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Success for Gibraltar in FA Cup. Defeat for Brentford at home to Notts County.

7 Jan

Brentford 0 Notts County 1. A result that it sure to cause a few rumblings on the Richter scale of FA Cup shocks. None moreso than because it means Gibraltar, currently placed 205th in the FIFA World Rankings, have representation in the fourth round. Size and reputation counted for nothing with talismanic Gibraltarian International Liam Walker proving key to the Magpies’ cause. He came on at the death to ensure County broke Brentford hearts and condemn the Bees to defeat despite throwing the proverbial kitchen sink at the visitors. A shame it hadn’t happened 90 minutes earlier.

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There had been so much optimism before kick off

I’ve seen Liam in action twice this season and neither appearance has been a happy time for the Brentford. The first being the occasion of a World Cup qualifier at the end of August. Despite his best efforts – very much the star performer for Gibraltar in that one – Belgium finished it by taking their visitors beyond brackets and close to double figures with a 9-0 win in Liège.

It was the same day Maxime Colin and Jota joined Harlee Dean in the triple transfer to Birmingham City. Fortunately, things would eventually settle down for the Bees on that front and form would return, quite spectacularly. Not so much for the Blues. Equally spectacularly.

On Saturday, the boot was on the other foot. It was the away team, again inspired by Walker, who came away with a result that the bookmakers had failed to anticipate. It was the home team – picked by Dean Smith – with a performance that was dialed in against one of spirit, fight and a desire to win that the Bees had failed to anticipate. They’ll have been dancing in the streets of Gibraltar last night.

That, or Sax II.

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Yet it proves, yet again, what happens when you underestimate the opposition. See also: Walsall at home in the third round two seasons ago. As expected, changes were made but there was enough first team experience in the starting XI and on the bench to have done better. Much better. It was an opportunity for players to step up, seize the opportunity and shine. Sadly, the only ones to do that were Notts County.

All the talk in the media would be of Jon Stead’s goal. True, it was very special. Yet it should have been as much about Notts County putting in a complete and consistent team performance. From the moment of kick off to the Walker inspired denouement. The Magpies showed it in spades. The Bees looked second best.

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All over at full time – Walker the winner.

Dean Smith would use his post match interviews to declare, “It was probably not what we deserved”, adding “I thought we had the lion’s share of possession and bossed the game for large periods. I certainly didn’t think we deserved to lose.”

As has been said oh so many times, that’s just not how football works. I’ve got huge respect for Dean but he’s wrong on this one. Chances count for nothing. Neither do possession stats. Balls in the back of the net are the only thing that matters as a means of measuring progress to the fourth round on paper.

For the record, the game ended with possession of 53%- 47% in our favour. Less a Lion’s share and more a narrow margin. The goal charts ended 1-0 in Notts’ favour. Equally narrow but that’s all they needed.

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At least Buzz and Buzzette got their hands on the cup

I suppose we can concentrate on the league. And that IS a good thing from some respects. IF we are going to go for it. The gap to the bottom three surely already too huge whilst the play-offs are just six points away. A concerted surge towards the top and this will be nothing more than a statistic in the record books. At least, for our top brass.

Yet for the fans, the FA Cup is still huge. And the chance for a run in this oldest of tournaments is always something to get supporters salivating. Tin foil trophies had been made in the morning. Some long journies undertaken to get to Griffin Park.

We had the ability to win it but too often the Bees looked out of shape. Captain Josh McEachran unable to lift his team. With Lasse Vibe and Andreas Bjelland missing (in the the club shop), Ryan Woods missing (in the pub, but on the soft drinks) and Nico Yennaris just missing, we lacked our solid spine. Players had the chance to make a name for themselves. They didn’t take it.

On the flip side, Emiliano Marcondes, making his debut, showed those first flashes of the potential we have all read so much about. Indeed, but for that Walker inspired backs-to-the-wall performance in the final few moments, things could have been different when the Dane’s header came back off the post.

But with County looking solid as The Rock, not even the wonderful Alan Judge could make a difference. He looked sharp, fit and fast as he made a long overdue and thrilling return to the side. There was no challenge shirked and one moment of genius to free fellow substitute Ollie Watkins that had the crowd on their feet, anticipating a goal. Sadly, it wasn’t to be.

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Alan Judge in full flow – very much a sight for sore eyes

We’ve lost in the Cup before. We’ll do it again. The saddest thing about Saturday was that lessons of the past should have been learned. Yet when the club hadn’t even put FA patches on the first team shirts, perhaps our longevity in this tournament was pre-ordained.

At home, our own third round ritual of making the tinfoil trophy ended with it the replica cup being consigned to, then retrieved from, the dustbin. “Daddy. Do we have to throw it away? Can’t we keep it for next year?” asked HB. Not even I’m that mean and so it was duly salvaged. With optimism like that, it’s tough to be overly despondent this morning. It’s just a shame we’ll have to wait 365 days to feel it once again.

All that remains to be said is congratulations to Notts County, Liam Walker and Gibraltar. The FA Cup loves to throw up a story and with the Magpies in wonderful league form too, could this be the year they are the underdogs to make a run towards Wembley?  The year that Gibraltar, whose previous international ‘highlights’ include conceeding the faster ever International goal (Christian Benteke in 8.1 seconds in the opposite fixture with Belgium) and equalising against minnows Scotland in a Euro 2016 qualifier at Hampden Park, make that next step up on the World stage?

That’s my one consolation from this one. And I’m clinging to it.

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A solitary Gibraltarian flag held aloft at Griffin Park

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Another Brentford cup run consigned to the wastebin of Griffin Park history

Nick Bruzon

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Tin foil ready? The FA Cup third round is huge in our house. Could this be our year?

6 Jan

The FA Cup third round is upon us as Brentford host Notts County. Infact, it has already begun although any lingering thoughts about being able to watch Friday night’s game between Liverpool and Everton were extinguished as quickly as they arose. Only one person rules the remote in our house and suffice to say: 1) It isn’t me, and 2) Jamie Oliver’s Friday night food thingy was on at the same time as James Milner and Virgil van Dijk were doing their thing at Anfield.

But that was then and this is now. Nothing is going to get in the way of the big one at Griffin Park this afternoon. With last year’s cup ‘run’ ending somewhat underwhelmingly at Chelsea, could today be a springboard for bigger and better things?

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Another Wembley dream continues today

I’m not going to pretend I was overly disappointed about missing out on the Liverpool game (he says, grabbing the crowbar), given my own thoughts on the TV selections which you can read in today’s copy of BEES – available on the forecourt and around the ground.

Besides, I’ve also got a lot to thank Jamie Oliver for. He is directly responsible for my own getting married to the ever understanding football widow Mrs B. Although that’s a story as convoluted as the naked photo shoot with Graham Norton and probably best left for another time.

But whereas Friday was nothing more than a passing interest in Everton attempting to upset the odds, today is totally different. It is as much about progression for our beloved Brentford as it is in erasing a personal ghost from the past (not Jamie Oliver).

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Jamie Oliver (right) – has his moments. Not many, but….

Daddy? Why did Brentford play rubbish and why did the trophy end up in the bin after the game?” Not my words but those of four year old HB as we had one of those key chats in father-son life yesterday morning – did he want make a tinfoil FA Cup for today’s game?

Whilst there’s only ever one answer to that question, the conversation then moved on to how Daddy Bees have fared over the years and just what happens if we can win just 6 games in this most famous of competitions.

Good questions, son. ‘Bin day’ had been the third round back in January 2016 when relatively new head coach Dean Smith came up against his former side Walsall at Griffin Park. Like Notts County today, they were divisionally lower than us and like our visitors today, the Bees were hot favourites. At least to those, looking in. If ever there had been a potato skin waiting for us to slip up on here it was. Brentford duly obliged.

From an early morning high of Bacofoil based cup construction and optimism about potential fourth round opponents, a passionate visiting support and Saddlers’ team who had more than a point to prove left our dreams crushed. Our replica trophies in the bin. Could Notts County do the same today?

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Third round day 2016 had started so well. The ending was rubbish.

Well, go into this game with anything less than full focus and it could well happen. Dean Smith has already promised changes although those players likely to come in have more than enough first team experience between them. Josh Clarke will surely return. Could Alan Judge start? Neal Maupay up front? Josh McEachran and Lewis Macleod in the middle? Luke Daniels between the sticks? There’s Flo Jo and a certain Emiliano Marcondes lined up to make his debut. Could it be today? How much will Dean rotate or could his press conference proclamation simply be an attempt to throw Notts County off the scent.

He used yesterday’s build up to note that “We will patch the players up as best we can for Saturday and we have others wanting minutes. We will go in to the game to try and win it. We will make some changes but that is more to do with players being spent after what they have put in over the past four games.

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

Not entirely unexpected given the huge exertions we’ve been through in the league over the last two weeks. At least due reward was given there. And at least Dean further acknowledged that, “Notts County will be a potential banana skin for us. They will be very tough. They have done fantastically this season. They have good, experienced players, we have to make sure there is no complacency and play to our strengths.”

Whatever happens today, I just want our boys to give it their all. Whomever starts, I DO expect to win. The again, I always expect to win regardless of the opposition ! We limped out at Chelsea last season where, despite the obvious calibre of our opponents, no real attempt to even try and go for it was made. Brentford sat back and paid the ultimate price. The tie was less a banana skin for Chelsea and more a delicious peanut butter and banana sandwich served up for our hosts to enjoy en-route to the final.

Losing to Walsall and Chelsea both hurt. Yet as much for it being another year until we get the chance to ‘go again’ in the Cup. Well now that chance is on us and I can’t wait. Roll on 3pm when it all starts once more.

See you there.

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Buzzette – up for the cup

Nick Bruzon

On a day of incredible shocks, have we found a new ‘best worst ever’ ?

19 Feb

With no Brentford action over this weekend there’s no real Championship action to talk about today. Instead, there’s a flashback to yesterday’s column looking at the FA Cup and the best/worst of football films where, it would be fair to say, one has most definitely got away. First up though, Lincoln City and their incredible FA Cup win at Burnley.

What can you say? It was the archetypal cup tie and a captivating game from start to finish. Andre Gray and James Tarkowski were amongst those left looking very much non-league (please, stop sniggering) whilst Joey Barton’s second half collapse in the box was a piece of football acting so bad it made When Saturday Comes, one of the films under discussion in yesterday’s column,  seem positively Shakespearean in comparison.

Here’s hoping the FA take some retrospective action. It was a terrible example for any young children who may have been watching etc etc etc and a chance missed by the BBC. Whilst, rightly, focussing on Lincoln’s incredible triumph Barton was mostly glossed over. Whilst he was discussed, his antics would be described on Match of the Day as “Just Joey’s game” – see also, his shove in the face of Terry Hawkridge.

It may be “Just Joey’s game”. It’s not the FA’s, though. Old habits seemingly just can’t go away as the whole sorry performance was glossed over. No irony has been lost today with this tweet subsequently resurfacing.

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What a performance from Lincoln. How nice to be talking about City rather than Red Imps of Gibraltar on these pages. And what a disaster for Burnley. If only they’d played like that when Marinus took Brentford to Turf Moor last season. Come to think of it, the way we played that day, we’d still have gone down .

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Turf Moor last season. Any excuse to crowbar this one in – love that unicorn

It was a wonderful cup upset with another one appearing on these very pages. One of those rare instances where yours truly has actually called something correctly. It won’t last although, whilst I’m on something of a streak, let’s tempt fate and back Brentford to beat Sheffield Wednesday on Tuesday night.

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The other topic under discussion yesterday was the portrayal of football on screen. The good, the bad and those efforts which crossed over into both camps. Yet one was missed. One I’d never, ever heard of yet now seen, am giving serious consideration to tracking down if the trailer is anything to go by.

Big thanks to supporter Marc Loewenthal for sharing, this : Hot Shot.

Coming soon. To a betamax near you

The 94 second trailer features, amongst other things : temporarily washed up Pay-lay (that’s Pele to you and I), an up and coming hot head,  an 80’s synth pop soundtrack and a training montage.

A training montage ! A. Training. Montage. In a trailer ! How good must this film be that they can afford to offer up this most iconic of sequences in the teaser sequence?

With a script that seems hammier than Joey Barton’s acting, the producers may aswell have just lifted it straight from the bucket marked , “One was a cop who played it straight. The other wasn’t afraid to bend the rules to get results. Yet, somehow, this unlikely pairing could just be the ones to crack the case and save the day

Nice one , Marc. And thank you.

Good luck Lincoln City in Sunday’s draw. As for me, I’m looking forward to Sheffield Wednesday on Tuesday.

Can Brentford bounce back?

Nick Bruzon

What to do on FA Cup weekend? The best (and worst) of football film plus an offer for the fans.

18 Feb

With Brentford having gone missing in action at Chelsea last month, it means we’ve got a free weekend. Instead of a league game against Wolves at Griffin Park, our would be visitors host our FA Cup conquerors in a fifth round encounter that has all those classic ingredients to serve up a potential potato skin. As for Bees fans, we’ll need to put the tinfoil back to regular use and find something else to occupy us until we visit Wednesday on Tuesday. Sheffield, that is.

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For Brentford fans, the tin foil has now reverted to normal use until next season

So? What to do ? Of course, there are still the televised games. These include the aforementioned encounter at Molineux aswell as the one at Turf Moor where Andre Gray, James Tarkoswski (is he still even there?) et al provide the Goliath role as Lincoln City pay Burnley a lunchtime visit.

That one’s well worth a watch, purely for the novelty factor of seeing Burnley playing the role of giants. Yet, at the same time, I’ve got a sneaky feeling this will be the one where we have a weekend shock. Whilst the ties at Wolves and Sutton United are the obvious TV draws, expect the top class opponents, and also Arsenal, to go through. Yet with motivation, form and the entire country behind them, Lincoln look remarkable value.

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But if watching Chelsea is a painful reminder of what might have been then could I suggest an alternative? A football film. Regular readers, should such a thing exist, will know of my love of these. The pinnacle of the genre being Escape To Victory.

This has it all. Actors playing football, badly. Footballers acting,very badly. Michael Caine alongside Pele. Sylvester Stallone sharing screen time with Bobby Moore. John Wark’s moustache is worth the entrance fee alone. Come for the facial hair; stay for the Ardiles flick.

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Pele scores as the Allies escape to victory.

Yet for every Escape to Victory and, to a lesser extent, The Damned United, Fever Pitch, Mike Bassett: England Manager or even TV’s Dream Team, is a Green Street, a Soccer Dog (and the even weaker sequel, Soccer Dog: European Cup) or The Goal Trilogy. The football film is a veritable minefield of weak acting, poor script and overly laboured cliché.

Aside from Luis Figo doing ‘Just for Men’ (still got it, Figo) the only on screen football to transcend both good and bad is, perhaps, When Saturday Comes. It is a film so loaded with cliché it is fit to burst. Hard drinking park footballer Jimmy  – played by 37 year old Sean Bean  – eventually gets his break for Sheffield United after stuffing up his first trial before taking on Manchester United in an FA Cup semi final.

It is a film so loaded with inaccuracy (an FA Cup semi final at The Blades home ground, in the middle of winter, being just one of many) that you have to wonder just who gave this script the green light. And, of course, it is a film with Emily Lloyd displaying the worst Irish accent this side of Alan Partridge telling TV execs, “There’s more to Oireland, dan dis” .

Yet this underrated classic is so bad it’s brilliant. It goes beyond nonsense and into the realm of unintentional comedy gold. No mean feat for what, on paper, should be a complete car crash of a movie.

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If you haven’t seen this, you haven’t lived.

And thus talk of football films brings us, with all the subtly of an Alan McCormack challenge, bang up to date and back to Griffin Park.

Next Tuesday, 28th February,  sees Brentford and Sky Sports joining forces for an exclusive screening of the film Wonderkid.  The short film looks at one of football’s biggest issues – that of homophobia in the modern game – with Brentford doing their part to help raise awareness.

It is a cause we’ve always looked to promote and now the Bees are tackling this from a different angle, through the medium of cinema. The football film is a tricky enough genre to get right as it is, let alone with the added pressure of a serious issue. Yet, at the same time, I can’t wait to see how this goes and how it is received.

Full information about the event, including how to get free tickets, is on the club website now. See you there.

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Nick Bruzon

Noooo! Fulham have only gone and done it.

17 Feb

Brentford have a day off on Saturday. FA Cup capitulation at the hands of Chelsea (a game where we put in a performance that was very much the Murray Jones to their Dean Holdsworth) sees us now kicking our heels. Just a few miles up the road, however, near neighbours Fulham are in cup action. They entertain Tottenham on Sunday.

It is a game which made me sit up and take notice yesterday, but for a very wrong reason. At a time when Donald Trump is beating all comers hands down in the apparently deranged stakes  (his explanation of what uranium is has me intrigued, yet genuinely terrified, about what his next bit of amateur science might be), he seems to have a rival. The Fulham club shop.

Bear in mind this is the club that has already brought you ‘The Neutral stand’ and ‘The Gin bar’. A club who introduce ‘clackers’  and ‘giant foam fingers’ to try and help the home fans generate some atmosphere. Then, of course, there was that business with the Michael Jackson statue. Yet even by their previously odd standards, they have now gone ‘full Trump’.

What is the most scorned thing about modern football? Tourists on a day trip to Chelsea or Old Trafford? Grown men in full kit on a match day ? ‘Hilarious’ shirt names (I 8 Spurs etc  I don’t, for the record)? Selfie-sticks?

All are bad and yet one thing still transcends them all. The half and half scarf. There is no logical reason as to how this has sprung up or why any football fan of sound mind would buy one. Who wants memorabilia celebrating another team? Who wants to wear the opposition colours? Let alone in this most happy-clappy of styles? Over priced and cheaply produced tat. Something so offensive that no self-respecting club has even embraced previously. Up until now these abhorrent items have only been available from the street hawkers.

Up until now being the key phrase. Because, of course, Fulham have stepped forward. With this. Officially. In their official club shop.

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I may be late to this party but I don’t care. Irony goes full circle as Fulham break the fourth wall. Get your official half and half scarf. This has to be a joke? Surely? Would any self-resecting club really do this ?

Part of me hopes that Matt Jeffrey is just a fake twitter ID, playing a very long game in order to spoof the hapless Cottagers. Yet with over 1500 tweets already, and seemingly all the right credentials, he looks legitimate. And he is encouraging his Fulham fans to wear a Spurs scarf. Or, at least, half of one.

You know what, I hope they win. Genuinely. For no other reason than one can’t even begin to imagine what their marketing team will dream up for the quarter finals.

Half and half shirts, here we come….

Nick Bruzon

As Chelsea look ahead to the fifth round and Liverpool, why Brentford will cause the mother of all upsets.

28 Jan

Saturday morning. 8.15am. The (now) ‘lucky’ tinfoil FA Cup from the 5-0 victory in the third round has just come out of storage whilst over on the TV Captain Barnacles, Kwazi and Peso are having another underwater adventure. That’s HB, not me, watching Octonauts and oblivious to the fact that today’s decreed ‘naughty team’ (a title bestowed upon anybody to line up against Brentford), are none other than Chelsea – the current Premier League leaders and one time Champions of Europe.

Oh yes. Its FA Cup fourth round day and Brentford go into this one with absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain. We’ve been written off by just about everybody already whilst our own fans have, genuinely, no idea if the club’s leading scorer and one man goal machine, Scott Hogan, will start, be on the bench or have received a phonecall from his agent advising him that a buttock spasm has returned or his hamstring looked a little tight in Friday’s training.

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Just what is Scott’s number?

Nobody expects us to do it today. Mark Lawrenson and his team of guest pundits A.dot (no idea) and Adele (not that one ) from BBC radio have all tipped us to lose without scoring. Even the most tight fisted of bookmakers has us at 11/1 to win; the most generous 18/1. Chelsea, on the other hand, are 2/11 to win . Understandably so, given their wealth, their talent and their excellent start to the Premier League campaign. Chelsea lead the table by a country mile and specialise in clean sheets.

The nightmare of 2015/16, where José Mourinho proved less than ‘special’ as he lead the Blues to the edge of the relegation zone before being dismissed half way through the campaign, now seems as distant as it was unlikely. Only their failure to qualify for Europe in a season when even Spurs reached the Champions League group stages serving as a reminder of how much they had slipped last time out

Yet despite the calibre of our opposition there is room for massive hope and massive optimism. With games against Liverpool and Arsenal (genuine titles contenders and Arsenal, respectively) in the coming week you can expect an element of squad rotation. A Tuesday night trip to Anfield, where the home side will be looking to reel in the league leaders, must surely be seen as more of a threat and priority? Could an unfamiliar line up have trouble in making a cohesive unit?  With many changes predicted,  we are already boosted by the news that one man brick wall Thibaut Courtois has been replaced by ring rusty Asmir Begovic between the sticks.

There’s the atmosphere factor.Brentford sold out all 6,000 tickets within two days. nom matter what your views on the sale technique employed, expect there to be nothing but deafening noise from the Shed End. And that’s just when David Luiz puts in any form of appearance. Nobody in TW8 has forgotten about Jake Reeves.

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Nobody has forgotten…

What about the magic of the cup ? It was only two years ago that League One Bradford City humped Chelsea 4-2 at this stage of the competition. At Stamford Bridge. This, despite going 2-0 down in 38 minutes and playing against the likes of Cech, Drogba, Cahill, Oscar, Hazard and Fabregas – amongst others.

Then of course, we’ve our own recent fourth round encounter with the Blues. 2013 saw us hold Chelsea 2-2 at Griffin Park and for the entire first half of the replay until, eventually, form told.

Whilst they are few and far between we’ve had our own share of giant killing over the years. Sunderland, Manchester City and Blackburn Rovers are the names that spring immediately to mind whilst had we just conceded four goals less and scored one at Anfield then we’d have beaten Liverpool and reached the 1989 semi-final.

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Bliss doing his thing against Manchester City in the fourth round – January 1989

Yet, for me, the most telling sign for optimism are the Chelsea fans at work who, to protect their identities, we’ll simply call ‘Andrew’ and ‘Dave’. They go into this one knowing they can’t win. Apart form on the pitch. If Chelsea do manage to get past us it will be what everybody expected. But if Brentford do what I genuinely expect, there will be nothing but a very sheepish journey into the office on Monday morning and bragging rights secured for the next few months.

That alone is reason to go for it today and I can’t wait. however you travel – tube, bus, Routemaster or even on the river cruise – be safe and have fun.

But most of all, come 3pm let’s be loud. Very loud. There’s a fifth round draw to look forward to. And Brentford WILL be in it.

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The lucky cup has been touched by Buzzette. What better omen do we need?

Nick Bruzon

Enough of this West Ham nonsense. Bees need to focus on Chelsea

25 Jan

Brentford, of course, are due to visit Premier League leaders Chelsea on Saturday (and how often can you say that?) as the Bees continue their FA Cup campaign with a fourth round tie (and how often can you say that?). Yet at what should be a time of maximum excitement, I still can’t help but feel distracted by the ongoing Scott Hogan stories. West Ham? Watford? Other? Nowhere?

With the transfer window due to slam shut(tm) in less than a week, where will Scott be in 7(seven) days time? And will he even feature on Saturday as we look to take a step closer to the W place in North London?

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Another Wembley dream continues this Saturday

To be quite honest, I’m getting royally cheesed off with all of this now. West Ham are in pole position yet, in what would seem to be a display of arch-hypocrisy given their (understandable) stance over Dimitri Payet, we are no further on as Brentford’s valuation is yet to be met.

The Bees have made no secret of the fact that every player has a value – meet it and we’ll sell. Don’t and he’s ours. And, as such, should be playing against Chelsea on Saturday.

But he won’t. Everybody will be left sitting in limbo as West Ham dither and hamstrings will likely tighten once more. Scott failed to make it off the bench against Newcastle United and wasn’t even named in the 18 for the debacle at Wigan Athletic on Saturday. It was a decision that left Phil Giles fuming, livid and raging after agents had advised him of the potential riches elsewhere. With stories emerging yesterday of the 5% of any transfer he’ll earn as signing on bonus, what man wouldn’t have his head turned by that sort of cash?

Everybody will be left sitting in limbo as the Bees will be unable to finalise any potential incoming transfer plans. On January 3rd Phil’s fellow co-director, Rasmus Ankersen, confirmed that Brentford related transfer news was ‘in progress’ yet, three weeks later there’s only tumbleweed blowing across the Griffin Park forecourt.

To be fair to Rasmus, he didn’t say in which direction. This could simply have been an oblique reference to outward activity and he was giving us all an exclusive on Scott’s departure.

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Progress, apparently, still ,erm, in progress

I don’t envy anybody involved in this situation. Whilst, normally, summer is the time for our main transfer movements to lose a player of Scott’s calibre half way through the season would impact any team. Likewise, one would presume that some sort of replacement would need to come in immediately. Whilst promotion is now a pipe dream and relegation is surely too extreme to consider, complacency is the mother of all fu@k ups. More importantly though, we’ve got a cup run to try and focus on. Starting with the small matter of Chelsea away.

The image of Harlee Dean lifting that trophy on 7th May is one I still have in my mind’s eye. Could it happen? Well, the bookies have us at anything form 12-1 to 18-1. And that’s just to beat Chelsea. But this is the FA Cup where anything is possible. Our hosts have come unstuck in the past whilst the trophy remains synonymous with the words ‘shock’ and ‘upset’ – to this day

That said, things would be a lot easier if we know exactly who is in our squad. Preferably, that includes Scott Hogan. Realistically, I’ve already said goodbye.

Let’s just get this done so as we can focus on the football.

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Will cup romance be limited to dreams of Buzzette?

Nick Bruzon

As Brentford prepare for Chelsea, is the FA cup still valid? A guest columnist writes.

18 Jan

It’s a Last Word double today. Along with the column on Sam Saunders, let’s not forget that Brentford have a fourth round FA Cup tie with Chelsea approaching. Tickets are already flying off the shelves with those unable to use the internet lining up from 8am yesterday morning to get their hands on a coveted pair.

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Does this queue show the love of the cup is still there? Or is it simply because of the calibre of opposition? Would a fourth round trip to Cheltenham Town attract the same sort of queue as the one for Chelsea? As Brentford prepare to make the short trip to Stamford Bridge,  we have a special guest columnist.

Regular readers may be familiar with update from Bernard Quackenbush. Now, the entire page is handed over to him as BQ speaks about his love of, and frustration with, this oldest of tournaments. In his own words…..

I love the FA Cup.

There is an excitement like no other when it comes to the Cup. From the balls being plucked from a plastic bucket where a trembling handed ex-footballer valiantly attempts to read numbers through to the game itself. This very season, Brentford will experience the two extremes of the Cup from playing against non-leaguers dreaming of a scalp through to pitting our wits against the best team in the country.
So why have so many fallen out of love with the Cup?

When I was a kid, Cup Final Day was one of the most exciting days of the year. Both BBC & ITV would start their programmes at what felt like breakfast time. Tony Gubba would be posted outside a North London motel reporting on the type of bus that would take the finalists to Wembley. I am sure that did please one type of demographic. There would be special programming with Cup Final Jim’ll Fix It or Its A Knockout. Oh! Er…Nick? Shall we move on from that?

Live broadcasts from trains carrying moustachioed supporters from the North which culminated in seeing them sing Abide With Me after one too m any lagers, and then the game itself played under a scorching sun. And the day would not be complete without a pint…of milk.

So why do we not get this excitement anymore? Even respected journalist Tony Incenzo last week told us it broke his heart that the FA Cup was not held in high regard any more.

The obvious reason first. The Premier League.

In a day when finishing fourth is considered to be a greater achievement than winning the Cup, the old girl was always going to suffer. With the Premier League, came a greater intensity in television coverage with the Ford Super Sunday Battle for Fourth…and its live!!! happening more than once, thus putting a fairly big dent into our dear old Cup.

Its easy to blame Sky for all these woes, but they arent the only TV culprit. Already this season we have seen picks from BT that have been made purely on potential audience, therefore anyone Manchester United plays is going to be live. The decision to show their tie with Reading at Old Trafford rather than the far more appealing Sutton-Wimbledon tie made my heart sink.

Then there is dear old Auntie Beeb. Nick, may I suggest you look away. The BBC are not innocent in this. In fact a lot of blame can be pointed at the BBC for demeaning the Cup. Their early round coverage has meant that a number of ties have had to be put back to a Sunday at 2pm, just so a generic screechy BBC stock reporter can stand on the side of the pitch being patronising about both teams. We even had the sight of Nick’s favourite, Clem, trying to interview Graham Westley mid match. The look on Wesetley’s face said everything and the BBC’s profanity buzzer operator was looking forward to being able to justify his employment.

In Round 3 we have seen the BBC fall into the BT trap of picking a big team whoever they may be playing against, and on every occasion producing the dullest of matches. Spurs-Villa case in point.

The BBC’s dire coverage even extends to later rounds. Last year I looked forward to seeing highlights of the Semi Final which I didnt see as it was on BT earlier in the day, but no we all had to wait until highlights of the day’s Premier League dead rubber matches were shown and we were treated to a tedious goalless draw between two of the dullest teams in history, and then finally at some ungodly hour came the Cup Semi!

So TV has a lot to do with the degrading of the Cup, but who else? The FA!!

Right, let’s start with its marketing. Just thinking about it made me spasm.

Cringeworthy. Dire and so completely out of touch. This seasons politically correct film of friends going to a Cup match is difficult to get through without sticking pins in your eyes. Clubs, including our beloved #BeeTheDJ are being forced to play a Cup playlist, mostly of sponsored content. No doubt promoters are paying the FA to have their bland insipid music played before each tie. We even have the Cup sponsored. For me personally this is akin for the Roman Catholic church referring to ‘his Holiness the Pope as brought to you by Persil, brings out whites, whiter than white’.

Replays. I loved the days when replays went on forever. I can recall an Arsenal-Everton game which had about 4 replays. Yet these days clubs are moaning about having to play them, saying it effects our ability to succeed in Europe. Lets see. How many European trophies have English clubs won recently, then lets think back to the early 1980s when we had limitless replays when English clubs must have won nothing….Oh! Not sure if anyone knew this but Aston Villa were Champions of Europe in this period, just thought I should remind everyone of this. And this season for the first time we wont even have Quarter Final Replays (then why not have them on neutral turf)

One of the most exciting aspects of the Cup was seeing the Semi Finals at neutral venue. I’m sure we can all think of wonderful examples when we were younger of great semis (careful) at grounds like Highbury, Villa Park, Maine Road and Hillsborough, but we now have semis only at Wembley, as the new version of the national stadium (which still smells of wee) needs to be paid for. Where the stadium announcer has to check his schedule to announce in his local radio twang ‘its Team A vs Team B’.

Something many critics will point out is the likes of Stoke, Bournemouth & Watford fielding weakened teams in the Cup in order to preserve their Premier League status. Actually if you look back, these sort of mid to lower placed top flights often fielded weakened sides in the Cup. So its actually not a new practice. Although changing your whole team like my home town team of Bournemouth did, isn’t the norm and they got right royally spanked and embarrassed as a result.

The culmination of this grand competition was of course Cup Final Day. The crowds of spectators walking to Wembley on a hot day ready for a 3pm kick off. Unfortunately we now have a 5.15 kick off. The current time is an abomination, not for the reason you may think. The FA moved the time to 5.15 for a greater TV audience, but I question whether thats true. The tea time kick off is neither here nor there. Its not afternoon and its not evening. Its the time of day when people are getting home, having something to eat or going out to catch the rest of the sun.

5.15 is the worst possible time for the Final, and it feels like its been crowbarred into the TV schedules so people dont miss out on their weekly diet of a third rate singing contest or people having farcical accidents in Casualty. The Cup Final should be the sporting event of the year, and it should be treated as such. But I say 3pm is a thing of the past.

The Cup Final should be primetime, and it should be 7.45, just like the Champions League Final. Platini has plenty of faults, but he got the rescheduling of the UCL Final, spot on. The Cup Final should be pride of place in the TV schedules, the focal point of the day. Make it an event, rather than just another football match. Lets have the massive build up from 4pm. Bring in the special programmes, bring in the celebs and ex-footballers!

So theres my rant over and I thank Nick for giving me the opportunity to vent my spleen. But come 10 to 3, a week Saturday, slightly further West in London, where the posh people live, there will be at least 6000 of us still very much in love with the Cup.

Bernard Quackenbush

Dean talking buttocks as Newcastle match day arrives and Chelsea details emerge.

14 Jan

Saturday morning, 7am. It’s cold out side, very cold, but thankfully the snow has failed to materialise in Brentford. With the FA Cup behind us for now (although the club did confirm details about the Chelsea game on Friday – more below) it is back to League action for the Bees as Newcastle United are the visitors to Griffin Park.

In the red corner, Scott Hogan. He’s the man, the man with the midas touch. Worth his weight in gold, and goals, he’s been finding the net for fun this season yet now finds himself the absolute centre of transfer speculation as those West Ham stories just won’t go away.

In the blue corner (with orange trim), Dwight Gayle. Outright occupant of the penthouse suite in the Championship leading scorer hotel. Scott’s 14 are still 5 behind the Newcastle United man who showed first hand back in October how deadly he can be. Gayle’s brace contributing to a 3-1 win over the Bees at St. James Park and he hasn’t looked back.

So the big question, will we see them face off today? From one respect the good news was Dean Smith’s confirmation in Thursday’s press conference that “Scott Hogan’s buttock is fine, he has trained all week and is available for selection,” The pair were due to speak yesterday to assess the situation and then, come 2pm (or closely after) we’ll get our first look at the team sheet to see if Lasse Vibe retains his place up top or Scott walks straight back into the side.

I can only expect the later. With no fee having been agreed or deal signed then one can only presume he’ll be leading the line. Unless Scott is having some form of hissy fit à la Diego Costa or Dimitri Payet (how angry must Chelsea and West Ham fans be today?) then surely the chance to prove his mettle against the second best team in the division will be the perfect shop window for a player harbouring dreams of top flight football at some point in his career. Whether that be next week or next season.

As Dean went on to add (and you can find the full article on ‘official’ ), “I fully expect him to want to score a hat-trick against Newcastle United and show people who may question his Premier League credentials that he can do it.”

No Brentford fan wants to see Scott leave but is anyone naïve enough to think we could turn down figures in the region of £15million? More to the point, given what he has been through in his career to date, would anybody really stand in the player’s way?  Scott will go to the Premier League at some point soon – whether January or the summer. Of that, have have absolutely no doubt. He’s just too good.

Today could well be our last chance to see him at Griffin Park. At least, in the red and white of Brentford. We’ve only one more home game until the transfer window closes and that’s an evening kick off, on January 31st, against Aston Villa. I’d love to see him starting that one but in my heart of hearts I fear we’ll have said farewell by that point.

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Come on Scott. Could today be the last time we’ll see scenes like this?

Instead, let’s just live for the moment. Can Harlee Dean and crew keep out Dwight Gayle at one end, leaving Scott free to try and catch Newcastle’s free scoring goal machine at the other? Here’s hoping. This  afternoon’s game has goals in it, no doubt. The only question being just how many?

The one piece of news that the club have been able to confirm is that surrounding the FA Cup fourth round tie at Chelsea. It was announced yesterday that that game will be a 3pm kick off on Saturday 28th January. A not surprising decision but, at the same time, given the home team’s subsequent league fixtures there was always the thought it might be brought forward to Friday night or even Saturday lunchtime.

As with our previous visit to Stamford Bridge, we’ve been allocated all 6,000 tickets in their ‘Shed’ end. Details of sale are yet to be released although with the game only a fortnight away expect this to be imminent. The pricing structure of £30 adults and £15 kids is (relatively) competitive – I’m still baulking at the £41 charged by Leeds United –  so filling that end to get Chelsea rocking won’t be an issue.

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Everything we know about the Chelsea game in two tweets

With a home game against Brighton and the aforementioned Villa match immediately after that one, it has all the potential to be a wonderful few weeks for Brentford.

This time ten years ago we were playing games against Leyton Orient, Yeovil Town and Carlisle United as the Bees eventually finished the season a the bottom of League One. Now we’re talking about selling players for £15million whilst taking on some of the biggest names in English football.

It makes you think.

For now, though, it’s all about Newcastle United. See you there.

Nick Bruzon 

Happy with the cup draw? A chance for payback awaits.

10 Jan

The FA Cup fourth round draw has been made and Brentford will face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. It is a draw that immediately evoked memories of the same stage back in 2013 where only a late equaliser from Fernando Torres kept The Blues alive as they forced a replay following a 2-2 at Griffin Park.  That second game was a much more one sided affair as 0-0 at half time turned to 4-0 in favour of a Chelsea side who would eventually make it all the way to the semis before coming unstuck against Manchester City.

Just yesterday morning when writing about the forthcoming draw, it was noted on these pages: Trumping the likes of Manchester City and Sunderland whilst running Southampton and Chelsea more than close. Oh, for a chance to do it once more.

Ask and you shall receive. If only wishes were always granted this easily.

Saunders territory Chelsea

We faced Chelsea back in 2013. 2-2 at Griffin Park

Back then, Chelsea were Champions of Europe although that’s a far cry these days following last season’s failure to even make the Europa League (10th, wasn’t it – so not singing that song for the next few weeks would be nice). That said, nobody could deny they’ve taken the bull by the horns this time around with Antonio Conte at the helm, Diego Costa scoring for fun and their defence a fantasy football manager’s dream. Another clean sheet? Don’t mind if I do.

Brentford, on the other hand, are holding our own in the Championship but consistency is probably still the biggest challenge. With rumours about Scott Hogan’s future circling daily like vultures just waiting to feast on a carcass, could our star man even be wearing the red and white by the time we make the short trip down the road for another West London derby.

Indeed, this must be the first time in some time that we’ve played games against Fulham, QPR and Chelsea all in the same season.Where’s Luis Melville when you need him to dig out the stats on the last time that happened? (Luis, if you are reading…..).

We haven’t got a chance? Or have we? Could that cup magic deliver another wonderful story?

I have no doubt the away end will be sold out. We took 6,000 Back in 2013 and surely similar numbers will travel this time, ticket allocation permitting. Certainly the Bees will inject some atmosphere into what felt very much like a library last time out (watch out for those ‘official flag wavers’) whilst I’m sure David Luiz will warrant special attention.

Nobody at Griffin Park has forgotten what happened to Jake Reeves in the replay as the youngster came out on the wrong end of an assault (won’t dignify it with the word ‘foul’ or ‘challenge’) from the Brazilian.

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That is, of course, if Luiz and the rest of Chelsea’s first team even play in this one. With the FA Cup falling down the pecking order for many of the, so-called, ‘big’ clubs might we see a less familiar line up? Even John Terry played on Sunday against Peterborough (before being promptly red carded).

Likewise, the tie only comes a few days prior to The Blues’ trip to Liverpool for a game with  a team who are currently their closest rivals for the Premier League title. Is it wishful thinking to imagine that could play into our hands? That minds will be focussed more on that than a cup tie with a Brentford team who, on paper, they should win the floor with?

Let’s hope so. As we all know ‘on paper’ counts for nothing in this sort of game. Last time out it took Chelsea over two hours of football before they were finally able to take the lead against the Bees whilst let’s not forget the fourth round 2015. Bradford City, of course, coming from 2-0 down at Stamford Bridge to eventually emerge with an incredible 4-2 victory.

Being honest, the only slight down side to all of this is feeling a little disappointed that we’ve been denied the opportunity to visit a new ground. With all due respect to Chelsea, we’ve been there and done that. Until the Bees are regularly competing in the Premier League (one day, one day) then these sort of games are the only chance we get to mix it with football’s biggest names. Wonderful though another trip to Stamford Bridge will be, the chance to play one of the Manchester teams or even the likes of Arsenal would have been incredible.

Then again, there’s always the fifth round for that.

See you there. I can’t wait.

Nick Bruzon