Tag Archives: cup

There’s an upset coming….

4 Jan

Here we go. The weekend action is done. Spurs warmed up for Tuesday night’s league cup semi-final with Brentford by thumping Leeds United 3-0. The Bees, meanwhile, put their feet up after Bristol City pulled the plug on our own game at the 11th hour following the discovery of untestable symptoms in the squad. Apparently. We’ve said our piece on that one here. Now is the time to look forward. Perhaps with a bit more juice back in the tank, history awaits at Tottenham.

The quarter-finals were awesome. Next up, Spurs.

Cripes, this is exciting. 90 minutes away from the W place in North London. A chance at a first major cup final. With all due respect to the Sherpa Vans / Leyland Daf etc etc. In our way, the unpredictable genius of Jose Mourinho and his galaxy of International stars. If they go full strength then any team would be up against it. Champions League regulars and currently sitting fourth in the top flight. For Brentford, a question more of how deep into the first team we delve. Sure, we’ve beaten four Premier League outfits to get here (which is still more in total than Sheffield United, West Brom and FulhamL combined have managed in the league all season) but this is next level opposition. Teams like us don’t win these sort of games? Little old Brentford haven’t got a prayer. Have we?

Insert usual lecture about magic of the cup. How both teams deserve to be here and, at the end of the day (Clive) its 11 v 11 over 90 minutes. All of which is true, of course, if not somewhat clichéd. Yet for me this one is even more open than ever. Might Bristol City have even done us an inadvertent favour?

Tottenham fighting it out for the Premier League title. Every point and ounce of energy vital to their cause. The added complication of a huge potato skin coming up on Sunday with the FA Cup tie at Marine. There’s a lot of juggling to be done there. Will it impact selection or are the players simply too strong ? Chuck an empty stadium into the mix and the game takes on the neutrality of a training ground – atmosphere wise, at least. You can bet the regulars will be banging on Thomas Frank’s door for the chance to start this one and just to maintain fitness after the Bristol City debacle. To prove just what they can do and that last season’s wobble when, for once it wasn’t Leeds United who fell apart (amazing how much that break helped them restore their momentum before reaching a deserved promotion), was nothing more than that. An abhoration. A freak. Something to use in order to show that it has only made us stronger.

Despite the loss of Ollie Watkins and Said Benrahma we’re arguably stronger this time around. Defensively strong, the midfield has bite and the goals still flow. Perhaps not as quickly as before but we’re not shipping them. Josh Dasilva, David Raya, Sergi Canos and Ethan Pinnock amongst those to be looking even better than ever. Rico Henry surely the most coveted star in the Championship. Ivan Toney banging them in for fun. Vitaly Janelt the latest on the conveyor belt of previously undiscovered talent. 

We’re further ahead in both league placing and points scored than this time last season despite the non-stop cavalcade of games. The performance against Bournemouth last week one of the best games of football seen in many years. The Bees relentless, determined, ruthless. Weathering the early storm. Coming back from going a goal down (see also: Cardiff City away the game before) to blitz our opponents and kill their own free flowing game. Seeing them resort to bypassing their more creative elements proof, once again, that Thomas Frank had it spot on.  Has a game plan that works.

The denouement to last season was death by a thousand cuts. Despite the optimism and genuine belief I felt going in to every game – even the play-offs – that game in North London did for my psyche. Floored emotionally. The thought of having to start it all again, knowing it would be without our star names, a prospect up there with being strapped to a chair and force-fed Mrs. Browns Boys. Nobody in their right mind would want to go through that but, eventually, it ends. The new season has come and with it, renewed love of football and faith in our team. Of trust in our set up and the pleasure of seeing that (cliché alert) calls of it being a marathon not a sprint have been well founded. We never win every game. We’ve had to find our feet. We’ve done that and our now firing.

Spurs have still got too much for us and should, surely, reach the final. On paper. If nothing else, they’re well used to these big games where the line is in sight and the silverware is glistening. For Brentford, this is very much the sort of ad-hoc opportunity which is about as familiar as a decent joke in the Mrs. Browns Boys Xmas special. Or any episode for that manner.

Yet, somehow, Brendan O’Carroll and his fetid creation keep going. Keep defying the odds. Continue to buck the trend. Could Thomas Frank do the same? Nobody expects us to win but this huge unbeaten run and our current approach have to count for something. Its a game where the approach needs to be 110% disciplined but, equally, there is no pressure on us because outside of TW8 there is no expectation.

At the end of the day Clive, it IS 11 v 11 over 90 minutes. The bookies have Spurs as red hot favourites. Brentford the 6-1 longshots. Yet, to me, the gap doesn’t feel that big. Is it? Meet you on the sofa tomorrow evening when we find out. Say this quietly, but I’ve got a feeling we’re going to pull off a shock…

Not my maths….

Nick Bruzon       

That was something very, very special. In more ways than one.

23 Dec

Get the f*ck in!!! What a night. What a finish. What a result. Brentford beat Newcastle United 1-0 to make it into the league cup semi-finals. Josh Dasilva scoring the goal that means we’re now one round away from a game at the W place in North London. Aside from us there’s only Manchester City along with the winners of tonight’s games between Everton  / Manchester United and Stoke / Spurs left in the competition. It was an evening that saw Thomas Frank picking a team of familiar faces if not entirely made up of regular starters but certainly one well, well good enough to do a job. They didn’t let him, or the fans, down. Instead, the reaction from certain quarters and usual suspects to our team announcement left a hell of a lot of egg on face when the full time whistle went.

official capture the moment – and why not!!

It was a night to rank up there with the third round defeat of Everton. I was going to add ‘a few seasons’ ago but, incredibly, that was 2010. A decade gone already. Cripes, it feels like yesterday and perhaps even more highlights our lack of success in this, or any, cup competition. Early exits with nothing but a handful of memorable moments to test the grey matter. Fourth round defeats at Nottingham Forest and Birmingham City about as good as it has got. To date. Not now though. 

My word that was immense. Oh to have been there in person. Yet, in a bizarre way, we were all in it together. All suffering in isolation at home. All willing the team on to beat Newcastle. Most of us backing them. All of us desperate for the win. Of course, for the good cheer it would bring but as much as anything else to shut up the dickhead element. The legion of armchair managers doing their thing when the team was announced almost desperate for a perceived weaker team to be revealed so they could vent their usual bile.

Why why oh why! Disgraceful team selection for 1/4 final of cup!

Only a quarter final nothing important f&@k sake

No ambition.

What an absolute shambles – who do Brentford think they are? Quarter Final and a chance of Europe and he names that team??

What the actual f@&k has he done that for?

I cannot get over how much he has f@&ked up that starting XI. My head is gone.    

These, just a few of the erudite observations on social media. Nothing like a bit of loyal support but it made what came next even sweeter. A team with a spine of Pinnock, Mads, Sergi, Vitaly, Josh and Marcus Forss up top is one you’d quite easily expect (and be happy with) in a league game. Supplement that with a whole host of familiar faces from the bench, including captain for the night Luke Daniels, and this was hardly the stuff of capitulation. Hardly a team set up to fail. This was Thomas Frank doing what we’ve said , all season, he’ll have not choice but to do. Use his squad to see us through. Try everything possible to get us past December and the horror run that sees us backs up to play 9 games in 31 days.

He must be doing something right. It was one way traffic in the first half with Ghoddos hitting the crossbar, Marcondes coming close and Sergi somehow heading wide when unmarked just yards out. Hey, not even he can be perfect every time. Newcastle United riding their luck and the feeling that, perhaps, if we didn’t take chances then it could get tense late on. Anything but.

One sharp save from Daniels aside and a few jittery clearances (Dom Thompson solid as, too) I don’t recall much attacking intent from our visitors. Instead, Brentford picked up where we left off with Sergi Canos providing a delightful ball across the box which Josh Dasilva blasted home with just over an hour gone. Oh. My. Word. What a ball. What a finish. What. A. Goal!!!! Another beer? Don’t mind if I do. It went nuts at our place. I’m sure the same all over TW8 or wherever our fans were gathered. 

1-0 up and what to do? Hang on or go for it? Within moments, Thomas Frank had pulled off Sergi and replaced him with Ivan Toney. There was a statement of intent. A well earned rest for the magnificent Spaniard and a chance for Ivan to do his thing once more. He almost did, too. A chance late on producing a finger tip save and, as importantly, helping wind down that clock through an excruciating four minutes of mystery time added on.

Let’s not forget either the return to fitness of Christian Nørgaard. A player who has been missing for so long it would seem that even ‘official’ have forgotten how to spell his name. It’s amazing to think that we’ve gone on our mammoth unbeaten run despite the enforced absence of a player who would, ordinarily, be one of the first names on the team sheet. His entry into the field of play on the hour had been well telegraphed by Thomas but still produced a cheer from our sofa. Albeit. Not as as big as the one at full time. Yess!! My word !!!! F*ckin’ incredible ! A fourth Premier league team beaten this season. For context, that’s the same as Arsenal and double the amount FulhamL have in the actual Premier league. Two times better? Ah, who cares about them? This is about us. About adding Newcastle United to an ever growing list of top flight scalps. About now needing to sit through Everton – Manchester United in order to await the post match draw for the semi finals.

Christian who now?

Will it be Spurs? Might it be Manchester City? Oh for the chance to emulate our heroes of ’89 once more. You see what we were saying about cup moments being few and far between ? Truly, this is a thing to savour. Knowing Brentford it’ll end up being Stoke City which, for the record, I’m sure is something deemed as unpalatable in the Potteries as it would be down South. 

Destiny beckons. Thomas Frank and his team continue to earn the plaudits and praise that they richly deserve. To ride the wave of bull being directed at them from our twat element. Tap, tap, tap, tap. What’’s that noise? Oh, the sound of social media being deleted. The post match hypocrisy a thing of beauty to behold. The frank out hashtag having been early thawed out having to be returned to the freezer once more.

Oh dear.

Perhaps, this time, it might actually stay there. The whole thing has been an embarrassment and a colossal disrespect to the squad . F*ck you. This is OUR moment. And I’m not gong to let a bunch of morons ruin it.

Ah, you know what. It’s their problem. Hating is easy. Having a bit of trust much harder. Perhaps years of having to answer the question, ‘Brentwood? In Essex?’ makes the positive approach that bit easier. Not so much thinking that we’re ‘little old Brentford’ (because we’re well, well beyond that) but simply remembering our history and where we’ve come from.  Of recognising that the players, approach and mentality now instilled is nothing like anything we’ve ever had before.

This is Brentford 2.0 . And I love it !!! Now bring on Manchester City. Or Stoke.

Bliss doing his thing against Manchester City in the fourth round – January 1989

Nick Bruzon

Could it be sheer Bliss this weekend?

24 Jan

Nothing overly deep and meaningful needed. The FA Cup fourth round is upon us. Brentford host Leicester City, the 2015-16 Premier League Champions. The only club, barring Manchester City, keeping things vaguely interesting at the business end of the Premier League as Liverpool threaten to have the title sewn up by spring half-term. Likewise, we’re one of the clubs keeping things hugely interesting at the top end of the Championship as you know who are fighting each other in a two way battle to fall apart quickest. It promises to be epic, no matter who Thomas Frank and Brendan Rodgers go with in their respective starting XIs. Get your tin foil ready and bring it on….

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Can Brentford keep on the “Road to Wembley” ?

Ok. Me attempting to speculate as to who will be starting for either side is as futile an exercise as trying to decipher the finances at Wayne Rooney’s Derby County. The answers to both are buried deep, with no hope of anyone outside the inner circle being able to accurately predict. We know that Thomas will likely  have a few more familiar faces than in the third round, although will equally keep faith with some of his B-team players. We know that some form of medical miracle aside, Jamie Vardy will play no more part in proceedings for Leicester than hitting rewind on the BBC live coverage to see how that first Brentford goal went in. 

Hey, you can’t blame me for being optimistic. This is the FA Cup. The stuff of dreams. The chance to test ourselves against the best the country has to offer. An opportunity to keep going to a midweek fifth round. To push on (or should that be up?) all the way to Wembley ; the true home of the semi-finals. Ok, so some of the more traditional elements may be slowly eroding but that doesn’t make it any less special. Moreso, when you think that for most of us the 88/89 run to a 4-0 defeat by Liverpool in an Anfield quarter final is as good as it has ever been in this tournament. Even if we did have the pleasure of seeing Gary Blissett knock out his beloved Manchester City en-route.

Bliss Manchester City

Get dreaming tonight

And yes, I do mention these a lot but its as a result of two things. Firstly, that when cup fever takes hold there’s nothing like it. The communal coming together of a football club punching above it’s traditional weight – and we were back then – with dreams of silverware on the horizon. The chance to make a name for yourselves. To cause what would have been one of the single biggest upsets in cup history.

Then, at the back end of the 80’s, Liverpool were all conquering. Indestructable. Unbeatable.  Much like today (we’ll ignore the bit in the middle). Surely Brentford couldn’t do it? And whilst, of course, we didn’t, a fleet of coaches, a lot of inflatable Bees and Richard Cadette’s “Oohhh’ moment early on almost made the impossible possible.

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The Bees haven’t reacehd an FA Cup quarter final since Livepool in 88/89

Secondly though, we just don’t do it very often. Even in recent seasons when we’ve had the squad to compete with the best in The Championship, the combination of bad fortune, bad performance and a lot of tinkering has meant we’ve just not hit the heights that this team is capable. Underestimating opposition such as Walsall, when Dean Smith was greeted as a Ginger Judas and the Romaine Sawyers inspired visitors took us apart in awful conditions at Griffin Park.

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Passionate away support can be key – as we’ve learned

It is this lack of long term relationship with the cup that makes those rare moments of glory live all the longer in the memory. DJ Campbell mugging Gary Breen as Sunderland were knocked out. Twice leading Champions of Europe (apparently, if only somebody had said) Chelsea before Fernando Torres spared their blushes. The comeback at Southampton. And that’s probably about it in recent times. 

Saunders territory Chelsea

2013 Griffin Park . Ramires, Terry, Cole, Oscar, Lampard, Torres, Cahill – that’s some wall

Even last season, we were all set for the quarters – 1-0 up at Swansea – before Daniel James et al turned us inside out . That it only ended 4-1 was a miracle in itself. The quintessential game of two halves.

For me, the visit of Leicester City sees us with everything to gain and nothing to lose. Honestly, I don’t care who Thomas opts to start with. The Championship is huge and we’ve the obvious game with Nottingham Forest on Tuesday night. Equally though, I love the FA Cup and see nothing but opportunity here. Whether he goes ‘full B-team’, the regular league side or that expected combination of both you know that we’ll all be giving it our best. The crowd up for it. The players moreso. 

The tinfoil is already out at home. The trophy from the third round due to be reupholstered (is that the word?) tonight, after a few bits began to peel away in the euphoria of Emiliano Marcondes’ third round winner against Stoke.  

This could be magnificent. And I can’t wait. See you there !!! 

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Time to reupholster this (the cup, not Emiliano or H) 

Nick Bruzon

Have we just been given a cup boost?

9 Jan

With Lionel Road season tickets now on sale and the 237 derby approaching, for Brentford fans there was interest away from Griffin Park last night. Our FA Cup opponents Leicester City were in EFL cup action at home to Aston Villa. The Foxes were unable to rise to the occasion and left with a semi that is very much in the balance after the first leg ended 1-1. The chance to play Manchester City in the final (we’re all agreed United are dead in the water, yes?) as  wide open for Brendan Rodgers as it is Dean Smith.

This is great news for Brentford. That second leg at Villa Park is scheduled to take place the Tuesday after Leicester visit Griffin Park in the FA Cup. With the Foxes also having a midweek league match in the run up to their game with the Bees, any thoughts about their resting players may just have been cranked up a few notches. Three games in six days is a huge ask of anybody. Moreso given the intensity of the  battle for the Premier League top spots and already being a mere 90 minutes from a Wembley final.

Wishful thinking? Maybe. For all I know Thomas Frank may have a similar mindset and prefer to give his star men a breather. Personally, I don’t think that will happen though. I’m pretty sure we’ll go for broke. The BT cameras are rumoured to be lined up for this one (don’t take that as gospel, yet) and it is a wonderful chance for us to test ourselves against one of the best teams in the country. As importantly, we have no midweek action prior (although I’ve have subsequently been reminded that the fixture v Forest has ben moved to the following Tuesday – oops!) . Equally, the disappointment of our ‘doing a Leeds’ ( i.e. falling apart) in the second half of last season’s fifth round at Swansea City still burns strongly. A 0-1 half-time lead ending in 4-1 devastation and the tin foil trophy ending the night stuffed into a bin.

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Swansea in the FA Cup wasn’t good.

For now, we have to sit tight and wait for the time and date of this one to be formally announced. All being well that will happen soon and plans can be made. Favours called in for those looking to come out of the woodwork and see The Bees in action. As an advert for the Lionel Road tickets, the Leicester City tie couldn’t have come at a better time for the marketing team should anybody currently be undecided. There’s nothing like an FA Cup run and a spicy draw to generate buzz and interest.

Chuck in the visit of QPR on Saturday lunchtime and it would be fair to say that it’s all happening in this little corner of TW8 at present. With Ollie Watkins seemingly happy and no real talk about anybody else (thankfully), even the transfer window isn’t bothering us. Yet. Move along, nothing to see here.

Things are going well. I’m absolutely set for a stunning January. On paper. I can’t wait to see how it all plays out. Roll on Saturday. See you there….

Screenshot 2020-01-05 at 08.37.24

More of this would be fantastic

Nick Bruzon

Thomas the frank engine aiming for full steam ahead against Hull.

17 Aug

It’s time for Brentford to exorcise the memory of the League Cup. With Hull City set to visit Griffin Park on Saturday afternoon, thoughts will be along the lines of last week at Middlesbrough or last season’s 5-1 thrashing of The Tigers rather than the midweek draw with Cambridge United. That one’s been and gone. Ground that has been covered and no real tears shed. Move along, nothing to see here. We can concentrate on the league etc etc. No bad thing given the tough run of fixtures now upon us with Leeds United away on Wednesday and then the trip to Charlton next weekend.

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Brentford were head and shoulders above Hull last season

First things first. Today. Like Brentford, Hull have picked up three points from their opening fixtures following a win (Reading) and a defeat (Swansea City). Two games in, the nascent state of the table makes it impossible to get a genuine fix on who is in with a chance of going up, who are dead certs for the drop and who is going to be the recipient of the annual Leeds United choke award. Presumably, Leeds United for that last one. So it really is a journey in to the unknown for Brentford and as much for Thomas Frank on his team selection.

He named an unchanged side to the one that somehow lost the season opener to Birmingham City for the subsequent trip to Middlesbrough. Whilst we may have ridden our luck early into that one, nobody who saw it could deny how we grew into the game. The wonderful way we took the lead with Sergi and Ollie combining magnificently for the goal (kudos to Emiliano Marcondes, too, for luring the entire Boro’ defence out of position) and then closed it out with some comfort. Thomas was purring like a kitten at full time and understandably so. 

That said, he now has more players with time under their belts. That being one positive to come from the performance against Cambridge United. And with a busy week to come (those trips to Leeds and Charlton await) could changes come? Thomas used his press conference to confirm that Ethan Pinnock was doubtful, Kamo and Norgaard need to be assessed whilst Said is getting closer and closer. How good will it be to have any combination of those players available for selection ?  

Talking about last season’s 5-1, he was quick to recognise the performance but not dwell on it. Instead, calling it a “New game. New history  although going on to add that , “so we never know what is going to happen but the aim for us is for us to dominate and play with intensity.  Positive sounding for sure, in an interview packed with talk of attacking intent and maintaining the performance for the entire game. You can see that one here….

Thomas, frank

Whilst the 5-1 may now be deemed history, the BBC match preview does give some very telling statistics. You can see the full piece here but the one that really grabbed me were the facts that the Bees have allowed our opponents just 15 touches in their box in their first two Championship matches. That’s six fewer than any other team. If any evidence was needed of the immediate impact being made by Pontus Jansson and the new look defence then here it is. I still maintain that picking him up from Leeds Untied was the Championship signing of the season.

The evidence to date has been quite telling. The skill, the passion, the heart on the sleeve, the armband being immediately awarded. His reaction on pitch after Birmingham and on social media after Middlesbrough tells you all you need to know about his attitude. Magnificent. Elland Road on Wednesday could be fun 🙂  

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View from the Braemar – Captain Jansson has impressed.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though. All that’s to come and there are more pressing matters at hand. If nothing else, the question of what kit the visitors will turn up in. Their magnificent Umbro home shirt with the return of the Tiger strip design ? Or the new third kit that was launched this week? Something the club describe as  a contemporary design in deep lagoon, accompanied by medieval blue shorts. Hats off to Umbro, as with the Bees they’ve designed some stunners this season. 

Nice though it is, here’s hoping that it’s the performance rather than the shirts we’re drooling over today. Wit the weather set fair and blue skies already over Griffin Park, the conditions should be perfect. I can’t wait for this one. See you there.

Which will we get this afternoon? Home or third?

Nick Bruzon

Club and fans help take the edge off cup disappointment.

20 Feb

Who wanted to play Manchester City, anyway? Swansea City were rewarded with an FA Cup quarter final at home to Pep Guardiola’s all conquering Premier League outfit after beating the Bees on Sunday. Brentford, denied a 30 year (wow!) anniversary rematch with the club supported since a child by goal scoring legend Gary Blissett.  

Bliss Manchester City

The iconic Bees cup image was so close to getting a modern day revamp

We’ve all seen it by now. We all know the performance was as devastating in the second half as it was exhilarating in the first. Swansea City were worthy winners. A combination of spurious defending, blistering pace and just plain old bad luck proving to be our undoing. The coach journey home was about as tough as it gets – the feelings far to raw to try and process just what had happened at The Liberty stadium. Yet having now given it a few days to reflect, are there any positives we can take from what happened? And, for the record, being able to concentrate on the league does not count !

On the field, I’m struggling. Ollie Watkins’ goal was a work of art. Magnificent build up play that showed rampant Brentford at their free-flowing best. Yet, if anything, in retrospect it only made what came next even harder take as the Bees not so much waved the white flag as rolled out the red carpet to our hosts. 

IMG_1783Special mention to Kitman Bob, though. The previously unseen red number worn by Luke Daniels being another tick in the box marked sartorial bliss. In the interests of avoiding a revolution, we’ll spare any further comment on the brown/orange being sported by the rest of the team. What’s the point of pouring petrol on a chip fire by eulogising further about something that others deem to be anything from vile to the sole reason for our struggling on the road this term.

For all that this season’s FA cup was looking like it might turn into one of the most open tournaments in its illustrious history, all off a sudden we are in a situation where 6 of the final 8 are all from the Premier League. The sole representation from outside the top flight coming from Millwall and, of course, Swansea City. No doubt the likes of Manchester City and Manchester United will fancy themselves to add another notch on the bed post of tournament success. The chance of an unfancied team winning it now disappearing faster than Sunday’s half-time lead. In the end, top flight form once more took hold and the potato skins can now stay in the recycling box.

We can’t talk about Sunday without recognising the effort made by Brentford to help our fans get to Swansea and get into the ground. The second the game was moved it became a logistical nightmare. We all know that Sunday engineering works were due to take place meaning any attempt to travel by rail (and replacement bus) . So for that fleet of coaches to be provided with little to no not, and laid on for free, was nothing short of amazing. Add an £11 price for 2 tickets( one adult and on child) into the mix to realise what an effort was made by our club to help the fans. Nobody can doubt what we do off the pitch.

Nowhere moreso was this proven by the team in the ticket office. Much as I love being part of any ‘singing’ section towards the back of the stand, travelling with a five year old presents it’s own challenge. Namely because the second anybody might chose to stand up (apparently, it does happen) his own view is obscured. Even when on foot himself ! So imagine the huge grin on his face when our request for tickets towards the front of the stand was met with front row, middle. Right behind the goal. Whilst we all know what a fantastic job the ticketing team do, that they continue to care so much is nothing short of incredible. What a way to represent our club.

Let’s look at the fans themselves. The coming together on the coaches rather than the usual train service meant previously unheard conversations began as groups of unconnected supporters were thrown into the powder keg of an 8 hour round trip with no means of escape. I saw one tweet from Oh Fuffuxake! / @TheChauffeur! on Twitter noting that, “Weird old day yesterday. Spoilt only by a 45 minute debacle that was out of my hands. However, can I thank the lads on the coach home. New pals, new drinking buddies and BIG laughs…

On a personal note, I finally got to meet regular correspondent Bernard Quackenbush  / @BernardQuack after a chance encounter in the stand. Like ‘Push up Brentford’ man, Jumper man and Brentford Bot, BQ is an essential part of the club’s rich tapestry of ‘fans to follow’. Whilst our paths have never crossed previously, outside of cyber space, like ‘The Chauffeur’ it felt like the sort of day to make new friends. Thank to the vagaries of pre-allocated ticket distribution, that’s another ‘face put to name’.

Indeed, the random meet ups continued even last night. Sitting in a Kentish Town pub awaiting the arrival of an Aston Villa supporting friend (unlike his club, he did eventually show up) prior to watching popular music’s The Lemonheads, my own attention was grabbed by one of the people I was sharing a table with. The ears couldn’t help but prick up on hearing him say, “I couldn’t believe it. We were 1-0 up and cruising at half-time. They did us 4-1 in the end”. That could only be Brentford and sure enough, it was. Even from the most abject of football finishes, our club found a way of uniting supporters.   

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The Lemonheads do their thing in Kentish Town

Yet for me, one of the abiding moments was on the way home. It was provided by Simon. Harry Potter. On another coach. His enthusiasm for all things Brentford unable to be crushed by something as trivial as a trashing in the cup. Reports across social media suggesting that his coach was very much the life and soul of an otherwise potentially sombre return journey to West London. I won’t deny the smile on my face at the thought of the fun being had on his bus (please note: your definition of fun may vary)  as ours was punctuated by nothing more than the faint tapping of iPod headphones and a chorus of snores drifting up and down the aisle (not me, for the record). 

Let’s nor pretend that Sunday ended well in a footballing sense. Let’s not pretend we weren’t secretly jealous when Manchester City came out of the hat. Imagining what might have been. Mostly a 0-7(seven) beating, I’d guess. But there was enough happening elsewhere to help maintain my faith in a club that really cares. In a group of supporters whom, whilst obviously hurting, still found a way to come together. Who still look out for each other.

Even just the nods of recognition and messages saying “Did you see….” in regards to mine and HB’s ‘crowd moment’ from the TV coverage showed us looking out for each other.  His own world being slowly shattered as the enormity of our situation took hold being one that was, unwittingly, shared with the wider Bees’ community. People’s kind words afterwards have been nothing but appreciated more than anyone can imagine.

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The bottom lip is beginning to quiver.

Sure, we got dumped out of the cup. I’d love to have gone through. Instead, it wasn’t even close. Yet by the same virtue, everything else that happened around Sunday afternoon already has me desperate to get back to Griffin Park on Saturday. 

See you there.

Nick Bruzon

There are games of two halves and then there was that. Bees baked in Wales.

18 Feb

A day that started with such promise. An afternoon that saw us forty-five minutes away from an FA Cup quarter final. An evening that ended with a press of the self-destruct button the likes of which Brentford haven’t seen since, well, the trip to Hull or more pertinently, the opening twenty minutes of the home game with (erm) Swansea City. And it was the Swans who once more provided the catalyst to our undoing as Ollie Watkin’s magnificent opener was rendered meaningless by three second half goals and a red card for Ezri Konsa in little over a quarter hour phase. It ended 4-1 to Swansea. It could have been five but for a very delayed call from the linesman. What can you say? Beyond me having to console five year old HB after his own pre-match prediction of 3-4 was thrown back into his face in as dramatic a style as one could ever see.

It’s a fair bet we’ve all caught the game by now. The free to air broadcast on BBC Wales meaning that anybody who wasn’t able to travel on the resultant free coaches would have had ample opportunity to watch it live. It was the consummate example of that old cliche about football being a game of two halves. With the opening salvo from Swansea snuffed out at little more cost than a yellow card for Yoann Barbet, the Bees got going. In style.

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Swansea had come forward early but made little progress

With the exception of Luke Daniels retaining his FA Cup place, Thomas Frank named the same team that tore Aston Villa apart for fun on Wednesday evening. It was a decision that was proven correct as we went for it. Swansea City barely had a look in as slick passing and wonderful interplay from the attacking quartet of Said, Sergi, Neal and Ollie suggested a goal was inevitable. When it came, on the half hour, it was beautiful. Benrahma breaking forward at pace, feeding the ball forward to Maupay on his right. The Frenchman then provided the same to the overlapping Watkins who burst into the box and fired it across the face of goal high into the far side of the net.

Yesssss !!! 1-0. We’re on our way. The fans erupted. Tinfoil trophies (of which there were plenty in evidence) thrust high into the sky. Strangers hugging strangers and the dream was on. Swansea looked dead on their feet. Impotent. A flaccid reminder of the team who had obliterated us in that opening twenty minute spell at Griffin Park back in December when they’d raced into a three goal lead without reply. Half time came with optimism high, the fans in wonderful voice and a chorus of boos rising around The Liberty stadium from the home contingent. Surely this was it? Surely….?

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Yesss!!! 1-0. Ollie Watkins you beauty.

What happened at half-time will, forever, remain as unfathomable a mystery as Stonhenge, the Pyramids and Ian Moose’s narcissism. Brentford gave the appearance of a team who had forgotten how to play football. Graham Potter in the home dressing room, presumably, delivering the mother of all team talks. Either way, it was a different Swansea City who emerged.

They were level within five minutes from a free-kick awarded in the most dangerous part of Saunders territory. Daniels unable to reach the ball as it fizzed past him, hit the post but rather than bounce clear hit the back of his head as he was still diving and pinged back into the goal for 1-1. It was a hammer blow. It should have been a warning that we were now very much in a game. Alas, it got worse.

An immediate goalmouth scramble aside, there was little further response from, or respite for, Brentford. Daniel James gave the home side a 2-1 lead shortly after with a quite remarkable effort. Picking up the ball just outside our box, he ran full length and full tilt up field. The acceleration was incredible, even running wide at one point with three players left trailing in his wake, before turning back inside and leaving Luke Daniels, caught in no mans land, for dead. Hats doffed to James for pulling this one off. It was brutal. With it, any remaining psychological stuffing that had been left after the unfortunate o.g. was truly knocked out of us.

Minutes later that man James broke clear once more. This time, he was stopped. But at the expense of a red card for Ezri Konsa as the defender took the last desperate measure available to him in order to try and preserve the narrow deficit. Referee Stuart Atwell has no choice but to show the red card. It was a challenge that, at least, succeeded in the aim of keeping our opponents at bay. For five minutes.  Sergi Canos, again filling in at wing back, was played twice by Bersant Celina who also danced past Julian Jeanvier before slotting home for 3-1. Urghh.

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Even the scoreboard was trolling us

With the attacking threat of Benrahma and Canos removed just moments later as the substitutes came on, the game was effectively dead. If it hadn’t been already. If Thomas had gone almost full strength with his starting XI, the bench offered little in big game experience or match saving nous. Whilst most of these young players will have their time, throwing them in to a game that was only being kept alive on life-support was never going to change anything. And , sadly, it didn’t. 3-1 became 4-1 became 3-1 as the linesman eventually intervened. It made little difference with Swansea grabbing the fourth goal that their second half domination suggested would come as the game limped towards full time.

Even then, Neal Maupay had a chance to restore some pride. His decision to chip the ‘keeper when put through, not quite coming off as the beaten Bees saw it loop over the bar. He made a call. He tried his luck. It didn’t happen. Boo-hoo. The subsequent highlighting of this by the BBC in a standalone video clip entitled , “How did he miss this? Watch Maupay’s terrible effort for Brentford” as cheap, unnecessary and out of context a feature as Ian Moose talking about that Cardiff game last season. No recognition of his quite incredible form this campaign or when it actually happened, with the players physically and emotionally drained after an absolute pummelling. 

Likewise, no mention of what he was clearly feeling as he ran to the Brentford fans at full time to hand over his FA Cup shirt to one lucky supporter. Poor show, BBC. Keep up the wonderful work, Neal.

It was an awful experience to be part of. The second half, I mean. I had tears to cope with at full time from a distraught HB who managed to compose himself and eventually clap his heroes off, despite the clear upset he felt. Looking around, he wasn’t alone. The club’s magnanimous gesture of laying on the coaches and cheap tickets felt very much secondary at that juncture.

I’m gutted this morning. Even now after trying to sleep on it. Swansea ran the second half show ; we handed them the tickets. The dream of the cup quarter-finals disappearing as quickly as it came. HB’s tin foil trophy stuffed into a dustbin on the way home.

Talking to supporters after the game, there seemed to be very much an expectation that this column was going to be used to ‘put the boot in’ today. But I just can’t do it. To coin that well worn of parental phrases, it not so much that I’m angry as disappointed in you. The chance was there and we couldn’t take it. Instead, to collapse in a combination of errors, bad luck, subsequent no-show and of course, the pace of Daniel James has left me feeling broken. A numb feeling in the pit of the stomach that will pass with time but at the moment feels far, far too raw.

I’m just hoping HB uses his half-term break to sleep in. About a week should do it….

Nick Bruzon 

Could Barnet serve up the final potato skin of a stunning fourth round?

28 Jan

Arsenal : out. West Ham : out. Everton : out. Tottenham : out. Wolves and Middlesbrough just about hanging in there. A weekend which has seen all manner of upsets and big names dumped on their backsides in the FA Cup comes to a frenzied denouement this evening as Brentford travel to Barnet for the final tie of the fourth round. Only Manchester City looked assured as they swept Burnley aside by five goals without reply. 

Tonight’s game is in equal measure just about as good a chance of progression as one could hope for (on paper) but also about as big a potato skin as could be lobbed under the feet of Thomas Frank. Just ask West Ham about that ! And please, stop sniggering. They did it win it back in 1980. A Trevor Brooking header, apparently. If only somebody had mentioned.

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Barnet represent a potato skin of the highest order

THE big question of course being whether Thomas will follow the fate of his predecessor Dean Smith and slip up on it or will safe transit to the fifth round be achieved for the first time in what feels like a long time? Brentford will be in the unusual position of knowing who we might be playing and where (subject to replays) before the Barnet game kicks off, given the draw takes place prior to kick off. We’re number 13 in that one, for the record. Wimbledon are 2, Manchester City 12 (oh to play them again), Manchester United 15 and Spurs are…out. 

Yet let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Whilst we may know who the potential opposition are going to be for this one, we still need to get past the current team in our way. Barnet will no doubt make it about as tough as they can with a full house roaring them on in a bid to make The Hive as intimidating as possible. 

Cripes, didn’t it work well for Wimbledon on Saturday. Facing a West Ham team who looked anything but up for it and playing like a beginner on FIFA 19, the higher ranked team were torn apart time and again before the goals started to flow. It was a quintessential example of playing the position rather than the situation and the Hammers came unstuck in quite glorious style. 

Brentford will be doing very well to learn the lessons from that one. You can bet that the press, BT Sport (who are showing this one live) and any neutral fan watching on TV will be desperate for a home win. Even if it is a non-Martin Allen year at Barnet. As noted at the top end, this one has the potential to see us left with as much egg on our face as those illustrious names to have already fallen this year. Just look at how Newport County took Leicester City part in the previous round to know that there is nothing guaranteed in football. No matter how lowly the other team may appear to be.

Even Frank Lampard’s Derby County (TM) were left hanging on during Saturday lunchtime’s game. That one was a classic cup tie played out on the proverbial quagmire of a pitch. Only some last gasp fouls and a cracking save from visiting ‘keeper Kelle Roos kept the Rams in the hat as they snuck through 1-0.

The point being that no matter how easy this one looks, it won’t be. The only thing that counts will be progression. Nobody will remember an unlucky loser when the fifth round kicks off in anger. Eyes will only be looking forward.

The FA Cup is that most incredible of tournaments. That most unique of formats. Think of all those combatants who have done battle through the preliminary rounds to bring us to the position we are now in. Their roles, perhaps, forgotten but pivotal to the rich tapestry of a competition which is still watched the world over.  Clubs and broadcasters may try to tinker with the format and the spirit of the tournament but at the end of the day (Clive) it boils down to a one off game of 11 v 11.

And I really can’t wait for this one.       

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Here’s hoping Brentford continue on the “Road to Wembley” .

Nick Bruzon

Back to league action. And ‘thanks’, Michael Palin. Way to try and ruin a great thing.

29 Sep

The cup runneth over. Kind of. With Arsenal out of the way (not the right way) it’s back to League action today as Brentford host Reading. The first of a double bill at Griffin Park over the next few days sees this one closely followed by Birmingham City on Tuesday. With Leeds United making it just one win from five last night, a great opportunity is opening up whilst Twitter has delivered not once, but twice, in quite wonderful fashion.

First up, the Reading game. This one has everything to play for and promises to be a stunner. In theory. Reading have started to win games after their abject start and have now escaped the bottom three. 6 points out of the last 9 sees them finding form and reaching the dizzy heights of 20th. Brentford will, of course, be hugely cheered by that fight back at Arsenal during the week. It was one-way traffic as we came that close to hauling ourselves into the fourth round after a blitzkrieg second half. The only downside being the first half! Oh well, that’s football. We go ag, ag, agai.. once more. The obvious question being one of whether Dean sticks or twists ?

Such was the fight shown in the second period, I do wonder if he’ll continue with any of his normal bench players? Whilst, surely, one would expect Neal Maupay, Henrik Dalsgaard and Daniel Bentley to return to the starting XI is that as far as it goes? I thought Kamo was superb whilst Sergi ran them ragged once the team got going. Mind you, so did Saïd Benrahma when he came on. Who’d be a head coach?

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Yesssssss !!!!! Alan Judge’s free-kick sent the away end ballistic

Whomever starts, Brentford have even more incentive to go for it. Table toppers Leeds United being held at Sheffield Wednesday, Friday, means a win could take us to within a point of first place. Naturally, subject to other results. But the league is so tight at the moment that as far down as 14th, Swansea are only 6 behind Leeds. With Birmingham the same gap behind us, effectively 7(seven) when you factor in the draw specialists woeful goal difference, every game is crucial. Every point critical. Already. And its not even October. I love this division!!  

The cup was a lovely diversion and visiting Arsenal taught us a lot of things, as much off-field (see last column) as on, but it’s great to be feasting at the main table once more. Let’s hope Dean serves up a five-star banquet rather than skin and bone.

One of those Arsenal ‘things’ was giant flags at the home end. We’d seen similar before at Chelsea. Tucked behind the hoardings but then waved high to welcome the teams out or celebrate a goal to the home team. I’m not sure exactly what the benefit is or why they are needed – if you need a flag waver to generate an atmosphere (see also: the Mexican wave, England Supporter’s band,  goal music) then we’re already in trouble.

Thankfully, Matthew Benham is in agreement. The joy of Twitter where a casually asked question on Friday morning to the club owner brings about a response within minutes:    

@NickBruzon : Hi Matthew. You’ve often been quoted as (thankfully) saying there will never, ever be ‘goal music’ at Lionel Road. Is it safe to say the same will apply to Arsenal style ‘goal flags’ ?

@matthew_benham : Absolutely!

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Another Lionel Road crisis averted

Result! No flags and no goal music ! With Lionel Road looking bigger and better with each passing day, it’s great that he’s also on point about those matters that really count ! Here’s hoping the previously backed hot seat idea also comes to fruition. Even if Cameron Diaz won’t be the one filling it. That said, perhaps the sausage train remains a leap too far.

So that was yours truly feeling pretty pleased with the day’s social media activity. Easy come, easy go. As ever. No sooner had that gone up than it’s been blown out of the water first thing Saturday morning with a quite incredible spot on the social media platform from @HongKongBee , aka Andrew Cooper, after watching the Michael Palin In North Korea documentary from the BBC.  

Wow. There’s not much you can say here. Beyond a bit of photoshoppery just to really take a look at this in depth.

Whilst the North Korean regime of secrecy and oppression is totally abhorrent and about as far flung as you could get from all-embracing Griffin Park, that’s an eerie sartorial spot. Great observational skills, Andrew. It is incredible how something so wonderful in one format (our away kit) can look so awful in another. Thankfully, quality shines through and it will be the football kit that people remember long into the future rather than any quirky uniforms.

All being well Brentford official will be reporting a 7(seven) – 0 win for The Bees today for legitimate reasons rather than propaganda based ones.

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Finally, please don’t forget #BeeTheDJ today…..

Given the sad passing of Chas Hodges last weekend, what better way for fans to remember him than by bombarding the Griffin Park tannoy (other brands of p.a. system are also available) with the likes of Gertcha, Rabbit, Margate, Ain’t No Pleasing You, The Sideboard Song, London girls etc etc etc.

You can get choosing here. What better way to get the crowd buzzing prior to kick off whilst, more importantly, remembering the great man.

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How do you even try and whittle this down to one choice?

Nick Bruzon

Here we go. Again. Cup shocks abound and potato skins await.

26 Sep

Could the big one be on? After a Tuesday night run of Carabao Cup shocks that saw Frank Lampard’s Derby County™ beat Manchester United, Burton overcome Burnley and QPR go down at Blackpool (please, stop sniggering) Wednesday night could see the biggest of them all. Is it just possible, if all the stars are aligned and the footballing gods are smiling, that Arsenal could beat Brentford? Stranger things have happened.

One thing’s for sure, if Manchester United came unstuck at home last night then it can happen to anyone. Fair play and hats off to Derby. Their own win over Brentford on Saturday being put all the more into context after a game which saw them go behind, come back and then concede the ultimate sucker punch – a 95thminute equaliser for the hosts after themselves going ahead on 85 – to take the game to a penalty shootout in which they eventually triumphed.

They’re the headlines. Nobody wants to get overly bogged down in pages of Mourinho misery or the family Lampard celebrating. That’s for those two teams to both enjoy. Right now the focus is, of course, on Brentford at Arsenal. Assuming Brentford can get to Arsenal with the Piccadilly line out of commission due to strike action – there goes that easy hop from West to North London.

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Have vodka bottle, will travel. Alternate travel to Highbury & Islington needed tonight

Still, the ghost of Bob Crow shouldn’t get in the way of what promises to be a special night. For Arsenal, a high pressure potato skin against Dean Smith’s hotly tipped Brentford side. Currently three points off the top of the Championship table and playing some quite wonderful football. Manager Unai Emery faced with the quandary of picking the reserves or risking the fitness of his more established names. Don’t forget that they’ve a game against top four Watford and then the excitement of a Europa League trip to FK Qarabag to follow this one.  

For Brentford, nothing to lose and everything to gain. With over 8,000 away tickets sold (and who knows how many more dotted around the stadium) it promises to be a vocal affair. Those stunning brown/orange shirts out in full force and not to mention a few faces from the past in the stands. The team, surely surely captained by Nico Yennaris, with a chance to prove how far they’ve really progressed. To see how worthy of all the praise that has been coming their way they actually are. Saturday’s result wasn’t great, that’s for sure, but if anything it’ll give Dean and his team even more incentive to prove what a blip it was with a chance to get back to winning ways in a consequence free environment.

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The Bees have been head and shoulders above most opponents this season

Excited? Yes. As much as anything it’s a chance for bonus midweek football and a visit to a new stadium. At least, with the Bees. A chance to see if we can carve out a famous victory. Blah, blah. Cliché, cliché. Yet perhaps as much as anything else, an opportunity to erase the painful memory of the anti-football we played at Chelsea in the fourth round of the 2016/17 FA Cup. A 4-0 defeat where we were lucky to get the proverbial nil.

There’s not much more to say, really. We all know the scoop and there’s only so many ways you can dress it up. Yet if tonight didn’t have you salivating already, there’s even more great news to follow. Football’s greatest competition (with all due respect to the Carabao Cup) is back. Saturday’s game at Reading sees the return of none other than….Centre Circle Challenge.

I should be fully focussed on Arsenal. Yet the prospect of seeing two supporters pinging balls from the corner flag to the heart of the meridian line, all soundtracked by Peter Gilham’s deadpan commentary, has me as excited as the trip to The Emirates. Almost. Brentford official has all the details including, most importantly, how you can enter this ultimate of fan participation events on the hallowed turf of Griffin Park.

All that’s to come. For now though, focus on whether we can emulate those famous League Cup nights against the likes of Hull City and Everton. Right down to the mascots…. 

Nick Bruzon