Tag Archives: FA Cup

Three games. Two weeks. One winner….

16 May

Congratulations Leicester City. Their 1-0 win in yesterday’s FA Cup final over Chelsea as much a victory for the fans in the stands and those back home as it was for the Foxes. With Brentford next up in enjoying supporters present (albeit of the ‘home’ variety only) for Monday evening’s play-off first leg at Bournemouth, one can only help this cautious return is one which can now escalate. The difference between an empty stadium and a ground not even a quarter full was palpable. The noise a cacophony with cheers and boos greeting every blast of the referee’s whistle. No more than when VAR once again proved itself to be as a big a passion killer as Mrs Brown smooching with Donald Trump whilst being serenaded by the England Supporter’s ‘band’. At least, if you wee a Chelsea fan. The jubilation that came from the Leicester end as the late equaliser was chalked off for the most marginal of offsides, the loudest noise off the afternoon. At least, until the cup was raised. If ever there was something for Brentford to try and emulate then there it was . The chance to enjoy the sweetest of triumphs in front of our supporters. Wembley sounding like the loudest place on earth despite the enforced emptiness of most seats. Not that anybody was sitting down.

Passion killer – VAR in ‘human’ form

That’s all a long way off, of course. First things first, Thomas Frank has to mastermind his way past Bournemouth. Brentford go into the mini tournament as 6/4 favourites with the bookmakers, followed by The Cherries, Barnsley and then Swansea City at 4/1. Scratch all of that. This is about as even as they come. This is as much to do with nerves and remaining calm as it is footballing ability and current form. Monday evening is going to be huge but I can’t wait. Genuinely excited. Of course, there is also a level of trepidation but after all that has come before us this season, we now have a chance to take those final steps towards the Premier League.

This time last campaign we were about as down as it is possible to get in footballing terms. The ultimate prize dropped on the line. Brentford had missed out on automatic and then went into the semi with a Swansea City team who had edged past Nottingham Forest to finish sixth in that most well documented and exciting of fashions. They had their tails up and won the first game by a single goal. Rico Henry saw red and, whilst Keith Stroud’s decision was eventually over turned before the return fixture, the evening felt like yet another step down that well trodden path signposted, ‘It’s Brentford, innit?’. The fortitude shown in the return fixture was immense. Unfortunately the final turned out to be a victory for Cheatrovic and some industrial challenges over a team who just ran out of steam and had no way through until it was too little, too late.

Keith Stroud…..not for the first time, Brentford suffered his thing in the play-offs

Hindsight it a wonderful thing, of course. Things haven’t exactly been a bed of roses for Fulham since going up. They’ve played out the campaign in an empty, three-sided ground and returned directly to the Championship. Do not pass go. Do not collect £200. We can’t tell what we would or wouldn’t have done but the important thing at this juncture is to take all of that and learn from it. The vast majority of this squad went through it all together. Hurt together. Kicked on again this season together. The primary addition to the group being Ivan Toney. A player in whom the way to goal is as instinctive as anybody with a three figure IQ reaching for the remote control whenever Mrs Brown’s Boys comes on TV.

All good in, theory.  Football doesn’t work like that. Just ask Chelsea. Cliche alert : this boils down to who wants it most. We know what we can do on our day. Insatiable going forward, Impenetrable at the back. We also know we can have our ‘Coventry away’ moments. That, as much as the form of Watford and Norwich City, the reason we are now facing a tenth stab at the play-offs. Finishing third for a second successive season is wonderful but now is the time to back it up with a genuine reward rather than good wishes from the footballing community. 

The other three teams fighting it out are going to feel equally deserving and will be 110% committed to winning this thing at any cost. Just turning up, expecting to win and being seen as the ‘nice guys’ won’t cut it. Thomas Frank is going to have to give the mother of all team talks on Monday. And Saturday. He has the talent at his disposal, that’s for sure. 

Yet, yet, yet. I still can’t but help feel properly excited by all of this. That’s not right. It’s the play-offs. We all know our record. It’s terrible – in terms of sheer horror, one to rank alongside the 2000 version of ‘The Great Escape’ that had the temerity to reach number 26 in the hit parade. We should be quaking but, instead, I’m buzzing with anticipation. An air of calm currently very much the vibe in our house. Table INSIDE the pub booked for Monday evening and as much the prospect of seeing old friends from a social distance a cause for additional excitement as is the game at hand. 

It really exists. People really bought it…

We are three games away from playing in the top flight next season for the first time in just about everybody’s living memory. Even our Methuselah on the mic, Peter Gilham. Three games away from hosting teams like Leicester City and Chelsea as well as those other names we are all so familiar with. Most importantly, we get the chance to see an actual live game of football again. Judging by the cup final yesterday, that in itself is a prize worth fighting for. A trip to Wembley something to be savoured. Something to be enjoyed. Something that, unlike previous attempts, won’t be something to fear. IF we can get past Bournemouth first. 

Cripes, the noise that came out of 21,000 yesterday was a thing of beauty to behold. A reminder of why football is nothing without fans. Here’s hoping there is more to come in the coming two weeks. For Brentford….

Imagine experiencing this….. What an aspiration.

Nick Bruzon

Glenn’s twoddle ruins an otherwise wonderful afternoon of football.

25 Jan

The losing I can take. First and foremost, congratulations to Leicester City. Worthy winners in the FA Cup fourth round with plenty of gas in the tank to really take things to the next level when they were needed the second half. For forty five minutes Brentford had it in our grasp but, as with Swansea City a few season back, the half time cuppas worked wonders and a 1-0 lead dissolved quicker than the snow which had carpeted the pitch prior to kick off. That weather suggesting we may need to crack out the orange ball and the extra long studs. Alas not. We were stuck with the yellow variant  (ball, not snow) and the possible leveller of inclement conditions disappeared as quickly as it had arrived. As did our cup dreams. Next up, a game with Brighton for the Foxes. For Brentford, we are now free to concentrate on the league (sorry, I’m too tired ) and that starts on Wednesday evening at the Liberty Stadium where there’s that huge showdown with second placed Swansea.

Snow had been falling hours before kick off.

As for the cup, well Thomas mixed things up as predicted. A team that included Mads Roerslev and Fin Stevens at full backs along with Jan Zamburek in midfield took an early lead against equally changed opponents. Mads Bech Sørensen on hand to stab home a corner after just 6 minutes had passed. Dreamland for Brentford. A nightmare for Leicester City who, despite the lion’s share of first half possession can perhaps count themselves lucky to have only gone in one down based on chances created. Then again, with the Bees defence being stretched in the build up and Ethan Pinnock having to pull us together, the warning signs were there. Sure enough, the inevitable happened.

Ünder restored parity in, err, less than a minute. Perez cam close and again. Then Fosu was was adjudged to have tripped up Tielemans in the box. He picked himself up and there was no mistake from the spot. Within the space of six short minutes the lead had changed and Leicester were in the driving seat. Any hope of salvaging something was put paid to by James Maddison leaving us to play out the last tweet minutes or so two goals down and against a team who only got stronger as their bench players came on for a run out. Game over, man. Game over.  Well played Leicester City – they really did look strong and what a way to step it up when needed. Good luck Brighton in the next round.

For Brentford, it had looked so good for a while but in the end was too much of a mountain to climb. No complaints, on pitch. We’ve more than had our share of fun in the cups this season. Of testing ourselves against opposition from the higher division. Off it, we had one major problem. That of Glenn Hoddle. My word, he spouts guff. The most annoying thing from BT since they replaced Busby with the ‘flatmates’. The flatmates that , I’m pretty sure from memory, used identity fraud as means of promoting the internet when the Simon ‘character’ tried online dating…. “He’s reeling one in“.

The BT flatmates. Remember them? Hopefully not.

What a load of clichéd nonsense that man spouts. Glenn, rather than Simon. (ahh, hello Mr. Pot. Irony is alive and well on these pages).  Amongst other things we discovered, several times, that :

Jamie Vardy isn’t playing.

It had been snowing (and there was still some on the pitch).

Brentford have beaten four Premier league teams this season.

Brentford lost to Spurs in the league cup semi-final.

We do clever recruitment.

We might have been playing this as a league match had it not been for something last season.

Both sides like playing decent football.

Yet the coup de grâce was saved for the fact that Brentford were, apparently, taking a risk by pushing up at set pieces. If Glenn mentioned it once he mentioned it a hundred times. In the end, domestic salvation came from our Harry. He’s only 7(seven) but still knows when enough is enough. 

Glenn: Brentford taking a risk here. If Jamie Vardy was playing….

Harry : but he isn’t.

And with that, sanity was restored. Kind of. We’re out of the cup but no tears here. The quest for the W place in North London has been fun whilst it lasted but is now over. Let’s hope we don’t need to make a third attempt later on in the campaign. Getting three points as Swansea on Wednesday would be a huge step in that journey. It won’t be easy but I can’t wait to find out how we go…..

Nick Bruzon 

Bring on Brendan. Rodgers rather than O’Carroll. FA Cup excitement continues.

24 Jan

This is about as intriuging as an FA Cup tie gets. Brentford, two points off second place in the Championship, host Leicester City, two points off the very summit of the Premier league, in Sunday afternoon’s fourth round tie. The winners know they will be given the opportunity to welcome Brighton in the last 16. With heavy snow forecast in the area from 8am, this one really could have it all. Perhaps, even, an orange ball (although one would presume we’ll get the insipid, dog piss yellow version). Yet with an absolutely massive game on Wednesday at Swansea City, and the sheer exhaustion quite clearly in evidence during the second half against Luton on Wednesday, don’t go into this one expecting the full fat first team. I’m still expecting excitement. Having had the appetite whetted with Chorley – Wolves and Cheltenham Town – Manchester City, now its our turn to strip up to that TV plate.

Thomas Frank has already dropped all the hints you need about who is going to be starting this one today. We know Ivan Toney is missing because of that suspension so Marcus Forss will be up top. That Luton match saw the start of a 14 game run of midweek / weekend fixtures and we looked absolutely fit to drop during that most painful of second halves. It was unmissable stuff and you couldn’t look away. Albeit in the same excruciating way as being tied to a chair and force-fed Mrs. Browns Boys. That Brentford hung on for another win after the two week closure of the training ground was quite amazing but it is clear these are men, not machines. As such, no surprise to hear Thomas announce in his press conference that, “I will use the squad but not like a full rotation. We will put a strong team out there tomorrow.”

The second half against Luton was about as painful viewing as Mrs. Brown’s Boys

Regardless of the Swansea City game, this is absolutely the right thing to do. We’ve a fantastic squad and already seen in the league cup how deep this runs. Four wins out of five against Premier league opposite this season. Only Jose Mourinho getting in our way. A sixth game upon us now and a chance for the likes of Tarique, Samman et al to show what they can do once more. Could there be more action for the likes of Alex Gilbert, Lewis Gordon, Fin Stevens and Max Haygarth who all featured against Middlesbrough in the previous round? Who all impressed, Stevens in particular. We already know that Marcus Forss, a player Thomas says “The Club have a strong belief that he will be a top striker”, starts. This, for me , is a great thing.

Marcus’ form this season has been quite outstanding to watch. His goal for Finland in France a quite wonderful cherry on the cake of his own personal growth. He has a foot like the proverbial traction engine and when he hits that ball, it stays hit. I can’t wait to see what he can do against Leicester City and if we can give him the service then the results could be quite incredible. With Ivan Toney missing through suspension, the door is open to lay down a claim to a more regular starting berth. Whether now or in the near future. 

Marcus has only impressed when he has featured.

It won’t be easy, of course. Leicester City were the visitors for the fourth round last year. They ran out 1-0 winners and despite our best efforts, it felt comfortable all the way through. Albeit a much changed Brentford team including relative unknowns (then) Yearwood, Racic, Thomspon, Roerslev and Zamburek gave a strong account of themselves. Bryan Mbeumo saw an equaliser chalked off by the officials but in the end an early goal from Kelechi Iheanacho was enough to separate the two teams. With Jamie Vardy’s well documented injury today, expect the same player to start again. Wes Morgan and Dennis Praet are also missing from a selection where Brendan Rodgers hinted at a similar approach to Thomas, “We always try to rely on the collective, the group has always been able to find results.

Whomever he goes with, Leicester are gong to be strong. About as tough a test as they come. Just as when they won the league before, the Foxes are the one team nobody is really talking about. Liverpool choke. Frank out (at Chelsea). Manchester City and their early stumble. Manchester United at the top despite the odd reaction of their own fans to Ole earlier on. Sound familiar? Yet it is Leicester who have avoided the noise, shirked the nonsense and just got on with what they are great at. Winning football matches. Indeed, they went top during the week until United did their thing, Treat this one as a casual affair at your peril. It is an FA Cup tie that is about as hard as it comes.

Despite the lack of crowds – even next season is now feeling optimistic at best – the tournament has continued to provide excitement. Who couldn’t help but be moved by Chorley? Their game on Friday night with Wolves could, genuinely, have gone either way. It was quite the cracker. Cheltenham Town had us all believing in the magic of the cup last night until Manchester City stepped up very late to crush the dreams of the nation’s armchair fans. Blackpool had us on the edge of our seats yesterday afternoon until Brighton retook the lead with the most severe of deflections. It was cruel but it was a goal. That’s football. For a moment, the outride world forgotten about until full time came around and then there was nothing else to do except watch The Masked singer. Apparently. I mean, I don’t, but I believe some people may. The crushing reality of having to watch Davina Macall gurning her way through truing to fathom out who was lurking beneath a Bushbaby  costume (if only there was a mask for her) no replacement for celebrating like we’d won the FA Cup in the Griffin at full time. Moreso given it wasn’t Jason Donovan or Joe Mangel when his head eventually came off.

We digress. Cripes, do we digress. I can’t wait for this one. As ever, I’d love to be there. I understand why we can’t but it doesn’t make it any easier. At least we have the TV to provide a bit of an escape and we’ll be huddled around it for sure. Taking consolation in the fact we’re not freezing to death in what already feels absolutely bitter outside my front door. The lack of frostbite a small benefit for being forced to stay home although there isn’t one amongst us who wouldn’t happily lose a few toes if it meant being able to see the game at Lionel Road?

Kick off is at 2.30pm today. BT Sport the place. There are no cameras on I-follow although Mark Burridge and team will still have audio commentary. As do BBC Radio 5 live although for me (Clive), the Parry-Reeves line up offered by their London based counterpart is always infinitely preferable for anyone heading down the wireless route. 

The day is upon us. Enjoy the game however you are following it. On tv, in the bathtub with a terrace tranny, in the gym with internet radio or just sat on the sofa. We’ll be doing the later. We’ll be hoping for another upset. Another Premier League notch on the belt. Another excuse to watch something that isn’t people giving it their all in oversized anthropomorphic costumes. Buzz and Buzette aside. Yet even they are victims of the current Corona rulings, it would seem. Oh to have a pre-match welcome from their furry faces. Curse you, Covid. Curse you.

Still, at least there is a game to watch. I’m just glad we’ll be seeing Brendan Rodgers rather than Brendan O’Carroll – the usual automatic replacement for ‘no football’. No matter how hard it is doing it from the couch. The prospect of being able to welcome a 7th (seventh) top flight team, whilst playing in the Championship, would be a quite wonderful mark of how this strangest of seasons has gone. Should we first beat a 6th. Just the small matter of Leicester City standing in the way….

This time last year – my sort of masked mystery

Nick Bruzon.

Back in action. Time to test ourselves as the door opens.

20 Jan

Here we go, again. Brentford are back in action after that three week Corona Virus related lay off. Luton Town the visitors this evening and then Premier League leaders Leicester City in the FA Cup on Sunday. The players are all reported as well (injury aside) and Thomas Frank was back at the helm in a series of photographs published from the training ground earlier in the week. As one correspondent noted, short of holding up a copy of ‘The Sun’ (other fetid rags are available), the photos couldn’t have been any more ‘honestly, these are fresh’ if we’d tried. And that’s great news. Even better is the shape of the table. Whilst we’ve fallen a few spots due to inaction, the Bees find themselves four points ahead of 7th (seventh) placed Stoke City with three games less played. More importantly, Bournemouth hitting the skids with DLL sees the opportunity to go clear in second open up. Should we win those games in hand. Hmm, no pressure lads 😉 

Thomas, and the squad, were pictured back in action this week.

I can’t wait for this. If anything, the delay to football has felt even longer than last season’s Covid cancellation. Then, everybody was in the same boat. This time around we been amongst a handful of teams unable to play whilst everyone else has carried on. Its very much felt like outsiders looking in. One must be thankful that, at the least, things haven’t got any worse. We did talk about the need for football to call a halt as increased numbers of positive cases were bing reported across the football world. Whilst the opportunity of seeing a game in person still seems as far away as ever, at least that decision is one which hasn’t needed to be taken. Long may that level of good health continue.

Getting back to this evening’s game, it really is a quite wonderful opportunity for Brentford. There’s no Pontus, of course, but otherwise it looks like we have that full squad to pick from. I’d absolutely expect the same starting XI as that which began at Spurs : Raya, Dalsgaard, Pinnock, Bech Sørensen, Henry, Dasilva, Janelt, Jensen, Mbeumo, Toney, Canós.  Or, at least, were Josh still not under suspension. Honestly, didn’t forget about that at the ungodly hour these are written at. Could it be Marcondes? A return for norgaard? Pan C?

Regardless, that last league game saw a line up which also took Bournemouth apart, albeit Pontus played then, in our last league fixture. That, one of the most encouraging and determined performances from a Bees team in a long while. The balls and never say die attitude. The fortitude. The attacking intent. It really was an excellent game of football with new levels of expectation now being set.

What. A. Performance!! Cherries picked.

Luton Town won’t be easy, of course. They did us that recent favour of their own whilst we were out action, beating Bournemouth. The side that got hammered 7(seven) – 0 at Griffin Park last season nothing more than a distant memory. They have found their feet and then some. Indeed, the play-offs are a more than realistic aspiration in what is one of the most open Championship campaigns in years. The quality of our opponents something Thomas picked up on in his press conference, noting that, “I know that we will be there performance-wise tomorrow night but I am more worried about Luton because I know they are a very underrated team in this division…on their day they can make it difficult for any team because of their style of play. They work hard throughout the team and are very good on set pieces. They want to play, and can play, because they have some quality players.

Yet there’s no reason to be scared. It’ll be a tough game for sure but we’ve more than proven we can handle those in recent months. The prize for victory will be a return to third place. The opportunity to sit just two points behind Swansea City with a game a in hand. The chance for Ivan Toney to open up a gap at the top of the Championship leading scorer table. What more could you want at this stage?

Personally speaking, I’m just happy to be back in action. That Thomas is feeling fit and well once more. That we have no apparent casualties of this relentless virus. That we have another exciting week upon us. Luton this evening. Leicester City on Sunday and then that HUGE trip to Swansea City next Wednesday. It does big the question as to what line up Thomas may go for in the FA Cup. He kept nothing back for Spurs but that was a semi-final in the middle of a brief respite from frenetic action. Now, the door to the Premier League is opening once more. I’d love the chance to take on the Foxes at full strength. Being realistic though, I can only see that as an opportunity for the squad to show just how deep it goes. To repeat what it did against that legion of Premier League sides in the League Cup. 

That’s to come. For now, all eyes and all focus have to be on this evening. On Luton Town. On doing all possible to pick up another three points. On keeping that huge unbeaten run of league form going. I’d love another bracketing. If it ends up being a scrappy 1-0 we’ll be just as happy. Kick off is at 7(seven)pm. See you there. In spirit.

Our last home game with Luton ended in brackets.

Nick Bruzon

Time to say, “Enough is enough.”

13 Jan

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

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

Sick (ill) Bees – and we aren’t alone

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get back to me on that one. 

Perhaps time to turn the radio off

Nick Bruzon

Don’t do it. Don’t do it. Don’t do it. You just know they’ll do it.

12 Jan

And with that the FA Cup fourth round draw has been made. Not to mention the in no way convoluted selection for the fifth. With Brentford fans settling down in front of the TV to watch proceedings unfold (and Leeds United fans settling down in front of the TV to watch The One Show) the best we could hope for was a home draw. Well, we got one. A repeat of last season’s tie  with Leicester City. The winners of which will be at home again, entertaining whomever comes out on top between Brighton and Blackpool. The chance to test ourselves once more against the former Premier League Champions . A possible return for Neal Maupay should everything go to plan. The quarter-finals wide open. I’m sure all four clubs in our little group are thinking the same about that one. This could be fun. Even if the TV companies will be wetting themselves over the prospect of Manchester United – Liverpool. Yawn.

This really is as good as it could have got for the Bees. Brentford  – Leicester City is a tie with all the elements in place for a classic FA Cup match. High flying Championship side at home to the former top flight champions and a club currently in the top three. It was a close run thing last time out and I can’t wait for the chance to go one better. Or, at least, try to ! Would that we were able to attend in person but there’s frankly no way we’ll be able to get anywhere near a football stadium by the end of January. Even 9-11 February for round five is still nothing more than a flight of fancy. Sadly, it will have to be the TV for us, Brighton and Blackpool.

Its one of those where, genuinely, any of the four teams can make it through. Brighton are hardly on fire at present. Blackpool made West Brom look even shoddier than normal at the weekend. Leicester City are clearly the favourites but they won’t relish a visit to a Brentford team who made it to the League Cup semi-finals. Who are flying high in the league and have an added element of steel that was, perhaps, missing last season. Opposition generally despatched with ease but, if we’re being honest, perhaps lacking that additional nous when it counted. Look at how Leeds United held it together at the critical time. Fair play to them. When all were expecting them to fall apart (again) they stayed firm. The brilliance of Bielsa pulling them through. Hurrah for powerpoint!

There are a few obvious plum ties in the draw. Wycombe v Spurs. Cheltenham Town v Manchester City. Chorley v Wolves is, for me, the pick of the bunch. No doubt BT and the BBC will be falling over themselves for Manchester United v Liverpool. Why? Why? Why? (Delilah). A game, and teams, we’ve seen a thousand times before. An encounter with as much cup magic as an end of the pier entertainer pulling a dirty handkerchief rather than the missing card from his sleeve. Genuinely I’d give that one a swerve. Been there. Done it. No interest. The others, and the wider draw, offer up genuine intrigue. Ourselves included. Moreso once the cards fall into place for round five. 

That’s way down the track though. First things first, we’ve got Bristol City tomorrow night. Then a few more league games. Then Leicester City visit. I’m sure, likewise, Thomas will go for a similar team that beat Middlesbrough in round three. That took us most of the way in the league cup. I’m fully behind that, too. The squad is there for a reason and these boys have more than proven they can step into the first team. Even if his rotation does cause a few tears to be shed in other quarters.

I love the FA Cup. I’d love us to get as far as possible, no question. I still see the Championship as an absolute priority. Equally, though, having one foot in the quarters a few season back was quite the moment. Until Swansea City did their thing in the second half. With the paths for both mapped out in front of us, the next month or two could be even more exciting than ever. There’s not really much else to say at this point. The balls have dropped. We know what awaits.  Bring it on.

It all went South at Swansea after a cracking first half.

Nick Bruzon

Hopes, dreams and shocks – FA Cup still delivers. Plus fourth round ball details.

11 Jan

7pm, Monday night. The draw for the FA Cup fourth round takes place. And the fifth. Brentford are in it following Saturday evening’s impressive showing from our youngsters. So are Chorley after their own fine win over (not Wayne Rooney’s) Derby County on Saturday lunchtime. It was a result which set the tone for the weekend. Leeds United fell apart. Again. Blackpool despatched an abject West Bromwich Albion. In an even bigger shock, Sheffield United won a match. There would be no further slip ups from the big boys with Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea and Spurs amongst those into the bag of balls. Cripes, even Arsenal got through.

A velvet bag awaits…

So, when is it? 7(seven)pm is the designated hour. You can follow the action on the FA Player or on BBC2. Thankfully, for once, we’re not obligated to watch The One Show as the draw has its own specialist programme presented by Mark Chapman (not that one) rather than segued between features on hedgehog hibernation and ten things Gyles Brandreth does to alleviate Lockdown boredom.

BT sport also have an extensive programme that features the final chance of an upset when Stockport County host West Ham. Who doesn’t love a cup shock and I think the Hammers have enough about them to pull one off.  Worth watching if for no other reason than than Brentford loanee Said Benrahma likely to be give a rare start.

As for the balls themselves, Brentford are number 24 (out of 32). Liverpool are 23 and Manchester City 25. We’re very much the meat in a top flight sandwich that nobody will be wanting to take a bite out of. Both teams we’ve faced in this competition before, as are Chelsea – ball 27. Our league cup conquerors, Spurs, are number 4.

The quintessential Brentford FA Cup image

The Marine – Tottenham was huge enjoyable for the neutral (of which there can’t have been many outside of Seven Sisters) , at least until the second goal went in. That said, the non-leaguers still lasted longer against Jose Mourinho’s outfit before going a goal down whilst almost had the temerity to take the least themsevels. With the eyes of the world (and several supporters sitting aside garden sheds watching) Joe Hart’s blushes were only saved by the woodwork with the scores still level. And that…well it would have been dreamland for Marine. 

But we’ve been there and done that. For me (Clive) the chance to see how the current generation fair at Anfield would be the ideal scenario. Even if we are stuck watching it on TV. Instead, it’ll probably end up being away to Nottingham Forest.

We played at Livepool back in 88/89. There was no quarter-final upset

The fourth round draw is immediately followed by that for the fifth. Ball numbers will be generated at that point. Go figure. However, the numbers for the next round are as follows:

1) Plymouth Argyle

2) Southampton / Shrewsbury Town

3) Chorley

4) Spurs

5) Wolverhampton Wanderers

6) Stockport County / West Ham

7 (seven) AFC Bournemouth

8) Manchester United

9) Swansea City

10) Everton 

11) Nottingham Forest

12) Arsenal

13) Barnsley 

14) Sheffield United

15) Millwall

16) Doncaster Rovers

17) Leicester City

18) Wycombe Wanderers

19) Crawley Town

20) Burnley

21) Bristol City

22) FulhamL

23) Liverpool

24) Brentford

25) Manchester City

26) Luton Town

27) Chelsea

28) Sheffield Wednesday

29) Norwich City 

30) Blackpool

31) Brighton & Hove Albion

32) Cheltenham Town

The third round was one of the best yet. For once, the presence of television and the spreading out of the fixtures something to be thankful for. Traditionalists (myself included) have argued for years that the dilution of the games – spreading over four of five days – has been killing the magic. Yet with supporters of all clubs confined to barracks at present, this is exactly what we needed to make a bad situation slightly more bearable. Game after game after game. Upset following upset. 

Let’s see if West Ham can pull off another one this evening. After the draw, of course. Here’s hoping for a big name. And also the prospect of a Crawley – Chorley…..

Could it be Chelsea again?

Nick Bruzon

Robert’s legacy lives on as the dream continues.

10 Jan

Back of the net ! Brentford went through to the fourth round of the FA Cup, despite the absence of Thomas Frank and a whole raft of first team regulars. Goals from Halil Dervişoğlu and Saman Ghoddos were enough to steer us past Middlesbrough in a comfortable 2-1 win. It was a game as notable for the debutants as it was for both of our scorers’ first Brentford goal – in particular, the strike from Ghoddos one we’d been, ermm, anticipating /  expecting / hoping for. No, sorry, the correct word to use escapes me but I’m sure somebody will come up with a better one. Crowbarred headlines aside, we’re through. Monday evening sees the draws for rounds four AND five, before we can then concentrate on the league for a few weeks. Bristol City, Reading and Luton Town are next on that circuit.

Aswell as the two goalscorers making the headlines, lets not ignore the debuts for Alex Gilbert and Lewis Gordon or a first start for Fin Stevens. Not to mention Max Haygarth coming off the bench late on. Truly, the B team flame is alive and well. Burning as strongly as ever with Stevens, in particular, impressing. Robert Rowan’s legacy lives on and shows no sign of abating. How much of what we enjoy and take for granted is down to this man? In addition, there was a welcome return for Mads Roerslev – amazing to already consider him an ‘elder statesmen’ in this set up ! Most importantly though, this has shown a new strength and set of options available to Thomas, temporary custodian Neil MacFarlane, Sam Saunders and the rest of our group as we head into the second part of the season. The comfort level showed by the newcomers no surprise but very welcome nonetheless.

We don’t do full fat match reports on these pages. Never have done. We all saw the game anyway or, at least, had the opportunity to do so via the surprisingly reliable FA player. Yet what was notable was what an open attacking match it was. Both sides going for it in a complete antithesis of November’s infamous 0-0 snoozefest.

Once the teams had found their feet it was Middlesbrough, if any, who felt in the ascendency. Luke Daniels in nets looking as solid as ever to thwart smiling assassin Chuba Akpom and Marcus Browne. Brentford building into it until , with half time approaching,  Dervişoğlu struck. He’d been offered a good chance earlier but steered wide when cutting in. There was no mistake this time. Boom. 1-0 and the tinfoil trophy hoisted high into the living room air. Ghoddos with the delivery from the corner and Halil executing it low past the ‘keeper. 1-0. Game on. First period done.

With the world outside the front door feeling , at times, like it’s going to hell in a handcart, you can’t put a price on seeing a smile like this. Thank you Halil. Thank you Robert. Thank you everyone. It certainly helps make my life and the struggle of being a parent that much easier. Keeps a 7(seven) year old ecstatic at a time when popping out to the park is about as good as it gets for him compared to normal. Instead, he then spent the entire second half waving the tinfoil and commentating over the top of FA player in equal measure.

Celebrations back at home for the first goal

As ever, this is Brentford. This is football. It’s never 100% plain sailing and with Neil Warnock’s team back out on the front foot, the scores were level soon after the restart. Sam Folarin being given all the time and space needed to pick his spot. Daniels, for once, given no chance of stoping it. Yet rather than collapse into a pit of despair it was the Bees who picked themselves up and kicked on. 

Saman Ghoddos timing his own run through the middle to perfection, picking up the ball and waltzing through the gaps in the Boro’ defence. The Iranian timing his moment before unleashing a devastating counterstrike  from 12 yards out. Hard and low into the bottom corner. Jordan Archer in goal unable to do anything beyond looking good in his shirt. Wow, that was a stunner. As was Saman’s shot. You can see all of it, and more, on the BBC highlights which are available here.

The BBC replay shows all the magnificence.

And from there, the game was closed out. Nothing more to worry about. No stress. All calm. All good. A potato skin negotiated. No need for energy sapping extra time but instead an immediate return to winning ways after Spurs had put the brakes on that mammoth unbeaten run. Brentford through to the next round and the excitement of the draw. Bristol City here in a few days time when league action recommences. The team sure to return to a more familiar starting XI but, at the same time, one that now knows there are even more options than before to plug the gaps. To increase competition for places. To earn the shirt in their own right.

The future is bright. The future is red, white and youth. Brentford continue to lead the way in squad development and B-team progression. The work started by the much missed Robert Rowan continuing apace. Who knows how vital this will prove between here and May? And beyond...

The architect of so much we enjoy and take for granted. Thank you.

Nick Bruzon  

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

9 Jan

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

The quintessential Brentford FA Cup image

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

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

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

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

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

Dean certainly upset the Walsall fans

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

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

Now, where are the scissors…?

Another FA Cup journey on the road to Wembley begins.

Nick Bruzon 

Monthly winners announced. Crack out the Picard graphic (and the praise).

8 Jan

Well, well, well. Brentford fans have woken up to discover that Thomas Frank has been named Championship manager of the month for December. Congratulations all round on a quite magnificent run. A nine game unbeaten streak in the month that saw us knock Newcastle United out of the league cup and climb to the automatic promotion slots. Whilst that cup dream may have ended at Spurs on Tuesday the league is very much alive. Our game at Bristol City now been rearranged for next week (Wednesday) whilst we’ve also got a visit from Middlesbrough tomorrow in the FA Cup.

For Thomas, a huge vindication of what he and the squad have accomplished to date. A slow, steady climb up the league despite a whole host of dissenting voices from the more bizarre element of our fan base. The frustration at not winning every game by a country mile or his refusal to pick the same 11 players twice a week accompanied by ‘that hashtag’. Hmm. Its all gone quiet over there, as the song goes.

Instead, the tactics justified and achievements (to date) recognised outside TW8. As Thomas noted, this is a very much about the ‘we’. “This award is one for the team. No Manager or Head Coach will win an award like this without a great team of staff and players going in the same direction”. He went on to recognise the intense efforts of those players, without careful management of whom and clever selection we couldn’t have got this far, “Across the whole of Europe, no team has played more games than Brentford this season. It takes a big effort from everyone to continue to perform to such a high level and everyone should be really proud.

You can read that piece in full, here, on the EFL website.

There was to be no double, sadly. Sergi Canos was nominated as player of the month but lost out to Middlesbrough striker Duncan Watmore. However, even to be in the shortlist is a quite remarkable achievement for player who, its bonkers to think, is still only 23. He seems to have been around forever and is only getting better and better with age. The hate mob gunning for him at the start of the season presumably now back under the rock they emerged from. As we’ve been saying all campaign ; criticism is absolutely fine. Its a natural and vital part of football but the sheer vitriol and hate directed at certain individuals, from people purporting to be supporters of the team, nothing short of embarrassing.

Fortunately, teams aren’t picked by social media. Likewise, the majority recognised the re-emergence of this most exciting player after that awful injury and refused to join the lemming like pile on. Thankfully Thomas Frank had faith in his man and has been duly rewarded. The goal against Blackburn was just magnificent. The hat-trick at Cardiff City something very, very special. That’s before you even factor in the determination, the approach play, the passion. We’ve always loved Sergi in our house and long may that continue.

Congratulations Thomas. Congratulations Sergi. Long may it continue! 

Sergi got 3 out of 3 at Cardiff

This does throw Saturday’s game with Middlesbrough in to question. Nothing to do with Corona Virus but more as to whether the curse of ‘Manager of the month’ transfers to the FA Cup? My gut says this is a league thing but with the two clubs that won the December awards coming head to head tomorrow, could this all implode? We all know the adage about that jinx –  whomever wins the monthly award loses the next game. Seeing this one play out could put a ground breaking twist on everything we know about football folklore.

Otherwise, our next game is the league clash with Bristol City which has been rearranged from Saturday just gone to this Wednesday. In a shock turn of events none of the City players who had gone down with 11th hour Corona symptoms, that they were unable to be tested for, have since been reported as having had a positive test. Who’d have thought it? I guess one should be relieved for the Robins. Imagine having to add Corona Virus to what was already a lengthy injury list at the time they pulled the game. Hmmmmmm.

I’ve heard more convincing explanations at school

The EFL are due to conduct an investigation into the circumstances but that’s not going to change what didn’t happen. Instead we had a weekend off, a sour taste in the mouth and the chance for our first team to be recharged for the Spurs match. Hurrah for VAR. Said nobody ever.

There’s only one thing to do now and that’s get heads down and focus. Nobody can change what has played out in January. Feeling we’ve been treated unjustly by the late postponement or the video treatment of Ivan Toney’s fingers at Spurs is only good, if it inspires us. Wallowing in self-pity of no benefit but I can’t imagine Thomas allowing any of that. We’ve had a quite incredible December that has seen us rewarded on and off the pitch. That’s now done and it is time, as ever, to look forward. Following Bristol City, we’ve the tames with Reading and Luton. Another crowded run of fixtures against teams with the same aspirations as the Bees for promotion.

A very fishy, dodgy story

Before that though, Middlesbrough. I can’t wait to see the team in action. Whichever element of the squad Thomas picks it from.

Nick Bruzon