Tag Archives: Championship

A Twitter spat, illustrious opponents and swaps. Just another day in the top flight.

15 Oct

Magnificent. We’ve woken up to another ‘Teams like Brentford’ meltdown and the somewhat unusual phrase of Brentford 4th trending on Twitter. The reason being that, apparently, that’s where a supercomputer has predicted we’ll finish the season. Saturday’s opponents Chelsea are, apparently, going to be champions with Liverpool and Manchester City joining us at Europe’s top table next campaign. What quite makes a computer ‘super’ over a regular one I have no idea but its all good fun. Primarily the reactions from supporters of other clubs. 

Cripes, I’m as confident as the next fan but even I’ve only settled for the Europa League next season. Whatever the ZX Spectrum (or whatever machine was used for this in no way clickbait calculation) has come up with, this sort of story is ten a penny every year. In every division. They’re never right but they get us talking. So why not? Anything that winds up Leeds United supporters is all the better in my book. Moreso, given it has them way down in 16th. Hey. Perhaps there is something in it.

Leeds defend another attack

It’s all a nice distraction ahead of tomorrow’s big game. We spoke a bit about the West London derby yesterday. Brentford host Chelsea in a 5.30pm kick off which is sure to be blighted by travel chaos. South West rail is out of action with no trains stopping at Brentford, Kew Bridge or Chiswick. Likewise, Gunnnesbury tube will be out of action before and after kick off.

Instead, those three awful words (not : Mrs Browns Boys) have surfaced: Rail Replacement Bus. May whichever deity you believe in have mercy on your mortal souls.

With Corona Virus checks now in place after the soft launch for the Liverpool game, never has it been more widely advised to aim for an early arrival at Lionel Road. On the plus side, there’ll be cheap beer and food, the dulcet tones of Stu Soccer AM doing his thing with Peter Gilham whilst for anyone collecting Adrenalyn XL (the Panini cards rather than an energy drink), our Harry has a huge favour to ask. 

Has anyone in the North Stand anyone got any swaps? Assuming we can access it, he’ll be there by the Junior Bees bit at around 4.45 prior to kick off and then out the back of the vomitaries at half-time. Will tweet a location. For reasons unknown, although perhaps the £1 a packet cost has something to do with it, these aren’t hugely popular at his school. And whilst we have a surfeit of Bryan, amongst others, Sergi and Ivan are currently missing. Collecting has reached the stage where new packets are littered with more doubles than the darts and so if anyone can help then it would be hugely appreciated. 

Some of the many, many swaps that have caused the hole in my overdraft facility

As for the game, well its live on Sky for anyone that can’t make it. Lionel Road is again sold out with another racous atmosphere expected. It was tasty as when Liverpool came to town. Of course inside the stadium where we had the loudest away fans outside of Oldham in the cup but also outside. Prior to kick off Kew and Brentford were buzzing. There were even not one, not two but at least four half-and-half scarf sellers for us all to ignore. Truly, those fetid rags are the last refuge of the footballing damned. The crass hipsterfication of our beautiful game showing a real ugly side. If you really want a souvenir, buy a shirt or a programme. Then go get a beer with the change. 

Why? And don’t look at the socks

And talking of shirts, the alleged Jamie Bates matchworn has resurfaced on ebay. Good luck anybody bidding on that. The last month has already seen this one sold more times than Steve Claridge. Much as yours truly is always on the look out for anything old (and if anyone does have any they’d like to sell then I’ll always pay a very fair price) getting involved in this is a step too far.  

Somebody may want it..

Finally, just a HUGE thank you. For those slightly more regular visitors to these pages, the summer months had their usual flood of season review e-book activity. The story of our reaching the Premier League (primarily a load of these aswell as all the content produced for the programme) has been bundled up for Kindle / other and available for download. All money received from Amazon is then being donated to Rob Rowan’s CRY fund. Well, it has finally started trickling in (after Jeff has taken his cut) and is now being passed on each month. So a massive thank you for anyone who has downloaded. If you still wanted to then the link is here. Spoiler alert: for once, this one has a happy Wembley ending. Alternatively, anybody wanting to go direct to Rob’s page, you can find that one here.

Ok. That’s us done for today. Check out the BBC, Twitter, Beesotted and all the other usual sources for the actual quality content. For me, its all about family time and football this weekend. I can’t wait. Bring it on and see you there. Ideally, with cards…..

From Tinky Winky to top of the Prem. What a journey.

14 Aug

Get the heck in and when you are done, get in some more. That was just magnificent. Immense. Amazing. There aren’t enough superlatives to describe how incredible it felt as Brentford beat Arsenal 2-0 on Friday night. As Sergi Canos scored our first goal at this level. As Brentford went top of the Premier League. Top. Of. The. Premier. League. Don’t @ me. The table doesn’t lie.  The Bees flying high at the top. The Gunners rooted to the bottom. Champions Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea and the rest of the chasing pack now left having to play catch up. This self-proclaimed bus stop in Hounslow now having half an eye on their crown already. Whether we can retain these lofty heights remains to be seen but that’s a conversation for another day. For now, we’re waking up with sore heads and even sorer throats. The noise in the Community Stadium so loud as to be positively deafening. The smiles on the  faces before, during and after nothing but beaming. Enough about Thomas Frank though.

Thomas. No words needed.

We got to the ground almost an hour before kick off. As much to do with wanting to be part of the build up as, being honest, not quite trusting the new fangled ticketing system to work. Oh me of little faith. It was seamless although a good thing we did arrive early. The crowds outside were huge ; the atmosphere building. Lionel Road everything it had promised to be in pre-season and now, finally full for the first time, it was just the most fantastic arena. Peter Gilham giving it his all on the microphone. Stu Wakeford his partner in p.a. crime barely able to contain the excitement. So this is what it’s like with a sound system you can actually hear? Except, of course, we couldn’t. The noise was through the roof. If it had felt loud for Bournemouth this was off the scale. Reports coming in from back home suggesting that the interviews couldn’t be heard above the crowd. Sergi Canos unable to hear the questions by the moment full time came around.

As for the game? Wow. Just wow. Much like our last competitive match, the play-off final, the opening exchanges were cautious. Brentford taking a few minutes to find feet. To absorb what little attacking intent could be mustered. Yet Arsenal, missing Aubameyang and (as Prince almost once sang) the prolific Lacazette, had little to offer up front. Both reported as ‘sick’. Presumably like the dog that had just eaten the homework

Slick passing and breakaway speed are all well and good but if you can’t do anything with it then what’s the point? Toothless. Impotent. A spent force. But enough about Piers Morgan, whose griping from Twitter was a quite beautiful sideshow. It wasn’t until the 85th minute that I recall David Raya having anything meaningful to do. A quite magnificent save from the Gunners’ one danger source, Emile Smith Rowe, which he had no real right to get even half-way close to. Yet when called upon, there he was. Up until then the most he’d had to do was make himself a delicious Löfbergs coffee. Mmmm, Löfbergs. Apparently. 

With Brentford settling into the game, the chances started to come. Bryan Mbeumo having the best of the early opportunities with a run and shot on the angle that was only kept out by the woodwork. With threat building, it was the unofficial king in our house, Sergi Canos, who opened proceedings. Oh, Sergi Canos. You absolute beauty. Little over twenty minutes on the clock and the roof came off the Community Stadium. Bernard Lemon in goal for Arsenal close but no cigar as our beautiful number 7(seven) slammed one past him to send the place nuts.

No? No? Yessssssss!!!!! Not even a hint of VAR referral. Straight in and straight back for kick off. I’m still grinning like a lunatic now thinking about that moment. Top of the blinkin’ league. A goal up in our first Premier League fixture. Playing Arsenal off the park. Stroking it about like pros. Just having a blast. Mbeumo back to his best. Ethan Pinnock colossal when needed. Vitaly Janelt pulling the strings.

My good friend (with apologies for going all Ian Moose) Annette summing it all up quite beautifully on Twitter:

I remember when Sergi Canos posted a r.i.p tribute to the Tinky Winky teletubby when the actor died, and now here he is scoring our first Premier League goal. What a journey.

The Bees’ threat continued to build but failed to turn into a second goal. The doubts, perhaps, starting to build that we might come undone. It’s Brentford innit? Except it isn’t. Not any more. Wembley should have taught us that and what a feeling when Christian Nørgaard popped up to do his thing on 73. Powering through a crowded defence to head home a trademark long throw from the newly abbreviated Mads Bech.  If the place had gone berzerk for Sergi’s opener, this was next level.

Not only another goal but now with the safety buffer of going two clear and little more than a quarter hour left on the clock. F me. The ears are still ringing even now. Lionel Road erupted.  £50m Ben White left floundering as the Danish midfielder doubled the lead.  Surely not even Brentford could blow it from here? Surely…?

Not these days….

It was never in doubt. The one real scare coming with the aforementioned save from Raya. Had it gone in then who knows what would have happened to our nerves. But it didn’t. The ‘keeper showing just why Arsenal had coveted him so openly last season. Their loss, on and off the pitch, very much our gain. The five minutes of time added on passing in a blur and then.. the moment !!!

Full time. One final orgasmic eruption of noise to greet Michael Oliver calling an end to proceedings. Arms held aloft, voices raised and flags waved. Hey Jude sung led and proud. A moment we’d dreamed of now turning into reality. Those Arsenal fans who hadn’t already slunk off, left to trudge out in brutal despair. Their side propping up the rest of the league. Brentford sitting at the top of the pile.  

With full time came a lap of appreciation, as we’d become so used to at Griffin Park. Thomas Frank and the players enjoying the moment with the fans. Woody, in particular, coming in for the mother of all celebrations from our head coach. My word, that grin, You could see what it all meant to Thomas. To both of them. To all of us. 

And to the players aswell. Christian leading the charge to the supporters, one amazing boy in particular, with the rest following.

I want to be humble right now. To stay grounded. Let the Arsenal fans pick over their own performance. Brentford were just incredible last night. Nobody can deny that. The Premier League shaken up. For sure we’ll take beating at some point but you can only play who you are up against and what a way to do it.

For now, we are up and running. For now , we are top of the Premier League. Whether that is still the case at the end of the weekend remains to be seen. Manchester City aren’t going to just hand over their title and their top dog status. Quite frankly, I don’t care. This is all about the moment and they don’t come much better. 

Now bring on Crystal Palace. See you there! 

Nick Bruzon

Now that, Alanis, is ironic.

9 Aug

A strange, strange feeling. Football began at the weekend yet there was no involvement for Brentford. At least, officially. Whilst Fulham and QPR both earned 1-1 draws in the Championship, the Bees were missing. That’s because we’re in the Premier League this season. I’m not sure if it has been mentioned yet but, quite frankly, it cannot be repeated enough. At least in our house. We don’t start competitive action until Friday evening when Arsenal visit Lionel Road. (Home games with Brighton, Liverpool and Chelsea follow). Finally, the dream has come true. We’re there. The top flight. The West London derby one which will take place against the Champions of Europe, Chelsea, rather than at the other end of the 237 bus route. The whole thing is nuts and I can’t wait.

It’s normally at this point in the season that Brentford have lost that opening game of the campaign – strong starts were never our speciality. We’d be getting ready to berate Gary Lineker on the forthcoming Saturday night when he tells Match Of The Day viewers that “Football is back.” No Gary, it was back last weekend when the EFL kicked off. Now, we’re the ones who are going to be on the BBC’s flagship football programme. For the first time since, well ever. A few fleeting FA Cup performances aside. All being well, shown at the business end of the schedule rather than slipping down the pecking order to the final few games. Hey, I’m a lightweight and have usually fallen fast asleep on the couch by the time Arsenal and the other clubs outside the top six are being shown.

The Bees on Match of the Day in 1989 – ‘That’ FA Cup quarter final at Liverpool

Instead, we’re waiting to kick off the campaign and already having games moved with abandon. Aswell as Arsenal (h), Wolves (a) and Liverpool (h) those with Leicester City (h) and West Ham (a) both being put back a day as a result of our opponents’ European adventures. Traversing the length of the Jubilee line on a Sunday to watch football from 100 yards behind the goal. Sounds fun.

Likewise, the home game with Chelsea due on October 16th remains a Saturday but now has a 5.30pm kick off to accommodate TV coverage. Saturday 3pm very much becoming an aspiration rather than a lifestyle choice. Something we always expected but what an intense way for it to kick in. 

Hey, at least the trips to Crystal Palace and Aston Villa kick off when we’d expect. Assuming we are able to buy tickets. Come on already. The game at Selhurst Park is on Saturday week and no sighting (as it stands). Not that I particularly want to have to use the overdraft facility but if it needs to be further decimated then what finer way than a trip to South East London?

Safe to say we’re excited. The game against Valencia saw our family able to sit together for the first time since Brentford were playing at Griffin Park. Sheffield Wednesday, in March 2020. It’s now August 2021. Cripes, that’s been tough. For all of us and for so many reasons. Each different. Each as hard as the other. Harry loved it. Even Mrs. B was impressed with our new seats. That’s no reflection on her or Lionel Road but, more, the relief. Yours Truly having been assigned the role of donning the virtual reality headseat back in January 2020 to choose seats on behalf of our group.

The fate of 7(seven) supporters resting in the hands of my dodgy eyesight and the reliability of the Brentford FC super computer. Thankfully, both worked to perfection. It’s been a long wait for that seal of approval to be delivered. If for no other reason knowing who will be sitting along side us. Knowing who will be replacing Alex, Courier Man and Missa Partridge in our immediate vicinity. So far, so good on that front. Hello Mary, John et al.

Computer simulation v actual reality

Talking of Alex (Austin), regular readers to this column will be well familiar with the enjoyment that came from his dishing out advice to the referee and his assistants. Those timely reminders of the actual rules of football. Those helpful explanations as to how a flag should be raised. Advice which, whilst hilarious to those of us sitting in the proximity of the touchline, was probably the last thing they wanted to hear. The sigh of relief from FA headquarters almost tangible as finally the move to Lionel Road and everybody being assigned new seats meant that gauntlet was one that no longer needed to be run.

The referee and his assistant often chose to ignore all reminders of the rules

Except…. Post of the week came up on Facebook during the Valencia game. Alex and his family are still on the touchline. Yet, if anything, in an even better position to dish out the helpful advice. Not only to the lino but, now, the fourth official. In his own words, “Referee review screen. I guess they asked for this to be in-front of me given my years of helpful advice to the linesman on the Braemar Road.” 

Sure enough, the accompanying picture is one that already tells its own story. Now that, Alanis, is ironic.

I do wonder if this showed up on the magic helmet or whether the footballing gods have simply delivered the most unexpected of helping hands? Either way, a year and a half on lockdown means we all need to sharpen our skills if the VAR performance on Saturday was anything to go by. No pressure, Alex. Keep it loud against Arsenal.

View from the seat…

Nick Bruzon

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.”