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Glenn’s twoddle ruins an otherwise wonderful afternoon of football.

25 Jan

The losing I can take. First and foremost, congratulations to Leicester City. Worthy winners in the FA Cup fourth round with plenty of gas in the tank to really take things to the next level when they were needed the second half. For forty five minutes Brentford had it in our grasp but, as with Swansea City a few season back, the half time cuppas worked wonders and a 1-0 lead dissolved quicker than the snow which had carpeted the pitch prior to kick off. That weather suggesting we may need to crack out the orange ball and the extra long studs. Alas not. We were stuck with the yellow variant  (ball, not snow) and the possible leveller of inclement conditions disappeared as quickly as it had arrived. As did our cup dreams. Next up, a game with Brighton for the Foxes. For Brentford, we are now free to concentrate on the league (sorry, I’m too tired ) and that starts on Wednesday evening at the Liberty Stadium where there’s that huge showdown with second placed Swansea.

Snow had been falling hours before kick off.

As for the cup, well Thomas mixed things up as predicted. A team that included Mads Roerslev and Fin Stevens at full backs along with Jan Zamburek in midfield took an early lead against equally changed opponents. Mads Bech Sørensen on hand to stab home a corner after just 6 minutes had passed. Dreamland for Brentford. A nightmare for Leicester City who, despite the lion’s share of first half possession can perhaps count themselves lucky to have only gone in one down based on chances created. Then again, with the Bees defence being stretched in the build up and Ethan Pinnock having to pull us together, the warning signs were there. Sure enough, the inevitable happened.

Ünder restored parity in, err, less than a minute. Perez cam close and again. Then Fosu was was adjudged to have tripped up Tielemans in the box. He picked himself up and there was no mistake from the spot. Within the space of six short minutes the lead had changed and Leicester were in the driving seat. Any hope of salvaging something was put paid to by James Maddison leaving us to play out the last tweet minutes or so two goals down and against a team who only got stronger as their bench players came on for a run out. Game over, man. Game over.  Well played Leicester City – they really did look strong and what a way to step it up when needed. Good luck Brighton in the next round.

For Brentford, it had looked so good for a while but in the end was too much of a mountain to climb. No complaints, on pitch. We’ve more than had our share of fun in the cups this season. Of testing ourselves against opposition from the higher division. Off it, we had one major problem. That of Glenn Hoddle. My word, he spouts guff. The most annoying thing from BT since they replaced Busby with the ‘flatmates’. The flatmates that , I’m pretty sure from memory, used identity fraud as means of promoting the internet when the Simon ‘character’ tried online dating…. “He’s reeling one in“.

The BT flatmates. Remember them? Hopefully not.

What a load of clichéd nonsense that man spouts. Glenn, rather than Simon. (ahh, hello Mr. Pot. Irony is alive and well on these pages).  Amongst other things we discovered, several times, that :

Jamie Vardy isn’t playing.

It had been snowing (and there was still some on the pitch).

Brentford have beaten four Premier league teams this season.

Brentford lost to Spurs in the league cup semi-final.

We do clever recruitment.

We might have been playing this as a league match had it not been for something last season.

Both sides like playing decent football.

Yet the coup de grâce was saved for the fact that Brentford were, apparently, taking a risk by pushing up at set pieces. If Glenn mentioned it once he mentioned it a hundred times. In the end, domestic salvation came from our Harry. He’s only 7(seven) but still knows when enough is enough. 

Glenn: Brentford taking a risk here. If Jamie Vardy was playing….

Harry : but he isn’t.

And with that, sanity was restored. Kind of. We’re out of the cup but no tears here. The quest for the W place in North London has been fun whilst it lasted but is now over. Let’s hope we don’t need to make a third attempt later on in the campaign. Getting three points as Swansea on Wednesday would be a huge step in that journey. It won’t be easy but I can’t wait to find out how we go…..

Nick Bruzon 

Don’t do it. Don’t do it. Don’t do it. You just know they’ll do it.

12 Jan

And with that the FA Cup fourth round draw has been made. Not to mention the in no way convoluted selection for the fifth. With Brentford fans settling down in front of the TV to watch proceedings unfold (and Leeds United fans settling down in front of the TV to watch The One Show) the best we could hope for was a home draw. Well, we got one. A repeat of last season’s tie  with Leicester City. The winners of which will be at home again, entertaining whomever comes out on top between Brighton and Blackpool. The chance to test ourselves once more against the former Premier League Champions . A possible return for Neal Maupay should everything go to plan. The quarter-finals wide open. I’m sure all four clubs in our little group are thinking the same about that one. This could be fun. Even if the TV companies will be wetting themselves over the prospect of Manchester United – Liverpool. Yawn.

This really is as good as it could have got for the Bees. Brentford  – Leicester City is a tie with all the elements in place for a classic FA Cup match. High flying Championship side at home to the former top flight champions and a club currently in the top three. It was a close run thing last time out and I can’t wait for the chance to go one better. Or, at least, try to ! Would that we were able to attend in person but there’s frankly no way we’ll be able to get anywhere near a football stadium by the end of January. Even 9-11 February for round five is still nothing more than a flight of fancy. Sadly, it will have to be the TV for us, Brighton and Blackpool.

Its one of those where, genuinely, any of the four teams can make it through. Brighton are hardly on fire at present. Blackpool made West Brom look even shoddier than normal at the weekend. Leicester City are clearly the favourites but they won’t relish a visit to a Brentford team who made it to the League Cup semi-finals. Who are flying high in the league and have an added element of steel that was, perhaps, missing last season. Opposition generally despatched with ease but, if we’re being honest, perhaps lacking that additional nous when it counted. Look at how Leeds United held it together at the critical time. Fair play to them. When all were expecting them to fall apart (again) they stayed firm. The brilliance of Bielsa pulling them through. Hurrah for powerpoint!

There are a few obvious plum ties in the draw. Wycombe v Spurs. Cheltenham Town v Manchester City. Chorley v Wolves is, for me, the pick of the bunch. No doubt BT and the BBC will be falling over themselves for Manchester United v Liverpool. Why? Why? Why? (Delilah). A game, and teams, we’ve seen a thousand times before. An encounter with as much cup magic as an end of the pier entertainer pulling a dirty handkerchief rather than the missing card from his sleeve. Genuinely I’d give that one a swerve. Been there. Done it. No interest. The others, and the wider draw, offer up genuine intrigue. Ourselves included. Moreso once the cards fall into place for round five. 

That’s way down the track though. First things first, we’ve got Bristol City tomorrow night. Then a few more league games. Then Leicester City visit. I’m sure, likewise, Thomas will go for a similar team that beat Middlesbrough in round three. That took us most of the way in the league cup. I’m fully behind that, too. The squad is there for a reason and these boys have more than proven they can step into the first team. Even if his rotation does cause a few tears to be shed in other quarters.

I love the FA Cup. I’d love us to get as far as possible, no question. I still see the Championship as an absolute priority. Equally, though, having one foot in the quarters a few season back was quite the moment. Until Swansea City did their thing in the second half. With the paths for both mapped out in front of us, the next month or two could be even more exciting than ever. There’s not really much else to say at this point. The balls have dropped. We know what awaits.  Bring it on.

It all went South at Swansea after a cracking first half.

Nick Bruzon

Hopes, dreams and shocks – FA Cup still delivers. Plus fourth round ball details.

11 Jan

7pm, Monday night. The draw for the FA Cup fourth round takes place. And the fifth. Brentford are in it following Saturday evening’s impressive showing from our youngsters. So are Chorley after their own fine win over (not Wayne Rooney’s) Derby County on Saturday lunchtime. It was a result which set the tone for the weekend. Leeds United fell apart. Again. Blackpool despatched an abject West Bromwich Albion. In an even bigger shock, Sheffield United won a match. There would be no further slip ups from the big boys with Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea and Spurs amongst those into the bag of balls. Cripes, even Arsenal got through.

A velvet bag awaits…

So, when is it? 7(seven)pm is the designated hour. You can follow the action on the FA Player or on BBC2. Thankfully, for once, we’re not obligated to watch The One Show as the draw has its own specialist programme presented by Mark Chapman (not that one) rather than segued between features on hedgehog hibernation and ten things Gyles Brandreth does to alleviate Lockdown boredom.

BT sport also have an extensive programme that features the final chance of an upset when Stockport County host West Ham. Who doesn’t love a cup shock and I think the Hammers have enough about them to pull one off.  Worth watching if for no other reason than than Brentford loanee Said Benrahma likely to be give a rare start.

As for the balls themselves, Brentford are number 24 (out of 32). Liverpool are 23 and Manchester City 25. We’re very much the meat in a top flight sandwich that nobody will be wanting to take a bite out of. Both teams we’ve faced in this competition before, as are Chelsea – ball 27. Our league cup conquerors, Spurs, are number 4.

The quintessential Brentford FA Cup image

The Marine – Tottenham was huge enjoyable for the neutral (of which there can’t have been many outside of Seven Sisters) , at least until the second goal went in. That said, the non-leaguers still lasted longer against Jose Mourinho’s outfit before going a goal down whilst almost had the temerity to take the least themsevels. With the eyes of the world (and several supporters sitting aside garden sheds watching) Joe Hart’s blushes were only saved by the woodwork with the scores still level. And that…well it would have been dreamland for Marine. 

But we’ve been there and done that. For me (Clive) the chance to see how the current generation fair at Anfield would be the ideal scenario. Even if we are stuck watching it on TV. Instead, it’ll probably end up being away to Nottingham Forest.

We played at Livepool back in 88/89. There was no quarter-final upset

The fourth round draw is immediately followed by that for the fifth. Ball numbers will be generated at that point. Go figure. However, the numbers for the next round are as follows:

1) Plymouth Argyle

2) Southampton / Shrewsbury Town

3) Chorley

4) Spurs

5) Wolverhampton Wanderers

6) Stockport County / West Ham

7 (seven) AFC Bournemouth

8) Manchester United

9) Swansea City

10) Everton 

11) Nottingham Forest

12) Arsenal

13) Barnsley 

14) Sheffield United

15) Millwall

16) Doncaster Rovers

17) Leicester City

18) Wycombe Wanderers

19) Crawley Town

20) Burnley

21) Bristol City

22) FulhamL

23) Liverpool

24) Brentford

25) Manchester City

26) Luton Town

27) Chelsea

28) Sheffield Wednesday

29) Norwich City 

30) Blackpool

31) Brighton & Hove Albion

32) Cheltenham Town

The third round was one of the best yet. For once, the presence of television and the spreading out of the fixtures something to be thankful for. Traditionalists (myself included) have argued for years that the dilution of the games – spreading over four of five days – has been killing the magic. Yet with supporters of all clubs confined to barracks at present, this is exactly what we needed to make a bad situation slightly more bearable. Game after game after game. Upset following upset. 

Let’s see if West Ham can pull off another one this evening. After the draw, of course. Here’s hoping for a big name. And also the prospect of a Crawley – Chorley…..

Could it be Chelsea again?

Nick Bruzon

Robert’s legacy lives on as the dream continues.

10 Jan

Back of the net ! Brentford went through to the fourth round of the FA Cup, despite the absence of Thomas Frank and a whole raft of first team regulars. Goals from Halil Dervişoğlu and Saman Ghoddos were enough to steer us past Middlesbrough in a comfortable 2-1 win. It was a game as notable for the debutants as it was for both of our scorers’ first Brentford goal – in particular, the strike from Ghoddos one we’d been, ermm, anticipating /  expecting / hoping for. No, sorry, the correct word to use escapes me but I’m sure somebody will come up with a better one. Crowbarred headlines aside, we’re through. Monday evening sees the draws for rounds four AND five, before we can then concentrate on the league for a few weeks. Bristol City, Reading and Luton Town are next on that circuit.

Aswell as the two goalscorers making the headlines, lets not ignore the debuts for Alex Gilbert and Lewis Gordon or a first start for Fin Stevens. Not to mention Max Haygarth coming off the bench late on. Truly, the B team flame is alive and well. Burning as strongly as ever with Stevens, in particular, impressing. Robert Rowan’s legacy lives on and shows no sign of abating. How much of what we enjoy and take for granted is down to this man? In addition, there was a welcome return for Mads Roerslev – amazing to already consider him an ‘elder statesmen’ in this set up ! Most importantly though, this has shown a new strength and set of options available to Thomas, temporary custodian Neil MacFarlane, Sam Saunders and the rest of our group as we head into the second part of the season. The comfort level showed by the newcomers no surprise but very welcome nonetheless.

We don’t do full fat match reports on these pages. Never have done. We all saw the game anyway or, at least, had the opportunity to do so via the surprisingly reliable FA player. Yet what was notable was what an open attacking match it was. Both sides going for it in a complete antithesis of November’s infamous 0-0 snoozefest.

Once the teams had found their feet it was Middlesbrough, if any, who felt in the ascendency. Luke Daniels in nets looking as solid as ever to thwart smiling assassin Chuba Akpom and Marcus Browne. Brentford building into it until , with half time approaching,  Dervişoğlu struck. He’d been offered a good chance earlier but steered wide when cutting in. There was no mistake this time. Boom. 1-0 and the tinfoil trophy hoisted high into the living room air. Ghoddos with the delivery from the corner and Halil executing it low past the ‘keeper. 1-0. Game on. First period done.

With the world outside the front door feeling , at times, like it’s going to hell in a handcart, you can’t put a price on seeing a smile like this. Thank you Halil. Thank you Robert. Thank you everyone. It certainly helps make my life and the struggle of being a parent that much easier. Keeps a 7(seven) year old ecstatic at a time when popping out to the park is about as good as it gets for him compared to normal. Instead, he then spent the entire second half waving the tinfoil and commentating over the top of FA player in equal measure.

Celebrations back at home for the first goal

As ever, this is Brentford. This is football. It’s never 100% plain sailing and with Neil Warnock’s team back out on the front foot, the scores were level soon after the restart. Sam Folarin being given all the time and space needed to pick his spot. Daniels, for once, given no chance of stoping it. Yet rather than collapse into a pit of despair it was the Bees who picked themselves up and kicked on. 

Saman Ghoddos timing his own run through the middle to perfection, picking up the ball and waltzing through the gaps in the Boro’ defence. The Iranian timing his moment before unleashing a devastating counterstrike  from 12 yards out. Hard and low into the bottom corner. Jordan Archer in goal unable to do anything beyond looking good in his shirt. Wow, that was a stunner. As was Saman’s shot. You can see all of it, and more, on the BBC highlights which are available here.

The BBC replay shows all the magnificence.

And from there, the game was closed out. Nothing more to worry about. No stress. All calm. All good. A potato skin negotiated. No need for energy sapping extra time but instead an immediate return to winning ways after Spurs had put the brakes on that mammoth unbeaten run. Brentford through to the next round and the excitement of the draw. Bristol City here in a few days time when league action recommences. The team sure to return to a more familiar starting XI but, at the same time, one that now knows there are even more options than before to plug the gaps. To increase competition for places. To earn the shirt in their own right.

The future is bright. The future is red, white and youth. Brentford continue to lead the way in squad development and B-team progression. The work started by the much missed Robert Rowan continuing apace. Who knows how vital this will prove between here and May? And beyond...

The architect of so much we enjoy and take for granted. Thank you.

Nick Bruzon  

Tin foil? Check. Sofa? Check. Corona Virus? Check.

9 Jan

The FA Cup third round is here. It began last night at Aston Villa (we’ll get to Dean Smith in a bit) and now Brentford host Middlesbrough this evening. Another run at the stadium in North London near Ikea awaits. Memories of the epic afternoons against Manchester City and Sunderland flooding to the fore every time this competition is mentioned. Even last season’s game with Leicester City at Griffin Park is up there – if only for the fact it was one of the last occasions we were all together. Now, we begin another journey although one I get the feeling is going to see a lot of less familiar faces helping us along the way. A side much more akin to the one that started the early rounds of the League Cup likely to be the direction chosen by Thomas Frank. Albeit, he won’t be there to put an arm around the shoulder or impart some top, top words of advice. Yesterday’s news certainly put paid to that. Award winner in the morning followed by the confirmation he has tested positive for Covid 19. Ten days self-isolation now follow and, of course, everybody wishes him nothing but the best. Talk about the ‘curse’ of manager of the month ! For once, it really is a case of ‘Frank out’. In all seriousness though, one can only hope our inspirational head coach is back amongst us as soon as possible and not suffering any ill effects.

The quintessential Brentford FA Cup image

Yet whomever is picked for Brentford – and even Charlie Goode has noted in his programme interview that “I am sure the squads will be very different today” (from ‘that’ 0-0 with Middlesbrough – the game that dare not speak its name) it is still the FA Cup. It is the third round. It is the single most exciting weekend in the football calendar. The chance for the mighty to fall. For heroes to be made. For the armchair fan to sit back and gorge on all that the cup has to offer. Every game will be available to sofa dwellers and, with nothing else to do, why not. A cup tie is the one occasion where you can dip into a random game and pick a side. The desire to see an ‘upset’ is almost instinctive.

 For example, next weekend sees Sheffield United host Newcastle United in the Premier league. Honestly, is anyone outside of their own fans going to think that looks like an attractive means to spend two hours? Cripes, talk about boredom on a plate and I wouldn’t go near it with a barge pole. Personally speaking. I’ve suffered enough already this season when Middlesbrough came to visit in the league  – and that was my own team dragging themselves through 90 minutes – so have no desire to inflict similar on myself. Yet offer up the prospect of this afternoon’s encounter between Bristol Rovers and Sheffield United, then all of a sudden the chance to watch the Blades limp through a game takes on a whole new level of intrigue. And with our own kicking off at 6pm, it means both can be watched. If you want.

We won’t be there in person. Nobody will. One has to feel for the fans of Marine in particular. Hosting cup kings Spurs yet forced to watch it from the safety of home. There’s an entirely different question out there as to whether football should even go on hold for a while, as it did last season, with more and more clubs returning positive tests. Or, in the case of Bristol City, sore throats. Yet until, or if, that happens, we’ve got this. Watching on from home and hoping to progress. Hoping to get through without injury or suspension that has already robbed us of Josh Dasilva.

I’d still love to be there and would have gone like a shot had we been able. The chance to see Brentford, against anyone, always a pleasure. The opportunity to wield that tin foil trophy – something our Harry has done every season – one that is always grabbed with relish. The creation of the trophy a  Saturday morning ritual of gluing and cutting that we’ve always enjoyed but, alas, not this year. Or maybe we will anyway. Just because.  

Win or lose, we’ve had our moments. Hosting Marcus Gayle and Staines Town. The aforementioned game with Leicester City. Even being dumped out by Walsall. As much because of their own reaction to recently departed boss and ‘Ginger Judas’ Dean Smith who had joined us at Griffin Park. A quite remarkable reaction, a cracking afternoon of cup football and one it would be fair to say that the Saddlers ‘deserved to win’. 

Dean certainly upset the Walsall fans

The league cup run has certainly lifted spirits, that’s for sure. Coming so close to a Wembley final with Manchester City one that, whilst everyone is rightly still looking at with pride, would have been a quite incredible experience had we managed to pull it off. Now, we must go again.

I’m not an idiot. The absolute 110% priority is the league. We’ll never have a better chance to reach the hallowed ground of the top flight and I have no doubt Thomas will juggle resources accordingly. Yet, at the same time, that’s not to say I won’t be investing any less in the FA Cup. Our squad have shown what they can do already and I‘m sure they’ll be out to do the same again this afternoon. Bring it on !!

Now, where are the scissors…?

Another FA Cup journey on the road to Wembley begins.

Nick Bruzon 

FA Cup ‘highlights’ build anticipation for Tuesday.

2 Aug

Two more wake ups to go. The battle for the final place in next season’s Premier League is almost upon us. Who will join Frank Lampard’s Chelsea for next season’s West London derby? Brentford or Fulham? Who will stay behind in the Championship to slug it out with the Loftus Road club? Wembley awaits but before that it has played host to yesterday’s FA Cup final between The Blues and Arsenal. 

For the neutrals amongst us, it really was a cracking match despite being played out in front of a near-empty Wembley. Arsenal ran out 2-1 winners in a game that it wouldn’t have been a surprise to hear Keith Stroud had been refereeing. Some of the decisions made were, err, ‘questionable’. Specifically, the second half sending off of Mateo Kovacic when he earned a second yellow for what could be describe as, at worst, a harmless challenge. 

Stroud

A Keith for all seasons

A bitter pill to swallow and, unlike Rico Henry’s red last week, there is no room for any further recourse. At least Brentford had the opportunity to appeal and bring back our man for that blockbuster destruction of Swansea. Instead, this game is now consigned to the record books. Arsenal lift the cup and have now earned the right to be kicked out in the last 16 of the Europa league. Chelsea are left to count the horrific injury cost suffered in this one. More dodgy hamstrings than the deli counter in Morrisons and what looked like a dislocated shoulder for Pedro.

There was a howl of frustration from Mrs. Bruzon when he came on to the pitch, let alone went off. “Urghh – Pedro”. Nothing to do with the player himself but a terrifying flashback to the relentless days and days and day spent watching Peppa Pig when H was much younger.

All I can think of now is blinkin’ Pedro Pony and his whinny voice.” Brentford not feasting at football’s top table had meant, of course, that these are streams yet to be crossed. Until this unfortunate coming together. And with that, the Cup final was ruined.  

Pedro

Pedro Pony

The other big talking point to come out of yesterday’s game was just what font had been used on the back of the Arsenal kit? Bavarian beer house? Medieval? Samurai? Had the designers at Adidas been on the pop when going through the MS Office gallery? 

Sadly, the answer would now seem to be a much more mundane one. Nothing more nostalgic than it being based on the classic crest that adorned their shirt from 1949-2002 before being replaced by the current Clipart. Typeface aficionados can look forward to seeing this in forthcoming Cup and European games.  

Screenshot 2020-08-02 at 07.36.54

The ‘cup’ font – expect it to be retired by March

As ever, there was controversy. Not so much the sending off but the BBC losing the plot when the added time was announced at the end of the second half. The signal of ‘7’ on the board should have seen a regulation use of brackets. 

Yet rather than go with: “7 (seven) minutes added on” , the live updates on the BBC website went for a quite bizarre mismatch. Whomever was driving obviously had vague notion of 7 = brackets but that was about as far as their basic knowledge of football folklore went.

It was almost as though the videprinter was being operated by Officer Crabtree from ‘Allo ‘Allo. Good moaning. I was just pissing by your door etc etc etc.

How else to account for this mangled grammatical effort?

Screenshot 2020-08-02 at 07.40.19

And with that, it was all over. I won’t deny a small increase in stress levels when the board went up. And not just because of the BBC setting my teeth on edge. More, due to the fast forward to Tuesday night. Brentford and Fulham really will be in to the last knockings at that point. Will it be a case of hanging on for extra time, backs to the wall defence or throwing the kitchen sink forwards in a last gasp attempt to win the game?

Imagining that moment wasn’t fun. The clock will either be moving at snail’s pace or accelerating at warp factor 10 (don’t ‘@‘ me, nerds) depending on how the scoreline sits.

It’s going to be awesome and awful in equal measure. And I can’t wait. The game is getting ever closer. The moment building. As we noted yesterday, life shouldn’t wished away yet, at the same time, waking up this morning the anticipation seems even greater than ever before. In part this was due to a great game yesterday but, equally, because knowing the possibility of facing both these clubs as part of a regular campaign is only 90 minutes away. Possibly  ninenty-SEVEN (97).

Elsewhere, The Scottish Premiership returned with Celtic looking for their chance to make it ten league titles in a row. Or, as Adam Devlin put it on Twitter…

5lD

And I can’t top that so, instead, it’s a case of saying thank you and good morning. 10am Boot Camp in St. Paul’s Park, Brentford calls (do get along if you are local). Anything to try and exorcise (exercise?) some of those pre-match demons that are already tapping on the shoulder…   

Nick Bruzon

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…

Screenshot 2020-01-27 at 05.43.00

Salvador Dali had a short stint at Albion Rovers

Screenshot 2020-01-27 at 05.43.52

Noreen – ten times better than the rest. Probably.

Screenshot 2020-01-27 at 05.46.35

Swindon Town – there’s hope for us all

Screenshot 2020-01-27 at 05.47.04

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

Screenshot 2020-01-27 at 06.09.37

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.

DSC06980

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