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After Sunday roast, time for kebabs. Just no umbrellas

4 Sep

The middle Sunday of international weekend. There’s no Brentford result to digest (it’s another 6 days until the trip to Brighton and a week since Sheffield Wednesday salvaged an injury time draw in a game they could have actually won much earlier) whilst the national team are yet to kick things off in anger. Yes, ‘Big’ Sam Allardyce begins his tenure as England manger tonight with the trip to Slovakia after leaving Sunderland in the summer to replace Roy Hodgson.

Big Sam

Can Sam bring a smile to England supporters?

Cue hand wringing about EURO 2016. Talk of a new era. Questions over Joe Hart or the selection of Wayne Rooney as captain. Sly digs about this ’rough diamond’ being a different choice to the normal selections from those suits at FA HQ. And, of course, being forced to listen to ‘that band’.

There’s bound to be mention of Sam’s win ratio at supposedly less illustrious teams  (37.57% West Ham and 29.03 at Sunderland). Although what that proves, I have no idea. Even Roy Hodgson managed 41.94% at Liverpool, for what its worth. And, of course, with that West Ham link there’s bound to be some crowbarred reference to some sort of new stadium. It wouldn’t be a televised football game in 2016/17 without one.

Yes, my ITV cliche bingo card is fully charged and ready to begin crossing off those squares although, being honest, I’m not fully engaged at the moment. The Euros were painful. Dreadfully so. It is still far too recent a bad memory.

To see England earnestly attempt to go again feels like being faced with a groaning table of all-you-can-eat kebabs having just consumed an oversized Sunday Roast. Whilst normally this would be a delicious prospect, given what came before I’m not going to enjoy it. That said, what harm would it do to take a tentative nibble and see what develops from there?

Besides, regardless of who is at the helm, a 6 team qualifying group containing the likes of Lithuania , Scotland and Malta should be about as tough a nut to crack as using a sledgehammer on some stale dry roasted. Forget Big Sam. Big Ron from Eastenders or Big Daddy could get them through the group. And they are both sadly departed.

Big Daddy

Even Big Daddy could get England through this group

For me, the genuine excitement is over in Group H where Gibraltar have Cyprus and Estonia amongst their opponents. Whilst, of course, you’d expect Belgium to run away with that one, could the boys from the Rock make a few waves? As ever, the bookmakers don’t think so and have them at anything from 2,000-1 to 5,000-1 to win the group.

But, whatever happens, surely this is still a more rewarding prospect than watching England cruise through the qualifiers to an inevitable first place. Just remember though, 10 wins out of 10 en-route to Euro 2016 didn’t prove a particularly auspicious omen as to long term tournament success.

I hope England do well. I hope Gibraltar can upset Greece on Tuesday night.I hope we don’t get overly carried away, however the qualifying groups turn out. As has been proven again, success at a tournament proving somewhat more difficult a prospect than getting there.

Indeed, aside from Euro 96 or West Ham’s triumph in the the 1966 World Up (both home tournaments) it is only really the wonderful efforts of Bobby Robson’s team back in 1990 where England have come even vaguely close to getting their hands on foreign soil. The Premier league may be ‘the best league in world football’ (is that line still being trotted out?) and have the most over inflated transfer market, but when it comes to keeping pace with International rivals then there is still a huge gap.

All the money and all the expectation in the world are no substitute for simply being ‘any good’ or knowing how to play as a team. Just look at what Wales achieved over the summer.

After the summer, the thought of winning a World Cup feels a million miles away. The prospect of investing the emotions in a qualifying campaign that has stopped the fledgling Championship season dead in its tracks so soon and so awkwardly is a tough one. And, being blunt, a frustrating one. Just as Brentford have got going and assembled our post-transfer window squad, the shutters have come down.

Yet come 5pm I have no doubt whatsoever the TV will be tuned to ITV to see just what life under Big Sam will look like. Say what you want about him, and many have, but I can guarantee you that if it’s raining there’ll be no umbrellas in sight.

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Whatever happens, it can’t get this bad

Nick Bruzon

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Italian has a new ‘that penalty’ as Roy draws a parallel.

3 Jul

How on earth do you follow Friday’s news? The story of Jake Bidwell jumping on the 237 from Brentford to QPR was more than surpassed by that incredible announcement of a Bees boss in triple transfer swoop. Sorry for repeating this line but I just love how we’ve finally pulled this most longed for of footballing curios out of the bag.

Like orange balls in the snow, goalkeepers scoring, outfield players having to go in goal, a sub subbed and the request to the crowd for a replacement ref, this is the sort of thing that normally resides in the back of the box marked ‘oddities’.

Actually, can I also add : visiting team forgetting their kit and having to play in the home side’s away strip. Although, personally, in those circumstances I’ve always though we should just adopt the old school ‘shirts v skins’ rule from gym class. Or was that just my school?

But I digress. The answer to the opening question being that you can’t. At least, on a Championship front. Even Brentford have more than overplayed their trump hand in fan satisfaction with that wonderful triumvirate of transfers. That said, two further points of note from Friday.

Firstly, that the players were photographed in two of the three standard poses. Bearing the ‘signing scarf’ aloft and then, later, sitting at a table in front of a blank sheet of paper. Sadly, there wasn’t to be an accidental reveal of the new home kit. Looks like we really will be kept waiting until mid-July for that one. Bob, if you are reading, please put us put of our misery.

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Romaine sports the signing scarf

And secondly, it seems our rivals have more than a passing interest in all things Griffin Park. Ten out of ten for value to those QPR fans who kindly visited these pages yesterday to leave us their thoughts on the Jake Bidwell article.

All I’ll say on that one is, “The table doesn’t lie. 12th, wasn’t it….“?

Instead, we are left to dwell on last night’s EURO 2016 action between Germany and Italy. A game which provided a further addition to the aforementioned list. Namely that of the penalty shoot out.

After further exhausting the players with a half hour of extra time, we were treated to as bad a display of penalty taking as you could ever hope to see. And it was brilliant.

With the Italians seemingly coached by Diana Ross, I was half expecting Marcello Trotta to come off the bench at one point. Instead, we got Simone Zaza dancing up to the penalty spot. Shuffling awkwardly like a giraffe with diahorrea trying to hold it in before hoofing it miles over the bar, Tarkowski style. That he had been brought on seconds before extra time ended for this one, specific, job made it all the more tragic.

But he wasn’t alone. The normally infallible Germans failed. Twice. This, before normality resumed and players from both sides began tucking them away for fun. In the end it was, of course, Germany who went through. Penalties. Come on. We all know what happens there and, sure enough, form told.

It was an utterly compelling end to a hard fought game and for all the wrong reasons. Or, as a neutral, for all the right reasons. Because that’s all most of us were last night. England’s capitulation still seems as raw now as it did on Monday night whilst Gibraltar didn’t even make it out of the qualifying group to reach France.

With Wales (and belated congratulations there) achieving a first ever semi, it only makes you realise even more what England missed out on. Oh for the chance to have even been able to think about cocking up penalties.

Instead, its not even a case of ‘what might have been’ and more one of ‘how on earth did Roy get it so wrong’?

Talking about this last night to one New Road observer, the conversation got on to how well England would have fared had Marinus Dijkhuizen been in charge. Of course, that’s just conjecture but win, lose or draw the one thing you can say is that at least we’d have got some straight answers after the games. Marinus certainly liked to tell it how it was, unlike Roy whose pre-prepared resignation speech was followed the next day with an opening gambit of “I really don’t know what I’m doing here”.

Which then immediately drew another Bees related parallel. With thanks to supporter Antonio Bergasse (and his moment of the season)….

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Nick Bruzon

Roy, walker. Iceland beat abject England. Glenn beats the fans

28 Jun

I’m not nervous. I think we’ll beat them quite easily”. Not my words but those of ITV pundit Lee Dixon before kick off as England took on Iceland last night. Ploughing straight into the book of Glenn Hoddle level punditry he set the scene for what many feared, but few actually believed, might happen. And then it did.

First things first. Well played Iceland. They won and deservedly so. Two well taken goals to England’s one, early, penalty as Roy’s boys fell apart.

We’ve all seen it. You don’t need any form of match report from me. You don’t need any form of analysis as to just how bad things were. How, mediocre England looked throughout the evening and, if we’re being honest, the tournament . A simple inability to pass the ball , shoot on target or break down a resolute defence. A simple inability for our goalkeeper to stop making basic, game changing, errors (not for this first time in Euro 2016). Hey, at least he can handle the pressure of having a flake free scalp.

Delle Alli? Ali from Oz cabs would have done a better job out there (kids, ask your dads) but to single out one person would be unfair. England were just dreadful all round. Parped on by ‘that band’, sounding worse than ever, it was a truly miserable experience. The second half especially.

Iceland wanted it. England assumed they had a god given right to qualify. And that doesn’t win football matches. The final kick in the teeth being Roy reading out his pre-prepared statement to the press just after the game. How did he write it so quickly? Surely he hadn’t written it beforehand? Surely? Why didn’t he take ANY questions afterwards? The least he could do was try to offer some explanation. To give some form of cathartic relief.

But no, in he came, out came the paper, off he walked – resignation shared with the nation. If only there was some form of topical parallel we could draw upon here.

And then there was Glenn Hoddle. The co-commentator has been roundly panned this tournament but it was almost as though he knew Iceland were going to win and, if England were going down, he was taking us with them.

At 1-0 up he endorsed playing it across the back. That worked well. This from the man who declared : Iceland are still stuck in the 80s.

In the second half he noted about the defence  : “There’s always been a suspicion that it has been the weak suit”. Well d’uh.

Late on, despite the clear inability of England to hit a barn door with a banjo he opined how, “We might get a goal from a tap in”.

Seriously? Was he watching the same game? I might win the national lottery, but its not going to happen.

I could go on. It was 90 minutes of non-stop drivel, mirroring what happened on pitch. The crowning glory being his observation that , “They’re little things but they’re big things when it comes to things in the 18 yard box”.

What does that even mean? The sad thing is that , with Roy having walked, the bookies have him at 20-1 to be next England manager. Surely just a comedy bet?

There’s a few days for us all to catch our breath. The quarter final line up is now complete  – Italy being the day’s other winners  – and it looks like a good one.

What a shame England won’t be there but Glenn and co will. Although, on the showing, four our own safety perhaps it’s best things ended there.

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The quarters are intriguing. No England though

Nick Bruzon

Who will win : Gareth v Charlie? And is there a knock on for Lionel Road?

25 Jun

There was double news out of Griffin Park yesterday. Josh McEachran is alive and (seemingly) well as he launched the club’s 2016/17 training gear whilst Brentford have announced another pre-season friendly. In the Euros , Wales v Northern Ireland is the big one today (although Cristiano Ronaldo and his Portugal side may argue otherwise as they take on Croatia and Poland begin proceedings against Switzerland).

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Will Cristiano provide the highlights this weekend?

Yesterday was, without a doubt, one of the craziest days I’ve ever lived through. This column isn’t about politics and I don’t intend to overly dwell there now. There is enough great material out there for those wanting to vent their spleen, smack their head in disbelief or celebrate what has been deemed by the ‘out’ camp as, seemingly, ‘taking our country back’ (to the dark ages?).

But I’ll leave you this one observation, given Brentford have our future and Lionel Road intrinsically linked to the housing market. With the redevelopment of Griffin Park and the subsequent apartment blocks to be built alongside the stadium being key, the industry suffered what could politely be called ‘a bad day at the office’ after the results were announced.

Lauren Davidson and Rhiannon Bury, writing in the Telegraph, note in their end of day market review that, “Housebuilders Crest Nicholson, Bellway and Bovis were all in the top ten fallers for the day, dropping more than 24pc, alongside property developers Derwent London and Great Portland Estates, which fell 24.6pc and 22.2pc respectively, as fears about a fall in house prices caused investors to offload their stocks”.

Whatever the other ramifications for the country, from the perspective of a new stadium for Brentford, I do wonder what will happen if this is anything but a short term ‘blip’?  Still that’s a question for cleverer people than me to answer (i.e. just about anybody).

Whilst we still have a home at Griffin Park, we now know that another preseason friendly has been announced. Peterborough United being the visitors on 26 July. All being well it’ll be a chance to see the new kit in action for the first time and enjoy an evening in the sunshine. Besides, when the alternative is Holby City then evening fixtures can’t come around quick enough.

And although we are yet to see that new kit (the simultaneous launch date remaining July 23, unless somebody tells me differently) we’ve now been shown the club’s range of training gear. And there’s a hashtag, too….

Whilst it seems a more Adidas-centric one than something club inspired, this season #FirstNeverFollows. Apparently. Here’s hoping there are 23 other clubs following us when we wrap things up against Blackburn in May.

As for the gear, well it’s now on sale and looking good. Can we read anything into the ‘full kit’ from the fact that the famous ‘three stripes’ are now running down the side of the body rather than over the arms? Certainly its a look that other Adidas dressed clubs (especially in the MLS) have been sporting.

Likewise, it’s great to see Josh back. What a horrendous first season he had with double long term injuries sandwiching a tricky time on the pitch. Fingers crossed that, as with the incredible return of Scott Hogan at the end of 2015/16, Josh is now able to push on and, erm, go again.

Moving back to Europe once more, today sees the last 16 begin with 6 teams vying for a quarter final spot. As noted at the top end of the column, Wales v Northern Ireland is the game that will likely have most of us gripped. For some, the battle to see whether Gareth Bale and the other 10 can stop Charlie Lawson launching into another celebratory routine. I’m still terrified by ‘Big Jim’s’ farmhouse kitchen soliloquy whilst sipping on the Black Bush. For that reason alone I’d love to see how he tops it this time around.

For others, of course, we have the Brentford connection in the Northern Ireland camp. Stuart Dallas , Niall McGinn and Will Grigg’s on the bench/ fire (delete as applicable). Will these old boys prove the club wrong? Can they line up a quarter final shot at the winner of the Hungary / Belgium game? Or will Gareth Bale keep up his hot streak of 3 goals from 3 games.

Whoever wins through, across the first 7(seven) games, by the time England wrap up proceedings on Monday night in ‘game 8’ v Iceland, we’ll all be set for another exciting 2 weeks in Europe. I can’t call any of the winners. I’m not even going to bother trying.

Instead why not just switch off from the stress, grab a beer, sit back on the sofa and enjoy a weekend of sporting action. If this morning is anything to go by, Charlie is already getting in the mood.

You can check out his latest, pre game video, here.

Brilliant …..

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How would Charlie celebrate a win over Wales?

Nick Bruzon 

Green cards and the last 16. What a day as fixtures revealed

23 Jun

That was fun! Brentford finally found out when we’ll play the likes of Fulham, Aston Villa and Newcastle United on the same day that EURO 2016 went bonkers. In the best posible way. Ireland recorded a wonderful 1-0 win over Italy whilst Iceland continued their incredible journey and Hungary topped Group F. Cristiano? Hello, Cristiano…? Hello??

First up, the Euros. Iceland recorded a stunning last minute win over Austria that saw them leapfrog Portugal and take second place in their group. With it, comes a last 16 tie against England on Monday evening.

The Icelandic commentator, it would be fair to say, very much enjoyed the moment. There can’t be many who have yet to hear the winning goal but, in case not, here it is. Mark Burridge, eat your heart out….

Burridgegasmsonn?

The rest of the results saw the third place teams take order. Northern Ireland will face Wales on Saturday whilst Ireland’s reward for a 1-0 win over Italy will be the chance to take on hosts, France. Cue the inevitable, and understandable, Thierry Henry ‘handball’ references. Moreso, with the French pundit already lined up for that one.

It really was a wonderful moment for the Irish, despite Sam Matterface being the latest victim of the bug in the ITV water. Even with Glenn being kept on the pundits’ sofa for this one, it didn’t stop the normally reliable Sam coming out with comments that bordered dangerously on the Hoddlesque.

On Shane Long, “He may play for Southampton but he is no Saint” was the pick of the first half. This was later followed by the description of Italy’s Lorenzo Insigne as “Five foot four. He’s the same height as Victoria Beckham.”

Wow. It was a reference that was tenuous at best and, surely, was only used to win some secret ITV betting pool. I can only imagine Glenn Hoddle cringing in the studio as his use of “I think that’s a tactical move” to describe a substitution from England – Slovakia slipped to second place in the pecking order.

Whatever the explanation, we’re got more of the same on Monday night. England – Iceland is on ITV, folks. Cue wall to wall adverts for a certain frozen food store along with the inevitable defrosting of Kerry Catatonia and Peter Andre for some rush released adverts.

As for domestic matters, Brentford now know what we have in store and, it would be fair to say, the footballing gods have mostly smiled on us. Proceedings begin at a Huddersfield Town side that we put 9 goals past in two games last season. Scott Hogan must be licking his lips already.

Scott Hogan

Scott Hogan – after 18 months out, ran defences ragged

Newcastle United away is on a Saturday although the trip to Villa Park is an early Tuesday evening. Boxing Day, Cardiff City, is at home whilst the season ends with QPR (H), Fulham (A) before concluding at Griffin Park against Blackburn.

We’ve all got our favourites.  We’ve all got those dates that have already been pencilled into the diary as ‘immovable’ (until Sky move them). We all know which games we are already missing due to pre-arranged ‘plans’.

In a wonderful display of symmetry, we welcome Ipswich Town for our opening home game of the campaign. I’m sure, Jonathan Douglas especially, will receive a warm welcome after last season. How is the foot now, Jota?

Green cards are being applied for and the diary filled in. With EURO2016 now through what has, if we are being honest, felt like a somewhat protracted group stage, the excitement level feels as though it has cranked up exponentially.

Roll on the weekend when it all continues.

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Bru celebrated (too early) as Ipswich opened the scoring last season

Nick Bruzon  

And finally…. :  With Brentford now set to ‘go again’  The Last Word ‘season review’ : Ready. Steady. Go Again and the three year anthology : The Bees are going up remain available for download. Should anybody want to go over this nonsense, re-live a stunning few seasons  of Championship life once more and remind ourselves how things turned out after that penalty’ you can do so now.

Here’s to more of the same over 2016/17. Thanks, as ever, for reading.

Good news for the Bees? Are Newcastle this season’s Leeds? And ‘Big Jim’ is at it again

22 Jun

Finally. Today’s the day. The Championship fixtures are announced at 9am. Us Brentford fans find out when we resume hostilities with the likes of the Loftus Road mob or Fulham aswell as undertaking journeys to league pastures new(ish) such as Aston Villa, Burton Albion and Newcastle United. And over in the Euros, those bemoaning the England team can, perhaps, take a little more comfort after seeing Spain come unstuck.

First up though, the fixtures. If these were commentated on (and knowing how Sky Sports News works, nothing would surprise me) I’d expect the line , “For those of you just getting in to work” to be trotted out as these are revealed.

Key dates, as ever, remain first home and away games, both local derbies, the season denouement and whether a Christmas visit from the in-laws will, at least, be tempered by knowing we can escape down the road on Boxing day.

I’ve seen a lot of talk on social media getting excited about the likes of the aforementioned Newcastle, Aston Villa and Burton. Not surprisingly, given league encounters against those three are rarer than a Nick Proschwitz goal. We did, at least, play the Magpies back in 92/93, although 1-2 and 5-1 defeats represented a poor haul against the eventual Division 1 (this was pre Championship) winners.

For me, though, Fulham will be the first name to look out for. Having taken 10 points and 11 goals from them in the four games since our return to the Championship, the chance to continue that run is one which only excites. Stuart Dallas, Jota in the last minute(s), Sam Saunders and an unexpected home debut for Tom Field are just a few of the memories that spring to mind. Here’s to creating a few more.

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I can’t wait for the chance to do this again

Roll on 9am when we can start planning the next season and seeing if those dates we’ve already been obliged to mark in the calendar as busy (who gets married between August and May?) are going to see a bullet dodged or backfire massively.

At least, on the planning front, we’ll be offered a small helping hand. Sky have confirmed that aswell as the fixtures they “will confirm details of our first three televised matches alongside the main fixtures announcement”. The ongoing carve up of the fixture list in the name of TV coverage has been a source of frustration for many, albeit an understandable one given their contract to cover live games. Hopefully this does mean we can start to plan the first couple of away trips without fear of having to rebook train tickets.

Besides, the Bees shouldn’t have anything to worry about. Just as we are looking forward to visiting Villa Park, Carrow Road et al, I’m sure the Sky producers have similar, audience grabbing, aspirations. Don’t expect Brentford to feature ‘on the road’ for a while. I can see Newcastle United becoming last season’s Leeds United with a TV game every five minutes or so.

Over in France, meanwhile, the Euros continued with Croatia beating many people’s favourites, Spain. Thanks, largely, to goalkeeper Danijel Subasic rewriting the penalty law and being about three yards forward when he saved Sergi Ramos’ spot kick with the scores locked at 1-1 late on.

Northern Ireland, meanwhile, also reached the last 16 despite losing 1-0 to Germany and their talismanic striker yet to kick a ball in anger. Will Grigg’s on the bench, rather than on fire. And, just as after their 2-0 win over Ukraine where we treated to ‘that dance, Charlie Lawson (TV’s Jim McDonald) was in celebratory mood, enjoying a large Black Bush and delivering a hushed soliloquy to camera from what appeared to be a farmhouse kitchen.

To see such passion and support is a beautiful thing. I love it. Who knows what Charlie will do should they reach the last 8? It’ll be fun finding out though, so it will.

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How about you there, Northern Ireland

Nick Bruzon

And finally…. :  With Brentford almost set to ‘go again’  The Last Word ‘season review’ : Ready. Steady. Go Again and the three year anthology : The Bees are going up remain available for download. Should anybody want to go over this nonsense, re-live a stunning few seasons  of Championship life once more and remind ourselves how things turned out after that penalty’ you can do so now.

Here’s to more of the same over 2016/17. Thanks, as ever, for reading.

Glenn, Slovakia, Saint Etienne. So Tough, for England

21 Jun

England are through to the last 16 of EURO 2016. Wales topped the group. Russia are going home (presumably to huge cheers all round). Slovakia are now hanging on for other results after a peculiar brand of anti-football that, fair play to them, shut out Roy’s boys and leaves them waiting to see if third place can be secured.

Those are the headlines as group B came to a close for England in St. Etienne but there was so much more to it than that. Roy tinkered. Roy lost out.

It was a demonstration, if ever us Brentford fans needed another one after some of the Marinus era performances, that stats and possession don’t win games. Although, to be fair, at least England managed some shots (come on Bees fans, it’s all good now !). The BBC figures show how one sided a game this was in all but the key category – goals scored – as the match ended 0-0.

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BBC stats don’t lie….

 

Jack Wilshere was anonymous whilst Postman Pat after an all night ‘bender’ would still have offered better delivery than Jordan Henderson showed. In what seemed to be a wonderful atmosphere – so loud even ‘that band’ were drowned out for vast swathes of the game – England had the chances but just couldn’t take them. Any of them. Not even one.

Then there was Glenn Hoddle. Oh, for some level of decent co-commentary on ITV. Talking to one New Road observer during the game, his take on it was that Glenn had been replaced by a random sentence generator. Another, that Sacha Baron Cohen was filling in for him.

Whatever the answer, his performance was the normal drivel infused nonsense . “I think that’s a tactical move,” he observed after one substitution aswell as noting that “Sturridge has just had a mouthful.”

Glenn went on to explain how the lack of England’s ability to breakdown Slovakia was because “We’ve got all footballers out there at the moment”, with the solution to this being a call for Andy Carroll.

I could go on. Those are but a handful of the examples plucked at random although , equally, perhaps it is something that ITV are putting in the water. Over in the Wales  – Russia game  my sources tell me how Tony Pulis noted that, at 3-0 up, “Wales will be happy to stay in front here” .

Yes. Gareth Bale made it 3 goals from 3 to see his team top the group by a point after what seems to be a steamrollering of Russia. I didn’t see it, can’t comment but can only say “well done”.

Outside of all this, England ARE through. England remain unbeaten. They now face a last 16 game agasint the second placed team in Group F which, all things considered, could have been a lot worse on paper. Mind you, so should a game against Slovakia have been. On paper.

It will take a better man than me to call who Roy & co face next out of Hungary, Iceland, Portugal or Austria. The only thing I’d say for sure is that given recent history, what chance another encounter with Cristiano Ronaldo? He of ‘cheeky wink’ infamy.

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Ronaldo, a cheeky wink never too far away

It isn’t all doom and gloom, whatever you read.

It would have been wonderful to top that group and failure to breakdown a bus parking defence has cost England dear in that respect. Yet is it that bad?

Roy has ended the group stages happy. Indeed having dominated three games to such a level that he told reporters after the game, “That gives me some sort of satisfaction.”

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A Slovakian bus, parked. England couldn’t get past

 

For now, though, the most important task of escaping the group has been achieved. There’s a few day’s break until Monday, 8pm, when England ‘go again’.

Until then, there’s four more groups to play out and, of course, the release of the Championship fixtures tomorrow (Wednesday). For us Brentford fans, this will make a nice diversion and a chance to see how our next 9 months will map out.

Until Sky get the carving knife out…

For now, here’s St.Etienne….

St.Etienne. So Tough. Why do I bother….

Nick Bruzon

Can Greg, the FA and football figures follow PSV?

19 Jun

Not much to say today. Indeed, I wasn’t even going to bother until this crossed my desk. We’ve probably all had our fill of the non-football stories from the Euros.  England fans are being provoked – England fans have a minority of morons amongst 30,00 well behaved fans; Wales fans were brilliant – Wales fans were anti-England; French ultras and Russian thugs have been ruining the party for everyone . Likewise, the media circus following the throng and looking to magnify any incident out of all proportion.

Talking yesterday to an England supporter who had just returned to Brentford, the verdict was one of : there had been incidents, but they were easy enough to avoid and just enjoy the party if you wanted to.

All well and good. Unless you were there without an agenda, few will be in a position to make a full judgement about the relative innocence/guilt of the respective sets of supporters.

And I don’t want to. I’ve had enough of it. Moreso, the refugee baiting that has gone on. This wasn’t provocation from gum shield sporting ultras, self-defence from flying tables or just old-fashioned drunken fisticuffs. It marks, in however limited a form, a somewhat sickening style of behaviour spreading around the European football scene.

Call it bullying, racism, intolerance or whatever. Taunting refugee children with coins or making seven year olds down beer or smoke cigarettes for money and ‘comic effect’ (amongst just some of the awful things we’ve seen) is just wrong. Very wrong. And indefensible. Regardless of your thoughts about the political situation is this anyway to behave or represent your club/country?

And what should the club / country do about it? If they even care?

Well, PSV Eindhoven had a similar challenge prior to their Champions League game against Atlético Madrid in March. Their fans were roundly vilified for throwing coins and mocking the homeless in an act subsequently termed – Poverty as a spectacle.

Fairplay to the club for, at least, issuing a statement vowing to track down those responsible. Unless I’ve missed it, the FA have done nothing since the recently published footage of England supporters engaging in similar acts.

Greg Dyke – if you are reading (unlikely), how about it? Will you say anything ? Even just signing the petition that has sprung up ?

Or will everybody just stick their head in the sand and pretend nothing has happened? Hey, perhaps we all just imagined it.

Anyway. That’s me done.

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Nick Bruzon

As the EURO winners show, what would be our Phoenix From The Flames ?

18 Jun

With EURO2016 now fully underway, Friday’s games saw Spain crank things up a notch and Croatia lose it – on and off the pitch. With much of what involves the England fans dividing opinion and generating some very contrasting views from those ‘on the ground’, there was no doubting what we saw on our TV screens yesterday. Plus, in an effort to blow away the current glut of Griffin Park tumbleweed, we have Brentford thoughts, updates and pictures.

First up, Croatia. 2-0 up and cruising against the Czech Republic, not only did they throw it away to be held 2-2 but their ‘fans’ have, surely, lined them up as the next nation to be given a suspended disqualification alongside Russia. This, after a shower of flares and firecrackers descended onto the pitch from the Croatian end as the game reached it’s denouement.

Combined with fighting amongst their own fans, they were ugly scenes that also saw one steward lucky to escape injury as a device went off in his face. Slaven Bilic, talking as part of the ITV panel for the Spain game, attempted to quantify it with the observation that “There are many fans who are against the FA”. That these are protests against a perceived Zagreb bias in Croatian football.

I can’t comment either way on that. My knowledge of the wider problems in European football extends about as far as when Gibraltar’s 2018 World Cup qualifier against Belgium is going to take place. But what I can say is that, like the flare launched at England fans during the Russia game, one can only wonder again how security – with France on its highest state of alert – is working? Moreso, just what can UEFA do, if anything, to stop what should have been a wonderful tournament (and still can be) turning into one which will as much be remembered for all the wrong reasons?

As for Spain, a second clean sheet and three goals against Turkey saw them step up an ominous gear. Wth many people’s favourites France leaving it late to record their second victory, the Spaniards by contrast made their six points look simple. After 61% possession, 707 passes and 18 shots (although with goals to match those stats)  they’re already in to 10/3. Forget patriotism – grab that price whilst you can.

Just one other observation on the Spain game, which comes courtesy of Jamie Lovell (@jtlovell1979 ) on Twitter. I can’t take the credit for this but he put into words, wonderfully, the exasperation many of us were suffering from at the hands (or voice) of co-commentator Tony Pulis.

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For me, Clive

Look positive Jamie, at least it wasn’t Glenn Hoddle

Ok, back home and Brentford. I took a stroll past Griffin Park yesterday and couldn’t resist the chance to stick my head over the wall. I have to say the pitch is looking wonderful already.

Granted, the club took the steps to dig it up as soon as we’d played our last ‘home’ game ( if I recall, some sort of thrashing administered to Fulham, wasn’t it?). That, following the pitch-gate shocker at the start of the season.

But, you have to say, credit for what seems to be a job well done already. Here’s to seeing how the Bees perform on it when Championship action recommences in August.

Griffin PArk June 2016

The pitch is looking luxuriant

And when it does, Brentford will find themselves joint 7th (seventh) favourites for the title. Checking my online bookmaker for research purposes this morning, this odds are now up and we’re priced 20/1.

Somewhat stingy for a team who, by our own head coach’s admission, were in a relegation scrap as recently as March? Or easy money for a team who have rediscovered the way to goal via Scott Hogan and those signings who have now ‘bedded in’ to the side? Either way, this is how the bookies see the Championship at present.

And finally, Euro ’96. Kind of. With the football in everybody’s faces at the moment, even the radio is getting in on the act. You can’t move on Absolute Radio at present for World in Motion or Three Lions. Which is no bad thing.

The latter, especially, bringing back all sorts of memories. And not just about how terrifyingly bad David Baddiel was at singing. Seriously, that was the best take?

But talk on the subject amongst some of my Brentford supporting friends led from there to the TV show from which it sprang, Fantasy Football League (of course, co-hosted by Frank Skinner). In particular, the ‘Phoenix From The Flames’ segment in which a famous moment from footballing days gone by would be recreated on a council pitch, featuring the original protagonists.

Specifically, conversation got onto the topic of which Brentford moment would we recreate? Perhaps with the wonderful Sean Ridley and Jo Tilley in the Baddiel and Skinner roles ?

That penalty’ is perhaps too obvious Besides, having not really been discussed in the media after the event, people might not remember. Other topics for consideration included:

Mike Grella destroying Bournemouth; Jota v Fulham; Paul Hayes and Will Grigg being less than on fire when taking home debut penalties; promotion v Preston; Gary Blissett knocking Manchester City out of the FA cup and inciting a banana wielding pitch invader; DJ Campbell giving Gary Breen nightmares.

In the end, though, we settled on cup action. Against Everton. Richard Lee’s penalty saves were the highlight for many but, equally, the pre-game footage of the respective club mascots still gets a watch every now and then.

Whilst the respective kids must be close to teenagers now, that would almost add to the recreation. That said, I’m not sure if we could afford Leighton Baines’ appearance fee.

Could this be recreated, Phoenix style?

Until then, here’s to a weekend of six games and, hopefully, some more magical moments.

Nick Bruzon

The good, the bad and the downright ugly as England and Northern Ireland win

17 Jun

After all the dust has settled, the record books will show a 2-1 victory for England over Wales. The winning goal coming deep into that period us Brentford fans know as Jota time to send Roy Hodgson into a jubilant jig from the dugout and, surely, book England’s place in the next round. Elsewhere, Northern Ireland put on a superb performance in beating Ukraine but Germany and Poland drawing 0-0 means Stuart Dallas, Niall McGinn and the yet to appear Will Grigg are going to have their work cut out.

As ever, off field matters dominated proceedings. Whilst the atmosphere at the game seemed a really positive one, the French Police again elected for the tear gas option later in the evening. There has been grotesque footage circulating of England fans taunting refugee children by throwing coins at them or goading them into downing pints for money.

I know our own Billy and Dave from Beesotted have been doing their thing to try and combat some of the negative imagery and disproportionate police reaction but this a new level of low. Likewise, reading the comments of FourFourTwo magazine managing editor Huw Davies,  where things sound anything but rosy. Do check out his Twitter feed to get the views of those looking in at the English. It is a trail of unpleasantness and abuse from those supposedly supporting England.

Comments include :   “I’m not trying to set or challenge a narrative. Just saying that while we chatted with some nice English fans, majority weren’t” and (when faced with a homeless woman and her child, shouts of )  “What are you doing on the street with a f**king child?” “If you can’t support it, don’t have it.” “You’re a f**king shit mum.” All in a row

As for the game itself, England now top the group after Daniel Sturrridge’s last gasp goal saw manager saw Roy Hodgson channelling his inner Alan Pardew with a celebratory leap from the dugout. Only a point is needed to ensure qualification from the group whilst Wales must now beat Russia to guarantee the same outcome.

It was hard work getting there, though. Gareth Bale’s free kick from distance saw Wales take a half time lead. Joe Hart may be able to keep his shoulders clean but he couldn’t manage a clean sheet, despite getting his hands to the Real Madrid man’s long range effort around the wall. It was a decent strike, make no mistake, but it should have been pushed clear of the post rather than into the goal.

And then Roy went for it. With Jamie Vardy and Sturridge introduced for Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane, the difference in bench quality showed. England were able to step it up as Wales attempted to soak it up.

An errant Welsh defender’s flick on saw an otherwise miles offside Vardy grab the equaliser just nine minutes into a one-way second half. And from there the game only had one winner. But would it come? No. Wave after wave of pressure saw resolute defending keep the English team at bay. Despite the best efforts of the inspired subs and marauding Kyle Walker, there was no way through.

And then it happened. With a draw looking odds on, England launched one more attack. The ball fell to Sturridge who, wriggling through the box, was able to slip it through, off and past the Welsh defence for a jubilantly celebrated winner. Even Gary Neville joining Roy in the excitement. Such was the communal outpouring of triumph I half expected John Terry to join in.

Tough luck to Wales. Well done to England. Cue the inevitable post match celebrations and exhortations from Gary Lineker, who this season seems to have forgotten he ever played for anybody but Leicester City. It was all about Vardy and his first team. Tottenham? Barcelona? Nagoya Grampus Eight? At least one of those three has players involved.

Gary in his Grampus Eight days…

As for the ex-Brentford contingent, everybody from Jonathan Douglas to Charlie Lawson (TV’s Jim McDonald) was bigging up the boys from Northern Ireland. They battled the elements and Ukraine to secure a stunning victory, despite the absence of Will Grigg. Germany have done them no favours with that 0-0 but still an incredible moment that culminated in an incredible dance from ‘Big’ Jim to out Pardew even Roy.

On a day that saw Roy’s rolls (of the dice) lead England to victory, how apt to see another Corrie connection celebrating a different one.

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Do check out Charlie’s video – now THAT’s a celebration

Nick Bruzon