Tag Archives: Champions League

Just four games to go and fate is hanging in the balance

28 Apr

How things can change. Nine years ago it was one of the lowest points in our club history – the appearance on Soccer AM where we missed more penalty kicks than, well, we all know what happened later that afternoon against Doncaster Rovers….. At least we had the pleasure of seeing Frank Leboeuf being about as Gallic as they come. Charm personified (on and off camera) then puffing on a Gauloises the second he was out the studio. Likewise, there was a TV debut for our H – and he hadn’t even been born at that stage.

Now Brentford have four games to go in our first Premier League campaign with a top ten finish still well in sight. Next up, Monday evening’s trip to Old Trafford to take on Manchester United. With it, a chance to avenge their second half ‘smash and grab’ at Lionel Road in January . There will be half an eye on their game at home to Chelsea tonight although whether a full viewing will be allowed in our house after watching both Liverpool and Manchester City in some quite wonderful Champions’ league action remains to be seen. Three nights of football in a row will all depend on a combination of marital goodwill combined with whether Kirsty and Phil are currently loving it or listing it.

Hopefully no repeat of the Soccer AM ‘performance’

Still, if that’s the worst of our problems then sporting life is indeed good. There’s a gap of just three points in the table from Brentford in 12th to Newcastle in 9th. We’ve got a tantalising run-in to try and secure that wonderful finish. Manchester United (a), the visit of Southampton and then a chance of sealing a relegation.

First bite comes with the game at Everton before the season concludes with the visit of Leeds United. Watford’s abject form means it unlikely both can now go down, as earlier predicted by The Last Word super computer, but Everton look like a dead man walking whilst Leeds find their next three games against top four clubs in Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea. A haul of nil points is quite feasible from those and then, should the Toffees somehow find the means to reverse their form, there could be some very squeaky bums at Elland Road.

Its all ifs, buts and maybes of course. For me, Clive, the way Brentford have played since the return of David Raya and the arrival of Christian Eriksen / green jacket (delete as applicable) has been nothing short of wonderful. Unbeaten April – including the humping of Chelsea at Stamford Bridge – culminated in holding Tottenham on Saturday night. It was a game that I am sure, had he been watching, Dean Smith would have called Brentford as deserving to win. We didn’t, but the performance in adding another point to our haul was about as good as it gets. Up there with those wonderful moments against Arsenal, Liverpool, West Ham and Chelsea.

Chelsea away the highlight of a wonderful April

Indeed, but for the punishment inflicted by covid and injury around Christmas, who knows what might have been this season?  The manner of that last minute call off from Manchester United  – a few days after their own sub-Everton performance at Norwich City – one which still sticks in the craw even now. Even if it did save us a goalkeeping conundrum having to be solved. 

It certainly has felt like a campaign which has started and finished at 100mph after getting bogged down in the middle. The squad being used to the maximum and no panic buying. Those predicting doom and gloom when nobody came in have now been left with copious amounts of egg on face.

Nobody, that is, barring Christian Eriksen. A player for whom there aren’t sufficient words to describe how wonderful he has been. The primary focus being his own return to playing with the obvious benefit being what he has then got on to do for Brentford. Should Phil Gules, Matthew Benham et al persuade Christian his future lies with Brentford then who knows what next season might bring. Moreso if David Raya can borrow a pen from Pontus.

David has been key to our recent form

For now let’s focus on a top ten finish. Realistically, we’re looking at 10 points from 12, minimum, starting Monday. Only a fool would write off Manchester United, of course. Their form has been woeful – even Everton beat them the other week in what was one of the most dreadful games of football I’ve ever had the misfortune to witness. There is no comment needed on the toxic atmosphere pervading from all angles of Old Trafford. They limped past doomed Norwich City and shot themselves in the foot at every opportunity against Arsenal on Saturday. 

Can they use tonight’s game with Chelsea to salvage a last gasp stab at reaching the Champions’ League? Time is running out, that’s for sure. They’re six points, and inferior goal difference behind Arsenal with four to play. By the time Brentford visit, dreams of feasting at Europe’s top table could be all over.

All being well, the remote can be controlled for a third night in a row. It has been a cracking week of football for the neutral observer and tonight promises to be no different. Moreso given Brentford fans have a very vested interest in how things play out at Old Trafford.

Until then, the Tottenham player review (where the battle for our season long star man is going to the wire), is up here. Enjoy.

Nick Bruzon

Limbs? It was like an explosion in a doll’s factory.

3 Apr

Sometimes there just aren’t sufficient words. Football of the highest order. An afternoon of the most incredible passion. Brentford putting in one of our best ever performances on the road as Chelsea were ripped a new one at Stamford Bridge. The 4-1 scoreline truly deserved as the Bees turned on the style in a manner not seen since, perhaps, Fulham away (the Stuart Dallas game) in our first Championship season. This was next level, though. Champions of Europe? You’re having a laugh ! Third in the Premier league and blown away as easily as an empty crisp packet caught on the breeze. Brentford were ruthless. Dominant. Outstanding. Ballsy. Devastating. Chelsea made to look second class citizens. Real Madrid now, surely, about to face the most enormous backlash when they visit the Bridge on Wednesday. That’s their problem though. This is all about the Bees. This is all about another chapter being written in the story that keeps on giving. What a way to warm up for West Ham next week.

Celebrations for the first goal (of our four. That’s four)

We’d come into this one with a ‘nothing to lose’ approach. Christian Eriksen was back after missing out at Leicester City through Covid and his stock was high after the most wonderful return to international action during the two week break. Yet even a devil may care attitude or the inclusion of a player who is up there with the best in the world, couldn’t prepare us for what came next. For the scenes in the crowd. For the noise that not so much drowned out Chelseas as silenced them (36 minutes on the clock before we heard our first decent noise from our hosts). For the performance of a Brentford side who, after going in 0-0 at half time, came back out to score more times in 45 minutes at the Bridge than even David Mellor might have achieved in his most hedonistic days (don’t visualise it, don’t visualise it).

With Brentford reverting to the three centre backs that had seen us so cautious on the road previously, any thought that we’d come to suck it up was quickly dispelled. Brentford taking the game to the opposition. Eriksen pinging it around. Bryan, Rico and Mads Roerslev slicing through the channels. The Bees on top and, err, pushing up. 0-0 at half-time giving confidence that we could perhaps snatch something. What came next is up there with the most crazy scenes and the incredible results we’ve ever borne witness to. Limbs? It was like an explosion in a doll factory.

Ironically, it was Chelsea who scored first. As at Arsenal, just minutes into the second half and the score turned from 0-0 to our hosts taking the lead. Unlike at Arsenal, this was a flash in the pan. Granted, a moment of brilliance but one that was a bolt from the blue rather than the eventual culmination of pressure, pressure, pressure. Antonio Rüdiger’s shot from distance moving through the air, clipping the inside of the post and finding the back of the net. David Raya close but unable to keep it out. The ball leathered in from over thirty yards out and a wonderful strike. Hats off Chelsea. Yet anyone thinking this was now a done deal was bout to be rudely awoken.

Within seconds , Vitaly Janelt had levelled it up. Bryan Mbeumo teeing up as he took two defenders out of the game and the German fired home form just inside the box. Bees fans erupted. An outpouring of equal parts disbelief and joy. What a moment ! Yet here was better to come. Two minutes later and Christian Eriksen had given us the lead. Again, Mbeumo the architect. His run up field on the counter attack culminating with a beautifully placed ball to Christian Eriksen. The Dane carving a hole deep into the Chelsea defence and making no mistake with his first time effort. Oh, the smile from the player . The clenched fist. The outpouring of love from the stands. The players again celebrating in the corner in front our the travelling faithful. It was dreamland for Brentford, and there was more to come.

That’s the lead!

Within the hour, it was 3-1 Brentford. Again, Vitaly Janelt. Again, Bryan with a hand. Again. Freeing up Ivan for a quite delicious pass. Though the eye of a needle. Three defenders taken out in one touch and Janelt lofting it over Mendy from the corner of the six yard box. The crowd going bonkers.

This was madness. In the best sense. Another celebration from the players in the same corner. Their broad grins and screams of joy telling you everything about what this meant. About our team spirit. About the sheer incredulity of the situation. What a moment. 60 minutes gone. Brentford now leading Chelsea by 2 goals. Clear air and the gap growing ever bigger.

There’s the third goal

There was more to come. Much more. A disallowed goal for Chelsea. The correct call, btw. Another chance down the far end that should have been buried. The home fans then pouring out en-masse. Their supporters leaving The Bridge as quickly as the points. The home end looking as though the previously imposed sanctions had been reintroduced . There were more empty seats than a studio recording of Mrs. Browns Boys. Was this why they had played ‘The Liquidator’ as the team first took the field of play? 

Yet if the Chelsea fans had given up, the opposite was true for Brentford. The team being roared on at ear shredding volume. Wissa coming off the bench and, with his first touch, doing to Chelsea what he had done to West Ham earlier in the season. A late goal – albeit this time the cherry on the icing on the cake rather than the decisive strike. The result was the same. Brentford fans all over the place and the trademark celebration, arms aloft in that W pose. 4-1 Brentford. Moments left. This time it really was game over. This time, it was history being made. No crumbling to the reputation beforehand. No concession to their galaxy of stars or the Champions League winners’ badge that adorned the blue jerseys. Just sheer, unadulterated guts and joy.

And that’s four…

The celebrations continuing long after full time. Nobody going anywhere. Players and staff celebrating with the fans. Savouring the moment. Peter Gilham in the front row of the upper tier showing just why this was the perfect birthday present. He’s seen it all but surely nothing like this in his 75 years. Walking out afterwards, catching up with friends  we’d missed in the stadium.. The reaction – universal. An almost numb feeling of joyous disbelief. That three pint buzz followed by a lot more, for real. Tim Lovejoy. Tim Lovejoy. Tim Lovejoy. Your boys took one hell of a beating. And it was magnificent.

There’s more to come on this. If nothing else, trying to pick the ‘top five’ for our post match player review. For now, though, let’s just bask in what was one of the single best ever Brentford performances. A proper ‘I was there’ moment.

Sunday morning and I’m still smiling. Match Of The Day just rewatched for the third time. This was special. Next level stuff. Now bring on West Ham…

Pontus shows what the fourth goals mean

Nick Bruzon

Top, top football. Bees hold United in game of netbusters. But elsewhere….

29 Jul

Only time will tell how much, if any, significance can be taken from last night’s 2-2 draw between Manchester United and Brentford at Old Trafford. Below strength Bees only held by the Red Devils or a shock upset in which two strong line ups will both argue they should have won it? As was once said, “You can’t win anything with kids” and whilst the same could have applied there was still enough recognisable talent along with plenty more suggesting strength in depth. On both sides. For me, Clive, an entertaining draw illuminated by four top quality goals. Perhaps, if anything, the other noteable result of the evening – FC Midtjylland dumping (is there any other way to exit early?) Celtic out of the Champions league is one that will have greater significance. Beyond a lot of smiles in the Benham household.

Frank IN.. the Brentford side

An action packed match at Old Trafford in which the hosts dominated the first half, Brentford the second. 1-1 at half time saw Anthony Elanga open the scoring for Manchester United with a quite wonderful turn and first time shot in the box. Raya left unable to do anything beyond marvel at the two tone blue ‘keepers shirt that emerged from nowhere to set the kit nerds into meltdown. Minutes later, it was level with Shandon Baptiste hitting a swerving shot from distance past United goalie Tom Heaton and in off the bar. 

Yet if they were net busters, what came next from Andreas Pereira was goal of the game by a country mile. A clearance from Ethan Pinnock only fell as far as the midfielder who returns it with interest. Boom. My word. What . A. Strike. Credit where it’s due . A volley from hell. Another one to leave Raya floundering through no more reason than the sheer unstopabiltiy of the strike. Wow. Just wow.

With substitutions all round, to the point that the entire Bees outfield contingent swapped over, it was that man Bryan Mbeumo who levelled it up. A trademark run into the box and shot curled past Heaton. 2-2 the score and how it ended. For Brentford, a chance to test ourselves in one of the most famous football arenas the world over. A cracking result and another game unbeaten. The opportunity for fans to get back on the road once more. Even buy a half and half scarf. About as niche as they get but who’d have thought they’d ever see one of these? I’m not sure whether to hang my head or laugh.

Next up West Ham at home on Saturday. A large crowd are expected and this will be just as stern a test. Just as exciting an opportunity. The chance to watch live football en-masse something we’ve missed desperately. If Old Trafford ended up being a midweek step too far on this occasion, you can be sure we’ll be busting out the seas at the weekend.

As for the other result – Midtjylland beating Celtic – Henrik Dalsgaard was on hand to provide the assist for the winning goal. Matthew Bentham’s ‘other’ club progressing to the next round of the Champions’ League. The Glasgow side left to reflect on what might have been, once again. Yet with players from both clubs joining Brentford over the summer – and Frank Onyeka getting his own run out for The Bees last night – the direction of where football power is shifting would seem clear to all. The big question being can we hang on to it. The even bigger question being what the implications are should Brentford join the Danes in qualifying for European football? 

Crazy? Perhaps. But what’s the point of going to football if you can’t dream. In a theatre or otherwise. Until then, very much a case of FrankIN. How nice to watch a game without the keyboard warriors doing their thing. Long may it continue.

Let’s hope we have less of this nonsense in the forthcoming campaign

Nick Bruzon

Could it be a case of advantage Fulham?

12 Mar

This all looks pretty fatal on the football front. Are Brentford and the rest about to be dealt a hammer blow? The confirmed positive test for Coronavirus of Olympiakos and Nottingham Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis had already thrown the Championship, and beyond, into doubt. Whilst large crowds were still able to see Liverpool and Spurs exit the Champions League this week, last night’s  game between Manchester City and Arsenal (who were recently beaten by The Greeks in the Europa league) had already been postponed and the number of games being played behind closed doors is accelerating across Europe. Whilst there is no word as yet given our huge game at Fulham tomorrow (not to mention the visit of West Brom to Griffin Park on Tuesday) could a tipping point be imminent ?

The Nottingham Forest players and staff have all been tested with results coming back negative. Even allowing for that good news, things suddenly feel very close to home. With public gatherings such as St. Patrick’s Day parades and schools being cancelled globally, surely it can only be a matter of time before we follow our friends in Europe and the shutters start to come down? What could that mean for Brentford? 

Forest getting the ‘all clear’ at least means that for now everybody is operating on a ‘level’ playing field. Will it be BAU and a full house for Brentford at Craven Cottage (the three sides of it that are open) on Friday? Will games start to go ahead to the sound of piped crowd noise and empty seats? This, something we witnessed on Tuesday in the Champion’s league game between Valencia and Atalanta. It was a surreal experience although still infinitely better than watching Tottenham capitulate. Not that having that famous Anfield ‘12th man’ helped Liverpool, either.  

The ‘closed doors’ option is not a route that I hope we are forced down. If for no other reason it will give Fulham a huge advantage  – playing in empty stadiums devoid of atmosphere something they are used to week in, week out.

Jota onside v Fulham

Could Brentford be faced with similar on Friday? (The 2-2 from a few seasons back)

At worst, players will start to be taken ill at some point and then we have that most terrifying of situations – the EFL forced to make a decision. That, something they struggle with at the best of times, let alone when the situation warrants serious action. Are games forfeited? Put on hold? The season potentially wiped or stopped dead in it’s tracks? Sides forced to put out a starting XI of healthy players, regardless as to whether they come from the heart of the first team squad or the depths of the reserves. These, all options I’ve heard touted and just any one of a number of options that may or may not come in to play at some point.

There are no answers here. Mainly because nobody knows what will happen. Martin Hardy in The Times reports this morning that actions to force all football matches in England to be played behind closed doors could be triggered as early as today. They suggest that there will be additional measures put in place to allow fans to still watch as much as possible over the internet and TV but clearly this will be an ersatz, if necessary, experience. You can read that piece, here.

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That headline from The Times…

I submitted my programme article for Tuesday’s game between The Bees and West Brom earlier. I don’t know if that will even be published or read. I hope it is and not for any egotistical reasons – it’s the usual nonsense with obligatory reference to the godawful Mrs. Browns Boys – but more because it means we are still in a BAU scenario. This may all start to settle soon, now that people are washing their hands (seriously, they weren’t before?) and have ample supplies of both dried pasta and toilet roll. Or things may get messier for the foreseeable (the U.S. now imposing a European travel ban for 30 days). Whatever happens, at best I suspect we’ll see the season run well beyond it’s scheduled finish in an attempt to wrap things up as smoothly as possible.

That’s the sporting side. Underpinning all of this is a very real human cost. People are being taken ill. Nobody wants that, to see cases accelerated or the situation worsening any more. Let’s not forget about those who are dying in all of this. Sport will always very much play second fiddle to a genuine medical crisis. When we hit that point, if not already, remains to be seen. From a sporting perspective, the next few days could very much impact how the rest of our season is going to play out.   

Until then, it’s Fulham on Friday. Our paltry allocation of 1700 fans sure to make themselves heard above the coughing and clappers. Here’s hoping we are still able to go ahead as normal.

Whatever normal is these days.

Fulham flare

Will our fans be allowed in?

Nick Bruzon

Rumour meltdown: Jota, Bentley, Maupay. And a certain game (of Liverpool bingo) awaits.

1 Jun

The wait is over. Strap yourselves in for a wild ride. This is the big one. Sure, there may be something going on in Madrid this evening between Tottenham and Liverpool (and we WILL get there for a bumper game of bingo) but back in Brentford it begins. With Aston Villa confirmed as a Premier League team, there was always going to be untold speculation linking Dean Smith with not only his old club but just about any target that may have been potentially available. Yes, clickbait season – aka the early knockings of the summer transfer window – is here.

The desperate hunt for stories and transfer news sees all manner of sources close to clubs being quoted and suspicions alluded to as news sites will publish anything in the desperate search for hits. Usually involving the phrase, “We understand that…” and  “The player is thought to be: unhappy / desperate to force a move / frustrated / keen to test himself at a higher level”.

We don’t normally do rumours on these pages but with some corkers out there at present, you have to make an exception every now and again.  I’ve already seen a lot of talk about Aston Villa making a £20million swoop for Neal Maupay. It’s an obvious link between Dean Smith and Brentford with an incredible amount of money being suggested but it won’t be happening. No chance. The player is too deeply ingrained into the set up at Griffin Park. The club love him. He loves the club. The final season in our current home is where its going to be happening.

Indeed, if anyone leaves Brentford for Aston Villa then its more likely to be somebody like now out-of-contract Yoann Barbet or Josh McEachran – both of whom thrived under Dean at the start of the season just gone. Nobody can doubt Yoann’s versatility or passion and our loss will be anybody elses’ gain when pen is eventually put to paper. As for Josh, he was widely quoted as still harbouring England ambitions and, to be fair, was one of our stand out players prior to the autumn blip in form that saw us dumping our promotion ambitions for a short lived dalliance with the lower end of the table.

But rest assured, Neal is going nowhere. His value as an individual is, of course, immense but it is his interaction with those around him something that you cannot put a price on. The link up play with the likes of Sergi, Ollie and Said was a thing of beauty to behold. He needs them as much as we need him. If nothing else, can you honestly imagine him and John McGinn in the same team? Let’s just stamp on this rumour right now.

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Going nowhere

I’ve also seen whispering of Dan Bentley to Stoke City. That one seemed pretty random and probably based on nothing more than their all-round awfulness in 2018/19 and our own goalkeeping conundrum that eventually saw duties shared. Let’s not forget our first away game of last season, at Stoke, where the opening goal he and Chris Mepham conspired to let in between them was hardly a great advert for any prospective employer. Personally, I think Dan is great and would hate to see him go. Don’t let the odd hiccup last campaign tarnish his overall quality between the Griffin Park sticks.

Yet the best rumour involves the King. Jota. Despite the quality we have now, one can’t help but go misty-eyed thinking about all he did at Griffin Park. How awful it was to see him end up in that footballing backwater and cultural desert that is Birmingham City.

Now, there are stories doing the rounds that are linking him with a move across the city to reunite with Dean Smith as part of a swap deal involving somebody called Gary Gardner. I have to be honest, he’s not a player I’m overly familiar with but , regardless of the stories validity, it’s my favourite so far. Purely because of the reaction form the St. Andrews faithful. Talk about Twitter meltdown.  

DPE3B5xW0AE7Fz4I hope this one is true. Presumably we’d be in line for any sell on clause whilst it would be incredible to see Jota in the top flight.  He has the ability, that’s for sure. Jota v Jota in the Wolves – Villa game would be magnificent. Anything that causes Birmingham City angst can only be a good thing in my book and they’re likely looking to rebalance their wage bill after last season’s little bit of bother with financial irregularities and that points deduction.  Plus he’s a shoe-in for any fantasy football selection if so.

Come on – make it happen, Dean.

The genuine news out there at present is this evening’s Champions League final between Tottenham and Liverpool. It’s a game that is harder to unravel than one of Matthew Benham’s cryptic video clues. No matter who you think is the strongest of the two, the double ‘miracle’ of the semi-finals where seemingly insurmountable leads were reeled back in prove that both teams have what it takes. And both defences must be somewhat porous to have got into that position in the first place.

If anything, Tottenham pulled off the bigger miracle. Liverpool were at home and had the full 90 minutes to reel in Barcelona. Spurs were playing in Amsterdam and had capitulated to a position that saw them needing their three goals in the second half alone. To hang in there until finally taking an aggregate lead in the 96th minute of the second leg was nothing short of incredible.

I can’t even come close to calling who will win this one. What I can predict, however, is that we’ll have a field day in Champions League final bingo. For no other reason Liverpool are playing. Chuck another English team into the mix and you can bet the related clichés will be on overdrive.

If you’d like to play along, then here’s your card….

anfield bingo

Enjoy

Nick Bruzon

Oh my word. We’ve only gone and done it. This is fantastic.

8 May

Amazing. Incredible. Unbelievable. We have witnessed history in the making. It would be no exaggeration to describe this moment as epochal. As Sir Alex Fergie ‘Ferguson’ said when Manchester United won the 1999 Champions League final in those most dramatic of circumstances, “Football, bloody hell.” Yet that’s how things feel this morning…. Brentford have only gone and done it. We’ve named Umbro as our new technical sponsor. This is magnificent. One has to feel for Liverpool supporters whom, having enjoyed their own moment against Barcelona last night, now find themselves sliding down football’s pecking order of intrigue. Albeit we will get there in a moment but, of course, can only start with this morning’s breaking story from Griffin Park (and we don’t mean the rumoured appointment of Mark Warburton at QPR).

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My inner kit-nerd is cock-a-hoop at the news Brentford have appointed Umbro next season. Names don’t get any more iconic than theirs with the manufacturer, who celebrate their 95th birthday this month, producing some bona-fide classics over the years. What this means for The Bees, at least in terms of design, we have no idea from the short video which has been released this morning. Kitman Bob’s clues have hinted at a possible three shirts this season, with the away colours being one of brown, black/yellow or gold/white. Then again, he could have been throwing out Matthew Benham style clues and so we’ll have to wait until the big reveal – hopefully next month – to see the full reveal.

That said, sniffing around the internet at some of the templates / designs already announced for next season, I am excited. The Gremio (Brazil) ‘away’ in our home colours would be incredible. I’m not normally a fan of collars but have to admit this is a wonderful design. Moreso if black trim were to be incorporated. Looking at the Bournemouth shirt, the great news in their Umbro design being the addition of stripes to the reverse. Something sure to appease traditionalists saddened by the wholesale decision from Adidas to pull those from their entire range last time out.

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Umbro’s designs for 2019 offer excitement

The Gremio effort has had my, somewhat shonky, creative juices flowing. A rapid play around with photoshop to see what their design would look like in our colours produced some interesting results. Specifically for those who have been here slightly longer as it produces a potential kit very much reminiscent of our 2000-02 effort. Could this be what Bob meant by “New vibes and old skool” ? Or are we miles off the pace?

With apologies in advance for the poor quality, this is what comes around after a bit of mouse play and tweaking of the colours. Adding LeoVegas a step too far at this short notice, but you get the general idea. I hope. Whether this is anywhere near the mark remains to be seen, of course. I have no inside knowledge whatsoever on this one and so it is pure guesswork. Yet…you have to start somewhere on the speculation. So why not here?  

brentford concept art.jpg

Could this be it? Sponsor aside. Gremio become Brentford

Next up, Liverpool. Even the most curmudgeonly amongst us has to admit that was quite exciting last night. Turning around a 3-0 deficit whilst shorn of some world class talent was nothing short of spectacular. Barcelona very much second to everything and playing the stereotypical hare to the Anfield tortoise.

That said, sometimes even tortoises can come out with smiles on their faces and this game  was very much the quintessential example. One can only be thankful it was on BT Sport so we were spared the sights and sounds of Jamie Carragher’s verbal ejaculation of his team’s performance.

However incredible the victory was, it did raise a few questions. Has this out-miracled the Miracle of Istanbul? Have Liverpool shot their bolt early, leaving Ajax to clean up in the final? Do we need to update our Anfield bingo cards to factor in the Barcelona game and, if so, what specific squares should be added?  

Liverpool bingo

Updates now needed. But which?

Say what you want about last night, exciting though it was (and it was), this still came second to possibly the greatest comeback of all time. Brentford at Burton Albion back in 2017. 3-1 down after the half became 5-3 to The Bees just 45 minutes later. We didn’t need 90 minutes to pull this one out the fire.

Barcelona are good, sure, but Burton Albion on a cold afternoon is another challenge altogether.  And I bet you Divock Origi didn’t get the train home with supporters like Sergi Canos did afterwards.     

Billy and Sergi. The afternoon's excitement continues

Sergi gets the train home after THE comeback

Next up, Mark Warburton. It looks like things are happening at the other end of the 237 bus route. Word on the street being that he has already been appointed and it is merely a case of waiting for the ink to dry before he is officially named as the new manager of… QPR.

Oh my word. Are you serious? If this is the case, then firstly I’ll offer him good luck on taking over at the definition of a crisis club. No money. No players. Any talent they do have is sure to leave over the summer. Closer to home though, there’s the small matter of his history at Griffin Park. Martin Rowlands has become infamous for what he did whilst Jake Bidwell has become something of a joke figure. As much for being skinned alive time and again as the awful #JakeJoins Twitter campaign when he signed.

We all know what Warbs did. For that, every Brentford fan is eternally grateful. His return with Nottingham Forest (fashion choice aside, where he ended up looking like an extra from TV’s The Brittas Empire) was a cordial and respectful one. Should the news be confirmed today, I’d expect next time around to be very different indeed.

Brittas Warbs

Mark Warburton – won at football but lost at fashion.

And I can’t wait….

Finally, Brentford released the names of those players who will not be offered a new contract when their current deals expire at the end of June. The news about Yoann Barbet, no matter how sad for the fans, was expected after being confirmed by both Thomas Frank and the player himself. Likewise, we say goodbye to Jack Bonham, Lewis Macleod and Josh McEachran. These were hardly unexpected yet the one real surprise was the decision not to take up the option on Moses Odubajo.  Fans seemed genuinely shocked at this and moreso given some of his performances since rejoining the club last season.

Yet the presence of Henrik Dalsgaard, (theoretically) Josh Clarke and the burgeoning relationship between Sergi Canos in the wing back role mean this was , perhaps, inevitable. No matter how much of a shock on the surface. Let’s not forget, either, that the door can swing both ways. On a personal note I’m sad to see Moses and Yoann leave. No question. Yet, as was noted yesterday, the moment to start really trusting our Directors of Football happened a long time ago. No matter how strange some decision may seem up front, wider long-term context is what this club is all about. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are more to follow but I’d also bet my life on new faces turning up over the summer.

If nothing else, Mr. Benham has started dropping clues again….

Nick Bruzon

Of course the football is interesting but what about the other matter…?

10 Apr

Sure, Liverpool and Spurs may have both recorded Champions League victories last night (Porto and Man City respectively) . There’s the potentially intriguing visit of Barcelona to Old Trafford where Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team will continue their post-Mourinho resurgence. Manchester United playing with the shackles off once more  – (c) the entire internet. So whilst one could be forgiven for thinking that this week may have been all about the Champions’ League, those focussing on Europe have missed what is, without a doubt, the BIG one. A clash between two of football’s top clubs with a prize bigger than silverware at stake – namely, Championship survival. Forget the UCL, Wednesday evening sees Brentford play host to Ipswich Town.

This is the game that has it all. There’s the return of Alan Judge to Griffin Park. The chance for Thomas Frank and his own boys to get back to winning ways. Biggest of all, Ipswich Town will be relegated should Brentford record the win and the three teams sitting directly above the relegation trapdoor (Reading, Millwall and Wigan) all pick up three points themselves. Even if not tonight, surely it will only be a matter of time before the Tractor Boys find themselves ploughing a lone furrow into League One.    

What else is thee to say about this one? Not much, really. For Brentford, top ten is about as much as we can hope for now. A disappointing run of recent results following that magnificent surge which began just prior to Christmas have seen the slim dream of the play-offs evaporate. Yet by the same virtue, Saturday’s game against Derby County saw us at our attacking best (and defensive worst). No doubt Thomas will be hoping to pick up where we left off in a game that saw us somewhat unfortunate not to end it with all three points whilst the visitors can count heir own blessing that they ended it with all eleven players.

Top ten for a fifth successive season would still be a wonderful achievement. We have a team with an attacking set up to die for. Indeed, it has been the form on the road  – which could be described as patchy at best – that has been our achilles heel this time around. Even yours truly has finally consigned the brown/orange colours to the draw for retired kit. Magnificent though it sill is, even I can tell when the battle is over. Here’s hoping for more change next season.

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All good things come to an end

If nothing else, there’s the mystery of who takes over as kit supplier with our Adidas deal finally set to expire. I’ve heard everybody from Hummel, Puma, Nike, Umbro, New Balance and beyond chucked into the mix. For now, nobody outside the club inner circle knows who it will be and nobody is revealing. Although if Mr. Benham or Kitman Bob are reading (unlikely, let’s be honest) and would like to share the news early then that would be welcomed by all. 

Then again, with Mark Devlin now plying his trade at Dundalk it poses a further question. And not the one of whether chief executives would even ply their trade or if another phrase should be used? With a new team at the top, could this spell an end to the late-summer drip release of the new kit via the chief executive’s proverbial strip tease? We’re normally well behind the other clubs in the annual beauty pageant as the guessing games go on well into the close/closed season. If Jon Varney is reading (unlikely, let’s be honest) then how about bucking the trend? How about going early? How about starting his tenure with about as big a mission statement as one could ask a chief-executive to make?

Come on Jon, get your kits out! 

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Could anything top the 2011 away shirt launch in a bathroom shop window?

Nick Bruzon

Last Tango In Brentford ? Or dancing in the streets of Algiers?

8 Mar

Bring on Middlesbrough. Brentford are back in action on Saturday after what has felt a somewhat disjointed week in terms of footballing action. For the interested observers / half & half scarf wearers amongst us, there was the excitement of Manchester United doing their thing in the Champions League as Real Madrid failed to do theirs. Yet for us Bees last weekend’s thumping of QPR now seems as far off as the chances of Fulham staying in the Premier league. Keep up the good work, Scott. That victory over the Loftus Road mob was another emphatic notch in Thomas Frank’s metaphorical bedpost as he made it 7(seven) wins in a row at Griffin Park. Yet the big questions as we head up to the Riverside were whether that form could be replicated on the road this season, would Saïd Benrahma scoop the Championship’s player of the month award for February and is it going to be a case of ‘Au revoir, Yoann Barbet’ ? 

First up, Middlesbrough. If ever there was to be a test of our credentials then here it is. If ever there was to be a question as to whether the play-offs are a genuine aspiration then here it is. The game marks a run of three in two weeks against sides going for promotion. Boro’ are currently in the zone, as are Tuesday night hosts Sheffield United and then next Saturday’s visitors in West Bromwich Albion. It is about as tough a run as we could have served up yet the price for success needs no spelling out with the gap to the top six currently reeled in to eight points.

We all know our Championship record against Middlesbrough doesn’t make great reading. We all know that Brentford playing away from home this season doesn’t take a genius to predict how we’ll perform – regardless of the kit colour we turn out in. Had we been able to translate home form to away then the top flight would be beckoning. So this one will be about as tough as it comes. Moreso given the home sides’s miserly defence. Thomas Frank used his press conference to note that “I can only praise Tony Pulis (for Boro’s defensive record) because it’s fantastic.

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Thomas celebrates at home. Away would be wonderful !!

Indeed it is. Sadly. Only 24 goals have been conceded in 34 league games. Yet there are positives to be taken, too. Firstly, past form counts for nothing. Brentford may not have beaten Boro’ since our paths have crossed in this division but that was then and this is now. Players change and the squad we have now is not the one it was then. Results from seasons gone by count for nothing more than statistical niceties / horror shows (delete as applicable). Believing they are anything more is akin to suggesting that the colour of our away kit dictates performance. Jinx shirts? Never heard such nonsense. Move along now. Nothing to see here. 

The other topic of conversation that came up in Thomas’s ’ press conference was that of Yoann Barbet. His contract is up at the end of the season and the word on the terrace is that he won’t be staying. Which would be tragic given his relative longevity at Griffin Park, his popularity, his versatility and the role in our new look defence that he has made his own. If ever there was a player who embodied that cliche about cutting them open to discover that they bleed red & white / brown & orange it is Yoann.

So when pushed on the point yesterday the answer was one which suggested the clock is ticking and farewell collections are going around the changing room. Thomas has been quoted as saying :”We know that Yoann is very popular among the fans. He is very popular among the staff too. He has done very well in the back three. He is a player that we would like to keep at the club but there needs to be two to tango”.

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View from the Braemar – Yoann sums up the spirit in the Bees camp

We all know the club model. That players come and go – especially if valuations are met. New talent emerges to replace that which has departed. Contracts may not necessarily be offered or, certainly, at the level asked for. Nobody knows for sure what is happening here but the words from the club suggest the ball is in the player’s court. Whether it is one he wants to pick up remains another thing.

Personally, I’ve heard a lot of terrace talk (conjecture rather than the much lamented matchday video feature) and of course, have no idea what is true. So it doesn’t get published. Do we take the club’s words at face value? Would Yoann want to stay? How hard do we fight? Or is this simply part of the ongoing cycle of players coming in, impressing and eventually moving on. Whatever happens, you can absolutely bet he’ll be giving his all until the end of the season. And hopefully beyond.

The final news heading in to the Boro’ game was that of the monthly EFL awards. There was genuine surprise when Saïd Benrahma wasn’t even nominated for January’s player of the month prize following a quite magnificent start to 2019.

As such, there were belated plaudits when he was named on the shortlist for February’s award earlier this week. Surely this time the honours would be Saïd’s?

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View from the Braemar – Saïd is as popular with the fans as Yoann

Sadly not, as it transpired this morning. The club breaking the news on twitter (below) although there’s still a chance to sweep our man to some deserved glory. The chance to vote for him to scoop ‘goal of the month’ is still available, if you follow the link. Whilst he’s up against some divisional rivals with huge fan bases, as Ajax proved at Real Madrid this week it isn’t always the biggest club that wins. Whatever they may expect. So go on – get voting.

Then onwards and upwards to Middlesbrough.

Nick Bruzon 

That’s one Saturday we’ll never forget although maybe not for all the right reasons.

27 May

After all the build-up to both the play-off final and Champions League it ended up being awful. Just awful. Cock ups and woeful flaps. Dreadful clappers egging on their heroes and nobody laughing. But enough about BBC1 screening: All Round to Mrs. Browns last night. We need to talk about football. Brentford will play Aston Villa next season after they lost out to Fulham. Liverpool return home empty handed following the game with Real Madrid in Kiev.

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Mrs. Brown. As relentless as The Terminator

I hadn’t planned on blogging much until the World Cup. Yet yesterday’s double-header has seen a temporary return for this weekend. With Brentford having enjoyed such an action packed campaign it was only right and proper to recognise the Championship season coming to conclusion. And then there was the added bonus of Liverpool trying to recreate the miracle of Istanbul on another of those glory, glory European nights (other entries from the Anfield bingo card are also available).

What can you say though? Even this morning I still numb by what happened. Shocked. That most fickle mistress having administered a kick to the nuts that was harsh even by her standards. And just to be clear, I’m still talking about the football rather than any accidental switching over to Mrs. Brown half way through the night.

There’s not much to add that hasn’t already been written and said. The clappers were horrific. The play-off final was cagey. The post-match love in with a Fulham side who should have been reduced to ten players much earlier than it eventually happened was awful. Aston Villa picked themselves up in the second half but it was much too late by then. Tom Cairney grabbing the winner after being put through by Eighteen-year-old Sessegnon. For those not familiar with the player, I understand his name is actually Ryan. And he did a pass. Well done.

The only real plus point to come out of this was that at least Steve Bruce has been spared telling John Terry to grow up, forget his own perceived self-importance and get warmed up for the game against Chelsea next season. Instead, it’ll be a game against Brentford. If he doesn’t hang up his boots.

As for Liverpool, it wasn’t to be. Goalkeeper has a nightmare will be what we take away from this. Sadly. One has to feel for Loris Karius. He cut a desperate figure at full time, left alone on the pitch in Kiev. For all the world looking like he just wanted the ground to open up and swallow him. It was awful to watch. As though we were peering in on an individual’s moment of personal hell when surely an immediate arm round the shoulder was needed.

Rio Ferdinand in the pundit’s box didn’t really help afterwards. None of his teammates will say it, but they‘ll all be looking at him and thinking it. I’ve been in that situation. I’ve done it…he noted.

Stevie G joined in, mentioning he’d won the final. Again. And again. Clanngggg – the sound of a name being dropped.

Whatever happened, happened. Easy for me to say on a Sunday morning but we’ve more than seen our own pantheon of goalkeeping calamity at Griffin Park over the years. We’ve more than felt our own pain at the final stage. That’s before you even get to all those play-off semis and, of course, ‘that penalty’.

Wigan, Crewe, Port Vale, Stoke City, Carlisle and Yeovil Town may not have the same allure as Real Madrid but the pain was just as real. The feeling of emptiness horrific. The realisation of having got so close only to fall at the last is just a brutal sensation.

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Marcello Trotta takes that penalty – as bad as it got but what a response next season.

It was Ashley Bayes to the max. It does get better. It will get better. It may not feel it now. That feeling of despair we all felt as the penalty hit the bar was replaced with something quite wonderful the following season as another penalty hit the back of the net.

At the same time, bouncing back from making not one but two such high profile mistakes with the eyes of the world watching is going to be as huge a challenge as they come. Hopefully, somebody will go round Twitter mopping up some of the vile abuse being poured out towards the young goalkeeper and his family. It was simply horrific. This normally most wonderful of social media tools at it’s very worst.

Spare a thought also for Mo Salah. Whether you support Liverpool or not, only the most churlish could take pleasure from the fact that he now looks as though he’ll miss the World Cup. For this global superstar to be absent from the most exciting of tournaments is a huge loss. For Egypt, for fans, for football and of course the player himself. What a way it would have been to wrap up a simply magnificent season. Now, he’s hoping the medics can do their thing but listening to Jürgen Klopp talking at full time, it doesn’t seem good.

I could ramble on, but what’s the point. Football treated us to the very worst of what she offers yesterday. At least in terms of raw, inconsolable emotion. Unless you are a Fulham fan.

See you all again in a week or so. There’s a World Cup, a new Brentford kit and a few more things to look forward to….

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Ashley Bayes bounced back from this debut

Nick Bruzon

Brentford remember and Liverpool celebrate (although not all of us join in).

3 May

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Billy (the fish)

Football, eh? Few could deny that last night’s Champions League semi was nothing short of the comic book capers normally found in the likes of Roy of the Rovers or Billy The Fish (is that still a thing)? Every ‘Liverpool in Europe’ bingo cliché was played out as they edged past Roma by the odd goal in 13 to reach the final where they’ll play Real Madrid. There was angst in our house as that one took place (more to come) but, as ever, we can only start with Brentford.

The Premier League dream may be over for this season at Griffin Park but that’s not to say it hasn’t been a busy last few days At least, on social media where there have been a couple of quite significant Brentford reflated anniversaries remembered by the club. And one that hasn’t.

Whilst Liverpool were doing their thing yesterday, in TW8 it was cause for a different kind of celebration. 26 years since Gary Blissett scored that goal at Peterborough. 26 years since Saint and Greavsie were left with huge amounts of ‘egg on face’ after having to retract their premature crowning of Birmingham City as League Champions. I still smile a that one, even now. 26 years since Robbie from Eastenders appeared on the celebration videos. Nice one, Wellard – a better effort than Cameron Diaz.

What a day for Brentford fans. What a night. What a celebration. What a goal from Bliss. The man. The legend. The match highlights appeared yesterday and still seem so fresh – mainly because I think I must have watched them more times than The Spy Who Loved Me (and that’s saying something) over the ensuing years.

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Almost up there with Peterborough

Our more recent generation of fans have, of course, been spoiled by nothing except good times over the last few years. Good luck to them – they’ve got on board the Brentford express at the right station. Yet, at the same time, to be part of a moment such as this when we were, typically, mid table plodders, was nothing short of wonderful. It really was a special moment to have finally achieved that elevation to a higher division.

These days, playing the likes of Leeds united, Wolves, Aston Villa and Birmingham City is the norm (although maybe not next season if things go to plan on Sunday). Back then, to have the opportunity of doing so was a rare and exciting chance. Whilst we won’t talk about what happened next, let’s not deny that getting there was about as good as it gets. Sheer bliss !

The other anniversary was something that fan engagement manager Ryan Murrant tweeted about. Not surprisingly, given a previous role at Doncaster Rovers. Five years ago it happened.. and not in a good way. 

Something, something, something, penalty. If only the media had mentioned this at the time or showed it since.

I’ve seen that crossbar rattler many, many times since – on each occasion thinking that, this time surely, Marcello Trotta would score. This time, perhaps, Kev would manage to hang on to the ball. Yet what I hadn’t noticed previously was the ‘official’ tweet from Doncaster – a team currently residing in the ‘where are they now’ files.

Talk about low key. Not milking the moment. Thanks for sharing that, Ryan. Genuinely. Fair to say that Brentford have had the last laugh.

Yet with all the talk being about Brentford and Doncaster, it seems that people are missing the bigger picture here. Aswell as being five years since that penalty, it was also five years since that awful appearance on Soccer AM. Awful at least in the sense of the Bees supporters, guests on that day’s programme, failing to put away even one effort in the end of show shoot out. A devastatingly bad score of nil points.

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Soccer AM. Even HB made a first, off screen, appearance

I can say this with a clean conscience. Regular readers of these pages (should such a concept exist) may well be familiar with the fact that yours truly was also one of the participants. That each of my own efforts was preceded by stacking it into fellow fan JJ – he of the goal inducing dodgy bladder (whenever he goes to the ablutions block mid-game, Brentford score). That we managed the lowest score of any club that season. Possibly ever. Unless somebody has managed minus points.

It was awful. Humiliating. Typical. Not even Natalie Sawyer could save us. Yet, thanks to another penalty, the memory of that day has become a more abiding one. One we can now look back on that bit easier. Not much, but a bit. Besides, long term it would be fair to say that everything has worked out ok.

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Even Natalie had a go

 

Ok, Liverpool in Europe. First and foremost, congratulations. What a night for the neutral. What a night for the fans in Rome and back home at Anfield. It was captivating viewing as an early, seemingly insurmountable, four goal aggregate lead for the Reds was slowly reeled in until they emerged triumphant by the odd goal in 13. Real Madrid await in a final that is sure to be equally captivating.

But following this one at home, there was all sorts of confusion. And, for once, not Glenn Hoddle on BT Sport.

3-7(agg) proclaimed the score. What??  No!! This must be some sort of typo. Don’t get brackets wrong. Granted, it may have been a bit more awkward but shouldn’t this have read:  3-7(seven) (agg) ?

When Radja Nainggolan scored his late penalty to make it 6-7(agg) (sic) I was close to self-combustion. One more goal for Roma and I wouldn’t have been responsible for my actions.

7(seven) – 7(seven) (agg) would have been a scoreline to rival the infamous Forfar 5 East Fife 4  – something that I believe may be an urban legend, although as somebody much wiser than me once opined, “Never ruin a good story with the facts”.

In the end, it wasn’t to be. Instead, simply a case of wishing Liverpool the best of luck in the final. It promises to be a cracker. And, likewise, leaves a few weeks to update that bingo card.

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An update for the final awaits: 1981, Real Madrid, 13

Nick Bruzon