Tag Archives: Cardiff

Never order a kit-kat on a train. What really happened at the play-off final.

28 Mar

There’s no football on. I’m bored. Very bored. So who wants to hear a story? A story about what really happened after the 2002 play-off final. That was the one Brentford lost. 2-0 to Stoke City in Cardiff, if it helps narrow things down a little bit. Although at least this time we had the consolation of not losing in the semi-finals or at Wembley. A story about how your journey home from that one may have been impacted, indirectly, by yours truly. The wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time and for which I can only apologise. Even if not my fault.

It was the game I attended with my brother Mark, my Stoke supporting flat mate Paul and HB’s now godfather, Carl (the names have been changed to protect the innocent) . A game where a Mr. Jack Segal (his hasn’t) of First Great Western trains tried to make an already awful day even worse on the way home.

The day, like all of them that had gone before and would come since, started with such great promise. The sight of Carl, sitting on a bench outside Twickenham station, holding a bottle of Baileys at 6am was one to put an early smile on the face abut the day ahead.

Surely, THIS time, Brentford would lay the play-off jinx to bed. There was no way we could cock up another one. For starters, it wasn’t taking place at the W place in North London. That hovel where footballing dreams go to die. At least, if you support the Bees. On what was shaping up to be a beautiful day, we had even been blessed with the ‘lucky’ dressing room. There was just no way we’d mess this one up. Championship, here we come.

Oh dear. There’s a reason I don’t bet on football. 12 hours later, our footballing dreams had died. Again. Different city. Same outcome. Brentford 0 Stoke City 2 the final score. The Bees putting in a no-show of a performance on an afternoon that the wheels came off our quite wonderful team. Steve Coppell’s squad falling apart on the pitch and then splintered into a million pieces almost immediately afterwards.

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Different city. Same outcome

Yet the pain of defeat was nothing compared to what came next. Tired, emotional and drained – the stuffing knocked out of us – it was time for the journey back to Paddington. The train arrived. Seats were taken. It left on time. Wow! At least the day would have a decent ending. Homeward bound, what could possibly go wrong from here? Well, quite a lot as it happens.

Whilst the early morning Baileys was a giddy high that, just for the record, had not been replicated over the course of the day let’s not pretend either that drinks had not been consumed. And whilst I am assuming that we were all fit to drive cars, say the alphabet backwards and pass breathalyser tests, discretion was deemed the better part of valour at this juncture. As such, a trip to the buffet carriage was undertaken with the sole intention of being to acquire four coffees and four kit-kats.

For reasons unknown, the kit-kats have always seemed an integral part to proceedings and what came next. There’s no specific reason but on the odd occasion that events have been re-told in private, that detail has remained constant. Close to twenty years on, other facts may have been lost to time, faded or even just been altered to suit the telling. Not deliberately, but as my good friend Bucko used to say “Never ruin a good story with the facts.” I’m not saying this is necessarily one which fits into that category, or that there has been any conscious manipulation of events, but the multi-fingered chocolate-covered wafers have always been a favourite so need to stay in.

Through the coaches we swayed. Purely due to the rocking motion of the train. The buffet car ahead of us. The sound of singing supporters coming through into the preceding carriage. Brentford and Stoke fans, mixed together and sounding in genuinely good spirits. Nothing moronic. Nothing stupid. Just good humour as supporters drank and partied together. Something more incredible given the defeat we had recently endured. Perhaps that side of things was more symptomatic with an ongoing acceptance that this is what probably would always have happened regardless of omens and good feeling.  After all, we’d just been in a play-off match and, to coin a phrase, it’s Brentford. Innit?  

In we went. Paul and I, that is. Carl and my brother had remained behind in the carriage. The bonhomie we’d presumed to be in place was indeed confirmed. Fans of both clubs intermingled and very much enjoying all that the First Great Western bar had to offer. It was a heartwarming sight and moreso given the reputation of travelling football fans.

The buffet car itself may have been a relic from the 70s but the attitude of the supporters was anything but. As we sped through the Welsh countryside at plenty over 100mph it should have been a picture postcard advert for travelling to and from a game by train. Were it not for the simple fact that the door was hanging wide open. Wide. Open.  Nothing but a distance of about two feet separating us from the high speed blur of trees and bridges on the other side of the open gap. The wind blowing in and everybody either oblivious or simply choosing to ignore it – the taste of High Speed Fosters too delicious to surrender for something as trivial as certain death should anyone have lost their footing and lurched towards the exposed doorframe.

By all rights we should have turned tail and fled back through the vestibule. Perhaps pulling the emergency cord as we went. But nobody else had and I certainly wasn’t going to be the one to rain on this parade. The person deemed responsible for turning the party atmosphere into one of angst. 

Instead, we stepped forward towards the  safety of the narrow passageway alongside the serving hatch, bypassing the deathtrap to our right. Those kit-kats weren’t going to buy themselves and, besides, we could always ask the chap dispensing the coffees if he’d happened to notice that his carriage was now exposed to the elements? And then, worlds collided.

Four coffees and four kit-kats, please”. As that phrase was uttered, enter stage left the guard. Jack Segal. He had a name badge announcing the fact. He may aswell have announced himself with the line, “‘Ello ‘ello ‘ello. What’s going on ‘ere then?” And as it slowly dawned on him, the man presumably responsible for the health and safety of all on the train, that neither could be assured he barked, “Buffet’s closed”. Then reached for the emergency alarm.

The caterer didn’t know what to do. With the train slowing to a halt, we asked if service was possible? Granted, in retrospect it was unlikely to be a well received request but, you know, just because the train had decelerated didn’t mean that serving a hot drink was impossible. Alas, it was. 

“Buffet’s. Closed” repeated Segal. Each word screeched with the sort of protracted delivery reserved for naught schoolboys from a particularly apoplectic headmaster determined to make a point amidst the mayhem unfurling around him.

He shouted again. Face growing an ever darker shade of Fergie red as everyone ignored him and continued the protracted negotiations for caffeine and chocolate.

Buffet’s. Closed” he screamed once more. The man behind the counter this time pulling the shutters down. It was a less a slam and more a meandering slide but with our hands on the counter top, it was a game of Russian roulette – albeit one utilising fingers and an industrial grill rather than a high velocity bullet and a brain. Yet, with the fear of an irate Segal now firmly instilled, there was no stopping this manoeuvre from playing out to a bone crunching conclusion. Not that we really though this would happen until experiencing the taste of metal on knuckle.

Oww. That really hurt. What did you did that for ?” or words to that effect were directed towards the train staff, although primarily Segal. There was no apology. Anything but. Instead, with our fellow fans having deserted the scene and the train now stopped, the fickle finger of Jack pointed from the door to us and then back again. He put two and two together, came up with five and made it quite clear that this near death experience was nothing to do with a faulty train but down to us. And that trouble was waiting.

Back we went to our seats. No coffee. No kit-kats. The door had been closed and the train limped towards Newport where everybody was kicked off to await a replacement service. Except for Paul and I. We were told to await the Transport Police where we could… help them with their enquiries. A phrase delivered with all the menace of a camp pantomime villain sporting a cape and waxed moustache . Only a Mwah-ha-ha-ha-ha-haaa! required at the end for a full house.

Which is what then happened. The police rather than the theatrical laugh. We were met by Her Majesty’s finest who, despite protesting our innocence, were given a very simple choice. Either disembark, come to the stationmaster’s office to give some more formal ‘assistance’. Or be arrested. Either way, we were going with them.

Put like that, it was an easy enough decision. As our fellow passengers waited on the platform for a rail replacement to be dragged out of God knows where, we began undergoing the process of interrogation into our involvement in the alleged train door opening which, it transpired, is what Segal had formally accused us of.

What? This was madness. Again and again we went over our version of events. Nothing changed. The questions kept coming. By all rights we probably should have had some sort of legal representation there but it didn’t even dawn on us to ask. Besides, we’d done nothing wrong.

That didn’t seem to matter. Segal’s accusation keeping us trapped in Newport as the man himself had since boarded the replacement service that was heading towards London with the rest of our fellow fans. 

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Trapped in Newport?

Well boys. That’s the last train to London tonight gone” said one of the officers. He didn’t go so far as to add “so now your fu*%ed” although I’m fairly certain he thought it. I did, that’s for sure. Locked in a stalemate this was going nowhere fast. The police continued, “You know how much this is going to cost? The entire network has been knocked out. We’ve had to pull a spare train out of mothballs and delay just about every other service going through here. A f*%king fortune is how much”. This time he did swear . Quite profusely.

Then, and I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred any earlier, somebody had the bright idea to call up Segal on the replacement train. We were oblivious to this part of proceedings until one of the station staff came forward to where we were still assisting and uttered those sweet, sweet words: “Stoke City have been eliminated for fielding an illegible player. You’ve been promoted.

Well, not quite but the joy was much the same. “We’ve spoken to him now. He’s admitted he didn’t, actually, see it happen and can’t say that it was these two.

Thanks a bunch, Jack. Mainly because it wasn’t us two. That was a rant for another day though. He continued, “Really sorry lads. We all know him here. He’s a right ‘toys out the pram’ type. So you’ve got two choices – we’ll put you up in hotel and get you home tomorrow or we’ll just pay for a taxi down to your final destination now”.     

If ever you needed the quintessential no brainer then here it was. A late night in a Newport Travel Lodge and a Sunday chugger / replacement bus home or back to our beds within a couple of hours. Hmmm. Let me think about that for about no seconds.

A taxi was duly summoned and took us all the way back through the dead of night to Twickenham. The meter reading £159 as we pulled up outside the station although, for reasons of almost Segal-esque anal behaviour, the driver wouldn’t take us the extra 500 yards to our flat above the snooker hall. Seriously? After driving for three hours, you couldn’t manage two more minutes? Still, it could have been a hell of a lot worse.

And then I remembered Carl, my brother and the rest of the Brentford faithful. Shit, they’d probably be worried. No worries. Out came the Nokia 3310 and a call was placed. I’d probably wake him up but, you know, he’d want to know we were safe rather than facing a prison sentence.

You’d think. But no. Anything but. He was not pleased to hear from me and not because he’d been roused from his slumbers….

You’re home? Already? Bastards. We’re stuck in Reading! I’ve had Carl sucking up to the guard all the way back and now we’ve missed the last connection back because the train was so delayed.”

I made my excuses and left. All of a sudden, losing a play-off final didn’t seem so bad.

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Happier times with Carl and Paul

Nick Bruzon  

No jacket required. Although three points would have been nice.

1 Mar

Another point on the board. A 2-2 draw for Brentford at Cardiff City in a game we may well have won after racing into an early lead courtesy of Luka Racic and Bryan Mbeumo. Instead, things ended level on a day that saw both Leeds United and Fulham recording victories which, realistically, mean hopes of automatic are diminishing quicker than the laughter at a studio recording of Mrs. Brown’s Boys. No matter, with only ten games to go we remain fifth. The Bees firmly in play-off contention and perhaps this is a blessing in disguise. There is no additional expectation now as top six remains the target. Anything else is a bonus outside of our control.

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Benrahma takes the game to Cardiff

What can you say? Positives included the return of Christian Norgaard after going off at Luton. A confident performance from Luka Racic at centre back which included a goal after just five minutes. A corner broke and he fired it straight back past Cardiff ‘keeper Alex Smithies. Said Benrhama was passing through the eye of a needle whilst Brentford kept going for the win all game long. Bryan Mbeumo scored an exquisite free kick to double the lead as he fired one over the wall and in with little more than twenty minutes on the clock.

With the fire drill sounding, this one was done and dusted. Wasn’t it? Alas not. Junior Hoilett grabbing the first with his head, following a long throw, where he looked suspiciously offside. At least to those of us behind the goal. Then bang on half time it was the turn of Joe Ralls with an almost carbon copy finish. Urghhh. Frustration rather than anger was the order of the day. The Bees had been playing well with Said Benrahma forcing a fine save from Smithies in between. 

Meanwhile, Will Vaulks had drawn the wrath of the normally mild-mannered Thomas Frank following one obscene challenge on Norgaard. Referee Simon Hooper and his assistants failing to produce the red card required in such a situation. But this summed up Hooper – for both sides. He had an absolute stinker from start to finish. That’s not meant as bitterness – he was as poor towards the home side as he was the visitors. Both sets of supporters ending the day feeling hard done by and, being honest, Cardiff City probably more as they cranked up the pressure in the second period.

Yet we had our own moments too and certainly Brentford never gave up. Josh Dasilva coming closest as he fired one wide with his right foot when space had opened up. Either side could have taken it. Brentford probably should after that early brace. But football is a 90 minute game as we know and so we have to be content with a point. We have to be content with remaining firmly in play-off contention and passing a back-handed compliment to Fulham, whose own victory over Preston meant we weren’t overtaken. Bristol City sit three points off us in seventh although superior goal difference means that is effectively four. 

All being well the enigma that is the Pontus Jansson injury will be resolved by the time Sheffield Wednesday visit Griffin Park on Saturday. Bright this Racic and Jeanvier have been, it is no coincidence that our recent run has coincided with his absence . The calming influence, experience and confidence of our inspirational captain something that would seem to be missing at present. This is the moment our young, young team would really benefit from the presence of this (relatively) elder statesman. Here’s hoping his return is imminent.

The other big question of the day came buried away in the Cardiff match day programme. Specifically the ‘Famous Fans’ segment. Natalie Sawyer is a given as is Richard Archer from Hard-Fi / newly formed pop combo ‘Offworld’ (do check them on Spotify et al). Yet there was no Rhino from the Quo. The Bluetones’ Adam Devlin was conspicuous by his absence. Likewise comedian Nathan Caton, Cameron Diaz, Rick Wakeman or Dean Gaffney (Wellard from Eastenders). I’d even have accepted Bradley Walsh. But no. Instead we got Phil Collins. Phil. Collins.

How? Why? I know he grew up locally but seriously, has anyone ever seen hm at Griffin Park? Go figure.

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Never seen him at Griffin Park

There’s not much else to say at the moment. Anticipated travel chaos failed to materialise on the way up. The return journey one hit by train delays but even that allowed the bonus of an extended post match discussion in the pub prior to departure.  Such are the things that make up an away day. You never know what will happen on or off the pitch. The random nature of such trips one where the 90 minutes in the middle are so often the thing that gets in the way. The eye of the storm in a chance to catch up with different friends in a different city. The journey up one full of anticipation and expectation. The potential to eat and drink somewhere different always welcome. The one day in the week when health related good intentions can quite legitimately be thrown out of the window and the already meagre cash reserves are drained with abandon. The notes in the wallet taking on the nature of Monopoly money. 

And now it’s heads down for a week. The bank card buried deep in the back of the sock draw in a half-arsed attempt to avoid temptation. A week in the office (urghh) the only thing standing in the way of Brentford and Sheffield Wednesday when it all starts again. All being well, Thomas may tell us more about the injury situation during the week. Some positive news on that front will be very well received.

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Emiliano and Said were unable to fashion a winning goal

Nick Bruzon

After failing to obey the rules of Luton can we return to being Alpha predators?

29 Feb

Cardiff City, here we come. Brentford head into Wales today, looking to get back on the horse after that thing that happened midweek at Luton. Move along, nothing to see here. Instead, it’s a massive chance to test our bouncebackability and what a moment to do so. With Leeds United and Fulham both picking up the points on Wednesday the timing to test ourselves post defeat couldn’t have been more telling. Moreso as given Preston, who st right behind us, travel to the Cottage. The favour we look so eagerly towards could well blow up in our face should The Bees fail to sting the Bluebirds. As for Leeds United, they have huge self-inflicted problems of their own after goalkeeper Kiko Casilla starts an eight game ban for racism.

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Brentford were unable to find a way through the Luton defence on Tuesday

So, Brentford. Which team will we get? Thomas Frank was conspicuously absent by the lack of traditional Thursday press conference this week. We’ve no idea if Christian Norgaard will join Mathias Jensen on the injury list after limping off at Luton. Is Pontus any closer to a return? What about Julian Jeanvier? Will we have any form of traditional defence? How do we put right what went wrong at Luton?

Well, I have to look to the positive. That game at Kenilworth Road was, surely, an aberration. If we’d followed the rules of Luton then by all rights it should have been an away banker. The basement club there to be obliterated. Instead, they fought like a team possessed and were fully deserving of the win. Brentford’s hopes of success blasted out of orbit. An Alpha predator caught by startled prey. 

Instead of our normal ferocity and tearing victims apart, we looked off the pace and makeshift. Passes failing to connect. Corners landing with all the finesse of Mrs. Brown telling a ‘joke’. An opposition goalkeeper who kept his team alive on those rare moments a shot was unleashed.

We could go on but it won’t change anything. There’s no way that level will be reached again. It can’t. It won’t. We just have to put it down to a bad day at the office and move on. Whatever Thomas has had to say behind closed doors has surely been voiced. Although I get the impression he’s less a shouter and more one to place an arm around the shoulder. To guide his young charges on where they might have done things differently.   

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Thomas is great at sharing wise words

Every team loses games. The true test is how you react to that and I can’t wait to see how that plays out this afternoon. Assuming, of course, we can even reach Wales. GWR are reporting flooded lines towards Swansea so all trains from London start and stop at Cardiff. How this knocks on to our already delayed services ( a three hour trip)  remains to be seen. Further rain is forecast whilst it’s grim in West London this morning so one can only expect congestion on the roads, too. Yet still we head up there in our droves. Still we follow this team. It’s Saturday and it’s football. It’s a chance to see if the improbable dream could actually come true. 

The green card has been offered once more and gratefully accepted. No matter the travel related hardship that may come with it. Instead, it’s a case of gritting teeth and enjoying the game. Hopefully. Why stay warm in London when you can go to the most famous beach in the UK?

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Cardiff Beach

Elsewhere, Preston travel to Fulham in a game that puts further incentive on Brentford to make sure we do our thing. Whilst we have, understandably, been talking about the possibility of making the ‘automatic’ places in recent weeks complacency could be the mother of all f*ck ups. The play-off zone remains so congested that wins are required just to stay in contention for those. We’re only ahead of The Deepdale outfit on goal difference so let’s not lose focus on those around us as we chase that clutch of teams at the summit. I suppose a draw would be the best result in that one, with both teams still to face The Bees.

As for Leeds United, we’re waking up to the news that they are now missing butter fingered goalkeeper Kiko Casilla. The player begins an eight match ban after being found guilty of racially abusing Charlton Athletic forward Jonathan Leko back in September. In addition, he has been given a £60,000 fine and asked to attend a face-to-face education session. Whilst the player doesn’t believe the verdict is a clear reflection of the incident, the FA clearly think otherwise about an aggravated charge – one classified as  making reference to race and/or colour and/or ethnic origin.

This isn’t a situation that I can take any pleasure from. With horrific stories of racism still a regular feature in the game from alleged ‘supporters’, to hear about this happening on pitch is probably even more disturbing. From one professional to another. Yet at the same time, the severity of the sentence is one which the authorities (and I mean as much on a global scale)  fail to match when that abuse comes from the stands. A hard line approach is great, and correct, but it needs to be across the board. It needs to be enforced. Let’s see what happens. I’ll wait.

On pitch, 19 year old Illan Meslier is Casilla’s understudy. He has made one appearance so far this season (in the league cup – the 1-0 defeat at Arsenal). What a time to get your chance in the first team. What an awful way to be handed your chance. Will the pressure and frustration sure to be felt by this situation be the catalyst for metaphorical death or glory? Just as Leeds had managed to stop falling apart, now another thing threatens to derail them. How they react from a footballing perspective remains to be seen. But that challenge begins this lunchtime at Hull City (L).

Until then, safe travels. Good luck. See you in Wales. Hopefully……       

Nick Bruzon

Tough conditions. Tough opponents. Tough to take.

26 Feb

The referee. The weather. Murray Jones. VAR. Barnsley tickets. Ron Noades, Marinus. The South dressing room at Millennium stadium. Jamie Cureton, Jasper Carrot. Birmingham City. It would be easy to find things to blame for last night but the simple fact of the matter is that a 2-1 defeat for Brentford at Luton Town was about as disappointing a performance as we’ve seen all season. The Hatters wanted it, were quick on their feet and first to everything. The Bees struggled to break down our hosts and despite the attacking options available, a rejigged line up was unable to make headway. With Nottingham Forest also winning to move third, the ball is very much in the court of both Fulham and Leeds United – should they want to try and take the opportunity this evening.

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Brentford were unable to find a way through the Luton defence

Ahh, look. I’ve slept on it before even thinking about committing words to paper. It hasn’t changed the disappointment. The sniping on Twitter was there for all to see last night. The struggle on the pitch apparent. Julian Jeanvier was added to the injury list before kick-off and Christian Norgaard joined him during the second half. Mathias Jensen was missing again whilst we were desperately crying out for the solidity of Pontus Jansson to add some shape to the makeshift back line. 

A bright start where we took the game to Luton came crashing down to earth with a bump where an innocuous looking free kick across the box seemed to elude everyone before going in on off Shandon Baptiste. Less than ten minutes gone and Brentford a goal down. With the clock being killed at every possible opportunity, our hosts refused to give an inch. The Bees’ super slick passing machine snuffed out time and again as the midfield and defence held firm. With no way through and Simon Sluga in inspired form between the sticks when an opportunity was forged,  the tension built. And built. 

Then, right into the depths of stoppage time, it was 2-0. Another free kick and another goal. This time at least Luton having the decency to score it themselves. Martin Cranie the man celebrating as he fired the half-cleared original effort back from where it came and high into the net. Brentford left the field to a chorus of boos. The smiles and bright start of forty-five minutes earlier nothing more than a distant memory, washed away in the incessant sleet and rain.

The second half brought more of the same. Frustration. Wayward passes. Ferocious defence. A brick wall midfield. A late goal from Ollie Watkins offering faint hope. A very late sortie upfield from David Raya almost bringing salvation as Ethan Pinnock saw a corner scrambled off the line and Said Benrahma curled one just wide. Yet it all felt too little, too late.

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David Raya – almost grabbed the equaliser (not a typo).

No excuses made – Brentford were second best last night. Luton Town wanted it more and got exactly what their gameplay and endeavour was due. On the plus side, we are still in the play-off zone. We are still six points off second place. Middlesbrough may do us a favour against Leeds United tonight. Swansea City may see their game with Fulham as the opportunity to reignite a rapidly faltering play-off push. Should those results go our way then we are no worse off than before. The upper places still in sight. There are only eleven games to go and we still have destiny very much in our own hands. The chance to lock down a play-off spot, at the very least, one which is ours to own.

But let’s not pretend that we can play like that again and get away with it. The patched up team looked knackered as they chased both the game and their tenacious opponents. Throwing mud at individuals won’t help and I’m certainly not going to start this now. We win together. We lose together. This one gets chalked down to the file marked ‘lessons learned’ and everyone can just pretend it never happened. 

A win at Cardiff City on Saturday will put the smile back on our faces. Perhaps Middlesbrough and Swansea may even do that job for us tonight. Otherwise, its a case of chin up and roll on the weekend. See you there. 

Nick Bruzon

 

Can anyone better LFC? Tuesday’s game is HUGE.

28 Jan

Here we go!! Forget Saturday and Leicester. It’s been and gone. THIS is currently about as big as it gets. Brentford host Nottingham Forest at Griffin Park tonight. Both teams locked firmly into the play off zone and knowing that a win for either side will take them third in the Championship table. With the two teams in the choke zone both facing tricky fixtures – Leeds United at home to Millwall and West Bromwich Albion visiting Cardiff City – there is the added incentive of knowing that victory could narrow the gap to the clubs currently set on ‘self-destruct’ even further. Yet with the visitors sitting one point ahead of the Bees after playing their long overdue ‘game in hand’, focus on our own game has to be the priority.

We all know what this one means. We know that Griffin Park is a sell out or as close as it can be to one – albeit, do check  the ticket office and resale website if there are any last moment aspirations to attend. We all know that the place is going to be absolutely rocking. FA Cup action has given us a bonus ‘Brentford night’ and with just ten games to go at our famous home, what better way to spend it than under lights?

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Griffin Park under lights is always special

Seriously, I cannot wait for this one. Whilst I am as confident as ever heading in to the game, one can’t underplay the significance of the occasion. Mrs. Bruzon and I are currently tossing the coin to see who gets to go and who stays at home with H (if his teacher is reading) 😉

It has all the potential to be season defining. Brentford on fire at present with a recent home record of WWWWWW in the Championship. Nottingham Forest very much the club of the moment as they have reasserted their early season form to climb back into the mix.

Now, like the Bees, they are looking upwards. Fulham don’t play this week and so Leeds United and West Bromwich Albion are very much the targets. With the BBC reporting them to be injury free, we know we are going to be up against the best that Sabri Lamouchi has at his disposal.

Then again, Forest aren’t going to have it easy. Aside from doubts over Pontus Jansson and Mathias Jensen, expect Brentford to be back at our very strongest too. The FA Cup side performed magnificently at the weekend and offered HUGE potential for the very near future. Maybe even this season. Who knows how valuable the ‘big game’ experience they earned will prove to be as we head towards the business end of the campaign. 

At the same time there can’t be a manager in the Championship, or higher, who would turn down the opportunity to bring Thomas Frank’s super car back out of the garage. The combination of Benrahma, Mbeumo and Watkins like a Lamborghini Huracán Evo  crossed with a Chevrolet and powered by the Ferrari 812. I appreciate there’s probably a better analogy, if only somebody could find one, but the point being that this turbo charged threesome are still setting the division on fire.

Bryan has found the back of the net in his last five home league games, Ollie is top of the pops in the Championship goal scoring charts whilst Saïd is just Saïd. We know what he does.  And it is amazing. I can only imagine an even warmer and louder reception for the talismanic wideman than ever after his own awful news of last week. The universal applause on the 10th minute at the weekend showing just how close is is to all of us.

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Like a Lamborghini crossed with a Ferrari and Chevrolet – can anyone better LFC?

I’m not sure what else to add at this juncture. Millwall and Cardiff City doing the business, any form of business, would be huge. Brilliant. Likely to have the crowd singing as one – Leeds, Leeds are falling apart. Again. And it’s not often that happens. But that’s a nice to have . The need to have is getting the three points. And I can’t wait to find out how this one is going to play out.

Roll on kick off and see you there !!!

Nick Bruzon  

Magnificent. Rivals thumped, humped and spanked as top of the table tightens.

15 Dec

Well that was just stunning. Another home win as Brentford beat Fulham – yet again – on Saturday to go fourth in the Championship table. It was as comfortable a 1-0 as you could hope to see. The visitor’s goalmouth leading a charmed life with the Bees hitting the woodwork three times. There’s only Preston, Leeds United (who gave an intriguing reminder of their annual ability to fall apart) and then table toppers West Bromwich Albion (also derby winners as they came from behind against Birmingham City to render Harlee Dean’s goal meaningless) above us. 

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Another wonderful win under the lights

With Barnsley hammering qpr 5-3, it was just about the perfect day of results for Brentford fans. The chief of which was, of course, at Griffin Park. In truth it never felt in doubt, the first twenty minutes aside. Fulham starting in the ascendency. Brentford dropping passes short, having no luck with the bounce of the ball and just feeling second to everything. It was a brief fancy. A posing concern that vanished as quickly as it had arrived. Fulham had their moment, even hit the post at one point (albeit David Raya had the shot covered) and then the Bees stepped it up. My word did we step it up.

Thomas Frank would talk at full time about his pre-match message to the players, “One thing. Out run them. When you feel the pain, run again.” The tactic was simple. Keep moving. Keep running. You will win. And sure enough, we did. Bryan Mbeumo got the goal that silenced the visitors and gave us the lead. Saïd Benrahma with the cross from the right although Thomas was as quick to praise Ollie for his tireless work. Not just in the move that saw Mbeumo fire home but throughout the game.

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View from the Braemar – Bryan celebrates his goal

With fans on their feet, voices raised and smiles broad (that was just Peter Gilham) we pushed on. How Ollie didn’t score I have no idea as the post came to Fulham’s rescue. It was one of those which, watching it live, had seemed as though it was just a case of waiting for the ball to hit the back of the net. Alas, not.

Next up, Pontus Jansson just before half time. The woodwork once again coming to Fulham’s rescue in front of their supporters. Apparently – I’d been dragged to the forecourt at that point by a boy in need of a hot chocolate and a wee. The spirit of BBC Billy Reeves still alive and kicking.

It could have been 2 or 3 as the players trooped in for their break but, frankly, we were winning. Forty-five minutes away from another win and a move into the play-off zone. Each and every one of us would have taken that if made the proverbial offer before kick off.

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Watching on as Pontus hits the post.

Back out and it was more of the same. Brentford tireless. Indefatigable. Unceasing in the hunt for a goal which would have secured the points. More importantly, sparing the heart conditions of more than a few people sitting around us in the Braemar. As stress levels built, Mathias Jensen did it. Yessssss. 2-0 !!!! Nooooo!! Somehow it hadn’t gone in, despite bouncing off the inside of the post, across the goal and surely over the line. Surely? 

I’m still convinced it was in but the reaction of the players and the straight back to action for them tells us that, perhaps, one of those we need to chalk up to optical illusion. Instead, it was a case of calm heads and keep on going. There was nothing to worry about. My word, the stakes were high. The desire to win second to none. I’ve not felt the ground like this in a while. The awareness of what a win meant, clear to all.

Brentford of old a team that, we all know, would have played this well and created that many chances only to see a freak goal bounce in off Alexander Orlov’s arse in the final seconds. But not this side.

Thomas Frank has instilled confidence. Pontus Jansson a colossus. Mathias Jensen pulling the strings in the middle. Rico and Henrik never stopping. Ethan Pinnock making that second centre back berth his own. Everybody playing their part. The team spirit, the smiles to each other. The handshakes and the all round camaraderie clear for all. These boys would lay down their lives for each other if it meant stopping goal going in. The post-match walk around the pitch once more a sign of how happy everything is in the camp. 

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Full time celebrations

And so rather than panic, it was more a case of running out those last three minutes of added on time. Then celebrating like we’d won the FA Cup. Yes, there really was a Leyton Orient away feel to this one. I’ll take your words and recycle them Mr. Slade. I’m not proud. But in terms of significant moments, that could be about as huge as they come.

Of course , there’s a hell of a long way to go but now we are in the top six, this is ours to claim. Ours to keep on making progress. Ours to look next at hunting down West Bromwich Albion and Leeds United. Whilst both seem well, well clear at the top we all know what Leeds do so well. Yesterday was another fine example as a 3-0 lead at home to Cardiff City ended in a 3-3 come back by the visitors. And that, with a man sent off. Could it happen again or will it be a blip….? They visit Fulham next Saturday so either way, something else has to give from the teams around us.

As for Brentford, our next action is the trip to West Bromwich Albion on Saturday. The league leaders. The conquerors of Birmingham City (although that’s no major achievement these days, such is the state of a Blues team who are less ten times better and more starting to look over their shoulders where the gap from 16th to the relegation slots isn’t that far off).

It is about as tough as they come. On paper. We’ve all seen how solid West Brom are. How Romaine Sawyers has taken his game to the next level since leaving Griffin Park. And he was already firing then. But Brentford are no slouches either. Only Leeds United have a tighter defence, as it stands, and 3 of their 13 conceded came in yesterday’s Cardiff debacle. But Brentford are only on 17 against. That’s almost half the total from this time last year, if memory serves. With the goals flying in at the other end, we’re worth an extra point on GD alone.

The trip to the Hawthorns looks likes it’s going to be an absolute cracker. For now, though, let’s relax in the present and enjoy this moment. Thomas – thank you. 

What an afternoon. What a performance. What a way to head towards Christmas. As one New Road observer put it in the pub afterwards, “That was a pleasant surprise”

For me, it was very, very pleasant. But no surprise. Fulham got just what was coming to them. Brentford delivering another Christmas gift to the fans. Now bring on The Baggies.

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None shall pass

Nick Bruzon

Thomas has my vote as the stakes get ever higher.

12 Dec

Another game at Griffin Park, another win. Cardiff City the latest side to fall as Brentford picked up all three points in a 2-1 which, after seeming effortless and more a case of ‘how many?’, ended up being a bit of a nail biter as the visitors were allowed back into it courtesy of a quiet magnificent set piece routine. Credit where it is due. But with just about all other results going our way last night and everybody else drawing barring QPR who won at Birmingham City (that one really was Sophie’s Choice – other, cruder, metaphors may also apply) the gap to the play off places and Fulham in third – for now – got even tighter. With 21 games played, The Bees sit immediately outside the play-off zone and just two points behind the Cottagers.

It was a game which, as called in advance, featured the return of both Henrik Dalsgaard and Pontus Jansson. For the other nine it was the team which last ran out in from of the home fans  – ‘that’ scoreline against Luton Town – which started again. Meaning Ethan Pinnock retained his place alongside the enigmatic Swede rather than Julian Jeanvier. That said, JJ did put in an appearance in a late switch to three at the back that had Griffin Park gritting it’s collective teeth and all knowing ‘what happens’ when we move to last gasp defence. In this instance though, we held strong !

To be fair, it hadn’t felt remotely like getting to that buttock clenching stage for huge swathes of this one. Saïd and Mathias both coming close early with strong chances. How Jensen didn’t score remains a mystery, although Neil Etheridge in goal for the visitors will claim the credit as the midfielder found himself clean through but shot at the ‘keeper. 

It didn’t matter. With little over half the opening period gone, Saïd continued his one man torment of the Bluebirds and lined up Bryan Mbeumo for the opener. It had been coming all half in a game that was about as one way as they come. The Algerian working wonders and bamboozling defenders before cueing up his fellow wideman. 1-0. Game on, surely, game over ? Surely?

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Goalscorer Mbeumo runs at Cardiff, again.

If there was any doubt it was put to bed immediately into the second period. Ollie Watkins glancing a header across the face of goal and past Etheridge. Whilst the cross had been delivered from the Braemar it was a move which had begun on the opposite flank, via the medium of a ….short corner. This is not a typo. This is not a drill. I repeat, a short corner. My word. One of them has actually worked. Of all the ironies and, perhaps, Brentford official did me a favour in electing not to print last night’s programme column (no idea, for those that asked but thank you) in which this most maligned of set pieces did get another mention.

We digress. With it, Ollie moves on up to 13 goals in the Championship charts. His strike made to look as effortless as any he has scored all season. It wasn’t, but that’s just how he rolls. Cool, calm and another one collected to add to his tally. That’s 3 behind Aleksandar Mitrovic at Fulham. If Saturday didn’t have enough frisson already, there is now an even more interesting sub-plot with this battle between two of the table’s top scorers.     

So that was it. Wasn’t it? 46 minutes gone. 2-0 Brentford. Cardiff not given a glance all game and the Bees still pushing. A home banker from this point onwards. Ah, if only football was that easy. We’ve all been here too many times to think there’s such a thing as a comfortable evening. Luton Town aside. Sure enough, we conspired to almost ‘do a Brentford’. Almost.

Referee John Brooks, so strong in the first half, suddenly went to ‘random mode’. It was as though he had been imbued with the spirit of Gavin Ward. The Bees sat back and Cardiff grew in confidence. Moreso after Marlon Pack absolutely leathered a free kick from distance just after the hour. The move had been a well worked one to stretch us but was then hit with all the accuracy and speed of a guided missile. David Raya had no chance. The away fans celebrated and the Bees wobbled. 

But if there was any doubt in the stands, there was none on pitch. Wave after wave of pressure was mopped up. The defence holding firm. The addition of Jeanvier not having the feared imbalance . Instead, we stayed tight. It wouldn’t have been my call, that’s for sure, but it’s why Thomas Frank is head coach and yours truly just writes nonsense in his spare time. It’s amazing to think about some of the ridiculous stick he was getting just a month or two ago. Just last weekend after the Sheffield Wednesday game. He’s a man with a plan and has his boys firing. Holding their nerve. Getting the win. Patience, and a bit of faith, people. It will be rewarded, as was proven last night.

Four minutes of additional time, stretched out by a head injury, were as angsty as they got but Cardiff shot themselves in the foot with a needless bit of foul play at the end and, with it, their moment was gone.  An oddly set up free kick, with the visitors not knowing whether to defend it or line up for a last gasp run at our goal, saw the clock run down. Brentford hung on to win a game that had felt so, so comfortable for so, so long. Neil Harris tasted defeat for the first time in his Bluebirds’ career. Brentford with another win under lights and with it the realisation that we only have two more ‘regular’ league games after dark  – the visits of Leeds United and West Brom. Enjoy these moments whilst you can.

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There aren’t many of these to go…

 At the end of the day, Clive, the result is the only thing that counts when the final tally is counted up. It’s another three points for The Bees. The table ever tighter at the top. Brentford knowing that a win against Fulham on Saturday will take us above our neighbours. Their own back to back defeats all helping the chasing pack. Not that we needed any extra incentive for this one but, my word, if ever we needed any extra incentive then here it is.

All that’s to come. For now, the highlights are up and we can all catch our breath. Until the weekend……

 

Nick Bruzon

A welcome return to Griffin Park this evening.

11 Dec

The Festive calendar is well and truly upon us. Brentford start a run of five games over the next eighteen days with a visit from Cardiff City. It is a run that also includes a local derby at home to Fulham on Saturday, followed by games with title chasing West Bromwich Albion, Swansea City and then Millwall. All this squeezed into what remains of December. Good luck finding time to get that Christmas shopping done.

Tonight looks as though it is going to be about as tough as it gets. At least, on form. Neil Harris has Cardiff firing and, as it stands, they  sit one place above us in the Championship table. Three wins on the bounce and unbeaten since the ex Millwall man took over suggests that the Bluebirds are very much a force to be reckoned with. 

I’m not going to be pretend to have an overly impressive insight into our visitors. Anybody coming to these pages should, one hopes, know what they are going to get by this stage. Inciteful analysis probably more reserved to the likes of Beesotted or other reputable sources. Besides, Neil Warnock’s side weren’t exactly renowned for their attractive football. You knew what you were going to get and to anybody outside of the Welsh capital it didn’t really warrant too much scrutiny. Generally effective.

Yet now a change of manager has seen a change in fortune. The results are coming in. Then again, the same could have been said for  Mark Bowen’s Reading and we stoped them dead in their tracks the other week. We’ve a team that, on it’s day, is a match for anybody in the division. The goals have been flying in and the defence looking solid. As a general rule. The BBC report we are likely to be blessed by the return of both Henrik Dalsgaard and Pontus Jansson tonight. Both missed the 2-1 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday over the weekend. Both are amongst our biggest, best and most experienced. International players with their own unique skillsets. 

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View from the Braemar – Pontus and Henrik have been imperious

Jansson the marquee signing over the summer. The captain of Sweden. Leather lungs, rock solid and afraid of nothing or no-one. Woe betide anybody who lets their captain down. The smile on his face enormous when we win. The pain on his face should results not go our way, etched deep in waves of torment and despair. As for Dalsgaard, he is one of the most under rated players in the team. Whilst the likes of Said, Ollie, Rico, Pontus, Josh and David (amongst others) so often grab the headlines – and deservedly so – Henrik just does his thing. A titan at the back yet one with the ability to push up higher than Simon Cowell’s waistband. Apparently he represented Denmark at The World Cup whilst a Brentford player – if only somebody had mentioned it at the time.

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Captain Pontus – key to the spine of the team

So yes, tonight could be hard. But as much for Cardiff City as Brentford. The table sees a mere point separating the teams with everything to gain and nothing to lose. Apart from three points. I expect The Bees to go for it. Whether the Bluebirds opt for strangling the game and catching us on the break or going for broke themselves is a mystery yet to be unravelled . Roll on 7.45pm when we can find out.

And if there was any more incentive needed, last night saw Fulham warm up for Saturday’s game by losing. Again. The weekend saw them beaten at home by Bristol City. Tuesday was the turn of Preston to take the points. The gap to Leeds United and West Bromwich Albion at the top growing ever bigger. With the added bonus of defender Denis Odoi being sent off, meaning he’ll miss the game at Griffin Park. Boo-hoo. What a shame. A win tonight will put us within touching distance of the Cottagers going in to that one.

Whilst we shouldn’t get too far ahead of ourselves – every game as it comes and all that –  what a wonderful extra that would be if we do get the win tonight. For me, Clive, I’m going into this one bursting full of confidence despite the opposition and despite Sheffield Wednesday. We’re just too strong at home. Ask Luton Town. Griffin Park under the lights has seen some special nights and with these now very much finite commodity, expect it to be raucous tonight. I can’t wait.

See you there.

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Brentford celebrated 7 (seven) times last time at Griffin Park.

Nick Bruzon 

Crisis club in tailspin? Are fans revolting?

8 Dec

Sheffield Wednesday 2 Brentford 1. 

Sack the board. Spend £100million. Benham out. Frank out. It’s disaster. Nooooo. You don’t want to go up etc etc.

That’s one response to yesterday’s game I suppose. Some people may feel that way. Not me.

Personally speaking, I’m of the ‘everybody just calm down’ school of thought this morning. We lost a game. Away. To a team who are at the business end of the table for good reason. We might have won. Perhaps we should have drawn. But that’s not how football works. They scored twice. We scored once. We were missing two World Cup players. Arguably the most experienced members of our squad. We’ve still got one of the youngest and most exciting teams in the division. We’re ninth in the Championship. We’re three points off Nottingham Forest in fifth place. We move into Lionel Road in little over eight months time. We’ve back to back home games approaching – Cardiff City and then Fulham on Saturday. 

Football life is good. Very good. Enjoy the moment. Ride the wave. I’d love to have won it yesterday but it’s not the end of the world. Anything but. Come back to me in May if you think there is any form of crisis. There isn’t, for the record.

Besides, from my perspective there’s another reason for yesterday’s defeat. Pick up Wednesday’s programme to find out why. Or just look at Twitter.

See you then.

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Nothing more than a temporary glitch

Nick Bruzon

 

 

 

 

What a week. What a 16 years. Why today is more than just ‘another’ game.

11 Aug

Stoke City here we come. Brentford hit the road today, safe in the knowledge that Ryan Woods remains a Bee after a somewhat uneventful, albeit tense, transfer window slammed shut on Thursday ™ . That said, there can’t be one Bees fan who doesn’t know full well there still remains a gaping hole in the middle of it through which a player could still leave before month end. This, whether to / from another Championship club. Or Lower. Whilst we may be out of the woods in terms of the ginger Pirlo heading to Swansea City, that still remains a theoretical possibility for a few weeks. And with Sam Clucas leaving the Swans for today’s hosts after initially failing to agree terms with top flight Burnley, could their interest in Woodsy now be renewed?  Or might today see a renaissance for Ryan?  

First up, Stoke City. We’ve not had a competitive fixture with the Potters since the 2002 play-off final. That was the one we lost. 2-0. Although we had the unique experience of getting beaten in Cardiff, rather than in the semi-finals or at Wembley. That was the one I attended with my Stoke supporting flat mate and HB’s now godfather. Where the guard on our First Great Western service tried to make an already awful day even worse on the way home by taking the train out of commission at Newport. Amongst his lesser offences. How DID that evening all work out, Jack? How much did that taxi cost? The one where Steve Coppell’s squad was not so much broken up as splintered into a million pieces immediately afterwards. 

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Move along – nothing to see here. Again.

It wasn’t a great day all round by any stretch of the imagination. Frankly, I was glad to be clear of Stoke. They changed managers a few times but would hold station until the enigmatic Tony Pulis out shone their divisional rivals to make it into the Premier league in 2006/07. It was a position the Potters would maintain until their love-in with the top flight ended in a bitter divorce at the end of last season i.e. they were relegated. And now our paths cross once more. Sixteen years later.

Cripes, Stoke look tasty. Unlike most relegated teams, they’ve been able to keep the majority of their squad together. Clucas has come in from Swansea whilst they had already strengthened with the £6m+ purchase of midfielder Oghenekaro Etebo. In addition, Dean Smith was quick to recognise other new boys including Tom Ince and Ashley Williams in yesterday’s press conference. That’s before you factor in the likes of Joe Allen or England World cup squad member, goalkeeper Jack Butland.  

Then again, the Bees look equally impressive. You can only play the opposition presented yet Saturday’s 5-1 obliteration of Rotherham was about as one-sided as it gets. This despite Ryan Woods not being named in the matchday squad after the interest from Wales. Frankly, that we ‘only’ scored five is still about as confusing as it gets. Brentford were insatiable when pushing forward and could really have made a claim on those beautiful brackets that come with a 7(seven) goal score. Yet three points and top of the table after the first round of games are about as much as one could hope for.

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View from the Braemar – a great performance against Rotherham

Today will be an infinitely sterner test. Just where is that dividing line to be drawn between Rotherham being awful and Dean Smith’s team being considered able to take that next step up? Will the team change now that Woodsy is available? Even just the bench?  Dean told the media team yesterday that “Ryan is a full member of our squad. I am very pleased he didn’t leave. We had bids and there was an unsettling period for Ryan but nothing has happened. Our valuation was not met so he remains a Brentford player.

What that means for today is unclear. I just can’t see a winning team being changed but equally, and has been noted many times, I’m just the numpty on the terrace. One thing Dean does is surprise us with his choice of personnel. Last season’s opening period was punctuated by no team being the same in successive games for a stretch that seemed to last about two months, if I recall correctly. Might we see more of the same?

There’s only one place to find out and that’s 3pm at the bet365 stadium (things to note not to call Lionel Road – I think I’ll cry if we run out at the LeoVegas Arena). I can’t wait for this one. If for no other reason than we get to see how well the boys do in that quite magnificent brown and orange away shirt.

Roll on kick off and see you there.

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Looking forward to seeing more of Said in the brown today

One final note on the Woodsy situation. Or, more specifically, the Swansea City situation. What mess must they be in at present? I’m not close enough to be in any position of knowledge but looking in, it seems staggering. They’ve had years in the Premier League. They have those god awful parachute payments to help keep them afloat. Former Bee Alfie Mawson was sold to Fulham for a fee noted at close to £20m. Clucas for another £6m+, yet they couldn’t reach to Brentford’s valuation (thought to be £6.5m) for a player they had been courting all window.  Then again, that Clucas deal represents a somewhat awful turnaround for a player who cost £16m from Hull City (along with Stephen Kingsley heading in the opposite direction) just 12 months earlier.

That’s not to have a dig at Swansea. Far from it. We all know what it’s like being on the wrong end of your best player leaving or financial mismanagement. More, to note once more how well we are being run and how relatively stable things are at Brentford compared to a lot of other clubs.

Great job, Mr. Benham. Now here’s to three points  today.

Nick Bruzon