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A topsy-turvy day ends with a lot to be said for sustainable football.

1 Sep

In the end it all came to nothing for Brentford. Nobody in but nobody has gone and the transfer window has now slammed shut. Thankfully. Despite the lemming like collective jumping on the Fosu to Swansea City bandwagon, Tariqe is still a Bee. As are both Joel Valencia and Halil Dervişoğlu. None of those players moving out on anticipated loan with the former, apparently, floundering after Fulham failed to take Matt Grimes from the Liberty Stadium. Fosu having driven all the way to Wales in expectation before that one bit the dust. If you believe what you read. Which I didn’t. It made no sense and just goes to show you can’t always trust the Twitter rumour mill until things are done and dusted. The Athletic, amongst others, convinced it was on. It might have been but wasn’t. Well, I guess you get what you pay for.  Swansea clearly haven’t. Look positive though, its nothing compared to the mess at Barcelona.

Fosu. Deadline Day ended with Swansea trailing in his wake.

What else is there to say? Perhaps, as much as anything, is the question of why the Bees seemed set to offload a man popular with just about the entire fanbase and who has certainly proven his place? At one point it looked like we were going to have to start celebrating Canos Friday instead. And whilst, of course, supporters don’t decide team or managerial selection (thank goodness, based on some of the observations last season) , nobody could deny that this move seemed strange. Which is as much why trying to scratch below the surface will, once again, likely show why yours truly is the numpty on the terrace rather than anybody with any form of influence or input. 

Given his age, experience and development already I’m not sure the advantage to either Brentford or the player in sending him to Swansea? A club shedding players like a snake does its skin and positioned at the bottom end of the Championship table. Temporarily moving out a player who has always impressed for Brentford made no real sense, at face value. Perhaps there were deeper issues we are unaware of. Who knows?  

Maybe it was nothing more than looking to trim a squad that, per the GPG, is now one over the current maximum Premier League size of 25 (excluding Under 21 players).  As they put it, the current number of eligible players over 21 is 26. We still need one to go out. Or he sits on the sidelines. Albeit we have some temporary ‘respite’ on that side of things given Mads Bech would appear to be out for half the season at least. He can fill the somewhat unflattering ‘makeweight position’ in the short term and, as such, we may well see Tariqe in the Premier League.

Personally speaking, I’m just pleased there was no 11th hour bid for one of our ‘first name on the teamsheet’ players. Sergi Canos, Rico Henry, Ethan Pinnock and David Raya are still with us. There was no late, late bid to take Ivan Toney to Barcelona in lieu of the now departed Lionel Messi or Antoine Griezmann. £40m for the later a poor return on the £120m to bring him in just two seasons ago. The Catalan club off-loading their star names faster than Fulham exited the Prem last season. Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba taking wage cuts to keep the team within FFP limits whilst another £25m was recouped by the sale of Emerson Royal to Spurs.

Matthew Upson, commenting on the BBC live feed, would note. “For Messi to go says it all. I could not picture it. It has got that bad, we are seeing such a different Barca team – what will the team be like in coming seasons? To see it in thus position, I find it sad.”  

Why? As one source a bit  closer to West London said to me last night: “Why are so many people sad about it? Them and Real Madrid got so much more money than any other team just to maintain their cartel status and bring tourists to La Liga. F*ck ‘em. Get found out and go bust.”

Well said that man. Or woman. Brentford may not be going out and buying the big name players but, instead, we keep on doing our business the old school way. Albeit with a modern twist. Finding untapped talent and developing it. Building a squad through patience rather than remortgaging the house and putting the deeds on the line for an apparent quick fix solution. 

There’s a lot to be said for sustainable football.

Nick Bruzon 

Half man. Half Robot. All Burridge.

15 Jun

Another date with the reality of our situation is coming. Fast. As Brentford fans continue to bask in the excitement of our play-off win, Wednesday sees the Premier League fixture list released. The moment we discover when The Bees will entertain and (hopefully) visit the famous names we’ve only seen in sticker books, on Match of the Day, the odd cup tie or perhaps their own ad-hoc visits to the lower leagues. Leeds United, Wolves, Manchester City, Everton, Liverpool. The list is a long one and is laden with anticipation. As was noted in the previous column, there’s not one opponent who doesn’t provide an added element of intrigue.

Yet before we get there, its time for another book back at last season from another of our special guest columnists. This time, the man that has seen it all. The man who has described most of it to us. Brentford’s commentator par-excellence and the king of I-follow, Mark Burridge. We caught up this week for a chat about all things from play-offs and Premier League to commentary and covid. Mark talks through his highlights on the pitch, his players of the season and the ethos coursing through the club – on and off the pitch.  Enjoy…..

As for today’s headline, we WILL get there…..

Mark and team at Wembley

Mark, let’s start at the end. 29th May at Wembley. For those in the stands it was the culmination of a life’s dream. Can you put it into words, both as a fan and a commentator.

How did you keep your cool? Did you? Any tears shed?

It was ultimate professional performance from players and staff, started fast, a brilliant counter attacking second goal and then they just comfortably managed the game. Swansea had only scored 3 goals twice all season, so I was convinced it was our day early in the match. There was no way back for Steve Cooper’s team. Every player was 7/8 out of 10 and when that happens with Brentford the opposition are in for a long day.

Being relaxed early on made it all more enjoyable, the fans clearly felt that way too, so many smiling faces on display at half time. It was a strange feeling at the end, nothing dramatic from me as the result had been clear for some time, particularly after the red card.

I felt intense relief, pride, a sense of justice and simply enjoyed the celebrations around me. The tears, hugs, generations of families together, a truly special moment that you knew had to be enjoyed. Stuart Wakeford came to embrace Marcus Gayle and like many fans, the final whistle was the signal for raw emotion and Stuart had found it overpowering. There was such a genuine warmth.

Marcus and Stu embrace

That very same togetherness was everywhere within our eyesight. Some fans had sunk to their knees, others waving flags, shirts, hats. It was our day, at last. The football gods, had called time on play off & cup final pain for Bees fans, at least for now. The infamous Doncaster penalty, the most cruel and numbing of last minute dramas, well if this now was the pay off we’ll shake hands and call a truce!

Knowing that we were finally going to leave Wembley as winners and had experienced just what reward the play offs could be, was very new to Bees supporters.. Martin Lange was smiling down on us.

We were going to carry on with broadcasting until after the trophy presentation, so it was just a time to treasure. Then I looked at my phone and saw a ridiculous number of Whatsapp messages…

After clicking on the first few, it was a still of my Dad in the stands which I knew might happen if we were victorious, as Sky wanted to feature some of the elder fans who were inside Wembley and had been watching Brentford the last time we were in the top flight (which has now gone viral much to Dad’s bemusement).

That really was an emotional moment and I started to think of our dear friend Greville, of Dan & Jamie Powell, how much this would mean to them after such a difficult time in the respective lives. They are here at Wembley, somewhere, loving this and drinking it in.

It was a beautiful emotion right then that I couldn’t put into words.

I just felt incredible gratitude that this moment could be shared by so many & mean so much to so many fans all around the world. Dry eyes suddenly became a little tearful, I’d never enjoyed a moment so much watching others and trying to describe what was taking place in front of our eyes. 

Being with Marcus Gayle & Ben Burgess and hearing their emotion and their thoughts on what this will do for the Club and community was another reminder of why ex pros have such an affinity Brentford Football Club. Contrasting backgrounds with Ben on loan for just one season (2001/2) but has always kept in touch with BFC, writes such good articles in the match day programme and does a sterling job on commentary when he joins us for games in his native north west.

Marcus is the fan who became a Bees professional footballer, Premiership player, World Cup international and then a role model through his work with Kick it Out. The man who had bought a season ticket and was enjoying the games as a fan again until we bumped into each other in a local food shop in 2016 and we had a conversation about joining us on match day commentary.

As everyone knows Marcus is now our proud Club Ambassador. Having seen him make his debut for Brentford many years ago, then to share this victory with both he and Ben, with my Dad in the stadium as well, it simply does not get any better than this. What a magical end to a long season.

You and the team have provided an absolute lifeline this season, With the gates to Lionel Road locked you’ve kept us going with the usual passionate commentary. To us, that side of things felt ‘normal’ but what was it like commentating in what was effectively an empty room? How do you maintain the enthusiasm?

I’ve heard others say working at stadia was joyless and soulless and can certainly understand why that would be said but everyone working at a match would no doubt have realised they were in a very privileged position. Travelling to and from games alone (EFL guidance) was something different and it was often a case of arrive, set up equipment and leave as soon as possible. It was all very well organised but quite surreal compared a usual match day

The games generally lacked the intensity & energy you would enjoy with crowds, which was to be expected. The players may well be professionals but they are human beings first and foremost, so it was tough for them, particularly with the condensed season. It was very difficult without crowds but we got use to it early on and had experience of this at the end of last season. The fans are the energy of football. They are to players, others fans and certainly commentators too!.

I had encountered some of the top names commentating on radio a few times without background noise and it was a hard listen. At Lionel Rd the gantry vantage point is simply incredible (a MUST see when tours are available) but we were the only ones up there broadcasting unless it was a SKY game, with the press level pitch side there’s so little you would hear in the way background noise, as we were are quite detached. 

One of the SKY commentators said he would find it very difficult without the fake noise they would have piped in their ears during the game. It certainly must have helped somewhat.

Fortunately I was lucky to be around people with a great knowledge of the game, all things Brentford and who were passionate, yet measured.

It wasn’t until the Bournemouth away leg in the play off semi final that it probably dawned on Marcus Gayle & I just how different football felt again. This totally changed again for the play off home leg. The volume was simply remarkable. Off  the scale. With just 4,000! This bodes well for next season!

iFollow raised about £42m for EFL Clubs. Were you aware just how important the service was to fellow fans. Did you feel it was important to stay as positive as you did?

There was hope that fans would be back after a few months, at least in reasonable numbers. So we had a numbers of ex players booked to join us who would be experiencing Lionel Rd for the first time and would be introduced to the fans inside the stadium before the match. Covid saw so many changes throughout the season, mirroring the case levels so it was effectively an ever changing feast. Some ex-players had to be cancelled and dignitary numbers were often being lowered from an already miniscule number.

Contrary to what was said after one game we certainly did not have 200 fans in the ground!!

Considering supporters had missed out on what should have been a packed house for the very last game at Griffin Park and then not had the chance to be at the first game at the new stadium it is fair to say that Bees fans had every right to feel very disappointed and frustrated. Allowing the options to freeze ST’s and offering iFollow free for so many games, along with the GP Tours are all examples of the Club being in tune with supporters. The input from the various fan groups playing a big part in the right decisions being made.

iFollow suddenly had a much larger audience and with it quite a few adverts! We never knew when they were coming on! Plus half time discussions were cut short because of the same. The cost to watch the games appeared to be good value and did allow fans to stay in touch with the season, even if it’s nothing like being at the game. 

Some supporters freely admitted they enjoyed it more as it allowed the opportunity to see all games when they might previously have only attend a handful during a usual season.

Covering both audio & visual commentary at the same time was also something that required tolerance from fans, as it is not perfect plus there appeared to be the occasional technical issue.

Overall though, iFollow worked well during a very testing time for everyone.

These past 16 months have tested the mental health of everyone and football has been so important for us all to feel connected to ‘normality’ so we were very aware that Brentford’s success might have mean more to people than ever before. Match day routines changed for everyone. No drink with your mates before, maybe now it was sit around the laptop, or the whole family around the TV.

We were positive because I know everyone involved on commentary regularly felt this team would get promotion from quite a long way out. When the squad was struggling for rhythm and consistency I don’t feel it is unfair to say so. Following the draw at Wycombe we did say as much.

We knew fans were getting frustrated. It was fast approaching winter, with much fear & uncertainty away from football itself and message platforms were the only outlet to vent an opinion.

At most games supporters will use up emotional energy at the game but last season was so very different and you probably saw the best and worst of social media. We couldn’t cover the ‘Boro away game due to Covid issues and the local BBC team did a great job. Once Brentford took control they were full of praise for our Club. Unfortunately there was criticism on a phone in by several home fans post match who, rightly or wrongly, felt the commentators were too generous to the opposition.

We have always intended, as is very the Brentford way, to be respectful to the opposition but it is a Bees service so you are representing the fans. Often away fans will connect to the opposition service, presumably just to hear what is said about their team. After the Leeds game last season we had their fans writing on Twitter how nice it was to hear opposition commentary say they the best team we had played since Wolves, some extending this as the ‘fairest’ they had heard.

Giving an honest opinion, hopefully a fair one is all you can really do. Some will like it, others not.

We love the game because not everyone sees it the same way.

What was a real tonic throughout the season is getting some lovely messages from fans, something for which we are very grateful.

What do you think was our performance of the season?

There were some key ones for me.

The 3 points at Barnsley came in the middle of monthly wins in South Yorkshire and got our season going. Some robustness was starting to become clear.

We were excellent for a long time at Watford, showed great character to get a point in the end and the Bournemouth league win at home was probably the best of the season at Lionel Rd

The formation change at Preston was much needed at a difficult time, the 5-0 win against a normally solid side was flawless.

The Cherries feature heavily for me in the whole season, the win at The Vitality Stadium at the end of the season was another important 3 points. 

Jonathan Woodgate’s team were on a great run at the time with 7 (errr brackets) straight wins, scoring for fun and clearly believing they had timed it right, to entering the upcoming play offs with an air of invincibility. Brentford winning, with 10 men for nearly 50 mins, dealt a blow to Bournemouth from which they never truly recovered.

In the end there can though only be one game that had absolutely everything.

Football is about excitement and drama, none of which you truly experience without fans. We all wish there were more supporters in The Brentford Community Stadium, on 22nd May but in this wretched season 4,000 was a huge bonus. 

It was the day Lionel Road finally became our new home, rather fitting in a week that saw bulldozers doing their worst at the wonderful Griffin Park.

So much has been written about that play off win but there wasn’t a hint of panic when Bournemouth went 2-0 up in the tie, in rather strange circumstances. Brentford still believed, Thomas Frank believed. Lionel Rd still believed. Our fans believed. Bournemouth did not.

So it proved, as we witnessed a catastrophic decision making meltdown by the opposition whilst under pressure from a rampant Brentford team that refused to give up. After Chris Mepham’s red card there was an air of inevitability about the outcome, yet it remained wonderfully tense at the same time.

Forss strikes late and Lionel Road erupted.

Begovic goes up for a corner in time added on and we notice the M4 Elevated Section is at gridlock both ways. ’Everyone wants a piece of this game’ we said, as it did feel the whole world would have been engaged in this thriller.

The scenes at the end will never fade either.

It was a reminder just why you love football and  simply worship Brentford Football Club.

There can be only one for Mark

Ivan Toney is, understandably, in line for our player of the season. You’ve seen a lot of Brentford teams over the years, is he our best ever? And who else do you think deserves to make up the ‘top three’ at the end of season awards

Without doubt Ivan Toney is the best for me. Not just for his goals. Barry Fry said he was also Peterborough’s best defender and we’ve all seen why. The amount of times we have seen our striker heading away from an opposition set piece. ‘I get back and defend because I want to help the team, I want to win’ he said at Wembley.

That’s what we had witnessed all season. He was a little rusty at the start of the campaign but once up to speed you could see Ivan’s quality.

It was at Sheffield Wednesday in October that he showed us what an incredible touch he possesses, linking up play with the cutest of touches and headers to feet. That’s when I thought there wasn’t much missing from his game. He scores, he’s brave, he has the skills of a midfielder, he defends, he leads. Can play out wide too, just see the quality of his cross for Ghoddos’ goal in the win against Luton!

Ivan was substituted late against Rotherham in the away game, allowing Aaron Pressley to make his debut. Before leaving the pitch he urged all his players to stay focussed for the last few minutes to see out the win, one of the little things you notice at a game that make you realise what a special team player he is too.

One of the greatest leaders in a red & white shirt we have ever seen. Pure winner.

My second choice would be Vitaly Janelt. Half man, half robot. A signing I thought likely to be ‘one for the future’, like many no doubt. Following the injury to Christian Norgaard the timing of his introduction was perfect. A solid debut up at Hillsborough, then impressive in the win at Oakwell, followed up with scoring his first Brentford goal against QPR.

Then he just kept getting better.

At Cardiff he got scythed down twice but just got up and on with it. A man made of steel.

He scores big goals as well – none more than against Bournemouth in the play off second leg.

Editors note: There have been more than a few from Vitaly – although not all commentated on by Mark…. 😉

Third choice has to go to Sergi Canos.

The way he has come back after a tough start to the season and following a bad injury has been remarkable. Nothing but admiration for him and the flexibility to play wing back so effectively was vital in helping gain promotion. 9 goals for the season, including a hat trick at Cardiff, he has been a bright spark for us on & off the pitch.

Love his ‘We want more’ tweets after each win. Still only 24. Hard to believe.

Sergi got 3 out of 3 against Cardiff City

Over the years you’ve been alongside the likes of Greville Waterman, Luis Melville, Geoff Buckingham, and co, what do you think the current team bring to the commentary?

Diversity, knowledge, pragmatism, humility and a big understanding of all things Brentford, both past and present.

They have all been excellent plus Karleigh Osborne & Charlie MacDonald fantastic new additions.

We always say to ex players ‘just come in when you like, at any time, fans want to hear your views more’. Their opinions are vital to make it work on a match day.

Where do you thing Brentford will finish in the Premier League next season?

I’ll go for 15th in our first season in The Premier League. Bees will take some big scalps and also possibly have a few uncomfortable scoreline.

Lionel Rd will be an important advantage when near or at full capacity. The crowd can play a very big part, as always. It will be fascinating to see how new signings blend in, alongside the players we all believe will prove their quality at the top level.

One thing is for sure, Brentford will have no intention of being tourists.

Finally, just how special do you feel last season has been for everyone connected with Brentford Football Club?

It has been a truly remarkable achievement to gain promotion this past season.

The team had the shortest of breaks last summer before the new campaign got underway and had also lost two huge players in Watkins and Benrahma.

There was a somewhat inevitable hangover from last season and the squad were at a new stadium where there was little advantage as fans had never been experienced – it was never going to feel like ‘home’ under these circumstances. After the last game it most certainly will do!

We lost the fewest amount of games (joint with Norwich), were top scorers again, and went of an unbeaten run of 21 games, then ending with another one of 12. Considering the gruelling schedule, this says all about the quality & character of the players and management but also speaks volumes about some of those not in the spotlight, such as Neil Greig, head of medical, plus Chris Domoney (aka ‘Sladey’) who looks after the aching limbs and muscles so well, whilst his effervescent personality can be infectious for all around.

Take in the Carabao Cup run as well, where we reached the semi final (including a quick taster of VAR) then to go on to achieve the ultimate prize is unheard of at this level.

How often do you hear of knockout tournament runs derailing a promotion campaign? Not to Brentford though, who bucked the trend with a relatively small squad.

If you also factor in losing the talismanic Christian Norgaard for a big part of the season, as well as captain Pontus Jansson, then hitting the top of the table only to promptly lose two more big players in Rico Henry and Josh Dasilva, you start to realise a little bit more about the magnitude of this success, to still achieve promotion.

Off the pitch we also have our heroes. Such as Bees fans Jamie Powell & Billy Coleman, whom the Club and fans have supported through extremely difficult times.

This shows the strength and warmth of the Brentford family. We all need each other. Together we are stronger.

The fans groups, Bees United, Bias, the social media message boards. All have played their part in trying to keeping fans engaged. When automatic promotion slipped away there were many reasoned voices stating the case to stay positive, including this column, and it has been very much appreciated by many.

Jim Levack also wrote an informative article towards the end of the season after a timely conversation with a staff member following the Cardiff game.  It was a time for cool heads.

There were also so many confident fans who sparked calmer debate ahead of the season extension.  After all if you’ve supported the Bees for some time the mere thought of play offs make your head spin a little! Yet there were so many believers this time who probably helped others to keep the faith.

Next season will hopefully see crowds back and we can all enjoy football as we have been use to over the years. In The Premier League.

The Club is in good shape. Both on and off the pitch. It is run by people with understanding of others, true empathy, kindness and warmth. You will be treated as a supporter, not a customer.

Brentford is entering a new chapter, the brand is set to grow. Most of us never dreamed we would see our football club play in the top flight. Yet he we are. Awaiting the fixtures this Wednesday.

Bring on the fixtures…The Bees haven’t played Liverpool since the FA Cup in 1989

Kitman Bob, he writes what he wants. A week before destiny.

3 Jun

Brentford are in the Premier League. Repeat. Brentford ARE in the Premier League. If the Bournemouth play-off semi-final was immense, Saturday at Wembley against Swansea was next level. I’m still smiling now. Then, when it couldn’t get any better, it did. The chance to share the build up from inside the Bees camp arrived, courtesy of none other than the legend that is Big Bob Oteng. 

Our club Kitman and all-round Bees’ hero has collected his thoughts from the end of that epic encounter with The Cherries right through the build-up to Swansea and the final whistle at Wembley. A sneak-peak behind the curtain of just what went on and just why we won. But written in his own quite wonderful words.

Over to you Bob. A week before destiny. In his words…. and pictures.

Saturday.

It’s 4:55 PM and we’ve just won 3-1 in a game that had everything a football fan could wish for. As long as you’re on the winning side that is!!

The players have done the usual applauding of the fans in every section of the ground and I follow behind after making sure the old footballs were present and correct in certain sections. I’m greeted with the obligatory ‘Big Bob’ song !

As I enter the dressing room there seems to be different vibe and I mean a totally different vibe to a dressing room that has just won a football match. Brian Mbeumo give us a little speech prompted by Thomas who then brings the room to a silence, says one more and then retreats to his office. As I head back to the kitroom it’s the first time in these play offs I allow myself to start thinking of lions on the new shirt !!!

Monday

I arrive at the training ground early Monday morning, 6.40am. Thomas is already there which in itself isn’t unusual but there are a number of other coaches also present. Something big must be happening !! 

During the weekend Wembley emailed requesting how I would like the dressing room to look. I put in my request and they reply “is that all” as I can see  we are in the East as we were last season. Also during the weekend I’ve had countless DM messages from fans requesting to know what colour keep we will be playing in. This continued throughout the week until the reveal on Friday. As the team finishing the season in the highest position, we get choice of kit colours.

What I had done previously on the Saturday evening was to ask all the Brentford players what they wanted to play in. Each one of them just said RED & WHITE. David wanted his favourite amarilla.  It was such an air of confidence when they all said it.  I more than anyone knew about that red/white supposed curse on teams at Wembley. Last season I pushed for blue, now I just felt it could be time for the curse to be  broken and banished to history by the BEES.

Tuesday

Thomas had already told the players that he wants to build up to Saturday to be like an ordinary week. For the last two days nobody had really discussed what happened on Saturday because we were all there, we all witnessed it and there was a quiet air of confidence at Jersey Road.  

On a Tuesday before a Saturday game is when I start to prep the match kit for the weekend but this was no ordinary game. I had to apply NHS badges to each playing shirt,  to show gratitude for such a wonderful service that has served us all through such difficult times and not just during the last 18 months. Also new sleeve patches showing PLAY-OFFS.

As I prepped all the outfield players kits I started asking myself which one will get us to the promised land? Even a last-minute David Raya header would be welcome. They all will, as that’s what good teams do. The nerves are now building !!!

Wednesday

WELL EARNED DAY OFF FOR THE  PLAYERS !! However, I had to be in as new tracksuits and polo shirts are being delivered for the big day,  ( no white suits )…

Thursday

Today was quite relaxed for me. I’d prepped all the kit Tuesday / Wednesday and now I was waiting for the final squad to be confirmed or any additions from Saturday. 

I walked over to pitch 2 with a hint of curiosity and I have to say the boys looked absolutely on fire. Not sure whoever we are facing are going to be able to contain them for 90min.  Bernardo was walking the boys through some new set pieces For me Saturday couldn’t come soon enough.

Brian Riemer confirmed the squad was as per Saturday. As we chatted in his office, he asked me what I think will happen, (déjà vu took me back to the same question last August. I said then we will win, but when I say it now I truly believed it. All based on the previous Saturday).  I did my final checks and left Jersey Road with such a nervous feeling inside of me. Two more sleeps !!

Friday

Friday was a late report. 2pm for 3pm start.  Thomas had gone round to every member of Jersey Road staff requesting that they be on the training pitch for 3:45pm precisely. At 3:40 all the staff slowly ambled from the pavilion across to  pitch 2. Training was still going on ( patterns of play) – looked very nice these patterns !! 

Training over ran. Brian, Thomas and Kev drilling down certain instructions to the squad.  Once it finished, Thomas called over all the staff to join him with the players. We all formed a massive circle – it was actually the circumference of the centre circle. Thomas stood in between Pontus and Christian and delivered a speech that would have got me ready to play tomorrow. Two VIP coaches arrive at 4pm, we have a light snack and everything is loaded and we depart for the Hotel (dinner 7pm).

I keep my routine the same. Ring home and speak to the family. My little man is excited,  he actually predicts that Vitaly would score, (his favourite player). Myself Manu and Bernardo have usual Friday away night Spanish ritual (sobre la mesa). To discuss the next day and life over the table. We started it Friday night before Preston away.

SATURDAY THE DAY !!

Especially on away games I like to get up by 7am and go for a walk before breakfast. On my walk I passed a bar called The Hive. I also have lots of thoughts  about my friend Rob Rowan, I’m not really one for superstition but 95% of me thinks today is going to be our day !! 

The usual bus ride to the stadium is replaced by myself Peter G, Sladey, Joe N, Lorna walking the 500 yards to the entrance to the stadium. We pass the Hive then, as if my magic, we are met by big Shaun. Big Shaun is the main security tunnel steward at Lionel road, now I’m convinced todays the day.

We arrive at the stadium 10:45am We walk round which seems to be underground beneath 90,000 seats. So many people in suits all directing us in the right direction. If it’s your first time at Wembley you can be in awe. There were so many white sky OB trucks, it looked like a flock of flamingos at a watering hole.

The dressing room looks magnificent. It feels different to the last year. I set the players up in a totally different formation. Pontus likes to sit in the corner of any dressing room but this is going to be hard to achieve as it’s shaped like a horseshoe. 

There are two dressing rooms with a smaller one for the staff. I take 10 minutes to have a look around and have a look outside. I begin my favourite part of my working day (apart from a win at the end) ! By 12:30pm I’m happy and everything is done. 12:45 Mike the Swansea kit man pops in to have a catch up. We both have a laugh about not going to each other’s respective stadiums next season.

The players arrive at 1:15pm.  I sit in the corner of the staff dressing room playing word search on my phone,  Reidy wants a change of socks, then it back to word search. I’ve done 5 levels on my word search game and then it’s time for the warm up. The dressing room looks the same as it does on every away game. Sliders everywhere. Emiliano’s sliders always in the centre of the room. I’m sure it’s a thing with him. 

The nerves are kicking in now and I try and find work to kill the time. The boys come in, do their rituals pads on shirts on then it’s huddle time.  Christian delivers an emotional speech and again I wish I was going out to play.

The first 45 minutes for me are the best in 25 years. I can remember it all which is very rare for me. At half time the boys are really calm. Thomas is calm. All the messages are delivered in a calm way and I know that today is our day. I’m so confident I didn’t emerge for the second half until the 92nd or 93rd minute. Those last two minutes went really quickly but at the final whistle I went over to Mike and wished him commiserations. I run onto the pitch to join the huddle and just started jumping around. I don’t remember much after, hence I’ve watched the game back in full twice and the celebrations countless at times on social media. Also all the pictures will be sent at some point.

This day and this season I will never forget both personally and professionally. It has sunk in for me because I always knew the at one point during my time with  Brentford we  would reach the promised land, and I am so grateful and privileged that I was a small cog in the wheel of this wonderful bus stop in Hounslow about to join the premier league express !!

Bob Oteng

Forget Christian preachers. Harry and Woody tell it like it is.

1 Jun

There was a lot of gumph spouted on Twitter yesterday about Brentford. Primarily from Manchester United supporting Terry Christian. We won’t give that any further credence (beyond the fact that the entire TW8 family have no doubt copy/pasted his comments for future use). If ever you wanted to know why Brentford beating Swansea City to reach the Premier League is an amazing thing for both us and football, then I’m hopeful today’s piece may help. Or should I say, pieces? First up, our Harry with his own match report – including some home truths that, perhaps, I’m not sure we should be sharing – and then the real jewel in the Wembley crown, an account of Woody’s day. 

Fur Coat by Harry Bruzon (aged 7 (seven) )

This is about “Bentley” my cat (definitely not the goalie) having “Brentford promoted to PREMIER LEAGUE THROUGH PLAY-OFFS” on his coat…

One dark, gloomy night inside the head of Harry I dreamt it was raining. Bentley the cat was walking to a barbers and got Brentford promoted to PREMIER LEAGUE THROUGH PLAY-OFFS 2021 cut into his fur coat.  Then, he left the shop and padded down to the Griffin Pub. He had a play there with the 2 pub cats, then he tried to order a beer (weird). He ran back home. A split second before Harry woke up, Bentley was in the house.

I was awake, got up and went downstairs. Daddy was writing a blog upstairs so I got him down and fed Bentley (our real cat). We excitedly got ready for the day ahead and set off for Wembley via the Griffin Pub! After a few pre match morning pints – including my lemonade – we got our cab ordered and off we went.

It felt like a greenhouse in the cab, the driver took us a very weird route and it felt like forever. When we got out, I felt sick (but I was fine) I literally couldn’t wait !!  We met at our friend’s flat for drinks and snacks ; then set off for Wembley Stadium for my first ever visit)!!!!!!!!

Walking to Wembley, I felt so excited; the streets were packed.  I really wanted to get there. We turned a corner and WOW, Wembley Way, jam packed and brilliant. The noise was ear piercing and buzzing, just like us Bees.

My Dad took us up the stairs, but there was no need – our entrance was underneath the stairs.  Before the game, my Mum said she needed some exercise; well she got her wish as we had to do a full lap of the stadium trying to find our entrance.  She has a bad sense of direction…..

Finally, we made it to our seats, 5 minutes before kick off.  Then it started. For the first 5 minutes it was a bit cagey with the players getting used to the flow of the game.  Then on 9 minutes Sergi played a perfectly weighted ball, it looked like it was for Toney, but Ivan stopped in his run and Mbeumo ran across.

Freddie Woodman (the Swansea goalkeeper) ran out to collect the ball, but because it was so perfectly set for Mbeumo instead Woodman collected Mbeumo’s ankles rather than the ball.  Bryan won Brentford a PENALTY KICK!! Yesssss! The ref pointed to the spot. 

10 minutes on the clock…. I was actually pretty nervous because my dad had been saying all season that eventually he has to miss one. I was hoping it wasn’t the most important one of the season even though I thought he would score.

Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait – TONEY scores!!!!!  1-0 to BRENTFORD. The Brentford half of the stadium exploded; I was leaping around and cheering my heart out.  Brentford had scored first in their first play off final I had ever seen.  This was looking good.  The Swanseas fans did not look impressed.

14 minutes on the clock……… Naughton, Swansea player, forgets about the ball and rugby tackles Sergi Canos, it looks like Sergi does a cartwheel. Must have been fun (not) riding around on the floor. Free kick given to Brentford but it wasn’t used very well.

20 minutes on the clock….

Swansea City have a corner, Ayew heads the ball to the ground, he dives for good measure, no penalty given for Swansea – but a nice try Ayew.

Mbeumo came sprinting up field as Swansea are caught out on a 2 v 2 attack by Brentford.  Another Swansea player arrives but that does not matter, Roerslev comes up the outside of Mbeumo, who passes to him……

Wait, wait, wait. Emiliano comes running into the box from the other end of the pitch. Roerslev plays it perfectly into his path and Emiliano only goes and blasts it into the back of the Swansea goal… 2-0 to Brentford. Again the stadium exploded in the Brentford half!!

I couldn’t believe it. I was beginning to think my Dad saying Brentford always lost playoff finals was a bit of a joke.

This was so amazing as Brentford were totally dominating the half. When the half time whistle blew I couldn’t sit in my seat.  It was probably the best half time ever for me (plus I needed a wee). Time to check out Wembley’s facilities (not quite as nice as our Lionel Road)

Second half. (Reminder its 2-0 to Brentford). It felt like Swansea had 90% compared to our 10% in the first 20 minutes of the second half and it actually got a bit pressured at times. Is this what my dad calls “Squeaky bum time”? When Swansea got a corner, Brentford tried to clear it and Swansea player Jay Fulton went for a two feet forward tackle from behind Jenson with the clear intention to wipe him out – DIRTY !!!!! The ref was all over it though and hahahaha, the red card came out.  Fulton was off . The crowd exploded again.

At the full time whistle, the Brentford crowd waited about 3 seconds before exploding louder than any point during the match. Nobody could believe we had actually done it.

BRENTFORD HAD WON THE PLAYOFF FINAL

BRENTFORD WERE THROUGH TO THE PREMIER LEAGUE!!!

That thing about my Dad, always saying that Brentford never win at the play off finals was rubbish. I watched them play for the first time and they won. Not sure what he was on about…..

When I got home we gave Bentley a big cuddle and asked if he wanted to go to the barbers tomorrow.

HARRY BRUZON

And now we hand the baton to Natalie, Woody’s mum…..

Oorullie – that is Wembley to the rest of us

W like Woody it starts with a W….. With not much warning we had a ticket, another blessing, this mysterious place oorullie with a wuh was on Woodys mind from wake til sleep.  

The journey was interesting… we made some new friends wishing us well, many people in Waterloo found out Woody’s name as I desperately tried to navigate my way weighed down with ‘stuff’ I was worried would be snatched from me at the entrance.  My least favourite moment was Woody not getting on the escalator, in my mum wisdom I thought being in front of him was wise in case he fell. 

WRONG, I ended up sprinting the wrong way up the escalator as he stood at the stop staring at me.  Anyway, after a Macdonalds and more engaging with strangers we arrive at the magical Wembley.  Woody stole two bread rolls from a bakery and chatted to a man preaching in the street but after spending a lot of money on red items from the stall we were on our way.   

As we walked towards the arch, (not the golden ones), the sensory onslaught began, the wall of noise was like coming home to Woody.  It was another new place but seeing the ‘Bees’ around him was a magical reunion.  Those that recognised him chanting his name as we climbed the steps was nothing short of therapy and he definitely grew at least a centimetre.  

I am pretty sure Woody was holding his breath like the rest of us after the second goal just waiting for the whistle.  The importance of the game was not lost on him and in between stuffing his hula hoops his version of ‘ you’re shit aaah’ was definitely showing improvement.  What was definitely missing was Dennis, who always sat behind us at Griffin Park and had more impact on Woody’s development than any speech and language therapist.  Despite the huge space around us the excitement was touchable and he started his stealth like movements to the front as the minutes ticked by.

After the final whistle it all a got a little out of hand …..  Like the other lucky Bees the emotion was running high and it was expressed in many different beautiful ways.  Woody doesn’t really do things by halves so when we were asked to leave by one of the stewards things didn’t go well…. 

Imagine a Millwall fan on a really bad day….  I was floundering under pressure, I was the only person in the stadium that was not on the pay roll with a small very very angry person demanding to see TOM in a very loud voice.  

As Mum I knew exactly what he wanted but the lovely lovely staff of Wembley were completely perplexed by the frankly (excuse the pun) monstrous behavior.  In a nutshell he wanted to talk to Thomas Frank and in Woody’s world he could not understand why this was unreasonable.  Wearing Charlie Goodes medal and holding the cup handed by Emi were simply not enough he still wanted TOOOOOOOOOM.  

I was all out of ideas and beginning to think we were going to be banned for life from Wembley when someone in a suit arrived and told Woody if you join the press queue you can talk to Thomas, thank god. After always being the last person to leave Griffin Park even on the coldest darkest days, sitting in Wembley for a good 90 minutes after final whistle in the sunshine was an absolute privilege.  

If you don’t know what kindness looks like see the picture attached.  Woody can’t talk but Thomas didn’t care, he asked the right questions and Woody nodded.  Thomas gave him the greatest gift you can give anyone, his time, a few precious minutes in a day where everyone wanted this mans time.  

Holding his hand and looking him in the eye while the UK press waited for him.  I don’t know about football, I am just a mum, but I know about love, passion and kindness.  Thank you for letting us be part of this amazing family, we cannot wait for next season but honestly if we were playing Accrington Stanley it would be just as magical for us.  

Natalie – Woody’s mum

We’ve only gone and done it.

30 May

We. Are. Premier League. Said we are Premier League. My word. It happened. It only went and actually happened !! Brentford beat Swansea City 2-0 at Wembley to reach the top flight of English football. Not a typo. It was a game which was as comfortable as the scoreline suggests, following a blistering start from the Bees. Ivan Toney from the spot and Emiliano Marcondes putting us as good as there within twenty minutes. But for the woodwork it would have been three moments later and once the Swans were reduced to ten men in the second half (straight red for Jay Fulton) it was a game over, man. Game over. A few heart stopping flurries aside, our opponents weren’t in it. Or, rather, the Bees were dominant. Calm. Composed. Deadly on the counter attack. Now, our West London derby will be with Chelsea. Will be at Stamford Bridge. Not Loftus Road or Craven Cottage.

Sunday morning. Wide awake. By all medical logic kidneys, liver and other internal organs should have packed up a few hours ago yet. Brain should not be functioning given lack of sleep. Instead, there’s a ludicrously oversized Joker-esque smile across the face and espresso being mainlined. The minute Mrs B and our Harry wake up, we’ve a date with the Skybox and a rewatch of the game. I’ve not seen any of it back yet. The night was a procession of beer and more beer. First at The Box Park and the The Griffin before back at home. Celebrations that have been SO long coming given our well documented record at Wembley. Success that we have been slowly building towards over the last few years. If it felt amazing after Alan Judge got the winning penalty against Preston to help us leave League One, this was ten times better.

The season has been a crazy one. All but a handful of games played behind closed doors. The gates to our new home at Lionel Road padlocked for so long. The heartbreak of last season and the inevitable sale of Ollie Watkins to Aston Villa a blow to test the firmest of resolves. The subsequent departure of Said Benrahma another sad, sad day for many. Questions over David Raya’s future seeing Luke Daniels beginning in nets. Our Championship campaign starting at a sedentary pace, albeit the league cup run kept things ticking over nicely until league form finally kicked in.  And when it did. My word…..

Ivan Toney has grabbed most of the headlines. Understandably. 31 goals in the regular campaign will make him the number one transfer target for just about everyone else over the summer. His penalty technique the stuff of legend. And heart attack. He didn’t miss one all season though. Yesterday at Wembley, under the pressure of the richest game in English football and the albatross around the neck of all that had gone before, he did it again. Calmness personified. Freddie Woodman coming close but no cigar. The stadium erupting as ten minutes in, the scoreboard reflecting a strange stat – Brentford actually ahead in a play off final.

But it is not just about Ivan. Sergi Canos has copped dogs’ abuse at times. Something he spoke about publically in the end. However, he used it to get better and better. Stronger and stronger. His performance in the final few games, the semi final especially, up there with the very best of them. His hat trick at Cardiff over Christmas pushing him and us on to bigger and better things. 

Bryan Mbeumo was immense. He never stoped running. He won the penalty for the first goal and was the architect of our second. Energy levels finally back to what they were before that bought of Covid last season. Whether they were related, who knows, but he hadn’t seemed himself in the earlier part of the season. Yesterday, we got the M of our our much touted BMW (remember when that was a thing) back in some style.

Matthias Jensen was imperious at Wembley. He, Mads Roerslev – given the freedom to break with abandon thanks to Henrik – and Emiliano the candidates for man of the match. Imagine saying that a few months ago? Marcondes scooped the honours in the end but it could have been anyone. To a man, the team were magnificent. Thomas Frank sticking with the same starting XI as that which beat Bournemouth. Swansea City unable to answer the questions which, after an understandably cautious opening few minutes for both sides, came at them thick and fast.

We could name check everybody. Brentford were magnificent. There aren’t enough superlatives. If there were any nerves they weren’t showing. Any thoughts of the pressure or the past form then they’d been consigned to the dustbin of history. Previously unseen levels of bottle discovered. It may not have felt like it watching back home or in the pubs but, for the lucky few granted entry the roof was raised and the atmosphere incredible. Fans united. Voices raised. The impossible becoming possible with every inch towards full time. 

Even an additional six minutes added to the clock at the end insufficient for Swansea to do anything of significance. Then came the whistle. Then came the tears. Then came the numb feeling of actually having done it. Celebrations on and off the pitch a memory to keep forever. The smile on Sergi’s face saying it all. Thomas Frank tossed into the air by his players. The sight of a trophy being raised is certainly one for the record books. Brentford have done a win at Wembley. Brentford are in the Premier League. The Premier F’ing League! We’re just a bus stop in Hounslow. We’re also a top flight club. We’ll be hosting some of the biggest names in English football. And also Arsenal. It feels like we’ve gone down the rabbit hole and into a next level world of craziness. Forget the Begovic Frustration hole. I just hope the club retain the damage at Lionel Road, get it framed and turn it into part of club history.  

Get it framed

A few seasons back, as a League One club, we were paired with Chelsea in the FA Cup fourth round. It was an amazing time and we came ‘that’ close before eventually losing the replay. The build up was full of that ‘Champions of Europe, we’re coming for you’ song. With the Stamford Bridge club once again lifting the trophy last night (their 1-0 win over Manchester City feeling almost like an after thought amidst our own celebration), it is a song we will no doubt sing again. Yet this time it will be on an equal footing. This time it will be as members of the same league rather than two clubs thrown together by nothing more than the fortuitous paring of two balls plucked from a velvet bag.  

There are a million other amazing thoughts and things to consider about where our footballing journey now takes our club. By bus, obviously.  We’ll be on Match of the Day. We’ll be in the Panini sticker book. That’s going to cost me a fortune. For Harry, obviously. There are apparently something called ‘Match Attax’. Then we’ve got Fantasy Football selections. Sh*t – who do you go for? We can only have three per team. This is before you even get to the amazing stuff like who we will see in the flesh. Like where we get to visit (and when – hurrah for televised fixture chaos).

I apologise. I’m all over the place today. It is the most incredible feeling of happiness. Of relief. Of incredible calm following all the stresses we’ve been through over the years. As a fan since 1979, the highs have been incredible but they have been fleeting. Disappointment and frustration have so often been our more regular bedfellows. It doesn’t matter, in the grand scheme. The reason I’ve kept coming back. The reason Mrs B and Harry have bought in to Griffin Park and Lionel Road. The reason we were all there together yesterday is down to the amazing sense of family that is part of being a Brentford fan. 

Everyone knows everyone. From the chairman down to Thomas and the players, come Saturday afternoons we are all part of the same group. Everyone treats everyone equally. We all know each others faces. We all talk to people whose names we may not even know but who are wearing red and white. It is our Friday night dinner but on a Saturday afternoon. Wonderful time spent in the company of friends, regardless of the  90 minutes on pitch. An adopted family we have been thrown together with but whom being separated from over the last 15 months has been horrific. 

That the club goes to such lengths to incorporate the supporters is , frankly, ridiculous. Yours truly inflicts a programme column on readers. H has done, well, just about everything from reading out the teams to kit launch photo shoots to having the players over to ours and he’s still only 7( seven). We’re not alone. Woody is a hero. As is Jumper Man. Harry Potter. Why-aye Mister Partridge. Courier bag early exit man. Mark Burridge. Greville Waterman. Billy Reeves. Kitman Bob. Trevor. Eamon. Billy Grant and his selfie-stick. The cry of ‘Push Up, Brentford’ one I am only looking forward to hearing in the top flight. We all know each other, even if just by face. I’m buzzing at the thought of seeing all this continue next season.

Woody does his thing at Wembley

Peter Gilham. Cripes Peter Gilham. He’ll be doing his thing with the mic in the Premier League. He’ll have all manner of new names to wrap his tongue around. He’ll be even louder than ever before. He’ll be utterly bonkers. In the nicest sense. If ANYONE deserves to enjoy this moment it is him. If anyone deserves all the excitement of what now lies ahead it is him. Everyone knows Peter. Everyone loves Peter.  

Oh, I can’t wait. I can’t wait for any of it.  Forgive the lack of cohesion on this one. It’s words thrown down with abandon, Even less thought to structure than normal. Perhaps we can be more considered down the track but for now, I’m still in shock. Happy, happy shock. 

We’ve only bloody well done it!! 

Nick Bruzon

The time is now. One More Game….

29 May

Here…. We…. Go….. Saturday morning. The day has come. Brentford face Swansea City in the play-off final at Wembley. The prize, indescribable. The anticipation, immense. Gone are the nerves that have so preceded our previous nine bites at this particular promotion cherry. Now, there is only optimism. Now, there is only the knowledge that if our team do what we all know they are capable of then the top flight awaits. Turn up. Win game. Get promoted. Oh, it sounds so simple. In theory.

Can Ivan fire us to glory? 31 goals in the regular season is immense

Let’s start with the elephant in the room, our record. We all know Brentford have been in the play-offs nine times before, as recently as last season’s Championship final. We all know that Brentford have lost in the play-offs nine times before. Only Preston North End match that and even they won at the tenth attempt.

And?  For me, Clive, it is an utter irrelevance. History counts for naff all. It is a run that stretches back to 1990/91 and Tranmere Rovers. That’s over thirty years. A huge swathe of our fans wouldn’t even have been alive as Kevin Godfrey squared things up in the first leg before the Bees set off on that epic run of statistical anti-form. It happened and it has happened since. Thing is, we were a different club then. An outfit that needed to sell to survive. Had no budget. No genuine hope of going up, despite the best endeavours of everyone on the pitch and in the stands. Every few years the balance of playing staff would fit and we’d make a decent run at the top six or beyond. Then, we’d inevitably be forced into selling our one star player and the rebuilding process for another stab a few years later would begin again. 

Chuck in a few cruel hands from fate – finishing second yet still being forced into this mini lottery against Huddersfield in 94/95, where the penalties still haunt as though it were yesterday – and you could forgive supporters for being wary.

That was then. This is now. Where once we had Gus Hurdle, now we have Henrik Dalsgaard.  Instead of seeing goal machine Nicky Forster being sold, we now have Ivan Toney banging them in for fun. It could be anyone  – like for like the current team would undoubtedly beat any of those that have gone before were it somehow possible to throw them together. Gus and Nicky only mentioned as much because they were two of my favourites from an era that ended with the complete no-show against Crewe Alexandra. Watch the highlights again should you possess the masochistic vibe of wanting to see just how awful we were that day.

So yes, looking back at what ultimately boils down to intermittent games in a three decade stretch, one can imagine Roy Castle and Norris lining up to explain to an excited studio audience of boy scouts and school kids what has happened previously. How bad it may look on paper. Thing is, records are there to be broken. Good or bad. The performances of David McGhee and Robert Taylor 25 years ago will have no bearing on what Vitaly Janelt and Sergi Canos do today. The fans may remember and rightly so. If anything, it will only make any triumph even sweeter. 

Sergi has been immense this season

Watching the ITV News last night one of the Brentford segments included a piece with Thomas Frank. The question regarding an apparent ‘curse’ of red and white striped team’s losing in the final was put to him. His answer was that, less than 24 hours before the final, he didn’t even know what colour we were playing in. Oh, and that he had no thoughts to any omens.

Good man. True or not, the attention should not be on the colour of our shirts but purely on getting over the line. His attitude and focus were spot on last weekend against Bournemouth. More of the same this afternoon would do very nicely, thank you.

For the record, we will be in red and white this afternoon. Excellent news. Just like the curse of the Millennium Stadium South dressing room, broken in the 2002 final by Stoke City against, err…, all this stuff counts for nothing in the grand scheme (manager of the month curse aside, which I will defend to the grave).

Past record, past colours, past players. Use them for motivation but nothing else. There is no other parallel between the past and what will happen today. That will boil down to nothing more than Brentford v Swansea City. Who wins a one off game off football. Whose fans can do the most to help lift their team. Who holds their nerve and stays strong over the entire 90 minutes.

Kit colour has been confirmed

Look at last Saturday. It was a masterclass in discipline, in courage and in playing football. Playing the occasion. Despite going two goals down on aggregate within five minutes of kick off, Brentford were immense. Our fans were incredible. Bournemouth falling apart like Leeds United on a promotion push. Yet even the Elland Raod outfit got it right in the end and if we play anywhere near the levels last weekend, we’ll do the same.

Billy Reeves was in ebullient form on social media yesterday. Along with the GPG, sharing a photo of what has since been confirmed legitimate and titled “AFCB Frustration Hole”.  Asmir Begović lashing out after full time to vent his fury. If ever a sign was needed that Brentford had done a job when it counted then here it was. More of the same today would be very nice, thank you.

Oh, Asmir…

Obviously I’m going to call a Brentford win. I’m genuinely confident although not arrogantly so. As we’ve been saying all week, Swansea City aren’t going to hand it to us and will be as determined as we are. This will be hard fought and we’ll need to be at our best. Thing is, if we are then the memories of Crewe, Huddersfield, Stoke, Tranmere, Yeovil and all the others could be laid to rest. Finally. What Thomas says and does will be key. Obviously.

Sitting here with a very early breakfast, I just want to get going. Glory awaits. Can Brentford take it?  Roll on 3pm when we find out. The team have been incredible this season.  Imagine that moment on 90 minutes if the result has gone our way…. Think back to Saturday and recall how sweet that was. How absolutely ecstatic the moment felt. An orgasmic denouement that wouldn’t even have been bettered had Mrs Browns Boys and The England supporters band been exiled to the Falkland Islands. Then take it ten times better.

That’s what we’re playing for. That’s what awaits.  ENJOY. See you there.

ONE. MORE. GAME.

Nick Bruzon

Friends reunited. The big one has arrived.

28 May

The much anticipated Friends reunion show has just taken place on TV. Apparently.  Moving swiftly on. There is, thankfully, something even more hotly anticipated (sadly not the Mrs Browns Boys dissolution show). It is now Friday and we are only one ‘wake up’ from the play-off final. Brentford v Swansea City at Wembley. A game which, after our own ‘friends reunion’ last week against Bournemouth, sees us once again given the chance to attend a match together.

Following our own prolonged absence from live football  – we were on a break?  (note to self, insert tumbleweed emoji before publishing) all of a sudden we are being spoiled to ambassadorial levels. Two games in 7(seven) days. An unexpected sale of player shirts and other amazing items at the Brentford superstore last night and, as expected, the additional 1000 tickets made available through the NHS experiment have flown off the shelves.

Friends reunited on Saturday

We’ve done the Bournemouth game at some length but for me, Clive, it was as much being handed the opportunity to catch up with those faces we’ve not seen for over a year which was as amazing as our performance on the pitch. Brentford has always felt like family and no moreso was this proven than at the weekend. We know how painful the enforced absence has been but meeting up again felt as comfortable as putting on an old shirt. Hobot Funky Bee? Don’t mind if I do. Seeing long missed faces and all the pain of being forced to play in empty stadia melted away in a heartbeat. 

Of course, a reduced crowd is never the same although you wouldn’t have guessed had you been standing outside. If anything, the noise generated was unlike anything I’ve heard in a long while at a Brentford game. Perhaps it was the occasion, the acoustics in the new ground, the fact that we all missed it so much or just Thomas Frank and his bonkers pre-match lap of enthusiasm that fired us up to insane levels. Whatever the catalyst, the response was immense. Oh to bottle that for Saturday against Swansea.

The great news being that we’ll have even more supporters present. 5,000 Bees screaming the place down. And we’ll need to. The stadium is cavernous whilst the reaction from the players to having fans present was clear. Henrik Dalsgaard showing that with his reaction to our third goal. Bournemouth crumbling from the off as the supporters gave it their all. There are no tickets left though. This is it. The ‘sold out’ signs went up last night on ‘official’ as the final TAPS threshold was met by the lucky few.

Henrik celebrates with the fans

Now, there is only one focus. Swansea City. No more ticket talk. No more Bournemouth. It is all about Saturday. All about who Thomas Frank starts. Who he has available. How Brentford deal with the pressure and enormity of the situation. The Swans likewise. At least we have last season to relate to, no matter the crappy outcome which eventually transpired (and there are no words to truly describe how horrific it felt).  At least we have fans present this time around.

Genuinely, I’m buzzing. I CANNOT wait for this one. Sleep has been a commodity as limited as belly laughs in a studio recording of Mrs Browns Boys this week. Only what feels like intravenous espresso and adrenaline are keeping me alive at this stage. Yet the excitement is palpable. Its a play-off, I shouldn’t be feeling like this. We all know our record. WE all know the stats.

Fine. Take them and stick them where the sun don’t shine. Cliche alert but… you’re only as good as your last result. What a result that was. In Thomas Frank we have a head coach who lives and breathes every moment as much as the fans. A team who, on their day are unstoppable. It doesn’t feel right to be this positive but there is no apprehension about our own ability. 

Equally, one has to recognise that Steve Cooper will have his own team fired up. The prize for Swansea as big as for us. The desire and expectation as huge. They aren’t just going to roll over except, perhaps, when tackled so let’s hope referee Mr Kavanagh has his eyes wide open). They aren’t going to hand it over on a plate. This will need to be earned. This will be hard fought. This will be about as big as they come. And it can’t come soon enough. It needs to be 3pm on Saturday right now.

Recent games against Swansea have seen a fair amount of theatrical ‘rolling over’ and flapping around

All the anticipation in the world won’t bring it any closer. Enjoy the build up. Enjoy the moment. Most importantly, enjoy Saturday. Swansea will be out to ruin the party. Let’s make sure this is one Wembley visit with a happy ending. One play-off campaign that has that sweetest of finishes.

We’ve been here before. This time, let’s make it happen. Everyone from David Raya in nets through to Ivan Toney, the Championship’s leading goalscorer, has the ability to play at the highest level. Sergi Canos and Bryan Mbeumo tearing it up down the flanks. Mads Roerlsev showing maturity beyond his years. Dalsgaard busting every sinew. Pontus with all his experience to draw on. Ethan Pinnock, a colossus alongside him. Emiliano on fire, Matthias Jensen finding his groove at the perfect time and Vitaly Janelt yet another one to roll off the conveyor belt of talent that our DOFS continue to astound with. My word, that goal last week still has me grinning like a split watermelon.

There’s not much else to say. We could big it up for pages and pages but this all comes down to 11 v 11 on the pitch and 5,000 v 5,000 off it. Now let’s do this !!!!

We’ve been here before. This time it feels different…

Frank. This, err, stuff just got real.

27 May

“Frank. This sh*t just got real…..” Not my words Carol, the words of Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) in cinema’s Hot Fuzz. Way back. Yet never more appropriate than this morning. Thursday. Little over 48 hours to go until Brentford and Swansea City slug it out for the right to play in next season’s Premier League. The quite wonderful news from yesterday being that each side will now have an additional 1000 supporters present at Wembley on Saturday. Whilst the game has still not been deemed a ‘test event’ in line with the FA Cup final, instead we are now human guinea pigs (metaphorically speaking) , assisting the NHS in what has been described as “a status service trial relating to the free NHS App.” Pass the placebo and sign me up. This is fantastic news and means Brentford, like Swansea, will now have 5,000 fans present. 5,000 loud, roaring , vocal fans. And is there an omen from last night’s Europa League final between Manchester United and eventual winners Villareal? 

Frank, this shit just got real.

Yet we can only start with tickets. Whilst there will still be those who miss out  – you could have made this one a full house in a heartbeat – the joy from those now able to attend thanks to the combination of helping the health service and meeting the new TAPS threshold (including our Harry) has been unconfined. The full story is on Brentford official with the additional ray of hope for those currently unable to attend that, ”If we still have any tickets remaining at the end of Thursday, we will broaden the TAPs group further, but from 5pm tomorrow (now today NB) availability will not be guaranteed, with tickets sold on a first come, first served basis.

It is still an awful situation that so many supporters of both team will miss out. There are so many sad tales out there and it almost feels gloating to even talk of being able to attend. As the club have also noted,” We share your anger and frustration and will do everything we can to ensure as many Bees fans as possible get to Wembley on Saturday to support the team.”  

I don’t envy the staff in the ticket office. Supplying insatiable demand is tough enough at the best of times. Let alone in circumstances such as this one. The ultimate game. An anything but infinite supply to somehow distribute. The responsibility on those able to go to really raise the roof and sing their hearts out like never before, even bigger than ever. Those watching back home and in the pubs screaming at the TV. A chance to celebrate like we’d won the FA Cup at Leyont Orient. A chance to relive England’s World Cup penalty shoot out triumph. Fair to say that the atmosphere in The Griffin was somewhat excited that night. You just KNOW this one is going to go to the wire.  

Cripes, sitting through the penalties last night was tense enough and I don’t even support Manchester United. A midweek affiliation with them aside, after living in the city for 18 months (any game is a game if you can go and the Bees aren’t playing), it was as neutral an affair as they come. Yet still. Watching twenty mostly perfect spot kicks was about as excruciating as it got. Five out of five at the start and then five initial rounds of buttock clenching ‘sudden death.’ The nerve shown by player after player incredible. The shootout score locked at 10 -10. Brackets? You’d probably need an entire paragraph.

And then it got to the end of the line. There was nobody left to have a go. Almost nobody. Oh, David de Gea. The heart went out to him as things reached the point where everybody barring the goalkeepers had scored. Up stepped Geronimo Rulli for the Spaniards. Boom. 21 out of 21. Sadly, his opposite number wasn’t able to emulate him. Heartbreak. Tears. Ecstasy. The obvious extreme of emotions depending on which colour gloves you were wearing . 

Yet all I could think of was us in this situation, ”And up steps David Raya….” If ever there was an additional motivation required to do it in normal time then here it was. Genuinely, I don’t think my heart could take sudden death. The pressure on Saturday will be big enough without going through this additional level of torture to try and claim this most sought after of prizes.

Things are now feeling very real. The first batch of tickets have arrived. Across Europe, silverware is being lifted. Some fans still have that additional chance, no matter how slim, of being able to get in to the game. Just keep your eyes on the website. Keep crossing your fingers. Keep on believing.

One more game…..

Nick Bruzon

Ticket and travel update ahead of Saturday.

26 May

Wednesday. The midweek eye of the storm in the build up to Brentford – Swansea City on Saturday. The euphoria of the weekend and the stunning obliteration of Bournemouth now replaced with the knowledge that we are 90 minutes from the Premier League. That said, for those of us needing that additional fix of emotion ‘official’ were doing everything possible to help us OD with an alternate take of the 3-1 drubbing now being shared. For others, there was the question of whether ballot tickets would be awarded to their children or if any of us would even be able to go following the latest Corona confusion impacting the London Borough of Hounslow.

The good news is that despite the scare felt by many, clarification has finally been given with govt advice now being updated to say that there are no local lockdowns and no travel restrictions in place. Leader of Hounslow council and Bees fan Steve Curran no doubt happy to see this threat binned, making a statement to highlight the futility of such a proposal aswell as lambasting what he sees as a, frankly, shambolic response. “For one of London’s most connected boroughs – with Heathrow on its doorstep, the M4 and A4 running through it, the Piccadilly Line, the main line from Waterloo, plus the North Circular via Kew Bridge – to try and limit travel within its borders is not only impossible, it’s a ridiculous idea.

Anyway, it means we can all go to the game on Saturday. Those of us with tickets, that is. What it means for the longer term BIAS petition to increase capacity remains to be seen. Despite the signatories blitzing this one, the inclusion of Hounslow on a list of 8 local ‘hotpsots’ suggests that, through no fault of theirs or the football community, any significant stepping up of supporter numbers would now seem unlikely. Coincidence? Convenience? Or a right and proper outcome following the latest news? 

It doesn’t really matter what we think. I can’t see it happening now. Sadly. Despite over 10,000 names added in little over two days,I can’t imagine any politician will want the broader outcry that will inevitably come with being seen to proactively empower an additional 5000 to travel from Brentford, given its location in the vast borough of Hounslow. Look positive and be grateful for what you have, no doubt, being their expectation of us.

In a way, to even have 4000 present will be a boost compared to last year. Rattling around an empty Wembley about as soul destroying as it gets. What should have been the ultimate experience for the players reduced to an echoy nothingness. Instead, this time around they will have the memory of our previous play-off campaign to draw on aswell as some actual noise from the Brentford faithful. 

My word, if it was loud on Saturday, then it will need to be double that this time around. Watching the highlights, the whole game replay, the aforementioned video and any other excuse to reinject the atmosphere directly into my veins  (metaphorically speaking) what continues to blow me away is just how noisy this was. Wow. Just wow !!!  And that was with Lionel Road less than a quarter full. What a lift it must have been. We’re going to have to be double, triple that on Saturday. Bottle the memory and bring it with you along with the extra strong mints and strepsils. Thomas, pack your runners and do another pre kick-off lap (or 200 metres, perhaps). That, alone, responsible for giving us an even bigger lift at the crucial time. And, like magic pants, lucky shorts or not shaving, a potential pre-match ritual that may now have to be set in stone.

Pack those runners for Wembley, Thomas.

On a personal note, and thank you so much to everybody asking, our Harry won’t be going whilst I don’t know whether Woody was successful. Brentford official have confirmed on the website that  the 50 pairs of tickets for junior supporters have now been allocated and all winners contacted. Congratulations. Genuinely. I’m not a fool and, like anybody, would love the opportunity for my family to be there. Equally, there are so many of us missing out in equally unfair circumstances that are the fault nobody connected to the club. Likewise, I am sure, on the Swansea City side. That’s the harsh reality of life at the moment.

I just wish there was a Plan B to let some extra supporters in but, barring a petition based miracle, it looks like this is it. Sadly, not even doing Plan A better would seem to be an option available to us this time around. Then again, look what happened when we tried that before. Unless somebody is able to use Mark Warburton’s abacus for dishing out the tickets then this is it.  Instead, it is now on all of us fortunate enough to be present to make our voices heard for one more game. To give the team support like never before but as much, to help win it for those watching back home, in the pubs and wherever they can find screen.

One more game. It sounds so simple on paper. 

One more game…..

Nick Bruzon

A good news, bad news sort of day. Thieves, tickets and a lot of love.

25 May

So here we are. The build up to Saturday’s play off final between Brentford and Swansea City has well and truly begun. Our paltry ticket allocation (the same for both clubs) is now flying off the shelves to those fans with sufficient TAPS. The petition started by BIAS to have the attendance increased to 20,000 is gathering momentum (with Gemma Teale getting it as far as the BBC last night). As of this morning, the count was approaching 9000 signatures and there is still time to get this signed. Will publish a further link at the bottom. Closer to home, my faith in the goodwill of people has gone through both the roof and the floor. The love coming in for Woody and his family, following the words penned by his mum on Sunday morning, has seen emotions all over the place. On the flip side, thieves have targeted the Magpie and Crown pub on Brentford High Street at the weekend using the distraction of the post Bournemouth spirit to steal a squad signed  Bees shirt being raffled to raise money for a Hounslow food bank.

First up, tickets. We all know the scoop by now. Both Brentford and Swansea City will have less fans in on Saturday than they did for their respective semi finals. A stadium three or four times the size holding a fraction of supporters, despite the fact everybody was quite happy to double the capacity at the drop of a hat when there was the lure of a Champions League final at the same stadium on the same day dangled under the nose.Hmmm. 

BIAS have done sterling work in galvanising supporters with both Brentford and Swansea official also making their opinions very publicly known. We ALL want this to be the occasion it most definitely could and whilst the 8000 official fans (I’m not counting superfluous corporates etc) will do a wondrous job in building the atmosphere, imagine it with double that? There IS still hope. 

Today will be crucial to keep the momentum going. If you haven’t signed it as yet then please do. Please pass it on toy our football loving friends. Your families. Anybody you think would want this to happen / who has access to the internet. The link is at the bottom of this column.

On a personal note it was a real good news, bad news sort of Monday. As much through having been coming to Griffin Park (now LR) since 1979, I’m over the TAP threshold so got my ticket. I will be at Wembley with my friends but I won’t be with there with my family. Our Harry, who lives and breathes the club, misses out. Mrs B will be left behind, too. 

There are thousands of us in the same boat. Thousands of deserving fans with Season Tickets who, ordinarily, would be guaranteed a ticket to the game. Instead, we’ve all been torn apart. I haven’t missed a match with H in I don’t know how long. He’s gutted. I’m gutted. We’re gutted. He loves the club (especially Sergi) and his life revolves around it. From reading the teams pre kick off to being a mascot. From having the players in our house at Halloween to modelling the kit for the launch photos. Something which, even as recently as this weekend, I was given a wonderful reminder of when bumping into a fellow ‘model’ outside The Griff who also shared this photo. Thank you.

He’s still only 7(seven) yet thinks that’s ‘just’ how football works. That Brentford make this sort of stuff happen all the time if supporters want to get involved. The possibility of not going to a game when others can is one that hadn’t even crossed the mind. Until now.

The old ‘eagle distraction trick’ a tool up the sleeve of every decent photographer

Again, we all know this isn’t the club’s fault. We’ve been served up a dog’s dinner of a deal. We have SO MANY deserving fans who, like Harry, will miss out. I’m not after special treatment but simply giving my version of a personal story that I know is impacting so many of us. There will be many, many more similar. Many, many more who should be there and can’t . Who will be devastated about missing this. Who will be crammed in to pubs or front rooms trying to make the best of the situation. Many, many who like us will be sitting anxiously by the phone today. Please, get signing. Get your voice heard.

Look at Woody. The  positive reaction and love coming back on social media as a reply to the piece about him was nothing short of life affirming. Thank you. He won’t be there as it stands but If anybody needs to be it is him. If anybody gets the chance to lead out the team (should Corona somehow allow it) it is him. Here’s hoping he gets the first of the phone calls saying a ballot place has been awarded. Pretty sure everybody has read this one but, if not, then you can find that here…. Please do enjoy.

Harry – no eagle needed these days – and Woody at the weekend.

On the downside, local pub The Magpie and Crown have seen their own charity efforts hit by thieves late on Saturday night. A signed shirt being raffled to raise money for a Hounslow food bank was stolen. With everyone understandably distracted by the emotion of what had gone before, an opportunist(s) have pinched this off the wall behind the bar and it has gone walkies.

To date, the item has not been returned but if anyone has any information as to where it is, please get in touch with Scott Illman at the Magpie on the High Street. If you have it and have woken up with drunken regret, just pop it back through the letterbox or post it back – no questions asked. Hundreds of tickets had been sold to raise money for a cause that shouldn’t even require funds raised. Perhaps whomever took it was drunk and didn’t realise what it was for (he says being optimistic) but there can be no doubt now. Keep your eyes open on the auction sites, too. To date, this hasn’t been spotted online.

Finally, we have a referee for Saturday. Premier League Chris Kavanagh has been parachuted in to take charge of the final Championship game of the season. His record this season suggests yellow cards could be in the offing. Has a tense affair just go tenser? Roll on Saturday when we can find out. All being well, with 20,000 fans there.

That petiton link is HERE HERE HERE. Please sign it.

One more game…..

Nick Bruzon