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Never order a kit-kat on a train. What really happened at the play-off final.

28 Mar

There’s no football on. I’m bored. Very bored. So who wants to hear a story? A story about what really happened after the 2002 play-off final. That was the one Brentford lost. 2-0 to Stoke City in Cardiff, if it helps narrow things down a little bit. Although at least this time we had the consolation of not losing in the semi-finals or at Wembley. A story about how your journey home from that one may have been impacted, indirectly, by yours truly. The wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time and for which I can only apologise. Even if not my fault.

It was the game I attended with my brother Mark, my Stoke supporting flat mate Paul and HB’s now godfather, Carl (the names have been changed to protect the innocent) . A game where a Mr. Jack Segal (his hasn’t) of First Great Western trains tried to make an already awful day even worse on the way home.

The day, like all of them that had gone before and would come since, started with such great promise. The sight of Carl, sitting on a bench outside Twickenham station, holding a bottle of Baileys at 6am was one to put an early smile on the face abut the day ahead.

Surely, THIS time, Brentford would lay the play-off jinx to bed. There was no way we could cock up another one. For starters, it wasn’t taking place at the W place in North London. That hovel where footballing dreams go to die. At least, if you support the Bees. On what was shaping up to be a beautiful day, we had even been blessed with the ‘lucky’ dressing room. There was just no way we’d mess this one up. Championship, here we come.

Oh dear. There’s a reason I don’t bet on football. 12 hours later, our footballing dreams had died. Again. Different city. Same outcome. Brentford 0 Stoke City 2 the final score. The Bees putting in a no-show of a performance on an afternoon that the wheels came off our quite wonderful team. Steve Coppell’s squad falling apart on the pitch and then splintered into a million pieces almost immediately afterwards.

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Different city. Same outcome

Yet the pain of defeat was nothing compared to what came next. Tired, emotional and drained – the stuffing knocked out of us – it was time for the journey back to Paddington. The train arrived. Seats were taken. It left on time. Wow! At least the day would have a decent ending. Homeward bound, what could possibly go wrong from here? Well, quite a lot as it happens.

Whilst the early morning Baileys was a giddy high that, just for the record, had not been replicated over the course of the day let’s not pretend either that drinks had not been consumed. And whilst I am assuming that we were all fit to drive cars, say the alphabet backwards and pass breathalyser tests, discretion was deemed the better part of valour at this juncture. As such, a trip to the buffet carriage was undertaken with the sole intention of being to acquire four coffees and four kit-kats.

For reasons unknown, the kit-kats have always seemed an integral part to proceedings and what came next. There’s no specific reason but on the odd occasion that events have been re-told in private, that detail has remained constant. Close to twenty years on, other facts may have been lost to time, faded or even just been altered to suit the telling. Not deliberately, but as my good friend Bucko used to say “Never ruin a good story with the facts.” I’m not saying this is necessarily one which fits into that category, or that there has been any conscious manipulation of events, but the multi-fingered chocolate-covered wafers have always been a favourite so need to stay in.

Through the coaches we swayed. Purely due to the rocking motion of the train. The buffet car ahead of us. The sound of singing supporters coming through into the preceding carriage. Brentford and Stoke fans, mixed together and sounding in genuinely good spirits. Nothing moronic. Nothing stupid. Just good humour as supporters drank and partied together. Something more incredible given the defeat we had recently endured. Perhaps that side of things was more symptomatic with an ongoing acceptance that this is what probably would always have happened regardless of omens and good feeling.  After all, we’d just been in a play-off match and, to coin a phrase, it’s Brentford. Innit?  

In we went. Paul and I, that is. Carl and my brother had remained behind in the carriage. The bonhomie we’d presumed to be in place was indeed confirmed. Fans of both clubs intermingled and very much enjoying all that the First Great Western bar had to offer. It was a heartwarming sight and moreso given the reputation of travelling football fans.

The buffet car itself may have been a relic from the 70s but the attitude of the supporters was anything but. As we sped through the Welsh countryside at plenty over 100mph it should have been a picture postcard advert for travelling to and from a game by train. Were it not for the simple fact that the door was hanging wide open. Wide. Open.  Nothing but a distance of about two feet separating us from the high speed blur of trees and bridges on the other side of the open gap. The wind blowing in and everybody either oblivious or simply choosing to ignore it – the taste of High Speed Fosters too delicious to surrender for something as trivial as certain death should anyone have lost their footing and lurched towards the exposed doorframe.

By all rights we should have turned tail and fled back through the vestibule. Perhaps pulling the emergency cord as we went. But nobody else had and I certainly wasn’t going to be the one to rain on this parade. The person deemed responsible for turning the party atmosphere into one of angst. 

Instead, we stepped forward towards the  safety of the narrow passageway alongside the serving hatch, bypassing the deathtrap to our right. Those kit-kats weren’t going to buy themselves and, besides, we could always ask the chap dispensing the coffees if he’d happened to notice that his carriage was now exposed to the elements? And then, worlds collided.

Four coffees and four kit-kats, please”. As that phrase was uttered, enter stage left the guard. Jack Segal. He had a name badge announcing the fact. He may aswell have announced himself with the line, “‘Ello ‘ello ‘ello. What’s going on ‘ere then?” And as it slowly dawned on him, the man presumably responsible for the health and safety of all on the train, that neither could be assured he barked, “Buffet’s closed”. Then reached for the emergency alarm.

The caterer didn’t know what to do. With the train slowing to a halt, we asked if service was possible? Granted, in retrospect it was unlikely to be a well received request but, you know, just because the train had decelerated didn’t mean that serving a hot drink was impossible. Alas, it was. 

“Buffet’s. Closed” repeated Segal. Each word screeched with the sort of protracted delivery reserved for naught schoolboys from a particularly apoplectic headmaster determined to make a point amidst the mayhem unfurling around him.

He shouted again. Face growing an ever darker shade of Fergie red as everyone ignored him and continued the protracted negotiations for caffeine and chocolate.

Buffet’s. Closed” he screamed once more. The man behind the counter this time pulling the shutters down. It was a less a slam and more a meandering slide but with our hands on the counter top, it was a game of Russian roulette – albeit one utilising fingers and an industrial grill rather than a high velocity bullet and a brain. Yet, with the fear of an irate Segal now firmly instilled, there was no stopping this manoeuvre from playing out to a bone crunching conclusion. Not that we really though this would happen until experiencing the taste of metal on knuckle.

Oww. That really hurt. What did you did that for ?” or words to that effect were directed towards the train staff, although primarily Segal. There was no apology. Anything but. Instead, with our fellow fans having deserted the scene and the train now stopped, the fickle finger of Jack pointed from the door to us and then back again. He put two and two together, came up with five and made it quite clear that this near death experience was nothing to do with a faulty train but down to us. And that trouble was waiting.

Back we went to our seats. No coffee. No kit-kats. The door had been closed and the train limped towards Newport where everybody was kicked off to await a replacement service. Except for Paul and I. We were told to await the Transport Police where we could… help them with their enquiries. A phrase delivered with all the menace of a camp pantomime villain sporting a cape and waxed moustache . Only a Mwah-ha-ha-ha-ha-haaa! required at the end for a full house.

Which is what then happened. The police rather than the theatrical laugh. We were met by Her Majesty’s finest who, despite protesting our innocence, were given a very simple choice. Either disembark, come to the stationmaster’s office to give some more formal ‘assistance’. Or be arrested. Either way, we were going with them.

Put like that, it was an easy enough decision. As our fellow passengers waited on the platform for a rail replacement to be dragged out of God knows where, we began undergoing the process of interrogation into our involvement in the alleged train door opening which, it transpired, is what Segal had formally accused us of.

What? This was madness. Again and again we went over our version of events. Nothing changed. The questions kept coming. By all rights we probably should have had some sort of legal representation there but it didn’t even dawn on us to ask. Besides, we’d done nothing wrong.

That didn’t seem to matter. Segal’s accusation keeping us trapped in Newport as the man himself had since boarded the replacement service that was heading towards London with the rest of our fellow fans. 

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Trapped in Newport?

Well boys. That’s the last train to London tonight gone” said one of the officers. He didn’t go so far as to add “so now your fu*%ed” although I’m fairly certain he thought it. I did, that’s for sure. Locked in a stalemate this was going nowhere fast. The police continued, “You know how much this is going to cost? The entire network has been knocked out. We’ve had to pull a spare train out of mothballs and delay just about every other service going through here. A f*%king fortune is how much”. This time he did swear . Quite profusely.

Then, and I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred any earlier, somebody had the bright idea to call up Segal on the replacement train. We were oblivious to this part of proceedings until one of the station staff came forward to where we were still assisting and uttered those sweet, sweet words: “Stoke City have been eliminated for fielding an illegible player. You’ve been promoted.

Well, not quite but the joy was much the same. “We’ve spoken to him now. He’s admitted he didn’t, actually, see it happen and can’t say that it was these two.

Thanks a bunch, Jack. Mainly because it wasn’t us two. That was a rant for another day though. He continued, “Really sorry lads. We all know him here. He’s a right ‘toys out the pram’ type. So you’ve got two choices – we’ll put you up in hotel and get you home tomorrow or we’ll just pay for a taxi down to your final destination now”.     

If ever you needed the quintessential no brainer then here it was. A late night in a Newport Travel Lodge and a Sunday chugger / replacement bus home or back to our beds within a couple of hours. Hmmm. Let me think about that for about no seconds.

A taxi was duly summoned and took us all the way back through the dead of night to Twickenham. The meter reading £159 as we pulled up outside the station although, for reasons of almost Segal-esque anal behaviour, the driver wouldn’t take us the extra 500 yards to our flat above the snooker hall. Seriously? After driving for three hours, you couldn’t manage two more minutes? Still, it could have been a hell of a lot worse.

And then I remembered Carl, my brother and the rest of the Brentford faithful. Shit, they’d probably be worried. No worries. Out came the Nokia 3310 and a call was placed. I’d probably wake him up but, you know, he’d want to know we were safe rather than facing a prison sentence.

You’d think. But no. Anything but. He was not pleased to hear from me and not because he’d been roused from his slumbers….

You’re home? Already? Bastards. We’re stuck in Reading! I’ve had Carl sucking up to the guard all the way back and now we’ve missed the last connection back because the train was so delayed.”

I made my excuses and left. All of a sudden, losing a play-off final didn’t seem so bad.

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Happier times with Carl and Paul

Nick Bruzon  

We’ve one shot at this….

13 Feb

Brentford fans. Put the Championship to one side for one minute. We’ve got one shot at this. A place in the World Cup of Programme Covers semi-finals is at stake. You know what to do.

Time to get voting before the polls close at 8am…..

One day to go. What have we missed? Your vote needed.

31 Dec

2019 is drawing to a close. Brentford end the decade sitting fourth in the Championship table following what have been the most consistently exciting ten years in our history. The current edition of FourFourTwo magazine has us ranked first out of the twenty-five greatest EFL clubs from 2010-2019. It would be fair to say that things are going very, very well – a most un-Brentford like scenario.  It was a subject we looked at in the article submitted for the Swansea City programme on Boxing Day. From Fulham to Preston ; Leeds to Birmingham City. What are the top ten highlights of the decade we are about say goodbye to? 

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Not my words – well, the content was but FFT did the maths first

The programme piece is reproduced, and enlarged upon, below. However, the real reason for running this is as much to see what was missed out. What was your moment of the decade that should have been included? Whether awesome or awful – we celebrated both.  Personally, and even though a sneaky 11 was included, the absence of last season’s Neal Maupay goal celebration at Leeds United (and at home to Leeds United)  has had me kicking myself all the way to the printers. How did it miss out?

Neal Maupay Leeds

Come on Leeds. It WAS a penalty

 So without further ado, and to whet your appetite, these were mine. But are they right?

10 Josh McEachran’s photoshoot. A bizarre series of pictures that appeared in, at least, The Telegraph and The Mail. If the pictures were odd, and they were, it is something best remembered for the description on Twitter of his looking “Like the chief whistleblower in an expose on bullying in the world of junior golf”.

9 Marcelo Trotta takes a penalty. Not ‘that’ one. Come on, we’re better than going there. I’m sure somebody has already done that anyway. Instead, the game with Gillingham in January 2014. The one he scored having made a shock/ballsy return to the club after something happened late on in a game v Doncaster the previous season. I forget exactly what.

Trotta pen v Gills

Get in!!! What Doncaster thing?

8 Chesney. It’s hard to imagine the conversation that lead to us starting the decade with none other than Wojciech Szczęsny between the sticks. Yet that’s what happened when the Polish international and Arsenal’s number 53 cut his league teeth at Griffin Park. He was immense. It was bonkers yet, if anything, it was a sign of things to come.

7 Jota. Proof that despite the sneers from outside TW8, Matthew Benham’s computer model works. And how. A luxuriantly coiffered hero, his picture still adorns the gates to Griffin Park. The last minute goals. The skill. The heartbreaking love letter to the fans when he returned to Spain (we’ll forget the second one when he left for Birmingham). The emotional second coming which saw him possibly better than ever before. My favourite player of the decade. 

6 The Marinus experiment. Proof that even Matthew’s computer gets it wrong sometimes. Have you turned him on and off again? Have you tried banging it? Ok, then the model must be broken. He lasted 9 league games, got humped by Oxford in the league cup and ditched Jonathan Douglas. Hardly the way to endear yourself to the fans, for whom Dougie was a hero to many. Yet in his short time at Griffin Park he did inspire the unicorn that launched a thousand photoshops.

Marinus unicorn

Any excuse to crowbar this one in.

5 Stuart Dallas . Specifically, scoring THAT goal at Fulham in the 4-1 win back in April 2015. The lay off from Andre Gray was beautiful but then Stuart ran on to the ball and did his thing. Oh. My. Word. One touch followed by an absolute thunder bolt of a shot from thirty yards out on the diagonal. The ball accelerating all the way into the top corner in front of the Bees’ fans. The single best hit Brentford goal of the decade, if not ever.

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THE moment

4 Snowball-gate. January 2013 and a League one match between Brentford and Tranmere. The fans had earlier helped clear the pitch to ensure the game could go ahead but what to then do at half-time with all the snow that had been accumulated at the back of the Ealing Road stand?  Snowballs. Lots of snowballs. When goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams emerged for the second period he was greeted with such a barrage that the referee was forced to delay the game.

3 Ten Times Better. October 2017 and Harlee Dean panicked in front of a tv camera, telling us about his new Birmingham City team that “We’ve got quality in that squad. I’ve been in teams where we’ve finished fifth in this league and missed out on promotion by play offs. and this squad is ten times better than that.”

The response? Our 2-0 win at St. Andrews a month later was followed by the incredible 5-0 hammering in the return fixture. “Cheer up Harlee Dean” sang the supporters. In the ultimate trolling, even the club joined in and upgraded our usual ‘win music’ from Kool And The Gang to The Monkees.

He started it

2 Victory at Leyton Orient in March 2014. The most stressful, incredible, backs to the wall performance as the 10 man Bees hung on for a 1-0 win against the combined forces of Russell Slade’s Os and referee Robert Madley. It was a MASSIVE win in a promotion 6-pointer that saw the bitter boss complaining that we’d celebrated like we’d won the FA Cup at full time. He’s right. We did. And then some.  

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Who did what like we’d won what now?

1 Alan Judge’s penalty v Preston in April 2014. Brentford securing promotion with a penalty? Who’d have thought it but the combination of his goal, and other results, helped the Bees to a 1-0 win and reaching the Championship. This, despite a lot of 11th hour squeaky bum time at Wolves when Rotherham started scoring. The pitch invasion and post match street party that followed were the stuff of legend with promotion to the Championship confirmed. Kevin O’Connor was at the bar in The Griffin. The players in the street, celebrating with the fans. Cliff Crown was waving Russell Slade FA Cups around. Only at Griffin Park could this happen. Thank you. Everyone.

 

Some people are on the pitch - Juge's penalty v Preston saw a wonderful denouement

Some people are on the pitch.. etc etc

And given a football team has 11 players, why not add one more for luck. The hour that is Brentford ‘Official’ trying to get down wiv da kidz on social media: #trophyfriends #bignewambitions #novemberkings . Please, let’s never talk of this again.

Instead its over to you. if you can’t be bothered, have a Happy New Year and here’s to Bristol City on ,erm, Thursday?  

Nick Bruzon

Magnificent. Rivals thumped, humped and spanked as top of the table tightens.

15 Dec

Well that was just stunning. Another home win as Brentford beat Fulham – yet again – on Saturday to go fourth in the Championship table. It was as comfortable a 1-0 as you could hope to see. The visitor’s goalmouth leading a charmed life with the Bees hitting the woodwork three times. There’s only Preston, Leeds United (who gave an intriguing reminder of their annual ability to fall apart) and then table toppers West Bromwich Albion (also derby winners as they came from behind against Birmingham City to render Harlee Dean’s goal meaningless) above us. 

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Another wonderful win under the lights

With Barnsley hammering qpr 5-3, it was just about the perfect day of results for Brentford fans. The chief of which was, of course, at Griffin Park. In truth it never felt in doubt, the first twenty minutes aside. Fulham starting in the ascendency. Brentford dropping passes short, having no luck with the bounce of the ball and just feeling second to everything. It was a brief fancy. A posing concern that vanished as quickly as it had arrived. Fulham had their moment, even hit the post at one point (albeit David Raya had the shot covered) and then the Bees stepped it up. My word did we step it up.

Thomas Frank would talk at full time about his pre-match message to the players, “One thing. Out run them. When you feel the pain, run again.” The tactic was simple. Keep moving. Keep running. You will win. And sure enough, we did. Bryan Mbeumo got the goal that silenced the visitors and gave us the lead. Saïd Benrahma with the cross from the right although Thomas was as quick to praise Ollie for his tireless work. Not just in the move that saw Mbeumo fire home but throughout the game.

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View from the Braemar – Bryan celebrates his goal

With fans on their feet, voices raised and smiles broad (that was just Peter Gilham) we pushed on. How Ollie didn’t score I have no idea as the post came to Fulham’s rescue. It was one of those which, watching it live, had seemed as though it was just a case of waiting for the ball to hit the back of the net. Alas, not.

Next up, Pontus Jansson just before half time. The woodwork once again coming to Fulham’s rescue in front of their supporters. Apparently – I’d been dragged to the forecourt at that point by a boy in need of a hot chocolate and a wee. The spirit of BBC Billy Reeves still alive and kicking.

It could have been 2 or 3 as the players trooped in for their break but, frankly, we were winning. Forty-five minutes away from another win and a move into the play-off zone. Each and every one of us would have taken that if made the proverbial offer before kick off.

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Watching on as Pontus hits the post.

Back out and it was more of the same. Brentford tireless. Indefatigable. Unceasing in the hunt for a goal which would have secured the points. More importantly, sparing the heart conditions of more than a few people sitting around us in the Braemar. As stress levels built, Mathias Jensen did it. Yessssss. 2-0 !!!! Nooooo!! Somehow it hadn’t gone in, despite bouncing off the inside of the post, across the goal and surely over the line. Surely? 

I’m still convinced it was in but the reaction of the players and the straight back to action for them tells us that, perhaps, one of those we need to chalk up to optical illusion. Instead, it was a case of calm heads and keep on going. There was nothing to worry about. My word, the stakes were high. The desire to win second to none. I’ve not felt the ground like this in a while. The awareness of what a win meant, clear to all.

Brentford of old a team that, we all know, would have played this well and created that many chances only to see a freak goal bounce in off Alexander Orlov’s arse in the final seconds. But not this side.

Thomas Frank has instilled confidence. Pontus Jansson a colossus. Mathias Jensen pulling the strings in the middle. Rico and Henrik never stopping. Ethan Pinnock making that second centre back berth his own. Everybody playing their part. The team spirit, the smiles to each other. The handshakes and the all round camaraderie clear for all. These boys would lay down their lives for each other if it meant stopping goal going in. The post-match walk around the pitch once more a sign of how happy everything is in the camp. 

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Full time celebrations

And so rather than panic, it was more a case of running out those last three minutes of added on time. Then celebrating like we’d won the FA Cup. Yes, there really was a Leyton Orient away feel to this one. I’ll take your words and recycle them Mr. Slade. I’m not proud. But in terms of significant moments, that could be about as huge as they come.

Of course , there’s a hell of a long way to go but now we are in the top six, this is ours to claim. Ours to keep on making progress. Ours to look next at hunting down West Bromwich Albion and Leeds United. Whilst both seem well, well clear at the top we all know what Leeds do so well. Yesterday was another fine example as a 3-0 lead at home to Cardiff City ended in a 3-3 come back by the visitors. And that, with a man sent off. Could it happen again or will it be a blip….? They visit Fulham next Saturday so either way, something else has to give from the teams around us.

As for Brentford, our next action is the trip to West Bromwich Albion on Saturday. The league leaders. The conquerors of Birmingham City (although that’s no major achievement these days, such is the state of a Blues team who are less ten times better and more starting to look over their shoulders where the gap from 16th to the relegation slots isn’t that far off).

It is about as tough as they come. On paper. We’ve all seen how solid West Brom are. How Romaine Sawyers has taken his game to the next level since leaving Griffin Park. And he was already firing then. But Brentford are no slouches either. Only Leeds United have a tighter defence, as it stands, and 3 of their 13 conceded came in yesterday’s Cardiff debacle. But Brentford are only on 17 against. That’s almost half the total from this time last year, if memory serves. With the goals flying in at the other end, we’re worth an extra point on GD alone.

The trip to the Hawthorns looks likes it’s going to be an absolute cracker. For now, though, let’s relax in the present and enjoy this moment. Thomas – thank you. 

What an afternoon. What a performance. What a way to head towards Christmas. As one New Road observer put it in the pub afterwards, “That was a pleasant surprise”

For me, it was very, very pleasant. But no surprise. Fulham got just what was coming to them. Brentford delivering another Christmas gift to the fans. Now bring on The Baggies.

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None shall pass

Nick Bruzon

Attn: Friends Of Fulham

14 Dec

Brentford 1 Fulham 0

So how did that all work out for you today?

Copy. Paste. Enjoy…..:

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Is this the stuff of Griffin Park fantasy? Win a prize, too.

7 Aug

Tense. Nervous. Headache? Sweating over who’ll be in the team for Saturday ? Keeping fingers and other extraneous appendages crossed ahead of ‘that’ window closing on Thursday evening? Yes, there’s always the risk that Benrahama, Watkins or Henry may leave Brentford. Plus ça change on that front. Besides, Brighton have already torpedoed us below the water line when it comes to this campaign’s round of heroes exiting. Farewell, Neal Maupay. Just hoping you cut the phone lines and locked the doors, windows and gates on the way out of Griffin Park to stop anyone else leaving. Out of interest, and on a totally unrelated note, does Aston have a beach? 

SM Cardiff beach

Who could forget Simon Moore’s trip to Cardiff beach?

But we digress. Griffin Park related transfer activity and the weekend team news isn’t just a case of those on pitch departures to the Premier League. There’s only the small matter of Fantasy Football, with this season’s tournament kicking off on Friday evening when Liverpool host Norwich City. And, as we did last season, The Last Word will be running a Fantasy Football competition. Unlike last season, I’ll actually keep an eye on things this time around rather than promptly forget about it until I was reminded 6 weeks before the season ended. And then promptly forgot about it again.

Primarily because this time around there will be a prize of a shirt on offer to the winner. This is not a drill. This is not a false alarm. There WILL be a prize for the winning Brentford fan. In addition, the league will be played out in the ‘Head-to-head’ scoring mode. Initially because I hit the wrong button – you try doing this on a fast moving train – but having dug in to it a little bit more, the format sounds intriguing :

In a league with head-to-head scoring, every team plays a match against another team in the league each Round. The match result is based on the Round score of each team minus any transfer points spent preparing for the Round. The Head-to-Head schedule is generated at the start of the league’s first Round. Once the schedule has been generated the league is locked and teams will not be able to join or leave.

Those aren’t my words but those of the Fantasy Football people. I ‘think’ I get it but let’s just play along and see how it all works out. If you’d like to join you have until Friday afternoon to get your teams submitted.

The website is here: https://fantasy.premierleague.com

The League name is: The Last Word – Brentford

The Pin code : iep75s

Thanks for your time. And see you there. With, perhaps, a chance to see how some of our former stars perform at a higher level……

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Nick Bruzon

Sheer Bliss for Neal and Thomas. Who or what comes next?

6 Jan

Brentford 1 Oxford United 0. The Bees are through to the fourth round of the FA Cup. It’s another clean sheet. It’s five games unbeaten. It could have been by more but in the end Neal Maupay’s penalty kick proved to be the crucial difference between the two sides. It never felt in doubt yet, but the same virtue, could have gone either way with the visitors pushing late on. Who cares though? I don’t. The most important thing is the Bees are ball number 4 of those to be decanted from the velvet bag into the tombola for Monday night’s draw. We’ve successfully navigated the potato skin already trodden on by the likes of Cardiff City, Huddersfield Town and even divisional rivals Norwich City on Saturday. We can now start making another tin foil trophy and blocking out the diary for the last weekend in January. Start dreaming of a visit from the likes of Manchester City or Accrington Stanley. Start dreaming of another cup run.

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Buzz Bee was up for the cup before kick off

Brentford looked positive and were dominant without creating bucketloads of chances. Oxford United did sufficient to close us out and would slowly find a way into a game played out against a strong starting XI. Moreso, one which was bolstered from the bench by the arrival of Neal Maupay. Indeed it was our top scorer who would eventually prove pivotal. His mazy run through the midfield and into the box was brought to a crunching halt by the intervention of former Bee John Mousinho. Maupay made no mistake from the spot and with ten minutes left on the clock that was it, surely?

Indeed it was. Nothing further transpired and despite a late flourish from the visitors it always seemed as though we would progress. Brentford did what they needed to. End of. The game wasn’t a classic by any stretch of the imagination but when the balls drop for Monday’s draw (live on the BBC from Molineux – hopefully not another dreadful crossover with TV’s The One Show) nobody will care how we got there. Nobody is going to begrudge us a visit from Manchester City or a trip to Accrington Stanley because we failed to feast at the Oxford United all you can score buffet. It’s massively disrespectful to both our opponents and to the team which Thomas put out. They did what they had to. They kept it tight at the back. They scored the winning goal.  

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Yesss!! 1-0 as we celebrate Neal Maupay’s penalty

What else can we take from this one? Neal Maupay is now cup tied. As are the likes of Ollie Watkins and Rico Henry. Good news all round on that front. Was there as much to be read into those who were left out of the 18 man squad altogether? There was no room for Henrik Dalsgaard, Nico Yennaris, Romaine Sawyers, Daniel Bentley or Chris Mepham. Was this injury, simple squad rotation or anything deeper, given the obvious lure these players offer to the top flight. Dean Smith, of course, is also rumoured to be sniffing around now that the transfer window is wide open. Given his own Aston Villa were tipped out by Swansea City availability for the cup (or not) won’t be on any list of his concerns.

Brentford and transfer stories go hand in hand at this time of the year. That will never change. With Ryan Woods having had his loan at Stoke City confirmed to a fully fledged sale earlier this week (who on earth saw that one coming?), have we perhaps already concluded our business? We live in hope although I can’t imagine we’ll have seen the last of such activity this time around. Even if it is simply rebuffing further approaches from Eddie Howe for Chris Mepham or politely telling Dean Smith that his money’s not welcome at Griffin Park. One can dream.

But that’s what it’s about at the moment. Dreams. Some are dreaming of keeping the squad intact. Others of a dream FA Cup draw again the likes of a Liverpool or Manchester City. Personally, I’ll be happy with a home tie and a chance of progression. There’s nothing to stir the blood and fire the imagination like an FA Cup run. It’s been a while since we’ve been able to really embark on one of these. The days of Martin Allen and a fifth round replay at home to Southampton, the winners knowing they would host Manchester United in the quarter finals. Of course, for those of us a bit longer in the tooth there was 1988 /1989 when we reached an Anfield quarter-final. Gary Blissett’s heroics that season are as fresh in the memory now as they were then. 

The fact that you can count these on the fingers of one hand show just how infrequent a Brentford cup run is. With league form starting to solidify and Thomas Frank’s new look defence having finally eradicated the silly mistakes that had been symptomatic of our game prior to the Christmas fixtures, could this be the year to finally focus on a stab at Wembley? No matter what our form at the ‘W’ place is ! 

Roll on Monday night. I can’t wait to find out….

Bliss Manchester City

The iconic Bees cup image as Bliss puts Manchester City to the sword

Nick Bruzon

Because of course, you’d walk straight into the first team…

3 Jan

Cripes. We’ve had some players at Brentford over the years who have proven, what we might politely describe as, ‘frustrating’. Paul Davis. Murray Jones. Neil Clement. A perhaps somewhat past his prime Kenny Sansom. Even the likes of Big Nick Proschwitz. That’s football. We all know that for every dozen gems that are unearthed at Griffin Park, there are those who promise much but don’t quite deliver. Betinho, anyone? 

Betinho signs BBC

Even the BBC got excited back then

We’ve all shot our mouths off in the heat of the moment. Posted stuff on Twitter. On the GPG. On blog pages. Bemoaning the team or individuals. Moaning about the manager. It’s a wonder Marinus didn’t walk prior to his being pushed just 9 league games into that ill-fated spell in the dug-out. Even Thomas Frank has come in for his own share of abuse in the last few weeks. Thankfully, for him and the fans, the tide seems to be turning there with the reversal in form now coming our way. Honestly, who amongst us thought prior to Bolton that we’d go unbeaten over a packed Christmas programme that was followed up with trips to Bristol City, Birmingham City and a visit from title contenders Norwich City? Yet a little faith in individuals can go a long way. Something I’ve experienced first hand following our own transfer window business last season when the Birmingham three departed.  

I guess the advent of social media has very much given a forum for keyboard warriors to vent their spleens from the safety of their bedrooms. No where moreso has this been seen than yesterday on Twitter. This was no flash in the pan, knee jerk attack but a deliberate and calculated attempt to slag off off one of the best players we’ve had in recent years. A character asassination the likes of which I don’t think I’ve ever seen previously. All justified by the fact that “I didn’t @ him”. Well, that’s ok then. I’m not naming either party. I’m sure you’ve seen it all and, if not, it won’t take Sherlock Holmes to unearth this even now. Not even Brentford FC Loyal on facebook have sunk to this level. And that’s saying something. 

Seriously though, what fan thinks this helps anyone? At a time when morale has just been picked back off the floor thanks as much to the whining from Birmingham City supporters, why on earth would somebody who supposedly supports the team take such a cowardly and bitchy swipe? Why would they look to destabilise a player who is still one of the most highly regarded in the division? 

Attention seeking? Small penis? A desperate attempt to get ‘hits’ and RTs? Whatever motivates you I suppose . Regardless of the consequence. Regardless of everything this player has done before. Regardless of the fact that the midfield and defence have cumulatively sold us so far down the river at times this season, brutally exposing others, that it doesn’t even bear thinking about. 

No player is immune from criticism. I get that. We all have opinions. I get that. They earn more than most of us could dream about. I absolutely get that. Does this justify what was posted yesterday? Not even close, in my opinion. Tweet after tweet of perceived errors which, with the best will in the world, are only going to piss of the fans and find their way back to the squad. Regardless of how mentally strong they are. 

I’m sure and I hope that this is water off a duck’s back. There will likely be those that think I’m over reacting. Perhaps so. But this is my blog and my opinion. And the over arching one here is that what went up yesterday was about as cowardly as it gets. Repeat every part of that to the player’s face. I dare you. Say that to Thomas Frank’s face. Say that to the face of Peter Gilham who, of course, was out there on Saturday. Celebrating his 50th anniversary as ‘man with the mic’ the same way he does every game – exhorting the fans to get behind our boys.

I’ve no doubt also that changes are coming on Saturday. It’s what we do in the FA Cup. Don’t take that as any sort of managerial comment on the performance, or lack of, from individuals within this team. We could all name more than a few who have had their share of calamities this time around. So why highlight one? Any changes won’t be as a result of social media, that’s for sure.

Ending on a positive note, I was sent the most amazing picture yesterday. One that harks back to our own FA Cup campaign of 1988-89. When inflatable were all the rage. And this one was still intact – rescued from the memorabilia collection in the attic (not mine, sadly). If ever we were looking for a good omen and a positive vibe ahead of another cup run then here it is. Could this be the last surviving ‘Funky Bee’.

Bring on Oxford United…. 

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The FA Cup ‘Funky Bee’…

Nick Bruzon

Team 54 becomes team 65 as Bees welcome new boss and Gibraltar go again.

17 Oct

Well that’s been all go yesterday. With Dean Smith having joined Aston Villa last week, Brentford announced the news that everybody associated with TW8 was expecting – namely, the appointment of Thomas Frank as the new head coach. With Leeds United fans still, seemingly, upset about the performance of ref Jeremy Simpson during our recent draw at Elland Road, their goalscorer Pontus Jansson is facing an FA charge for his own post-match comments. Over in Europe the UEFA Nations league has dominated international break with the headlines being made not by the new-fangled theme tune but by Gibraltar, who have broken their international duck in some style.

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Thomas opted for ‘signing shirt’ rather than ‘scarf aloft’ or ‘fake contract’

First up though, Thomas Frank has now been named as the new Brentford head coach. It is news which has surprised nobody, despite the best efforts of the bookmakers to talk up anyone from Roberto di Matteo to Marinus Dijkhuizen (pity anybody who ‘invested’ there at the terrifying odds of just 33-1). With Thomas being an integral part of the Griffin Park back room staff since December 2016, and his clearly visible role on match days, there was really only ever one name in the frame. Continuity being the absolute name of the game here.

Chief executive Mark Devlin used Twitter to reflect that : Thomas has been an integral part of our development over the past two years and deserves this opportunity.

Co-director of football Rasmus Ankersen followed up his own words at last week’s fan forum by noting how: “Thomas knows the Club’s strategy inside out and he is both respected and supported by players and staff at the Training Ground. He has played a major role in the development of our style of play over the past couple of years and we believe he is ready for the job as Head Coach.”

You can read that article in full on ‘official’. Albeit, I can’t imagine there are many who haven’t been there yet.

Yet the most intriguing tweet comes from Jonathan Burchill, whose statistical nuances are very much in the line of a Luis Melville when it comes to niche. And then some. He notes how : In last 40 years Brentford have had 4 promotions. 3 of the successful managers were internal club appointments: Warbs (13-14), Andy Scott (08-09) & Phil Holder (91-92).  The 4th being the promotion season of 98-99 where Noades appointed himself.

It’s an obvious appointment. It’s a sound appointment. The players know and respect Thomas. The fans are familiar. There’ll be no tip-toeing around getting to know each other. As pertinent, and as Jonathan noted, we’ve considerable success at Griffin Park doing things this way. Whilst I’m just the numpty on the terrace, this one seems a complete no-brainer even to me.

The only two questions I have at present are, firstly, whether Thomas will continue with rotating the captaincy? One would assume so, given the talk about this at the fan forum. Equally though, as an idea that Phil Giles confirmed was originally put forward by Dean Smith is it one Thomas will take forward? I hope so. If only to see Neal Maupay given the role at St. Andrews or for the return Leeds United match.

Secondly, and perhaps the most important of all. What will his match day attire consist of? Tracksuit manager, sports-casual or smart suit. Whilst current indications suggest the former, who knows what difference the new role might make to his own sartorial stylings. Roll on 3pm Saturday when we find out.

As for Leeds United, we’ve skipped over the post-match nonsense and barracking of Jeremy Simpson on these pages since that game. Largely because its all a bit pointless.

Shocking news –  supporters feel hard done by and blame referee for both their own inability to win a game and recent blip in form after a storming start to the season. Who’d have thought it?  Seemingly, one (correct) penalty decision given to tinpot/little etc etc Brentford is the reason for their own slip from the automatic positons into the play-off zone. Something that, for the record, I am sure will only be a temporary one.  

Pontus Jansson, their goalscorer that day, has now been charged by the FA (as have the club for fans throwing objects at Neal Maupay) after accusing the referee of ‘robbery’ and saying on live TV that the result felt a bit ‘shit’.  There’s talk of conspiracy, too. Seriously? Get a grip. They’ll no doubt get over it. Jansson will no doubt be found guilty of charges he has until 5pm today (Wednesday) to respond to. Leeds will no doubt be there or thereabouts at the end of the season. They’re too strong. They’ve too much backing and Sky Sports love them (another game moved now, along with our own Monday night trip to West Brom. Joy). What conspiracy?

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Neal’s penalty was well received by players and fans alike

I could rant. They can rant. They can nibble at the obvious fishing-rod emoji. It’ll change nothing. Let’s focus on ourselves. Let’s be gutted by not taking three points in a game that was there for the taking. Let’s see how Thomas rallies the troops to go one better at home to Bristol City on Saturday.

Next up, Gibraltar. Wow. After 22 consecutive losses in competitive football since they became the 54thmember of UEFA back in May 2013, the tiny nation (think an international Brentford if you want some comparison of general commentating cliché and relative size) has finally won a first game. And then another. Much like our own 65 bus, you wait ages and then two come along at once.

Saturday’s 1-0 win in Armenia was followed up by last night’s 2-1 win at home to Liechtenstein. A first ‘official’ win on home soil (friendlies not counting) and the first time they have scored more than two goals in a game. It was wonderful stuff to watch and about as tense as it comes with an additional 6 minutes of stoppage time added at the end.

Sky sports may wind us up with their Leeds United obsession or fixture shenanigans but the ‘blue button’ option was a life saver last night. Fuzzy feed from Gibraltar being beamed directly into sub-channel six and an opportunity to watch history being made. Sensational stuff.

Sensational, that is, until the ref blew for full time. Within about ten seconds the post match euphoria had been killed. Instead of players celebrating or excited interviews, the live stream was replaced by the footballing equivalent of the test card.

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Talk about a post-match passion killer

What can you do?  With Armenia beating group leaders Macedonia, this one is suddenly wide open. Miracles can happen. Gibraltar are now vying for top slot in group D4 and promotion to Group C where they may then be afforded the chance to play some of the bigger teams in Europe. Or Scotland.

All that’s a long way off. For now, it’s all about enjoying the moment. And what a moment it was.

Getting back to all things Brentford, the eagle eyed amongst you may have seen further progress at Lionel Road. With the South stand dominating the horizon, work on the East stand is now clearly visible. Whilst the groundwork has been underway for months, anybody approaching the site can now see clear evidence of one ‘end’.  

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The second stand appears

These are exciting times. I’ve no desire to wish my life away but, by the same virtue, things at Griffin Park at Lionel Road and on The Rock are all on the up. I can’t wait for more.

See you Saturday. Bring on Bristol City…..

Nick Bruzon

Here we go. Again. Cup shocks abound and potato skins await.

26 Sep

Could the big one be on? After a Tuesday night run of Carabao Cup shocks that saw Frank Lampard’s Derby County™ beat Manchester United, Burton overcome Burnley and QPR go down at Blackpool (please, stop sniggering) Wednesday night could see the biggest of them all. Is it just possible, if all the stars are aligned and the footballing gods are smiling, that Arsenal could beat Brentford? Stranger things have happened.

One thing’s for sure, if Manchester United came unstuck at home last night then it can happen to anyone. Fair play and hats off to Derby. Their own win over Brentford on Saturday being put all the more into context after a game which saw them go behind, come back and then concede the ultimate sucker punch – a 95thminute equaliser for the hosts after themselves going ahead on 85 – to take the game to a penalty shootout in which they eventually triumphed.

They’re the headlines. Nobody wants to get overly bogged down in pages of Mourinho misery or the family Lampard celebrating. That’s for those two teams to both enjoy. Right now the focus is, of course, on Brentford at Arsenal. Assuming Brentford can get to Arsenal with the Piccadilly line out of commission due to strike action – there goes that easy hop from West to North London.

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Have vodka bottle, will travel. Alternate travel to Highbury & Islington needed tonight

Still, the ghost of Bob Crow shouldn’t get in the way of what promises to be a special night. For Arsenal, a high pressure potato skin against Dean Smith’s hotly tipped Brentford side. Currently three points off the top of the Championship table and playing some quite wonderful football. Manager Unai Emery faced with the quandary of picking the reserves or risking the fitness of his more established names. Don’t forget that they’ve a game against top four Watford and then the excitement of a Europa League trip to FK Qarabag to follow this one.  

For Brentford, nothing to lose and everything to gain. With over 8,000 away tickets sold (and who knows how many more dotted around the stadium) it promises to be a vocal affair. Those stunning brown/orange shirts out in full force and not to mention a few faces from the past in the stands. The team, surely surely captained by Nico Yennaris, with a chance to prove how far they’ve really progressed. To see how worthy of all the praise that has been coming their way they actually are. Saturday’s result wasn’t great, that’s for sure, but if anything it’ll give Dean and his team even more incentive to prove what a blip it was with a chance to get back to winning ways in a consequence free environment.

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The Bees have been head and shoulders above most opponents this season

Excited? Yes. As much as anything it’s a chance for bonus midweek football and a visit to a new stadium. At least, with the Bees. A chance to see if we can carve out a famous victory. Blah, blah. Cliché, cliché. Yet perhaps as much as anything else, an opportunity to erase the painful memory of the anti-football we played at Chelsea in the fourth round of the 2016/17 FA Cup. A 4-0 defeat where we were lucky to get the proverbial nil.

There’s not much more to say, really. We all know the scoop and there’s only so many ways you can dress it up. Yet if tonight didn’t have you salivating already, there’s even more great news to follow. Football’s greatest competition (with all due respect to the Carabao Cup) is back. Saturday’s game at Reading sees the return of none other than….Centre Circle Challenge.

I should be fully focussed on Arsenal. Yet the prospect of seeing two supporters pinging balls from the corner flag to the heart of the meridian line, all soundtracked by Peter Gilham’s deadpan commentary, has me as excited as the trip to The Emirates. Almost. Brentford official has all the details including, most importantly, how you can enter this ultimate of fan participation events on the hallowed turf of Griffin Park.

All that’s to come. For now though, focus on whether we can emulate those famous League Cup nights against the likes of Hull City and Everton. Right down to the mascots…. 

Nick Bruzon