Tag Archives: Brentford Community Stadium

Big new ambitions? Or downsizing? What do you make of stadium news?

17 Aug

Thursday morning. We’ve all had time to digest the news out of Griffin Park. Namely that in a week’s time Brentford FC will be presenting plans to Hounslow council for an amendment to our design for Lionel Road  – the key points of which include : a location move (3 metres south),Premier League quality ‘outside broadcast facilities within the stadium itself, the relocation of BFC Community Sports Trust outside the ground and the capacity reduction from 20,000 to 17,250. The target date for all of this is now late 2019 / early 2020.

The statements on the club site and in the programme from Cliff Crown & Mark Devlin have gone on to further elaborate on the reasoning about this in what, I have to be honest (and I’d say this to their face) reads an awful lot like a game of buzzword bingo in places. Especially with regards to the housing element of the project which is so key to making it a success.

That’s marketing speak. We’re always going to get it. What seems to be of as much interest to supporters is what these official statements don’t say about the redesign. The obvious questions that immediately get asked. Moreso when the statement from BIAS and the article on the Beesotted site (who had been given a preview of the plans a week earlier) cut to the heart of so many questions that supporters are asking.

What will it now look like? Why no club shop? Why no central bar areas such as The Hive? What are the Premium seats and why so many? 3000 out of a total capacity of 17250, and that includes away fans. What does that do for us ordinary fans who currently sit on, or around, the halfway line? Can we still afford to in future? Why no monorail?

Lionel Road monorail

Lionel Road. A new look – sans monorail – is coming

They are just a few of the obvious questions and ones which our fan groups quite rightly ask. Read the club statements but please also read these pieces too before you continue. That said, I can’t imagine many supporters are yet to see them.

Or the GPG to which I was also directed yesterday.

Welcome back Trevor; it’s been a while since I darkened your pages. Yet it seems that he has also been granted access to not only the plans but also a chat with Matthew Benham and Cliff Crown where many of these key questions have been both anticipated and which he has attempted to answer. Albeit, and in his words: “I didn’t make any notes of the meeting at the time, so this is a summary of our discussions created a few days later in a old man’s memory”.

I’d suggest you also have a read of this, too. If it as accurate as one would hope (presumably Matthew and Cliff would be at the doors of the GPG with pitchforks, flaming torches and lawyers if they had been misquoted or the article has not been pre-approved) then it presents a lot more clarity around the logic being employed. The reasoning behind certain decisions.

Which brings me to the crux of the matter after all this preamble. We’re talking about a new stadium. Not the end of days. This is a great, great thing.

We all recognise what Matthew Benham has done for the club. The vast investments he has made and the upward trajectory Brentford FC have been on over the last 6 years since he officially took over after our first dealings way back in 2009. Many of us have questioned his ‘mathematical model’ yet, equally, after three years in the Championship the fruits of this are clear for all to see.

He’s a supporter since 1979. He has been ever clear about his vision for sustainable top flight football. Frankly, he’s too far into this to run himself out with a half-baked scheme or an unsustainable one when it comes to stadium design. I can’t imagine any of these are decisions which have been taken lightly but at the end of the day (Clive) these changes would seem to be the compromise that needs to be made in order to deliver the build.

We all love Griffin Park. We all know it’s not fit for long term purpose. Certainly not sustainable Premier League football which is THE ambition for everybody at the club. Back in September 2015  Rasmus Ankersen told supporters at the Fans forum:  “It is not an option to not be in the Premier League. It has to happen in the next three years…. At the moment there is no Plan B. we’ll be in the Premier League in three years.”

That’s only a year away now. Quite frankly, I don’t want to be squatting at Loftus Road. The sooner we are able to take things forward the better.  And on that point, if that was our ambition then why were the much touted Outside Broadcast facilities not part of the original spec? For what it’s worth.

Griffin park GP

Griffin Park. Wonderful but not a long term future

Listen. I don’t want this to read as though it has an overly negative tone. Quite the opposite. Football is a hugely emotive thing. It is a part of all our being. Our collective experience. Our lives. Our friends and families have been made here and come here. Supporters are loving the fact that we have a new home on the horizon but, equally, from first impressions it seems that many are worried we’ll lose some of what makes being a Brentford fan unique. That we’ll be priced off our own doorstep.

Trevor’s article suggests we socialise ‘off site’. 3000 premium seats, whilst obviously a revenue winner, are pretty much 20% of the home fans. Will we be able to still be amongst ‘the heart’ of it?

Perhaps we’re lucky that at Griffin Park to sit in that location isn’t vastly prohibitive in terms of cost relative to other areas. Some element of clarity about that aspect – and Mark did note on Saturday that “We have already started planning the sales proves for Season Tickets and Premium seat packages”  – would be wonderful.

I want to keep coming and I will keep coming. I can’t wait to see what our new home looks and feels like. To experience top flight football there.

Let’s be realistic. Whatever our thoughts, nothing is going to change. Not physically. Redesigns are being submitted next week. This is it. Plans will be locked down. You can’t build a stadium based on a vote by committee of thousands. Equally, if it came down to another source would we even be in existence still? Let alone with such a prospect on the horizon?

But by the same virtue, why are we so poor at communications? (football is a village etc) . Why did it take Tom Moore to break the news a week ago? Then nothing be said once that story came out? When you take the forward thinking step of sharing the plans with our supporter groups, the obvious consequence is that they will have the time to digest them and review. To prepare questions. As I’m thankful the club have done and our groups have then reacted.

So why have the club not looked to anticipate some of these? It is clear they have come up in the discussions the club held with the fan groups. Whether as part of Cliff / Mark’s articles or as an additional statement alongside them. Why has it taken Trevor and the GPG (which not all supporters read) to provide undocumented answers?

To say again. This is a great thing that is happening. It seems trite to even consider having the hump over over a new stadium and a plan that is going to get us there. And personally, whilst I can’t get my head around some of the aspects, I don’t. We need a new home.

I don’t expect sales figures. I don’t expect minutiae to be shared in advance. That’s not how you do business. I’m not here to sell the plans to you or tear them down.

But once the news had broken, it would just have been good if we could have had a few more facts about the things that are really going to impact us. Even a picture would have been nice!

A fans forum is planned for next month. Will anything be said in advance? It would be in everyone’s interest if a bit more meat could be put on the bones of these plans. Publish an official statement rather than an article on the GPG.

It’s not every day you move home. It’s not that much to ask. Surely?

Nick Bruzon

Bees get off the mark with plenty of positives on show.

16 Aug

Well, that was some day. We had contrasting announcements made about Lionel Road whilst on pitch Brentford hosted Bristol City and ended the game having taken a point but feeling, quite honestly, as though we’d lost. This after Bobby Reid delivered the ultimate kick to the knackers with his 98th minute equaliser. Yet it all seemed inconsequential given the desperately sad news announced by Ryan Woods just before kick off.

First up, Bristol City . What can you say? Well, Dean Smith has come out fighting with the observation that, “If we play like that, week in week out, then we will be a top six team“. Adding , “It was the most one-sided game in the Championship I have been involved in. How we didn’t get three points is beyond me .”

All true Dean. All true. You can read his full piece on Brentford ‘official’ but there was an almost inevitable familiarity about the way this one ended. Inability to clear the ball led to Brentford conceding an early goal courtesy of right winger Josh Brownhill but from that moment on it was the proverbial one way traffic.

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Josh Brownhill’s opener is celebrated on twitter

Brentford were quite delicious going forward. Jota and Romaine amongst those really testing Frank Fielding (whose name conjured up images of some Victorian musical performer) in the City goal. Both the keeper and the framework denying the marauding Bees who ended the half a goal down but with 69% possession and 13 attempts to City’s 1. Surely our luck would change as the game wore on?

Sure enough, it did.

With the quite wonderful Romaine Sawyers and Ollie Watkins pulling the strings – both of whom were among five changes for a Dean Smith team that also saw the return of Harlee Dean (although Nico retained the armband) – it took just ten minutes into the second period before parity was restored.

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Harlee was back in the starting XI

Jota, whose game plan seemed to consist of either shoot on sight, cut inside or ping it to the back stick opting for the last of these tricks as the modern day Paul Daniels dropped a ball onto the head of Ollie Watkins to power home. Griffin Park erupted. Better delivery than Postman Pat. Better execution than John Wilkes Booth. They were my words on Twitter at the time and I stand by them.

But the Bees pushed on. Chance followed chance before Neal Maupay, barely on the pitch for five minutes after replacing Lasse Vibe, fired home from the edge of the box. Back of the net. Pick that out. 2-1 Brentford. Perhaps, finally, our possession, domination and chances would be rewarded.

Alas, no. A lengthy injury to Josh McEachran (ankle) saw a butt clenching 8 minutes of added time shown on the board. Even Fielding joined the attack as the Bees held on. And on. Until virtually the last kick of the game when Bobby Reid did that thing. Urghh.

A combination of ricochets and inability to hoof clear a ball bouncing around the box after a fine save from Daniel Bentley saw silence decend on Griffin Park. Except from the away fans who were understandably ecstatic. What fighting spirit from the visitors.

It was oh so reminiscent of the 3-3 with Brighton last season where we were left feeling as thought we’d snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. As ever, the goals are up on the internet c/o Sky .

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Brentford had most of the control but ended with a share of the points

87 minutes on the back foot and one spawny goal. Their ‘keeper had nothing to do all second half.” Not my words but those of one Bristol City fan in The Griffin at full time. Even this morning I feel as though I’ve taken a massive punch to the gut, such is the feeling of numbness about the result although that could just be the five slices of cold pizza that Mrs B left for me to hoover up upon the return home.

Yet whilst I expected Dean to come out with the lines he did – he’s head coach – hearing this view from the other side gives some comfort today. Somebody is going to get a proper spanking soon. The preferred starting XI is beginning to take shape with Sawyers and Watkins surely nailed on. We’ve Sergi to come back and, likewise, Ryan whenever he is ready. This is still very much a squad and a force to be reckoned with.

Next up, a trip to Ipswich Town. They’re one of three teams with a 100% record – along with Cardiff City and a Wolves side who come to Griffin Park on Saturday week .

The Championship doesn’t get any easier. But it certainly keeps us on our toes.

Off field, there was the stadium news. Two very differing announcements were made by the club and BIAS in regards to the proposed changes in plans for Lionel Road (including capacity reduction from 20,000 to 17,500) and the details around this. Our fans’ group very much delving into the logistics which made for some confused reading. Surely they’ve got this wrong? And if not, why would the club only share part of the announcement ?

At the end of the day (Clive) I’m just the numpty on the terrace. The likes of Beesotted and BIAS do a great job supporting the fans and promoting the club. It’s great they’ve been involved in getting the news out although presumably there’s more to come clarifying the detail?

Putting this nonsense together the morning after the night before is fun, but its not a job. I’m not a journo. I’m not Billy Grant who never seems to sleep, such is his prodigious output. Something as emotive and important as this needs to be digested. Properly. More to follow on this one tomorrow.

As for Ryan Woods, there are no words. All we can do is respect his privacy and know that the entire Brentford family is thinking of him. Know that there is copious amounts of love heading the way of him and his family.

Thanks for reading.

Nick Bruzon

Nottingham Forest 4: The invisible defence. And is this the Lionel Road news?

13 Aug

1-0 up on 40 minutes. 3-1 down after 47 minutes. Brentford not so much threw this one away as gift wrapped it, wrote ‘SWALK’ on the label and hand delivered the points to Mark Warburton in the Nottingham Forest dugout. One of only three teams in the Championship without a point, the Bees will be looking to get off the mark against Bristol City on Tuesday night. Moreso, given so much of our attacking play in the opening two league games has suggested we deserve an awful lot more.

But regular readers know the drill here. Deserving counts for nothing. Balls in the back of the net are all we look to when the points are being counted up. Likewise, the table only starts to take on a real shape when we are ten games into the campaign.

Put it this way, at this stage two seasons ago we were four points better off and with Marinus at the helm. And look how that opening period to a season would eventually play out…

We will look back the goals that we conceded and see if we can improve from there”, Dean Smith told ‘official’ after the game. Dean, if we can’t then there is something seriously wrong. If Billy Sharp’s winner for Sheffield United saw us go walkabout, then this was the stuff of the worst horror sequels. Nottingham Forest 4 : The invisible defence.

The 1st team defence – static

The fourth goal in particular was one which would see the word ‘shambolic’ trending on Twitter. At least, in TW8. Sky have the video highlights up already. Do take a look. If you want a lesson in how to coned a goal then here it was. More frustrating was the fact that it came after Brentford had hauled themselves back into things at 2-3 down. Andreas Bjelland’s effort correctly adjudged to have crossed the line, even though it looked a close call from the Bramear Road and those Ealing Road wags situated directly behind the goal. It was no more than the build up of pressure had suggested would be coming until it then all went South. Again.

Positives? Well, first up let’s give due praise to Forest and, in particular, Andreas Bouchalakis. His brace helped secure the points but the second, just after half time, was a beautiful strike from distance that even had some of the home fans clapping. Credit where it’s due – it was a wonderful finish.

For Brentford, there was no shortage of effort going forward. Ollie Watkins impressed, along with Flo Jo and Kamo. There was a first league goal for Neal Maupay and it wouldn’t surprise me to see all four start against Bristol City. Along with Romaine Sawyers who gave his all and got stuck in, coming on from the bench.

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View from the Braemar – Rico Henry helps Brentford ‘push up’ in the first half

Yet these are all nice problems to have. It is the back four where Dean has real decisions to make. He stuck to his guns in benching Harlee but would also note afterwards that, “You have to play to the best of your ability to keep the shirt. It is too early to say for Tuesday but maybe conceding four goals we need to change things.”

Is this his way of welcoming the former captain back into the fold? Have Harlee’s contract negotiations now moved further in the player’s favour?  Could Maxime Colin win back his place in the starting XI ? Is it simply a case of ‘a bad day at the office’ in a season that is only 180 minutes old?

Certainly, I’m not overly stressed although would much rather be winning than losing.  We’ve a lot of new players come in over the summer. The attacking intent is clear for all to see and this is, as much, all about the team gelling. First things first though, let’s get the basics right. And that starts with not conceeding silly, soft goals.

The other two big talking points were Mark Warburton and Lionel Road. The former making his return to Griffin Park after leaving us at the end of 2014/15. Yet despite all the talk prior to kick off, in the end his presence seemed to be largely treated with the ambivolence reserved for a.n.other manager.

Indeed, the main subject for discussion was his attire – which consisted of a green polo shirt tucked deep in to his sports shorts. If anything, he looked less table topping manager and more ’extra from TV’s The Brittas Empire’ (one for the over 30s amongst us).

Brittas Warbs

Mark Warburton – always one to pursue new options

As for Lionel Road, everybody seems resigned to Tuesday’s stadium announcement being a capacity reduction. Although in what specific context? Could this be to accommodate any form of ‘safe standing’ zone?  Could Get West London journalist Tom Moore have been miles off the mark from his scoop during the week? And if not, how has he got hold of this news, let alone been allowed to leak it (unless this was to ‘soften the blow’)? Or could it be something else?

Something like a monorail?

Being a long standing fan of the club, Matthew Benham will be more than familiar with that story which was originally proposed as part of a new ground as far back as 2002. But that’s a scheme which has long since died a death – if for no other reason than the emergence of Cross Rail. And the chances of this one resurfacing are likely to be slim to none.

Certainly, the tweet from Independent fans group BIAS during the week suggested they weren’t happy about what is to come: We’ve been told of stadium changes & concerned at lack of consultation. We’ll work with ‪@beesotted & others to get info to fans + fan views.

Which blows my theory out of the water. Tuesday could be interesting. Of pitch, a potential announcement and on field the visit of Bristol City.

Here’s to getting everything back on the rails. Although perhaps not of the mono variety.

Lionel Road monorail

Could THIS be the Lionel Road news?

Nick Bruzon

King Jota is the star of this year’s e-book (and it’s for a great cause).

27 May

What was your highlight of the season?  The double over QPR ? The win at Brighton? Crushing Aston Villa, Preston, Derby County and Leeds United (amongst others) at home? The trip to Burton United? Or something else?

How about those outstanding on pitch displays from the likes of Ryan Woods, Harlee Dean, Lasse Vibe and Daniel Bentley, to name but a few? Villa fan Simon Hateley self-combusting on Twitter? The return of Mrs. Brown and her boys in the hilarious : “All round to Mrs. Brown’s” (please note: your definition of hilarious may very well vary).

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Mrs Brown. It was worse than any of us could imagine

If everybody’s ‘favourite mammy’ (they’re the words of the BBC, definitely not me) struggled to provide laughs, at least they came thick and fast c/o eventual QPR boss Ian Holloway. His pre-season prediction as to how Brentford would end the campaign, made in an article for Sky Sports,  was one that came back to haunt him time and again. So much so that he would eventually deny even making it.

But for me the real pick of the bunch was not one moment but a feeling of momentum that built thanks to the return of those two wonderful Spaniards – Sergi Canos and, of course, King Jota. The sale of goal machine Scott Hogan to Aston Villa would barely cause a ripple on the Griffin Park seismograph as our new look team started scoring, and playing, for fun.

How wonderful to see Sergi and Jota play with such freedom of expression down the flanks. To see how much genuine pleasure they derived from every touch and from every goal. Moreso, as Lasse Vibe started to do his thing to incredible effect. And setting Peter Gilham off on more than one occasion. Never has a little Italian restaurant; at Brentford lock, been plugged with such gusto.

It was a pleasure shared by the fans and one which even inspired BBC Billy Reeves to form a supergroup (alongside Adam Devlin from the Bluetones and Rich Hard-Fi) to pen the gorgeous charity single, ‘Welcome home, King Jota’.

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Musical genius: Archer, Devlin, Reeves (l-r) c/o The Jolly Baker, Ashford

Which brings us neatly/with all the subtly of a sledgehammer (delete as applicable) to this years e-book: Welcome Home, King Jota (Brentford FC season review 2016/17).

Before you glaze over, this time things are different. It is now available for download on kindle from the Amazon store but all sale proceeds from this latest version, priced at just £1.99, are being donated to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust.

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

I think we all appreciate just how much our club does off-field and in the local community. Barely a day goes by without seeing one of the players at a local school, visiting sick children in hospital or making pizzas at the aforementioned restaurant (Lasse Vibe, I’m looking at you).

Indeed, to hear Yoann Barbet and Lasse speak at the player of the year dinner after sharing the Community player of the year award for the work they do with the Trust was truly inspirational.

I love this club. I love the feeling that everybody knows everybody and looks out for each other. From a personal perspective, I’m overawed everytime somebody reads my nonsense or says a nice word in the street about The Last Word column. At the end of the day (Clive) it is just a bit of fun although with an occasional venting of frustration. Short corners. That Band. Mrs. Brown. To name but a few.

So with that in mind, if people are somehow interested in one supporter’s view of what happened between the end of last campaign to the end of this one (essentially the least bad of the blogs with a bit of new stuff in there), then you’ll be doing it for the Sports Trust.

And you can get it here.

Enjoy. Thanks for reading over the years.

Welcome Home, King Jota book page

Nick Bruzon

What a night. Harlee and Jota go head to head at Player of the Year awards.

8 May

What a night. With the dust not even settling on Sunday afternoon’s defeat by Blackburn Rovers at Griffin Park, the Brentford family reconvened for the season end Player of the Year awards.

With Natalie Sawyer hosting the ceremony , ably abetted by Peter Gilham, the night marked a wonderful end to a third successive season in the Championship. And a third successive top ten finish. It was something noted by Chairman Cliff Crown who, as with those who would follow him to the microphone, was quick to note not just the great job done by all at Brentford this season but, as importantly, the optimism with which we can view the forthcoming season.

No more so was this demonstrated than with the ‘breaking news’ (and there was even a graphic for this) that Jota’s contract extension had been triggered. He’s with us for 2017/18 ! He’s staying with us. This is just stunning news and received one of the biggest cheers of the night. As one would expect.

In terms of the awards, Harlee Dean scooped a brace including the big one – supporters’ player of the year. He gave an interesting pair of speeches, highlighting where he has come from over the last few years, despite the various levels of trust shown in him by Dean Smith’s respective predecesors. On the sending off against Blackburn his own admission was that he just wasn’t going to let them score, even though it wouldn’t have made a difference to us. If anything told you what you needed to know about his fighting spirit then here it was.

All being well the club will publish the video highlights of these over the next day or so. The positivity and goodwill emanating from not just Harlee and Cliff but also the likes of Dean Smith, Mark Devlin and a departing Alan McCormack in their speeches was almost tangible.

Ryan Woods was named player’s player of the year. Perhaps one of our unsung heroes, he’s somebody we almost take for granted. Obviously he’s good, very good. Yet it is only in his absence that we truly see how much he does, what value he is to this side and how conspicuous the gap created by his absence is.

There were touching stories from Yoann Barbet and Lasse Vibe in picking up their Community awards whilst Zain Westbrooke picked up the first honour of the night in being named B-team player of the year. But it was that man Jota who really took the limelight.

Firstly with his goal of the season award. That wondrous, wondrous moment against QPR at Griffin Park which Jake Bidwell, and the rest of their defence, are probably still having nightmares about. Well played Nico Yennaris and Josh Clarke in not making it a Jota 1-2 in this category as the one against Derby County failed to make the top 3. What a mark of the quality we have !

But secondly, and with due respect to Captain Harlee, perhaps the REAL big one of the night was a return for Hottie of the Year. Joining a list of previous winners including Andre Gray, Jonathan Douglas and Sam Saunders, the latest name to be added to that list is now Jota.

Let’s be honest, even for us married men that one was never in doubt. His hair, something most of us aspire to as much as his footballing ability, could have won that prize on its own. Here’s to seeing if he can scoop it in 2019/20.

What a season it has been. There’ll be more to come over the week. Until then, it simply remains to say a HUGE thank you to all involved in last night’s event. It really was enormous fun, the players were magnificent and it showed yet again (as if any reminder were needed) what a wonderful club we have.

THANK YOU Brentford FC.

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Jota – the hair.

Nick Bruzon

That Sky One Harchester United thing. Dear Sky TV, Andy Ansah, Richie et al….

3 May

These pages usually talk about Brentford FC but, occasionally, we look further afield than Griffin Park. Today is just one of those. It is a time when we need to look back to look forward. And also ask the question – is it time for a footballing renaissance?

That Sky One Harchester United thing”. Not my words but those of Absolute Radio DJ Richie Firth, talking on Wednesday morning’s Christian O’Connell Breakfast show. Regular readers may well be aware of, amongst other things, the show’s role in resolving the Cameron Diaz / Brentford story (something which, for the record, our own club commentator par-excellence Mark Burridge also had a hand in at one point).

But this was not a discussion about celebrity fans (or lack of). Instead, it was talk of actor Ricky Whittle and his current role in TV series American Gods. The actor, who has also appeared in Hollyoaks and on Strictly Dancing, is probably best known for playing Ryan Naysmith on what Richie had called That Sky One Harchester United thing. Or, of course, Dream Team.

Ahh, Dream Team. Running for ten series, the show was centred around the ongoing and progressively more outlandish events at fictional football club Harchester United. Combining real life stadia and action (often Leicester City, Chelsea or Everton but with the contrast turned up to make their blue shirts look like Harchester’s purple) the show was as loved for its crazy plots as the frequent use of celebrity cameos. From Ron Atkinson to John Barnes, even one time Bee’s boss Steve Coppell had a go at channeling his inner Marlon Brando. It wasn’t good.

Yet perhaps the most famous of these actors was another former Bee (and member of our ‘top ten moustaches‘ club), Andy Ansah. Forget his later work on ‘Street Striker’ or numerous films and adverts though. For me his crowning glory was six series reciting variants of: ‘Get warmed up lads’ and ‘Alright, Gaffer?’ whilst playing himself, as the club’s first team coach.

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Ansah – wonderful Tekkers

I caught up with Andy a few years ago whilst writing a ‘Where Are They Now’ article for the Griffin Park match day programme. It goes without saying that the main topic of conversation was this wonderful, wonderful show. It was a truly privileged behind the scenes insight (and you can read more below) but, if I’m being equally honest, since finishing in 2007 the show has slipped from most people’s memory.

But then Wednesday saw Richie do his thing, even taking to Twitter where he noted, “Everytime I pass the Dragon’s Lair on the train at Millwall I get misty eyed. Bring it back @sky1”

Boom. Quicker than you could say Karl Fletcher, Lynda Block or Luis Amor-Rodriguez (think of a low budget Jota) the memories came flooding back.

Murder at the FA Cup final. The plane crash. The coach crash. The coach explosion at the Millennium Stadium. Liverpool (the real Liverpool) being linked in the papers with a £3.5 million swoop for Didier Baptiste back in 1999. Cue much egg on face when it transpired they weren’t actually bidding for a Monaco player but actually looking at a character from a TV show.

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L-R, John Black, Luis Amor-Rodriguez, Karl ‘Fletch’ Fletcher, Sean Hocknell

It wasn’t just me. Pick of the highlights to subsequently flood Twitter was that of @JohnDryden1 who noted: Lawlor in goal? That must of been after Jamie Parker held his team mates at gun point in the changing room.

As you do.

But now, ten years on, is it time to bring back Dream Team? Does Richie, a one time self-proclaimed soothsayer of scores, have his finger on the footballing pulse once again?
Would people watch it ? Yes, yes and yes have to be the answers to all three questions.

Sky 1, if you are reading (you probably aren’t ) how about it? Natalie Sawyer, any chance you could have a word with the bosses?  Andy Ansah (again, probably not reading), if anybody has the contacts it must be you?

With Griffin Park around the corner from Sky HQ and a new stadium on the horizon in Lionel Road, then what better time to bring this back with a progressive club filling the role of the new Harcehster? They’ve used Watford. They’ve used Millwall. They’ve even used Brentford (albeit as part of the May 2007 Open Day when a Harchester United team played the Community Sports Trust at Griffin Park.

How about Brentford doing it again – for real ?

If any show deserves a reboot, then Dream Team must be top of the list. If it worked for Doctor Who and Dallas then imagine what could be done now. Come on Sky, the world of football demands it.

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Andy dons the monogrammed tracksuit in his Harchester United days

And if anybody was in any doubt about the love for the show, this is what Andy Ansah himself had to say about it in that aforementioned interview:

Having finally retired from playing, all of a sudden Andy appeared on Sky one’s football based ‘drama’ series, Dream Team, playing himself at fictional club ‘Harchester United.’ A guilty pleasure for many viewers, myself included, but for all the wrong reasons! Wooden dialogue, outrageous plots and, as Andy himself offers, “The Lynda Blocks of this world”, its combination of beautiful women and real match action made it compulsive viewing for close to ten years. So how did he go from footballer to actor?

“I went to a Take That concert at Wembley, believe it or not. I made my decision then that I was going to retire from football. I met two people there and I said, ‘What do you do ?’ “ Oh, we do ‘extras’ work?” They were stand in doubles.

I thought that sounded interesting because I’d always liked acting and I love my films. Some friends of mine were on Dream Team doing the footballing extras although they were a lot younger than me. So I thought, ‘ok’, this is what I’m going to do. I’m going to stop playing pro-football, play a bit of part time, join ‘Dream Team’ and learn how to be an actor.

Subsequently, I joined as one of the football extras but because I was older than everyone else, I was thirty then whereas they were nineteen/twenty, I used to spend all my time with the directors and producers who were the same age. They used to ask questions about football all the time – how would we do this or that? I found myself directing the football for them and then within a year they made me the producer of football on Dream Team. It was crazy!”

Alongside the move to producer came a step up from ‘extra’ to acting role aswell, portraying the club’s assistant coach, Andy Ansah (!!) This also meant a few lines per show, with regular Ansah gems including takes on , “All right, you lot ! Get out on the field and warm up,” and “Leave it, gaffer. He’s not worth it.”

I put it to Andy that it must surely have been fun to be involved?

“I loved it, I loved it. Listen, it was brilliant. The show itself was low budget but it was built up on people. The people were fantastic and it had cult status. No matter how bad it was, you’d be able to say – I know who that is. That was Drogba’s goal for Chelsea against so and so. That’s what made it so much fun.

At the end, it kind of died a death. I was there for six years and when I left I was offered a Hollywood job with the film, “Goal”. That’s when I left and they ended up employing four different people to take up my one post on that show. That’s how much I did.”

As for those famous/infamous cameos? “The guys were great. Being honest, I should thank the likes of Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke and the West ham players. They mainly got me that producer role because I pulled in my contacts to get those guys on the show. One time, Andy had just got called back into the England squad and all the press were outside the training ground at Man United. I had to go and meet him at the training ground and came out the back door with Andy and Dwight , then drove to Stockport County so we could film them on Dream Team – for nothing. It was absolutely crazy. Can you imagine a footballer now using his image rights and saying, ‘I’ll come on your show for nothing’ but that’s how much of a cult status it was.”

After six seasons at Harchester United, ‘Goal’, and the lure of the silver screen proved too much, although not for the first time !

“Infact, whilst I was doing Dream Team, after two years I also did a film called : Mike Bassett England manager. I cast Terry Kiely from Dream Team (popular character, Karl Fletcher) and Scott Mean who used to play for West Ham to come and work on that film. I did all the choreography on that film myself, which was a big job! We shot at Wembley and also went to Brazil. I was there for almost two months, filming at the Maracana, Botafogo and everywhere.

It’s a hard job…!!”

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Bassett / Tomlinson – one of the many famous faces to film at Griffin Park

Nick Bruzon

Brilliant Bentley, play-offs, clappers and a special guest in the programme. What an afternoon.

30 Apr

Well, that was some afternoon. Brentford travelled to Fulham where a point was probably a fair result in a game we were lucky not to have gone in three or four down at half time but which ultimately ended 1-1. That they didn’t win will be the least concern for our hosts . With Leeds United going three down at home to Norwich City before eventually managing a point, those results mean that barring a staggering swing in goal difference, Fulham have reached the play-offs and we’ve another trip to Elland Road. And off field, did anybody pick up a copy of the match day programme…..?

First up though, congratulations to Fulham. Yes. It has to be said. A full house at Craven Cottage saw a cracking game of football as the hosts set out to ensure Leeds couldn’t catch them. What happened was as afternoon that will go down as on of those ‘I was  there’ days – for both sides.

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A full house saw a great game in a wonderful atmosphere

Easily one of the best teams to visit Brentford this season (Fulham, not Leeds), Saturday saw them come flying out of the blocks as they looked to get the win they needed to secure a play off spot. With Brentford on the back foot and being carved open for fun, it was only a matter of time before the first goal. Tom Cairney grabbed it after eight minutes and that was, surely, the cue for the floodgates to open?

With the Bees rocking, chance after chance came. Floyd Aite in particular firing so very high and so very wide when clean through. A second goal would have probably been fair on the balance of play but possession, stats and chances count for jack if you can’t put them away.

And sure enough, goal of the season contender Nico Yennaris stepped up. An interchange of passes with Konstantin Kerschbaumer saw the sweetest of finishes into the far corner on the diagonal from just inside the box.
1-1 and the Bees took the noise up another few decibels.

And a good thing too. The goal, obviously, but the even louder support for an already vociferous away following. Anything to drown out those infernal clackers/clappers. Those things that, if you check out the video highlights (and Sky Sports have their version up now), sound like hundreds of charity buckets being rattled.

But with Brentford having hauled themselves back in to it, charitable donations seemed to be the order of the day. How goalscorer Cairney didn’t restore Fulham’s lead I still have no idea. He was left totally unmarked, and I mean totally, 8 yards out but could only guide the inch perfect cross well wide of the goal. Daniel Bentley wasn’t even forced into a save.

Moments later, another chance. Referee Darren Bond awarding what seemed, at the time, a totally innocuous penalty against the Bees. The ball had been crossed in and was pinging around the middle, going nowhere, when he pointed to the spot.

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View from the stand. Penalty – obv

Even watching it afterwards, Yoann Barbet does make contact with Stephan Johansen but only as the ball had been delivered into the heart of the crowded penalty box.  Generous would seem very much the verdict on this one.

Step up Tom Cairney with another chance to let Fulham retake the lead. Step up Daniel Bentley to do his thing quite magnificently and show just why he is up there as a serious, serious contender for player of the season. Diving low to his left he not only pushed the ball clear but then made the bravest of second saves as he threw himself amongst the onrushing boots and onto the ball.

Yessss!  The away fans erupted. Again. The clackers were drowned out. Again. Fulham had seen another gilt edged chance spurned. Again. Daniel Bentley, you beauty.

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View from the stand – Brilliant Bentley does his thing

And with that, half time. Checking the scores saw Leeds United 3-1 down and as good as out. Despite our best efforts in the second period, both teams had really given their all and it couldn’t match the pace of the first. The highlight being a debut for Zain Westbrooke who, along side full backs Tom Field and Josh Clarke really marked a positive embrace of those who have come up from the youth set up and B team.

Sure enough, with the 90 played out and Leeds United all but shooting themselves in the foot, the hosts were happy enough to stroke it around their defence and settle for a point. Brentford fans stayed to applaud the players off (Lasse Vibe, Yoan Barbet and KK amongst those handing over their shirts and really taking in the moment – do we need to read anything into this?) before going off to settle for a pint. The fans, not the players.

Off the field, two moments of real note. Firstly, Matthew Benham taking to Twitter. Always a good thing when this happens, he put the kibosh on any prospect of Lionel Road Clackers.

Like Goal Music, another thing that will have to reside in the drawer labelled : Do not open. Ever.

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And secondly, forgive a bit of self-indulgence.

Back in January, my hitherto unseen identical twin brother Brian Guest saw a tweet from Fulham, looking for home supporters to participate in the ‘Your Club’ section of the matchday programme. This could be amusing (he told me) and applied. One thing led to another and along with a photo of Brian sporting the Spall ’87 Brentford away shirt, a series of tongue-in-cheek answers were submitted. Surely this would never get past the editor?

But it did. Brian’s selection was swiftly confirmed, “A while off but appropriately enough, for the Brentford game”.

Seriously? Had they actually read the answers?

A reminder of the 4-0 defeat at Brentford.  Mention of the recent 4-1 home hammering administered by Stuart Dallas, Alan Judge, Jota et al. The Intertoto Cup – prestige and honour.

It went on. The wonderful Michael Jackson statue appeared. The Pizza Hut shirt. The Richard Osman / Pointless ’joke’ –  something that should contractually be met with tumbleweed these days.

Surely somebody would then look at this and rumble it? Surely?

But no. Before even reaching the Cottage, one Braemar Road observer (and fellow fan of the World Polo finals – thanks!) had already been in touch. It had got through. Commentator par-excellence Mark Burridge then took to Twitter advising likewise. And on reaching the Cottage, there it was (part of which you can see below).

Big thanks Fulham. Seriously. The game may have ended 1-1 but all three points to the Bees off the field.

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Nick Bruzon

Rams raided in demolition derby. The Great Dane and King of Spain inspire killer Bees.

14 Apr

Sometimes, there’s nothing you can do but stand back and gasp in awe. There’s Good Friday and then there’s this. Bloody Marvellous Friday. Brentford swept Derby County aside by 4-0. It was a scoreline which, if anything, underplays just how complete a team performance this was. Barnsley should be quaking in their boots if we can even half replicate this one on Monday.

Three hours after full time and I’m still staggered by just how beautiful that was. We’ve spoken all season about what would happen if the Bees could play a full 90 minutes at full tempo. Well, here was the answer. And boy, wasn’t it a joy to behold?

“A game of two halves. And Derby weren’t in either” . Not my words but those of one New Road observer. Top comment from a top cat. He really couldn’t have summarised it in a more poetic or appropriate fashion. Sentiments shared at the bar of The Griffin post game, where the first comment I heard was one of , “4-0? 4. 0. To Brentford? Just what’s that all about?”

Ah. The tale of the unfancied and underestimated underdog being played out yet again. Derby committing the fatal mistake of playing the reputation (a traditional mid tier three outfit) rather than the team in front of them (a free scoring XI with the tastiest wings this side of Colonel Sanders).

Oh, Jota. Could we love this man any more? Every time you think he’s reached his peak he then goes one better. Or, in this case, two. His opening goal, to double Lasse Vibe’s first half opener (one that the Spaniard himself had provided the assist for) was beautifully taken. But the second, to hammer home the four goal advantage, was up there with the best of them.

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View from the Braemar. Jota points the way

The King of Spain let the ball slide one way past the hapless Richard Keogh, the player himself going the other, before reuniting with the ball. It was a moment to take the breath away and as close to Pele in 1970 or Maradona against England in 1986 as one could hope to see in West London.

But then, with supporters gasping for air, he completed the stranglehold. On Derby, that is . From a seemingly impossible angle he fired home from the corner of the six yard box, through three defenders, past the ‘keeper, across the goal and into the net at the back stick.

How the crowd roared. How the king, arms aloft, soared. Grown men gasped. The director’s box, to a man (and woman) stood as one. Acknowledging a moment that truly was the crown jewel in a consumate performance.

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The Bees line up to celebrate with the man of the moment

Between Jota’s pair, Lasse Vibe had made it 3-0. His shot from outside the box already wrapping things up and leaving the Great Dane on the cusp of what would, possibly should, have been a well deserved hat-trick. Scott who? With the greatest of respect to the former Bee, Lasse has well and truly proven what he can do and what a great piece of business that Matthew and the team pulled off back in January.

But just as against Leeds United, to overly single out any one payer would be unfair. It was one of those performances where we saw just how good Dean Smith’s team is. The difference being that, whilst both games saw great Bees’ performances, this time we kept it going for the full 90. Indeed, if anything, we actually accelerated.

Marcus Gayle summed things up nicely at full time . His twitter analysis encapsulated it in succinct fashion. “That was the most complete 90 min team performance by @BrentfordFC this season – full of confidence,creativeness and goals at  Grifffin Park

If you were there, you know what happened. If you weren’t, then my condolences. It really was THAT good. As ever, the BBC, Brentford ‘official’ or Beesotted are amongst the sources to get your full fat match report.

The next game can’t come soon enough. The trip to Barnsley may be a long one but if Brentford put in even half the shift they did today, then three points are the least we’ll come home with.

That’s for Monday, though. For now, it’s a chance to maybe play those goals once more. Sky sports have the video up now on their internet page, with Bees Player to follow tomorrow.

I can’t wait to hear what Mark Burridge made of this one.

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Derby were yards behind us, in both halves

Nick Bruzon

What is our current hot ticket? Who will win the big one?

13 Apr

Exciting times lie ahead for Brentford. The Easter weekend double header against Derby County and Barnsley is almost upon us. The second fixture having a potential extra layer of spice, should the club decide to accept the gauntlet laid down by Toby Tyke after Buzz Bee was robbed of mascot race victory back in October’s reverse fixture at Griffin Park. Then there’s the small matter of West London derbies at home to QPR and across at Fulham. Those games always have an additional feel of frisson outside of the regular league table although the aim of finishing as West London’s top Championship side for the third successive season is an even bigger incentive for Brentford to pull out all the stops.

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He celebrates too soon? Did Toby really win last time?

Things come to a conclusion when we host Blackburn Rovers in early May. Following that game is, of course, the Player Of the Year Awards. Unlike at Loftus Road, where QPR have had to cancel their own event within a week of it being announced due to a lack of interest (no,please, stop. I’m still cringing) Bees fans have had no problem in snapping up the tickets for ours.

Highlight of that event is, as ever, the vote for Player of the year. Currently held by Alan Judge, his season long absence through injury means a new incumbent awaits. Have the likes of returning demi-gods Jota and Sergi Canos done enough to steal the vote at the eleventh hour? Will it be an unsung hero such as Ryan Woods ? International debutant John Egan? Or a.n.other?

Well, for me (Clive) if we are looking for season long consistency it comes down to a bunfight between Harlee Dean and Daniel Bentley. The former, our captain, has been a colossus at the back whilst adding an exciting attacking element to his game these days. Certainly one of the first names on the team sheet, its hard to remember he’s only 25 – so long has he been with us, so commanding has he appeared this season . Gone are the mistakes of old (who doesn’t make them as they learn how to ply their trade?).  Replacing them are supreme confidence and an equal level of ability.

As for Daniel Bentley, FourFourTwo magazine named him as Brentford’s outstanding performer in their run down of the 50 top football league players published in the current edition. The magazine even going so far as to note that England manager Gareth Southgate is keeping an eye on him. He has made the leap from League One new boys to a top half of the Championship side look effortless. Indeed, it was his own performances which saved us numerous points in the early part of the season as he took to the Griffin Park gives like the proverbial duck to water. No surprise that QPR made three bids for him following Southend United’s play off victory in 2015; no surprise their chairman turned them down.

Good luck picking a winner out of those. Good luck to your host for the evening, Natalie Sawyer, in measuring up to Buzzette in the style stakes.

Buzzette makes her entrance to the 2016 POTY awards

But if you can’t be there for that one then how about an alternative? Sunday 30th April sees Billy Grant and the Beesotted team hosting the final of this year’s ’socials’. Taking place at the Drayton Court hotel in Ealing from 6pm until 2am (I feel exhausted just thinking about staying out that late) guests of honour will be Brentford legends Francis Joseph, Gary Roberts, Billy Manuel & Graham Benstead.

There’s a dozen other ex-bees in the house along with a comedian, DJ and magician helping provide the entertainment along with the players doing their ‘in conversation’ segment . Add to that a hot buffet, a level of  complimentary beer and your fellow Bees’ fans then it is sure to be a cracking night out.

Full details of the event, including tickets, are available on the Beesotted website.

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And talking of tickets (waiter, I’ll have the industrial crowbar please) don’t forget there’s only 11 and a bit days left until the ‘seat hold’ deadline expires for those wanting to retain their current place at Griffin Park. With dispensation given to retain the terraces for another season, there’s room for everybody to stay where they were should you wish to purchase a club season ticket. In addition, earlybird prices staying on hold until 31 May means you can get a season’s worth of Championship football for was little as £369. As for the kids. £90, including a home shirt, represents even better value.

Full details are on official, where there is also a link direct to the season ticket page.

I’ve seen some talk saying that the seat hold deadline still feels too soon, given the season is still running. Perhaps. But it’s a tricky line to walk given that the campaign will be over just two weeks after that. I can see the position out marketing team are in. Revenue is what helps keep us afloat, let’s not pretend otherwise, and this way looks to maximise take up whilst football remains fresh in everybody’s mind.

Besides, if you need a yardstick then look at Fulham. No, please. Their seat hold deadline has already expired, two weeks ahead of ours. As have their ‘early bird’ prices. Both of those slipping away on 10th April. I sympathise from one respect. It’ll be a tough job filling that neutral stand.

In my eyes, I think we’ve got the balance right. You won’t please everybody but, at the same time, barring disasters we’ll all be coming back again next season. One way or another.

Come for the football; stay for the social. Griffin Park is a way of life. It is as much about seeing your friends and familiar faces as it is in cheering on the lads. If this is our final season with the ground in the current form (would we get a fifth season of terrace? Will Lionel Road be ready this quickly?) , then I’ve certainly got every intention of being there.

Even if it isn’t, I’ll be back. There’s been too much blood, sweat and tears (mainly tears) invested into this club since 1979 to walk away from our firmest ever footing and most exciting time in most supporters’ living memory.

Win or lose. It is a part of us. I love it. We love it. Bring on 2017/18. Although, first, there’s the small matter of Derby, Fulham, QPR and possibly Toby to get past. Roll on Friday.

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Well said

Nick Bruzon

This is one mother I never want to see again. Mrs Brown is no alternative to Brentford.

26 Mar

Sunday 26 March. Mother’s Day. Mothering Sunday. Not a day for Championship football or Brentford, although purely due to the ongoing Intenational fixture list that saw Gibraltar go down in Bosnia last night and England hosting Lithuania this evening. Yet with the boys from the Rock kicking off at 5pm, and no highlights to show from Griffin Park later on, there was a gap in the TV schedule last night that could only be filled by one thing. BBC1, 9.15pm and a new series featuring everybody’s (I beg to differ) favourite Irish mammy. Yes, it was time for : All Round to Mrs. Brown’s.

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Mrs Brown. Tongue clearly not in cheek

Regular readers of this column will be aware of my ire when it come to Mrs Brown. And now, somehow,  (s)he had been given a prime time slot with a new twist – a chatshow / audience participation event although still keeping all the zany characters that, apparently, we know and love.

Genuinely, I don’t get it. I have tried before but, to be honest, the man dressed as a woman act died many years ago. Yet despite the baffling lack of genuine laughs, the awards keep coming Was I missing something? Had I served it a horrendous injustice in previous columns? There was only one way to find out. The answer was a categorical ‘No’.

To be fair, looking around cyberspace before hand , there was sufficient warning to watch something else. Likewise, when I shared this plan with one New Road wag his suggestion was a simple one, “Prime time to do something else.

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Warning came far and wide

But no, despite the scepticism I settled in. I wish I hadn’t. The theme tune sounding like something rejected from a 70’s sitcom as the composers of Terry and Mildred, assuming not dead, are now licking their lips at the prospect of a forthcoming royalties cheque. This, accompanied by lemming like ‘clapping along’ from an audience who must have been prozac’d up to their eyeballs to get them into the studio.

An opening ‘gag’ of crack/craic confusion brought tumbleweed to my sofa but the sycophants in Studio B lapped it up. There were definitely drugs involved  – that or  the BBC had just borrowed the laughter track (and jokes) from Last of the Summer Wine.

An old man asleep in an armchair chair (something which got its own laugh) then saw the audience in hysterics when Mrs Brown, gave him a ‘shower’; with a can of air freshener. Including, for which the audience reached its most tear screamingly manic, his groin. This, a moment not peaked until the subsequent reference to Delia Smith with a penis. All the in the first 135 seconds.

I just hope Cliff Crown washed his hands after their last boardroom encounter. Him and Delia, not Mrs Brown. (To the best of my knowledge Brendan O’Carroll’s not guested at Griffin Park before).

How about her (yes, I’ll play along) guests? Pamela Anderson and Judy Murray . The former limping through a flaccid script involving cup size (tea, of course) and David Hasselmuff that would have made Baywatch look like the complete works of Shakespeare.Before Scotland’s finest appeared, we then had a VT from obligatory Irish guest, Louis Walsh. The music mogul a man one suspects would turn up to the opening of an envelope and then provide obligatory reference to Simon Cowell.

Not even the wonderful Judy Murray was able to dignify this with any class, despite her best efforts.This is no reflection on her but more reference to a show which was the consulate example of the oft heard phrase,’You can’t polish a turd‘. Her on screen arrival being railroaded by a man dressed as a woman – this time Baywatch era Pamela

Smiling is over rated”, said Judy at one point. Watching this, I couldn’t agree more.

Roll on next week when the return of the Championship calendar and Football League Tonight on Channel Five gives us our sanity back. And that’s a phrase I never thought I’d say.

All Round To Mrs. Brown’s is currently up on the I-player for another 29 days (should you be feeling masochistic).

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Poor Judy. And Pamela. And us

Nick Bruzon