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Here’s hoping we can avoid any more cup upset as third round beckons.

26 Aug

Brentford will host Oldham Athletic in the third round of the League cup. It is a tie that will give the opportunity to crowbar in my favourite bad joke and will be played the week commencing Monday 20th September. It was very much the highlight of a draw that sees no real example of the ‘David hosting Goliath’ tie that makes cup football so exciting, with the possible exception of Arsenal v AFC Wimbledon. Holders Manchester City are at home to a Wycombe Wanderers side now boosted by the signing of Gibraltar international Tjay de Barr. Manchester United v West Ham is an obvious other ‘TV tie’ for lazy executives, as are those featuring our West London neighbours who play a division below the Bees in the Championship ( Fulham and Loftus Road). Yet as much as anything else, we’ll be happy to avoid the sort of ticketing issues which clouded Tuesday night’s game. 

Huge backlogs for the turnstiles on Tuesday

For Brentford another home tie in a game which, historically, may not have attracted as big a crowd as we saw earlier this week when Forest Green Rovers were beaten. Over 12,000 present for that one with those standing in the West Stand being repeatedly asked to sit down by those either visiting for the first time or simply displaced by the ‘open’ nature of ticket selection. One can understand the frustration on both sides. Personally, my days on the Ealing Road are long gone. As much due to taking an infant (at the time – where have those 8 years gone ?) as my own dodgy knees and ankles. Being able to sit certainly taking the strain off aching limbs aswell as ears given H’s inability to see through the butts of those standing in front of us. 

Equally though, we all know what goes on behind the goal. Of course the club can’t advertise standing but, even if things are generously described as being in a ‘singing section’, we all know it goes on. At grounds up and down the land. It is part of what makes up the nature of football fans. What generates the atmosphere. Just look at Crystal Palace on Saturday. Their own drummer, however cringeworthy, flanked by legions of supporters standing up aswell as some sort of synchronised ‘bouncing’ routine. Good luck asking them to sit if you were some hapless tourist caught behind. 

Palace had a drum in their standing section

Which, of course, you wouldn’t be. Like our own West STAND, those prime area tickets snapped up well, well in advance. Except when you scratch all existing Season Ticket places and revert to a car keys in the bowl approach of first in, first pick and good luck with the outcome of those you will be sharing close proximity with for the next 90 minutes. 

Of course supporters should be aware but we’re all still getting used to this. Some fans will be caught out. Right up to the end of our time at Griffin Park, the Ealing Road was able to carry through it’s dispensation to remain terraced. Wonderful it was, too. People want to continue this. Hence the whole plan of getting the stadium built with the option for ‘safe’ standing  – something which in itself which is as insulting and loaded a phrase as they come.  

We know why the club took this approach. One can sympathise. A large crowd was not expected and with the East Stand being closed, people would naturally be displaced. Given the number of Season Ticket holders, three sides into four will not go cleanly. As BIAS would later confirm when probed (gently), “Because the club wanted to keep the East Stand closed this meant those with Season Tickets there would be displaced.  Therefore it made a seat hold phase difficult.  If all stands were open then everyone would be able to buy their seat.

That, surely, the only way to go for the visit of Oldham Athletic. And any other future cup tie. If nothing else, we are still well, well into the tourist phase. People are going to want to come along to a game, just because they can. Just because it is likely to be one of the few chances they can get this season. Over 12,000 for the visit of a league two side showed that. Had it been at Griffin Park with the Bees in the Champions, the crowd would probably have been half that. At the very best. With another team from league two side next up in the cup (and Oldham will be looking to the tournament for a diversion, given they are currently rooted to the foot on nil points and four defeats) let’s hope lessons have been learned. 

Likewise, that the debacle with the ticketing scanners does not repeat itself. A large number of supporters were delayed on the way in following a system meltdown which official have described as “unacceptable”. A detailed report was due on the desk of the Chief Exec / stadium manager yesterday from the club’s Venue Access Control partner. To date, no follow up has been shared with supporters although one would presume this is being digested and a carefully worded statement crafted. Whether this was linked to the fact that tickets were not linked to he usual members / ST cards, who knows? Whatever the explanation, let’s just hope the fans get what they want for Oldham – namely, the chance to sit, or sing / stand, in their usual positions.

That aside, the details for the draw are below. Show me a better cup tie than Brentford – Oldham and I’ll show you a fan of another club. Last week’s Premier League table topers v the club currently propping up the other 91. Its about as top v bottom as they get. It certainly won’t be that easy. Not just for us but for the other clubs, too. A competition which has become more of one which has seen the squads used to their full extent and starting XIs plucked from the reserves is there for the taking if clubs go big. The one exception being Arsenal for whom picking their team from the reserves will likely see a greater chance of success.

I can’t wait. See you there. All being well in the right spot. I think we could all do without any more cup upset.

As for that ‘joke’, perhaps we’ll leave the crowbar behind. Given there are no replays. Otherwise, I’d be asking “Do you know the way to Oldham?

One in each hand….

Those third round ties in full: 

QPR v Everton

Preston v Cheltenham

Manchester United v West Ham United

Fulham v Leeds United

Brentford v Oldham Athletic

Watford v Stoke City

Chelsea v Aston Villa

Wigan Athletic v Sunderland

Norwich City v Liverpool

Burnley v Rochdale

Arsenal v AFC Wimbledon

Sheffield United v Southampton

Manchester City v Wycombe Wanderers

Millwall v Leicester City

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Tottenham Hotspur

Brighton & Hove Albion v Swansea City

Nick Bruzon

Piers Morgan v Wellard. Floyd v The Bluetones. Me v my driving instructor.

13 Aug

What links Piers Morgan and Osama Bin Laden? Hmm. How about Fidel Castro? Of course, they’re just a few from the well trodden list of celebrity Arsenal fans. A set of names that also includes Nick Hornby, at least one of Pink Floyd, Dido and Mick Jagger, aswell as Hollywood bigshots Matt Damon and Kevin Costner. To name but a few. And now, depending on how much they actually support their team, we’ve got a chance to ruin their evening. Those still with us, that is. The day has come. Brentford play their first ever Premier League fixture and the Gunners are our guests. Bring it on. The chance to upset Piers Morgan hasn’t come around anywhere nearly enough in our lifetimes. Now, the moment is upon us. As Thomas Frank summarised quite succinctly, “You couldn’t have written the story better. We open the Premier League season. A bus stop is opening the Premier League season broadcast to 190 countries across the world against famous, enormous Arsenal “. Yet, if we channel our inner Bournemouth, who knows what might happen?

Finally the time has come. Brentford v Arsenal. Adam Devlin from the Bluetones v Dave Gilmour. Do him, Adam ! Oh, if only Cameron Diaz were actually a Brentford fan to give it large to Costner when they go into work on Monday morning. But, as we all know, she isn’t. Yet. Come on Cameron, it’s never too late. 

Musical genius and famous Bees: Hard-Fi, (Archer) The Bluetones (Devlin), Helicopter Of The Holy Ghost (Reeves – get it, now)

Me v my former driving instructor Richie Firth. Eight years on and I’m pretty confident that ‘pass’ is coming soon, despite his best efforts at giving a live ‘first lesson’. Richie, better known as co-host on the Absolute Radio ‘hometime’ show and another for whom being an Arsenal fan has been a long ride of giddy highs but, more recently, sickening lows. How amazing would it be to start their season off with a bump? Richie may not make the regular list of ‘famous fans’ but he’s as staunch a lover of Gunnersaurus as they come.

Yet it was perhaps our most well known of faces (Kitman Bob aside) who has laid the stakes early today. TalkSport radio’s Natalie Sawyer – somebody who knows more than a thing or two about football and seems to have an even shonkier body clock than yours truly – has been tweeting about the Bees since the small hours today. Got to love that commitment to the cause. Joining in with anyone and everyone in the red and white.  

Well, well, still can’t quite fathom it, but today happens to be a big day for @BrentfordFC. Looking forward to being a part of the journey, come rain or shine (hopefully more shine!) 

The key factor if we are to have any chance of upsetting Dido this evening will be in channelling that play-off spirit:

Just got to make sure we make Lionel Road a fortress. Cliches and all but us fans are going to be so important. If we can get the atmosphere like the Bournemouth 2nd leg, then we’ll be in for a treat!

Natalie is bang on the money here. We’ve talked many, many times about how the 4,000 or so supporters sounded that day. The crowd were immense. Like nothing I’ve ever heard. The stadium less than a quarter full yet sounding like a cathedral of noise. Certainly, a concept Arsenal fans may not be familiar with. It was gargantuan. Game changing. Decisive. Recreate that and we hand ourselves a huge advantage.

That last minute lap of Lionel Road inspired the crowd to new heights against Bournemouth

Whether it is enough to beat Arsenal is another question, of course, but it’s going to be a huge help. Just imagine what will happen should we do it. The chance to go top of the Premier League doesn’t come around that often. Something both clubs will be familiar with in recent years !  Could we inspire a Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang frustration hole? Might we finally turn Cameron’s head. Will Piers and Richie end the night in tears?

It’s a massive ask but I can’t wait to find out. Finally, the Premier League is here. See you there !!! 

Loyalties tested. 8mins 40 in

Nick Bruzon

A fine win despite key absences and is that an incoming player?

8 Aug

Brentford completed pre-season with a 2-1 defeat of Valencia which saw the Bees go from strength to strength as the game progressed. Despite no Ivan Toney in the squad (conspiracy theories ranging from injury to sale – Tottenham, Aston Villa, anyone? doing the rounds), the arrival of Frank Onyeka from the bench and, seemingly, Yoane Wissa from L’Orient left us with the prospect of even better to come. A day which started so sadly, with news of Bees legend Robbie Cooke passing away at the age of just 64, ended with spirits high and Arsenal next up. You know, in the Premier League.

A winning goal celebrated at Lionel Road

Where to start? A crowd of over 10,000 (not bad for a warm up match) saw Brentford grow in stature over the course of a game in which VAR once again got in the way of proceedings. A goal for Marcus Forss was chalked off within five minutes after we’d all celebrated, prompting much frustration from both the crowd and Peter Gilham on the p.a.

VAR 1 Players 0’ he announced at one point, amongst other choice first half utterings. That tangle with the green screen doing nothing to affect his own skills as he would later reel off a list of substitutions for Valencia, concluding with ,”and one other, I think.”

If you’ve got it, use it…..

Instead, it was the Spaniards who took the lead midway through the opening period. Yours truly missing that one after ‘doing a JJ‘. Urgh. The summary from H and Mrs B being that “they pretty much walked it in”. Yet a goal down at half time soon turned into a rejuvenated Bees XI in the second period. Thanks largely, to that man Onyeka. My word, he looks immense. Dominating the midfield in place of Samman Ghoddos and from that moment on there was only going to be one winner. 

VAR getting in the way to deny what appeared, from where we sat, a clear penalty. Two incidents today and, of course, the Ivan Toney ‘equaliser’ in the League cup semi-final at Tottenham have meant our introduction to the much maligned system has been a less than happy one. Here’s hoping we’ve got the harsh calls out of the way early. Thankfully, in the end, it all proved irrelevant.

Biblical torrents in the second half doing nothing to stop the Bees . Instead, we weathered the storm and took the game to our opponents in some style. Ethan Pinnock got the first, heading home a corner from Sergi Canos. The Valencia ‘keeper given no hope as the big man did his dead ball thing once again. Perfect delivery. Perfect timing. Perfect finish. 1-1 and game on.

Within a few minutes we had the lead. Frank Onyeka with a low finish from the edge of the box to give us the lead after Rico’s cross had caused panic in the box. It was a beautiful finish which, combined with his overall performance (see also: West Ham) suggests the Brentford DOFs have done it again.

Celebrate good times, come on !!!! (‘official’ capturing the mood on Twitter)

It finished 2-1 and could have been more. Whilst friendlies don’t count for huge amounts, I’d rather be winning them and playing well than going home on the wrong end of a reverse. Brentford very much did the former. Onyeka aside, Rico looked strong as did Kris Ajer as part of a three man central defence. His ball carrying skills in particular giving the Bees another route forward. 

There was as much talk about those not selected though. Aswell as Tariqe Fosu and Shandon Baptiste, the absence of Ivan Toney had tongues wagging. Injured? Signing for Spurs to replace the outward bound Harry Kane? Resting? Presumably nothing more than the later with the talismanic front man the absolute first name on the team sheet for Arsenal on Friday. Thomas Frank taking the opportunity for one, last look at alternative systems and players as well as, perhaps, playing a few mind games. “A very minor injury” according to the BT Sport commentary team, apparently.

The other notable absentees being Buzz and Buzzette. That’s it. Pre-season done and no sighting of our iconic mascots. What’s the story, ‘official’? Where are they? Corona can’t be an excuse with those furry suits being about as self-isolating as it is possible to be, a deep sea diver’s get up aside. There’s going to be outrage on Friday night if they remain missing. 

One unexpected sighting was that of Yoane Wissa, if the pictures are to be believed. The player seemingly having signed for the Bees if you believe the GPG. As reliable a source as one could find these days with Jackson Grout on Twitter having the right seat at the right time to snap this one.

Yet on a day which saw a parade of legends prior to kick off, there was one notable absence. That of Robbie Cooke whose passing had been announced earlier in the day. The player, an absolute hero in his time at Brentford with the goal at Wembley in the 1985 Freight Rover Trophy being up there amongst his most fondly remembered moments. 64 is way, way too early and a really sad way to start the day for so many Bees fans, for whom it seems like only five minutes ago Robbie was doing his thing at Griffin Park.   

Instead, there were fond memories and dignified announcements from Peter, a man who has been such a longstanding part of the club and seen all our modern day heroes. Not to mention a few more. With Arsenal here in a few days time, now is the time to dream about who can add themselves to that list. I can’t wait to find out.

Roll on Friday. See you there.

Nick Bruzon

People. Don’t do nothing today.

7 Aug

Matchday. Brentford v Valencia. 9.15 am and the weather is still tipping it down in TW8. Who cares? We’ve got another chance to go to our new home. The formal opening with all sorts of pre-match stuff promised. Another chance to test the pies, have a pint and, of course, see some football. I still haven’t got over the corona enforced absence. I’ll never take for granted again the simple pleasure of being able to watch a game. Even though we’re only 6 days away from the big kick off against Arsenal, life currently feels like something in which any, and every, opportunity must be grabbed. So we’ll be there. The usual prematch drinks followed by a stroll up to Lionel Road. Our new home still within spitting distance of Griffin Park. Indeed, the reverse of the journey we used to take when  – and if Gerhard is reading, please look away now –  on occasion, we fancied mixing it up and taking pre-match at The Express Tavern. Those salt-beef laden burgers weren’t going to eat themselves. Now, that’s nothing but a distant memory with customers piled floor to ceiling in the closest watering hole to our new ground and The Griffin very much the destination of choice on matchday. 

About as short as journey as we could have hoped for from old to new

What else to expect today? Aside from channelling our inner Steve McClaren if the deluge continues? One, final clue as to who Thomas will be starting with against Arsenal on Friday? Three centre backs? Rico Henry tearing it up down the flanks once more? Baptiste and (all being well) Onyeka pulling the midfield strings? Perhaps we’ll get a look at Kris Ajer?

Prior to all of that, we’ve all manner of pre-match stuff in the hour leading up to kickoff with the formal opening of Lionel Road due to take place at 4.30pm. All being well there’ll be the sight of Cliff Crown brandishing a pair of ceremonial scissors (not a phrase that can have been used often) or, better still, Buzz and Buzzette performing the honours. At the very least, lurking in the periphery. 

Our anthropomorphic furry friends were still absent for the West Ham game and concerns for their safety are now becoming very real. Quite frankly, if it gets to next week and we’re deprived the sight of Arsenal running out alongside Buzzette pulling her much lauded funky-dance moves I’ll be ripping up my season ticket in disgust. I mean, assuming it has been delivered. The latest comms from ‘official’ suggesting these should start to land on our doormats in the next day or so. *

Elsewhere, we’ve also got both the on pitch return of the Kurupt FM crew (somebody, please make sure the chief exec’s office remains locked.) aswell as Martin Allen. There’s also the chance to pick up the new look matchday programme. Print deadlines feel a lot more forgiving than over lockdown, which is great news, as is more cover art from Dave Flanagan. Insert swoon emoji. Plus we’ve got Greville Waterman talking about Jota and another piece from my favourite of all contributors, Big Ben Burgess.

Come for the cover. Stay for Jota and BBB

For now, nothing to do except kick back for a few hours. A lazy pub lunch and a stroll up to Lionel Road. Football has been absent from our lives for far too long and I’m not going to let a bit of water get in the way. Tickets remain available this morning should you want to join us. 

Bring it on and see you there. Until then, here’s hoping Jon Varney is polishing up his script…

*Please note: I reserve the right not to rip up my season ticket

Nick Bruzon 

From Blue Peter to Mr Tumble. Club legend does it again.

3 Aug

Another Premier League first for Brentford. The build up to next Friday continued with the team shooting those ‘green screen’ goal celebration videos which, all being well, we’ll get to see over the forthcoming season. Whilst our more longstanding divisional stable mates – the likes of Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool etc etc – are well versed in all of this, for Brentford it was a first. And there were predictable results. Of the most wonderful kind.

Peter Gilham. Mr Brentford. Football’s longest serving man-with-the-mic. A man clear even of George Sephton at Liverpool in his time reading out the teams, announcing the substitutes and reminding us that “Every goal scored is sponsored by Siracusa. It’s a little Italian restaurant… at Brentford Lock” amongst his other many, many duties. We all know Peter. We all love Peter. He is the modest, under-assuming face of our club. As big a fan as anybody in the stands and living the dream. Only a place in the squad remains for him to have then completed the list of having performed just about every job done at Griffin Park and, now, Lionel Road.

Peter doing his thing on match day

His moments are legion. The dangerously stimulating pronunciation of Maxiime Collll-in. Maybe the explosions that were goal celebrations for the likes of “Owusuuuuuuu!” or “Triple B. Big Ben Burrrgeessssssss”. 

Hello. And welcome to Brentford club call” being one of my favourites from days gone by. The pre-internet chance to run up a 33p a minute phone bill on 0898 121108 whilst waiting to find out which Premier League star we’d signed. 180 seconds later…Welcome back, Bob Booker! That’s a pound my parents will never see again.

Who could forget the 3-0 v Fulham a few season back when Peter once more got caught up in the moment of fan masquerading as p.a. announcer and lost it. In the best possible sense.  “The scorer of Brentford’s third goal…Yoannnn Barbettttt !!!…. I think,” and then after the briefest of what seem to be trademark pauses, “No.It was Scott Hogan. But who cares?!!!

Yet for me, if you wanted to capture Peter’s style and charm in a single moment it was during a pre-season friendly against Celta Vigo. At one point he was forced to reel off a good half dozen, at least, simultaneous substitutions for the visitors. Manfully, he struggled through before concluding in his customary dry style, “And if that’s wrong, don’t blame me.”

Peter includes ‘Minder’ in his many duties

As with all of us, modern life can present challenges. The warning signs were there the time Peter was obliged to promote the club’s social media channels. Live on pitch he encouraged us to use, “Snapchat”. Then paused for a moment before adding, “Whatever that is.

Then, last season, he was pranked. Royally. In scenes akin to Bart Simpson ringing Moe’s Tavern in TV’s The Simpsons, he didn’t miss a beat in reading out a birthday announcement to Mike Oxlong from his friends Sal Army and Hugh J… well, the video is below:

There wasn’t even any suggestion that such a legend should be shown some respect. Frankly, it was just too funny. Fifty years at the helm yet still suckered in by the oldest trick in the p.a. book.  It was a moment that made National Radio on the Dave Berry breakfast show. Over 2million Absolute Radio listeners waking up to the sound of Peter saying Mike Oxlong. More importantly, it gave us all a huge laugh at a time when Corona was ruining everything for everyone.

Then, yesterday, it happened again. Not so much falling for a trick as falling over himself. It says it all about Peter that the club chose to include him in the goal celebration videos being shot. Shows just what a key part of the team and the squad he is. 

In front of the green screen, whilst living the dream, it happened. In Brentford style.

I can’t watch this enough. Who doesn’t love a bit of falling over. And for it to be Peter. Magnificent. The spirit in the club truly alive and kicking, given Ivan’s reaction. It’s now up there up with the time that Mr Tumble signed for Manchester City in my favourite non-footballers doing football things moments. See also : Stallone and Caine turning out for the Allies XI in Escape To Victory or Bryan Robson and his Thunderbirds level cameo on Jossy’s Giants. Come for the ‘acting’. Stay for the jumper.

Bravo Peter. Bravo. Now, it’s just a place in the Premier League and you’ll have done it all. If it’s good enough for Tumble then….

Tumble’s stint at the Ethiad was very much ‘blink and you’ll miss it”

Nick Bruzon

Those funky dance moves aren’t going to bust themselves.

1 Aug

August is upon us. Anything happening this month? Something something something Premier League. Less than two weeks for Brentford to wait until Arsenal come to visit. Exciting times are ahead and, already, under way. Having drawn with Manchester United during the week Saturday saw our first game at Lionel Road since the play-offs. It was the return of Said Benrahama with West Ham United for a pre-season run out that, as much as anything else, gave us a look at new players, old friends and our ‘actual’ seats for when it all starts properly. Of course ‘Corona Virus restrictions (a phrase to top the list of three word horrors) has meant that any entry afforded to our new home so far has been very much in the hands of fate as to where we were positioned. No complaints – even getting in was a privilege but it was an added bonus yesterday seeing how things would be when the season proper kicks off on Friday week.

A new chart topper for 2021

First up, West Ham. The visitors took it 1-0 courtesy of none other than Said Benrahama. It had to be really. The goal was the sort of top draw effort we saw him pull out the bag time and again in Brentford colours. It was a moment of sublime skill and if the hammers had to win, at least it was via spectacular effort that even had the Bees faithful offering respectful applause. Those that weren’t booing him through the game. I get we weren’t going to cheer him after the warm up but booing? Errrrr … Kayla pretty much nailing it on Twitter. Come for the comment, stay for the goal.

See also : the solitary voice constantly calling out 4 game loanee Ryan Fredericks (2012) as a Brentford reject. To do it once could be considered terrace wit. Constantly? Just odd. Still, it wouldn’t be football without a bit of niche reference and, frankly, how good to watch a game with fans present. Even away support who made a vociferous effort in the South-East corner prior to kick off then promptly decided to go all Arsenal i.e. silent.

For Brentford, another game where the opportunity to use the full length of the substitutes bench was taken. Shandon Baptiste impressed again with a jinking (happy, Jim?) run through the Hammers’ defence and a second half shot that came back off the post amongst several highlights. Likewise Frank Onyeka, whose first half performance was littered with impressive touches, runs and passing before injury brought it to a possible early conclusion. Fingers crossed his substitution was nothing more than precautionary. At least he appeared , unlike Kris Ajer who was again absent. Talk on the terrace suggesting that Celtic were delaying his paperwork although how true that is, of course, nothing more than conjecture.

Rico Henry was another welcome return. Pace down the left flank mirroring Mads Roerslev on the right as part of a defence that also included three centre backs. Is this how we’ll go in the Premier league ? Expect more clues on Saturday against Valencia. Regardless, expect Rico to start for sure. Like Josh Dasilva he was much missed in the run in last season and whilst the England U-21 still remains absent, at least we’ve one star name back in the starting XI .

To be fair, though, there was no poor showing. Brentford 2021/22 seem to have hit the ground with a consistently strong start all round. How much of this translates to league football remains to be seen. I tend not to read too much into pre-season showings but as much as anything else, it’s just nice to get back in front of our team. To see old faces aswell as a lot of new ones. To have a beer before and after the game. Even during – given the catering was not up and running at Lionel Road. Fast poor Guinness the way to go along with a lot of spicy offerings on the food front, including that most important of pre-match staples : the chicken balti pie. Even if there didn’t appear to be the more traditional burgers or hot dogs on offer which did seem somewhat of a surprise. Then again, perhaps it was just me being unobservant. Equally, seeing Thomas doing his end of game ‘thumbs up’ felt like things were back to normal.

Full time at Lionel Road

The other major absentees were Buzz and Buzzette. Presumably just waiting for that XXXXX kit to be delivered by Umbro. Who could forget the shameful pensioning off of Gunnersaurus driver Jerry Quy in October? Another victim of the corona virus cull. At the time, chairman Cliff Crown assured us they were safe but, to date, there has been no sighting of our furry friends. Whilst I am sure there is nothing to fear in their protected disappearance, one can only hope they return for Valencia and Arsenal. Those funky dance moves aren’t going to bust themselves.

Initial positivity but further comment definitely still needed

What else to say? Simply put: It was GREAT to be back. Lionel Road is a fantastic place to watch football. It’s not Griffin Park but it IS home. I’ve been lucky enough to make three visits since we were first allowed back for that Blackburn game. I’m enjoying it more and more each time. The anticipation for what it’s like when the place is full is already off the scale. That game with Valencia will be another step closer and then we’re up and running. As much, it was seeing old friends again. Of stopping at The Griffin for a pint or two. Of seeing the play-off final remembered once more. Emiliano may no longer be with us how nice to see Ewan Peleschka still choosing to honour his hero on this season’s shirt. Truly, the hallmark of a champion .

Loyal

Nick Bruzon

I’ve seen them given, Clive. Just not like this.

10 Mar

Finally. Games in hand have played out. If anything, Brentford and Swansea City are now the ones with the opportunity of playing catch up. Watford the team looking over their shoulders. Current occupants of second place in a Championship promotion race that is going to run and run. Last night’s 1-1 draw at Blackburn Rovers meaning the Swans are now three points ahead of the Bees with both teams having played 34 of our 46 games. Only goal difference keeping them behind The Hornets who have, of course, played that extra fixture. Whilst, personally speaking, I’m a firm believer in the ethos that points in the bag are better than games in hand there is extra comfort to be gained by the fact that our goal difference currently is clear of both our main rivals. Hopefully we’re all a bit less stressed now. Blips happen to the best of teams. Even in the top flight Liverpool are turning Fortress Anfield into an all you can score buffet for visiting teams whilst normally indestructible Manchester City ‘lost’ a game at the weekend (not a typo). 

I’d rather be second than fourth. No question. Prefer 66 points to 63. Only a moron would say otherwise. Yet the doomsday scenario being played out by so many after our own  disaster showing against Coventry City has failed to materialise. Swansea having three games in hand at that point and the potential to go 8 points clear should they win them all. They didn’t. Instead, were humped soundly by Bristol City and Huddersfield Town. Turned one point into three c/o of 96th minute penalty awards that were straight out of Dodge City. Fishier than Michael Fish eating fish and chips. Then, last night, another one awarded although this time in the first half but when a goal down. A penalty that was as soft as any other we’ve seen awarded recently. I’ve seen them given, Clive. Just not with this regularity. Alan McInally reporting for Sky Sports aghast at what he’d just seen after Andre Ayew made it four goals from the spot in as many games.

Penalty to Swansea. Awarded whilst listening to pop music’s Dodgy

Good luck to them. As we said before, Brentford wouldn’t turn down the opportunity if offered. We’d be right on the spot, trusting Ivan Toney to do his thing. That so many have been awarded , and in such controversial circumstances, is of course going to frustrate. That’s the polite phrase. Shonky refereeing to those looking in. The EFL powerless, impotent, silent.  We can’t change that. We still have plenty of opportunity to wrestle control of our destiny. 12 more games. That’s a lot of time and a lot of points. Even if we need to do it from open play. Err, Bryan Mbeumo at Norwich anyone…? Besides, I’m still firmly of the belief that this one is going to go all the way to the wire. If for no other reason than Watford visit Brentford then host Swansea in their final two games. 

All being well, things will be a lot clearer by then. If the recent run of LLL was stressful for some think how that final brace of fixtures is going to be? That’s a level of angst I don’t want to be part of although can only presume things will head that way. None of the teams around us will drop that many points between now and then.  At least we got back on track with those defeats of Sheff Wed and Stoke. Next up Blackburn Rovers on Friday.

Cripes, that trip to Ewood Park is going to be tough. By all accounts they should have won last night. We all know our own injury situation at the back. That said, we all know our own goal scoring potential going forward. The choice being faced by Thomas Frank over who from Tariqe Fosu, Bryan Mbeumo and Sergi Canos to start with a tough one. A nice one, I suppose. For me (straps on tin hat) the later had been the most consistent performer this season from the three although nobody could deny the game against Norwich City was one where he was at anything than his best. I still stand by the fact that the abuse he came under was way out of line and totally out of order. If nothing else, there were enough others who went awol in a game against the runaway league leaders. But we’ve done that one to death. 

Brentford may well lose again this season. Sadly. That’s football. As noted earlier, even Manchester City got a nil return on Sunday. It happens. Liverpool have hit such a rough patch of home form that even Fulham picked up three points over the weekend. Swansea City have fluctuated between whipping boys and relentless winners over the last five games. The only consistent thing about the beautiful game is its inconsistency. Nothing can be predicted. Although if everyone could just stop awarding Steve Cooper’s team penalties, that would be nice. As a side note,  those bemoaning Barnsley inflicting one of our own defeats in the blip period may care to notice the Tykes now sitting in the play-off spots. Talk about a surge up the blindside. 

We can talk about others in the same breath as we do ourselves. That’s not obsession. That’s a fact. That’s what makes football so exciting. So addictive. Delivers the agony and ecstasy in equal measure. We can be at our best yet still be undone by outside influence. Be ropey as but nick the points and then see our rivals do everything but score. Of course we have to focus on Brentford as a priority. Of course we shouldn’t get overly upset about what the others do, as long as we continue to pick up the points. Yet with our destinies so inter twined, it’s hard not to look at the other games with microscopic interest. Luton v Swansea on Saturday and Cardiff v Watford will be two such games. Moreso with our own game taking place on Friday night. Fingers crossed we’ll be back in automatic by the time our nearest and dearest kick off. Fingers crossed….

Nick Bruzon  

Were you guessing? Gavin does what Gavin does in a frustrating end to the week.

7 Mar

Well yesterday was about as frustrating and infuriating as it gets. But enough about having to watch And and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway with Mrs B. A soul destroying and futile exercise without an audience present. If that’s even your thing in the first place (it isn’t). Noooooo… they’re ‘dancing’ with a cartoon cat and mouse whilst Tom Jones is wandering around with a giant butterfly net. Make it stop. Please make it stop. Yet if that was a painful exercise then the same could be said for Brentford fans who had earlier tuned in to the day’s live Championship matches on Sky earlier. Watford and Swansea City got the expected wins over Nottingham Forest and Middlesbrough, no complaints there, but the manner of their respective victories left a sharp reminder that football has more twists and turns than a game of snakes and ladders. Left Neil Warnock set to explode and surely facing sanction for saying what we were all thinking.

As painful as anything that had played out before

Watford now three points clear of Brentford in third. An extra game played. A 1-0 win coming courtesy of a strike from Adam Masina that seemed to go straight through the legs of Forest goalkeeper Brice Samba. The goalkeeper then receiving lengthy treatment after appearing to take some sort of knock to the head in the build up but eventually able to continue. It was never in doubt. The Hornets did what they needed to. The visitors spending the afternoon being stretched at the back and unable to make inroads up front. Well played Watford. We’d have been ecstatic to pull a result like that out of the bag.

However, that was nothing but the appetiser for the main event. Swansea City v Middlesbrough which, to my surprise, had full match coverage on Sky. Excellent. Sit back on the couch with a Guinness and a hot cross bun to hope for the best but fear the worst. What we got was as awful as Mrs Brown, her boys, Tom, Jerry, Dec, Ant and the England supporters band teaming up for a musical medley. We got Gavin Ward….

Remember Swansea’s game at Stoke City midweek? The scores locked at 1-1 until they were offered a 96th minute penalty after the softest of non-challenges? Of course Andre Ayew converted. That’s what he does. Well, yesterday saw more of the same, It saw Neil Warnock livid at full time after Middlesbrough were denied one point, possibly three. It saw Marc Bola have a wonder strike chalked off for Boro’ after Yannick Bolasie had, apparently, fouled Jay Fulton after playing the ball through. It saw the scores locked at 1-1 until Swansea were awarded a 96th minute penalty after the softest of non-challenges? Of course Andre Ayew converted. That’s what he does.

Even more frustrating this time around (the ex Brentford connection aside) was how it happened. George Saville taking the ball off Jake Bidwells’ toes and clearing for a corner before the defender went over. Ward pointing to the flag until changing his mind and under protest deciding it had been a foul. 2-1. Six points in the last two games where both had been heading for 1-1 draws. That’s football. You can’t blame Swansea for taking their chance. Do you think we’d have turned down the opportunity to take both penalties? Of course not. Doesn’t make it any less shonky though. Dodgy refereeing playing havoc with what is about as tight a promotion race as they come. This, from @VickiLee_1 on Twitter, summing it up in a nutshell

Neil Warnock summed up Gavin Ward and the two game changing incidents incidents in quite direct style, saying first about the Bola that Ward ”thought it was a free-kick to them. He hadn’t see (Yannick) Bolasie won the ball. It’s either a penalty or a goal. He’s blown the whistle before Bola’s shot hit the goal and gave a defensive free-kick.”

As for the penalty… :“I’m a little bit bewildered about the penalty. He pointed for a corner kick but he assures me that when he thought about it he thought George didn’t get any of the ball and he thought it was a penalty. I asked ‘Why did you point to the corner flag? Were you guessing?

Were you guessing?’ If ever Mr Ward writes his autobiography then there’s the title. No doubt the Middlesbrough manager will be fined for his comments. His full interview a masterclass in straight talking. That’s what the EFL do though. They’ll protect their refs to the last and hit the managers for speaking up. I was incensed after the penalty award at Stoke. So was Warnock, by the sound of it. This was equally poor. Swansea riding their luck and taking the opportunity offered. They’ll argue they kept going until the last second which, of course, they did. Yet once more offered the big helping hand of refereeing incompetence makes your task all the easier to achieve. Now, they sit two points ahead of Brentford with Tuesday’s trip to Blackburn Rovers next on the agenda. There’s still one hell of a long way to run in the promotion race. For once, we’ll be hoping Adam Armstrong closes in on Ivan Toney at the top of the Championship goal scorers charts.

Sour grapes? Yes. By the bucketload. As much about the circumstances that have played out. About referees unable to distinguish between fair means and foul. “By that reckoning they should get promotion, shouldn’t they? If they keep getting the right referees.” Not my words, Carol. The words of Neil Warnock.

Equally, with 12 games to go, and the Swans travelling to Vicarage Road for the final game of a tough run in, let’s not get too downbeat. Blackburn have a key role to play this week, we then visit them on Friday, but it will only be one step in the journey. Neither result will be definitive. Whichever way they go.

Albeit, if we could avoid any dodgy decisions that would be just great.

Nick Bruzon

If you can’t take it then don’t give it. Here’s to us ‘doing a Leeds’.

20 Feb

I’ll bite. Brentford head to Coventry City today for a game that, if no way season defining, is one in which three points will be gratefully received. For the second placed Bees, a chance to get some clear air in the automatic slots before Norwich and Swansea play. Watford’s 2-1 defeat of Wayne Rooney’s (presumably we can just drop the extraneous ‘Derby County’ now) seeing a fourth team getting knee deep in the promotion punch up. For nomadic Coventry, efforts continue to ensure that at least some Championship football will be played at St. Andrew’s next season. Never has the decision by Birmingham City to name the ‘Trillion trophy stadium’ seemed a more unfortunate one. Yet regardless of the build up to the game (which, for the record, I have as ‘away win’ all day long) it was a tweet from Leeds United, via Gibraltar, that has made me laugh this morning.

My cousin’s husband is as staunch a Leeds fan as they come. We’ve had a lot of fun over the last few seasons as Brentford have gone toe to toe with the Elland Road outfit and come out on top more often than not. Oh, Neal Maupay. You god amongst men. That Yehudi Menuhin of footballers, playing them as easily as he would a cheap fiddle. Fans enjoying the moment and singing along as Leeds fell apart. Again. How we laughed. Until last season happened.

Genius

My word, Leeds United held it together in some style. They finished the campaign like a runaway train regardless of how sensitive they have since appeared to be about any criticism of the break enabling them the opportunity to reset. Despite the saltiness about Thomas and his white board. Put simply, Leeds deserved to go up and kept their nerve when it counted. This time. It hurts to say it but one needs to recognise a team’s achievement. The motivational power of Bielsa. More importantly, unlike Fulham and West Brom they’ve taken to the top flight like a duck to water. Say what you want about them but they’ve got it bang on again.

Thomas Frank’s whiteboard was the gift that kept on giving.

Yet if Birmingham City are going out of their way to find an example of the word ironic that’s ten times better than anything Alanis could come up with (or should that actually be a trillion times better ?) the aforementioned tweet from Gibraltar was right up there.

Leeds’ fan Julian sending me this graphic from sky, predicting how the Championship table may play out, along with the narrative ‘surely not again’…..

Hmmmm

Oh well. I suppose if any team knows about falling apart (again) it is Leeds United. Pot. Kettle. Black. Isn’t THAT ironic? Well done. Well done everyone. Successful deployment of the fishing rod emoji. Although, to be fair, if you can’t take it then don’t give it. I’ve had massive fun pulling his, and their, leg over the last few campaigns. I want promotion if for no other reason than to continue that good natured family rivalry.

Heading into the final third of the season, this sort of graphic and prediction is going to be more and more prevalent as the games count down and the run in begins. I’ll take it as a huge positive . A massive inspiration. We all know how last season ended and if nothing else, nobody but nobody wants to go through that a second time. Rather than a wind up I take it as an even greater motivational factor to get back in the groove. Of keeping touch with the boys at the top and slowly turning the screw once more. Of doing what we did from late October through January and beyond. Just letting the results take care of business.

The obvious factor here is getting those results. We’ve a tough run of games coming up. Coventry today and then visits from Sheffield Wednesday and Stoke City. The former looking to leapfrog Birmingham City in the scramble to avoid relegation ; the later with an eye very much on the play offs. Yet it is getting back to winning ways today that needs to be the priority. I’m not in the knee jerk doom and gloom camp – cripes, we’ve lost five games all season and are still second in the table. Second. At the same time, the team have seemed off their usual pace in recent games. Barnsley was awful to watch. At least we started at 100mph in midweek but it very much had the feeling of the wheels coming off in the second period. On another day we might have hung on but alas it wasn’t to be.

That’s football. As we said at the time, no team is Manchester City. No team wins every game. Look at how untouchable Liverpool have hit the skids in recent weeks. We can’t change those results and the quicker our own form returns, the quicker they will be forgotten about. Consigned to the waste bin of history as, all being well, nothing more than a bump in the road on the way to promotion.

I’m still utterly convinced we’ll follow Leeds and do it this season. I’m still sitting here this morning with nothing more than complete faith in this team. In knowing that when our big guns fire we’ve more than enough to outshoot and outscore anybody. Home or away. That said, if we started to pull the trigger today it would make me a much happier man. If only for keeping up some semblance of family pride. Of hoping that the personalised Toblerone bar that made its way to Gibraltar in the autumn doesn’t come back to bite us in the backside.

It was funny…at the time

Kick off is at 12.30pm today. The game is live on Sky aswell as iFollow for Season Ticket and Premium Seat Members. Audio Match Passes are available to buy for those of you that prefer to listen old schools. BBC Radio London digital are sure to be involved, too, and are always a wonderful choice. Whichever option is available, I can’t wait for this one. See you there. In spirit. On the sofa. Here’s to form returning. Here’s to us ‘doing a Leeds’.

Nick Bruzon

Put down the crowbar and look at the shoddy photoshop. The latest big game is upon us.

3 Feb

Tonight’s the night. We hope. Brentford finally play Bristol City after the teams have already seen our coming together twice cancelled. First due to Corona Virus suspicions and then, actual, cases. It is a game that reeks of potential for both clubs after recent results from our Championship rivals. Defeats for Watford and a fourth in a row last night for Bournemouth, along with Millwall holding Norwich City, make the business end of the table as open as it has been all season. The Bees are 2 and 7(seven) points behind Swansea City and The Canaries respectively but have games in hand on both. For The Robins, a win will take them level on points with sixth placed Bournemouth and possibly above them, should GD swing by more than one. Elsewhere, Manchester United did their one team bus tribute act. Not so much parking it as waiting for one.

We can, of course, only start with Brentford. It seems we’ve waited an eternity for the Bristol City game. One can only hope that severe injury list that coincided with their 11th hour cancellation of our New Years Day fixture has got a bit healthier. Much like their staff whom one can only be thankful that the sudden onset of Corona Virus symptoms proved to be nothing more than a false alarm at a time where the testing laboratories were closed. Relief all round, I am sure. It feels like we’ve all got a lot older waiting for the Bees to play the Robins…. And, with that, I’ll put away the crowbar and instead present the shoddy photoshop.

We’ve all grown old waiting for the Bees to play The Robins (kids, ask a grown up)

We all know the stats, of course. Brentford remain unbeaten in the league since October 24th and the Stoke City debacle. Since then, we’ve been unstoppable. Ivan Toney has been banging them in for fun with the hat-trick (now officially confirmed) against Wycombe Wanderers on Saturday the latest in a long line of goals, goals, goals. That was quite the performance from the entire team. Tarique on fire. Josh a welcome return to our midfield and Sergi blitzing it in the second half. The net still rippling from his goal(our fifth). An absolute blockbuster. 

If only we’d been allowed in to see Sergi, Josh and co..

We’re currently third placed on 48 points after 25 games and have just hit Wycombe for brackets. A 7(seven) -2 victory one that, being honest, could have gone to double figures had we taken those first half chances rather than allowing them back in to the game. For context, at the same marker last season we were sitting fourth with a still hugely respectable 40 points 3rd. We’d just gone down 1-0 at Millwall, fourth on 40 and were hoping Leeds United would fall apart. Again. 

Now, destiny is in our complete control. The table doesn’t lie and the prize for winning tonight , whilst not season defining, would lay down a huge marker to the top two teams Norwich City and Swansea. Especially given they then play each other on Friday night. Yeah. Frank Out!! Sergi’s rubbish. Sign somebody Benham, we’re doomed. Oh, and insert Picard graphic. Again, I’ll put away the crowbar and insert…. 

Hmm. They’ve gone very quiet…..

All this, of course, ignores Bristol City. They aren’t just going to roll over and die. Surrender meekly and hand over more points to Brentford. Although it would be nice if they did. However, with Bournemouth picking up the mantle from Leeds United, the Robins will be chomping at the bit to do their thing. The play-off zone is back in sight and Dean Holden has the hottest instead of the sadly departed Lee Johnson. Last season’s fun and games feeling even further away than the original date for tonight’s fixture and another excuse to wield the photoshop.

Last season was fun. Farewell, Lee Johnson.

Moreso, we need to be wary of the Robins given how they slipped up to Wayne Rooney’s Derby County at the weekend. Or, should that be, Rooney’s derby. Cripes, the castration of the Rams continues apace. Having got through Frank Lampard’s, Steve McClaren’s and, to a lesser extent, Ashley Cole’s it looked like they were once more Derby County. Then Rooney came in, took over, and now Derby have already lost their capitalisation. Rooney’s derby proclaimed the weekend updates….

derby further emasculated (thanks to Trevor for spotting this one !)

Etc etc etc. We could go on. But won’t. With Bournemouth serving up that favour last night and reopening the door to Bristol City, they’ll no doubt have their own spirits lifted. Here’s to our high flying Bees doing our thing one more. Even half the performance on Saturday would be sufficient. As long as it’s the second-half.

The other news last night came at Old Trafford where Manchester United hit Southampton for 9. Cripes. If we were destructive on Saturday, this was next level. Like buses, you wait ages for brackets to come along and then two appear at almost the same time. My own phone alerts suddenly going off late in the evening suggesting something happened and , sure enough, The Red Devils hit the magical 7(seven) goal mark. A feat they managed on 87 minutes yet still then finding time for an additional two goals. Well played all round and a scoreline we could only aspire to. Whilst there’s no chance of it happening tonight – Daniel Bentley’s not a flappy ‘keeper – I’d be happy with a gritty 1-0 and the three points. 

Will we get them ? Roll on 7.45pm when we find out. Mark Burridge has the hot seat on the quality comms. There’s also Sky for those of you with that option, should you prefer. Regardless of the provider, this could be huge. Bring on kick off and see you there. In spirit, if not body.

Nick Bruzon