Tag Archives: League cup

Chelsea play their cards right as Brentford are undone by Kanté’s class.

23 Dec

Brentford fans could be forgiven for having that flat feeling this morning. Chelsea supporters the ones waking up with a semi in the pocket. A 2-0 defeat at Lionel Road means the Bees’ League cup progress stops in the quarter-finals. Chelsea join Liverpool, Tottenham and Arsenal in the last four. Yet for Thomas Frank and Brentford, it was a useful runout and one that could well have had a different ending. At least, until N’Golo Kanté came off the bench with just under fifteen minutes to go. Thomas Tuchel playing his substitution cards oh so right as he slowly cranked up the second half pressure. The arrival of Kanté being the defining moment which transformed the game from evenly balanced contest to one way traffic. The World Cup winner showing his absolute class and importance to a club that may have started the game with a relatively unfamiliar line up but ended it in a much more recognisable style – both in terms of players and performance.

Brentford had no answer to Chelsea’s Tuchel bonus

For Brentford, the team was as familiar as one could have expected given Thomas Frank’s prematch assertions about ‘going for it’. Starts for Mads Bech and Wissa aside (albeit Ivan Toney, now recovered from his positive covid test results, would come off the bench with half an hour to go) the rest of the team picked itself. Contrast that to Chelsea where names such as Vale, Simons and Soonsup-Bell, amongst others, had many of us from this part of West London scratching our heads as to just how deep and strong Thomas Tuchel was going. Yet what we got was more of the same. Chelsea dominating possession (if memory serves, they’d had 68% when the halftime stats flashed up) and Brentford having to work socks off.

Yet it was the Bees who had the better chances in that opening period.  Bryan and Rico working brilliantly down the left. Our left back in particular showing a continued turn of electrifying pace to cause mayhem down that flank. Vitaly strong again and Matthias Jensen getting stuck in. First Wissa and then Jensen were both denied by Kepa between the sticks for the visitors. It could, probably should, have been Brentford who went in a goal up but with the first half tapering off and the second continuing in equally even fashion, it began to take on the feel of looking to take the chance in a spot kick shoot out.

A plethora of changes for Brentford did nothing to significantly up the tempo but with our guests always one step ahead of us on the substitutions, you could see their quality cranking up with every change.  Jorginho and Christian Pulisic on as the second period began, followed by Reece James and Mason Mount. This was the Chelsea we recognised. This was the Chelsea now starting to open the door until , with 76 minutes gone, that man Kanté entered the field of play and booted it wide open. The step up one pace and the drive forward was a clear as day. His part in both goals there for all to see. 

First up, Pontus Jansson somehow slicing it past his own ‘keeper to hand the lead to our visitors with less than ten minutes to go. Urghh. Hearts sank. There was no blame attached or recrimination offered. It was one of those things but now there was little choice left but to go for it. Rather than running the clock down for spot kicks all we could do was go for one final throw of the dice. Instead, it was Chelsea who kept on pushing. Chelsea who scored again five minutes later. Kanté who once again opened us up, leading to Pulisic being felled in the box by Alvaro Fernandez. It felt soft at the time and whilst replays have yet to be seen, there were no real complaints. Jorginho despatching it with his trademark efficiency. There was no way back from there. For Brentford, a chance to focus on Brighton and Manchester City in the league. For Chelsea, the tournament remains alive with the draw now seeing them face Tottenham.

Hey, its a shame but there’s no bitterness. We gave it a shot but were ultimately undone by a master class in cup football and Thomas Tuchel’s strategy. By one man’s Christmas presence ultimately being that tipping point between two teams who had both felt as though they had half a foot in the semis prior to his arrival. Hats off to Kante. Well played Chelsea.

The only real negativity to talk about is around our forthcoming Covid tests. With three games coming up in close succession (Aston Villa joining the Seagulls and City to make up the trio of festive fixtures ) staying healthy is probably the best present we can get this Christmas. I’d love to have won this, of course, but as long as we can stay fit that’s probably just as important in the current climate. What an aspirational thought to end on. Groan.

Instead, let’s be glad we’re back. After two games were pulled in close succession its been a long wait for football. This may have felt like little more than a glorified friendly at times but who knows how important it might have been in simply allowing some ring rust to be worked through. Perhaps that’s the positive we need to draw from this. A decent run out against World Class level opposition. Champions of Europe, too. If only their fans had mentioned it.

Bus stop in Hounslow, you’ll never sing that. And that’s how we like it. Now bring on Brighton.

The GPG may be on to something

Nick Bruzon

Brentford – Chelsea about as intriguing as they come.

22 Dec

The league cup semi-finals will be an all Premier League affair. With the last remaining EFL club, Sunderland, eventually succumbing on Tuesday evening, the three teams who join Arsenal will be decided tonight. Of course, top of our priority list is the game at Lionel Road between Brentford and Chelsea. Nobody needs a reminder as to how the league fixture turned out – one of the most pulsating encounters we’ve ever had the good fortune to witness – although that’s here if you would like to read more. The game Ben Chilwell described as “Hell on Earth” returns for round two, although whether the personnel remain the same this time around remains to be seen. Elsewhere there’s Tottenham – West Ham and Liverpool – Leicester City to decide who continues on the journey to Wembley.

Hey, we can say it now. Wembley.

Norgaard unleashes hell

As ever, the spectre of Covid raises its head. It feels like an eternity since we last saw a game and the jury remains out on whether we’ll be able to attend in the New Year. Wales and Scotland have already announced moves to start playing behind closed doors for a few weeks. One can only suspect Boris will eventually dither his way into a position where he has no remaining option left but to follow them once he has ‘saved Christmas’. Groan. Cheese and wine, anyone?

On pitch, things face a similar uncertainty. The good news for Brentford fans is that Thomas Frank has confirmed we have no positive cases in the squad. As it stands. Meaning everyone barring the injured contingent is available for selection. Might this include Matthew Cox who was all set to be parachuted into goal against Manchester United until they had to pull the game earlier this month? One way or another it would have been a debut to remember for the untried 18 year old and, surely, his time will come.

The lack of recent game time alone suggests Thomas will go as full strength as possible. The glut of games usually experienced at the time of year has been trimmed by the pandemic and, if anything, we’ll now have the players chomping at the bit to get 90 minutes under the belt once more. Or, at least, start. Then, there’s his own approach where he has been quite vocal about emulating last season’s run all the way to a semifinal with VAR and Tottenham. 

Urghhh

He used his press conference for this one to explain how it is a competition we have targeted from the off.  “Really, we want to go all the way. It’s one game at a time and the next game is against the European winners…. It’s already a statement that we are in the quarter-finals. We’d never made the semi-finals until last year. Can we do that one more time? That would be a massive statement.”

The biggest clue to starting XI then being his assertion that, “I can say we’ll put a full team out there. I don’t know what Chelsea will do.

Ahh, what will Chelsea do? One has to feel for Thomas Tuchel, in that he now faces the same levels of uncertainty we did a few weeks ago. Injuries and Covid tests are already hampering his preparation with Sunday’s 0-0 at Wolves seeing them name a reduced bench. He has spoken about having to start from scratch in terms of his own prep for tonight whilst the casualty list seems a lengthy one.

First World problems, I suppose. The squad is one that contains an embarrassment of riches and they are, for good reason, both Champions of Europe and genuine contenders for the Premier League title this season. Whomever Tuchel chooses to start / has left will, I am sure, give anyone a run for their money. Likewise, with a home crowd and a strong tea for Brentford, this has all the makings of another classic

Being honest, it still feels a bit weird going to a game at present given what’s out there in the news and the problems being faced by just about every club in the country. Then again, as many safety measures as possible are in place (do arrive early given the extensive Covid checks we have been warned about) whilst it would be hypocritical to pretend there was anything but excitement about going to football again. About seeing if our team can follow up on last season. About seeing if we can go, perhaps, one better. 

Hey, now we’ve broken the jinx at the W place, anything is possible.   

See you there. Stay safe. Let’s enjoy it whilst we can.

If Boris does end up cancelling anything this Christmas, please let’s hope he gets it right

Nick Bruzon

Still fighting on three fronts. Now bring on Saturday.

28 Oct

For the first time since 2016/17 Manchester City won’t have their name on the league cup.  For Brentford, a potato skin avoided and then some. The Bees are in the quarter finals for the second successive season after last night’s 2-1 victory at Stoke City. A line up including more first team regulars than we, perhaps, had any expectation of seeing run out raced into a 2-0 half-time lead (Canos and Toney) which ultimately proved sufficient to see us over the line. Romaine Sawyers (who else?) pulled one back for the hosts but it was too little too late to stop the Bees recording a first ever win in the Potteries and earning a place in the last 8. Liverpool, West Ham, Spurs, Arsenal, Chelsea, Leicester City and Sunderland make up the list of those teams with their own aspirations of lifting the silverware. Now we await the draw with bated breath. For more reasons than one. 

No caption needed

Last season was just awful. Wembley, promotion, goals, fine wins, bracketings and incredible signings aside. Having to watch from afar as the team rattled around a virtually empty stadium nothing short of torture. Finally in our new home and locked out by a global pandemic.

To compound the felony, Brentford were enjoying out best ever run in the League Cup. A whole gamut of Premier League sides despatched by a Championship club looking to join them in the top flight. A sequence of victories that took us all the way to a single-legged semi-final at Tottenham. Ivan Toney’s equaliser being chalked off by the machinations of VAR. A brief moment of 1-1 based ecstasy turning into an eventual 2-0 win for our hosts before their inevitable defeat in the final to Manchester City. They seem (seemed) quite good at lifting this particular trophy.

A tournament that Brentford have traditionally been bang average in (a smattering of fourth round visits being our best ever) had suddenly exploded into life. Thomas Frank with his eyes on the silverware. The rest of us with our eyes on the TV. It would have been wonderful to be a part of it. Instead, we were all locked out.

The finger nail ended up being ahead of the ankle. Offside

Fast forward 12 months and we are in similar territory. The big difference being that this time around, the fans are back. And how. What an effort for last night’s shlep to Stoke City. What a reward for the journey. Brentford now 90 minutes away from matching last season’s heroics. Perhaps with a chance to go even further. Hey, if nothing else the magnificent win in the play-off final has finally broken our Wembley hoodoo. No longer is it a place to fear but somewhere to look forward to. The next step on the journey about to be made. And we will discover our fate this Saturday when the draw is made on TV’s Soccer AM. 

Ah, Soccer AM. Sad to say it’s not for me anymore. Been there, done that, disgraced myself. Hey, those ‘end of the show’ penalties aren’t going to miss themselves. Helen Chamberlain and Russ Williams have long since moved on. Lovejoy, too. These days, free time on Saturdays is too short a commodity to be spent with Fenners and Jimmy Bullard. I’ve got football club to get H to and other ‘essential’ jobs to be completed before the matchday routine can begin. 

The classic lineup on the Soccer AM sofa

Yet this weekend things will be different. There’s a cup draw to be watched. The list of priority domestic tasks can, for once, include switching on the TV. Probably being confused by banter and catchphrases that will have long since been handed down to a younger generation. This confused 51 year old will, for once, have a legitimate reason to have the show on rather than feeling as awkward as a dad in a disco. Coverage starts at 10.30 although at what point the Soccerettes (are they still a thing?) appear with the balls is yet to be confirmed. I suspect the phrase “Harry, call me when its about to start” may well be uttered. Much as I used to love the show, and I did, age is now feeling as though it has very much caught up on yours truly. Groan.

So yeah. I’ll be watching. Hoping to be pleasantly surprised. Looking forward to seeing if things have changed any. Mostly, though, awaiting our fate. Last night’s team selection suggesting Thomas very much has the League Cup as a legitimate target. Not just an excuse to give fringe players a run out but a trophy to try and win. A place in Europe to be earned. A smile to be put on the faces of fans after missing out last year. An even bigger smile, I mean. A metaphorical heart attack to be given to the Directors of football or Matthew Benham when a potential cup winning team is named at the expense of keeping players fresh for the league campaign. Hey, who says we can’t battle on two fronts? Or three?

It was a strong, strong line up. Canos. Toney. Jensen. Zanka. Ghoddos. Forss. Ajer.  All started this one. Rico, Christian Norgaard and Frank the Tank also came off the bench. Every one of these players featured against Leicester City in the Premier League on Sunday  Chuck Charlie Goode, Mads x2 and Alvaro Fernandez to see there was no messing around from Thomas here. He has a cup in his sights. Likewise, perhaps, giving a chance to put his enforced goalkeeping change into play sooner than later. The understanding between the back five and the man in, err, blue will be even more essential than ever. 

For now though, we can dream of Wembley. Of Soccer AM. Of finally exorcising the nightmare of what happened before the Doncaster game. That Doncaster game. Of replacing Manchester City on the trophy. Of a draw that could be cruel or kind. A home tie with Sunderland or a trip to Liverpool? A rematch with Leicester City, perhaps?

On Saturday we find out. Bring it on….

The pre-Doncaster Soccer AM debacle (our H almost due, too)

Nick Bruzon

A picture that’s unappealing yet packed with morbid curiosity.

23 Sep

Stoke City v Brentford. Thus came our fourth round fate following last night’s League Cup draw – (c) Middlesex Chronicle Big Book of 80’s alliteration. Hopefully Thomas Frank won’t be left feeling a Beleagured Bees Boss after that one. Blinkin’ Stoke City. No offence but the last draw anybody would have wanted. Including them. For Brentford, a lot of bad history and a Wednesday evening half-term shlep to the Potteries. For Stoke, still a glamour tie against Premier League opposition but opponents they have played, a lot, since dropping back to the Championship in 2018. I’m sure they would have relished a visit from a Liverpool or Manchester City although at least swerved Mark Warburton and his Loftus Road outfit after they beat Everton (more to follow on The Toffees).

The draw in full

Positives. We’re in the last 16. We’re yet to face a top flight rival. The game comes between a visit from Leicester City and a trip to Burnley but, otherwise, we’ve nothing midweek on either side. Cripes, the Tuesday/Saturday back to back fixtures destroyed so many Championship clubs last season. Absolutely knackering, It’s a run that shows no sign of abating this time around and with Stoke still on that sort of relentless fixture overload, might they use this one as a tactical hit to rest tired limbs? Test the squad to its full extent? Who knows? Whomever the respective managers pick, this one is going to be as tough and gruelling as it comes. A tie with all the allure of Mrs Browns Boys squaring up to The England Supporter’s Band in a pub car park. Nobody wants to watch it yet we’ll still take a look. Just in case.

Unappealing yet packed with morbid curiosity

Until then, there’s only one word on everyone’s lips: The Liverpool game. Ok, that’s three but you get the drift. We’ve already talked about this a fair bit on these pages and no doubt will do a bit more come Friday / Saturday. There’s only so much clickbait one can follow on other sites and so many times we can regurgitate Tony Gubba’s immortal line or one of the few photos in the personal collection from the last time our paths crossed. It’ll be huge. For them.

For us, one more game and that’s the only way to treat it. Play the team in front of us rather than the history. It worked for Arsenal (albeit they were inept) and it may work again. Who knows ?

One more time…The Bees haven’t played Livepool since the FA Cup in 1989

Elsewhere, the home game with Everton has been pushed back a day for TV coverage. That’ll now take place at 2pm on Sunday 28th November. The price of playing at a higher level. On the plus side, it means the trips to Burnely and Newcastle United remain unscathed – not surprisingly – so at least train tickets can be booked with relative impunity.

All that’s to come though. For now, with too much time wasted trying to get Mrs. Brown to hold a broken bottle, better wrap things up and start the school run. Perhaps the prospect of Saturday’s visit from Liverpool might get H moving.

He’s all good when Buzz is around but try getting an 8 year old ready for school on a Thursday

Nick Bruzon 

Oldham bracketed. Now bring on Liverpool.

22 Sep

Bring out the brackets. For a third successive season, Brentford managed the magical mark following a 7(seven) – 0 defeat of Oldham Athletic in the League Cup third round at Lionel Road on Tuesday night. Four goal Marcus Forss leading the charge, ably complemented by a Yoane Wissa brace and an o.g. from our visitors compounding their agony. It was every bit as comprehensive as the scoreline suggests. For once, stats telling the story with the Bees managing 24 efforts at goal. A largely scratch side but one still full of internationals could, really, have doubled things in what seemed to be a shoot on sight policy. Victory over the English football’s basement side as deserved as it comes. The big question being whether we can repeat it on Saturday when the league’s top side, Liverpool, come to visit. Joint first with Chelsea (also due here in a few weeks), that also has the potential to be a 7(seven) goal thriller. Anything but on top of our game though and I’d hate to imagine which way those would be shared out.

Forss of nature

First up, Oldham Athletic. They came into the game with a reputation as a club in trouble and that was proven on field when the flying Finn grabbed his first with less than three minutes gone. Forss making no mistake from the spot and from that point on it was game over. One had to feel for the 600 or so visiting fans. That’s a trek and a half to watch the goals roll in. Moreso with no beer in the away end. Sorry…. Kudos to them. We’ve been there over the years. Getting spanked on the road and no money rather than sobriety. Away clubs have always been very welcoming and I’m not, quite, sure why we’ve gone dry. Unless it’s some attempt to demoralise our guests. On pitch, nobody needs another history lesson on our own bucket rattling or lower league survival where, but for the grace of our ownership, we could still be. 

Instead, they gave it their all, going nuts when the odd shot from distance came in. One second half beauty from Jamie Bowden forcing Álvaro Fernández into a quite wonderful save as it headed for the far top corner . There would have been no complaints from the Bees faithful had that gone in but, instead, it was kept out and we now start the Twitter stampede to win a sponsored mattress as a result of our clean sheet. Not a typo.

Sadly for our guests it was one chance out of not many. Captain Jensen pulling the strings in the middle, Wissa on fire, Forss doing what he does for fun and Samman Ghoddos running his socks off. Pick of the goals being the last of the night. Wissa with a quite delicious bicycle kick to round off the rout. On another day he’d have had a hat trick too. Certainly not holding back on his efforts although it was one from Charlie Goode that really had the fans on their feet. An absolute howitzer from distance smacking the bar. Had it gone in Lionel Road would have erupted. Instead, we had to be content with a 5-0 HT lead, two in the second period and opponents for whom Brentford showed no signs of taking the foot off the gas. It was relentless. It was brutal. It was fun. For us.

Official Twitter capture the pick of the night

The fourth round draw takes place tonight. Micah Richards and Harry Redknapp pulling out the balls live from a Bedfordshire Bowls club. The competition sponsors once again doing their thing to mix it up and generate publicity. The sort of thing that previously would have had wringing of hands and much lamenting at unnecessary gimmicks. Now, with Brentford in the fourth round once more, I’m past caring. Just get the draw done and let us know who its going to be. With Wembley no longer the jinx it was, there’s an added layer of appeal about a potential visit. Of course, that’s still a fair way way off and there’ll be plenty of tough tests for whomever eventually lifts the trophy. On the flip side, you can only beat who is in front of you and last night Brentford did that in style.

Next up, Liverpool in the league. That’s at 5.30pm on Saturday evening and is, of course, a sell out. The game’s live on Sky for those unable to get a ticket. Victory will see Brentford move to within two points of the Anfield side. Should it happen. Defeat, something expected by just about everybody outside of TW8. I mean, there’s no way a team like Brentford, a bus stop in Hounslow, will get anything against such illustrious opposition. Is there? Eh, readers 😉  

We all know what we can do. Everyone else knows what Liverpool can, and have, done. The wealth of talent in their team. That’s taken as red. Yet with our own goal machine(s) in fine form and a bench the likes of which we’ve never had before, who knows? Christian Norgaard will be vital and it was good to see him picked out on Match of the Day for special treatment in the post-match analysis last week. Hey, we weren’t even last up in the running. 

It’s the sort of moment we’ve been building for. Years in the coming and, finally, a global super team up at Brentford for a competitive fixture. No offence, Arsenal. Beating them was quite wonderful but, equally, a club in disarray and very much trading on former glories were there for the taking. That opportunity was grabbed in some style on a night that saw the roof raised and Brentford dominant.

Can we do the same this time around? I can’t wait to find out. Hopefully we can show Mr. Klopp what he missed out when choosing Anfield over Griffin Park…. See you there.

Bring on the fixtures…The Bees haven’t played Livepool since the FA Cup in 1989

Nick Bruzon 

Don’t shoot the messenger. Cup and league beckon in a huge week.

21 Sep

Do you know the way to Oldham? One in each hand. With recent seasons seeing our paths head in very much different directions, its been a while since we’ve been able to crack this one out. Needs must, though, despite the fact that Tuesday night’s league cup third round tie takes place in Brentford. With the Bees in fine form following Saturday’s 2-0 win at Wolves, it’s fair to say positivity is up. Even Thomas Frank’s most fierce detractors from last season are now lavishing social media praise on our head coach. Hmmm. And with Liverpool next up in the Premier League, the referee for that one has now been named. Be afraid. Be very afraid….

First up, the cup. Last season’s epic run to the semis was all the more frustrating in the fact that it was played out behind closed doors. Thanks a bunch, Covid. With Premier League clubs being knocked out left right and centre, all we could do was follow the action on our computer screens. Ivan Toney’s heroics and tussle with VAR at Spurs nothing more than the stuff of internet streaming. The only consolation being that at least some of us eventually got to see Brentford at Wembley where ‘the curse’ was finally broken in some style. A play-off campaign that ended in a positive manner (not a typo) and celebrations the likes of which we’d not seen in a long, long time. Kew Bridge on fire longer than even Will Grigg (Now at Rotherham United, if you were wondering). 

An epic cup run played out in empty stadia

Given how we missed out on seeing it all unfold last time out, for that reason alone I’m hopeful for big things once more. The much maligned league cup, a tournament of B-teams and squad rotation, has a new lease of life as supporters up and down the land are relishing the opportunity to watch football once more. Any excuse. The game with Forest Green Rovers saw a much larger crowd than normal and we can expect more tonight. If any additional lure were needed, there’s cheap pre-match beer and food for early entrants to the stadium. Free chili in The Hive may be a gone from Griffin Park, but the Lionel Road replacement isn’t bad.  

As for the actual game, well on paper it looks about as lopsided as they come. Oldham Athletic rock bottom of League Two, with 6 defeats and 4 points from their opening 8 fixtures. Supporters are protesting against current owners, the Lemsagam family, in a bid to oust the Moroccans whose tenure has seen relegation, the threat of administration and nine managers since 2018. Cripes, not even Nottingham Forest get through them that fast.

Sad times at Ice Station Zebra. Supporters protest.

The Bees, on the other hand, have picked up in the Premier League where we left off in the Championship. Wolves, the latest side to surrender all three points as Brentford beat the clock and our opponents. An edge of game management deployed against us in such brutal fashion by Brighton the week before, had the home fans up in arms and still raging 48 hours later. If this is how they react to David Raya changing his gloves, they’re going to go into meltdown against Brighton (who can also add falling down like the mutant offspring of Michael Douglas and Justin Fletcher to their catalogue of fan enraging tactics).

For me (Clive), and its easy to say this when we finally played a game to within an inch of the rules, it was a necessary way to close it out with just ten men on the pitch. Shandon Baptiste’s second yellow card also meaning he’ll miss out night, which is a real shame, albeit he’ll be back for Liverpool if my calculations are correct. After the Brighton game it was noted on these pages that, “Perhaps we need to be more cynical. More shrewd. Play to the letter of the rules rather than the spirit of the game. Collapse like a felled domino to slow down the clock and disrupt the flow”.

Of course, Thomas doesn’t read this or take tactical advice from the internet. If he did he’d have been ‘out’ last season, but it was pleasing to see us adapt to circumstance after getting off to that flying start. Only Stuart Atwell on VAR keeping the scoreline vaguely respectful for a home team who,  despite all their frustration, managed the princely total of ‘0’ shots on target. 

Don’t shoot me. The stats don’t lie, as Shakira almost once sang. They DID deserve more but you could argue so did we. So does Dean Smith every week. Even Bryan rattling the woodwork late on could have put things further out of sight. Instead, the lesson about balls in the back of then rather than possession being what wins games was once again in evidence. Thankfully, Brentford were the ones delivering it rather than being on the receiving end.

So with the Bees in their groove and the cup providing all it does, I’m expecting a big crowd and a good result. It won’t be easy. Never is. Under estimating any opponent or ‘teams like..’ The cardinal error to make. If anyone knows that over the last few years it’s us. With Oldham perhaps looking for some welcome distraction, they aren’t going to surrender this when the opportunity for morale boosting win and money spinning fourth round tie is at their mercy. It’s going to be fun, that’s for sure. It’s going to be tasty. And that’s just the pies.

Elsewhere, the referee and assistants for the Liverpool game on Saturday have been named. The great news being that Sian Massey-Ellis is part of the team. Her positive reputation more than precedes her as one of English football’s most on the ball officials. The not so good news being that she’s on VAR assistant duties. And for the man in the middle, we’ve been treated to….. Stuart Atwell. Stuart. Atwell. Say no more. His reputation precedes him as one of English football’s most off the boil officials.

Don’t shoot the messenger….

Still, as Rob The BEEE put it: Worst ref in the Prem by a distance…then again, in a game we should lose anyway, rolling the dice on a dodgy decision might not be a bad thing!

Perhaps he’s on to something. Come on Stuart, proves us wrong….

Nick Bruzon

Here’s hoping we can avoid any more cup upset as third round beckons.

26 Aug

Brentford will host Oldham Athletic in the third round of the League cup. It is a tie that will give the opportunity to crowbar in my favourite bad joke and will be played the week commencing Monday 20th September. It was very much the highlight of a draw that sees no real example of the ‘David hosting Goliath’ tie that makes cup football so exciting, with the possible exception of Arsenal v AFC Wimbledon. Holders Manchester City are at home to a Wycombe Wanderers side now boosted by the signing of Gibraltar international Tjay de Barr. Manchester United v West Ham is an obvious other ‘TV tie’ for lazy executives, as are those featuring our West London neighbours who play a division below the Bees in the Championship ( Fulham and Loftus Road). Yet as much as anything else, we’ll be happy to avoid the sort of ticketing issues which clouded Tuesday night’s game. 

Huge backlogs for the turnstiles on Tuesday

For Brentford another home tie in a game which, historically, may not have attracted as big a crowd as we saw earlier this week when Forest Green Rovers were beaten. Over 12,000 present for that one with those standing in the West Stand being repeatedly asked to sit down by those either visiting for the first time or simply displaced by the ‘open’ nature of ticket selection. One can understand the frustration on both sides. Personally, my days on the Ealing Road are long gone. As much due to taking an infant (at the time – where have those 8 years gone ?) as my own dodgy knees and ankles. Being able to sit certainly taking the strain off aching limbs aswell as ears given H’s inability to see through the butts of those standing in front of us. 

Equally though, we all know what goes on behind the goal. Of course the club can’t advertise standing but, even if things are generously described as being in a ‘singing section’, we all know it goes on. At grounds up and down the land. It is part of what makes up the nature of football fans. What generates the atmosphere. Just look at Crystal Palace on Saturday. Their own drummer, however cringeworthy, flanked by legions of supporters standing up aswell as some sort of synchronised ‘bouncing’ routine. Good luck asking them to sit if you were some hapless tourist caught behind. 

Palace had a drum in their standing section

Which, of course, you wouldn’t be. Like our own West STAND, those prime area tickets snapped up well, well in advance. Except when you scratch all existing Season Ticket places and revert to a car keys in the bowl approach of first in, first pick and good luck with the outcome of those you will be sharing close proximity with for the next 90 minutes. 

Of course supporters should be aware but we’re all still getting used to this. Some fans will be caught out. Right up to the end of our time at Griffin Park, the Ealing Road was able to carry through it’s dispensation to remain terraced. Wonderful it was, too. People want to continue this. Hence the whole plan of getting the stadium built with the option for ‘safe’ standing  – something which in itself which is as insulting and loaded a phrase as they come.  

We know why the club took this approach. One can sympathise. A large crowd was not expected and with the East Stand being closed, people would naturally be displaced. Given the number of Season Ticket holders, three sides into four will not go cleanly. As BIAS would later confirm when probed (gently), “Because the club wanted to keep the East Stand closed this meant those with Season Tickets there would be displaced.  Therefore it made a seat hold phase difficult.  If all stands were open then everyone would be able to buy their seat.

That, surely, the only way to go for the visit of Oldham Athletic. And any other future cup tie. If nothing else, we are still well, well into the tourist phase. People are going to want to come along to a game, just because they can. Just because it is likely to be one of the few chances they can get this season. Over 12,000 for the visit of a league two side showed that. Had it been at Griffin Park with the Bees in the Champions, the crowd would probably have been half that. At the very best. With another team from league two side next up in the cup (and Oldham will be looking to the tournament for a diversion, given they are currently rooted to the foot on nil points and four defeats) let’s hope lessons have been learned. 

Likewise, that the debacle with the ticketing scanners does not repeat itself. A large number of supporters were delayed on the way in following a system meltdown which official have described as “unacceptable”. A detailed report was due on the desk of the Chief Exec / stadium manager yesterday from the club’s Venue Access Control partner. To date, no follow up has been shared with supporters although one would presume this is being digested and a carefully worded statement crafted. Whether this was linked to the fact that tickets were not linked to he usual members / ST cards, who knows? Whatever the explanation, let’s just hope the fans get what they want for Oldham – namely, the chance to sit, or sing / stand, in their usual positions.

That aside, the details for the draw are below. Show me a better cup tie than Brentford – Oldham and I’ll show you a fan of another club. Last week’s Premier League table topers v the club currently propping up the other 91. Its about as top v bottom as they get. It certainly won’t be that easy. Not just for us but for the other clubs, too. A competition which has become more of one which has seen the squads used to their full extent and starting XIs plucked from the reserves is there for the taking if clubs go big. The one exception being Arsenal for whom picking their team from the reserves will likely see a greater chance of success.

I can’t wait. See you there. All being well in the right spot. I think we could all do without any more cup upset.

As for that ‘joke’, perhaps we’ll leave the crowbar behind. Given there are no replays. Otherwise, I’d be asking “Do you know the way to Oldham?

One in each hand….

Those third round ties in full: 

QPR v Everton

Preston v Cheltenham

Manchester United v West Ham United

Fulham v Leeds United

Brentford v Oldham Athletic

Watford v Stoke City

Chelsea v Aston Villa

Wigan Athletic v Sunderland

Norwich City v Liverpool

Burnley v Rochdale

Arsenal v AFC Wimbledon

Sheffield United v Southampton

Manchester City v Wycombe Wanderers

Millwall v Leicester City

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Tottenham Hotspur

Brighton & Hove Albion v Swansea City

Nick Bruzon

Safe passage and a tasty warm up for Saturday.

25 Aug

Brentford safely through to the third round of the League Cup after coming from behind to defeat Forest Green Rovers 3-1 on a night that also saw six goals for Aston Villa. Amongst others. Saturday’s opponents falling one short of the magical 7(seven) that would have seen the brackets brought out of cold storage. For the Bees, a much changed line up did the needful with goals from Yoane Wissa, Bryan Mbeumo and Marcus Forss sufficient to see us into the next draw. That one takes place at around 9.45pm(ish) tonight, following the conclusion of the game between Arsenal and West Brom. Perhaps the Gunners will even manage to score. With Manchester City next up in the Prem, failure to do so could leave them scratching around the archives for entries to August’s goal of the month competition.

For a while it looked a bit iffy

For Brentford, relatively safe passage was as much as could be hoped for. We’re in the third round and, all being well, will be able to select our normal seats for that one. Should the reward for last night’s win be a home tie. Confusion and frustration the order of the day with fans displaced following a free for all on seat selection. How hard is it to get this sort of thing right? We go where we do for a reason. Whether dodgy knees requiring seats these days or simply a case of preferring to put the stand into the West Stand singing section as the action hots up. Nobody can deny the atmosphere that generates – come on already the ‘rails seats’ if that’s what it takes.

Still, we’re through. Forest Green making it tough and having the temerity to take the lead. Bravo and well played. Only Ethan Pinnock and Vitaly Janelt surviving from those who started the Premier league game with Crystal Palace. It was still a strong enough team and one further reinforced by the additions of Ajer, Canos, Mbeumo and Frank the Tank as events unfolded. Yet with the team playing catch up eventually strength told as the Bees cranked up the pressure. Yoanne Wissa on the hour, followed by Bryan and then, with opponents down to ten, Marcus Forss rounding things off. 

Loved this image from ‘official’ and their Twitter feed

Thomas Frank magnanimous enough to note both his opponents aswell his own tactical decisions at full time, telling the BBC that, ”I need to praise Forest Green Rovers, Rob Edwards and his staff, I think they did a top job and I think they were the better side in the first half” whilst his own tinkering with the formation, “maybe that didn’t help, maybe I didn’t help the boys as much as I should have done.”

Still, we’re through. We’ve Aston Villa in the league at the weekend. They warmed up for that one with their own win. A 6-0 away win at Barrow. With a quarter hour remaining when they hit the sixth it really was looking like brackets but, alas not. Still, they’ll be buzzing for that game and the Dean Smith reunion. I can already hear him telling the press corps that his team will have deserved to win. Regardless of whatever result transpires. With Ollie Watkins sitting out the season so far, not facing our old boy will be an advantage (of sorts) although the Villans looked imperious at the weekend. Newcastle United put to the sword in some style. Jack who now? 

Prior to all that is this evening’s draw. You can follow it on Sky, amongst other sources, although as it stands (8am) the ball numbers remain a mystery. Seemingly. Nobody has them up on club or news sites as yet. Not even on the Carabao Cup home page. With nothing more than click bait at present (stories titled along the lines of : get all your third round draw details, here, seeminlgy nothing more than a chance to list the 18 highest placed teams in the Premier league, and then Arsenal, it can’t be long until we find out our numerical fate. 

Whatever number we are bequeathed is not going to change too much. The most important thing being that we are through. If we are given a home tie then all the better. After missing out on our entire run to the semi-finals last season, the chance to watch live football and progress further is one that has us all chomping at the bit. How often would we say that about the League Cup in recent years?

Nick Bruzon

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

8 Jan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Congratulations Thomas. Congratulations Sergi. Long may it continue! 

Sergi got 3 out of 3 at Cardiff

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

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

I’ve heard more convincing explanations at school

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

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

A very fishy, dodgy story

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

Nick Bruzon

Not even Michael Caine could have turned this around.

6 Jan

Well played Spurs. Let’s start right there. Brentford went down 2-0 on Tuesday to miss out on a place in the League Cup final against a quality side packed with more than enough talent to reach Wembley. Jose Mourinho went strong and was duly rewarded. Mind you, so did Thomas Frank with only Pontus Jansson missing from what could now be deemed his preferred starting XI. It wasn’t quite enough. The combination of defensive generosity, great finishes and the machinations of VAR being enough to see Tottenham through. They controlled the game, no doubt, but there was enough about the Bees to suggest this wasn’t going to turn out the foregone conclusion many expected. Manchester City play Manchester United this evening to discover who will contest the final. Luckily for both, they’ll be spared referee Mike Dean.

Urghh. What can you say about the controversial man in the middle? Personally, I was left thinking that this is how it would be if Keith Stroud did regular top flight action. Soft yellows given to Brentford. Robust challenges unpunished from the hosts. Josh Dasilva sent off for an accidental, albeit painful looking, foul on Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg. Understandable on review, even if without any intent. Yet it was the second half VAR controversy (words as intrinsically linked as ‘Mrs Browns Boys’ and ‘unfunny’) that left the sour taste in the mouth. 

By that stage Spurs were already ahead. A bright start from the Bees being stopped dead in its tracks with not even a quarter-hour played when Moussa Sissoko was given the freedom of the penalty box. Marking that took the social distancing guidelines to the letter of the law. The Tottenham man heading home with pleasure and Brentford on the back foot. The wind taken from our sails and containment the immediate next order of the day. A flurry of half-chances and no further breaches the best we had to show.

Half time came and went. The Bees back out with a spring in their step. Lucky shirts being worn back home were clearly doing their thing. Forget the ever closer Ivan Toney. The magic of Bryan Mbeumo. The I don’t know what of Mathias Jensen. The goal felt like it was coming and sure enough, it did….. Just after the hour who else but Ivan Toney was there to head home from close in!! TW8 erupted. The players celebrated. Game on. Echos of the quite magnificent Escape to Victory ringing in the ears… “We can win this!!

Sadly though, we couldn’t. Michael Caine, Pele et al may have had a dodgy referee, physical opponents and superior opposition to deal with. We had, well all of that  – albeit without the dodgy acting – but also VAR. The much maligned tool alerting Mike Dean to the fact that the Championship’s leading scorer may have been offside as he guided the ball home. Indeed, after multiple replays Dean felt obliged to chalk off the goal he had already awarded. Toney’s fingernail being apparently ahead of the last defender’s heel and, as such, interfering with play as fell to his knees.

We quoted this one in last night’s post match immediacy. There’s no reason not to do it again. 

Hey, its not Spurs fault and no sour grapes towards them. Does anyone really think we’d have complained had it gone the other way? Of course not. Yet this doesn’t make it any easier. Doesn’t make the game we love feel even further away from the thing of excitement and spontaneity that it used to be. Instead, the life has been sucked out of it with goals being tediously dissected by set squares and sub-millimetre thin lines on screen. Its not even close to being obvious. Its an absolute joke.

Spurs, of course, did what teams do in these situations, Remained calm, professional, well used to it. With Bees fans and players feeling the most tremendous sense of injustice, out hosts carried on as normal and within minutes had gone down the other end to double the lead. Son Heung-min bursting clear to leather one past David Raya. A top quality move and finish from one of the best players in the land. No complaints. No arguments. First class. Game over man. Game over.

There was still enough time for VAR to alert Mike Dean to the fact that he may want to give Josh Dasilva a red card. It was inevitable the second the replay was shown on the big screen. It made no impact to the outcome but does now mean he misses out on the FA Cup (who doesn’t though?) and the more important league games with Reading and Luton. Thomas will need to get his whiteboard back out and rejuggle for them.

Tottenham deserved it overall, even if that’s not how football necessarily works. Ultimately, it comes down to balls in the back of the net and we had that denied us in the most painful of circumstances. Thomas would talk about how proud he was at full time and I guess he’s right.

Yet thinking about it this morning, the overall feeling is one of genuine frustration that we haven’t beaten one of the best teams in the Premier League. That we have had the chance of victory, could have taken it, matched our opponents but were ultimately denied by external factors. That is perhaps what we should focus on. Nobody gave us a chance but we just carried on doing what we’ve done so far this campaign. Played our best combination against the team in front of us. And we ran them blinkin’ close. 

This was no trashing and whilst I don’t overly do the ‘plucky losers’ thing (nobody remembers, or cares about how unlucky the beaten team were) the feeling remains that we had enough about us to win this one. Had the breaks gone, then who knows. The experience alone could prove invaluable in or long term future. 

Jose Mourinho was adamant at full-time that we’d meet again next season in the Premier League. I think he’s right, too. In the short term then look positive. At least we can concentrate on the league.

Nick Bruzon