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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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I’m glad I support Brentford rather than one big fish in a rapidly stagnating pond. And Dean speaks

5 Jul

Football is slowly waking up. This time last year, we were talking about Lincoln Red Imps of Gibraltar beating Celtic 1-0 in the Champions League qualifiers. Quite possibly the most embarrassing results in Scottish football history (to add to an already long list) yet last night they were equalled by fellow Glasgow side Rangers when the fourth best team in Luxembourg, part timers Progrès Niederkorn, knocked them out of Europe. And closer to home, Brentford boss Dean Smith has been up in front of the Sky sports cameras.

Ordinarily these pages wouldn’t look at the Scottish game but Rangers have held a bit of a fascination in recent years, given the circumstances which saw former Brentford boss Mark Warburton both join and leave the Ibrox club. “You walk around the stadium, the first time for me this morning, and you smell the history” he said upon becoming their manager in June 2015.

I’m sure this morning they’ll be smelling something rather different North of the border and Warbs will be very pleased with his decision to resign prior to joining Nottingham Forest. Internet bookmaker PaddyPower have already declared Celtic as league Champions prior to a ball being kicked although, to be fair, most bookies have them as 1/9 on at best to lift that particular silverware.

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Other bookmakers are also available

For all the ongoing talk about these two ‘giants’ of Scottish football joining the English Premier League, the totally one sided nature of their domestic league along with results such as those against Progrès or Lincoln show how out of touch they sadly are these days. A point made all the more apparent as after limping past the Gibraltarians last season, Celtic then endured complete capitulation in the group stages, failing to reach the Europa League whilst also suffering a 7(seven) goal bracketing.

Winning at home is nice, but to watch such consistently uncompetitive football must become a somewhat soul destroying affair. Where’s the genuine competition? Where’s the excitement? What’s the point when you win your league by a country mile or get kicked off the park the moment the competition hots up a bit. With your closest historical rival a shadow of their former selves, it really gives off the impression of going through the motions. Give me the Championship any day of the week.

Which is why the return to our own league campaign cannot come soon enough. Nobody could claim this division is one sided. Anything but, with Newcastle United’s title win going right down to the wire last season whilst Brentford have claimed more than their fair share of illustrious scalps over the last three campaigns. Three top ten finishes have surprised more than a few people outside of TW8 (most notably Ian Holloway) and I’m desperate for us to give this division another try.

The good news is that the Bees are now back in training and yesterday, ‘official’ released a video of head coach Dean Smith talking to Sky Sports News.

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Dean Smith spoke to Sky

In the interview, which you can see below, Dean sounds über positive. He talks about having had lots of fresh ideas and sharing our own sentiments that its good to be back after a long break. He has confirmed his top six aspirations along with a desire to keep hold of last seasons squad. Moreso given our strong finish to the campaign.

Then, somewhat randomly, the interview changes tack with the second half being taken up with a discourse on penalties. The recent England – Germany U-21 game. Dean Smith’s philosophy on penalty taking. As a player and as a head coach. It went on. I was half expecting him to be quizzed on Marcello Trotta.

A shame really,, as this was a somewhat wasted opportunity from Sky to dig into our plans, our set up and mindset. To find out how Dean has continued the great work already done by Warbs, Lee Carsley and, of course, the team behind the team.

A missed opportunity?

Then again, I’m more than happy being the underdog. Being that unfancied, under the radar team. Catching the likes of Leeds United, Derby County, Aston Villa, Mr Holloway et al with their pants down.

Nobody can deny the likes of Rangers and Celtic have huge stadiums, even bigger fan bases and plenty of historical honours. Likewise that Griffin Park is still only a 12,000 capacity ground with a trophy cabinet that is emptier than Arsenal’s.

But who wants to be the one big fish in a rapidly stagnating pond of tadpoles? A fish that gets gobbled up the moment any invasive species appears from the continent. The Championship, and beyond, is where it’s all at. Where the real action happens. Where real football takes place.

It’s July 5th. This time next month proceedings begin in anger with out trip to Sheffield United. I really cannot wait. It promises to be even bigger and better than ever before.

Nick Bruzon

As Scott celebrates, what about the rest of us?

7 Oct

For an International break (Estonia v Gibraltar being tonight’s big one) things have remained pretty busy on the domestic front. Brentford and Norwich City fans were dealt a potential blow yesterday with the news that we’ve been given the short straw in regards to televised games. On the flip side, details of a cracking competition to help celebrate our 4000th league game, at home to Barnsley, have emerged on the club website. All this, of course, whilst we waited to see if Scott Hogan would be named as Championship player of the month on Friday morning.

First up, the Norwich City game on New Year’s Eve. I guess the only positive for supporters about this being moved to 5.30pm kick off to accommodate Sky TV is that it is at home. Let me rephrase that, the only positive for Brentford supporters.

On what is, traditionally, the party night of the year to not even be leaving a football stadium until 7.30pm (allowing for injury time) is going to put a huge spanner in the works for many. It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure out the logistical nightmare this now becomes. Especially for the visitors who will be lucky to get back to East Anglia before Jools Holland has begun his annual smug piano show. Or should that be unlucky if they get back to East Anglia before….?

Norwich third kit

How much of this will we see?

For those of us fortunate to live near Griffin Park the impact is minimised although I have no idea how many of us that is these days. Likewise, there’ll still be the steely glare of ‘the other half’ willing us back home rather than stopping for the traditional post match chat in a local hostelry. And by willing I mean demanding.

The opposite view being, and let’s not pretend otherwise, that for many New Year’s Eve is the most over rated night of the year. See also: Valentine’s Day. A time when society dictates we should be compelled to enjoy ourselves and pay for the privilege of going to our local pub to then stand shoulder to shoulder at a heaving bar. Call me some sort of curmudgeon (and I just hope Mrs Bruzon isn’t reading) but frankly I’d rather enjoy a bag of revels (the orange and coffee creams aside) than being obliged to partake in the faux-revelry.

But that’s my decision and one which I’d like to make by choice rather than have the TV schedule dictate.

Will it impact attendance? Surely. Did we get any choice in the decision? One would hope we didn’t willingly inflict this upon ourselves and the blame can be laid purely at the feet of the televisual paymasters. Will I still go? Of course, although how easy a choice this would be without living in close proximity to Griffin Park remains up for question.

No doubt we’ll be told it is symptomatic of the Bees now being a successful team. I get that part. Whilst many still sneer at us, finishes of 5th and 9th combined with a best ever start have seen Brentford adapting to Championship life much better than just about every pundit has predicted. Sky want a big game for a time when people are off work and we, in conjunction with a storming Norwich City side, fit that bill.

Like it or not, the die is cast. Games are always moved around for TV and, being honest, we’ve largely got away without too much upheaval over the years. With TV pumping so much money into the game it is going to happen. I may not like it but we all knew this is how things would be when we got promoted. Instead, let’s just get rearranging those parties or be glad of the excuse to miss them.

As for the Barnsley game, what a great idea from the club. Juniors supporters have been given the opportunity to design the front cover for the match day programme. A once in a lifetime opportunity to help celebrate our 4,000th league game, full details are currently available on ‘official’.

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The only downside to this being that grown ups aren’t allowed the chance to enter this one. Indeed, I’d already begun sketching out plans for my own effort before properly reading the details and realising I was too old by about 30 years.

Brief thoughts of entering on behalf of my three year old son did cross my mind. Cue ‘Only Fools and Horses’ style antics should victory have been somehow achieved (the state of my painting and photoshop skills mean this would presumably have been through nobody else participating).

But the thought of joining the Groovy Gang (kids, ask your parents but do check it out) is step too far, even for this obsessive. Instead, let’s just doff our caps to the club for a cracking initiative.

And on the subject of doffing hats, congratulations to Scott Hogan who has this morning been declared as the Championship player of the month for September. There’s not much more I can add to this beyond huge congratulations on an award fully deserved.

We all know how well Scott has performed since recovering from ‘that injury’ but September really saw him crank things up a notch. And then some. What an honour and well, well done.

Great work, Scott.

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The news broke at 6a.m. on Friday morning

Climbing to new heights. Newcastle tickets on sale as Gibraltar start World Cup life

7 Sep

Championship football is getting closer once more. Brentford fans can take solace in the fact that Newcastle United tickets go on sale today (Wednesday) whereas this time next week we’ll have played in Brighton and be about to set off for Aston Villa. And in the World Cup qualifiers, to run off yesterday’s piece, we have the info from the Gibraltar – Greece tie. And it wasn’t what you might have expected.

We’ll keep it brief today, though. Newcastle tickets go on sale at 10. Brentford ‘official’ have full details although the pertinent points seem to be that we have plenty. An initial allocation of 2,330 with the option on a further block of 870 to push us over the 3,000 mark. If needed. Season Ticket holders seem to be amply catered and so, all  being well, that dance train ticket purchase  / gamble wit the TV schedules will reap its reward.

The other point of note being that tickets are in Level 7 (seven). For once, the clarifying brackets needed. Rather than pitch side, level 1, we’re up high. Very high. Anybody who has been to St. James Park before will know to bring oxygen and crampons given the height of The Leazes stand in which we will be housed.

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Breathing gear. Check. Ropes. Check

At least we are behind the goal rather than in the top corner and will be no further from the action than at the back of London’s Olympic stadium. Interestingly, and you may not realise, that a ground which West Ham United moved to over the summer. If only somebody had mentioned it. A poor job from the media in failing to keep us properly informed .

Anyway, the club site has all the info and you can read it here. Phone lines and ticket booking open at 10am but there really do seem to be plenty to go around.

As for Gibraltar, it was a good game. Sure, Greece may have ended up as 1-4 winners but it was only a mini collapse before half time, which resulted in a three goal gap, that was the difference between the two sides.

In terms of performance, the boys from the Rock had definitely upped their game and gave as good as the got. This was by no means the one sided walkover most observers would have expected whilst Liam Walker’s equaliser was a fine effort.

But, as ever, goals not guts win games. I can’t wait for Gibraltar to continue taking these progressive steps and secure a first point. Or better. Rather than seeing themselves plucky losers for whom national pride is the thing, why not see themselves for what they are – a tight knit bunch of great players with the ability to cause an upset or two along the way. And then beyond.

The mini meltdown that saw the score go from 1-1 on 44 minutes to 1-4 at half time was inexplicable. Prior to then, things had been level. Even after that, the team still had their chances to reduce the deficit.

Instead, it is another ‘nil points‘ although, hopefully, a bit of a warning shot across the bows of their rivals. Gibraltar won’t just roll over and die. 45th minute aside.

As a final thought, stadium requirements dictate that home games need to be played in Portugal. Simple logistics mean this is often in front of a sparse crowd. Whilst, geographically speaking, Spain is next door for obvious reasons that can’t be used.

Why not take the team on the road? London is just a short flight away and the amount of ex-pats  / keen observers in England alone would be sure to stick a few more on the gate. International football at Brentford? Whether Griffin Park or Lionel Road?

I’ve heard crazier ideas…

Nick Bruzon

Will Gibraltar get Cold Feet? Are more brackets being served? Can England learn?

6 Sep

With another five days until Brentford travel to Brighton (assuming you are reading this on a Tuesday morning) the Championship’s barren period continues. When the return of TV’s Cold Feet was Monday’s main draw – and tell me, what sort of world do we live in where this can be lauded yet a remake of Are You Being Served so derided? – then it remains for International football to act as our main form of sustenance. Can Gibraltar whet the appetite this evening following the frugal fare served up on Sunday by England?

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The only ‘cold feet’ I’m interested in

Well, it would be fair to say that the bar has been raised. Bitter-rivals Spain filled their shooting boots with an 8-0 humping of Liechtenstein last night. No cold feet here, quite the opposite – the Spaniards were on fire. The only sour note, from a footballing perspective, the failure of all and sundry to correctly note the score as things went to 7(seven) – 0.

Even Brentford club sponsors 888 Sport got it wrong on Twitter, despite that rarest of things -a humorous GIF (see also : memes). Still, at least they had the good grace to later apologise for what, must surely, been an oversight based purely on the excitement of the occasion.  Wales, likewise, picked up where they left off in the Euros. A 4-0 tonking of Moldova proving that Chris Coleman’s boys have lost none of their drive or ambition. Which begs two questions.

Firstly, why couldn’t England ? Instead it was just like watching Mrs Browns Boys. A tedious, repetitive one trick pony which, despite an almost moral obligation to watch not many people were, if we’re being honest, actually enjoying it. A sort of footballing Emperor’s New Clothes.

More importantly, can Gibraltar go one better than a Euro qualifying campaign in which the highlights were almost scoring in Germany and actually scoring in Scotland? That aside, it was a series of brackets and, despite some fierce national pride, an eventual end to Group D with ‘nil points’.

I’m not a (total) idiot. Even England have more chance of lifting the World Cup, or qualifying for it, than the boys from the Rock. Yet the harsh lessons of that qualifying group would have stood them in good stead. And this time around, instead of the likes of Germany, Ireland or Poland, opponents include Cyprus and Estonia.

The fact that my current online bookmaker (used purely for reference purposes) doesn’t even offer Gibraltar a price to win the group is, I am sure, just a glitch in the Internet. Something that will be corrected as they shock all comers at 28/1 to beat Greece this evening.

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Six participants but only five available to bet on

On paper, no chance. I grant you that and can see how, looking in, that’s what you’d expect. Yet minnows have to start somewhere. Just look at the likes of Albania, Turkey and Scotland. And tonight could be that night.

Cast your mind back a few months and to the qualifiers for the Champions League.

Lincoln Red Imps, domestic champions on the Rock, entertained none other than Glasgow Celtic in a second qualifying round first leg tie. Despite Brendan Rodgers  coming out like the love child of Russell Slade and Steve Evans ( please, for the love of God, don’t visualise it) no amount of sour grapes or bluster could disguise the fact that his Bhoys ended the game on the wrong end of a 1-0 defeat .

Upsets can happen. Every now and again, result comes along to shock the footballing world. Even if they can’t do it tonight, watching Gibraltar try to beat the odds has got to be a hell of a lot more entertaining than Big Sam’s England or ITV comedy dramas.

Failing that, brackets are 8-1.

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Gibraltar have packed their boots to start World Cup qualifiers

Nick Bruzon 

Super Lincoln go ballistic, Celtic were atrocious

12 Jul

It’s been done before. I don’t care! Brentford fans, you get your ‘Last Word’ fix tomorrow.Right now, let’s just cut to the chase and reflect on the enormity of Lincoln Red Imps (champions of Gibraltar) beating Celtic (one time European cup winners) 1-0 in the Champion’s League .

Long have these pages celebrated those fleeting moments of triumph from this most fledgling of footballing nations. Long have we absorbed the mocking of Spanish (and other) supporters.

Yet, yet, yet…. write off anybody at your peril when it comes to football. Forget the statistics. Forget the futsal. Forget the tippy-tappy. When it comes down to it, there’s only one thing that counts – the result after 90 minutes.

“A result which ranks as the most embarrassing in Celtic’s history.” Not my words but those of journalism’s, The Independent.

“The Shock of Gibraltar: Celtic beaten by minnows in Brendan Rodgers’ first match.” Not my words but those of The Mail.

Brendan Rodgers’ first game as Celtic boss ended in humiliation as his Hoops side were humbled 1-0 by Lincoln Red Imps in in the first leg of their second Champions League qualifier at the Victoria stadium.” Not my words etc.etc…. The Telegraph.

“Celtic suffered arguably the worst defeat in their history when they were humbled by Gibraltarian part-timers Lincoln Red Imps in the Champions League second qualifying round.” This time from the BBC.

“We wanted an easier job after the first leg, and this makes it a bit more complicated, but we will be fine for the second game.” Most definitely not my words but those of Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers.

Brendan, I wouldn’t be so sure.

It was a scoreline you can only dream of.Let’s not forget that Gibraltar (pop 30,000ish) have only been UEFA members since 2013.  If Iceland beating England in the Euros may have been deemed an upset, this one comes in at an 11 on the Richter scale of shocks.

Forget sleeping giants. This was a sleeping policeman. MOD police office Lee Casciaro giving Rodgers a (cardiac) arrest in his first competitive game at the helm of Celtic.

No, being the clear answer

What more can you say? Celtic are still giving it large, despite having lost. On reputation and history then surely they will sweep the boys from Gibraltar to one side in the second leg next week.

The again, on reputation and history they should have done that on Tuesday night.

What a result. Congratulations to Lincoln Red Imps in producing a shock on the Rock. Here’s to the second leg…..

Nick Bruzon

 

Bees, Dragons, Saints and Imps. As one dream dies, another continues

7 Jul

What a night and what a result. Lincoln Red Imps of Gibraltar set up a Champions League qualifying tie with Celtic after sweeping aside FC Flora Tallinn 0f Estonia 2-0 ( 3-2 aggregate). In other news, Portugal edged past Wales to reach the final of EURO 2016 whilst, for Brentford fans, could the new Southampton shirt offer cause for optimism/fear?

We’ll start, briefly, in Gibraltar where the local champions set up that intriguing encounter for Brendan Rodgers in his first competitive game as the new Celtic manager. What’s this got to do with me, you may ask? Well, aside from personal pride you may recall that Brentford owner Matthew Benham’s other team, FC Midtjylland, locked horns with the Imps at this stage last season.

After a hard fought first leg the Danes eventually ran out 3-0 winners but, it would be fair to say, performances have stepped up even more since then. With a huge swathe of the national team (who of course scored their first competitive goal against Scotland) representing the Imps, anybody taking this one as a foregone conclusion would be urged to think again.

Next up , Brentford. With supporters awaiting the first news about our new kit (which, of course, has been hinted at coming out later this week), Southampton have released their latest incarnation.

Again, something which on the surface may not have much to do with us but I’m always intrigued by how manufacturers can provide a new twist on red and white stripes. And, it would be fair to say, The Saints have done that.

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A shirt that may well divide fans

Along with the stripes, technical sponsor Under Armour appear to have incorporated some sort of bra motif into the shoulder panels. The closest thing I can compare it to is our own Osca 83-84  – the one with the all white top half.

Initial shock has slowly turned into begrudging admiration. I’m not sure I’d be overly pleased if Mark Devlin was to reveal this as our new design but you can’t deny it’s different. Besides, with nothing this outlandish in the Adidas catalogue, I can only imagine we’re at least a few seasons away from anything this unusual.

The other point of note around this is: manufacturers blurb. According to the website, “The stripes appear in blocks of five to represent Southampton’s five core brand values.”. Although it fails to note what these values are. Let’s hope that when our new design is revealed to the world, we avoid such nonsense.

And , finally, the Welsh dream is over. It was a stunning effort to get as far as they did and, for a while, looked as though the game was going to go all the way though extra time and beyond. In the end though, it was ‘that man’ who proved the difference.

Say what you want about Cristiano Ronaldo – and many have, myself included – but the power and technique in the header for the opening goal, which he connected with at a height of 7ft 10″,  could only be applauded.

The less said about his subsequent celebration (or that bizarre spearmint coloured kit), the better.

Nick Bruzon

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Osca 83-84. Better than spearmint. No core values

 

 

As one door closes, another opens

14 May

Friday was a day of both sadness and celebration. On the down side, shocked fans and families were coming to terms with the announcement about the Brentford Academy ‘restructure’ .The positive of the day, certainly on a personal note, was the admission of Gibraltar (along with Kosovo) into FIFA. On pitch, Sergi Canos could make a shock Liverpool debut whilst it is advantage Sheffield Wednesday in their Championship play-off with Brighton.

First up, the Academy. Today’s column is not to criticise the club for this decision. Putting aside the huge emotional aspect for the individuals involved, one can only assume this isn’t one that they have taken lightly. Or at least, I hope not.

The Academy was much heralded as part of our future model upon opening. It was a set up that, rightly, all at Brentford FC  seemed proud of. The supporters and community, likewise.

And now, in what seems like the blink of an eye, it is all over.

Having read and re-read the somewhat wooly ‘official statement’ I’m still not 100% clear as to the full reasoning or, certainly, why it was made so quickly. Likewise, how the alternative will work in terms of finding players?

Cost, lack of end product, viability, competition and a belief that alternate methods will work better all seem to be contributory with the financials being the primary driver on that first part. Certainly if you are to read lines such as :

We cannot outspend the vast majority of our competitors

and

Moreover, the development of young players must make sense from a business perspective. The review has highlighted that, in a football environment where the biggest Premier League clubs seek to sign the best young players before they can graduate through an Academy system, the challenge of developing value through that system is extremely difficult.”

So what has suddenly changed?

There wasn’t a hint of a mention when Rasmus gave his ‘state of the nation’ video address prior to the Huddersfield Town game. Likewise, as has been well identified on social media, the club even paraded some ‘future Bees’ on the pitch at half time in the 3-0 win over Fulham. That was just two weeks ago.

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Hindsight is a wonderful thing

I cannot for one second believe we would be so heartless as to do that to our youth. Whilst the parade of the Under 8-s has an unfortunate reminder of Marinus being put in front of the fans where we were told everything was going well, before being sacked just days later, this leak (along with the subsequent statement) has more than a whiff of Village-gate.

Equally, how do the press get hold of these internal stories? Why are our ‘official statements’ so poorly written? Is somebody purposely leaking this information to do our dirty work for us and, almost, prepare fans for the worst ?

Like it or not, this is a decision the club have made. I’m just desperately hoping that we have some form of follow up to further clarify matters. The press love a ‘bad news’ story whilst supporters are upset. As Bob Hoskins so famously said, “It’s good to talk“.

OK – Gibraltar. Exciting news !! UEFA’s Team 54 are now Team 211 in FIFA after football’s world governing body last night accepted their application to join by an overwhelming majority. Members at the annual congress in Mexico City (it’s never Blackpool or Grimsby) voted 172 – 12 to allow them in. Presumably 11 others going (again) with Spain in voting ‘against’.

Understandably , if not quite “dancing on the streets of Raith” , social media was awash with excitement, celebration and congratulations for FIFA’s newest member. Whilst there is now hope that Gibraltar can be parachuted into one of the World Cup qualifying groups for Russia 2018 before that kicks off, I’m just pleased to have a ‘feel good’ story coming out of FIFA.

Congratulations Gibraltar. Here’s to that first qualifying point. See you in ……?

Gibraltar bots and bag

Gibraltar have packed their boots to start life as FIFA team 211.

And on the subject of ‘feel good’, could Sergi Canos make his Anfied debut on Sunday as the Premier League season comes to an end? With Liverpool taking part in the Europa League final against Sevilla on Wednesday evening, I’d imagine that Jürgen Klopp may make ‘a couple’ of changes for the weekend’s game with West Brom.

I’m still desperately hoping that Sergi comes back to Griffin Park next season (one can only live in hope) but I’d love to see how he goes in the top flight. It was a privilege to watch Sergi’s career blossom at Griffin Park and he certainly ended the season on fire. The Premier League title and relegation have been decided but there may still be more intrigue to come.

Next up, Sheffield Wednesday. They lead Brighton 2-0 after the first leg of their play-off semi final. I only know that from reading the Internet. Having  turned on to watch after Coronation Street had finished (don’t ask) I turned promptly off.

Being greeted by ‘That band’ massacring ‘Oldham’s song’ will do that to you.

This summer’s  EURO 2016 finals could make painful viewing.

And finally, a HUGE thanks to all those who have so far downloaded both the Last Word ‘season review’ (Ready. Steady. Go Again) aswell as the three year anthology (The Bees are going up). These are both available now.

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Goal of the season winner Sergi (and Gibraltar) both feature

Nick Bruzon

Gibraltar lead the way – could we follow this kit?

22 Mar

International break means no fixture for Brentford until the trip to Nottingham Forest in early April. So once more it falls upon the European game to entertain us where, no doubt, there’ll be more than a few eyes cast towards the Republic of Ireland to see how our own Alan Judge fares. But if that doesn’t do it for you, England take on Germany and the Netherlands whilst, for yours truly, there’s the additional intrigue offered by Gibraltar hosting both Liechtenstein and Latvia (not simultaneously).

And it was whilst looking around the internet for news on the Gibraltar fixtures (specifically the goldmine that is Gibfootballtalk), that I stumbled across a wonderful kit design from second division club Mons Calpe. Their current home/away shirt is one to rank alongside the broccoli, jamon, octopus, Che Guevara and beer designs that have featured on these pages over the years.

For all that the English national team are currently dividing supporters with their latest two tone shirts, there’s nothing controversial about this season’s Mons Calpe effort. If you play on the Rock of Gibraltar, then why not make a point of this?

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Football fashion that rocks

So bad it’s good? Or so good it’s incredible? Either way, this bold design is as subtle as a kick to the unmentionables. Featuring both the iconic view of ‘The Rock’ and the lighthouse at Europa point, these are a must have for those kit ‘enthusiasts’ looking to add something a little different to the collection.

And it got me thinking further about the Bees and our own effort for next season. Whilst I’m sure Mark Devlin, Matthew Benham and kitman Bob have the design spec on lockdown already (hint: I really love the black and silver ‘third’) , could we ever attempt to incorporate a local landmark into the design of our away shirt?

The tower at the museum of living steam? Brentford lock? Griffin Park herself? This last option would, I am sure, prove popular if we were somehow able to do this. Whilst next season is surely too late, perhaps one to consider ongoing? Or would contractual obligations with Adidas make this nothing more than the stuff of fantasy?

For now though, an idea which will probably have to be confined to the kit locker. That said, if Mark or Matthew are reading (who knows?) perhaps something to think about for our final season at Griffin Park.

If Mons Calpe can do it….

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Nick Bruzon

Manchester United in Europe and Dean Smith dominate Derby build up

19 Feb

With Brentford preparing to take on Derby County this weekend, Dean Smith was in buoyant mood at yesterday’s press conference. There was more from the club’s ‘phone a fan’ scheme where Alan Judge was in the hotseat and, of course, European football has been at the forefront of our attention with Manchester United, amongst others, making the news.

But I wanted to start with a few quotes from Dean’s press conference in regards to the Derby game. The Bees recent form of nil points, no goals, 7(seven) against from the games with Brighton and Sheffield Wednesday isn’t great. But for those who think we are in free fall, spare a thought for our opponents.

A change in manager wasn’t enough to reverse the fortunes of a team who have lost four and drawn four from their last eight league games. It is a worrying run of form for a side that have come ‘so close’ in the last two seasons and would be looking to go one better this time around. That they still remain in the play-off zone is testament to their early season form and the Rams will, no doubt, be bang up for three points this weekend with Birmingham now breathing down their necks.

It is a view shared by Dean Smith who noted “They got beaten last week and will be looking for a reaction. You only have to look at their squad to know what a good squad it is.

Obvious but true. On the flipside, one can only hope the squad that Dean has left to play with can also produce a reaction. The performance against Wednesday produced some horror defending, outside of the redcard that we won’t be appealing despite the ongoing belief that the ref “couldn’t make that decision from where he was.

The one positive I guess is that at least our head coach has acknowledged this. He could hardly not, to be fair. “The manner of the goals we conceded was not good” would seem to be somewhat of an understatement but, if we can stop shipping them quite so readily, that’ll be half the job done. Then we just need to find our way at the other end …..

Next up, yesterday’s European football.

Cup fever had this corner of West London gripped last night with the draw for the Gibraltar Rock Cup. Glacis United face a nightmare tie with all-conquering Lincoln Red Imps. They, of course, reached the second qualifying round of this season’s Champions League, before narrowly missing out to Danish side FCM . And given our current fascination with all things Manchester United, their Gibraltarian equivalents (in name, at least) the rebranded Manchester 62 face College 1975. Ties to be played the week of March 16 and you can see the full draw below, c/o @GibFootballTalk.

rock cup. updated

On the subject of Manchester United, it would be remiss of me not to mention the Europa League.

If you think Derby County are on a bad run of form, Gary Neville hasn’t exactly had things easy since taking over as manager of Valencia . How that has changed! After getting his first league win at the weekend, last night he saw his team become the first to score five goals in the opening half of a Europa League game. Agonisingly, Valencia fell one short of a 7(seven) -0 bracketing as they eventually ran out 6-0 winners over Rapid Vienna.

And finally, Brentford’s excellent ‘phone a fan’ scheme continued yesterday with Alan Judge manning the switchboard and the club having to convince another fan that yes, our man of the moment really had just called them up.

As ever, the background detail on these stories is what really makes them. The motivational pep talks aren’t just confined to our press conference, if the white board in the ticket office is to be believed.

Nick Bruzon