Tag Archives: Leeds

It wasn’t a dream. It isn’t (quite) a soap opera.

31 May

The morning after the morning after the night before. For a moment, I had to double check that Bobby Ewing hadn’t just walked out of our shower. No. We’re good. Instead, the closest we had was Kitman Bob and the players showering Instantgram with the most amazing post match pictures. Celebration, you say? The only Dallas nightmare Brentford have to worry about will be the chance to cross swords with Stuart at Leeds United once more. Southampton rather than Southfork the destination to plug in to the satnav. Supporters and staff clearly taking Thomas Frank’s post match directive not to think about Premier League and let’s just get drunk to heart. I think we’re now on Monday. It’s been long and hazy. It’s been immense. The realisation of what next season promises is only now sinking in. For Swansea City, a visit from newly promoted Blackpool (congratulations). For the Bees, it’ll be Leeds United, Wolves, Manchester United and all those other household names now having to park up at a bus stop in Hounslow.

Kitman Bob 1 Bobby Ewing 0

Never has it been a more exciting time to be a Brentford fan. The post-Preston spirit that saw supporters and players partying in the street and drinking together outside The Griffin as we celebrated reaching the Championship back in 2014 replicated, in part, up at Lionel Road. We’ve all seen the pictures on Kew Bridge (those not able to be present). Have all , I am sure, read the stories of the cup being brought in to the Express Tavern and other surrounding locales. West London has been buzzing. On fire. A powder keg of excitement that keep blowing up again and again. The local news donated by stories of the Bees.

Yesterday’s post match mood continuing with more time spent in the pub because, well, why wouldn’t you? We’ve only gone and made it into the Premier League. Besides, Thomas said we could.

Help was needed by Sunday evening

The phone hasn’t stopped going off. RSI from answering all the messages another thing to add to the list of unexpected top flight consequences that range from Brentford now being in the Panini sticker book to moving up a level on FIFA 22. Mixing it with Manchester United on screen aswell as on pitch. I’ve had more TV appearances than Billy Grant (ok, now we’re just being silly but apologies for those who caught the ITV News on Friday or Sunday). Most exciting of all for some, our League One and Championship rivalry with Wolves finally restored. 

Of all the big names, understandably, being bandied around that’s one in particular I am looking forward to. For those few years it felt as though we were joined at the hip. Slugging it out toe to toe and point for point in League One. The pair of us knocking the psychological stuffing out of Leyton Orient until we celebrated like we’d won the FA Cup. Bakary Sako’s Swarovski encrusted boots something we can now look back on and laugh at, in the nicest sense.

Both teams making it up together and then giving it our best in the Championship until the Molineux outfit hit the accelerator and have carved out their own new level of incredible form. A lot of friends were made along the way and that’s going to be a very special game.

Bakary Sako’s boots – this actually happened.

We all have our reasons of knowing which ones we’re looking forward to. For me, Leeds United for family reasons (Hi, Julian – you know who WILL be there with us) as much as on pitch ones. Dallas. Maupay. Maupay. Pontus. The memories are strong there. You can chuck Manchester United in to the mix aswell. Primarily, because of the 18 months I spent working in the city. For every ‘away’ trip to Bury or Rochdale was the opportunity of a midweek visit to Old Trafford, offered up as a result of having United supporting colleagues with spare Season Tickets.

Watching neutral football in such an arena is never quite the same and, from a personal note, there was still more passion watching Brentford playing up the road in Accrington. Bitter cold. Dire performance. But my team. Now, we’ll be able to face the Red Devils and use the vocal cords for real. Many of those I worked with then still in the North-West, still in touch and now people who it will be even more incredible to catch up with.

Come on Leeds. It WAS a penalty

I guess the next big date for the diary will be June 16th. That’s when the fixtures are published . The first games due to take place the weekend of August 14th. Between now and then, there’ll be plenty to look forward to. A kit launch. Perhaps a couple of very special guest contributors on these pages (the door is always open) if I can just tie up the footballing equivalent of Neighbours ‘Udagawa deal’.  A lot of squeaky bum time as transfer rumours will no doubt swirl around the club. Thankfully, the possibility of losing David, Rico, Josh, Ivan, Sergi, Ethan and all those other names linked with top flight clubs had we not made it has perhaps receded a bit. Here’s hoping. Certainly, Ivan’s post match speech gave huge encouragement that he will be going nowhere. A Premier League striker and part of the best dressing room he has ever experienced.

It is that team spirit and bond that has got us to where we are. Has brought us back from the cliff of that most devastating of blows this time last season. Missing out on the top flight at an empty Wembley. Fulham, of all clubs, taking the final spot in the Premier League and then tamely surrendering it. That’s their problem, of course. Now the opportunity is Brentford’s. The next few months are going to be the amongst the most exciting on record. The build up incredible. The thought of hearing Peter Gilham’s voice the first time we walk out at Lionel Road, one which like the Wolves fixture, I am looking forward to as much as anything else.

You couldn’t make it up. It’s the stuff of soap operas. But it’s true. It’s happening. Brentford are now in the top, top division. And its going to be soon.

Stuart Dallas – scorer of my favourite ever Bees goal (pre-Marcondes)

Nick Bruzon

Maupay does it again. What a way to celebrate. Again.

17 Jan

Life isn’t great at the moment. Not compared to normal. The relentless grind of Lockdown and ‘that’ virus. Games played out in empty stadia. Brentford not even able to take the field at the moment due to our own training ground being closed – albeit results have gone largely in our favour whilst we’ve been away – thanks, Luton.) Yet sitting at home yesterday afternoon there was a moment to put a smile on the face once more. Delivered in the game between Leeds United and Brighton c/o that king of shithousery, Neal Maupay. A cult hero at Griffin Park to rank alongside the best of them. 

We all loved Neal. No question. That goal and celebration at Fulham. The absolute dirt that went alongside his game. Cheeky digs. Sly tugs. A side to a Brentford player we’d not seen in a long, long time. Somebody you wouldn’t want to get close to, yet had that wonderful combination of mercurial talent combined with unpredictable volatilty. Err, what Aston Villa game? He was, rightly, lauded at Griffin Park. We’d have loved him to stay but we’ve all moved on. Our loss, Brighton’s gain. Had he stayed there’d have been no Ollie Watkins up front. Win-win.

The classic Neal image? Perhaps….

Yet, as we all know, his ultimate moment was up at Elland Road. Back in October 2018, with the scores locked at 0-0 in an early season Championship pacesetter, Ollie was brutally fouled (errr) by Leeds ‘keeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell. Up stepped Neal to not only score from the spot but then celebrate in that quite wonderful style. Only he would have had the balls to take on the home contingent, arms aloft and fronting them out in the face of all manner of , understandable, abuse flying back. Cripes, had the boot been on the other foot we’d have been spewing. It was bad enough that the spot kick had been deemed questionable but this was then the ultimate indignity for the home support. A celebration to rank with the best of them and an iconic moment. 

It was a moment only bettered in the return fixture at Brentford when Neal scored again. Right in front of the away fans. He celebrated, again. Right in front of the away fans. Same pose, same stare, same abuse. Talk about king of wind up. The man has balls of steel. If anybody was looking to endear themselves to the home support then here it was. Griffin Park erupted. If it wasn’t possible to love him anymore, then here was the opportunity to do so. 

Then, Brighton came knocking and we went our separate ways. That’s football. Neal is still a fixture in my life – even if just through the medium of Fantasy Football. Then, yesterday, at Leeds United, it all came flooding back. He scored for Brighton. The Seagulls 1-0 up. The only thing missing being supporters to see the goal live. 

No matter. This is Maupay. This was Leeds. This is the man who lives for the moment. And sure enough, he did. He celebrated in the only way he knew how. Despite the fact there was nobody there to wind up. Oh, we all knew how much this meant. And it was brilliant. Never have I enjoyed a goal in a different division for a club I don’t even support so much. This one was all about the man, the moment and the place. What a way to liven up an otherwise desperate Saturday.

Thank you, Neal. Thank you for doing this.

A good news/bad news kind of start to the day.

23 Sep

Another win for Brentford. Another game unbeaten. Through to the fourth round of the league cup at the expense of a West Bromwich Albion side who may have seen this one as a chance to restore some morale. Instead, the game ended two apiece – three of the goals coming from spot kicks and Marcondes with a sublime overhead kick – before we went through 5-4 in the penalty shootout. The reward for this being a visit from either Fulham or Sheffield Wednesday in next week’s fourth round. That, and the knowledge we’ve already defeated more Premier League sides than all three of those that made the jump up from the Championship last season. Leeds United the only one of those to taste any success (and that in the game of haemorrhaging defences against the hapless Cottagers). What a shame there was nobody allowed in to see it.

Sergi amongst those to feel the Forss

The expected changes to both teams were made. For Brentford it saw a return to goal of David Raya and a start for Marcus Forss, amongst others. Rico Henry, Emiliano and the sublime Sergi Canos also getting another runout from the off (let’s hope they can manage to avoid over exertion) after doing the business against Huddersfield on Saturday. With a strong bench that was well utilised the Bees were as strong as one could have expected. Certainly given the constant procession of midweek games clubs have had no choice but to play given the way the previous campaign was extended. It still makes no sense to even be playing the competition this year but, hey-ho, player burnout is a secondary consideration I suppose.

And if we are playing it, how nice to see Brentford doing so to the best of their available ability. West Brom barely got a look in during the opening half. Canos flashing one just wide and Emiliano hitting the post from distance. Fosu impressing throughout. The hosts with the one moment of danger just before half-time with a free kick awarded on the periphery of Saunders territory. It came to nothing.

Yet if the first half had seen everything but a goal, it all changed after the tea. The hosts took the lead form the spot. Dominic Thompson adjudged to have fouled Hal Robson-Kanu. The Baggies man picking himself up to give his side the lead. It was a lead that lasted less than two minutes and one which was cancelled out in fine style. Apparently.

We say ‘apparently’. Yours truly missed out after “Doing a JJ”. The net rippling off the back of Marcondes’ quite wonderful bicycle kick as this numpty had gone for a ‘splash and dash’ . Regular readers may be aware how back in the days we were allowed into grounds, it was a feat that the Giant Scot with the Pea sized bladder used to pull off with abandon from the Ealing Road terrace (missing goals by having to go for a wee, rather than bicycle kicks). Yet after suffering the same fate for our second on Saturday , has the baton been passed? Cripes. I hope not. 

If for no other reason that having fallen behind again to another Robson-Kanu spot-kick (not seen a worse ‘pen’ decision since Pontus elected for his infamous biro) we were then given our own chance to level things up.

‘That’ BIC

Daddy”, said H (I would imagine, if his teacher is reading) “wee. Go again”. One had to be impressed by the wordplay, if not the ignominy of being banished to the bathroom. I guess if you have to go, you have to go. Sure enough, it worked. Nothing to do with Marcus Forss at all. Like the lucky shirt, magic pants and not shaving, is this a new ‘omen’ to top the lot? Urghh.

Anyway, 2-2 it stayed. David Raya pulling off a flying save relatively late on to preserve the scoreline and justify his place back in the team after injury. The Twitter hate mob seemed out for our captain for the night. Makes a change from the quite bizarre Ivan/Sergi angst being seen in certain social-media quarters. Go figure. Nothing like getting on the team’s back based on nothing more than unfounded rumour. Anyway, if you’re one of those me banging on won’t change it. And if you aren’t, then presumably its nothing more than weird. Cripes. Considering some of the dross we’ve had over the years, the current squad is light years ahead.

Something proven from the full time penalties. Goal followed goal followed goal. Ivan Toney getting things off to a fine start for a Brentford team kicking second. The pressure of following the lead always adding an extra layer of pressure but, If it was there, it didn’t show. Josh Dasilva made it 2-2 with his own ‘Jonny Wilkinson’ style run up. Fosu and Forss were there for three and four. Then, David Raya did his thing. Diangana denied and the stage set. Up stepped Christian Nørgaard and there was no mistake made. West Bromwich Albion denied. The Bees through. A visit from another of last season’s Championship rivals next on the agenda.

We find out tonight whether that will be Fulham or The Owls. Brentford looking forward rather than over their shoulders at what might have been. At what happened last campaign. When pushed on whether this win was seen as revenge, Thomas Frank noted : “That’s the past, this is the future”.

With it, comes a chance to set our own personal best in this tournament. We’ve never reached the fifth round before. That game at Birmingham City being as close as it has got in recent years. Now, we’re all set for another crack.

Before that though, there’s a chance to rest tired limbs over the next few days. Saturday sees the trip across London to face Millwall. I’d love to be going – as much for the pre-match pub crawl as the actual game. Again, an action now denied and one with no end in sight. The latest announcements from the government curtailing any experiments with letting spectators back and meaning it looks like March, at the earliest, before we can even consider attending a game. ‘For the greater good’ and all that but let’s not pretend this isn’t soul destroying. That this isn’t devastating for so many, if not all, clubs on the financial front. That football without fans present and watching on I-follow is an ersatz replacement for the real thing.

I don’t really want to end on a downer. The prospect of Preston had been dangled like a carrot. That’s now been snatched away and for the foreseeable too. Waking up and listening to the radio this morning makes for hard news. We want in. We want normal. We just want to go and watch a game of football.  We aren’t allowed. For crying out loud, wash your hands and wear a mask. Like it or not. Believe it or not. Let’s all just do this . Please. I want to watch football. Not listen to Boris giving the impression of a man making it up as he goes along.

The latest rules invoking a virus busting cut-off at 10pm mean anyone wanting to watch the Arsenal – Liverpool game down the pub on Monday night will be kicked out with the game approaching 85 minutes gone. Small consolation, I suppose. And nothing Arsenal won’t have experienced before with fans streaming out early.

Before 22.00, everything is just fine. Be warned, horror awaits straight after.

Instead, let’s end with the thought of another fine performance. Of our MOTM Marcus Forss scoring. Again. With thoughts of Brentford continuing our winning form. Of taking consolation that, had we gone up last season, we’d have missed out on being physically present for that. 

Here’s to Millwall on Saturday. See you on I-follow.

Nick Bruzon 

Thank you Huddersfield. What happens now after a fantastic Friday?

18 Jul

Oh my word. Feeling ok this morning Brentford fans? Did you sleep? How are the heads? Today could be immense. The door IS now open. The game at Stoke City no longer one about keeping pace with West Bromwich Albion but, all of a sudden, we’ve been handed the chance to overtake them. Their defeat at Huddersfield Town last night offering up the chance for us to join Leeds United in the Premier league. Excitement doesn’t even begin to describe the post match celebrations last night. Caution and potential the feeling this morning.

Huddersfield Town were immense. Their 2-1 victory earned in the most high pressure of situations. An early lead only adding to the pressure being felt in TW8 as it looked like 86 minutes of backs to the wall defence would follow. The stress levels already through the roof bwhen the Baggies equalised just before half time. Their goal looked a mile offside but all protests were in vain. The dream of an unlikely loss nice whilst it had lasted but surely there was only one winner from here? The Teriers hung on. Half time came and went. The second period being chipped away in five minute increments. The drive from West Brom relentless. It was only a matter of time before they broke through the last line of defence. 

I’ve never enjoyed a game less. At least, with Brentford, you know the players. You know who is who and what could come from a situation. Relief can be taken from confidence in whomever is on the ball. Watching a team of what, to us, were relative strangers there was no idea whether it had just been passed to a Bryan Mbeumo or a Nick Proschwitz. Was that the Huddersfield Town equivalent of Ollie Watkins looking for the ball or Murray Jones ? It was horrible. Angst unlike any I’ve ever known. The clock moving slower than Neil Shipperly. The goal for the visitors only a matter of time.

Drinks break was reached. The score still level. The inhaler clasped close to my chest. It was awful. Awful. And probably more because we could see Huddersfield getting closer to earning us the unlikely draw that would finally offer Brentford the opportunity to overtake West Bromwich Albion. Football can be cruel at times. Teasing us like this before the inevitable goal that broke our hearts. Then it came. Nature called.

I had to go. 86 minutes gone and the push from the bladder could be contained no longer. The relative safety of my lucky seat had to be abandoned before it became a commode. And on return, the most impossible thing had happened. Huddersfield Town were ahead. Oh. My. Word? How? Who got it? Frankly, who cares? The only thing that mattered was the ball in the back of the net. Amazing.

Six minutes of time added on dragged even slower than the previous 90 but the Terriers held firm. They got the points that have ensured survival and offered Brentford a most incredible lifeline. For that, we can only say a huge THANK YOU. Now it is West Brom who have matters outside their control. Destiny is in our hands. Put simply, four points from the next two games will see Brentford in the Premier League.

That’s the exciting part.The theoretical part. The incredible opportunity that we have absolutely earned following win after win after win. The moment one which was very much enjoyed last night. Putting ourselves in the box seat is the first part. Now, there’s the small matter of doing it all again. Of looking to make this 9 wins in a row. And Stoke City aren’t going to make this any easier than Town did last night. We have the chance to turn the screw but can we do it?

Right. Cards on the table time. Unquestionably yes, we can and I truly believe we will. The Bees have been relentless in recent weeks and I expect this to continue. The experience of Pontus will, of course, be invaluable. His will to win evident. His desire infectious. But around him are young charges who are chock full of confidence. Of talent. We win from the front. We come from behind. Without being arrogant, we know how good we can be when we put our minds to it. Recent results have shown that. This is a cup final but, fortunately, one not being played out at Wembley. that said, don’t even begin to imagine the stress levels on Wednesday if Stoke do end the game with something…

DSC06308

Captain Pontus – key to the spine of the team

We won’t win just by turning up. We won’t get anything by assuming we’ve a divine right to the points. This is about as high pressure a situation as they come. Yet, at the same time, the most incredible chance has been afforded us. West Bromwich Albion have been in the top two since October. The second the game kicks off today, Brentford will overtake them in the ‘As it stands’ table by virtue of a goal difference that is 12 better than the Baggies. Whether we are still there 90 minutes later is the big ask.

It won’t be easy. It probably won’t be fun. But if anyone can motivate his team to do it then Thomas Frank is that man. Roll on 12.30pm. I can’t wait for this.

 Of course, before we conclude it is only right and proper to offer congratulations to Leeds and their quite wonderful fanbase after attaining promotion to the Premier League. The top flight will be all the better for having a club of their stature back amongst the elite of British football. They’ve had a bit of a wobble but, for once, there was no falling apart. Again. Now, they are free from playing tinpot pub teams and will line up against the best in the land. Visiting the likes of Old Trafford rather than Bus Stops in London.

Before all that starts they’ve got two games left to put their feet up, give the kids a run out and even let Bielsa take a turn between the sticks. With only one other team, Brentford, able to stop them lifting the title there’s no way that six point gap can be reeled in. Is there? 

Screenshot 2020-07-18 at 08.16.00

Looking at the BBC table this morning….

Nick Bruzon

Paging Agent Devlin……

17 Jul

Well this is about as big as a ‘neutral’ game gets. With Brentford not playing Stoke City until Saturday lunchtime, Huddersfield Town have the opportunity to do both us and themselves a huge favour when West Bromwich Albion visit tonight. The maths are simple. The Baggies are one point ahead of third placed Bees with two games to go. Town are three points above the relegation zone. Anything but an ‘away’ win puts destiny in our hands after reeling in those above us over that hot streak of eight successive wins. It will also see Leeds United promoted after their own defeat of Barnsley last night. There’s only one team I’ll be cheering for this evening. And with all due respect to Romaine Sawyers…. 

Tuesday night was undeniably horrible. Had Fulham won at the Hawthorns, Brentford would have finally grasped the control we’ve fought so hard to snatch away from a team who have been in the top two pretty much all season. Whilst there was no specific support or cheering of The Cottagers, it was more a case of desperately hoping for home defeat. Preferably via an o.g. Instead, a 0-0 was the next best thing and means West Bromwich Albion have no margin for error this evening.

What a night it promises to be. Leeds United fans will, I am sure, for once be in agreement with us. If not in regards to the merits of Said Benrahma’s foul avoidance technique or their crying to the EFL about Thomas and his whiteboard, then certainly about intended results this evening. For 90 minutes we will be supporting the same team. Possibly.

And what a night it promises to be. Huddersfield Town. A team I’ve only ever loved. A club with a rich history and one we’ll be desperate to see stay up. Sir Patrick Stewart. Jodie Whittaker. Cricketer Ryan Sidebottom. Our Graham. Or is it Marco? Former Maxïmo Park keyboard player Lukas Wooller. They’ll no doubt all be cheering on their team in front of the TV.

How often can it be said we’ve shared a metaphorical couch with Doctor Who and Captain Picard? Fingers crossed that Town can ‘make it so’ tonight. Sorry. Sorry.

 

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Maxïmo Park – quite magnificent live. And great taste in football from the keyboard section.

But wait, there’s more….

Reece Dinsdale. Harold Wilson. Our own much loved former chief executive Mark Devlin, now performing the role at the John Smith’s Stadium. Let’s hope he and his crack team have a special hashtag ready for full time.

Clearly, Mark still has a soft spot for the Bees – that can be the only reason he was back as recently as January for our own hammering of the Loftus Road outfit.

The list of recognisable supporters is a long one. Even Bobby Madley was reported to be a fan of The Terriers. Apparently he also supports Huddersfield Town. Sorry. Sorry.

DSC06947

Griffin Park, January 2020. And the goals flew in…

This is that all important crunch point. Where the only thing that matters is the result. West Brom won’t care if it’s a turgid 0-1. We’ll be cock-a-hoop for any combination of draw or home win. Entertainment is secondary. Stress levels will be through the roof.

Sitting through our own game with Preston on Wednesday was all kinds of angst – the final quarter hour especially. But at least we were the ones controlling maters. Now, our fate is in the hands of somebody else. This is THE game to sit through if for no other reason than surely we aren’t going to be getting any favours midweek when the Loftus Road mob travel to the Midlands.

The realist in me can’t see West Brom missing out on any more points. Sure they’ve dropped four more in the last two games alone but now they know what they have to do.

Sure, Leeds United are as good as up, meaning that all of a sudden there’s only one ‘automatic’ spot available but that won’t play on their minds. That won’t build the pressure.

Sure, with Wigan Athletic scoring goals for fun and having already surged 12 points clear of the bottom three (the amount of points they’ll be deducted on Wednesday night), their likely safety makes the Terriers even more reliant on getting something out of this one…

This is no way as cut and dried as the table suggests. Who could forget that final round of games in the 2014-15 season? Derby County somehow choking an unchokeable position, missing out on certain play-offs after hitting self-destruct at home to Reading. Likewise Ipswich Town at Blackburn as Brentford reclaimed our own top six spot at full time. Sometimes, the results do go our way. West Bromwich Albion have it all to do against a team fighting for their lives.

Mark Devlin, if you are reading (unlikely, let’s be honest) then here’s hoping Cliff has slipped you a half and half scarf. Certainly, I’ll be supporting two teams this evening with Brentford the ones who could really benefit from the right result. Let’s be honest, there’s nothing ‘neutral’ about any of this….

picard-meme-facepalm

Here’s hoping the pressure isn’t too much

 

Nick Bruzon

Top, top football. Just two more to go….

16 Jul

And relax. For now. Brentford have done it again. This time with a hard fought 1-0 at home to Preston North End. That’s eight wins in a row and the gap to second placed West Bromwich Albion cut to a single point with two games to go. Ollie Watkins got the goal early doors, setting the scene for a stressful but solid performance to keep the visitors at bay. With us and the Baggies both facing trips to relegation threatened teams this weekend (West Brom at Huddersfield Town on Friday evening and then our own game with Stoke City the following lunchtime) there’s everything to play for heading in to the last few games.

My word that was tough. For the fans. The players looked comfortable and in control all the way through but a goal can be conceded in a moment. In a freak of nature. At the death and then all the hard work is undone. We’ve all been there too many times over the years. Thankfully, this team haven’t.

Ollie had found the back of the net with less than five minutes on the clock.  A thunderbolt of a shot on the half volley, latching on to a quite delightful ball through from Emiliano Marcondes. The Championship top scorer almost taking goalkeeper Declan Rudd’s head off as he unleashed a howitzer from just outside the corner of the six yard box with a defender bearing down.

Truly, it was class finish although as much praise is due to the build up play that saw Emiliano set a high water mark for Championship assists since the return from lockdown. Yet instead of opening the floodgates as so often happens, Preston stood firm. If anything, they came back in to the game and could probably consider themselves unlucky not to go in level. David Raya was on fine form between the sticks for his sixteenth clean sheet of the season – more than any other goalkeeper in the division. That’s when the Lilywhites got through – Christian Norgaard was as much a rock in front of the back four as Pontus Jansson was at the heart of it.

Watching on TV, you could see him bellowing, directing, guiding and shaping his team. The club captain filling the role in style. What a man to have around you in a pressure situation. How important could his experience prove over the next couple of days?

It was a stonking win, with absolute credit due to Preston. The longer the game went on the less likely it felt – to those of us watching back at home on TV – that a second goal would come. Instead, it was a case of gritted teeth and waiting for the clock to slowly wind down. Limping towards full time at almost snail like pace before a torturous five additional minutes were added on. Like being strapped to a chair and force fed Mrs. Brown’s Boys, there was palpable relief when it was all over. At least, from the fans watching at home. I’m sure the players will tell us they had no worries and it was all under control.

But for all the discomfort of watching the game from a distance, it played out wonderfully. The final score at full time shows it ended 1-0 to Brentford and the record books won’t give a damn that Preston did everything possible to keep there own play-off dream alive. The table doesn’t lie and we’re that single point behind West Bromwich Albion.

Having reached a place where we are now breathing down the neck of a team who were ten points ahead of us before the season took that mid-season hiatus, can we go that bit further? To come out of a game like that with the win is a sign of our top, top football. Our spirit. Our never say die approach.

To an extent, control is still out of our hands. Favours are still required. Even assuming we fulfil our part of the bargain, we are still beholden on assistance from Huddersfield Town or the Loftus Road mob. Could it really be a tale of two Marks to help get the Bees over the line? Chief executive Devlin or manager Mark respectively. 

That’s to come though. And all out of our hands. Even Thomas Frank admitted he’d be watching the game on Friday – but only because he’d have nothing else to do on the coach to Stoke.

We’ll be with you Thomas . In mind if not body.

Nick Bruzon

Like watching Mrs. Brown’s Boys.

15 Jul

Three games to go. Brentford host Preston North End this evening knowing that, should we win, Thomas Frank and his team will be just one point behind West Bromwich Albion with two to play. That, after The Baggies’ 0-0 bore draw at home to Fulham last night. 90+ minutes we’ll never get back after sitting through a tepid game between two teams that seemed to be doing their level best not to concede a goal. The net result being the Cottagers are now reliant on mathematical improbability in their own hunt for ‘automatic’ whilst West Brom have a trip to relegation threatened Huddersfield Town on Friday evening. Yet all that is irrelevant if we can’t fulfil our own side of the equation and that begins at 5pm with the hunt for an eighth successive victory.

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Time we’ll never get back

There’s not really much one can say. For once, I’m with Thomas Frank in the not wanting to look ahead stakes. There is only one thing to focus on and that is absolutely the job in hand. If nothing else, Preston will themselves consider this their own last hurrah in a play-off push that at one time looked nailed on but has now come off the rails somewhat since we emerged from the other-side of Lockdown. Their only win since the return came at Sheffield Wednesday last week and they now find themselves five points outside the top six with inferior goal difference. Tonight really is ‘win or bust’ for the Deepdale outfit.

For Brentford, a win would be a staggering achievement. If not so much for the continued good form as the position it would then put us in. We’ve everything to play for and nothing to lose. West Bromwich Albion and Leeds United have held the top spots for so long that nobody expects them to slip up. Yet, slowly, we’ve reeled them both in. A play-off spot is already assured and so there’s nothing to lose by just going for it. In showing more of that relentless ‘never say die’ approach. 

I’d love to be there tonight. It’s not possible for any of us. But the couch is prepared. The goal sweets are in place. There’s beer in the fridge. No amount of talk, hype or conjecture can change it or influence the result. All we can do is enjoy it. Take pleasure from the brand of football our team continue to play.

One can’t blame West Brom for taking their point. Destiny is still in their own hands. But after making the emotional investment in ‘home defeat’ – something which would have required a Fulham goal –  almost anything would be better than watching that again. A tired trip through the motions in the guise of enjoyment that left the viewer feeling disappointed and dirty.

If Mrs. Brown’s Boys did football?

MRS BROWN'S BOYS

Despair was the feeling

Nick Bruzon 

Strange times call for strange bedfellows. Paging Brian Guest…..

14 Jul

West Bromwich Albion host Fulham tonight. Brentford entertain Preston tomorrow. Whilst the theoretical chance to go top, midweek, was taken away by Leeds United nabbing an 89th minute winner on Sunday, there is still a very real possibility we could head into the weekend sitting in an automatic position. For that, two things needs to happen. A win for the Bees on Wednesday and, say this quietly, victory for the Cottagers this evening. Even thinking about that feels wrong but for the greater good, lets all crack open a Victoria sponge, pour a large G&T then see what plays out at 5pm.

With The Baggies three points ahead and Fulham two behind, the most realistic chance of either West London side taking an automatic position starts with a win for The Cottagers. Equally, West Bromwich Albion know exactly how much closer to the finish line victory will take them and I can only see them going for it. Regardless of their own ability when the moment arrives, Fulham look awful at the moment. Our own 2-0 win in the first match post lockdown has seen the wheels coming off and they were also swept aside at Leeds United. Games with the good teams seem to be somewhat of a challenge. The only hope here seems to be what looks like a paper thin West Brom defence which, but for goalkeeper Sam Johnstone, should have been down and out rather than taking the draw at Blackburn on Saturday. 

It’s all well and good talking theory but it still relies on a win for Fulham. And in the normal course of events nobody wants that. Do they? Well, perhaps one person does. At this juncture it seems an appropriate time to share something I published at Christmas (in the matchday programme rather than online)…..

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My name is Brian Guest and I support Fulham. Except of course it’s not and I don’t. Yet in this season of peace on Earth and goodwill to all, I’d like to give my own Festive gift to our guests. A confession and, perhaps more importantly, a vital lesson in being extremely careful that the person you are speaking to via the internet is actually who they say they are. Moreso when you outsource your programme content to a third party provider. Based in Liverpool.

Back in January 2017, Fulham ‘official’ put out a tweet looking for supporters to complete a brief Q&A for the ‘My club’ section of their matchday magazine. Anybody interested should contact the aforementioned Merseyside publication house via email. With nothing to lose, a message was sent from an account in the name of a Mr. B. Guest expressing interest.

Quicker than you can say ‘Neutral Stand’ , a reply was received : Hi Brian. If you could answer the attached and return it with a jpeg pic of yourself, we’ll let you know which programme it will go in.

No? Surely not? It couldn’t be that easy, could it? Fearing this too good to be true, I consulted a fellow Bees supporter who we’ll just call ‘Mr. Griffiths ‘ to protect his identity (that should fool them, Tim). We both came to the conclusion that there was nothing to lose and so the next morning a reply was sent. Including the requested picture although, because it had all been too easy so far, why not really push the boat out and use my own pen pic from the Brentford programme column of that season? The one wearing our Spall ‘87-‘88 away shirt.

And then that morning, less than 24 hours after putting the balls in motion, the following response was received:  Thanks Brian. A while off, but you’ll be in the Brentford programme on the last day of the season. Quite apt given they were your first game?

Quite apt? The reaction was one akin to the moment Stuart Dallas hit ‘that’ shot in our 4-1 Championship win at the Cottage. At which point , and after a brief catch up with ‘Tim’, the pair of us had to then maintain a lips sealed silence for the next three months. Not so much to stop Fulham finding out but more to really try and deliver a surprise for our own fans who, on seeing the answers, would hopefully twig. And so come April, with the secret told only to a few the night before, the stage was set.

My word. They bit. Hook, line and sinker. It was printed in full. Even the photo. Space precludes us from sharing the full article but choice extracts included:

First game? 26 April, 1992. Division 3. Away at Brentford. 4-0 down at halftime. At least the second half was 0-0. A baptism of fire. Obviously the score line wasn’t the best (I suppose like saying that the Titanic had stability issues) but what an atmosphere. I’ll never forget it and have been hooked ever since.

First shirt? Unusually enough, I’ve never owned a replica home shirt. That said, I’ve got a soft spot for the 2001 Pizza Hut kit. A perfect symmetry between sponsor and supporter – who doesn’t love a stuffed crust after a game?

Favourite game? Can I cheat and have two? Winning the two-legged Intertoto cup final in 2002 against Bologna. What an honour, what prestige and what a reward as it meant Fulham earned full European qualification for the first time ever.

A game you’d like to forget? Continuing an earlier theme (sorry) but definitely the 1-4 home loss to Brentford in April 2015. Given Fulham’s long top flight status the chance to avenge that first ever game had been a long time coming. Not so much a dish ‘best served cold’ as more one best served up to the river rats.

Favourite goal? Dickson Etuhu vs. Blackpool 3 April 2011 capped a brilliant day for me. A 3-0 win for The Whites whilst, of course, Michael Jackson’s statue was officially unveiled before kick off.

Favourite season? 2009-10 Established in the Premier League under Roy Hodgson, Fulham got all the way to the final of the Europa League beating Juventus along the way. The journey may have ended in defeat but what an incredible season.

Greatest sacrifice to watch the Whites? Giving up two tickets to the World Polo Championship final in California to see Fulham play Bournemouth in August 1998. It was a 0-0 draw . Argentina beat Brazil in the Polo, for the record.

Pre-match ritual? I used to go up to the statue and touch Michael Jackson but these days I cannot leave the house unless I’ve watched an episode of Pointless. It’s not a prematch prediction (LOL) but in honour of the legend that is celebrity fan Richard Osman.

I’d like to thank Mr. Griffiths for his help. Specifically around Dickson Etuhu and the Polo. Most of all, I’d like to thank Fulham. Whilst Mr. Osman may deem a game with the rivals to be an irrelevance, certainly if you believe what you read on social media, for me there’s no finer team to mug in their own backyard. Dallas did Fulham and Maupay had his moment but for me, Clive, it’s all about Brian Guest.

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Brian Guest – thanks, Fulham

Nick Bruzon

We are now in virgin territory. Have all jinxes been reset?

11 Jul

Nooooooo. With Brentford sitting pretty in the Championship, disaster has struck. I don’t give a monkey about Leeds United beating Stoke City 5-0 on Thursday night. Well done. Seriously. You’re going to make it up now and won’t throw it from here. West Bromwich Albion are the team to go for. Nor do I particularly care that Fulham won last night, taking them third on the basis of having played their game earlier than the rest. If we are to have any realistic hope of that automatic place then we need to win today. Something that will also see us climb back above the Cottagers. Those are the facts of the situation yet none are anything compared to the curveball delivered on Friday  morning. Ahead of our trip to Wayne Rooney’s Derby County, Thomas Frank has only been declared the winner of June’s ‘Manager Of The Month’ award. 

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Congratulations, Thomas

Nooooooo. We all know what this means. The ‘jinx’ of Manager of the Month is now in play. A piece of footballing folklore even older than ‘the curse of Clem’ is now lurking in the wings. That one, seeing a visit from everyone’s favourite roving reporter for a Football League Show / Football Focus feature normally followed by a defeat or draw. Something statistically demonstrated on these pages during our Clemwatch feature over season 2014-15 and which, equally, does no harm to remind ourselves of. If only for what came next.

Starting with short term Leeds United manager David Hockaday (who saw his new team lose 2-0 at Millwall) and finished with the consummate example of the Clem effect as Bournemouth scooped the Championship title at the expense of promotion rivals rival Watford. The Hornets lead with all other results going their way, the title was in their grasp. With the BBC showing 90 minutes, Sheffield Wednesday proved themselves the ultimate party poopers as Atdhe Nuhiu levelled things up for the Owls in stoppage time. And there it finished at 1-1. The title lost, with the final goal. All under Clem’s watchful eye. In 30 features, the Clem ‘team’ only won 7(seven) times.

Clem table rd 11 ipswich

Behind bars but no escape from ‘the curse’

Yet that worm has then turned and how. No sooner had The Football League show run it’s course than things changed for the better. A complete 180 was performed and these days a visit from Clem comes with victory as good as assured. He has gone from albatross to some form of footballing St.Bernard. A rescue dog – bringing three points rather than a barrel of brandy slung around his neck. Something that has been proven time and again in recent campaigns. Most notably just a week ago after we thumped Wigan Athletic 3-0.

And if Clem proves that things can change, then how about Manager of the Month? My word, if anyone has the confidence and the talent to do this then it is Thomas Frank. The togetherness he has inspired was demonstrated in the award photo which , rather than the typical pose of manager holding trophy, was a shot of the set up at Jersey Road. Head coach and Club staff as one.  

Then chuck in to the mix the fact that winning the award in June is surely a first? Ordinarily, May sees the final Manager Of The Month prize handed out. The extension of the season has meant that we are now in virgin territory. Have all omens been reset? Could this be a chance for this most feared of prizes to rebrand itself it in the public eye?

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Thomas and Clem prove that positivity can triumph. Things can change for the better

 Whatever else, scooping this one shows just what we have achieved. How solid a unit we have been to date. The performance against Charlton on Tuesday night proved that. The Addicks were unbreakable for huge swathes of the game yet Brentford kept going and going.

Patient. Calm. Never panicking. Thomas galvanising his troops and showing them his whiteboard. Benrahma coming ever closer until finally we were level. Then we were ahead.

The last few minutes of that one were played out with a level of calm which was far too at odds with the pressure of the situation. That’s Thomas Frank, though. He inspires. He exudes confidence. Positivity emanating from every pore. And it is infectious.

Whilst probably not the word of choice at present, it is the most apt I can think of to describe his Thomas Frank effect. We’re going to win today. We’re going to take Brentford back up to third place. And whilst I’d expect West Bromwich Albion to triumph at Blackburn Rovers, if the Ewood Park outfit are to have any hope of reaching the play-offs then their own victory today is essential.

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Thomas does his thing

Thomas may not be a man for permutations. He has made it quite clear he only cares what his team do. The table gets nothing more than a cursory glance. Us fans are anything but. We know what other results can do. We have a permanent eye on them. For crying out loud, I even sat through Leeds United v Stoke during the week. That’s two hours I’ll never get back. There were only two teams in that game – Leeds and United. 

Will they improve enough to stop Brentford? Can Thomas Frank inspire his team to even bigger and better things. Will Phillip Cocu have delivered the mother of all team talks to fire his boys up? If nothing else, they are only three points off the play-off zone and so have more than enough incentive, despite recent results.

Oh, I wish I could be at this one. Instead, its a TV game for us. For everyone. Although a game made all the more challenging in our house by the fact that we have longstanding plans with friends and so can’t even watch it live. The bringing forward of the game to lunchtime a final straw in the coffin of being able to watch it. Instead, it’ll be a case of ‘phones off’, hitting ‘record’ and thing going into ‘Likely Lads’ mode. Then hoping we don’t stumble across it somehow.     

Hmmmm.

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Togetherness – my abiding image of the season to date

Nick Bruzon

Thomas and Trevor play the opposition like a fiddle. No pressure, Leeds….

9 Jul

What else can we say? The shockwaves from a quite magnificent win for Brentford over Charlton Athletic on Tuesday are still rumbling. Not so much about the strength of character and barrel load of guts shown by the team but more due to the predictable yet always brilliant reaction from Leeds United supporters. This time, in regards to Thomas Frank and his whiteboard. And if they were feeling the pressure after that, I daren’t even look at social media following yesterday’s win for West Bromwich Albion against Wayne Rooney’s Derby County. The stress levels in Yorkshire when Stoke City visit tonight could be immense.

There was no column yesterday. A relief for many, no doubt. This was for no more a reason than needing to catch up on some sleep after what had been a brutal yet ultimately exciting evening in front of the telly. Charlton got the early goal – our first conceded sine Joe Ralls found the net for Cardiff City in February (and just pause to think how far back that was)  –  then put down the shutters. The game managed beautifully by The Addicks and Brentford seeing all attempts at creativity stifled. Half time coming and going before we knew what had happened. The clock moving ever onward and the mood in the Midlands getting lighter by the second. And then came the moment which hanged the game. THAT hydration break…..

With games now interrupted for players to take on water at the midway point, Thomas Frank seized his moment. Along with the water bottles, out came his whiteboard and magnets. With the players taking on fluids, an impromptu review of tactics played out in front of our eyes. I say tactics, it could just as easily been an attempt to figure out the seating plan for the coach trip to Derby or decide who was going to take Ian Moose his full time snacks. Who knows what was said… 😉

 

And it was this that sent the Leeds United fans off the deep end. Twitter was awash with salty tears, cries of foul play, shouts of tin-pottery and a swathe of accusations that our head coach was somehow cheating. Hello Mr Kettle. Is somebody feeling the stress? With Brentford sitting just three points behind the Elland Road outfit and four to play, their game at home to relegation threatened Stoke City this evening will be absolutely huge.

The GPG have since released what they believe to be a transcript of the conversation that played out. If you haven’t seen it (surely everyone has) then it is below. And if you have, then watch it again. Quite magnificent. Great work Trevor and symptomatic of how much we are enjoying the wave of pressure that others seems to be struggling with at the business end of the table.

Yet whatever it was that Thomas did say had the desired effect. Man of the match (I presume) Josh Dasilva  creating mayhem down the right. Benrahma coming closer and closer with each attempt on goal before he was eventually felled in the box, picked himself up and made it 1-1 with a quarter hour to go. From that point on there was only one winner. Josh Dasilva saw a shot from distance bounce clear off the top corner as the Bees pushed on. Eventually, Ethan Pinnock grabbing the decisive goal with five minutes to go. A corner taken short (not a typo) was whipped in and rather than provide his customary assist, he went one better and steer it past the ‘keeper with a fine header. Oh. My.

It was a victory achieved in the toughest of circumstances abasing opponents who played a first class game and cause so close to themselves securing at least one point. Charlton gave it their best and will presumably remain safe. A win for Stoke City this evening probably the last thing they’ll be hoping for. 

In the end Derby County were unable to do us, or themselves, any favours last night. West Bromwich Albion swept them aside with all the ease of Ian Moose reaching for a slice of cake at half-time. The Rams at least offering hope ahead of our own visit to Pride Park on Saturday in their looking totally inept .

That, a game I’m dreading for no more reason than Thomas Frank has this morning been nominated for June’s manager of the month award. With Brentford boasting that 100% win record   and cleaner sheets than Danny Baker doing his doorstep challenge, he’ll be doing well to miss out on this one. And we all know what happens next time out should a manager scoop the award.

Then again, we beat the curse of Clem against Wigan Athletic. What’s to say that, should he triumph, we can’t beat this one either? The way Brentford are playing at the moment, nothing would surprise me.

The one thing we can be sure of is that Derby can’t possibly be as anonymous as they were last night. With the play-offs still in their sights, this is going to take everything we’ve got. And I can’t wait. Bring it on.

See you on the couch this Saturday.

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Trevor (and Thomas) play Leeds’ fans like a fiddle

Nick Bruzon