Tag Archives: Andy Sinton

Jota. I love you. But please don’t join Fulham.

29 Aug

Jota – probably the most talented player to pull on the red and white of Brentford in recent times and now we’re all sweating on whether we’ve seen him play for the last time. Whilst the West Ham rumours have gone deathly quiet, the stories of bids from Middlesbrough hang around like a bad smell whilst Fulham of all clubs have now entered the mix. Yes, Fulham.

Oh, and there’s also one now doing the rounds about Harry Redknapp looking to take Harlee Dean to Birmingham City. Yes, we’re now well into international break and whilst on pitch most people are concentrating on the World Cup qualifiers between Belgium – Gibraltar and Malta – England, back in TW8 that accursed window can’t ‘slam shut’(tm) quickly enough.

Jota team Rotherham

We feel the same way too

Dean Holdsworth, Gary Blissett, Andy Sinton, DJ Cambell, Nicky Forster, Adam Forshaw, Andre Gray, Moses Adubajo, Sam Saunders to name but a few. The amount of players that we just ‘couldn’t sell’ who we have then sold is legion. It is part of life supporting Brentford.

We know the club’s direction is sustainable football within FFP regulations. Pretty much the rest of the Championship can pay silly money for players. We can’t and won’t. That’s not me crying; its just a fact of life. The club have made no secret of trying to build a team in a certain style and to move players on should those big value offers come in. To date, we’ve had three top ten Championship finishes doing this.

And now our resolve is being tested once more with Jota and long serving former captain Harlee Dean both coming under intense scrutiny. Both players could walk out of Griffin Park on a free transfer at the end of the season. We could sell them now for a combined total of over £10million if rumoured valuations are met. Can we afford to turn that down, even it it does mean joining the likes of Jake Bidwell and David ‘agent’ Button in moving down the road to near neighbours?

Being realistic, of all three names Fulham look the most likely. On paper. West Ham are soon to be a Championship club so why move now to join a sinking ship, only to end up back where you started? The obvious money factor aside. But even then, how much action would he see in a squad that already has 9 midfielders registered with the Premier League?

Middlesbrough can go spin if their offers are to be believed. Manager Dean Smith has already gone on record as noting “There are people courting Jota and we’ve had two bids that haven’t met the valuation of the football club and, until they do, he remains a Brentford footballer.” This, after stories of a £4.5 million bid for the player came in from Boro’. Add another three and then I’d imagine the club would be prepared to talk.

Which leaves Fulham. Well, the good news being that so far nothing has happened. It’s just a story. Indeed, I’d go so far as to suggest a story put out there just to drive up bids from potential suitors. Although, at the end of the day (Clive) I know nothing and have no knowledge – inside or otherwise. This is merely wishful thinking based on the desire to not see our prize asset end up at the Cottage.

Could I be uber-cynical as to suggest this may even be a spoonful of sugar to help soften the blow of any eventual sale? “Hey, he’s gone folks. But at least it’s not to Fulham”. Would that even happen? Are the media that clever? Again, I don’t know. But the reaction to the Fulham story has got several fans up in arms with vows to throw away their season tickets and never come to Griffin Park again being widely published.

One tweet from the team behind fan group ‘Thorne In The Side’ shows the feeling about this potential move. Extreme? Or showing the depth of emotion amongst supporters? It notes: I’d rather Jota join ISIS than Fulham. @BrentfordFC board must NOT let this happen. There are certain lines that our club must NOT cross.

Jota tweets

This is the battle the club are up against. And it is one that can’t end with all parties happy. IF it came to it, would they let this level off feeling affect their judgement? Unlikely. Money talks and we’ve sold plenty of big names in the past. We’ve sold to our ‘nearest and dearest’ in the past (just look back all the way to Jim Towers and George Francis).

Equally, we just have no choice in the matter IF the player had decided his future is now elsewhere. If his head has been turned by mega bucks. When the alternate is to hang on to a footballer whose heart may not be in it before ultimately losing out on what would be 10% of the price of a new stadium. I’d hate to work that out in ‘premium seats’.

Again, IF it comes to it would we see this mass exodus of supporters ? No, in a word. There’d be a whole heap of frustration (and that’s me being polite). There’d be a lot of upset kids, devastated at the prospect of losing their hero. But we’ll all still come back.

Personally, I’m not looking forward to telling a four year old that Jota has joined the naughty team. Let alone if Harlee also goes. Along with Sam Saunders, the three of them have been the building blocks of his footballing education. And that’s before we even get to personal feelings about his impact and place on both the team and in our hearts. Truly, he is that unique player who seems to be universally loved.

IMG_9257

This could be a tricky conversation on Friday….

This would be the Championship equivalent of Michael Laudrup or Luis Figo making the switch from Barcelona to Real Madrid. Although at our level it would probably be less a pig’s head and more a Chomp bar that was flung onto the pitch by an irate supporter.

It would be frustration compounded by us not being back at Griffin Park until September 16th. Prior to that, away games at Aston Villa and Sheffield Wednesday will see the board sheltered up in the bosom of the gods. Shielded from the fans. Those famous old stadia being unlike Griffin Park where nothing more than a flimsy bit of chicken wire separates our masters from the Season Ticket holders threatening to walk. Little more than 10 yards separates them from the heart of the on pitch action.

Equally, and being cold, I can imagine the pragmatic view of the board is that he is one more player in a long line of talent we’ve ultimately profited from. If he has decided his future is elsewhere then let him go. Let him go. If we can cash in on a player who wants to leave then why cut off our noses? He could sign a one year extension today if he wanted. He could help us continue that push upwards and then leave in the summer. But that’s not how football works.

The club will look at the player’s desire. They will look at the money. They will look at alternatives on the right in Josh Clarke, Flo Jo and the possible return of Alan Judge. They will look at the fact that this is out of their hands and how do we make the best of a situation?

I’m desperate for him to stay. Desperate. I’d love the above to be scaremongering nonsense. I’ll be the first to hold up my hands if so. However, I’m also realistic and now fear the worst. Now fear that the last minute goal, all those last minute goals, Mark Burridge losing it at Blackburn and Jake Bidwell being made a mockery of will be consigned to the history books.

I’ll be devastated if it came to Jota swapping Griffin Park for the Cottage. But I also believe, in my heart of hearts, that specific move won’t happen.

Anything else though, who knows? Thursday night can’t come come soon enough. Please, put us out of our misery one way or another.

Jota Fulham last minute

This.

Nick Bruzon

Advertisements

Better than Chesney? Has Arsenal wunderkind finally been surpassed?

20 Sep

Brentford 5. Newcastle United, Birmingham, Huddersfield 6. QPR 14. Rotherham 20. Not the odds on winning September’s manager of the month award but, infact, the total goals conceded by the respective teams after 8 Championship games. And in the case of the Bees, one man has a huge part to play in that stat – goalkeeper Daniel Bentley.

To read the rest of this article, season 2016/17 is now available for download on e-book in the retrospective: Welcome Home, King Jota (Brentford FC season review 2016/17)

 Priced at just £1.99, all sales are being donated to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust.

Likewise any sales from the previous titles – Celebrating like they’d won the FA Cup (2013/14), Tales from the football village (2014/15) and Ready. Steady. Go Again. (2015/16) – are also now going to the BFCCST. 

Containing the least bad of the blogs from May 2016 to May 2017 along with a smattering of new material, you can pick it up, here. Its all for a great cause and,hey, you may even enjoy it…..

daniel-bentley

Bentley – a model professional

 

screen-shot-2016-08-29-at-07-21-37

Bill makes an early call. And he’s not alone

 

Milton Keynes Dons v Brentford

Chesney – the legend

e?

bentley

Nick Bruzon

The good, the bad, and the ugly. A week in football for Brentford and the rest

29 Aug

Brentford and Sheffield Wednesday shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw that featured the greatest miss ever seen at Griffin Park. Huddersfield remain top of the pile with 13 points from 15 whilst Newcastle United have begun their slow, inexorable climb to the top of the Championship table having disposed of Brighton at St.James Park. That’s 3 out of 3 for the Magpies. Nottingham Forest and Barnsley are leading scorers after securing heavy wins. The former, in particular, eliciting a wonderful excuse from Leeds United boss Garry Monk. One that we will get to further on.

That’s the most recent Championship action in a nutshell. Yet there has been so much more going on in the division and beyond. In the next of our regular Monday morning feature we look back at those things you might have missed from the world of social media over the last seven days.

We’ll start off, as ever, with Brentford. This time the game with Sheffield Wednesday. Given this column deals with things you might have missed, here’s one specifically for Lucas João. That. Miss.

You can play this again and again. It doesn’t get any better for the Wednesday man. It doesn’t stop raising a smile for Bees supporters.

If we’re being honest with ourselves, Brentford got away with murder in this one. Thanks, in no small part, to the wonder form of goalkeeper Daniel Bentley.What an acquisition he already looks as top drawer save followed top drawer save.

But for Sam Hutchinson’s injury time equaliser it would have seen his Griffin Park goal remain unbreached over August. Natalie Sawyer and BBC Billy Reeves nailed it, along with a somewhat bold update from the BBC man.

Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 07.21.37

Wow. Billy. That’s a big claim. I’ve nothing but the utmost respect for Billy’s opinions. Whether commentary delivered from his perch above the meridian line or gentle probing at the denouement of a game, he knows his stuff. So if he says this, then its safe to say that a new Brentford legend is already being created.

Personally, for now at least, the goalkeeper more simply known as Chesney to us terrace numptys remains ensconced in my ‘all time Brentford XI’. This, for the record, being :

Szczesny, O’Connor,  Evans (T) , Hreidarsson, Grainger, Evans (P), Forshaw, Sinton, Tabb, Deano, Bliss.

Which meant that this week’s Terrace Talk made very interesting viewing. Let’s be honest  though, Terrace Talk always makes very interesting viewing and this latest edition is no exception although it has had an early release this time around – hot off the presses on Saturday afternoon.

Peering behind the curtain, we get to learn ‘jumper man’s real name, aswell as watching  Billy, Sean, Mark Burridge and a whole host of supporters put together the all time best ever Brentford XI.

Sean Ridley – genius

The last piece of Brentford news this week comes from Kitman Bob. How many of you spotted this on Friday?

It’s not even September and already our (sartorial) fate for next season would seem to have been decided. Stripes? A sash? More white? The Funky Bee ? Just what have we got? I’m not sure I can handle the thought of going 10 months knowing that the information is already out there. Somewhere.  Any chance of a clue, Bob? Or do we need those pliers?

Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 08.06.16

Away from Griffin Park , we’ve got top comedy from Leeds United who lost 3-1 to Nottingham Forest at the weekend. Quite rightly, we picked up on the somewhat regrettable choice of words used by Dean Smith last weekend when he noted about our own loss to Rotherham: “The better team lost on the day but that’s football sometimes.”

My own observation at the time was  that , “It’s the sort of quote you’d expect from a Russell Slade or Steve Evans and whilst, perhaps, made on the spot is the type of thing we’ve all leapt on and laughed at in the past. Certainly, when made by an opposition manager.”

So there was no irony lost when less than a week later Steve Evans replacement at Leeds United (for now) Garry Monk seems to have picked up where his predecessor left off.  His post match update providing the headline of the day via Paul Taylor at the Nottingham Post (@Nottmtails on Twitter):

Garry Monk

But if Garry took defeat for his Leeds team badly, then the same needs to be said about West Ham United fans as they crashed out of the Europa League in the first European tie to be played in their new stadium.

There can’t be many of us who haven’t seen the level of fury emanating from this video clip.  A meltdown to make even the GPG seem tame by comparison. Not to mention a few somewhat inappropriate views on the opposition. Views not condoned by these pages.

For the record, anybody watching West Ham lose to Manchester City in yesterday’s televised game would have seen what is surely a new record for the Hammers. Even going by today’s over-hyped media standards.

There were just 9 seconds on the clock after kick off before the first mention of their ‘new ground’. And this, in an away game. Given they haven’t got a televised game (at least, for Sky viewers) until 30 October against Everton, hopefully this will be it for now. Hopefully…

Finally, mascot news. First up Grimsby Town who have taken an innovative approach to marketing. They’ve offered supporters the chance to be ‘Mighty Mariner’ , the equivalent of Buzzette, via an eBay auction.

Sadly, there were no takers. The listing closed without the £160 starting price being reached. Whether anybody subsequently filled the costume or got their hands on that giant fish remains unclear. Would Brentford fans pay for the chance to be Buzzette for the day? Stranger things have happened. And for charity, who knows……

Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 08.36.59

But if Mighty Mariner wasn’t popular, the same could never be said for the ever wonderful Kingsley at Partick Thistle. Huge thanks to @rickburin on twitter for reminding us of the sheer, unadulterated genius behind the creation.

I love Buzzette and could never forsake her for another. But Kingsley remains the stuff of dreams. What a star!

IMG_1725

Kingsley – who said romance was dead?

Nick Bruzon

When push comes to shove – The Last Word on….

26 Aug

Brentford host Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday and so, as part of the big match build up, we’ll move on from talk of Alan Judge to Newcastle United and look at our next opponents. It’s time for our new regular feature, The Last Word on…and today Wednesday are in the hot seat. Featuring a series of regular questions/ categories about the visitors , the results are picked using no more scientific criteria than personal taste. With apologies for any glaring omissions, here we go (again).

The Brentford connection (he’s played for both). Without the benefit of any super computer, I’m having to rely on my somewhat scattergun knowledge for this category. That, certainly, something which accounts for Stan Bowles missing out last time in the Nottingham Forest article. Sorry, Stan. And whilst I’m sure that similar gaps will appear this time around, a few names do spring immediately to mind.

There’s Deon Burton, whose time at the Bees included that epic season under Martin Allen in 2004/05 where his goals in a 2-1 win and 3-3 draw with Wednesday helped us towards an eventual play-off semi final place…..

How about his teammate Michael Turner? One of the classiest centre backs to ever grace Griffin Park and somebody who was last seen at the Owls during the previous campaign whilst on loan from Norwich City.

But the choice of standout name boils down to one of two Andys. Sinton was THE man at Griffin Park back in the late 80s. Back to back supporters player of the year in 86/87 and 87/88 he was an almost constant feature in his three seasons. Attacking play and goals were the order of the day as his form played a key role in our epic 88/89 FA Cup run the that would eventually end at Liverpool in the quarter finals. A transfer to QPR would follow where international recognition (12 England caps) and his move to Sheffield Wednesday came next. One of the all time Brentford legends.

But, for me, when you mention Brentford and Sheffield Wednesday there is one name that always strings to mind  – Andy McCulloch. 48 goals in 127 league games for the Bees from 76- 79 were match by an almost identical record at Hillsborough where he notched 44 in 125 following his transfer.

And it is that transfer which, in Andy’s own words, is one of the more unusual in the annals of football history footballing

It was a classic. I scored a header at Griffin Park and had my nose broken. I was on a stretcher, going into the dressing room and Ian St. John, who was at Sheffield Wednesday, pointed to me as I’m going in the door and said , “would you fancy coming to Sheffield Wednesday?” At Brentford –after I had just scored a goal. He tapped me up!

The deal was completed on the camera gantry  at Wembley stadium with their manager Jack Charlton. Andy explaining , “It was before a Scotland-England game, I think . I’d gone up there just to meet Jackie. It was the only way of meeting him in London.”

Andy McCulloch

That iconic image of Andy

The Brentford encounter (noteworthy game with the Bees). Our return to the Championship hasn’t seen great results. Last season, in particular, seeing us lucky to escape from Hillsborough having only gone down 4-0 after Yoann Barbet was shown the red card just five minutes into the game.

Instead, we’ll look at the aforementioned 2005/05campaign under Martin Allen. Again, the result was an equally painful one but, for a time, the prospect of playing Wednesday was nothing but the ultimate in excitement.

Having already seen a wonderful FA Cup campaign that finally saw us go out in a fifth round replay to Premier League Southampton, knockout football held no worries. And so we approached our play-off semi final with Wednesday in high spirits. A 1-0 defeat at Hillsborough soon took the wind out of those sails with the home team taking the lead on 12 minutes and never giving us a look in.

The return match at Griffin Park saw the Bees go down 2-1. Even then, Andy Frampton’s goal was nothing more than a very late consolation. Hardly a highlight in our history but one noted to remind us of the pain suffered in this end of season lottery. Moreso, given the hope that one day we will get it right. One day….

Favourite son  (their most famous former player ). The 80s and early 90s were, in particular, a time where the name Sheffield Wednesday evoked nothing but the best imagery. Mr Tom was on their shirt whilst the likes of Lee Chapman and the free scoring David Hirst were on the pitch. To that mix you can add Des Walker (who, of course, featured in this category last time out for Nottingham Forest and Chris Waddle although the latter was sadly bereft of ‘that’ mullet by this point.

From the more recent era, two names spring to mind for the neutral.  Benito Carbone channeled the spirit of Chris Waddle with exciting play, long, long hair and even his iconic ‘Alice band’. Yet it was another Italian who scoops the honours this time around.  Paolo Di Canio.

The club’s top scorer in 1997-98 and a firm fan favourite (apologies for the sub-Chronicle alliteration) he won their player of the year award that season. However, it was the following campaign that secured his cult status when he received an 11 match ban for pushing referee Paul Alcock over during a match against Arsenal.

Nobody could deny it was a flash of unjustifiable temper from the temperamental genius. Yet, at the same time, Alcock’s comedy pratfall certainly added to the seriousness with which the incident would be viewed

And the oscar for best fallover following a shove goes to…

Famous fan. Fast becoming a personal favourite category in this feature, Sheffield Wednesday don’t let us down when it comes to their celebrity supporters.

The biggest names here would seem to be the Arctic Monkeys – all of them, apparently. A fact further emphasised by the fact you normally see them described as ‘Sheffield band….’

Cricket’s Michael Vaughan and former England captain is also an Owl as is, of  all people, singer Jermaine Jackson. The one time Jackson 5 star supposedly began following the club in the late 80s and even wrote a song for last campaign’s play-off defeat to Hull City AFC.

Yet it wouldn’t be The Last Word without mentioning ‘That band’ . If not celebrities, they are certainly recognised faces.

Their moribund parping and off-key trumpeting, so long the bane of England international fixtures, also features at Hillsborough. Flaccid renditions of ’Love will tear us apart’ or their jingoistic movie medley “The Great Escape/Italian job’ being the last thing anybody outside of this self-appointed ‘supporters band’ wants to hear.

Sheffield wednesday band with trevor francis

That band. With Trevor Francis (inset)

Best Ever League Performance. In terms of pure scoreline, a simple one this week. Any excuse to crank out the brackets and a 9-1 victory over Birmingham City at Hillsborough back in December 1930 saw the Owls easily cruise past the 7(seven) goal mark

Moment of ignominy – ( what it says – opposite to above). I could pick ‘that band’ but we’re bigger than that.

Likewise, in terms of pure results then going back over a century to October 1912 saw Wednesday go down 10-1 at Aston Villa. In recent years, Villa have struggled to score 10 goals in an entire season let alone in one game

But the turn of this century saw them go on an eight game First Division (second tier) losing streak that lasted over a month: 9 September until 17 October saw their form guide read: LLLLLLLL. Beginning with a 0-5 home humping at the hands of Wimbledon, a Steve Harkness goal finally brought this dismal run to an end with a 1-0 win over Birmingham. Incredibly, they stayed up.

Manager of the century ( most famous /popular manager). Howard Wilkinson ? Big Ron? Erm. Move along, nothing to see here. Whilst the purist will likely go for Wilkinson, for me  you can’t knock the achievements of Trevor Francis.

Taking over as player-manager with the team back in the top flight, he lead them to third place in the league in 1992 and, with it, a hard-earned UEFA cup place. There was no entry to the league of fake Champions for coming third or fourth then.

His Wednesday team then took part in the first ever Premier League where they came 7th (seventh). However, the season was as notable for a double Wembley appearance where they reached the finals of bot the League and FA cup.

All time high ( the club’s defining achievement). First division champions in the ‘20s. The wonder years under Francis. Wednesday even won the League cup through the wisdom and guidance of Big Ron. Yet, for me all this pails into insignificance compared to the greatest thing not to come out of Sheffield.

That band doesn’t travel.

Nick Bruzon

The Last Word On….

11 Aug

With Championship action back on the agenda, Ipswich Town are next up for Brentford. As such, we have the first in a new regular feature about our forthcoming home opponents :  The Last Word on….  Much like ‘kit obsessive’, which will also return ahead of most home games, this features a series of regular questions/ categories about the visitors with the results picked using no more scientific criteria than personal taste. With apologies for any glaring omissions (and to sensitive Manchester United supporters) here is: The Last Word on…..Ipswich Town

The Brentford connection (he’s played for both) : It can only be Jonathan Douglas, surely? What about Nicky Forster ? Marcus Bent, maybe? Who could forget Icelandic demigod Hermann Hreidarsson ?

But no, my choice goes to Jay Tabb.

Part of my all time Brentford XI (Szczesny, O’Connor, Evans,  Hreidarsson, Grainger, Paul Evans, Forshaw, Sinton, Tabb, Holdsworth, Blissett),  the Bees picked him up in 2000 after being released by Crystal Palace. The wing wizard went on to make 128 appearances, aswell as earning 10 Ireland U-21 caps, culminating in the doomed play off campaign (is there another type?) against Swansea City in 2006.

The ever-popular Tabby left for (then) Championship Coventry, has since tasted top-flight football with Reading before making just shy of 80 appearances for Ipswich Town.

1379540

Tabby in action for the Bees

The Brentford encounter (noteworthy game with the Bees): It is only in recent seasons where our paths have crossed with any form of regularity – certainly in my lifetime. As such, I’m going for the opening game of last season’s Championship campaign. With Brentford fans getting their initial taste of life under Marinus Dijkhuizen it also marked our first game without Jonathan Douglas – the new head coach having immediately released him from his duties at Griffin Park.

Where else but Ipswich Town would be his next destination as the Tractor Boys, with the former Bee on the bench, swept into a two goal lead despite an appalling playing surface that would quickly adopt the pitchgate monicker. Just twelve minutes remained as Dougie entered the (ploughed) field of play with the score still set at 0-2.

This was still sufficient time for Douglas to both break Jota in an ‘accidental’ challenge that would see the ever popular Spaniard miss out for the next few months and oversee a near certain victory turn into a draw. Goals from Andre Gray and James Tarkowski in the heart of Jota time rescuing a 97th minute point for Brentford.

Favourite son  (their most famous former player) : For the casual observer, there can be only one choice. Famous names from the Ipswich Town’s heyday include those such as Frans Thijssen, Arnold Muhren and Mick Mills.

However, for me it has to be John Wark. Voted the club’s all time cult hero in the BBC’s 2004 poll, who am I to disagree? A Scottish international, he was their player of the year 4 times in 6 seasons over a career that encompassed three spells from 1975 to 1996. With FA Cup and UEFA Cup winner’s medals in his cabinet (not to mention acting honours) there can be no other.

Famous fan: Ipswich have a few. Their director’s box is a veritable ‘who’s who’ of the rich and famous.Tom Chaplin from Keane, Charlie Eyebrows from Busted. Brian Cant. Yes, THE Brian Cant. Let’s hope The Tractor Boys don’t play away as wonderfully as the voice of TV’s Trumpton (kids, ask your parents).

But perhaps the biggest of all is Chester Bennington from U.S. rockers Linkin Park. Supposedly introduced to the club  by his father (a police office who had become friends with a fan from Suffolk one holiday) he has been pictured in the team colours  although it would seem he is yet to actually attend a game.

Presumably, if he did rather than sitting on the side you’d find him… in the end

linkin park ipswich

Bennington. A Tractor Boy, apparently…

Best ever league performance: There are sure to be plenty but one sticks out in particular for me. A top flight destruction of Manchester United by a staggering 6-0. That’s one short of brackets.

Back in March 1980 Bobby Robson’s boys, inspired by Town’s Dutch duo of Arnold Muhren and Frans Thijssen, destroyed a Manchester United side whose fans were left sining “We want 7(seven)”. Who doesn’t?

It could have been worse but for Gary Bailey in the United goal. The Red Devil’s ‘keeper saving three penalties, one of which had even been retaken.

It’s here, in fuzzy 80’s pixel vision

Moment of ignominy :4th March 1995. Roles were reversed. And then some. Manchester United setting a Premier League record for the largest winning margin as they humbled Town 9-0. Those beautiful brackets were achieved in little over an hour as they almost made it to double figures. Incredibly, less than 44,000 were present at Old Trafford for this one. How times have changed (or perhaps Season ticket holders were just impacted by trouble on the line up from Guildford).

Manager of the century ( most famous / popular manager) : There is only ever one answer to this question – the legend that is Sir Bobby Robson. In charge at Portman Road from 1969 to 1982, he took his club to the brink of the top flight title with a win ratio of close to 45% over this 13 year period.

Double silverware came with the 1977-78 FA Cup and the 1980-81 UEFA Cup before he left to take on an eight year spell in charge of the England team that culminated in that World cup semi-final heartache against Germany .

All time high ( the club’s defining achievement): You could pick any of the victories or cups noted above but, for me, Ipswich Town have a much bigger and totally unique place in football history. Specifically,  their representation in the film Escape To Victory.

This, a regular entrant to my all time ‘top ten’ films and one of that rare breed to successfully straddle the twin themes of football and WW2 POW camp escape

The aforementioned Wark appears (naturellement). As does Russell Osman, Robin Turner, Kevin O’Callaghan and Laurie Sivell. In addition, body doubles Kevin Beattie and Paul Cooper filled in for Michael Caine and Sylvester Stallone during some of the ‘match action’ scenes.

John Wark and Pele. Together. Only in Escape to Victory.

john-wark_2697438k

We can win this…..

Nick Bruzon

From Manchester City fan to Brentford legend

3 Mar

Money can’t necessarily buy you success. Of course, at Brentford having the sort of finances available to the likes of the teams at the top end of the Premier League is just a pipe dream. Yet it made last night’s results all the more interesting as this most captivating of top flight seasons continued. Despite their mega-millions, Manchester City (at mid-table Liverpool) and Arsenal (hosting relegation candidates Swansea) both lost against opposition they’d have been expected, on paper, to breeze past.

The flip side to this is that when you are operating on a reduced budget, unearthing that game changing player is a truly joyful experience. And this is where Brentford come into the equation. The previous column looked at, amongst other things, the FourFourTwo magazine survey on your club’s ‘cult hero’ over the top four divisions.

It is genuinely a fascinating read (my own contribution aside) with the results, being published on-line now showing clubs A-M. Starting with Accrington Stanley, it has so far gone through Brentford, along with the aforementioned Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City to the point they had, at the time of writing, got as far as Morecambe.

So few of these players are the big money signings making the headlines today but each have their special place amongst the fans. And the reason for mentioing this again was, specifically, the chance to talk a bit more about Brentford. Or, rather, our own nominee – Gary Blissett.

Bliss Gary Blissett

All time cult hero, Gary Blissett

Given the constraints of the Four FourTwo site, somebody like Bliss (not to mention those who ran him close when the question was put out there on Facebook last month) deserved more than the 100-150 words available. So here is the full, unexpurgated version.

Gary Blissett – cult hero

Where do you start when looking for a cult hero? For a team like Brentford, where the trophy cabinet is more an aspiration than anything else, most people outside of TW8 probably know us for the sort of thing that would make TV’s “What happened Next…?” rather than the record books.

Goalkeeper Chic Brodie having his career ended by a runaway dog. Millwall fans throwing a hand grenade onto the pitch (November 1965, for the record). The failed takeover bid by QPR that would have seen Brentford cease to exist and our bitterest rivals move into Griffin Park. Eight play-off defeats out of eight (the least successful of all English teams when reaching football’s ‘final four’).

Then, of course, there was ‘that penalty’ in the final minute of the final game of 2012/13. A winner takes all encounter with promotion rivals Doncaster Rovers.

Only one team could make it to the Championship and, with the scores locked at 0-0, the Bees were awarded a 90th minute spot kick. The subsequent tussle for the ball involving club captain Kevin O’Connor (approaching his 500th game), and Marcello Trotta (on loan from Fulham, of all places) is one as familiar as the Italian’s subsequent effort thudding off the crossbar and, with Bees players prostrate on the ground in despair, our opponents going down the other end where they scored to secure promotion and the title.

That’s how we do things at Griffin Park. Glorious failure being as familiar a taste as the pre-match hot dog. Yet when we do win things, it makes them all the sweeter. Every now and again it happens. And even when we don’t, we still have a lot of fun along the way. Thanks, largely, to those figures you’d label as Cult Heroes.

Big John O’Mara who, in his first season, scored 25 goals in 40 games. Centre back Peter Gelson, who made 471 appearances in a Griffin Park career that stretched from 1960 to 1975. The legendary Jim Towers and George Francis aka The Terrible Twins. Playing together for most of the 1950s, they still remain (respectively) the club’s first and second highest all time goal scorers.

Hard as nails players such as Terry Hurlock, Terry Evans and Martin Grainger.

Long serving players Jamie Bates and Kevin O’Connor.

The skilful wing wizards like Andy Sinton and Neil Smillie.

Those who just seemed to exude personality and had the crowd eating out of their hand – Allan Cockram, Lloyd Owusu and Marcus Gayle (just don’t sing that song near your granny).

Modern day heroes including Jota – the last minute goal being his own personal calling card. Toumani Diagouraga – “Toumani scores, we’re on the pitch” went the Ealing Road. He’d last done it in March 2013 and we had to sit through another 111 games without him troubling the scorers before he was sold to Leeds at the end of January. Less than 40 minutes into his full debut….

Or how about Sam Saunders? The perma-tanned wing wizard (and former tube worker) so beloved of fans that most would allow him to ‘have relations’ with their wives, if the terrace chant is to be believed.

But when it comes down to it, there can be only one winner. The moustachioed legend that is Gary Blissett. aka ‘Bliss’.

79 goals from 223 league appearances (105 from 291 total) in a 6 year career from 1987-1993 don’t even tell half the story. His brace against boyhood heroes Manchester City in the 1988-89 FA Cup fourth round sent Griffin Park into meltdown as the Bees earned a 3-1 passage into the fifth round. There, Bliss repeated the feat as his late pair at Blackburn Rovers helped Brentford to a deserved 2-0 win. Sadly it wasn’t to be in an Anfield quarter final as the Bees bowed out despite giving all-conquering Liverpool (kids, ask your dads) an almighty scare.

image1-copy1

Bliss does the business against his beloved Manchester City

His defining goal was probably the final game of the 91/92 season. With the Bees having won the previous five on the spin, including a 4-0 demolition of Fulham, we travelled to Peterborough knowing a win and some good fortune could make the impossible, possible.

Bliss was the man who popped up with a first half header as we then sat through an awful lot of ‘squeaky bum time’ for a famous 1-0 win. With other results going our way, including a shock defeat for a Birmingham City side that Saint & Greavsie had earlier congratulated on TV for winning the League, we snuck up the blind side and became Champions. Sometimes, it happens.

Gary was an ever present the following season as, despite the sale of strike partner Dean Holdsworth, his goals almost kept us in English football’s second tier.

But there was more to Gary than short shorts, a luxuriant ‘tache and goals, goals, goals.

A wannabe goalkeeper, he was the man who donned the gloves during a Championship game with Southend United after injury, and no spare on the bench, meant we got to enjoy that wonderful moment where an outfield player goes between the posts. Bliss promptly ignored every piece of advice being shouted to him by youth ‘keeper Ashley Bayes and kept a clean sheet.

But it was his red card at Craven Cottage after what we will politely call a ‘coming together’ with Fulham ‘keeper Jim Stannard that is a moment as popular with Bees’ fans as that goal at Peterborough. Bliss left the field to a standing ovation in a game that showed us the West London derby meant as much to the players as the supporters.

All the money in the bank can’t buy a player like Bliss. The £60,000 we paid Crewe back in 1987, even now, still seems like the bargain of the century.

Like Marcus Gayle and Allan Cockram, Bliss still visits Griffin Park. Catching up with him briefly in the week, he told me, “ I follow every game and after my beloved City Brentford are of course the team I want to see succeed more than any other team or club in the world.

I am sure MB will have Plan B, C, D and more and will one day be playing at The Ethiad IN THE LEAGUE

For those amongst us feeling slightly down about things on the pitch this year, these are surely words to put your trust in. If a demi-God such as Bliss believes, then that’s all the inspiration we need .

brentford-fc-player-cards-2015-blissett

Gary still features in the Junior Bees Top Trumps (style game)

Nick Bruzon

Number four is…not going to Wigan (we hope). The Forshaw/Holdsworth difference

29 Jul

Back in early July Matthew Benham took to Twitter to declare that new faces would be coming in to Brentford whilst no key players would leave. True enough the squad has been strengthened whilst, if reports circulating on Monday are to be believed, management have turned down an offer from Wigan Athletic for Adam Forshaw.

The club website, as ever, made no mention on unsubstantiated rumour but one can only trust that Matthew has been true to his word – assuming a bid has even been made, of course. And if the story is true, then what a statement to make. This is a team looking to consolidate – not cut loose it’s best players when the first rivals come knocking.

To read the rest of this article, season 2014/15 is now available to download onto Kindle (and other electronic reading device) in full. Containing additional material and even some editing, you can get it here for less than the cost of a Griffin Park matchday programme or Balti Pie.

 Thanks for reading and all your comments over the course of the season. For now, I need to make more space on the site for any follow up. However, ‘close season’ will continue in full, further on.

Celebrating like they’ve won the FA Cup. And, frankly, why not?

14 May

Next season’s Championship took further shape last night as Brentford now know we won’t face Peterborough but could have a return encounter with Leyton Orient.

You have to say that the O’s deserved their spot in the final. Peterborough weren’t given a sniff and, barring a frenetic final few moments where even goalkeeper Robert Olejnik joined in the action, Jimmy Glass style (who doesn’t love it when that happens), they were barely allowed to threaten.

The celebratory scenes when the final whistle blew put me in mind of when Brentford had promotion confirmed against Preston. A celebratory pitch invasion of epic proportions took place and, to be honest, you can understand why.

To read the rest of this article, season 2013/14 is now available to download onto Kindle, in full. Containing previously unseen content, you can do so here for less than the cost of one matchday programme.

 Thanks for reading over the course of the campaign. For now I need to make space on this page for any follow up.  The ‘close season’ / World Cup columns continue in full, further on in this site.

From Götze to Gertcha. My fantasy XI beats Arsenal and the Brits

20 Feb

Former Brentford goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny made a chump of himself on national TV last night after he was sent off for Arsenal against Bayern Munich in the Champion’s League.  That, or he was trying out for a role in the next Nescafe advert, judging by the hand gesture he directed towards the fourth official on leaving the pitch.

I’ve actually got a lot of time for the goalkeeper and regular readers may be aware that the Arsenal man is actually in my all time Brentford XI of the last 25 years. Maybe not always the most skillful of the players to fill their respective berths but certainly the most committed. The team that, if I could pluck from their respective seasons, I’d love to see in action.

To read the rest of this article, season 2013/14 is now available to download onto Kindle, in full. Containing previously unseen content, you can do so here for less than the cost of one matchday programme.

 Thanks for reading over the course of the campaign. For now I need to make space on this page for any follow up.  The ‘close season’ / World Cup columns continue in full, further on in this site.

More loan action for Brentford…and our rivals?

2 Jan

With the  transfer window now officially open, the rumour mill is in full effect.

In the case of Brentford, for once the talk is about players coming in rather than those who could be snapped up by teams in the Premiership or Championship. So far.

Top of the list is Arsenal striker Chuba Akpom. Whilst the club is yet to say anything definitive this is being widely reported in various media sources. Even Matthew Benham, as he has also done with Blackburn winger Alan Judge, has now started to follow the Arsenal youngster on twitter.

To read the rest of this article, season 2013/14 is now available to download onto Kindle, in full. Containing previously unseen content, you can do so here for less than the cost of one matchday programme.

 Thanks for reading over the course of the campaign. For now I need to make space on this page for any follow up.  The ‘close season’ / World Cup columns continue in full, further on in this site.