Tag Archives: Carabao Cup

Chelsea play their cards right as Brentford are undone by Kanté’s class.

23 Dec

Brentford fans could be forgiven for having that flat feeling this morning. Chelsea supporters the ones waking up with a semi in the pocket. A 2-0 defeat at Lionel Road means the Bees’ League cup progress stops in the quarter-finals. Chelsea join Liverpool, Tottenham and Arsenal in the last four. Yet for Thomas Frank and Brentford, it was a useful runout and one that could well have had a different ending. At least, until N’Golo Kanté came off the bench with just under fifteen minutes to go. Thomas Tuchel playing his substitution cards oh so right as he slowly cranked up the second half pressure. The arrival of Kanté being the defining moment which transformed the game from evenly balanced contest to one way traffic. The World Cup winner showing his absolute class and importance to a club that may have started the game with a relatively unfamiliar line up but ended it in a much more recognisable style – both in terms of players and performance.

Brentford had no answer to Chelsea’s Tuchel bonus

For Brentford, the team was as familiar as one could have expected given Thomas Frank’s prematch assertions about ‘going for it’. Starts for Mads Bech and Wissa aside (albeit Ivan Toney, now recovered from his positive covid test results, would come off the bench with half an hour to go) the rest of the team picked itself. Contrast that to Chelsea where names such as Vale, Simons and Soonsup-Bell, amongst others, had many of us from this part of West London scratching our heads as to just how deep and strong Thomas Tuchel was going. Yet what we got was more of the same. Chelsea dominating possession (if memory serves, they’d had 68% when the halftime stats flashed up) and Brentford having to work socks off.

Yet it was the Bees who had the better chances in that opening period.  Bryan and Rico working brilliantly down the left. Our left back in particular showing a continued turn of electrifying pace to cause mayhem down that flank. Vitaly strong again and Matthias Jensen getting stuck in. First Wissa and then Jensen were both denied by Kepa between the sticks for the visitors. It could, probably should, have been Brentford who went in a goal up but with the first half tapering off and the second continuing in equally even fashion, it began to take on the feel of looking to take the chance in a spot kick shoot out.

A plethora of changes for Brentford did nothing to significantly up the tempo but with our guests always one step ahead of us on the substitutions, you could see their quality cranking up with every change.  Jorginho and Christian Pulisic on as the second period began, followed by Reece James and Mason Mount. This was the Chelsea we recognised. This was the Chelsea now starting to open the door until , with 76 minutes gone, that man Kanté entered the field of play and booted it wide open. The step up one pace and the drive forward was a clear as day. His part in both goals there for all to see. 

First up, Pontus Jansson somehow slicing it past his own ‘keeper to hand the lead to our visitors with less than ten minutes to go. Urghh. Hearts sank. There was no blame attached or recrimination offered. It was one of those things but now there was little choice left but to go for it. Rather than running the clock down for spot kicks all we could do was go for one final throw of the dice. Instead, it was Chelsea who kept on pushing. Chelsea who scored again five minutes later. Kanté who once again opened us up, leading to Pulisic being felled in the box by Alvaro Fernandez. It felt soft at the time and whilst replays have yet to be seen, there were no real complaints. Jorginho despatching it with his trademark efficiency. There was no way back from there. For Brentford, a chance to focus on Brighton and Manchester City in the league. For Chelsea, the tournament remains alive with the draw now seeing them face Tottenham.

Hey, its a shame but there’s no bitterness. We gave it a shot but were ultimately undone by a master class in cup football and Thomas Tuchel’s strategy. By one man’s Christmas presence ultimately being that tipping point between two teams who had both felt as though they had half a foot in the semis prior to his arrival. Hats off to Kante. Well played Chelsea.

The only real negativity to talk about is around our forthcoming Covid tests. With three games coming up in close succession (Aston Villa joining the Seagulls and City to make up the trio of festive fixtures ) staying healthy is probably the best present we can get this Christmas. I’d love to have won this, of course, but as long as we can stay fit that’s probably just as important in the current climate. What an aspirational thought to end on. Groan.

Instead, let’s be glad we’re back. After two games were pulled in close succession its been a long wait for football. This may have felt like little more than a glorified friendly at times but who knows how important it might have been in simply allowing some ring rust to be worked through. Perhaps that’s the positive we need to draw from this. A decent run out against World Class level opposition. Champions of Europe, too. If only their fans had mentioned it.

Bus stop in Hounslow, you’ll never sing that. And that’s how we like it. Now bring on Brighton.

The GPG may be on to something

Nick Bruzon

Still fighting on three fronts. Now bring on Saturday.

28 Oct

For the first time since 2016/17 Manchester City won’t have their name on the league cup.  For Brentford, a potato skin avoided and then some. The Bees are in the quarter finals for the second successive season after last night’s 2-1 victory at Stoke City. A line up including more first team regulars than we, perhaps, had any expectation of seeing run out raced into a 2-0 half-time lead (Canos and Toney) which ultimately proved sufficient to see us over the line. Romaine Sawyers (who else?) pulled one back for the hosts but it was too little too late to stop the Bees recording a first ever win in the Potteries and earning a place in the last 8. Liverpool, West Ham, Spurs, Arsenal, Chelsea, Leicester City and Sunderland make up the list of those teams with their own aspirations of lifting the silverware. Now we await the draw with bated breath. For more reasons than one. 

No caption needed

Last season was just awful. Wembley, promotion, goals, fine wins, bracketings and incredible signings aside. Having to watch from afar as the team rattled around a virtually empty stadium nothing short of torture. Finally in our new home and locked out by a global pandemic.

To compound the felony, Brentford were enjoying out best ever run in the League Cup. A whole gamut of Premier League sides despatched by a Championship club looking to join them in the top flight. A sequence of victories that took us all the way to a single-legged semi-final at Tottenham. Ivan Toney’s equaliser being chalked off by the machinations of VAR. A brief moment of 1-1 based ecstasy turning into an eventual 2-0 win for our hosts before their inevitable defeat in the final to Manchester City. They seem (seemed) quite good at lifting this particular trophy.

A tournament that Brentford have traditionally been bang average in (a smattering of fourth round visits being our best ever) had suddenly exploded into life. Thomas Frank with his eyes on the silverware. The rest of us with our eyes on the TV. It would have been wonderful to be a part of it. Instead, we were all locked out.

The finger nail ended up being ahead of the ankle. Offside

Fast forward 12 months and we are in similar territory. The big difference being that this time around, the fans are back. And how. What an effort for last night’s shlep to Stoke City. What a reward for the journey. Brentford now 90 minutes away from matching last season’s heroics. Perhaps with a chance to go even further. Hey, if nothing else the magnificent win in the play-off final has finally broken our Wembley hoodoo. No longer is it a place to fear but somewhere to look forward to. The next step on the journey about to be made. And we will discover our fate this Saturday when the draw is made on TV’s Soccer AM. 

Ah, Soccer AM. Sad to say it’s not for me anymore. Been there, done that, disgraced myself. Hey, those ‘end of the show’ penalties aren’t going to miss themselves. Helen Chamberlain and Russ Williams have long since moved on. Lovejoy, too. These days, free time on Saturdays is too short a commodity to be spent with Fenners and Jimmy Bullard. I’ve got football club to get H to and other ‘essential’ jobs to be completed before the matchday routine can begin. 

The classic lineup on the Soccer AM sofa

Yet this weekend things will be different. There’s a cup draw to be watched. The list of priority domestic tasks can, for once, include switching on the TV. Probably being confused by banter and catchphrases that will have long since been handed down to a younger generation. This confused 51 year old will, for once, have a legitimate reason to have the show on rather than feeling as awkward as a dad in a disco. Coverage starts at 10.30 although at what point the Soccerettes (are they still a thing?) appear with the balls is yet to be confirmed. I suspect the phrase “Harry, call me when its about to start” may well be uttered. Much as I used to love the show, and I did, age is now feeling as though it has very much caught up on yours truly. Groan.

So yeah. I’ll be watching. Hoping to be pleasantly surprised. Looking forward to seeing if things have changed any. Mostly, though, awaiting our fate. Last night’s team selection suggesting Thomas very much has the League Cup as a legitimate target. Not just an excuse to give fringe players a run out but a trophy to try and win. A place in Europe to be earned. A smile to be put on the faces of fans after missing out last year. An even bigger smile, I mean. A metaphorical heart attack to be given to the Directors of football or Matthew Benham when a potential cup winning team is named at the expense of keeping players fresh for the league campaign. Hey, who says we can’t battle on two fronts? Or three?

It was a strong, strong line up. Canos. Toney. Jensen. Zanka. Ghoddos. Forss. Ajer.  All started this one. Rico, Christian Norgaard and Frank the Tank also came off the bench. Every one of these players featured against Leicester City in the Premier League on Sunday  Chuck Charlie Goode, Mads x2 and Alvaro Fernandez to see there was no messing around from Thomas here. He has a cup in his sights. Likewise, perhaps, giving a chance to put his enforced goalkeeping change into play sooner than later. The understanding between the back five and the man in, err, blue will be even more essential than ever. 

For now though, we can dream of Wembley. Of Soccer AM. Of finally exorcising the nightmare of what happened before the Doncaster game. That Doncaster game. Of replacing Manchester City on the trophy. Of a draw that could be cruel or kind. A home tie with Sunderland or a trip to Liverpool? A rematch with Leicester City, perhaps?

On Saturday we find out. Bring it on….

The pre-Doncaster Soccer AM debacle (our H almost due, too)

Nick Bruzon

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

23 Sep

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

The draw in full

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

Unappealing yet packed with morbid curiosity

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nick Bruzon 

Here’s hoping we can avoid any more cup upset as third round beckons.

26 Aug

Brentford will host Oldham Athletic in the third round of the League cup. It is a tie that will give the opportunity to crowbar in my favourite bad joke and will be played the week commencing Monday 20th September. It was very much the highlight of a draw that sees no real example of the ‘David hosting Goliath’ tie that makes cup football so exciting, with the possible exception of Arsenal v AFC Wimbledon. Holders Manchester City are at home to a Wycombe Wanderers side now boosted by the signing of Gibraltar international Tjay de Barr. Manchester United v West Ham is an obvious other ‘TV tie’ for lazy executives, as are those featuring our West London neighbours who play a division below the Bees in the Championship ( Fulham and Loftus Road). Yet as much as anything else, we’ll be happy to avoid the sort of ticketing issues which clouded Tuesday night’s game. 

Huge backlogs for the turnstiles on Tuesday

For Brentford another home tie in a game which, historically, may not have attracted as big a crowd as we saw earlier this week when Forest Green Rovers were beaten. Over 12,000 present for that one with those standing in the West Stand being repeatedly asked to sit down by those either visiting for the first time or simply displaced by the ‘open’ nature of ticket selection. One can understand the frustration on both sides. Personally, my days on the Ealing Road are long gone. As much due to taking an infant (at the time – where have those 8 years gone ?) as my own dodgy knees and ankles. Being able to sit certainly taking the strain off aching limbs aswell as ears given H’s inability to see through the butts of those standing in front of us. 

Equally though, we all know what goes on behind the goal. Of course the club can’t advertise standing but, even if things are generously described as being in a ‘singing section’, we all know it goes on. At grounds up and down the land. It is part of what makes up the nature of football fans. What generates the atmosphere. Just look at Crystal Palace on Saturday. Their own drummer, however cringeworthy, flanked by legions of supporters standing up aswell as some sort of synchronised ‘bouncing’ routine. Good luck asking them to sit if you were some hapless tourist caught behind. 

Palace had a drum in their standing section

Which, of course, you wouldn’t be. Like our own West STAND, those prime area tickets snapped up well, well in advance. Except when you scratch all existing Season Ticket places and revert to a car keys in the bowl approach of first in, first pick and good luck with the outcome of those you will be sharing close proximity with for the next 90 minutes. 

Of course supporters should be aware but we’re all still getting used to this. Some fans will be caught out. Right up to the end of our time at Griffin Park, the Ealing Road was able to carry through it’s dispensation to remain terraced. Wonderful it was, too. People want to continue this. Hence the whole plan of getting the stadium built with the option for ‘safe’ standing  – something which in itself which is as insulting and loaded a phrase as they come.  

We know why the club took this approach. One can sympathise. A large crowd was not expected and with the East Stand being closed, people would naturally be displaced. Given the number of Season Ticket holders, three sides into four will not go cleanly. As BIAS would later confirm when probed (gently), “Because the club wanted to keep the East Stand closed this meant those with Season Tickets there would be displaced.  Therefore it made a seat hold phase difficult.  If all stands were open then everyone would be able to buy their seat.

That, surely, the only way to go for the visit of Oldham Athletic. And any other future cup tie. If nothing else, we are still well, well into the tourist phase. People are going to want to come along to a game, just because they can. Just because it is likely to be one of the few chances they can get this season. Over 12,000 for the visit of a league two side showed that. Had it been at Griffin Park with the Bees in the Champions, the crowd would probably have been half that. At the very best. With another team from league two side next up in the cup (and Oldham will be looking to the tournament for a diversion, given they are currently rooted to the foot on nil points and four defeats) let’s hope lessons have been learned. 

Likewise, that the debacle with the ticketing scanners does not repeat itself. A large number of supporters were delayed on the way in following a system meltdown which official have described as “unacceptable”. A detailed report was due on the desk of the Chief Exec / stadium manager yesterday from the club’s Venue Access Control partner. To date, no follow up has been shared with supporters although one would presume this is being digested and a carefully worded statement crafted. Whether this was linked to the fact that tickets were not linked to he usual members / ST cards, who knows? Whatever the explanation, let’s just hope the fans get what they want for Oldham – namely, the chance to sit, or sing / stand, in their usual positions.

That aside, the details for the draw are below. Show me a better cup tie than Brentford – Oldham and I’ll show you a fan of another club. Last week’s Premier League table topers v the club currently propping up the other 91. Its about as top v bottom as they get. It certainly won’t be that easy. Not just for us but for the other clubs, too. A competition which has become more of one which has seen the squads used to their full extent and starting XIs plucked from the reserves is there for the taking if clubs go big. The one exception being Arsenal for whom picking their team from the reserves will likely see a greater chance of success.

I can’t wait. See you there. All being well in the right spot. I think we could all do without any more cup upset.

As for that ‘joke’, perhaps we’ll leave the crowbar behind. Given there are no replays. Otherwise, I’d be asking “Do you know the way to Oldham?

One in each hand….

Those third round ties in full: 

QPR v Everton

Preston v Cheltenham

Manchester United v West Ham United

Fulham v Leeds United

Brentford v Oldham Athletic

Watford v Stoke City

Chelsea v Aston Villa

Wigan Athletic v Sunderland

Norwich City v Liverpool

Burnley v Rochdale

Arsenal v AFC Wimbledon

Sheffield United v Southampton

Manchester City v Wycombe Wanderers

Millwall v Leicester City

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Tottenham Hotspur

Brighton & Hove Albion v Swansea City

Nick Bruzon

Safe passage and a tasty warm up for Saturday.

25 Aug

Brentford safely through to the third round of the League Cup after coming from behind to defeat Forest Green Rovers 3-1 on a night that also saw six goals for Aston Villa. Amongst others. Saturday’s opponents falling one short of the magical 7(seven) that would have seen the brackets brought out of cold storage. For the Bees, a much changed line up did the needful with goals from Yoane Wissa, Bryan Mbeumo and Marcus Forss sufficient to see us into the next draw. That one takes place at around 9.45pm(ish) tonight, following the conclusion of the game between Arsenal and West Brom. Perhaps the Gunners will even manage to score. With Manchester City next up in the Prem, failure to do so could leave them scratching around the archives for entries to August’s goal of the month competition.

For a while it looked a bit iffy

For Brentford, relatively safe passage was as much as could be hoped for. We’re in the third round and, all being well, will be able to select our normal seats for that one. Should the reward for last night’s win be a home tie. Confusion and frustration the order of the day with fans displaced following a free for all on seat selection. How hard is it to get this sort of thing right? We go where we do for a reason. Whether dodgy knees requiring seats these days or simply a case of preferring to put the stand into the West Stand singing section as the action hots up. Nobody can deny the atmosphere that generates – come on already the ‘rails seats’ if that’s what it takes.

Still, we’re through. Forest Green making it tough and having the temerity to take the lead. Bravo and well played. Only Ethan Pinnock and Vitaly Janelt surviving from those who started the Premier league game with Crystal Palace. It was still a strong enough team and one further reinforced by the additions of Ajer, Canos, Mbeumo and Frank the Tank as events unfolded. Yet with the team playing catch up eventually strength told as the Bees cranked up the pressure. Yoanne Wissa on the hour, followed by Bryan and then, with opponents down to ten, Marcus Forss rounding things off. 

Loved this image from ‘official’ and their Twitter feed

Thomas Frank magnanimous enough to note both his opponents aswell his own tactical decisions at full time, telling the BBC that, ”I need to praise Forest Green Rovers, Rob Edwards and his staff, I think they did a top job and I think they were the better side in the first half” whilst his own tinkering with the formation, “maybe that didn’t help, maybe I didn’t help the boys as much as I should have done.”

Still, we’re through. We’ve Aston Villa in the league at the weekend. They warmed up for that one with their own win. A 6-0 away win at Barrow. With a quarter hour remaining when they hit the sixth it really was looking like brackets but, alas not. Still, they’ll be buzzing for that game and the Dean Smith reunion. I can already hear him telling the press corps that his team will have deserved to win. Regardless of whatever result transpires. With Ollie Watkins sitting out the season so far, not facing our old boy will be an advantage (of sorts) although the Villans looked imperious at the weekend. Newcastle United put to the sword in some style. Jack who now? 

Prior to all that is this evening’s draw. You can follow it on Sky, amongst other sources, although as it stands (8am) the ball numbers remain a mystery. Seemingly. Nobody has them up on club or news sites as yet. Not even on the Carabao Cup home page. With nothing more than click bait at present (stories titled along the lines of : get all your third round draw details, here, seeminlgy nothing more than a chance to list the 18 highest placed teams in the Premier league, and then Arsenal, it can’t be long until we find out our numerical fate. 

Whatever number we are bequeathed is not going to change too much. The most important thing being that we are through. If we are given a home tie then all the better. After missing out on our entire run to the semi-finals last season, the chance to watch live football and progress further is one that has us all chomping at the bit. How often would we say that about the League Cup in recent years?

Nick Bruzon

Not even Michael Caine could have turned this around.

6 Jan

Well played Spurs. Let’s start right there. Brentford went down 2-0 on Tuesday to miss out on a place in the League Cup final against a quality side packed with more than enough talent to reach Wembley. Jose Mourinho went strong and was duly rewarded. Mind you, so did Thomas Frank with only Pontus Jansson missing from what could now be deemed his preferred starting XI. It wasn’t quite enough. The combination of defensive generosity, great finishes and the machinations of VAR being enough to see Tottenham through. They controlled the game, no doubt, but there was enough about the Bees to suggest this wasn’t going to turn out the foregone conclusion many expected. Manchester City play Manchester United this evening to discover who will contest the final. Luckily for both, they’ll be spared referee Mike Dean.

Urghh. What can you say about the controversial man in the middle? Personally, I was left thinking that this is how it would be if Keith Stroud did regular top flight action. Soft yellows given to Brentford. Robust challenges unpunished from the hosts. Josh Dasilva sent off for an accidental, albeit painful looking, foul on Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg. Understandable on review, even if without any intent. Yet it was the second half VAR controversy (words as intrinsically linked as ‘Mrs Browns Boys’ and ‘unfunny’) that left the sour taste in the mouth. 

By that stage Spurs were already ahead. A bright start from the Bees being stopped dead in its tracks with not even a quarter-hour played when Moussa Sissoko was given the freedom of the penalty box. Marking that took the social distancing guidelines to the letter of the law. The Tottenham man heading home with pleasure and Brentford on the back foot. The wind taken from our sails and containment the immediate next order of the day. A flurry of half-chances and no further breaches the best we had to show.

Half time came and went. The Bees back out with a spring in their step. Lucky shirts being worn back home were clearly doing their thing. Forget the ever closer Ivan Toney. The magic of Bryan Mbeumo. The I don’t know what of Mathias Jensen. The goal felt like it was coming and sure enough, it did….. Just after the hour who else but Ivan Toney was there to head home from close in!! TW8 erupted. The players celebrated. Game on. Echos of the quite magnificent Escape to Victory ringing in the ears… “We can win this!!

Sadly though, we couldn’t. Michael Caine, Pele et al may have had a dodgy referee, physical opponents and superior opposition to deal with. We had, well all of that  – albeit without the dodgy acting – but also VAR. The much maligned tool alerting Mike Dean to the fact that the Championship’s leading scorer may have been offside as he guided the ball home. Indeed, after multiple replays Dean felt obliged to chalk off the goal he had already awarded. Toney’s fingernail being apparently ahead of the last defender’s heel and, as such, interfering with play as fell to his knees.

We quoted this one in last night’s post match immediacy. There’s no reason not to do it again. 

Hey, its not Spurs fault and no sour grapes towards them. Does anyone really think we’d have complained had it gone the other way? Of course not. Yet this doesn’t make it any easier. Doesn’t make the game we love feel even further away from the thing of excitement and spontaneity that it used to be. Instead, the life has been sucked out of it with goals being tediously dissected by set squares and sub-millimetre thin lines on screen. Its not even close to being obvious. Its an absolute joke.

Spurs, of course, did what teams do in these situations, Remained calm, professional, well used to it. With Bees fans and players feeling the most tremendous sense of injustice, out hosts carried on as normal and within minutes had gone down the other end to double the lead. Son Heung-min bursting clear to leather one past David Raya. A top quality move and finish from one of the best players in the land. No complaints. No arguments. First class. Game over man. Game over.

There was still enough time for VAR to alert Mike Dean to the fact that he may want to give Josh Dasilva a red card. It was inevitable the second the replay was shown on the big screen. It made no impact to the outcome but does now mean he misses out on the FA Cup (who doesn’t though?) and the more important league games with Reading and Luton. Thomas will need to get his whiteboard back out and rejuggle for them.

Tottenham deserved it overall, even if that’s not how football necessarily works. Ultimately, it comes down to balls in the back of the net and we had that denied us in the most painful of circumstances. Thomas would talk about how proud he was at full time and I guess he’s right.

Yet thinking about it this morning, the overall feeling is one of genuine frustration that we haven’t beaten one of the best teams in the Premier League. That we have had the chance of victory, could have taken it, matched our opponents but were ultimately denied by external factors. That is perhaps what we should focus on. Nobody gave us a chance but we just carried on doing what we’ve done so far this campaign. Played our best combination against the team in front of us. And we ran them blinkin’ close. 

This was no trashing and whilst I don’t overly do the ‘plucky losers’ thing (nobody remembers, or cares about how unlucky the beaten team were) the feeling remains that we had enough about us to win this one. Had the breaks gone, then who knows. The experience alone could prove invaluable in or long term future. 

Jose Mourinho was adamant at full-time that we’d meet again next season in the Premier League. I think he’s right, too. In the short term then look positive. At least we can concentrate on the league.

Nick Bruzon

Here’s to fifty saves in grey and a bit of history being made.

5 Jan

Well this is all a bit weird. Talk about finding yourself in illustrious company. Manchester United host Manchester City tomorrow night, with the  winners of that one knowing they’ll be facing a League Cup final at the W place near Ikea against either Brentford or Spurs. Surely it will be Tottenham? Surely? Nobody outside to TW8 gives us Bees a prayer. Yet tonight’s semi-final has all the makings of an absolute classic. A chance to crank out cliché by the bucketload in a David v Goliath clash. A game where Jose Mourinho’s superstar team, with their propensity for an ad-hoc self-destruct, host Thomas Frank’s Championship barnstormers. Brentford now sixteen games unbeaten in all competition and looking like the sort of well run, well rounded side most clubs could only aspire to be. A side only nudged out of the automatic positions at the weekend by the Bristol City symptom-gate affair. Yet with Corona continuing to grab the headlines for all the wrong reasons, if ever there was a time for football to help put a smile back on our faces then it is now.

No word of a lie, last night floored me. Boris bumping his way through the entirely predictable press conference. The usual buzz words coming out (and you thought these pages were littered with repetitive cliché) about collective national efforts but the long and the short of it being no hope of getting out for the next few months. The grim prospects of isolation, paying the bills, keeping the job going and doubling up as a home teacher all we have to look forward to. Freedoms curtailed again after that brief taste of being allowed outside in the autumn. He didn’t even have the decency to cancel Mrs. Brown’s Boys. It’s all a bit soul destroying being honest. 

If only… Instead we had more despair

This should be an exciting day. And it still can be. It still will be. It’s not the place of the players to act as any form of social pillars but, my word, they have an unexpected degree of expectation on them tonight. Not so much to win – you can bet your bottom dollar they’ll be all out for that – but to keep morale flying. We’d absolute love to be there with them of course. We’re not even allowed to the pub or our mates’ house to watch it. As Thomas Frank noted in his press conference yesterday, “All players and staff members tested Covid negative before the game. It is maybe more important than ever that football is continuing. For a lot of people, football is a light in the dark that they can cheer on their heroes.

And he’s right. It would be easy to get weighed down in doom and gloom. It’s pitch black and icy cold outside with no real end in sight. I had half an eye on Boris cancelling elite sport, too. I suppose we should be grateful for small mercies. Instead, we are all systems go for this evening. The game is on Sky TV with a 7.45pm kick off The sort of game to attract an audience of unexpected Brentford supporters. Neutrals hoping for an upset and the chance to see whether Jose goes volatile or sporting. Should it happen. If nothing else a case of Manchester united with both sides up there hoping we’ll do it. The easiest option, in theory, for the final.

The big question of course being “Can we?”. The entirely predictable answer being that of course we can. More importantly, will we? Here its not so easy to call. We already know the bookies have Spurs as odds on favourites. They’ll be brutal in their assault. Kane and Son a partnership as balanced as Ant and Dec, Little & Large, Mrs Browns Boys and not laughing. The defence will need to be rock solid – no doubt a case of fifty saves in grey from either David Raya or Luke Daniels. Brentford 6-1 long shots. Yet in my heart of hearts I entirely believe we will do this. Rose tinted? Perhaps. Optimistic? Most definitely? Romantic? It’s what the cup is all about.

A case of fifty saves in grey tonight?

Yet seeing how we’ve developed as a side over the last 12 months. Over this season alone. Over the recent unbeaten streak I’m genuine I my belief that we are the strongest, most consistent team in this division. Much more balanced than last time out. Still smarting about having missed out as we did after doing so incredibly well to even haul ourselves into contention. Yet instead of self-destruction it has has been case of self-belief. Watching the ongoing debacles at FulhamL and West Brom a sore reminder of their own pointlessness in the Premier League. Absolutely they earned their shot but to see them squandering it so badly a painful reminder of where we could have been. 

Kudos to Leeds United. Like Wolves, they have proven that teams can make that step up from the Championship look effortless. Can hold their own against the established teams and the household names. That they will be playing the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham et al on a weekly basis rather than via the fortuitous nature of cup draws. I’m utterly convinced that next season we’ll be there with them. Spurs and Manchester United rather than the Baggies or Cottagers. Tonight marks a huge step on that journey. A chance to see just how well we stack up under the most intense pressure and scrutiny. A chance to beat a fifth Premier League team over the course of this cup run. Most importantly, the chance to make it to a major cup final.

Cripes, I can’t wait for this one. Life outside the front door may feel onerous at present. I’m quite happy to hold up my hands and admit to being amongst those finding things tough. But you can bet come 7.45pm ‘that virus’ will be the last thing on the mind.

We’ll be there in spirit. Bring it on. See you there. Kind of. Instead, here’s to celebrating a winner from Sergi Canos and having a pint together at W….

Can Brentford keep on the “Road to Wembley” ?

Nick Bruzon

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There’s an upset coming….

4 Jan

Here we go. The weekend action is done. Spurs warmed up for Tuesday night’s league cup semi-final with Brentford by thumping Leeds United 3-0. The Bees, meanwhile, put their feet up after Bristol City pulled the plug on our own game at the 11th hour following the discovery of untestable symptoms in the squad. Apparently. We’ve said our piece on that one here. Now is the time to look forward. Perhaps with a bit more juice back in the tank, history awaits at Tottenham.

The quarter-finals were awesome. Next up, Spurs.

Cripes, this is exciting. 90 minutes away from the W place in North London. A chance at a first major cup final. With all due respect to the Sherpa Vans / Leyland Daf etc etc. In our way, the unpredictable genius of Jose Mourinho and his galaxy of International stars. If they go full strength then any team would be up against it. Champions League regulars and currently sitting fourth in the top flight. For Brentford, a question more of how deep into the first team we delve. Sure, we’ve beaten four Premier League outfits to get here (which is still more in total than Sheffield United, West Brom and FulhamL combined have managed in the league all season) but this is next level opposition. Teams like us don’t win these sort of games? Little old Brentford haven’t got a prayer. Have we?

Insert usual lecture about magic of the cup. How both teams deserve to be here and, at the end of the day (Clive) its 11 v 11 over 90 minutes. All of which is true, of course, if not somewhat clichéd. Yet for me this one is even more open than ever. Might Bristol City have even done us an inadvertent favour?

Tottenham fighting it out for the Premier League title. Every point and ounce of energy vital to their cause. The added complication of a huge potato skin coming up on Sunday with the FA Cup tie at Marine. There’s a lot of juggling to be done there. Will it impact selection or are the players simply too strong ? Chuck an empty stadium into the mix and the game takes on the neutrality of a training ground – atmosphere wise, at least. You can bet the regulars will be banging on Thomas Frank’s door for the chance to start this one and just to maintain fitness after the Bristol City debacle. To prove just what they can do and that last season’s wobble when, for once it wasn’t Leeds United who fell apart (amazing how much that break helped them restore their momentum before reaching a deserved promotion), was nothing more than that. An abhoration. A freak. Something to use in order to show that it has only made us stronger.

Despite the loss of Ollie Watkins and Said Benrahma we’re arguably stronger this time around. Defensively strong, the midfield has bite and the goals still flow. Perhaps not as quickly as before but we’re not shipping them. Josh Dasilva, David Raya, Sergi Canos and Ethan Pinnock amongst those to be looking even better than ever. Rico Henry surely the most coveted star in the Championship. Ivan Toney banging them in for fun. Vitaly Janelt the latest on the conveyor belt of previously undiscovered talent. 

We’re further ahead in both league placing and points scored than this time last season despite the non-stop cavalcade of games. The performance against Bournemouth last week one of the best games of football seen in many years. The Bees relentless, determined, ruthless. Weathering the early storm. Coming back from going a goal down (see also: Cardiff City away the game before) to blitz our opponents and kill their own free flowing game. Seeing them resort to bypassing their more creative elements proof, once again, that Thomas Frank had it spot on.  Has a game plan that works.

The denouement to last season was death by a thousand cuts. Despite the optimism and genuine belief I felt going in to every game – even the play-offs – that game in North London did for my psyche. Floored emotionally. The thought of having to start it all again, knowing it would be without our star names, a prospect up there with being strapped to a chair and force-fed Mrs. Browns Boys. Nobody in their right mind would want to go through that but, eventually, it ends. The new season has come and with it, renewed love of football and faith in our team. Of trust in our set up and the pleasure of seeing that (cliché alert) calls of it being a marathon not a sprint have been well founded. We never win every game. We’ve had to find our feet. We’ve done that and our now firing.

Spurs have still got too much for us and should, surely, reach the final. On paper. If nothing else, they’re well used to these big games where the line is in sight and the silverware is glistening. For Brentford, this is very much the sort of ad-hoc opportunity which is about as familiar as a decent joke in the Mrs. Browns Boys Xmas special. Or any episode for that manner.

Yet, somehow, Brendan O’Carroll and his fetid creation keep going. Keep defying the odds. Continue to buck the trend. Could Thomas Frank do the same? Nobody expects us to win but this huge unbeaten run and our current approach have to count for something. Its a game where the approach needs to be 110% disciplined but, equally, there is no pressure on us because outside of TW8 there is no expectation.

At the end of the day Clive, it IS 11 v 11 over 90 minutes. The bookies have Spurs as red hot favourites. Brentford the 6-1 longshots. Yet, to me, the gap doesn’t feel that big. Is it? Meet you on the sofa tomorrow evening when we find out. Say this quietly, but I’ve got a feeling we’re going to pull off a shock…

Not my maths….

Nick Bruzon       

Waking up with a semi and a smile.

24 Dec

The morning after the night before. The die has now been cast. Brentford will travel to Spurs in the first week of January for a single leg league cup semi-final. A London derby the outcome after Tuesday’s 1-0 defeat of Newcastle United. The other tie sees Manchester United hosting their neighbours after winning in front of a ‘crowd’ at Everton. There was to be no reunion for the Bees with Manchester City. No fear of having to go to Stoke after Tottenham had eased through in the first game of the night. We’d love to have been at home, fans present or otherwise, but if it had to be a road trip then it is the most intriguing of the options. Relatively speaking. Pinnock and Sørensen v Kane and Son. Mbeumo v Mourinho. Delle Alli v Mourinho. 

There could only be a romantic outcome from this draw. Two teams from the top six of the Premier League, along with Manchester City and Brentford. City, their own list of recent trophies as long as the ‘bookings’ section in a Keith Stroud match report. Brentford, a whole new list of ‘teams like’ and ‘little old’ accolades now being added to our name from the broader populous. Another match that sees us emerge further from the radar we are seemingly still under. This is going to be good. Very good. The relief as Spurs did their thing against Stoke palpable. The prospect of testing ourselves against the very best now presenting itself.

Personally speaking, I’d have loved Manchester City. Purely because of what happened in 1989. That, still one of my top five Brentford moments and the chance to go again would have been immense. A momentous victory carved out on a quagmire of a pitch. (But enough about Tuesday). Perhaps we’ll just have to wait for the final, he says optimistically.

There was to be no revisit of 1989

It is, also, a tie that adds to our crowded fixture list. The 9 games over December have already been well documented. With an FA Cup match against Middlesbrough next up after the Spurs game, it gives us another 7(seven) in January.  Don’t cry now, but expect more changes. Expect a team much akin to the one that played Newcastle off the park. Thomas Frank has his league and cup strategies so clearly marked that the only unexpected thing about this week’s triumph was the quite bizarre reaction to our starting XI.

We’re talking about players ; not machines. Fatigue is very real. The squad there for a reason. It may not be the romantic ideal of football in the 70s and 80s where every man from a paper thin squad played every minute. Where there was only one sub per game. Where the actual team was printed in the programme before kick off ! That was then. This is now.

If nothing else, those who have helped get us past four Premier League teams more than deserve their chance to carry on again. Be sure the bench will remain strong if needed. Josh Mourinho picked a Spurs team full of household names to get through. The likes of Harry Kane and Gareth Bale, world class players, there from the off. Will he do the same in January or drastically under estimate the challenge provided by ‘little’ Brentford? I’ve no insight into that one but, looking at how we do things, would suggest it’s a fairly safe bet which way Thomas will go. Isn’t it?

Well…. Thomas has massively set out his stall so far but might the FA Cup tie become the game for sacrificial lambs. For the B team to be given a chance to do their thing. Cripes – who’d be a head coach?  90 minutes from a Wembley final, the temptation to go full strength in the league cup must be immense.

In the end, I guess its a case of expecting a similar team to Tuesday night and giving them both the respect and kudos they deserve. The real surprise for me will be if Thomas goes big. But up against the unpredictable genius that is Jose Mourinho, this most compelling of managers, might he have to out think his rival on and off the pitch? Could it be a case of bluff and double bluff? You can bet the players will be desperate to feature in this one. With the W place near Ikea in his sights, the urge to go with the more familiar option will be huge.

Who starts remains to be seen. Before that – with games crucial to the promotion battle next up against Cardiff, Bournemouth and Bristol City  – continuing our mammoth unbeaten run and picking up the points has to be the focus now.

This week has been amazing, no doubt. The hype sure to build as we get closer to the Tottenham game. For the minute though, its time to concentrate on the league. Even if we are still in the cup.

Nick Bruzon 

That was something very, very special. In more ways than one.

23 Dec

Get the f*ck in!!! What a night. What a finish. What a result. Brentford beat Newcastle United 1-0 to make it into the league cup semi-finals. Josh Dasilva scoring the goal that means we’re now one round away from a game at the W place in North London. Aside from us there’s only Manchester City along with the winners of tonight’s games between Everton  / Manchester United and Stoke / Spurs left in the competition. It was an evening that saw Thomas Frank picking a team of familiar faces if not entirely made up of regular starters but certainly one well, well good enough to do a job. They didn’t let him, or the fans, down. Instead, the reaction from certain quarters and usual suspects to our team announcement left a hell of a lot of egg on face when the full time whistle went.

official capture the moment – and why not!!

It was a night to rank up there with the third round defeat of Everton. I was going to add ‘a few seasons’ ago but, incredibly, that was 2010. A decade gone already. Cripes, it feels like yesterday and perhaps even more highlights our lack of success in this, or any, cup competition. Early exits with nothing but a handful of memorable moments to test the grey matter. Fourth round defeats at Nottingham Forest and Birmingham City about as good as it has got. To date. Not now though. 

My word that was immense. Oh to have been there in person. Yet, in a bizarre way, we were all in it together. All suffering in isolation at home. All willing the team on to beat Newcastle. Most of us backing them. All of us desperate for the win. Of course, for the good cheer it would bring but as much as anything else to shut up the dickhead element. The legion of armchair managers doing their thing when the team was announced almost desperate for a perceived weaker team to be revealed so they could vent their usual bile.

Why why oh why! Disgraceful team selection for 1/4 final of cup!

Only a quarter final nothing important f&@k sake

No ambition.

What an absolute shambles – who do Brentford think they are? Quarter Final and a chance of Europe and he names that team??

What the actual f@&k has he done that for?

I cannot get over how much he has f@&ked up that starting XI. My head is gone.    

These, just a few of the erudite observations on social media. Nothing like a bit of loyal support but it made what came next even sweeter. A team with a spine of Pinnock, Mads, Sergi, Vitaly, Josh and Marcus Forss up top is one you’d quite easily expect (and be happy with) in a league game. Supplement that with a whole host of familiar faces from the bench, including captain for the night Luke Daniels, and this was hardly the stuff of capitulation. Hardly a team set up to fail. This was Thomas Frank doing what we’ve said , all season, he’ll have not choice but to do. Use his squad to see us through. Try everything possible to get us past December and the horror run that sees us backs up to play 9 games in 31 days.

He must be doing something right. It was one way traffic in the first half with Ghoddos hitting the crossbar, Marcondes coming close and Sergi somehow heading wide when unmarked just yards out. Hey, not even he can be perfect every time. Newcastle United riding their luck and the feeling that, perhaps, if we didn’t take chances then it could get tense late on. Anything but.

One sharp save from Daniels aside and a few jittery clearances (Dom Thompson solid as, too) I don’t recall much attacking intent from our visitors. Instead, Brentford picked up where we left off with Sergi Canos providing a delightful ball across the box which Josh Dasilva blasted home with just over an hour gone. Oh. My. Word. What a ball. What a finish. What. A. Goal!!!! Another beer? Don’t mind if I do. It went nuts at our place. I’m sure the same all over TW8 or wherever our fans were gathered. 

1-0 up and what to do? Hang on or go for it? Within moments, Thomas Frank had pulled off Sergi and replaced him with Ivan Toney. There was a statement of intent. A well earned rest for the magnificent Spaniard and a chance for Ivan to do his thing once more. He almost did, too. A chance late on producing a finger tip save and, as importantly, helping wind down that clock through an excruciating four minutes of mystery time added on.

Let’s not forget either the return to fitness of Christian Nørgaard. A player who has been missing for so long it would seem that even ‘official’ have forgotten how to spell his name. It’s amazing to think that we’ve gone on our mammoth unbeaten run despite the enforced absence of a player who would, ordinarily, be one of the first names on the team sheet. His entry into the field of play on the hour had been well telegraphed by Thomas but still produced a cheer from our sofa. Albeit. Not as as big as the one at full time. Yess!! My word !!!! F*ckin’ incredible ! A fourth Premier league team beaten this season. For context, that’s the same as Arsenal and double the amount FulhamL have in the actual Premier league. Two times better? Ah, who cares about them? This is about us. About adding Newcastle United to an ever growing list of top flight scalps. About now needing to sit through Everton – Manchester United in order to await the post match draw for the semi finals.

Christian who now?

Will it be Spurs? Might it be Manchester City? Oh for the chance to emulate our heroes of ’89 once more. You see what we were saying about cup moments being few and far between ? Truly, this is a thing to savour. Knowing Brentford it’ll end up being Stoke City which, for the record, I’m sure is something deemed as unpalatable in the Potteries as it would be down South. 

Destiny beckons. Thomas Frank and his team continue to earn the plaudits and praise that they richly deserve. To ride the wave of bull being directed at them from our twat element. Tap, tap, tap, tap. What’’s that noise? Oh, the sound of social media being deleted. The post match hypocrisy a thing of beauty to behold. The frank out hashtag having been early thawed out having to be returned to the freezer once more.

Oh dear.

Perhaps, this time, it might actually stay there. The whole thing has been an embarrassment and a colossal disrespect to the squad . F*ck you. This is OUR moment. And I’m not gong to let a bunch of morons ruin it.

Ah, you know what. It’s their problem. Hating is easy. Having a bit of trust much harder. Perhaps years of having to answer the question, ‘Brentwood? In Essex?’ makes the positive approach that bit easier. Not so much thinking that we’re ‘little old Brentford’ (because we’re well, well beyond that) but simply remembering our history and where we’ve come from.  Of recognising that the players, approach and mentality now instilled is nothing like anything we’ve ever had before.

This is Brentford 2.0 . And I love it !!! Now bring on Manchester City. Or Stoke.

Bliss doing his thing against Manchester City in the fourth round – January 1989

Nick Bruzon