Tag Archives: England

How do you break a five year old’s heart? And how does he react ?

12 Jul

5.30am Oh, football. We should be joyous, sporting and full of pride at a team that nobody really fancied prior to the tournament making it all the way to the semi-finals of the World Cup. And I am. All of that. But let’s not pretend that after watching England go down 2-1 to Croatia (aet) it doesn’t also feel like the most numbing punch to the gut. Moreso given the one-way traffic of a first half where Kieran Trippier’s early free-kick from the heart of Saunders territory gave supporters an early lead that suggested that the final was in sight. Worse, I’ve got to break a little boy’s heart shortly. HB, normally accustomed to watching Brentford, has invested all his emotional eggs in this England team basket. As a special treat on a school night he was allowed out to watch the first half. He went to bed with the score 1-0 and the game heading in only one direction.

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Watching the replay of THAT free kick. Yessssss

 Let’s not also pretend that the better team didn’t win. Croatia deserved it last night. They accelerated their game in the second half after surviving a pummelling that by all medical logic should have seen them dead on their feet. Attack after attack being broken up by cynical challenge after cynical challenge. Only the referee’s leniency / incompetence keeping them with the regulation 11 players when the teams went in for their half time cuppa. Only a combination of great defending, poor finishing and the linesman’s flag keeping the score at 1-0 to England. Kieran Trippier’s quite delightful free-kick to the top right corner after just five minutes being the difference between the two teams. At least on paper.

HB went back home to bed. “Daddy. Wake me up when you get in and tell me the score” he exhorted. Optimism coursing through his veins and, to be fair, one could understand why. If England had looked in cruise control against Sweden at the weekend after going one up, this seemed to have them in turbo mode. He had already shown me the space on the World Cup wall chart alongside France where he’d be adding England’s name after the game. And then Croatia accelerated. Harry’s sleep remained unbroken. I couldn’t do it to him.

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There’s a big job to do later today. Be strong.

Oh, football. We should be proud. We are. Yet having got so close one can’t deny the genuine disappointment. Can’t deny what a quite wonderful opportunity it was. What an exhilarating moment was unfolding before us. A packed pub, sitting in the shadow of Brentford football club, all pulling together and slowly having their collective hearts broken.

My own take on it at half time was that “This is quite magnificent. But it is also like watching International Brentford.” Chance after chance. Domination on a global scale. A one goal lead but that awful, awful feeling in the darkest recesses of the mind. The feeling that it only takes a second to score a goal and then things would be level on paper. That ultimately, despite all the possession a team may have, balls in the back of the net are the only stat which counts.

Then the second half happened. Then extra time happened. It wasn’t collapse. Far from it. Just an almost inevitable turning of the screw as pressure slowly built and Croatia started to play. If you want the proper facts then the BBC is your place. Go to a reputable website.

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There aren’t many better locations to watch a game of football

For me (Clive) I know what I saw and it’ll stay there forever. A different feeling to Italia ’90 where the ruthless German machine were only ever expected to steamroller Bobby Robson’s boys. Instead, there was genuine belief this time around after Gareth Southgate had inspired a nation to believe.

And ultimately, I guess that’s what we need to take away from this. Winning would have been incredible. Only a moron would say otherwise. Yet at the same time, this collective feeling of wellbeing, of optimism, of hope and of positivity inspired by one man in a waistcoat has been a quite magnificent thing to experience. And for being part of that I can only be truly grateful.

These last few weeks have been incredible. Heading into a tournament where many supporters were, understandably, not even willing to travel. Where the media had painted such a picture of impending horror – and that was just off the pitch. Where nobody gave England a hope on it. Instead, we have had the polar opposite. A team that people can take pride in. A team that have inspired us all.  A tournament that has only captivated from the off.      

So that’s my abiding memory. People united. Communities coming together. Strangers talking to each other. A nation taking pride once more after two years of bitter feuding and self-serving politicians have done their level best to tear us apart. England may have lost but there’s no doom or gloom. Just immense pride.

6.40am Gulp. This is it. HB is calling me. “Daddy. Can I get up? Did England win?“. I sit next to him and break the bad news that, unfortunately, they won’t be in the final. That Croatia played better and won, 2-1.

So we won’t be in the final, then?” he asks me, before adding “but does this mean we still get to see them on Saturday? And if we win that, THEN will we be in the final?

I have no answers here. There’s a deafening silence as he looks up, expectantly. Those big, brown eyes staring up at me and waiting to be told that England will still win the World Cup. The silence suddenly broken by Mrs. Bruzon’s alarm clock going off from the next door room.

“Daddy,” he says. “Mummy’s alarm is going off” and then bursts out laughing.

6.45am All I can hear from his room is “Come on, England. Come on, England”.

Nice one, Gareth!! 

Nick Bruzon

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The Griffin.This community vibe is just one of the things I’ll remember from the 2018 World Cup.

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The jewels remain still gleaming, for now. Which England will we get? Which Billy will we get?

11 Jul

Could today be THE big one? The one we’ve all been waiting for? And for clarity, I don’t mean if we find out whether the Birmingham City transfer embargo story is confirmed. Likewise, what the next instalment of Peter Gilhams’s Brentford tour diary contains (the most recent edition is up, here). Of course, there’s nothing but talk of the World Cup and whether England can reach a first final since West Ham fans claim to have won the tournament back in 1966. In their way, Croatia. Already there, a France team who played out a quite thrilling semi-final with Belgium last night before running out 1-0 winners.

This is going to be something very special. Pub tables are booked and plans made for the evening. It’s 6.30am and already I’m hearing nothing but football as the lead story on the radio whilst the music is being interspersed with snippets of commentary. Roll With It – Jonathan Pearce remix? If you were listening to Matt Dyson and Dave Berry on Absolute radio early doors then that’s what you got. The phrase ‘Football’s coming home’ is everywhere. But will it? 

Well, whatever happens , let’s not forget Croatia have just as much right to be there as England. Will believe they have just as great an opportunity of taking on France in the final. If nothing else, they deserve huge praise just for having the balls to pose for ‘that’ page in the Panini sticker book. Presumably, the result of having lost some form of bet. Please, tell me this is the result of having lost some form of bet….  

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Croatia – first class action in the sticker book.

Then there’s the so-called ‘Curse of ITV’. With England having recorded only a second ever ‘Light channel’ World Cup win since 1998 following victory over Colombia in the second round, is that jinx broken? Or could the spectre of Glenn Hoddle still lean over Gareth Southgate’s team like some nonsense spouting harbinger of doom?

No chance. England are too strong. The mood too positive. The ‘lucky’ table in the pub already secured. England reaching the final is as likely as Billy The Bee appearing in front of a TV camera at some point during tonight’s proceedings. Hopefully face set to ‘ecstatic grin’ rather than’ groan of despair.’  One can’t knock his enthusiasm and passion for both football and England. His magnetic attraction to TV cameras. Those facial gymnastics are an incredible thing – does he have to practice in the bathroom mirror?

In all seriousness, how great to see a familiar Brentford face out there so often. Spreading good cheer and positivity. Helping us tick off our World Cup bingo cards each game. With Denmark’s Henrik Dalsgaard of Brentford having finally departed the tournament after his own magnificent run, great work Billy on keeping us in the public eye.

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Which Billy will we get tonight?

Yet getting back to tonight’s game, the positivity aside will fatigue play a part in England’s favour? Whether physical or mental? Croatia have seen their last two games go all the way to extra time and then penalties. Whilst the prize at stake is a huge one, could they already be on the back foot? The margins between winning and losing are going to be infinitesimally small tonight and this may be one factor to England’s advantage.

Then again, we all expected Saturday against Sweden to be cagey yet once Harry Maguire opened the scoring the game really was one-way traffic. Even when the opposition did get in on goal, there was Jordan Pickford to keep them at bay.

I guess that all this goes to say is whilst I’m backing England, ultimately nobody can make an accurate prediction. In a tournament that has seen the likes of Germany and Argentina humbled, Spain go down in the second round and Brazil in the quarters – take nothing for granted. No one team has a divine right to win it. No one team can guarantee getting there. Obvious, perhaps, but this really is wide open. Whomever doesn’t lift that trophy will never have had a better chance to do so,  

For now, the jewels remain still gleaming. As somebody almost sang. England are alive. But so are France and Croatia. The only thing you can say for sure is that at the end of the day (Clive), a tournament that has done nothing but captivate and surprise is sure to still have a few tricks up her sleeve. And I cannot wait to find out what they are.

Roll on 7(seven) pm.

Nick Bruzon

This was something special…

8 Jul

What a day. What an afternoon. What a party long into the evening (for those of us who didn’t nod off briefly during extra time of the Russia game – move along, nothing to see here). Who’d have thought it? Did it really happen? Yes it bloody well did!! Liverpool hit brackets in a 7(seven) – 0 pre-season friendly. Oh, and England reached the semi-final of the World Cup. Elsewhere, hats off to the Brentford LGBT Bees who missed the game (at least on TV) to attend the Pride parade in London. Huge kudos there and great to see a special guest from Griffin Park.

However, and with the greatest respect to Liverpool, Chester and Brentford, there’s only one place to start. Unless you are a fan of Peter Gilham’s ever wonderful tour diary – day 1 is now up. Of course its England. It’s the World Cup. It’s a semi-final against Croatia. This, after Sweden were despatched in a style far more comfortable than anybody had a right to expect

We watched it in The Griffin. HB’s first proper World Cup match in that communal atmosphere. Wow. He’s hooked. “Daddy, daddy. That’s Young. He’s going to take the corner and we might get a goal.”  Sure enough, it happened. Harry Maguire powered home Ashley Young’s corner. With it, the pressure of a cagey first twenty minutes fell away and another example of why you should never take them short had been administered.

The game opened up. Another pint enjoyed. Chances came. England pushed. 1 up at half time. The semi-final in sight. Jordan Pickford performing heroics to keep England alive as Sweden looked for the equaliser. Then Dele Ali did his thing. Another header. 2-0. Half an hour to go. The finish line in sight? Surely this was in the bag? Landlord, a beer. I need something to calm the nerves.

Never in doubt. The moment of triumph was one met with another gigantic roar that echoed around Brook Road, Braemar Road and probably beyond Griffin Park. Only a third ever World Cup semi final for England in the entire history of football. For many young fans, their first ever. History unfolding before them. For others, the flashbacks to Italia 90 still seem as though they were just five minutes ago.

Fairplay to Sweden but this was something special. A wonderful moment to experience on both a footballing and a personal note. A son who has just turned five and taking all this in his stride. Totally absorbed by the football and telling me the players. Describing the match action. Shrieking with excitement at the prospect of England now being in the last four. Talking to people he’s never met before about a World Cup run that has captivated the nation.

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The Griffin. The moment…

Appreciate this is all a bit nonsensical today. I’m all over the place. And that was as much due to staying on to see who will play England in that semi. Croatia being the answer, after another penalty shoot out win. So I’m just going to stop short now.

Albeit wishing the aforementioned kudos and big love to our LGBT Bees. And Buzz Bee. This tweet, of all I saw yesterday, made me smile the most. Except, perhaps, the Belgians celebrating their victory over Brazil…..

Nick Bruzon

Brentford experience a touch of the Arsenal with new shirt. And Saïd joins. Nice.

7 Jul

Well that was unexpected. What a warm up to the biggest England game in I don’t know how long. Uruguay out! Brazil out! The new Brentford home shirt – out! And there’s a new signing to boot, with attacker Mohamed Saïd Benrahma joining from OGC Nice. All of which were brought to us in quite unique social media styles – a fan announcing the kit and Saïd (as he is apparently better known) announcing himself to a fan.

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#WelcomeSaïd (sorry – we don’t do that anymore. Thankfully)

First up, Brentford. The new shirt. No sooner had I got home from picking up mine and HB’s away shirts from the club shop than the phone went off. And again. And again. Something was clearly afoot.

Whilst we’d been given the home shirt teaser photo in the morning, with a promise of the big reveal on Monday, the club had gone early. Or, rather, supporter Lucy Draper had after dropping this tweet mid-afternoon……

Wow. As a means of doing this it was a great idea. Out of nowhere and via a fan rather than a week of snippets and moody looking shadow drenched pictures that no amount of fiddling with photoshop can enhance to reveal more clues. Been there, done that and it’s a lot of time that can never be got back. I have to be honest that, much like novelty hashtags, the tease routine is starting to feel as though it has had it’s day. Just rip it off and show us your kits, Brentford.    

Well, the club would seem to be heading in that direction and we now know what we’ll look like in 2018/19. If it was love at first sight for the beautiful brown and orange, I’m more cautiously reserved when it comes to the home variant. The gut reaction for me was one of personal anti-climax. White sleeves and not enough black trim. Barely any (and that’s assuming the Draper family weren’t all wearing low cut black vests). All this before we’d even seen the red back.

Yet, seeing it as the match action photos from our game at Boreham Wood began to come in later that evening I have to say it started to grow on me. The all white sleeves looking better and the black shorts helping break it up more.

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Much better in full frontal

The problem being, of course, that full kit w@nkers aside, no supporter goes out on match day wearing much more than replica shirt and jeans. Perhaps it’ll be a case of breaking out the black wranglers rather than the blue next season.

For me (Clive) there’s just a touch too much of 1970s Arsenal about it. The red back, the white sleeves, the red trim. With a striped back this could have been superb. Instead, with the all red derriere (thanks, Adidas) it looks almost like two different kits mangled together. Something that became more apparent as we saw those ‘side on’ / reverse shots. ‘A cut and shut’ as one New Road observer would later opine.

That said, supporter opinion on social media seemed to be generally in favour and it’s impossible to please everybody. Likewise, in this era of clubs changing shirts every campaign there’s only so much you can do to update red and white stripes. Only so much you can do for the likes of Brentford, Sheffield United and Sunderland to not look as though they are wearing some variant of each other’s back catalogue – even if the Arsenal look was one that Adidas have dropped on us.

With the club’s current deal with our kit partner due to expire at the end of this season, and assuming a new contract hasn’t been signed already, perhaps a clause insisting on a striped back might be the way forward with whomever our next supplier is. Adidas or other.

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One shirt – two teams?

Ultimately, it’s a shirt. An absolutely key part of the club and our heritage but at the same time, there could be a lot worse things to happen.  I’ve loved many before. I’ve hated others on sight. This one falls somewhere in the middle. Having told people to reserve full judgement on the away until they see it, now is the time to take that advice myself.

Perhaps this one will prove to be a grower in our house. One really does hope so as with the away shirt proving a classic (and HB wanting to wear his to bed last night – that wasn’t happening), how nice to have a pair of iconic kits to celebrate our journey to the Premier League.

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The away shirt is a ratings winner in TW8

If choosing a fan to reveal our shirt was a novel touch, there was more to come. With speculation about the signing of Saïd Benrahma rife on social media this week, the player himself revealed his arrival – direct to supporter Ryan Gaffney after he’d questioned whether a signing really was imminent. Albeit with the full story coming shortly after on official (and you can read that one here).

This sort of thing is great. Like sending away shirts and jaffa cakes in the post to those whose first reaction wasn’t favourable, the club are really driving fan interaction to a new level. Gone are those awful hashtags – farewell #trophfyriends and #Novemberkings – and instead we have fans right at the heart of the action. No staid press release but instead a devastatingly refreshing break from the norm.

Traditionalists may not agree. Personally I’m loving what we are doing here although don’t deny it is a tricky line to stay the right side of. As noted by one observer (below). But if you can get it right, what a great tool. Social media is well and truly here to stay – let’s embrace it.

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Next up. The World Cup. The trophy IS coming home. Or, at least for now, to Europe. Brazil and Uruguay both crashed out last night (I would also accept: ‘limped’) to Belgium and France respectively. Now’s the chance for England to go again.

It promises to be shirt launch levels of excitement. Pubs full, barbecues sizzling and supermarket beer shelves cleared. That’s just Gareth Southgate’s big match build up routine.

In all seriousness though, I can’t wait. The World Cup is always huge and with England one of just six teams left alive, the excitement sweeping the nation is palbable. Everybody knows what is at stake and with football already having been formally declared to be packing her cases for the flight back to England, it would be fair to say that optimism levels are through the roof.

There’s not much else to say on that really. It’s all about the anticipation for now.

Wherever you watch it, enjoy. No doubt he game will provide a story and some sort of discussion point come 6pm.

This is England, it always does.

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Scenes we’ll be hoping to avoid later today

Nick Bruzon

All of which brings us with sledgehammer like unsubtlety to the Last Word season /five-season reviews which remain available for download. ALL proceeds received are being donated to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust so why not help out this wonderful part of our club whilst providing yourself with some relief for the commute, the bathroom or just whilst relaxing on holiday.

Ten Times Better. Brentford FC Season review: 2017/18. Inspired by ‘that’ interview it contains the least bad of these columns in one, handy volume as it looks at our own campaign as well as wider divisional life and the promotion / relegation races.

As a bonus there’s a whole host of new material. New that is, for my pages. Specifically, all the programme articles submitted (both home and away where, if nothing else, you can get the original versions of both Birmingham City and Millwall).

In addition, There Is No Plan B. Brentford FC Season reviews: 2013/14 – 2017/18 takes us all the way back to the start of this latest leg in the journey. That penalty. League One. Harlee Dean was a hero. Jota was something we thought happened to the temperature for one week in July. Alan Judge had joined on loan whilst the Marinus Experiment was something nobody had contemplated. Bringing things bang up to date by the inclusion of this year’s volume alongside the four previously published campaign round ups, it has five seasons in one weighty tome. As weighty as a download can be, that is.

Relive the memories. See how often the same material gets regurgitated. Remind yourself how it all began.

The morning after the night before. Eric Dier and Andy Bush save the day.

5 Jul

Well, yesterday was all a bit bonkers. From start to finish. But then again an England World Cup win will do that. A World Cup win on penalties no less (not a typo). It was just fantastic in and around Brentford but likewise, central London too. You know something amazing must have happened when random commuters start talking to each other on public transport. Yet it was that sort of moment. The spirit of the night before having carried on through. It wasn’t a dream. That really DID happen. People still buzzing about the moment Eric Dier hit the winning spot kick and a nation exploded in joy.

 The. Moment. What a celebration.

I have to be honest here, the prospect of the journey into work was not an appealing one. This was not so much the thought of reaching the office where I was actually looking forward to discussing the game. With my team but more specifically a very good friend of mine (sorry, sorry – I’m not doing an Ian Moose) who is engaged to be married to a quite wonderful girl from Colombia next month. There was genuine curiosity as to the vibe in their house. Something which eventually transpired to be extremely diplomatic and sporting, even if the same couldn’t be said for their neighbours when Yerry Mina scored that heartbreaking 94thminute equaliser.

The reticence was more about travelling in to Waterloo on a packed train in the heat after waking up in what could politely be described as a tired, emotional and fragile state. No amount of air-con was going to save this journey if I had to stand up for a half hour with an exasperated estate agent from Putney shoving his armpit in my face. That, assuming the exasperated screech of “Can you pleeeeeasssse. Move. DOWN”, into an already jammed carriage, had actually worked this time. Urghh. Armpits.

DhPZEXaXkAE7tGKAnd so I’m not too proud to admit this. I took the ‘break glass in case of emergency option’. I’ve had it in the backpocket for a couple of months c/o Absolute Radio DJ Andy Bush but never quite had the guts to use it. Until now. But people seemed chatty. People seemed friendly. People seemed in a genuinely good humour. What was there to lose?

So I used it. Not once. But twice. On the overland and then the tube. Even better, it worked. Twice. A five commuter Mexican stand-off around the one available seat on the Jubilee line being won by my pointing to the badge and saying “Look, does anybody mind if I take that?”.

And then it got awkward. Getting up at my destination, a pregnant lady simultaneously stood up. She had her own, infinitley more legitimate, ‘baby on board’ badge. I didn’t know where to look as she clocked mine and said “Oh…

Cripes. The ground could have swallowed up. Her in genuine need (albeit having been given a seat) and me, a commuting charlatan. She continued, “I LOVE your badge. And I do miss it!”  Get in. Eric Dier, you beauty. You did this. I’m a Brentford fan but big up to the Spurs player and the whole team for achieving this level of bonhomie across the country.

Likewise, big thanks to Bush (below) and my fellow commuters for allowing me to reach the office fully refreshed. And you can follow him on Twitter, at @bushontheradio which I’d thoroughly recommend if you like football. Or radio.

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Everton fan Andy Bush is more than just a DJ

Anyway. Work was fine. Clients were chatty. The mood was great. The journey home a simple one. Indeed, the only sour note was stopping outside The Griffin on the way home to chew over the fat of the night before with landlord Gerhard. He seemed somewhat distracted, and understandably so.

A TV crew were filming on Brook Road south when this chap just pulled up in his van outside the access road, jumped out and left it there. Something that, I gather, also stopped Brentford fan engagement manager Ryan Murrant from being able to later perform a ‘U-turn’. How inconsiderate!

He (the van driver) seemed involved in some sort of fracas with the film crew because he kept going off to his vehicle before running back to them once more. Go figure??

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The film crew interrupted as people watching do nothing to help

The only other highlight of the evening was a now familiar face to the nation, Brentford fan Billy Grant of Beesotted, doing his TV thing once more. Live on BBC News 24 from what seemed like a Victorian parlour in the heart of Moscow. The amount of black and white framed pictures on the walls were as distracting as the random strangers that kept walking through the back of his shot. A Rucksack here; a backwards baseball cap there. Terrible manners. But ever the pro, Billy did his thing and regaled us with his own tales of ‘carnage’ and hugging strangers.

Great work, as ever, from Billy. Here’s to seeing what he has to say in the build-up to the Sweden game.

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Billy on the BBC jumbotron

 

Nick Bruzon

All of which brings us to the usual post article, P.S. The Last Word season /five-season reviews which remain available for download. ALL proceeds received are being donated to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust so why not help out this wonderful part of our club whilst providing yourself with some relief for the commute, the bathroom or just whilst relaxing on holiday.

Ten Times Better. Brentford FC Season review: 2017/18. Inspired by ‘that’ interview it contains the least bad of these columns in one, handy volume as it looks at our own campaign as well as wider divisional life and the promotion / relegation races.

As a bonus there’s a whole host of new material. New that is, for my pages. Specifically, all the programme articles submitted (both home and away where, if nothing else, you can get the original versions of both Birmingham City and Millwall).

In addition, There Is No Plan B. Brentford FC Season reviews: 2013/14 – 2017/18takes us all the way back to the start of this latest leg in the journey. That penalty. League One. Harlee Dean was a hero. Jota was something we thought happened to the temperature for one week in July. Alan Judge had joined on loan whilst the Marinus Experiment was something nobody had contemplated. Bringing things bang up to date by the inclusion of this year’s volume alongside the four previously published campaign round ups, it has five seasons in one weighty tome. As weighty as a download can be, that is.

Relive the memories. See how often the same material gets regurgitated. Remind yourself how it all began

England do it in the most dramatic style. What a night. What a moment. What a video.

4 Jul

There are no longer any words. That was simply stunning. Incredible. Odds defying. A ‘where were you when…?’ moment. (For the record, The Griffin pub in Brentford). England have only gone and done it. They’ve won a game on ITV. And how. Penalties. That cruelest of mistresses yet, at the same time, the most delicious of tastes should your team pull it off.  Thanks to Jordan Pickford’s save and Eric Dier’s winning spot kick, England did. The place, Moscow. The opposition, Colombia. The occasion, a World Cup last 16 game.

It’s all a bit of a blur this morning. Beer was consumed. Probably in greater volume than would ordinarily be allowed on a school night. But this was a special occasion. The World Cup which has already delivered so much now had an even greater prize at stake. The chance to take on Sweden (who had earlier beaten Switzerland 1-0) for a place in the semi-finals. Didn’t England take their chance when it came to the crunch?

Talk about the see-saw of emotions. Don’t expect much of a match report – then again, if you’re reading this you’ve likely seen the game. We can talk about the cynical play from Colombia. About a referee so far out of his depth as to need armbands and a lifeguard.I half expected to see The Hoff (David, not Philipp) come running on in his red shorts to help out the man in the middle.

How Harry Kane was made to wait so long for the chance to take his penalty in regular time I have no idea. It seemed close to four minutes, the amount of protests being lodged to the ref. The amount of time wasted with Colombia playing silly beggars on the penalty spot, even after he reconfirmed his decision. That, in itself, probably about the only thing he got right after the player had been brutally wrestled to the ground. It was a move as unsubtle as Hulk Hogan on Andre the Giant and penalty could be the only call. Yet even that seemed in doubt for a moment.

No worries. No pressure (at least, none shown) and it was blasted down the middle for 1-0 England after an hour. The pub erupted. The country erupted. But there was still a good thirty minutes to go. Colombia became more desperate. More ill-disciplined. Trying to drag England into it with spoiling tactics that I’m overly loathe to write about for fear of sounding all Daily Mail. But when the referee was letting them get away with daylight robbery then why not persist? Instead I’ll leave this thought here…

And ironically, it was deep into the stoppage time awarded to make up for all the faffing around with the spot kick that they equalised. There was no doubting the placement of Yerry Mina’s header or the joy from the Colombian supporters. Likewise, the collective groan that went around the pub. And wasn’t that Billy Grant up on the big screen – grimacing at us all the way from Russia? His face, etched in the moment of ‘Aaarrgghhhh”, mirroring what everyone felt?

Yes it was. The man with a magnetic attraction to TV cameras and microphones had struck again. Legend. Whether it is England or Brentford, his appearance is as reliable as Glenn Hoddle spouting nonsense (something something something Love Train? ) Whilst yours truly was too cack-handed to get his phone out in time, Twitter was the place – with thanks to David Goodwin and @JimmyMack84.

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Billy Grant – the pain was mutual

I have to be honest, extra time wasn’t good. It didn’t feel good. The psychological pressure of seeing a team come so close only to be denied in the 94th minute weighing heavy on the fans. England seemingly on the back foot and Colombia looking the more likely to win it, if we’re being honest.

But Gareth Southgate’s men are made of stern stuff. They hung in as the game drifted towards the inevitable spot kicks. A means of progression England have only ever succeeded at once previously, back in Euro ’96 against Spain. The pressure. The Tension. The stress. The anticipation. And that was just in The Griffin. Yours Truly had to pop outside to take stock. A look up at Griffin Park and then back in to take the pain…..

Colombia to kick things off. Falcao. 1-0. But not for long. First up for England, Harry Kane. Yessss!!! You beauty. The man must have ice running through his veins. 1-1. Cuadrado 2-1. Rashford 2-2. Muriel 3-2 . The first five kicks scored. A marked contrast to the awkwardness of those in the Croatia – Denmark game.

Up steps Jordan Henderson. No…… Saved. Colombia in the box seat. This was theirs to throw away now.

Boom – by means of reply Uribe hits the woodwork. My word !!! Next up, Trippier. Nerves shredded. We can barely look. But we do. Get in. Back of the net. Spice World The Movie. Jurassic Park. He’s done it. Pick that one out. 3-3 .

Carlos Bacca walks up. This is horrific. Brutal. A form of torture that should, by all rights, have been outlawed under the terms of the Geneva convention. But Jordan Pickford didn’t have any of that on his mind. Not outwardly. What a save. The Colombian denied finding the Bacca the net.

This is it. This is THE moment Eric Dier positions himself.  England have been so close. So close all game yet now this has taken us the very edge and beyond. Fists are clenched. Faces set stern. Eyes wide. People frozen in anticipation. Edge of the seat stuff. Not that many were sitting at this juncture. For a moment, nothing. And then an eruption of sound, of joy, of ecstasy that meant England were through. The net bulging. The pub screaming as one. Strangers hugging strangers and beer flying everywhere.

Football. Bloody hell. I can’t do this anymore. I can’t wait for Sweden on Saturday. Same time, same place.

That’s me done for today. Instead, here’s THE moment……..

Yesssssss!!!

Nick Bruzon

All of which brings us with sledgehammer like unsubtlety to the Last Word season /five-season reviews which remain available for download. ALL proceeds received are being donated to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust so why not help out this wonderful part of our club whilst providing yourself with some relief for the commute, the bathroom or just whilst relaxing on holiday.

 Ten Times Better. Brentford FC Season review: 2017/18. Inspired by ‘that’ interview it contains the least bad of these columns in one, handy volume as it looks at our own campaign as well as wider divisional life and the promotion / relegation races.

As a bonus there’s a whole host of new material. New that is, for my pages. Specifically, all the programme articles submitted (both home and away where, if nothing else, you can get the original versions of both Birmingham City and Millwall).

 In addition, There Is No Plan B. Brentford FC Season reviews: 2013/14 – 2017/18 takes us all the way back to the start of this latest leg in the journey. That penalty. League One. Harlee Dean was a hero. Jota was something we thought happened to the temperature for one week in July. Alan Judge had joined on loan whilst the Marinus Experiment was something nobody had contemplated. Bringing things bang up to date by the inclusion of this year’s volume alongside the four previously published campaign round ups, it has five seasons in one weighty tome. As weighty as a download can be, that is.

Relive the memories. See how often the same material gets regurgitated. Remind yourself how it all began….

 

Can England join magnificent Japan in the hunt for a monster upset?

3 Jul

Bloody hell. Football. I think we’re all starting to run out of superlatives after yet another stunning evening of World Cup action. And this is before we even get on to England! Monday night’s game between Belgium and Japan showcased the beautiful game at her most alluring. It was one you simply couldn’t have made up and had it all – shock, excitement, wonderful goals, an edge of the seat comeback and then bitter, bitter tears at the end as Roberto Martinez and his team scraped through by the most gossamer like of margins. It was marked contrast from the earlier game where the acting skills of Neymar will remain forever branded onto the memories of most fans rather than a 2-0 win for Brazil over Mexico. And back home, with rumours starting to circulate (we’ll get there properly when something actual happens) Brentford have now announced one move.

I’m struggling to describe the emotions of watching the Belgium – Japan encounter. Even now I’m both smiling at what unfolded yet devastated at how it finished. And that’s having only seen the final 45 minutes. This, after a problem at the office (genuinely) meant I was just coming in from work as the second half kicked off. Sadly, there was no helpful score update from the commentary team. Instead it was down to the graphic in the top corner to bring things up to speed in an immediate, if somewhat unsatisfying, style. But that was where any disappointment ended.

Talk about an explosion of action. Talk about Boy’s Own stuff. Talk about underdogs and unfancied Japan sticking it to the Premier League fat cats. Belgium, for all they galaxy of stars available to their squad were simply blown away. Jan Vertonghen left for dead by Genki Haraguchi who scored with a fine finish. It was defending as leaden footed as Gary Breen at his most oil tanker like (I’m thinking of Sunderland at Brentford in the 2006 FA Cup) but don’t let that take anything away from Haraguchi’s run and shot just after half time.

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One for the Bees fans, there. What a moment.

Less than five minutes later the lead was doubled. Takashi Inui with an absolute piledriver of a shot from well outside the box. A blow as powerful as Godzilla laying waste to downtown Tokyo with his flaming breath but this time it was the Japanese handing out the pain rather than receiving it.

The football was devastating, it was brutal but it was brilliant. A quite scintillating display of moving the ball and running at pace. Yet still they came. Belgium looked lost. Little boys crying out for their mummys after having being promised an easy second round game but, instead, taking an absolute hammering. Fattened lambs to the slaughter after being fed a load of waffle about their opponents.

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The king of the monsters, laying waste to all around

All over social media, Gareth Southgate was being praised for his tactical genius. Not in avoiding the supposed hard part of the draw but simply in England dodging a team who seemed intent on providing this most exciting of tournaments with yet another shock.

And then Belgium woke up. The double substitution of Marouane Fellaini and Nacer Chadli coming on was followed by Vertonghen atoning for his earlier error with 20 minutes to go. Five minutes later, Fellaini powered home a cross form Hazard to level things up. 2-2 and the clock ticking. Japan recomposed themselves and kept coming. A free kick at the death almost drifting in before a quite magnificent move out of the back opened up the Japan midfield and back line for Chadli to stroke home with just seconds remaining.

It was a goal as heartbreaking as it was beautiful. Godzilla having been finally subdued by the footballing equivalent of a freeze ray. With what seemed to be the entire nation willing on Japan, you had to admire the speed and skill with which the winner was scored. Even if it was begrudgingly. The coup de grâce being Lukaku’s sweet dummy when he could have been forgiven for trying to stab the ball goalwards but, instead, allowing it to run through to his teammate to break their opponents’ hearts  

The Japanese were distraught. Understandably so. I had to turn off within moments of the final whistle as they collapsed to the pitch in despair. It felt as though we were intruding on some private moment of grief after having been afforded the privilege of witnessing some of the most breathtaking football in history. Indtead, it was left to their coach Akira Nishino to sum it up:  “I don’t want to admit it. I do feel that it was a tragedy but I have to accept the defeat as a fact.”

It was a million miles away from what we will remember from the earlier game. Brazil beat Mexico 2-0 to set up a quarter final with Belgium. Fine. But the theatrics from Neymar Jr, writhing around as though he had been shot, brought torrents of disdain from just about the entire footballing community. It was Rivaldo levels of farce. Acting as unsubtle as Mrs. Brown and a moment that what about as unfunny as Brendan O’Carroll’s tedious creation.

This sequence on my Twitter timeline summing the day up in one screen grab.   

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And so the quarter finals are starting to take shape. This one really is up for grabs now. Whilst anyone could win it, looking at the games to come, anyone really could. But will England join them?

Gareth Southgate’s team do battle with Colombia this evening. On the pitch, it’s 11 v11. Off it, we have England v the curse of ITV.

Whilst I spoke about this earlier in the week, it does bear repeating. England have only one one World Cup game that has been shown on the light channel since 1998. That, back in Germany 2006 against Trinidad and Tobago. Even then, it took two very late goals (Peter Crouch after 83 minutes and Steven Gerrard on 90) to secure three points for Sven’s team. Ah, Sven – remember him?

Can England turn form around? After a World Cup of shocks, I wouldn’t bet against Gareth Southgate pulling off the biggest upset of the tournament to date. Victory under the gaze of Glenn Hoddle.

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The stats don’t lie…

And finally, Brentford. There was transfer news of sorts. Theo Archibald has joined League Two outfit Forest Green Rovers for 2018/19 (albeit with the option to recall in January). You can read the full story on ‘official’ .

All of which brings us with sledgehammer like unsubtlety to the Last Word season /five-season reviews which remain available for download. ALL proceeds received are being donated to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust so why not help out this wonderful part of our club whilst providing yourself with some relief for the commute, the bathroom or just whilst relaxing on holiday.

Ten Times Better. Brentford FC Season review: 2017/18. Inspired by ‘that’ interview it contains the least bad of these columns in one, handy volume as it looks at our own campaign as well as wider divisional life and the promotion / relegation races.

As a bonus there’s a whole host of new material. New that is, for my pages. Specifically, all the programme articles submitted (both home and away where, if nothing else, you can get the original versions of both Birmingham City and Millwall).

In addition, There Is No Plan B. Brentford FC Season reviews: 2013/14 – 2017/18 takes us all the way back to the start of this latest leg in the journey. That penalty. League One. Harlee Dean was a hero. Jota was something we thought happened to the temperature for one week in July. Alan Judge had joined on loan whilst the Marinus Experiment was something nobody had contemplated. Bringing things bang up to date by the inclusion of this year’s volume alongside the four previously published campaign round ups, it has five seasons in one weighty tome. As weighty as a download can be, that is.

Relive the memories. See how often the same material gets regurgitated. Remind yourself how it all began…..

Nick Bruzon

No stripes? Adidas sell fans short with back and sides. And why England could be in trouble on Tuesday.

30 Jun

Saturday morning. After a day to recover from England reaching the knockout stages following Gareth Southgate’s quite magnificent game of bluff against Belgium, the action picks up again with the quite delicious prospect of France and Argentina meeting in direct, winner stays on, combat. Back home, Brentford have revealed the first news about our new home shirt and it has the fans talking – thanks to the machinations of the good folk at Adidas. Plus today is the last day for one fan to win my own prize – the limited edition 2017/18 Bees ‘third shirt’ given to me by a source close to the club. The draw will take place tomorrow.

Where to begin? Well I suppose it can only be England. A second round tie with Colombia awaits following Thursday night’s 1-0 defeat to Belgium. It is a defeat that sees the team in the, so called, easier half of the draw – a comment that is as patronising as it is foolish; should things go wrong. On the flip side, swerving the likes of Argentina, Brazil, France and Portugal (for now, at least) is no bad thing and let’s not pretend that for those of us watching back home, there wasn’t what felt like a huge silver lining to the cloud of defeat. As my good friend Paul (with apologies for going all Ian Moose) said in the pub with the clock showing 85 minutes, “Holding on for defeat has never felt so tense.

Yet whatever the result, the game is as much best remembered for a master stroke from Gareth Southgate. With Roberto Martinez telegraphing his intention to utilise the full squad long before kick-off in what he deemed “a celebration game”, Gareth was making all the right noises about playing to win. Playing his team. And then he announced it. Boom. Eight changes. I’ve not seen this much rotation since watching the magic roundabout as a child.

So the B-team lost. And? The fans, which included Brentford big cheeses Mark Devlin and Mike Sullivan seemed to enjoy themselves. Beesotted sharing this picture on their own Twitter feed.

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Two businessmen on a jolly to Russia. What could go wrong…?

It sounded a phenomenal atmosphere with, thankfully, that band being drowned out for large sections of the game. At least, that was the perception for those of us who had just come in from work and were watching back home. Great work all round – long may it continue.

Yet whatever the mechanics of the draw and the group stages, it could all be in vain for England. With Tuesday’s game being shown on ITV, a stat reaches me via former Brentford video whizzkid and Alex Pritchard lookalike Sean Ridley…..

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The stats don’t lie…

Wow. That’s incredible. Who’d have thought the Glenn Hoddle effect was that far reaching? Yet as we’ve also said on these pages many times, it’s goals and not stats that win games. Here’s hoping that transpires to be the case this time around. Moreso, given Brentford chairman Cliff Crown will be in attendance, having been offered a very special opportunity.

He announced on Twitter yesterday that: I am delighted and honoured to have been asked to be one of the representatives from the  professional game as an English FA ambassador at the England v Columbia game in Russia.

This is special news. We all know how affable and generous with his time Cliff is. What a wonderful ambassador he is for our own club and the game in general. How hard he works to promote Brentford and the FA. So how wonderful to see him afforded this chance. Nice one, Cliff.

Finally. The second round. It IS the second round although I would also accept the last 16. Please, whatever FIFA may try to convince you, there is no such thing as ‘the round of 16’. Much like the faux verb ‘to medal’ or our own ‘Team GB’ (GREAT. BRITAIN.) this new fangled gumph is slowly eeking into public consciousness as a somehow acceptable term. It isn’t. It’s made up. It’s just a mouthful. There’s no ‘round of 8’. Nobody is sitting in the pub saying, I can’t wait for next Sunday when England get to play Portugal in the round of 2.

Dear FIFA, you may own the competition. You don’t own football. Please. Stop this nonsense.

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‘Easy’ side? Horrific terminology. SECOND. ROUND.

Ok – back to Griffin Park. An announcement was made out of Brentford ‘official’ about the forthcoming season’s Adidas produced home shirt. Specifically, that it will have no stripes on the reverse but, instead, a plain red back. This is not a decision taken by the club but one they are clear to point out is part of adidas’ design direction for the upcoming season for all their partner clubs in the UK (and beyond, it would seem if you look at the Juventus home shirt for 2018/19). The benefit being that they, “believe this will allow them to create more standout designs for clubs in the UK”.

That’s the marketing speak. Fairplay to the club for getting this news out early. Certainly I’d have done it this way, given we’ve had our hand forced by a ‘partner’. Looking at the new Sheffield United kit, they’ve also had to follow suit although have opted for an awful white. Something that, for yours truly, brings back memories of the Puma teabag and a missed penalty the last time we were forced down this route (something that the Blades somehow seemed able to bypass).

If we’ve had no choice then red is most definitely the correct option. Whilst there is no question whatsoever that we should have stripes on the reverse, if a plain colour is needed then the white was just too much. 

If anybody from Adidas is reading (unlikely, but….) I would ask why we couldn’t just replicate the ‘standout design’ from the front and apply it to the reverse? Even with a ‘patch’ should clarity for numbers be the crowbarred explanation – something that has never really been a problem in the past.

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Worse things have happened in a red back…..

Ahh, I can’t be too upset at present. At the end of the day (Clive), we’ve not seen the shirt yet. It could stand on its own merits or be a pinstripe nightmare – either factor regardless of the back. Besides, after the brown and orange beauty for the away shirt, I could forgive them just about anything at present. Even the lack of long sleeves.

Talking of the brown and orange, for anybody still doubting how incredible it looks the club shop now have it up in the window. If you happen to be in the vicinity of TW8 then do take a diversion. It’s well worth seeing this beauty up close.

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One of my favourite websites, historicalkits.co,uk have also added this one to their pages. Along with their own unique commentary which tends to border between sarcasm and dead-pan brilliance. This is the same site that described our own 2015/16 away effort as follows:  (Mark) Devlin also helpfully adds that the “Away kit needs to be significantly different from the home kit to ensure there are no colour clashes.” So pleased he cleared that up.

But which way did they go for the 2018/19 incarnation? Well, in the interest of fairplay I’ll leave this one to you….. Their Championship page can be found here.

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And with all the subtly of Ian Moose taking a selfie, the kit talks continues. Today (Saturday) is your last chance to enter the draw to win this 2017/18 Brentford ‘third’ shirt. The draw will take place on Sunday afternoon and I’ll look to film it if technology allows.

To be in with a chance of winning this, simply download a copy of the Last Word Season review Ten Times Better. Brentford FC Season review: 2017/18. Or the full fat five year version  There Is No Plan B. Brentford FC Season reviews: 2013/14 – 2017/18

ALL proceeds received go to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust and so even if you don’t win, know that your donation is going to a great cause whilst in return you get to OD on all things Griffin Park. And beyond.

As a bonus (please note, your definition of bonus may vary) there’s a whole host of new material. New that is, for my pages. Specifically, all the programme articles submitted (both home and away where, if nothing else, you can get the original versions of both Birmingham City and Millwall).

Should you be kind enough to take part, PLEASE DM/tweet me (@NickBruzon) a copy of your download confirmation mail and I’ll add your name to the list before an independent adjudicator will select a random Bees fan to win this on July 1st.

Thank you

Nick Bruzon

Germans, Fawlty. Flaccid Mannschaft fail to make a semi for first time in 12 years.

28 Jun

Don’t mention the, the, the….VAR. (© the entire internet and newspaper industry). Curses. I feel dirty. Tried to resist it but the opportunity was so blatant and the open goal so gaping it would have been a crime not to jump on the ‘Don’t cry for me, Argentina’ bandwagon of obvious post-defeat puns. But these are strange times. Wednesday’s action saw Germany finish bottom of their World Cup group after going down to South Korea, Brazil ease through the gears and England preparing for a Group G shoot out with Belgium. And, as ever, there’s a Brentford angle. Of sorts.

Just when you thought the World Cup couldn’t get any more exciting, it did. And how! We’ve already seen the likes of Argentina, Portugal and Spain make much harder work of qualifying than they would have been expected to after some quite scintillating group action. Seeded Poland are already out and yesterday afternoon in the biggest of all the shocks, not just for this tournament but in years, Germany were sent home after succumbing 2-0 to South Korea.

Talk about a (Joachim) Low point. The defeat saw them finish rock bottom of the qualifying group as, going for broke after Sweden cruised into an unassailable lead against Mexico, it became a case of win or bust. Two late goals – one reinstated thanks to use of VAR and the other with German ‘keeper Manuel Neuer caught upfield – meant this one was left firmly in the bust camp. That totally unusual, and in no way pleasurable, sight of their fans crying in the stands filling our screens.

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Stop. Sniggering. Please.

It was just bizarre. Yet at the same time, brilliant. How often have they swept all before them? The ruthless footballing machine that has claimed trophy after trophy. Despatched those crucial penalties with clinical ease? Invincible. Untouchable. All conquering. Until now. These demi-Gods of the global game, brought to their knees.

It is the first time in 12 years Germany have failed to reach the semi-final of a major tournament. As many twitter wags have already pointed out, who will now beat England on penalties? More importantly, it has thrown the tournament wide open whilst adding even more intrigue to tonight’s game with Belgium.

Specifically, the talk of finishing second being a seemingly more advantageous position to be in. The group winners go into the side of the draw that contains Brazil, Mexico, France, Argentina and Portugal in the knock out stages. The reward for second place is a knockout stage that currently features Spain, Russia, Croatia, Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland. With both sides on level points, goals scored and goal difference, should either fail to win then it will come down to who has the most bookings. At present, a draw will see England will top the pile based on their 2 yellow cards compared to Belgium’s 3.

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The BBC show how tight the group is.

Watching last night’s Brazil game on ITV, the subsequent panel discussion was all around this very point. Gary Neville and Ian Wright both stressing the benefits of the so called easier route (whilst failing to note that it also includes Henrik Dalsgaard of Brentford and his Denmark team. I DID say it was an angle, of sorts). Let the big boys knock each other out.  

It is an option seemingly favoured by Belgian coach Roberto Martinez. His own interview suggested wholesale changes were in the offing and players protected. Unless my ears were deceiving me, I could have sworn his interview on ITV included references to it being what he deemed “A celebration game” where “the priority is not to win”.

Also in the geometric hell and magic eye puzzle that is the ITV studio, Slavan Bilic was ploughing a lone furrow. Go for broke. Keep the momentum. Win at all costs. Don’t disrupt the routine. Thing started to get a little bit Daily Mail at this point. Belgium will play the second string. It’s not English to do anything but go for it. The team will play to win. Gareth won’t rotate his squad etc etc

All I’ll say on the subject is that at 8/5 this morning, a price checked with my online bookmaker purely for research purposes, England would seem to be  very generous price. Then again, could it all be the ultimate in double bluffs from Martinez? Or is the safe and easy route against supposedly easier opposition, one they favoured in their own warm up games for the tournament, something that Belgium will look to try and follow once more.

Whilst one can’t imagine they’ll go out of their way to lose / throw the game, perhaps a cagey bore draw is all we have to look forward to. And if this is how things are looking as we head into the final fifteen, could there be a flourish of yellow cards? A bit of back chat here. A ball thrown away there. Just enough to ensure one team tip themselves into second place whilst remaining undefeated.

Then again, and has been said many times, yours truly is just the numpty on the terrace. Plenty of questions and no actual answers. Yet.

I can’t wait until 7(seven) pm when we find out what they are.

Nick Bruzon

PS Just a reminder that The Last Word season Reviews are now available for download. All proceeds from any sales will go to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust. For less than the cost of a half / pint respectively, they may help while away some time on the commute, by the pool on holiday or just in the bathroom. Who knows? It will certainly do some good for the Trust, whose work has been well documented at Griffin Park but you can read all about it on their site.

Plus, pick one up before the end of June and go into the draw to win an exclusive Brentford shirt. PLEASE DM/tweet me (@NickBruzon) a copy of your download confirmation mail and I’ll add your name to the list before an independent adjudicator will select a random Bees fan to win this on July 1st.

The Kindle e-book Ten Times Better. Brentford FC Season review: 2017/18. Inspired by ‘that’ interview it contains the least bad of these columns in one, handy volume as it looks at our own campaign as well as wider divisional life and the promotion / relegation races. As a bonus there’s a whole host of new material. New that is, for my pages. Specifically, all the programme articles submitted (both home and away where, if nothing else, you can get the original versions of both Birmingham City and Millwall).

In addition, There Is No Plan B. Brentford FC Season reviews: 2013/14 – 2017/18 takes us all the way back to the start of this latest leg in the journey. That penalty. League One. Harlee Dean was a hero. Jota was something we thought happened to the temperature for one week in July. Alan Judge had joined on loan whilst the Marinus Experiment was something nobody had contemplated. Bringing things bang up to date by the inclusion of this year’s volume alongside the four previously published campaign round ups, it has five seasons in one weighty tome. As weighty as a download can be, that is.

Relive the memories. See how often the same material gets regurgitated. Remind yourself how it all began….

 

Big new balls. Same old Maradona. And an innovation from Brentford.

27 Jun

The simultaneous sound of a million screen grabs being made and one director desperately screaming “cuuuutttttttttt”. Diego Maradona celebrating that late winner for Argentina against Nigeria in his own unique style is somethign that will long live on in the memory. Last night saw the relentless pace of the World Cup show no signs of abating. A point made even more pleasurable given the afternoon’s bore draw in which Brentford’s Henrik Dalsgaard (now something as locked into the media mind as eighteen year old Ryan Sessegnon’s eighteen year old age, West Ham’s move to the Olympic stadium, Trevor Brooking’s header in the 1980 FA Cup final and West Ham winning the World cup in 1966) made it three appearances out of three for the Dane.  There’s a new ball coming whilst for Brentford fans, we’ve a unique perspective on Lionel Road.

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Goaaaallll!!!

Cripes. The World Cup. We’re not even at the knockout stages and I’m already exhausted. This is just brilliant. The excitement, the pressure, the tears and the joy. VAR has gone haywire whilst over on the BBC, Mark Lawrenson has swung between bizarre brilliance with his ‘UHT’ joke and coming close to self-combustion during the denouement of the Portugal v Iran game.

This is getting seriously good. We’ve had to have a few days down time on these pages, just to catch breath. Plus I was extremely tired and emotional after the England – Panama match. A 6-1 win and two penalties hit so well you’d have thought Harry Kane was German (although, perhaps you could argue he is footballing royalty). It was a score beyond what anyone expected and means England are through to the knockout stages with a game against….. Well, nobody has a clue because Group H is wide, wide open. Poland aside, that one could finish with any combination of Senegal, Colombia and Japan in the top two places.

Then, on Monday, Group B finished up. Spain scraped through after twice trailing Morocco. Portugal hung on by the skin of their teeth against an Iran side who were left dead on their feet and mentally drained after running Cristiano Ronaldo and his team so, so close. It was edge of the seat stuff with VAR conspiring to provide a devastating impact on both games whilst sending Lawro to the heights of apoplectic rage. “It’s farcical” he ranted on more than one instance. You had to sympathise but my God, it made great viewing. If not for the right reasons.

Yet if Portugal had got knocked out they’d have had to doff hats to a team who played a great tactical game. Sadly, I fear we’d have just had Ronaldo in floods of tears. Still, all that’s to come.

DgpHwT0WkAo5rrJAnd then there was the Argentina – Nigeria game last night. It will be remembered as much for the actions of Diego Maradona in the stands. Switching from being caught fast asleep before later giving his own celebratory salute. Less Hand of God and more fingers of dog. He’s an emotional chap, I’ll give him that.

“‘There’s a danger of him becoming a laughing stock I’m afraid“ opined Gary Lineker from the studio. A fair point from the man who saw his Mexico ‘86 dream end via those very same finger tips? Or just more of what was to be expected from one of football’s larger than life characters?

On field, manager Stavros Flatley and his team sneaked through as Croatia topped the group. It sets up a mouth-watering last 16 game between Argentina and France on Saturday afternoon. Here’s hoping the French make it slightly more interesting than they did yesterday. The game against Denmark possibly the dullest in World cup history since records began. If Maradona fell asleep during the Nigeria match, he may need something to help lift him when the French come to town.

The plus point of all that was that it meant Brentford’s Henrik Dalsgaard is also still in Russia. His Denmark team finished second in the group and will now play Croatia on Sunday evening. The same day Spain meet hosts Russia. Wow. Fill the fridge, clear the couch and light up the barbie (cue rather than doll). This could be a long one….

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more, please.

New balls, please. That’s what’ll happen when those knockout stages begin. To date, we’ve been using the black and white Adidas Telstar 18. From Saturday it will be the new red and white Adidas Telstar Mechta. For reasons unknown beyond, presumably, a cash in.

The marketing speak on the official FIFA site is a joy to behold : ”New vivid red design inspired by the colours of the host nation, as well as the rising heat of knockout-stage football”. It continues, “The name Mechta translates as ‘dream’ or ‘ambition’ in Russian and is constructed with the same design elements as the Telstar 18, the ball used throughout the group stage, but adapted to reflect the added intensity and opportunity the knockout stage brings”. We then get to the rather more mundane, “The ball has a brand-new carcass that retains the best of the Brazuca “.

Good news though. Like the ‘18’, the Mechta also has an embedded NFC chip – the first time it is ever been used in an Official Match Ball . Not only does it make this the most innovative FIFA World Cup™ ball to date but, apparently, the chip enables consumers to interact with the ball using a smartphone.”

And there’s me thinking FIFA was just about the money and the sales figures. On the plus side, it does put one in mind of that rather odd, and short lived, Mitre ball from 1980.

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Is that Telstar or Telstra? Curse that typeface

Next up, Henrik Dalsgaard’s Brentford. Have you started to follow The Brentford FC Drone on Twitter as yet?

You can do so here via @TheBFCDrone This is brilliant. I’ve no clue who the pilot is but what a great idea and a fantastic way to show supporters how work is progressing on our new home. Aerial fly bys and progress reports from the Lionel Road build are going up weekly. They have a YouTube channel, too – and there’s a sample video below. Please DO check it out – this is brilliant. The only domestic Brentford story currently better than our awesome away shirt. Here’s hoping the drone action continues when the season proper kicks off  .

Catch it on Youtube, now.

Finally, there’s only a few days for the chance to give one supporter an ultra-rare 2017/18 ‘third shirt’ with Lewis Macleod’s squad number on the reverse in EFL font. Anyone with half an interest in Bees kits will know that these were never made available in the club shop. Indeed, this has been given to me by a source close to the club.   

All you need to do is download one of the Last Word season reviews. This isn’t a get rich slow scheme for yours truly. All proceeds from any sales will go to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust. For less than the cost of a half / pint respectively, they may help while away some time on the commute. By the pool on holiday. In the bathroom. Who knows? It will certainly do some good for the Trust, whose work has been well documented at Griffin Park but you can read all about it on their site.

To be in with a chance of owning this shirt, download a copy of either before the end of June 2018 – details below – and you’ll go into a draw to win this. Just PLEASE DM/tweet me (@NickBruzon) a copy of your purchase confirmation mail and I’ll add your name to the list before an independent adjudicator will select a random Bees fan to win this on July 1st.

The Kindle e-book Ten Times Better. Brentford FC Season review: 2017/18. Inspired by ‘that’ interview it contains the least bad of these columns in one, handy volume as it looks at our own campaign as well as wider divisional life and the promotion / relegation races. As a bonus there’s a whole host of new material. New that is, for my pages. Specifically, all the programme articles submitted (both home and away where, if nothing else, you can get the original versions of both Birmingham City and Millwall).

In addition, There Is No Plan B. Brentford FC Season reviews: 2013/14 – 2017/18 takes us all the way back to the start of this latest leg in the journey. That penalty. League One. Harlee Dean was a hero. Jota was something we thought happened to the temperature for one week in July. Alan Judge had joined on loan whilst the Marinus Experiment was something nobody had contemplated. Bringing things bang up to date by the inclusion of this year’s volume alongside the four previously published campaign round ups, it has five seasons in one weighty tome. As weighty as a download can be, that is.

Relive the memories. See how often the same material gets regurgitated. Remind yourself how it all began….

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Nick Bruzon