Tag Archives: Covid

Time to say, “Enough is enough.”

13 Jan

Get well soon, everyone. Is it time to call a halt to football for a while? Brentford were the latest in a growing list of clubs to see games cancelled yesterday due to the ongoing Corona Virus outbreak. Cripes, words that have actually surpassed ‘Rail replacement Bus’ , ‘Mrs Browns Boys and ‘England Supporters Band’ as the three most soul-destroying in the English language. Following Monday’s latest testing, the Bees have reported further positive results to the EFL and, as such, been asked to close our Training Ground aswell as carry out additional tests. The immediate consequence of this being our own confirmation that we are now unable to complete the games with Bristol City (tonight) and at Reading on Saturday. As is the way,  these games will now have to be rearranged. Somewhere. Likewise the trip to Swansea City on 23rd January, although that’s as much due to both clubs involvement in the FA Cup – us with Leicester City and the Swans against Nottingham Forest.

This is getting ridiculous now. At the very least an extension to the season is needed. Realistically, we need to call a halt for a few weeks. This is no longer isolated and ad-hoc. Where does health and safety take a priority? Not just of players but all those still involved behind the scenes on a match day. With the rest of the country being forced into stricter and stricter controls for our own benefit, why are the clubs still being put into a situation which seems to be spiralling out of control at present?

Sick (ill) Bees – and we aren’t alone

I love football. I’m desperate for it to go ahead. To have some feeling of normality and light at the end of the tunnel. But this is no longer normal. This is no longer isolated amongst a small element of the football community. Bristol City have already pulled their game with us due to players feeling unwell. Like other clubs, we’ve actually pulled them now due to genuine cases. No irony lost there and I don’t retrospectively change my opinions or what was said at the time on the circumstances surrounding what happened at Ashton Gate. At least they are healthy. However, its not the time for point scoring or ploughing on with an ever growing fixture list. Some clubs left trailing with even more games to somehow cram in to an ever decreasing list of dates.

If we’re talking irony, look at how this happened over November and December. Game followed game followed game. Now we’re left in a situation in January where we kick our heels as the club hope players, staff (and head coach Thomas Frank) recover as quickly and as healthily as possible. If nothing else, let’s not pretend Bryan Mbeumo hit the ground running upon his return from a positive test last season. We all have eyes and we  all saw how his own from dropped away. 

As it stands, the only other games this month will be Luton on January 20th, Leicester City in the cup and then home to Wycombe on January 30th. Assuming, of course, the authorities don’t call a temporary halt to proceedings.

The rising infection rate requires action. Now”. Not my words, but those of the government propaganda advert playing out across the radio on an hourly basis. It’s come on just now (6am). Sitting here doing my day job from the kitchen table, it’ll no doubt be washed down another half-dozen times over the course of the day. At least. The news is telling us it’s likely we’re not even going to be allowed to exercise in public with one other person for much longer – the current extent to our freedoms – yet football carries on regardless. Why is nobody thinking of their health and well being? Marcus Rashford is effectively doubling up as the leader of the opposition, yet football carries on regardless.

Perhaps I need to turn the radio off. It’s not been a good start to the day. It’s only going to get worse when I have to find three hours from nowhere to do home schooling. Sorry to whinge. First world problems – at least I have a job and some food on the table. I’m fully aware others have different challenges oaf their own. As much as anything else how to occupy spare time. That’s not to pretend things are easy for anyone at the moment.

Yet mentioned because as much as anything else, it is the strange normality of crowd free football that helps us keep us going. Gives something to look forward to at the weekend or the end of the day. I’d love more of it, being quite selfish. But, perhaps, now somebody has to have the balls to stand up and say ‘enough is enough’. Even if its just for a couple of weeks.  

Get back to me on that one. 

Perhaps time to turn the radio off

Nick Bruzon

Tin foil? Check. Sofa? Check. Corona Virus? Check.

9 Jan

The FA Cup third round is here. It began last night at Aston Villa (we’ll get to Dean Smith in a bit) and now Brentford host Middlesbrough this evening. Another run at the stadium in North London near Ikea awaits. Memories of the epic afternoons against Manchester City and Sunderland flooding to the fore every time this competition is mentioned. Even last season’s game with Leicester City at Griffin Park is up there – if only for the fact it was one of the last occasions we were all together. Now, we begin another journey although one I get the feeling is going to see a lot of less familiar faces helping us along the way. A side much more akin to the one that started the early rounds of the League Cup likely to be the direction chosen by Thomas Frank. Albeit, he won’t be there to put an arm around the shoulder or impart some top, top words of advice. Yesterday’s news certainly put paid to that. Award winner in the morning followed by the confirmation he has tested positive for Covid 19. Ten days self-isolation now follow and, of course, everybody wishes him nothing but the best. Talk about the ‘curse’ of manager of the month ! For once, it really is a case of ‘Frank out’. In all seriousness though, one can only hope our inspirational head coach is back amongst us as soon as possible and not suffering any ill effects.

The quintessential Brentford FA Cup image

Yet whomever is picked for Brentford – and even Charlie Goode has noted in his programme interview that “I am sure the squads will be very different today” (from ‘that’ 0-0 with Middlesbrough – the game that dare not speak its name) it is still the FA Cup. It is the third round. It is the single most exciting weekend in the football calendar. The chance for the mighty to fall. For heroes to be made. For the armchair fan to sit back and gorge on all that the cup has to offer. Every game will be available to sofa dwellers and, with nothing else to do, why not. A cup tie is the one occasion where you can dip into a random game and pick a side. The desire to see an ‘upset’ is almost instinctive.

 For example, next weekend sees Sheffield United host Newcastle United in the Premier league. Honestly, is anyone outside of their own fans going to think that looks like an attractive means to spend two hours? Cripes, talk about boredom on a plate and I wouldn’t go near it with a barge pole. Personally speaking. I’ve suffered enough already this season when Middlesbrough came to visit in the league  – and that was my own team dragging themselves through 90 minutes – so have no desire to inflict similar on myself. Yet offer up the prospect of this afternoon’s encounter between Bristol Rovers and Sheffield United, then all of a sudden the chance to watch the Blades limp through a game takes on a whole new level of intrigue. And with our own kicking off at 6pm, it means both can be watched. If you want.

We won’t be there in person. Nobody will. One has to feel for the fans of Marine in particular. Hosting cup kings Spurs yet forced to watch it from the safety of home. There’s an entirely different question out there as to whether football should even go on hold for a while, as it did last season, with more and more clubs returning positive tests. Or, in the case of Bristol City, sore throats. Yet until, or if, that happens, we’ve got this. Watching on from home and hoping to progress. Hoping to get through without injury or suspension that has already robbed us of Josh Dasilva.

I’d still love to be there and would have gone like a shot had we been able. The chance to see Brentford, against anyone, always a pleasure. The opportunity to wield that tin foil trophy – something our Harry has done every season – one that is always grabbed with relish. The creation of the trophy a  Saturday morning ritual of gluing and cutting that we’ve always enjoyed but, alas, not this year. Or maybe we will anyway. Just because.  

Win or lose, we’ve had our moments. Hosting Marcus Gayle and Staines Town. The aforementioned game with Leicester City. Even being dumped out by Walsall. As much because of their own reaction to recently departed boss and ‘Ginger Judas’ Dean Smith who had joined us at Griffin Park. A quite remarkable reaction, a cracking afternoon of cup football and one it would be fair to say that the Saddlers ‘deserved to win’. 

Dean certainly upset the Walsall fans

The league cup run has certainly lifted spirits, that’s for sure. Coming so close to a Wembley final with Manchester City one that, whilst everyone is rightly still looking at with pride, would have been a quite incredible experience had we managed to pull it off. Now, we must go again.

I’m not an idiot. The absolute 110% priority is the league. We’ll never have a better chance to reach the hallowed ground of the top flight and I have no doubt Thomas will juggle resources accordingly. Yet, at the same time, that’s not to say I won’t be investing any less in the FA Cup. Our squad have shown what they can do already and I‘m sure they’ll be out to do the same again this afternoon. Bring it on !!

Now, where are the scissors…?

Another FA Cup journey on the road to Wembley begins.

Nick Bruzon 

And for our next trick, watch as the dog makes this homework disappear.

2 Jan

New Year, same Covid. Brentford saw this afternoon’s game with Bristol City canned last night after the visitors declared that due to a number of their squad apparently exhibiting Corona virus symptoms, and the testing laboratory being closed for the bank holiday so they couldn’t know for sure, they would be unable to safely fulfil the fixture. The timing of the sudden outbreak of symptoms to an injury hit squad (at least 8 at the last count) combined with the inability to perform any testing is one which had supporters up in arms. Fishy is not the word. Jose Mourinho would describe the late cancellation of Spurs game against FulhamL as being like Under-13s football. One can only imagine what the Tottenham boss would make of this one.

Everyone at Brentford FC sends their best wishes to Bristol City for a safe and speedy recovery to all those who are affected.” (as opposed to infected ) said the diplomatic blurb from Official on Twitter that went with the announcement. I do wonder what they made of the situation behind closed doors but the narrative on the BBC home page regarding the three games impacted by Corona Virus said it exactly as it was. Read into this what you will.

The BBC website last night

Genuinely, one hopes nobody is ill. The frustration here being the late cancellation of a game in what reads as somewhat murky circumstances. The story is one that, at face value, is about as fishy as Michael Fish dodging a salad to eat fish and chips in Dodge City whilst listening to the greatest hits of pop music’s Dodgy. A Bristol City team who had been pushing for the play-offs but fallen out of contention after losing four of their last five games. A team decimated by injury. A team due to travel to the Championship’s form club. A team who the day before the game suddenly declare an out break of ‘symptoms’, not confirmed cases, but are unable to prove this due to an inability to get tested in this brief window. Hmmmm. Read into this what you will.

An artist’s impressionif it’s good enough for them

The club won’t say anything. They don’t need to. Thomas Frank will, of course, avoid getting himself or us into trouble. Perhaps there will be good wishes to our opponents and then that will be it. Brentford now facing a sudden gap in the fixture list and needing to crowbar this in somewhere else. A Bank Holiday Saturday now cut short and the chance to spend some more time  in our own company now upon us instead. Urghh. We’ll have to do something.

The flip side to all of this, if I can grasp for any positive, is the chance to restore some fitness. Next Saturday is the FA Cup game with Middlesbrough and one in which, no doubt, the team will be made up of fringe players and those normally used to starting on the bench. With our next league game the trip to Reading on January 16th, it does mean we’ll have had a break of over two weeks without Championship action or international call ups. Might it tempt Thomas to start at full strength against Spurs on Tuesday night? If for no other reason than to keep things ticking over. The selection for the League cup semi-final was always going to be a divisive one, whichever way he went. Show faith with those that have got us this far or strengthen the team even more? After all, the ‘W’ place in North London is only 90 minutes away.

My own feeling is that he would have stuck with the Newcastle side. Now, he’ll go for the one that beat Bournemouth. Perhaps with the exception of Luke Daniels. Our reserve ‘keeper more than earning his own chance on merit this season and, were it not for the outstanding ability of David Raya, would surely have had more starts.

That Tottenham game is all to come. For now, we have an afternoon off. A chance to watch the other results roll in as Brentford sit tight. Time spent kicking our heels instead of looking to extend that unbeaten run further. Perhaps evening finishing off our Christmas holiday’s homework, assuming the dog hasn’t eaten it.

The closest we’ll get to anything at Lionel Road today

Nick Bruzon

Could it be a case of advantage Fulham?

12 Mar

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

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

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

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

Jota onside v Fulham

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

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

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

Screenshot 2020-03-12 at 06.18.45

That headline from The Times…

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

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

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

Whatever normal is these days.

Fulham flare

Will our fans be allowed in?

Nick Bruzon