Tag Archives: Anfield

Just about the best Saturday imaginable. This time, it WAS dreamland for Brentford.

26 Sep

Sunday morning. Quite possibly the greatest game of football I’ve ever seen our Brentford play about to be rewatched for the third or fourth time on Match Of The Day. A 3-3 draw with Liverpool washed down with what can only be termed ‘JJ levels of lager’. An afternoon followed up by watching popular music’s Ash blow the roof off the Camden Roundhouse in a style akin to that which Thomas Frank’s Bees had done at Lionel Road just a few hours earlier. The price for such excess being a sore head and a smile like a split watermelon. There aren’t sufficient words to truly describe how good Brentford were. And Liverpool, to be fair. Wave after wave of Mcdonalds’ shirt clad warriors trading goals and attacks in a game of football tennis. Federer v Djokovic at their very best. Each attack met with an even stronger return. A blitzkrieg affair that hung precariously in the balance, tested our nerves to the nth degree and even saw an 87th minute ‘winner’ for Ivan Toney ruled out for marginal offside. We can’t be upset. Quite the opposite. Well, it would have been the most amazing win for Brentford but you can’t have it all. As popular music’s Ash once sang. Last night, in fact. Instead, we have to be content with a point and scoring just the second, third and fourth goals the Anfield outfit have conceded all campaign. Chelsea, of course, being the only other team to get the ball past Alisson in the league this season.  

The smile on the face at Full Time says it all

Brentford. Huge. Liverpool terrifyingly good. Pushing so hard, so fast, so high. Yet somehow the Bees matching them. Hanging on at times but creating massive problems of our own. Before the scoring had even started, Mo Salah saw a nailed on goal somehow cleared off the line by the telescopic legs of Kris Ajer. It was Wolves away all over. Bryan Mbeumo saw the same thing happen just moments later. As Brentford broke the ball was dinked goalwards before being scooped clear at the critical moment by Matip. And then the mayhem started…

Ethan Pinnock at the backpost. A position he has occupied so many times yet which teams still fail to pick up. A free kick from Sergi Canos (not Canyos, MOTD. Or Sergio. Urghh) eventually being turned home by the big man. The stadium erupted. Noise to make the Bournemouth affair seem like a game of musical statues played in a monastery. What a moment. Our Brentford. Our bus stop. Our team with the temerity to take the lead against this global icon. Incredible stuff but, on the balance of play, you have to say it was deserved. 

It didn’t last long, mind you. Jota (not that one) breaking Bees hearts within a few minutes of the restart. Cripes, they’re brutal when they break. The ball pinged around with electric speed. Opposition forced onto the back foot as metaphorical punches were traded and the goal they’d been threatening finally came. Mind you it could have been double that, at least. The post and also David Raya with a world class save coming to our rescue in the opening period. One apiece at half time and nerves shredded. Adrenaline pumping. This was next level stuff.

Yet if the opening period had been the stuff of dreams, it was nothing compared to the second. The miracle man Mo Salah first out of the traps. His 100th Premier League goal momentarily held up for a VAR check following the lino’s flag being raised. It was only a brief respite for the Bees. Liverpool taking the lead and now, surely, just a formality. The hope offered by our short lived lead nothing more than fantasy now. Wasn’t it? 

No chance. Before kick off the wish had been Brentford would play the occasion and the actual game  rather than get caught up in the illustrious nature of our opponents and their reputation. It’s exactly what we did. With ten minutes the scores were level. This time, Vitaly Janelt with the goal. Again, Liverpool failing to deal with a crowded box and the German being the right man in the right place to finally get it over the line. If the first goal had brought shockwaves, this one was off the chart. Going ahead is one thing but to pull it back .. well , it felt ten times better. We could win this… couldn’t we?

?-? indeed

Back came Liverpool once more. This time, Curtis Jones with an absolute piledriver that subsequent viewing showed took a deflection off of Ajer. Raya left with no hope. Brentford on the ropes once more. Tears from our Harry who’d already spent huge portions of the game giving Mr. Atwell short shrift. The man in the middle oblivious to just about everything. This third goal being the straw that broke this camel’s back.

Yet with it came sage advice that, “Remember, it only take a second to score a goal.” And quite literally within moments of imparting these words, we had. Yoanne Wissa the man to give my normally shonky parenting some much needed kudos. 

And then it was 3

You see,” I said as tears turned to smiles. Despair turned to joy. Lionel Road went off the deep end of the Richter scale. This was just nuts. Disbelief on the fact of all around us as Brentford bounced back again. No quarter given. No question remaining unanswered. It was relentless football played at the most gargantuan levels of pace and intensity. On paper we had no right to get even half way close.

As H said to me, ”Dad. That’s the ACTUAL Mo Salah.” Yes Harry, and that’s the actual Rico Henry with the most sublime piece of skill to not only trap the ball with the Egyptian on top of him but then run rings round him when, being honest, an industrial hoof was the best we could have hoped for.

It might have been 4. It would have been the most magnificent fairy tale ending to the most incredible game of football. It doesn’t really matter. Win, lose or draw for me, Clive, it was all about the way we played. Our approach. Our intensity and never say die attitude. Nobody gave the Bees a hope. A lot of people are gong to have to reset their opinions. Once again. It was one of our most incredible displays in living memory. If not ever. Leyton Orient away levels of pressure survived and scoring to match. Bees fans celebrating like we’d won the World Cup at full time.

Thomas a blur of emotion at full time

Next up we’ve got West Ham in the road and then Chelsea at home. On the evidence of the season is far, perhaps they may not be quite the walkovers those outside of TW8 would predict. Brentford still 9th. Four points outside of the Champions League spots and only more more off the top. The season that promised so much going in to it cranking up to levels beyond the expectation levels of the most optimistic supporters. Fantasy football indeed.

Bring on West Ham. And Chelsea. On this form, anything could happen. I can’t wait. Brentford were just amazing yesterday. Liverpool, burned baby. Burned.

just when the day couldn’t get any better, it did

Nick Bruzon

This is how we can beat Liverpool. A game at the right end of the sexy scale.

24 Sep

This is as big as it gets. Once, being the Barcelona of the lower leagues was about as close to football royalty as Brentford could aspire to be. Then, things changed, and now we are getting set for a league fixture with Liverpool. A game played on as level a playing field as they come. Both Premier League clubs with Jürgen Klopp, who of course so famously almost took over at Griffin Park rather than Anfield, bringing his super reds to take on super Brentford FC  this Saturday afternoon. So far the top flight ride has been nothing but the most incredible fun. Arsenal beaten. Wolves beaten. Brighton educational. Palace and Villa cauldrons of noise and well earned points on the road. Now, things crank up a notch. Liverpool, well they’re about as famous as it gets. With the possible exception of West Ham whom, as we know, are the only club side ever to win the World Cup. 

Arsenal beaten. The incredible start has so far been continued..

There are two ways to view this one. Go all giggly schoolgirl and bow down to worship at the cathedral of household names about to walk out alongside Pontus, Ethan et al. Embrace your inner football tourist to just gawp at Salah, Van Dijk , Mane, Alisson and whomever else Mr Klopp chooses to put in front of us. It’ll be hard not to, that’s for sure. It’ll be surreal and one could be forgiven for the ease with which it’ll be possible to get caught up in the moment this is sure to be. Do that and we’re dead. Rabbits in the headlights of the Red Express. Beaten before a ball has even been kicked.

Instead, we HAVE to take route two. Sure, have the utmost admiration for whom we are playing but then forget about it. Play the moment, not the reputation. Keep the crowd live, lively. Recreate the atmosphere we had against Arsenal and Bournemouth. The crowd, like the Kop, being a 12th man for that one. Liverpool have the reputation. They more than have the ability. No question. They are where they are for a reason. They’ve got to where they have and maintained those standards, mostly, for a reason. Recent league and European Champions. Something about Istanbul, too. But past form counts for nothing when the whistle blows and that’s the only way to go. 11 v 11 for 90 minutes. Avoid the cliches. Put your Liverpool bingo cards away and see what happens when Stuart Atwell starts proceedings. Hurrah!!!! 

Put your Liverpool bingo cards away

I took part in a live video podcast thing last night with some Liverpool fans (presumably my good friends at Beesotted were unavailable) c/o TheRedSeaPod looking ahead to the big game. There was, understandably, a lot of talk about Brentford, our approach to the Premier league so far and aspirations for the season. How we were viewed by Liverpool fans who, hands up, had perhaps under estimated how we’d fare but were rapidly, and respectfully, revising that opinion. The point was also made that in many respects this is a ‘free hit’ for The Bees. As would a lot of other games be this season. Nobody expects anything but defeat . There’s no pressure in a fixture like this because Brentford have nothing to lose. 

It’s true, to an extent. But also going into it too laissez-faire is another catalyst for disaster. If we don’t pick up the points I’ll be genuinely gutted. Not because it’s Liverpool but because its points dropped. League 1,2, Championship and now Prem. I’ve seen us at every level for far, far too long. The approach to every game has been the same. Winning is the most incredible feeling. No matter who we have available to us (and some of those squads we’ve had to pick from in the past…..) or who we have in front of us.

I absolutely LOVE being a Brentford fan. The most incredible communal love – so to speak – and its often been said that the 90 minutes of football (more likely 100 tomorrow given its Atwell) is but a small part of a greater day. Of coming together with friends and family. This season, with Covid destroying that for the past 18 months, it feels even stronger than ever. Yet round it all off with three points and the day becomes, err, ten times better.

So yes. Perhaps a free hit in the eyes of the broader footballing world but for me, Clive, a chance to close the gap at the business end of the table. No matter how slim an opportunity it may be. Thomas talks about being humble and he’s right. I’m not arrogant enough to go into this one thinking we’ll steamroller Liverpool. Thinking we have a divine right to turn up and win. But, equally, nor should they. Under estimating Brentford has been the undoing of so many sides over the last few years. We may be under the radar. We may be tinpot. We may be a bus stop in Hounslow. But my word, can we play some football when we get going. In the sexy stakes, this one has the potential to be the polar opposite of Mrs Brown puckering up with Donald Trump if both teams hit their groove.

the opposite end of the sexy scale to what Saturday promises..

The other thing learned last night was that Liverpool have a a new third kit. Not sure how this one passed me by – perhaps it was ghoulish interest in the fake Bees shirt racing to three figures on ebay. Desperately hoping nobody parted with money for the blue ‘adidas’ one… Getting back to our visitors though, is there a chance they could rock up in what has been described as the ‘McDonalds shirt’? 

Wow. Its actually quite nice from afar but far from nice up close. What’s with the red checks? No offence, and this is the only negative thing I can say about the current Liverpool set up, but it’s a shocker. With yours truly also writing about Liverpool kit in tomorrow’s matchday programme, its very much a case of opportunity missed by not including that one. On the flip side, there are a few other shockers in there aswell as some absolute masterpieces.

Do you want fries with that?

Finally, we can’t look at Brentford – Liverpool without looking at Sergi Canos. Of all the players in our squad he’s sure to be up for it as much as, if not more than, anyone else. Playing against his first club. All being well the game against Norwich City when he momentarily went a bit Scrappy Doo playing against his other former side has been forgotten. Instead, using the huge love from the crowd and his own passion to inspire him on to even greater things. We love Sergi in our house. Our H worships the ground he walks on and nobody could have been more excited than him when he got our first ever Premier League goal, against Arsenal. The game where we ended the night at the top of the table. Hey, don’t shoot me. Blame the stats.

Ooooh. Ser-gi Canos !!

Of all the songs being belted out in what is sure to be a cauldron of noise tomorrow, his is the one we’re looking forward to singing the most. Anything more and as Tony Gubba almost once said, It’ll be dreamland for Brentford. Still, if you can’t dream then what’s the point? Bring it on.

Cripes, I can’t wait for this one. Fantasy football but for real. That’s the giggly schoolgirl thing done. Now let’s get serious. See you there….

Nick Bruzon

A picture that’s unappealing yet packed with morbid curiosity.

23 Sep

Stoke City v Brentford. Thus came our fourth round fate following last night’s League Cup draw – (c) Middlesex Chronicle Big Book of 80’s alliteration. Hopefully Thomas Frank won’t be left feeling a Beleagured Bees Boss after that one. Blinkin’ Stoke City. No offence but the last draw anybody would have wanted. Including them. For Brentford, a lot of bad history and a Wednesday evening half-term shlep to the Potteries. For Stoke, still a glamour tie against Premier League opposition but opponents they have played, a lot, since dropping back to the Championship in 2018. I’m sure they would have relished a visit from a Liverpool or Manchester City although at least swerved Mark Warburton and his Loftus Road outfit after they beat Everton (more to follow on The Toffees).

The draw in full

Positives. We’re in the last 16. We’re yet to face a top flight rival. The game comes between a visit from Leicester City and a trip to Burnley but, otherwise, we’ve nothing midweek on either side. Cripes, the Tuesday/Saturday back to back fixtures destroyed so many Championship clubs last season. Absolutely knackering, It’s a run that shows no sign of abating this time around and with Stoke still on that sort of relentless fixture overload, might they use this one as a tactical hit to rest tired limbs? Test the squad to its full extent? Who knows? Whomever the respective managers pick, this one is going to be as tough and gruelling as it comes. A tie with all the allure of Mrs Browns Boys squaring up to The England Supporter’s Band in a pub car park. Nobody wants to watch it yet we’ll still take a look. Just in case.

Unappealing yet packed with morbid curiosity

Until then, there’s only one word on everyone’s lips: The Liverpool game. Ok, that’s three but you get the drift. We’ve already talked about this a fair bit on these pages and no doubt will do a bit more come Friday / Saturday. There’s only so much clickbait one can follow on other sites and so many times we can regurgitate Tony Gubba’s immortal line or one of the few photos in the personal collection from the last time our paths crossed. It’ll be huge. For them.

For us, one more game and that’s the only way to treat it. Play the team in front of us rather than the history. It worked for Arsenal (albeit they were inept) and it may work again. Who knows ?

One more time…The Bees haven’t played Livepool since the FA Cup in 1989

Elsewhere, the home game with Everton has been pushed back a day for TV coverage. That’ll now take place at 2pm on Sunday 28th November. The price of playing at a higher level. On the plus side, it means the trips to Burnely and Newcastle United remain unscathed – not surprisingly – so at least train tickets can be booked with relative impunity.

All that’s to come though. For now, with too much time wasted trying to get Mrs. Brown to hold a broken bottle, better wrap things up and start the school run. Perhaps the prospect of Saturday’s visit from Liverpool might get H moving.

He’s all good when Buzz is around but try getting an 8 year old ready for school on a Thursday

Nick Bruzon 

Oldham bracketed. Now bring on Liverpool.

22 Sep

Bring out the brackets. For a third successive season, Brentford managed the magical mark following a 7(seven) – 0 defeat of Oldham Athletic in the League Cup third round at Lionel Road on Tuesday night. Four goal Marcus Forss leading the charge, ably complemented by a Yoane Wissa brace and an o.g. from our visitors compounding their agony. It was every bit as comprehensive as the scoreline suggests. For once, stats telling the story with the Bees managing 24 efforts at goal. A largely scratch side but one still full of internationals could, really, have doubled things in what seemed to be a shoot on sight policy. Victory over the English football’s basement side as deserved as it comes. The big question being whether we can repeat it on Saturday when the league’s top side, Liverpool, come to visit. Joint first with Chelsea (also due here in a few weeks), that also has the potential to be a 7(seven) goal thriller. Anything but on top of our game though and I’d hate to imagine which way those would be shared out.

Forss of nature

First up, Oldham Athletic. They came into the game with a reputation as a club in trouble and that was proven on field when the flying Finn grabbed his first with less than three minutes gone. Forss making no mistake from the spot and from that point on it was game over. One had to feel for the 600 or so visiting fans. That’s a trek and a half to watch the goals roll in. Moreso with no beer in the away end. Sorry…. Kudos to them. We’ve been there over the years. Getting spanked on the road and no money rather than sobriety. Away clubs have always been very welcoming and I’m not, quite, sure why we’ve gone dry. Unless it’s some attempt to demoralise our guests. On pitch, nobody needs another history lesson on our own bucket rattling or lower league survival where, but for the grace of our ownership, we could still be. 

Instead, they gave it their all, going nuts when the odd shot from distance came in. One second half beauty from Jamie Bowden forcing Álvaro Fernández into a quite wonderful save as it headed for the far top corner . There would have been no complaints from the Bees faithful had that gone in but, instead, it was kept out and we now start the Twitter stampede to win a sponsored mattress as a result of our clean sheet. Not a typo.

Sadly for our guests it was one chance out of not many. Captain Jensen pulling the strings in the middle, Wissa on fire, Forss doing what he does for fun and Samman Ghoddos running his socks off. Pick of the goals being the last of the night. Wissa with a quite delicious bicycle kick to round off the rout. On another day he’d have had a hat trick too. Certainly not holding back on his efforts although it was one from Charlie Goode that really had the fans on their feet. An absolute howitzer from distance smacking the bar. Had it gone in Lionel Road would have erupted. Instead, we had to be content with a 5-0 HT lead, two in the second period and opponents for whom Brentford showed no signs of taking the foot off the gas. It was relentless. It was brutal. It was fun. For us.

Official Twitter capture the pick of the night

The fourth round draw takes place tonight. Micah Richards and Harry Redknapp pulling out the balls live from a Bedfordshire Bowls club. The competition sponsors once again doing their thing to mix it up and generate publicity. The sort of thing that previously would have had wringing of hands and much lamenting at unnecessary gimmicks. Now, with Brentford in the fourth round once more, I’m past caring. Just get the draw done and let us know who its going to be. With Wembley no longer the jinx it was, there’s an added layer of appeal about a potential visit. Of course, that’s still a fair way way off and there’ll be plenty of tough tests for whomever eventually lifts the trophy. On the flip side, you can only beat who is in front of you and last night Brentford did that in style.

Next up, Liverpool in the league. That’s at 5.30pm on Saturday evening and is, of course, a sell out. The game’s live on Sky for those unable to get a ticket. Victory will see Brentford move to within two points of the Anfield side. Should it happen. Defeat, something expected by just about everybody outside of TW8. I mean, there’s no way a team like Brentford, a bus stop in Hounslow, will get anything against such illustrious opposition. Is there? Eh, readers 😉  

We all know what we can do. Everyone else knows what Liverpool can, and have, done. The wealth of talent in their team. That’s taken as red. Yet with our own goal machine(s) in fine form and a bench the likes of which we’ve never had before, who knows? Christian Norgaard will be vital and it was good to see him picked out on Match of the Day for special treatment in the post-match analysis last week. Hey, we weren’t even last up in the running. 

It’s the sort of moment we’ve been building for. Years in the coming and, finally, a global super team up at Brentford for a competitive fixture. No offence, Arsenal. Beating them was quite wonderful but, equally, a club in disarray and very much trading on former glories were there for the taking. That opportunity was grabbed in some style on a night that saw the roof raised and Brentford dominant.

Can we do the same this time around? I can’t wait to find out. Hopefully we can show Mr. Klopp what he missed out when choosing Anfield over Griffin Park…. See you there.

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

Nick Bruzon 

Natalie Sawyer: From Moss Rose and Meadow Lane to Anfield and the Emirates

6 Jun

Brentford FC. The club where anything can happen.. and usually does. We are now just over a week into our Premier League status and, being honest, I’m still finding it somewhat hard to believe. Not because of our bus stop in Hounslow status or the sneering from outside TW8 but as much because of everything that has gone before. But it’s true. It’s happening. Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United et al will be amongst the visitors next season. Get used to it.

Part of the reason I love this club so much is the lack of any pretension, anywhere. Hearing Marcus Gayle talk about our spirit and our approach during ‘The Warm Up’ on Friday night was spot on. If you, somehow, haven’t seen it as yet then it is well, well worth a watch. If for no other reason than it is yet another chance to relive that incredible afternoon at Wembley moments.

For me, Brentford is a place where the great and the good can rub shoulders. Complete neutral ground. The close quarters of Griffin Park meant one was as likely to see Sergi Canos in the street as Jumper man. There’s Jack Whitehall in the pub sharing a drink with our chairman. Delia Smith walking down Braemar Road. Err, is that Peter Andre sitting in New Road? Apparently it was. Where if you see the owner, and ask a question, you get as honest an answer as you can. Thank for the kit reveal, Mr B (we’re going back a few season now but…). Where everybody knows everybody’s name and is happy to get involved.

Nowhere more is this seen than with Natalie Sawyer. To those outside of TW8, one of the most recognisable faces on our TV screens during her time at Sky and now holding court on talkSPORT Radio Breakfast. To those at Brentford, she is just another fan. Albeit about as passionate as they come. Likewise, one of Mark Burridge’s longstanding and regular guests during his i-follow commentary alongside Marcus and Mick. Ah, who could forget Sheffield United away? You know, ‘that’ game. Keith Stroud….

Natalie is the face of talkSPORT weekend breakfast

The reason for this long winded intro is that, unlike Cameron Diaz, Natalie is as regular and knowledgable a Brentford fan as any of us. So when she has something to share it is well, well worth a read. And, my word, today we are in for a treat. 

Hot off the heels of Kitman Bob’s exclusive look behind the Brentford curtain, Natalie has very kindly taken the time to share her thoughts. What we had initially hoped may be a few words has, instead, turned into something that is as much ‘cathartic’ as anything else. Not just about the week leading up to Wembley and the game itself, but everything that has gone before.

HUGE thanks to Natalie for taking the time to share just what this means to her..…  

From Moss Rose and Meadow Lane to Anfield and the Emirates

It’s the week after the week of all weeks for Brentford fans but it still doesn’t feel real. “Little ol Brentford” are heading to the Premier League for the very first time. So, in the next year we will face the champions Manchester City, Champions League winners Chelsea and FA Cup holders Leicester to name just 3 sides. I haven’t even computed the historical giants of Liverpool and Manchester United as well! How is this happening??? Do other side’s fans go through this same doubt???

Let’s rewind…I was there for Crewe, I was there for Stoke and also for Yeovil. So, I’ve suffered like many Bees fans. I’ve headed to those finals full of optimism, only for it to be extinguished. I’d like to think ordinarily I am a positive person, most of the time. I try to live the glass half full life but when it comes to Brentford, and the playoffs, I’ve simply learnt to be pessimistic and then hopefully be pleasantly surprised. (I just didn’t think it would take this long!!) 

After every playoff defeat, us fans have all rallied to believe it will happen for us one day, that the next time the footballing gods would be on our side. But, truthfully having been scarred 9 times, as we have, I had partly resigned myself to never winning the playoffs. So this surreal feeling I am having about us being in the Premier League after that Wembley final, I think is pretty fair.  

It’s funny to think the season didn’t start off the best way. 1 win in our first 4 league games had a few fans twitching I’m sure. But not long after we went on that incredible 21 game unbeaten run in the Championship, one time taking us to the top of the league. We were living the dream (little did I know more was to come!). The fun bus didn’t look like it was going to an end, such was the high that we were on. But, in typical Brentford-style we were brought back down to earth with those 3 straight losses, frustratingly with one of those at the hands of QPR (who I’d forgotten were in the league, such was their lowly position! ☺) We dusted ourselves off and went again and although our hopes of automatic promotion fell away, our end to the season was strong and convincing, But, that didn’t mean I didn’t have my fears and nerves and I had that little negative devil sat on my shoulder saying “its Brentford innit” as I feared the approaching playoffs. 

We all know what happened in the first leg against Bournemouth, so I’ll cut to the second. My family were lucky to have got tickets and a few days before the game, I was having sleepless nights. Waking at silly o’clock and having those whirling thoughts of losing. I knew I’d be devastated to lose to Bournemouth in that semi-final as felt we were simply the better team, for all their Premier League experience. But there it was gnawing away at me, our playoff curse and it played on my mind constantly. 

I had to be up early the Saturday morning, so I could be at talkSPORT for 5am. My alarm as usual was set for 330am, but as normal I rarely am woken by it as I always have that fear of sleeping in. This time it wasn’t sleeping in that woke me, constantly, but the impending game with Bournemouth and knowing we were already a goal down in the tie! 

I know I’m very lucky to combine my passion for sport with my job but sometimes it can be wretched. More about that later. After my shift I raced back home as fast as I could and joined my family to make our way to the stadium. It was simply amazing to be among so many fans and feel that excitement in the ground that had been missing for so long. Seeing the players and Thomas do their lap of honour before the game got me ready to be the 12th man as instructed by the team. With Hey Jude being belted out around the ground prior to kick off, it certainly warmed me up for it but the anxiety of a must-win game played on my mind. 

Pre match from Thomas.

There are certain moments in the match, I will confess I didn’t see in real time. Arnaut Danjuma’s goal I didn’t see as I looked away as he broke, and even Ivan Toney’s penalty I missed as I can’t watch any penalty being taken. That doesn’t mean I don’t celebrate like mad once it’s been scored. But my nerves cannot take it, cannot watch it. And just before the ball is struck and you can hear a pin drop, I often squeeze my eyes shut and even have my fingers in my ears, such is the fear that goes through me.

Being sat in the stands with my family, I kept my mask on and it’s the first time ever I felt I could scream and shout at a game whilst feeling anonymous. I’m not normally one to do that at a game, other than every now and then when a chant chorus’ round the ground. But this day felt like no other. I’d been told to make it hostile and I was going to do my bit. 

And so did every other fan in the stadium. The atmosphere was incredible from the 4000 or so fans that were there. And it certainly whetted the appetite for when we can all be back together in what we know now will be a sold-out Community stadium every match day.  

So much of that second leg is a blur now but it was a performance worthy of the win. Agent Mepham did his bit, followed by Janelt’s thunderous shot and Forss’ quick thinking for the third, but of course what does stand out is the ridiculous antics of Asmir Begovic. I’ll never understand how an experienced, seasoned pro could have resorted to such bizarreness. We can laugh at it now because we won but it’s still a head scratching 90 minutes that I wont forget whenever I see or hear his name! 

Begovic – the nicest picture of his antics

When the referee Jarred Gillett blew the whistle, it was some feeling to know we were back at Wembley for a second successive season, hoping to right the wrongs, but guess who was back?? – that devil!!!! Thankfully, I was able to put that pest to one side for the night as we enjoyed a few drinks at One over the Ait, with a number of the commercial department from Brentford, who happened to be there as well. The feeling was one of excitement as attention turned to the following weekends’ final. If I could just tame that devil so I could enjoy the build-up. 

Not. A. Chance. That devil is annoying. I could go hours without thinking about the final, only for, out of nowhere, that nervous feeling you get in your gut would emerge and I would have severe pangs of fear. I didn’t want to comprehend a 10th playoff loss but that’s more often what I thought than thinking we’d win. Scarred, you see. 

Most of my family were pretty calm about it all, the other half (Captain fantastic, Mr D) kept telling me it was in the bag but I didn’t want to hear that. I didn’t want to jinx the game. On paper I thought we were better than Swansea, on paper we deserved to win, not just for the last 8 months but also for our missed opportunity last season. But no game is ever won on paper, nor because you deserve it. And also those footballing gods just didn’t like to answer our prayers. So, I had the fear. A constant fear. 

Remember I said my job is great as it combines my passion but that it can be wretched too. Well, here’s why? When you’re constantly asked to talk about the biggest game in football, the richest game in football, the playoff curse, the what happens to the squad if you don’t go up, you are just constantly on edge. Talking about it positively could jinx us, talking about it negatively could jinx us. I felt like I couldn’t win! But I also couldn’t not talk about it as it was part of my job so the only way I could handle it was to try and be measured for fear I would be the reason for the curse continuing. 

I even feared requesting the Sunday off work because I’d be the jinx, but I justified it by saying I was doing that to cover all eventualities. There was no way I would want to work if we lost knowing we’d be dissecting where it all went wrong, whilst also hearing the celebrations of Swansea and yet if we’d won, I knew I needed to party!!

So, waking up as I did on that Saturday morning, I went to work as normal but I’m not entirely sure I remember what we talked about, so much was my mind on Wembley. But I got through the three hours chatting about some final in Porto whilst also occasionally having to talk about the Championship final. Former Swansea midfielder Leon Britton joined us at one point and he was confident his side could win the game. Believe me that is something I didn’t need to hear. That didn’t help the tension. 

Thankfully at 9am, we were done and there was little time for pleasantries with my colleagues at the end of the show, as once again I had to rush home to get ready for the biggest game in our history in which a select few of us could play our part, under the arch. I remember arriving at Waterloo station and as I was going up on the escalator, I spotted something on one of the steps. A sticker. A Brentford sticker. I took it to be a sign. I’m on the up escalator, the Bees are going up? I was hesitant to post it but decided to share the positivity on Facebook, thinking it might give more and more of us a nice little omen of confidence. I didn’t share the news that on the train back I spotted one magpie!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Going to the game with my dad and my brother, we had to get to the ground early as I was asked to appear on talkSPORT again in their live show from Box Park. En route to it we bumped into a few of my former colleagues from Sky Sports, all who believed it was our year. They clearly had not been given the script. No jinxing please!! Once at Box park, it was amazing to see so many Bees fans already inside, sampling the local beverages and soaking up the atmosphere. There was such a positive vibe that it did momentarily ease my fears. The few drinks that followed afterwards also helped! But, it’s amazing how quickly that can change when the nerves kick in!!! And that’s exactly what happened at kick off. 

Once again, the Brentford fans were brilliant. It felt electric in the stadium as our east stand did what we could to roar the team on. I wasn’t sure I could take 90 minutes with my emotions all over the place but as we know it didn’t take long for us to be jumping up from our seats as Bryan Mbeumo was brought down by Freddie Woodman for a penalty, and Ivan gave us the early lead. Obviously, I didn’t see the penalty, but I roared all the same with everyone else when the ball clearly had gone into the net. Ten minutes later, it all felt like a dream as it was 2-nil. Bryan instrumental in our break as Swansea tried to level, Mads Roerslev making an incredible run to get himself into the mix and Emi Marcondes with the finish that got us all thinking could this be our year? The momentum was very much with us and not long after Ivan’s volley could have sealed it. If only it had gone in. How did it not? It’s those gods again!!! 

It did all feel comfortable it has to be said. But, they always say a 2-0 lead is never safe and knowing we had another half to come, my nerves were still all over the place. I kept jostling my feet, my knees kept shaking and even with Swansea’s Jay Fulton sent off just after the hour mark, I still didn’t feel job done. Because, well, you know why; That devil was there on my shoulder again saying “it’s Brentford innit”. 

Swansea didn’t have a single shot on target in the game, but I wasn’t thinking that whilst it was going on. I was thinking, even in added on time, this is agony. So, when the whistle went, I sprang out of my seat, jumped around in ecstasy. Had we really just won? Had we really just won a playoff? Are we really in the Premier League? That moment of being in Wembley still feels unreal. Turning to my 82-year-old dad, his eyes were wet and red. He is an emotional person any way, but he’s never cried at football. Never. But here he was with his emotions for all to see and the best thing I could do was pull him in for a hug. He couldn’t believe what he’d seen, and he couldn’t believe our club were going to be one of the top 20 teams in England. Not just that but our global reach had just grown epic proportions. Next to join in our huddle was my brother and I am forever grateful that that whole moment was captured on video so that we can relive it over and over again as it’s the most special footballing moment for us. 

I was lucky after the game to be invited to the Brentford celebrations at the stadium. It was wonderful to experience, to see the joy on everyone knowing they had just achieved what for so long felt impossible. A little over 10 years ago Brentford were in League Two facing Barnet, Macclesfield, Aldershot, Notts County, Chester, Darlington, Dagenham & Redbridge – not one of them are in the Football League anymore. 

That could have been us had it not been for Bees United and Matthew Benham. There will never be enough words to say a big thanks to those important game changers for the club. But, going from those days at Moss Rose and Meadow Lane to Anfield and the Emirates is still incomprehensible. We’ve lived in a bubble of hope for so long and although we will fondly refer to us as “a bus stop in Hounslow” and there will be some that think it’s wrong a club like ours should be in the Premier League (Really Terry Christian?!), we are going to have to get used to it as we can no longer say “it’s Brentford innit”, instead it’s “we are Premier League, say we are Premier League.” 

Hopes, dreams and shocks – FA Cup still delivers. Plus fourth round ball details.

11 Jan

7pm, Monday night. The draw for the FA Cup fourth round takes place. And the fifth. Brentford are in it following Saturday evening’s impressive showing from our youngsters. So are Chorley after their own fine win over (not Wayne Rooney’s) Derby County on Saturday lunchtime. It was a result which set the tone for the weekend. Leeds United fell apart. Again. Blackpool despatched an abject West Bromwich Albion. In an even bigger shock, Sheffield United won a match. There would be no further slip ups from the big boys with Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea and Spurs amongst those into the bag of balls. Cripes, even Arsenal got through.

A velvet bag awaits…

So, when is it? 7(seven)pm is the designated hour. You can follow the action on the FA Player or on BBC2. Thankfully, for once, we’re not obligated to watch The One Show as the draw has its own specialist programme presented by Mark Chapman (not that one) rather than segued between features on hedgehog hibernation and ten things Gyles Brandreth does to alleviate Lockdown boredom.

BT sport also have an extensive programme that features the final chance of an upset when Stockport County host West Ham. Who doesn’t love a cup shock and I think the Hammers have enough about them to pull one off.  Worth watching if for no other reason than than Brentford loanee Said Benrahma likely to be give a rare start.

As for the balls themselves, Brentford are number 24 (out of 32). Liverpool are 23 and Manchester City 25. We’re very much the meat in a top flight sandwich that nobody will be wanting to take a bite out of. Both teams we’ve faced in this competition before, as are Chelsea – ball 27. Our league cup conquerors, Spurs, are number 4.

The quintessential Brentford FA Cup image

The Marine – Tottenham was huge enjoyable for the neutral (of which there can’t have been many outside of Seven Sisters) , at least until the second goal went in. That said, the non-leaguers still lasted longer against Jose Mourinho’s outfit before going a goal down whilst almost had the temerity to take the least themsevels. With the eyes of the world (and several supporters sitting aside garden sheds watching) Joe Hart’s blushes were only saved by the woodwork with the scores still level. And that…well it would have been dreamland for Marine. 

But we’ve been there and done that. For me (Clive) the chance to see how the current generation fair at Anfield would be the ideal scenario. Even if we are stuck watching it on TV. Instead, it’ll probably end up being away to Nottingham Forest.

We played at Livepool back in 88/89. There was no quarter-final upset

The fourth round draw is immediately followed by that for the fifth. Ball numbers will be generated at that point. Go figure. However, the numbers for the next round are as follows:

1) Plymouth Argyle

2) Southampton / Shrewsbury Town

3) Chorley

4) Spurs

5) Wolverhampton Wanderers

6) Stockport County / West Ham

7 (seven) AFC Bournemouth

8) Manchester United

9) Swansea City

10) Everton 

11) Nottingham Forest

12) Arsenal

13) Barnsley 

14) Sheffield United

15) Millwall

16) Doncaster Rovers

17) Leicester City

18) Wycombe Wanderers

19) Crawley Town

20) Burnley

21) Bristol City

22) FulhamL

23) Liverpool

24) Brentford

25) Manchester City

26) Luton Town

27) Chelsea

28) Sheffield Wednesday

29) Norwich City 

30) Blackpool

31) Brighton & Hove Albion

32) Cheltenham Town

The third round was one of the best yet. For once, the presence of television and the spreading out of the fixtures something to be thankful for. Traditionalists (myself included) have argued for years that the dilution of the games – spreading over four of five days – has been killing the magic. Yet with supporters of all clubs confined to barracks at present, this is exactly what we needed to make a bad situation slightly more bearable. Game after game after game. Upset following upset. 

Let’s see if West Ham can pull off another one this evening. After the draw, of course. Here’s hoping for a big name. And also the prospect of a Crawley – Chorley…..

Could it be Chelsea again?

Nick Bruzon

Could it be a case of advantage Fulham?

12 Mar

This all looks pretty fatal on the football front. Are Brentford and the rest about to be dealt a hammer blow? The confirmed positive test for Coronavirus of Olympiakos and Nottingham Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis had already thrown the Championship, and beyond, into doubt. Whilst large crowds were still able to see Liverpool and Spurs exit the Champions League this week, last night’s  game between Manchester City and Arsenal (who were recently beaten by The Greeks in the Europa league) had already been postponed and the number of games being played behind closed doors is accelerating across Europe. Whilst there is no word as yet given our huge game at Fulham tomorrow (not to mention the visit of West Brom to Griffin Park on Tuesday) could a tipping point be imminent ?

The Nottingham Forest players and staff have all been tested with results coming back negative. Even allowing for that good news, things suddenly feel very close to home. With public gatherings such as St. Patrick’s Day parades and schools being cancelled globally, surely it can only be a matter of time before we follow our friends in Europe and the shutters start to come down? What could that mean for Brentford? 

Forest getting the ‘all clear’ at least means that for now everybody is operating on a ‘level’ playing field. Will it be BAU and a full house for Brentford at Craven Cottage (the three sides of it that are open) on Friday? Will games start to go ahead to the sound of piped crowd noise and empty seats? This, something we witnessed on Tuesday in the Champion’s league game between Valencia and Atalanta. It was a surreal experience although still infinitely better than watching Tottenham capitulate. Not that having that famous Anfield ‘12th man’ helped Liverpool, either.  

The ‘closed doors’ option is not a route that I hope we are forced down. If for no other reason it will give Fulham a huge advantage  – playing in empty stadiums devoid of atmosphere something they are used to week in, week out.

Jota onside v Fulham

Could Brentford be faced with similar on Friday? (The 2-2 from a few seasons back)

At worst, players will start to be taken ill at some point and then we have that most terrifying of situations – the EFL forced to make a decision. That, something they struggle with at the best of times, let alone when the situation warrants serious action. Are games forfeited? Put on hold? The season potentially wiped or stopped dead in it’s tracks? Sides forced to put out a starting XI of healthy players, regardless as to whether they come from the heart of the first team squad or the depths of the reserves. These, all options I’ve heard touted and just any one of a number of options that may or may not come in to play at some point.

There are no answers here. Mainly because nobody knows what will happen. Martin Hardy in The Times reports this morning that actions to force all football matches in England to be played behind closed doors could be triggered as early as today. They suggest that there will be additional measures put in place to allow fans to still watch as much as possible over the internet and TV but clearly this will be an ersatz, if necessary, experience. You can read that piece, here.

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That headline from The Times…

I submitted my programme article for Tuesday’s game between The Bees and West Brom earlier. I don’t know if that will even be published or read. I hope it is and not for any egotistical reasons – it’s the usual nonsense with obligatory reference to the godawful Mrs. Browns Boys – but more because it means we are still in a BAU scenario. This may all start to settle soon, now that people are washing their hands (seriously, they weren’t before?) and have ample supplies of both dried pasta and toilet roll. Or things may get messier for the foreseeable (the U.S. now imposing a European travel ban for 30 days). Whatever happens, at best I suspect we’ll see the season run well beyond it’s scheduled finish in an attempt to wrap things up as smoothly as possible.

That’s the sporting side. Underpinning all of this is a very real human cost. People are being taken ill. Nobody wants that, to see cases accelerated or the situation worsening any more. Let’s not forget about those who are dying in all of this. Sport will always very much play second fiddle to a genuine medical crisis. When we hit that point, if not already, remains to be seen. From a sporting perspective, the next few days could very much impact how the rest of our season is going to play out.   

Until then, it’s Fulham on Friday. Our paltry allocation of 1700 fans sure to make themselves heard above the coughing and clappers. Here’s hoping we are still able to go ahead as normal.

Whatever normal is these days.

Fulham flare

Will our fans be allowed in?

Nick Bruzon

Penalty? This is football, not Frozen.

30 Jan

Big love and huge thanks to all at Nottingham Forest. The reaction to the column on their victory at Brentford on Tuesday night was top draw. The jist of the piece being that the ref had a stinker, Brice Samba wasted a LOT of time and started it early, that Forest played to a plan and, ultimately, were both quicker and stronger than us when it counted in a game of very few chances. They got a goal. We didn’t. They won the game. Well done. Well done everyone. They deserved it. That’s how football works

Yet the ‘not mentioning’ of a penalty that wasn’t given after Lewis Grabban fell over in the box during the second half was what has provoked an outburst of self-righteousness that I’ve not seen in a long, long time. Yes, in reaction to my piece but also on social media in general. My word, get over it. And then just when you thought they had, up popped another one. Let it go. This is football, not Frozen. I’ve not seen a saltier reaction from a bunch of supporters since Birmingham City were thumped 5-0 after Harlee Dean and his infamous 10 times better comments. 

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Nottingham, yesterday

Here’s the thing. If Forest fans are, for some reason, so desperate for me to include an opinion on a non-incident in a game that they won then I’m happy to give it. Gut reaction in the stadium was in line with them. The usual comments were made in such a situation, “Move along, nothing to see here”. Honestly, I thought we’d dodged a potential bullet. But then no surprise given the ‘performance’ of referee Tim Robinson who was the only person letting just about everything go. Including the ongoing time wasting. 

Yet on reflection, and having seen the challenge once more from the more relaxed confines of the sofa once I’d got home, revised opinion is that this was 50/50. At best. Sure, the players touched but this is football. A physical game. Something the visitors were so keen to demonstrate for huge swathes. Grabban goes down but there’s certainly no shove or trip. It wasn’t penalty but just another non-incident in a game that was an insomniacs wet dream. A turgid flat pancake of a performance that needs to be consigned to the dustbin of history and which Thomas Frank will have to use as a learning curve in order to get Brentford back to their best. The opposition didn’t sit back and roll over ; we had no answer to their advance. That’s a fact. 

Of course Forest fans think it was a penalty. It was a 50/50 so you will only lean towards your own team in that situation. But it wasn’t. Sadly for them.  If anything, and don’t cry, should Robinson have deemed it to be a non-penalty then really Grabban should have been booked for simulation. That’s not me being a bitch but the rules of the game. That’s also a fact.

The Ironic thing was that I actually used my programme column to big up Nottingham Forest and their supporters. Genuinely, I’ve a lot of love for the club. Very much one that those of us over a certain age grew up watching and who dominated early 80s football. The exact words used being, “Yet all of this achieved without the sense of entitlement shared by the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal supporters. With a level of modesty so missing from those watching their respective ‘miracle ofs..’ from the Anfield Kop.

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From Tuesday’s programme column

Hmm. I stand corrected. Certainly based on the post match whining and moaning all over social media. Honestly, I don’t care and don’t mind. It’s football and of course fans have an opinion. Of course supporters will see the good in their team and turn a blind eye to the other stuff. Frankly, it gave an additional nudge to visitors on the blog site (Perhaps the hit-seekers at sites such as Football League World need to follow suit rather than write another ‘Three things you do/don’t need to know about three players who will/won’t be a big addition to your club’ piece). So big thanks there.

It just got me thinking of what they’d have been like had something gone against them. Had they even lost the game. But they didn’t. And you know what, I hope Forest do keep this up. Their winning ways and style, that is. With games against West Brom and Leeds United coming up, they could be just what we need to soften up our divisional rivals. If nothing else, and the play-offs looking like potential options for both teams, who knows how valuable both this and their similarly achieved 1-0 win at The City Ground back in October may prove to be in the long run.

That is, assuming Leeds don’t fall apart. Again.

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October’s game was just as rigid

Nick Bruzon

 

Oh my word. We’ve only gone and done it. This is fantastic.

8 May

Amazing. Incredible. Unbelievable. We have witnessed history in the making. It would be no exaggeration to describe this moment as epochal. As Sir Alex Fergie ‘Ferguson’ said when Manchester United won the 1999 Champions League final in those most dramatic of circumstances, “Football, bloody hell.” Yet that’s how things feel this morning…. Brentford have only gone and done it. We’ve named Umbro as our new technical sponsor. This is magnificent. One has to feel for Liverpool supporters whom, having enjoyed their own moment against Barcelona last night, now find themselves sliding down football’s pecking order of intrigue. Albeit we will get there in a moment but, of course, can only start with this morning’s breaking story from Griffin Park (and we don’t mean the rumoured appointment of Mark Warburton at QPR).

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My inner kit-nerd is cock-a-hoop at the news Brentford have appointed Umbro next season. Names don’t get any more iconic than theirs with the manufacturer, who celebrate their 95th birthday this month, producing some bona-fide classics over the years. What this means for The Bees, at least in terms of design, we have no idea from the short video which has been released this morning. Kitman Bob’s clues have hinted at a possible three shirts this season, with the away colours being one of brown, black/yellow or gold/white. Then again, he could have been throwing out Matthew Benham style clues and so we’ll have to wait until the big reveal – hopefully next month – to see the full reveal.

That said, sniffing around the internet at some of the templates / designs already announced for next season, I am excited. The Gremio (Brazil) ‘away’ in our home colours would be incredible. I’m not normally a fan of collars but have to admit this is a wonderful design. Moreso if black trim were to be incorporated. Looking at the Bournemouth shirt, the great news in their Umbro design being the addition of stripes to the reverse. Something sure to appease traditionalists saddened by the wholesale decision from Adidas to pull those from their entire range last time out.

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Umbro’s designs for 2019 offer excitement

The Gremio effort has had my, somewhat shonky, creative juices flowing. A rapid play around with photoshop to see what their design would look like in our colours produced some interesting results. Specifically for those who have been here slightly longer as it produces a potential kit very much reminiscent of our 2000-02 effort. Could this be what Bob meant by “New vibes and old skool” ? Or are we miles off the pace?

With apologies in advance for the poor quality, this is what comes around after a bit of mouse play and tweaking of the colours. Adding LeoVegas a step too far at this short notice, but you get the general idea. I hope. Whether this is anywhere near the mark remains to be seen, of course. I have no inside knowledge whatsoever on this one and so it is pure guesswork. Yet…you have to start somewhere on the speculation. So why not here?  

brentford concept art.jpg

Could this be it? Sponsor aside. Gremio become Brentford

Next up, Liverpool. Even the most curmudgeonly amongst us has to admit that was quite exciting last night. Turning around a 3-0 deficit whilst shorn of some world class talent was nothing short of spectacular. Barcelona very much second to everything and playing the stereotypical hare to the Anfield tortoise.

That said, sometimes even tortoises can come out with smiles on their faces and this game  was very much the quintessential example. One can only be thankful it was on BT Sport so we were spared the sights and sounds of Jamie Carragher’s verbal ejaculation of his team’s performance.

However incredible the victory was, it did raise a few questions. Has this out-miracled the Miracle of Istanbul? Have Liverpool shot their bolt early, leaving Ajax to clean up in the final? Do we need to update our Anfield bingo cards to factor in the Barcelona game and, if so, what specific squares should be added?  

Liverpool bingo

Updates now needed. But which?

Say what you want about last night, exciting though it was (and it was), this still came second to possibly the greatest comeback of all time. Brentford at Burton Albion back in 2017. 3-1 down after the half became 5-3 to The Bees just 45 minutes later. We didn’t need 90 minutes to pull this one out the fire.

Barcelona are good, sure, but Burton Albion on a cold afternoon is another challenge altogether.  And I bet you Divock Origi didn’t get the train home with supporters like Sergi Canos did afterwards.     

Billy and Sergi. The afternoon's excitement continues

Sergi gets the train home after THE comeback

Next up, Mark Warburton. It looks like things are happening at the other end of the 237 bus route. Word on the street being that he has already been appointed and it is merely a case of waiting for the ink to dry before he is officially named as the new manager of… QPR.

Oh my word. Are you serious? If this is the case, then firstly I’ll offer him good luck on taking over at the definition of a crisis club. No money. No players. Any talent they do have is sure to leave over the summer. Closer to home though, there’s the small matter of his history at Griffin Park. Martin Rowlands has become infamous for what he did whilst Jake Bidwell has become something of a joke figure. As much for being skinned alive time and again as the awful #JakeJoins Twitter campaign when he signed.

We all know what Warbs did. For that, every Brentford fan is eternally grateful. His return with Nottingham Forest (fashion choice aside, where he ended up looking like an extra from TV’s The Brittas Empire) was a cordial and respectful one. Should the news be confirmed today, I’d expect next time around to be very different indeed.

Brittas Warbs

Mark Warburton – won at football but lost at fashion.

And I can’t wait….

Finally, Brentford released the names of those players who will not be offered a new contract when their current deals expire at the end of June. The news about Yoann Barbet, no matter how sad for the fans, was expected after being confirmed by both Thomas Frank and the player himself. Likewise, we say goodbye to Jack Bonham, Lewis Macleod and Josh McEachran. These were hardly unexpected yet the one real surprise was the decision not to take up the option on Moses Odubajo.  Fans seemed genuinely shocked at this and moreso given some of his performances since rejoining the club last season.

Yet the presence of Henrik Dalsgaard, (theoretically) Josh Clarke and the burgeoning relationship between Sergi Canos in the wing back role mean this was , perhaps, inevitable. No matter how much of a shock on the surface. Let’s not forget, either, that the door can swing both ways. On a personal note I’m sad to see Moses and Yoann leave. No question. Yet, as was noted yesterday, the moment to start really trusting our Directors of Football happened a long time ago. No matter how strange some decision may seem up front, wider long-term context is what this club is all about. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are more to follow but I’d also bet my life on new faces turning up over the summer.

If nothing else, Mr. Benham has started dropping clues again….

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