Tag Archives: Liam Walker

Get the goal, slow it down and secure the win. Easy !! And a possible ‘best ever’ shirt.

26 Mar

Well that was some weekend. Despite Brentford not being in action due to International weekend, the cause of our lay off has not been without it’s talking points. Alan Judge completed an emotional return to the Republic of Ireland team despite his side going down in Turkey. England fans completed an embarrassing return to Amsterdam despite the team going on to register a win. Over in Gibraltar, Liam Walker of Notts County scored the only goal of the game as the boys from the Rock beat Latvia 1-0, despite never having previously registered a win as a full member of FIFA. Get in you beauties! And could Andreas Bjelland be turning out in the mother of all shirts for Denmark tomorrow night?

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What a win for Gibraltar

We can only start with Gibraltar. Despite being 16/1 to beat a Latvia team who sit 75 places above them in the FIFA rankings, a return to the Victoria Stadium across the road from the airport after a two year soujourn in Portgual came with the most wonderful of results.

You can’t ask for anything more than a clean sheet, a goal and a win on your return home. And that’s what we got. Liam Walker stepping up after a tense game to hit the most delicious of dead ball winners, Sam Saunders style, with the clock almost at it’s denouement.

What a moment.  A first victory on home soil. A first victory as a FIFA member. A first clean sheet in, erm, some years. Regular readers to these pages will know of Gibraltar’s goals ‘against’ being the international equivalent of Birmingham City or Leeds United. Fishing the ball out of the net has been a lot easier then putting it in there. A statement that is made with absolutely zero offence intended. A statement made by somebody who has played (badly) at the same stadium that Walker made his mark and who was there as Belgium went beyond brackets late last summer.

The strides that Gibraltar have made on the international stage since becoming members of UEFA in 2013, for a nation of their size, have been vastly impressive. Both at international and also club level where Celtic were, of course, beaten by Lincoln red Imps in a 2016 Champions League Qualifier

And now we have a win. This is a moment of huge significance and how appropriate that it is Liam Walker who should get the goal. The record cap holder and, with this strike, heading to the top of the scoring charts. Whilst the Chipolinas and Casciaros of this world are, perhaps, the household names it is Walker who is currently ploughing a lone furrow as Gibraltar’s ‘export’ to the English football league.

Plying his trade for a Notts County team very much at the business end of the League Two table. A Notts County team that knocked Brentford out of the FA Cup in the third round and for whom Walker came on to the Griffin Park pitch to shore things up late on when the teams met back in January. We noted then his prowess and now it has been demonstrated in the most visible and global of styles.

Get the goal, slow it down and secure the win. Next stop, the Nations League in the autumn. Easy. In theory. I can’t wait.

The. Moment. Danny Higginbotham, eat your heart out

Before that is the World Cup. Whilst Ireland didn’t make it this time, we can’t let the moment of Alan Judge’s return to international football pass without mention. If Gibraltar’s win was of huge national significance, Alan’s own appearance was equally significant – purely for personal reasons.

We all know how he was set for Euro 2016 until that horrific assault at Portman Road left him with a double leg break that has taken the best part of two years to recover from. It is a journey that we have all taken alongside him in spirit although one cannot begin to envisage the tremendous psychological and mental fortitude that has been required to get him through what must have been some dark hours. Let alone the physical recovery.

Alan’s tweet – simple but beautiful

To see Alan put on a Brentford shirt once more has been a thing of beauty for Bees fans. Yet to see him in his national shirt really was the icing on the cake. Congratulations, Alan. What an honour and what a moment. Here’s to the next set of qualifiers…

The current round of friendlies concludes this Tuesday with Andreas Bjelland, Henrik Dalsgaard and their Denmark team entertaining Chile. Ordinarily, I’d call this as April fool but we’re a few days early. However, it would seem that when they  run out against Alexis Sanchez and co, the Danes will be wearing a quite unique shirt. One that celebrates their heritage and has been, apparently, put together by the fans based on classics over the years.

I hope this is true. It’s so bad it’s brilliant. Very much the Nicolas Cage of football shirts.

I’d love one.  

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Is this for real ? Wow !!

Nick Bruzon

Success for Gibraltar in FA Cup. Defeat for Brentford at home to Notts County.

7 Jan

Brentford 0 Notts County 1. A result that it sure to cause a few rumblings on the Richter scale of FA Cup shocks. None moreso than because it means Gibraltar, currently placed 205th in the FIFA World Rankings, have representation in the fourth round. Size and reputation counted for nothing with talismanic Gibraltarian International Liam Walker proving key to the Magpies’ cause. He came on at the death to ensure County broke Brentford hearts and condemn the Bees to defeat despite throwing the proverbial kitchen sink at the visitors. A shame it hadn’t happened 90 minutes earlier.

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There had been so much optimism before kick off

I’ve seen Liam in action twice this season and neither appearance has been a happy time for the Brentford. The first being the occasion of a World Cup qualifier at the end of August. Despite his best efforts – very much the star performer for Gibraltar in that one – Belgium finished it by taking their visitors beyond brackets and close to double figures with a 9-0 win in Liège.

It was the same day Maxime Colin and Jota joined Harlee Dean in the triple transfer to Birmingham City. Fortunately, things would eventually settle down for the Bees on that front and form would return, quite spectacularly. Not so much for the Blues. Equally spectacularly.

On Saturday, the boot was on the other foot. It was the away team, again inspired by Walker, who came away with a result that the bookmakers had failed to anticipate. It was the home team – picked by Dean Smith – with a performance that was dialed in against one of spirit, fight and a desire to win that the Bees had failed to anticipate. They’ll have been dancing in the streets of Gibraltar last night.

That, or Sax II.

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Yet it proves, yet again, what happens when you underestimate the opposition. See also: Walsall at home in the third round two seasons ago. As expected, changes were made but there was enough first team experience in the starting XI and on the bench to have done better. Much better. It was an opportunity for players to step up, seize the opportunity and shine. Sadly, the only ones to do that were Notts County.

All the talk in the media would be of Jon Stead’s goal. True, it was very special. Yet it should have been as much about Notts County putting in a complete and consistent team performance. From the moment of kick off to the Walker inspired denouement. The Magpies showed it in spades. The Bees looked second best.

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All over at full time – Walker the winner.

Dean Smith would use his post match interviews to declare, “It was probably not what we deserved”, adding “I thought we had the lion’s share of possession and bossed the game for large periods. I certainly didn’t think we deserved to lose.”

As has been said oh so many times, that’s just not how football works. I’ve got huge respect for Dean but he’s wrong on this one. Chances count for nothing. Neither do possession stats. Balls in the back of the net are the only thing that matters as a means of measuring progress to the fourth round on paper.

For the record, the game ended with possession of 53%- 47% in our favour. Less a Lion’s share and more a narrow margin. The goal charts ended 1-0 in Notts’ favour. Equally narrow but that’s all they needed.

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At least Buzz and Buzzette got their hands on the cup

I suppose we can concentrate on the league. And that IS a good thing from some respects. IF we are going to go for it. The gap to the bottom three surely already too huge whilst the play-offs are just six points away. A concerted surge towards the top and this will be nothing more than a statistic in the record books. At least, for our top brass.

Yet for the fans, the FA Cup is still huge. And the chance for a run in this oldest of tournaments is always something to get supporters salivating. Tin foil trophies had been made in the morning. Some long journies undertaken to get to Griffin Park.

We had the ability to win it but too often the Bees looked out of shape. Captain Josh McEachran unable to lift his team. With Lasse Vibe and Andreas Bjelland missing (in the the club shop), Ryan Woods missing (in the pub, but on the soft drinks) and Nico Yennaris just missing, we lacked our solid spine. Players had the chance to make a name for themselves. They didn’t take it.

On the flip side, Emiliano Marcondes, making his debut, showed those first flashes of the potential we have all read so much about. Indeed, but for that Walker inspired backs-to-the-wall performance in the final few moments, things could have been different when the Dane’s header came back off the post.

But with County looking solid as The Rock, not even the wonderful Alan Judge could make a difference. He looked sharp, fit and fast as he made a long overdue and thrilling return to the side. There was no challenge shirked and one moment of genius to free fellow substitute Ollie Watkins that had the crowd on their feet, anticipating a goal. Sadly, it wasn’t to be.

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Alan Judge in full flow – very much a sight for sore eyes

We’ve lost in the Cup before. We’ll do it again. The saddest thing about Saturday was that lessons of the past should have been learned. Yet when the club hadn’t even put FA patches on the first team shirts, perhaps our longevity in this tournament was pre-ordained.

At home, our own third round ritual of making the tinfoil trophy ended with it the replica cup being consigned to, then retrieved from, the dustbin. “Daddy. Do we have to throw it away? Can’t we keep it for next year?” asked HB. Not even I’m that mean and so it was duly salvaged. With optimism like that, it’s tough to be overly despondent this morning. It’s just a shame we’ll have to wait 365 days to feel it once again.

All that remains to be said is congratulations to Notts County, Liam Walker and Gibraltar. The FA Cup loves to throw up a story and with the Magpies in wonderful league form too, could this be the year they are the underdogs to make a run towards Wembley?  The year that Gibraltar, whose previous international ‘highlights’ include conceeding the faster ever International goal (Christian Benteke in 8.1 seconds in the opposite fixture with Belgium) and equalising against minnows Scotland in a Euro 2016 qualifier at Hampden Park, make that next step up on the World stage?

That’s my one consolation from this one. And I’m clinging to it.

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A solitary Gibraltarian flag held aloft at Griffin Park

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Another Brentford cup run consigned to the wastebin of Griffin Park history

Nick Bruzon

Climbing to new heights. Newcastle tickets on sale as Gibraltar start World Cup life

7 Sep

Championship football is getting closer once more. Brentford fans can take solace in the fact that Newcastle United tickets go on sale today (Wednesday) whereas this time next week we’ll have played in Brighton and be about to set off for Aston Villa. And in the World Cup qualifiers, to run off yesterday’s piece, we have the info from the Gibraltar – Greece tie. And it wasn’t what you might have expected.

We’ll keep it brief today, though. Newcastle tickets go on sale at 10. Brentford ‘official’ have full details although the pertinent points seem to be that we have plenty. An initial allocation of 2,330 with the option on a further block of 870 to push us over the 3,000 mark. If needed. Season Ticket holders seem to be amply catered and so, all  being well, that dance train ticket purchase  / gamble wit the TV schedules will reap its reward.

The other point of note being that tickets are in Level 7 (seven). For once, the clarifying brackets needed. Rather than pitch side, level 1, we’re up high. Very high. Anybody who has been to St. James Park before will know to bring oxygen and crampons given the height of The Leazes stand in which we will be housed.

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Breathing gear. Check. Ropes. Check

At least we are behind the goal rather than in the top corner and will be no further from the action than at the back of London’s Olympic stadium. Interestingly, and you may not realise, that a ground which West Ham United moved to over the summer. If only somebody had mentioned it. A poor job from the media in failing to keep us properly informed .

Anyway, the club site has all the info and you can read it here. Phone lines and ticket booking open at 10am but there really do seem to be plenty to go around.

As for Gibraltar, it was a good game. Sure, Greece may have ended up as 1-4 winners but it was only a mini collapse before half time, which resulted in a three goal gap, that was the difference between the two sides.

In terms of performance, the boys from the Rock had definitely upped their game and gave as good as the got. This was by no means the one sided walkover most observers would have expected whilst Liam Walker’s equaliser was a fine effort.

But, as ever, goals not guts win games. I can’t wait for Gibraltar to continue taking these progressive steps and secure a first point. Or better. Rather than seeing themselves plucky losers for whom national pride is the thing, why not see themselves for what they are – a tight knit bunch of great players with the ability to cause an upset or two along the way. And then beyond.

The mini meltdown that saw the score go from 1-1 on 44 minutes to 1-4 at half time was inexplicable. Prior to then, things had been level. Even after that, the team still had their chances to reduce the deficit.

Instead, it is another ‘nil points‘ although, hopefully, a bit of a warning shot across the bows of their rivals. Gibraltar won’t just roll over and die. 45th minute aside.

As a final thought, stadium requirements dictate that home games need to be played in Portugal. Simple logistics mean this is often in front of a sparse crowd. Whilst, geographically speaking, Spain is next door for obvious reasons that can’t be used.

Why not take the team on the road? London is just a short flight away and the amount of ex-pats  / keen observers in England alone would be sure to stick a few more on the gate. International football at Brentford? Whether Griffin Park or Lionel Road?

I’ve heard crazier ideas…

Nick Bruzon

Could Gibraltar – Germany see the biggest upset since records began?

13 Jun

Whilst I would imagine most Brentford eyes are going to be on Stuart Dallas and Northern Ireland’s attempt to beat group leaders Romania in the Euro qualifiers tonight, there is an alternative. And in one of football’s most unlikely yet romantic fixtures, it sees Gibraltar entertain Germany in Group D.

I talked about Gibraltar many times last season (all of which are in the 2014/15 review) with the reverse fixture in Germany, back in November, being one of the highlights. Despite Liam Walker almost scoring a stunner for the boys from the Rock with a dipping shot from 35 yards that left Manuel Neuer furiously backpedalling to just beat out for a corner, the World Champions eventually ran out 4-0 victors.

Gibraltar come close to one of the goals, and shocks, of the season.

It was a game that Germany boss Joachim Löw had gone into full of bellicose confidence, promising at the time, “ There will be many attacking players on the pitch tomorrow. We don’t need four defenders at the back. We need players to set the tone up front.”

Instead he was left to rue coming up against a resolute opposition as he was forced to admit, “We wanted to play as world champions and four goals are too few”.

Things have moved on for Gibraltar since that night. They’ve already dropped the bracketings that saw their opening qualifiers end in 7(seven)-0 defeats whilst, last time out against Scotland, they scored their first international goal as Lee Casciaro levelled things up 18 minutes into the game. Whilst Scotland went on to win, things are definitely improving on the pitch for European football’s newest member.

Sky Sports viewers saw Lee Casciaro make history for Gibraltar in Scotland

Sky Sports viewers saw Lee Casciaro make history for Gibraltar in Scotland

So what does it mean for tonight? Well, Joachim Löw was certainly a lot more understated about his team’s chances than last time out in the final press conference before the game. Acknowledging that, “The matches against Australia and USA proved that there is a means of killing our game early on, which makes it hard for us.” has he given Gibraltar a clue about the approach they should take?

For me, it is another ‘nothing to lose’ chance for this team to find their feet on the international stage. Löw was honest enough to admit that last time out, “It wasn’t an easy game. They’re tactically astute and we found it tough for long periods” before going on to hope that Germany “score lots of goals”.

So – strangle the game, and catch them on the break. Indeed, the pressure of knowing that not only do they need to win, but win heavily, can do strange things to a team currently fighting it out with Scotland for second and third place. The difference between automatic qualification for the finals and play off against, potentially, Netherlands or Ukraine is a huge one.

Could it happen for Gibraltar tonight? It would be the biggest upset since records began but then I said something similar last time out. Probably.

One thing’s for sure, they’ll be giving it their all and will have an entire nation behind them. I just wonder how far the tentacles of Matthew Benham’s statistical model reach?

Tonight Sky Sports 5; tomorrow Griffin Park? You never know….

Gibraltar have packed their boots.What about the defensive wall?

Gibraltar have packed their boots.What about the defensive wall?

Flaccid mannschaft fails to excite as Gibraltar rock Germany

15 Nov

Well that was unexpected. Gibraltar travelled to Germany and more than held their own against the World Champions in Friday’s EURO 2016 qualifier. With the German fans prepping their calculators and leafing through the record books in anticipation of a goal fest, they were left more than disappointed after limping to a 4-0 win.

To read the rest of this article, season 2014/15 is now available to download onto Kindle (and other electronic reading device) in full. Containing additional material and even some (poor) editing, you can get it here for less than the cost of a Griffin Park matchday programme or Balti Pie.

 Thanks for reading and all your comments over the course of the season. For now, I need to make more space on the site for any follow up. However, ‘close season’ will continue in full, further along.

Even the BBC helped recognise the occasion ahead of kick off

Even the BBC helped recognise the occasion ahead of kick off