Tag Archives: Championship

A chance to remember ‘that’ goal then look forward to an epic build up.

13 Jul

And thus pre-season was complete. At least, in terms of the calendar. Hot on the heels of our trip to Manchester United, Brentford have had the final two games of the build up confirmed. Saturday 31st July sees a visit from West Ham United with Spanish outfit Valencia next up in a 5.30pm kick-off the following Saturday (7 August). Six days later it all starts when Arsenal jump on the Piccadilly line to South Ealing. Full details are on ‘official’, with the Valencia game expected to see a full house and even some away fans present for the visit of West Ham (presumably, actual fans rather than those in the half/half scarves).

Arsenal are a short tube ride away

With all Corona bets off from July 19th – albeit we’ll see how long that lasts – the next natural step is for Brentford to go for broke in terms of capacity. The Valencia game has been declared as the formal opening of our new stadium and I can’t wait. The atmosphere against Blackburn and Bournemouth was nothing short of incredible. When the place is full – and especially when Arsenal visit for a full blooded, full fat encounter – it only promises to be immense. More importantly these are three tests that, at least in terms of opposition, one would hope may provide a bit more a steer as how the Bees will fare in the forthcoming season. Assuming both teams go full tilt rather than use them as an experiment in squad rotation. 

We’ll likely end up somewhere in between but as much as anything else its just an excuse to go to football once more. Why wouldn’t you. Cripes, we’ve missed it. Desperately. Euro 2020 showed that, as if any reminder were actually needed, despite the painful on-pitch denouement to that competition (can’t even begin myself to start about the shameful stuff that happened off it). We’re still wiping up the tears in our house even now. A brutal punch to the stomach of a young boy who has so far experienced a World Cup semi-final and a Wembley win to reach the Premier league. Normally unshakeable faith in his team now tested once more following our assault by Fulham in the previous play-offs. Oh well, like Doncaster Rovers and Yeovil Town you can file them in the ‘where are they now?“ files.

Which pretty much sums up the quite magnificent enigma that is Brentford FC 2021. That we can now mention Yeovil and Doncaster in the same breath as Manchester United, Arsenal and Valencia. Talk about time being a great healer. Talk about looking forward to enjoying every moment of the most monumental season for our club since records began. Sink or swim? Stay or go? Still under the radar and under rated or flying high from the off? Nobody gives us much of a hope, although Ivan Toney’s popularity in the Fantasy football stakes suggests otherwise. Personally speaking, I’m hugely optimistic (quelle surprise) although will perhaps forego the annual bet on Brentford to win the league. Something that, over the years, has seen us just about in net-gain territory. Perhaps it may be more prudent to go ‘each way’ , this season. 

This far in to a small piece on West Ham and no mention of Said Benrahma. Yet. Ah, it’ll be great to see him back and no doubt there’ll be an appearance. A player up there with Jota in the ability stakes and one who has gone on to the next level, despite yet to break into the first team on a regular basis. He was AMAZING at Griffin Park. He had that brief cameo at Lionel Road when scoring ‘that’ goal in the league cup against a hapless Fulham outfit. The turn and beautiful back-heeled nutmeg before rounding Michael Hector to unleash the mother of all shots. No doubt he’ll warm up to a heroes welcome before it all goes ‘panto villain’ once the game starts. 

‘That’ goal against Fulham last season..

What an opportunity for us to lay down a marker as to how far we’ve come. The fears that selling him and Ollie Watkins would see Brentford come to nothing last season, dispelled as quickly as Fulham’s Premier league survival hopes. The faith shown by those that stuck by Thomas and the team rewarded in the most incredible style at Wembley in May. The moment still feels as fresh now as it did then. It was a long time coming and still deserves to be enjoyed to the max. A moment to provide all the inspiration we need going forward.

With the Bees back in training already you can be sure Thomas will have us set to hit the ground running. The Euros have gone. The close-season (closed?) break now feels over. Sure, we‘ve a month to wait until the Premier League kicks off properly but now it feels as though the clock really is ticking. As though we are racing full tilt towards destiny. Now, the only things in the way of that season opens with Arsenal are Manchester United. Are West Ham. Are Valencia. 

My word, this is going to be fun…..

And as our regular final thought, the entire Last Word from 2019/20 aswell as all the programme articles (previously unpublished on line) and our season-finale guest columns from Natalie Sawyer and Kitman Bob remain available for download. The later in particular, my favourite column of the season as the inside story of the big build up to Wembley was revealed.

With all proceeds going to Rob Rowan’s memorial fund for CRY, we couldn’t be looking to try and help a better or more personal cause to Brentford FC. If anybody can spare a few quid to help and wants to get hold of an amazing story, told averagely, then they can do so here. THANK YOU

Until then, why not enjoy that Benrahma goal one more time…..

Nick Bruzon

New signings and, perhaps, a familiar face?

2 Jul

Exciting times. The Euro 2020 quarter finals are upon us and it is now July. Meaning the Premier League starts next month. Brentford, obviously, have have what could politely be called ‘interest’ in both. Our opener with Arsenal made all the more intriguing, as if the appetite needed whetting any further, by Thursday’s transfer news. Not to mention puns ahoy. England face Ukraine in Saturday evening’s last 8 game of the Euros and we’ve one last catch up on the season review book. 

First up, transfer news. Brentford official announced the widely rumoured signing of Daniel Oyegoke from Arsenal yesterday. The eighteen year old right back goes straight into the B team squad having signed on a three year contract with the option for an additional year. The obvious comparison is to Josh Dasilva (here’s hoping we get a positive injury update on him when the players return from summer holidays) who also joined from the Arsenal youth set up, albeit having made a handful of EFL cup appearances, back in 2018. To say he has progressed stratospherically would be somewhat of an understatement. Now an England U-21 and very much the one that got away, having joined for nothing after turning down a new contract at Highbury.

For Daniel, the exit of Henrik Dalsgaard suggested changes would have to come in that berth. How quickly the transition from B team to first team will be made, remains to be seen of course. Happen it will though. One thing our DOFs have done is absolutely nail the recruitment process in recent years. From the early days of Proschwitz or Dijkhuizen we’ve had a procession of shrewd talent at every level. The likes of Watkins, Benrahma and Konsa. Roerslev, Dasilva and Sorensen very much the norm now. The chance to join Brentford these days very much a marker in an indiviudual’s ability as well as their own chances of future progression.

Daniel isn’t alone. The club offered out a welcome of ‘Hey, Jude’ with central defender Jude Russell also joining the B team set up. He signs for a year from Crystal Palace, having already spent time with us in what is now last season. One of the many ‘trialist’ shirts now has a name behind it aswell as an obvious source of headlines and lazy puns should the player be involved in just about anything. Good news indeed for lazy bloggers and even lazier journalists.

You can read the full stories and actual facts about both players over on Brentford official.

Hey, Jude ( official got there first on Twitter. Don’t blame me)

Next up, our promotion from the Championship. As any semi-regular reader will know by now we’ve documented this in e-book form. The entire Last Word from 2019/20 aswell as all the programme articles (previously unpublished on line) and out season-finale guest columns from Natalie Sawyer and Kitman Bob. The later in particular, my favourite column of the season as the inside story of the big build up to Wembley was revealed.  

With all proceeds going to Rob Rowan’s memorial fund for CRY, we couldn’t be looking to try and help a better or more personal cause to Brentford FC. This is the last time I’ll give this the full fat plug so will simply end by thanking everyone who has downloaded a copy so far and asking anybody else who can spare a few quid and wants to get hold of an amazing story, told averagely, then they can do so here. THANK YOU.

Finally, the BIG story this weekend (short of Phil and Rasmus making a surprise swoop for out of contract Lionel Messi – hey, you read it here first) can only be the Euros. Friday sees Switzerland – Spain and then Belgium – Italy, with the big ones for the majority of us on Saturday. Then, of course, the Czech Republic face a Denmark side in which both Mathias Jensen and Christian Norgaard have been integral over the tournament.

The denouement of the quarters sees Ukraine take on England in Rome. That one’s going to be huge. No England supporters are ‘officially’ going to be there. Will any get through? Of course. Will Billy be there with his selfie-stick? (Grant, not Reeves). If anyone makes it to Italy it will be him. 

Which Billy will we get on Saturday?

Yet, regardless of who is in the stadium, you can bet the pubs back home will be jammed. Sofas heaving under the weight of both supporters and expectation. Gareth Southgate has been magnificent in his approach and team selection so far. No goals conceded and England magnificent in turning the screw against Germany during the week. A 2-0 win nothing more than absolutely deserved. 

Will they deliver more of the same? The bookies certainly think so with England generally priced at 2/5 to win this one. For the victors, the chance of a further stab at glory against either Czech Republic or Denmark. Should things fall the right way, that’s one midfield battle I can’t wait to see unfold. Here’s hoping…

From Lionel Road to the Euros…

Nick Bruzon

Download a book for CRY. Get yourself a Premier League Brentford bingo card.

21 Jun

For those of us who support Brentford, the opening Premier League game of the season at home to Arsenal will be seen as the moment a dream came true. To those a bit further afield from TW8 it will likely be seen as a typo. Or, more likely, with TV coverage expected to be rife, an excuse for lazy pundits to crank out even lazier clichés. The Arsenal game has already been selected. With everyone else from Leeds United and Liverpool to Manchester United and City heading our way, expect more to come. And it’s brilliant. If only because of Brentford supporter Matteus Kesät hitting the social media nail firmly on the head recently. Elsewhere, the 2020/21 season review has now gone up on kindle. All funds received for downloads of this this will be going to CRY (Cardiac Risk in the Young) – specifically, Rob Rowan’s memorial fund.

First up though, Brentford Premier League bingo. Immediately after our play-off final win at Wembley, Matteus published a Twitter thread listing his predictions for the commentary gold sure to be uttered over the course of the forthcoming campaign. With it, came the offer for anyone to map this in to bingo card format. And so, with apologies for sloppiness, the finger has finally been pulled out.

Can we get a full house before Christmas? Will this be used for a drinking game? Is anyone taking bets on which one we’ll hear first?   I’m banking on at least four of the fourteen by the time coverage ends on August 13th. Here you go, and enjoy. The link to Matteus’ original thread is at the end of this article.

Tick them off, one by one

Next up, the annual Amazon e-book. It’s put together as a bit of fun, looking back at the season that has gone before. This time, we even have a happy ending.

I don’t want the money (such as it is) and so any funds received are always donated anyway. This time around, they are going to Rob Rowan’s memorial fund. If anybody is kind enough to download a copy, please know that you are helping a most deserving of causes aswell as one that is extremely personal to all connected with Brentford. You can find the link here. Thank you very much to those who have already stumbled across it last night.

Everything else ever released should currently be available on free download until Friday – you can find the full link here (I think). So please, help yourself if you are looking for something to fill the gap between the Euros and the Premier league.

Finally, the full cliché thread. Pretty sure we’ll be close to chalking them all off by the time that Liverpool visit on 25th September. Enjoy. And thank you.

Nick Bruzon

Where did all the noise come from?

20 Jun

Exciting times. Brentford now know we’ll be first up in the Premier League. Our opening game, the visit of Arsenal to Lionel Road, now brought forward for TV and will be played under lights on Friday 13th August. A fixture list already bristling with early season promise – Liverpool, Chelsea and Leicester City all due in TW8 before the clocks change – now sees the third placed Bees with an opportunity to top the pack and send Arsenal bottom of the fledgling table. It’s going to immense. We all loved Griffin Park, no question, but if we learned one thing last season it is that our new home at Lionel Road is a cauldron of noise. Just ask Bournemouth. And that was with 4,200 present. Imagine the noise when full? Imagine walking out of there on the Friday night, sitting at the top of the Premier League… One can dream.

How did we get here? That’s not something posed in any metaphysical sense but more asked to reflect on how we are even able to entertain the lunacy that is us talking about topping the Premier League. Our little bus stop in Hounslow could be sitting above the likes of Liverpool, Champions of Europe Chelsea and the other 17 (seventeen) illustrious names we’ll be playing. I mean, we are already but points in the bag are ten times better than alphabetical order. All we need to do is beat Arsenal. Easy. In theory.

And to answer the question….well, it’s that time of year once more. Season review time. As ever, the collected ‘Last Word’ posts aswell as all the match day programme blog columns (not previously published online) have been collated in e-book form for our 2020/21 retrospective.

A look back at the strangest of Championship seasons. One played out in mostly silence (barring the ‘200’ we smuggled in for the QPR game) from that opening fixture against Birmingham City in September through to the play-off final at Wembley and beyond.   

The latest volume is available now for kindle and other e-book reader devices / apps from the Amazon store. You can get it here. 

Normally the few quid it raises is then given to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust although things are a little different this time around. Should anybody be kind enough to download a copy, any and all monies received from this / previous volumes will be going to Rob Rowan’s memorial fund. 

There can’t be anyone associated with Brentford who isn’t aware of Rob’s work as Technical Director or his tragic passing from an undiagnosed heart condition at the age of just 28. His family have been supporting CRY (Cardiac Risk in the Young) since his passing, a charity whose aims include preventing young sudden cardiac deaths through awareness, screening and research aswell as providing bereavement counselling for affected families. 

Rob’s memorial will fund future screenings to allow young people between ages of 14-35 to be checked for free (something the government doesn’t currently support).

A first screening was held at Syon Park back in 2019 although the pandemic has meant that these have been unable to be held since. The next intent being to hold a full weekend in Fife, Scotland, and another in Brentford (hopefully at the new stadium) allowing over 400 young people to be screened. Dates for those are hoped to be known soon.

It would be fair to say that Rob’s vision played a monumental part in helping us reach the holy grail of top flight football. Without him, who knows where we’d be?  For anybody wanting to know or more about CRY or donate directly, you can do so, here.

Nick Bruzon

Half man. Half Robot. All Burridge.

15 Jun

Another date with the reality of our situation is coming. Fast. As Brentford fans continue to bask in the excitement of our play-off win, Wednesday sees the Premier League fixture list released. The moment we discover when The Bees will entertain and (hopefully) visit the famous names we’ve only seen in sticker books, on Match of the Day, the odd cup tie or perhaps their own ad-hoc visits to the lower leagues. Leeds United, Wolves, Manchester City, Everton, Liverpool. The list is a long one and is laden with anticipation. As was noted in the previous column, there’s not one opponent who doesn’t provide an added element of intrigue.

Yet before we get there, its time for another book back at last season from another of our special guest columnists. This time, the man that has seen it all. The man who has described most of it to us. Brentford’s commentator par-excellence and the king of I-follow, Mark Burridge. We caught up this week for a chat about all things from play-offs and Premier League to commentary and covid. Mark talks through his highlights on the pitch, his players of the season and the ethos coursing through the club – on and off the pitch.  Enjoy…..

As for today’s headline, we WILL get there…..

Mark and team at Wembley

Mark, let’s start at the end. 29th May at Wembley. For those in the stands it was the culmination of a life’s dream. Can you put it into words, both as a fan and a commentator.

How did you keep your cool? Did you? Any tears shed?

It was ultimate professional performance from players and staff, started fast, a brilliant counter attacking second goal and then they just comfortably managed the game. Swansea had only scored 3 goals twice all season, so I was convinced it was our day early in the match. There was no way back for Steve Cooper’s team. Every player was 7/8 out of 10 and when that happens with Brentford the opposition are in for a long day.

Being relaxed early on made it all more enjoyable, the fans clearly felt that way too, so many smiling faces on display at half time. It was a strange feeling at the end, nothing dramatic from me as the result had been clear for some time, particularly after the red card.

I felt intense relief, pride, a sense of justice and simply enjoyed the celebrations around me. The tears, hugs, generations of families together, a truly special moment that you knew had to be enjoyed. Stuart Wakeford came to embrace Marcus Gayle and like many fans, the final whistle was the signal for raw emotion and Stuart had found it overpowering. There was such a genuine warmth.

Marcus and Stu embrace

That very same togetherness was everywhere within our eyesight. Some fans had sunk to their knees, others waving flags, shirts, hats. It was our day, at last. The football gods, had called time on play off & cup final pain for Bees fans, at least for now. The infamous Doncaster penalty, the most cruel and numbing of last minute dramas, well if this now was the pay off we’ll shake hands and call a truce!

Knowing that we were finally going to leave Wembley as winners and had experienced just what reward the play offs could be, was very new to Bees supporters.. Martin Lange was smiling down on us.

We were going to carry on with broadcasting until after the trophy presentation, so it was just a time to treasure. Then I looked at my phone and saw a ridiculous number of Whatsapp messages…

After clicking on the first few, it was a still of my Dad in the stands which I knew might happen if we were victorious, as Sky wanted to feature some of the elder fans who were inside Wembley and had been watching Brentford the last time we were in the top flight (which has now gone viral much to Dad’s bemusement).

That really was an emotional moment and I started to think of our dear friend Greville, of Dan & Jamie Powell, how much this would mean to them after such a difficult time in the respective lives. They are here at Wembley, somewhere, loving this and drinking it in.

It was a beautiful emotion right then that I couldn’t put into words.

I just felt incredible gratitude that this moment could be shared by so many & mean so much to so many fans all around the world. Dry eyes suddenly became a little tearful, I’d never enjoyed a moment so much watching others and trying to describe what was taking place in front of our eyes. 

Being with Marcus Gayle & Ben Burgess and hearing their emotion and their thoughts on what this will do for the Club and community was another reminder of why ex pros have such an affinity Brentford Football Club. Contrasting backgrounds with Ben on loan for just one season (2001/2) but has always kept in touch with BFC, writes such good articles in the match day programme and does a sterling job on commentary when he joins us for games in his native north west.

Marcus is the fan who became a Bees professional footballer, Premiership player, World Cup international and then a role model through his work with Kick it Out. The man who had bought a season ticket and was enjoying the games as a fan again until we bumped into each other in a local food shop in 2016 and we had a conversation about joining us on match day commentary.

As everyone knows Marcus is now our proud Club Ambassador. Having seen him make his debut for Brentford many years ago, then to share this victory with both he and Ben, with my Dad in the stadium as well, it simply does not get any better than this. What a magical end to a long season.

You and the team have provided an absolute lifeline this season, With the gates to Lionel Road locked you’ve kept us going with the usual passionate commentary. To us, that side of things felt ‘normal’ but what was it like commentating in what was effectively an empty room? How do you maintain the enthusiasm?

I’ve heard others say working at stadia was joyless and soulless and can certainly understand why that would be said but everyone working at a match would no doubt have realised they were in a very privileged position. Travelling to and from games alone (EFL guidance) was something different and it was often a case of arrive, set up equipment and leave as soon as possible. It was all very well organised but quite surreal compared a usual match day

The games generally lacked the intensity & energy you would enjoy with crowds, which was to be expected. The players may well be professionals but they are human beings first and foremost, so it was tough for them, particularly with the condensed season. It was very difficult without crowds but we got use to it early on and had experience of this at the end of last season. The fans are the energy of football. They are to players, others fans and certainly commentators too!.

I had encountered some of the top names commentating on radio a few times without background noise and it was a hard listen. At Lionel Rd the gantry vantage point is simply incredible (a MUST see when tours are available) but we were the only ones up there broadcasting unless it was a SKY game, with the press level pitch side there’s so little you would hear in the way background noise, as we were are quite detached. 

One of the SKY commentators said he would find it very difficult without the fake noise they would have piped in their ears during the game. It certainly must have helped somewhat.

Fortunately I was lucky to be around people with a great knowledge of the game, all things Brentford and who were passionate, yet measured.

It wasn’t until the Bournemouth away leg in the play off semi final that it probably dawned on Marcus Gayle & I just how different football felt again. This totally changed again for the play off home leg. The volume was simply remarkable. Off  the scale. With just 4,000! This bodes well for next season!

iFollow raised about £42m for EFL Clubs. Were you aware just how important the service was to fellow fans. Did you feel it was important to stay as positive as you did?

There was hope that fans would be back after a few months, at least in reasonable numbers. So we had a numbers of ex players booked to join us who would be experiencing Lionel Rd for the first time and would be introduced to the fans inside the stadium before the match. Covid saw so many changes throughout the season, mirroring the case levels so it was effectively an ever changing feast. Some ex-players had to be cancelled and dignitary numbers were often being lowered from an already miniscule number.

Contrary to what was said after one game we certainly did not have 200 fans in the ground!!

Considering supporters had missed out on what should have been a packed house for the very last game at Griffin Park and then not had the chance to be at the first game at the new stadium it is fair to say that Bees fans had every right to feel very disappointed and frustrated. Allowing the options to freeze ST’s and offering iFollow free for so many games, along with the GP Tours are all examples of the Club being in tune with supporters. The input from the various fan groups playing a big part in the right decisions being made.

iFollow suddenly had a much larger audience and with it quite a few adverts! We never knew when they were coming on! Plus half time discussions were cut short because of the same. The cost to watch the games appeared to be good value and did allow fans to stay in touch with the season, even if it’s nothing like being at the game. 

Some supporters freely admitted they enjoyed it more as it allowed the opportunity to see all games when they might previously have only attend a handful during a usual season.

Covering both audio & visual commentary at the same time was also something that required tolerance from fans, as it is not perfect plus there appeared to be the occasional technical issue.

Overall though, iFollow worked well during a very testing time for everyone.

These past 16 months have tested the mental health of everyone and football has been so important for us all to feel connected to ‘normality’ so we were very aware that Brentford’s success might have mean more to people than ever before. Match day routines changed for everyone. No drink with your mates before, maybe now it was sit around the laptop, or the whole family around the TV.

We were positive because I know everyone involved on commentary regularly felt this team would get promotion from quite a long way out. When the squad was struggling for rhythm and consistency I don’t feel it is unfair to say so. Following the draw at Wycombe we did say as much.

We knew fans were getting frustrated. It was fast approaching winter, with much fear & uncertainty away from football itself and message platforms were the only outlet to vent an opinion.

At most games supporters will use up emotional energy at the game but last season was so very different and you probably saw the best and worst of social media. We couldn’t cover the ‘Boro away game due to Covid issues and the local BBC team did a great job. Once Brentford took control they were full of praise for our Club. Unfortunately there was criticism on a phone in by several home fans post match who, rightly or wrongly, felt the commentators were too generous to the opposition.

We have always intended, as is very the Brentford way, to be respectful to the opposition but it is a Bees service so you are representing the fans. Often away fans will connect to the opposition service, presumably just to hear what is said about their team. After the Leeds game last season we had their fans writing on Twitter how nice it was to hear opposition commentary say they the best team we had played since Wolves, some extending this as the ‘fairest’ they had heard.

Giving an honest opinion, hopefully a fair one is all you can really do. Some will like it, others not.

We love the game because not everyone sees it the same way.

What was a real tonic throughout the season is getting some lovely messages from fans, something for which we are very grateful.

What do you think was our performance of the season?

There were some key ones for me.

The 3 points at Barnsley came in the middle of monthly wins in South Yorkshire and got our season going. Some robustness was starting to become clear.

We were excellent for a long time at Watford, showed great character to get a point in the end and the Bournemouth league win at home was probably the best of the season at Lionel Rd

The formation change at Preston was much needed at a difficult time, the 5-0 win against a normally solid side was flawless.

The Cherries feature heavily for me in the whole season, the win at The Vitality Stadium at the end of the season was another important 3 points. 

Jonathan Woodgate’s team were on a great run at the time with 7 (errr brackets) straight wins, scoring for fun and clearly believing they had timed it right, to entering the upcoming play offs with an air of invincibility. Brentford winning, with 10 men for nearly 50 mins, dealt a blow to Bournemouth from which they never truly recovered.

In the end there can though only be one game that had absolutely everything.

Football is about excitement and drama, none of which you truly experience without fans. We all wish there were more supporters in The Brentford Community Stadium, on 22nd May but in this wretched season 4,000 was a huge bonus. 

It was the day Lionel Road finally became our new home, rather fitting in a week that saw bulldozers doing their worst at the wonderful Griffin Park.

So much has been written about that play off win but there wasn’t a hint of panic when Bournemouth went 2-0 up in the tie, in rather strange circumstances. Brentford still believed, Thomas Frank believed. Lionel Rd still believed. Our fans believed. Bournemouth did not.

So it proved, as we witnessed a catastrophic decision making meltdown by the opposition whilst under pressure from a rampant Brentford team that refused to give up. After Chris Mepham’s red card there was an air of inevitability about the outcome, yet it remained wonderfully tense at the same time.

Forss strikes late and Lionel Road erupted.

Begovic goes up for a corner in time added on and we notice the M4 Elevated Section is at gridlock both ways. ’Everyone wants a piece of this game’ we said, as it did feel the whole world would have been engaged in this thriller.

The scenes at the end will never fade either.

It was a reminder just why you love football and  simply worship Brentford Football Club.

There can be only one for Mark

Ivan Toney is, understandably, in line for our player of the season. You’ve seen a lot of Brentford teams over the years, is he our best ever? And who else do you think deserves to make up the ‘top three’ at the end of season awards

Without doubt Ivan Toney is the best for me. Not just for his goals. Barry Fry said he was also Peterborough’s best defender and we’ve all seen why. The amount of times we have seen our striker heading away from an opposition set piece. ‘I get back and defend because I want to help the team, I want to win’ he said at Wembley.

That’s what we had witnessed all season. He was a little rusty at the start of the campaign but once up to speed you could see Ivan’s quality.

It was at Sheffield Wednesday in October that he showed us what an incredible touch he possesses, linking up play with the cutest of touches and headers to feet. That’s when I thought there wasn’t much missing from his game. He scores, he’s brave, he has the skills of a midfielder, he defends, he leads. Can play out wide too, just see the quality of his cross for Ghoddos’ goal in the win against Luton!

Ivan was substituted late against Rotherham in the away game, allowing Aaron Pressley to make his debut. Before leaving the pitch he urged all his players to stay focussed for the last few minutes to see out the win, one of the little things you notice at a game that make you realise what a special team player he is too.

One of the greatest leaders in a red & white shirt we have ever seen. Pure winner.

My second choice would be Vitaly Janelt. Half man, half robot. A signing I thought likely to be ‘one for the future’, like many no doubt. Following the injury to Christian Norgaard the timing of his introduction was perfect. A solid debut up at Hillsborough, then impressive in the win at Oakwell, followed up with scoring his first Brentford goal against QPR.

Then he just kept getting better.

At Cardiff he got scythed down twice but just got up and on with it. A man made of steel.

He scores big goals as well – none more than against Bournemouth in the play off second leg.

Editors note: There have been more than a few from Vitaly – although not all commentated on by Mark…. 😉

Third choice has to go to Sergi Canos.

The way he has come back after a tough start to the season and following a bad injury has been remarkable. Nothing but admiration for him and the flexibility to play wing back so effectively was vital in helping gain promotion. 9 goals for the season, including a hat trick at Cardiff, he has been a bright spark for us on & off the pitch.

Love his ‘We want more’ tweets after each win. Still only 24. Hard to believe.

Sergi got 3 out of 3 against Cardiff City

Over the years you’ve been alongside the likes of Greville Waterman, Luis Melville, Geoff Buckingham, and co, what do you think the current team bring to the commentary?

Diversity, knowledge, pragmatism, humility and a big understanding of all things Brentford, both past and present.

They have all been excellent plus Karleigh Osborne & Charlie MacDonald fantastic new additions.

We always say to ex players ‘just come in when you like, at any time, fans want to hear your views more’. Their opinions are vital to make it work on a match day.

Where do you thing Brentford will finish in the Premier League next season?

I’ll go for 15th in our first season in The Premier League. Bees will take some big scalps and also possibly have a few uncomfortable scoreline.

Lionel Rd will be an important advantage when near or at full capacity. The crowd can play a very big part, as always. It will be fascinating to see how new signings blend in, alongside the players we all believe will prove their quality at the top level.

One thing is for sure, Brentford will have no intention of being tourists.

Finally, just how special do you feel last season has been for everyone connected with Brentford Football Club?

It has been a truly remarkable achievement to gain promotion this past season.

The team had the shortest of breaks last summer before the new campaign got underway and had also lost two huge players in Watkins and Benrahma.

There was a somewhat inevitable hangover from last season and the squad were at a new stadium where there was little advantage as fans had never been experienced – it was never going to feel like ‘home’ under these circumstances. After the last game it most certainly will do!

We lost the fewest amount of games (joint with Norwich), were top scorers again, and went of an unbeaten run of 21 games, then ending with another one of 12. Considering the gruelling schedule, this says all about the quality & character of the players and management but also speaks volumes about some of those not in the spotlight, such as Neil Greig, head of medical, plus Chris Domoney (aka ‘Sladey’) who looks after the aching limbs and muscles so well, whilst his effervescent personality can be infectious for all around.

Take in the Carabao Cup run as well, where we reached the semi final (including a quick taster of VAR) then to go on to achieve the ultimate prize is unheard of at this level.

How often do you hear of knockout tournament runs derailing a promotion campaign? Not to Brentford though, who bucked the trend with a relatively small squad.

If you also factor in losing the talismanic Christian Norgaard for a big part of the season, as well as captain Pontus Jansson, then hitting the top of the table only to promptly lose two more big players in Rico Henry and Josh Dasilva, you start to realise a little bit more about the magnitude of this success, to still achieve promotion.

Off the pitch we also have our heroes. Such as Bees fans Jamie Powell & Billy Coleman, whom the Club and fans have supported through extremely difficult times.

This shows the strength and warmth of the Brentford family. We all need each other. Together we are stronger.

The fans groups, Bees United, Bias, the social media message boards. All have played their part in trying to keeping fans engaged. When automatic promotion slipped away there were many reasoned voices stating the case to stay positive, including this column, and it has been very much appreciated by many.

Jim Levack also wrote an informative article towards the end of the season after a timely conversation with a staff member following the Cardiff game.  It was a time for cool heads.

There were also so many confident fans who sparked calmer debate ahead of the season extension.  After all if you’ve supported the Bees for some time the mere thought of play offs make your head spin a little! Yet there were so many believers this time who probably helped others to keep the faith.

Next season will hopefully see crowds back and we can all enjoy football as we have been use to over the years. In The Premier League.

The Club is in good shape. Both on and off the pitch. It is run by people with understanding of others, true empathy, kindness and warmth. You will be treated as a supporter, not a customer.

Brentford is entering a new chapter, the brand is set to grow. Most of us never dreamed we would see our football club play in the top flight. Yet he we are. Awaiting the fixtures this Wednesday.

Bring on the fixtures…The Bees haven’t played Liverpool since the FA Cup in 1989

Act of god, my arse. Why did we turn up on a random school playing field?

7 Jun

Brentford and Bournemouth. For most of us, the connection is one that instantaneously transports us back to the recent Championship play-off semi finals. You know, the one where we came from 2-0 down on aggregate before reaching Wembley and the Premier league. Oh, Asmir Begović…. 😉

What an afternoon that was at Lionel Road

Yet for one supporter, Bernard Quackenbush (pretty sure that’s not his real name but it’s the one he goes by on social media), the connection runs much deeper. It is a story that, in part, those who follow him on Twitter may be familiar with but there is so much more to it. Following on from Kitman Bob and Natalie Sawyer, Bernard  – who is a regular to these pages –  becomes the latest of our special guest authors with his own tale of supporting the Bees in the most unusual of circumstances.

Enjoy……..

Quackenbush! Quackenbush! Brentford are on the playing field’. Those were the words (well the first bit I have changed) on some dreary Friday lunchtime in early January in 1987 at my school in Bournemouth.

I was 14 years old at the time, and I had been living on the south coast for 6 years already. Despite our overwhelming mediocrity, I was always very proud to be a Bee. That lunchtime, I had boy after boy come up to me in the playground, most of whom I had no idea who they were, but each one was telling me that Brentford were on the field. 

How the hell did the whole school seem to know that I was a Brentford supporter? Its not as if I went around with a Brentford shirt on, or even a badge or a scarf, but it seemed the whole school knew. It was then I realised I was a bit of a novelty in the school. It was known that the tall boy in the 5th form with the London accent was known as ‘the Brentford supporter’, and with it seemed to come respect. Being over 6ft, and built well, also seemed to help. The classrooms seemed to be full of Liverpool, Aston Villa & Southampton supporters, but I seemed to be unique in supporting a lesser successful side, although that was to change with the local team’s promotion to Division 2 later that year.

So, off I went down to the field, and there they were, like Greek gods, people I had posters on my wall at home. The likes of Ian Holloway, Paul Maddy and Wayne Turner were there, and whom I wandered past to get to the gods that were Francis Joseph, Robbie Cooke & Andy Sinton. I was astounded and awestruck, and then the question in my head was…. what the hell are they doing at my school? 

To this day, I have no idea, but I assume one of the sports teachers knew someone who knew someone else. But there I was telling anyone within earshot, most people had walked away, how wonderful and amazing these group of players were, despite the overwhelming mediocrity. For the record, the Bees played at Dean Court the day after for a dull 1-1 draw, the most notable incident being Micky Droy getting homophobic chants from the South Stand and then growled back at the crowd who consequently became more subdued.

When I first arrived in Dorset back in 1980, Brentford & Bournemouth were not in the same division, and this stayed the same until I finally got to see the Bees at Dean Court on New Years Day 1983. For some inexplicable reason, my dad did not take me to the away end, but instead opted to go in a stand which looked like a cowshed. We were then surrounded by the idiots from Townsend and West Howe, and therefore I wasn’t even allowed to celebrate a goal, as we lost to the odd goal in 7. 

This game sparked something in me. Whereas all Bees fans always look forward to facing the Putney RiverRats and Shepherds Bush, the game against Bournemouth became just as important to me. The times I have had to walk into a classroom or office to face ridicule and taunts, but then to be able to walk tall and proud into the same places after a Keith Cassells hat-trick or a Marcus Bean masterclass was just the best feeling.

I will add at this point that the vast majority of Bournemouth fans have always been supportive and generous in their praise of the Bees. Even these past couple of weeks, I have had messages from Cherries fans saying ‘what the hell was Begovic on?’ and ‘the best team won, and good luck in the Final’. As Bees fans, we can look to Bournemouth and their success in the Premier League as inspiration for us.

Of course, being so far away from GP, meant it was rare for me to get to games. Through the 80s I probably only went to a maximum of 10 games, and this same frequency continued after our sole Division 1 season, but of course, I would always get to the game at DC (or Dorchester), with additional trips to Exeter, Yeovil and Southampton. I even made it to some rather unusual settings for pre-season friendlies at Havant, Bashley & Hamworthy. You may need to look at the map for those ones.

In the mid 90s, I managed to track down a number of Bees fans living in the area. To my surprise, there were quite a number of us living across the conurbation, and the numbers to this day continue to grow. In recent years, I have seen cars with Brentford stickers parked in my local Asda, and sweet vans with a giant Brentford badge on the back going around the town. I have now worked in adoption for many, many years, and people will always say to me ‘oh I know someone who is adopted/an adopter’.  When people discover I am a Brentford supporter, I get just as many that say to me ‘I know someone who supports Brentford’. It’s happened at school with teachers, at college with lecturers and at work with managers. Everyone seems to know someone who supports Brentford far, far away from the confines of the M25. I’m sure if I ever traversed the great Tsavo reserve in Kenya to finally make it to a lodge with a waterhole whilst covered from head to toe in red dust gasping for some water, the first person I would meet would come up to me and say, ‘I know the real reason why Steve Perryman quit’.

If you ask most Bees fans to list their greatest ever matches. They will say the Play Off final last week, or Peterborough in 92 or Blackburn in the Quarter Final or of course Fulham on Good Friday. For me, i’d also include the win at Bournemouth when Karleigh & Powell had a punch up, or the FRT QF win when Kammy scored 2. There have been disaster games like Bournemouth’s Great Escape in 95. I even travelled on the Bournemouth supporters coach for that one! Or the day Neil Clement allegedly played, or the one where Rio Ferdinand played for the Cherries and it rained so hard they took us all off the terrace for safety reasons, but the greatest moment before the Marcus Forss winner 2 weeks ago was the Christmas game of 1993….. 

It had everything. My all time Bee, Denny Mundee banging in a penalty against his old club and booed, a Lee Harvey goal, two missed Steve Cotterill penalties, soft furnishings raining down on to the pitch from the main stand (that’s how middle class Bournemouth supporters are) and the best moment when Vince Bartram sliced it into his own net to seal noises. He claimed in the local press that it was an ‘act of god’. No Bartram, you were never Maradona, you were just crap. As my friend Ken the postman from Poole so eloquently and accurately put it in a fanzine, ‘Act of god, my arse’.

Denny Mundee – better file photo needed

I could waffle on forever about my life as a Bee away from London and in a county where motorways are yet to be invented, but I know im not the only one. There are Bees fans not only across Dorset, but also in the far flung reaches of these isles. With the advent of social media we are now hearing about Bees everywhere and all over this blue planet too. Those Bees fans are now producing new Bees fans and these fans would have never lived anywhere near the Great West Road, or ever will.

We have kept in touch from afar through the website, social media, or the dulcet tones of Mark Burridge. And thank you Mark, Marcus, and everyone else for keeping us in touch with our great club for so many years, when we have not been able to be there. It does not matter if you live in Brentford or Hounslow or whether you live in South Wales, Leeds, Scotland or even Australia. We are all Bees fans, we are all equally loyal, and wow, we are all about to embark on one hell of a journey over this next year!

Natalie Sawyer: From Moss Rose and Meadow Lane to Anfield and the Emirates

6 Jun

Brentford FC. The club where anything can happen.. and usually does. We are now just over a week into our Premier League status and, being honest, I’m still finding it somewhat hard to believe. Not because of our bus stop in Hounslow status or the sneering from outside TW8 but as much because of everything that has gone before. But it’s true. It’s happening. Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United et al will be amongst the visitors next season. Get used to it.

Part of the reason I love this club so much is the lack of any pretension, anywhere. Hearing Marcus Gayle talk about our spirit and our approach during ‘The Warm Up’ on Friday night was spot on. If you, somehow, haven’t seen it as yet then it is well, well worth a watch. If for no other reason than it is yet another chance to relive that incredible afternoon at Wembley moments.

For me, Brentford is a place where the great and the good can rub shoulders. Complete neutral ground. The close quarters of Griffin Park meant one was as likely to see Sergi Canos in the street as Jumper man. There’s Jack Whitehall in the pub sharing a drink with our chairman. Delia Smith walking down Braemar Road. Err, is that Peter Andre sitting in New Road? Apparently it was. Where if you see the owner, and ask a question, you get as honest an answer as you can. Thank for the kit reveal, Mr B (we’re going back a few season now but…). Where everybody knows everybody’s name and is happy to get involved.

Nowhere more is this seen than with Natalie Sawyer. To those outside of TW8, one of the most recognisable faces on our TV screens during her time at Sky and now holding court on talkSPORT Radio Breakfast. To those at Brentford, she is just another fan. Albeit about as passionate as they come. Likewise, one of Mark Burridge’s longstanding and regular guests during his i-follow commentary alongside Marcus and Mick. Ah, who could forget Sheffield United away? You know, ‘that’ game. Keith Stroud….

Natalie is the face of talkSPORT weekend breakfast

The reason for this long winded intro is that, unlike Cameron Diaz, Natalie is as regular and knowledgable a Brentford fan as any of us. So when she has something to share it is well, well worth a read. And, my word, today we are in for a treat. 

Hot off the heels of Kitman Bob’s exclusive look behind the Brentford curtain, Natalie has very kindly taken the time to share her thoughts. What we had initially hoped may be a few words has, instead, turned into something that is as much ‘cathartic’ as anything else. Not just about the week leading up to Wembley and the game itself, but everything that has gone before.

HUGE thanks to Natalie for taking the time to share just what this means to her..…  

From Moss Rose and Meadow Lane to Anfield and the Emirates

It’s the week after the week of all weeks for Brentford fans but it still doesn’t feel real. “Little ol Brentford” are heading to the Premier League for the very first time. So, in the next year we will face the champions Manchester City, Champions League winners Chelsea and FA Cup holders Leicester to name just 3 sides. I haven’t even computed the historical giants of Liverpool and Manchester United as well! How is this happening??? Do other side’s fans go through this same doubt???

Let’s rewind…I was there for Crewe, I was there for Stoke and also for Yeovil. So, I’ve suffered like many Bees fans. I’ve headed to those finals full of optimism, only for it to be extinguished. I’d like to think ordinarily I am a positive person, most of the time. I try to live the glass half full life but when it comes to Brentford, and the playoffs, I’ve simply learnt to be pessimistic and then hopefully be pleasantly surprised. (I just didn’t think it would take this long!!) 

After every playoff defeat, us fans have all rallied to believe it will happen for us one day, that the next time the footballing gods would be on our side. But, truthfully having been scarred 9 times, as we have, I had partly resigned myself to never winning the playoffs. So this surreal feeling I am having about us being in the Premier League after that Wembley final, I think is pretty fair.  

It’s funny to think the season didn’t start off the best way. 1 win in our first 4 league games had a few fans twitching I’m sure. But not long after we went on that incredible 21 game unbeaten run in the Championship, one time taking us to the top of the league. We were living the dream (little did I know more was to come!). The fun bus didn’t look like it was going to an end, such was the high that we were on. But, in typical Brentford-style we were brought back down to earth with those 3 straight losses, frustratingly with one of those at the hands of QPR (who I’d forgotten were in the league, such was their lowly position! ☺) We dusted ourselves off and went again and although our hopes of automatic promotion fell away, our end to the season was strong and convincing, But, that didn’t mean I didn’t have my fears and nerves and I had that little negative devil sat on my shoulder saying “its Brentford innit” as I feared the approaching playoffs. 

We all know what happened in the first leg against Bournemouth, so I’ll cut to the second. My family were lucky to have got tickets and a few days before the game, I was having sleepless nights. Waking at silly o’clock and having those whirling thoughts of losing. I knew I’d be devastated to lose to Bournemouth in that semi-final as felt we were simply the better team, for all their Premier League experience. But there it was gnawing away at me, our playoff curse and it played on my mind constantly. 

I had to be up early the Saturday morning, so I could be at talkSPORT for 5am. My alarm as usual was set for 330am, but as normal I rarely am woken by it as I always have that fear of sleeping in. This time it wasn’t sleeping in that woke me, constantly, but the impending game with Bournemouth and knowing we were already a goal down in the tie! 

I know I’m very lucky to combine my passion for sport with my job but sometimes it can be wretched. More about that later. After my shift I raced back home as fast as I could and joined my family to make our way to the stadium. It was simply amazing to be among so many fans and feel that excitement in the ground that had been missing for so long. Seeing the players and Thomas do their lap of honour before the game got me ready to be the 12th man as instructed by the team. With Hey Jude being belted out around the ground prior to kick off, it certainly warmed me up for it but the anxiety of a must-win game played on my mind. 

Pre match from Thomas.

There are certain moments in the match, I will confess I didn’t see in real time. Arnaut Danjuma’s goal I didn’t see as I looked away as he broke, and even Ivan Toney’s penalty I missed as I can’t watch any penalty being taken. That doesn’t mean I don’t celebrate like mad once it’s been scored. But my nerves cannot take it, cannot watch it. And just before the ball is struck and you can hear a pin drop, I often squeeze my eyes shut and even have my fingers in my ears, such is the fear that goes through me.

Being sat in the stands with my family, I kept my mask on and it’s the first time ever I felt I could scream and shout at a game whilst feeling anonymous. I’m not normally one to do that at a game, other than every now and then when a chant chorus’ round the ground. But this day felt like no other. I’d been told to make it hostile and I was going to do my bit. 

And so did every other fan in the stadium. The atmosphere was incredible from the 4000 or so fans that were there. And it certainly whetted the appetite for when we can all be back together in what we know now will be a sold-out Community stadium every match day.  

So much of that second leg is a blur now but it was a performance worthy of the win. Agent Mepham did his bit, followed by Janelt’s thunderous shot and Forss’ quick thinking for the third, but of course what does stand out is the ridiculous antics of Asmir Begovic. I’ll never understand how an experienced, seasoned pro could have resorted to such bizarreness. We can laugh at it now because we won but it’s still a head scratching 90 minutes that I wont forget whenever I see or hear his name! 

Begovic – the nicest picture of his antics

When the referee Jarred Gillett blew the whistle, it was some feeling to know we were back at Wembley for a second successive season, hoping to right the wrongs, but guess who was back?? – that devil!!!! Thankfully, I was able to put that pest to one side for the night as we enjoyed a few drinks at One over the Ait, with a number of the commercial department from Brentford, who happened to be there as well. The feeling was one of excitement as attention turned to the following weekends’ final. If I could just tame that devil so I could enjoy the build-up. 

Not. A. Chance. That devil is annoying. I could go hours without thinking about the final, only for, out of nowhere, that nervous feeling you get in your gut would emerge and I would have severe pangs of fear. I didn’t want to comprehend a 10th playoff loss but that’s more often what I thought than thinking we’d win. Scarred, you see. 

Most of my family were pretty calm about it all, the other half (Captain fantastic, Mr D) kept telling me it was in the bag but I didn’t want to hear that. I didn’t want to jinx the game. On paper I thought we were better than Swansea, on paper we deserved to win, not just for the last 8 months but also for our missed opportunity last season. But no game is ever won on paper, nor because you deserve it. And also those footballing gods just didn’t like to answer our prayers. So, I had the fear. A constant fear. 

Remember I said my job is great as it combines my passion but that it can be wretched too. Well, here’s why? When you’re constantly asked to talk about the biggest game in football, the richest game in football, the playoff curse, the what happens to the squad if you don’t go up, you are just constantly on edge. Talking about it positively could jinx us, talking about it negatively could jinx us. I felt like I couldn’t win! But I also couldn’t not talk about it as it was part of my job so the only way I could handle it was to try and be measured for fear I would be the reason for the curse continuing. 

I even feared requesting the Sunday off work because I’d be the jinx, but I justified it by saying I was doing that to cover all eventualities. There was no way I would want to work if we lost knowing we’d be dissecting where it all went wrong, whilst also hearing the celebrations of Swansea and yet if we’d won, I knew I needed to party!!

So, waking up as I did on that Saturday morning, I went to work as normal but I’m not entirely sure I remember what we talked about, so much was my mind on Wembley. But I got through the three hours chatting about some final in Porto whilst also occasionally having to talk about the Championship final. Former Swansea midfielder Leon Britton joined us at one point and he was confident his side could win the game. Believe me that is something I didn’t need to hear. That didn’t help the tension. 

Thankfully at 9am, we were done and there was little time for pleasantries with my colleagues at the end of the show, as once again I had to rush home to get ready for the biggest game in our history in which a select few of us could play our part, under the arch. I remember arriving at Waterloo station and as I was going up on the escalator, I spotted something on one of the steps. A sticker. A Brentford sticker. I took it to be a sign. I’m on the up escalator, the Bees are going up? I was hesitant to post it but decided to share the positivity on Facebook, thinking it might give more and more of us a nice little omen of confidence. I didn’t share the news that on the train back I spotted one magpie!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Going to the game with my dad and my brother, we had to get to the ground early as I was asked to appear on talkSPORT again in their live show from Box Park. En route to it we bumped into a few of my former colleagues from Sky Sports, all who believed it was our year. They clearly had not been given the script. No jinxing please!! Once at Box park, it was amazing to see so many Bees fans already inside, sampling the local beverages and soaking up the atmosphere. There was such a positive vibe that it did momentarily ease my fears. The few drinks that followed afterwards also helped! But, it’s amazing how quickly that can change when the nerves kick in!!! And that’s exactly what happened at kick off. 

Once again, the Brentford fans were brilliant. It felt electric in the stadium as our east stand did what we could to roar the team on. I wasn’t sure I could take 90 minutes with my emotions all over the place but as we know it didn’t take long for us to be jumping up from our seats as Bryan Mbeumo was brought down by Freddie Woodman for a penalty, and Ivan gave us the early lead. Obviously, I didn’t see the penalty, but I roared all the same with everyone else when the ball clearly had gone into the net. Ten minutes later, it all felt like a dream as it was 2-nil. Bryan instrumental in our break as Swansea tried to level, Mads Roerslev making an incredible run to get himself into the mix and Emi Marcondes with the finish that got us all thinking could this be our year? The momentum was very much with us and not long after Ivan’s volley could have sealed it. If only it had gone in. How did it not? It’s those gods again!!! 

It did all feel comfortable it has to be said. But, they always say a 2-0 lead is never safe and knowing we had another half to come, my nerves were still all over the place. I kept jostling my feet, my knees kept shaking and even with Swansea’s Jay Fulton sent off just after the hour mark, I still didn’t feel job done. Because, well, you know why; That devil was there on my shoulder again saying “it’s Brentford innit”. 

Swansea didn’t have a single shot on target in the game, but I wasn’t thinking that whilst it was going on. I was thinking, even in added on time, this is agony. So, when the whistle went, I sprang out of my seat, jumped around in ecstasy. Had we really just won? Had we really just won a playoff? Are we really in the Premier League? That moment of being in Wembley still feels unreal. Turning to my 82-year-old dad, his eyes were wet and red. He is an emotional person any way, but he’s never cried at football. Never. But here he was with his emotions for all to see and the best thing I could do was pull him in for a hug. He couldn’t believe what he’d seen, and he couldn’t believe our club were going to be one of the top 20 teams in England. Not just that but our global reach had just grown epic proportions. Next to join in our huddle was my brother and I am forever grateful that that whole moment was captured on video so that we can relive it over and over again as it’s the most special footballing moment for us. 

I was lucky after the game to be invited to the Brentford celebrations at the stadium. It was wonderful to experience, to see the joy on everyone knowing they had just achieved what for so long felt impossible. A little over 10 years ago Brentford were in League Two facing Barnet, Macclesfield, Aldershot, Notts County, Chester, Darlington, Dagenham & Redbridge – not one of them are in the Football League anymore. 

That could have been us had it not been for Bees United and Matthew Benham. There will never be enough words to say a big thanks to those important game changers for the club. But, going from those days at Moss Rose and Meadow Lane to Anfield and the Emirates is still incomprehensible. We’ve lived in a bubble of hope for so long and although we will fondly refer to us as “a bus stop in Hounslow” and there will be some that think it’s wrong a club like ours should be in the Premier League (Really Terry Christian?!), we are going to have to get used to it as we can no longer say “it’s Brentford innit”, instead it’s “we are Premier League, say we are Premier League.” 

Relive it all once more, in style.

5 Jun

What more can you say? Well let’s start by saying that Brentford are Premier League. And yes, it HAS been said many, many times over the last few days but it just fits so well. Sounds so sweet. Finally, finally finally this stage of our journey is over. Finally we’ve got a notch in the ‘W’ column for a game at Wembley. It’ll be Chelsea rather than Craven Cottage for the West London derby. Brighton rather than Blackpool for our trip to the seaside. Manchester City and Aston Villa as the teams to discuss with two of my closest non-Bees supporting friends. There is nothing but excitement ahead and, as much as anything else, perhaps a summer now able to be spent enjoying the Euros rather than vast tracts of the squad being snapped up by top flight clubs. If you support Brentford, life is good. 

This time last week, the anticipation was building. As was an element of angst. On paper, we all knew that Brentford were the better team than Swansea City. Yet in our hearts, we all knew this was a one-off game at what for us had been the most jinx-laden of venues. Anything could happen in 90 minutes. In a one-off game of football. 

Thankfully, as revealed in Kitman Bob’s exclusive insight to the build up this week, those were not feelings shared by the squad. The togetherness and spirit we had seen all season combining once more to get us over the line during the week and on the day itself. You can read Bob’s diary here and, even if you have already, do it again. Just because these moments deserve to be relived.

Yet if Bob has done his thing, last night was the turn of Stu Wakeford, Marcus Gayle and Karleigh Osborne. The Warm Up was back on our screens for another look at the game, the beautiful, beautiful afters aswell as, of course, their thoughts and hopes for the coming Premier League season. 

They have the goals. The celebrations. Fan footage. The additional key moments of which, for me Clive, ‘that’ Ivan Toney blockbuster gets nearer and nearer to making it 3-0 every time I watch it. Obviously the result is the important thing, and we got it, but just imagine the noise had that dropped a few inches kinder to clear the line. What an absolutely stunning goal that would have been. One to rival Dallas at Fulham. 

There’s even the revelation that Karleigh ‘did a JJ’ (and if you know, you know). Quite possibly the real reason we won the game. There’s a lot of love for Thomas and our own, grounded approach to football. Marcus, in particular, absolutely nailing what it means to be a Brentford fan and what your club is all about. I’ve watched it once. I’ll do it again. Being quite honest, I can’t get enough of last weekend. It has been SUCH a long time coming. Even last night, with Gibraltar 4-0 down at half time in Slovenia (thankful there would be no brackets involved at the end of the game) , we flicked off the red button and there were the highlights on Sky again. Don’t mind if I do. Perhaps this time, the crossbar will give Ivan a slightly kinder bounce .

The Warm Up is on now. You can catch it below. Find out who wants Chelsea next season. Who is getting excited about Old Trafford. What Pep might say when Manchester City come to visit. Most of all, just enjoy the sheer, unadulterated happiness of what we have achieved.

Nick Bruzon

Kitman Bob, he writes what he wants. A week before destiny.

3 Jun

Brentford are in the Premier League. Repeat. Brentford ARE in the Premier League. If the Bournemouth play-off semi-final was immense, Saturday at Wembley against Swansea was next level. I’m still smiling now. Then, when it couldn’t get any better, it did. The chance to share the build up from inside the Bees camp arrived, courtesy of none other than the legend that is Big Bob Oteng. 

Our club Kitman and all-round Bees’ hero has collected his thoughts from the end of that epic encounter with The Cherries right through the build-up to Swansea and the final whistle at Wembley. A sneak-peak behind the curtain of just what went on and just why we won. But written in his own quite wonderful words.

Over to you Bob. A week before destiny. In his words…. and pictures.

Saturday.

It’s 4:55 PM and we’ve just won 3-1 in a game that had everything a football fan could wish for. As long as you’re on the winning side that is!!

The players have done the usual applauding of the fans in every section of the ground and I follow behind after making sure the old footballs were present and correct in certain sections. I’m greeted with the obligatory ‘Big Bob’ song !

As I enter the dressing room there seems to be different vibe and I mean a totally different vibe to a dressing room that has just won a football match. Brian Mbeumo give us a little speech prompted by Thomas who then brings the room to a silence, says one more and then retreats to his office. As I head back to the kitroom it’s the first time in these play offs I allow myself to start thinking of lions on the new shirt !!!

Monday

I arrive at the training ground early Monday morning, 6.40am. Thomas is already there which in itself isn’t unusual but there are a number of other coaches also present. Something big must be happening !! 

During the weekend Wembley emailed requesting how I would like the dressing room to look. I put in my request and they reply “is that all” as I can see  we are in the East as we were last season. Also during the weekend I’ve had countless DM messages from fans requesting to know what colour keep we will be playing in. This continued throughout the week until the reveal on Friday. As the team finishing the season in the highest position, we get choice of kit colours.

What I had done previously on the Saturday evening was to ask all the Brentford players what they wanted to play in. Each one of them just said RED & WHITE. David wanted his favourite amarilla.  It was such an air of confidence when they all said it.  I more than anyone knew about that red/white supposed curse on teams at Wembley. Last season I pushed for blue, now I just felt it could be time for the curse to be  broken and banished to history by the BEES.

Tuesday

Thomas had already told the players that he wants to build up to Saturday to be like an ordinary week. For the last two days nobody had really discussed what happened on Saturday because we were all there, we all witnessed it and there was a quiet air of confidence at Jersey Road.  

On a Tuesday before a Saturday game is when I start to prep the match kit for the weekend but this was no ordinary game. I had to apply NHS badges to each playing shirt,  to show gratitude for such a wonderful service that has served us all through such difficult times and not just during the last 18 months. Also new sleeve patches showing PLAY-OFFS.

As I prepped all the outfield players kits I started asking myself which one will get us to the promised land? Even a last-minute David Raya header would be welcome. They all will, as that’s what good teams do. The nerves are now building !!!

Wednesday

WELL EARNED DAY OFF FOR THE  PLAYERS !! However, I had to be in as new tracksuits and polo shirts are being delivered for the big day,  ( no white suits )…

Thursday

Today was quite relaxed for me. I’d prepped all the kit Tuesday / Wednesday and now I was waiting for the final squad to be confirmed or any additions from Saturday. 

I walked over to pitch 2 with a hint of curiosity and I have to say the boys looked absolutely on fire. Not sure whoever we are facing are going to be able to contain them for 90min.  Bernardo was walking the boys through some new set pieces For me Saturday couldn’t come soon enough.

Brian Riemer confirmed the squad was as per Saturday. As we chatted in his office, he asked me what I think will happen, (déjà vu took me back to the same question last August. I said then we will win, but when I say it now I truly believed it. All based on the previous Saturday).  I did my final checks and left Jersey Road with such a nervous feeling inside of me. Two more sleeps !!

Friday

Friday was a late report. 2pm for 3pm start.  Thomas had gone round to every member of Jersey Road staff requesting that they be on the training pitch for 3:45pm precisely. At 3:40 all the staff slowly ambled from the pavilion across to  pitch 2. Training was still going on ( patterns of play) – looked very nice these patterns !! 

Training over ran. Brian, Thomas and Kev drilling down certain instructions to the squad.  Once it finished, Thomas called over all the staff to join him with the players. We all formed a massive circle – it was actually the circumference of the centre circle. Thomas stood in between Pontus and Christian and delivered a speech that would have got me ready to play tomorrow. Two VIP coaches arrive at 4pm, we have a light snack and everything is loaded and we depart for the Hotel (dinner 7pm).

I keep my routine the same. Ring home and speak to the family. My little man is excited,  he actually predicts that Vitaly would score, (his favourite player). Myself Manu and Bernardo have usual Friday away night Spanish ritual (sobre la mesa). To discuss the next day and life over the table. We started it Friday night before Preston away.

SATURDAY THE DAY !!

Especially on away games I like to get up by 7am and go for a walk before breakfast. On my walk I passed a bar called The Hive. I also have lots of thoughts  about my friend Rob Rowan, I’m not really one for superstition but 95% of me thinks today is going to be our day !! 

The usual bus ride to the stadium is replaced by myself Peter G, Sladey, Joe N, Lorna walking the 500 yards to the entrance to the stadium. We pass the Hive then, as if my magic, we are met by big Shaun. Big Shaun is the main security tunnel steward at Lionel road, now I’m convinced todays the day.

We arrive at the stadium 10:45am We walk round which seems to be underground beneath 90,000 seats. So many people in suits all directing us in the right direction. If it’s your first time at Wembley you can be in awe. There were so many white sky OB trucks, it looked like a flock of flamingos at a watering hole.

The dressing room looks magnificent. It feels different to the last year. I set the players up in a totally different formation. Pontus likes to sit in the corner of any dressing room but this is going to be hard to achieve as it’s shaped like a horseshoe. 

There are two dressing rooms with a smaller one for the staff. I take 10 minutes to have a look around and have a look outside. I begin my favourite part of my working day (apart from a win at the end) ! By 12:30pm I’m happy and everything is done. 12:45 Mike the Swansea kit man pops in to have a catch up. We both have a laugh about not going to each other’s respective stadiums next season.

The players arrive at 1:15pm.  I sit in the corner of the staff dressing room playing word search on my phone,  Reidy wants a change of socks, then it back to word search. I’ve done 5 levels on my word search game and then it’s time for the warm up. The dressing room looks the same as it does on every away game. Sliders everywhere. Emiliano’s sliders always in the centre of the room. I’m sure it’s a thing with him. 

The nerves are kicking in now and I try and find work to kill the time. The boys come in, do their rituals pads on shirts on then it’s huddle time.  Christian delivers an emotional speech and again I wish I was going out to play.

The first 45 minutes for me are the best in 25 years. I can remember it all which is very rare for me. At half time the boys are really calm. Thomas is calm. All the messages are delivered in a calm way and I know that today is our day. I’m so confident I didn’t emerge for the second half until the 92nd or 93rd minute. Those last two minutes went really quickly but at the final whistle I went over to Mike and wished him commiserations. I run onto the pitch to join the huddle and just started jumping around. I don’t remember much after, hence I’ve watched the game back in full twice and the celebrations countless at times on social media. Also all the pictures will be sent at some point.

This day and this season I will never forget both personally and professionally. It has sunk in for me because I always knew the at one point during my time with  Brentford we  would reach the promised land, and I am so grateful and privileged that I was a small cog in the wheel of this wonderful bus stop in Hounslow about to join the premier league express !!

Bob Oteng

Forget Christian preachers. Harry and Woody tell it like it is.

1 Jun

There was a lot of gumph spouted on Twitter yesterday about Brentford. Primarily from Manchester United supporting Terry Christian. We won’t give that any further credence (beyond the fact that the entire TW8 family have no doubt copy/pasted his comments for future use). If ever you wanted to know why Brentford beating Swansea City to reach the Premier League is an amazing thing for both us and football, then I’m hopeful today’s piece may help. Or should I say, pieces? First up, our Harry with his own match report – including some home truths that, perhaps, I’m not sure we should be sharing – and then the real jewel in the Wembley crown, an account of Woody’s day. 

Fur Coat by Harry Bruzon (aged 7 (seven) )

This is about “Bentley” my cat (definitely not the goalie) having “Brentford promoted to PREMIER LEAGUE THROUGH PLAY-OFFS” on his coat…

One dark, gloomy night inside the head of Harry I dreamt it was raining. Bentley the cat was walking to a barbers and got Brentford promoted to PREMIER LEAGUE THROUGH PLAY-OFFS 2021 cut into his fur coat.  Then, he left the shop and padded down to the Griffin Pub. He had a play there with the 2 pub cats, then he tried to order a beer (weird). He ran back home. A split second before Harry woke up, Bentley was in the house.

I was awake, got up and went downstairs. Daddy was writing a blog upstairs so I got him down and fed Bentley (our real cat). We excitedly got ready for the day ahead and set off for Wembley via the Griffin Pub! After a few pre match morning pints – including my lemonade – we got our cab ordered and off we went.

It felt like a greenhouse in the cab, the driver took us a very weird route and it felt like forever. When we got out, I felt sick (but I was fine) I literally couldn’t wait !!  We met at our friend’s flat for drinks and snacks ; then set off for Wembley Stadium for my first ever visit)!!!!!!!!

Walking to Wembley, I felt so excited; the streets were packed.  I really wanted to get there. We turned a corner and WOW, Wembley Way, jam packed and brilliant. The noise was ear piercing and buzzing, just like us Bees.

My Dad took us up the stairs, but there was no need – our entrance was underneath the stairs.  Before the game, my Mum said she needed some exercise; well she got her wish as we had to do a full lap of the stadium trying to find our entrance.  She has a bad sense of direction…..

Finally, we made it to our seats, 5 minutes before kick off.  Then it started. For the first 5 minutes it was a bit cagey with the players getting used to the flow of the game.  Then on 9 minutes Sergi played a perfectly weighted ball, it looked like it was for Toney, but Ivan stopped in his run and Mbeumo ran across.

Freddie Woodman (the Swansea goalkeeper) ran out to collect the ball, but because it was so perfectly set for Mbeumo instead Woodman collected Mbeumo’s ankles rather than the ball.  Bryan won Brentford a PENALTY KICK!! Yesssss! The ref pointed to the spot. 

10 minutes on the clock…. I was actually pretty nervous because my dad had been saying all season that eventually he has to miss one. I was hoping it wasn’t the most important one of the season even though I thought he would score.

Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait – TONEY scores!!!!!  1-0 to BRENTFORD. The Brentford half of the stadium exploded; I was leaping around and cheering my heart out.  Brentford had scored first in their first play off final I had ever seen.  This was looking good.  The Swanseas fans did not look impressed.

14 minutes on the clock……… Naughton, Swansea player, forgets about the ball and rugby tackles Sergi Canos, it looks like Sergi does a cartwheel. Must have been fun (not) riding around on the floor. Free kick given to Brentford but it wasn’t used very well.

20 minutes on the clock….

Swansea City have a corner, Ayew heads the ball to the ground, he dives for good measure, no penalty given for Swansea – but a nice try Ayew.

Mbeumo came sprinting up field as Swansea are caught out on a 2 v 2 attack by Brentford.  Another Swansea player arrives but that does not matter, Roerslev comes up the outside of Mbeumo, who passes to him……

Wait, wait, wait. Emiliano comes running into the box from the other end of the pitch. Roerslev plays it perfectly into his path and Emiliano only goes and blasts it into the back of the Swansea goal… 2-0 to Brentford. Again the stadium exploded in the Brentford half!!

I couldn’t believe it. I was beginning to think my Dad saying Brentford always lost playoff finals was a bit of a joke.

This was so amazing as Brentford were totally dominating the half. When the half time whistle blew I couldn’t sit in my seat.  It was probably the best half time ever for me (plus I needed a wee). Time to check out Wembley’s facilities (not quite as nice as our Lionel Road)

Second half. (Reminder its 2-0 to Brentford). It felt like Swansea had 90% compared to our 10% in the first 20 minutes of the second half and it actually got a bit pressured at times. Is this what my dad calls “Squeaky bum time”? When Swansea got a corner, Brentford tried to clear it and Swansea player Jay Fulton went for a two feet forward tackle from behind Jenson with the clear intention to wipe him out – DIRTY !!!!! The ref was all over it though and hahahaha, the red card came out.  Fulton was off . The crowd exploded again.

At the full time whistle, the Brentford crowd waited about 3 seconds before exploding louder than any point during the match. Nobody could believe we had actually done it.

BRENTFORD HAD WON THE PLAYOFF FINAL

BRENTFORD WERE THROUGH TO THE PREMIER LEAGUE!!!

That thing about my Dad, always saying that Brentford never win at the play off finals was rubbish. I watched them play for the first time and they won. Not sure what he was on about…..

When I got home we gave Bentley a big cuddle and asked if he wanted to go to the barbers tomorrow.

HARRY BRUZON

And now we hand the baton to Natalie, Woody’s mum…..

Oorullie – that is Wembley to the rest of us

W like Woody it starts with a W….. With not much warning we had a ticket, another blessing, this mysterious place oorullie with a wuh was on Woodys mind from wake til sleep.  

The journey was interesting… we made some new friends wishing us well, many people in Waterloo found out Woody’s name as I desperately tried to navigate my way weighed down with ‘stuff’ I was worried would be snatched from me at the entrance.  My least favourite moment was Woody not getting on the escalator, in my mum wisdom I thought being in front of him was wise in case he fell. 

WRONG, I ended up sprinting the wrong way up the escalator as he stood at the stop staring at me.  Anyway, after a Macdonalds and more engaging with strangers we arrive at the magical Wembley.  Woody stole two bread rolls from a bakery and chatted to a man preaching in the street but after spending a lot of money on red items from the stall we were on our way.   

As we walked towards the arch, (not the golden ones), the sensory onslaught began, the wall of noise was like coming home to Woody.  It was another new place but seeing the ‘Bees’ around him was a magical reunion.  Those that recognised him chanting his name as we climbed the steps was nothing short of therapy and he definitely grew at least a centimetre.  

I am pretty sure Woody was holding his breath like the rest of us after the second goal just waiting for the whistle.  The importance of the game was not lost on him and in between stuffing his hula hoops his version of ‘ you’re shit aaah’ was definitely showing improvement.  What was definitely missing was Dennis, who always sat behind us at Griffin Park and had more impact on Woody’s development than any speech and language therapist.  Despite the huge space around us the excitement was touchable and he started his stealth like movements to the front as the minutes ticked by.

After the final whistle it all a got a little out of hand …..  Like the other lucky Bees the emotion was running high and it was expressed in many different beautiful ways.  Woody doesn’t really do things by halves so when we were asked to leave by one of the stewards things didn’t go well…. 

Imagine a Millwall fan on a really bad day….  I was floundering under pressure, I was the only person in the stadium that was not on the pay roll with a small very very angry person demanding to see TOM in a very loud voice.  

As Mum I knew exactly what he wanted but the lovely lovely staff of Wembley were completely perplexed by the frankly (excuse the pun) monstrous behavior.  In a nutshell he wanted to talk to Thomas Frank and in Woody’s world he could not understand why this was unreasonable.  Wearing Charlie Goodes medal and holding the cup handed by Emi were simply not enough he still wanted TOOOOOOOOOM.  

I was all out of ideas and beginning to think we were going to be banned for life from Wembley when someone in a suit arrived and told Woody if you join the press queue you can talk to Thomas, thank god. After always being the last person to leave Griffin Park even on the coldest darkest days, sitting in Wembley for a good 90 minutes after final whistle in the sunshine was an absolute privilege.  

If you don’t know what kindness looks like see the picture attached.  Woody can’t talk but Thomas didn’t care, he asked the right questions and Woody nodded.  Thomas gave him the greatest gift you can give anyone, his time, a few precious minutes in a day where everyone wanted this mans time.  

Holding his hand and looking him in the eye while the UK press waited for him.  I don’t know about football, I am just a mum, but I know about love, passion and kindness.  Thank you for letting us be part of this amazing family, we cannot wait for next season but honestly if we were playing Accrington Stanley it would be just as magical for us.  

Natalie – Woody’s mum