill. The ball delivered with all the finesse of Postman Pat, falling perfectly for Dolberg and all but ensuring progression before the quartered oranges had been served up and the tea poured. 

Perfection

The Czechs pulled one back early into the second period but that was as good as it got. The Brentford connection coming on to help settle any nerves and steer the team through. What a contrast from that awful moment in the game with Finland. What a way to recompose yourselves. Team spirit and incentive like never before. England won’t have it easy on Wednesday evening, that’s for sure.

If Gareth Southgate had urged caution and not getting carried away after the win against Germany, he’s going to have his hands full expecting the same restraint this team around. Football’s coming home etc etc being the quite understandable refrain. England were magnificent. Ukraine made to look non-existent. Harry Kane answering his recent critics in some style with a brace to follow up his goal against the Germans. The first coming with just four minutes on the clock and any pressure that might have been felt immediately dissipating. It stayed at the solitary effort, albeit never under threat, until half-time. And then – boom. First Harry Maguire and then Kane with his second put it out of sight within five minutes of the restart. My word. It was nuts. 

With Jordan Henderson making it four just after the hour, young Harry turned to me and asked, “Dad? Do you think they’ll get brackets?”. Cripes, I’d have put nothing past them although sadly, it wasn’t to be. Instead, England had to stick on a mere four goals. Kane almost hitting the hat-trick with a blockbuster of a shot that would have rivalled Ivan Toney at Wembley in the ‘Imagine if that had gone in’ stakes.

Who cares whether it was 1, 2 ,4 or 7(seven)? Nobody. All that matters in a tournament is getting through and last night saw two teams doing it in style.  We talk about the Danish spirit but the same could be said for England. Gareth Southgate would note this after the game, saying that, “We’re in the semi-final because of that spirit….I’ve seen lots of nations go out of tournaments because they haven’t got the spirit these boys have got.”

There was nothing going to stop this one. England with the momentum to see past any attempt to beat them. By fair means or foul. Even from the Brentford contingent with Natalie Sawyer regaling listeners to her Talksport breakfast show on Sunday with the story of how her other half ordered Chicken Kiev for dinner in the pub. Any attempt to call in the dark arts and sabotage the England effort. 

Oh, Dougie. Nice try but such nonsense will never work. Honestly, who believes in such omen related stuff…? Instead, we’ve got our magic shirts on and lucky table already reserved for Wednesday evening. It’s going to be monstrous. It’s going to be magnificent. With England having played the quarter final out in Rome, the morning has been full of laboured puns about Italian jobs and London calling once more for what will be an epic clash. 

Tasty.

Morale and momentum is high. The opposition not really being given a thought at present. Could Brentford derail the national express? Imagine the meltdown if Jensen or Norgaard popped up with a late winner or key moment ? If a certain cult hero started loading up on the bacon sandwiches? Roll on Wednesday night when we find out which way this one’s going to go.

Back in Brentford, well nothing. No news. No sighting. The obvious question being – Where? Is? The? Kit? Come on already. We’ve just over a month until the Premier League starts with that Arsenal game yet no clue. Not even a sighting of updated training gear. No idea what our latest attempt to reinvent the red and white stripes will look like. No clue as to whether we’ll be looking to new ‘away’ colours. The hot money / wishful thinking (delete as applicable) still favouring the sartorial thing of beauty that is the sash. Think Peru ’78. Southampton. Crystal Palace. Think Manchester City pulling off one of the best efforts in modern times whilst Hull City AFC have been blessed by Umbro this time around….. 

Who doesn’t love a sash?

It can’t be long, surely? With some sort of deal with ‘The Turmeric Company’ already hinted at by Brentford official, could this dictate a new shirt sponsor or (please no) vivid yellow-orange change colours? Will it drop from nowhere? A street art ‘fly poster campaign? We’ve even used the fans a few times. Kitman Bob – if you are reading (you aren’t) I remain available. One things for sure, the less serious, more light hearted campaigns are always well received.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter who launches it. We just want to see it. At this rate, I’m seriously concerned we’ll be running out in shirts v skins when Arsenal come calling.

Is this a clue?

And as a final thought, the entire Last Word from 2019/20 aswell as all the programme articles (previously unpublished on line) and our season-finale guest columns from Natalie Sawyer and Kitman Bob remain available for download. The later in particular, my favourite column of the season as the inside story of the big build up to Wembley was revealed. With all proceeds going to Rob Rowan’s memorial fund for CRY, we couldn’t be looking to try and help a better or more personal cause to Brentford FC. If anybody can spare a few quid to help and wants to get hold of an amazing story, told averagely, then they can do so here. THANK YOU.

Nick Bruzon

New signings and, perhaps, a familiar face?

2 Jul

Exciting times. The Euro 2020 quarter finals are upon us and it is now July. Meaning the Premier League starts next month. Brentford, obviously, have have what could politely be called ‘interest’ in both. Our opener with Arsenal made all the more intriguing, as if the appetite needed whetting any further, by Thursday’s transfer news. Not to mention puns ahoy. England face Ukraine in Saturday evening’s last 8 game of the Euros and we’ve one last catch up on the season review book. 

First up, transfer news. Brentford official announced the widely rumoured signing of Daniel Oyegoke from Arsenal yesterday. The eighteen year old right back goes straight into the B team squad having signed on a three year contract with the option for an additional year. The obvious comparison is to Josh Dasilva (here’s hoping we get a positive injury update on him when the players return from summer holidays) who also joined from the Arsenal youth set up, albeit having made a handful of EFL cup appearances, back in 2018. To say he has progressed stratospherically would be somewhat of an understatement. Now an England U-21 and very much the one that got away, having joined for nothing after turning down a new contract at Highbury.

For Daniel, the exit of Henrik Dalsgaard suggested changes would have to come in that berth. How quickly the transition from B team to first team will be made, remains to be seen of course. Happen it will though. One thing our DOFs have done is absolutely nail the recruitment process in recent years. From the early days of Proschwitz or Dijkhuizen we’ve had a procession of shrewd talent at every level. The likes of Watkins, Benrahma and Konsa. Roerslev, Dasilva and Sorensen very much the norm now. The chance to join Brentford these days very much a marker in an indiviudual’s ability as well as their own chances of future progression.

Daniel isn’t alone. The club offered out a welcome of ‘Hey, Jude’ with central defender Jude Russell also joining the B team set up. He signs for a year from Crystal Palace, having already spent time with us in what is now last season. One of the many ‘trialist’ shirts now has a name behind it aswell as an obvious source of headlines and lazy puns should the player be involved in just about anything. Good news indeed for lazy bloggers and even lazier journalists.

You can read the full stories and actual facts about both players over on Brentford official.

Hey, Jude ( official got there first on Twitter. Don’t blame me)

Next up, our promotion from the Championship. As any semi-regular reader will know by now we’ve documented this in e-book form. The entire Last Word from 2019/20 aswell as all the programme articles (previously unpublished on line) and out season-finale guest columns from Natalie Sawyer and Kitman Bob. The later in particular, my favourite column of the season as the inside story of the big build up to Wembley was revealed.  

With all proceeds going to Rob Rowan’s memorial fund for CRY, we couldn’t be looking to try and help a better or more personal cause to Brentford FC. This is the last time I’ll give this the full fat plug so will simply end by thanking everyone who has downloaded a copy so far and asking anybody else who can spare a few quid and wants to get hold of an amazing story, told averagely, then they can do so here. THANK YOU.

Finally, the BIG story this weekend (short of Phil and Rasmus making a surprise swoop for out of contract Lionel Messi – hey, you read it here first) can only be the Euros. Friday sees Switzerland – Spain and then Belgium – Italy, with the big ones for the majority of us on Saturday. Then, of course, the Czech Republic face a Denmark side in which both Mathias Jensen and Christian Norgaard have been integral over the tournament.

The denouement of the quarters sees Ukraine take on England in Rome. That one’s going to be huge. No England supporters are ‘officially’ going to be there. Will any get through? Of course. Will Billy be there with his selfie-stick? (Grant, not Reeves). If anyone makes it to Italy it will be him. 

Which Billy will we get on Saturday?

Yet, regardless of who is in the stadium, you can bet the pubs back home will be jammed. Sofas heaving under the weight of both supporters and expectation. Gareth Southgate has been magnificent in his approach and team selection so far. No goals conceded and England magnificent in turning the screw against Germany during the week. A 2-0 win nothing more than absolutely deserved. 

Will they deliver more of the same? The bookies certainly think so with England generally priced at 2/5 to win this one. For the victors, the chance of a further stab at glory against either Czech Republic or Denmark. Should things fall the right way, that’s one midfield battle I can’t wait to see unfold. Here’s hoping…

From Lionel Road to the Euros…

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

This was something special…

8 Jul

What a day. What an afternoon. What a party long into the evening (for those of us who didn’t nod off briefly during extra time of the Russia game – move along, nothing to see here). Who’d have thought it? Did it really happen? Yes it bloody well did!! Liverpool hit brackets in a 7(seven) – 0 pre-season friendly. Oh, and England reached the semi-final of the World Cup. Elsewhere, hats off to the Brentford LGBT Bees who missed the game (at least on TV) to attend the Pride parade in London. Huge kudos there and great to see a special guest from Griffin Park.

However, and with the greatest respect to Liverpool, Chester and Brentford, there’s only one place to start. Unless you are a fan of Peter Gilham’s ever wonderful tour diary – day 1 is now up. Of course its England. It’s the World Cup. It’s a semi-final against Croatia. This, after Sweden were despatched in a style far more comfortable than anybody had a right to expect

We watched it in The Griffin. HB’s first proper World Cup match in that communal atmosphere. Wow. He’s hooked. “Daddy, daddy. That’s Young. He’s going to take the corner and we might get a goal.”  Sure enough, it happened. Harry Maguire powered home Ashley Young’s corner. With it, the pressure of a cagey first twenty minutes fell away and another example of why you should never take them short had been administered.

The game opened up. Another pint enjoyed. Chances came. England pushed. 1 up at half time. The semi-final in sight. Jordan Pickford performing heroics to keep England alive as Sweden looked for the equaliser. Then Dele Ali did his thing. Another header. 2-0. Half an hour to go. The finish line in sight? Surely this was in the bag? Landlord, a beer. I need something to calm the nerves.

Never in doubt. The moment of triumph was one met with another gigantic roar that echoed around Brook Road, Braemar Road and probably beyond Griffin Park. Only a third ever World Cup semi final for England in the entire history of football. For many young fans, their first ever. History unfolding before them. For others, the flashbacks to Italia 90 still seem as though they were just five minutes ago.

Fairplay to Sweden but this was something special. A wonderful moment to experience on both a footballing and a personal note. A son who has just turned five and taking all this in his stride. Totally absorbed by the football and telling me the players. Describing the match action. Shrieking with excitement at the prospect of England now being in the last four. Talking to people he’s never met before about a World Cup run that has captivated the nation.

IMG_E4101

The Griffin. The moment…

Appreciate this is all a bit nonsensical today. I’m all over the place. And that was as much due to staying on to see who will play England in that semi. Croatia being the answer, after another penalty shoot out win. So I’m just going to stop short now.

Albeit wishing the aforementioned kudos and big love to our LGBT Bees. And Buzz Bee. This tweet, of all I saw yesterday, made me smile the most. Except, perhaps, the Belgians celebrating their victory over Brazil…..

Nick Bruzon

Can England join magnificent Japan in the hunt for a monster upset?

3 Jul

Bloody hell. Football. I think we’re all starting to run out of superlatives after yet another stunning evening of World Cup action. And this is before we even get on to England! Monday night’s game between Belgium and Japan showcased the beautiful game at her most alluring. It was one you simply couldn’t have made up and had it all – shock, excitement, wonderful goals, an edge of the seat comeback and then bitter, bitter tears at the end as Roberto Martinez and his team scraped through by the most gossamer like of margins. It was marked contrast from the earlier game where the acting skills of Neymar will remain forever branded onto the memories of most fans rather than a 2-0 win for Brazil over Mexico. And back home, with rumours starting to circulate (we’ll get there properly when something actual happens) Brentford have now announced one move.

I’m struggling to describe the emotions of watching the Belgium – Japan encounter. Even now I’m both smiling at what unfolded yet devastated at how it finished. And that’s having only seen the final 45 minutes. This, after a problem at the office (genuinely) meant I was just coming in from work as the second half kicked off. Sadly, there was no helpful score update from the commentary team. Instead it was down to the graphic in the top corner to bring things up to speed in an immediate, if somewhat unsatisfying, style. But that was where any disappointment ended.

Talk about an explosion of action. Talk about Boy’s Own stuff. Talk about underdogs and unfancied Japan sticking it to the Premier League fat cats. Belgium, for all they galaxy of stars available to their squad were simply blown away. Jan Vertonghen left for dead by Genki Haraguchi who scored with a fine finish. It was defending as leaden footed as Gary Breen at his most oil tanker like (I’m thinking of Sunderland at Brentford in the 2006 FA Cup) but don’t let that take anything away from Haraguchi’s run and shot just after half time.

Embed from Getty Images

One for the Bees fans, there. What a moment.

Less than five minutes later the lead was doubled. Takashi Inui with an absolute piledriver of a shot from well outside the box. A blow as powerful as Godzilla laying waste to downtown Tokyo with his flaming breath but this time it was the Japanese handing out the pain rather than receiving it.

The football was devastating, it was brutal but it was brilliant. A quite scintillating display of moving the ball and running at pace. Yet still they came. Belgium looked lost. Little boys crying out for their mummys after having being promised an easy second round game but, instead, taking an absolute hammering. Fattened lambs to the slaughter after being fed a load of waffle about their opponents.

2015-04-09-TOK601_RTRIDSP_3_JAPAN-ENTERTAINMENT-870x576

The king of the monsters, laying waste to all around

All over social media, Gareth Southgate was being praised for his tactical genius. Not in avoiding the supposed hard part of the draw but simply in England dodging a team who seemed intent on providing this most exciting of tournaments with yet another shock.

And then Belgium woke up. The double substitution of Marouane Fellaini and Nacer Chadli coming on was followed by Vertonghen atoning for his earlier error with 20 minutes to go. Five minutes later, Fellaini powered home a cross form Hazard to level things up. 2-2 and the clock ticking. Japan recomposed themselves and kept coming. A free kick at the death almost drifting in before a quite magnificent move out of the back opened up the Japan midfield and back line for Chadli to stroke home with just seconds remaining.

It was a goal as heartbreaking as it was beautiful. Godzilla having been finally subdued by the footballing equivalent of a freeze ray. With what seemed to be the entire nation willing on Japan, you had to admire the speed and skill with which the winner was scored. Even if it was begrudgingly. The coup de grâce being Lukaku’s sweet dummy when he could have been forgiven for trying to stab the ball goalwards but, instead, allowing it to run through to his teammate to break their opponents’ hearts  

The Japanese were distraught. Understandably so. I had to turn off within moments of the final whistle as they collapsed to the pitch in despair. It felt as though we were intruding on some private moment of grief after having been afforded the privilege of witnessing some of the most breathtaking football in history. Indtead, it was left to their coach Akira Nishino to sum it up:  “I don’t want to admit it. I do feel that it was a tragedy but I have to accept the defeat as a fact.”

It was a million miles away from what we will remember from the earlier game. Brazil beat Mexico 2-0 to set up a quarter final with Belgium. Fine. But the theatrics from Neymar Jr, writhing around as though he had been shot, brought torrents of disdain from just about the entire footballing community. It was Rivaldo levels of farce. Acting as unsubtle as Mrs. Brown and a moment that what about as unfunny as Brendan O’Carroll’s tedious creation.

This sequence on my Twitter timeline summing the day up in one screen grab.   

Screen Shot 2018-07-03 at 06.25.12

And so the quarter finals are starting to take shape. This one really is up for grabs now. Whilst anyone could win it, looking at the games to come, anyone really could. But will England join them?

Gareth Southgate’s team do battle with Colombia this evening. On the pitch, it’s 11 v11. Off it, we have England v the curse of ITV.

Whilst I spoke about this earlier in the week, it does bear repeating. England have only one one World Cup game that has been shown on the light channel since 1998. That, back in Germany 2006 against Trinidad and Tobago. Even then, it took two very late goals (Peter Crouch after 83 minutes and Steven Gerrard on 90) to secure three points for Sven’s team. Ah, Sven – remember him?

Can England turn form around? After a World Cup of shocks, I wouldn’t bet against Gareth Southgate pulling off the biggest upset of the tournament to date. Victory under the gaze of Glenn Hoddle.

Screen Shot 2018-06-30 at 06.20.54

The stats don’t lie…

And finally, Brentford. There was transfer news of sorts. Theo Archibald has joined League Two outfit Forest Green Rovers for 2018/19 (albeit with the option to recall in January). You can read the full story on ‘official’ .

All of which brings us with sledgehammer like unsubtlety to the Last Word season /five-season reviews which remain available for download. ALL proceeds received are being donated to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust so why not help out this wonderful part of our club whilst providing yourself with some relief for the commute, the bathroom or just whilst relaxing on holiday.

Ten Times Better. Brentford FC Season review: 2017/18. Inspired by ‘that’ interview it contains the least bad of these columns in one, handy volume as it looks at our own campaign as well as wider divisional life and the promotion / relegation races.

As a bonus there’s a whole host of new material. New that is, for my pages. Specifically, all the programme articles submitted (both home and away where, if nothing else, you can get the original versions of both Birmingham City and Millwall).

In addition, There Is No Plan B. Brentford FC Season reviews: 2013/14 – 2017/18 takes us all the way back to the start of this latest leg in the journey. That penalty. League One. Harlee Dean was a hero. Jota was something we thought happened to the temperature for one week in July. Alan Judge had joined on loan whilst the Marinus Experiment was something nobody had contemplated. Bringing things bang up to date by the inclusion of this year’s volume alongside the four previously published campaign round ups, it has five seasons in one weighty tome. As weighty as a download can be, that is.

Relive the memories. See how often the same material gets regurgitated. Remind yourself how it all began…..

Nick Bruzon

No stripes? Adidas sell fans short with back and sides. And why England could be in trouble on Tuesday.

30 Jun

Saturday morning. After a day to recover from England reaching the knockout stages following Gareth Southgate’s quite magnificent game of bluff against Belgium, the action picks up again with the quite delicious prospect of France and Argentina meeting in direct, winner stays on, combat. Back home, Brentford have revealed the first news about our new home shirt and it has the fans talking – thanks to the machinations of the good folk at Adidas. Plus today is the last day for one fan to win my own prize – the limited edition 2017/18 Bees ‘third shirt’ given to me by a source close to the club. The draw will take place tomorrow.

Where to begin? Well I suppose it can only be England. A second round tie with Colombia awaits following Thursday night’s 1-0 defeat to Belgium. It is a defeat that sees the team in the, so called, easier half of the draw – a comment that is as patronising as it is foolish; should things go wrong. On the flip side, swerving the likes of Argentina, Brazil, France and Portugal (for now, at least) is no bad thing and let’s not pretend that for those of us watching back home, there wasn’t what felt like a huge silver lining to the cloud of defeat. As my good friend Paul (with apologies for going all Ian Moose) said in the pub with the clock showing 85 minutes, “Holding on for defeat has never felt so tense.

Yet whatever the result, the game is as much best remembered for a master stroke from Gareth Southgate. With Roberto Martinez telegraphing his intention to utilise the full squad long before kick-off in what he deemed “a celebration game”, Gareth was making all the right noises about playing to win. Playing his team. And then he announced it. Boom. Eight changes. I’ve not seen this much rotation since watching the magic roundabout as a child.

So the B-team lost. And? The fans, which included Brentford big cheeses Mark Devlin and Mike Sullivan seemed to enjoy themselves. Beesotted sharing this picture on their own Twitter feed.

DgyMNizXkAAlbSo

Two businessmen on a jolly to Russia. What could go wrong…?

It sounded a phenomenal atmosphere with, thankfully, that band being drowned out for large sections of the game. At least, that was the perception for those of us who had just come in from work and were watching back home. Great work all round – long may it continue.

Yet whatever the mechanics of the draw and the group stages, it could all be in vain for England. With Tuesday’s game being shown on ITV, a stat reaches me via former Brentford video whizzkid and Alex Pritchard lookalike Sean Ridley…..

Screen Shot 2018-06-30 at 06.20.54

The stats don’t lie…

Wow. That’s incredible. Who’d have thought the Glenn Hoddle effect was that far reaching? Yet as we’ve also said on these pages many times, it’s goals and not stats that win games. Here’s hoping that transpires to be the case this time around. Moreso, given Brentford chairman Cliff Crown will be in attendance, having been offered a very special opportunity.

He announced on Twitter yesterday that: I am delighted and honoured to have been asked to be one of the representatives from the  professional game as an English FA ambassador at the England v Columbia game in Russia.

This is special news. We all know how affable and generous with his time Cliff is. What a wonderful ambassador he is for our own club and the game in general. How hard he works to promote Brentford and the FA. So how wonderful to see him afforded this chance. Nice one, Cliff.

Finally. The second round. It IS the second round although I would also accept the last 16. Please, whatever FIFA may try to convince you, there is no such thing as ‘the round of 16’. Much like the faux verb ‘to medal’ or our own ‘Team GB’ (GREAT. BRITAIN.) this new fangled gumph is slowly eeking into public consciousness as a somehow acceptable term. It isn’t. It’s made up. It’s just a mouthful. There’s no ‘round of 8’. Nobody is sitting in the pub saying, I can’t wait for next Sunday when England get to play Portugal in the round of 2.

Dear FIFA, you may own the competition. You don’t own football. Please. Stop this nonsense.

IMG_E3561

‘Easy’ side? Horrific terminology. SECOND. ROUND.

Ok – back to Griffin Park. An announcement was made out of Brentford ‘official’ about the forthcoming season’s Adidas produced home shirt. Specifically, that it will have no stripes on the reverse but, instead, a plain red back. This is not a decision taken by the club but one they are clear to point out is part of adidas’ design direction for the upcoming season for all their partner clubs in the UK (and beyond, it would seem if you look at the Juventus home shirt for 2018/19). The benefit being that they, “believe this will allow them to create more standout designs for clubs in the UK”.

That’s the marketing speak. Fairplay to the club for getting this news out early. Certainly I’d have done it this way, given we’ve had our hand forced by a ‘partner’. Looking at the new Sheffield United kit, they’ve also had to follow suit although have opted for an awful white. Something that, for yours truly, brings back memories of the Puma teabag and a missed penalty the last time we were forced down this route (something that the Blades somehow seemed able to bypass).

If we’ve had no choice then red is most definitely the correct option. Whilst there is no question whatsoever that we should have stripes on the reverse, if a plain colour is needed then the white was just too much. 

If anybody from Adidas is reading (unlikely, but….) I would ask why we couldn’t just replicate the ‘standout design’ from the front and apply it to the reverse? Even with a ‘patch’ should clarity for numbers be the crowbarred explanation – something that has never really been a problem in the past.

article-2607864-1D2F6E3200000578-442_634x385

Worse things have happened in a red back…..

Ahh, I can’t be too upset at present. At the end of the day (Clive), we’ve not seen the shirt yet. It could stand on its own merits or be a pinstripe nightmare – either factor regardless of the back. Besides, after the brown and orange beauty for the away shirt, I could forgive them just about anything at present. Even the lack of long sleeves.

Talking of the brown and orange, for anybody still doubting how incredible it looks the club shop now have it up in the window. If you happen to be in the vicinity of TW8 then do take a diversion. It’s well worth seeing this beauty up close.

IMG_3569

One of my favourite websites, historicalkits.co,uk have also added this one to their pages. Along with their own unique commentary which tends to border between sarcasm and dead-pan brilliance. This is the same site that described our own 2015/16 away effort as follows:  (Mark) Devlin also helpfully adds that the “Away kit needs to be significantly different from the home kit to ensure there are no colour clashes.” So pleased he cleared that up.

But which way did they go for the 2018/19 incarnation? Well, in the interest of fairplay I’ll leave this one to you….. Their Championship page can be found here.

IMG_2984

And with all the subtly of Ian Moose taking a selfie, the kit talks continues. Today (Saturday) is your last chance to enter the draw to win this 2017/18 Brentford ‘third’ shirt. The draw will take place on Sunday afternoon and I’ll look to film it if technology allows.

To be in with a chance of winning this, simply download a copy of the Last Word Season review Ten Times Better. Brentford FC Season review: 2017/18. Or the full fat five year version  There Is No Plan B. Brentford FC Season reviews: 2013/14 – 2017/18

ALL proceeds received go to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust and so even if you don’t win, know that your donation is going to a great cause whilst in return you get to OD on all things Griffin Park. And beyond.

As a bonus (please note, your definition of bonus may vary) there’s a whole host of new material. New that is, for my pages. Specifically, all the programme articles submitted (both home and away where, if nothing else, you can get the original versions of both Birmingham City and Millwall).

Should you be kind enough to take part, PLEASE DM/tweet me (@NickBruzon) a copy of your download confirmation mail and I’ll add your name to the list before an independent adjudicator will select a random Bees fan to win this on July 1st.

Thank you

Nick Bruzon

Germans, Fawlty. Flaccid Mannschaft fail to make a semi for first time in 12 years.

28 Jun

Don’t mention the, the, the….VAR. (© the entire internet and newspaper industry). Curses. I feel dirty. Tried to resist it but the opportunity was so blatant and the open goal so gaping it would have been a crime not to jump on the ‘Don’t cry for me, Argentina’ bandwagon of obvious post-defeat puns. But these are strange times. Wednesday’s action saw Germany finish bottom of their World Cup group after going down to South Korea, Brazil ease through the gears and England preparing for a Group G shoot out with Belgium. And, as ever, there’s a Brentford angle. Of sorts.

Just when you thought the World Cup couldn’t get any more exciting, it did. And how! We’ve already seen the likes of Argentina, Portugal and Spain make much harder work of qualifying than they would have been expected to after some quite scintillating group action. Seeded Poland are already out and yesterday afternoon in the biggest of all the shocks, not just for this tournament but in years, Germany were sent home after succumbing 2-0 to South Korea.

Talk about a (Joachim) Low point. The defeat saw them finish rock bottom of the qualifying group as, going for broke after Sweden cruised into an unassailable lead against Mexico, it became a case of win or bust. Two late goals – one reinstated thanks to use of VAR and the other with German ‘keeper Manuel Neuer caught upfield – meant this one was left firmly in the bust camp. That totally unusual, and in no way pleasurable, sight of their fans crying in the stands filling our screens.

DguI8aLX0AE2yji

Stop. Sniggering. Please.

It was just bizarre. Yet at the same time, brilliant. How often have they swept all before them? The ruthless footballing machine that has claimed trophy after trophy. Despatched those crucial penalties with clinical ease? Invincible. Untouchable. All conquering. Until now. These demi-Gods of the global game, brought to their knees.

It is the first time in 12 years Germany have failed to reach the semi-final of a major tournament. As many twitter wags have already pointed out, who will now beat England on penalties? More importantly, it has thrown the tournament wide open whilst adding even more intrigue to tonight’s game with Belgium.

Specifically, the talk of finishing second being a seemingly more advantageous position to be in. The group winners go into the side of the draw that contains Brazil, Mexico, France, Argentina and Portugal in the knock out stages. The reward for second place is a knockout stage that currently features Spain, Russia, Croatia, Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland. With both sides on level points, goals scored and goal difference, should either fail to win then it will come down to who has the most bookings. At present, a draw will see England will top the pile based on their 2 yellow cards compared to Belgium’s 3.

_102184132_groupg

The BBC show how tight the group is.

Watching last night’s Brazil game on ITV, the subsequent panel discussion was all around this very point. Gary Neville and Ian Wright both stressing the benefits of the so called easier route (whilst failing to note that it also includes Henrik Dalsgaard of Brentford and his Denmark team. I DID say it was an angle, of sorts). Let the big boys knock each other out.  

It is an option seemingly favoured by Belgian coach Roberto Martinez. His own interview suggested wholesale changes were in the offing and players protected. Unless my ears were deceiving me, I could have sworn his interview on ITV included references to it being what he deemed “A celebration game” where “the priority is not to win”.

Also in the geometric hell and magic eye puzzle that is the ITV studio, Slavan Bilic was ploughing a lone furrow. Go for broke. Keep the momentum. Win at all costs. Don’t disrupt the routine. Thing started to get a little bit Daily Mail at this point. Belgium will play the second string. It’s not English to do anything but go for it. The team will play to win. Gareth won’t rotate his squad etc etc

All I’ll say on the subject is that at 8/5 this morning, a price checked with my online bookmaker purely for research purposes, England would seem to be  very generous price. Then again, could it all be the ultimate in double bluffs from Martinez? Or is the safe and easy route against supposedly easier opposition, one they favoured in their own warm up games for the tournament, something that Belgium will look to try and follow once more.

Whilst one can’t imagine they’ll go out of their way to lose / throw the game, perhaps a cagey bore draw is all we have to look forward to. And if this is how things are looking as we head into the final fifteen, could there be a flourish of yellow cards? A bit of back chat here. A ball thrown away there. Just enough to ensure one team tip themselves into second place whilst remaining undefeated.

Then again, and has been said many times, yours truly is just the numpty on the terrace. Plenty of questions and no actual answers. Yet.

I can’t wait until 7(seven) pm when we find out what they are.

Nick Bruzon

PS Just a reminder that The Last Word season Reviews are now available for download. All proceeds from any sales will go to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust. For less than the cost of a half / pint respectively, they may help while away some time on the commute, by the pool on holiday or just in the bathroom. Who knows? It will certainly do some good for the Trust, whose work has been well documented at Griffin Park but you can read all about it on their site.

Plus, pick one up before the end of June and go into the draw to win an exclusive Brentford shirt. PLEASE DM/tweet me (@NickBruzon) a copy of your download confirmation mail and I’ll add your name to the list before an independent adjudicator will select a random Bees fan to win this on July 1st.

The Kindle e-book Ten Times Better. Brentford FC Season review: 2017/18. Inspired by ‘that’ interview it contains the least bad of these columns in one, handy volume as it looks at our own campaign as well as wider divisional life and the promotion / relegation races. As a bonus there’s a whole host of new material. New that is, for my pages. Specifically, all the programme articles submitted (both home and away where, if nothing else, you can get the original versions of both Birmingham City and Millwall).

In addition, There Is No Plan B. Brentford FC Season reviews: 2013/14 – 2017/18 takes us all the way back to the start of this latest leg in the journey. That penalty. League One. Harlee Dean was a hero. Jota was something we thought happened to the temperature for one week in July. Alan Judge had joined on loan whilst the Marinus Experiment was something nobody had contemplated. Bringing things bang up to date by the inclusion of this year’s volume alongside the four previously published campaign round ups, it has five seasons in one weighty tome. As weighty as a download can be, that is.

Relive the memories. See how often the same material gets regurgitated. Remind yourself how it all began….