Tag Archives: Gary Neville

Off-field matters for Brentford (and Liverpool) provide main talking points ahead of Derby County visit.

6 Apr

There’s not too much to say about on-pitch matters today. With Brentford set to welcome Frank Lampard’s Derby County ™, the hope is a simple one. Please, please, please , pleeeease just be better than the last week’s games at Wigan and Swansea. Even slightly. It’s not that much to ask, is it? Elsewhere, Liverpool got the weekend’s proceedings under way at Southampton last night where they duly returned to the top of the Premier league. Their battle with Manchester City proving as intriguing as the one at the top of the Championship – just who is going to blink first? And once more, Matthew Benham proved why he is the club owner like no other.

Hulk_(comics_character)First up, matters at Griffin Park. Brentford have been like the Incredible Hulk this season. At home, a side that seem permanently set to ‘rampage’ mode. An irrepressible, destructive force beating back all comers as easily as a cat toying with a spider. Yet away from home, we’ve been that other side of his alter-ego, Doctor Bruce Banner. All the right ideas but none of the physical prowess.

Last week was the consummate demonstration of our split personality this campaign (I would also accept: Jekyll and Hyde team). I’m sure there may even be a few supporters wishing we were still bedecked in 2017/2018’s gamma ray green rather than the current brown & orange (best. away kit. ever).

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We did ok in green….

Thankfully, we are back home today. This time around Frank Lampard’s etc etc are the visitors. Even allowing for the traditional Leeds United ‘choke’, automatic promotion is probably an aspiration too far. However, sitting 7th(seventh) in the Championship, Derby still have a quite magnificent chance of making the play-offs. It is no doubt a position they will look to strengthen this afternoon although, as ever, might the pressure of a ‘must win’ game play into our hands?

For Brentford, the season is all but mathematically over. The ten points to sixth place just too big a gap to reel n with just 7(seven) games to go. It’s a massive shame that we hit the skids after having hauled ourselves back into contention but that’s how football works. Consistency is rewarded with league position. The table doesn’t lie (obvious, but….) and unfortunately we’ve not been able to do it on the road this time around.

I saw a stat on the BBC which was a damming indictment of what happened on Tuesday evening at Swansea – namely that the Bees attempted just six shots as we went down 3-0. Our lowest in a league match since performing the same feat  having six against Middlesbrough. That’s one attempt every 15 minutes – not great. To put it mildly.

The plus point from that game is that a reaction must surely be imminent. Thomas Frank pulled no punches after the game and has since used his press-conference to note : “We need to bounce back, everyone can see that.  . Add to that our own form at home combined with the aforementioned knowledge that Derby really have to win and I think we’re going to be going home very happy at 5pm. 

It has been a long, long season but a thrilling one. Mostly. If only we’d been able to pick up few more wins away from home then who knows what might have been? Yet with the nucleus of a wonderful squad at his disposal (for now), should Thomas be allowed / able to keep them together, our final season at Griffin Park could be a most incredible one. Here’s hoping that push starts today.

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View from the Braemar – I’m expecting a happy Thomas at full time.

Moving on. I watched the Southampton – Liverpool game last night. Jürgen Klopp’s team showed a relentlessness that money can’t buy. Despite conceding an early goal from Shane Long (not a typo) they just kept going and going until the points were secured. It was a performance that showed them as Hulk like on their travels as they are at home. Anyway, I’m not here to specifically bang about Liverpool – beyond admiring their travelling form. Such chat usually leads into a rant about the media love in and we end up playing Anfield bingo – tick one of your cards for every reference to the Kop being like a twelfth man, “Glory, glory European nights”, the miracle of Istanbul, Shankley, Paisley, Klopp getting over-excited etc 

Instead, it was more just a chance to tear the hair out in regards Jamie Carragher. Back in the early 2000’s Sky TV had a brief flirtation with the red button option for ‘fan commentary’. Should you have been crazy enough to select this, the reward was a supporter from each club pouring forth on their team and the game in question. It was horrific although, to be fair, still better than Richard Keys and Andy Gray. This ‘service’ was quietly pensioned off but now seems to have returned – specifically in the guise of the former Liverpool defender. 

Oh. My. Word. Could he have been anymore biased? Could he have been any more fanboy? We all know he used to play for Liverpool but plenty of ex-players have made that transition from pitch to commentary box. None have quite matched his level of reminding us all how amazing his former are. How excited he is is that they are winning. Even full time saw him running on to the pitch to interrupt Kelly Cates and Gary Neville in the middle of their own post-match interviews as he attempted to take centre stage.

Contrast this to the erudite views, opinions and questioning of Neville (even when Manchester United are on). I’m sure Gary would like to remind us he used to play for a successful team and still follows them, but that’s not the job of being a commentator or a pundit. Likewise  quite wonderful Kelly, as the daughter of Kenny Dalglish, comes form a footballing pedigree that would more than entitle her to rave about Liverpool. Whilst you could understand her wanting to enjoy the moment, there was but nothing beyond consummate professionalism here. 

Look, I’m all for a bit of excitement and enthusiasm but have some class. Have some decorum. Know your audience. If nothing else, Jamie has played the game at the highest level and won some major honours. He’s been there and done it so knows what he is talking about.

Yet instead of this, it was almost like the early days of Beesplayer when from time to time they had to draft in the more excitable elements from the media team. Being able to write about a game isn’t the same as being able to talk about. Before Sky made the quite ridiculous decision to let Natalie Sawyer go, you could see her almost itching to reference the benefit to Brentford every time she was  involved in a game where one of our rivals was shooting themselves in the foot. Instead, she kept it classy. 

I’m sure Carragher has his fans. Good luck to them. And him. You can’t deny his passion but when it comes at the expense of proper analysis then doesn’t it kind of defeat the point? At least, for those of us who just want to enjoy a game of football. Perhaps it’s just me.

Mark Burridge and Natalie Sawyer

The king and queen of Griffin Park commentary. Jamie could learn a thing or two

And finally, Matthew Benham. We all know our owner has a quite special means of using social media. He doesn’t say too much on Twitter these days but when he does, it’s always worth a look. As happened yesterday evening.

I’m not sure what else I can say, beyond this is quite magnificent. Only at Brentford……

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Nick Bruzon

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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….

 

ITV on the rise but will Sky scrape the barrel? And what of John Swift?

27 Mar

There was mixed news on the International front last night. Despite many enjoying the 3-2 win for England in Germany, it was the performance of the U-21 team that saw potential bad news for Brentford where Chelsea loanee John Swift limped off less than half an hour into the game with a bloody foot. Elsewhere (and I need to thank the statistical demigod that is Luis Melville for his Twitter tip-off) there was terrifying news from the Daily Mail.

But first, England. What a night – primarily because the alleged  Supporters’ band couldn’t be heard over the TV speakers. Were they even in Berlin? Who cares! The lack of jingoistic parping from their off-key trumpets was music to my ears. If I wanted to hear the theme tune to the Great Escape I’d simply watch TV on any Bank Holiday.

That was my on-field highlight. Yes, of course the goals were wonderfully taken although if you want any form of match report than, as ever, I’d suggest the BBC. The said, the win was hard fought with the ITV commentary team doing their best to jinx it at the death. Eric Dier’s injury time goal was met with declarations of “A winner in Germany” and “a winner on his debut”, despite there still being 90 seconds on the clock.

The other plus point was the performance of Lothar Matthäus  in the punditry position. Channelling the look of Paul Robinson – Neighbours, rather than Birmingham City or Burnley – he was that rare example of an ITV pundit who it was actually a pleasure to listen to. Dead pan humour, common sense and a great reading of the game. Let’s hope they snap him up for the Euros over the summer.

Kit wise, just about everybody has said their piece on this already. England opting for traditional red with burgundy sleeves and blue socks (very much Dagenham & Redbridge 1995, as one Twitter observer noted) whilst Germany elected to wear two tone black/dark green(?) with lighter green sleeves. And don’t forget the white stripes down the side from armpit to hem that looked like a somewhat unsightly deodorant stain.

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As the regular reader will (should one exist still) be aware, I’m all for the unusual and a bit of variety in team kit. These, however, both looked like the product of a “What might go well with jeans?” marketing meeting. And those blue socks should never see the light of day again.

For me Clive, this has surpassed the 1994 effort (oversized flappy collars, all those subliminal badges and a shade heading towards burgundy) as the worst ever England away shirt.

As a final thought on the game, what was with all the adverts for ‘Hooch’ that kept flashing around the pitch? Surely that died out in the 90s with Global Hypercolour t-shirts, VHS cassettes and ‘Eat my shorts’ ? Or are Student Union bars (three of the most terrifying words in the English language, to rank alongside ‘Rail Replacement bus’) about to see a resurgence?

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No longer the worst England away shirt

Next up, John Swift. With Josh McEachran still being reported out injured (and the club saying nothing to deny these stories, unless I’ve missed it) there would have been heart in mouth when he got injured last night. Despite my best searches of the internet – and it is frustrating how often a search for his name is thrown off track by: Taylor Swift, Dear John – the most we know so far is that he has a cut foot judging by the pictures circulating on Twitter.

How bad this is remains to be seen although I am sure we’ll learn more today. Whilst he has, for the most part , divided Brentford supporters during his loan spell from Chelsea, one thing we can all agree on is that another injury is the last thing we need at this pivotal point in the season. We all recall how Chris Long’s nasty gash impacted him at the tail end of the previous campaign and so let’s hope this isn’t a case of déjà vu.

I’m not a hypocrite. I don’t think Swift has had the best start to his career at Griffin Park. An over indulgence on the showboating and tendency to lose the ball has been a frustration yet, at the same time, he clearly has ability as we have seen in patches. The Wolves game in particular highlighted what he can do when we get his ‘A game’. Besides, you don’t get called up for the England U-21’s unless there is something there.

Equally, and as we are reminded time and again, he IS a young player who is still learning his game. These skills and judgement calls will come as his game develops. John has become an easy target in some circles but at a time we need everybody pulling together, let’s hope his substitution was a precautionary one and we have him back, on top form, this Saturday.

Ok. The Daily Mail. Or, rather, Mailsport online have run a disturbing story to suggest Sky will be revamping Friday night football next season to make it, what seems to be, a bit more ‘laddish’. Nuts magazine does football if you will, as guest presenters are suggested to include – brace yourself – the likes of James Corden and Holly Willoughby.

Before anybody mistakes this for any form of misogynistic rant, let’s be 100% clear. I’ve got no issues with women presenting football. Quite the opposite. I think Kelly Cates has been the shining star in the (initially at least) car crash that was Football League Tonight whilst Gabby Logan has been doing her thing, brilliantly, for almost twenty years.

And, of course, who could forget our own Natalie Sawyer who has had her feet under the presenter’s desk for so long that she probably knows more about the beautiful game than most of us put together. (Perhaps Sky should be looking ‘in house’ where, of course, Natalie has also shown her punditry skills on Football League coverage?)

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Natalie at the Sky Sports desk – feet not pictured

My issue is with novelty presenters. Comedians great. Football great. Just please don’t combine the two. Nobody needs another ‘Russell Brand’ guesting on Match of the Day.

Football punditry is three men or women, who know about football, sitting on a sofa and talking about the game. You don’t need to jazz it up anymore. We’ll still watch.

Will anybody, honestly, say: “It’s Chelsea – Leicester City tonight. I was going to give it a miss but Gary Neville is busy with Valencia so Holly Willoughby is presenting. Get the Hooch in and make room on the sofa” ?

Aside from the fact that I’ve got more chance of managing Valencia than Gary Neville next season I can’t believe that situation is going to play out anywhere. Who needs Lothar Matthäus when we could have the host of Surprise Surprise, This Morning and Streetmate (don’t remember that one)? I’ve nothing against Holly per-se but when her sporting pedigree peaks at ‘Celebrity Wrestling’ and ‘Dancing on Ice’, perhaps one to give a miss.

Comedians, alleged or genuine, don’t mix well on football

Nick Bruzon

Manchester United in Europe and Dean Smith dominate Derby build up

19 Feb

With Brentford preparing to take on Derby County this weekend, Dean Smith was in buoyant mood at yesterday’s press conference. There was more from the club’s ‘phone a fan’ scheme where Alan Judge was in the hotseat and, of course, European football has been at the forefront of our attention with Manchester United, amongst others, making the news.

But I wanted to start with a few quotes from Dean’s press conference in regards to the Derby game. The Bees recent form of nil points, no goals, 7(seven) against from the games with Brighton and Sheffield Wednesday isn’t great. But for those who think we are in free fall, spare a thought for our opponents.

A change in manager wasn’t enough to reverse the fortunes of a team who have lost four and drawn four from their last eight league games. It is a worrying run of form for a side that have come ‘so close’ in the last two seasons and would be looking to go one better this time around. That they still remain in the play-off zone is testament to their early season form and the Rams will, no doubt, be bang up for three points this weekend with Birmingham now breathing down their necks.

It is a view shared by Dean Smith who noted “They got beaten last week and will be looking for a reaction. You only have to look at their squad to know what a good squad it is.

Obvious but true. On the flipside, one can only hope the squad that Dean has left to play with can also produce a reaction. The performance against Wednesday produced some horror defending, outside of the redcard that we won’t be appealing despite the ongoing belief that the ref “couldn’t make that decision from where he was.

The one positive I guess is that at least our head coach has acknowledged this. He could hardly not, to be fair. “The manner of the goals we conceded was not good” would seem to be somewhat of an understatement but, if we can stop shipping them quite so readily, that’ll be half the job done. Then we just need to find our way at the other end …..

Next up, yesterday’s European football.

Cup fever had this corner of West London gripped last night with the draw for the Gibraltar Rock Cup. Glacis United face a nightmare tie with all-conquering Lincoln Red Imps. They, of course, reached the second qualifying round of this season’s Champions League, before narrowly missing out to Danish side FCM . And given our current fascination with all things Manchester United, their Gibraltarian equivalents (in name, at least) the rebranded Manchester 62 face College 1975. Ties to be played the week of March 16 and you can see the full draw below, c/o @GibFootballTalk.

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On the subject of Manchester United, it would be remiss of me not to mention the Europa League.

If you think Derby County are on a bad run of form, Gary Neville hasn’t exactly had things easy since taking over as manager of Valencia . How that has changed! After getting his first league win at the weekend, last night he saw his team become the first to score five goals in the opening half of a Europa League game. Agonisingly, Valencia fell one short of a 7(seven) -0 bracketing as they eventually ran out 6-0 winners over Rapid Vienna.

And finally, Brentford’s excellent ‘phone a fan’ scheme continued yesterday with Alan Judge manning the switchboard and the club having to convince another fan that yes, our man of the moment really had just called them up.

As ever, the background detail on these stories is what really makes them. The motivational pep talks aren’t just confined to our press conference, if the white board in the ticket office is to be believed.

Nick Bruzon

From Götze to Gertcha. My fantasy XI beats Arsenal and the Brits

20 Feb

Former Brentford goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny made a chump of himself on national TV last night after he was sent off for Arsenal against Bayern Munich in the Champion’s League.  That, or he was trying out for a role in the next Nescafe advert, judging by the hand gesture he directed towards the fourth official on leaving the pitch.

I’ve actually got a lot of time for the goalkeeper and regular readers may be aware that the Arsenal man is actually in my all time Brentford XI of the last 25 years. Maybe not always the most skillful of the players to fill their respective berths but certainly the most committed. The team that, if I could pluck from their respective seasons, I’d love to see in action.

To read the rest of this article, season 2013/14 is now available to download onto Kindle, in full. Containing previously unseen content, you can do so here for less than the cost of one matchday programme.

 Thanks for reading over the course of the campaign. For now I need to make space on this page for any follow up.  The ‘close season’ / World Cup columns continue in full, further on in this site.

Herr transplant, music and my worst Brentford memory – ever

11 Dec

So, despite a very large curve ball in the shape of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Brentford have replaced Uwe from within the club ranks.

The choice of Mark Warburton and, as interesting, the appointment of a new sporting director in Frank McParland is one that looks to continuity and building on the current set up.

This, in my eyes, can only be a good thing. Talking to supporters and looking at the various social networks, the one biggest fear is the subsequent loss of our star players. The likes of Clayton Donaldson and Adam Forshaw are the two names on most people’s minds. Whilst, of course, nothing is ever guaranteed in life, let alone football, Mark knows these players and, as importantly, they know him.

I’ll be honest – the potential of former Bee Ian Holloway did intrigue me. Indeed, during the managerial transitional phase he was the fan favourite on a GPG vote that didn’t even include Mark.  However, I think that, ultimately, the correct decision has been made. If nothing else, for the lack of media circus that the former Blackpool supremo would have brought and the pun potential that Mr Warburton adds. Saturday sees his first game in the Griffin Park hot seat and I’m hoping Oldham end up as toast etc. etc. etc.

The other thing to catch my attention was the reaction to yesterday’s article in regards to music and the roof (and thank you all for your comments, as ever). In it, we discussed Matthew’s opinion on the Griffin Park music scene and the shake up that was required.

To read the rest of this article, season 2013/14 is now available to download onto Kindle, in full. Containing previously unseen content, you can do so here for less than the cost of one matchday programme.

 Thanks for reading over the course of the campaign. For now I need to make space on this page for any follow up.  The ‘close season’ / World Cup columns continue in full, further on in this site.