Tag Archives: Gareth Southgate

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

12 Jul

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

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Watching the replay of THAT free kick. Yessssss

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nice one, Gareth!! 

Nick Bruzon

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

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

4 Jul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Billy Grant – the pain was mutual

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yesssssss!!!

Nick Bruzon

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

3 Jul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The king of the monsters, laying waste to all around

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The stats don’t lie…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nick Bruzon

The sound of FIFA’s marketing team saying “We told you so” after a day of brilliance.

1 Jul

I’d settle for a day of Maradona and Ronaldo crying.” That, my Saturday morning wish list as the teams in the last 16 began the emotion infused process of direct elimination. Winner stays on whilst the loser goes home. On offer: France v Argentina and Uruguay v Portugal. What we got instead was a day of brilliance. Plus, for Bees fans, the club bade farewell to one Dane whilst another is in action this evening as Henrik Dalsgaard of Brentford lines up for Denmark against Croatia. And I’ve my own shirt news / thanks .

First, as ever, the World Cup. Argentina are on the plane home after a quite scintillating game with France. Les Bleus, inspired by the pace of Kylian Mbappe, were our eventual winners by the odd goal in 7(seven). But that scoreline doesn’t even begin to tell the story of a game that lurched back and forth like a drunk walking home after a night on the buckfast.

When FIFA promised that their new vivid red ball would reflect the added intensity and opportunity the knockout stage brings, it was dismissed as marketing blurb. Suggestions that the Adidas Telstar Mechta would demonstrate the rising heat of knockout-stage football, nothing more than a crowbarred excuse to justify sales.

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The FIFA marketing team saying “We told you so”

Yet. Yet. Yet… could there be something in it? Whilst we can all safely answer that one, the Telstar did have a wonderful debut. With less than a quarter hour on the clock Mbappe tore half the length of the field, overtaking Marcus Rojo as he broke into the box. The Argentinian left with no choice but to upend him with all the subtlety and finesse of Harlee Dean (in a video interview).

Griezmann made no mistake from the spot. 1-0 and it was clear this could be special. The game rather than the ball. The French pressed on. An almost identical chance fashioned. The crossbar had already been hit from a free kick even before the scoring had started. Argentina anonymous and on the ropes. Surely a knockout punch to come any second.
And it did. But from the boot of Angel di Maria. A quite remarkable effort from well outside the area. A laser guided heat seeker of a goal. What a strike. What timing. 1-1 at half time.

But things got better. If one player had summed up Argentina’s anonymity it was the talismanic Lionel Messi. Yet there he was to set up his side for a 2-1 lead. Could they do it? Would France roll over and surrender? No chance. What followed next was quite brutal.

Three goals in the space of just 11 minutes. An incredible strike from Benjamin Pavard that bore more than a passing resemblance to that of Nacho for Spain against Portugal in the group stages. I can’t watch this enough. A stupendous goal. It was an effort that immediately eclipsed Di Maria’s whilst inspiring France and Mbappe to further greatness.

Oh boy. What a goal.

2-2 became 3-2 became 4-2 France in a matter of minutes. Both coming from the inspirational Mbappe – a player who has the additional effect of leaving that Hanson tune stuck in my head as a very unwelcome ear worm, even now. Yet despite the praise being quite rightly lavished on Mbappe, it was Pavard who truly knocked the stuffing out of Argentina.

Aguero pulled one back with two minutes of injury time left but the clock was eaten up by needless bickering, petulant challenges and general timewasting. France, worthy winners. Argentina, forced to reminisce about former glories

For me (Clive) it was the game of the tournament to date. A fantastic display by France yet one which was, somehow, never quite as comfortable as their performance suggested. The Uruguay-Portugal match later in the evening could never quite match what had come before but it certainly tried.

Edinson Cavani teaming up quite magnificently with Luis Suarez to score both of his sides goals in a 2-1 win. What a partnership Uruguay have, with the two of them working the pitch quite beautifully. Something evidenced by the graphic used in the BBC match report to illustrate his brutal opener.

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There would be no goal for Cristiano Ronaldo. Pepe equalised for Portugal and gave us a celebration that aped the narcissism of his higher profile team mate. I’m sure he’ll argue he was just caught up in the moment and it would be trite to criticise. But Cavani restored the lead again and from that point there was no coming back for Ronaldo. No tears either. The sound of a million phones lined up for a ‘screen grab’ being put back down on the couch echoed around the UK.

Instead, Ronaldo’s role was limited to a bit part as a poor man’s King Tut. That little goatee convincing nobody. Not only was he outshone in this game but he had already had his thunder stolen by Mbappe, Pavard and Griezmann in the earlier kick off.

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One for the ‘Batfans’ amongst you

So what else can we take from yesterday? On a personal note, I spend hours writing nonsense about football, about Brentford and about the World Cup. Some of it hits. Most of it misses. Then my five-year old nailed it in one take, asking: “Daddy. Why didn’t Argentina bring Lucas Biglia on?”

Watching on the BBC, I was shocked to discover in their half-time piece that, apparently, Gareth Southgate once missed a penalty? Really? Surely somebody would have mentioned this before? If you don’t believe me, Euro ’96 was the tournament. You heard it here first !
 
Off field, there has been plenty to keep us intrigued. Most of it involving Diego Maradona. Yet if we’ve learned one thing from Russia 2018, it’s how to write “A fish called” in Chinese.

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Crowbarred jokes of our time

And on that laboured bombshell, back to Brentford. Firstly, a HUGE thanks to those who have downloaded one of the Last Word e-books. Whilst the shirt competition has now closed (the draw to take place later today) these are still available – links below. All proceeds go to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust for which we’ve, no – you’ve, raised well over £400 already. Nice one. THANK YOU all so much.   

IMG_E3007As for footballing matters, the club bade an expected farewell to Andreas Bjelland yesterday. With his contract having expired, and the new offer not taken up, the Denmark international’s future lies elsewhere now. One does wonder how much more he could have shone for the Bees were it not for that horrific injury suffered in the League cup against Oxford (that Marinus experiment game…) . AS it was, still a great player and one who even gave us the thrill of being our first ever World Cup ‘Panini sticker’ despite not making the final 23 due to injury. Good luck Andreas, and thank you.

That said, one player who did make the Denmark World Cup squad is Brentford’s Henrik Dalsgaard (as we must call him). I’m really looking forward to seeing him in action once more this evening. Croatia are next in line for our man who has started all his team’s games so far.

Personally, I suspect it will be a much cagier affair than what we saw yesterday. But as has also been said many many times, I’m just the numpty on the terrace. Could the teams prove us wrong? Could Brentford have a player in the quarter finals of the World Cup?

Roll on 7pm when we find out.

Nick Bruzon

PS And if you’d like to read more whilst helping the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust , those Kindle e-book links are:

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

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

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

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

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

30 Jun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The stats don’t lie…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Worse things have happened in a red back…..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you

Nick Bruzon

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

28 Jun

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

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

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

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Stop. Sniggering. Please.

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

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

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

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The BBC show how tight the group is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nick Bruzon

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

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

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

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

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

 

England expects as Brentford awaits. Plus your chance to create radio gold.

18 Jun

This is it. The World Cup has been going for almost a week but today is the day. The one we’ve been waiting for. After all the anticipation we finally get our glimpse of what is to come.  The Brentford FC away shirt launch. And over in Russia, England begin their campaign with a game against Tunisia in Volgograd. Yet with Germany going down to Mexico and draws for those others teams named as pre-tournament favourites – Spain, Argentina and Brazil – is this one another giant potato skin waiting to be slipped up on? Plus I’ve a very special radio related Twitter ask that will take you five seconds to help with but could provide audio gold.

First today, the Brentford away shirt. There’s not much can be said at present, given the club haven’t released any images beyond a teaser photo that (unlike last season) has so far defied all manner of photoshop manipulation. So instead, it’s a case of having to wait until 10am when we get our look at the 2018/19 second choice kit. Not forgetting the goalkeepers, either.

All we know so far is that as happened two years ago, the fans have been involved in the photo shoot. Along with the current squad and some former heroes. David Hunt has already appeared (confusing many of our younger supporters) whilst I gather we may also see Marcus Gayle at some point. Beyond that though, your guess is as good as the supporter next to you. This one really has been kept under wraps. See you back here at 10am for first thoughts.

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David Hunt – the biggest come back since Lazarus

Next up, the World Cup. England expects and all that. But does it? The build up to the tournament has been as relaxed and low key as I can ever remember. There don’t seem to have been the wall-to-wall adverts, cheesy player–promos or petrol station squad coins to get us excited in the build up as we’ve had in previous camapigns. Quarter finals at best is the general expectation for England and, as such, it really seems to be a case of pressure off. From there, anything is possible.

I can’t tell you too much about Tunisia beyond what I’ve seen in my son’s (definitely his) Panini sticker album. The BBC fact page tells us that they qualified undefeated, have lost only once this year (a 1-0 defeat against Spain) and will likely be hard to breakdown. So a journey into the unknown for many of us although you be sure Gareth Southgate will have done his homework.

With the team already picked, all you have to do is get in for 7pm, switch the TV to BBC and pray that Mark Lawrenson hasn’t been selected for punditry duties. The only other down side about tonight is likely to be ‘that band’. Yesterday’s article and survey has produced an interesting reaction on Twitter, whilst the vote is clearly leaning one way – although perhaps not as heavily as one might have expected. There’s a few hours to go if you want to go for it.

Ok – my next twitter ‘ask’ involves the radio. Any regular reader to these pages will likely be aware that it is generally tuned to Absolute Radio in our house. Likewise, former breakfast show host Christian O’Connell played a key role in the ‘Is Cameron Diaz a Brentford supporter?’ reveal a few years back. That was then. This is now. The OC has moved to Australia and his co-host Richie Firth is due to start a brand new ‘Home time’ show with Everton fan Andy Bush in September.

I say brand new. One feature is in the pipeline to follow Richie – his 6.50am ‘Hitler’s Toilet’. Something both intriguing yet, at times, awful. But awful in a ‘so bad its good’ style. Think Nicolas Cage in ‘Drive Angry’.  Always compelling, it is radio gold.  A chance to pick up on a ’water cooler’ moment of a story that the mainstream media are yet to run with. Usually for good reason. Anything from mundane top-tens put together by companies desperately flogging their wares to the latest sighting of over-sized rats living in the sewers or some scientific breakthrough such as the imminent arrival of flying taxis.

Whilst I appreciate I’m not doing this justice, hearing is believing. 10,000 Retweets saves the feature. Please. Do me a favour. Click the below, share the tweet and save the toilet.

And finally, I just wanted to offer a HUGE thanks to all those who have downloaded one of the season review e-books to date. With all proceeds raised going towards the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust, I can’t say how grateful I am to our fans. Don’t forget also that if you do this before the end of June, I’ll put you into the draw to win an exclusive ‘third’ shirt given to me by a source close to the club – just DM / tweet me your download confirmation mail so as I can add your name.

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

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

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

Relive the memories. See how often the same material gets regurgitated. Remind yourself about the likes of Betinho, Martin Fillo, Javi Venta and Marcos Tebar. Pinch yourself at just how far we have come in such a short space of time.

Nick Bruzon

What is our current hot ticket? Who will win the big one?

13 Apr

Exciting times lie ahead for Brentford. The Easter weekend double header against Derby County and Barnsley is almost upon us. The second fixture having a potential extra layer of spice, should the club decide to accept the gauntlet laid down by Toby Tyke after Buzz Bee was robbed of mascot race victory back in October’s reverse fixture at Griffin Park. Then there’s the small matter of West London derbies at home to QPR and across at Fulham. Those games always have an additional feel of frisson outside of the regular league table although the aim of finishing as West London’s top Championship side for the third successive season is an even bigger incentive for Brentford to pull out all the stops.

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He celebrates too soon? Did Toby really win last time?

Things come to a conclusion when we host Blackburn Rovers in early May. Following that game is, of course, the Player Of the Year Awards. Unlike at Loftus Road, where QPR have had to cancel their own event within a week of it being announced due to a lack of interest (no,please, stop. I’m still cringing) Bees fans have had no problem in snapping up the tickets for ours.

Highlight of that event is, as ever, the vote for Player of the year. Currently held by Alan Judge, his season long absence through injury means a new incumbent awaits. Have the likes of returning demi-gods Jota and Sergi Canos done enough to steal the vote at the eleventh hour? Will it be an unsung hero such as Ryan Woods ? International debutant John Egan? Or a.n.other?

Well, for me (Clive) if we are looking for season long consistency it comes down to a bunfight between Harlee Dean and Daniel Bentley. The former, our captain, has been a colossus at the back whilst adding an exciting attacking element to his game these days. Certainly one of the first names on the team sheet, its hard to remember he’s only 25 – so long has he been with us, so commanding has he appeared this season . Gone are the mistakes of old (who doesn’t make them as they learn how to ply their trade?).  Replacing them are supreme confidence and an equal level of ability.

As for Daniel Bentley, FourFourTwo magazine named him as Brentford’s outstanding performer in their run down of the 50 top football league players published in the current edition. The magazine even going so far as to note that England manager Gareth Southgate is keeping an eye on him. He has made the leap from League One new boys to a top half of the Championship side look effortless. Indeed, it was his own performances which saved us numerous points in the early part of the season as he took to the Griffin Park gives like the proverbial duck to water. No surprise that QPR made three bids for him following Southend United’s play off victory in 2015; no surprise their chairman turned them down.

Good luck picking a winner out of those. Good luck to your host for the evening, Natalie Sawyer, in measuring up to Buzzette in the style stakes.

Buzzette makes her entrance to the 2016 POTY awards

But if you can’t be there for that one then how about an alternative? Sunday 30th April sees Billy Grant and the Beesotted team hosting the final of this year’s ’socials’. Taking place at the Drayton Court hotel in Ealing from 6pm until 2am (I feel exhausted just thinking about staying out that late) guests of honour will be Brentford legends Francis Joseph, Gary Roberts, Billy Manuel & Graham Benstead.

There’s a dozen other ex-bees in the house along with a comedian, DJ and magician helping provide the entertainment along with the players doing their ‘in conversation’ segment . Add to that a hot buffet, a level of  complimentary beer and your fellow Bees’ fans then it is sure to be a cracking night out.

Full details of the event, including tickets, are available on the Beesotted website.

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And talking of tickets (waiter, I’ll have the industrial crowbar please) don’t forget there’s only 11 and a bit days left until the ‘seat hold’ deadline expires for those wanting to retain their current place at Griffin Park. With dispensation given to retain the terraces for another season, there’s room for everybody to stay where they were should you wish to purchase a club season ticket. In addition, earlybird prices staying on hold until 31 May means you can get a season’s worth of Championship football for was little as £369. As for the kids. £90, including a home shirt, represents even better value.

Full details are on official, where there is also a link direct to the season ticket page.

I’ve seen some talk saying that the seat hold deadline still feels too soon, given the season is still running. Perhaps. But it’s a tricky line to walk given that the campaign will be over just two weeks after that. I can see the position out marketing team are in. Revenue is what helps keep us afloat, let’s not pretend otherwise, and this way looks to maximise take up whilst football remains fresh in everybody’s mind.

Besides, if you need a yardstick then look at Fulham. No, please. Their seat hold deadline has already expired, two weeks ahead of ours. As have their ‘early bird’ prices. Both of those slipping away on 10th April. I sympathise from one respect. It’ll be a tough job filling that neutral stand.

In my eyes, I think we’ve got the balance right. You won’t please everybody but, at the same time, barring disasters we’ll all be coming back again next season. One way or another.

Come for the football; stay for the social. Griffin Park is a way of life. It is as much about seeing your friends and familiar faces as it is in cheering on the lads. If this is our final season with the ground in the current form (would we get a fifth season of terrace? Will Lionel Road be ready this quickly?) , then I’ve certainly got every intention of being there.

Even if it isn’t, I’ll be back. There’s been too much blood, sweat and tears (mainly tears) invested into this club since 1979 to walk away from our firmest ever footing and most exciting time in most supporters’ living memory.

Win or lose. It is a part of us. I love it. We love it. Bring on 2017/18. Although, first, there’s the small matter of Derby, Fulham, QPR and possibly Toby to get past. Roll on Friday.

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Well said

Nick Bruzon