Tag Archives: Bournemouth

Piers Morgan v Wellard. Floyd v The Bluetones. Me v my driving instructor.

13 Aug

What links Piers Morgan and Osama Bin Laden? Hmm. How about Fidel Castro? Of course, they’re just a few from the well trodden list of celebrity Arsenal fans. A set of names that also includes Nick Hornby, at least one of Pink Floyd, Dido and Mick Jagger, aswell as Hollywood bigshots Matt Damon and Kevin Costner. To name but a few. And now, depending on how much they actually support their team, we’ve got a chance to ruin their evening. Those still with us, that is. The day has come. Brentford play their first ever Premier League fixture and the Gunners are our guests. Bring it on. The chance to upset Piers Morgan hasn’t come around anywhere nearly enough in our lifetimes. Now, the moment is upon us. As Thomas Frank summarised quite succinctly, “You couldn’t have written the story better. We open the Premier League season. A bus stop is opening the Premier League season broadcast to 190 countries across the world against famous, enormous Arsenal “. Yet, if we channel our inner Bournemouth, who knows what might happen?

Finally the time has come. Brentford v Arsenal. Adam Devlin from the Bluetones v Dave Gilmour. Do him, Adam ! Oh, if only Cameron Diaz were actually a Brentford fan to give it large to Costner when they go into work on Monday morning. But, as we all know, she isn’t. Yet. Come on Cameron, it’s never too late. 

Musical genius and famous Bees: Hard-Fi, (Archer) The Bluetones (Devlin), Helicopter Of The Holy Ghost (Reeves – get it, now)

Me v my former driving instructor Richie Firth. Eight years on and I’m pretty confident that ‘pass’ is coming soon, despite his best efforts at giving a live ‘first lesson’. Richie, better known as co-host on the Absolute Radio ‘hometime’ show and another for whom being an Arsenal fan has been a long ride of giddy highs but, more recently, sickening lows. How amazing would it be to start their season off with a bump? Richie may not make the regular list of ‘famous fans’ but he’s as staunch a lover of Gunnersaurus as they come.

Yet it was perhaps our most well known of faces (Kitman Bob aside) who has laid the stakes early today. TalkSport radio’s Natalie Sawyer – somebody who knows more than a thing or two about football and seems to have an even shonkier body clock than yours truly – has been tweeting about the Bees since the small hours today. Got to love that commitment to the cause. Joining in with anyone and everyone in the red and white.  

Well, well, still can’t quite fathom it, but today happens to be a big day for @BrentfordFC. Looking forward to being a part of the journey, come rain or shine (hopefully more shine!) 

The key factor if we are to have any chance of upsetting Dido this evening will be in channelling that play-off spirit:

Just got to make sure we make Lionel Road a fortress. Cliches and all but us fans are going to be so important. If we can get the atmosphere like the Bournemouth 2nd leg, then we’ll be in for a treat!

Natalie is bang on the money here. We’ve talked many, many times about how the 4,000 or so supporters sounded that day. The crowd were immense. Like nothing I’ve ever heard. The stadium less than a quarter full yet sounding like a cathedral of noise. Certainly, a concept Arsenal fans may not be familiar with. It was gargantuan. Game changing. Decisive. Recreate that and we hand ourselves a huge advantage.

That last minute lap of Lionel Road inspired the crowd to new heights against Bournemouth

Whether it is enough to beat Arsenal is another question, of course, but it’s going to be a huge help. Just imagine what will happen should we do it. The chance to go top of the Premier League doesn’t come around that often. Something both clubs will be familiar with in recent years !  Could we inspire a Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang frustration hole? Might we finally turn Cameron’s head. Will Piers and Richie end the night in tears?

It’s a massive ask but I can’t wait to find out. Finally, the Premier League is here. See you there !!! 

Loyalties tested. 8mins 40 in

Nick Bruzon

Half man. Half Robot. All Burridge.

15 Jun

Another date with the reality of our situation is coming. Fast. As Brentford fans continue to bask in the excitement of our play-off win, Wednesday sees the Premier League fixture list released. The moment we discover when The Bees will entertain and (hopefully) visit the famous names we’ve only seen in sticker books, on Match of the Day, the odd cup tie or perhaps their own ad-hoc visits to the lower leagues. Leeds United, Wolves, Manchester City, Everton, Liverpool. The list is a long one and is laden with anticipation. As was noted in the previous column, there’s not one opponent who doesn’t provide an added element of intrigue.

Yet before we get there, its time for another book back at last season from another of our special guest columnists. This time, the man that has seen it all. The man who has described most of it to us. Brentford’s commentator par-excellence and the king of I-follow, Mark Burridge. We caught up this week for a chat about all things from play-offs and Premier League to commentary and covid. Mark talks through his highlights on the pitch, his players of the season and the ethos coursing through the club – on and off the pitch.  Enjoy…..

As for today’s headline, we WILL get there…..

Mark and team at Wembley

Mark, let’s start at the end. 29th May at Wembley. For those in the stands it was the culmination of a life’s dream. Can you put it into words, both as a fan and a commentator.

How did you keep your cool? Did you? Any tears shed?

It was ultimate professional performance from players and staff, started fast, a brilliant counter attacking second goal and then they just comfortably managed the game. Swansea had only scored 3 goals twice all season, so I was convinced it was our day early in the match. There was no way back for Steve Cooper’s team. Every player was 7/8 out of 10 and when that happens with Brentford the opposition are in for a long day.

Being relaxed early on made it all more enjoyable, the fans clearly felt that way too, so many smiling faces on display at half time. It was a strange feeling at the end, nothing dramatic from me as the result had been clear for some time, particularly after the red card.

I felt intense relief, pride, a sense of justice and simply enjoyed the celebrations around me. The tears, hugs, generations of families together, a truly special moment that you knew had to be enjoyed. Stuart Wakeford came to embrace Marcus Gayle and like many fans, the final whistle was the signal for raw emotion and Stuart had found it overpowering. There was such a genuine warmth.

Marcus and Stu embrace

That very same togetherness was everywhere within our eyesight. Some fans had sunk to their knees, others waving flags, shirts, hats. It was our day, at last. The football gods, had called time on play off & cup final pain for Bees fans, at least for now. The infamous Doncaster penalty, the most cruel and numbing of last minute dramas, well if this now was the pay off we’ll shake hands and call a truce!

Knowing that we were finally going to leave Wembley as winners and had experienced just what reward the play offs could be, was very new to Bees supporters.. Martin Lange was smiling down on us.

We were going to carry on with broadcasting until after the trophy presentation, so it was just a time to treasure. Then I looked at my phone and saw a ridiculous number of Whatsapp messages…

After clicking on the first few, it was a still of my Dad in the stands which I knew might happen if we were victorious, as Sky wanted to feature some of the elder fans who were inside Wembley and had been watching Brentford the last time we were in the top flight (which has now gone viral much to Dad’s bemusement).

That really was an emotional moment and I started to think of our dear friend Greville, of Dan & Jamie Powell, how much this would mean to them after such a difficult time in the respective lives. They are here at Wembley, somewhere, loving this and drinking it in.

It was a beautiful emotion right then that I couldn’t put into words.

I just felt incredible gratitude that this moment could be shared by so many & mean so much to so many fans all around the world. Dry eyes suddenly became a little tearful, I’d never enjoyed a moment so much watching others and trying to describe what was taking place in front of our eyes. 

Being with Marcus Gayle & Ben Burgess and hearing their emotion and their thoughts on what this will do for the Club and community was another reminder of why ex pros have such an affinity Brentford Football Club. Contrasting backgrounds with Ben on loan for just one season (2001/2) but has always kept in touch with BFC, writes such good articles in the match day programme and does a sterling job on commentary when he joins us for games in his native north west.

Marcus is the fan who became a Bees professional footballer, Premiership player, World Cup international and then a role model through his work with Kick it Out. The man who had bought a season ticket and was enjoying the games as a fan again until we bumped into each other in a local food shop in 2016 and we had a conversation about joining us on match day commentary.

As everyone knows Marcus is now our proud Club Ambassador. Having seen him make his debut for Brentford many years ago, then to share this victory with both he and Ben, with my Dad in the stadium as well, it simply does not get any better than this. What a magical end to a long season.

You and the team have provided an absolute lifeline this season, With the gates to Lionel Road locked you’ve kept us going with the usual passionate commentary. To us, that side of things felt ‘normal’ but what was it like commentating in what was effectively an empty room? How do you maintain the enthusiasm?

I’ve heard others say working at stadia was joyless and soulless and can certainly understand why that would be said but everyone working at a match would no doubt have realised they were in a very privileged position. Travelling to and from games alone (EFL guidance) was something different and it was often a case of arrive, set up equipment and leave as soon as possible. It was all very well organised but quite surreal compared a usual match day

The games generally lacked the intensity & energy you would enjoy with crowds, which was to be expected. The players may well be professionals but they are human beings first and foremost, so it was tough for them, particularly with the condensed season. It was very difficult without crowds but we got use to it early on and had experience of this at the end of last season. The fans are the energy of football. They are to players, others fans and certainly commentators too!.

I had encountered some of the top names commentating on radio a few times without background noise and it was a hard listen. At Lionel Rd the gantry vantage point is simply incredible (a MUST see when tours are available) but we were the only ones up there broadcasting unless it was a SKY game, with the press level pitch side there’s so little you would hear in the way background noise, as we were are quite detached. 

One of the SKY commentators said he would find it very difficult without the fake noise they would have piped in their ears during the game. It certainly must have helped somewhat.

Fortunately I was lucky to be around people with a great knowledge of the game, all things Brentford and who were passionate, yet measured.

It wasn’t until the Bournemouth away leg in the play off semi final that it probably dawned on Marcus Gayle & I just how different football felt again. This totally changed again for the play off home leg. The volume was simply remarkable. Off  the scale. With just 4,000! This bodes well for next season!

iFollow raised about £42m for EFL Clubs. Were you aware just how important the service was to fellow fans. Did you feel it was important to stay as positive as you did?

There was hope that fans would be back after a few months, at least in reasonable numbers. So we had a numbers of ex players booked to join us who would be experiencing Lionel Rd for the first time and would be introduced to the fans inside the stadium before the match. Covid saw so many changes throughout the season, mirroring the case levels so it was effectively an ever changing feast. Some ex-players had to be cancelled and dignitary numbers were often being lowered from an already miniscule number.

Contrary to what was said after one game we certainly did not have 200 fans in the ground!!

Considering supporters had missed out on what should have been a packed house for the very last game at Griffin Park and then not had the chance to be at the first game at the new stadium it is fair to say that Bees fans had every right to feel very disappointed and frustrated. Allowing the options to freeze ST’s and offering iFollow free for so many games, along with the GP Tours are all examples of the Club being in tune with supporters. The input from the various fan groups playing a big part in the right decisions being made.

iFollow suddenly had a much larger audience and with it quite a few adverts! We never knew when they were coming on! Plus half time discussions were cut short because of the same. The cost to watch the games appeared to be good value and did allow fans to stay in touch with the season, even if it’s nothing like being at the game. 

Some supporters freely admitted they enjoyed it more as it allowed the opportunity to see all games when they might previously have only attend a handful during a usual season.

Covering both audio & visual commentary at the same time was also something that required tolerance from fans, as it is not perfect plus there appeared to be the occasional technical issue.

Overall though, iFollow worked well during a very testing time for everyone.

These past 16 months have tested the mental health of everyone and football has been so important for us all to feel connected to ‘normality’ so we were very aware that Brentford’s success might have mean more to people than ever before. Match day routines changed for everyone. No drink with your mates before, maybe now it was sit around the laptop, or the whole family around the TV.

We were positive because I know everyone involved on commentary regularly felt this team would get promotion from quite a long way out. When the squad was struggling for rhythm and consistency I don’t feel it is unfair to say so. Following the draw at Wycombe we did say as much.

We knew fans were getting frustrated. It was fast approaching winter, with much fear & uncertainty away from football itself and message platforms were the only outlet to vent an opinion.

At most games supporters will use up emotional energy at the game but last season was so very different and you probably saw the best and worst of social media. We couldn’t cover the ‘Boro away game due to Covid issues and the local BBC team did a great job. Once Brentford took control they were full of praise for our Club. Unfortunately there was criticism on a phone in by several home fans post match who, rightly or wrongly, felt the commentators were too generous to the opposition.

We have always intended, as is very the Brentford way, to be respectful to the opposition but it is a Bees service so you are representing the fans. Often away fans will connect to the opposition service, presumably just to hear what is said about their team. After the Leeds game last season we had their fans writing on Twitter how nice it was to hear opposition commentary say they the best team we had played since Wolves, some extending this as the ‘fairest’ they had heard.

Giving an honest opinion, hopefully a fair one is all you can really do. Some will like it, others not.

We love the game because not everyone sees it the same way.

What was a real tonic throughout the season is getting some lovely messages from fans, something for which we are very grateful.

What do you think was our performance of the season?

There were some key ones for me.

The 3 points at Barnsley came in the middle of monthly wins in South Yorkshire and got our season going. Some robustness was starting to become clear.

We were excellent for a long time at Watford, showed great character to get a point in the end and the Bournemouth league win at home was probably the best of the season at Lionel Rd

The formation change at Preston was much needed at a difficult time, the 5-0 win against a normally solid side was flawless.

The Cherries feature heavily for me in the whole season, the win at The Vitality Stadium at the end of the season was another important 3 points. 

Jonathan Woodgate’s team were on a great run at the time with 7 (errr brackets) straight wins, scoring for fun and clearly believing they had timed it right, to entering the upcoming play offs with an air of invincibility. Brentford winning, with 10 men for nearly 50 mins, dealt a blow to Bournemouth from which they never truly recovered.

In the end there can though only be one game that had absolutely everything.

Football is about excitement and drama, none of which you truly experience without fans. We all wish there were more supporters in The Brentford Community Stadium, on 22nd May but in this wretched season 4,000 was a huge bonus. 

It was the day Lionel Road finally became our new home, rather fitting in a week that saw bulldozers doing their worst at the wonderful Griffin Park.

So much has been written about that play off win but there wasn’t a hint of panic when Bournemouth went 2-0 up in the tie, in rather strange circumstances. Brentford still believed, Thomas Frank believed. Lionel Rd still believed. Our fans believed. Bournemouth did not.

So it proved, as we witnessed a catastrophic decision making meltdown by the opposition whilst under pressure from a rampant Brentford team that refused to give up. After Chris Mepham’s red card there was an air of inevitability about the outcome, yet it remained wonderfully tense at the same time.

Forss strikes late and Lionel Road erupted.

Begovic goes up for a corner in time added on and we notice the M4 Elevated Section is at gridlock both ways. ’Everyone wants a piece of this game’ we said, as it did feel the whole world would have been engaged in this thriller.

The scenes at the end will never fade either.

It was a reminder just why you love football and  simply worship Brentford Football Club.

There can be only one for Mark

Ivan Toney is, understandably, in line for our player of the season. You’ve seen a lot of Brentford teams over the years, is he our best ever? And who else do you think deserves to make up the ‘top three’ at the end of season awards

Without doubt Ivan Toney is the best for me. Not just for his goals. Barry Fry said he was also Peterborough’s best defender and we’ve all seen why. The amount of times we have seen our striker heading away from an opposition set piece. ‘I get back and defend because I want to help the team, I want to win’ he said at Wembley.

That’s what we had witnessed all season. He was a little rusty at the start of the campaign but once up to speed you could see Ivan’s quality.

It was at Sheffield Wednesday in October that he showed us what an incredible touch he possesses, linking up play with the cutest of touches and headers to feet. That’s when I thought there wasn’t much missing from his game. He scores, he’s brave, he has the skills of a midfielder, he defends, he leads. Can play out wide too, just see the quality of his cross for Ghoddos’ goal in the win against Luton!

Ivan was substituted late against Rotherham in the away game, allowing Aaron Pressley to make his debut. Before leaving the pitch he urged all his players to stay focussed for the last few minutes to see out the win, one of the little things you notice at a game that make you realise what a special team player he is too.

One of the greatest leaders in a red & white shirt we have ever seen. Pure winner.

My second choice would be Vitaly Janelt. Half man, half robot. A signing I thought likely to be ‘one for the future’, like many no doubt. Following the injury to Christian Norgaard the timing of his introduction was perfect. A solid debut up at Hillsborough, then impressive in the win at Oakwell, followed up with scoring his first Brentford goal against QPR.

Then he just kept getting better.

At Cardiff he got scythed down twice but just got up and on with it. A man made of steel.

He scores big goals as well – none more than against Bournemouth in the play off second leg.

Editors note: There have been more than a few from Vitaly – although not all commentated on by Mark…. 😉

Third choice has to go to Sergi Canos.

The way he has come back after a tough start to the season and following a bad injury has been remarkable. Nothing but admiration for him and the flexibility to play wing back so effectively was vital in helping gain promotion. 9 goals for the season, including a hat trick at Cardiff, he has been a bright spark for us on & off the pitch.

Love his ‘We want more’ tweets after each win. Still only 24. Hard to believe.

Sergi got 3 out of 3 against Cardiff City

Over the years you’ve been alongside the likes of Greville Waterman, Luis Melville, Geoff Buckingham, and co, what do you think the current team bring to the commentary?

Diversity, knowledge, pragmatism, humility and a big understanding of all things Brentford, both past and present.

They have all been excellent plus Karleigh Osborne & Charlie MacDonald fantastic new additions.

We always say to ex players ‘just come in when you like, at any time, fans want to hear your views more’. Their opinions are vital to make it work on a match day.

Where do you thing Brentford will finish in the Premier League next season?

I’ll go for 15th in our first season in The Premier League. Bees will take some big scalps and also possibly have a few uncomfortable scoreline.

Lionel Rd will be an important advantage when near or at full capacity. The crowd can play a very big part, as always. It will be fascinating to see how new signings blend in, alongside the players we all believe will prove their quality at the top level.

One thing is for sure, Brentford will have no intention of being tourists.

Finally, just how special do you feel last season has been for everyone connected with Brentford Football Club?

It has been a truly remarkable achievement to gain promotion this past season.

The team had the shortest of breaks last summer before the new campaign got underway and had also lost two huge players in Watkins and Benrahma.

There was a somewhat inevitable hangover from last season and the squad were at a new stadium where there was little advantage as fans had never been experienced – it was never going to feel like ‘home’ under these circumstances. After the last game it most certainly will do!

We lost the fewest amount of games (joint with Norwich), were top scorers again, and went of an unbeaten run of 21 games, then ending with another one of 12. Considering the gruelling schedule, this says all about the quality & character of the players and management but also speaks volumes about some of those not in the spotlight, such as Neil Greig, head of medical, plus Chris Domoney (aka ‘Sladey’) who looks after the aching limbs and muscles so well, whilst his effervescent personality can be infectious for all around.

Take in the Carabao Cup run as well, where we reached the semi final (including a quick taster of VAR) then to go on to achieve the ultimate prize is unheard of at this level.

How often do you hear of knockout tournament runs derailing a promotion campaign? Not to Brentford though, who bucked the trend with a relatively small squad.

If you also factor in losing the talismanic Christian Norgaard for a big part of the season, as well as captain Pontus Jansson, then hitting the top of the table only to promptly lose two more big players in Rico Henry and Josh Dasilva, you start to realise a little bit more about the magnitude of this success, to still achieve promotion.

Off the pitch we also have our heroes. Such as Bees fans Jamie Powell & Billy Coleman, whom the Club and fans have supported through extremely difficult times.

This shows the strength and warmth of the Brentford family. We all need each other. Together we are stronger.

The fans groups, Bees United, Bias, the social media message boards. All have played their part in trying to keeping fans engaged. When automatic promotion slipped away there were many reasoned voices stating the case to stay positive, including this column, and it has been very much appreciated by many.

Jim Levack also wrote an informative article towards the end of the season after a timely conversation with a staff member following the Cardiff game.  It was a time for cool heads.

There were also so many confident fans who sparked calmer debate ahead of the season extension.  After all if you’ve supported the Bees for some time the mere thought of play offs make your head spin a little! Yet there were so many believers this time who probably helped others to keep the faith.

Next season will hopefully see crowds back and we can all enjoy football as we have been use to over the years. In The Premier League.

The Club is in good shape. Both on and off the pitch. It is run by people with understanding of others, true empathy, kindness and warmth. You will be treated as a supporter, not a customer.

Brentford is entering a new chapter, the brand is set to grow. Most of us never dreamed we would see our football club play in the top flight. Yet he we are. Awaiting the fixtures this Wednesday.

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

Lloyd Owusu finally did it.

12 Jun

The Forss is strong. Urghh, had to go there. Having successfully navigated Star Wars day, the fourth of May (note: not a real day or joke) the defences were down. Yet with Euro 2020 finally upon us and the mood in Brentford still high (moreso with the confirmation from one source that Fulham DO have to return theirs – see yesterday’s column) today has an extra level of spice. An extra level of excitement. For the home nations, focus is likely to be on Wales but for me, Clive, the real highlight is Denmark v Finland at 5pm. With it already being well documented that the Bees have more players in the tournament than Premier League stablemates Arsenal, today is the big Lionel Road reunion. 

Halil Dervişoğlu has already kicked off the Brentford connection, making it on to the field of play in last night’s opener between Italy and Turkey. A booking and match rating of 3.93 out of 10 insufficient to help his nation’s cause as 0-0 at half-time turned to a 3-0 victory for the Azzurri.

Yet depending on who is selected, tonight could see three out of the twenty-two players coming from Lionel Road. Christian Nørgaard and Mathias Jensen for Denmark with Marcus Forss representing Finland. Its a long way from a Bus stop in Hounslow to Telia Parken in Copenhagen but they’ve done it. With Sweden up against Spain on Monday, it could be a five out of five for the Bees before the Premier League fixtures have even come out.

For those of us interested in these things, the bookies have Denmark as red hot favourites. 2/5 for the win. Marcus is a rather precise 51/10 to score at any time. Christian 37/4 whilst my online provider (used purely for research purposes) isn’t quoting a price on Mathias . The BBC report him fit so go figure that one. Perhaps the lack of goalscorer price is based on the assumption Denmark will be awarded a free kick. Insert wink emoji.

That said, if you are reading, Mathias (he isn’t) let’s not forget that imperious form in the play-offs. Very much a man at the top of his game and so calm in the pressure cooker environment of the second leg semi and the subsequent final at Wembley. Which we won. In case anybody had missed the score. 2-0. Against Swansea. Brentford are in the Premier League.

The highlight of yesterday’s actions being the incredulity poured on the radio controlled car used to ferry the ball form the touchline to centre circle prior to kick off. A superfluous gimmick designed for no other reason than presumably to save the referees wrists additional strain and promote a car manufacturer.  Harry loved it although he’s only just 8 years old. The again, kids love Jar Jar Binks and Paw Patrol so it’s not a great yard stick.

As Mollie Goodfellow wrote on Twitter, “Sources telling me if a player needs to be stretchered off they will simply be driven off by four remote control 4x4s carrying a stretcher.

Still, it doesn’t take to be overly serious. If anything, there’s the ongoing moment of anticipation for when the ball delivery system is sure to go wrong. Could the driver end up being breathalysed? Stick to the Budweiser to avoid any danger there.

Back home, the demolition of Griffin Park continues. Cycling home from the school run yesterday, I had to perform a cartoon style double take on Brook Road. There was the New Road stand to my left but something was missing. Next time… Fly KLM. Not any more 😦 

Delorean Gray on Twitter hit the nail on the head, noting: “Lloyd Owusu finally did it.

Thankfully, there’s plenty to keep us distracted from what still remains a sensitive topic for many. The years spent at Griffin Park are packed full of memories  – good and bad. So many of us grew up there and it IS hard seeing it go. On a personal note, I’m thrilled the ongoing delays meant our Harry had a chance to experience how incredible a place it was. That he has invested in football so heavily is quite wonderful (right now we’re having to watch a rerun of Italy – Turkey). Equally though, and it was Mark Burridge who got it bang on the other week, that Bournemouth game was the moment Lionel Road became home. 

We’ve moved on. Griffin Park has a huge place in my heart but the future lies elsewhere. We’ve players at the Euros and we’re Premier League. The only was is up…

Nick Bruzon  

Kitman Bob, he writes what he wants. A week before destiny.

3 Jun

Brentford are in the Premier League. Repeat. Brentford ARE in the Premier League. If the Bournemouth play-off semi-final was immense, Saturday at Wembley against Swansea was next level. I’m still smiling now. Then, when it couldn’t get any better, it did. The chance to share the build up from inside the Bees camp arrived, courtesy of none other than the legend that is Big Bob Oteng. 

Our club Kitman and all-round Bees’ hero has collected his thoughts from the end of that epic encounter with The Cherries right through the build-up to Swansea and the final whistle at Wembley. A sneak-peak behind the curtain of just what went on and just why we won. But written in his own quite wonderful words.

Over to you Bob. A week before destiny. In his words…. and pictures.

Saturday.

It’s 4:55 PM and we’ve just won 3-1 in a game that had everything a football fan could wish for. As long as you’re on the winning side that is!!

The players have done the usual applauding of the fans in every section of the ground and I follow behind after making sure the old footballs were present and correct in certain sections. I’m greeted with the obligatory ‘Big Bob’ song !

As I enter the dressing room there seems to be different vibe and I mean a totally different vibe to a dressing room that has just won a football match. Brian Mbeumo give us a little speech prompted by Thomas who then brings the room to a silence, says one more and then retreats to his office. As I head back to the kitroom it’s the first time in these play offs I allow myself to start thinking of lions on the new shirt !!!

Monday

I arrive at the training ground early Monday morning, 6.40am. Thomas is already there which in itself isn’t unusual but there are a number of other coaches also present. Something big must be happening !! 

During the weekend Wembley emailed requesting how I would like the dressing room to look. I put in my request and they reply “is that all” as I can see  we are in the East as we were last season. Also during the weekend I’ve had countless DM messages from fans requesting to know what colour keep we will be playing in. This continued throughout the week until the reveal on Friday. As the team finishing the season in the highest position, we get choice of kit colours.

What I had done previously on the Saturday evening was to ask all the Brentford players what they wanted to play in. Each one of them just said RED & WHITE. David wanted his favourite amarilla.  It was such an air of confidence when they all said it.  I more than anyone knew about that red/white supposed curse on teams at Wembley. Last season I pushed for blue, now I just felt it could be time for the curse to be  broken and banished to history by the BEES.

Tuesday

Thomas had already told the players that he wants to build up to Saturday to be like an ordinary week. For the last two days nobody had really discussed what happened on Saturday because we were all there, we all witnessed it and there was a quiet air of confidence at Jersey Road.  

On a Tuesday before a Saturday game is when I start to prep the match kit for the weekend but this was no ordinary game. I had to apply NHS badges to each playing shirt,  to show gratitude for such a wonderful service that has served us all through such difficult times and not just during the last 18 months. Also new sleeve patches showing PLAY-OFFS.

As I prepped all the outfield players kits I started asking myself which one will get us to the promised land? Even a last-minute David Raya header would be welcome. They all will, as that’s what good teams do. The nerves are now building !!!

Wednesday

WELL EARNED DAY OFF FOR THE  PLAYERS !! However, I had to be in as new tracksuits and polo shirts are being delivered for the big day,  ( no white suits )…

Thursday

Today was quite relaxed for me. I’d prepped all the kit Tuesday / Wednesday and now I was waiting for the final squad to be confirmed or any additions from Saturday. 

I walked over to pitch 2 with a hint of curiosity and I have to say the boys looked absolutely on fire. Not sure whoever we are facing are going to be able to contain them for 90min.  Bernardo was walking the boys through some new set pieces For me Saturday couldn’t come soon enough.

Brian Riemer confirmed the squad was as per Saturday. As we chatted in his office, he asked me what I think will happen, (déjà vu took me back to the same question last August. I said then we will win, but when I say it now I truly believed it. All based on the previous Saturday).  I did my final checks and left Jersey Road with such a nervous feeling inside of me. Two more sleeps !!

Friday

Friday was a late report. 2pm for 3pm start.  Thomas had gone round to every member of Jersey Road staff requesting that they be on the training pitch for 3:45pm precisely. At 3:40 all the staff slowly ambled from the pavilion across to  pitch 2. Training was still going on ( patterns of play) – looked very nice these patterns !! 

Training over ran. Brian, Thomas and Kev drilling down certain instructions to the squad.  Once it finished, Thomas called over all the staff to join him with the players. We all formed a massive circle – it was actually the circumference of the centre circle. Thomas stood in between Pontus and Christian and delivered a speech that would have got me ready to play tomorrow. Two VIP coaches arrive at 4pm, we have a light snack and everything is loaded and we depart for the Hotel (dinner 7pm).

I keep my routine the same. Ring home and speak to the family. My little man is excited,  he actually predicts that Vitaly would score, (his favourite player). Myself Manu and Bernardo have usual Friday away night Spanish ritual (sobre la mesa). To discuss the next day and life over the table. We started it Friday night before Preston away.

SATURDAY THE DAY !!

Especially on away games I like to get up by 7am and go for a walk before breakfast. On my walk I passed a bar called The Hive. I also have lots of thoughts  about my friend Rob Rowan, I’m not really one for superstition but 95% of me thinks today is going to be our day !! 

The usual bus ride to the stadium is replaced by myself Peter G, Sladey, Joe N, Lorna walking the 500 yards to the entrance to the stadium. We pass the Hive then, as if my magic, we are met by big Shaun. Big Shaun is the main security tunnel steward at Lionel road, now I’m convinced todays the day.

We arrive at the stadium 10:45am We walk round which seems to be underground beneath 90,000 seats. So many people in suits all directing us in the right direction. If it’s your first time at Wembley you can be in awe. There were so many white sky OB trucks, it looked like a flock of flamingos at a watering hole.

The dressing room looks magnificent. It feels different to the last year. I set the players up in a totally different formation. Pontus likes to sit in the corner of any dressing room but this is going to be hard to achieve as it’s shaped like a horseshoe. 

There are two dressing rooms with a smaller one for the staff. I take 10 minutes to have a look around and have a look outside. I begin my favourite part of my working day (apart from a win at the end) ! By 12:30pm I’m happy and everything is done. 12:45 Mike the Swansea kit man pops in to have a catch up. We both have a laugh about not going to each other’s respective stadiums next season.

The players arrive at 1:15pm.  I sit in the corner of the staff dressing room playing word search on my phone,  Reidy wants a change of socks, then it back to word search. I’ve done 5 levels on my word search game and then it’s time for the warm up. The dressing room looks the same as it does on every away game. Sliders everywhere. Emiliano’s sliders always in the centre of the room. I’m sure it’s a thing with him. 

The nerves are kicking in now and I try and find work to kill the time. The boys come in, do their rituals pads on shirts on then it’s huddle time.  Christian delivers an emotional speech and again I wish I was going out to play.

The first 45 minutes for me are the best in 25 years. I can remember it all which is very rare for me. At half time the boys are really calm. Thomas is calm. All the messages are delivered in a calm way and I know that today is our day. I’m so confident I didn’t emerge for the second half until the 92nd or 93rd minute. Those last two minutes went really quickly but at the final whistle I went over to Mike and wished him commiserations. I run onto the pitch to join the huddle and just started jumping around. I don’t remember much after, hence I’ve watched the game back in full twice and the celebrations countless at times on social media. Also all the pictures will be sent at some point.

This day and this season I will never forget both personally and professionally. It has sunk in for me because I always knew the at one point during my time with  Brentford we  would reach the promised land, and I am so grateful and privileged that I was a small cog in the wheel of this wonderful bus stop in Hounslow about to join the premier league express !!

Bob Oteng

We’ve only gone and done it.

30 May

We. Are. Premier League. Said we are Premier League. My word. It happened. It only went and actually happened !! Brentford beat Swansea City 2-0 at Wembley to reach the top flight of English football. Not a typo. It was a game which was as comfortable as the scoreline suggests, following a blistering start from the Bees. Ivan Toney from the spot and Emiliano Marcondes putting us as good as there within twenty minutes. But for the woodwork it would have been three moments later and once the Swans were reduced to ten men in the second half (straight red for Jay Fulton) it was a game over, man. Game over. A few heart stopping flurries aside, our opponents weren’t in it. Or, rather, the Bees were dominant. Calm. Composed. Deadly on the counter attack. Now, our West London derby will be with Chelsea. Will be at Stamford Bridge. Not Loftus Road or Craven Cottage.

Sunday morning. Wide awake. By all medical logic kidneys, liver and other internal organs should have packed up a few hours ago yet. Brain should not be functioning given lack of sleep. Instead, there’s a ludicrously oversized Joker-esque smile across the face and espresso being mainlined. The minute Mrs B and our Harry wake up, we’ve a date with the Skybox and a rewatch of the game. I’ve not seen any of it back yet. The night was a procession of beer and more beer. First at The Box Park and the The Griffin before back at home. Celebrations that have been SO long coming given our well documented record at Wembley. Success that we have been slowly building towards over the last few years. If it felt amazing after Alan Judge got the winning penalty against Preston to help us leave League One, this was ten times better.

The season has been a crazy one. All but a handful of games played behind closed doors. The gates to our new home at Lionel Road padlocked for so long. The heartbreak of last season and the inevitable sale of Ollie Watkins to Aston Villa a blow to test the firmest of resolves. The subsequent departure of Said Benrahma another sad, sad day for many. Questions over David Raya’s future seeing Luke Daniels beginning in nets. Our Championship campaign starting at a sedentary pace, albeit the league cup run kept things ticking over nicely until league form finally kicked in.  And when it did. My word…..

Ivan Toney has grabbed most of the headlines. Understandably. 31 goals in the regular campaign will make him the number one transfer target for just about everyone else over the summer. His penalty technique the stuff of legend. And heart attack. He didn’t miss one all season though. Yesterday at Wembley, under the pressure of the richest game in English football and the albatross around the neck of all that had gone before, he did it again. Calmness personified. Freddie Woodman coming close but no cigar. The stadium erupting as ten minutes in, the scoreboard reflecting a strange stat – Brentford actually ahead in a play off final.

But it is not just about Ivan. Sergi Canos has copped dogs’ abuse at times. Something he spoke about publically in the end. However, he used it to get better and better. Stronger and stronger. His performance in the final few games, the semi final especially, up there with the very best of them. His hat trick at Cardiff over Christmas pushing him and us on to bigger and better things. 

Bryan Mbeumo was immense. He never stoped running. He won the penalty for the first goal and was the architect of our second. Energy levels finally back to what they were before that bought of Covid last season. Whether they were related, who knows, but he hadn’t seemed himself in the earlier part of the season. Yesterday, we got the M of our our much touted BMW (remember when that was a thing) back in some style.

Matthias Jensen was imperious at Wembley. He, Mads Roerslev – given the freedom to break with abandon thanks to Henrik – and Emiliano the candidates for man of the match. Imagine saying that a few months ago? Marcondes scooped the honours in the end but it could have been anyone. To a man, the team were magnificent. Thomas Frank sticking with the same starting XI as that which beat Bournemouth. Swansea City unable to answer the questions which, after an understandably cautious opening few minutes for both sides, came at them thick and fast.

We could name check everybody. Brentford were magnificent. There aren’t enough superlatives. If there were any nerves they weren’t showing. Any thoughts of the pressure or the past form then they’d been consigned to the dustbin of history. Previously unseen levels of bottle discovered. It may not have felt like it watching back home or in the pubs but, for the lucky few granted entry the roof was raised and the atmosphere incredible. Fans united. Voices raised. The impossible becoming possible with every inch towards full time. 

Even an additional six minutes added to the clock at the end insufficient for Swansea to do anything of significance. Then came the whistle. Then came the tears. Then came the numb feeling of actually having done it. Celebrations on and off the pitch a memory to keep forever. The smile on Sergi’s face saying it all. Thomas Frank tossed into the air by his players. The sight of a trophy being raised is certainly one for the record books. Brentford have done a win at Wembley. Brentford are in the Premier League. The Premier F’ing League! We’re just a bus stop in Hounslow. We’re also a top flight club. We’ll be hosting some of the biggest names in English football. And also Arsenal. It feels like we’ve gone down the rabbit hole and into a next level world of craziness. Forget the Begovic Frustration hole. I just hope the club retain the damage at Lionel Road, get it framed and turn it into part of club history.  

Get it framed

A few seasons back, as a League One club, we were paired with Chelsea in the FA Cup fourth round. It was an amazing time and we came ‘that’ close before eventually losing the replay. The build up was full of that ‘Champions of Europe, we’re coming for you’ song. With the Stamford Bridge club once again lifting the trophy last night (their 1-0 win over Manchester City feeling almost like an after thought amidst our own celebration), it is a song we will no doubt sing again. Yet this time it will be on an equal footing. This time it will be as members of the same league rather than two clubs thrown together by nothing more than the fortuitous paring of two balls plucked from a velvet bag.  

There are a million other amazing thoughts and things to consider about where our footballing journey now takes our club. By bus, obviously.  We’ll be on Match of the Day. We’ll be in the Panini sticker book. That’s going to cost me a fortune. For Harry, obviously. There are apparently something called ‘Match Attax’. Then we’ve got Fantasy Football selections. Sh*t – who do you go for? We can only have three per team. This is before you even get to the amazing stuff like who we will see in the flesh. Like where we get to visit (and when – hurrah for televised fixture chaos).

I apologise. I’m all over the place today. It is the most incredible feeling of happiness. Of relief. Of incredible calm following all the stresses we’ve been through over the years. As a fan since 1979, the highs have been incredible but they have been fleeting. Disappointment and frustration have so often been our more regular bedfellows. It doesn’t matter, in the grand scheme. The reason I’ve kept coming back. The reason Mrs B and Harry have bought in to Griffin Park and Lionel Road. The reason we were all there together yesterday is down to the amazing sense of family that is part of being a Brentford fan. 

Everyone knows everyone. From the chairman down to Thomas and the players, come Saturday afternoons we are all part of the same group. Everyone treats everyone equally. We all know each others faces. We all talk to people whose names we may not even know but who are wearing red and white. It is our Friday night dinner but on a Saturday afternoon. Wonderful time spent in the company of friends, regardless of the  90 minutes on pitch. An adopted family we have been thrown together with but whom being separated from over the last 15 months has been horrific. 

That the club goes to such lengths to incorporate the supporters is , frankly, ridiculous. Yours truly inflicts a programme column on readers. H has done, well, just about everything from reading out the teams to kit launch photo shoots to having the players over to ours and he’s still only 7( seven). We’re not alone. Woody is a hero. As is Jumper Man. Harry Potter. Why-aye Mister Partridge. Courier bag early exit man. Mark Burridge. Greville Waterman. Billy Reeves. Kitman Bob. Trevor. Eamon. Billy Grant and his selfie-stick. The cry of ‘Push Up, Brentford’ one I am only looking forward to hearing in the top flight. We all know each other, even if just by face. I’m buzzing at the thought of seeing all this continue next season.

Woody does his thing at Wembley

Peter Gilham. Cripes Peter Gilham. He’ll be doing his thing with the mic in the Premier League. He’ll have all manner of new names to wrap his tongue around. He’ll be even louder than ever before. He’ll be utterly bonkers. In the nicest sense. If ANYONE deserves to enjoy this moment it is him. If anyone deserves all the excitement of what now lies ahead it is him. Everyone knows Peter. Everyone loves Peter.  

Oh, I can’t wait. I can’t wait for any of it.  Forgive the lack of cohesion on this one. It’s words thrown down with abandon, Even less thought to structure than normal. Perhaps we can be more considered down the track but for now, I’m still in shock. Happy, happy shock. 

We’ve only bloody well done it!! 

Nick Bruzon

Friends reunited. The big one has arrived.

28 May

The much anticipated Friends reunion show has just taken place on TV. Apparently.  Moving swiftly on. There is, thankfully, something even more hotly anticipated (sadly not the Mrs Browns Boys dissolution show). It is now Friday and we are only one ‘wake up’ from the play-off final. Brentford v Swansea City at Wembley. A game which, after our own ‘friends reunion’ last week against Bournemouth, sees us once again given the chance to attend a match together.

Following our own prolonged absence from live football  – we were on a break?  (note to self, insert tumbleweed emoji before publishing) all of a sudden we are being spoiled to ambassadorial levels. Two games in 7(seven) days. An unexpected sale of player shirts and other amazing items at the Brentford superstore last night and, as expected, the additional 1000 tickets made available through the NHS experiment have flown off the shelves.

Friends reunited on Saturday

We’ve done the Bournemouth game at some length but for me, Clive, it was as much being handed the opportunity to catch up with those faces we’ve not seen for over a year which was as amazing as our performance on the pitch. Brentford has always felt like family and no moreso was this proven than at the weekend. We know how painful the enforced absence has been but meeting up again felt as comfortable as putting on an old shirt. Hobot Funky Bee? Don’t mind if I do. Seeing long missed faces and all the pain of being forced to play in empty stadia melted away in a heartbeat. 

Of course, a reduced crowd is never the same although you wouldn’t have guessed had you been standing outside. If anything, the noise generated was unlike anything I’ve heard in a long while at a Brentford game. Perhaps it was the occasion, the acoustics in the new ground, the fact that we all missed it so much or just Thomas Frank and his bonkers pre-match lap of enthusiasm that fired us up to insane levels. Whatever the catalyst, the response was immense. Oh to bottle that for Saturday against Swansea.

The great news being that we’ll have even more supporters present. 5,000 Bees screaming the place down. And we’ll need to. The stadium is cavernous whilst the reaction from the players to having fans present was clear. Henrik Dalsgaard showing that with his reaction to our third goal. Bournemouth crumbling from the off as the supporters gave it their all. There are no tickets left though. This is it. The ‘sold out’ signs went up last night on ‘official’ as the final TAPS threshold was met by the lucky few.

Henrik celebrates with the fans

Now, there is only one focus. Swansea City. No more ticket talk. No more Bournemouth. It is all about Saturday. All about who Thomas Frank starts. Who he has available. How Brentford deal with the pressure and enormity of the situation. The Swans likewise. At least we have last season to relate to, no matter the crappy outcome which eventually transpired (and there are no words to truly describe how horrific it felt).  At least we have fans present this time around.

Genuinely, I’m buzzing. I CANNOT wait for this one. Sleep has been a commodity as limited as belly laughs in a studio recording of Mrs Browns Boys this week. Only what feels like intravenous espresso and adrenaline are keeping me alive at this stage. Yet the excitement is palpable. Its a play-off, I shouldn’t be feeling like this. We all know our record. WE all know the stats.

Fine. Take them and stick them where the sun don’t shine. Cliche alert but… you’re only as good as your last result. What a result that was. In Thomas Frank we have a head coach who lives and breathes every moment as much as the fans. A team who, on their day are unstoppable. It doesn’t feel right to be this positive but there is no apprehension about our own ability. 

Equally, one has to recognise that Steve Cooper will have his own team fired up. The prize for Swansea as big as for us. The desire and expectation as huge. They aren’t just going to roll over except, perhaps, when tackled so let’s hope referee Mr Kavanagh has his eyes wide open). They aren’t going to hand it over on a plate. This will need to be earned. This will be hard fought. This will be about as big as they come. And it can’t come soon enough. It needs to be 3pm on Saturday right now.

Recent games against Swansea have seen a fair amount of theatrical ‘rolling over’ and flapping around

All the anticipation in the world won’t bring it any closer. Enjoy the build up. Enjoy the moment. Most importantly, enjoy Saturday. Swansea will be out to ruin the party. Let’s make sure this is one Wembley visit with a happy ending. One play-off campaign that has that sweetest of finishes.

We’ve been here before. This time, let’s make it happen. Everyone from David Raya in nets through to Ivan Toney, the Championship’s leading goalscorer, has the ability to play at the highest level. Sergi Canos and Bryan Mbeumo tearing it up down the flanks. Mads Roerlsev showing maturity beyond his years. Dalsgaard busting every sinew. Pontus with all his experience to draw on. Ethan Pinnock, a colossus alongside him. Emiliano on fire, Matthias Jensen finding his groove at the perfect time and Vitaly Janelt yet another one to roll off the conveyor belt of talent that our DOFS continue to astound with. My word, that goal last week still has me grinning like a split watermelon.

There’s not much else to say. We could big it up for pages and pages but this all comes down to 11 v 11 on the pitch and 5,000 v 5,000 off it. Now let’s do this !!!!

We’ve been here before. This time it feels different…

A good news, bad news sort of day. Thieves, tickets and a lot of love.

25 May

So here we are. The build up to Saturday’s play off final between Brentford and Swansea City has well and truly begun. Our paltry ticket allocation (the same for both clubs) is now flying off the shelves to those fans with sufficient TAPS. The petition started by BIAS to have the attendance increased to 20,000 is gathering momentum (with Gemma Teale getting it as far as the BBC last night). As of this morning, the count was approaching 9000 signatures and there is still time to get this signed. Will publish a further link at the bottom. Closer to home, my faith in the goodwill of people has gone through both the roof and the floor. The love coming in for Woody and his family, following the words penned by his mum on Sunday morning, has seen emotions all over the place. On the flip side, thieves have targeted the Magpie and Crown pub on Brentford High Street at the weekend using the distraction of the post Bournemouth spirit to steal a squad signed  Bees shirt being raffled to raise money for a Hounslow food bank.

First up, tickets. We all know the scoop by now. Both Brentford and Swansea City will have less fans in on Saturday than they did for their respective semi finals. A stadium three or four times the size holding a fraction of supporters, despite the fact everybody was quite happy to double the capacity at the drop of a hat when there was the lure of a Champions League final at the same stadium on the same day dangled under the nose.Hmmm. 

BIAS have done sterling work in galvanising supporters with both Brentford and Swansea official also making their opinions very publicly known. We ALL want this to be the occasion it most definitely could and whilst the 8000 official fans (I’m not counting superfluous corporates etc) will do a wondrous job in building the atmosphere, imagine it with double that? There IS still hope. 

Today will be crucial to keep the momentum going. If you haven’t signed it as yet then please do. Please pass it on toy our football loving friends. Your families. Anybody you think would want this to happen / who has access to the internet. The link is at the bottom of this column.

On a personal note it was a real good news, bad news sort of Monday. As much through having been coming to Griffin Park (now LR) since 1979, I’m over the TAP threshold so got my ticket. I will be at Wembley with my friends but I won’t be with there with my family. Our Harry, who lives and breathes the club, misses out. Mrs B will be left behind, too. 

There are thousands of us in the same boat. Thousands of deserving fans with Season Tickets who, ordinarily, would be guaranteed a ticket to the game. Instead, we’ve all been torn apart. I haven’t missed a match with H in I don’t know how long. He’s gutted. I’m gutted. We’re gutted. He loves the club (especially Sergi) and his life revolves around it. From reading the teams pre kick off to being a mascot. From having the players in our house at Halloween to modelling the kit for the launch photos. Something which, even as recently as this weekend, I was given a wonderful reminder of when bumping into a fellow ‘model’ outside The Griff who also shared this photo. Thank you.

He’s still only 7(seven) yet thinks that’s ‘just’ how football works. That Brentford make this sort of stuff happen all the time if supporters want to get involved. The possibility of not going to a game when others can is one that hadn’t even crossed the mind. Until now.

The old ‘eagle distraction trick’ a tool up the sleeve of every decent photographer

Again, we all know this isn’t the club’s fault. We’ve been served up a dog’s dinner of a deal. We have SO MANY deserving fans who, like Harry, will miss out. I’m not after special treatment but simply giving my version of a personal story that I know is impacting so many of us. There will be many, many more similar. Many, many more who should be there and can’t . Who will be devastated about missing this. Who will be crammed in to pubs or front rooms trying to make the best of the situation. Many, many who like us will be sitting anxiously by the phone today. Please, get signing. Get your voice heard.

Look at Woody. The  positive reaction and love coming back on social media as a reply to the piece about him was nothing short of life affirming. Thank you. He won’t be there as it stands but If anybody needs to be it is him. If anybody gets the chance to lead out the team (should Corona somehow allow it) it is him. Here’s hoping he gets the first of the phone calls saying a ballot place has been awarded. Pretty sure everybody has read this one but, if not, then you can find that here…. Please do enjoy.

Harry – no eagle needed these days – and Woody at the weekend.

On the downside, local pub The Magpie and Crown have seen their own charity efforts hit by thieves late on Saturday night. A signed shirt being raffled to raise money for a Hounslow food bank was stolen. With everyone understandably distracted by the emotion of what had gone before, an opportunist(s) have pinched this off the wall behind the bar and it has gone walkies.

To date, the item has not been returned but if anyone has any information as to where it is, please get in touch with Scott Illman at the Magpie on the High Street. If you have it and have woken up with drunken regret, just pop it back through the letterbox or post it back – no questions asked. Hundreds of tickets had been sold to raise money for a cause that shouldn’t even require funds raised. Perhaps whomever took it was drunk and didn’t realise what it was for (he says being optimistic) but there can be no doubt now. Keep your eyes open on the auction sites, too. To date, this hasn’t been spotted online.

Finally, we have a referee for Saturday. Premier League Chris Kavanagh has been parachuted in to take charge of the final Championship game of the season. His record this season suggests yellow cards could be in the offing. Has a tense affair just go tenser? Roll on Saturday when we can find out. All being well, with 20,000 fans there.

That petiton link is HERE HERE HERE. Please sign it.

One more game…..

Nick Bruzon

Ticket details announced. #farce. But there IS another way you might get in….

24 May

Monday morning and still grinning like a lunatic. Voice still sounding like the squeaky teenager from The Simpsons. Brentford having delivered the ultimate high in turning a round a two goal deficit against Bournemouth to reach this Saturday’s play off final at Wembley. A day where what happened pre kick-off, post game and off-field was as incredible as what happened on the pitch. You can read about it here if you want. Likewise, huge thanks for all the kind comments. Especially regarding the second column about Woody making his way back to a game. Yet special though it all was, and it was amazing, it has been and gone. Now, Swansea City await in North London.

The Monday after the weekend before

Like us, the Swans are one win away from the Premier League. For Steve Cooper, this most coveted of prizes. Amongst other things, a chance to avenge last season’s semi-final defeat to the Bees. For us….. well, we all know the scoop. We all know the history. We all know what happened last time out in the final. Not to mention the eight attempts prior to that one. Tickets go on sale this lunchtime and if the enormity of the task at hand is now the immediate focus, the fact that we will have less than 4,000 supporters present in a 90,000 stadium has, understandably, got everyone’s back up. Also, I have no doubt, for Swansea who will also be operating under the same, crazed restrictions.

That this game, and the other divisional finals, will be played out in front of just 10,000 seems utter madness. The FA Cup final had 20,000 last week. Likewise, with the authorities prepared to sell us up the river and shift the final elsewhere at the 11th hour to accommodate a relocated  Champions’ League final with a similar sized crowd part of the deal. So don’t give us this “It’ not a test event” gumph. Then we’ve got the Euro’s next month where larger crowds will be in attendance. There is no logical reason to have a crowd reduction this coming weekend. No practical reason why extra supporters can’t be allowed in. Nobody is naive enough to think that a full house is anywhere near feasible given what’s going on at present but, equally, a paltry 10,000 makes no sense in the broader landscape. 

We all know the arguments. We all know the situation. We all know that the bun fight for entry will see thousands of regular season ticket holders disappointed. At any other time, they’d be guaranteed entry. Not now. Not even close to a chance. The club have taken the least bad option available to them an, in line with the Customer Charter, gone for a TAP based threshold once more. Its all they could do. The full details are on the website, along with a hard hitting statement lambasting the situation:

We at the Club feel it is unjust that only one week ago, more than 20,000 fans were admitted to The FA Cup Final and advanced discussions were taking place for Wembley to host the Champions League final with a similar number of fans attending. We find it incredulous and unjustifiable just two weeks later, the Championship Play-Off Final will be restricted to just half of that number.

We’re fighting for an extra 750 but, if you want to go, there MAY be another way. BIAS have leapt into action and set up an online change.org petition to have capacity increased. You can see that and sign it here. Supporters DO have a voice. Whether it will be listened to at such short notice is another question but if you don’t ask you don’t get. At the very least, it will help further highlight this ludicrous situation and the contempt football fans are, once again, being held in. Besides, with Boris prepared to jump on to any bandwagon to potentially enhance his image amidst the debacle of the covid crisis, perhaps its not a as futile a gesture as the cynical may suspect. So sign it. Please. HERE. Share it. Pass it to your mates. Send it to other fans. Should any Swansea supporters be reading, this impacts you as much as us.

Saturday will be incredible. Wembley will be rocking. 4,000 supporters took the roof off Lionel Road. Double that, with fans from both clubs, will be next level. But imagine with double even that? There’s no reason not to. One of football’s greatest, most anticipated, weekends deserves as many supporters there as possible. There’s NO genuine reason why this can’t be possible.

See you there. I hope…

Nick Bruzon   

Football has well and truly come home. Welcome back Woody.

23 May

We’ve spoken about what happened on pitch yesterday between Brentford and Bournemouth in the morning’s other column. If you want the full take , pictures and video on that one then it’s here. Yet perhaps as important was the chance to see familiar faces once more. For our tight knit footballing family to reunite. There was Uncle Justin. TC. Mandy. Greville Waterman. Nity Raj and even Matthew Benham walking up the street. We were only ‘Jumper man’ short of a full house. Yet, for me, one of THE big highlights was us bumping in to Woody and his mum at full time. I knew they’d got hold of tickets in the build up but being able to see the smile on his most recognisable of faces as we caught up with each other outside Lionel Road was just about perfect. Everyone close to the club knows Woody and his story. Yet I don’t think many of us, and I include myself in that, can appreciate just how tough this last year has been for him and them. Chatting away, we got onto the subject of how it would be to share just what yesterday meant from their viewpoint. So without further ado, here we go. Over to you, Nat……

The last year or so has been hideous for Woody. Imagine if you can, being able to  only understand real things, stuff you can touch, like footballs, people, chips.  Imagine if you could not talk and you love routine, Brentford is your life,  and  all of a sudden someone took all that away from you with an explanation in another language.  French or Italian, Spanish, any language you don’t understand  Would you be angry?  Sad?  Poorly? Confused?  At first Woody thought he had been ‘naughty’ and he was the only person not allowed to go to GP.  That was a tricky one and I will not share the way W expressed his lack of understanding…….. In desperation one day I drove him there to show him it was shut which was heart breaking but much needed. 


Woody signed Brentford with his hands and hope on his face everyday.  I sadly shook my head and said not yet….    
TV is not the same for Woody, this is not Wonka Vision, you cannot smell it, touch it or feel it.  Woody needed real football. Less than 24 hours to go we heard we had tickets for the game.  I am a horse lover, it was like being told Black Beauty was alive or I could ride Valegro.  The lack of build up was in fact a blessing because Woody only does NOW, he doesn’t do tomorrow or later.  


I was worried, it was not GP.  Our routine was gone….  It was new to us both.  

When I told him we were going,  I think he didn’t believe me, it was too good to be true, however he was awake at 4.30am so something must have sunk in.  We left early, Annika Pannika mum overthinking.  The journey was different,  I think he was sceptical but thank goodness he believed in me enough to take a different train journey.  
We get off the train….  different stop…. he sees the Giant Bee… he actually starts to believe me that we are going to a game.  We are super early ( my fault)  mum behavior, and I see him start to relax.  W sees people with Brentford clothes on, something he loves and recognizes and a year or more of horridness begins to melt away.

The next 90 minutes were nothing short of magic.  It was like a sensory explosion for Woody. A place where he could be his true self, make noise, and although its not totally comprehendible EVERYONE knew the intent. We have five senses, but today there was definitely another one, one that touched Woody and healed him.  So hard to explain but it was an energy, a togetherness, not 30 years of hurt but definitely at least 14 months. Whatever happened today made Woody,  Woody again and content.  


As a mum to see the peace on his face and the contentment was nothing short of magic. I feel frustrated when people misunderstand football, for us it is a safe haven, a giant pair of arms hugging us.  It is something that doesn’t need words, actions speak louder than words and feelings shout louder than than actions. 

Massive thanks to Brentford for the kindness and acceptance, it has completed us. 

Woody (right) and H do their thing together after the game.

Was this the best performance ever?

23 May

It was during the full time rendition of Hey Jude that I finally went. Bottom lip wobbling and tears streaming down the face. The emotion of everything that had gone before kicking in at the next level. Quite simply, the most incredible afternoon of football experienced as a Brentford fan. A 3-1 win home win over ten man Bournemouth (Special agent Mepham playing his own part to perfection) something where the scoreline alone can’t even begin to scratch the surface of the story. Swansea City now await in the final. Themselves, aggregate winners over a Barnsley side who couldn’t quite catch up in their semi. That’ll be a feisty one on Saturday but its not really a huge topic for now. What played out at Lionel Road was about as a special as it gets. To be part of it a privilege. A performance up there with Leyton Orient away. Burton Albion away. Preston at home – the one where we finally got promoted after the pain of what happened the season before. Oh for a repeat this time around.

It was an afternoon where everyone played their part even prior to kick off. The 4000 Brentford supporters making the place a cauldron of noise as the players warmed up. As the line ups were read out. As the players went back in. Peter Gilham doing his thing. Cripes, I was sounding like Madge Bishop after smoking 40 JPS by the time we made it to The Griffin last night. Can only imagine what his voice must be like now.

Bournemouth, warming up in our corner, left under no illusions as to the reception they were going to face when the game began. A crescendo of cat calling and jeers accompanying their own pre-match prep. Oh, I’ve missed being part of a crowd so indescribably. This little taster of what was to come sending goose bumps up the spine and that was even before Hey, Jude came over the P.A. For once, a ‘studio’ version rather than the rambling live one we were so used to at Griffin Park (“This time, just the ladies”) that, even better, seems to have edited down to cut quickly to the “Naaaa. Na-Na. Na-na-na-naaaahhhhh” . 

Then, our first blow of the day. This had all been going too well. The BBC match reporting revealed that Christian Norgaard had been replaced by Mads Roerslev. Himself, initially pushed to the bench to accommodate the return of Henrik Dalsgaard. True enough, Peter Gilham reading the teams out one last time confirmed we’d be needing an 11th hour rejig. Oh Brentford, it’s never easy. No matter. With Bryan and Emiliano starting this game alongside Sergi and Ivan, our attacking intent was still clearly the focus. Yet if this had us on a momentary backfoot, what happened next is one of those things that will go down in football folklore.

Thomas Frank had talked at length in the build up to this one just how important the crowd would be. We’d seen the videos and one even played out on the big screen. Of course we all knew this and were already doing our bit when, over in front of the main stand he started running down the touchline , gesturing to the supporters to raise the roof. Fair enough, until he turned the corner in front of the West Side. One North stand observer standing next to me said,”He’s going to do it. He’s going all the way.” Sure enough, he did. The crowd feeding off his energy. Thomas pumping them up. Taking fist bumps en-route. Arms whirling like some crazed dervish. Lifting the crowed and getting them whipped up in a manner that Delia Smith could only aspire to. Twelfth man? We were the entire squad.

Thomas turns it up to 11 prior to kick-off

And then it began. Brentford one goal down on aggregate but 90 minutes to turn it around.

And then it began. Brentford two goals down on aggregate but 85 minutes to turn it around.

If Christian Norgaard missing out was as bad as we thought it would be then think again. Danjuma broke at speed as the Bees attacked and with nobody but David Raya back, he had all the time in the world to bear down on goal ,  pick his spot and make no mistake. Crap. This wasn’t in the script. An absolute disaster of a scoreline. A catastrophe of a start. Yet if this was going to silence the crowd and take the wind from the sails, it was a case of anything but. Push up, Brentford? Oh yes. 

With a quarter hour gone (about one minute of actual game time, given the way that Bournemouth and goalkeeper Begovic in particular were time wasting – an injury free opening period seeing an additional ‘6’ awarded ) Brentford were back in it. Lloyd Kelly deemed to have handled Emiliano’s cross and referee Gillet pointed to the spot. I’ve seen them given, Clive. Cue pandemonium. Cue petulance. Cue Ivan Toney eventually being allowed to step up and do that thing he does, once more. Calm as you like and goal 32 for the season was the reward. The ripple of the net sending Lionel Road in to meltdown. An ear splitting wave of noise greeting the finish. 

Whilst I’ve not watched any of the replays as yet, Mark Burridge has shared this today. His own view (and comms) from the gantry. You want goosebumps? Take a look, and listen, to this….

1-1 on the day although a goal down still. Brentford kept going. Bournemouth kept it niggly. Trying to reach Wembley by not allowing a game to take place. The Bees pushed. Chris Mepham stumbled and there was Bryan Mbeumo to whip it off his toes. He rounded our former player and was clean through. A chance to run one-on-one at Begovic much as Danjuma had done to Raya. Except. Except. The sneakiest of rugby style ankle tap tackles followed as his out-stretched hand saw the flying winger felled. The decision was a no brainer. The photograph now doing the rounds to accompany it a work of art. I’ve no idea who took it but kudos. Straight red. No choice.

If a picture paints a thousand words….

Whether Bryan would have scored or Begovic smothered the chance we’ll never know. It doesn’t really matter. Instead, Bournemouth were left to play the final hour, and any possible extra time, with ten men. Frankly, given the performance of Beogvic over the course of the afternoon they were lucky it wasn’t nine. I’m still not sure how he only got one yellow. The time wasting aside, the ‘injury’ he suffered after running into one of his own players was about as cringeworthy and embarrassing as it gets. Still, that was their problem.

Half-time came at about a quarter past six. Brentford had been unable to add any additional goals despite our best efforts, our crowd and our team. Sergi was on fire. Emiliano showing just why he is so highly valued by the coaching staff. Matthias Jensen (and the second half especially) stepping up his game to new heights. Surely a second goal would come after the break? Surely?

Within five minutes, our prayers were answered. Vitaly Janelt scoring a goal that I’m still not sure how it went in. He seems to tackle one of our players, one of theirs, fall over and unleash a blockbuster of a shot all at the same time. Even seeing that on the screen in The Griff later in the evening, it defies logic. But in it went. In it flew. A strike of the most incredible sweetness. The aggregate scores tied. Any pretensions of holding on that Bournemouth may have had sent back in to the dressing room to keep Chris Mepham company. Lionel Road erupting once more. The aforementioned cauldron threatened to bubble over. Bournemouth, a team visibly falling apart in front of us. Piece by piece. Their meltdown as clear as Michael Douglas after he couldn’t get his McDonalds breakfast.

On we went. On we pushed. The Bees with an extra spring in the step. Bournemouth wilting. A punchdrunk boxer desperately hanging on and awaiting that killer blow. Set up Marcus Forss to deliver it. 82 minutes on the clock and boom, it was there. A deadly first time finish from close in. The hunter’s aim was true. The place exploded. The players celebrating in the shadow of the water tower. All except Henrik Dalsgaard who stood in front of the North Stand. A messianic pose. Veins bulging. Mouth screaming. The crowd being egged further on. The intensity etched across his face. The moment one that, in retrospect, I only wish I’d had more than a mobile phone to capture.

Its fuzzy, but….

But that doesn’t matter one jot. What matters being that there were now less than ten minutes for us to hold the lead. What a time to take it. What a response followed. We kept going. We tried again. Bournemouth waiting until the four minutes of added on time to finally threaten. Begovic heading up for a last, desperate gamble. The stress levels were, I’ll admit, there. If it were to happen at that point then….. but it didn’t. The defence remained rock solid. The Cherries not given a sniff from their flurry of corners and set pieces. The final whistle greeted with the most deafening of roars. One to wake the dead. The waves of relief palpable. The hugs and ecstasy clear for all. It was a moment to top them all. 

Our record in the play-offs is about as well documented as they come. Whilst the job is any half-done, the feeling at full time was one of really getting a monkey off the back. To come back in such style. To show such strength of character. For Thomas to get his tactics spot on, despite the blow of losing Norgaard so late. It was just about the perfect performance. To be part of it a true honour. I can only hope those watching in the pubs had as much fun. The next best thing to being there. 

Then Thomas did his thing, again. The full time lap of honour greeted with more photos. More smiles. Yet instead of giving his traditional ‘thumbs up’, this time around he gave something special. “One more to go”…..

One more to go

I’m not an idiot. Swansea City will have enjoyed their own moment equally and be as pumped for the final as we are. Like us, they’re only 90 minutes from the Premier League. It’s going to be one hell of a tense affair on Saturday. Yet having experienced last seasons and then this, any additional motivation we may have needed was delivered in bucketloads yesterday.

Talking to Mark this morning, he nailed it just about perfectly. “Yesterday, Lionel Road became our new home.” 

I can’t wait to move in. I can’t wait to see who we may be inviting around for dinner. Just got the small matter of getting Saturday out the way first…

What else is there to say? Hats off Thomas Frank. As much as anybody, he got it spot on yesterday. From that bonkers lap at the start, through enforced last minute changes, excellent tactics and key substitutions. A top, top performance from that man.

THANK YOU.

Nick Bruzon