Tag Archives: Liverpool

Yes!!!! An incredible afternoon sees dreams come true (for a while).

3 May

What a quite fantastic end to the season. Brentford have only gone and done it. Promotion to the Premier League assured after tonking Barnsley in the last ever game at Griffin Park. A third bracketing of the season, after the 7(seven)-0 win at home to Luton and the same score in the obliteration of Fulham at the Cottage, saw us leave the Championship to take on the likes of Liverpool, Manchester City and Aston Villa next season. With us come Leeds United who, despite falling apart (again), had enough in the tank to get over the line. There were tears at the Hawthorns where that unexpected favour from the Loftus Road mob denied them automatic promotion but you have to fancy their chances in the play offs.

Yes, that’s definitely what happened. Our season ending in style. Tears of joy at what we’ve achieved ; sadness at saying goodbye to our home for the last 116 years. Fans coming together as one to celebrate and commiserate. Looking forward to seeing little old Brentford in the top flight. Leeds United still unable to escape from our shadow. Fulham looking enviously towards our part of West London and hoping they may get lucky in the play-offs.

Some people are on the pitch - Juge's penalty v Preston saw a wonderful denouement

Some people are on the pitch.. etc etc

And then I stepped out of the shower. The Championship table is still stuck on: played 37. Nobody able to say they have definitely gone up to join Champions elect Liverpool. A team who have still not, mathematically, taken the crown from Manchester City despite the most blitzkrieg approach to a campaign in living memory. Brentford fans denied the chance to say goodbye to Griffin Park and now not knowing if we ever will.

Yesterday was brutal from so many respects. Our chance denied by these most cruel and devastating of global circumstances. People sitting tight on lockdown as we mostly (say in ; don’t be a dick) play our part in helping to try and stop the spread of this soul-destroying virus. I know what has to be done and of course we’ll obey Lockdown. Yet I’d be lying if I said yesterday was fun. It was awful being stuck inside when the only home I wanted to be in was Griffin Park.

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Reality was soul destroying

I wrote the piece on how that felt yesterday morning. It was a column that, being honest, I had no idea if I wanted to start or even would. The feeling upon getting up was just so awful and only got worse as the morning progressed. In the end, it was a case of downing an espresso or two, sitting at the keyboard and seeing what words fell out. The results are here and were, in retrospect, quite cathartic. 

Sure, they didn’t help me feel any better but the response from our fans was life affirming. Not just the kind words on social media but the fact that it quickly became apparent how so many of us were going through the same thing. Of course, we were all going to be missing out on ‘that’ game but to hear and read people being so open about how they felt was great. 

And I use that word in the loosest sense. Of course, one wouldn’t want fellow supporters to be feeling anything like I did – all that emotion that had been experienced and accumulated since my first game back in 1979 unable to let out in one, final, scream of Brrreeeeeeennnnntttt-fffforrrrrdddd. 

I was flat. Low. All over the shop. The early morning run to the shops, with the selected route conveniently looping around the deserted stadium, making it even worse. It should have been a hive of activity at that point. Instead, Brentford was like ghost town. My mind playing all sorts of cruel tricks, trying to imagine what it would have been like.

I swear Jota winked at me as I limped past the main gates on Braemar Road.

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Regulation exercise saw an early morning run to the shop. Oh, Jota 😦

Yet to read so many of us sharing the same experience and going through such similar emotions was, bizarrely, like some form of cyber-hug. Despite being ripped apart from each other, we’ve never felt closer together.

Griffin Park, Brentford and #FarewellGriffinPark were all trending on Twitter for most of the day as the fans united. Not just to shed a tear but also to share their special memories of a home that we’ll be doing well to see again. Instantgram a sea of glorious images.

It wasn’t easy. It was never going to be. Popular music’s Hard-Fi adding further salt to the wound later in the day by confirming they’d have played their first show together in six years as a means of saying goodbye to the ground. Frontman Richard Archer being a huge Brentford fan, of course. Here’s hoping Adam Bluetone and Rhino from The Quo were also lined up. Brentford-fest – just imagine….

I think if the club had come out and said they were wearing a special kit for that final game it would just about have finished me off. Thankfully they stayed silent on that subject. And most, to be fair.

In part I suspect this was to let the fans ‘grieve’ on their own. Equally, it would have been nice had they at least acknowledged the significance of the day. Perhaps that will come. Perhaps ignoring it was their way of saying we WILL be back.

You never know…..

The other super positive of the day was Andy Scott, who was the latest guest on the regular GPG webcast. My word it was good. Unexpectedly so. Entertaining. Honest. Reflective. Insightful. Like Martin Allen, a man who connected with the fans – not just at the time but even in the answering of every question. It really felt personal.

He was candid about things he’d got wrong. Celebratory about what had gone well. Poignant about Rob Rowan, with lavish praise being poured on a man who the more we learn about the more we realise just what an incredible individual we have lost. What an amazing part of the Brentford family he was. 

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Andy Scott was the latest guest

And he was funny. The story about Kevin Dearden, Ron Noades’ kitchen and a pogo stick one that had me laughing for what felt like the first time all day. As the GPG Twitter feed noted afterwards:

Riveting meetup with Andy Scott. Maybe the best one yet. You couldn’t ask for more from Andy than this. It’s all in there, incl answering @samsaunders7 ‘s questions from last week (at the very end Sam!).

Forget Netflix, this is well worth a 2h15m binge.

And they are right. It was fascinating stuff. Entertaining. You can find it below. Put your feet up, sit back and enjoy.    

Great work,GPG and Andy. Thank you.

Next weekend’s guest promises to be very special. With Trevor unable to name them on the yesterday’s session, given the announcement is going to be made alongside the club next week, draw whatever conclusions you must from the below tweet published this morning…..

Until then, dreams of football remain just that, dreams. Will we go up? Could it be Manchester City and Liverpool at Lionel Road? Whenever that may be.

Might we end up playing out this campaign behind closed doors in neutral stadia, as is being suggested more and more? 

I’d oppose that suggestion 100% if so – just think of the unfair advantage it would give Fulham.

Nick Bruzon

Enjoy the unexpected silence in your favourite shirt. Or watch Roger.

27 Mar

Hurrah. Life is back to normal. In the loosest sense.  Brentford, West Bromwich Albion, Leeds United et al are still waiting to resume battle at the top end of the Championship. Liverpool have had their seemingly unstoppable charge to the Premier League title put firmly on hold. Football fans are having to get their hit from watching the Leyton Orient promoted 128 team knock out tournament on FIFA 20, UltimateQuaranTeam Cup. Yet this weekend is going to be as close to the regular season as we are going to get in quite a while. It’s International break. We wouldn’t have been playing anyway. Instead, tonight we get the chance to not watch England v Italy ; tomorrow it would have been Gibraltar v Norway (at U-21 level).

England and Gibraltar jobs

There’s none of this tonight and tomorrow

I have to be honest, I’m finding this tough from a sporting perspective. The build up to the weekend always reached a crescendo on a Friday, with anticipation of what was to come reaching peak excitement. Now there is nothing although, as noted, I can take small consolation in the fact that it wouldn’t have happened tomorrow anyway. Instead, we’d be cursing about the horror of the alleged England supporters band. 

We’ve said it before. We’ve tried to tone it down in recent seasons. But, I’m sorry, its time to unload. If anything , this CoronaVirus curse is making us realise just how much we take for granted in life. How much there is to enjoy. When this is all over, and it will be, I want to enjoy every minute of life. To embrace International friendlies as the gift that they are rather than the faux-substitute for ‘real football that they have so often been.

We’ve used this analogy before but they’ve always felt very much like a Timothy Dalton ‘Bond film’. They’re great fun but they’re just no Roger Moore effort and always seem to lack a certain bite. The rest of the crew and supporting cast may be the same, the action and the sound are identical but, ultimately, without the one-liners and raised eyebrow of Roger it all seems to be missing an indefinable something. Rather than the effortless cool of quaffing a Martini in a safari suit they are more a case of Bond nervously sipping a de-caf latte whilst waiting for his contact to arrive. And you can forget any cameo role from Victor Tourjansky  – the best we’ll get is a brief run out from the likes of Joey Barton, Michael Ball or Steven Caulker.

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There’s always an excuse for the Tourjansky montage

Ahh, Victor. We digrees. And, again, somebody who has been mentioned many times but is always worth a doff of the hat. Or, should that be , a raise of the glass? Very much an unsung hero of mine, he appeared alongside Roger three times pulling off his signature move: specifically,  that of looking bewilderedly at his drink as though inebriation could be the only explanation for the amazing feat he had just seen 007 pull off. 

A brief moment on screen and then he’d be gone until the next film. Victor performed this routine in the trio of movies  that ran from ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ through ‘Moonraker’ and then culminating in  ‘For Your Eyes Only’.

Whilst the man himself was missing for Octopussy, his ‘joke’ had been retained although ‘Palace guard’ doesn’t perform the legendary double take with anywhere near the same panache or style. If anything, an International friendly of a performance within the meat of big match Roger.

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Palace Guard – the Dalton to Victor’s Roger

Yet even though International friendlies will be greeted with infinitely more enthusiasm in future, there’ll still be no excuse for THAT. BAND. It’s great we’ll be spared them tonight and one can only hope this is something the continues – although not for any public health reasons. 

Honestly, who needs their moribund parping and jingoistic greatest hits? Who actually enjoys their flaccid and off-key nasal drone? Show me any supporter who, honestly, thinks a game is enhanced by their unwanted presence? Who truly believes that any England match is helped by hearing the theme tunes from ‘The Great Escape’ or ‘The Italian Job’ repeated ad-nauseam,  but not quite as you remember them?

What we need right now is a flat version of the National anthem or 7 nation army”. Said nobody ever.

When the Mexican Wave or Robbie Williams singing ‘Let me Entertain You’ (which you can find on: Now that’s what I call Stadium music, also featuring: ‘We Are The Champions’) have the moral high ground in the low brow sporting tedium stakes then there’s something seriously wrong.  

Band banned

That. Band. Banned

Given the choice of being gaffer-taped to a chair and subjected to them or Mrs. Brown’s Boys, I honestly think I’d have to side with Brendan O’Carroll performing his toe-curlingly unfunny Irish mammy/man in a cardigan routine. But enough about my private life.

When this is all done. Let’s really enjoy every minute of every football match. Even the cruddy friendlies. Let’s never hear, or speak of, that band again. Until then, why not stick on some 007 this weekend? Who doesn’t need a bit of Roger right now?

In the mean time, today is Friday. I’m going to make it Footballshirt Friday and use the whole ‘Work From Home’ thing to wear my favourite kit to work. It’ll probably just be me but why not join in? Why not post a picture? Why not get behind your team online and just use it as an excuse to talk football.?

Just because there wouldn’t have been any league action today, let’s not stop that for celebrating our teams. Let’s do it… #FootballshirtFriday

Now I’ve just got to choose one. 

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Which Brentford shirt to go for today?

Nick Bruzon

There may be no football – but there IS still hope. Come on Sky…

15 Mar

We wrote yesterday about the suspension of football. About the horror of replacing Match of the Day with a repeat (natch) of Mrs. Brown’s Boys. About the potential permutations to deciding League placings after Fulham v Brentford became the first high profile casualty of football being suspended for three weeks. At the very least. Will Liverpool end their long wait for a Premier league title? Might Leeds United finally fall over the line and into the top flight? Could the BBC come to their senses in regards to scheduling?

All that (and more) is here. Do take a look. We’ll absolutely be trying to keep it light on these pages to try and find a way through the gloom. To keep things ticking over until some form of normality may return, whenever that may.

Ordinarily a period of self-isolation would be the perfect time to gorge on football. On cricket, rugby and any other form of live sporting entertainment. Yet the football family is suffering as much as anybody else with all activity on hold and, in all likelihood, going to conclude with somebody feeling dissatisfied. Instead of wall to wall live action to while away the time, the sofa is now being shared with the family. With Kirsty and Phil. Fiona Bruce and her antique chest. With Tom & Jerry, Smurfs and the Great Pottery Throw Down. Urghh (smurfs ; not the family).

Match of the Day and live coverage won’t be on again for a long time. Sky and BT have great gaps in their scheduling to fill and, presumably, the classic match packages and ‘story of the season’ will be on repeat. No bad thing but there is another way. There is a chance to bring back a Phoenix from the Flames (and yes, why not that, too).

Out of adversity comes opportunity. Not my words, but those of Benjamin Franklin. He had a point. Use the time to bring back Dream Team. Please.

It must still exist in a dusty vault. It has no doubt aged terribly but surely that would just add to the charm. We’ve spoken about this many times before and will no doubt do so many times again. Why wouldn’t we? It was magnificent. For all the wrong reasons.

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Dream Team – Fletch is much missed

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  – Millwall’s ‘New’ Den played host to the exterior shots in later series – 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 Brentford boss Steve Coppell had a go at channeling his inner Marlon Brando. It wasn’t good.

andy ansah moustache

Ansah

Yet perhaps the most famous of these actors was another former Bee, 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.

The plots were riddled with more holes than our defence. Murder at the FA Cup final. The plane crash. The coach crash. The coach explosion at the Millennium Stadium. Goalkeeper Jamie Parker holding his team mates at gun point in the changing room. 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.

It was truly awful yet compellingly addictive. Sadly, the show was axed in 2007 yet many loyal fans still campaign for a return. In the short term, the Coronavirus induced suspension of football may be the perfect opportunity to remind us all how magnificent this was as we look to the future….

One this all settles down, with Griffin Park around the corner from Sky HQ and the new stadium at Lionel Road, then what better time to bring this back with a progressive club filling the role of the new Harchester? 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 (kind of) then imagine what could be done now. Come on Sky, the world of football demands it.

The other subject we touched on yesterday was Pele and Escape To Victory. Any excuse to see this one is always gratefully accepted. Now could be the time to go again. And beyond – there are plenty more football films out there.

If nothing else, like Dream Team, the 2018 film ‘Final Score’ shows the appetite for terrible football drama combined with ‘real life’ remains alive and kicking.  If you haven’t seen it as yet then please do. The Independent described it as “The most preposterous film of the year”. Things are bad when a movie doesn’t even go ‘straight to video’ but instead, ‘straight to sky movies’. Albeit, with a supposedly simultaneous big-screen release.

For those who may not be aware, season 2015/16 saw West Ham leave The Boleyn Ground (as the media insisted on calling a stadium they had only ever previously referred to as Upton Park) in a departure that was very much ‘blink and you’ll miss it’. I think it got the odd mention on Sky Sports over the campaign but don’t quote me on that. The denouement of their protracted exit saw supporters thinking demolition work had started early as a series of explosions ripped through the old ground back in June 2016. Infact, this turned out to be the filming of something I had promptly forgotten about until the aforementioned tweet crossed my social media stream.

Oh, my. Preposterous doesn’t even begin to touch the sides on this one. When it was released, Mrs. Bruzon and myself took the first opportunity to watch this shocker about a terrorist hostage-taking at The Boleyn Ground. A name they must have mentioned about a dozen times in the first half hour, in case anybody was in any doubt. All this happens in secret (don’t ask) and whilst West Ham are taking part in a European Cup semi-final against Russian outfit Dynamo FC. Count the number of things wrong in that last sentence alone. All the while, the hostage takers are searching out Pierce Brosnan, whose East European accent was even dodgier than his beard, whilst Drax from Guardians Of The Galaxy attempts to save both the day and the annoying daughter of a former army comrade whose death he feels responsible for.

final_score_review

Final Score – if Dream Team ever reached the big screen

Yet for every Escape to Victory and, to a lesser extent, The Damned United, Fever Pitch, Mike Bassett: England Manager, is a Green Street, a Soccer Dog (and the even weaker sequel, Soccer Dog: European Cup) or The Goal Trilogy. The football film is a veritable minefield of weak acting, poor script and overly laboured cliché.

Aside from Luis Figo doing ‘Just for Men’ (still got it, Figo) the only on screen football to transcend both good and bad is, perhaps, When Saturday Comes. It is a film so loaded with cliché it is fit to burst. Hard drinking park footballer Jimmy  – played by 37 year old Sean Bean  – eventually gets his break for Sheffield United after stuffing up his first trial before taking on Manchester United in an FA Cup semi-final.

It is a film so loaded with inaccuracy (an FA Cup semi at The Blades home ground, in the middle of winter, being just one of many) that you have to wonder just who gave this script the green light. And, of course, it is a film with Emily Lloyd displaying the worst Irish accent this side of Alan Partridge telling TV execs, “There’s more to Oireland, dan dis” .

Yet this underrated classic is so bad it’s brilliant. It goes beyond nonsense and into the realm of unintentional comedy gold. No mean feat for what, on paper, should be a complete car crash of a movie.

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Still, it doesn’t touch the sides of ‘Hot Shot’ .  Pele, again. But this is no Escape To Victory. It’s one I’d never, ever heard of yet now seen, am giving serious consideration to tracking down if the trailer is anything to go by. The 94 second trailer features, amongst other things: temporarily washed up Pay-lay (that’s Pele to you and I), an up and coming hot head,  an 80’s synth pop soundtrack and a training montage.

A training montage ! A. Training. Montage. In a trailer ! How good must this film be that they can afford to offer up this most iconic of sequences in the teaser sequence?

Oh… My… word..

With a script that seems hammier than Joey Barton’s acting, the producers may aswell have just lifted it straight from the bucket marked , “One was a cop who played it straight. The other wasn’t afraid to bend the rules to get results. Yet, somehow, this unlikely pairing could just be the ones to crack the case and save the day ”

So times may be getting tough. We may all end up stuck indoors with nothing but each other for company. Yet some clever scheduling or use of the internet may still provide that much needed hit of sport relief.

Starting with Series One of Dream Team….

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Nick Bruzon

 

Won’t anybody think about Gary?

14 Mar

And so we have now had to bow to the inevitable. It was announced yesterday that all games in the EFL, the Premier League, Women’s Super League and Women’s Championship along with those in Scotland,Wales and Northern Ireland, have been postponed in response to the Coronvirus. As expected, Friday evening’s much anticipated game between Fulham and Brentford was the first major casualty of this new directive, albeit Brighton v Arsenal had already gone to P-P as a result of Mikel Arteta’s positive test for the virus.  In theory, the Championship and other league fixtures will resume on April 3rd with the Premier league following the day after. Good luck with that. Good luck deciding if Liverpool will be crowned champions or Leeds United will finally join them with the top flight place they so desperately aspire to.

The BBC have responded to any football related delay as they always do – by replacing Match of the Day with a repeat of Mrs. Brown’s Boys.  Stop and take that in. Keep stopping. Keep thinking. Mrs.. Browns.. Boys..

Whilst ordinarily the preference would be to avoid the use of choice language, I think I speak for all of us when I ask them to f**k the f**k off with Mrs. F**king Brown. Then f**k off some more. To coin a phrase.

MRS BROWN'S BOYS

Despair was the feeling

Haven’t we already suffered enough? Won’t anybody think of Gary Lineker? My word, just why do they do this? Society is on the verge of breakdown. There are riots in the toilet paper aisle and Match of the Day has now been canned. The last thing we need now is more of this tedious claptrap. From all the depths of their historic sporting resources, was there not a classic match or some sort of compilation the BBC could have put together instead of subjecting us to everyone’s favourite Irish ‘mammy’. Stereotype and cliche going neck and neck in the desperate search for laughs.

Look at cricket. There’s a sport that has always been subject to sudden and unexpected cancellation. Broadcasters left with hours of airtime to fill at a moment’s notice. What they don’t do is hit the panic button. Instead we have the highlights. The classic game from days gone by The in-studio panel discussions. Some semblance of attempted normality relative to what we should have been shown.  Not Mrs. Brown.  It’s not hard. It’s not tricky. Sort it out, please. For all our sanity.

I’ve asked it before and I’ll ask it again. What dirt does Brendan O’Carroll have on the Beeb? Why is his cackling creation deemed the ‘go to’ in any scheduling crisis? For crying out loud, if we HAVE to have comedy instead of sport there are thousands of other choices out there. Anything from Blackadder to Absolutely Fabulous (which wasn’t, although still infinitely preferable to Agnes and her cardigan). Cripes, if we’re going for out-dated comedy I’d even take Terry and June over Mrs. Brown.

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Even this would be better

The other obvious casualty of football being cancelled is Talk Sport narcissist, Ian Moose. A broadcaster whose modus-operandi consists of insisting he’d have done better than the on-pitch professionals, taking subsequent selfies with them and gorging on the pre/post match catering is now in serious danger. As much of starving as anything else, given that no football means no half-time buffets laid out for journalists. Think of all those pies that will never be eaten. At least we’ve still got the internet so wishing his good friend happy birthday  – a routine as nauseating as being part of the audience for Mrs Brown’s Boys –  is still possible. For now.

So what happens next? I honestly can’t see any way that games will recommence in three weeks time. We haven’t even got to the official cancelling of mass gatherings that is expected to be announced next week. Italy, who are streets ahead of us at present, aren’t even close to recommencing any form of action. In my opinion, for what its worth, this is the first stage of a broader cancellation. Euro 2020 will inevitably be put back a year. Whether this then leaves capacity to finish domestic campaigns remains to be seem. That’s assuming, of course, that the health situation starts to rectify itself. Boris’s approach of ‘let it all blow over, we’re British’ hardly a reassuring one. 

But I’ll leave that side of things to somebody else. We’re  primarily here to look at the Brentford angle on these pages. If there can be any positives for us I suppose that at least it is the chance for Mathias Jensen, Sergi Canos, Pontus Jansson et al to get back to full fitness. For tired legs in a thin squad to recharge.

Although what that they will be getting back to is THE question. Leagues suspended? Cancelled? Played out in empty stadia? Champions,  promotion and relegation decided by current placing (surely not – that would be the worst of any sporting decision made).  Imagine the uproar if Liverpool were denied their inevitable title? Or if they were handed the crown despite not, technically, having crossed the line.

Think of the irony if Leeds United,  who so often miss out on a place in the top flight by their own falling apart, were actually handed a position on account of the nation collectively choking on their behalf. If nothing else, a lesson learned for Alanis Morissette and her ‘Isn’t it unlucky’, song.  

However this all goes remains to be seen. For now, stay healthy. Take care and look after each other. We’ll keep sticking this nonsense up here as much as possible. It may help kill thirty seconds of tedium as we all move towards virtual house-arrest next week. Possibly.  

And the BBC, if you are reading, if there really are no other sporting highlights then rather than Mrs. Brown how about just sticking on Escape To Victory…

Pele-Escape-to-Victory

Pele scores as the Allies escape to victory.

Nick Bruzon

Could it be a case of advantage Fulham?

12 Mar

This all looks pretty fatal on the football front. Are Brentford and the rest about to be dealt a hammer blow? The confirmed positive test for Coronavirus of Olympiakos and Nottingham Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis had already thrown the Championship, and beyond, into doubt. Whilst large crowds were still able to see Liverpool and Spurs exit the Champions League this week, last night’s  game between Manchester City and Arsenal (who were recently beaten by The Greeks in the Europa league) had already been postponed and the number of games being played behind closed doors is accelerating across Europe. Whilst there is no word as yet given our huge game at Fulham tomorrow (not to mention the visit of West Brom to Griffin Park on Tuesday) could a tipping point be imminent ?

The Nottingham Forest players and staff have all been tested with results coming back negative. Even allowing for that good news, things suddenly feel very close to home. With public gatherings such as St. Patrick’s Day parades and schools being cancelled globally, surely it can only be a matter of time before we follow our friends in Europe and the shutters start to come down? What could that mean for Brentford? 

Forest getting the ‘all clear’ at least means that for now everybody is operating on a ‘level’ playing field. Will it be BAU and a full house for Brentford at Craven Cottage (the three sides of it that are open) on Friday? Will games start to go ahead to the sound of piped crowd noise and empty seats? This, something we witnessed on Tuesday in the Champion’s league game between Valencia and Atalanta. It was a surreal experience although still infinitely better than watching Tottenham capitulate. Not that having that famous Anfield ‘12th man’ helped Liverpool, either.  

The ‘closed doors’ option is not a route that I hope we are forced down. If for no other reason it will give Fulham a huge advantage  – playing in empty stadiums devoid of atmosphere something they are used to week in, week out.

Jota onside v Fulham

Could Brentford be faced with similar on Friday? (The 2-2 from a few seasons back)

At worst, players will start to be taken ill at some point and then we have that most terrifying of situations – the EFL forced to make a decision. That, something they struggle with at the best of times, let alone when the situation warrants serious action. Are games forfeited? Put on hold? The season potentially wiped or stopped dead in it’s tracks? Sides forced to put out a starting XI of healthy players, regardless as to whether they come from the heart of the first team squad or the depths of the reserves. These, all options I’ve heard touted and just any one of a number of options that may or may not come in to play at some point.

There are no answers here. Mainly because nobody knows what will happen. Martin Hardy in The Times reports this morning that actions to force all football matches in England to be played behind closed doors could be triggered as early as today. They suggest that there will be additional measures put in place to allow fans to still watch as much as possible over the internet and TV but clearly this will be an ersatz, if necessary, experience. You can read that piece, here.

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That headline from The Times…

I submitted my programme article for Tuesday’s game between The Bees and West Brom earlier. I don’t know if that will even be published or read. I hope it is and not for any egotistical reasons – it’s the usual nonsense with obligatory reference to the godawful Mrs. Browns Boys – but more because it means we are still in a BAU scenario. This may all start to settle soon, now that people are washing their hands (seriously, they weren’t before?) and have ample supplies of both dried pasta and toilet roll. Or things may get messier for the foreseeable (the U.S. now imposing a European travel ban for 30 days). Whatever happens, at best I suspect we’ll see the season run well beyond it’s scheduled finish in an attempt to wrap things up as smoothly as possible.

That’s the sporting side. Underpinning all of this is a very real human cost. People are being taken ill. Nobody wants that, to see cases accelerated or the situation worsening any more. Let’s not forget about those who are dying in all of this. Sport will always very much play second fiddle to a genuine medical crisis. When we hit that point, if not already, remains to be seen. From a sporting perspective, the next few days could very much impact how the rest of our season is going to play out.   

Until then, it’s Fulham on Friday. Our paltry allocation of 1700 fans sure to make themselves heard above the coughing and clappers. Here’s hoping we are still able to go ahead as normal.

Whatever normal is these days.

Fulham flare

Will our fans be allowed in?

Nick Bruzon

Brentford 4000 will play the Tranmere Stripper.

27 Jan

Just when cup football couldn’t get any more incredible, it does. Brentford are out but by no means down. Tranmere Rovers ended Sunday on the wrong end of an almost bracketing as Manchester United were unable to find the additional goal that would have turned 0-6 to to 0-7(seven). Shrewsbury grabbed all the headlines holding Liverpool 2-2 in a gripping cup tie that even the arrival of Mo Salah was unable to rescue. Yet waking up this morning and checking the overnight updates, the real headline is being created as we speak where  Brentford 4000 will play the Tranmere Stripper in round 2.

Not words that are used lightly. And words that, being honest, can only be used in what is shaping up to be a quite pulsating World Cup of Programme Covers. The first round results are now in with  The Bees having trounced Denis Waterman and Wolves after earning close to 75% of the vote. Meanwhile the stripper, last season’s semi-finalist ( losing to eventual winner, Middlesbrough’s comic art) brought some respite for Tranmere fans reeling from Manchester United going ballistic. One of the most talked about covers from last time out (see also: Frank McAvennie and West Ham putting the right wing in to their Christmas party fancy dress) made light work of Slough Town as they cruised into the second round.

Tranmere Rovers will provide just about as tough an opponent as is possible. Yet Brentford have proven, time and again, that class and reputation doesn’t phase us. Whilst one may question just how much class there is about the imagery used to support the Associate Members Cup semi final  (Northern Zone) semi final v Burnley, it is very much a fascinating product of the time. Whilst it’s highly unlikely anybody would risk the wrath of social media / public scrutiny or have the lack of sense to go there these days (see also: Frank McAvennie and West Ham), back then all filters were seemingly set to ‘off’.  

I’m not here to pass moral judgement on anybody or anything. Personally, I love the unusual. Anything that strays away from the norm. Historical curios. Which is what just about every piece of artwork in the World Cup sets out to show. There are some incredible contenders still alive and gunning for glory. Noreen form Birmingham City. Elton John’s giant key. Paul Parker’s hot air ballon trip. The bizarre styling on show at Albion Rovers. Swindon Town and their Fat Striker.

As ever, @TheSkyStrikers on Twitter is the place to follow the tournament. Your host Miles McClagan adding a fair bit of deadpan wit to his own commentary as the tournament unfolds. The likes of Leicester City, Liverpool, and Manchester United may have grabbed the headlines this weekend. At least for on-field activity. Yet off-pitch, Brentford and Tranmere are shaping up for the mother of all battles in social media. The timing of our second round clash has yet to be announced but keep those eyes open and keep voting.

In the meantime, here are a few more of the runners and riders…

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Salvador Dali had a short stint at Albion Rovers

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Noreen – ten times better than the rest. Probably.

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Swindon Town – there’s hope for us all

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Cripes – this was actual 1990. Come on West Ham. WTF…??

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Praying to a giant George Berry at Wolves. 

Nick Bruzon

Could it be sheer Bliss this weekend?

24 Jan

Nothing overly deep and meaningful needed. The FA Cup fourth round is upon us. Brentford host Leicester City, the 2015-16 Premier League Champions. The only club, barring Manchester City, keeping things vaguely interesting at the business end of the Premier League as Liverpool threaten to have the title sewn up by spring half-term. Likewise, we’re one of the clubs keeping things hugely interesting at the top end of the Championship as you know who are fighting each other in a two way battle to fall apart quickest. It promises to be epic, no matter who Thomas Frank and Brendan Rodgers go with in their respective starting XIs. Get your tin foil ready and bring it on….

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Can Brentford keep on the “Road to Wembley” ?

Ok. Me attempting to speculate as to who will be starting for either side is as futile an exercise as trying to decipher the finances at Wayne Rooney’s Derby County. The answers to both are buried deep, with no hope of anyone outside the inner circle being able to accurately predict. We know that Thomas will likely  have a few more familiar faces than in the third round, although will equally keep faith with some of his B-team players. We know that some form of medical miracle aside, Jamie Vardy will play no more part in proceedings for Leicester than hitting rewind on the BBC live coverage to see how that first Brentford goal went in. 

Hey, you can’t blame me for being optimistic. This is the FA Cup. The stuff of dreams. The chance to test ourselves against the best the country has to offer. An opportunity to keep going to a midweek fifth round. To push on (or should that be up?) all the way to Wembley ; the true home of the semi-finals. Ok, so some of the more traditional elements may be slowly eroding but that doesn’t make it any less special. Moreso, when you think that for most of us the 88/89 run to a 4-0 defeat by Liverpool in an Anfield quarter final is as good as it has ever been in this tournament. Even if we did have the pleasure of seeing Gary Blissett knock out his beloved Manchester City en-route.

Bliss Manchester City

Get dreaming tonight

And yes, I do mention these a lot but its as a result of two things. Firstly, that when cup fever takes hold there’s nothing like it. The communal coming together of a football club punching above it’s traditional weight – and we were back then – with dreams of silverware on the horizon. The chance to make a name for yourselves. To cause what would have been one of the single biggest upsets in cup history.

Then, at the back end of the 80’s, Liverpool were all conquering. Indestructable. Unbeatable.  Much like today (we’ll ignore the bit in the middle). Surely Brentford couldn’t do it? And whilst, of course, we didn’t, a fleet of coaches, a lot of inflatable Bees and Richard Cadette’s “Oohhh’ moment early on almost made the impossible possible.

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The Bees haven’t reacehd an FA Cup quarter final since Livepool in 88/89

Secondly though, we just don’t do it very often. Even in recent seasons when we’ve had the squad to compete with the best in The Championship, the combination of bad fortune, bad performance and a lot of tinkering has meant we’ve just not hit the heights that this team is capable. Underestimating opposition such as Walsall, when Dean Smith was greeted as a Ginger Judas and the Romaine Sawyers inspired visitors took us apart in awful conditions at Griffin Park.

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Passionate away support can be key – as we’ve learned

It is this lack of long term relationship with the cup that makes those rare moments of glory live all the longer in the memory. DJ Campbell mugging Gary Breen as Sunderland were knocked out. Twice leading Champions of Europe (apparently, if only somebody had said) Chelsea before Fernando Torres spared their blushes. The comeback at Southampton. And that’s probably about it in recent times. 

Saunders territory Chelsea

2013 Griffin Park . Ramires, Terry, Cole, Oscar, Lampard, Torres, Cahill – that’s some wall

Even last season, we were all set for the quarters – 1-0 up at Swansea – before Daniel James et al turned us inside out . That it only ended 4-1 was a miracle in itself. The quintessential game of two halves.

For me, the visit of Leicester City sees us with everything to gain and nothing to lose. Honestly, I don’t care who Thomas opts to start with. The Championship is huge and we’ve the obvious game with Nottingham Forest on Tuesday night. Equally though, I love the FA Cup and see nothing but opportunity here. Whether he goes ‘full B-team’, the regular league side or that expected combination of both you know that we’ll all be giving it our best. The crowd up for it. The players moreso. 

The tinfoil is already out at home. The trophy from the third round due to be reupholstered (is that the word?) tonight, after a few bits began to peel away in the euphoria of Emiliano Marcondes’ third round winner against Stoke.  

This could be magnificent. And I can’t wait. See you there !!! 

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Time to reupholster this (the cup, not Emiliano or H) 

Nick Bruzon

Exciting cup draw provides as much intrigue off-pitch as on.

7 Jan

So there we have it. Brentford will host Leicester City in the FA Cup following last night’s fourth round draw. The former Premier league champions who currently lead the chasing pack behind Liverpool in the top flight will visit Griffin Park at some point over the weekend of 24-27 January. We say ‘at some point’ given as it is a tie that will be sure to be on any potential shortlist of those selected for TV coverage. 3rd in the Championship v 2nd in the Premier league. Others ups for consideration include Hull City v Chelsea , Bristol City or Shrewsbury Town v Liverpool and Northampton Town v Wayne Rooney. There are plenty of other intriguing ties, especially in Birmingham, but we can only start in West London.

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There you have it

For both clubs, this is going to present selection questions. Leicester City especially. Whilst we both looked outside of the regular starting XI in the third round, might Thomas Frank be tempted to give his star players the chance to test themselves against one of the Premier league big boys? A possible dress rehearsal for next season’s league action? Leicester City may well go light (relatively), given they have a midweek game either side of this one.  Home to West Ham the prior Wednesday and then the second-leg of the EFL Cup semis with Aston Villa the following Tuesday.

And has anybody checked in on Bees Fan Engagement Manager Ryan Murrant? Whilst his work at Griffin Park is legendary, especially with the way he inspires our youngest generation of supporters, he is a self-confessed and very vocal
Leicester City fan. Could this be a case of his cracking open the half and half scarf? Will it be club over employer? Or simply a case of hoping that football is the real winner of what has all the potential to be one of the most exciting matches in the round. As Lasse Vibe put it on Twitter, ”Schmeichel vs the rest of Denmark.”

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Ryan – Bee or Fox?

All that’s a problem to come though. First things first and the question is one of when the game takes place. Here’s hoping the TV gods are smiling on us if we are selected for coverage. Nobody wants the solitary Monday night tie in the ‘post-draw’ segment of the round, albeit given out visitor’s prior commitments one can only think that Saturday lunchtime will be the appointed time. Should it be a case of Manchester City v Fulham or the multi-optioned Watford or Tranmere Rovers v Wolverhampton Wanderers or Manchester United that are deemed more appealing then we are back on for a Saturday 3pm.

To be fair, it wouldn’t be the FA Cup without Manchester United being selected for the cameras. Who cares about magic or intrigue when there’s the opportunity to appease the nation’s armchair supporters? That said, the permutations from the respective replays leading up to that one do present slightly more intriguing options than normal. Especially if Tranmere win. If…. Watford v Wolves, anyone? 

The other tie really grabbing my attention is the possible situation at St. Andrews where landlords Birmingham City could be forced to pay a visit to their tenants, Coventry City, and then squat in the ‘away’ end. Cue demands for ten times more tickets than their official allocation as they miss the point of how the cup works. To be fair, even should Coventry fail to overcome Bristol Rovers in the replay, its a tie I’d love to see selected for coverage. Even though we know full well it’ll never happen. A night out in Birmingham being about as glamorous as a trip to Mrs. Brown’s bedroom. Besides, we’ve got Northampton Town for the interest further down the EFL tables. Their home tie with Derby County, and the guaranteed baggage that comes with that, sure to have lazy directors, cliché spouting pundits and overkeen caption writers already prepping their scripts.

For now, though, it’s a case of ifs, buts and maybes. I’m just glad Brentford are at home and there’s (at least) one more chance to visit Griffin Park. Anything else after that is a bonus. 

Here’s that draw in full….

Watford or Tranmere Rovers v Wolverhampton Wanderers or Manchester United

Hull City v Chelsea

Southampton v Middlesbrough or Tottenham Hotspur

Queens Park Rangers v Sheffield Wednesday

Bournemouth v Arsenal

Northampton Town v Derby County

Brentford v Leicester City

Millwall v Sheffield United

Reading or Blackpool v Cardiff City or Carlisle United

West Ham United v West Bromwich Albion

Burnley v Norwich City

Bristol Rovers or Coventry City v Birmingham City

Manchester City v Fulham

Rochdale or Newcastle United v Oxford United

Portsmouth v Barnsley

Bristol City or Shrewsbury Town v Liverpool

Nick Bruzon

It’s………….Wayne Rooney’s Account

3 Jan

Brentford host Stoke City in the FA Cup tomorrow. Liverpool moved 13 points clear at the top of the Premier League, having gone unbeaten in a year after yesterday’s 20 win over Sheffield United. However, none of that matters compared to the 2-1 victory for Wayne Rooney’s Derby County over Barnsley, played out live on Sky Sports last night to the entire planet. A dominant Wayne Rooney destroyed the Tykes, as the newly appointed Wayne Rooney’s Derby County captain provided both assists and scored a brace on his long awaited debut.

You’ll forgive me for feeling somewhat overwhelmed by the Derby County love in that took place on Thursday evening. Or, specifically, that surrounding the all time England goal scoring record holder. I hadn’t realised. If only somebody had said. About a dozen times. Every touch from the stocky looking midfielder was greeted as though it had been played by Pele. Every pass seemingly as sublime as a Cristiano Ronaldo through ball. 

Only an idiot would fail to realise that Wayne’s arrival was going to attract attention. That was guaranteed from the announcement of his signing, the gifting of his traditional ’32’ shirt and the protected lead up to this one. By the time the 34 year old finally made his debut it was beyond all previously seen hype levels. The records set by Frank Lampard’s Derby County being obliterated within moments of coverage starting. You’d be forgiven for thinking the family Rooney had somehow hacked Sky’s account to influence the coverage, such was the fascination. Except, of course, that sort of stuff could never happen. Carry on like this and they’re going to shit themselves next Saturday when the cameras are back at Griffin Park for Brentford – QPR.

Except, of course, they won’t. We aren’t global. We don’t have his former glories. His baggage. His wife, who was there looking on from the stands and even got her own graphic. His wage bill.

Good luck to Derby County. Limping past rapidly improving Barnsley, to stay in 17th place in the Championship, is only the first step in what will need to become a very much long term project. Who knows? Wayne could be the man to inspire them. Filling the Championship void left by the departure of Aston Villa’s John Terry.  Inspiring his younger team mates to retain their former glories. It’s going to be a lot easier – for them and for us – without the eyes of the world watching.

Two tweets summed it up for me last night. This is what it felt like for anyone outside the Pride Park love in.

There we go. The high bar has been set. No doubt the media will now be tripping over themselves to shoot him down the second anything, no matter how small, fails to go to plan. Derby and Bet 32 have take an a massive gamble. It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out.

Getting back to TW8, Brentford and Stoke meet in the FA Cup third round on Saturday. With promotion to the Premier League very much a genuine aspiration at present, what would you do if you were Thomas Frank? Give the B team and substitutes a run out or stick with the team that has done so well over these last few months?

For me, Clive, it’s an odd one. I absolutely love the FA Cup and have advocated full strength for year after year,. The chance to progress in this famous old competition too big an opportunity to cast aside with abandon. The potential of entertaining a Liverpool or Manchester City a delicious incentive for reaching the fourth round. Moreso in what is our final season in Griffin Park.

Yet, yet, yet….. Bloody hell. We’re third in the Championship. The gap to seventh place is starting to grow. The two teams above us – Leeds United and West Bromwich Albion, whilst still well, well clear are both starting to wobble. Relatively. Each team having a current league record of only one win in five. If ever there was a time to give the first team a chance to catch their breath then now is the moment that Thomas Frank could be forgiven. For letting the broader squad stay match fit.

I’m absolutely with him on this one. I’m fully expecting the BMW to stay in the garage. For Luke Daniels to be named captain. For Julian Jeanvier to start this one after Ethan Pinnock as come in and performed heroics alongside Pontus. For the long awaited debut of Halil Dervisoglu – should clearance come through 🙂 .

And, it would seem, I’m not alone. As ever, the medium of Twitter summarising in one comment more than all this gubbins could ever do….

Whomever Thomas picks, it’s still a special occasion. Still a game we’ll be going out 100% to win. Whilst I’m absolutely with Luis on the team selection strategy, it doesn’t mean the occasion will be enjoyed any less. The desperation to win as enormous as ever. Peter Gilham busting a gut to big up the crowd. Tin foil trophies being hoisted high in the sky. The lure of Wembley still as strong as ever.

I can’t wait for this one. Bring it on!! Whatever the team.

FA Cup tin foil

Nothing says FA Cup tradition like a home made trophy

Nick Bruzon

Time to crack out the tin foil once more.

3 Dec

Brentford will play Stoke City in the FA Cup third round. After the magnificence of 7(seven) at the weekend, Monday evening’s draw saw the same numbered ball less than exciting as we were presented a tie with all the allure of Mrs. Brown in a bikini. With the audience making the strange coo-ing noises usually reserved for that cringeworthy banter between Ally, Matt, Phil and Sue Barker on ‘A Question of Sport’ each time a ball was pulled or ‘glamorous’ tie revealed ( they practically shat themselves over Liverpool v Everton and Manchester United v Wolves) , there was nothing but tumbleweed when Stoke were announced as our opponents. Even the ‘fascinating fact’, something so wonderfully delivered when Jim Rosenthal owned the presenter’s rostrum, was somewhat underwhelming. Brentford, apparently, going well in the Championship.

I love the FA Cup third round and will be there whomever the opponents. After our reaching the fifth round last time out (what second half at Swansea?) there was the hope of more excitement. Instead, it was just disappointing that having swerved the likes of a trip to Reading, Cardiff, Preston or Middlesbrough (breath most definitely being held when each of those came out first) we were then presented with the sort of same division opposition tie that goes to make up the more workmanlike aspect of the draw. Very much part of the supporting cast. Put there to make up the numbers which will allow the romantic side to play out.

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Initial joy ended in fifth round tears at Swansea, last time out

It is a tie that straddles the perineum of team selection. Eminently losable yet theoretically, on paper, equally winnable against a side who are struggling this time out. And we’re at home. You can’t, really, ask for more. Beyond a bit of excitement.

I guess thats the way the balls drop and it is one that now presents Thomas a really interesting team selection. Go full tilt or rest players given the demands of a long season where we are , as it stands, right up there in the promotion race. 

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The cup is always full of optimism, regardless of who we are playing

Despite having zero interest to the TV companies ( you can already see the BBC fighting over the games at Liverpool and Manchester United despite these being there sort of matches we are swamped by week in, week out on Sky, BT and, for the next few days, Amazon Prime) there’s no guarantee of a Saturday 3pm kick off. Like Brentford, West London neighbours Chelsea, QPR and Fulham were also given home ties. Good luck carving up the police duties there. With the third round normally spread thinner than the laughs in an episode of Mrs. Browns Boys, there are likely to be as many games on the Saturday as there will be on the extended weekend that goes around it. That’s TV for you.   

Even listening to the radio this morning, it is the Liverpool  – Everton game that is at the top of the list when the draw is being summarised. We shouldn’t be surprised. I expect Manchester United to follow next. Their non-selection for live coverage is something as rare as a laugh in an episode of etc etc etc…. So if you want the chance to see their under strength team (aka the first XI) in action, then Old Trafford is sure to be up there when the TV picks are selected.

If this sounds a little bitter, then I apologise. Genuinely, it isn’t meant as such. It is more a case of disappointment at what might have been. About the potential that is there just before the first name is pulled. Anybody could face anyone. The foreplay of Tony Adams with his hands on those magic balls as the pain, and pleasure, is teased out over the next 10 minutes. 

Yes. Not Chelsea (again) .

Yes ! Dodged the potato skin of a trip to Millwall. 

Yessss !!! We’re at home . 

Urghh. Noooo – it’s Stoke City. 

Something which, for the record, I have no doubt they are thinking exactly the same about. The FA Cup third round is one which, for me Clive, still produces the most exciting weekend for football as a whole. The knowing that somewhere, somebody big will go down. Something unexpected will happen. Somebody will end up with their tail between their legs.

Who are we kidding, though? Southampton or Scunthorpe. Stevenage or Stoke. It doesn’t, really, matter as long as we are still in that velvet bag. Get the bacofoil ready. Order in the extra large pizza (purely for the cardboard box). I’ve got a tinfoil trophy to make.

cup wembley

Can Brentford make a start on the “Road to Wembley” ?

Nick Bruzon