Tag Archives: Liverpool

Sheer Bliss for Neal and Thomas. Who or what comes next?

6 Jan

Brentford 1 Oxford United 0. The Bees are through to the fourth round of the FA Cup. It’s another clean sheet. It’s five games unbeaten. It could have been by more but in the end Neal Maupay’s penalty kick proved to be the crucial difference between the two sides. It never felt in doubt yet, but the same virtue, could have gone either way with the visitors pushing late on. Who cares though? I don’t. The most important thing is the Bees are ball number 4 of those to be decanted from the velvet bag into the tombola for Monday night’s draw. We’ve successfully navigated the potato skin already trodden on by the likes of Cardiff City, Huddersfield Town and even divisional rivals Norwich City on Saturday. We can now start making another tin foil trophy and blocking out the diary for the last weekend in January. Start dreaming of a visit from the likes of Manchester City or Accrington Stanley. Start dreaming of another cup run.

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Buzz Bee was up for the cup before kick off

Brentford looked positive and were dominant without creating bucketloads of chances. Oxford United did sufficient to close us out and would slowly find a way into a game played out against a strong starting XI. Moreso, one which was bolstered from the bench by the arrival of Neal Maupay. Indeed it was our top scorer who would eventually prove pivotal. His mazy run through the midfield and into the box was brought to a crunching halt by the intervention of former Bee John Mousinho. Maupay made no mistake from the spot and with ten minutes left on the clock that was it, surely?

Indeed it was. Nothing further transpired and despite a late flourish from the visitors it always seemed as though we would progress. Brentford did what they needed to. End of. The game wasn’t a classic by any stretch of the imagination but when the balls drop for Monday’s draw (live on the BBC from Molineux – hopefully not another dreadful crossover with TV’s The One Show) nobody will care how we got there. Nobody is going to begrudge us a visit from Manchester City or a trip to Accrington Stanley because we failed to feast at the Oxford United all you can score buffet. It’s massively disrespectful to both our opponents and to the team which Thomas put out. They did what they had to. They kept it tight at the back. They scored the winning goal.  

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Yesss!! 1-0 as we celebrate Neal Maupay’s penalty

What else can we take from this one? Neal Maupay is now cup tied. As are the likes of Ollie Watkins and Rico Henry. Good news all round on that front. Was there as much to be read into those who were left out of the 18 man squad altogether? There was no room for Henrik Dalsgaard, Nico Yennaris, Romaine Sawyers, Daniel Bentley or Chris Mepham. Was this injury, simple squad rotation or anything deeper, given the obvious lure these players offer to the top flight. Dean Smith, of course, is also rumoured to be sniffing around now that the transfer window is wide open. Given his own Aston Villa were tipped out by Swansea City availability for the cup (or not) won’t be on any list of his concerns.

Brentford and transfer stories go hand in hand at this time of the year. That will never change. With Ryan Woods having had his loan at Stoke City confirmed to a fully fledged sale earlier this week (who on earth saw that one coming?), have we perhaps already concluded our business? We live in hope although I can’t imagine we’ll have seen the last of such activity this time around. Even if it is simply rebuffing further approaches from Eddie Howe for Chris Mepham or politely telling Dean Smith that his money’s not welcome at Griffin Park. One can dream.

But that’s what it’s about at the moment. Dreams. Some are dreaming of keeping the squad intact. Others of a dream FA Cup draw again the likes of a Liverpool or Manchester City. Personally, I’ll be happy with a home tie and a chance of progression. There’s nothing to stir the blood and fire the imagination like an FA Cup run. It’s been a while since we’ve been able to really embark on one of these. The days of Martin Allen and a fifth round replay at home to Southampton, the winners knowing they would host Manchester United in the quarter finals. Of course, for those of us a bit longer in the tooth there was 1988 /1989 when we reached an Anfield quarter-final. Gary Blissett’s heroics that season are as fresh in the memory now as they were then. 

The fact that you can count these on the fingers of one hand show just how infrequent a Brentford cup run is. With league form starting to solidify and Thomas Frank’s new look defence having finally eradicated the silly mistakes that had been symptomatic of our game prior to the Christmas fixtures, could this be the year to finally focus on a stab at Wembley? No matter what our form at the ‘W’ place is ! 

Roll on Monday night. I can’t wait to find out….

Bliss Manchester City

The iconic Bees cup image as Bliss puts Manchester City to the sword

Nick Bruzon

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Spending big is not necessarily spending clever.

6 Nov

Good morning Brentford fans. And it is a very good morning. A quick look at the Premier league table following last night’s results shows Fulham firmly anchored to the bottom. Their 1-0 loss at a Huddersfield Town side (who themselves scored their first home goal since mid-April) sees our West London neighbours propping up the rest of the league. Statistically speaking, that’s 24 points behind leaders Manchester City after just eight games and with a trip to Liverpool next up.

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Happy Tuesday in the Premier League

The current predicament seems even more horrific when you look at the outlay from Fulham over the summer. It’s been widely documented that the £100.3m they spent has  been matched by a mere £4m coming in. They’ve kept their squad together and built on it. Hugely. A net outlay of £96.3m is only beaten by Liverpool who top the big spenders on £131m (161m out ; 30m in).  

And what is the result of this? A top flight record of ‘goals against’ for a Premier League start (29 conceded already), the worst goal difference in the division, a form record of LLLLL and a confidence level that saw the BBC match report subsequently describe them as: ”A fragile Fulham side, stripped of confidence and there for the taking.”  

It’s easy to laugh. Let’s be honest. Equally, let’s not make out we wouldn’t like to be feasting at a higher table. Yet that is something which I have no doubt will come. And, when it does, we’ll be competing rather than unable to scrap for the crumbs discarded by others. We’ve talked so often on these pages over the last couple of seasons about how Brentford are doing things. How we are spending cleverly, within means, and using our unique methods in order to stay afloat, comply with FFP but also build for the future at Lionel Road. It becomes a bit of a cracked record at times yet when you see the talent that has been uncovered, aswell as being sold for vast profit down the line as the team continue to step up, one has to step back and take notice.

Likewise, I’m not going to pretend I wouldn’t love to have seen some of those heroes stay on. It still hurts so much to see Jota in the blue of Birmingham City although nobody could deny the form of our current widemen. Having the likes of Ollie Watkins, Sergi Canos and Said Benrahma as regular starters / first choice substitutes a luxury not many managers in this division have the benefit of. That, a situation which has arisen because of our ‘buy low and sell high’ policy. The departure of Harlee Dean (as much due to the the emergence of Chris Mepham) helped facilitate the return of Moses Odubajo and what already seems a huge bargain in picking up Ezri Konsa to further enhance the current squad. Then there’s Neal Maupay…

He’s the Championship’s leading scorer. He’s the Championship’s leading provider of assists. He’s the player who endured such a torrid start to his Brentford career last season – and that was just from Ian Moose. He’s the player who found his feet and perhaps, if anyone, illustrated just how fragile Fulham are when he bagged that late, late equaliser back in April  – ironically, the same day Huddersfield scored their previous home goal. It was a goal that deflated Fulham as easily as somebody letting the air out of a clacker or blow up hand and should have been seen as a warning sign.

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Mark Fuller’s picture captured THE moment at Fulham

Spending big is not necessarily spending clever. That’s for sure. Yet by the same virtue, look at Manchester City. Compared to previous ‘windows’ they’ve barely troubled the scorers over the summer. This, something very much in isolation for them. At the same time, I read a piece yesterday by Miguel Delaney of The Independent. It was an article described by the author himself on Twitter as an “Upbeat piece on football’s impending death”.

Click bait theatrics or genuine cause for alarm? The collapse at The Cottage is great value. For us, at least. The longer term prognosis in the top flight is, if you share Miguel’s opinion, a somewhat more concerning one. If you read one article today, make it his. You can do so here. Whatever your view on City’s approach, it’s well worth a look –  enjoy.

Nick Bruzon

Bring on the big guns. And also Arsenal.

31 Aug

Finally. It actually happened. The game that so many of us have been waiting for will finally take place. Brentford entertain Nottingham Forest on Saturday in a chance to head back to the very upper reaches of the Championship table. Elsewhere, and you may have missed this on social media last night, we’ve been drawn away at Arsenal in the third round of the league cup. It it is a tie that seems to be exciting just about everyone, no more so than our own chairman Cliff Crown.

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A fairly safe bet we’ll need to go brown for this one

You can understand the buzz around this game. We all know the history at Arsenal and of the many, many trophies they have won. Even if things have got (relatively) barren in recent years and Europa League qualification is the best they have to be content with. As the later end of The Wenger era saw them very much standing still, the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool and Spurs have all overtaken Arsenal at football’s top table. With Tottenham currently sitting pretty as kings of North London football, I have no doubt current boss Unai Emery will view the Carabao Cup as a huge opportunity to try and start redressing that balance.

C137D36D-7E04-4531-81DE-C0D1C441FEA8For Brentford fans, this presents the rarest of opportunities. Our paths haven’t crossed in over 70 years and for many it is a chance to visit a new stadium. Whilst the records are under debate (certainly in regards to our own number of defeats) the one thing everyone agrees on is that Brentford have the lion’s share of victories. As much as five can be deemed any sort of lion’s share. Personally, I’m just grateful for a kind draw (the prospect of Boro’ away, urghh) , an eminently winnable game and the chance to return my books before they become overdue.

The other thing to catch my eye on Twitter was the number of people who already seem set to miss this one : New York, Vegas, Franz Ferdinand (the band rather than the deceased Archduke), recovering from a car crash……

These just some of the many, albeit wonderful reasons (perhaps not so much that last one), as to why people are now checking their diaries to see if there is any chance of avoiding a pre-booked clash. Yet with Arsenal playing on the Sunday, the game seems likely to be played on the evening of 26th September. A cup tie on a Wednesday evening is something that The Emirates won’t have seen for a few years, even if it does push yours truly dangerously close to the list of absentees.

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That’s the night of my own work Christmas party (being the last time all 11 of the team are in together prior to late December). And now I’ll have to let the team down. Them, not Brentford. Unless of course they fancy some celebratory cup football. Yes, do spare a thought for Mads and her team in the ticket office as all manner of strange(r) requests are likely to come out of the woodwork. I can only imagine the queue for this one being akin to the launch of our own brown and orange away shirt.

All of which is wonderful, but there is also the small matter of Nottingham Forest tomorrow. Of course I’m excited about the prospect of reaching the Carabao cup fourth round but the league campaign is where it’s all at. Can Brentford get back to winning ways after the slip up at Blackburn? Will we be able to inflict a first defeat of the season on a Forest team who themselves beat Premier League opposition in the cup this week. A very late brace from the wonderfully named Matty Cash seeing Newcastle United’s celebrations at a 90th minute equaliser being somewhat short lived. An eventual 3-1 win sees the Tricky Trees presented their own chance of further profession, with a home tie against Stoke City the reward.

I thought the Bees looked wonderful with the build up play on Tuesday night against Cheltenham. It’s great to see the players coming in adapting to the system used by the first team. I also think we were over elaborate, profligate and almost got caught out. Dean Smith will no doubt be making changes with Romaine Sawyers and Ollie Watkins amongst those sure to return.

There’s no Ryan Woods, of course. His own ‘loan to sale’ was confirmed last week Saturday and he is now a Stoke player. Let’s hope they don’t injure him. Although I’d imagine neck ache from looking up at the sky will be his main health concern.

There’s no doubt we’re all well up for that Arsenal game. Chairman Crown and his family may even don a half/half scarf (although hopefully not) whilst Nico Yennaris and Josh Dasilva have their own points to prove. Yet all that is to come. If nothing else, we’ve a score to settle after last season’s capitulation at home to Forest. 1-0 up after 40 minutes turned into 3-1 down after 47 and an eventual 4-3 defeat that was nowhere near as close as the score line suggests. Then (away) manager Mark Warburton doing his ‘Brittas Empire’ thing in a shirt / short combo that was tighter than the final score.

Still, that was then and this is now. Warbs has moved on from The City Ground. Brentford have moved up. Dean Smith and his team are playing some quite wonderful football. Here’s hoping we can find the back of the net and return to winning ways.

See you on Saturday.

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Mark Warburton – won at football but lost at fashion last time out.

Nick Bruzon

That’s one Saturday we’ll never forget although maybe not for all the right reasons.

27 May

After all the build-up to both the play-off final and Champions League it ended up being awful. Just awful. Cock ups and woeful flaps. Dreadful clappers egging on their heroes and nobody laughing. But enough about BBC1 screening: All Round to Mrs. Browns last night. We need to talk about football. Brentford will play Aston Villa next season after they lost out to Fulham. Liverpool return home empty handed following the game with Real Madrid in Kiev.

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Mrs. Brown. As relentless as The Terminator

I hadn’t planned on blogging much until the World Cup. Yet yesterday’s double-header has seen a temporary return for this weekend. With Brentford having enjoyed such an action packed campaign it was only right and proper to recognise the Championship season coming to conclusion. And then there was the added bonus of Liverpool trying to recreate the miracle of Istanbul on another of those glory, glory European nights (other entries from the Anfield bingo card are also available).

What can you say though? Even this morning I still numb by what happened. Shocked. That most fickle mistress having administered a kick to the nuts that was harsh even by her standards. And just to be clear, I’m still talking about the football rather than any accidental switching over to Mrs. Brown half way through the night.

There’s not much to add that hasn’t already been written and said. The clappers were horrific. The play-off final was cagey. The post-match love in with a Fulham side who should have been reduced to ten players much earlier than it eventually happened was awful. Aston Villa picked themselves up in the second half but it was much too late by then. Tom Cairney grabbing the winner after being put through by Eighteen-year-old Sessegnon. For those not familiar with the player, I understand his name is actually Ryan. And he did a pass. Well done.

The only real plus point to come out of this was that at least Steve Bruce has been spared telling John Terry to grow up, forget his own perceived self-importance and get warmed up for the game against Chelsea next season. Instead, it’ll be a game against Brentford. If he doesn’t hang up his boots.

As for Liverpool, it wasn’t to be. Goalkeeper has a nightmare will be what we take away from this. Sadly. One has to feel for Loris Karius. He cut a desperate figure at full time, left alone on the pitch in Kiev. For all the world looking like he just wanted the ground to open up and swallow him. It was awful to watch. As though we were peering in on an individual’s moment of personal hell when surely an immediate arm round the shoulder was needed.

Rio Ferdinand in the pundit’s box didn’t really help afterwards. None of his teammates will say it, but they‘ll all be looking at him and thinking it. I’ve been in that situation. I’ve done it…he noted.

Stevie G joined in, mentioning he’d won the final. Again. And again. Clanngggg – the sound of a name being dropped.

Whatever happened, happened. Easy for me to say on a Sunday morning but we’ve more than seen our own pantheon of goalkeeping calamity at Griffin Park over the years. We’ve more than felt our own pain at the final stage. That’s before you even get to all those play-off semis and, of course, ‘that penalty’.

Wigan, Crewe, Port Vale, Stoke City, Carlisle and Yeovil Town may not have the same allure as Real Madrid but the pain was just as real. The feeling of emptiness horrific. The realisation of having got so close only to fall at the last is just a brutal sensation.

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Marcello Trotta takes that penalty – as bad as it got but what a response next season.

It was Ashley Bayes to the max. It does get better. It will get better. It may not feel it now. That feeling of despair we all felt as the penalty hit the bar was replaced with something quite wonderful the following season as another penalty hit the back of the net.

At the same time, bouncing back from making not one but two such high profile mistakes with the eyes of the world watching is going to be as huge a challenge as they come. Hopefully, somebody will go round Twitter mopping up some of the vile abuse being poured out towards the young goalkeeper and his family. It was simply horrific. This normally most wonderful of social media tools at it’s very worst.

Spare a thought also for Mo Salah. Whether you support Liverpool or not, only the most churlish could take pleasure from the fact that he now looks as though he’ll miss the World Cup. For this global superstar to be absent from the most exciting of tournaments is a huge loss. For Egypt, for fans, for football and of course the player himself. What a way it would have been to wrap up a simply magnificent season. Now, he’s hoping the medics can do their thing but listening to Jürgen Klopp talking at full time, it doesn’t seem good.

I could ramble on, but what’s the point. Football treated us to the very worst of what she offers yesterday. At least in terms of raw, inconsolable emotion. Unless you are a Fulham fan.

See you all again in a week or so. There’s a World Cup, a new Brentford kit and a few more things to look forward to….

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Ashley Bayes bounced back from this debut

Nick Bruzon

There’s only one team I want to do it on Saturday. For all that is good in football.

26 May

For us Brentford fans, the season is over. A fourth top ten finish in the Championship, our last significant action of the campaign (aside from beating the Loftus Road mob, again) was Neal Maupay’s magnificent 94th minute equaliser at The Cottage in mid-April. Those two points denied to Fulham have ended up being the difference between their attaining automatic promotion to the Premier League and now finding themselves in a play-off final against Aston Villa. That game is today. Saturday.

But actually, I’m not as into it as perhaps I normally would be. This is nothing to do with excitement about the chance to play Liverpool bingo later in the Champion’s League final. More with the participants and what I’ve seen on social media this week.

And if you’d like to read more whilst helping the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust …. the rest of this article can now be found in the Kindle e-book Ten Times Better. Brentford FC Season review: 2017/18. Inspired by ‘that’ interview it contains the least bad of these columns in one, handy volume as it looks at our own campaign as well as wider divisional life and the promotion / relegation races.

As a bonus there’s a whole host of new material. New that is, for my pages. Specifically, all the programme articles submitted (both home and away where, if nothing else, you can get the original versions of both Birmingham City and Millwall).

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In addition, There Is No Plan B. Brentford FC Season reviews: 2013/14 – 2017/18 takes us all the way back to the start of this latest leg in the journey. That penalty. League One. Harlee Dean was a hero. Jota was something we thought happened to the temperature for one week in July. Alan Judge had joined on loan whilst the Marinus Experiment was something nobody had contemplated. Bringing things bang up to date by the inclusion of this year’s volume alongside the four previously published campaign round ups, it has five seasons in one weighty tome. As weighty as a download can be, that is.

Relive the memories. See how often the same material gets regurgitated. Remind yourself about the likes of Betinho, Martin Fillo, Javi Venta and Marcos Tebar. Certainly, if there’s no Marcos Tea Bar at Lionel Road it will be an opportunity missed.

All proceeds from any sales will go to the Community Sports Trust. For less than the cost of a half / pint respectively, they may help while away some time on the commute. By the pool on holiday. In the bathroom. Who knows? It will certainly do some good for the Trust, whose work has been well documented at Griffin Park but you can read all about it on their site.

And if that wasn’t enough, I’ve been given something very special. A 2017/18 third team shirt with Lewis Macleod’s squad number on the reverse in the EFL typeface. Anyone with half an interest in Bees kits will know that these were never made available in the club shop.  Anyone who has read any of this before will know what a kit nerd yours truly is so when I say this is rare, take that in good faith!

To be in with a chance of owning it, download a copy of either before the end of June 2018 and you’ll go into a draw to win this. Just DM/tweet me (@NickBruzon) a copy of your purchase confirmation mail and I’ll add your name to the list before selecting a random Bees fan to win this on July 1st.

 

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Could Scott Hogan celebrate another goal today ?

 

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Nick Bruzon

 

Brentford remember and Liverpool celebrate (although not all of us join in).

3 May
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Billy (the fish)

Football, eh? Few could deny that last night’s Champions League semi was nothing short of the comic book capers normally found in the likes of Roy of the Rovers or Billy The Fish (is that still a thing)? Every ‘Liverpool in Europe’ bingo cliché was played out as they edged past Roma by the odd goal in 13 to reach the final where they’ll play Real Madrid. There was angst in our house as that one took place (more to come) but, as ever, we can only start with Brentford.

The Premier League dream may be over for this season at Griffin Park but that’s not to say it hasn’t been a busy last few days At least, on social media where there have been a couple of quite significant Brentford reflated anniversaries remembered by the club. And one that hasn’t.

Whilst Liverpool were doing their thing yesterday, in TW8 it was cause for a different kind of celebration. 26 years since Gary Blissett scored that goal at Peterborough. 26 years since Saint and Greavsie were left with huge amounts of ‘egg on face’ after having to retract their premature crowning of Birmingham City as League Champions. I still smile a that one, even now. 26 years since Robbie from Eastenders appeared on the celebration videos. Nice one, Wellard – a better effort than Cameron Diaz.

What a day for Brentford fans. What a night. What a celebration. What a goal from Bliss. The man. The legend. The match highlights appeared yesterday and still seem so fresh – mainly because I think I must have watched them more times than The Spy Who Loved Me (and that’s saying something) over the ensuing years.

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Almost up there with Peterborough

Our more recent generation of fans have, of course, been spoiled by nothing except good times over the last few years. Good luck to them – they’ve got on board the Brentford express at the right station. Yet, at the same time, to be part of a moment such as this when we were, typically, mid table plodders, was nothing short of wonderful. It really was a special moment to have finally achieved that elevation to a higher division.

These days, playing the likes of Leeds united, Wolves, Aston Villa and Birmingham City is the norm (although maybe not next season if things go to plan on Sunday). Back then, to have the opportunity of doing so was a rare and exciting chance. Whilst we won’t talk about what happened next, let’s not deny that getting there was about as good as it gets. Sheer bliss !

The other anniversary was something that fan engagement manager Ryan Murrant tweeted about. Not surprisingly, given a previous role at Doncaster Rovers. Five years ago it happened.. and not in a good way. 

Something, something, something, penalty. If only the media had mentioned this at the time or showed it since.

I’ve seen that crossbar rattler many, many times since – on each occasion thinking that, this time surely, Marcello Trotta would score. This time, perhaps, Kev would manage to hang on to the ball. Yet what I hadn’t noticed previously was the ‘official’ tweet from Doncaster – a team currently residing in the ‘where are they now’ files.

Talk about low key. Not milking the moment. Thanks for sharing that, Ryan. Genuinely. Fair to say that Brentford have had the last laugh.

Yet with all the talk being about Brentford and Doncaster, it seems that people are missing the bigger picture here. Aswell as being five years since that penalty, it was also five years since that awful appearance on Soccer AM. Awful at least in the sense of the Bees supporters, guests on that day’s programme, failing to put away even one effort in the end of show shoot out. A devastatingly bad score of nil points.

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Soccer AM. Even HB made a first, off screen, appearance

I can say this with a clean conscience. Regular readers of these pages (should such a concept exist) may well be familiar with the fact that yours truly was also one of the participants. That each of my own efforts was preceded by stacking it into fellow fan JJ – he of the goal inducing dodgy bladder (whenever he goes to the ablutions block mid-game, Brentford score). That we managed the lowest score of any club that season. Possibly ever. Unless somebody has managed minus points.

It was awful. Humiliating. Typical. Not even Natalie Sawyer could save us. Yet, thanks to another penalty, the memory of that day has become a more abiding one. One we can now look back on that bit easier. Not much, but a bit. Besides, long term it would be fair to say that everything has worked out ok.

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Even Natalie had a go

 

Ok, Liverpool in Europe. First and foremost, congratulations. What a night for the neutral. What a night for the fans in Rome and back home at Anfield. It was captivating viewing as an early, seemingly insurmountable, four goal aggregate lead for the Reds was slowly reeled in until they emerged triumphant by the odd goal in 13. Real Madrid await in a final that is sure to be equally captivating.

But following this one at home, there was all sorts of confusion. And, for once, not Glenn Hoddle on BT Sport.

3-7(agg) proclaimed the score. What??  No!! This must be some sort of typo. Don’t get brackets wrong. Granted, it may have been a bit more awkward but shouldn’t this have read:  3-7(seven) (agg) ?

When Radja Nainggolan scored his late penalty to make it 6-7(agg) (sic) I was close to self-combustion. One more goal for Roma and I wouldn’t have been responsible for my actions.

7(seven) – 7(seven) (agg) would have been a scoreline to rival the infamous Forfar 5 East Fife 4  – something that I believe may be an urban legend, although as somebody much wiser than me once opined, “Never ruin a good story with the facts”.

In the end, it wasn’t to be. Instead, simply a case of wishing Liverpool the best of luck in the final. It promises to be a cracker. And, likewise, leaves a few weeks to update that bingo card.

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An update for the final awaits: 1981, Real Madrid, 13

Nick Bruzon

 

Tonight is huge (again)….but not necessarily at Anfield.

24 Apr

Something, something, something, royal baby. Blah, blah, blah, Liverpool getting a semi. Those glory, glory European Anfield nights. Some perspective people, please. There are much more important matters afoot. Hey, Brentford aren’t even playing tonight and will have to be content with gorging on the memory of Saturday’s derby day victory over QPR combined with looking forward to the weekend trip to Barnsley. Yet if ever there was a case of ‘other results’ being of critical importance to The Bees then Tuesday night is that time as Derby County host Cardiff City and Nottingham Forest are home to Barnsley.

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Sergi and Romaine amongst the architects of QPR’s doom on Saturday

We all know the current position in the Championship table. Middlesbrough in fifth, are on 72 points. That’s four ahead of Brentford and the aforementioned Rams on 68. Yet sixth placed Millwall have 69. I’m no Stephen Fry but even yours truly has sufficient mental acumen to know that’s a gap of one point. One. Point. With two games left to reel it in.

Yet, as ever, there is a potential fly in the ointment. Derby County do have that game in hand. And they play it tonight. Against Cardiff City. Victory will stretch the gap to an, albeit still catchable, three points. Cardiff, on the flip side, know that a win will give them a monumental advantage in the race with Fulham for an automatic promotion slot. Success will see them four points clear in second place with just two games to go.

This is huge. You couldn’t make up a game of this consequence. West London will be split down the middle tonight with Brentford no doubt hoping for a Cardiff win whilst Fulham fans will be mildly waving their clappers in support of Derby. Even QPR supporters will be praying for…. actually, they won’t as they’re long dead in the water.

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Cardiff win tonight and I’ll even forgive them the hashtags

But if this one has impact on Brentford, then our attention is going to be split on two fronts. There’s also the game at Nottingham Forest where defeat for Barnsley will massively increase their chances of relegation. A win will see them leapfrog fourth bottom Bolton Wanderers and have the added benefit of dragging Birmingham City back into things. The Blues own safety net of five points will be a lot squeakier if that becomes three, once the remaining games level out.

Honestly, I’m not sure which result will be best for us here. No doubt Dean Smith would tell Brentford fans just to worry about ourselves. Yet with The Bees going to Oakwell on Saturday, do we want them with destiny back in their own hands and safer, or with that potentially demoralising punch to the gut having been administered by Nottingham Forest? In themselves, a team who have won just a single game out of the last nine, losing the other eight and managing just three goals in the process.

Is it better for us to go into Saturday’s game with Barnsley’s safety all but a mathematical miracle, potentially even hoping that Birmingham City could administer a mid-afternoon psychological blow to our opponents? Or is being the architects of their own survival a better option? Something that would then also see us in the utterly distasteful position of hoping for QPR success on Saturday, with the Blues heading to Loftus Road.

Sadly, having seen the ineptitude of the hapless hoops on Saturday I now have to declare Birmingham City safe. That hurts. But all good things come to an end. Bolton travel to fellow relegation candidates Burton on Saturday and then host goal shy Forest as the season reaches an intriguing denouement. I’m not even going to get close to calling those.

Instead, it really is a case of whatever happens tonight at the City Ground happens. Any result is both good and bad for us. It WILL have an impact but only Saturday at 3pm will tell what that is. Instead, the game of absolute importance will be the one at Pride Park.

I remember back in 1995/96, listening to BBC Radio 5 ( I think, sure the sport had moved on from Radio 2 by then) and Birmingham City v Bradford. It was the season that only one side went up and the Blues only needed two points to guarantee the league title from second placed Brentford. Their 0-0 with Bradford City was one of the most painful bits of self-inflicted torture I’ve ever sat through.  It was rewarded, briefly, the following weekend as The Bees were doing the needful at Bristol Rovers whilst Huddersfield Town took the lead against City. Sadly, results didn’t hold and we ended up in the play-offs. What I wouldn’t pay for that conclusion this time around…

So choose what you do tonight carefully. That Liverpool – Roma Champions League tie is, undoubtedly, a huge occasion. The Reds have a magnificent record in Europe that we can’t get close to. Yet. And if nothing else, the chance to play ‘Liverpool in Europe’ bingo is always a wonderful one.

But for me (Clive) it’ll a case of eschewing Anfield and BT Sport where, whatever happens, it will only be half time. At full time.  Instead, I’ll be glued to Sky Sports and the game from Derby. The prize at the end of that one could be of infinitely more importance in this little corner of West London…

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Liverpool bingo – celebrating both history and cliche

Nick Bruzon

Almost 24 hours on and it still feels fantastic.

11 Apr

Almost 24 hours later and I’m still buzzing. Having spent the last ten days on a very rare holiday, following Brentford has been that bit trickier than normal. Yet what do when the last night abroad coincided with our game at Nottingham Forest? Rather than stay in a hotel room with Mark Burridge whispering sweet nothings into my ear (via the medium of I-follow) instead it was a trip outside to find somewhere showing the Champions League thriller between Manchester City and Liverpool. That said, thanks to the joy of WhatsApp and Twitter pretty much all of my attention was focussed on updates from The City Ground rather than the TV in Popeyes bar, Lanzarote. A third 1-0 win in a row for The Bees, secured via a late strike from Henrik Dalsgaard, saw Brentford move to within four points of sixth placed Millwall with just four games to go. The most unlikely of play-off dreams remains alive and it makes Saturday’s game with a Fulham team whose own victory propelled them into the ‘automatic’ places even more significant than it already was.

Just four points to Millwall in sixth. Just four points to Derby County in fifth (albeit The Rams have two games in hand). Brentford held their nerve last night in a match which, statistically speaking, seemed to pour scorn on Forest’s recent record of failing to trouble the scorers for five straight games as shot followed shot. Despite hitting the woodwork twice in the opening period, Daniel Bentley’s goalmouth once again remained untouched. Despite 16 attempts, 3 on target, there was no way through for the home team.

Rather, it was the stooping Dalsgaard who got on the end of former captain Josh McEachran’s 81st minute corner to frustrate Nottingham Forest again. You have to feel for the home fans but, being quite selfish, that’s their issue. Instead, Popeyes erupted to a quite unexpected shriek of delight that had absolutely nothing to do with Liverpool snuffing out another Manchester City attack. Nothing to do with seeing Birmingham City en-route to yet another defeat; this time at Bristol City. Nothing to do with Roma making it 3-0 against Barcelona and thus lined up to progress on ‘away goals’. Instead, it had everything to do with our Danish international full back giving us the lead with less than ten minutes remaining.

And then the waiting game began. Waiting for the internet to refresh. Waiting for another Euro 3.00 beer to reach the table. Waiting to see if Brentford could hang on. Waiting to see if Barnsley could snatch a late equaliser at Portman Road. Sadly, the Tykes couldn’t. Whilst people all around me were in awe at events unfolding in both Manchester and Rome, there was one corner of a foreign pub that was forever Brentford. And it was beautiful.

Ding: Another WhatsApp message. The trumpet ‘emoji’.
Ding: Yes!!!!

We’d hung on. Oh my, that was quite remarkable. Quick. Where is that ‘As it stands’ table? Ah. There we go. What a sight. What a time for Brentford to narrow the gap. What a game awaits on Saturday afternoon. If you haven’t got a ticket for The Cottage then what are you waiting for? This could be even bigger than the 4-1 in terms of brilliance. The potential double whammy of railroading the Fulham promotion push whilst increasing our own chances. Could it be that game at Leyton Orient all over again? If we celebrated three points there like the FA Cup, victory at The Cottage would see Champions League levels of ecstasy.

Whilst Millwall are still in the box seat as play-off dark horses, if Brentford can keep up this wonderful run then who knows? Imagine. Could it end up a Fulham v Brentford play-off final, even? Win on Saturday and anything is possible. Call it the cabin pressure at 37,000 feet, but flying home now I feel euphoric about all things football. I feel as though anything could happen. We’ve even got Ryan Woods available once more.

Seeing what Liverpool and Roma achieved last night should be sufficient evidence that this most beautiful of games can continue to surprise us. Nothing is certain until that final whistle blows. Results really can defy expectation.

But for now, it has to be as much a time for reflection on overcoming what could have been a very tricky hurdle at Nottingham Forest. Take nothing away from our opponents. Opponents who, at least as far as yours truly is concerned, have remained nothing but sporting. This was a HUGE result in a season that has the potential to match our own first back in The Championship. The season of Mark Warburton and a play-off semi with Middlesbrough when all the results aligned on the final round of games to elevate us to fifth in the table.

Could similar happen again? Who knows but I’ll tell you one thing – I can’t wait to find out. Roll on Saturday and Fulham.

See you there….

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Following Brentford. From Lanzarote. Via the Champions League.

Nick Bruzon

Six of the best and who knows what could happen…

7 Apr

Match day. Saturday. Apparently. With the games coming thick and fast for Brentford after a hectic Easter weekend it’s hard to tell where we are at times. Yet following that four day flurry which saw the draw with Sheffield United followed by our wonderful win on the road at Bristol City, today Ipswich Town are the visitors to Griffin Park. Could we take inspiration from Liverpool to make the seemingly impossible, possible?

Ipswich Town. A club who have a deserved place in the footballing record books. A club with whom even just for Brentford, there seems to have been more than a crossing of paths in recent seasons. Of course, ‘official’ have picked the 2-2 that welcomed in the mercifully brief Marinus era for their ‘moment in time’ on the club website today.

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Bru celebrated (too soon) as Ipswich opened the Marinus era.

That one being a game which featured the return of a club legend in the eyes of many supporters, Jonathan Douglas. His only meaningful contribution being to break Jota as late goals from Andre Gray and number 26 salvaged a situation that seemed well beyond redemption with the score line reading 2-0 to the visitors and just moments on the clock. The post match handbags between the players masking the true extent of the Spaniard’s injury.

Douglas hits jota post Ipswich

Bees Player viewers saw Dougie appear to give Jota a ‘flamboyant slap’ at FT

You could also cite the game at Portman Road the previous season. Not so much the 1-1 score line, in which Dougie proved hero rather than villain this time around, but more for Daryl Murphy missing an open goal that even Ian Moose would have fancied himself to score. BBC Radio Suffolk matchday pundit Mick Mills would later describe it as: “Breathtaking. It will go into the top ten all time misses. If you can find ten worse ones I’d like to see them.”

Hey. Everybody’s a critic. We’re all master tacticians and 40 goal a season strikers when watching from the comfort of the terrace, tv or gantry. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time a commentator got something wrong and you can’t knock Murphy’s fine, fine record at Ipswich. That said, I’m still amazed at how he failed to find the back of the net.

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And Murphy must score. Erm….

Yet for me (Clive), the quintessential coming together took place on Boxing Day of 2014. With Mark Warburton’s Brentford team riding the crest of the #NovemberKings wave (it doesn’t get any easier typing those words), Ipswich visited Griffin Park for a battle between the teams placed 2nd and 3rd in the Championship. With our game kicking off at lunchtime, whoever won would be guaranteed to top the table, even if just for a few hours.

The prospect of Brentford reaching these dizzy heights was one which was not lost on us. The December 26th game is always a special one anyway. The chance to shake off any excesses of the day before, escape the in-laws for a few hours whilst catching up with your friends and football family. The thought of what three points might bring made this one even more tantalising.

Nineteen seconds after kick off, that man Murphy took the wind out of our sails with an opening goal that was made all the more incredible by Brentford having actually had the ball to start the game. Not only was it under our control but we conspired to give it away and gift our visitors a belated Christmas present that was gratefully accepted.

Things got worse. With less than half an hour on the clock we’d had our fourth attempt to perfect that kick-off routine as the score leapt to 0-3. Despite a late brace from Sam Saunders we were never in this one and his pair only served to dress up a 4-2 scoreline in what was as one sided a game as I’ve seen in a while.

That was then. This is now. Brentford have six games to go to reel in a five point gap on the play off places. It’s a huge ask, for sure, but with the finish line in sight then what better time to line ourselves up for one final push. I’ll be honest, for huge parts of this season it is a push that I wouldn’t have bet on us being in a position to make. Yet, somehow, Dean Smith and his boys have kept at it. The results have kept coming and some have even worked in our favour.

Monday’s defeat of Bristol City was as dominant as they come, with Neal Maupay’s goal sealing the points that our domination had warranted. It was a performance that brings us bang up to date and in with a shout if the Bees can hold their nerve. Moreso, it was a game that marked Alan Judge’s first start for The Bees since the horrific leg break he suffered as a result of the assault by Luke Hyam at Portman Road back in April 2016. To go from the verge of the Euros to that long recovery must have been incredibly hard to take.

Full kudos to Alan and the Brentford back room team. Whether he starts this one remains to be seen but a Brentford team with Alan Judge in the side are a stronger outfit than one without him.

I really can’t wait to see how it plays out. Anybody watching the Liverpool – Manchester City game in the Champions League during the week will have seen what a difference it makes playing in a passionate arena. What an impact it can have on opposition who are streets ahead in terms of financial clout and league position. That’s not so much to compare Ipswich to Manchester City but more to show the impact a united crowd can have. It was something truly special to witness. For all the awfulness of having to play ‘Liverpool Glory, Glory Anfield European nights’ bingo, the Kop really were like a 12th man (house!).

The Ealing Road stand may not have the same depth as that most iconic seat of football Valhalla. However, size isn’t everything and what we lack in stature we can more than make up for in noise. Here’s hoping that come 3pm, our fans come together to raise the roof. With ‘other results’ going our way and the players doing their thing, imagine what it will be like should that five point gap shrink any further?

Bring it on…..

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Last time, at Griffin Park

Nick Bruzon

Can we extend the run? Should we mention the ‘p’ word? Is this football’s latest gimic?

27 Jan

With the FA Cup taking centre stage in the public eye this weekend (and we’ll get on to last night’s game between Yeovil Town and Manchester United shortly), Brentford have a wonderful chance to make further, almost stealth like, progress. With Norwich City the visitors to Griffin Park this afternoon, stuffing the Canaries will see the Bees move level on points with sixth placed Sheffield United. Of the teams between us and the Blades, Fulham are the only other with a game today. A tricky trip to Barnsley standing between them and their own play-off aspirations.

Brentford, of course, are on that wonderful run. 13 league games unbeaten at Griffin Park combined with 7(seven) Championship wins out of the last 9 played sees us very much the form team at present. Bolton Wanderers and then Reading being the latest teams to fall victim to the red and white machine.

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Bolton were the last visitors to Griffin Park.

Indeed, in the top four divisions nobody has gone unbeaten for longer, with only our FA Cup conquerors Notts County able to match what The Bees have achieved at Griffin Park. Not even the likes of Manchester City or Liverpool, who are next up on 12 game runs. With the Magpies involved in cup action today, their reward for that third round triumph being a home tie with Premier League Swansea, there’s even more incentive to go for it today and stride clear of the ‘unbeaten’ teams.

In our way, Norwich City. A team we’ve already played twice this season whilst who could forget last campaign’s horror shows against the Canaries?

This time around, things began with a Carabao Cup third round tie back in September one we probably shouldn’t dwell on. Whilst not quite up there with the infamous Oxford United game that formed part of the ill-fated Marinus experiment, it wasn’t far off. Move along, nothing to see here.

I take much more comfort from our 2-1 league win at Carrow Road just before Christmas. The Bees were rampant in a game where the  highlight of the night was the pass from Romaine Sawyers to set up Lasse Vibe for our second goal. Even now it is worth watching a few more times just to remind yourself quite how wonderful, ridiculous, sublime, filthy, outrageous it was. Certainly, those were my thoughts at the time and nothing has happened since to change my mind.  Take your pick as to which fits best. Words can’t do it justice.

Romaine’s brilliance is 2mins 37 seconds in on the official highlights.

Listening to Deam Smith speaking at the moment, he comes across as very grounded. Very much in ‘taking one game at a time’ territory. I don’t blame him. He’s the Brentford head coach; I’m the numpty on the terrace. Yet as supporters it is so easy to see the polar opposites. Reaching for the stars or feeling as though we are sitting in the gutter. Our start to the campaign wasn’t great. A situation compounded by those heartbreaking sales. It was as much the immediacy as the final destination of those three that really hurt. Yet how things have moved on since then. How Dean’s faith in his team and their own wonderful spirit has been rewarded.

It is faith and confidence that is coursing through all of us at present. The last few months (Barnsley and Burton at home, aside) have seen some of the most exciting football games we’ve had the privilege of watching in years. Norwich City won’t make it easy. Far from it. Yet I can’t see anything other than home win today. And you can quote me on that. If for no other reason than my Cousin Charles from Gibraltar will be at this one. Any regular readers who know of his record….

Barbet pen Norwich

Norwich in the cup happened. Move along

As for the FA Cup, I’m not going to pretend I was anything but gutted when we went out. That defeat to fourth tier opposition, who absolutely deserved it on the day, was only salvaged by the long, long, long awaited return of Alan Judge. Trot out any number of clichés about this oldest of tournament but you can’t deny it is captivating. People want to watch it; teams want to win it. Last night was no exception as Mrs Bruzon and I settled down to watch the BBC fourth round tie between Yeovil Town v Manchester United. Nothing says romance – of the cup or otherwise – than a night on the sofa watching Ryan Dickson.

Sadly, there was no be no Goliath falling on a potato skin. Manchester United won 4-0. No surprise there. The positive was a healthy selection of tin foil trophies on display from the Yeovil fans although the flip side being the return of something we’d seen the previous week in the Brighton v Chelsea leg game.

Namely that of a young child holding up a crudely drawn sign, asking a player for his shirt after the game. Last week it was Eden Hazard, who duly responded. Last night it was Alexis Sanchez, although by all accounts he was yet to reciprocate.

Are we now to see a glut of hastily scrawled A4 sheets of paper held aloft by young fans? Is this the latest trend? Certainly, you wouldn’t get me involved in any such form of cheap stunt. Instead, I’m off to the game now (see you there) and will simply leave Harry to press ‘publish’….

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Nick Bruzon