Tag Archives: Champions League

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

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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

 

Tonight is huge (again)….but not necessarily at Anfield.

24 Apr

Something, something, something, royal baby. Blah, blah, blah, Liverpool getting a semi. Those glory, glory European Anfield nights. Some perspective people, please. There are much more important matters afoot. Hey, Brentford aren’t even playing tonight and will have to be content with gorging on the memory of Saturday’s derby day victory over QPR combined with looking forward to the weekend trip to Barnsley. Yet if ever there was a case of ‘other results’ being of critical importance to The Bees then Tuesday night is that time as Derby County host Cardiff City and Nottingham Forest are home to Barnsley.

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Sergi and Romaine amongst the architects of QPR’s doom on Saturday

We all know the current position in the Championship table. Middlesbrough in fifth, are on 72 points. That’s four ahead of Brentford and the aforementioned Rams on 68. Yet sixth placed Millwall have 69. I’m no Stephen Fry but even yours truly has sufficient mental acumen to know that’s a gap of one point. One. Point. With two games left to reel it in.

Yet, as ever, there is a potential fly in the ointment. Derby County do have that game in hand. And they play it tonight. Against Cardiff City. Victory will stretch the gap to an, albeit still catchable, three points. Cardiff, on the flip side, know that a win will give them a monumental advantage in the race with Fulham for an automatic promotion slot. Success will see them four points clear in second place with just two games to go.

This is huge. You couldn’t make up a game of this consequence. West London will be split down the middle tonight with Brentford no doubt hoping for a Cardiff win whilst Fulham fans will be mildly waving their clappers in support of Derby. Even QPR supporters will be praying for…. actually, they won’t as they’re long dead in the water.

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Cardiff win tonight and I’ll even forgive them the hashtags

But if this one has impact on Brentford, then our attention is going to be split on two fronts. There’s also the game at Nottingham Forest where defeat for Barnsley will massively increase their chances of relegation. A win will see them leapfrog fourth bottom Bolton Wanderers and have the added benefit of dragging Birmingham City back into things. The Blues own safety net of five points will be a lot squeakier if that becomes three, once the remaining games level out.

Honestly, I’m not sure which result will be best for us here. No doubt Dean Smith would tell Brentford fans just to worry about ourselves. Yet with The Bees going to Oakwell on Saturday, do we want them with destiny back in their own hands and safer, or with that potentially demoralising punch to the gut having been administered by Nottingham Forest? In themselves, a team who have won just a single game out of the last nine, losing the other eight and managing just three goals in the process.

Is it better for us to go into Saturday’s game with Barnsley’s safety all but a mathematical miracle, potentially even hoping that Birmingham City could administer a mid-afternoon psychological blow to our opponents? Or is being the architects of their own survival a better option? Something that would then also see us in the utterly distasteful position of hoping for QPR success on Saturday, with the Blues heading to Loftus Road.

Sadly, having seen the ineptitude of the hapless hoops on Saturday I now have to declare Birmingham City safe. That hurts. But all good things come to an end. Bolton travel to fellow relegation candidates Burton on Saturday and then host goal shy Forest as the season reaches an intriguing denouement. I’m not even going to get close to calling those.

Instead, it really is a case of whatever happens tonight at the City Ground happens. Any result is both good and bad for us. It WILL have an impact but only Saturday at 3pm will tell what that is. Instead, the game of absolute importance will be the one at Pride Park.

I remember back in 1995/96, listening to BBC Radio 5 ( I think, sure the sport had moved on from Radio 2 by then) and Birmingham City v Bradford. It was the season that only one side went up and the Blues only needed two points to guarantee the league title from second placed Brentford. Their 0-0 with Bradford City was one of the most painful bits of self-inflicted torture I’ve ever sat through.  It was rewarded, briefly, the following weekend as The Bees were doing the needful at Bristol Rovers whilst Huddersfield Town took the lead against City. Sadly, results didn’t hold and we ended up in the play-offs. What I wouldn’t pay for that conclusion this time around…

So choose what you do tonight carefully. That Liverpool – Roma Champions League tie is, undoubtedly, a huge occasion. The Reds have a magnificent record in Europe that we can’t get close to. Yet. And if nothing else, the chance to play ‘Liverpool in Europe’ bingo is always a wonderful one.

But for me (Clive) it’ll a case of eschewing Anfield and BT Sport where, whatever happens, it will only be half time. At full time.  Instead, I’ll be glued to Sky Sports and the game from Derby. The prize at the end of that one could be of infinitely more importance in this little corner of West London…

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Liverpool bingo – celebrating both history and cliche

Nick Bruzon

Almost 24 hours on and it still feels fantastic.

11 Apr

Almost 24 hours later and I’m still buzzing. Having spent the last ten days on a very rare holiday, following Brentford has been that bit trickier than normal. Yet what do when the last night abroad coincided with our game at Nottingham Forest? Rather than stay in a hotel room with Mark Burridge whispering sweet nothings into my ear (via the medium of I-follow) instead it was a trip outside to find somewhere showing the Champions League thriller between Manchester City and Liverpool. That said, thanks to the joy of WhatsApp and Twitter pretty much all of my attention was focussed on updates from The City Ground rather than the TV in Popeyes bar, Lanzarote. A third 1-0 win in a row for The Bees, secured via a late strike from Henrik Dalsgaard, saw Brentford move to within four points of sixth placed Millwall with just four games to go. The most unlikely of play-off dreams remains alive and it makes Saturday’s game with a Fulham team whose own victory propelled them into the ‘automatic’ places even more significant than it already was.

Just four points to Millwall in sixth. Just four points to Derby County in fifth (albeit The Rams have two games in hand). Brentford held their nerve last night in a match which, statistically speaking, seemed to pour scorn on Forest’s recent record of failing to trouble the scorers for five straight games as shot followed shot. Despite hitting the woodwork twice in the opening period, Daniel Bentley’s goalmouth once again remained untouched. Despite 16 attempts, 3 on target, there was no way through for the home team.

Rather, it was the stooping Dalsgaard who got on the end of former captain Josh McEachran’s 81st minute corner to frustrate Nottingham Forest again. You have to feel for the home fans but, being quite selfish, that’s their issue. Instead, Popeyes erupted to a quite unexpected shriek of delight that had absolutely nothing to do with Liverpool snuffing out another Manchester City attack. Nothing to do with seeing Birmingham City en-route to yet another defeat; this time at Bristol City. Nothing to do with Roma making it 3-0 against Barcelona and thus lined up to progress on ‘away goals’. Instead, it had everything to do with our Danish international full back giving us the lead with less than ten minutes remaining.

And then the waiting game began. Waiting for the internet to refresh. Waiting for another Euro 3.00 beer to reach the table. Waiting to see if Brentford could hang on. Waiting to see if Barnsley could snatch a late equaliser at Portman Road. Sadly, the Tykes couldn’t. Whilst people all around me were in awe at events unfolding in both Manchester and Rome, there was one corner of a foreign pub that was forever Brentford. And it was beautiful.

Ding: Another WhatsApp message. The trumpet ‘emoji’.
Ding: Yes!!!!

We’d hung on. Oh my, that was quite remarkable. Quick. Where is that ‘As it stands’ table? Ah. There we go. What a sight. What a time for Brentford to narrow the gap. What a game awaits on Saturday afternoon. If you haven’t got a ticket for The Cottage then what are you waiting for? This could be even bigger than the 4-1 in terms of brilliance. The potential double whammy of railroading the Fulham promotion push whilst increasing our own chances. Could it be that game at Leyton Orient all over again? If we celebrated three points there like the FA Cup, victory at The Cottage would see Champions League levels of ecstasy.

Whilst Millwall are still in the box seat as play-off dark horses, if Brentford can keep up this wonderful run then who knows? Imagine. Could it end up a Fulham v Brentford play-off final, even? Win on Saturday and anything is possible. Call it the cabin pressure at 37,000 feet, but flying home now I feel euphoric about all things football. I feel as though anything could happen. We’ve even got Ryan Woods available once more.

Seeing what Liverpool and Roma achieved last night should be sufficient evidence that this most beautiful of games can continue to surprise us. Nothing is certain until that final whistle blows. Results really can defy expectation.

But for now, it has to be as much a time for reflection on overcoming what could have been a very tricky hurdle at Nottingham Forest. Take nothing away from our opponents. Opponents who, at least as far as yours truly is concerned, have remained nothing but sporting. This was a HUGE result in a season that has the potential to match our own first back in The Championship. The season of Mark Warburton and a play-off semi with Middlesbrough when all the results aligned on the final round of games to elevate us to fifth in the table.

Could similar happen again? Who knows but I’ll tell you one thing – I can’t wait to find out. Roll on Saturday and Fulham.

See you there….

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Following Brentford. From Lanzarote. Via the Champions League.

Nick Bruzon

A season defining game and the chance to correct football’s biggest jinx await.

13 Mar

Well this really is an evening with everything to play for. Whilst most neutral observers may well be focussed on Manchester United and the Champions League, it is the Championship where there’s a story of genuine excitement and intrigue building. Brentford host a Cardiff City team looking to make it 7(seven) successive league wins. Victory will see them afforded a chance to draw level with a Wolves team whose seemingly unassailable lead at New Year has melted away quicker than the snow that caused this fixture to be postponed ten days ago. A gap of 12 points after they beat us in early January has now become just 3. Is it conceivable Cardiff could actually catch up with them tonight?

Let’s just cut that one stone dead in it’s tracks. Whilst something that is technically possible, I can’t see it happening. For one thing, Wolves are also in action. They host a Reading team who have offered little this season and are flirting with the relegation zone a touch too much for their liking. Thankfully for the Royals, the ongoing ineptitude of Birmingham City, Sunderland and Burton should see them home, even if their safety is acquired by accident rather than design.

More importantly, we’re also involved. Brentford thumped Millwall on Saturday in everything but goals scored. It was an extremely frustrating end to an afternoon where we did everything but score. Instead, George Saville did the needful for our genial hosts as Andreas Bjelland was left dead in the water after aggravating an Achilles problem he’d felt in the warm up.

There’s no complaints from me. We’ve been saying all season that goals, rather than possession and opportunity, are what win games. Millwall did what they needed to and then more than rode their luck. Equally though, I’m expecting Brentford to come out of the blocks flying tonight. There’s still a hope of the play offs although an eight point gap is going to need reeling in and with games running out, what better time to start than this evening?

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Functional breeze blocks. Millwall on Saturday

I also fancy Neal Maupay to prove a point tonight. I’ve no doubt that with Dean juggling his squad, the enigmatic striker will be back in the starting XI. If nothing else, he’ll have a point to prove to professional loud mouth and moron, Ian Moose. We all know what the imbecilic Talk Sport shock jock said after our sides met at the Cardiff City stadium back in November (and it wasn’t, “Happy Birthday, my good friend….”). I’m backing Neal to make him eat his own words, something that would be quite ironic given it’s normally the half-time catering that Mr. Moose has a morbid fixation with ingesting.

Expect Neal to start whilst Chris Mepham for Andreas is an absolute given. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sergi given a rest, especially knowing Cardiff’s propensity to concede second half goals. Ten of the last eleven they’ve let in have been after the sides have come back out (and I’ll thank the BBC for that one!). Likewise, could this be the time for Josh McEachran to shine? Back from injury, he’ll no doubt be knocking down Dean’s door with a point to prove.

Sky TV are in attendance tonight. I’m not surprised given what is at stake and the results have fallen wonderfully for them. Whilst Manchester United v Sevilla in the Champions League on BT is the obvious draw to the neutral, this one has got it all to play for. It has so many more sub-plots and possibilities at stake than simply whether Jose Mourinho can grind his team through to their own next round.

Even better, why not get yourself down to Griffin Park? Tickets are still available for what promises to be a potentially season defining game. For both teams. Neil Warnock is the current manager of the month and even managed to dodge ‘the jinx’ after receiving his award on Friday. Win the prize; lose your next game.

Then again, the match immediately after that was against Birmingham City. The Blues are displaying such wonderful anti-form at present they couldn’t organise a banjo in a brewery with a barn door. As such, no surprises Cardiff managed to anger the footballing gods and avoid the traditional post-award slip up.

Instead, it’s up to Brentford to right that wrong. Can The Bees do it? I can’t wait for 7.45 when we find out. See you there.

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Fully dseserved for Neil Warnock. But can The Bees correct the jinx?

Nick Bruzon

Will the Burton (wagon) wheels finally come off as Brentford visit? Can Monk save Birmingham?

6 Mar

This is getting exciting. Brentford travel to Burton Albion tonight for a game where victory could propel us back to the fringes of the play-off race. With 9th placed Preston entertaining Bristol City in 6th , Fulham hosting Sheffield United and Middlesbrough (7th) travelling to Birmingham City, something has to give from the teams above us. Even if it would take that most unlikely of events, a victory for the Blues, to help our cause. To be fair, on current form even a goal for Birmingham would be a major achievement. But with Garry Monk officially at the helm (more on that later) who knows what might happen?

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Monk surveys his new domain. The goalmouth, devoid of action (plus ca change)

Still, this is all pointless conjecture if we can’t fulfil out part of that bargain. The gap between Brentford and Bristol City is 7(seven) points although we do have tonight’s game in hand. But with the Cardiff City game having been rearranged for next Tuesday and the Sky cameras, the trip to Burton marks a run of four matches in 12 days . Twelve days that by the end will determine if the play-offs are nothing more than a pipe dream or, alternatively, whether the famous words of Rasmus Ankersen might come true.

Back in September 2015 he told the Brentford fans’ forum : “ It is not an option to not be in the Premier League. It has to happen in the next three years…. At the moment there is no Plan B. we’ll be in the Premier League in three years.”

Well, that opportunity comes to an end at the denouement of the current campaign and they are words I’ve never forgotten. They are words that often get quoted on these pages but still remain fresh in the mind (and not just because they’ll be in the Millwall programme on Saturday – although through legitimate reasons rather than any ‘Brian Guest’ style interloping). Quite simply – it was as bold a claim as we’ve ever heard.

Being quite honest, there have been times over the last few campaigns when there’s been more chance of laughing at an episode of Mrs. Brown’s Boys or Len Goodman’s Partners In Ryme than Brentford reaching the Premier League.

That same fans forum featured Marinus Dijkhuizen sitting alongside our top brass (move along, nothing to see here) whilst Dean Smith has seen his own tenure have a couple of wobbles along the way. March 2016 (and the admission we were in a relegation battle) and the start of this campaign (four points from the first eight games) being just a few of those moments when it has been much easier to fear the worst than to show some blind faith.

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Mrs Brown. Never. Forget.

That’s football. So often the glass half empty. Even when it is Dom Perignon being quaffed compared to the lukewarm Fosters we’ve been more accustomed to drinking over the years (Terry Butcher, anyone?). Yet this run of games (Burton and Millwall away, followed by Middlesbrough and Cardiff City at Griffin Park) could see our co-director starting to earn himself a place in Brentford folklore if his prediction comes true. Nostra-rasmus?

There are more Bees going to Burton tonight than went to Leeds United recently. That’s great. They’ll be sure to make some noise in the compact confines of the Pirelli stadium. The mini run starts here and with a good run of results going our way over the next 12 days, along with a few favours tonight, who knows what might happen when we emerge on the other side? One things for sure, I can’t wait to find out.

Elsewhere, Birmingham City have appointed Garry Monk ahead of their game with Middlesbrough tonight. Twitter was awash with photographs yesterday, as Monk was officially ‘unveiled’ (if only they’d had the balls to remove a drape, museum style) to the watching media. Yet there he was, along with Pep Clotet, pulling out all his best poses. Man at C&A, wistful stare into the middle distance, cheesy smile and the obligatory shirt picture all put in an appearance as @BCFC came awfully close to jumping the Twitter shark.

Their proclamation that : It’s just another manic Monkday... was only a hashtag away from joining the Twitter hall of infamy that will be forever topped by our own #trophyfriends (or #bignewambitions, or…).

Just one of the many posts as @BCFC went into Monk overload. Steve who now?

Can he turn things around? Will he arrest a slide towards League One which, given the club’s reported wage bill alone, would be disastrous for a club of this historical stature? It’s not going to be an easy start with promotion chasing Middlesbrough the vistors and with 11 games left, time really is running out.

If our own mini run over the next twelve days is huge then theirs, with a trip to Cardiff City and a relegation six pointer with Hull, could be of equal importance. Get that wrong and the chance of league games against Accrington Stanley and Mansfield next season will be one step closer to reality.

Still, that’s their problem. For Brentford, it’s all about Burton Albion and a game agasint a team who will be fighting for their very Championship survival. This might not be pretty, even if memories of that incredible 5-3 win on the road are still more than vivid. Personally, I’d settle for a gritty 1-0, a clean bill of health and no bookings. If only football was that easy to predict.

Then again, if Rasmus can do it…

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What an afternoon that was…

Nick Bruzon

Bring it on. West London’s biggest game in years has more than just a result to play for.

19 Feb

Tuesday night in West London and there’s one of the biggest football showdowns to have been seen in years. Whilst the casual observer might think its all about Chelsea v Barcelona in the Champion’s League, they’d be wrong. Of Course. Instead, we’ve the quite delicious treat of Brentford v Birmingham City. More importantly, the return of not just Maxime Colin, not just Jota (the real one rather than the Wolves version) but also former skipper Harlee Dean. Forget Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi visiting Stamford Bridge. The emotional significance of this trio returning, along with the circumstances of their deadline day departure, have been lost on nobody.

Jota team Rotherham

We felt the same way too

“The football industry is a volatile one and I think my departure was the best move for all concerned” Not my words but those of Jota upon his £6.8million (allegedly) sale to the St. Andrews outfit.

“We’ve got quality in that squad. I’ve been in teams where we’ve finished fifth in this league and missed out on promotion by play offs. And this squad is ten times better than that. Its just about getting the balance right.” Not my words but those of Harlee Dean after a Birmingham supporter’s ‘Blues Cruise’ back in late October.

We all know the scoop. On the one hand, a Brentford squad containing the likes of: David Button, Jake Bidwell, Number 26, Nico Yennaris, Sam Saunders, Moses Odubajo, Stuart Dallas, Alan Judge, Jon Toral, Jota, Alex Pritchard, Andre Gray, Scott Hogan. That’s before you add the experience provided by the likes of Dougie, Macca, King Kev and Toumani.

On the other, a Birmingham City squad who are now just 2 points outside the relegation zone and 17 (seventeen, why not) behind Brentford. A win for the Bees will put us 20 clear. That’s twice ten times better. What better incentive could there be for us to really go for it?

Whatever happened back in the summer has happened. I can’t deny any less how I felt back then although how great to see how the Bees have gone on to bigger and better things. The squad has come together in the most wonderful way to stick a metaphorical two fingers up to the Midlanders. Yet at the same time, I can’t forget the wonder of Jota at his very best.

Those goals against Derby. Against QPR. Leaving Jake Bidwell flat on his backside. The infamous Burridgegasm at Blackburn. Even if those memories do still feel slightly tarnished for now, you can’t deny how, on his day, Jota was just about the most skillful and exciting player many of us ever had the privilege of watching.  Name me somebody who wouldn’t want him or Maxime in the squad and I’ll show you a liar.

Mark Burridge and Jota’s infamous moment

As for Harlee, I feel for him. Genuinely. What a way to shoot yourself in the foot with that ill-fated quote. What a way to make Dean Smith’s team talk the simplest he’ll ever need to give. What a way to wind up the crowd.

Despite the red cards, ad-hoc positional awareness and own goals, you can’t deny Harlee was Brentford through and through. He gave his all. Not just on the pitch but off it, too, where he was so famously an unsung hero after a car accident outside Griffin Park. Where he was a total hero to my son and always made time to chat with the young fans. Try explaining to a four year old why his idol has left to join ‘the naughty team’.

HB Harlee and Dan

The smile says its all (apologies again for the sticky fingers)

He was there as we held the Champions of Europe, Chelsea, in the FA Cup. It was Harlee who scored at Wembley in the play-off final against Yeovil following ‘that penalty’. He was the man to help shore up the ten man Bees at Leyton Orient the day we celebrated like we’d won the FA Cup. He was a Championship regular – almost pulling off an unlikely ascension to the Premier League and eventually showed his true potential ending last season as our Player of the Year.

Then he opened his mouth and, with it, undid all the positivity with a moment as significant in our history as Martin Rowlands ‘kissing the badge’.

No doubt, he’ll have a point to prove. No doubt, so will we. Expect it to be lively. Very. Expect the songs to be loud. Expect the Terrace wags to have their fill on #BeeTheDJ before kick off. And not just for Harlee.  From my perspective, any of the following would be good :

Pink Floyd – Money

The Doors  – Love Me Two Times (although that may need five plays)

Oasis – Don’t Look Back In Anger

Aerosmith – Big Ten Inch Record

Dusty Springfield – I Close My Eyes And Count To Ten

Herb Alpert  – Spanish Flea

Blake Shelton – Ten Times Crazier

The flipside is that Birmingham City will be as up for it as we are. Their season has reached a place where, with two thirds gone, they are in very real danger of slithering into League One. Of demonstrating that throwing money at a problem doesn’t necessarily make it go away.

Every point will be vital and they’ll be doing everything possible to get at least one. Picking up all three will necessitate being able to shoot at goal, something they’ve struggled with this campaign. Saturday’s home defeat to Millwall saw them manage just one shot on target whilst, with a mere 22 netbusters, they are the division’s most goal shy team.

So if you haven’t got a ticket yet, what are you waiting for? Sure, Chelsea – Barcelona , in the armchair, might be the comfortable option. It might have some of the World’s biggest names.It might have huge global viewing figures. But it won’t have the passion that this one does and it certainly hasn’t got the sub-plot.

I’ve had this date in the diary for a long, long time. And I can’t wait.

See you there.

Harlee

Nick Bruzon

I’m glad I support Brentford rather than one big fish in a rapidly stagnating pond. And Dean speaks

5 Jul

Football is slowly waking up. This time last year, we were talking about Lincoln Red Imps of Gibraltar beating Celtic 1-0 in the Champions League qualifiers. Quite possibly the most embarrassing results in Scottish football history (to add to an already long list) yet last night they were equalled by fellow Glasgow side Rangers when the fourth best team in Luxembourg, part timers Progrès Niederkorn, knocked them out of Europe. And closer to home, Brentford boss Dean Smith has been up in front of the Sky sports cameras.

Ordinarily these pages wouldn’t look at the Scottish game but Rangers have held a bit of a fascination in recent years, given the circumstances which saw former Brentford boss Mark Warburton both join and leave the Ibrox club. “You walk around the stadium, the first time for me this morning, and you smell the history” he said upon becoming their manager in June 2015.

I’m sure this morning they’ll be smelling something rather different North of the border and Warbs will be very pleased with his decision to resign prior to joining Nottingham Forest. Internet bookmaker PaddyPower have already declared Celtic as league Champions prior to a ball being kicked although, to be fair, most bookies have them as 1/9 on at best to lift that particular silverware.

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Other bookmakers are also available

For all the ongoing talk about these two ‘giants’ of Scottish football joining the English Premier League, the totally one sided nature of their domestic league along with results such as those against Progrès or Lincoln show how out of touch they sadly are these days. A point made all the more apparent as after limping past the Gibraltarians last season, Celtic then endured complete capitulation in the group stages, failing to reach the Europa League whilst also suffering a 7(seven) goal bracketing.

Winning at home is nice, but to watch such consistently uncompetitive football must become a somewhat soul destroying affair. Where’s the genuine competition? Where’s the excitement? What’s the point when you win your league by a country mile or get kicked off the park the moment the competition hots up a bit. With your closest historical rival a shadow of their former selves, it really gives off the impression of going through the motions. Give me the Championship any day of the week.

Which is why the return to our own league campaign cannot come soon enough. Nobody could claim this division is one sided. Anything but, with Newcastle United’s title win going right down to the wire last season whilst Brentford have claimed more than their fair share of illustrious scalps over the last three campaigns. Three top ten finishes have surprised more than a few people outside of TW8 (most notably Ian Holloway) and I’m desperate for us to give this division another try.

The good news is that the Bees are now back in training and yesterday, ‘official’ released a video of head coach Dean Smith talking to Sky Sports News.

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Dean Smith spoke to Sky

In the interview, which you can see below, Dean sounds über positive. He talks about having had lots of fresh ideas and sharing our own sentiments that its good to be back after a long break. He has confirmed his top six aspirations along with a desire to keep hold of last seasons squad. Moreso given our strong finish to the campaign.

Then, somewhat randomly, the interview changes tack with the second half being taken up with a discourse on penalties. The recent England – Germany U-21 game. Dean Smith’s philosophy on penalty taking. As a player and as a head coach. It went on. I was half expecting him to be quizzed on Marcello Trotta.

A shame really,, as this was a somewhat wasted opportunity from Sky to dig into our plans, our set up and mindset. To find out how Dean has continued the great work already done by Warbs, Lee Carsley and, of course, the team behind the team.

A missed opportunity?

Then again, I’m more than happy being the underdog. Being that unfancied, under the radar team. Catching the likes of Leeds United, Derby County, Aston Villa, Mr Holloway et al with their pants down.

Nobody can deny the likes of Rangers and Celtic have huge stadiums, even bigger fan bases and plenty of historical honours. Likewise that Griffin Park is still only a 12,000 capacity ground with a trophy cabinet that is emptier than Arsenal’s.

But who wants to be the one big fish in a rapidly stagnating pond of tadpoles? A fish that gets gobbled up the moment any invasive species appears from the continent. The Championship, and beyond, is where it’s all at. Where the real action happens. Where real football takes place.

It’s July 5th. This time next month proceedings begin in anger with out trip to Sheffield United. I really cannot wait. It promises to be even bigger and better than ever before.

Nick Bruzon