Tag Archives: cup

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….

cup wembley

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.

Liverpool v Brentford 2

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.

walsall 2

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 !!! 

Screenshot 2020-01-05 at 08.37.24

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.

IMG_1833

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.

DSC04421

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 🙂  

DSC06175

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.   

DSC04318

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.

IMG_1833

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.

DSC04158

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….?

DSC04182

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.

DSC04233

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.

health-and-beauty-benefits-of-potato-peels

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.       

cup wembley

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?

IMG_E7172

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!

IMG_7165

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.

North Korea Brentford away

Kit wrong-un

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.

IMG_E6998

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.

IMG_1598

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.

img_5983-1.jpg

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

What a way to nail our colours to the mast – on and off the pitch.

15 Aug

Oh my. With the paint still drying on Saturday’s draw at Stoke City, it’s been all go at Brentford. On pitch, we picked up where we left off in The Potteries with as comprehensive a win as they come against Southend United in the League Cup. Off field, Chief Executive Mark Devlin used the brief window between games to make about as powerful a statement as they come in recognition of the ‘Kick It Out’ campaign’s 25thanniversary.

First up, the last knockings of the Stoke game. Whilst those present were, quite rightly, salivating over our performance and perhaps disappointed to have ‘only’ picked up a point, it seems that those outside TW8 are now jumping on the Griffin Park bandwagon. And rightly so. Long has we sung about being the Barcelona of the Lower leagues and now it has been recognised, albeit the Bees are playing at a higher level these days. This one has been doing the rounds in the last 24 hours. If ever you wanted proof of how Brentford are set up to play and how it is all coming together, then here it is….

Then last night we travelled to Southend United for a first round league cup tie at Roots Hall. Whilst the home side hadn’t won a tie in this competition since 2010, it was the sort of game that always has the look of potential potato skin. Moreso, with head coach Dean Smith making 11 changes to the Brentford starting XI . His reward was progression via a 4-2 win for a team that included starts for Alan Judge and Ryan Woods (yes, cup tied !), amongst others regulars. Likewise, full debuts for Said Benrahma and Julian Jeanvier.

Said’s performance from the bench at Stoke had us purring. By all accounts, he played a blinder last night. Impressing from the off, scoring a stonker that sent ‘official’ twitter into meltdown and receiving a standing ovation from the visiting fans prior to his late substitution with Sergi.

Screen Shot 2018-08-15 at 06.07.15

Ewww. A GIF. But my word, what a goal !!

Who’d be a head coach? Good luck to Dean trying to fit those two in to the team on Sunday for the visit of Sheffield Wednesday. Talk about a nice problem to have in naming that side.

Once official had towelled itself clean from the celebration, it would excitedly go on to describe Said’s strike: Another debutant goal and a star has been born tonight!! Benrahma with an incredible bit of skill and run, he plays a one-two with Mokotjo and then fires home. @Benrahma2 has been unplayable at times tonight!

The star may have been born on Tuesday night, but the waters broke against Rotherham and the ambulance was definitely rushing to the hospital on Saturday. Those brief tasters of skill we had already been teased with suggested there was something special about the Algerian international. Sunday could be very interesting indeed.   

For those not able to get to this one, our own commentator par-excellnce Mark Burridge has hit the nail on the head in one tweet. Who needs a match report when you have social media use of this concise quality?

The other impressive Brentford performance was off field where a story with the rather vague headline of FROM THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE’S OFFICE transpired to be an all guns blazing message from Mark Devlin. Specifically, in praise of 25 years of ‘Kick It Out’ whilst also waxing lyrical about Brentford’s approach to diversity and our place as one of the most welcoming clubs in the country.

I couldn’t agree more. Yet for me, the key point was his no holds barred declaration that: 

For those that don’t share these views, we will not compromise on our values: We don’t want you at Brentford if you can’t accept that or if you behave in a manner which is incompatible with these values. 

Wow. Talk about nailing your colours to the mast. About saying there is no place at our club for discrimination or bigotry. Whilst this is not the sort of behaviour anybody wants to see on the terraces, social media or around the ground (and thankfully it is rare at best) talk about making it absolutely clear to anybody who may indulge in that sort of hate speak what the consequences might be. 

Impressive stuff. Great job, Mark. If you haven’t read the full story then you can do so, here.

And I can’t say anything more after that. Have a great day and bring on the weekend.

Buzzette kick it out

Buzzette does her thing for ‘Kick It Out’ last season

Nick Bruzon  

Can we extend the run? Should we mention the ‘p’ word? Is this football’s latest gimic?

27 Jan

With the FA Cup taking centre stage in the public eye this weekend (and we’ll get on to last night’s game between Yeovil Town and Manchester United shortly), Brentford have a wonderful chance to make further, almost stealth like, progress. With Norwich City the visitors to Griffin Park this afternoon, stuffing the Canaries will see the Bees move level on points with sixth placed Sheffield United. Of the teams between us and the Blades, Fulham are the only other with a game today. A tricky trip to Barnsley standing between them and their own play-off aspirations.

Brentford, of course, are on that wonderful run. 13 league games unbeaten at Griffin Park combined with 7(seven) Championship wins out of the last 9 played sees us very much the form team at present. Bolton Wanderers and then Reading being the latest teams to fall victim to the red and white machine.

DSC00262

Bolton were the last visitors to Griffin Park.

Indeed, in the top four divisions nobody has gone unbeaten for longer, with only our FA Cup conquerors Notts County able to match what The Bees have achieved at Griffin Park. Not even the likes of Manchester City or Liverpool, who are next up on 12 game runs. With the Magpies involved in cup action today, their reward for that third round triumph being a home tie with Premier League Swansea, there’s even more incentive to go for it today and stride clear of the ‘unbeaten’ teams.

In our way, Norwich City. A team we’ve already played twice this season whilst who could forget last campaign’s horror shows against the Canaries?

This time around, things began with a Carabao Cup third round tie back in September one we probably shouldn’t dwell on. Whilst not quite up there with the infamous Oxford United game that formed part of the ill-fated Marinus experiment, it wasn’t far off. Move along, nothing to see here.

I take much more comfort from our 2-1 league win at Carrow Road just before Christmas. The Bees were rampant in a game where the  highlight of the night was the pass from Romaine Sawyers to set up Lasse Vibe for our second goal. Even now it is worth watching a few more times just to remind yourself quite how wonderful, ridiculous, sublime, filthy, outrageous it was. Certainly, those were my thoughts at the time and nothing has happened since to change my mind.  Take your pick as to which fits best. Words can’t do it justice.

Romaine’s brilliance is 2mins 37 seconds in on the official highlights.

Listening to Deam Smith speaking at the moment, he comes across as very grounded. Very much in ‘taking one game at a time’ territory. I don’t blame him. He’s the Brentford head coach; I’m the numpty on the terrace. Yet as supporters it is so easy to see the polar opposites. Reaching for the stars or feeling as though we are sitting in the gutter. Our start to the campaign wasn’t great. A situation compounded by those heartbreaking sales. It was as much the immediacy as the final destination of those three that really hurt. Yet how things have moved on since then. How Dean’s faith in his team and their own wonderful spirit has been rewarded.

It is faith and confidence that is coursing through all of us at present. The last few months (Barnsley and Burton at home, aside) have seen some of the most exciting football games we’ve had the privilege of watching in years. Norwich City won’t make it easy. Far from it. Yet I can’t see anything other than home win today. And you can quote me on that. If for no other reason than my Cousin Charles from Gibraltar will be at this one. Any regular readers who know of his record….

Barbet pen Norwich

Norwich in the cup happened. Move along

As for the FA Cup, I’m not going to pretend I was anything but gutted when we went out. That defeat to fourth tier opposition, who absolutely deserved it on the day, was only salvaged by the long, long, long awaited return of Alan Judge. Trot out any number of clichés about this oldest of tournament but you can’t deny it is captivating. People want to watch it; teams want to win it. Last night was no exception as Mrs Bruzon and I settled down to watch the BBC fourth round tie between Yeovil Town v Manchester United. Nothing says romance – of the cup or otherwise – than a night on the sofa watching Ryan Dickson.

Sadly, there was no be no Goliath falling on a potato skin. Manchester United won 4-0. No surprise there. The positive was a healthy selection of tin foil trophies on display from the Yeovil fans although the flip side being the return of something we’d seen the previous week in the Brighton v Chelsea leg game.

Namely that of a young child holding up a crudely drawn sign, asking a player for his shirt after the game. Last week it was Eden Hazard, who duly responded. Last night it was Alexis Sanchez, although by all accounts he was yet to reciprocate.

Are we now to see a glut of hastily scrawled A4 sheets of paper held aloft by young fans? Is this the latest trend? Certainly, you wouldn’t get me involved in any such form of cheap stunt. Instead, I’m off to the game now (see you there) and will simply leave Harry to press ‘publish’….

DSC00404

Nick Bruzon