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As Brentford go down to Walsall, FCM can FC….

9 Jan

Walsall are through to the fourth round of the FA Cup; Brentford are out. This is the simple fact after The Bees went down 1-0 in torrential conditions. Don’t let the weather disguise anything though – the Saddlers wanted it more, they deserved it more and they made Brentford look very much second best. But it was the half time shenanigans involving FC Midtjylland which still leave a bitter taste in the mouth long after the final whistle has blown.

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View from the terrace – David Button slips in the rainy conditions

Let’s be clear – I don’t know where this club would be without Matthew Benham. The amount of investment he has made in Brentford FC, along with his bold vision for a new stadium at Lionel Road, have taken us from the brink of meltdown to the brink of the Premier League.

I also know he has numerous other business interests – primarily Smartodds, Matchbook and the aforementioned Danish Champions. Frankly, I don’t care about that when I’m at Griffin Park cheering on the Bees. Good luck to him and everything but I support Brentford. I wanted to see MY team try and progress in the FA Cup today.

What I didn’t want was the most sycophantic parading of another football club, on a lap of honour, around our pitch.

What I didn’t want was to be asked to applaud them for nothing more than being fortunate enough to be drawn against Manchester United in the Europa League.

What I didn’t want was to be reminded over the P.A. system that our co-director of football, Rasmus Ankersen, splits his time between the Bees and FCM where he is their chairman.

At a time when we were being played off the park after putting in one of the most abject first half displays I can recall for some time – Swift and McEachran in particular being totally anonymous (what do Chelsea put in the water of their youth team ?) – this was a time to focus on our team in our cup competition. Not one of Matthew’s other investments.

By this logic can we expect Smartodds employee of the month to be afforded a similar privilege against Middlesbrough on Tuesday night?

With fans fearing we’ve seen the last of Toumani Diagouraga – and if ever a game was crying out for him it was this one, although I understand he was injured – what I didn’t want was an over crowded and directionless central midfield.

I bumped into Rasmus outside the pub before kick off. I did have a chat with him about the FA Cup and he came across as very pleasant. However, that doesn’t cut the mustard when we then witness what happened next – both at half-time and during the game.

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Will we be seeing the back of Toumani ?

Imagination free substitutions (Judge aside) in a game where it was apparent after the first twenty minutes that somebody with the pace and experience of Sam Saunders was exactly what was required. Instead, we had sideways pass after sideways pass and then like for like changeovers. What Macca did to be hauled off I don’t know – along with Harlee, Jack and Jake he really stood out as wanting to get involved.

The only saving grace being that at least Alan Judge showed some invention when he came on and, as importantly, cup tied himself. Yet when we did get in on the Walsall goal, their goalkeeper Neil Etheridge was on hand to pull of a couple of stonking second half saves. Full credit to that man.

The FA Cup is HUGE in this country. With a direct parachute into the third round, even allowing for a handful of changes from the regular starting XI, I’d have thought we’d have been bang up for this one and a potential tilt at breaking the Wembley hoodoo. Instead, we had to stand through a first half no-show followed by the bizarre parade.

It was a monumental slap in the face to everybody who had paid hard earned money to get into Griffin Park. And I’m sorry if that bucks the corporate line. I’m not employed by Brentford FC and I’m certainly not a supporter of FC Midtjylland. Why would I be?

I have no connection with that club beyond knowing that, amongst others, one of the men most responsible for our transfer policy has his attention split between us and them. This is not a dig at the statistical model. Indeed, it genuinely hurts to say anything negative about the club I’ve supported since 1979.

This is a dig at the fact that when we should have been focusing on the FA Cup, instead there seemed to be a genuine expectation that we’d fawn at the temple of Midtjylland.

Good luck to them in Europe. For Matthew’s sake I’d hope they do well. But on a day when I helped my son make his first ‘tin foil trophy’, I’m ending it feeling thoroughly dejected about what happened today at Griffin Park.

Nick Bruzon

Who will be celebrating like they’ve won the FA Cup?

9 Jan

FA Cup third round day. Unquestionably THE highlight of the calendar for me. With Brentford due to entertain Walsall, last night’s 2-2 between Exeter City and Liverpool reminded us just how exciting this oldest of cup competitions can still be whilst simultaneously higlighting the perils of picking an under strength team.

Watching Liverpool struggle as they were outplayed by Exeter showed, yet again, that much clichéd entry onto the FA Cup bingo card of ‘David v Goliath’ with a generous sprinkling of ‘cup magic’ on the side. As seems the fashion these days, Jürgen Klopp rotated his squad but almost paid the ultimate price for over tinkering.

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Exeter still have a chance of a trip to North London

So was Dean Smith watching and has he taken heed? If today isn’t in the realms of David v Goliath – Walsall are simply too good to be patronised with any sort of underdog tag – it represents a huge potato skin for the Brentford Head Coach to try and navigate. The Saddlers are flying high at the top end of League One and haven’t allowed our acquisition of their former manager to disrupt the promotion push.

Understandably, feelings on social media suggest this is still somewhat of a sensitive subject and I have no doubt that a sold out away following will make their presence, and feelings, heard. Which is all well and good but I fancy full strength Brentford to give anybody, in any division, a run for their money.

However, with this being the much discussed first of 3 games in 6 days, not to mention the various transfer stories doing the rounds, just how ‘full strength’ will, or can, Dean go?

Well, outside of left back we have viable candidates in pretty much every position. We’ve been promised the strongest team possible but it could swing as much as follows:

Bonham, Bidwell, Yennaris, Dean, O’Connell, McEachran, McCormack, KK, Saunders, Gogia, The Hoff.

Personally, I think we can expect to see all three transfer targets rested and the likes of Sam and Macca given a full run out. The changes won’t be as extreme as highlighted above but, equally, I’m just the numpty on the terrace rather than any part of the club ‘inner circle’. At the end of the day (Clive) this is all pure conjecture.

One thing I can be sure about is that, as Liverpool discovered last night, you under estimate anybody at your peril. A lesson that Marinus learned the very hard way in the Capital One Cup humiliation by Oxford United. Certainly, Walsall will be no different and would absolutely love it, Kevin Keegan style, if they could get one over Dean and the Bees.

Whatever the result, today also sees a chance for two of those other cup traditions to raise their heads. And they don’t come any bigger than the tin foil trophy.

The regular reader will know I absolutely love this ritual and despite my age – 45 going on 5 – will be knocking one up later this morning. Fortunately, a last minute decision to switch from turkey to beef for Christmas lunch means we have a surfeit of Bacofoil in the kitchen drawer – much to Mrs. Bruzon’s chagrin.

Well fret no more, Mrs. B. 10metres of the shiny stuff should be enough for a decent effort, And if it’s good enough for Des Lynam then who am I to argue?

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Des prepares for the final , back in the day

Second up – ‘other jobs’. TV producers love a ‘minnow’ ™ as it means they can trot out that list of the part-timer’s daytime occupations. “Somehow he manages to fit in training three times a week and a game at weekends with his job as a postman/plumber/firefighter(delete as applicable)”.

All being well this is a situation Brentford will never find themselves in and so one aspect of footballing life that we’ll not have the chance to experience. Much as this makes me a very happy man, a little part of me also wonders…’what if?’. Sam Saunders aside, who we all know used to work on the Underground as an electrician before joining Dagenham, I’m pretty sure the rest of the squad have parachuted directly into football.

Indeed, terrace talk has switched to this very subject at times as we’ve questioned what jobs our team would do if, hypothetically of course, an examination of the books and subsequent financial collapse saw us reborn in the Evo-Stik League Southern as part-timers AFC Brentford.

Well, here’s the answer. Or, at least, one take on it which of course is all just a bit of fun. Sam is in our team, although has moved on to bigger and better things. It’s based on nothing more concrete than a bit of banter and I’ll ask you indulge me formation wise – for no other reason than technological ineptitude meant this was the best way to crowbar it all together.

On the flip side, could we have stumbled across Dean Smith’s starting line up for the afternoon? See you at 3pm when we find out.

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‘Problems’…. ‘Solved’

Nick Bruzon