Tag Archives: Anfield

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.

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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.

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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?  

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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.     

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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.

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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

Brentford remember and Liverpool celebrate (although not all of us join in).

3 May
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Billy (the fish)

Football, eh? Few could deny that last night’s Champions League semi was nothing short of the comic book capers normally found in the likes of Roy of the Rovers or Billy The Fish (is that still a thing)? Every ‘Liverpool in Europe’ bingo cliché was played out as they edged past Roma by the odd goal in 13 to reach the final where they’ll play Real Madrid. There was angst in our house as that one took place (more to come) but, as ever, we can only start with Brentford.

The Premier League dream may be over for this season at Griffin Park but that’s not to say it hasn’t been a busy last few days At least, on social media where there have been a couple of quite significant Brentford reflated anniversaries remembered by the club. And one that hasn’t.

Whilst Liverpool were doing their thing yesterday, in TW8 it was cause for a different kind of celebration. 26 years since Gary Blissett scored that goal at Peterborough. 26 years since Saint and Greavsie were left with huge amounts of ‘egg on face’ after having to retract their premature crowning of Birmingham City as League Champions. I still smile a that one, even now. 26 years since Robbie from Eastenders appeared on the celebration videos. Nice one, Wellard – a better effort than Cameron Diaz.

What a day for Brentford fans. What a night. What a celebration. What a goal from Bliss. The man. The legend. The match highlights appeared yesterday and still seem so fresh – mainly because I think I must have watched them more times than The Spy Who Loved Me (and that’s saying something) over the ensuing years.

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Almost up there with Peterborough

Our more recent generation of fans have, of course, been spoiled by nothing except good times over the last few years. Good luck to them – they’ve got on board the Brentford express at the right station. Yet, at the same time, to be part of a moment such as this when we were, typically, mid table plodders, was nothing short of wonderful. It really was a special moment to have finally achieved that elevation to a higher division.

These days, playing the likes of Leeds united, Wolves, Aston Villa and Birmingham City is the norm (although maybe not next season if things go to plan on Sunday). Back then, to have the opportunity of doing so was a rare and exciting chance. Whilst we won’t talk about what happened next, let’s not deny that getting there was about as good as it gets. Sheer bliss !

The other anniversary was something that fan engagement manager Ryan Murrant tweeted about. Not surprisingly, given a previous role at Doncaster Rovers. Five years ago it happened.. and not in a good way. 

Something, something, something, penalty. If only the media had mentioned this at the time or showed it since.

I’ve seen that crossbar rattler many, many times since – on each occasion thinking that, this time surely, Marcello Trotta would score. This time, perhaps, Kev would manage to hang on to the ball. Yet what I hadn’t noticed previously was the ‘official’ tweet from Doncaster – a team currently residing in the ‘where are they now’ files.

Talk about low key. Not milking the moment. Thanks for sharing that, Ryan. Genuinely. Fair to say that Brentford have had the last laugh.

Yet with all the talk being about Brentford and Doncaster, it seems that people are missing the bigger picture here. Aswell as being five years since that penalty, it was also five years since that awful appearance on Soccer AM. Awful at least in the sense of the Bees supporters, guests on that day’s programme, failing to put away even one effort in the end of show shoot out. A devastatingly bad score of nil points.

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Soccer AM. Even HB made a first, off screen, appearance

I can say this with a clean conscience. Regular readers of these pages (should such a concept exist) may well be familiar with the fact that yours truly was also one of the participants. That each of my own efforts was preceded by stacking it into fellow fan JJ – he of the goal inducing dodgy bladder (whenever he goes to the ablutions block mid-game, Brentford score). That we managed the lowest score of any club that season. Possibly ever. Unless somebody has managed minus points.

It was awful. Humiliating. Typical. Not even Natalie Sawyer could save us. Yet, thanks to another penalty, the memory of that day has become a more abiding one. One we can now look back on that bit easier. Not much, but a bit. Besides, long term it would be fair to say that everything has worked out ok.

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Even Natalie had a go

 

Ok, Liverpool in Europe. First and foremost, congratulations. What a night for the neutral. What a night for the fans in Rome and back home at Anfield. It was captivating viewing as an early, seemingly insurmountable, four goal aggregate lead for the Reds was slowly reeled in until they emerged triumphant by the odd goal in 13. Real Madrid await in a final that is sure to be equally captivating.

But following this one at home, there was all sorts of confusion. And, for once, not Glenn Hoddle on BT Sport.

3-7(agg) proclaimed the score. What??  No!! This must be some sort of typo. Don’t get brackets wrong. Granted, it may have been a bit more awkward but shouldn’t this have read:  3-7(seven) (agg) ?

When Radja Nainggolan scored his late penalty to make it 6-7(agg) (sic) I was close to self-combustion. One more goal for Roma and I wouldn’t have been responsible for my actions.

7(seven) – 7(seven) (agg) would have been a scoreline to rival the infamous Forfar 5 East Fife 4  – something that I believe may be an urban legend, although as somebody much wiser than me once opined, “Never ruin a good story with the facts”.

In the end, it wasn’t to be. Instead, simply a case of wishing Liverpool the best of luck in the final. It promises to be a cracker. And, likewise, leaves a few weeks to update that bingo card.

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An update for the final awaits: 1981, Real Madrid, 13

Nick Bruzon

 

Tonight is huge (again)….but not necessarily at Anfield.

24 Apr

Something, something, something, royal baby. Blah, blah, blah, Liverpool getting a semi. Those glory, glory European Anfield nights. Some perspective people, please. There are much more important matters afoot. Hey, Brentford aren’t even playing tonight and will have to be content with gorging on the memory of Saturday’s derby day victory over QPR combined with looking forward to the weekend trip to Barnsley. Yet if ever there was a case of ‘other results’ being of critical importance to The Bees then Tuesday night is that time as Derby County host Cardiff City and Nottingham Forest are home to Barnsley.

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Sergi and Romaine amongst the architects of QPR’s doom on Saturday

We all know the current position in the Championship table. Middlesbrough in fifth, are on 72 points. That’s four ahead of Brentford and the aforementioned Rams on 68. Yet sixth placed Millwall have 69. I’m no Stephen Fry but even yours truly has sufficient mental acumen to know that’s a gap of one point. One. Point. With two games left to reel it in.

Yet, as ever, there is a potential fly in the ointment. Derby County do have that game in hand. And they play it tonight. Against Cardiff City. Victory will stretch the gap to an, albeit still catchable, three points. Cardiff, on the flip side, know that a win will give them a monumental advantage in the race with Fulham for an automatic promotion slot. Success will see them four points clear in second place with just two games to go.

This is huge. You couldn’t make up a game of this consequence. West London will be split down the middle tonight with Brentford no doubt hoping for a Cardiff win whilst Fulham fans will be mildly waving their clappers in support of Derby. Even QPR supporters will be praying for…. actually, they won’t as they’re long dead in the water.

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Cardiff win tonight and I’ll even forgive them the hashtags

But if this one has impact on Brentford, then our attention is going to be split on two fronts. There’s also the game at Nottingham Forest where defeat for Barnsley will massively increase their chances of relegation. A win will see them leapfrog fourth bottom Bolton Wanderers and have the added benefit of dragging Birmingham City back into things. The Blues own safety net of five points will be a lot squeakier if that becomes three, once the remaining games level out.

Honestly, I’m not sure which result will be best for us here. No doubt Dean Smith would tell Brentford fans just to worry about ourselves. Yet with The Bees going to Oakwell on Saturday, do we want them with destiny back in their own hands and safer, or with that potentially demoralising punch to the gut having been administered by Nottingham Forest? In themselves, a team who have won just a single game out of the last nine, losing the other eight and managing just three goals in the process.

Is it better for us to go into Saturday’s game with Barnsley’s safety all but a mathematical miracle, potentially even hoping that Birmingham City could administer a mid-afternoon psychological blow to our opponents? Or is being the architects of their own survival a better option? Something that would then also see us in the utterly distasteful position of hoping for QPR success on Saturday, with the Blues heading to Loftus Road.

Sadly, having seen the ineptitude of the hapless hoops on Saturday I now have to declare Birmingham City safe. That hurts. But all good things come to an end. Bolton travel to fellow relegation candidates Burton on Saturday and then host goal shy Forest as the season reaches an intriguing denouement. I’m not even going to get close to calling those.

Instead, it really is a case of whatever happens tonight at the City Ground happens. Any result is both good and bad for us. It WILL have an impact but only Saturday at 3pm will tell what that is. Instead, the game of absolute importance will be the one at Pride Park.

I remember back in 1995/96, listening to BBC Radio 5 ( I think, sure the sport had moved on from Radio 2 by then) and Birmingham City v Bradford. It was the season that only one side went up and the Blues only needed two points to guarantee the league title from second placed Brentford. Their 0-0 with Bradford City was one of the most painful bits of self-inflicted torture I’ve ever sat through.  It was rewarded, briefly, the following weekend as The Bees were doing the needful at Bristol Rovers whilst Huddersfield Town took the lead against City. Sadly, results didn’t hold and we ended up in the play-offs. What I wouldn’t pay for that conclusion this time around…

So choose what you do tonight carefully. That Liverpool – Roma Champions League tie is, undoubtedly, a huge occasion. The Reds have a magnificent record in Europe that we can’t get close to. Yet. And if nothing else, the chance to play ‘Liverpool in Europe’ bingo is always a wonderful one.

But for me (Clive) it’ll a case of eschewing Anfield and BT Sport where, whatever happens, it will only be half time. At full time.  Instead, I’ll be glued to Sky Sports and the game from Derby. The prize at the end of that one could be of infinitely more importance in this little corner of West London…

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Liverpool bingo – celebrating both history and cliche

Nick Bruzon

Six of the best and who knows what could happen…

7 Apr

Match day. Saturday. Apparently. With the games coming thick and fast for Brentford after a hectic Easter weekend it’s hard to tell where we are at times. Yet following that four day flurry which saw the draw with Sheffield United followed by our wonderful win on the road at Bristol City, today Ipswich Town are the visitors to Griffin Park. Could we take inspiration from Liverpool to make the seemingly impossible, possible?

Ipswich Town. A club who have a deserved place in the footballing record books. A club with whom even just for Brentford, there seems to have been more than a crossing of paths in recent seasons. Of course, ‘official’ have picked the 2-2 that welcomed in the mercifully brief Marinus era for their ‘moment in time’ on the club website today.

Bru Ipswich Brentford

Bru celebrated (too soon) as Ipswich opened the Marinus era.

That one being a game which featured the return of a club legend in the eyes of many supporters, Jonathan Douglas. His only meaningful contribution being to break Jota as late goals from Andre Gray and number 26 salvaged a situation that seemed well beyond redemption with the score line reading 2-0 to the visitors and just moments on the clock. The post match handbags between the players masking the true extent of the Spaniard’s injury.

Douglas hits jota post Ipswich

Bees Player viewers saw Dougie appear to give Jota a ‘flamboyant slap’ at FT

You could also cite the game at Portman Road the previous season. Not so much the 1-1 score line, in which Dougie proved hero rather than villain this time around, but more for Daryl Murphy missing an open goal that even Ian Moose would have fancied himself to score. BBC Radio Suffolk matchday pundit Mick Mills would later describe it as: “Breathtaking. It will go into the top ten all time misses. If you can find ten worse ones I’d like to see them.”

Hey. Everybody’s a critic. We’re all master tacticians and 40 goal a season strikers when watching from the comfort of the terrace, tv or gantry. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time a commentator got something wrong and you can’t knock Murphy’s fine, fine record at Ipswich. That said, I’m still amazed at how he failed to find the back of the net.

Murphy miss FLS Ipswich

And Murphy must score. Erm….

Yet for me (Clive), the quintessential coming together took place on Boxing Day of 2014. With Mark Warburton’s Brentford team riding the crest of the #NovemberKings wave (it doesn’t get any easier typing those words), Ipswich visited Griffin Park for a battle between the teams placed 2nd and 3rd in the Championship. With our game kicking off at lunchtime, whoever won would be guaranteed to top the table, even if just for a few hours.

The prospect of Brentford reaching these dizzy heights was one which was not lost on us. The December 26th game is always a special one anyway. The chance to shake off any excesses of the day before, escape the in-laws for a few hours whilst catching up with your friends and football family. The thought of what three points might bring made this one even more tantalising.

Nineteen seconds after kick off, that man Murphy took the wind out of our sails with an opening goal that was made all the more incredible by Brentford having actually had the ball to start the game. Not only was it under our control but we conspired to give it away and gift our visitors a belated Christmas present that was gratefully accepted.

Things got worse. With less than half an hour on the clock we’d had our fourth attempt to perfect that kick-off routine as the score leapt to 0-3. Despite a late brace from Sam Saunders we were never in this one and his pair only served to dress up a 4-2 scoreline in what was as one sided a game as I’ve seen in a while.

That was then. This is now. Brentford have six games to go to reel in a five point gap on the play off places. It’s a huge ask, for sure, but with the finish line in sight then what better time to line ourselves up for one final push. I’ll be honest, for huge parts of this season it is a push that I wouldn’t have bet on us being in a position to make. Yet, somehow, Dean Smith and his boys have kept at it. The results have kept coming and some have even worked in our favour.

Monday’s defeat of Bristol City was as dominant as they come, with Neal Maupay’s goal sealing the points that our domination had warranted. It was a performance that brings us bang up to date and in with a shout if the Bees can hold their nerve. Moreso, it was a game that marked Alan Judge’s first start for The Bees since the horrific leg break he suffered as a result of the assault by Luke Hyam at Portman Road back in April 2016. To go from the verge of the Euros to that long recovery must have been incredibly hard to take.

Full kudos to Alan and the Brentford back room team. Whether he starts this one remains to be seen but a Brentford team with Alan Judge in the side are a stronger outfit than one without him.

I really can’t wait to see how it plays out. Anybody watching the Liverpool – Manchester City game in the Champions League during the week will have seen what a difference it makes playing in a passionate arena. What an impact it can have on opposition who are streets ahead in terms of financial clout and league position. That’s not so much to compare Ipswich to Manchester City but more to show the impact a united crowd can have. It was something truly special to witness. For all the awfulness of having to play ‘Liverpool Glory, Glory Anfield European nights’ bingo, the Kop really were like a 12th man (house!).

The Ealing Road stand may not have the same depth as that most iconic seat of football Valhalla. However, size isn’t everything and what we lack in stature we can more than make up for in noise. Here’s hoping that come 3pm, our fans come together to raise the roof. With ‘other results’ going our way and the players doing their thing, imagine what it will be like should that five point gap shrink any further?

Bring it on…..

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Last time, at Griffin Park

Nick Bruzon

This is the big one (for Wagner). And a special ‘thank you’ for Bees fans.

29 May

This is it. Today’s the day Brentford discover their final Championship opponent for next season. The play-off final sees Huddersfield Town and Reading doing battle in the, so-called, £100million match. Certainly, that’s the figure usually quoted in TV revenue for the team fortunate enough to come out on top in the choke off (there’s no other word for it) to reach the Premier League. That said, reading an article in The Independent last week, they are quoting it being as much as £170m rising to £290m. That’s just incredible.

For the winner . Riches and acclaim. Then the chance to see if they’ll emulate the likes of Watford, Bournemouth or Burnley in survival rather than Hull City and Middlesbrough with an immediate return. For the loser there’ll be tears, ‘if onlys’, the chance to come back Griffin Park (see – its not all bad) and inevitable comparisons to Derby County.

As a neutral, I love watching the play-offs. Moreso, this match. The FA Cup on Saturday was fantastic. Much as it loathes me to say it, Arsenal fully deserved their victory as Premier league Champions Chelsea were swept away. Victor Moses performing the worst dive since Greg Louganis cracked his head on the board during the 1988 Olympics pretty much summed up their effort.

Yet talking to a friend in The Griffin (other pubs are available) during the game, the conversation turned to the relevance of that tournament. It is the world’s oldest cup competition and, as a Brentford fan, I’d simply love us to do well. To embark on an epic cup run. To perhaps emulate that wonderful run of 88/89 or even go one better. To take a tinfoil cup to Wembley itself.

Liverpool v Brentford 2

The Bees haven’t reached an FA Cup quarter final since Liverpool in 88/89

But for other teams, certainly at the business end of the top flight, it is treated largely as an afterthought throughout most of the campaign. Weakened teams are fielded in what has become more of a nice to win than a need to win. Qualification for the Champions league, and the riches/prestige that come with that, is very much viewed as the ‘must have’ prize by many.

Did Spurs have a better season by finishing second in the Premier league and reaching that European tournament? Or could Arsenal, who played like they really wanted it, be argued to have been the more successful through getting their name on a trophy but missing out on the big one in Europe? The romantic in me says it is the FA Cup. The realist in me knows just what the Champions league can bring in terms of revenue and reputation to those clubs whose financial model and being able to compete absolutely rely on repeat qualification.

As it stands, Brentford are yet to make an FA Cup final (I’m not counting the War cup) or reach the play-off for the Premier League. That said, we gave it quite a go in 2014/15 when Middlesbrough were all that stood between us and a trip to Wembley for a crack at the top flight. Move along. Nothing to see here beyond another notch in the bedpost marked ‘challenging record’ after 8 attempts made.

Yet I’ll absolutely be glued to the screen this afternoon when Huddersfield and Reading walk out. This is no ‘nice to have’ match. This is all about the pressure and the reward that comes with victory. Everybody knows what is at stake. It is a game that combines the prestige of winning the FA Cup with the finances that come with making the Champions’ league.  There’ll be a global audience tuned in to this in a battle of who can hold their nerve.

Let’s be honest, nobody could pick a definite winner out of these two. I’m still amazed Reading made it, certainly based on the way Brentford played against them this season. Huddersfield led the table early and did the double over the Bees, yet it was the Royals who came third and despatched a very, very good Fulham team along the way. Much as it pains me to admit.

Instead, we’ll just have to leave this one to the players on the day. Who wants it more? Personally, I’m backing David Wagner’s team. And for no more illogical reason than the oft made reference on these pages to him and that one time X-Factor singer, err, Wagner.

Well, it seems that now worlds have actually collided. And how!! I’m not sure if this is car crash or sheer brilliance. Enjoy…

And finally.. a HUGE thank you to call those who have already downloaded this year’s e-book: Welcome Home, King Jota (Brentford FC season review 2016/17)

Priced at just £1.99, all funds from this one (and the previous titles) are being given to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust.

Containing the least bad of the blogs from May 16 to May 17 you can pick it up, here. Along with all the usual Brentford stuff, we look at how the Championship season played out as teams came and went aswell as the ‘other stuff’ (fans of Mrs. Brown and her boys should probably look away now).

Hearing Yoann Barbet and Lasse Vibe speak at the player of the year dinner after sharing the Community player of the year award for the work they do with the Trust was truly inspirational. We all know how wonderful our club is and so, from a personal note, I’d love to make some gesture back – no matter how small.

Downloading any of the titles is now for a great cause. Hey, you may even enjoy reading. Funnier things have happened.

THANK YOU

This is it - the latest version now available. For a great casue

The latest version now available – for a great cause
Nick Bruzon

Is this an FA Cup plum tie or potato skin? Could ‘you know who’ return?

6 Dec

The FA cup third round draw has happened. With Brentford fans hoping for the likes of a Manchester United or a Chelsea, we have been drawn at home to a non-league team with the winners of the replay between Halifax Town and Eastleigh due to visit in January. The later, of course, now managed by Martin Allen who will no doubt be chomping at the bit for a return to the place where he is still considered a hero to many. Bees supporters will no doubt be chomping at the bit just for a chance to progress. Aside from our current form (filed in the ‘where are they now’ drawer), our previous efforts starting at this stage have all seen us at home and all seen us dumped out. Grimsby Town, Brighton and Walsall delivering the respective killer blows. Prior to that, we’re going back to the 30s and 40s,

The third round draw is one of football’s most exciting moments. That point where any permutation of random pairings is possible. Would it be a Premier League club at home? Might we embark on a journey to one of those famous stadia such as Old Trafford or Anfield? Do we face a road trip to a lower division team – the sort produced in the Preston v Arsenal, Leeds v Cambridge or Bolton v Crystal Palace ties?

Instead, we have none of that. We’re at home, which is nice from the comfort factor, but with a tie that is less a plum and more a potato skin of the highest order. On paper, the divisional gap should be far too great. Brentford will be odds on favourites to progress whilst the visitors, whoever they are, will have nothing to lose. Yet we all know that isn’t how football works.

With Dean Smith’s team on a less than favourable run (I swear if he says the word ‘blip’ once more I won’t be responsible for my actions) this could be a season defining game. It is now there on the calendar as a point where we can look, once more, to make some progress in this oldest of Cup competitions.

Will Dean repeat the mistakes he made last season in the horror show at home to his former club Walsall? If ever there was a game to win it was that one yet the Bees were outclassed by a team who were clearly up for it and with a point to prove. It was an afternoon that I never want to experience again, moreso when you chuck into the mix all that nonsense with FCM at half time. Random laps of honour rarely work (see also: the unveiling of the smudge shirt – and if ANYBODY even has a picture of that, please get in touch….) but this one was utter madness and the ultimate kick in the nuts for those loyal supporters braving the elements.

Tinfoil cup

The FA Cup dream was over after a rubbish afternoon last time out

And that is what worries me. Not the thought of a half time parade, but a repeat of last season’s cup complacency from Brentford (see also: Marinus v Oxford). Whoever we play will be desperate to make a name for themselves and, without being arrogant, we are now an established Championship side, despite our humbler origins. But that doesn’t give an automatic right to progress just because of the gap in the table.

Martin Allen has been there and done it. He masterminded our fourth round defeat of Premier League Sunderland ten years ago whilst was that close to taking the Bees to a quarter final at Manchester United. Southampton eventually, getting the better of us in a fifth round replay. If anybody knows how this works it will be him whilst nobody needs the media circus that his presence will bring.

Hopefully, Dean and the team will have rediscovered our form by then. We’ve got 6 games between now and that one, starting on Saturday with Burton Albion. Hopefully Dean will take it seriously and play a full-strength team with a desire to go out there and win. The cup has a wonderful place in our hearts at Griffin Park and what happened last season, in both competitions, was horrific, embarrassing, shameful etc

Whilst cup success has been an infrequent visitor,  when it comes along it is a wonderful thing. The place is buzzing and the mood, especially in the build up to that next tie, is a wonderful experience. Just look at the Chelsea tie (although it’s nice that we can no longer sing:  ‘Champions of Europe we’re coming for you’  in relation to our West London neighbours).

Saunders territory Chelsea

These are the sort of cup memories I want

Whatever people’s opinions about this one being any form of foregone conclusion, think again. Recent FA Cup ties agasint non-league opposition haven’t been as easy on paper as they were expected to be. 2013 saw the 5-0 defeat of Marcus Gayle and Staines Town in the first round but prior to that we’ve struggled. The 2011 defeat of Basingstoke was by the slenderest of margins – Sam Saunders with a free kick on 7(seven) minutes being the difference between the two teams and,sadly, coming before Kitman Bob and the BBgiveaway were a thing.

But it was that woeful second round loss at Barrow, in front of the TV cameras, back in November 2008 that really sticks out. A chance to square off agasint the big boys was instead flung aside as Andy Scott’s team were dumped out 2-1 and left with ten players on the pitch. Substitute goalkeeper Lloyd Anderson coming on for the red carded Ben Hamer.

Come January, let’s just hope the lessons from history, from last season and most importantly from current form have been learned. If we win, nobody outside TW8 and the losing team will give it any notice. Anything less and they’ll be the sort of headlines Dean Smith won’t want to wake up to.

Look, let’s be positive here. Whoever you play, the chance to go into the fourth round of the FA Cup is something that should produce a buzz of excitement. It should be a pressure free game where we can play of fun and the potential lure of an even bigger carrot as we progress. Whilst I’m aware of the pitfalls, I’m also cautiously optimistic. Surely there’s no way we’ll have a repeat of last season as long as Dean does it right?

See you in 2017. Now, where’s my tinfoil?

Sam Saunders doing his thing back in 2011

Nick Bruzon

What’s not happening at Liverpool is the real story

8 Jul

A few days of domestic calm have been followed by more stories about Brentford now doing the rounds. Jack O’Connell to Sheffield United and Alan McCormack to Southend United are the latest. I have no idea how accurate these are but, for now, we probably need to show the rumour mill a little bit more respect given the success rate that saw that triple transfer swoop and Jake Bidwell’s departure for Loftus Road successfully called. For me though, I have more interest in what is happening at Liverpool. Or, rather, what isn’t happening at Liverpool.

Despite the BBC reporting on Tuesday that the Anfield club have accepted a bid for Sergi Canos from Norwich City, at the time of writing (6am, Friday) there is still now news as to whether he has even had a medical with the Norfolk club.

Likewise Bristol City boss Lee Johnson, who is also courting the Spanish wunderkind, has been forced to admit to the Bristol Post, “It’s a player we’re interested in – that’s no secret” adding… “but a lot of things have got to go on to be able to get that one through.”

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Sergi – oh, to see more of the same

Aside from the lack of basic respect – “he’s a player”, surely the choice of phrase –  does this suggest Sergi is not overly keen on move to the West Country or East Anglia? Could we yet see him back at Brentford, even if on loan? £2.5million is a hefty amount in anybody’s book and something Dean Smith acknowledged as “beyond us” . Yet, given how well he fared last time out, might Liverpool also find it in their longer term interests to allow the player to continue his growth whilst escalating his long term value?

Look, it’s probably just wishful thinking and let’s not forget that Liverpool’s current valuation has been met.  Yet having seen what Sergi did at Griffin Park last season, should he not wish to make either of those moves then I can only live in hope. Moreso, given that other story currently out, via Tim Street in Get West London , about Dean Smith looking to get two more wingers

As for those O’Connell and McCormack stories, nobody could deny centre back and centre midfield are somewhat crowded these days. mores with the return to fitness of Andreas Bjelland. That’s going to be  case of ‘watch this space’ and we can discuss more as/if these gather any pace.

Back at Griffin Park, could we get a shirt update today? Following the announcement out of Brentford ‘official’ on Wednesday, does this now constitute ‘the coming days’…? Or is that just further wishful thinking from yours truly?

Kitman Bob, Mark Devlin, Mr. Benham. Any chance of giving the fans a look ?

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Are we now in ‘The coming days’ ?

Nick Bruzon

And finally…. :   The Last Word ‘season review’ : Ready. Steady. Go Again and the three year anthology : The Bees are going up remain available for download. For all the info, the highs, the lows, more highs (especially about Sergi’s time at Griffin Park) then  you can do so now.

Its been a wonderful three years. Here’s to more of the same over 2016/17. Thanks, as ever, for reading