Tag Archives: fans

0-0 at Griffin Park as the Lionel Road fan forum provides the main highlights.

26 Aug

Brentford 0 Woves 0 . A point apiece probably a fair result as both sides ended this one guilty of missing gilt edge chances. For The Bees, Jota and Maupay. For Wolves, some players. At the death, it was almost a case of Doncaster Rovers all over again as a fluffed dead ball (Nico’s great, but he’s no Sam Saunders) saw a three on one break saved only by the linesman’s flag. And that wasn’t the worst of them. Yet before all this was the lunchtime fan forum to discuss the Lionel Road updates.

Joining compere Billy Grant at the event were Chairman Cliff Crown, director Nity Raj (also CEO at Smartodds and Matthew Benham’s lawyer, as he was introduced), Mark Devlin, Dave Merrit from Bees United, Trevor from the GPG and representing BIAS, Gemma Teale. The hour and a half session was split between the panel answering pre-submitted questions before going to the floor.

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Last minute preparations from the panel

Whilst Matthew Benham’s personal message yesterday had clarified a lot of what was happening, we still learned more from this meeting than we’ve done from any of the previously published press releases. As Billy noted from the off – this wasn’t meant to be negative or positive but more that there were a lot of questions in the air .

So how to summarise 90 minutes in a few paragraphs? First up, I’d suggest you listen to the podcast when Beesotted release this. Likewise, one needs to say it’s a case of hats off to the club, our fan groups and our supporters. Cliff talked eloquently and in depth about the reasoning behind Matthews’ decision making process. Mark was very realistic and open with fans about strategy – especially around premium seating. Even if it was a message we may not have wanted to hear. Gemma wasn’t shy to hold back, speaking passionately and from the heart about why it was so important to involve the fans, even at this juncture.

Salient points? Whilst the external build, with the new schematics, is locked down there is still scope for review internally. It was confirmed that after listening to BIAS the area allocated for a potential safe standing zone has been flipped to allow for additional capacity. The board also acknowledging that giving over that entire stand to a potential safe standing zone was something that hadn’t been overly considered. Yet.

That the primary revenue stream is going to be through the ‘premium seating’ . A move away from the original conference and event business.Market research carried out by the same team who reviewed West Ham’s stadium has brought us to the decision to have 2930 places in this bracket. It is a number that the club consider is achievable, with first dibs going to existing Season Ticket holders. Albeit, unlikely there’s any age related discount if you want these places. Yet Cliff also confirmed there would be several tiers of premium seating and you would have the choice of if you wanted to pay ‘thousands’ (for the full works) or ‘hundreds’.

The flip side of all this being that it will allow the rest of the stadium to provide affordable seating for longstanding supporters. Even with the smaller capacity, after you factor in away fans and premium seats, that still leaves 11,820 – 12,920. With current supporter levels on an average gate (again, after factoring in the away fans and your 80 premium seats) at approximately 7,700 this allows 5,000 additional seats for newcomers. As Mark noted, we’re not looking for the new stadium to rinse the fans.

This in response to Gemma’s point that if you aren’t here today, if you haven’t even been born, then how can you get a ticket in the future? How can you be a part of this? It is a proposal very much aimed at current fans. That people aren’t going to be able to bring along friends, new family members.

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The new look Lionel Road picture as doing the rounds

The Hive has had to be sacrificed as part of the Outside Broadcast facilities being incorporated directly into the stadium at a Premier League standard. This is all part of the future proofing model, illustrated by the fact that despite Brighton having a spanking new ground, their recent promotion has required an additional upgrade cost of a figure estimated between £3.5 – 5 million.

The build will be quicker as a result of the redesign allowing the road to be built. With a fair wind it could be completed by October / Novemebr 2019 (Cliff’s words) although could slip to early 2020. This would then be followed by a series of test events before health and safety was passed – whether pre-season friendlies or league games played out in front of a reduced, but steadily increasing, capacity.

That said, the capacity is what the capacity is. Whilst technically there is always the potential to increase this would involve buying land on the other side of the railway and building over it. Something that would need the co-operation of Network Rail, too. Instead, there will be no future foundations laid and , if the council green light the scheme, the intention is to be on site and working by the end of January 2018. Cliff also announcing that if the new plans are not approved by the council, there will be no stadium.

Nity was at pains to point out that the change in plan was due to the need to de-risk the investment. That what we are talking about is a bet on football. It happens to be with Matthew’s money. He’s pretty good at bets on football and in his opinion we have reduced the risk by following this path.

Gemma would eventually thank him for allowing everybody to fill in their Benham bingo cards (‘It’s his money‘ being mentioned more than once). Yet, by the same virtue, rounded this off with both thanks and an emotional plea to keep taking this plan forward, but with us all involved.

Several questions from the audience, along with observations from our fans groups, made it clear that whilst we are all aware his plan is the way forward, we still have opinions. That these could and should be considered . Especially whilst there is scope to still do this on the internals. It is something that Mark acknowledged (twice over the meeting), “We certainly will be consulting with fans”.

Was more said? Absolutely. I’ve likely missed tonnes so please go and download the podcast. Is it perfect? No, but with the ongoing communications now being made the rationale behind the new plans is a lot clearer. So much more flavour was given as to what we are doing and why.

Were we ever going to change anything? No – at least to the physicals. Yet what was abundantly clear from the club side was a desire to now explain the reasoning. Likewise that the focus for all of this was in finding the most risk free means of building the stadium quickly, with premium seats the way forward. Mark noted that there would have to be some difficult conversations – although hopefully not too many.

From the supporter side, there is an absolute desire to remain involved and discuss what we may still be able to have an influence on. Not just from the likes of BIAS, The GPG and Beesotted but the fans on the floor. We know this is Matthew’s money. We know what he has done. We know we’d be dead without him. But as the people supporting the club and buying the seats, we still have a voice. It would be wonderful if this can continue to be heard as we take the next steps forward. Together.

Back to the game at Griffin Park, there’s not much to be said that hasn’t already. Both sides had their chances. Neither side took them. Sky have the video highlights – you can catch them here. We should have won. We might have lost.

Jota looked off the pace, less the usual thoroughbred and more a retired greyhound. I single him out purely because, with all the stories going around, one can only wonder if this is the last we have seen of him? Obviously I hope not yet the usual flare and excitement seemed to be missing and there were few complaints when Flo Jo came on in his place.

We’re now off the bottom of the table. Just. But in the words of Yazz (feat. her Plastic Population) in the 1988 chart topper, the only way is up.

Here’s to international break and the transfer window slamming shut ™.

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Jota on a sortie forward

Nick Bruzon

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Today’s the day. For more than one reason.

26 Aug

Brentford are back at Griffin Park today, hot off the heels of that 4-1 humping administered to QPR in the Haribo cup. The visitors, Wolves, themselves midweek winners at Premier League Southampton. And now back in league action its a case of Jota v Jota. Hopefully. The original and best v the temporary incumbent of that name. At least until the EFL decreed he was to be known as Diogo José Teixeira da Silva rather than the nickname with which he was first introduced to the Molineux faithful.

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We say ‘hopefully’. Our own Jota, of course the subject of two transfer bids – neither of which have come anywhere close to the club’s valuation. That, according to Dean Smith in the midweek press conference. Instead the player remains ready and available. With Sergi Canos back in training, too, could supporters be treated to the return of the Spanish duo at Griffin Park this afternoon? Or could there be an 11th hour recurrence of the lower back injury? See also: Scott Hogan’s buttocks. And calf.

Here’s hoping both players are fit and available, although Dean Smith has some tough choices ahead of the Wolves game after the midweek mayhem handed out at QPR. I for one wouldn’t want to be in his shoes with some interesting decisions ahead of him.

Egan and Barbet at CB, surely? Will Maxime retain his place on the right? Josh Clarke tore it up ahead of him on Tuesday night whilst Neal Maupay is an undoubted starter, regardless of how fit Lasse Vibe is. The finish from Romaine Sawyers’ magnificent through ball on Tuesday night was exquisite. Although credit, once more, to Romaine. Along with Neal one of the standout players so far this season.

Then there’s Ryan Woods. Is it too soon for him to rejoin the starting XI? Who loses their place if so? Sometime captain Nico? Will Kamo be given a rest? Tough choices all round in a bid to find the perfect balance for a team who are bottom of the nascent table.

As for Wolves, they currently sit in third place. Nuno Espírito Santo’s team have three wins out of four under the belt already, with their only defeat coming at the hands of current league leaders Cardiff City. And, of course, there was that morale boosting win on the road at Southampton in the EFL cup on Wednesday. With the speed the draw for round four was being made, I’m guessing they are due to find out their own opponents by about Monday afternoon.

I’ve not seen enough of Wolves to know how well they are playing relative to results. But victories over Middlesbrough and Hull City are not to be sniffed at in any season or at any point in the campaign. I’ve not doubt it’ll be another huge test for The Bees but one I’m very much looking forward to. Since we crossed paths once more back in League One, our clubs have followed a very similar trajectory. This, despite Wolves’ rich tapestry of historical form and massive fan base.

Here’s hoping today sees another exciting chapter in the story. Albeit, ending in three points for Dean Smith.

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Who wins in the latest battle of Wolves v Bees ?

Before this there are two huge events. Greville Waterman will be hosting a book signing in the club shop for his latest tome : OOH-AAH: The Bob Booker Story . The book does what it says on the tin, to coin a phrase, and is my current reading material of choice. Whilst I’m nowhere near finishing another voluminous effort, so far, so good. Nice one  Greville.

And he won’t be alone at the signing table today either. None other than Bob himself will also be present in the club shop from 2pm.

Yet the day’s non-footballing event is undoubtedly the fan forum in the church hall at St. Pauls, where supporters have the chance to put their questions to Cliff Crown and Mark Devlin (amongst others) in regards to the revamped stadium plans. Many of these have now been anticipated / further stoked (delete as applicable) by the personal message to supporters published yesterday by Matthew Benham.

We’ve no doubt all read this by now, although there’s a link here if not. As has been noted previously on these pages, the change in plans are disappointing to many whilst decisions around the club shop and, especially, The Hive are hard to fathom. These, all points acknowledged by Matthew.

As we’ve also noted on these pages, we aren’t going to get a choice in any build or substantial decision. Like it or not, and many don’t, that’s not how these things work. Matthew cuts to the chase telling fans: “In my opinion, it would make sense to consult only when such a consultation would be meaningful. In this instance, my concerns over the risks of the stadium build and business model took overwhelming precedence over a consultation which would not have ultimately impacted on what needed to be done.

For me (Clive) the most telling line was the penultimate one, which read: “We will continue with a transfer policy which will help to fill the rest of the funding gap”. Is this an indication that the likes of Jota and Harlee, both the subject of intense rumour in recent weeks, could be leaving imminently? Or that we will continue to buy the unknown but the potential filled?

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Harlee. Could he be looking away from Griffin Park soon?

Communication on the subject of the stadium has been drip fed out of the club in a seemingly strange order. Did Matthew have to do this letter? Perhaps not but given the close bond between supporters and our family like club, talking to us to explain his reasoning for these decisions is only a sensible step.

Does he need to ask / listen to us? Well, he’s the man who has pumped all the money in and who has already built a wonderful team on the pitch. His ball, his rules. We all happily exchanged our BU shares for this new lease of life. For this new Brentford. For this survival.

Should we have been engaged more along the line? Again, his decision and his view about this seems quite categoric. Yet at the same time, regardless of the eventual size bums still need to go on seats. Especially if the riches of the Premier League ever run dry or remain out of reach. We may not be paying for it up front but we are the ones who will be coming along in the future.

3000 empty premium seats when Barnsley, Burton or beyond come visiting could present an interesting sight. Ultimately, we want Griffin Park or Lionel Road. Not club Wembley where vast swathes of empty seats are so often on view in the middle of the stadium.

It’s going to be really interesting to hear some of the rationale behind the rebuild. About the premium pricing. About why none of this was originally considered / realised when , in Matthew’s own words: “A complicated build process, for a complex stadium design, on a difficult site to develop, was likely to lead to further delays and further escalating costs and thus endanger successful completion”.

Yet, the size of the site and the surrounding infrastructure hasn’t changed. And this not to criticise per se – we’re getting a brand new stadium –  but to understand. It has been a long and emotional journey for all of us. If not investing the millions, we have invested our lives into supporting this team and this club. We’ve put our hands in our pockets and our money into the buckets when the club was at its lowest pint. We’ve fought off the impending QPR takeover. Said farewell to Mr. We££ and tried to clear up after Ron Noades. You may not know this, but one fanzine even bought a player.

I can’t wait for Wolves at 3pm. But I’m equally keen to hear what Cliff and Mark have to say at 12.30.

See you there.

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Nick Bruzon

Will we be in the strangest draw yet after QPR game? Will you be there on Saturday for stadium news?

22 Aug

Brentford travel to QPR in the second round of the Carabao cup tonight with the tournament now sparking as much interest in the latest instalment of their guide to cocking up a draw as in the ties that precede it. And there’s some positive news on the stadium front c/o Beesotted, BU, The GPG, BIAS and the club with a forum taking place this Saturday prior to the Wolves game where the new plans will be discussed further

First up, the Carabao Cup (league cup). The Bees head to Shepherd’s Bush this evening for what promises to be a another fierce derby. We’ll be backed by a huge away following who will now doubt give the usual vociferous support. If you can get past the lack of leg room, restricted views in the upper tier and moribund – meaning dead or dying – atmosphere from the home support then Loftus Road is a great place to go.

But nobody is there for the creature comforts. If that’s your footballing raison d’être then I guess prawn sandwiches and premium seats are the way forward. We’re there for another 237 derby. Another chance to exert our recent superiority over the divisional rivals who so famously tried, and failed, to take over at Brentford. For another chance to remind Jake Bidwell of just what Jota did to him last season at Griffin Park. For another game against our closest geographical rivals.

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I wouldn’t disagree

Will Jota feature? Has his lower back injury cleared up? Can we get a first win of the season (in regular time)? It would certainly be a wonderful opportunity to get things back on track after some real Jekyll and Hyde performances. For every blitzkrieg attack has been some kamikaze defence. Bloopers at the back have been the theme that has, so far, proved very much the fly in the ointment of some very positive attacking play.

We don’t need to list the catalogue of error once more, suffice to say that this presents Dean an additional chance to settle on a first choice defence. To give his preferred foursome another run out. Assuming, of course, he doesn’t choose to mix things up with the game against Wolves swiftly followed by a trips to Aston Villa and Sheffield Wednesday prior to international break.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Who’d be a head coach?

The other point of interest around the action was Monday’s announcement that the third round draw will take place at 4.15am (yes, that’s the morning, not a typo) in Beijing, China. Whilst the decision is one which has been meet with widespread bemusement, the official blurb from the EFL tells us that: “Once the logistics have been completed in Beijing, the UK will be waking up and the breakfast media will be able to report and get reaction on the 16 ties that will take place next month, which we feel is an interesting move away from the usual post-game evening draws.”

Hmm. I’m convinced. It does seem farcical but there are bigger things to get excited about. This is hardly the prestige of the FA Cup third round draw. It is hardly an occasion graced by the gravitas of Jim Rosenthal. Besides, it is an approach that typifies the competition to date. Who could forget the disaster of the first round draw? Live from Thailand, the Facebook feed cut off after one team had been drawn whilst Charlton were pulled both home and away.

The second round draw, whilst taking place domestically, used a third pot to decide which of the regionally seeded teams would be ‘home’ or ‘away’. It left viewers and clubs baffled as John Salako got the colour of his balls mixed up. Brentford were among four clubs declared as ‘home’ but seemingly ‘away’ who had to eventually be reconfirmed as on the road for this one.

Perhaps having the draw at a time when most of the interested parties will be tucked up in bed is simply a means of avoiding any further fiasco. I feel for the likes of Tom Moore and our other local journalists / club officials who will now have to be up at this ungodly hour to prepare the news for us. Or will it simply be a case of setting up the VHS, waking at 6 and hoping nobody else has woken up yet?

In other news, the fourth round draw will be held on the side of an active volcano. Immediately after the draw for the fifth has already taken place live on the International Space Station. But for a competition that famously once saw Donald Trump pulling the balls alongside Saint and Greavsie, nothing would surprise me.

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Donald Trump pulls Norwich City to play Tottenham. BAD. FAKE DRAW

And finally, with the news about Lionel Road still proving to be the subject of much debate it was announced yesterday that a fans forum will tale place on Saturday prior to the Wolves game. With the new plans being submitted to Hounslow Council this Thursday, there’s nothing we can do to alter the revamped physical build. As has already been noted on these pages, given the route taken by the club this was never going to be possible. Whether we wanted to or not. Moreso when no comment had been made, even after Tom Moore spilt the beans a week early. That’s not support of the approach but a fact of life as to our present situation.

Many fans are disappointed by this. Understandably. But is there still a chance to impact the mindset of the club? Even on things as unclear and worrying as the 3000 Premium seats. Will this create a them and us culture – something that would be totally ‘un-Brentford’ at a club where we pride ourselves on that wonderful sense of family. Happy-clappy sentiment doesn’t pay the bills but could it see us priced out?

Besotted have all the details of the event, which you can find here. If you have any questions /concerns then please get along. Chairman Cliff Crown, Mark Devlin and Donald Kerr will be amongst those on the panel.

See you there.

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Beesotted amongst those to organise this event

Nick Bruzon

Big new ambitions? Or downsizing? What do you make of stadium news?

17 Aug

Thursday morning. We’ve all had time to digest the news out of Griffin Park. Namely that in a week’s time Brentford FC will be presenting plans to Hounslow council for an amendment to our design for Lionel Road  – the key points of which include : a location move (3 metres south),Premier League quality ‘outside broadcast facilities within the stadium itself, the relocation of BFC Community Sports Trust outside the ground and the capacity reduction from 20,000 to 17,250. The target date for all of this is now late 2019 / early 2020.

The statements on the club site and in the programme from Cliff Crown & Mark Devlin have gone on to further elaborate on the reasoning about this in what, I have to be honest (and I’d say this to their face) reads an awful lot like a game of buzzword bingo in places. Especially with regards to the housing element of the project which is so key to making it a success.

That’s marketing speak. We’re always going to get it. What seems to be of as much interest to supporters is what these official statements don’t say about the redesign. The obvious questions that immediately get asked. Moreso when the statement from BIAS and the article on the Beesotted site (who had been given a preview of the plans a week earlier) cut to the heart of so many questions that supporters are asking.

What will it now look like? Why no club shop? Why no central bar areas such as The Hive? What are the Premium seats and why so many? 3000 out of a total capacity of 17250, and that includes away fans. What does that do for us ordinary fans who currently sit on, or around, the halfway line? Can we still afford to in future? Why no monorail?

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Lionel Road. A new look – sans monorail – is coming

They are just a few of the obvious questions and ones which our fan groups quite rightly ask. Read the club statements but please also read these pieces too before you continue. That said, I can’t imagine many supporters are yet to see them.

Or the GPG to which I was also directed yesterday.

Welcome back Trevor; it’s been a while since I darkened your pages. Yet it seems that he has also been granted access to not only the plans but also a chat with Matthew Benham and Cliff Crown where many of these key questions have been both anticipated and which he has attempted to answer. Albeit, and in his words: “I didn’t make any notes of the meeting at the time, so this is a summary of our discussions created a few days later in a old man’s memory”.

I’d suggest you also have a read of this, too. If it as accurate as one would hope (presumably Matthew and Cliff would be at the doors of the GPG with pitchforks, flaming torches and lawyers if they had been misquoted or the article has not been pre-approved) then it presents a lot more clarity around the logic being employed. The reasoning behind certain decisions.

Which brings me to the crux of the matter after all this preamble. We’re talking about a new stadium. Not the end of days. This is a great, great thing.

We all recognise what Matthew Benham has done for the club. The vast investments he has made and the upward trajectory Brentford FC have been on over the last 6 years since he officially took over after our first dealings way back in 2009. Many of us have questioned his ‘mathematical model’ yet, equally, after three years in the Championship the fruits of this are clear for all to see.

He’s a supporter since 1979. He has been ever clear about his vision for sustainable top flight football. Frankly, he’s too far into this to run himself out with a half-baked scheme or an unsustainable one when it comes to stadium design. I can’t imagine any of these are decisions which have been taken lightly but at the end of the day (Clive) these changes would seem to be the compromise that needs to be made in order to deliver the build.

We all love Griffin Park. We all know it’s not fit for long term purpose. Certainly not sustainable Premier League football which is THE ambition for everybody at the club. Back in September 2015  Rasmus Ankersen told supporters at the Fans forum:  “It is not an option to not be in the Premier League. It has to happen in the next three years…. At the moment there is no Plan B. we’ll be in the Premier League in three years.”

That’s only a year away now. Quite frankly, I don’t want to be squatting at Loftus Road. The sooner we are able to take things forward the better.  And on that point, if that was our ambition then why were the much touted Outside Broadcast facilities not part of the original spec? For what it’s worth.

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Griffin Park. Wonderful but not a long term future

Listen. I don’t want this to read as though it has an overly negative tone. Quite the opposite. Football is a hugely emotive thing. It is a part of all our being. Our collective experience. Our lives. Our friends and families have been made here and come here. Supporters are loving the fact that we have a new home on the horizon but, equally, from first impressions it seems that many are worried we’ll lose some of what makes being a Brentford fan unique. That we’ll be priced off our own doorstep.

Trevor’s article suggests we socialise ‘off site’. 3000 premium seats, whilst obviously a revenue winner, are pretty much 20% of the home fans. Will we be able to still be amongst ‘the heart’ of it?

Perhaps we’re lucky that at Griffin Park to sit in that location isn’t vastly prohibitive in terms of cost relative to other areas. Some element of clarity about that aspect – and Mark did note on Saturday that “We have already started planning the sales proves for Season Tickets and Premium seat packages”  – would be wonderful.

I want to keep coming and I will keep coming. I can’t wait to see what our new home looks and feels like. To experience top flight football there.

Let’s be realistic. Whatever our thoughts, nothing is going to change. Not physically. Redesigns are being submitted next week. This is it. Plans will be locked down. You can’t build a stadium based on a vote by committee of thousands. Equally, if it came down to another source would we even be in existence still? Let alone with such a prospect on the horizon?

But by the same virtue, why are we so poor at communications? (football is a village etc) . Why did it take Tom Moore to break the news a week ago? Then nothing be said once that story came out? When you take the forward thinking step of sharing the plans with our supporter groups, the obvious consequence is that they will have the time to digest them and review. To prepare questions. As I’m thankful the club have done and our groups have then reacted.

So why have the club not looked to anticipate some of these? It is clear they have come up in the discussions the club held with the fan groups. Whether as part of Cliff / Mark’s articles or as an additional statement alongside them. Why has it taken Trevor and the GPG (which not all supporters read) to provide undocumented answers?

To say again. This is a great thing that is happening. It seems trite to even consider having the hump over over a new stadium and a plan that is going to get us there. And personally, whilst I can’t get my head around some of the aspects, I don’t. We need a new home.

I don’t expect sales figures. I don’t expect minutiae to be shared in advance. That’s not how you do business. I’m not here to sell the plans to you or tear them down.

But once the news had broken, it would just have been good if we could have had a few more facts about the things that are really going to impact us. Even a picture would have been nice!

A fans forum is planned for next month. Will anything be said in advance? It would be in everyone’s interest if a bit more meat could be put on the bones of these plans. Publish an official statement rather than an article on the GPG.

It’s not every day you move home. It’s not that much to ask. Surely?

Nick Bruzon

Mamma Mia, here we go again. Brentford score big but who are this season’s dark horses?

1 Aug

With the Championship season almost upon us, it would be fair to say that anticipation is rising. Nowhere moreso than at Griffin Park where last night young Brentford fans were given the chance to meet their heroes at the now traditional summer ‘open day’. Sky Sports have launched their own season preview (remember the one Ian Holloway did last time out?) where along with the standard installation of Middlesbrough and Aston Villas as favourites, there’s no surprise for Bees fans. And the EFL have announced a shake up to penalty shoot outs that will have local journalists and bad bloggers in pun heaven.

First up, last night at Griffin Park. What can you say? It never ceases to amaze me just how incredible our players are. I’ve said this before but it needs to be said again. What for them could have been a tedious contractual obligation became a wonderful hour and a half (if not longer) for all those young fans lining up to get a peak behind the scenes and a photo with the stars. Not to mention an autograph or two.

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They were all, without question, wonderful. We got along quite late in the day yet the enthusiasm of the squad was infectious. Whatever Dean Smith and his staff are doing for squad morale is just incredible. What a brilliant group of players who went out of their way to welcome young supporters who might have been bit nervous / awestruck. (and that was just dad, although perhaps not so much of the young).

The entire squad was pretty much all there. Even new dad Maxime Colin, who one could have understandably expected to be on paternity leave. I don’t want to overly single anybody out although big thanks to Harlee, Lewis and Jota for their help with the picture. Hitting peak tiredness, somebody went very shy before composing himself after some enthusiastic words from his heroes.

Would you get this at another Championship team? Would the players be so welcoming? Would the club be so relaxed and open ? Would the club make such a great effort for their fans?  There was nothing corporate about this, it was just beautifully arranged. It was just Brentford. THANK YOU.

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Sky Sports. We all know what happened this time last season. Pundit Ian Holloway wrote his pre-season review in which he tipped the Bees for a poor season and relegation to League One. The rest is history.

Fast forward twelve months and whilst not the QPR boss with pen in hand, the TV company have published this year’s version. Divided into four categories of : Title contenders, Play-off hopefuls, Dark horses and Potential strugglers it looks at the so-called runners and riders in each category. So where do Brentford fit in?

The answer is a simple one. Nowhere. Not surprisingly they have Middlesbrough as favourites (I’d agree) along with Aston Villa – whom everybody is backing. I’m sorry, but I genuinely don’t get it. They were awful last season. Is a geriatric defender going transform them? Bring on Jota to run at him – Jake Bidwell, round 2.

But that aside, where are The Bees? Quite simply we don’t even warrant a passing mention.

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Whilst I’m tipping us for fifth, I can sympathise with their reticence to perhaps label us play-off contenders. But for a team that have had three top ten finishes over our Championship life (including that play-off with Middlesbrough) and have bought exceptionally over the summer to not even be deemed a ‘dark horse’ is odd.

Then again, if you do want to see Brentford as a dark horse Rod Liddle in The Times has us marked up. Or should that be down? He has us as relegation candidates and scoops this year’s Ian Holloway award.

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Look – I love all this. Three full seasons in and still nobody fancies us. Nobody gives us a hope. We are the stealth bombers of the Championship. Flying very much undetected, under the radar and all the way to the top. Keep on ignoring us – even the TV channels don’t give us a look in over August and September – and that’s just fine by me. If we can say the same to the end of the transfer window then all the better.

Finally, penalty kicks. You may have seen this yesterday but the EFL have announced they are switching the traditional shoot out to the ABBA system for the Carabao Cup, Checkatrade Trophy (should anybody be watching) and play-offs. Effectively, the shoot out will be contested like a tennis tie-break where after the first team starts, teams then get two consecutive kicks each and then continues as such until we have a winner.

The blurb on the EFL site tells us that “The trial of the new system is being backed by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) in response to a hypothesis that the player taking the second kick is under greater mental pressure in the current format. Therefore, a different order of kickers will be trialled in an experiment to reduce any apparent advantage the team taking the first kick may have”.

Regular or ABBA. It’s still nerve wracking and exciting in equal measure. Although with the League cup starting next week, this doesn’t give huge amounts of time to prepare. Personally, I’m more interested in the pun potential off the back of this. Which manager will be sending out an SOS? Who will meet his Waterloo? At the end of the day (Clive), the winner takes it all.

Whatever your thoughts on the new system, I can see those headlines being crowbarred in already. Answers on a postcard to the Middlesex Chronicle, marked ‘pun’.

Then again, the only way this could have been bettered is rather than ABBA, the EFL had gone for Diana Ross on the penalty front…..

Nick Bruzon

That Sky One Harchester United thing. Dear Sky TV, Andy Ansah, Richie et al….

3 May

These pages usually talk about Brentford FC but, occasionally, we look further afield than Griffin Park. Today is just one of those. It is a time when we need to look back to look forward. And also ask the question – is it time for a footballing renaissance?

That Sky One Harchester United thing”. Not my words but those of Absolute Radio DJ Richie Firth, talking on Wednesday morning’s Christian O’Connell Breakfast show. Regular readers may well be aware of, amongst other things, the show’s role in resolving the Cameron Diaz / Brentford story (something which, for the record, our own club commentator par-excellence Mark Burridge also had a hand in at one point).

But this was not a discussion about celebrity fans (or lack of). Instead, it was talk of actor Ricky Whittle and his current role in TV series American Gods. The actor, who has also appeared in Hollyoaks and on Strictly Dancing, is probably best known for playing Ryan Naysmith on what Richie had called That Sky One Harchester United thing. Or, of course, Dream Team.

Ahh, Dream Team. Running for ten series, the show was centred around the ongoing and progressively more outlandish events at fictional football club Harchester United. Combining real life stadia and action (often Leicester City, Chelsea or Everton but with the contrast turned up to make their blue shirts look like Harchester’s purple) the show was as loved for its crazy plots as the frequent use of celebrity cameos. From Ron Atkinson to John Barnes, even one time Bee’s boss Steve Coppell had a go at channeling his inner Marlon Brando. It wasn’t good.

Yet perhaps the most famous of these actors was another former Bee (and member of our ‘top ten moustaches‘ club), Andy Ansah. Forget his later work on ‘Street Striker’ or numerous films and adverts though. For me his crowning glory was six series reciting variants of: ‘Get warmed up lads’ and ‘Alright, Gaffer?’ whilst playing himself, as the club’s first team coach.

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Ansah – wonderful Tekkers

I caught up with Andy a few years ago whilst writing a ‘Where Are They Now’ article for the Griffin Park match day programme. It goes without saying that the main topic of conversation was this wonderful, wonderful show. It was a truly privileged behind the scenes insight (and you can read more below) but, if I’m being equally honest, since finishing in 2007 the show has slipped from most people’s memory.

But then Wednesday saw Richie do his thing, even taking to Twitter where he noted, “Everytime I pass the Dragon’s Lair on the train at Millwall I get misty eyed. Bring it back @sky1”

Boom. Quicker than you could say Karl Fletcher, Lynda Block or Luis Amor-Rodriguez (think of a low budget Jota) the memories came flooding back.

Murder at the FA Cup final. The plane crash. The coach crash. The coach explosion at the Millennium Stadium. Liverpool (the real Liverpool) being linked in the papers with a £3.5 million swoop for Didier Baptiste back in 1999. Cue much egg on face when it transpired they weren’t actually bidding for a Monaco player but actually looking at a character from a TV show.

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L-R, John Black, Luis Amor-Rodriguez, Karl ‘Fletch’ Fletcher, Sean Hocknell

It wasn’t just me. Pick of the highlights to subsequently flood Twitter was that of @JohnDryden1 who noted: Lawlor in goal? That must of been after Jamie Parker held his team mates at gun point in the changing room.

As you do.

But now, ten years on, is it time to bring back Dream Team? Does Richie, a one time self-proclaimed soothsayer of scores, have his finger on the footballing pulse once again?
Would people watch it ? Yes, yes and yes have to be the answers to all three questions.

Sky 1, if you are reading (you probably aren’t ) how about it? Natalie Sawyer, any chance you could have a word with the bosses?  Andy Ansah (again, probably not reading), if anybody has the contacts it must be you?

With Griffin Park around the corner from Sky HQ and a new stadium on the horizon in Lionel Road, then what better time to bring this back with a progressive club filling the role of the new Harcehster? They’ve used Watford. They’ve used Millwall. They’ve even used Brentford (albeit as part of the May 2007 Open Day when a Harchester United team played the Community Sports Trust at Griffin Park.

How about Brentford doing it again – for real ?

If any show deserves a reboot, then Dream Team must be top of the list. If it worked for Doctor Who and Dallas then imagine what could be done now. Come on Sky, the world of football demands it.

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Andy dons the monogrammed tracksuit in his Harchester United days

And if anybody was in any doubt about the love for the show, this is what Andy Ansah himself had to say about it in that aforementioned interview:

Having finally retired from playing, all of a sudden Andy appeared on Sky one’s football based ‘drama’ series, Dream Team, playing himself at fictional club ‘Harchester United.’ A guilty pleasure for many viewers, myself included, but for all the wrong reasons! Wooden dialogue, outrageous plots and, as Andy himself offers, “The Lynda Blocks of this world”, its combination of beautiful women and real match action made it compulsive viewing for close to ten years. So how did he go from footballer to actor?

“I went to a Take That concert at Wembley, believe it or not. I made my decision then that I was going to retire from football. I met two people there and I said, ‘What do you do ?’ “ Oh, we do ‘extras’ work?” They were stand in doubles.

I thought that sounded interesting because I’d always liked acting and I love my films. Some friends of mine were on Dream Team doing the footballing extras although they were a lot younger than me. So I thought, ‘ok’, this is what I’m going to do. I’m going to stop playing pro-football, play a bit of part time, join ‘Dream Team’ and learn how to be an actor.

Subsequently, I joined as one of the football extras but because I was older than everyone else, I was thirty then whereas they were nineteen/twenty, I used to spend all my time with the directors and producers who were the same age. They used to ask questions about football all the time – how would we do this or that? I found myself directing the football for them and then within a year they made me the producer of football on Dream Team. It was crazy!”

Alongside the move to producer came a step up from ‘extra’ to acting role aswell, portraying the club’s assistant coach, Andy Ansah (!!) This also meant a few lines per show, with regular Ansah gems including takes on , “All right, you lot ! Get out on the field and warm up,” and “Leave it, gaffer. He’s not worth it.”

I put it to Andy that it must surely have been fun to be involved?

“I loved it, I loved it. Listen, it was brilliant. The show itself was low budget but it was built up on people. The people were fantastic and it had cult status. No matter how bad it was, you’d be able to say – I know who that is. That was Drogba’s goal for Chelsea against so and so. That’s what made it so much fun.

At the end, it kind of died a death. I was there for six years and when I left I was offered a Hollywood job with the film, “Goal”. That’s when I left and they ended up employing four different people to take up my one post on that show. That’s how much I did.”

As for those famous/infamous cameos? “The guys were great. Being honest, I should thank the likes of Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke and the West ham players. They mainly got me that producer role because I pulled in my contacts to get those guys on the show. One time, Andy had just got called back into the England squad and all the press were outside the training ground at Man United. I had to go and meet him at the training ground and came out the back door with Andy and Dwight , then drove to Stockport County so we could film them on Dream Team – for nothing. It was absolutely crazy. Can you imagine a footballer now using his image rights and saying, ‘I’ll come on your show for nothing’ but that’s how much of a cult status it was.”

After six seasons at Harchester United, ‘Goal’, and the lure of the silver screen proved too much, although not for the first time !

“Infact, whilst I was doing Dream Team, after two years I also did a film called : Mike Bassett England manager. I cast Terry Kiely from Dream Team (popular character, Karl Fletcher) and Scott Mean who used to play for West Ham to come and work on that film. I did all the choreography on that film myself, which was a big job! We shot at Wembley and also went to Brazil. I was there for almost two months, filming at the Maracana, Botafogo and everywhere.

It’s a hard job…!!”

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Bassett / Tomlinson – one of the many famous faces to film at Griffin Park

Nick Bruzon

Palace and Arsenal write a chapter for our next season as Bees beat QPR. Again.

11 Apr

With Brentford safe in the Championship for another season and the playoffs a leap too far, thoughts turn to who we’ll be facing in 2017/18. Last night’s Crystal Palace – Arsenal game has given more than a few clues as to how that’s going to pan out. Elsewhere, there was sad news for QPR who have had to make a somewhat embarrassing retraction (stop sniggering) whilst local news site Get West London appear to have finally jumped the shark.

First up Crystal Palace. For a time it looked as they were being slowly sucked towards the Premier League relegation battle. A 0-4 thumping by Sunderland, swiftly followed by a reverse at the hands of Stoke City, had eyes lighting up in West London as the Eagles slid down, down (deeper and down). Could we have another local fixture, with the Bees going to the Palace next season? Would there be a kit obsessive programme feature including that most iconic of shirts, the red and blue sash sported by Brentford legend Neil Smillie?

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Then Big Sam and his troops got their act together, won four in a row and despite hitting a bump at Southampton, had the pleasure of playing Arsenal last night. And what a pleasure it was for the neutral. A 3-0 win for Palace makes their own safety a lot more likely and, with it, a straight shoot out between Hull City and Swansea City for the privilege of joining all but mathematically doomed Middlesbrough and Sunderland at Griffin Park next season.

It’s a shame from one respect. I was quite looking forward to the prospect of a hop across London to Selhurst Park next season. It would have been a new ground to see Brentford play at but instead we can do nothing but offer Palace congratulations on a job well done in recent weeks.

The other factor is the listening to those self-entitled numpties at Arsenal TV and Piers Morgan, somehow thinking that because they had that run back in 2003/04 when they were dubbed the undateables or whatever it was, they are entitled to be any good over a decade later. Yawn. Seriously yawn.

Anyone thinking Brentford fans moan or give our managers stick needs to look to North London. There, they take expectation to a new level with ‘Wenger’ receiving 128K worth of tweets on the UK trend list as at the time of writing (6.30am).

The biggest irony being the silence in the Emirates when they are playing. If they made half as much noise mid-game as they do once the team has lost then perhaps Arsenal might be an intimidating place to come rather than the glorified library it is so derided as being.  For the neutral, it remains wonderful, if slightly nauseous, unintentional comedy. No supporters in the land are as full of their club’s own self-importance relative to its actual ability (I know , I know – they won the FA Cup). Long may it continue.

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Twitter: Come for Monkman; stay for Wenger

On the subject of unintentional comedy, we only need to look a few miles up the road to West London rivals QPR. Already 6 points behind the Bees in the League table, now they’ve lost out to us in the player of the year awards stakes.

Whilst Brentford’s own event all but sold out within days, the not so super hoops have been forced into an awkward climbdown within a week of tickets being made available for their £119 a head do. In a brief article on the clubwebsite entitled ‘POTY EVENT CANCELLED the club has been forced to admit that, “a lack of sales has resulted in the event being cancelled”.

Here’s to Saturday week when we can really hope to compound a miserable season for our near neighbours. Fifty years on; never forget.

And finally, Get West London. Whilst it would often be easier just to follow the player feed on Twitter than read their stories, yesterday saw things reach a new low. The aforementioned journalistic jumping of the shark, if you will.

Brentford fan wears Bees shirt with BREXIT 16 on the back .

Thus proclaimed the headline on one of yesterday’s post Cardiff pieces. It went on to add – The shirt about the decision to leave the European Union sparked debate on social networking site Twitter.

Sorry, this is news how? This is a story because? Stop the press  – Football fan has political opinion. This is Donald Trump levels of news. Or lack of.  It was something that ‘sparked debate’, apparently. Or, in actual fact, led to a few references to it on Twitter.

What next. Man wears jaunty Castle Badge jumper to winter game? Transfer exclusive: Jugde to sign for Brentford?

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Coming next, on Get West London

Now I’m the first to admit writing drivel from time to time. Then again, I’m neither a journalist nor paid for the privilege. Just a self-confessed numpty on the terrace with an occasional blog column.

Come on Get West London, you can do better than this. Supporters deserve better than this. With five games and two local derbies to come, things aren’t at Arsenal levels of quiet. Just yet.

April fixtures

We’ve got all this to come still

Nick Bruzon

The craziest day in football history? Bees top the lot as Clem and Bournemouth set the record straight.

19 Mar

No. It wasn’t a dream. I’m awake. Brentford really did come good in the most incredible style to turn a 3-1 HT deficit into a 5-3 win at Burton Albion. Back on 3rd May 2015, the Last Word published a column entitled: Was this the craziest day in Championship history? as the Bees secured a play-off semi-final with Middlesbrough and Bournemouth pipped Watford to the league title in the most dramatic of denouements. But yesterday saw all that come crashing back to the forefront of the memory for many reasons. Nonemoreso than the return of Middlesbrough fan and Last Word cult hero Clem. Of Clemwatch fame.

But we can only start up where we left off last night and the result from Burton Albion. If not as significant as that afternoon back in 2015 where our own defeat of Wigan, matched with just about every possible result going our way, saw the Bees reach the play offs for the Premier League, this was one that is at the very top of the list of “I was there” games, Purely in terms of what was a ridiculous afternoon it was from a Brentford perspective.

If you’ve seen yesterday’s post-match column we’ve done that one. What a quite spectacular game of football to have witnessed. Following it from home was stressful enough, I can only imagine what it was like being there. An afternoon reminiscent of celebrating like we’d won the FA Cup at Leyton Orient? Winning the fifth round of the FA Cup at Blackburn in 1989? That game against Wigan in 2015?

Only those in Burton will truly know how good this one felt but if social media is anything to go by then it can only have been up there with the best of the best.  There’s been plenty for those missed who out on this one to look at via the world of Twitter and other sources although, perhaps, in retrospect it was always going to be a special afternoon when Burton gifted Brentford an omen such as this.

Are Beesotted setting up in Burton?

Billy (Grant) of Beesotted fame wasn’t just spotted on the side of a building. He was one of many loving the moment Sergi Canos popped up at the railway station on the way home. As you do.

Billy and Sergi. The afternoon's excitement continues

Billy and Sergi. The afternoon’s excitement showed no sign of stopping.

Billy wasn’t alone. Just when you thought Sergi couldn’t be any more excited to be back at Brentford, his impromptu photocall proved us all wrong on that front. How Norwich City must be kicking themselves at acquiring, then falling too use, such incredible talent and incredible enthusiasm. Presumably the Spaniard has now got home or is he still obliging the supporters with more photos?

Sergio does it again. And again. What a man.

Bees photographer Mark Fuller caught the moment below as sweetly as one could hope. The next best thing to actually being behind the goal.

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Whilst his partner in media crime (not literally) Sean Ridley proved that sometimes, three words are all you need.

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But perhaps it was the EFL themselves who hit the nail on the head in regards to yesterday’s events.

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Yet to truly call yesterday incredible we also need to look at Bournemouth. Specifically because  Eddie Howe’s team beat Swansea City 2-0 at Dean Court/The Vitality Stadium.

On paper, no great surprise given The Swans precarious position but dig a bit deeper and it might not have been such a ‘gimme’ as first imagined.

Back in that 2014/15 season, aswell as charting Brentford’s first Championship campaign the Last Word ran a side feature called Clemwatch. It was a feature borne out of the sudden realisation made, as most are, in The Griffin.

Namely, that whichever team ever popular BBC roving reporter Clem (Mark Clemmit)  featured on The Football League Show would subsequently fail to win that afternoon’s game.

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Clem – never shy to mix it up in terms of reporting locations for The Football League Show

Was there any truth to this? Being the jinx conscious football fan (magic pants, lucky shirts, not shaving over a winning run are all par for the course) this needed study. And so over the course of that season Clem’s form was observed from the first week. Surely it wouldn’t be true. But it was.

Aside from some genuinely entertaining features, Clem finished up with a record of 7(seven) wins from 30 reports.

He started with short term Leeds United manager David Hockaday (who saw his new team lose 2-0 at Millwall) and finished with the consummate example of the Clem effect as Bournemouth scooped the Championship title at the expense of promotion rivals rival Watford.

Clem was at Vicarage Road to see if the Hornets, entertaining Sheffield Wednesday, could match Bournemouth’s result to be crowned champions. Both teams were winning with the BBC clock showing 90 minutes. Then, it happened.

Sheffield Wednesday proved themselves the ultimate party poopers as Atdhe Nuhiu levelled things up for the Owls in stoppage time. And there it finished at 1-1.

Whilst I’m sure that Watford fans will be more than pleased just to have gone up, I do hope Eddie Howe sent a big thank you to Clem. The effervescent reporter may have doomed Watford although, and it has to be said, he brought a lot of joy to viewers along the way.

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Clem finished his season at Watford – who lost the title in the 90th minute

And that was it. With The Football League show disappearing from our screens the following season to be replaced by Football League Tonight (please, please, please never forget what was served up as replacement to Manish and Clem on that first episode) his work in that particular field was done. TV rights meant the BBC would focus on the Premier League and with Brentford failing to beat Middlesbrough in that play off semi final (or any game. Ever. It seems) we went our separate ways. Until yesterday.

With Clem finally on Twitter (@MarkClemmit) he’s been a recent ‘follow’ and, mid-morning, popped up with the announcement that Eddie Howe would be his interview subject on that morning’s Football Focus.

Cue good natured banter to a TW8 based Bournemouth supporter and Mike Grella fan about her team’s upcoming fate. The jinx would surely strike again? Yet the response was a surprising one. Not from Carey but from the man himself, defending his own recent record with the tongue in cheek note that times are changing.

That's me told, then. Clem is back. And better than ever.

That’s me told, then. Clem is on better form than ever .

And sure enough, they are. Bournemouth’s win sees Eddie Howe now joining the ranks of Sam Allardyce and Paul Lambert in being blessed by Clem. The jinx has reversed.

What can you say, but:

i) Sorry, Clem.

ii) Congratulations Clem.

iii) Thanks for being a great sport, and

iv) Should the worst happen to Middlesbrough then we can’t wait to see you at Griffin Park next season. Just make sure that if you have a mic with you, it’s pointing at Dean Smith.

And, of course, if you’d like to read more about our past three campaigns and the full Clemwatch story, then you can do so here.

Talking of Dean (puts crowbar back in pocket) we couldn’t finish without going all Ian Moose. Except without the pre-match catering obsession. It simply remains to say Happy Birthday to Dean Smith. Have a great day, my friend.

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Happy Birthday Dean Smith. Have a great day my friend.

Nick Bruzon

What to do on FA Cup weekend? The best (and worst) of football film plus an offer for the fans.

18 Feb

With Brentford having gone missing in action at Chelsea last month, it means we’ve got a free weekend. Instead of a league game against Wolves at Griffin Park, our would be visitors host our FA Cup conquerors in a fifth round encounter that has all those classic ingredients to serve up a potential potato skin. As for Bees fans, we’ll need to put the tinfoil back to regular use and find something else to occupy us until we visit Wednesday on Tuesday. Sheffield, that is.

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For Brentford fans, the tin foil has now reverted to normal use until next season

So? What to do ? Of course, there are still the televised games. These include the aforementioned encounter at Molineux aswell as the one at Turf Moor where Andre Gray, James Tarkoswski (is he still even there?) et al provide the Goliath role as Lincoln City pay Burnley a lunchtime visit.

That one’s well worth a watch, purely for the novelty factor of seeing Burnley playing the role of giants. Yet, at the same time, I’ve got a sneaky feeling this will be the one where we have a weekend shock. Whilst the ties at Wolves and Sutton United are the obvious TV draws, expect the top class opponents, and also Arsenal, to go through. Yet with motivation, form and the entire country behind them, Lincoln look remarkable value.

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But if watching Chelsea is a painful reminder of what might have been then could I suggest an alternative? A football film. Regular readers, should such a thing exist, will know of my love of these. The pinnacle of the genre being Escape To Victory.

This has it all. Actors playing football, badly. Footballers acting,very badly. Michael Caine alongside Pele. Sylvester Stallone sharing screen time with Bobby Moore. John Wark’s moustache is worth the entrance fee alone. Come for the facial hair; stay for the Ardiles flick.

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Pele scores as the Allies escape to victory.

Yet for every Escape to Victory and, to a lesser extent, The Damned United, Fever Pitch, Mike Bassett: England Manager or even TV’s Dream Team, is a Green Street, a Soccer Dog (and the even weaker sequel, Soccer Dog: European Cup) or The Goal Trilogy. The football film is a veritable minefield of weak acting, poor script and overly laboured cliché.

Aside from Luis Figo doing ‘Just for Men’ (still got it, Figo) the only on screen football to transcend both good and bad is, perhaps, When Saturday Comes. It is a film so loaded with cliché it is fit to burst. Hard drinking park footballer Jimmy  – played by 37 year old Sean Bean  – eventually gets his break for Sheffield United after stuffing up his first trial before taking on Manchester United in an FA Cup semi final.

It is a film so loaded with inaccuracy (an FA Cup semi final at The Blades home ground, in the middle of winter, being just one of many) that you have to wonder just who gave this script the green light. And, of course, it is a film with Emily Lloyd displaying the worst Irish accent this side of Alan Partridge telling TV execs, “There’s more to Oireland, dan dis” .

Yet this underrated classic is so bad it’s brilliant. It goes beyond nonsense and into the realm of unintentional comedy gold. No mean feat for what, on paper, should be a complete car crash of a movie.

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If you haven’t seen this, you haven’t lived.

And thus talk of football films brings us, with all the subtly of an Alan McCormack challenge, bang up to date and back to Griffin Park.

Next Tuesday, 28th February,  sees Brentford and Sky Sports joining forces for an exclusive screening of the film Wonderkid.  The short film looks at one of football’s biggest issues – that of homophobia in the modern game – with Brentford doing their part to help raise awareness.

It is a cause we’ve always looked to promote and now the Bees are tackling this from a different angle, through the medium of cinema. The football film is a tricky enough genre to get right as it is, let alone with the added pressure of a serious issue. Yet, at the same time, I can’t wait to see how this goes and how it is received.

Full information about the event, including how to get free tickets, is on the club website now. See you there.

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Nick Bruzon

Brentford held by Norwich as 2016 ends with a whimper, Jools and Robbie’s hand gel

1 Jan

New Years Eve. So often the most over-rated night of the year. The Emperor’s New Clothes of nights out where society dictates that you will enjoy yourself but then promptly laughs in your face by offering up Jools Holland boogie-woogying his way through another Hootenanny as a means of doing so. A turgid, self-indulgent affair whose primary function (aside from showing how many friends our host has – a musical Ian Moose, if you will) seems to be in proving that Roland Rivron remains alive. Take that, 2016 – here’s one you didn’t get your hands on.

And so it was at Griffin Park where Brentford and Norwich City were the pre-Jools entertainment in a televised game that would have had most of those watching at home asleep in their armchairs long before the former Squeeze man had begun tinkling on his ivories. Instead of the excitement we’d been promised  by Sky. Instead of the pre-match buzz generated by the news that Jota was returning. Instead of (potentially) seeing Scott Hogan off in style we had nothing but an awful game of football. Sometimes you get them and this was up there.

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The Bees could find no way through the Canaries

Dean Smith seemed so intent on avoiding a repeat of the month’s 5-0 hammering at Carrow Road that he strangled the midfield and offered minimal width. The aforementioned Hogan looked off the pace and out of sorts whilst the slippery conditions did nobody any favours. That the Bees ended the game having no shots on target tells you everything you need to know as we were left unable to break through a Norwich team who  played the last 15 minutes a man down, after Robbie Brady was shown straight red for a foul on Ryan Woods.

Watching the ‘highlights’ afterwards (and I use that word in the loosest sense) it didn’t seem half as bad as it had done live, with no chance of a replay. The incident, which happened right in front of yours truly, looked a nailed on ‘red’ with the Ginger Pirlo likewise able to demonstrate a nasty looking contact mark to both the referee and protesting Norwich players as Brady eventually trooped off.

Yet rightly or wrongly, Brentford had been handed an advantage. Here was a chance to go for it. Despite like for like subs already having been made (Barbet on for the ever impressive Tom Field and favourite son Romaine Sawyers replacing Josh McEachran) here was an opportunity to apply some pressure. Pull off a defender. Maybe Nico. Stick on the pace and trickery of Josh Clarke to run riot?

But no, it wasn’t until the scoreboard read 88 that John Egan was subbed by The Hoff. Why so late? There was hardly any time to make an impact. Why not inject some much needed pace and width? Why, if you are going to take off a defender, choose the player who is our second highest scorer for the season?

Even then, we still had chance. Hogan was played clean through, only to be denied by a wonderful last gasp tackle from Ryan Bennett. With the striker unable to unleash it meant we were denied a penalty kick although unlike the trio of bad decisions in the Boxing Day clash with Cardiff City, this one the correct call.

The Bees will stay up. The Bees won’t go up. We haven’t got a divine right to be any good and, at the end of the day, Clive, we haven’t lost. We looked the other day at viewing everything in both historical and long term context and that still rings true. Yet even allowing for that, it is still frustrating to see teams that we should be beating given the opportunity to run at us (there’s no denying Norwich City had the better chances) and around us as safety first and backwards seems to be the order of the day. Given the resources we do have, surely it is more a case of being able to get the best out of what we have and positioning them accordingly to react to, or even heaven forbid anticipate, the situation? When these players are on fire, they really can perform wonders.

In the end, but for Cameron Jerome’s woeful shooting  (Cameron Diaz would have done better with one particular effort in the second half) we could have ended this one pointless. Which, ironically, is how all supporters finished the game. What seemed to be an announcement by Peter Gilham just prior to kick off that club shop loyalty points were going to expire that day, was then confirmed on social media and in an article published on the clubwebiste at 18.18 (that’s well into the first half of the game we were watching) to say these would expire at 19.45.

And sure enough, on getting home and ‘logging on’ my balance was zero.

No doubt this was all in the terms and conditions but would it have hurt to make an announcement a little more in advance to come over as a little better organised? Look, I may well have missed this and if so then ‘hands up’ but if not, it would seem a really poor way to end a promotion which is designed around encouraging supporters to spend and accrue. Which is a shame for no other reason than we’re normally so good at fan interaction.

Instead, 2016 closed with two promotion hopes at an end – that in the league and that in the club shop.

In its place, 2017 arrived. Off pitch Jools traded places for Robbie Williams to deliver a lumpen set of karaoke greatest hits. The phrase ‘going through the motions’ sprang to mind whilst as the traditional Auld Lang Syne ended, he was caught on camera wiping his hands with anti-bacterial hand sanitiser moments after high-fiving his audience. Stay classy.

At Griffin Park, 2017 brings more questions. How is Alan Judge? Will we see him, Macca or KK again? Will the club break ground at Lionel Road? Will Scott Hogan be sold? Will he play against Birmingham on Monday? Just who will any goal threat come from if he isn’t on the pitch? Could we see him and Jota in the same team? Let’s not forget that the talismanic Spaniard is winging his way back to Griffin Park and, apparently, it was he who initiated the discussions.

Whilst the pressure and expectation on his shoulders will be immense, there’s no denying the roof will be raised should he make an appearance on Saturday in the cup. Certainly he gives Dean Smith a wonderful option.

If used correctly.

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He’s coming home

Nick Bruzon