Tag Archives: FA Cup

Liverpool, Manchester United and Christian Eriksen latest plus the video to make our eyes light up.

18 Jan

Another day in the non-stop rollercoaster ride that is Premier League life. Brentford have done with Liverpool and we’re now set to host Manchester United . There’s FA Cup news out of Everton plus more midfield news than you can shake a stick at with Christian Eriksen of Denmark being just one of the names out there at the moment. 

Could we actually do this?

Which, with all due respect to Liverpool and Manchester United, needs to be where we start. The GPG have had the story building for over a week but now the rest of the world seems to have caught up with this. The BBC and several newspaper sites confirming that Brentford have been in touch with the Danish midfielder who has been released from his contract with Inter Milan. Serie A rules not allowing the sort of pacemaker which he has had fitted following that terrifying moment over the summer at Euro 2020.  

109 international caps. A pedigree in domestic football that also takes in Ajax and Spurs. 36 goals for his country from a variety of midfield positions. There are no words needed to describe his talent and word on the street is that there are a number of other top flight clubs looking to sign him. However, the actual word out of TW8 being that talks HAVE taken place between Brentford and the player about a six-month deal. Now, the inevitable negotiations begin.  

I can’t imagine somebody of his stature comes cheap, that’s for sure. How big a draw the power of Thomas Frank and the other Danes on our playing staff over wages will be remains to be seen. I’m drooling at the prospect of seeing him alongside Christian Norgaard. Chuck in Mathias Jensen for the full triumvirate. Right now, its more the case of hoping Thomas can do his thing to sell the Brentford project to his fellow countryman. 

Likewise, and perhaps more importantly, being hugely grateful that we can even be having this conversation. The sheer awfulness of what happened over the summer needs no revisiting. The despair and panic felt at the time unable to be put into words. And that was just us watching on from back home. It’s not possible to even half imagine how it felt for his team mates and family after he suffered that on pitch cardiac arrest in the game against Finland.

Thankfully, of course, the medical staff and his own team mates worked wonders to bring him back following the emergency treatment administered at the time. Now he’s in wonderful health by all accounts and chomping at the bit to go again – even targetting a place at the World Cup in December.  

That journey has to start somewhere and Brentford are the ones at the forefront of looking to help him take that first step. Could it happen? Will it happen? Is an unveiling before Manchester United too far flung a dream to cling to? Might it all come to nothing? Fingers are certainly crossed with, I have no doubt, much more to come in the coming days. 

The other news to set tongues wagging concerned a player already on our books. With video footage to match. We’ve all seen the pictures of Josh Dasilva in recent weeks but now he’s been in actual match action. You know, kicking a ball and everything. 45 minutes at Jersey Road in a game with Havant and Waterlooville. The comeback is most definitely on and whilst it may take a while longer to be involved in full fat first team action, this is about as big a boost as they come. Feast your eyes on this. 

Elsewhere, we’ve now gone live with the post match player and performance review following the game at Liverpool. Who were the top five for Brentford? Who is ahead in the race to be our season long star man? Who should have been included but missed out? You can find the answers and catch up on that piece, here.

In other news, TAP limits for the FA Cup fourth round tie at Everton have been announced. The figure cited by Brentford ‘official’ means just about anyone who has seen us on the road can take the trip to Goodison Park on Saturday 5th February. Season Ticket Holders with 1200+TAPs will be able to book their guaranteed place from today. 6,000 tickets are, I believe, available and priced at just £15 these are sure to fly off the shelves. If nothing else, it gives a chance to complete the Stanley Park bingo card following Sunday’s game. 

Two for the price of one

Until then though, it’s almost time for another home game. The chance to have played all 19 clubs in the Premier League will finally arrive. Manchester United being the last of the outliers following their 11th hour Covid related cancellation request back in December. How long ago does that feel now? The delay has allowed us to welcome back Kris Ajer and strengthen our goalkeeping options, amongst others permutations. It seems like another lifetime away when we were talking about having to bring out 18 year old Matthew Cox against the Red Devils for his Brentford debut? Perhaps we still will although any change should it come will, surely, be in the direction of Jonas Lössl. 

Today’s press conference will be telling as to both injuries and team selection. Even if it does end up being dominated by talks of another Dane in Christian Eriksen. All that’s to come, of course. For now we need to focus on Manchester United and the chance to pick up another three points. They looked wobbly (the story of the season) against Aston Villa and may well be without Cristiano Ronaldo which, if nothing else, is disastrous news for all the ‘Can I have your shirt…?’ placard makers. 

Could we do it? Will we do it? There’s only one place to be to find out. Lionel Road. See you there. 

Nick Bruzon 

Get the f*@k in !! Now THIS is what it’s all about.

15 Jan

Well here we are at last. If the Premier League hadn’t been exciting enough so far, Brentford now go into a sequence of games that sees us go to Liverpool on Sunday, host Manchester United on Wednesday and then welcome back old friends Wolves on the Saturday. It is a week of fixtures that at one point in most supporter’s lifetime would have been nothing short of fantasy football. Now it is very real and now it is here. Not to mention the news out of Lionel Road yesterday about Pontus Jansson signing an extended contract. The club captain clearly relishing his time with The Bees following that move which took him from Leeds United to Griffin Park back in 2019.

We can only begin with all things Liverpool, of course. A Sunday afternoon 2pm kick off sees our first visit to Anfield since that 1989 FA Cup quarter final. Brentford, then, a Division three club for whom Andy Sinton, Keith Jones, Allan Cockram, Gary Blissett, Keith Millen and Terry Evans were amongst the players to make yours truly go dewy eyed even now. Checks Wikipedia – Neil Smillie is 63. Cripes – that’s how long ago it was. Yet it was a rare opportunity to step up in class.To continue that epic cup run that had already seen us beat Manchester City and then a fine fifth round win up at Blackburn Rovers.

What an afternoon it was.

Liverpool, of course, were next level. In general and on the day. Reaching the ground relatively late, we walked into an already full stadium to be greeted by a wall of noise and a teeming mass of supporters. The fans moving as one on the Kop at the far end of the stadium. I remember suddenly being hit by the sheer impossibility of the task ahead but also the excitement and the potential if, somehow, footballing fate were to smile on us. If David were to beat Goliath. And it almost happened.

“No Offside!! Cadette!!! Ohhh, he’s missed!! Sinton’s lovely little ball and Richard Cadette, top scorer with seventeen goals this season… how close did he come to putting this quarterfinal? Well, it would have been dreamland for Brentford, wouldn’t it? It was inches wide of the post. And that…silenced the Kop”.

Ahh, Tony Gubba. His immortal words with the score locked at 0-0 still ring in the ears. The chance still visible in the minds’ eye. An opening ten minutes with more action than you get in most games. Then Liverpool turned it up to 11. 1-0 at HT became 4-0 by the end. We did well to hang in there but eventually class told. We went back to West London and that was it for over thirty years. Until this season and that quite incredible 3-3 at Lionel Road.

The inflatable Bee may have gone but the photo from my last trip to Anfield remains

If the trip to Anfield had been a highlight in my life as a Brentford fan, then the Premier League game in September has now overtaken that. To see the two clubs competing on an equal footing. Both in the same division. Decades of ambition finally coming to fruition. The long, hard years having to explain that our team, largely unheard of outside TW8, were Brentford rather than Brentwood (in Essex ) now nothing more than a dusty relic from a previous time. To have my family with me and little H, the excitement painted all over his face in thick brushstrokes. His tears as they scored again. The screams of joy as we pulled them back. Again. Liverpool’s lead falling apart as easily as a Leeds United promotion campaign.

That’s what a Wissa equaliser for 3-3 does

Ahh, good times. Amazing times. But a memory to file alongside Anfield ’89. Now, we’ve the chance to make new ones. Thee points the priority against a Liverpool side shorn of their best player (Mo Salah on AFCON duty along with Sadio Mane and Naby Keita) yet still putting out a terrifyingly strong looking line up for Thursday’s League Cup semi with Arsenal. That one ended 0-0, against ten men. Stoic resistance does work. With the Bees enduring that horror show at Southampton on Wednesday, one so woeful it culminated in a hard hitting approach to the player performance review – the only way is up. There’s just no way we can defend that abysmally again. Whether playing Liverpool or Lincoln City. We were victims of our own lethargy. This time around things will be different. They have to be.

Thomas Frank has hinted that Rico Henry will be ready. Amazing if so but one can’t help but think these are nothing more than mind games and Manchester United will be when we see him back in action. The attacking potential and defence quality he brings is, of course, something that needs no expansion upon. We all know it. We all love him. We all hope there will be no gamble with fitness although if he IS ready then happy days. Roll on 1pm Sunday when the team is announced and we find out.

The other big call will be in nets. Does Jonas Lössl get a start or will Alvaro Fernandez keep his place? It always takes time for a new goalkeeper and defence to sync up whilst nobody could replace David Raya. It’s a task as impossible as following Fergie at Old Trafford. The manager rather than the Black Eyed Pea. Yet, equally, we all know that things have been up and down. Moments of brilliance – he arguably saved us two points late on at home to Aston Villa – have come alongside a frustrating lack of clean sheets. The only people smiling there being the marketing team at Dormeo as another  promotional mattress and duvet set gets to stay in the warehouse. Is it all down to him? What would you do? For me, Clive, there’s nothing to lose by making the change. Something needs to give after Southampton and I’m afraid most eyes will be pointing in the obvious direction – that last line of defence.

Look, I know nothing about football. Really. I love it, live it, breath it. But I’m not a coach. I’m not involveld in what happens. Like most of us, a peripheral figure on the outside looking in when it comes to team selection and actually knowing what goes on behind the scenes.  Everyone’s an expert and a tracksuit manager. Everyone’s a critic and its the easiest thing in the world to pour forth. Indeed, that’s all part of what makes it such a wonderful game. The conjecture. The discussion. The ongoing debate with friends. Listening to pundits and then shouting at the tv as to how wrong they are. 

Ultimately though, it comes down to Thomas Frank and his squad as to who our best eleven are on the day. Rico or Sergi. Jonas or Alvaro. Whomever we go with, this promises to be as loud and exciting an experience as they come. It shouldn’t have the feel of ‘big day out’. That was for 1989 and a one off experience. An amazing one but we were a different club then with different aspirations. These days Brentford have big new ambitions (sorry, sorry, sorry – couldn’t resist) and these upcoming games the Rides, Manchester United and Wolves will go a huge way towards telling us how realistic they are. Bring it on!!! See you there.

The other news was , of course, Pontus Janson and his contract extension. This is fantastic news. He’ll now be with us until the end of of next season after it was announced yesterday that he had put pen to paper. 

No word, of course, as to whether it was ‘that’ pen but one can only dream….

That biro

Nick Bruzon

Time for another road trip (or three). League and cup action await.

10 Jan

Brentford will travel to Everton in the fourth round of the FA Cup – ties to be played the weekend of 5th February. Along with Spurs v Brighton and Wolves v Norwich, it is one of only three all Premier League ties. Meaning there’s a good chance of the BBC going for TV coverage along with the inevitable bore fest that will be Manchester United v Middlesbrough. Unless, of course, Aston Villa can spare us all from that one tonight when they travel to Old Trafford for the final game of the round. Manchester City have the chance to warm up for our visit the following week with a home draw against EFL club Fulham whilst next on our tour of the Premier League, Southampton, are home to Coventry City.

There was immediate, perhaps bizarre, excitement in our house when Everton came out of the hat. Aside from our own recent 1-0 win and an earlier than expected chance to visit a new ground, if Brentford show half the oomph we did against Port Vale then it could be a classic. A 4-1 win on the road with Mads Bidstrup subsequently described by Thomas Frank as a little bit of our N’Golo Kanté  ( “A big, big claim of course” – Thomas’ own words ). Talking about his “Big engine”, he used the post-match to lavish praise on the midfielder, enthusing that “his ability to press and cover so many yards across the pitch is fantastic and that acceleration when he just goes past people, I think that’s so good in the pressure.”

Mads’ reward is another ‘away’ tie.

Then, of course, we’ve the prospect of another run in with everyone’s favourite Brazilian.  Pele, Socrates, Zico, Ronaldinho…. Allan. As has already been documented on these pages, the midfielder has become a cult hero to rival Argentina’s Lucas Biglia in our house. Any chance of some bonus Allan action is one which we’ll always opt for. Especially if Everton continue to, what’s the polite term, ‘misfire’ as much as they have done in recent months. League form is best described as patchy, with only Leeds United and Watford standing between them and the bottom three.

Meaning that the purse strings could be severely tested, given the trip to Manchester City in the Premier League is just a few days later. A 7.45pm kick off on Wednesday 9th February. Tickets for that one go on sale this Tuesday afternoon for anyone clearing that first TAP threshold of 3,400.  Away capacity for League games at The Ethiad is reckoned to be about 3,000 across the three tiers of the South Stand, so hopefully anyone with requisite form will be able to get in should they so desire. Definitely one where we’ll need to flex the plastic to cover costs.

Before all that we head to Southampton on Tuesday evening. They had the pleasure of a ‘behind closed doors’ tie in Swansea at the weekend (its Wales, innit). That one went to extra time before the Saints went, if not marching, certainly limping on.

Ralph Hasenhüttl telling Sky that his much changed team may not have enough players for tomorrow’s game, saying, ”We never know. At the moment, it’s all about lottery… You wake up in the morning and go to the training ground. You sit at breakfast and you are waiting for new [coronavirus] cases. The problem is with the fixtures coming up. It doesn’t get any easier.”

So far (Monday morning) there aren’t any noises being made about applications to have the game called off or training grounds being closed. Fingers crossed this is nothing more than sabre rattling and mind games. As much for the players’ health as the additional chaos caused by any more backlog. Let’s not forget that this fixture has already been put back once.

For Brentford, expect to see more of Bryan Mbeumo. He was back to his brilliant best, with Thomas waxing lyrical about his half hour appearance form the bench. Less the proverbial cameo and more scene stealing. Our head coach nothing that “I must say he’s been the same for us this year in the Premier League. He’s done really well after coming back from injury. We knew he wanted to play in the Cup to be in with a chance of being ready for Tuesday at Southampton and he’s just come in with three quality finishes”.

Too true, and surely he’ll find his way back in to the Brentford front line alongside Ivan when the teams are named at 6.46 on Tuesday evening.

In the meantime, you can read that piece in full, here. Come for Mads. Stay for Bryan.

For now, though, it’s a chance to charge the battery packs and prepare for the trip to Southampton. Don’t forget those Manchester City tickets tomorrow and, whilst we wait to find out when that Everton game will actually take place (Liverpool are also at home so something will have to give) here’s the rest of the draw in full….

Safe travels to the South coast and see you there…

Fourth round ties…

Crystal Palace v Hartlepool United

Bournemouth v Boreham Wood

Huddersfield Town v Barnsley

Peterborough United v Queens Park Rangers

Cambridge United v Luton Town

Southampton v Coventry City

Chelsea v Plymouth Argyle

Everton v Brentford

Kidderminster Harriers v West Ham United

Manchester United/Aston Villa v Middlesbrough

Tottenham Hotspur v Brighton and Hove Albion

Liverpool v Cardiff City

Stoke City v Wigan Athletic

Nottingham Forest v Leicester City

Manchester City v Fulham

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Norwich City

Allan awaits

Nick Bruzon

FA cup third round goals and fourth round draw details. What next for 19?

9 Jan

Brentford are in to the fourth round of the FA Cup. A 4-1 defeat of Port Vale on Saturday afternoon was as notable for the return of Kris Ajer as it was a second half hat-trick for Bryan Mbeumo. Or Boomoo as Match of the Day insist on calling him still. Come on the media team, have a word. It was all the more impressive given he only came onto the pitch in the heart of the 60-70 sub zone but the game turned from there. With no apparent injuries it means we can get back to Premier League business, and those trips to Southampton and Liverpool, in good spirits. Before that though, there’s the fourth round draw which takes place on Sunday afternoon after the clash between West Ham and Leeds (kick off 2pm). The Bees are ball number 19 in that one. Cambridge United at 26 amongst the clubs looking to cause another following their own humiliation of Newcastle United. Oh, Eddie Howe. You can do it at Bournemouth but what about on a miserable afternoon in the North-East?  

Tough luck. That’s their issue. For Brentford, safe progression was as much as one could have hoped for. Target achieved. We don’t do match reports on these pages and even less so today, given this ‘plastic prem fan’ was following the game from the comfort of the sofa. More wine please? Don’t mind if I do. 

Following progress from home

Sadly, with the post Christmas budget thinner than the Liverpool squad before a league cup semi something had to give. And it was the trip to Vale Park. Kudos to all those who made it. For a supporter who has been following Brentford for over forty years, it was a game too far. This time.

I know I wasn’t alone but the showing from those who could make the trip was hugely impressive. The MOTD cameras at least showing how well we had travelled. Top, top work all round. Even if, as one North Stand observer put it to me , “You should only have to go to Stoke once in a lifetime.”

The highlights for this one are up c/o the BBC . You can see these below.

Watch the lung busting pace of Bryan Boomoo (sic) and an impressive performance from Mads Bidstrup in the middle. If my maths are correct, the arrival of Roerslev for Ajer meant we had all three Mads on the pitch for the final half hour. A curio not seen (probably – although I’ll defer to Jonathan Burchill here) since the three Keiths team back in 1989. Branagan, Millen and Jones, for the record.

Have we ever gone four? Over to you, Jonathan.

Can we find a fourth?

The other FA Cup news is, of course, the draw. With 32 names (subject to those last ties) being left there is still the potential for potato skins and tricky away trips. The absence of any replays thanks to the Covid related fixture pile up something that I am sure will now remain in place forever and which has one advantage in giving the draw a cleaner look. Gone will be those ‘or’ or ‘or’ versus ‘or’ or ‘or’ permutations which have become a familiar thing in recent years. Meaning it should be much easier for the BBC and ITV to fight over who wants to show Manchester United at home next time out.

As noted, that draw takes place this afternoon. The FA website say it will be at approximately 4.50pm. Presumably to allow for the possibility of the West Ham – Leeds game going to extra time and penalties. That is, of course, assuming the visitors don’t fall apart. Again. You can watch this on ITV . The meat in a sandwich completed by their coverage of Nottingham Forest  – Arsenal.  

For me, Clive, very much a case of an afternoon on the sofa. Not for the first time this weekend. Then we’ll be swapping couch for coach and getting back on the midweek road. Bring it on and see you there.

Until then, here are those big money balls………

1 Boreham Wood

2 AFC Bournemouth

3 Stoke City/Leyton Orient

4 Southampton

5 Chelsea

6 Liverpool / Shrewsbury Town

7 Cardiff City / Preston North End

8 Coventry City

9 Huddersfield Town

10 Brighton & Hove Albion

11 Kidderminster Harriers

12 Leicester City

13 Middlesbrough

14 Hartlepool United

15 Everton

16 Fulham

17 Tottenham Hotspur / Morecambe

18 Crystal Palace

19 Brentford

20 Manchester City

21 Wigan Athletic

22 Luton Town / Harrogate Town

23 Plymouth Argyle

24 Manchester United / Aston Villa

25 Wolverhampton Wanderers / Sheffield United

26 Cambridge United

27 Barnsley

28 Peterborough United

29 West Ham United / Leeds United

30 Queens Park Rangers

31 Charlton Athletic / Norwich City

32 Nottingham Forest / Arsenal

Nick Bruzon

The New Year started with a bang. Now, the games come thick and fast.

7 Jan

And so it begins again. Covid may have put paid to the traditional December fixture pile up but, instead, Brentford see the games coming thick and fast in January. We’ve got Port Vale in the FA Cup this Saturday, swiftly followed by a midweek trip to Southampton and then Liverpool away on Sunday week. That, in itself, a topic of huge contention as supporters were once again proven to be the second class citizens we so clearly are in the eyes of those pulling the strings. This is swiftly followed by the rearrangement of the home game with Manchester United (Wednesday 19 Jan). The one cancelled at the 11th hour after their covid outbreak. The one following the insipid performance at Norwich. Then, a fortnight after that FA Cup, we’ve the visit from Wolves in the league. As it stands. Who knows these days?

Another journey on the “Road to Wembley” begins

First up, the FA Cup. Thomas Frank has used his press conference to confirm that Kris Ajer will start that game. His return to fitness is magnificent news. Primarily for his own contributions so far this season, where he has hit the ground running despite the tougher challenge compared to the Scottish Premier league. His own comments about it being easy to make the step up from a division where you are expected to win even game have, so far, been proven. Brentford have most definitely been stronger with Kris in the team whilst his return is as welcome given the injuries still being felt by Zanka and Charlie Goode. All being well he comes out of this unscathed against opponents who will no doubt be going for the juggular. 

Their own recent battles with Covid and fixture congestion means that Vale are sure to start strong. Thomas telling the media that manager Darrell Clarke, “Needs a game for his starting XI. We know they like to play and attack but we will be ready for that.

Trying to help Brentford avoid slipping up on an FA Cup potato skin will be Bryan Mbeumo although for Rico Henry it is seen as “One step too early for Saturday”. Sergi Canos and Matthias Jensen also miss out although should be available for Southampton.

Whether either will start that game is another matter altogether. Janelt, Baptiste and Norgaard are the absolute three nailed on names for just about every Brentford fan, subject to fitness. Likewise, with Mads Roerslev in fine form down the right, it looks like a three way battle between Sergi, Dominic Thompson or even Saman Ghoddos until Rico is ready once more. The later in particular impressing against Aston Villa and breaking in to the top five performers in the post match player review.

The FA Cup is then followed by Southampton (a), Liverpool (a), Manchester United (h) and Wolves (h). Four Premier League games in 12 days. The sort of congestion we saw following lockdown one. Or was it two? The difference this time around being that fans will be present to roar us on. We all know what a difference the atmosphere makes with the crowd really helping drag the players back into that second half against Aston Villa. The visits of the ‘big’ clubs seeing things go nuts from the off and so expect the roof to be ripped off when we get a visit from possibly the biggest of all during this run. Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Our games with Wolves have always been special. Going neck and neck in both League One and the Championship over the last ten years, its been wonderful crossing paths once more in the top flight. Long may the duel continue. Especially if we pull out the result as we did up at Molineux earlier in the season. Another ice-cool penalty from Ivan Toney, a wonder tackle from Kris Ajer and a new pair of gloves for David Raya being the stand out moments from a fine win on the road.

Another round in the ongoing battle of Wolves v Bees approaches.

Before that is the rearranged trip to Liverpool (thoughts on which will likely be saved for the programme column for Manchester United) followed up by the visit from the Red Devils. Certainly two of the toughest fixtures in a back to back sequence of league games. One does have to wonder how they’ll cope with these two? The trip to Lionel Road to take on Brentford is followed by Man U then hosting a West Ham United side looking to consolidate their own, perhaps unexpected, challenge for that fourth Champions League spot. 

Two tough games but that’s their problem. For Brentford, it’s all about Port Vale (the ‘official’ build up is here) and Southampton. Perhaps with half an eye on Anfield. There’s a lot of excitement to come, that’s for sure. Beating Aston Villa was immense. Moreso after Trezeguet attempted to mug us off after channeling his inner Platoon late on. Instead, three points were earned and the Bees started the new year with a bang. Long may it continue. 

Here’s to a glut of football. See you there. Until then, here’s the only ‘highlight’ from last time out.

Nick Bruzon

Last thoughts on the weekend and first look at the next game. Just please, no false 9.

7 Dec

Brentford travel to Port Vale in the FA Cup third round next month. Thus the balls handed us a repeat of the 2001 LDV final in last night’s draw. Cripes. Was that 20 years ago already? Where the heck does it all go? You can read full thoughts on the draw and how it panned out in Friday night’s programme column for the game with Watford. For now there’s just time for a final, brief reflection on the 2-2 with Leeds United and then we can all move on.

Sergi enjoys the moment of giving us the lead, at Leeds

The disappointment from Elland Road has ebbed away. We are now in that ‘cold light of day’ phase where it can be seen as a good point earned in hostile surroundings. Sergi’s celebration for his goal receiving the expected reaction from a fanbase well used to what happens when The Bees score at their end. Neal Maupay had played Leeds like a fiddle many, many times and now it was Sergi’s turn. Right or wrong, their reaction (its Leeds United, innit) was as predictable as us shipping a goal at the death (its Brentford, innit).

And to clarify, its wrong. There can be no excuse for chucking anything at players. Anything. We also saw what looked like a coin thrown down our end which the officials appeared to miss and one steward hastily removed once the ball was clear. I don’t think any club is perfect but some come with a pre-loaded reputation and, from the walk through the caged safety tunnel upon arrival to the reaction of director Victor Orta at full time, our hosts lived up to theirs from start to finish.

Welcome to Leeds

That said, one can only hope Leeds United stay up so we can go back again next season. Its one of the best places to watch football in the country. What a noise. What an atmosphere. Likewise, one of the most satisfying places to take points from.

Stay classy, Victor.

On pitch, the Brentford player review went up yesterday. Despite the absent Ivan Toney (who is also missing for Watford on Friday, as is the now suspended Sergi Canos for picking up his fifth yellow) there were enough players putting in big performances to make it another tough call as to who made the top five.

With Sergi in the stands for Watford, one can only presume Marcus Forss will start against the Hornets. Nobody needs a repeat of the infamous ‘false 9’ scenario employed by Dean Smith at Loftus Road back in 2016. Alan Jugde was a wonderful player for Brentford but centre forward he wasn’t. A team performance so dire that, as we have reminisced many times on these pages, the only saving grace was Billy Reeves’ 0-100 in 2 seconds move from touchline walk to disco sashay and back again.

Anyway, that Leeds United player review is below. Please do take a look and give us your thoughts.

Until then, we’re approaching the meridian point between games and so time to down tools for a few days. Time to dream of a trip to Port Vale. Time to look ahead to Watford.

See you there and, in the meantime, don’t forget to check out the action from game week fifteen \/…

BBC Billy Reeves provided the only moment of joy the time we tried a ‘false 9’

Nick Bruzon

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