Tag Archives: Brendan Rodgers

Bring on Brendan. Rodgers rather than O’Carroll. FA Cup excitement continues.

24 Jan

This is about as intriuging as an FA Cup tie gets. Brentford, two points off second place in the Championship, host Leicester City, two points off the very summit of the Premier league, in Sunday afternoon’s fourth round tie. The winners know they will be given the opportunity to welcome Brighton in the last 16. With heavy snow forecast in the area from 8am, this one really could have it all. Perhaps, even, an orange ball (although one would presume we’ll get the insipid, dog piss yellow version). Yet with an absolutely massive game on Wednesday at Swansea City, and the sheer exhaustion quite clearly in evidence during the second half against Luton on Wednesday, don’t go into this one expecting the full fat first team. I’m still expecting excitement. Having had the appetite whetted with Chorley – Wolves and Cheltenham Town – Manchester City, now its our turn to strip up to that TV plate.

Thomas Frank has already dropped all the hints you need about who is going to be starting this one today. We know Ivan Toney is missing because of that suspension so Marcus Forss will be up top. That Luton match saw the start of a 14 game run of midweek / weekend fixtures and we looked absolutely fit to drop during that most painful of second halves. It was unmissable stuff and you couldn’t look away. Albeit in the same excruciating way as being tied to a chair and force-fed Mrs. Browns Boys. That Brentford hung on for another win after the two week closure of the training ground was quite amazing but it is clear these are men, not machines. As such, no surprise to hear Thomas announce in his press conference that, “I will use the squad but not like a full rotation. We will put a strong team out there tomorrow.”

The second half against Luton was about as painful viewing as Mrs. Brown’s Boys

Regardless of the Swansea City game, this is absolutely the right thing to do. We’ve a fantastic squad and already seen in the league cup how deep this runs. Four wins out of five against Premier league opposite this season. Only Jose Mourinho getting in our way. A sixth game upon us now and a chance for the likes of Tarique, Samman et al to show what they can do once more. Could there be more action for the likes of Alex Gilbert, Lewis Gordon, Fin Stevens and Max Haygarth who all featured against Middlesbrough in the previous round? Who all impressed, Stevens in particular. We already know that Marcus Forss, a player Thomas says “The Club have a strong belief that he will be a top striker”, starts. This, for me , is a great thing.

Marcus’ form this season has been quite outstanding to watch. His goal for Finland in France a quite wonderful cherry on the cake of his own personal growth. He has a foot like the proverbial traction engine and when he hits that ball, it stays hit. I can’t wait to see what he can do against Leicester City and if we can give him the service then the results could be quite incredible. With Ivan Toney missing through suspension, the door is open to lay down a claim to a more regular starting berth. Whether now or in the near future. 

Marcus has only impressed when he has featured.

It won’t be easy, of course. Leicester City were the visitors for the fourth round last year. They ran out 1-0 winners and despite our best efforts, it felt comfortable all the way through. Albeit a much changed Brentford team including relative unknowns (then) Yearwood, Racic, Thomspon, Roerslev and Zamburek gave a strong account of themselves. Bryan Mbeumo saw an equaliser chalked off by the officials but in the end an early goal from Kelechi Iheanacho was enough to separate the two teams. With Jamie Vardy’s well documented injury today, expect the same player to start again. Wes Morgan and Dennis Praet are also missing from a selection where Brendan Rodgers hinted at a similar approach to Thomas, “We always try to rely on the collective, the group has always been able to find results.

Whomever he goes with, Leicester are gong to be strong. About as tough a test as they come. Just as when they won the league before, the Foxes are the one team nobody is really talking about. Liverpool choke. Frank out (at Chelsea). Manchester City and their early stumble. Manchester United at the top despite the odd reaction of their own fans to Ole earlier on. Sound familiar? Yet it is Leicester who have avoided the noise, shirked the nonsense and just got on with what they are great at. Winning football matches. Indeed, they went top during the week until United did their thing, Treat this one as a casual affair at your peril. It is an FA Cup tie that is about as hard as it comes.

Despite the lack of crowds – even next season is now feeling optimistic at best – the tournament has continued to provide excitement. Who couldn’t help but be moved by Chorley? Their game on Friday night with Wolves could, genuinely, have gone either way. It was quite the cracker. Cheltenham Town had us all believing in the magic of the cup last night until Manchester City stepped up very late to crush the dreams of the nation’s armchair fans. Blackpool had us on the edge of our seats yesterday afternoon until Brighton retook the lead with the most severe of deflections. It was cruel but it was a goal. That’s football. For a moment, the outride world forgotten about until full time came around and then there was nothing else to do except watch The Masked singer. Apparently. I mean, I don’t, but I believe some people may. The crushing reality of having to watch Davina Macall gurning her way through truing to fathom out who was lurking beneath a Bushbaby  costume (if only there was a mask for her) no replacement for celebrating like we’d won the FA Cup in the Griffin at full time. Moreso given it wasn’t Jason Donovan or Joe Mangel when his head eventually came off.

We digress. Cripes, do we digress. I can’t wait for this one. As ever, I’d love to be there. I understand why we can’t but it doesn’t make it any easier. At least we have the TV to provide a bit of an escape and we’ll be huddled around it for sure. Taking consolation in the fact we’re not freezing to death in what already feels absolutely bitter outside my front door. The lack of frostbite a small benefit for being forced to stay home although there isn’t one amongst us who wouldn’t happily lose a few toes if it meant being able to see the game at Lionel Road?

Kick off is at 2.30pm today. BT Sport the place. There are no cameras on I-follow although Mark Burridge and team will still have audio commentary. As do BBC Radio 5 live although for me (Clive), the Parry-Reeves line up offered by their London based counterpart is always infinitely preferable for anyone heading down the wireless route. 

The day is upon us. Enjoy the game however you are following it. On tv, in the bathtub with a terrace tranny, in the gym with internet radio or just sat on the sofa. We’ll be doing the later. We’ll be hoping for another upset. Another Premier League notch on the belt. Another excuse to watch something that isn’t people giving it their all in oversized anthropomorphic costumes. Buzz and Buzette aside. Yet even they are victims of the current Corona rulings, it would seem. Oh to have a pre-match welcome from their furry faces. Curse you, Covid. Curse you.

Still, at least there is a game to watch. I’m just glad we’ll be seeing Brendan Rodgers rather than Brendan O’Carroll – the usual automatic replacement for ‘no football’. No matter how hard it is doing it from the couch. The prospect of being able to welcome a 7th (seventh) top flight team, whilst playing in the Championship, would be a quite wonderful mark of how this strangest of seasons has gone. Should we first beat a 6th. Just the small matter of Leicester City standing in the way….

This time last year – my sort of masked mystery

Nick Bruzon.

Don’t do it. Don’t do it. Don’t do it. You just know they’ll do it.

12 Jan

And with that the FA Cup fourth round draw has been made. Not to mention the in no way convoluted selection for the fifth. With Brentford fans settling down in front of the TV to watch proceedings unfold (and Leeds United fans settling down in front of the TV to watch The One Show) the best we could hope for was a home draw. Well, we got one. A repeat of last season’s tie  with Leicester City. The winners of which will be at home again, entertaining whomever comes out on top between Brighton and Blackpool. The chance to test ourselves once more against the former Premier League Champions . A possible return for Neal Maupay should everything go to plan. The quarter-finals wide open. I’m sure all four clubs in our little group are thinking the same about that one. This could be fun. Even if the TV companies will be wetting themselves over the prospect of Manchester United – Liverpool. Yawn.

This really is as good as it could have got for the Bees. Brentford  – Leicester City is a tie with all the elements in place for a classic FA Cup match. High flying Championship side at home to the former top flight champions and a club currently in the top three. It was a close run thing last time out and I can’t wait for the chance to go one better. Or, at least, try to ! Would that we were able to attend in person but there’s frankly no way we’ll be able to get anywhere near a football stadium by the end of January. Even 9-11 February for round five is still nothing more than a flight of fancy. Sadly, it will have to be the TV for us, Brighton and Blackpool.

Its one of those where, genuinely, any of the four teams can make it through. Brighton are hardly on fire at present. Blackpool made West Brom look even shoddier than normal at the weekend. Leicester City are clearly the favourites but they won’t relish a visit to a Brentford team who made it to the League Cup semi-finals. Who are flying high in the league and have an added element of steel that was, perhaps, missing last season. Opposition generally despatched with ease but, if we’re being honest, perhaps lacking that additional nous when it counted. Look at how Leeds United held it together at the critical time. Fair play to them. When all were expecting them to fall apart (again) they stayed firm. The brilliance of Bielsa pulling them through. Hurrah for powerpoint!

There are a few obvious plum ties in the draw. Wycombe v Spurs. Cheltenham Town v Manchester City. Chorley v Wolves is, for me, the pick of the bunch. No doubt BT and the BBC will be falling over themselves for Manchester United v Liverpool. Why? Why? Why? (Delilah). A game, and teams, we’ve seen a thousand times before. An encounter with as much cup magic as an end of the pier entertainer pulling a dirty handkerchief rather than the missing card from his sleeve. Genuinely I’d give that one a swerve. Been there. Done it. No interest. The others, and the wider draw, offer up genuine intrigue. Ourselves included. Moreso once the cards fall into place for round five. 

That’s way down the track though. First things first, we’ve got Bristol City tomorrow night. Then a few more league games. Then Leicester City visit. I’m sure, likewise, Thomas will go for a similar team that beat Middlesbrough in round three. That took us most of the way in the league cup. I’m fully behind that, too. The squad is there for a reason and these boys have more than proven they can step into the first team. Even if his rotation does cause a few tears to be shed in other quarters.

I love the FA Cup. I’d love us to get as far as possible, no question. I still see the Championship as an absolute priority. Equally, though, having one foot in the quarters a few season back was quite the moment. Until Swansea City did their thing in the second half. With the paths for both mapped out in front of us, the next month or two could be even more exciting than ever. There’s not really much else to say at this point. The balls have dropped. We know what awaits.  Bring it on.

It all went South at Swansea after a cracking first half.

Nick Bruzon

Will Gibraltar get Cold Feet? Are more brackets being served? Can England learn?

6 Sep

With another five days until Brentford travel to Brighton (assuming you are reading this on a Tuesday morning) the Championship’s barren period continues. When the return of TV’s Cold Feet was Monday’s main draw – and tell me, what sort of world do we live in where this can be lauded yet a remake of Are You Being Served so derided? – then it remains for International football to act as our main form of sustenance. Can Gibraltar whet the appetite this evening following the frugal fare served up on Sunday by England?

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The only ‘cold feet’ I’m interested in

Well, it would be fair to say that the bar has been raised. Bitter-rivals Spain filled their shooting boots with an 8-0 humping of Liechtenstein last night. No cold feet here, quite the opposite – the Spaniards were on fire. The only sour note, from a footballing perspective, the failure of all and sundry to correctly note the score as things went to 7(seven) – 0.

Even Brentford club sponsors 888 Sport got it wrong on Twitter, despite that rarest of things -a humorous GIF (see also : memes). Still, at least they had the good grace to later apologise for what, must surely, been an oversight based purely on the excitement of the occasion.  Wales, likewise, picked up where they left off in the Euros. A 4-0 tonking of Moldova proving that Chris Coleman’s boys have lost none of their drive or ambition. Which begs two questions.

Firstly, why couldn’t England ? Instead it was just like watching Mrs Browns Boys. A tedious, repetitive one trick pony which, despite an almost moral obligation to watch not many people were, if we’re being honest, actually enjoying it. A sort of footballing Emperor’s New Clothes.

More importantly, can Gibraltar go one better than a Euro qualifying campaign in which the highlights were almost scoring in Germany and actually scoring in Scotland? That aside, it was a series of brackets and, despite some fierce national pride, an eventual end to Group D with ‘nil points’.

I’m not a (total) idiot. Even England have more chance of lifting the World Cup, or qualifying for it, than the boys from the Rock. Yet the harsh lessons of that qualifying group would have stood them in good stead. And this time around, instead of the likes of Germany, Ireland or Poland, opponents include Cyprus and Estonia.

The fact that my current online bookmaker (used purely for reference purposes) doesn’t even offer Gibraltar a price to win the group is, I am sure, just a glitch in the Internet. Something that will be corrected as they shock all comers at 28/1 to beat Greece this evening.

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Six participants but only five available to bet on

On paper, no chance. I grant you that and can see how, looking in, that’s what you’d expect. Yet minnows have to start somewhere. Just look at the likes of Albania, Turkey and Scotland. And tonight could be that night.

Cast your mind back a few months and to the qualifiers for the Champions League.

Lincoln Red Imps, domestic champions on the Rock, entertained none other than Glasgow Celtic in a second qualifying round first leg tie. Despite Brendan Rodgers  coming out like the love child of Russell Slade and Steve Evans ( please, for the love of God, don’t visualise it) no amount of sour grapes or bluster could disguise the fact that his Bhoys ended the game on the wrong end of a 1-0 defeat .

Upsets can happen. Every now and again, result comes along to shock the footballing world. Even if they can’t do it tonight, watching Gibraltar try to beat the odds has got to be a hell of a lot more entertaining than Big Sam’s England or ITV comedy dramas.

Failing that, brackets are 8-1.

Gibraltar bots and bag

Gibraltar have packed their boots to start World Cup qualifiers

Nick Bruzon 

Super Lincoln go ballistic, Celtic were atrocious

12 Jul

It’s been done before. I don’t care! Brentford fans, you get your ‘Last Word’ fix tomorrow.Right now, let’s just cut to the chase and reflect on the enormity of Lincoln Red Imps (champions of Gibraltar) beating Celtic (one time European cup winners) 1-0 in the Champion’s League .

Long have these pages celebrated those fleeting moments of triumph from this most fledgling of footballing nations. Long have we absorbed the mocking of Spanish (and other) supporters.

Yet, yet, yet…. write off anybody at your peril when it comes to football. Forget the statistics. Forget the futsal. Forget the tippy-tappy. When it comes down to it, there’s only one thing that counts – the result after 90 minutes.

“A result which ranks as the most embarrassing in Celtic’s history.” Not my words but those of journalism’s, The Independent.

“The Shock of Gibraltar: Celtic beaten by minnows in Brendan Rodgers’ first match.” Not my words but those of The Mail.

Brendan Rodgers’ first game as Celtic boss ended in humiliation as his Hoops side were humbled 1-0 by Lincoln Red Imps in in the first leg of their second Champions League qualifier at the Victoria stadium.” Not my words etc.etc…. The Telegraph.

“Celtic suffered arguably the worst defeat in their history when they were humbled by Gibraltarian part-timers Lincoln Red Imps in the Champions League second qualifying round.” This time from the BBC.

“We wanted an easier job after the first leg, and this makes it a bit more complicated, but we will be fine for the second game.” Most definitely not my words but those of Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers.

Brendan, I wouldn’t be so sure.

It was a scoreline you can only dream of.Let’s not forget that Gibraltar (pop 30,000ish) have only been UEFA members since 2013.  If Iceland beating England in the Euros may have been deemed an upset, this one comes in at an 11 on the Richter scale of shocks.

Forget sleeping giants. This was a sleeping policeman. MOD police office Lee Casciaro giving Rodgers a (cardiac) arrest in his first competitive game at the helm of Celtic.

No, being the clear answer

What more can you say? Celtic are still giving it large, despite having lost. On reputation and history then surely they will sweep the boys from Gibraltar to one side in the second leg next week.

The again, on reputation and history they should have done that on Tuesday night.

What a result. Congratulations to Lincoln Red Imps in producing a shock on the Rock. Here’s to the second leg…..

Nick Bruzon

 

Bees, Dragons, Saints and Imps. As one dream dies, another continues

7 Jul

What a night and what a result. Lincoln Red Imps of Gibraltar set up a Champions League qualifying tie with Celtic after sweeping aside FC Flora Tallinn 0f Estonia 2-0 ( 3-2 aggregate). In other news, Portugal edged past Wales to reach the final of EURO 2016 whilst, for Brentford fans, could the new Southampton shirt offer cause for optimism/fear?

We’ll start, briefly, in Gibraltar where the local champions set up that intriguing encounter for Brendan Rodgers in his first competitive game as the new Celtic manager. What’s this got to do with me, you may ask? Well, aside from personal pride you may recall that Brentford owner Matthew Benham’s other team, FC Midtjylland, locked horns with the Imps at this stage last season.

After a hard fought first leg the Danes eventually ran out 3-0 winners but, it would be fair to say, performances have stepped up even more since then. With a huge swathe of the national team (who of course scored their first competitive goal against Scotland) representing the Imps, anybody taking this one as a foregone conclusion would be urged to think again.

Next up , Brentford. With supporters awaiting the first news about our new kit (which, of course, has been hinted at coming out later this week), Southampton have released their latest incarnation.

Again, something which on the surface may not have much to do with us but I’m always intrigued by how manufacturers can provide a new twist on red and white stripes. And, it would be fair to say, The Saints have done that.

Southampton

A shirt that may well divide fans

Along with the stripes, technical sponsor Under Armour appear to have incorporated some sort of bra motif into the shoulder panels. The closest thing I can compare it to is our own Osca 83-84  – the one with the all white top half.

Initial shock has slowly turned into begrudging admiration. I’m not sure I’d be overly pleased if Mark Devlin was to reveal this as our new design but you can’t deny it’s different. Besides, with nothing this outlandish in the Adidas catalogue, I can only imagine we’re at least a few seasons away from anything this unusual.

The other point of note around this is: manufacturers blurb. According to the website, “The stripes appear in blocks of five to represent Southampton’s five core brand values.”. Although it fails to note what these values are. Let’s hope that when our new design is revealed to the world, we avoid such nonsense.

And , finally, the Welsh dream is over. It was a stunning effort to get as far as they did and, for a while, looked as though the game was going to go all the way though extra time and beyond. In the end though, it was ‘that man’ who proved the difference.

Say what you want about Cristiano Ronaldo – and many have, myself included – but the power and technique in the header for the opening goal, which he connected with at a height of 7ft 10″,  could only be applauded.

The less said about his subsequent celebration (or that bizarre spearmint coloured kit), the better.

Nick Bruzon

IMG_4765

Osca 83-84. Better than spearmint. No core values