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Who will win the Championship? Who will go down? What about the Bees? Who has the best new kit?

3 Aug

Almost there, Brentford fans. It’s Thursday morning. The Championship kicks off tomorrow evening before The Bees travel to Sheffield United on Saturday afternoon. But with three top ten finishes under our belts, is it now the time to look at stepping up? Or should we remain content just to swim in the same waters as Aston Villa, Middlesbrough, Sheffield Wednesday, Wolves and all those other famous names? To stay safe. To look at holding station until such time as Lionel Road is ready for us to move in to?

Yesterday’s column on Jota and not ‘Jota’ ended with several questions of this nature. The predominant one being, what are your hopes for the forthcoming season? Well for what it’s worth, here’s my take on how the Championship is going to pan out.

Starting with Brentford, the summer has been an exciting one. On the transfer front it has been one way traffic inward with, to date, nobody leaving bar The Hoff. Even KK and Jack Bonham have only gone out on loan. There has been no Jota to West Ham. No Ryan Woods to Sunderland. No Harlee Dean to Sheffield Wednesday. No Rico Henry to Hull City. No Romanine Sawyers to Southend United (and apologies – but that one really did appear) . So far…

Instead we have bought what would seem to be incredibly astutely. The EFL young player of the year in Ollie Watkins and South African international Kamo Mokotjo are the two names immediately grabbing our attention. The former because of the potential and our beating off a host of other clubs to his signature. These include a Nottingham Forest side who let Britt Assombalonga go to Middlesbrough and are now relying on veteran striker Daryl Murphy. Prolific in his day although never forget ‘that’ miss.

Murphy miss FLS Ipswich

And Murphy must score. Erm….

Kamo is getting Bees fans excited simply due to the fact of how skillful and how comfortable he already looks. Translating pre-season into real life form will be another thing, but the early signs are wonderfully positive. We seem to have genuine competition in pretty much every position. Just the amount of different stories that have appeared about our players over the summer show how strong our squad has become.

Of course, let’s not rest on our laurels here. The season may begin this weekend but that godforsaken transfer window still remains open until August 31. As we’ve seen in the past, players can come and go well after the campaign has begun. Andre Gray being a most recent example where, despite his two goals in two games at the beginning of the Marinus era, the inevitable sale to Burnley went through straight after.

Yet, at the same time, the current signs are positive. Fingers crossed it can stay that way. If Matthew Benham can juggle the finances to keep this squad together then we have the potential to be amongst the best in the league.

Little Brentford punching above their weight”. Not my words but those of just about every pundit outside of TW8 in recent times.

B*llocks” . They’re my words.

The last three years we’ve done what we have on merit. Reaching the play-offs for the Premier League in our first Championship season may have caught a few people unawares but it was fully deserved on our play. Coming out the other side of the Marinus experiment to end ninth, equally justified – despite that post Christmas wobble.

But for a ropey patch in the autumn last time around we could well have pushed on then. The football in the second half of the season, freed from the understandable obligation to play everything through Scott Hogan and reinvigorated by the returning Spanish duo of Jota and Sergi, was simply breathtaking.

We destroyed Aston Villa at Griffin Park. Absolutely destroyed them. You could say the same for the home games with Derby County. With Leeds United. With QPR, for whom Jake Bidwell probably has ongoing nightmares. Police still involved in that one (not literally), after reports of Jota picking his pocket more than once.

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‘Official’ love him, too

I don’t buy any of this small club nonsense. I fully know our history and have been coming to Griffin Park since 1979. Absolutely, it is a privilege to play at the level given some of the low points we’ve been through. But that doesn’t mean we should be showing any defference, any OTT respect, any form of “we’re just happy to be here’ humility. Just as nobody has a divine right to ‘be any good’ (see: Arsenal), equally just because you have humble origins you shouldn’t go into it expecting bad things to happen. Have some confidence in our ability. Our perceived size is an advantage. It is an advantage we should play up to.

We’ve taken so many teams and pundits by surprise already. I’m convinced it will happen again. My call for the Bees was initially 6th at the start of the summer. In recent weeks I’ve revised that to fifth. I’m sticking to that and nailing my colours to the mast here. Brentford to finish fifth.

Optimistic? Stupid? Naive? Whichever – I’m here to have fun this season and am only looking upwards.

Casting the net further afield, it is not a view shared by other sources. Middlesbrough and Aston Villa remain favourites to win the league. The former, I can fully understand. They’ve only ever been a force at this level (move along, nothing to see here….) whilst boosted by both the goals of Assombalonga and the parachute payments from the Premier League will be exceptionally strong . I’m agreeing with the experts on this one.

Villa though? No. No. No. I can’t see them finishing in the top six. The were horrific last season. Only good for betting on 1-1 scorelines, <2.5 goals and away L. The hype around John Terry surely more distraction than yardstick of genuine aspiration. I find it inconceivable that Steve Bruce will have turned things around this much over the summer. Stranger things have happened, of course, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Instead, Sheffield Wednesday are the team that will finally come good and take the second spot. Celebrating their 150th year with some cracking new kits, to boot (in my opinion, and not including our own, the best shirts in the Championship ) they’ll go up after knocking on the door for so long. Joining Brentford in the play-offs will be Norwich City, Fulham and Leeds United. Pick your order for these three. Much as I’m loathe to admit it, the Cottagers played some wonderful football last season. Their stadium may well be a hotbed of neutrality but, on the field, they showed they can more than do their stuff these days.

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Sheffield Wednesday to play as good as they’ll look?

Bottom three. Millwall, Ipswich Town and QPR for me. The former just too out of their depth whilst the Tractor Boys and not so super hoops have only gone backwards. With no real inward investment and a team that has only stagnated, those days of top flight football are a long, long way away.

Then again, I’m just the numpty on the terrace. What do I know? Not much. I’ll happily hold up my hands when this all gets proven wrong, One man’s opinion is another’s comedy.

Club sponsor LeoVegas has us ranked joint 11th to win the league at 25/1. Do they know something we don’t?

Likewise FourFourTwo magazine have just published their season preview. Available now from all good newsagents, they call Brentford to finish 10th. Don’t let that or the fact that yours truly wrote the piece on The Bees (Klanggggggg; the sound of a name being dropped) put you off, though. It’s actually a great read.

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Season preview edition now available

The other follow up we need to do from yesterday is in regards to Jota. Or, specifically ‘Jota’. Of Wolves. You may recall that the EFL have told Wolves that he needs to have his real surname, Silva, on his shirt rather than what they deem to be his nickname.

All well and good, although my own subsequent thought was what this might mean for us? Should we even be able to hang on to him, of course. An awkward look in the other direction being the immediate reaction.

However,Twitter user Ben (@BenPlumb97) has put the question out there in cyberspace. Thankfully, the legend that is Kitman Bob has stepped up to answer.

And relax 🙂

Bob Tweet re Jota

Nick Bruzon

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

8 Apr

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

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

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Jota watches the action unfold against Leeds on Tuesday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy

Nick Bruzon

From the best to the worst in football’s role of honour. Plus a new favourite site.

21 Mar

Whilst there were some Brentford fans upset about the recent sale of Scott Hogan to Aston Villa, one would hope that those concerns have now been dispelled. Ably abetted by the two amigos on the flanks, a rejigged formation and a great Dane up top, The Bees have money in the bank and 25 goals in the 11 games since the Scott moved to Villa Park. Things could have been a lot, lot worse as we’ll look at momentarily. At the other end of the field, there was great news for John Egan who was called up to the Republic of Ireland squad for Friday’s World Cup qualifier with Wales.

Nobody could doubt John’s performances this season. At one point he was neck and neck with Scott to be our leading scorer whilst, more importantly, has forged a wonderful partnership with Harlee Dean at the back.

Brentford ‘official’ share the great news on social media

I don’t envy head coach Dean Smith having to crowbar the pair of them, Yoann Barbet and fellow international Andreas Bjelland into his team. Perhaps the quality at his disposal goes someway to explaining our mid-season persistence with three centre backs. It was a valid attempt but one which persisted for far too long as it became clear it wasn’t working.

Yet, and with the greatest respect to Yoann and Andreas, John and Harlee are – at least in my opinion – our absolute nailed on first choice centre backs. Harlee has been magnificent this campaign and, along with Dan Bentley and John Egan, remains in my top three for player of the season. Although had Jota returned a month or two earlier then that competition would be an even stiffer one.

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Jota – c/o Sky. Imagine if he’d come back earlier…..

So news of John’s call up yesterday was one that is thoroughly deserved but has only been a matter of time. John, if you are reading (unlikely, let’s be honest) congratulations. As for Harlee and Dan, give it another season or two playing like this and their matching him on the International scene, for England, is well within the bounds of credibility.

Next up Twitter. A popular subject on these pages for many reasons. Ease of use, interaction with the actual players, Kitman Bob and his BBB giveaways, banter with fellow fans and the most immediate means of learning news updates are amongst the many reason for the site’s popularity here.

For Brentford supporters, there’s a recent addition to our family of familiar faces (© the Middlesex Chronicle big book of ’80s alliteration) out there in cyber space. Brentford Bot.

In their own words, “Judging Positive and Negative mentions of Brentford“.And that’s about all there is to it. But very, very well executed, often deadpan but sometimes laugh out loud funny and showing a tireless dedication to keeping the Bees family updated. I’ve no idea who the power behind the Bot is, but it’s well worth a follow. You can find @BrentfordBOT here.

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Brentford Bot does his/her/its (?) thing

Ok – striker sales. We talked at the top end about the departure of Scott Hogan to Aston Villa. Those of us a bit longer in the tooth need no reminding of what has happened in the past – Nicky Forster, Carl Asaba, Gary Blissett, Robert Taylor, Dean Holdsworth, DJ Campbell and even Andy Scott are amongst those who have been sold in their free scoring prime. Goals aside, the other thing connecting these players was their lack of a like-for-like replacement.

To be fair, how do you replace the likes of Deano, Bliss or the FT index? Even for the player, following a fan favourite and goalscoring legend must be thankless task. Yet when this goes wrong it can be truly horrific.

FourFourTwo magazine have just started to publish their list of every league club’s worst ever player. The initial instalment, in a series which is now running daily, runs from Accrington Stanley up to Bury, taking in the likes of Aston Villa, Bournemouth and of course Brentford along the way.

On the Bees front, it feels somewhat awkward badmouthing one of our own yet for whatever the reason we’ve had some players over the years who really haven’t shone. Past their prime, over weight, over rated or just really, really bad. It happens. It happens to every club. So when FourFourTwo approached yours truly for the name of the Griffin Park protagonist, it was one that eventually came about as a result of a public vote. Too much power should not lie with just one man.

It was a top five that included, in no particular order : Nick Proschwitz, Paul Davis, Murray jones, Neil Shipperley and Steve Claridge. Yet in the end the ‘winner’ was a clear one.

And you can find out who, here…

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Nick Bruzon

Kit Obsessive : Ipswich Town

12 Aug

Ipswich Town are the visitors to Griffin Park on Saturday with Brentford looking to get their first points, and win, on the board for 2016/17. Whilst you’ll find the usual match previews kicking around elsewhere, in addition we’re taking a different approach this season. Following on from yesterday’s new, regular feature about our forthcoming visitors The Last Word on… it’s time for another new, regular feature. New, that is, to these pages.

Kit obsessive is back. Originally submitted to last season’s match day programme, a third season in the Championship means that with the exception of 6 new teams it is ground previously covered – at least for those who buy that publication. So whilst I gather that articles on the likes of Aston Villa, Barnsley et al will still appear in that format this time around, repeating the feature would not reveal anything new.

That said, for those who missed out on the programme then I have been asked by at least one Last Word reader  if it would be possible to re-run them this year. And by ‘at least one‘ I mean, ‘actually one‘. But why not?

As a self confessed kit-obsessive, I have what some would probably term an unhealthy fascination with team colours. Of course Brentford are at the forefront of this interest as the club has, over the years, made some pretty decent stabs at changing the red and white stripes around. However, with a few odd exceptions we follow a fairly similar template.

The same cannot always be said for our opponents, though. Using no more scientific criteria than personal taste, this feature sees us delving into the historical kit bag to select the best, the worst, a sublime away and an unfortunate design/retro classic worn by our opponents through the ages. So without further ado, here’s Kit Obsessive: Ipswich Town.

Since their inception for the start of the 1888 season Ipswich Town had, like the Bees, largely worn stripes – albeit blue and white. However, unlike the Bees they ditched these in 1936, switching to predominantly blue offset with white trim and (until the mid ‘60s) white sleeves.

But with over 125 years of history to choose from, which have made the hall of fame and which should be left to rot in the chamber of horrors?

The best: Umbro 1992-94. In my opinion, Ipswich have had some real stunners to chose from over the years. The Adidas designs from 1977 to 1989, synonymous with FA Cup triumph and the UEFA Cup victory, all reek of quality. That said, I’m genuinely in two minds about the red chest stripe that accompanied the 1985-86 effort.

Ipswich pic 1An innovative break from tradition or a sickening abomination that shattered the otherwise unsullied blue with all the subtly of an oil tanker? The only people definitely smiling about it being the club sponsors, Radio Orwell – think Alan Partridge had he opted for Suffolk rather than East Anglia and neighbours, Norwich.

But my winner in this category comes from that phase in the early 90s when retro was the new cool. Specifically 1992-94. Clubs opted for big badges, old style shirts, pin stripes and even lace up collars.

Umbro were leaders in this trend and nowhere better than at Portman Road. Whilst Manchester United, Aston Villa and even Oldham Athletic made decent stabs at this look, none came close to Ipswich Town who married the perfect mix of blue, red trim and a return for the white sleeves with some old school chic.

Embed from Getty Images

 

The Worst: Punch 2005-07 .Ipswich Town have, to be fair, largely bypassed this category – certainly compared to some of our divisional rivals. However, even the Tractor Boys aren’t exempt when it comes to those that should probably be forgotten about.

Mitre’s effort from 2007-09 is a clumsy attempt at the vintage style carried off so effortlessly by Umbro. Looking somewhat generic, it’s less old school, more primary school whilst not even John Wark can save the Core 1995-96 away shirt – bottle green and burgundy – which puts one in mind of a poor man’s Portugal.

But the winner comes down to a choice between two and, as I’m saving one for the ‘unfortunate design’ category, it has to go to Punch 2005-07. This opts for blue with white, but the latter colour to an extent that looks as though a drunken groundsman has ‘gone rogue’ with the pitch markings when painting the touchline.

It has an expanding sash that starts on the shoulder and grows out, all the way to the waist. This is less subtle trim and more something that looks like a prototype costume for one of the Thunderbirds pilots.

Worse, the design continues onto the shorts where there is even an equivalent blue swoosh. Truly, one that should be consigned to the waste bin of history.

Ipswich PIC 4

The away: Adidas 1986-89 Where to go with this, given Ipswich have had as many top quality away shirts as they have had home?

In the end though, it was a toss up on the mid to late 80s. Whilst the Radio Orwell Adidas effort may have split opinion when it came to the home effort, there’s no question the bold red stripe only enhances things against the white of the away kit.

But I’ve elected for the successor to that one, another Adidas production, as the most stylish Ipswich Town away kit. The winner is the Fisons sponsored 1986-89 (yes, teams wore the same shirt for more than one season back then).

Bedecked in the inverse club colours of all white, with blue trim, this also featured a subtle diagonal two-tone strip effect. Simple but stunning.

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The unfortunate design: Core 1995-97 Just as the faux Thunderbirds sash was a close contender, the winner here could as easily been triumphant in the worst shirt category. And, again, we also need to take a sideways glance at the world of TV Sci-Fi.

You have to feel for Core. They actually produced a fairly decent set of kits for Brentford in the mid90s but, alas, at Portman Road things were somewhat different.

We’ve already mentioned their away version from 95-96 but the home from that (and the following) season is even worse. The top half starts decently enough with a traditional deep blue but as we make our way down the shirt, things take a turn for the peculiar.

The blue starts to merge into white, gradually replacing the primary colour until by the final third we are all white. It is a design gimic that even continues onto the arms.

At best it looks like the players have been caught in a snow drift; at worst, as though they have just given the order to “Beam me up, Scotty”, Star Trek style, and the transporter beam has taken hold.

ipswich design

Nick Bruzon

Another cup defeat for Bees as Cheltenham – Charlton sees the night’s real winners.

10 Aug

Another season, another cup defeat. As Exeter City eased past Brentford to reach the second round of the EFL cup, Bees supporters were left with the scant consolation that at least we can concentrate on the league until January. Given some of the post match soundbites, I was half expecting to see that one put in an appearance alongside “We go again”. And elsewhere, Cheltenham Town produced the result of the evening against Charlton Athletic – in their programme .

Hey, at least we got to 90 minutes without conceding a goal. The ignominy of defeat coming with the solitary goal of the evening being tucked away late in the first period of extra time. Harlee Dean was quick to apologise, noting “It wasn’t good enough again. We didn’t create chances and we didn’t test their goalkeeper”, although he did go on to add that “I think as a defensive unit we were solid”…..

To read the rest of this article, season 2016/17 is now available for download on e-book in the retrospective: Welcome Home, King Jota (Brentford FC season review 2016/17)
 
Priced at just £1.99, all sales are being donated to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust.

Likewise any sales from the previous titles – Celebrating like they’d won the FA Cup (2013/14), Tales from the football village (2014/15) and Ready. Steady. Go Again. (2015/16) – are also now going to the BFCCST.

Containing the least bad of the blogs from May 16 to May 17, you can pick it up, here. Its all for a great cause and,hey, you may even enjoy it…..

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The Sky cameras show our latest attempt at the unorthodox

 

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Nick Bruzon

With launch imminent, the Kit Obsessive returns for a look at our good, bad and ugly

21 Jul

Finally. The most protracted kit launch since the Knight Industries 2000 rolled off the production line comes to a head. ‘Official’ have announced that the new Brentford home and away shirts will be revealed on Friday and then worn on Saturday against FC Kaiserslautern. Initial thoughts on this subject have already been published but, before we look forward, perhaps time to look back.

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It’s coming. Not my words etc. etc. etc…..

Last Season I was fortunate enough to be able to write the ‘kit obsessive’ articles in the match day programme in which we looked at the best, worst and plain unusual of the visitor’s kit. Whilst for obvious reasons the feature won’t return this season – barring those newcomers to the Championship such as Burton Albion , Newcastle, Aston Villa etc  – these pages will (amongst other new features) no doubt make the odd reference to footballing fashion.

Indeed, over the years we’ve talked about the best, and worst, of Brentford shirts but never given them the ‘kit obsessive’ style treatment . So with the launch imminent, it seemed a timely juncture to close this loophole.

As ever, the categories remains : The best; the worst; the away; the unfortunate design / the retro classic. Likewise, these are picked using no more scientific criteria than personal taste.

Are these right? Wrong? What are your thoughts?

For me, they are as follows….

The Best: Chad. Home 1990-92 KLM sponsored. Chad manufactured. Title winning. Simple but stunning and the most evocative of memories. No nonsense red and white with black collar and tasteful trim. I can’t look at this without thinking of Terry Evans, Kevin Godfrey, Keith Millen, Neil Smillie and, of course, Deano & Bliss. Didn’t something happen at Peterborough? My all time favourite, hands down.

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Screen Shot 2016-07-21 at 06.15.17The away: Adidas. Third 2015/16 Whilst I’ve always opted for the corresponding Chad away shirt, kitman Bob pulled something very special out of the bag last season when we played Blackburn Rovers. A Brentford third kit. In black. Oh, this is a thing of beauty – and not just the image of Sam Saunders wearing it in conjunction with short shorts (which, I gather, medical advice suggests is apparently something not thought about in this already hot weather !) . We’ve gone for black again this season – can it match up to this?

 

 

The worst: Puma. Away.  2008/09 .Puma’s offering was truly horrific. It shouldn’t have been. There was nothing too fussy / garish about it whilst it had two shades of blue. But what a shade – pastel ‘baby blue’. The sort of thing a newborn might wear – until he vomited on it (which would be an improvement). Worse, it was regurgitated as 2009/10’s third kit.

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And from a home perspective, how about Puma 2011/12 Floppy black collars. They’re floppy!!? The only point of a collar on a football shirt is so as you can stand it up – preferably just at the point of entering ‘Saunder’s territory’. Sizing issues. Yet the ultimate crime is the red shoulder patches and double black trim.  A combo that makes us look like hotel doormen in knock off adidas shirts – the brand with two stripes

Marcel Eger Brentford

Marcel Eger chose to wear a spray on shirt rather than hold it

 

Retro classic / unfortunate design: Osca. Home, 1983/84 . It just had to be. A white upper half and, for the first half of the season, worn with white shorts….. The Marmite of Brentford shirts. To some, an abhoration. To others (well, me) it’s brilliant. One man’s retro classic is another’s unfortunate design. I’m definitely in the former camp

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Here’s hoping tomorrow brings something equally spectacular.

Nick Bruzon

The good, the bad and the downright ugly as England and Northern Ireland win

17 Jun

After all the dust has settled, the record books will show a 2-1 victory for England over Wales. The winning goal coming deep into that period us Brentford fans know as Jota time to send Roy Hodgson into a jubilant jig from the dugout and, surely, book England’s place in the next round. Elsewhere, Northern Ireland put on a superb performance in beating Ukraine but Germany and Poland drawing 0-0 means Stuart Dallas, Niall McGinn and the yet to appear Will Grigg are going to have their work cut out.

As ever, off field matters dominated proceedings. Whilst the atmosphere at the game seemed a really positive one, the French Police again elected for the tear gas option later in the evening. There has been grotesque footage circulating of England fans taunting refugee children by throwing coins at them or goading them into downing pints for money.

I know our own Billy and Dave from Beesotted have been doing their thing to try and combat some of the negative imagery and disproportionate police reaction but this a new level of low. Likewise, reading the comments of FourFourTwo magazine managing editor Huw Davies,  where things sound anything but rosy. Do check out his Twitter feed to get the views of those looking in at the English. It is a trail of unpleasantness and abuse from those supposedly supporting England.

Comments include :   “I’m not trying to set or challenge a narrative. Just saying that while we chatted with some nice English fans, majority weren’t” and (when faced with a homeless woman and her child, shouts of )  “What are you doing on the street with a f**king child?” “If you can’t support it, don’t have it.” “You’re a f**king shit mum.” All in a row

As for the game itself, England now top the group after Daniel Sturrridge’s last gasp goal saw manager saw Roy Hodgson channelling his inner Alan Pardew with a celebratory leap from the dugout. Only a point is needed to ensure qualification from the group whilst Wales must now beat Russia to guarantee the same outcome.

It was hard work getting there, though. Gareth Bale’s free kick from distance saw Wales take a half time lead. Joe Hart may be able to keep his shoulders clean but he couldn’t manage a clean sheet, despite getting his hands to the Real Madrid man’s long range effort around the wall. It was a decent strike, make no mistake, but it should have been pushed clear of the post rather than into the goal.

And then Roy went for it. With Jamie Vardy and Sturridge introduced for Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane, the difference in bench quality showed. England were able to step it up as Wales attempted to soak it up.

An errant Welsh defender’s flick on saw an otherwise miles offside Vardy grab the equaliser just nine minutes into a one-way second half. And from there the game only had one winner. But would it come? No. Wave after wave of pressure saw resolute defending keep the English team at bay. Despite the best efforts of the inspired subs and marauding Kyle Walker, there was no way through.

And then it happened. With a draw looking odds on, England launched one more attack. The ball fell to Sturridge who, wriggling through the box, was able to slip it through, off and past the Welsh defence for a jubilantly celebrated winner. Even Gary Neville joining Roy in the excitement. Such was the communal outpouring of triumph I half expected John Terry to join in.

Tough luck to Wales. Well done to England. Cue the inevitable post match celebrations and exhortations from Gary Lineker, who this season seems to have forgotten he ever played for anybody but Leicester City. It was all about Vardy and his first team. Tottenham? Barcelona? Nagoya Grampus Eight? At least one of those three has players involved.

Gary in his Grampus Eight days…

As for the ex-Brentford contingent, everybody from Jonathan Douglas to Charlie Lawson (TV’s Jim McDonald) was bigging up the boys from Northern Ireland. They battled the elements and Ukraine to secure a stunning victory, despite the absence of Will Grigg. Germany have done them no favours with that 0-0 but still an incredible moment that culminated in an incredible dance from ‘Big’ Jim to out Pardew even Roy.

On a day that saw Roy’s rolls (of the dice) lead England to victory, how apt to see another Corrie connection celebrating a different one.

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Do check out Charlie’s video – now THAT’s a celebration

Nick Bruzon

From Manchester City fan to Brentford legend

3 Mar

Money can’t necessarily buy you success. Of course, at Brentford having the sort of finances available to the likes of the teams at the top end of the Premier League is just a pipe dream. Yet it made last night’s results all the more interesting as this most captivating of top flight seasons continued. Despite their mega-millions, Manchester City (at mid-table Liverpool) and Arsenal (hosting relegation candidates Swansea) both lost against opposition they’d have been expected, on paper, to breeze past.

The flip side to this is that when you are operating on a reduced budget, unearthing that game changing player is a truly joyful experience. And this is where Brentford come into the equation. The previous column looked at, amongst other things, the FourFourTwo magazine survey on your club’s ‘cult hero’ over the top four divisions.

It is genuinely a fascinating read (my own contribution aside) with the results, being published on-line now showing clubs A-M. Starting with Accrington Stanley, it has so far gone through Brentford, along with the aforementioned Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City to the point they had, at the time of writing, got as far as Morecambe.

So few of these players are the big money signings making the headlines today but each have their special place amongst the fans. And the reason for mentioing this again was, specifically, the chance to talk a bit more about Brentford. Or, rather, our own nominee – Gary Blissett.

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All time cult hero, Gary Blissett

Given the constraints of the Four FourTwo site, somebody like Bliss (not to mention those who ran him close when the question was put out there on Facebook last month) deserved more than the 100-150 words available. So here is the full, unexpurgated version.

Gary Blissett – cult hero

Where do you start when looking for a cult hero? For a team like Brentford, where the trophy cabinet is more an aspiration than anything else, most people outside of TW8 probably know us for the sort of thing that would make TV’s “What happened Next…?” rather than the record books.

Goalkeeper Chic Brodie having his career ended by a runaway dog. Millwall fans throwing a hand grenade onto the pitch (November 1965, for the record). The failed takeover bid by QPR that would have seen Brentford cease to exist and our bitterest rivals move into Griffin Park. Eight play-off defeats out of eight (the least successful of all English teams when reaching football’s ‘final four’).

Then, of course, there was ‘that penalty’ in the final minute of the final game of 2012/13. A winner takes all encounter with promotion rivals Doncaster Rovers.

Only one team could make it to the Championship and, with the scores locked at 0-0, the Bees were awarded a 90th minute spot kick. The subsequent tussle for the ball involving club captain Kevin O’Connor (approaching his 500th game), and Marcello Trotta (on loan from Fulham, of all places) is one as familiar as the Italian’s subsequent effort thudding off the crossbar and, with Bees players prostrate on the ground in despair, our opponents going down the other end where they scored to secure promotion and the title.

That’s how we do things at Griffin Park. Glorious failure being as familiar a taste as the pre-match hot dog. Yet when we do win things, it makes them all the sweeter. Every now and again it happens. And even when we don’t, we still have a lot of fun along the way. Thanks, largely, to those figures you’d label as Cult Heroes.

Big John O’Mara who, in his first season, scored 25 goals in 40 games. Centre back Peter Gelson, who made 471 appearances in a Griffin Park career that stretched from 1960 to 1975. The legendary Jim Towers and George Francis aka The Terrible Twins. Playing together for most of the 1950s, they still remain (respectively) the club’s first and second highest all time goal scorers.

Hard as nails players such as Terry Hurlock, Terry Evans and Martin Grainger.

Long serving players Jamie Bates and Kevin O’Connor.

The skilful wing wizards like Andy Sinton and Neil Smillie.

Those who just seemed to exude personality and had the crowd eating out of their hand – Allan Cockram, Lloyd Owusu and Marcus Gayle (just don’t sing that song near your granny).

Modern day heroes including Jota – the last minute goal being his own personal calling card. Toumani Diagouraga – “Toumani scores, we’re on the pitch” went the Ealing Road. He’d last done it in March 2013 and we had to sit through another 111 games without him troubling the scorers before he was sold to Leeds at the end of January. Less than 40 minutes into his full debut….

Or how about Sam Saunders? The perma-tanned wing wizard (and former tube worker) so beloved of fans that most would allow him to ‘have relations’ with their wives, if the terrace chant is to be believed.

But when it comes down to it, there can be only one winner. The moustachioed legend that is Gary Blissett. aka ‘Bliss’.

79 goals from 223 league appearances (105 from 291 total) in a 6 year career from 1987-1993 don’t even tell half the story. His brace against boyhood heroes Manchester City in the 1988-89 FA Cup fourth round sent Griffin Park into meltdown as the Bees earned a 3-1 passage into the fifth round. There, Bliss repeated the feat as his late pair at Blackburn Rovers helped Brentford to a deserved 2-0 win. Sadly it wasn’t to be in an Anfield quarter final as the Bees bowed out despite giving all-conquering Liverpool (kids, ask your dads) an almighty scare.

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Bliss does the business against his beloved Manchester City

His defining goal was probably the final game of the 91/92 season. With the Bees having won the previous five on the spin, including a 4-0 demolition of Fulham, we travelled to Peterborough knowing a win and some good fortune could make the impossible, possible.

Bliss was the man who popped up with a first half header as we then sat through an awful lot of ‘squeaky bum time’ for a famous 1-0 win. With other results going our way, including a shock defeat for a Birmingham City side that Saint & Greavsie had earlier congratulated on TV for winning the League, we snuck up the blind side and became Champions. Sometimes, it happens.

Gary was an ever present the following season as, despite the sale of strike partner Dean Holdsworth, his goals almost kept us in English football’s second tier.

But there was more to Gary than short shorts, a luxuriant ‘tache and goals, goals, goals.

A wannabe goalkeeper, he was the man who donned the gloves during a Championship game with Southend United after injury, and no spare on the bench, meant we got to enjoy that wonderful moment where an outfield player goes between the posts. Bliss promptly ignored every piece of advice being shouted to him by youth ‘keeper Ashley Bayes and kept a clean sheet.

But it was his red card at Craven Cottage after what we will politely call a ‘coming together’ with Fulham ‘keeper Jim Stannard that is a moment as popular with Bees’ fans as that goal at Peterborough. Bliss left the field to a standing ovation in a game that showed us the West London derby meant as much to the players as the supporters.

All the money in the bank can’t buy a player like Bliss. The £60,000 we paid Crewe back in 1987, even now, still seems like the bargain of the century.

Like Marcus Gayle and Allan Cockram, Bliss still visits Griffin Park. Catching up with him briefly in the week, he told me, “ I follow every game and after my beloved City Brentford are of course the team I want to see succeed more than any other team or club in the world.

I am sure MB will have Plan B, C, D and more and will one day be playing at The Ethiad IN THE LEAGUE

For those amongst us feeling slightly down about things on the pitch this year, these are surely words to put your trust in. If a demi-God such as Bliss believes, then that’s all the inspiration we need .

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Gary still features in the Junior Bees Top Trumps (style game)

Nick Bruzon

Sheer Bliss for Scott

1 Mar

It’s all about the teams south of the river today. With Brentford due to host Charlton Athletic on Saturday, Peter Gilham has been in touch with several supporter groups in regards to a special tribute in that game. Yesterday, meanwhile, Crystal Palace were the visitors for a development squad game that was noteworthy for the long awaited return of striker Scott Hogan. And we have news of a Brentford legend….

But we can only start with Scott Hogan. Nobody needs any reminding of the 18 months he has had on the sidelines, following the horrendous injury (and subsequent recurrence) suffered against Rotherham United early last season. Yet, finally, after what must have seen an interminable wait for the player, he was back in competitive action as Crystal Palace came to town.

And in a script writer’s dream, it took just 7(seven) minutes for Scott to show the Griffin Park faithful what they’ve been missing out on with the striker putting away the opening goal in a game that would eventually finish 2-2. Lasting an hour, Scott has been full of praise for the club’s medical staff and spoke, at length, on the clubsite afterwards.

Scott Hogan

Scott was clearly chuffed, publishing this picture afterwards

Fans were, rightly , ecstatic. Primarily it was just a general outpouring of good will and good vibes all over social media. Nobody wants to see any player go through what Scott has done and so to see him come out the other side of this in such a positive frame of mind has been truly inspiring.

It’s like a new signing” one New Road observer would later note whilst I saw a comment on facebook to say that the first team would be the ideal place to recover his fitness, adding “He can’t do any worse than the three incumbents currently vying for the position of lowest scoring striker in a season”.

A harsh observation or a fair one? Regardless, let’s not pin all our hopes on one man’s shoulders. The enthusiasm is clearly there but full match fitness will likely take a bit longer to come back. That said, just seeing Scott on the bench is sure to be a huge psychological boost for everbody.

The moment arrives

As for the Charlton game, you may have read about the untimely passing of supporter Dean Langford, who was tragically killed in a road accident last week . Peter Gilham has been in touch with Dean’s father and it has been suggested that maybe a minute’s applause in the 24th minute on Saturday, would be the ideal way to pay our respects to one of our own, no longer with us.

Social Media has been awash with tributes to Dean this week. What better way for supporters to show their own respects than joining in on Saturday.

Finally, Cult heroes. It has long been the topic for debate as to who scoops the ultimate crown. When the BBC ran the survey several years ago, Terry Evans came out on top. Would the winner be any different today?

Well, FourFourTwo magazine have undertaken a club by club poll in their online edition and the results are now in. You can find them here . As for the Bees, those visitors to the Facebook ‘Brentford FC loyal’ page have had an inadvertent hand in helping pick our winner, Gary Blissett.

I was fortunate enough to be asked to represent the club in this one and, whilst my decision would have been Bliss, it was nice to see so many other people with a similar viewpoint when the seemingly innocent question was put out there last month.

Congratulations, Bliss. Scott Hogan couldn’t have a better player to aspire to.

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Bliss – a hero to many. Then and now

Nick Bruzon

Title contenders handed massive boost (as Football League can’t count)

5 Apr

Brentford prepare for their game with Notts County today having been the beneficiaries of some stunning news courtesy of Wolves. Kenny Jackett, the man in Molineux hot seat, has been named Football League manger of the month for March.

You may have seen the column only yesterday on the ‘omens’ and then this story came along to blow it out of the water. Whilst Jackett is deserving of this honour, nudging out Warbs and Brentford in the process, jinx obsessed football fans up and down the land wax lyrical about the ‘inevitable’ defeat that follows this award.

Could play-off contenders Peterborough help provide a further demonstration of this today? Well, as one of my regular correspondents from ‘the dark (and gold) side, ‘Rustymini’, put it: “Kenny Jackett has won manager of the month for March. That’s it then, season over. We’ll struggle to get another point.”

To read the rest of this article, season 2013/14 is now available to download onto Kindle, in full. Containing previously unseen content, you can do so here for less than the cost of one matchday programme.

 Thanks for reading over the course of the campaign. For now I need to make space on this page for any follow up.  The ‘close season’ / World Cup columns continue in full, further on in this site.