Tag Archives: Lionel Road

That Sky One Harchester United thing. Dear Sky TV, Andy Ansah, Richie et al….

3 May

These pages usually talk about Brentford FC but, occasionally, we look further afield than Griffin Park. Today is just one of those. It is a time when we need to look back to look forward. And also ask the question – is it time for a footballing renaissance?

That Sky One Harchester United thing”. Not my words but those of Absolute Radio DJ Richie Firth, talking on Wednesday morning’s Christian O’Connell Breakfast show. Regular readers may well be aware of, amongst other things, the show’s role in resolving the Cameron Diaz / Brentford story (something which, for the record, our own club commentator par-excellence Mark Burridge also had a hand in at one point).

But this was not a discussion about celebrity fans (or lack of). Instead, it was talk of actor Ricky Whittle and his current role in TV series American Gods. The actor, who has also appeared in Hollyoaks and on Strictly Dancing, is probably best known for playing Ryan Naysmith on what Richie had called That Sky One Harchester United thing. Or, of course, Dream Team.

Ahh, Dream Team. Running for ten series, the show was centred around the ongoing and progressively more outlandish events at fictional football club Harchester United. Combining real life stadia and action (often Leicester City, Chelsea or Everton but with the contrast turned up to make their blue shirts look like Harchester’s purple) the show was as loved for its crazy plots as the frequent use of celebrity cameos. From Ron Atkinson to John Barnes, even one time Bee’s boss Steve Coppell had a go at channeling his inner Marlon Brando. It wasn’t good.

Yet perhaps the most famous of these actors was another former Bee (and member of our ‘top ten moustaches‘ club), Andy Ansah. Forget his later work on ‘Street Striker’ or numerous films and adverts though. For me his crowning glory was six series reciting variants of: ‘Get warmed up lads’ and ‘Alright, Gaffer?’ whilst playing himself, as the club’s first team coach.

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Ansah – wonderful Tekkers

I caught up with Andy a few years ago whilst writing a ‘Where Are They Now’ article for the Griffin Park match day programme. It goes without saying that the main topic of conversation was this wonderful, wonderful show. It was a truly privileged behind the scenes insight (and you can read more below) but, if I’m being equally honest, since finishing in 2007 the show has slipped from most people’s memory.

But then Wednesday saw Richie do his thing, even taking to Twitter where he noted, “Everytime I pass the Dragon’s Lair on the train at Millwall I get misty eyed. Bring it back @sky1”

Boom. Quicker than you could say Karl Fletcher, Lynda Block or Luis Amor-Rodriguez (think of a low budget Jota) the memories came flooding back.

Murder at the FA Cup final. The plane crash. The coach crash. The coach explosion at the Millennium Stadium. Liverpool (the real Liverpool) being linked in the papers with a £3.5 million swoop for Didier Baptiste back in 1999. Cue much egg on face when it transpired they weren’t actually bidding for a Monaco player but actually looking at a character from a TV show.

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L-R, John Black, Luis Amor-Rodriguez, Karl ‘Fletch’ Fletcher, Sean Hocknell

It wasn’t just me. Pick of the highlights to subsequently flood Twitter was that of @JohnDryden1 who noted: Lawlor in goal? That must of been after Jamie Parker held his team mates at gun point in the changing room.

As you do.

But now, ten years on, is it time to bring back Dream Team? Does Richie, a one time self-proclaimed soothsayer of scores, have his finger on the footballing pulse once again?
Would people watch it ? Yes, yes and yes have to be the answers to all three questions.

Sky 1, if you are reading (you probably aren’t ) how about it? Natalie Sawyer, any chance you could have a word with the bosses?  Andy Ansah (again, probably not reading), if anybody has the contacts it must be you?

With Griffin Park around the corner from Sky HQ and a new stadium on the horizon in Lionel Road, then what better time to bring this back with a progressive club filling the role of the new Harcehster? They’ve used Watford. They’ve used Millwall. They’ve even used Brentford (albeit as part of the May 2007 Open Day when a Harchester United team played the Community Sports Trust at Griffin Park.

How about Brentford doing it again – for real ?

If any show deserves a reboot, then Dream Team must be top of the list. If it worked for Doctor Who and Dallas then imagine what could be done now. Come on Sky, the world of football demands it.

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Andy dons the monogrammed tracksuit in his Harchester United days

And if anybody was in any doubt about the love for the show, this is what Andy Ansah himself had to say about it in that aforementioned interview:

Having finally retired from playing, all of a sudden Andy appeared on Sky one’s football based ‘drama’ series, Dream Team, playing himself at fictional club ‘Harchester United.’ A guilty pleasure for many viewers, myself included, but for all the wrong reasons! Wooden dialogue, outrageous plots and, as Andy himself offers, “The Lynda Blocks of this world”, its combination of beautiful women and real match action made it compulsive viewing for close to ten years. So how did he go from footballer to actor?

“I went to a Take That concert at Wembley, believe it or not. I made my decision then that I was going to retire from football. I met two people there and I said, ‘What do you do ?’ “ Oh, we do ‘extras’ work?” They were stand in doubles.

I thought that sounded interesting because I’d always liked acting and I love my films. Some friends of mine were on Dream Team doing the footballing extras although they were a lot younger than me. So I thought, ‘ok’, this is what I’m going to do. I’m going to stop playing pro-football, play a bit of part time, join ‘Dream Team’ and learn how to be an actor.

Subsequently, I joined as one of the football extras but because I was older than everyone else, I was thirty then whereas they were nineteen/twenty, I used to spend all my time with the directors and producers who were the same age. They used to ask questions about football all the time – how would we do this or that? I found myself directing the football for them and then within a year they made me the producer of football on Dream Team. It was crazy!”

Alongside the move to producer came a step up from ‘extra’ to acting role aswell, portraying the club’s assistant coach, Andy Ansah (!!) This also meant a few lines per show, with regular Ansah gems including takes on , “All right, you lot ! Get out on the field and warm up,” and “Leave it, gaffer. He’s not worth it.”

I put it to Andy that it must surely have been fun to be involved?

“I loved it, I loved it. Listen, it was brilliant. The show itself was low budget but it was built up on people. The people were fantastic and it had cult status. No matter how bad it was, you’d be able to say – I know who that is. That was Drogba’s goal for Chelsea against so and so. That’s what made it so much fun.

At the end, it kind of died a death. I was there for six years and when I left I was offered a Hollywood job with the film, “Goal”. That’s when I left and they ended up employing four different people to take up my one post on that show. That’s how much I did.”

As for those famous/infamous cameos? “The guys were great. Being honest, I should thank the likes of Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke and the West ham players. They mainly got me that producer role because I pulled in my contacts to get those guys on the show. One time, Andy had just got called back into the England squad and all the press were outside the training ground at Man United. I had to go and meet him at the training ground and came out the back door with Andy and Dwight , then drove to Stockport County so we could film them on Dream Team – for nothing. It was absolutely crazy. Can you imagine a footballer now using his image rights and saying, ‘I’ll come on your show for nothing’ but that’s how much of a cult status it was.”

After six seasons at Harchester United, ‘Goal’, and the lure of the silver screen proved too much, although not for the first time !

“Infact, whilst I was doing Dream Team, after two years I also did a film called : Mike Bassett England manager. I cast Terry Kiely from Dream Team (popular character, Karl Fletcher) and Scott Mean who used to play for West Ham to come and work on that film. I did all the choreography on that film myself, which was a big job! We shot at Wembley and also went to Brazil. I was there for almost two months, filming at the Maracana, Botafogo and everywhere.

It’s a hard job…!!”

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Bassett / Tomlinson – one of the many famous faces to film at Griffin Park

Nick Bruzon

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

13 Apr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buzzette makes her entrance to the 2016 POTY awards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Well said

Nick Bruzon

Can Lasse grab another pizza the action at Cardiff ? Brighton do Bees a favour.

8 Apr

Brentford travel to Cardiff City today. Brighton retook the lead in the Championship from Newcastle after despatching the Loftus Road mob last night (and do us a potential favour at the same time). And FourFourTwo magazine have published their list of the match day experiences at all 92 league grounds, ranked in order from worst to best . Coventry City, look away now.

First up Brentford. And we’ll keep this brief – I’ve got a train to catch. The trip to Cardiff represents an excellent chance to continue our rise up the table following three straight victories. The latest, our 2-0 win over Leeds United on Tuesday night, being one of the most complete Brentford performances seen in recent times. It really was that good. Romaine Sawyers, Harlee Dean, Sergi Canos and Lasse were amongst those taking the headlines but, in truth, we were wonderful to a man.

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Jota watches the action unfold against Leeds on Tuesday

The flip side to all of this was injuries to Nico and Ryan, which makes both of them unlikely to start today. Alan McCormack and KK being the obvious replacements and, if supplemented by Jota along with the aforementioned Sergi and Romaine that will still make a formidable five.

Expect an unchanged defence from Tuesday (Clarke, Barbet, Dean and Rico) with Dan Bentley between the sticks and Lasse leading the line. That is, on the assumption he hasn’t got his fingers burned in a little Italian restaurant. At Brentford Lock. I think it fair to say he’s more than earned that midweek pizza.

With Brighton condemning QPR to another notch in the ‘L’ column last night, Brentford remain 6 points above our West London rivals with today’s game to come. Victory could see us rise as high as ninth although, of course, it won’t be easy.

Dean Smith’s press conference on Thursday included the very telling observation that, “ “Neil Warnock teams are very difficult to beat. He has them well organised and they will be up for every game.”

There’s no doubting Mrs Doubtfire has the Bluebirds flying once more since their early season flirtation with the lower end of the table. It won’t be easy but the chance to draw further ahead of QPR and close in on both Fulham and last season’s 9th place finish is a huge lure. Can we do it? See you at the Cardiff City stadium this afternoon when we find out.

And for those of you travelling, it you’d like some reading material for the journey (no, not the book i although if you would like to read more about the last three seasons…….)   then could I suggest the online version of FourFourTwo magazine. Specifically, the aforementioned stadium guide they published this week.

Whilst, admittedly, being somewhat out of date it does hit the mark in most places. Certainly, I’d baulk at our performance relative to some of the soulless enormobowls we’ve had the pleasure of visiting this last few seasons. After all, this is a survey of match day experience rather than stadium quality.

Then again, if ever the Lionel Road team need some inspiration then here is a chance to see what the magazine deem the best and worst in English football.

Enjoy

Nick Bruzon

Belated birthday greetings to a legend as April offers goals, derbies and more.

1 Apr

And relax. The weekend is here. Peter Gilham is here. Bristol City will be here at 3pm this afternoon as Brentford look to pick up where we left off before international break. April, weak jokes and, on a totally unrelated note, Fulham and QPR are all here. Of course we have a pair of West London derbies to come with the Loftus Road mob visiting the club they failed to take over 50 years ago before we head up the road to Craven Cottage. That, of course, a game with the wonderful potential to try and put a huge dent in the host’s own play off hopes. If they haven’t already shot themselves in the foot, of course.

But with due respect to Bristol City, Fulham et al we can only start with Peter Gilham. Yesterday saw the incredible occasion of his 70th birthday. 70? ! Peter Gilham is 70. I’m sorry but I just can’t believe it. What fountain of youth is he drinking from? Were it not for the fact that I’m now in my own fifth decade of supporting the Bees (first game in 1979), I wouldn’t believe it. But , of course, Peter has been around since long before that.

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Peter Gilham – as seen in 1989’s ‘100 years of Brentford’ book

He is the living embodiment of the club. He’s still as enthusiastic as ever whilst performing his match day ‘man-with-the-mic’ duties although, as the years have progressed Peter has added a lot more dead pan humour to his delivery. Woe betide any off-target centre circle challenge participants, snapchat users (whatever that is) or tardy substitutes.

We all know him. We all love him. Peter has done just about every job at the club, barring caretaker manager. And whilst Dean Smith is carving out his own place in Brentford history at present, it wouldn’t be a shock to anybody outside of TW8 if, one day in the future, even that happened.

I can still hear the introduction to our own pre-internet telephone information line as Peter would announce in his ever dulcet tones, “Hello. And welcome to Brentford club call”. Then proceed to spin it out as the call box down the road ate through my coins with all the voracious appetite that a premium rate phone line would. Or am I getting mixed up with ‘chatback’?

These days, Peter’s calling card is “A little Italian restaurant. At Brentford lock’”. The more goals Brentford score, the more enthused he becomes as what should be the most cringeworthy and toe curling of sponsorship announcements is already becoming part of club folklore. Forget the pizzas, its all down to the delivery. And when it comes to delivery, Peter is first class.

Belated birthday greetings Peter. Here’s to many more. I can’t wait to hear you on the Lionel Road P.A. system….

Peter Gilham with Buzz and Buzzette

Peter, Buzz and Buzzette. The epitome of cool

As for today, its non-stop. Prior to the visit from Bristol City, we’ve got the Bees Fan Zone in Watermans Park. Just a short walk from the ground, this is always a fantastic event for our younger fans and I’d urge you all to get along. Brentford never fail to pull out the stops as a family club and this is yet another example of how well we treat our younger fans. Full details are on Brentford ‘official’.

And then we have Bristol City. Win, lose or draw about the one thing I’d bet the mortgage on(purely for research purposes) is that this one has goals in it. Brentford have been on fire since the end of January and the five goal comeback against Burton has fast overtaken the 4-1 win at Fulham (you know, when Stuart Dallas did that thing….) as many supporters’ favourite away game in recent times.

Team selection remains a tricky one today. If only for picking out the wheat from the chaff when it comes to genuine news v April Fool’s jokes. Jota out for 9 months? Sure…. Peter Gilham 70….?

I don’t envy Dean this one. Despite the wonderful news about Alan Judge signing a new contract he’s not match fit. With Jota, Lasse and Sergi chomping at the bit for another taste of the net, everybody else will have to fit around them. Good luck with those first goal scorer bets. Yet, by all accounts, the Bees were as horrific in the first half at Burton as we were simply incredible in the second. Do onconming subs Alan Mac and Nico retain the berths occupied by Romaine Sawyers and KK at the start of that one? Does Rico Henry walk back into the team ahead of Tom Field? How is John Egan’s head injury after his midweek exertions for Ireland?

Whomever Dean starts, let’s hope it ends with Peter Gilham having a very sore throat and more plugs for that little Italian restaurant. By Brentford lock.

As for the rest of the month. I saw a graphic yesterday advertising all the footballing treats awaiting the armchair viewer in April. All well and good, but nothing beats the thrill of a West London derby.  The prospect of hosting QPR followed by a trip to Fulham just a week later is a tantalising one.

April fixtures

Championship life has been nothing but exciting and those two games represent yet another wonderful example of why it continues to enthral us.  I’d rather be at those games than sat at home watching Arsenal, Manchester United, Barcelona and those other apparent big names.

Brentford may not have Ibrahimovic, De Gea, Neymar, Messi and whomever Arsenal’s marquee players are. And? We’ve got Jota, Harlee, Sergi, Ryan.

Plus, of course, Peter Gilham. Here’s to 3pm when it starts all over again.

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Don’t forget the Fan zone prior to kick off

Nick Bruzon

Cliff crowns a great day which even ‘that trumpet’ can’t ruin.

25 Mar

With Friday’s column bemoaning the lack of Brentford related activity over the International break, it was another case of exquisite timing as the club confirmed later in the day that work has now begun at the Brentford Community Stadium site on Lionel Road South. Over in Dublin, John Egan was in the squad for the Republic of Ireland against Wales last night although a rogue musical instrument threatened to outdo even the much maligned (and rightly so) alleged band of the England supporters.

But first, Lionel Road. There’s not too much to add in regards to the Stadium announcement beyond a huge sigh of relief and gratitude at this latest news. It seems almost an eternity away since the club’s plans were approved by Hounslow council back in December 2013. The Bees were then in League One and Uwe Rosler was (technically) still our manager although his move to Wigan Athletic was coming somewhat quicker than ours to a new home. Indeed, looking back on the BBC report from the time it notes that, “The Bees hope to move to the 7.6 acre site on Lionel Road from Griffin Park for the 2016-17 season.

Of course, we have had further referrals and the CPO to go through since that point which have delayed proceeding somewhat. And whilst , at times, I can’t help but think of Lionel Road without the words “Monorail, monorail” going through the head, finally things are under way. There was another ebullient statement from Cliff Crown whilst, along with the article on Brentford official, a new website launched at brentfordcommunitystadium.com in which supporters will be kept abreast of developments.

The only slight downside about his news being the lack of obligatory photograph featuring Cliff, Mark Devlin et al leaning on shovels and wearing hard hats. But, given this current stage of the project involves clearing the site in preparation for the main build, perhaps this construction related favourite is still to come.

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It really IS happening.

The other Bees related topic from yesterday was, of course, John Egan’s selection for the Republic of Ireland. Whilst he had to be content with a place on the bench, this remains a huge honour and it can’t be long, surely, until he wins his first cap. With another home game scheduled for Tuesday, a friendly with the darlings of Euro 2016 Iceland, he may not have long to wait. Here’s hoping that fully deserved honour comes John’s way imminently.

One thing that armchair viewers won’t be hoping for is a return of ‘that trumpet’. Far be it from me to criticise another nation’s culture and perhaps this is well received part of their International game. Personally, my own belief is that, much like goal music, spectator performed musical instruments should not be allowed anywhere near a football stadium. Whatever the form.

The list of offendors is a well travelled one. Who could forget the sound of the Vuvuzelas from World Cup 2010? About the only positive to be gleaned from England’s ineptitude in that one being that an early exit spared domestic supporters being obliged to put up the droning cacophony.

Then there’s John Westwood. The self proclaimed Mr. Portsmouth. Him in the stove pipe hat, wooden teeth and dreadlocked fright wig whom the cameras seem contractually obliged to make a beeline for whenever Pompey are on TV. He looks like he needs a good wash down with some bleach and a wire wool brush (think  – Russell Brand and his spray on perm-wear leather effect trousers)  whilst the noise, with that incessant ringing of a hand bell or use of a trumpet, must mean that season tickets in the near vicinity come with a health and safety warning.

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Can’t give Westwood the full oxygen of publicity. Bell. End of.

But, of course, the prime offenders are the alleged England supporters alleged band. Regular readers know the drill at this point. If you want the usual rant about the stale, off key parping and flat renditions of jingoistic greatest hits from Bernie Clifton and his uninvited cuckoos in the nest then you’ll find it here (along with a lot more nonsense).

They’ve always been the low point. Until now. And the lone trumpet at Ireland’s Aviva stadium. Who was it? Why was it? How can a solitary instrument cut so clearly through what was, by all accounts, a fervent and vocal crowd.You’d have heard this thing above a jumbo jet taking off. It was so shrill that, by all scientific fact, only dogs should have been able to hear the bloody thing.

Yet here it was. Clear as day. As annoying as Westwood guesting in the England ensemble with a vuvuzela. If there’s one thing that’s good for unifying football fans it’s hatred. Not of each other but of wind instruments.

And this was the consummate in unwelcome hot air. Not even the sound of Jota’s refrain could lift this into the realms of acceptability.

Matthew Benham has already made it quite clear that goal music will never, ever happen in his time. Let’s hope the ban extends to trumpets when Lionel Road is complete.

Nick Bruzon

Surprise inspiration from Richie and Mark as Bees twiddle their thumbs this weekend.

24 Mar

This is the time of season that these pages normally express an element of frustration with International break. Very much one of the downsides of Championship life, Brentford have now got another eight days to wait until the home double header against Bristol City and Leeds United. The king of comebacks against Burton Albion already seems a distant memory although Sergi Canos did take to Twitter yesterday to remind us  all how wonderful that was.

Sergi – a dab hand with the air guitar, too

So, what to do whilst we await City and Leeds? Well, this round of Internationals is slightly different in that we do have some additional interest. Whilst it’s not unusual to see Andreas Bjelland and Lasse Vibe selected for Denmark, John Egan is in the Republic of Ireland squad when they take on Wales in a World Cup qualifier tonight.

Even if you have no Irish or Welsh affiliation, the chance to see one of our team make his international debut (subject to final team selection) has to be better than Liechtenstein v Macedonia on the red button or, worse, a double header of Coronation Street. If nothing else, with the Irish rugby team having played at the Avvia last weekend when they scuppered England’s Grand Slam aspirations, it will be very interesting to see how the surface holds up less than a week later.

With permission having been given to London Irish to ground share at Lionel Road, Brentford supporters are, not surprisingly, questioning the integrity of the playing surface. The likes of Sergi and Jota better suited to playing on a billiard table rather than a ploughed field. And that is meant metaphorically; I’ve never seen either at Rileys in Twickenham.

All of which is great, but then it does leave us with a blank slot in the diary on Saturday. Well, how about getting on your bike? Quite literally. With the mornings getting lighter there’s never been a better time to undertake a bit of exercise whilst, at the same time, enjoying the fresh air. Personally, I’ve just started doing this again – triggered predominantly by my own lack of exercise. The realisation has finally set in that FIFA on the PS4 does not count no matter how many times I’ve tried to tell myself since Christmas.

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FIFA 17 – fun but not, technically, exercise

Likewise, there’s only so many times I can convince myself that the pecs have just ‘slipped’ or that the layer of fat around the midriff is there to insulate over the cold winter months. So the beer and junk food has gone out the window (for now) whilst there’s been additional inspiration from two unlikely sources – Richie Firth on Absolute Radio and our own Mark Chapman from the Brentford media team.

Richie, speaking on the Christian O’Connell breakfast show last week, was extolling the virtues of vibrating massage plates which, when fixed to the body for twenty minute periods, would slowly burn the fat away. All well and good – aside from looking like a complete numpty as you stand around in your pants with Borg style implants affixed to the torso.

More importantly, where is the aerobic exercise? Where is the fun? Where is the smug feeling of having actually gone out and done something, then boring your mates rigid afterwards?(And yes, I see the irony).

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(L-R) Richie and OC doing more traditional exercise despite the horrific attire

But it was Bees programme editor Mark Chapman who is the straw that broke the camel’s back. His own ‘fanActiv’ blog on Brentford official has been a real call to arms, with some brutally honest observations about where he was prior to starting this aswell as how things are progressing . Three blogs in (the latest was published last Friday and can be found here), I have to say that is a case of doffing my cap to him.

It’s not easy to admit you need to get up off your backside. It’s even harder to do this so publicly. Nice one Mark, and THANK YOU for the motivation. Keep up the good work and stay off the chocolate bars.

So this weekend sees another ‘dry’ one for yours truly. I’m not so naive as to pretend that by the time Bristol City and Leeds come around I won’t be out the back of The Griffin – the prematch pint is a quintessential part of football’s rich tapestry – but at least I won’t feel quite so guilty about doing it.

Lecture over. Whatever you do this weekend, have fun. If anybody is in Richmond Park on Sunday morning, I’ll be the one wheezing. But, most importantly, good luck to John Egan tonight.

We’ll all be wishing you well.

Nick Bruzon

How can the same stuff happen to the same guy twice as Rangers meltdown? Can the same scoreline happen again as Bees travel North?

11 Feb

Well that’s been a busy few days off. Most of us have woken to news that Mark Warburton, David Weir and Frank McParland have, apparently, all ‘resigned’ at Rangers – something our former manager claims to know nothing about. With the Scottish club announcing that Graeme Murty is in charge, things could get interesting in the dugout at 3pm. Back in Brentford,  Josh Clarke and Dean Smith (nothing more than coincidental timing, I am sure) have both signed contract extensions whilst on pitch, not that one exists as yet, Hounslow council have given rugby club London Irish permission to ground share at Lionel Road. Yet all these are mere appetisers ahead of the main course – our trip to Preston North End.

Of course, we can only start at Deepdale. Brentford annihilated Preston 5-0 at Griffin Park earlier in the season and, based on current form, the casual observer would only expect more of the same. We’ve scored six goals  in our last two games – the first of the Hogan free era.

Aston Villa were despatched as simply as a half time balti pie offered to a hungry supporter. There was literally no resistance from the former Premier League team who were left looking somewhat like a pub side. The only disappointment being that 3-0 was scant reflection of a game where there was only one team in it.

As for Brighton on Sunday. 2-0 up and with a penalty opportunity to make it three, that one looked very much like another win fro the Bees. That it ended 3-3 was as much testament to the quality of our opponents (still very much promotion favourites and title contenders) combined with, perhaps, a touch of naivety from Brentford as the lead was retaken with 95 minutes on the clock. No criticism though. It was an honour to be part of the crowd for that one.

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KK is in there, somewhere, celebrating a late, late ‘winner ‘ against Brighton

Yet, as we’ve mentioned before, part of this resurgence is as much down to Dean Smith’s new formation. Lasse Vibe just one of five players to get on the scoresheet in front of two wide men and two centre backs in Harlee Dean and Andreas Bjelland. More room in the middle. Jota destroying all comers and looking a class above anybody trying to stop him. With a bench that includes Josh Clarke and Sergi Canos aswell as the finally back in favour Konstantin Kerschbaumer and Alan McCormack, Dean seems to have got the balance just right. Can he do it again for a third successive game ?

Surely he’ll go for more of the same today? Although Preston are five points above the Bees, they haven’t won in four games. We know we have the beating of them and that was in a team without Jota. Yet the BBC report that with John Egan fit again, he could return to the starting line up.

All being well, this is nothing more than opportunistic journalism. And this is meant as no disrespect whatsoever to a player who has more than justified his own contract extension. Yet playing with a traditional back four, albeit one where the defence still push up, has been nothing short of revalationary. A breath of fresh air after what could, politely, be described as some turgid, sluggish and inconsistent performances.

Come on Dean, here’s hoping you have the same courage of your convictions away from home as at Griffin Park. The bookies still have Preston as favourites  – only 2 defeats in the last 12 at home likely helping their position – but the new look Bees are a force to be reckoned with. I can’t wait to see how we fare on the road.

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Jota helped destroy Brighton. And Aston Villa

Rugby is the other news to make us sit up and take notice – Mark Warburton at Rangers aside, where one can only wonder what on earth is going on. In a communications debacle to make our own media team seem like Pulitzer Prize winning journalists, the Glasgow club have released a statement to say he has quit whilst Warbs seems unaware that he has, supposedly, penned his resignation letter.

This is a situation where nobody comes out the winner. Aside from, perhaps, Celtic whose 27 point lead over closest challengers Rangers and Aberdeen seems even safer than ever. With alleged new destination Nottingham Forest already having named their interim management team, could Mark Warburton find himself temporarily out in the cold again?

It was 10 February 2015 when the story about his ‘replacement’ at the end of Brentford’s Championship season was leaked by The Times. The club handled news about that one terribly – the only way worse could have been had we included a hashtag – as Warbs , in public at least, carried himself with dignity whilst retaining the love of players and supporters alike.

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Warbs , Jota and the team on the day of village-gate 2015

Two years to the very day, it has happened again. Another announcement about his position, this time at Rangers, clouded in confusion and controversy. Who’d be a manger. Or  in a comms role…

As for the rugby, well it seems that London Irish will be the new tenants at Lionel Road, once the stadium is built. Hounslow Council have granted permission for a ground share at the new stadium. Official tell us us that “Progress on the implementation of the Brentford Community Stadium project is continuing apace, ahead of a moving in date of the season 2019/20. The full story is on the club website.

And finally, if you can get through all the adverts , pop ups and surveys on their site, (Get) West London’s Premier Journalist Tom Moore has another video. Do check it out, it’s well worth a look.

Until then, here’s to Preston.

Nick Bruzon

In Matthew we trust. Whatever happens over the next two weeks.

15 Jan

Newcastle United left Griffin Park with all three points last night and nobody can deny them that. They scored twice. Brentford scored once. Newsflash: that’s how football works. Yet even in defeat, I woke up this morning (duh-duh-duh-duh-duhh) full of positivity. As, it would seem, have the vast majority of those out in cyberspace. This, despite losing a game and the prospect of our star man on his way to West Ham/other after Dean’s strange decision in regards to team selection.

Thoughts on that were published in yesterday evening’s post match article. Worth a look purely for the ever eloquent views of Bernard Quackenbush in the comment’s section. And Bernard, if you are reading, then that special guest slot remains yours should you ever want to go ‘full fat’ on the column (not a euphemism).

Looking across Facebook and Twitter (other sources are also available) there is a lot of pride out there today at how well Brentford played. There is huge recognition of how well Lasse Vibe performed up top. Perhaps the immediate answer for when Scott is sold is sitting right under our noses. There is huge regret at the fact that Jota couldn’t quite complete his moment of magic in the 90th minute.

If not for the well deserved point that we would have scored but the sheer and unadulterated moment of mutual celebration that the 10,000 home supporters would have shared. Jota. In the last minute. After the Bees had been knocking on the door all second half. Just imagine the sheer ecstasy had he found the back of the net in such circumstances…

Even Mark Burridge has posted on facebook this morning to say that the game, “Was a pleasure to commentate on, Marcus, Mick and I really enjoyed it….had the last minute Jota goal happened then I feel the stadium would have erupted.”

Eruption probably the understatement of the decade.

So it is a morning of regret. But lovely regret. Disappointment yet in the nicest way. Honestly, I’m struggling to explain it properly. We lost. It’s normally the cause for a moan about not creating enough chances and, had we, then things might have been different. But yesterday we played. And we played so well. No pressure Dean, but a bar has been raised after outperforming the league leaders for huge periods.

As for Scott Hogan, well I’ve see some nonsense out there today. He didn’t come out for the second half. He didn’t warm up, his attitude sucks. Allegedly. Utter garbage.

If you want bad attitude then look at Dimitri Payet or Diego Costa. Scott has done nothing but carry on doing his thing when selected. Just look at the Birmingham game when rumours had long been gathering. You can’t blame the player for the manager’s decisions to declare him available, to not start him and then to not bring him off the bench.

We’ll sell him at some point, no question. But once the price is right. Standing outside The Griffin yesterday evening, Matthew Benham and his family walked past. “Don’t sell Hogan…” shouted one supporter . “Unless the price is right” , added another.

The response was immediate: “I’m holding out”. Anybody thinking they’ll get a cut price deal might do well to remember this isn’t the Brentford of old.

We’ll reinvest, but once the players are right (Hello? Operator? Can I have the number for Norwich City please?)  The likes of Tom Field, who had another great game yesterday, and Josh Clarke have already shown we have strength within the deeper squad. Chris Mepham has now had his debut whilst Jota is back and Rico Henry has still to show us what he can do. Alan Judge gets closer to fitness each day although perhaps that is a dream too far? Or is it?

One thing Matthew has shown is he loves to surprise us. Who would ever have thought Marcello Trotta would return after the rarely mentioned penalty incident? Yet return he did as he not only won back the fans after the lowest of lows but his goals then inspired us to that wonderful promotion.

They celebrated like they’d won the FA Cup”. Not my words but those of Russell Slade after that incredible Lunchtime at Leyton Orient. Trotta scored the winner that day yet, but for Mathew’s shock decision, we’d never have seen him in Brentford colours again. But for Matthew’s decision who knows what might have happened that season?

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Marcello – Matthew brought him back despite everything

Whatever happens with Scott Hogan, anybody doubting the player’s attitude should probably take a step back. Anybody doubting that a decision made will be for the long term good of the club and the team might want to consider how the side has ebbed, flowed and transformed over the years.

Co-director of football Rasmus Ankersen, made that famous quote back in September 2015, telling supporters that “The goal is to get stronger after each transfer window”. Being honest, it has never quite felt as though we are stronger in the immediate short term yet this team and this squad keep going.

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Perhaps this is as much through long term injury. As Andre Gray was doing his thing, Scott was undergoing that long, long recuperation. Imagine a team with those two together?  Now we have Rico Henry and Lewis Mcleod out for most of the season. Yet this has given others the chance to shine and I can’t imagine Tom Field giving up his place without a fight once the former Walsall man is fit again.

I’m bored of people getting overly critical about the make up of the squad or our long term direction. And that includes myself. How that squad is managed is a different issue altogether but Dean Smith showed yesterday we have players who can do it.

We came close. We lost. But we impressed. Can Dean get us to go one better? Can we get a repeat of our last away performance when we travel to Wigan next weekend? And then there’s the small matter of Chelsea away.

Whoever is picked, it’s a great time to be a Brentford fan. We’re fast approaching our fourth season in the Championship with a wonderful opportunity to cause an incredible cup upset. I’ve said it before but need to say it again. That’s just bonkers. Moreso, for those of us who have been here for sometime.

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Mike Ashley and Cliff Crown yesterday – Brentford now mixing it with the big boys

Anybody who doubts how far we’ve come just needs to look at yesterday’s match day programme. Part one of Mark Chapman’s piece on the failed takeover attempt by QPR is well, well worth a read to remind ourselves of what once might have been.

I disagree with how Dean handled Scott yesterday. A poor decision. One of the B-team should have been recalled. But I admire his trust in Lasse and how good to see that rewarded.

Who knows what will happen over the next two weeks? It might not be pretty. It might not be pleasing. Yet one can only trust in everything that has gone before and the way we are continuing to build for our long term future.

Now, who’s got shovel ? There’s a stadium to build.

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The programme this season has been quality – credit to Mark Chapman

Nick Bruzon

Brentford held by Norwich as 2016 ends with a whimper, Jools and Robbie’s hand gel

1 Jan

New Years Eve. So often the most over-rated night of the year. The Emperor’s New Clothes of nights out where society dictates that you will enjoy yourself but then promptly laughs in your face by offering up Jools Holland boogie-woogying his way through another Hootenanny as a means of doing so. A turgid, self-indulgent affair whose primary function (aside from showing how many friends our host has – a musical Ian Moose, if you will) seems to be in proving that Roland Rivron remains alive. Take that, 2016 – here’s one you didn’t get your hands on.

And so it was at Griffin Park where Brentford and Norwich City were the pre-Jools entertainment in a televised game that would have had most of those watching at home asleep in their armchairs long before the former Squeeze man had begun tinkling on his ivories. Instead of the excitement we’d been promised  by Sky. Instead of the pre-match buzz generated by the news that Jota was returning. Instead of (potentially) seeing Scott Hogan off in style we had nothing but an awful game of football. Sometimes you get them and this was up there.

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The Bees could find no way through the Canaries

Dean Smith seemed so intent on avoiding a repeat of the month’s 5-0 hammering at Carrow Road that he strangled the midfield and offered minimal width. The aforementioned Hogan looked off the pace and out of sorts whilst the slippery conditions did nobody any favours. That the Bees ended the game having no shots on target tells you everything you need to know as we were left unable to break through a Norwich team who  played the last 15 minutes a man down, after Robbie Brady was shown straight red for a foul on Ryan Woods.

Watching the ‘highlights’ afterwards (and I use that word in the loosest sense) it didn’t seem half as bad as it had done live, with no chance of a replay. The incident, which happened right in front of yours truly, looked a nailed on ‘red’ with the Ginger Pirlo likewise able to demonstrate a nasty looking contact mark to both the referee and protesting Norwich players as Brady eventually trooped off.

Yet rightly or wrongly, Brentford had been handed an advantage. Here was a chance to go for it. Despite like for like subs already having been made (Barbet on for the ever impressive Tom Field and favourite son Romaine Sawyers replacing Josh McEachran) here was an opportunity to apply some pressure. Pull off a defender. Maybe Nico. Stick on the pace and trickery of Josh Clarke to run riot?

But no, it wasn’t until the scoreboard read 88 that John Egan was subbed by The Hoff. Why so late? There was hardly any time to make an impact. Why not inject some much needed pace and width? Why, if you are going to take off a defender, choose the player who is our second highest scorer for the season?

Even then, we still had chance. Hogan was played clean through, only to be denied by a wonderful last gasp tackle from Ryan Bennett. With the striker unable to unleash it meant we were denied a penalty kick although unlike the trio of bad decisions in the Boxing Day clash with Cardiff City, this one the correct call.

The Bees will stay up. The Bees won’t go up. We haven’t got a divine right to be any good and, at the end of the day, Clive, we haven’t lost. We looked the other day at viewing everything in both historical and long term context and that still rings true. Yet even allowing for that, it is still frustrating to see teams that we should be beating given the opportunity to run at us (there’s no denying Norwich City had the better chances) and around us as safety first and backwards seems to be the order of the day. Given the resources we do have, surely it is more a case of being able to get the best out of what we have and positioning them accordingly to react to, or even heaven forbid anticipate, the situation? When these players are on fire, they really can perform wonders.

In the end, but for Cameron Jerome’s woeful shooting  (Cameron Diaz would have done better with one particular effort in the second half) we could have ended this one pointless. Which, ironically, is how all supporters finished the game. What seemed to be an announcement by Peter Gilham just prior to kick off that club shop loyalty points were going to expire that day, was then confirmed on social media and in an article published on the clubwebiste at 18.18 (that’s well into the first half of the game we were watching) to say these would expire at 19.45.

And sure enough, on getting home and ‘logging on’ my balance was zero.

No doubt this was all in the terms and conditions but would it have hurt to make an announcement a little more in advance to come over as a little better organised? Look, I may well have missed this and if so then ‘hands up’ but if not, it would seem a really poor way to end a promotion which is designed around encouraging supporters to spend and accrue. Which is a shame for no other reason than we’re normally so good at fan interaction.

Instead, 2016 closed with two promotion hopes at an end – that in the league and that in the club shop.

In its place, 2017 arrived. Off pitch Jools traded places for Robbie Williams to deliver a lumpen set of karaoke greatest hits. The phrase ‘going through the motions’ sprang to mind whilst as the traditional Auld Lang Syne ended, he was caught on camera wiping his hands with anti-bacterial hand sanitiser moments after high-fiving his audience. Stay classy.

At Griffin Park, 2017 brings more questions. How is Alan Judge? Will we see him, Macca or KK again? Will the club break ground at Lionel Road? Will Scott Hogan be sold? Will he play against Birmingham on Monday? Just who will any goal threat come from if he isn’t on the pitch? Could we see him and Jota in the same team? Let’s not forget that the talismanic Spaniard is winging his way back to Griffin Park and, apparently, it was he who initiated the discussions.

Whilst the pressure and expectation on his shoulders will be immense, there’s no denying the roof will be raised should he make an appearance on Saturday in the cup. Certainly he gives Dean Smith a wonderful option.

If used correctly.

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He’s coming home

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