Tag Archives: Estonia

Is Ian wrong, again? Can we do it? Newcastle v Brentford is here.

14 Oct

Just one more wake up until the weekend and the return of Championship football for Brentford. With it, the much anticipated trip to Newcastle United and our chance to catch up with the Magpies in the heart of the play-off zone should we get three points. Should….

International break is always a tough time. Much as I love following the football fortunes of Gibraltar, it has been another period of little satisfaction. Results wise, that is. 0-4 and 0-6 losses to Estonia and Belgium, the latter seeing Christian Benteke record the fastest goal in World Cup qualifying history, have given plenty of time to think things over on the domestic front. As for England, that’s a whole other world of pain.

So whilst Saturday’s game has always been a standout fixture on the calendar with (cliché alert), the game at Newcastle one of the first we looked for when the fixtures were announced, the long wait through a barren international weekend has given even more food for thought.

Everybody is saying to treat it like another game, myself included. That’s right, of course. Play the team, not the occasion. Yet, at the same time, one can’t help but be swept up with the moment. For a club that have, until recent years, been more accustomed to playing the likes of Newport than Newcastle there is an enormous swell of pride at where we are now.

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The last time we played Newcastle in the league, Phil Holder was the Bees boss

I’ll doff my hat to statistical guru Luis Melville when he proves me wrong but I can’t imagine we’ll have played in front of a crowd this big before. Whether in modern times or ever. The attendance at the W place for the 2012/13 play-off final was just short of 42,000 whilst our FA Cup quarter-final with Liverpool in 1989 was just over.

The flip side of this being that we thoroughly deserve to be where we are. This, our third season in the Championship, is the result of an awful lot of hard work on and off the pitch. Much of it unseen. Finishes of 5th and 9th have been no flukes, despite the many challenges we have faced – including those of our own making.

Yet still people sneer and write us off. Ian Holloway started the season by describing us as a club that were regressing, promptly tipping us for relegation. How wrong that one has proven so far as, instead, Brentford find themselves in 7th(seventh).

Indeed, so far have things changed that yesterday he used his Sky Sports column to predict we’ll win the game!! Indeed, he even held up his hands to admit, “I jumped to conclusions at the start of the season when Brentford couldn’t keep hold of their good players like Jake Bidwell. I couldn’t have been more wrong with my prediction. Dean Smith and the squad are proving me wrong. Good on them.

With Newcastle already having lost at home to Wolves and Huddersfield Town in the league, their last outing at St.James’ Park saw that epic 4-3 win over Norwich City. Yet even that one saw them going into injury time 3-2 down.

And with Scott Hogan having just scooped the Championship player of the month  award for his own goalscoring feats, could Ian be onto something?

The bookies don’t agree. Club sponsor 888sport have us at 21/4 to win. In real terms that means – put £10 on; get £62.50 back. Too good to be true? Free money? Or do the bookmakers know what they are talking about?

At 3pm on Saturday, we find out.

And if you’d like to read more, Ian’s full piece can be found here.

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Do 888 know something we don’t? (other bookmakers are available)

Nick Bruzon

As Scott celebrates, what about the rest of us?

7 Oct

For an International break (Estonia v Gibraltar being tonight’s big one) things have remained pretty busy on the domestic front. Brentford and Norwich City fans were dealt a potential blow yesterday with the news that we’ve been given the short straw in regards to televised games. On the flip side, details of a cracking competition to help celebrate our 4000th league game, at home to Barnsley, have emerged on the club website. All this, of course, whilst we waited to see if Scott Hogan would be named as Championship player of the month on Friday morning.

First up, the Norwich City game on New Year’s Eve. I guess the only positive for supporters about this being moved to 5.30pm kick off to accommodate Sky TV is that it is at home. Let me rephrase that, the only positive for Brentford supporters.

On what is, traditionally, the party night of the year to not even be leaving a football stadium until 7.30pm (allowing for injury time) is going to put a huge spanner in the works for many. It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure out the logistical nightmare this now becomes. Especially for the visitors who will be lucky to get back to East Anglia before Jools Holland has begun his annual smug piano show. Or should that be unlucky if they get back to East Anglia before….?

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How much of this will we see?

For those of us fortunate to live near Griffin Park the impact is minimised although I have no idea how many of us that is these days. Likewise, there’ll still be the steely glare of ‘the other half’ willing us back home rather than stopping for the traditional post match chat in a local hostelry. And by willing I mean demanding.

The opposite view being, and let’s not pretend otherwise, that for many New Year’s Eve is the most over rated night of the year. See also: Valentine’s Day. A time when society dictates we should be compelled to enjoy ourselves and pay for the privilege of going to our local pub to then stand shoulder to shoulder at a heaving bar. Call me some sort of curmudgeon (and I just hope Mrs Bruzon isn’t reading) but frankly I’d rather enjoy a bag of revels (the orange and coffee creams aside) than being obliged to partake in the faux-revelry.

But that’s my decision and one which I’d like to make by choice rather than have the TV schedule dictate.

Will it impact attendance? Surely. Did we get any choice in the decision? One would hope we didn’t willingly inflict this upon ourselves and the blame can be laid purely at the feet of the televisual paymasters. Will I still go? Of course, although how easy a choice this would be without living in close proximity to Griffin Park remains up for question.

No doubt we’ll be told it is symptomatic of the Bees now being a successful team. I get that part. Whilst many still sneer at us, finishes of 5th and 9th combined with a best ever start have seen Brentford adapting to Championship life much better than just about every pundit has predicted. Sky want a big game for a time when people are off work and we, in conjunction with a storming Norwich City side, fit that bill.

Like it or not, the die is cast. Games are always moved around for TV and, being honest, we’ve largely got away without too much upheaval over the years. With TV pumping so much money into the game it is going to happen. I may not like it but we all knew this is how things would be when we got promoted. Instead, let’s just get rearranging those parties or be glad of the excuse to miss them.

As for the Barnsley game, what a great idea from the club. Juniors supporters have been given the opportunity to design the front cover for the match day programme. A once in a lifetime opportunity to help celebrate our 4,000th league game, full details are currently available on ‘official’.

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The only downside to this being that grown ups aren’t allowed the chance to enter this one. Indeed, I’d already begun sketching out plans for my own effort before properly reading the details and realising I was too old by about 30 years.

Brief thoughts of entering on behalf of my three year old son did cross my mind. Cue ‘Only Fools and Horses’ style antics should victory have been somehow achieved (the state of my painting and photoshop skills mean this would presumably have been through nobody else participating).

But the thought of joining the Groovy Gang (kids, ask your parents but do check it out) is step too far, even for this obsessive. Instead, let’s just doff our caps to the club for a cracking initiative.

And on the subject of doffing hats, congratulations to Scott Hogan who has this morning been declared as the Championship player of the month for September. There’s not much more I can add to this beyond huge congratulations on an award fully deserved.

We all know how well Scott has performed since recovering from ‘that injury’ but September really saw him crank things up a notch. And then some. What an honour and well, well done.

Great work, Scott.

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The news broke at 6a.m. on Friday morning

Will Gibraltar get Cold Feet? Are more brackets being served? Can England learn?

6 Sep

With another five days until Brentford travel to Brighton (assuming you are reading this on a Tuesday morning) the Championship’s barren period continues. When the return of TV’s Cold Feet was Monday’s main draw – and tell me, what sort of world do we live in where this can be lauded yet a remake of Are You Being Served so derided? – then it remains for International football to act as our main form of sustenance. Can Gibraltar whet the appetite this evening following the frugal fare served up on Sunday by England?

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The only ‘cold feet’ I’m interested in

Well, it would be fair to say that the bar has been raised. Bitter-rivals Spain filled their shooting boots with an 8-0 humping of Liechtenstein last night. No cold feet here, quite the opposite – the Spaniards were on fire. The only sour note, from a footballing perspective, the failure of all and sundry to correctly note the score as things went to 7(seven) – 0.

Even Brentford club sponsors 888 Sport got it wrong on Twitter, despite that rarest of things -a humorous GIF (see also : memes). Still, at least they had the good grace to later apologise for what, must surely, been an oversight based purely on the excitement of the occasion.  Wales, likewise, picked up where they left off in the Euros. A 4-0 tonking of Moldova proving that Chris Coleman’s boys have lost none of their drive or ambition. Which begs two questions.

Firstly, why couldn’t England ? Instead it was just like watching Mrs Browns Boys. A tedious, repetitive one trick pony which, despite an almost moral obligation to watch not many people were, if we’re being honest, actually enjoying it. A sort of footballing Emperor’s New Clothes.

More importantly, can Gibraltar go one better than a Euro qualifying campaign in which the highlights were almost scoring in Germany and actually scoring in Scotland? That aside, it was a series of brackets and, despite some fierce national pride, an eventual end to Group D with ‘nil points’.

I’m not a (total) idiot. Even England have more chance of lifting the World Cup, or qualifying for it, than the boys from the Rock. Yet the harsh lessons of that qualifying group would have stood them in good stead. And this time around, instead of the likes of Germany, Ireland or Poland, opponents include Cyprus and Estonia.

The fact that my current online bookmaker (used purely for reference purposes) doesn’t even offer Gibraltar a price to win the group is, I am sure, just a glitch in the Internet. Something that will be corrected as they shock all comers at 28/1 to beat Greece this evening.

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Six participants but only five available to bet on

On paper, no chance. I grant you that and can see how, looking in, that’s what you’d expect. Yet minnows have to start somewhere. Just look at the likes of Albania, Turkey and Scotland. And tonight could be that night.

Cast your mind back a few months and to the qualifiers for the Champions League.

Lincoln Red Imps, domestic champions on the Rock, entertained none other than Glasgow Celtic in a second qualifying round first leg tie. Despite Brendan Rodgers  coming out like the love child of Russell Slade and Steve Evans ( please, for the love of God, don’t visualise it) no amount of sour grapes or bluster could disguise the fact that his Bhoys ended the game on the wrong end of a 1-0 defeat .

Upsets can happen. Every now and again, result comes along to shock the footballing world. Even if they can’t do it tonight, watching Gibraltar try to beat the odds has got to be a hell of a lot more entertaining than Big Sam’s England or ITV comedy dramas.

Failing that, brackets are 8-1.

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Gibraltar have packed their boots to start World Cup qualifiers

Nick Bruzon 

After Sunday roast, time for kebabs. Just no umbrellas

4 Sep

The middle Sunday of international weekend. There’s no Brentford result to digest (it’s another 6 days until the trip to Brighton and a week since Sheffield Wednesday salvaged an injury time draw in a game they could have actually won much earlier) whilst the national team are yet to kick things off in anger. Yes, ‘Big’ Sam Allardyce begins his tenure as England manger tonight with the trip to Slovakia after leaving Sunderland in the summer to replace Roy Hodgson.

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Can Sam bring a smile to England supporters?

Cue hand wringing about EURO 2016. Talk of a new era. Questions over Joe Hart or the selection of Wayne Rooney as captain. Sly digs about this ’rough diamond’ being a different choice to the normal selections from those suits at FA HQ. And, of course, being forced to listen to ‘that band’.

There’s bound to be mention of Sam’s win ratio at supposedly less illustrious teams  (37.57% West Ham and 29.03 at Sunderland). Although what that proves, I have no idea. Even Roy Hodgson managed 41.94% at Liverpool, for what its worth. And, of course, with that West Ham link there’s bound to be some crowbarred reference to some sort of new stadium. It wouldn’t be a televised football game in 2016/17 without one.

Yes, my ITV cliche bingo card is fully charged and ready to begin crossing off those squares although, being honest, I’m not fully engaged at the moment. The Euros were painful. Dreadfully so. It is still far too recent a bad memory.

To see England earnestly attempt to go again feels like being faced with a groaning table of all-you-can-eat kebabs having just consumed an oversized Sunday Roast. Whilst normally this would be a delicious prospect, given what came before I’m not going to enjoy it. That said, what harm would it do to take a tentative nibble and see what develops from there?

Besides, regardless of who is at the helm, a 6 team qualifying group containing the likes of Lithuania , Scotland and Malta should be about as tough a nut to crack as using a sledgehammer on some stale dry roasted. Forget Big Sam. Big Ron from Eastenders or Big Daddy could get them through the group. And they are both sadly departed.

Big Daddy

Even Big Daddy could get England through this group

For me, the genuine excitement is over in Group H where Gibraltar have Cyprus and Estonia amongst their opponents. Whilst, of course, you’d expect Belgium to run away with that one, could the boys from the Rock make a few waves? As ever, the bookmakers don’t think so and have them at anything from 2,000-1 to 5,000-1 to win the group.

But, whatever happens, surely this is still a more rewarding prospect than watching England cruise through the qualifiers to an inevitable first place. Just remember though, 10 wins out of 10 en-route to Euro 2016 didn’t prove a particularly auspicious omen as to long term tournament success.

I hope England do well. I hope Gibraltar can upset Greece on Tuesday night.I hope we don’t get overly carried away, however the qualifying groups turn out. As has been proven again, success at a tournament proving somewhat more difficult a prospect than getting there.

Indeed, aside from Euro 96 or West Ham’s triumph in the the 1966 World Up (both home tournaments) it is only really the wonderful efforts of Bobby Robson’s team back in 1990 where England have come even vaguely close to getting their hands on foreign soil. The Premier league may be ‘the best league in world football’ (is that line still being trotted out?) and have the most over inflated transfer market, but when it comes to keeping pace with International rivals then there is still a huge gap.

All the money and all the expectation in the world are no substitute for simply being ‘any good’ or knowing how to play as a team. Just look at what Wales achieved over the summer.

After the summer, the thought of winning a World Cup feels a million miles away. The prospect of investing the emotions in a qualifying campaign that has stopped the fledgling Championship season dead in its tracks so soon and so awkwardly is a tough one. And, being blunt, a frustrating one. Just as Brentford have got going and assembled our post-transfer window squad, the shutters have come down.

Yet come 5pm I have no doubt whatsoever the TV will be tuned to ITV to see just what life under Big Sam will look like. Say what you want about him, and many have, but I can guarantee you that if it’s raining there’ll be no umbrellas in sight.

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Whatever happens, it can’t get this bad

Nick Bruzon