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Come on Brentford. Come on Sergi. The time is now !

4 Aug

Here we go. Tuesday is upon us. The biggest game in our history is a phrase that has been used many, many times before but with Brentford facing Fulham for a place in next season’s Premier League, perhaps it could actually be true this time. At least, if not in our history then certainly in living memory. The chance of returning to the top flight for the first time since that brief, war interrupted, spell from 1935-47 is one game away. Our most exciting team in recent times has the possibility to emulate what could be argued our greatest ever. 

Cripes. This is exciting. Ridiculously so. We all know about Brentford’s past form in the play-offs. An albatross around the neck that has now been removed. A beast of burden that has flown away with the move to Lionel Road. The Griffin Park gypsy curse has now been lifted. That’s not to say that victory is assured, of course, but at least we can start from fresh. Elephants in the room can be talked about and monkeys have jumped from our backs. The five semi-final and the three deciding game defeats nothing more than a historical footnote. We’ve tripped up as many times as there have been Fast And Furious movies (not counting 2019 spin-off: Hobbs And Shaw). Now, all jinxes have been reset. New ground, new Brentford.

Lionel Road 15 Sep 2018

Lionel Road – the early years

Being quite honest, I AM confident. Not arrogantly so. We’re going to have to be on our best to win this. Just because we’ve beaten Fulham twice this season don’t mean a third time around is assured. But why not be positive? Why not believe in your team? That doesn’t make me a bad man. I’m going into this one on the up. Dreaming of what might be at the end of it. Celebrations. Excitement. Optimism. Just reward for what has been a season of some incredible football after a wobbly start. Seeing that incredible run-in, as Leeds Untied and West Brom were slowly reeled in, come to final fruition as we look to join them in the Premier League.

I’ve been to every play-off that Brentford have taken part in to date. Kevin Godfrey’s late equaliser against Tranmere. Kevin O’Connor scoring that first leg-penalty against Swindon. Trouncing Bristol City. There have been some highs. Not many, but some. Yet never quite getting over the line. No moment will surpass the semi-final defeat to Huddersfield Town on penalties. Quite possibly my lowest moment ever as a Bees’ fan – worse even than ‘that’ penalty.

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94-95. The all time kick in the nuts

These are mentioned for context aswell as positivity about the feelings that a win will engender. Nobody in this squad has survived even from the Middlesbrough semi at the start of Championship life, let alone further back. They are only looking forward. When it comes to tonight’s game, past results are nothing more than a historical curio known and experienced by those of us in our mid-thirties (and beyond).

The moment is approaching. I can’t wait for it all to start. The team will be in the special blue shirts (good news) and you can bet our flair players will love using the wide open spaces of Wembley to cause havoc down the flanks. And through the middle. Fulham have injury doubts over Mitrovic and Kabano but, at the end of the day (Clive) , it doesn’t matter who they start. This is purely down to us and how we play. Results over the season have proven that there isn’t a top six team that can stop us when we are on fire. Play like we’ve been doing and the momentum will be with us. The destruction of Swansea City last week showed that.

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Brentford are back in blue and white

Easy. On paper. In practice, who knows. At 7.45 we find out. We’d all love to be there. Are desperate to be there. SkyBet released the below film last night.

Yours truly was fortunate enough to be invited to take part and, being honest, it was quite emotional. A huge privilege being allowed back through the gates of Griffin Park to help out.

 

H came with me and is now buzzing under the belief that he is the last fan ever to step foot on the hallowed turf. Is he? Who knows? Personally, I’m taking inspiration from his shirt. The boy has a gift for calling games and he’s nothing but full of positive premonitions about tonight. Oh, if Sergi was to score the winner late on I think the roof would come off with the noise.

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Is this the ultimate good omen?

That’s all a long way off. I am confident, as noted, but it is with good reason. Confident because I know what our players can do. Confident because I know how driven Pontus Jansson is.  Confident because Thomas Frank has motivational powers unequalled by any previous Brentford manager (perhaps Martin Allen aside). Confident because if all else fails, we’ve still got ‘that’ whiteboard. 

Yet, at the same time, there are nerves at the moment. Perhaps as much due to the anticipation. To knowing how slowly the clock is going to be moving today as it inches towards kick-off time. Hoping we come out of the traps flying.

We took a family trip up to London yesterday. It was like a ghost town but still great fun. We came back via the river service from Westminster to Kew Gardens (always a great trip and about as Corona safe an outdoor activity as you can undertake). The boat went past both grounds  – Craven Cottage and Lionel Road – within the space of a few Peronis. We’re that close to each other. Near neighbours doing battle for the ultimate prize. 

Is it being knocked down, daddy?” asked H, looking at the cranes and bulldozers that lined our opponents three-sided ground. Let’s hope Fulham do, indeed, collapse tonight.

No pressure….

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H embracing his inner Bee at Kew

Nick Bruzon    

Very much behind The Times. ‘He’ doesn’t support us, does he?

3 Aug

Almost there. Monday morning. Brentford v Fulham in the Championship play-off final is little more than a day away. Tomorrow night we walk out at Wembley to see if the most incredible season on record, one which has seen us play the last ever game at Griffin Park alongside the campaign interrupting global pandemic, has the happiest of endings. Yet with the game almost upon us, the age old question as to celebrity fans has reared an ugly head once more. Specifically, the allegation that Phill Collins supports The Bees.

This, the suggestion doing the rounds on Twitter yesterday after the GPG shared  the below.  Utter gumph. Screenshot 2020-08-03 at 07.35.33

Indeed, it was territory covered in the matchday programme for the final Brentford game played out in front of fans – the 5-0 trashing of Sheffield Wednesday back in early March (how long ago does that feel now?).

It appeared in response to the same allegation being made by Cardiff City in their publication the previous game.

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We all know who our celebrity fans are. Adam Devlin, guitarist for popular music’s The Bluetones. Natalie Sawyer. Richard Archer from Hard-Fi / newly formed pop combo ‘Offworld’ (do check them on Spotify et al). Rhino from the Quo. Likewise comedian Nathan Caton, Rick Wakeman and  Dean Gaffney (Wellard from Eastenders). Amongst others. 

Sadly, Cameron Diaz is not amongst their number. Or, certainly, wasn’t unless she has since paid a clandestine visit. A popular urban legend finally debunked with those fatal words a few years back after a tip off from, errr… The full story on that one is here.

Yet like the ever popular Charlies’ Angels star, the Phil Collins story is one that pops it’s head above the parapets every now and again. A story based on nothing more than his youthful visits to Griffin Park. A story that has been clarified by the singer himself. Apparently. 

First glance at his autobiography – where the locally born slush-merchant notes that as the closest big club to Hounslow he used to attend our matches – suggest this may have been true,

Yet scratch below the surface and a different story emerges. In an interview, the Groovy kind of love singer has been quoted as saying that he “used to support Brentford when I was a small boy as I lived not far away. I moved closer to London and lived close to Queens Park Rangers, and had a season ticket for a few years during the great Stan Bowles, Phil Parkes years. I have to say though that I always had a soft spot for the Spurs team of the 60’s with Greaves (a real hero of mine) and Mackay etc….(I could name the whole team but I won’t !!! ) However I lived in West London and Spurs over in North London was too far to go as a lad.

More recently (70’s!!) I’ve kept a close eye on Liverpool and befriended Kenny Dalglish, David Johnson and Ray Clemence. In fact one year they one the championship, we played in Liverpool the same day as the deciding game, and we all got together after the show and had a few drinks. So as you see I’ve spread my affection around a bit !!!

As the aforementioned Bluetone would opine on Twitter following the Cardiff City publication, “So basically he supports any team that accommodates his current geographical location and touring schedule. There’s a proper fan.

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“I support Brentford you say? ” But seriously,  no fan would wear this..

Instead, Phil would seem to have more clubs than Nick Faldo and the loyalty of a half and half wearing snake.

As for Fulham, it’ll be interesting to see who comes out of the woodwork tomorrow night. Their own list is hardly a galaxy of stars. Lily Allen. The pointless chap. Hugh Grant. Brian Guest. 

David Mellor used to support them in the 70s (to the extent of even writing programme notes) before committing the lowest of low acts, that of a grown up cheating on their own team, and transforming into a Chelsea supporter. Nobody deserves that – not even Fulham. Well, almost nobody deserves that.

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Brian Guest – Fulham note him as a fan despite the pain inflicted by the Bees

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.  

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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.  

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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?

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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

Things are now so desperate, it may be time to channel the spirit of Dream Team.

1 Aug

Saturday morning. The coffee is flowing and the sun is already up in TW8, even if Mrs. Bruzon and H are both asleep. Very much that last moment of calm before the domestic excitement begins once more. Yet rather than a 7 (seven) year old with volume control issues, Brentford v Fulham in the Championship play-off final is the only thing on the mind at that moment. Cripes, there are still three more wake ups and almost four more days until this one comes around. I know life is a precious gift which shouldn’t be wished away but right now I can’t wait for this game. It needs to be now. Please. Any scrap of news is being leapt upon. So high is the anticipation in our house, I  was ‘that’ close to opening some clickbait from Football League World  – “The three reasons this team will win the play-offs” can only be moments away. Instead, there is a scrap of genuine news out there with the announcement of our referee – Martin Atkinson.

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This is good, I think. If only because Atkinson is not a name to conjure up nightmares in the same vein as Stroud, Attwell and Ward (the ‘referees’ rather than a low budget law firm). A quick flick through the Last Word archives only find one reference to him, encouraging free flowing football whilst he has refereed games at the highest levels – Premier league, Europe and Internationals. If anyone knows differently please send in a postcard and don’t forget to mark it ‘Atkinson’ in the top corner.

Cripes, so desperate is the hunt for information I’ve even listened to something called a ‘podcast’. What a great concept. Jonathan Oakes, the Sky Sports EFL reporter, reviews the play-off semi-finals and the big game itself alongside Scott Minto and Andy Hinchcliffe. You can listen on your laptop or download for later consumption. Succinct discussion, informed opinion and a smattering of highlights. This is an amazing idea and is one that, I think, could really take off. You can find that here.

Equally interesting was Minto’s take on Fulham goal threat Aleksander Mitrovic who, of course, missed the game against Cardiff City: “I personally don’t see how he can start when he can’t even be on the bench [for the semi-final]. The fact he wasn’t even an option tells me, five days later, how can he be 100 per cent fit?”  

Opinion is great, of course, and especially when it bigs up your team. Really instilling a sense of confidence in what we can do. Brentford had that little wobble but really bounced back to our brilliant best in the game against Swansea City. What a way to come flying our of the blocks. What a way to put the disappointment of Barnsley behind us. 

Crash: 1-0 Ollie Watkins. 

Bang : 2-0 Emiliano Marcondes. 

Wallop : 3-0 Bryan Mbeumo.    

It was pedal to the metal stuff from the turbo charged BMW, with Benrahma doing everything but got his name on the score sheet. There was the assist for Emiliano, the footwork to create ‘that’ opening in the first half and, of course, the double strike against the woodwork. Had he been able to make it three on 18 minutes, rather than see his direct drive flash across the goal line after hitting the inside of the post, it really could have been a 7 (seven) – 0 bracketing. 

That was then, this is now. We go into this one on a high and I’m desperate to get going. Again. Alas, when we do it will be behind closed doors. With all jinxes now reset, missing out on a visit to Wembley is devastating. I’d LOVE to be there. We all would. Instead, the best we can hope for is the pandemic petri dish of the Box Park or being lucky enough to get a seat in a pub. So near yet so far. The game played out in front of nothing more than a sea of flags and a smattering of visiting dignitaries. If ever there was a time for Cliff to really lose his composure. For Matthew Benham to sneak in a megaphone (or Simon) under his coat. For Peter Gilham to take over p.a. duties then it is Tuesday. This is no place for decorum. It’s a big stadium to fill, with almost all the 90,000 seats remaining empty.

I want to be there. I need to be there. It’s not going to happen. Having watched that many episodes of Dream Team, I’m pretty sure that the only way to gain entry will be to simply stroll up to the stadium in a neon yellow tabard, marked ‘PRESS’.  Whistle innocently and then ghost in via the tradesman’s entrance. 

If only life was that simple. Instead, it’ll be on the couch once more. The beers in. The lucky shirts on. The only real decision to be made one of ‘home’ or ‘away’. Our lucky sofa or sitting in the shadow of the now dark floodlights of our former home, Griffin Park. Roaring the Lionel Road team on from the comfort of a house on Brook Road South.

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It worked for the Wembley assassin on Dream Team

Sadly, there are only three ways to get in to Wembley and I can’t see them playing out. The call is yet to come through from Kitman Bob for an apprentice to help lay out the shirts. Unless his letter has got lost in the post, Matthew Benham is yet to invite me on to the board. The chance of trying to blag it in as a journalist a gesture as futile as the dinosaurs trying to deflect an asteroid.  

Instead, it’s going to be three and a bit days of killing time and waiting for the big one. The chance to be crowned the ultimate kings of West London football. To hit the top flight. Hurry up Tuesday, please.

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Surely it couldn’t work in real life?

Nick Bruzon

Has the curse of 1904 just been lifted?

31 Jul

Brentford now know who we will face in Tuesday’s Championship play-off final. Wembley host an all West London affair featuring the Bees and Fulham. Tuesday night saw the Brentford back to their imperious best as Swansea were trounced by our blitzkrieg assault, sailing back to Wales on a river of their fans’ salty tears. Oh, that amazing video 😉 . Well played there by @SwanseaAnalyti1 , just in case there had been any doubt about the Swans’ first leg tactics. The Cottagers, meanwhile, limped through on the wrong end of a 2-1 home defeat by Cardiff City yesterday evening. Whilst they have the aggregate win, Scott Parker’s face afterwards said it all (not for the first time).

Tuesday night is going to be huge. We all know the financial implications of going up. We’re all looking for the ultimate in bragging rights. Brentford are currently the kings of West London football based on results between our teams this season. Confidence is high but this now boils down to one more game. One more assault. One more chance to show the world what this team is made of. Said Benrahma has just been named Championship player of the month for July but rather than being the jinx these things have been rumoured to be, has a curse been lifted?

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Back when Griffin Park became our home in 1904, a gypsy camp had to first be removed from the orchard on which it was built before work could begin in earnest (sound familiar?). Rumour has it that a curse was placed, saying the club would never amount to anything, or some such words, until we left. Well, with Swansea City being the final visitors then, as it stands, Brentford are technically now playing at Lionel Road. Our next game takes place on the neutral ground of Wembley and then we run out at the new stadium. As such, has the curse now been lifted?  

I for one, am saying yes. Based on no more scientific knowledge than blind optimism and a healthy respect for football tradition and jinx-factor. Orange balls MUST be used in the snow. Proper use of brackets after 7(seven). Extra strong mints mid-game. Haribo Star mix after goals have been scored. Never shave on a winning run. Never wash the lucky shirt. The same pants must be worn (the jury remains out on whether they should be washed) . Clem. As for Clem, well we could write a book on his powers – and if you’d like to read more……. 

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Clem – had his moments but has since turned the corner

Let’s hope it is the case, given our past form in the play-offs. Move along, nothing to see here. Quite literally. Instead, we’re all set for ninth time lucky. No amount of Matthew Benham urinating in the corners (hypothetically, I hope….) or the board sprinkling holy water in each goal mouth  – the two standard techniques for ‘curse removal’ – has so far resulted in us being able to take the ultimate step. So they’ve just done the next best thing and moved grounds.

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Griffin Park this week. Tread carefully in the corners.

Now, Kitman Bob has the needle and thread out. Dates and Teams are being added to shirts in that cup final tradition. Again, one which hasn’t worked that well for us in the past but who cares? All bets are now off. Everything is reset. We can start again. In theory, Wembley could become the happiest of hunting grounds. Don’t shoot the messenger….      

There’s a lot to talk about between now and Tuesday evening. For now, we’ve enjoyed the moment of Swansea but that’s been and gone. Just as we don’t dwell on Barnsley there’s nothing much to be gained by reflecting too much on the the good. All we can do is look forward. To know we are 90 minutes away from playing the biggest clubs in the land on a regular basis. And also Leeds United.

Bring it on.

Time for Bob to get his needle and thread out

Nick Bruzon

Strange times call for strange bedfellows. Paging Brian Guest…..

14 Jul

West Bromwich Albion host Fulham tonight. Brentford entertain Preston tomorrow. Whilst the theoretical chance to go top, midweek, was taken away by Leeds United nabbing an 89th minute winner on Sunday, there is still a very real possibility we could head into the weekend sitting in an automatic position. For that, two things needs to happen. A win for the Bees on Wednesday and, say this quietly, victory for the Cottagers this evening. Even thinking about that feels wrong but for the greater good, lets all crack open a Victoria sponge, pour a large G&T then see what plays out at 5pm.

With The Baggies three points ahead and Fulham two behind, the most realistic chance of either West London side taking an automatic position starts with a win for The Cottagers. Equally, West Bromwich Albion know exactly how much closer to the finish line victory will take them and I can only see them going for it. Regardless of their own ability when the moment arrives, Fulham look awful at the moment. Our own 2-0 win in the first match post lockdown has seen the wheels coming off and they were also swept aside at Leeds United. Games with the good teams seem to be somewhat of a challenge. The only hope here seems to be what looks like a paper thin West Brom defence which, but for goalkeeper Sam Johnstone, should have been down and out rather than taking the draw at Blackburn on Saturday. 

It’s all well and good talking theory but it still relies on a win for Fulham. And in the normal course of events nobody wants that. Do they? Well, perhaps one person does. At this juncture it seems an appropriate time to share something I published at Christmas (in the matchday programme rather than online)…..

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My name is Brian Guest and I support Fulham. Except of course it’s not and I don’t. Yet in this season of peace on Earth and goodwill to all, I’d like to give my own Festive gift to our guests. A confession and, perhaps more importantly, a vital lesson in being extremely careful that the person you are speaking to via the internet is actually who they say they are. Moreso when you outsource your programme content to a third party provider. Based in Liverpool.

Back in January 2017, Fulham ‘official’ put out a tweet looking for supporters to complete a brief Q&A for the ‘My club’ section of their matchday magazine. Anybody interested should contact the aforementioned Merseyside publication house via email. With nothing to lose, a message was sent from an account in the name of a Mr. B. Guest expressing interest.

Quicker than you can say ‘Neutral Stand’ , a reply was received : Hi Brian. If you could answer the attached and return it with a jpeg pic of yourself, we’ll let you know which programme it will go in.

No? Surely not? It couldn’t be that easy, could it? Fearing this too good to be true, I consulted a fellow Bees supporter who we’ll just call ‘Mr. Griffiths ‘ to protect his identity (that should fool them, Tim). We both came to the conclusion that there was nothing to lose and so the next morning a reply was sent. Including the requested picture although, because it had all been too easy so far, why not really push the boat out and use my own pen pic from the Brentford programme column of that season? The one wearing our Spall ‘87-‘88 away shirt.

And then that morning, less than 24 hours after putting the balls in motion, the following response was received:  Thanks Brian. A while off, but you’ll be in the Brentford programme on the last day of the season. Quite apt given they were your first game?

Quite apt? The reaction was one akin to the moment Stuart Dallas hit ‘that’ shot in our 4-1 Championship win at the Cottage. At which point , and after a brief catch up with ‘Tim’, the pair of us had to then maintain a lips sealed silence for the next three months. Not so much to stop Fulham finding out but more to really try and deliver a surprise for our own fans who, on seeing the answers, would hopefully twig. And so come April, with the secret told only to a few the night before, the stage was set.

My word. They bit. Hook, line and sinker. It was printed in full. Even the photo. Space precludes us from sharing the full article but choice extracts included:

First game? 26 April, 1992. Division 3. Away at Brentford. 4-0 down at halftime. At least the second half was 0-0. A baptism of fire. Obviously the score line wasn’t the best (I suppose like saying that the Titanic had stability issues) but what an atmosphere. I’ll never forget it and have been hooked ever since.

First shirt? Unusually enough, I’ve never owned a replica home shirt. That said, I’ve got a soft spot for the 2001 Pizza Hut kit. A perfect symmetry between sponsor and supporter – who doesn’t love a stuffed crust after a game?

Favourite game? Can I cheat and have two? Winning the two-legged Intertoto cup final in 2002 against Bologna. What an honour, what prestige and what a reward as it meant Fulham earned full European qualification for the first time ever.

A game you’d like to forget? Continuing an earlier theme (sorry) but definitely the 1-4 home loss to Brentford in April 2015. Given Fulham’s long top flight status the chance to avenge that first ever game had been a long time coming. Not so much a dish ‘best served cold’ as more one best served up to the river rats.

Favourite goal? Dickson Etuhu vs. Blackpool 3 April 2011 capped a brilliant day for me. A 3-0 win for The Whites whilst, of course, Michael Jackson’s statue was officially unveiled before kick off.

Favourite season? 2009-10 Established in the Premier League under Roy Hodgson, Fulham got all the way to the final of the Europa League beating Juventus along the way. The journey may have ended in defeat but what an incredible season.

Greatest sacrifice to watch the Whites? Giving up two tickets to the World Polo Championship final in California to see Fulham play Bournemouth in August 1998. It was a 0-0 draw . Argentina beat Brazil in the Polo, for the record.

Pre-match ritual? I used to go up to the statue and touch Michael Jackson but these days I cannot leave the house unless I’ve watched an episode of Pointless. It’s not a prematch prediction (LOL) but in honour of the legend that is celebrity fan Richard Osman.

I’d like to thank Mr. Griffiths for his help. Specifically around Dickson Etuhu and the Polo. Most of all, I’d like to thank Fulham. Whilst Mr. Osman may deem a game with the rivals to be an irrelevance, certainly if you believe what you read on social media, for me there’s no finer team to mug in their own backyard. Dallas did Fulham and Maupay had his moment but for me, Clive, it’s all about Brian Guest.

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Brian Guest – thanks, Fulham

Nick Bruzon

The Brentford BMW has a new M as Fulham are flayed. Again.

21 Jun

Well that was just magnificent. It wasn’t the same as being there, let’s not pretend otherwise, but Brentford were nothing short of incredible as they destroyed Fulham at a more atmospheric than usual Craven Cottage on Saturday lunchtime. Benrahma and Marcondes doing their thing in Jota time to send the TV audience wild and silence the home team’s tannoy. Scott Parker was left looking as though he’d caught Alexsander Mitrovic red-handed going through his fridge whilst one can only imagine the scenes that would have played out had we been in the away end for this most incredible of denouements. I believe what the kids would call ‘limbs’. Even Pontus was smiling at full time. Not a typo. His former club, Leeds United, have already been displaced at the top of the table and the gap to our next opponents, West Bromwich Albion, reeled in by two points.

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The smile says it all

Imagine choosing not to watch that. What else were you going to do on a Coronavirus Saturday lunchtime? Online shopping? Cleaning the house? Or sit in your social bubbles with a few drinks to see if the impossible might become possible. Could Brentford pick up where we left off in March and keep up the push for ‘automatic’?

Well, a 2-0 win for the Bees means we are now eight points off West Brom and Leeds (albeit Bielsa’s boys have a a game in hand at Cardiff today) with the Baggies due to visit Griffin Park on Friday night under the lights. That one’s going to be huge but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There’s the small matter of destroying Fulham to talk about first.

Brentford took the game to our hosts from the off. This, despite Thomas Frank confirming that Bryan Mbeumo would be missing out as the individual who had tested positive for Coronavirus. The player has shown no symptoms but is self-isolating at present whilst the rest of the squad had all come back negative on their subsequent tests. Take care Bryan and see you soon. But if his absence might have felt like a blow, it wasn’t impacting the team. Tarique Fosu stepped in and the hairy Bees (Benrahma’s bouff, Dasilva’s beard and Jensen’s top knot – oh dear) went for it.

Both keepers were in good form as the hosts, in the unusual situation of being  roared on…by their p.a. system…. found a way back in to the game. Being honest, David Raya kept us well in it at times whilst they probably had the better of the first half chances. Despite our possession, drive and one close effort from Josh, it was Decordova-Reid who hit the bar whilst Knockaert and Mitrovic both came close. The later even found the back of the net in the second half although was correctly adjudged to have been well offside. The linesman’s flag being lowered with almost slow-motion accuracy to chalk off the rotund striker’s effort.  

And with it, their chance was gone. The arrival of Shandon Baptiste and Emiliano Marcondes breathing new life into Brentford as we kept on pushing. Break followed break until, with the game well into the clock 88th minute, Emiliano played a ball across the box which Benrahma guided home from close in. Yessssss!!! The scream from our house probably loud enough to wake the dead. It was a noise replicated across this part of West London as the Bees moved into a (surely) unassailable position.

No word of a lie, there was calm in our house. This is not the Brentford of old. The Brentford that cock it up late to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Thomas Frank’s brand of football is part Kevin Keegan (minus the meltdown), part confidence and a huge dollop of faith in his players. We kept going. If the ball is up the other end then the opposition can’t score. And sure enough, they couldn’t. Fulham left very much in second place as Marcondes wrapped up the points, and his own man-of-the-match award, late into stoppage time with a cool finish. Not bad for twenty minutes work.

Fulham were broken. Battered. Down and very much out. They retain third place, for now, although have the Bees breathing right down their neck and a trip to Leeds United next up. Either way, something has to give there. With the visit of West Bromwich Albion to Griffin Park taking place the night before, that Elland Road game could turn out to have even more significance than already. Especially if Cardiff City can pull a favour out of the bag today when Bielsa and co resume their own campaign.

I didn’t expect West Brom to drop points yesterday. I mean, Birmingham City? But it happened and that’s a dirty favour we’ll gratefully accept. These early games are going to be critical as teams rediscover there form and fitness. Accept the gifts whilst you can and enjoy our own moment. Beating a team above us in the table, whoever they are, is no small feat. Don’t let the derby nature of the game take away what we achieved. Likewise, Blues at the Hawthorns. No matter how it may feel.

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…Our squad is ten times better than yours ever was…

Yet for now it would be trite not to focus on our own performance. A never give up reminder that football is a 90 minute game. Football is a squad game and if you keep going to the very end, rewards can come.

I’d love to have been there. No question. It was a quite amazing finish to a fixture that always brings out the best in Brentford. Everybody from Jota and Stuart Dallas to Neal Maupay and even Brian Guest have written their own particular chapter in the Brentford- Fulham story. To that you can now add Emiliano Marcondes. The BMW found a new M when it mattered.

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We can’t celebrate in person but this was the next best thing

I’m desperate to attend on Friday but it’s not going to happen. Sadly. I’m not alone. Instead, it’s another shift in front of the TV and the genuine belief that the Bees will pick up where we left off. Yesterday was such a huge morale boost. Something that was quite evident in our own post-match Zoom chat aswell as from dipping in and out of social media. Wherever you went, there we were celebrating. And why not?

Roll on Friday night. Football Is back. It is very different and it is very echoy. But it also has Brentford winning and foe me, Clive, that alone is cause for celebration. Four derbies this season and four wins. Kings of West London. I’ll take that.

See you Friday. In spirit. 

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Nick Bruzon   

All rituals are reset. All clappers binned.

20 Jun

Here. We. Go. I shouldn’t be this excited about a ‘behind closed doors’ game but I am. And there are no apologies. Brentford travel to Fulham this lunchtime for the first Championship game since lockdown began. I-player passes have been issued, banner photos uploaded and we’ve had another chance to get used to the surreal sight of crowd free matches with two more fixtures last night. Norwich City v Southampton followed by Spurs – Man U. It is odd. It is so desperately lacking fans. But it IS a game of football. More than we’ve had in what feels like an eternity since the 5-0 humping of Sheffield Wednesday at Griffin Park in early March. 

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Sheffield Wednesday. 5-0. Griffin Park empty, save for the multi-coloured seats

At 12.30pm I’ll be at The Cottage, backing our boys and heckling Fulham. In spirit. In reality, this will be on the sofa. Jostling with Harry for the prime viewing seat. Mrs. Bruzon being wound up by our bickering as a 7(seven) year old – where the h*ck has that gone? – runs rings around yours truly. Beer in hand and mandatory goal sweets at the ready. Me, not H. One Starmix each time the ball hits the back of the net. All other snacks are able to be eaten with abandon but this is the only time the magic Haribo can be consumed.

It’s a silly tradition that has sprung up amongst our nearest and dearest at Griffin Park (and still beats taking a Victoria sponge to a game). The bag being passed around everyone from Angry Dad to Mr. Partridge and Ohh-nooo Brentford Panic man.

It’s this sort of silly ritual that no amount of TV viewing can replace. The fortnightly interaction with friends and those who have become part of our football family. People whose names we may not even know but whose faces are as familiar to us as those on the pitch. Where’s Jumper Man when you need him? Harry Potter? Billy (Grant)? Although I’m sure even in fan free football he’ll find a way to get his face in front of a TV camera today. The Lockdown inspired ‘Griffin Park Favourites’ Top Trumps pack was about as close as it got. 

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This was about as close as supporter interaction got

It does also make me wonder what lockdown has done to those other important factors that are responsible for Brentford’s performance? No amount of mid-week training can replace the all important power of a supporter wearing the lucky shirt and magic pants. The players can be as fit as they want but that’s nothing compared to not shaving on a winning run or meeting at the same time in the same pub for the same pre-match pint and lunch. Defeat is not rectified by bringing the players in on a Sunday but simply by drinking a Guinness in The Griffin.

All that is now out of the window. I can’t even remember what I was wearing when we were mainlining Haribo against Sheffield Wednesday. Everything is reset and we’re back off once more.

Fortunately, the Bees are in a good place and are as ready for it as possible. Thomas Frank’s press conference was full of his usual positivity. He described how the players showed unbelievable attitude, hard work and came back in a very good place. More importantly, that we are in a better place because we have all our injured players back. Everybody is fit and available for selection. Quite simply, we have the strongest line up available. Something. Something. Something. BMW.

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They’re ok I suppose

His press conference is up on YouTube now. The Zoom chats we became so familiar with in the Spring time being used again to good effect although, sadly, no camera in Greville’s house. I guess there’s only so much topless action or ‘mopping up – live’ one can be treated to. Cripes, lockdown entertainment was desperate. But we’ve got through those first three months and life is slowly starting to return to some kind of previous incarnation. Albeit in very small steps.

 

The other interesting point to come out of Thomas’ talk was his assertion that we’ll see more away wins in the championship than compared to normal. This, a phenomenon that is already playing out in the Bundesliga. Home advantage is no longer a thing with the edge gained from playing in front of your own supporters definitely missing. Here’s hoping that is proven today. Fulham’s missing foam fingers and silenced clappers could prove conspicuous by their absence.

I can’t wait for this one. It’s going to be weird. It’s not going to be the same as being there. But it will be a chance to see our beloved Brentifrd back in action. And if that comes with us stuffing Fulham then all the better.

Roll on 12.30pm. See you there. (kind of). As @TheChauffeur_ put it so succinctly on Twitter this morning…..

Nick Bruzon 

TV review. Football : 3 out of 5. Can Brentford do better?

18 Jun

Well that was quite the surreal experience. It looked like football. Kind of sounded like football. But without the fans it certainly wasn’t football. Mrs. Bruzon summed it up nicely during the Manchester City v Arsenal game with the succinct observation that, “My God, this is shit”. On the plus side, we had the tragedy of David Luiz to enjoy – one that always brings a smile to the face of us Brentford Fans and an elbow to the face of Jake Reeves. Prior to that was the ‘return of football’ with Aston Villa v Sheffield United. A game which saw Hawkeye ball tracking fail to return from furlough and Dean Smith, not unusually, believing his team deserved that (because they’ve previously been on the receiving end). But with the trip to Fulham coming ever closer, what did we learn last night ?

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Nobody has forgotten…

Well the first thing being that the game at the Cottage has come into question from some fans, with the announcement from Brentford that, “We have had a positive test from the latest round of Covid-19 testing. The individual concerned is now self-isolating in accordance with the EFL guidelines”. There’s nothing further added. No word on how the individual is faring or who it is although the priority here being we all wish them well for a quick recovery. There has been no suggestion of any postponement either – from either the club or the EFL  – so it’s pretty safe to assume that we will be going ahead as (new) normal come Saturday lunchtime. The short hop to Fulham set for a televised 12.30pm kick off.

Of course I’ll be watching on Saturday. The chance to tear Fulham a new one never one to be missed. The opportunity to close in on ‘automatic’ as appealing . For those needing a reminder, victory would take us within a point of our third placed neighbours whilst table topping Leeds United are 11 points clear at the top of the pile. And I did have to check, it’s been that long. It’s been missed a lot. Even Harry said to me last night, “Daddy, I really miss my seat at Griffin Park. I wish I could be back there”. Don’t we all. Instead, TV coverage is the next best thing and we had our first taste of it last night.

There was the option of genuine coverage – the one where you could hear every pin drop, exhortion from the coaches and clanger from David Luiz – or the version with fake crowd sound piped over the top. We settled on the later. It made a very odd experience, where supporters had been replaced with giant flags, slightly less surreal. But not much. It was weird. It wasn’t football as we know it but at least it was here. Arsenal showing their customary irrelevance. Their pretentions of success nothing more than a rapidly fading memory. Manchester City imperious and sweeping all before them.

Curse Liverpool and their enormous lead at the business end of the Premier League. The only consolation being that the inevitable triumph will be greeted with, “Well, you won it. But….”. That said, I’m sure their fans will be gracious when the moment finally comes and it won’t be mentioned much.

Yet even with fake sound I found it tough going. Fans are such a vital part to every game and never more has it been seen. Or not. There was no humour. No terrace wags. No natural reaction to events unfolding but more a background hum much akin to motorway traffic heard from a distance. Personally, I don’t know what it’s gong to be like watching a game at Griffin Park without Angry Dad giving his advice to the touchline officials and the referee. 

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The referee and his assistants can now ignore all reminders of the rules

One New Road observer has been in touch to share his thoughts about the prospect of watching Brentford in such circumstance, and they are, as ever, infinitely more eloquent than anything yours truly can put together….. 

“As someone who regularly attends football, what makes the atmosphere at football special and genuine isn’t that sanitised “this is what football sounds like” image. It’s the spontaneity, the characters unique to your section of the crowd, the extra edge a midweek match has as people arrive having had quite enough of work. It’s the chatter and buzz of the crowd before kick off, it’s the lone joker that pipes up with a slice of dark humour at the sight of yet another turgid midfield display, it’s the vociferous rebuke of a player at an FA Cup tie that has the TV producer scrambling for the mixing desk (although let’s keep it inclusive at all times), it’s one away player being singled out as that afternoon’s pantomime villain, it’s the crowd shouting “handball” with every pass to mock the opposition’s failed claim for a penalty. That’s the romance of football. That’s atmosphere. 

You can’t replace that with carefully vetted recordings of Barcelona fans performing their manufactured anthem or, heaven forbid, a crowd using cardboard clappers instead of making noise with their hands and mouths. Genuine atmosphere isn’t someone in the booth pressing a button to play GenericCrowdGoesOohClip3 as another wayward shot sails over the bar. If you want that, you can get plenty of it in FIFA Soccer. I’m not interested in hearing what Sky Sports wants us to think football sounds like. 

One Bundesliga referee recently reported feeling like the job is easier and his heart rate is lower without a baying crowd on his back. Playing recordings of the home crowd jeering a decision won’t have any significant effect on that. The referee and players know it’s fake. Pressuring a referee is part of our job as fans and something that can’t be replicated.

Will anyone dare play a clip of their crowd booing the team off at half time as they’re 3-0 down? But it would be a very brave club that piped in a recording of their entire home end letting Lee Tomlin know he’s a wanker. For example.” *

All this aside, I still can’t wait to see Brentford in action on Saturday. The involvement so desperately lacking by watching two teams I’m not overly bothered by will definitely be present. And then some. We’ll be shouting from our couches and social bubbles. Beer in hand and shirts worn with pride. The fake sound will be turned off. I want to hear Pontus screaming. I want to hear Fulham silent. Albeit, it does seem they have plans to pipe in their own noise. Groan. 

View from the stand - Stuart Dallas celebrates doing that thing.....

Moments, and sounds, like this will be denied

Manchester City – Arsenal definitely whetted the appetite but it wasn’t really more than a distraction. Something to finally give me back remote, control after close to 100 days of outback murder, property shows and Gogglebox. Oh, Mancunian dog owner. You may be funny but please get those boots away from the cakes. Please.

To repeat an oft used analogy on these pages, it was like a Timothy Dalton ‘Bond film’. The rest of the crew and supporting cast may be the same, the action and the sound are similar and he even wears the same clothes. Yet ultimately, without the one-liners and raised eyebrow of Roger Moore, or the cameos from Victor Tourjansky, it all seems to be missing critical element. Atmosphere. Passion. Emotional Investment.

Here’s hoping that when it is our turn, things feel better. I’m sure they will. I’d say “See you there” but we all know that’s not possible. Pretty sure social media might be busy though…

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Any excuse for the Victor montage

Nick Bruzon

* Please note, the views shared by one New Road observer about Lee Tomlin are personal but also shared by this page.

Which way are you going?

16 Jun

Here we go again. Part 2 of 2019/20 is almost upon us with Brentford gearing up for life on and off the pitch. Arsenal were put to the sword 3-2 in front of a noisier than usual crowd last week. The Bees then went down 2-0 at Watford on Saturday. Chelsea are supposedly in for Saïd Benrahma, if you believe the ’stories’. A mixed bag of pre-season results and the worry of transfer rumours – the more things change, the more they stay the same. Perhaps most importantly, we’ve got the trip to Fulham on Saturday.

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The blue of Brentford rather than Chelsea is the future. I hope.

I have to be honest that there are a whole range of mixed emotions at present. That football can even take place in any format is going to be a huge morale boost after three months of lockdown. Likewise, the fact that the Championship is able to be determined on the pitch, despite the horribly artificial environments the games will be played in. Some clubs – the likes of Arsenal and Fulham – are sure to thrive in these familiar circumstances. Libraries and clappers have never made for good atmosphere. Others, like Leeds United and West Brom, may struggle rattling around inside those huge, empty arenas. So often a cauldron of noise but now empty vessels where every sound and echo is amplified further.

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Arsenal played Brentford in front of a noisy Emirates crowd.

We’ve all been granted the option to donate our remaining Season ticket balance for access to I-follow and a club brand facemask in order to watch the action. You have to feel for the clubs with revenue streams being decimated. Having to then refund supporters for cancelled tickets on top of this could be a body blow fo many. 

The email sent to Brentford fans was certainly a tough sell,  pressing all the buttons marked ‘togetherness’ and ‘challenge’. I don’t envy the clubs these decisions. I don’t envy fans then being put in the position where they have to make the choice in what are horrific financial times for many. Individual and family circumstances will, of course, vary. Money is tight and if nothing else, Lionel Road Season Tickets still need to be paid for. Some fans may want to help but simply have no option. Others may take the line of why pay for something they aren’t getting to the full?         

Personally, I’ve gone for the donate option. It may be super cheesy but Griffin Park is one place where, for me, ‘togetherness’ IS what it has always been about. Fans mix with players. The top brass talk to supporters. The Community Sports Trust is magnificent whilst let’s not forget our unique involvement – past and present – c/o Supporters Trust Bees United. Buckets have been rattled and times have been hard. Takeovers from down the road have been put off – all thanks to the fans coming together. For me, this is another defining moment in our history and it’s been refreshing to see so many coming out on social media to say that they are doing their bit to help our club.  

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Togetherness – my abiding image of the season to date

Those wanting to get the I-follow access for Fulham have until Wednesday lunchtime to push the button. After that, fans will be sent the link for the game aswell as the chance to upload their picture for the fan banner going up at Griffin Park.

It won’t make for the usual experience, obviously. But football fans and business the world over are in the same boat. We have to try and make the best of a crappy situation. Even if it is in our front rooms and social bubbles. Look positive, should things go one way (i.e where Leeds and West Brom don’t choke but our own wins keep coming), we won’t actually be allowed to go and watch the team at Wembley. We all know what plays out when that happens. Imagine it taking nobody being there to finally break the duck. 

Still, all that is a long, long way off. First up, its Fulham on Saturday. They’ve even been testing fake crowd noise. Good to see that some things don’t change.

Nick Bruzon