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Brentford 4000 will play the Tranmere Stripper.

27 Jan

Just when cup football couldn’t get any more incredible, it does. Brentford are out but by no means down. Tranmere Rovers ended Sunday on the wrong end of an almost bracketing as Manchester United were unable to find the additional goal that would have turned 0-6 to to 0-7(seven). Shrewsbury grabbed all the headlines holding Liverpool 2-2 in a gripping cup tie that even the arrival of Mo Salah was unable to rescue. Yet waking up this morning and checking the overnight updates, the real headline is being created as we speak where  Brentford 4000 will play the Tranmere Stripper in round 2.

Not words that are used lightly. And words that, being honest, can only be used in what is shaping up to be a quite pulsating World Cup of Programme Covers. The first round results are now in with  The Bees having trounced Denis Waterman and Wolves after earning close to 75% of the vote. Meanwhile the stripper, last season’s semi-finalist ( losing to eventual winner, Middlesbrough’s comic art) brought some respite for Tranmere fans reeling from Manchester United going ballistic. One of the most talked about covers from last time out (see also: Frank McAvennie and West Ham putting the right wing in to their Christmas party fancy dress) made light work of Slough Town as they cruised into the second round.

Tranmere Rovers will provide just about as tough an opponent as is possible. Yet Brentford have proven, time and again, that class and reputation doesn’t phase us. Whilst one may question just how much class there is about the imagery used to support the Associate Members Cup semi final  (Northern Zone) semi final v Burnley, it is very much a fascinating product of the time. Whilst it’s highly unlikely anybody would risk the wrath of social media / public scrutiny or have the lack of sense to go there these days (see also: Frank McAvennie and West Ham), back then all filters were seemingly set to ‘off’.  

I’m not here to pass moral judgement on anybody or anything. Personally, I love the unusual. Anything that strays away from the norm. Historical curios. Which is what just about every piece of artwork in the World Cup sets out to show. There are some incredible contenders still alive and gunning for glory. Noreen form Birmingham City. Elton John’s giant key. Paul Parker’s hot air ballon trip. The bizarre styling on show at Albion Rovers. Swindon Town and their Fat Striker.

As ever, @TheSkyStrikers on Twitter is the place to follow the tournament. Your host Miles McClagan adding a fair bit of deadpan wit to his own commentary as the tournament unfolds. The likes of Leicester City, Liverpool, and Manchester United may have grabbed the headlines this weekend. At least for on-field activity. Yet off-pitch, Brentford and Tranmere are shaping up for the mother of all battles in social media. The timing of our second round clash has yet to be announced but keep those eyes open and keep voting.

In the meantime, here are a few more of the runners and riders…

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Salvador Dali had a short stint at Albion Rovers

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Noreen – ten times better than the rest. Probably.

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Swindon Town – there’s hope for us all

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Cripes – this was actual 1990. Come on West Ham. WTF…??

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Praying to a giant George Berry at Wolves. 

Nick Bruzon

FA Cup showcases the future. Some still living in the past.

25 Jan

Congratulations and well played Leicester City. Brentford exited the FA Cup on the wrong end of a 1-0 scoreline but can be more than proud of the performance on Saturday afternoon. Not for any patronising or ‘plucky Bees punching above their weight’ related reasons but simply because of how comfortable our B-team heavy side looked against the team currently third placed in the Premier League. With West Bromwich Albion making it through to continue a battle on two fronts, after their own win at West Ham, how crucial could the experience (and confidence) gained today prove to be in the all important run in to the Premier league? And whilst not wanting to give the oxygen of publicity to crazed opinion, Thomas Frank absolutely nailed it today despite the provocative clickbait dangled by one BBC London journalist looking for nibbles.

Saturday was awesome. It summed up the very best of our club from start to finish. Yes, Thomas Frank named a team that still leant heavily on less familiar players. Benrahma, Watkins. Pontus, Jensen, Raya and Dalsgaard were among those nowhere near the squad. Rico, Pinnock, Mbeumo, Norgaard and Josh Dasilva on the bench. However, the opening ten minutes aside, Brentford more than matched the former Premier League Champions. Being honest, we can feel hard done by after not even coming away with a draw. Luka Racic seeing a wonderful second half attempt tipped over, Emiliano Marcondes beating everybody but the inside of the post and Bryan Mbeumo having an equaliser denied by the offside flag.

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Brentford attack, again, in the second half

Credit to Brendan Rodgers. His team started at 100 mph and grabbed the early goal. Taking advantage of the time needed for our new look team to find their collective feet. Kelechi Iheanacho converting a slide rule pass from, erm, somebody on just four minutes after the Bees had been stretched thinner than a value brand pizza base. 

But as the game progressed, Brentford grew into it. The new look combination of our starting XI finding their feet and space. Zamburek and Marcondes inventive. Dervisoglu again impressing. Racic and Roerslev definitely more names for the future. Thompson and Yearwood adding further credibility to the Brentford recruitment strategy. Leicester content to absorb and contain rather than put it out of sight. Although, equally, one has to look at what The Bees did. No quarter was given. No question left unanswered. The Championship club more than matching their illustrious opponents but not quite able to force the ball over the line. This time.

Let’s cut to the chase. Nobody is upset. We’re all hugely proud of how our boys performed. There were no dissenting voices when the team was named. More, the reaction seems to have been universal. That this presented the newcomers with the chance to prove what they can do. To give themselves that big game experience that we may be so reliant on coming into the business end of the season. And that they rose to that challenge.

There’s also the small matter of Tuesday night’s Championship six-pointer with Nottingham Forest, a game of pivotal importance to our long term future. This was a consequence free dry run with everything to gain and nothing to lose. We came, they scored, we almost conquered. On another day perhaps. Sadly, it wasn’t to be. This time .    

That’s not to say this wasn’t an occasion to showcase the very best of what we do. So the result didn’t go our way. And? It was still a magical afternoon. Griffin Park a sell out for what would prove to be the last ever cup tie in our famous home. The realisation of that one only hitting home once we got back from the post match beers. A quick catch up of the BBC coverage to make sure Bryan’s ‘goal’ definitely wasn’t then morphed into a catch up of the punditry and the aforementioned stat.

Being quite self-indulgent, and I make no apologies, it was of huge personal pride to hear H read the teams out before kick off. Fair play to him – dad’s fear of stage fright was immediately kicked in to touch –  as proven with the announcement of “Number three. Uncle Justin’s favourite player. Riiiiiccoooo Henrrryy”.

Yet this is the sort of thing that continues to make our club great. Magnificent. Unique. In the week that fan engagement manager Ryan Murrant shared the sad news that he would be moving on, how invigorating to see his work rewarded by a 6 year old coming alive and claiming that microphone as though it was his own personal radio for speaking to the Griffin Park faithful.

Sure, proud dad. I get it and don’t pretend otherwise. Nobody else probably noticed or cared. And that’s fine. It’s mentioned more to showcase, yet again, what we do. Week in, week out. Why we are brilliant.  Why we grab our fans from the off. Why we are all one, huge family. Why it was an absolute honour to bequeath Woody H’s tinfoil trophy at full time. Why the people who share no more immediate connection than the random allocation of a seat number have unintentionally become friends.

As for the aforementioned clickbait, the normally respected Nick Godwin of BBC Radio London was full of it on Saturday evening. As patronising as he was off the mark. Behind the times and living in the past rather than looking at what was unfolding. 

As might have been shouted to the Leicester number 28, Fuchs off ! The B-team players more than rose to the occasion. Testament to our long term strategy of recruitment and transition to the first team. This ‘medium sized Championship team’ may aswell have been labelled tinpot or a bus stop. Sorry, but we’re just a soupçon of places outside the automatic promotion slots to the Premier League. Our profit margins have seen the Brentford transfer model rebranded from crackpot to genius. It was being lauded by the BBC during Saturday’s live coverage, and even their stats didn’t begin to touch the sides. 

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Fuchs off.

Brentford using their intelligently collated squad is not what is killing the FA Cup. Pandering to an ever crowded fixture list. Canning replays. Killing neutral ground semis. Stretching out the weekend to four or five nights so that the draw is made before the final ties have even been played. That’s what is killing the FA Cup. Not, pauses for breath, ‘teams like Brentford‘.  If, indeed, it is even dying. A sell out crowd and Lineker fronted TV panel certainly suggests otherwise. See also, the jam packed KC stadium for Hull City v Chelsea which was on our screens as we got home.

But let’s not end this on a negative. Leicester City scored the goal so deserved their win. Brentford showed even more green shoots of long term potential. Lionel Road is coming. So are Nottingham Forest. I’d have loved to have a crack at Wembley but it wasn’t to be . That doesn’t devalue the experience or upset me any.

Instead, our youngsters showed just what they can do. And it is nothing but positive.

Nick Bruzon  

Could it be sheer Bliss this weekend?

24 Jan

Nothing overly deep and meaningful needed. The FA Cup fourth round is upon us. Brentford host Leicester City, the 2015-16 Premier League Champions. The only club, barring Manchester City, keeping things vaguely interesting at the business end of the Premier League as Liverpool threaten to have the title sewn up by spring half-term. Likewise, we’re one of the clubs keeping things hugely interesting at the top end of the Championship as you know who are fighting each other in a two way battle to fall apart quickest. It promises to be epic, no matter who Thomas Frank and Brendan Rodgers go with in their respective starting XIs. Get your tin foil ready and bring it on….

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Can Brentford keep on the “Road to Wembley” ?

Ok. Me attempting to speculate as to who will be starting for either side is as futile an exercise as trying to decipher the finances at Wayne Rooney’s Derby County. The answers to both are buried deep, with no hope of anyone outside the inner circle being able to accurately predict. We know that Thomas will likely  have a few more familiar faces than in the third round, although will equally keep faith with some of his B-team players. We know that some form of medical miracle aside, Jamie Vardy will play no more part in proceedings for Leicester than hitting rewind on the BBC live coverage to see how that first Brentford goal went in. 

Hey, you can’t blame me for being optimistic. This is the FA Cup. The stuff of dreams. The chance to test ourselves against the best the country has to offer. An opportunity to keep going to a midweek fifth round. To push on (or should that be up?) all the way to Wembley ; the true home of the semi-finals. Ok, so some of the more traditional elements may be slowly eroding but that doesn’t make it any less special. Moreso, when you think that for most of us the 88/89 run to a 4-0 defeat by Liverpool in an Anfield quarter final is as good as it has ever been in this tournament. Even if we did have the pleasure of seeing Gary Blissett knock out his beloved Manchester City en-route.

Bliss Manchester City

Get dreaming tonight

And yes, I do mention these a lot but its as a result of two things. Firstly, that when cup fever takes hold there’s nothing like it. The communal coming together of a football club punching above it’s traditional weight – and we were back then – with dreams of silverware on the horizon. The chance to make a name for yourselves. To cause what would have been one of the single biggest upsets in cup history.

Then, at the back end of the 80’s, Liverpool were all conquering. Indestructable. Unbeatable.  Much like today (we’ll ignore the bit in the middle). Surely Brentford couldn’t do it? And whilst, of course, we didn’t, a fleet of coaches, a lot of inflatable Bees and Richard Cadette’s “Oohhh’ moment early on almost made the impossible possible.

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The Bees haven’t reacehd an FA Cup quarter final since Livepool in 88/89

Secondly though, we just don’t do it very often. Even in recent seasons when we’ve had the squad to compete with the best in The Championship, the combination of bad fortune, bad performance and a lot of tinkering has meant we’ve just not hit the heights that this team is capable. Underestimating opposition such as Walsall, when Dean Smith was greeted as a Ginger Judas and the Romaine Sawyers inspired visitors took us apart in awful conditions at Griffin Park.

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Passionate away support can be key – as we’ve learned

It is this lack of long term relationship with the cup that makes those rare moments of glory live all the longer in the memory. DJ Campbell mugging Gary Breen as Sunderland were knocked out. Twice leading Champions of Europe (apparently, if only somebody had said) Chelsea before Fernando Torres spared their blushes. The comeback at Southampton. And that’s probably about it in recent times. 

Saunders territory Chelsea

2013 Griffin Park . Ramires, Terry, Cole, Oscar, Lampard, Torres, Cahill – that’s some wall

Even last season, we were all set for the quarters – 1-0 up at Swansea – before Daniel James et al turned us inside out . That it only ended 4-1 was a miracle in itself. The quintessential game of two halves.

For me, the visit of Leicester City sees us with everything to gain and nothing to lose. Honestly, I don’t care who Thomas opts to start with. The Championship is huge and we’ve the obvious game with Nottingham Forest on Tuesday night. Equally though, I love the FA Cup and see nothing but opportunity here. Whether he goes ‘full B-team’, the regular league side or that expected combination of both you know that we’ll all be giving it our best. The crowd up for it. The players moreso. 

The tinfoil is already out at home. The trophy from the third round due to be reupholstered (is that the word?) tonight, after a few bits began to peel away in the euphoria of Emiliano Marcondes’ third round winner against Stoke.  

This could be magnificent. And I can’t wait. See you there !!! 

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Time to reupholster this (the cup, not Emiliano or H) 

Nick Bruzon

Thomas’ #trophyfriends reach FA Cup fourth round (feat. ball details)

5 Jan

Well that ended up being a lot of fun. Brentford are through to the fourth round of the FA Cup. A 1-0 victory over Stoke City sufficient to ensure the side, made up largely of B-team players, go into the hat for the draw on Monday night. The Bees will be number 26 when the ties are picked on Monday night at the Emirates, ahead of the Arsenal – Leeds United match. That’s to come. For now, a chance to reflect on a much anticipated team selection and how well they did. With the added bonus of Keith Stroud in the middle, this one really could have gone any way. Ultimately though, it went ours.

Brentford Stoke FA Cup third round

Could this have been our last Griffin Park Cup tie?

Ethan Pinnock was the only current first-team starter to begin this one, albeit Joel Valencia, Emiliano Marcondes, Jan Zamburek and a long awaited debut for Halil Dervişoğlu were among the more familiar names. Plus, of course, captain for the day Luke Daniels in goal. Prior to the game, the news of his own contract extension had announced with Thomas Frank ebullient in his praise. He talked in length, nothing how amongst other things that “One of the reasons that David (Raya) has had such a good season is the way that Luke both tests him and helps him in training and on match days”. You can read that one in full on ‘official’.

As for the game itself, whilst the second half was free-flowing and exciting stuff, the first period was one played out in a subdued atmosphere and which, perhaps, could be described as ‘slow’. There was little real action as players adjusted to the system and to each other. The goal coming just before half time with Marcondes finding the top corner from a free kick out near the Braemar Road touchline. It really was a delightful finish from a cross delivered so precisely that when nobody got there, the back of the net was the only possible destination.

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Dare we say it….. #trophyfriends

It was due reward for a player whose Griffin Park career has not had the 100 mph start so anticipated by many, given the wave of potential he arrived on. Injury and loan have denied us the chance to see him in regular action whilst the social media criticism directed his way can only have added to the expectation levels. Yet he played quite superbly in a box to box role, starting deep but breaking forward time and again. Certainly, a wonderful addition to the bench and beyond there, who knows? As we enter the second half of the season and a promotion push, how nice for Thomas to have additional options ! 

And with that, subtle as a brick, enter stage left… Halil Dervişoğlu . Finally, we got our first look at the Turkish U-21. This most protracted of moves, with deal having been agreed months ago, finally came to fruition. First impressions were more than positive. Nice touches and good movement. He didn’t get the goal , this time, but more than looks as though he’s in the Ollie Watkins and Neal Maupay camp rather than being the next Nick Proschwitz or Betinho. You can absolutely expect him to be on the bench come the visit of QPR on Saturday. Or rather, as Peter Gilham reminded us, “The team from Shepherds Bush. 

This was a good day, make no mistake. We’re in the hat for the fourth round. Ethan Pinnock impressed, yet again, whilst the B-team has proven just what it is there for. It is something we have already seen with Jan Zamburek making first team appearances form the bench and another run out for Mads Roerslev after he stood in for Henrik at Bristol City. The players looked more and more comfortable as the game progressed with Dru Yearwood almost doubling the lead following a fine run through the heart of the Stoke City defence. A move which began with former Bee Ryan Woods in control but then, somehow, tackling Mr. Stroud before losing both the ball and his own momentum.

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Thanks, Keith (not a typo)

All of which means we’re going to have to watch the Arsenal – Leeds United match on Monday evening. Or, at least, the build up to it. Coverage starts at 7.11pm on the @EmiratesFACup Twitter channel (although presumably The One Show will also have it. Urghh….) with the draw itself due to begin at around 7.35pm. However you follow it and wherever you find it, be sure that this one is going to be exciting. At least, until we get drawn away to Carlisle or Cardiff. Until then, we can dream of a home tie with 32 (Birmingham City), 3 (Fulham) or 18 (Manchester City). I reckon they might bring Gary Blissett out for that one ! 

The full numbers and teams are available on the FA website – enjoy. 

Bliss Manchester City

Get dreaming tonight

Nick Bruzon

Time to crack out the tin foil once more.

3 Dec

Brentford will play Stoke City in the FA Cup third round. After the magnificence of 7(seven) at the weekend, Monday evening’s draw saw the same numbered ball less than exciting as we were presented a tie with all the allure of Mrs. Brown in a bikini. With the audience making the strange coo-ing noises usually reserved for that cringeworthy banter between Ally, Matt, Phil and Sue Barker on ‘A Question of Sport’ each time a ball was pulled or ‘glamorous’ tie revealed ( they practically shat themselves over Liverpool v Everton and Manchester United v Wolves) , there was nothing but tumbleweed when Stoke were announced as our opponents. Even the ‘fascinating fact’, something so wonderfully delivered when Jim Rosenthal owned the presenter’s rostrum, was somewhat underwhelming. Brentford, apparently, going well in the Championship.

I love the FA Cup third round and will be there whomever the opponents. After our reaching the fifth round last time out (what second half at Swansea?) there was the hope of more excitement. Instead, it was just disappointing that having swerved the likes of a trip to Reading, Cardiff, Preston or Middlesbrough (breath most definitely being held when each of those came out first) we were then presented with the sort of same division opposition tie that goes to make up the more workmanlike aspect of the draw. Very much part of the supporting cast. Put there to make up the numbers which will allow the romantic side to play out.

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Initial joy ended in fifth round tears at Swansea, last time out

It is a tie that straddles the perineum of team selection. Eminently losable yet theoretically, on paper, equally winnable against a side who are struggling this time out. And we’re at home. You can’t, really, ask for more. Beyond a bit of excitement.

I guess thats the way the balls drop and it is one that now presents Thomas a really interesting team selection. Go full tilt or rest players given the demands of a long season where we are , as it stands, right up there in the promotion race. 

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The cup is always full of optimism, regardless of who we are playing

Despite having zero interest to the TV companies ( you can already see the BBC fighting over the games at Liverpool and Manchester United despite these being there sort of matches we are swamped by week in, week out on Sky, BT and, for the next few days, Amazon Prime) there’s no guarantee of a Saturday 3pm kick off. Like Brentford, West London neighbours Chelsea, QPR and Fulham were also given home ties. Good luck carving up the police duties there. With the third round normally spread thinner than the laughs in an episode of Mrs. Browns Boys, there are likely to be as many games on the Saturday as there will be on the extended weekend that goes around it. That’s TV for you.   

Even listening to the radio this morning, it is the Liverpool  – Everton game that is at the top of the list when the draw is being summarised. We shouldn’t be surprised. I expect Manchester United to follow next. Their non-selection for live coverage is something as rare as a laugh in an episode of etc etc etc…. So if you want the chance to see their under strength team (aka the first XI) in action, then Old Trafford is sure to be up there when the TV picks are selected.

If this sounds a little bitter, then I apologise. Genuinely, it isn’t meant as such. It is more a case of disappointment at what might have been. About the potential that is there just before the first name is pulled. Anybody could face anyone. The foreplay of Tony Adams with his hands on those magic balls as the pain, and pleasure, is teased out over the next 10 minutes. 

Yes. Not Chelsea (again) .

Yes ! Dodged the potato skin of a trip to Millwall. 

Yessss !!! We’re at home . 

Urghh. Noooo – it’s Stoke City. 

Something which, for the record, I have no doubt they are thinking exactly the same about. The FA Cup third round is one which, for me Clive, still produces the most exciting weekend for football as a whole. The knowing that somewhere, somebody big will go down. Something unexpected will happen. Somebody will end up with their tail between their legs.

Who are we kidding, though? Southampton or Scunthorpe. Stevenage or Stoke. It doesn’t, really, matter as long as we are still in that velvet bag. Get the bacofoil ready. Order in the extra large pizza (purely for the cardboard box). I’ve got a tinfoil trophy to make.

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Can Brentford make a start on the “Road to Wembley” ?

Nick Bruzon

There are games of two halves and then there was that. Bees baked in Wales.

18 Feb

A day that started with such promise. An afternoon that saw us forty-five minutes away from an FA Cup quarter final. An evening that ended with a press of the self-destruct button the likes of which Brentford haven’t seen since, well, the trip to Hull or more pertinently, the opening twenty minutes of the home game with (erm) Swansea City. And it was the Swans who once more provided the catalyst to our undoing as Ollie Watkin’s magnificent opener was rendered meaningless by three second half goals and a red card for Ezri Konsa in little over a quarter hour phase. It ended 4-1 to Swansea. It could have been five but for a very delayed call from the linesman. What can you say? Beyond me having to console five year old HB after his own pre-match prediction of 3-4 was thrown back into his face in as dramatic a style as one could ever see.

It’s a fair bet we’ve all caught the game by now. The free to air broadcast on BBC Wales meaning that anybody who wasn’t able to travel on the resultant free coaches would have had ample opportunity to watch it live. It was the consummate example of that old cliche about football being a game of two halves. With the opening salvo from Swansea snuffed out at little more cost than a yellow card for Yoann Barbet, the Bees got going. In style.

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Swansea had come forward early but made little progress

With the exception of Luke Daniels retaining his FA Cup place, Thomas Frank named the same team that tore Aston Villa apart for fun on Wednesday evening. It was a decision that was proven correct as we went for it. Swansea City barely had a look in as slick passing and wonderful interplay from the attacking quartet of Said, Sergi, Neal and Ollie suggested a goal was inevitable. When it came, on the half hour, it was beautiful. Benrahma breaking forward at pace, feeding the ball forward to Maupay on his right. The Frenchman then provided the same to the overlapping Watkins who burst into the box and fired it across the face of goal high into the far side of the net.

Yesssss !!! 1-0. We’re on our way. The fans erupted. Tinfoil trophies (of which there were plenty in evidence) thrust high into the sky. Strangers hugging strangers and the dream was on. Swansea looked dead on their feet. Impotent. A flaccid reminder of the team who had obliterated us in that opening twenty minute spell at Griffin Park back in December when they’d raced into a three goal lead without reply. Half time came with optimism high, the fans in wonderful voice and a chorus of boos rising around The Liberty stadium from the home contingent. Surely this was it? Surely….?

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Yesss!!! 1-0. Ollie Watkins you beauty.

What happened at half-time will, forever, remain as unfathomable a mystery as Stonhenge, the Pyramids and Ian Moose’s narcissism. Brentford gave the appearance of a team who had forgotten how to play football. Graham Potter in the home dressing room, presumably, delivering the mother of all team talks. Either way, it was a different Swansea City who emerged.

They were level within five minutes from a free-kick awarded in the most dangerous part of Saunders territory. Daniels unable to reach the ball as it fizzed past him, hit the post but rather than bounce clear hit the back of his head as he was still diving and pinged back into the goal for 1-1. It was a hammer blow. It should have been a warning that we were now very much in a game. Alas, it got worse.

An immediate goalmouth scramble aside, there was little further response from, or respite for, Brentford. Daniel James gave the home side a 2-1 lead shortly after with a quite remarkable effort. Picking up the ball just outside our box, he ran full length and full tilt up field. The acceleration was incredible, even running wide at one point with three players left trailing in his wake, before turning back inside and leaving Luke Daniels, caught in no mans land, for dead. Hats doffed to James for pulling this one off. It was brutal. With it, any remaining psychological stuffing that had been left after the unfortunate o.g. was truly knocked out of us.

Minutes later that man James broke clear once more. This time, he was stopped. But at the expense of a red card for Ezri Konsa as the defender took the last desperate measure available to him in order to try and preserve the narrow deficit. Referee Stuart Atwell has no choice but to show the red card. It was a challenge that, at least, succeeded in the aim of keeping our opponents at bay. For five minutes.  Sergi Canos, again filling in at wing back, was played twice by Bersant Celina who also danced past Julian Jeanvier before slotting home for 3-1. Urghh.

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Even the scoreboard was trolling us

With the attacking threat of Benrahma and Canos removed just moments later as the substitutes came on, the game was effectively dead. If it hadn’t been already. If Thomas had gone almost full strength with his starting XI, the bench offered little in big game experience or match saving nous. Whilst most of these young players will have their time, throwing them in to a game that was only being kept alive on life-support was never going to change anything. And , sadly, it didn’t. 3-1 became 4-1 became 3-1 as the linesman eventually intervened. It made little difference with Swansea grabbing the fourth goal that their second half domination suggested would come as the game limped towards full time.

Even then, Neal Maupay had a chance to restore some pride. His decision to chip the ‘keeper when put through, not quite coming off as the beaten Bees saw it loop over the bar. He made a call. He tried his luck. It didn’t happen. Boo-hoo. The subsequent highlighting of this by the BBC in a standalone video clip entitled , “How did he miss this? Watch Maupay’s terrible effort for Brentford” as cheap, unnecessary and out of context a feature as Ian Moose talking about that Cardiff game last season. No recognition of his quite incredible form this campaign or when it actually happened, with the players physically and emotionally drained after an absolute pummelling. 

Likewise, no mention of what he was clearly feeling as he ran to the Brentford fans at full time to hand over his FA Cup shirt to one lucky supporter. Poor show, BBC. Keep up the wonderful work, Neal.

It was an awful experience to be part of. The second half, I mean. I had tears to cope with at full time from a distraught HB who managed to compose himself and eventually clap his heroes off, despite the clear upset he felt. Looking around, he wasn’t alone. The club’s magnanimous gesture of laying on the coaches and cheap tickets felt very much secondary at that juncture.

I’m gutted this morning. Even now after trying to sleep on it. Swansea ran the second half show ; we handed them the tickets. The dream of the cup quarter-finals disappearing as quickly as it came. HB’s tin foil trophy stuffed into a dustbin on the way home.

Talking to supporters after the game, there seemed to be very much an expectation that this column was going to be used to ‘put the boot in’ today. But I just can’t do it. To coin that well worn of parental phrases, it not so much that I’m angry as disappointed in you. The chance was there and we couldn’t take it. Instead, to collapse in a combination of errors, bad luck, subsequent no-show and of course, the pace of Daniel James has left me feeling broken. A numb feeling in the pit of the stomach that will pass with time but at the moment feels far, far too raw.

I’m just hoping HB uses his half-term break to sleep in. About a week should do it….

Nick Bruzon 

Are we all set for a jolly boys (and girls) outing? The quarters are beckoning….

16 Feb

Oh my. The FA Cup fifth round is here. Opportunity is very much knocking. Watford are already through to the quarters after winning 1-0 at Loftus Road last night. Now we’re getting ready for our shot as Brentford fans begin to countdown for Sunday’s trip to Swansea City. There’s plenty to whet the appetite for that one today with Newport County hosting Manchester City and the visit of Millwall to AFC Wimbledon. That’s before you even get to the likes of Doncaster v Crystal Palace or Monday’s final game denouement that had TV producers reaching for the ‘coverage selection’ button the second Chelsea v Manchester United came out of the hat.

We can only start at the Liberty Stadium. On paper, there isn’t much to grab the neutral about the prospect of Swansea City v Brentford. Whilst both clubs and their fans will be viewing it as a wonderful chance to progress, it hardly has the upset potential of Manchester City at Newport County. The follow up story to Wimbledon’s wonderful humiliation of West Ham (winners of the trophy in 1980 and World Cup in 1966) from the previous round. Don’t let that fool you for a second. This one is huge and I can’t wait.

You could hear the collective groan echoing around TW8 and the GPG as the decision was made to move this to a Sunday afternoon, 4pm kick off for the benefit of BBC Wales. I’ve said my piece on that decision already and we just have to move on now.

With the prospect of a rail engineering works ruining it for everyone, the club sprang into action quicker than Neal Maupay running though on goal with the announcement of free coach travel to the game. Along with the reduced ticket prices , it was about as supporter-friendly a gesture as one could get. Consequently, myself and Harry are the ones now re-upholstering the tinfoil trophy that has seen us through the previous rounds. An £11 return trip for two of us, including entrance to the game, a bargain in anybody’s book and the reason The Bees will be there en-masse as the coaches filled up in nano-seconds.

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Who doesn’t love a coach trip ?

It’s not going be easy, that’s for sure. For either team. Only four points separate Brentford and Swansea City in the Championship table. Advantage traditionally favouring the home side as we’ll be running out in that glorious brown and orange. Here’s hoping for a repeat of the performance at Rotherham in that one, rather than a repeat of the performance just about anywhere else on the road whilst wearing this most stylish of shirts.

The good news for those deeming this to be some sort of jinx (honestly, I’ve never heard such nonsense, now where are my lucky pants?) being that we’ll have a new goalkeeper’s shirt making its debut. If what a source close to the club told us plays out, this one promises to have us kit nerds salivating.

The other factor to play more into the hands of Sunday’s eventual result is, of course, our recent form. We’ve only lost once in the last 12 whilst the midweek victory over Aston Villa was just about as comprehensive and stylish a performance as one could ever hope to see. Truly, Brentford were magnificent. Dean Smith left shell-shocked at full time and chuntering all sorts of nonsense about his team ‘deserving it’ (change the record) after Neal Maupay sent the hone fans wild in the 91st minute. Even now, Saturday morning as this is being written, I have a huge grin on my face thinking about that moment.

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This one from Brentford official said it all about Wednesday

Prior to that and, excusing the Forest game, it has been a case of scoring at least three goals a game in the previous five. A streak that coincided with Brentford playing stylish football with confidence and swagger. The ball being moved around the team for fun as we took the old mantra of “Push up, Brentford” to heart. It was a self-belief that was in evidence once more on Wednesday night. Here’s hoping Swansea City get to experience it themselves on Sunday afternoon. 

For sure they’ll be feeling as upbeat as we are. A home draw is the first thing any club hoping to progress would ask for in the later rounds of the FA Cup. Swansea have had that prayer answered  whilst on pitch have had a fairly strong start to 2019, winning five out of their nine games played so far in all competitions. They’ll no doubt fancy this in their own back yard whilst also have the benefit of ‘Mark’ Lawro Lawrenson using his BBC prediction column to back the Bees. Trevor Nelson and DJ Big Zuu (literally no idea – parents, ask a kid) going for the home side.

My main concern with this is Lawro’s assertion that, “I am backing Brentford to stay unbeaten, and get through on penalties.” We all know the nonsense he spouts these days and his presence as a pundit or co-commentator is generally greeted with the same fear felt by a pre-match press room buffet as Ian Moose approaches. But penalties? Seriously? You’ve got to think our name is on the cup if that’s going to happen. Here’s hoping he’s right. You can read that one in full, here.

Otherwise, its going to be a case of trying to make today feel as much like a normal Saturday as possible. I make no apologies for being excited or loving the FA Cup. Perhaps it’s an age thing but this tournament remains, for the supporters, about as exciting as it gets. The nostalgia, the romance, the potential, the shot at glory and even the cliches. 

I saw a quite wonderful tweet from @DeanCornish1966 yesterday about the Newport – Manchester City game, noting that:

ITV news preview on Newport v Man City just included:

2 x ‘The whole town is buzzing’

1 x ‘biggest match in history’

1 x ‘David v Goliath’

3 x ‘unbelievable’

1 x ‘dare to dream’

1 x ‘Gulf in class’

2 x ‘dreams are made of’

1 x ‘stacking shelves’

If ever there was close to a full house in cup upset bingo then here it was. But it’s what makes this trophy so special. Even now. It’s why I’m taking a five year old boy on a marathon coach trip to see if we can equal our furthest ever progression. Or perhaps even go beyond.

I’ve no doubt that when me and H are sitting down this evening to see if Newport can throw a potato skin under the feet of Manchester City (that’s one which ITV missed), the talk will be all about what awaits on Sunday afternoon. 

That, and maybe seeing if we need to add another layer of tinfoil to our replica trophy. 

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We’re all up for the cup

Nick Bruzon

Bring on the rail replacement bus after another night of goals, goals, goals.

6 Feb

We’re through. On a night where the FA Cup headlines were made by a huge scare for Wolves and a massive slip up for Middlesbrough, Brentford dodged the potato skin that was a replay at home to Barnet and eased to a 3-1 win. But for a brief flurry later in the second half it was every bit as comfortable as the scoreline suggests. Indeed, it probably should have been more as the (proper) Bees made it 10 games unbeaten ahead of Saturday’s visit to Nottingham Forest and now face the prospect of a fifth round trip to Swansea City.

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There was no way through for Barnet on Tuesday

A game played out in the shadow of Tony Kleanthous’ crazed rant about ticket allocation, something caused completely by his own club’s somewhat free and easy approach to sales, had the potential to see Brentford caught with their pants down. The Barnet supporters certainly started off in vocal form before Sergi Canos took the wind out of their sails with the opening goal after 7(seven) minutes. A short corner routine saw the ball guided in as the Spaniard slid home his third goal in as many games and from there it was game over. 

This is not a drill. That is not a typo. A short corner worked. Repeat. A short corner actually worked. You got the feeling from that moment that this was going to be our night. When that most unsuccessful of set pieces pays dividends you know something special is happening. 

Brentford continued to push. Barnet weren’t even at the races in the opening period. The epic 3-3 of the original game being put into context as a near full strength Brentford team took the non-leaguers apart. Luke Daniels, Josh McEachran and Mads Bech Sörensen coming in to a team full of all those other names we know and love. Thomas Frank was certainly taking no chances on this one, even if he was able to see the likes of Ollie Watkins , Yoann Barbet and Kamohelo Mokotjo kept fresh for Saturday’s trip to Nottingham Forest.

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Mads Bech Sörensen looked comfortable filling in for Yoann Barbet

Julian Jeanvier made it 2-0 with half an hour gone as he executed a beautiful volley. Said Benrahma with the assist, yet again. How many times has that line been used in recent games? Five in the last five, being the answer. Indeed, per the BBC he’s actually had a hand in eight goals over that period. Aswell as the assists he’s also found the back of the net three times. A wonderful return for a player who has yet again proven the wisdom in our once maligned transfer policy. Hats off to Mr. Benham and the recruitment team for their vision.

Half time came and went. Brentford continued to push. The visitors began to up their tempo. An early contretemps on the Braemar Road touchline threatening to spill over as emotions got the better of Barnet and referee Roger East lost total control of a situation that eventually resolved itself in two yellow cards for our guests. Luke Daniels saw his crossbar rattled as Neal Maupay and Romaine Sawyers came close. Sergi and Said continuing to pull the strings. And then it was over. 

The goal machine that is Neal Maupay did his thing once more. This time it was The World Cup’s Henrik Dalsgaard of Brentford (TM) who turned provider. His ball into the box swept home by the Frenchman to make it five successive games where we have scored three goals or more. One can only presume Nottingham Forest fans are hoping Martin O’Neill has some added steel to his backline. On this run of form, you’d back Brentford to score against anyone.

With the Brentford fans still cheering, there was a glimmer of hope. David Tutonda firing home a quite exquisite strike to send the visiting supporters into rapture and offer some hope of salvation. Sadly, for them, it wasn’t to be. There were to be no further efforts or goals. No further FA Cup fairytale for the non-leaguers. Instead, it’s a trip from Griffin Park to Swansea City and their Liberty Stadium on the 17th for that infamous 4pm, rail replacement bus hit, Sunday afternoon fifth round tie.

Yet as we exited with the players celebrating and Peter Gilham exhorting us to check the website for travel news, could there be some salvation coming the way of anybody wanting to make the journey for this one? Here’s hoping.

All that’s to come. For now we’ve a trip to the City ground and a home game with Aston Villa to focus on before the visit to Swansea. The woes of November and December are rapidly disappearing over the horizon and Brentford are playing some incredible football.

Thomas Frank walked all round the ground at full time, following in the wake of his players to applaud the fans. There’s a real buzz around Griffin Park at present and it’s so nice to see him being able to enjoy it. Fair to say there’s probably a lot of egg on faces at present from those giving him a hard time after Dean Smith departed, with the Bees already tottering on the brink of that dreadful run. Instead, the defence has sorted itself out and the goals are flooding in.

What a time to be a Bee! Now bring on Swansea City. And Forest.

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View from the Braemar: Thomas and Said take the plaudits at full time.

Nick Bruzon    

Have the visitors scored an own goal before the game has even kicked off?

4 Feb

What links the Brentford away end with Chelsea and Everton? Quite simply, they sold it out in the cup and then didn’t go crying when there were no tickets left. Now what links the Brentford away end with Barnet? Quite simply, they sold it out in the cup, with reckless abandon given it holds twice their average gate, but then did go crying, threw their toys out the pram and their chairman launched a quite bizarre tirade against us.

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No tears from Chelsea (despite not beating us at Griffin Park

We’ve all seen that rant by now, I’m sure. Blaming everyone but themselves for the fact that not everyone can get along who may want to. Shock news : big match proves popular. It was a tirade that still included reference to Ollie Watkins being awarded a penalty although refusing to acknowledge that the player didn’t appeal for it or call foul play. A tirade that included the terrifying threat of a boardroom boycott. Oh well, all the more pies for Ian Moose should he sniff them out from the press box.

One can only assume it is, at best, a misguided effort to engender a sense of being hard done by. A feeble attempt to rally the Barnet fans and players further ahead of a game which, given the magnificence of the original tie, is one we’re all looking to see played out to a gripping denouement.

Instead, all it has done is elicit laughter from the Brentford contingent and unify us. If ever we needed more incentive to stick two fingers up and raise the roof then here it is. Served up by bucketload with a side salad of a swipe at our own Chairman, Cliff Crown.

The reaction on Twitter was as expected.

Justin(LionsAndBees) : Tell your Chairman to learn how to read full sentences, not just the bits he likes the look of.

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Jamie: What absolute shite. You get the same amount as every club that comes here. Including Chelsea a few years ago and Everton a few years before that. Did they complain? No of course not cause they sold their tickets the right way and didn’t offer 6 tickets person. Also there is no possible way you’ll ever get more tickets as there is no bloody segregation. I’d be embarrassed if this was our chairmen doing this, absolute joke.

Personally, I went for classic ‘Partridge’. One of the rare occasions a ‘gif’ is acceptable.

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Yet it was the team at Beesotted who pulled out the big guns. And I can’t top this. See you on Tuesday, Barnet. I can’t wait.

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Nick Bruzon

Could Barnet serve up the final potato skin of a stunning fourth round?

28 Jan

Arsenal : out. West Ham : out. Everton : out. Tottenham : out. Wolves and Middlesbrough just about hanging in there. A weekend which has seen all manner of upsets and big names dumped on their backsides in the FA Cup comes to a frenzied denouement this evening as Brentford travel to Barnet for the final tie of the fourth round. Only Manchester City looked assured as they swept Burnley aside by five goals without reply. 

Tonight’s game is in equal measure just about as good a chance of progression as one could hope for (on paper) but also about as big a potato skin as could be lobbed under the feet of Thomas Frank. Just ask West Ham about that ! And please, stop sniggering. They did it win it back in 1980. A Trevor Brooking header, apparently. If only somebody had mentioned.

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Barnet represent a potato skin of the highest order

THE big question of course being whether Thomas will follow the fate of his predecessor Dean Smith and slip up on it or will safe transit to the fifth round be achieved for the first time in what feels like a long time? Brentford will be in the unusual position of knowing who we might be playing and where (subject to replays) before the Barnet game kicks off, given the draw takes place prior to kick off. We’re number 13 in that one, for the record. Wimbledon are 2, Manchester City 12 (oh to play them again), Manchester United 15 and Spurs are…out. 

Yet let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Whilst we may know who the potential opposition are going to be for this one, we still need to get past the current team in our way. Barnet will no doubt make it about as tough as they can with a full house roaring them on in a bid to make The Hive as intimidating as possible. 

Cripes, didn’t it work well for Wimbledon on Saturday. Facing a West Ham team who looked anything but up for it and playing like a beginner on FIFA 19, the higher ranked team were torn apart time and again before the goals started to flow. It was a quintessential example of playing the position rather than the situation and the Hammers came unstuck in quite glorious style. 

Brentford will be doing very well to learn the lessons from that one. You can bet that the press, BT Sport (who are showing this one live) and any neutral fan watching on TV will be desperate for a home win. Even if it is a non-Martin Allen year at Barnet. As noted at the top end, this one has the potential to see us left with as much egg on our face as those illustrious names to have already fallen this year. Just look at how Newport County took Leicester City part in the previous round to know that there is nothing guaranteed in football. No matter how lowly the other team may appear to be.

Even Frank Lampard’s Derby County (TM) were left hanging on during Saturday lunchtime’s game. That one was a classic cup tie played out on the proverbial quagmire of a pitch. Only some last gasp fouls and a cracking save from visiting ‘keeper Kelle Roos kept the Rams in the hat as they snuck through 1-0.

The point being that no matter how easy this one looks, it won’t be. The only thing that counts will be progression. Nobody will remember an unlucky loser when the fifth round kicks off in anger. Eyes will only be looking forward.

The FA Cup is that most incredible of tournaments. That most unique of formats. Think of all those combatants who have done battle through the preliminary rounds to bring us to the position we are now in. Their roles, perhaps, forgotten but pivotal to the rich tapestry of a competition which is still watched the world over.  Clubs and broadcasters may try to tinker with the format and the spirit of the tournament but at the end of the day (Clive) it boils down to a one off game of 11 v 11.

And I really can’t wait for this one.       

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Here’s hoping Brentford continue on the “Road to Wembley” .

Nick Bruzon