Tag Archives: Magpies

He’s only got four fingers but he still knows what to do with his head.

27 Feb

When does a blip become a trend? When does a bad run of results become more of a worry? The first of three games against teams below Brentford saw a 2-0 win for Newcastle United at Lionel Road. It was as abject a showing as we’ve seen all season (certainly in my bottom five ‘performances’ ) with the only two positives being the performance of David Raya and the entrance of Christian Eriksen into the field of play. If you want some further straw clutching at good news, then the ongoing holes in the Leeds United defence and use of VAR at Everton were further bonuses on an afternoon of slim pickings. It’s not time to enter panic mode but it IS time to now start getting points on the board. Failure to do so against Norwich City next week or Burnley in a fortnight and things could look very different.

What a moment

Newcastle boss Eddie Howe pretty much nailed it at full time. “If you can’t win, don’t lose”. Certainly that was our approach going in to that recent run of games against the clubs chasing Europe, for all our defensive heavy tactics ended up fruitless. This was different. This was the chance to turn the screw and aim for three points at home. To ride the wave of optimism engendered by the return of Ivan Toney to the squad. By Josh Dasilva starting once more. By the promise that we would see Christian Eriksen make a debut. The chance for Brentford to take a home game by the scruff of the neck. Instead, it was an opportunity that saw the Bees fall flat on their collective faces. 

Referee Mike Dean didn’t help matters, that’s for sure. The red card shown to Josh Dasilva after just 11 minutes about the only thing he got right all afternoon and even that was a decision that had originally been given as a free kick to Brentford. Then VAR stepped in and, upon review, there can be few of us not wincing at a challenge which, whilst I am 100% sure was made with no ill intent, did not look pretty on the replay. The Bees down to ten men for the majority of the game and any early impetus gone in a flash.

Let’s not blame Mike Dean for our own failings, though. He didn’t help matters but Newcastle United wanted this 100 times more than we did. Their 26 shots (to our 6) and 63% possession (for an away team !!!) matched by their two first half goals. Indeed, were it not for David Raya who was absolutely dominant in goal for Brentford things could have ended up a heck of a lot worse. Joelinton magnificent with his head for the eventual opener. An absolute blinder with Ajer made to look invisible. Joe Willock finishing a rapier like counter attack just before half time after Jensen had delivered a Brentford corner so deep it needed its own scuba gear.

The players trooped off with ‘All Apologies’ playing out over the tannoy at half-time. Irony alive and well at Lionel Road where it was anything but a state of Nirvana. 

It was a case of All Apologies to the Brentford fans at half time

On the plus side, if there can be one, it perhaps accelerated the entrance of Christian Eriksen. What a moment. What a reception. Universal applause and good will. Not just in the stadium but , no doubt, further afield. The moment we’d been building to finally where. A standing ovation and the player straight in to the action in place of Jensen. Within a minute he might had opened Newcastle up. His game then demonstrating the passing and movement we’re all so familiar with and which could prove invaluable in the coming weeks. 

Sadly, it wasn’t quite enough but ten men are always going to struggle against opposition that stretched us further than the elastic on a pair of granddad’s pants. That were on their game and had their fans singing throughout. One song about Joelinton, to the tune of ‘She’s Electric’ on repeat after he’d bagged the opener. “He’s only got four fingers” ringing around Lionel Road again and again and again. 

Albeit subsequent post match discussion suggesting the line might, actually, have been a reference to his price tag. That’s what £40million gets you, I suppose.  

As for Brentford, hindsight is wonderful thing. The popular opinion being that Eriksen should have started from the off. Should have take the game to Newcastle and let them play catch up. Personally speaking, I’d have made the same call. Bring him on. We have an abundance of midfield options. Norgaard, Janelt and Dasilva in the middle with Roerslev at right wing back. Instead, we got the three of them plus Mathias Jensen (who should have been dropped after his cameo at Arsenal), no Roerslev or Canos and Ivan Toney on the bench. It survived just 11 minutes.  

I guess if Ivan is not 90 minute fit the thinking was to have him, Josh and Christian Eriksen on together. Besides, as one terrace wag put it in the pub after the game, having played for Spurs Eriksen is used to coming on at 2-0 down. It didn’t work though. Not this time. Personally, I’d have started Ivan and brought him off if needed. Then use impact player Wissa up top with Bryan.

Being an armchair manager is easy. There’s no consequence to your decisions. No comeback or tirades of abuse for getting it wrong. None of us know what goes on behind the scenes. How fit players are. Why some start ahead of others. It’s not the team I’d have picked but it was still a team that should have been good enough to perform a hell of a lot better than they did. The ten men didn’t help, of course, but it just felt as though we barely got even half way close to sniffing the chance of having a look in.

It’s done. It’s dusted. It’s put to bed. The player review and ‘deeper dive’ is here. A bad day over. A bad day made even worse by then having to watch Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway. In itself, always an awful experience and one made even worse by their proving how ‘live’ the show was by harping back to the result. There it was again. And again.

Instead, it’s time to focus on Norwich City. They looked desperate against Southampton on Friday night. Another team spending huge swathes of time on the backfoot and inviting pressure on themselves. Bringing the inevitable goals against with even Dean Smith replacing his usual “We deserved to win” with, “The better team won on the night, we can’t argue with that.” . Like Eddie Howe, a manager reading the game correctly, even if the result didn’t go as planned. 

It will be crucial how Thomas and his team react to this performance when we go to Carrow Road next week. Otherwise, those last two games of the campaign (Everton away and Leeds United at home) might end up proving very significant. All that’s to come, of course. For now we need to focus on Norwich City and then Burnley. 

Nobody said life at this level would be easy but I’m still loving it. Bring them on and see you there.

So much optimism from the young Bees before kick-off

Nick Bruzon

He’s going to play. They both are !!

26 Feb

Well that’s been about the worst week imaginable. There can’t be any amongst us not experiencing some or all of the obvious emotions about what’s going on across the other side of Europe. Shock, anger, fear, disgust, angst and just utter despair about the actions of one man  with that terrifying combination of maniacal tendencies that are off the scale and a microscopic penis (he must, surely, be over compensating for something?). It feels wrong to be in a position where everything is ‘normal’ but we’re the lucky ones where it is and for that reason, even if just for the family, we’ll be carrying on. For us, that means Brentford hosting Newcastle United. Last week’s game at Arsenal now filed away and The Bees moving on to the first in a sequence of three fixtures against clubs currently in the bottom four. Norwich City (a) and then Burnley (h), also to follow.   

The news out of the press conference yesterday was just about as good as it was possible to get for Brentford fans…. 

Christian Eriksen will be in the squad, and he will get on the pitch to make his debut.

It’s going to happen….

Not my words, Carol. The words of Thomas Frank. Talk about a boost to a midfield which, at times, has seen uphill runs become power-sappingly mundane and overtaking National Express coaches become a long, drawn-out affair. Parking the bus proving far too adept a tactic at stopping the Brentford attacking force. Now, we have Christian available. We have Josh Dasilva starting games again – seeing him on the pitch at 3pm at Arsenal a sight to behold – and we have that other bonus offered up but Thomas…. 

We have all players available, which is positive. That also means Ivan Toney will be involved in the squad tomorrow.

Finally. This is just great news. One can only hope Ivan will be on from the start. He’s been hugely missed and the combination of him and Josh Dasilva in the attacking third one I cannot wait to see. Let alone when you then chuck Christian Eriksen into the mix. 

Actual. Christian. Eriksen. Playing for Brentford. With apologies, its been almost a month now and I still can’t believe it is about to happen. Yet it is. All the reports out of training and those pre-season friendlies suggesting that his story is en-route for a fairy tale ending. I’m sure he’ll come off the bench for this one and, when he does, that most will be immense. That noise will be huge. Even the Newcastle fans might join in, such was the global reach of last summer. The football family united as one.

For me, he’ll come in to a midfield three that will, or at least should, start as Norgaard, Dasilva and Janelt. With Shandon Baptiste and Mathias Jensen also available to pick from, we’ve suddenly got choice. Huge choice. When fully fit, that choice will only get tougher. 

The obvious hope here is that Brentford will be given that added cutting edge we’ve been struggling to find in recent games. The defence seems to have sorted itself out, as much as it can with the options available, although the right wing back channel against Arsenal looked brutal. Mads Roerslev will begin this one, surely?

As we’ve said, many times, players can only play where they are asked. That said, sometimes the peg feels just too square for a particular round hole. Much better keep that option available for higher up the field. Nobody can knock the effort or desire whilst some of the vitriol seen and heard from certain ‘fans’ is just nothing short of embarrassing. Get a grip.

That’s me, I suppose. Embrace the positive. Look at where we are and what we have achieved so far. Fourteenth in the Premier League. Other clubs failing to win the much talked up ‘games in hand’ . See also: last season. Another year in the top flight is there for the taking and, for the record, it will be. A campaign lasts 38 games. Not 7(seven), 8 or 9. The thread below also giving some much needed sense but, also, insight into supporter mindset in some of the replies / quote tweets.

Our start was wonderful. Our run of covid and injuries less so. It would impact any team, let alone one with the budget and set up of ours. That recent sequence of fixtures still showing all the fight one would expect (Southampton aside, which was just a giant turd of a performance), most of which were against clubs aiming for The European places and the title. Now that particular challenge, at least, has been overcome. Everyone is back and we can see what the team does with those added midfield elements. 

Honestly, having both Christian and Josh added to the mix is just HUGE.  Its not a gimme, of course. The team still need to do their thing. The crowd need to get behind them, too. Likewise, Newcastle United aren’t just gong to roll over. The Magpies still sitting way close to that trap door for their liking although recent results have seen them hit form once more and pull out of that awful nose dive that dominated so much of the season.

Allan Saint-Maximin remains the obvious danger man although his participation seems in doubt. Eddie Howe confirming that the player was still in Monaco on Thursday for medical reasons, seeing a personal physio and receiving what was described as the “Best and most intense treatment” possible. (What’s French for anti-gravity treadmill? ).

Draw what you will from that update. Is there any real hope? Will it be the bench at most?  Big money signing Kieran Trippier amongst those definitely missing out too. In the end, though, as we’ve proven against Arsenal. Against Liverpool, Against Chelsea and both Manchester clubs. Quite simply, it doesn’t matter who Brentford are up against IF we choose to play. If we find the ball. If the crowd get behind the team then this side can be up there with the very best. Can drive Cristiano Ronaldo to stropping off – still up there in the highlights of the season to date.

Don’t cry for me, Cristiano…. The mother of all tantrums

We’ve had some wonderful moments so far this campaign. We’ve more than held our own for all but three or four games. Now to see if the return of a talisman and the arrival of a certain Dane can help write another new chapter in the Brentford story.

Bring it on and see you there. Perhaps crack out that mid-90s shirt, too….

Get your Ericsson kits out

Nick Bruzon

I’m a defender….. get me out of here!!!

21 Nov

Newcastle United 3. Brentford 3. Or as I saw one correspondent put it late last night: Community Asset Stolen by Evil Despotic Sportswashing Murderous Regime FC 3 – 3 Bus Stop in Hounslow . Whatever the wrongs or potential rights of Newcastle’s new ownership, Eddie Howe saw his tenure start off at 100 mph. Albeit that with the medicating Magpies’ manager confined to a hotel room after testing positive for Covid, the club chose to replace him at the game with the spirit of Kevin Keegan. They’d have had as much joy picking Ant or Dec. Mind you, Thomas Frank opted for a similar approach. All out attack, combined with an ongoing injury crisis at the back, led to a change in formation and a game of goals, goals, goals. It finished 3-3 but such were the glut of chances it could have gone any way. In the end, a point can only be seen as positive thing, despite Brentford leading twice. Huge sighs of relief after Joelinton stumbled at the crucial moment late on rather than giving Eddie Howe the perfect get well soon gift.

It was certainly a trial of sorts for the spectators. Ouch, my heart

It was as exciting going forward as it was shambolic at the back. For all those bemoaning the absence of David Raya in nets for Brentford, Karl Darlow was the sloppier of the two ‘keepers on display. Ivan Toney’s equaliser for 1-1 on 11 minutes a great finish to a great move but one that, ultimately, went straight through the Newcastle goalie. Less shot-stopper and more shot-letter-inner. Hey, you can only take the chances that present themselves and Ivan did that with aplomb. 

It was no less than we deserved after falling behind just 75 second earlier. A cross evading Pontus and Jamaal Lascelles outmuscling Vitaly to head home unchallenged. It was as easy as they come. Fernández little hope and the dream start for the home supporters. Thank goodness for Ivan, who then did his thing after being released by Sergi. Indeed, it could have been two even sooner than it eventually was . Bryan finding himself in similar territory to that occupied by our goalscorer beat Darlow, only for the ball to bobble back off the post. There was Ivan to bundle it home home but, alas, he was fractionally offside. The flag was immediate with VAR and subsequent viewings showing there to be half a boot in it. As with his ‘goal’ against Liverpool it felt good but one where the cameras have again come to the opposition’s defence.

Soon after, we were ahead. This time, Rico Henry ghosting in unmarked at the backstick. His second in as many goals. Sergi once more the provider. Trapping it in a style it much akin to way he did against Reading when scoring ‘that’ goal, this time the second touch was followed by a left footed inswinger that took out the entire Newcastle back 2/3/4 (?). There was the marauding left-back to power home with his head and give Brentford the lead. Up in the gods, the Bees’ fans erupted. Surely there was only one way forward from here? Surely?

Alas not. Once again the game swung. With half time beckoning, Roerslev’s attempted clearance only spun as far as Joelinton who swept home first time to the bottom corner, past the despairing stretch of Ethan Pinnock,  leaving Fernández minimal chance. 2-2 and it could have been worse. Fernández and Pontus then getting in each other’s way defending a free kick. The ‘keeper spilling it under pressure but there was Ivan on the line to get it clear.  The striker helping  keep them out as well as bang them in.

The second half saw the introduction of Onyeka bang on the start of the 60-70 substitution window so favoured in days gone by. Hey, Newcastle aren’t the only ones who can channel a former manager. It worked, too. Within seconds of coming on, there was Frank the Tank with a shot -cum-cross turned past the hapless Darlow by Lascelles. It goes down as an o.g. because it was . Pure and simple. The midfielder’s ball into the box hinting at a trajectory towards the back post but the Newcastle captain made sure it wasn’t in doubt. 

The lead restored. The heart unable to take it. And moreso as it lasted less than a quarter hour. Pontus and Roerslev unable to deal with a deep cross and, again, a goal. 3-3. The uber impressive Allan Saint-Maximin nodding home for 3-3. Once again, Fernández left minimal chance to keep it out. 

Indeed, there could, probably should, have been a fourth. Maximin going on a run reminiscent of Daniel James for Swansea in the FA Cup. Eventually he freed up Joelinton who, with the goal beckoning, not for the first time this afternoon fell over at the crucial moment. Rather than unleashing waves of misery on the Bees faithful, the ball was cleared. Another point added to our total and the run of LLLL coming to an end.  

For Thomas Frank, the outcome was clear. Speaking afterwards, his belief was unshakeable. “Slightly biased, I think we had the bigger chance to win it.. but I am aware they had the big transition at the end of the game which could have killed it off for them. I think we were the team that maybe should have taken three points.

For me, Clive, take the point and run. I’ve watched it back this morning and it really could have gone either way. A game which both teams clearly viewed as an ideal opportunity to pick up the win saw caution thrown to the wind and defence something that was as much a concept as anything of genuine practicality. For the Bees, injuries meant our hand was forced and with the best way to keep the ball out being by sticking it in at the other end, no complaints. Newcastle is as raucous a place to go and moreso yesterday. Eddie Howe missed his own coronation. Ivan Toney showing his former club what they missed out on.

Next up, Everton. At Lionel Road. Thomas needing to choose whether to stick or twist with his formation. And perhaps some sleep for yours truly. More to follow on that later….. The formation rather than the late night

The calm before the storm – a few familiar faces as part of a sell out away contingent

Nick Bruzon  

Can we be party poopers at the coronation of King Eddie?

19 Nov

And we’re back in the room. Brentford travel to Newcastle United this weekend on the back of a first real challenging streak in the Premier League. Recent form of LLLL takes no account of the performance against Chelsea or the shonky ref. Likewise Leicester City, where I’d imagine the midfield partnership of James Maddison and Simon Hooper will cause further mayhem for whomever they come up against next. As for Burnley and Norwich City. Hmmm . The Canaries will no doubt feel they deserved to win and three points will show this to be the case. The appointment of Dean Smith at Carrow Road something one could write an entire chapter on but that’s a subject for elsewhere. So we’ve been great, we’ve been unlucky and we’ve been downright awful. Injuries decimating us, too. Whatever the analysis and performance, it all comes down to wins. Or lack of. The net result is nil points and the hope that International break has helped recharge some batteries.

one of the few bright sparks recently

Which leads into Saturday afternoon. The game at Newcastle United is a sellout for the travelling fans. Presumably the home side, too, with Eddie Howe taking another opportunity to test himself away from Bournemouth. Things were average at Burnley (8th and 13th in the Championship) with his eventual departure for what were deemed at the time to be personal reasons and since confirmed as being due to the death of his mother rather than anything to do with being ‘homesick’ . That one’s here.

It’ll be manic at Newcastle. Their first home game under the new regime saw the lead taken against Spurs within three minutes before normal form resumed. Cripes, Spurs winning a game is reason enough to be worried about your own form but with the Magpies being the only top flight team yet to win a game, will the new incumbent have done sufficient in this relatively short time to change that around? 

Brentford head coach Thomas Frank gave a, perhaps, surprising assessment of the opposition in Thursday’s press conference. He’s told the massed ranks of the journalistic corps that: “We haven’t looked that much at Newcastle, apart from individual players, but rather what Eddie Howe did at Bournemouth in terms of shape and style. I expect them to come flying out, pressing us…. His profile is fantastic and stands for progressive football, front-footed pressing, and he wants to be dominant on the ball. I admired his job at Bournemouth a lot. I’m convinced that, over time, he will be a success at Newcastle

Over time. Let’s hope for sure it’s not immediate. Perhaps of more interst is his claim that we are not studying our opponents. One can only presume a bluff from Thomas that, surely, isn’t meant to be taken too seriously. Not even a cursory glance? Mind games and false messaging or just supreme confidence in our own ability, our own shape and our own players? Whatever that shape is and whomever they may be this time around.

With injuries continuing to bite there is some good news. Mathias Jensen is back from Denmark, has completed his quarantine following that Covid test result and so has been in training. Will he start or have recent performances now been deemed sufficient that a place on the bench is the best he can hope for? The availability of the broader midfield will determine that as much as anything else. Norgaard and Janelt nailed on starters for 2 of the 3 berths, even if the latter was below his best against Norwich. I felt.

Zanka will be assessed and Wissa is getting closer with Thomas due to decide today (Friday) if he is able to play some part. Likewise Shandon Baptiste who is deemed in contention to be in the squad. Kris Ajer and David Raya remain the key absences with the former due a scan at the end of the month to see how he is placed going forward.

For me, Clive, its as much as getting through this one unscathed. Obviously we want the win and there is still sufficient in the starting XI to beat just about anyone on our day. Yet with those much missed players starting to get close to a return, let’s not scupper this with any rushed return or further injury blow. Our luck on this front has been bad enough already. I’m amazed that Shandon Baptiste is where he is already after that dislocated shoulder but there you go. Hurrah for medical treatment. Yet with the busiest time in the calendar fast approaching, including that league cup quarter-final with Chelsea, keeping the squad fit is as crucial as picking up the points.

The atmosphere on Saturday is going to be nuts. All the focus on Newcastle United. Brentford nothing more than the bit part players at the coronation of King Eddie. The chance to be party poopers always a wonderful one.

I’ve no idea what any of Thomas’ talk means. Nobody will reveal their cards in public, that’s for sure. All we can say is that after the frustration of Burnley and Norwich, this is the perfect time for us to get back in the groove. Let’s hope we take it.

Bring it on and see you there.

Hopefully he won’t be smiling at full time

Nick Bruzon

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

7 Jan

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

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There had been so much optimism before kick off

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

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

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

That, or Sax II.

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

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

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All over at full time – Walker the winner.

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

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

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

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At least Buzz and Buzzette got their hands on the cup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A solitary Gibraltarian flag held aloft at Griffin Park

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

Nick Bruzon

Tin foil ready? The FA Cup third round is huge in our house. Could this be our year?

6 Jan

The FA Cup third round is upon us as Brentford host Notts County. Infact, it has already begun although any lingering thoughts about being able to watch Friday night’s game between Liverpool and Everton were extinguished as quickly as they arose. Only one person rules the remote in our house and suffice to say: 1) It isn’t me, and 2) Jamie Oliver’s Friday night food thingy was on at the same time as James Milner and Virgil van Dijk were doing their thing at Anfield.

But that was then and this is now. Nothing is going to get in the way of the big one at Griffin Park this afternoon. With last year’s cup ‘run’ ending somewhat underwhelmingly at Chelsea, could today be a springboard for bigger and better things?

cup wembley

Another Wembley dream continues today

I’m not going to pretend I was overly disappointed about missing out on the Liverpool game (he says, grabbing the crowbar), given my own thoughts on the TV selections which you can read in today’s copy of BEES – available on the forecourt and around the ground.

Besides, I’ve also got a lot to thank Jamie Oliver for. He is directly responsible for my own getting married to the ever understanding football widow Mrs B. Although that’s a story as convoluted as the naked photo shoot with Graham Norton and probably best left for another time.

But whereas Friday was nothing more than a passing interest in Everton attempting to upset the odds, today is totally different. It is as much about progression for our beloved Brentford as it is in erasing a personal ghost from the past (not Jamie Oliver).

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Jamie Oliver (right) – has his moments. Not many, but….

Daddy? Why did Brentford play rubbish and why did the trophy end up in the bin after the game?” Not my words but those of four year old HB as we had one of those key chats in father-son life yesterday morning – did he want make a tinfoil FA Cup for today’s game?

Whilst there’s only ever one answer to that question, the conversation then moved on to how Daddy Bees have fared over the years and just what happens if we can win just 6 games in this most famous of competitions.

Good questions, son. ‘Bin day’ had been the third round back in January 2016 when relatively new head coach Dean Smith came up against his former side Walsall at Griffin Park. Like Notts County today, they were divisionally lower than us and like our visitors today, the Bees were hot favourites. At least to those, looking in. If ever there had been a potato skin waiting for us to slip up on here it was. Brentford duly obliged.

From an early morning high of Bacofoil based cup construction and optimism about potential fourth round opponents, a passionate visiting support and Saddlers’ team who had more than a point to prove left our dreams crushed. Our replica trophies in the bin. Could Notts County do the same today?

FA Cup day walsall

Third round day 2016 had started so well. The ending was rubbish.

Well, go into this game with anything less than full focus and it could well happen. Dean Smith has already promised changes although those players likely to come in have more than enough first team experience between them. Josh Clarke will surely return. Could Alan Judge start? Neal Maupay up front? Josh McEachran and Lewis Macleod in the middle? Luke Daniels between the sticks? There’s Flo Jo and a certain Emiliano Marcondes lined up to make his debut. Could it be today? How much will Dean rotate or could his press conference proclamation simply be an attempt to throw Notts County off the scent.

He used yesterday’s build up to note that “We will patch the players up as best we can for Saturday and we have others wanting minutes. We will go in to the game to try and win it. We will make some changes but that is more to do with players being spent after what they have put in over the past four games.

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

Not entirely unexpected given the huge exertions we’ve been through in the league over the last two weeks. At least due reward was given there. And at least Dean further acknowledged that, “Notts County will be a potential banana skin for us. They will be very tough. They have done fantastically this season. They have good, experienced players, we have to make sure there is no complacency and play to our strengths.”

Whatever happens today, I just want our boys to give it their all. Whomever starts, I DO expect to win. The again, I always expect to win regardless of the opposition ! We limped out at Chelsea last season where, despite the obvious calibre of our opponents, no real attempt to even try and go for it was made. Brentford sat back and paid the ultimate price. The tie was less a banana skin for Chelsea and more a delicious peanut butter and banana sandwich served up for our hosts to enjoy en-route to the final.

Losing to Walsall and Chelsea both hurt. Yet as much for it being another year until we get the chance to ‘go again’ in the Cup. Well now that chance is on us and I can’t wait. Roll on 3pm when it all starts once more.

See you there.

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Buzzette – up for the cup

Nick Bruzon

Could we have to make any tougher a decision? What a choice awaits.

25 Apr

Monday really was a day that saw us entering the final days of the current Championship campaign. Newcastle United confirmed their return to the Premier League, although the battle with Brighton to see which of the teams who achieved automatic promotion will be crowned champions is one which will could still go down to the final round of games. And on the subject of winning titles (oh, the subtly) Brentford have officially opened voting for the 2016/17 player of the year.

We all know what’s happened at Griffin Park this season. The second half of the campaign especially has seen some of the most free flowing and exciting football to be played by Brentford in years. This, despite the sale of top scorer Scott Hogan to Aston Villa in January.

Yet following that move, the Bees have flourished. Lasse Vibe has moved to within one strike of the former Bee in the Championship leading scorer’s table, with Jota just behind. Ah, Jota. To say he has had an eventful return to Griffin Park would be like saying the Titanic had a few stability issues.

Few of us honestly thought he’d be back after heading out to Eibar on loan, myself included. And even when there was talk of a possible return, being quite honest there was no way he could match former glories. Especially with the weight of expectation on his shoulders. Was there?

He hasn’t just matched them but taken his, and our, game to a whole new level. We’ve all seen the goals, the runs and the beautiful touches that have left opposition players floundering. Richard Keogh (Derby County) and Jake Bidwell (QPR) being just the latest to have been left with egg on face .

Yet Jota seems to play for pure pleasure. Something that could also be said of fellow Spaniard Sergi Canos out on the other wing. His return to Brentford has been an equally wonderful one.

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Danni showed perfectly how Twitter can be used to capture the current mood.

Then there are the new boys. Rico Henry has hit the ground running at 100mph whilst John Egan’s performance have propelled him toward selection for the Republic of Ireland. Romaine Sawyers has scored some stunners whilst, at times, totally bossed the midfield. His defence splitting passes are a thing of absolute beauty whilst Saturday against QPR saw me wondering if he had no fear, no danger sense or just supreme confidence – such were the deft touches and trickery he demonstrated.

How about Dan Bentley? What can you say about him beyond a huge doffing of the hat? The prospect of losing David Button was one that genuinely worried me but he’s not even been missed, such is the huge impact Dan has made. You could probably count the mistakes on the fingers of one finger yet the world class saves have been legion. He kept us alive on more than one occasion at the start of the season as the team found our collective feet and, right up to Saturday, has continued to pull top draw saves out of the bag.

As for the (metaphorical) elder statesmen, it really is a case of unsung heroes. Ryan Woods has, at times, seemed to be filling three midfield roles in his constant quest to tackle and distribute. He really is a serious contender for this season’s honour. Yoann Barbet has proven just why he was picked out in our new look recruitment drive with wonderful tackles and a fair few goals being added to his game. Pity Dean Smith having to pick between him, John Egan and Harlee.

Ah, Harlee Dean. The player on a one man mission to become the new Mr Brentford. He has been incredible. A colossus at the back this season, up there with the likes of Terry Evans. He’s had to learn his game over the last few seasons but now it is complete, just what a player. The tackles, the voice, the leading by example, the goals, the back heels (hmm, maybe not too many of those). He’s doubled up as a last minute target man whilst those driving runs forward have been a wonderful development to his style of play.

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Harlee – has led by example all season. A fine role model.

What about Nico? Josh? Max Colin? Any of them. It really is a tough call this time around. Reading the Ben Burgess article in the match day programme on Saturday, he was bemoaning the fact that so much player of the year voting takes place in February. Certainly, for the national awards. Yet this despite the season still having a third of the way to go.

It really was fascinating piece and, from a personal perspective, Ben’s column has been one of the standout features in the match day programme this time around. What an honour for the club to have some truly intelligent writing on the back page !

Well Ben, when it comes to Brentford you have your wish. The only question now being who to vote for. Good luck anybody trying to pick one out of those. And for those wishing to have their say, ‘official’ have the full details and form on the club website.

As for next season, the Championship has been nothing more than a one shot deal for Newcastle United. The Rafalution has been a triumphant one (despite the awful, awful hashtag) and at least we can rest easy in not needing to pack the mountaineering gear next campaign. Massive congratulations to the Magpies and, of course, Brighton for what was a supremely exciting battle.

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Worst. Hashtag. Ever. But a great performance from Newcastle United

Despite being Bookies’ favourites, Newcastle haven’t had it all their own way with pundits being reminded, yet again, that the Championship isn’t the cake walk a big club might expect. Aston Villa, we’re looking at you. Indeed, even the title looks a long way off with a four point deficit and two games to play keeping the Magpies just about alive in that race. Whilst you’d fancy the Seagulls to scoop the title, anything can happen in football and nobody at Griffin Park needs any reminders about what can happen in the final promotion shootout. I’m pretty sure there was something about a penalty?

Instead, they look certain to be replaced by Sunderland and Middlesbrough, at the very least. The trip to Sunderland one already being anticipated by many at Griffin Park whilst Middlesbrough will be very familiar territory.

Still, all that’s for another time. We’ve got two more games and a higher finish than last season to focus on. And, of course, deciding on just who to vote for.

I now know what my decision is, but I don’t fancy yours much. What a choice.

Nick Bruzon

Newcastle United share a pain that Brentford know so well as Keith does his thing once more.

6 Apr

Keith Stroud. A name to strike fear into football fans up and down the land has done it again. Of course, at Brentford we are well aware of the card happy man in black’s past form. Now Championship table toppers Newcastle United are the latest club to fall foul of his obsession with random decision making in last night’s game with Burton Albion.

Who could forget the infamous battle of Bramall Lane? Rather than a League One promotion shootout between the Bees and Sheffield United, it was another game that turned into the Stroud show. “The maddest game of football that ever existed” said Mark Burridge after that one as it finished with three red cards shown, four penalties awarded and 12 players booked (8 alone in the first half). That the Bees came out of it with a point,despite playing most of the second half with 9 men, was more down to our own character than any protection from the referee.

It was a game which, to the casual observer, would suggest one akin to the titular battle. In reality it was nowhere close to that, with the hardest fought contest being that between Stroud’s ego and the frustration of both sets of supporters.

Whilst he’s never topped that moment in Sheffield, his name is one that still brings an almost audible wince of negativity (should such a thing be possible) whenever he is announced as a referee for a forthcoming game. His card ratio alone is, season on season, higher than just about any other official to take charge at Griffin Park . The current campaign has seen him show an incredible 171 yellows and sent off 12 players during his 39 games officiated. Only Uber have more bookings than Stroud, it seems.

Then, last night happened. With Newcastle United hosting Burton Albion in a league fixture (a phrase in itself which bears more than a moment’s consideration) they were awarded a penalty. With Matt Ritchie subsequently finding the back of the net for 1-0, Stroud struck. Social media went into meltdown as , for reasons unknown, rather than declaring the goal he chalked it off and gave a free kick to Burton.

This was later revealed to be for what Mr Stroud considered encroachment into the box by Dwight Gayle. Whilst the rules of the game dictate that the spot kick should be retaken in such a circumstance, Keith’s head and the rules of the game are not things that always see eye to eye,

Unfortunately the referee has misapplied the law. Keith and his team are understandably upset at the lapse in concentration and apologise for the mistake,” said a referee’s spokesman afterwards. Hmmm. Sorry about that folks. Imagine the furore had things then turned out differently to the eventual 1-0 home win for Newcastle?

I do feel sorry for Keith in many ways. To give credit, his recent performances officiating for Brentford have, by and large, been relatively restrained with no real controversy. He even changed his mind in our favour upon the advice of an assistant during the recent reverse at home to Wolves.  So we know he can do it. Unfortunately, there are so many games that see the other side of Keith.

The flamboyant flourish of a red card. The turning his back on a player he has just admonished. The random bookings and decisions offered out at a level not seen since Uriah Rennie. Yet he has been allowed to continue unchecked. Nobody has had a word and, instead, he has become almost a cult character. But for the wrong reasons.

People now expect bookings and oddity when Keith is in charge. People go into the game on edge. When he has a good one there’s a sense of relief more than a sense of pride. Season on season his statistics speak for themselves but no real action is taken to reign him in. Football isn’t that consistently dirty a game, except in Keith’s head.

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Keith Stroud – we all know the drill

Equally though, last night bears additional scrutiny. This was no heat of the moment decision. This wasn’t a foul that needed to be replayed in the head. It was a basic rule of football that he got backwards in the most glaring of styles. But what about his assistants? Was no support given ? No advice offered? Or was this a case where Keith’s rule was law?

Let’s be clear, I’d hate to be a referee. Balls of steel and skin as thick as rhino’s are the pre-requisites. With players, journalists and fans all thinking they know better the ref is only ever on a hiding to nothing. He clearly loves what he does although, whilst I’d hate to see any serious sanction as a result, that’s no justification for allowing anyone to run around unchecked.

Will Keith ever change? Unlikely. Will the FA do anything? Expect a week’s demotion to the lower leagues and then business as usual.

Yet, out of all this, Keith may wake up this morning and look himself in the mirror. You never know. Perhaps this will be the catalyst that triggers some self-reflection and a reigning in of Keith the card.

We know he can do it. We’ve all seen him have good games. Why not just go back to being the anonymous man in the middle rather than the reputational nightmare he has allowed himself to become.

Can a leopard change his spots? You never know.

 

Nick Bruzon

Fine margins see Huddersfield staying alive as Brentford goal glut runs dry.

12 Mar

All good things come to an end and that was certainly the case on Saturday as Brentford saw their hot streak in front of goal stop with a juddering halt. Huddersfield Town shutting us out (and not just in front of goal, if we’re being honest) as they recorded a 1-0 win at Griffin Park. With Fulham, of all teams, doing them a stonking favour with a 3-1 win up at Newcastle United, there’s everything to play for in the top slots .Good luck to anyone trying to call the two automatic promotion places that the Terriers, Magpies and Seagulls are currently fighting over.

Still, promotion is nothing but a pipe dream for Brentford at present – albeit we have a wonderful chance to still impact the play off race later in the season when we travel to Fulham. Assuming they haven’t choked it by that point.

Instead, our aspirations are more about building for next season and, with safety all but mathematically assured, we’ve been doing this in fine style recently. Brentford entered this game off the back off a goal glut which had seen us rise to the top half of the Championship table. Then Huddersfield paid a visit.

Despite a lurid kit – think QPR with added highlighter pen – and the pressure of David Wagner having been named ‘manager of the month’ the visitors accomplished their sole aim. Win the game to keep the pressure on Newcastle and Brighton.

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View from the Braemar – three points and a lurid kit for Huddersfield Town

Whether it was exhaustion, a terrible display from referee Oliver Langford (who seemed to be set to ‘random’ mode), superior opposition or just a combination of all the above, we were second best on the afternoon. Despite a bright start to both periods, Huddersfield were soon able to control the game and snuff out our attacking threat. Indeed, it was the visitors who had the better chances even if the only way they did find the back of the net was via a combination of a Harlee Dean deflection and Dan Bentley.

It was a shame because the pair of them have been unsung heroes this season. The goals of Scott Hogan and the return of our talismanic Spaniards have dominated the headlines and perception of our team. Yet both Dan and Harlee have more than played their parts and are serious contenders for player of the season, when we look back over the entire campaign.

Things could have been different. Perhaps. Brentford had a bright start to both periods, Jota unleashing a drive from outside the box after three minutes that Danny Ward in the Huddersfield goal had to go full stretch to parry away.

Moments into the second half (the Bees having survived a huge scare almost from kick off) Lasse Vibe was presented a gilt edged chance.

Rico Henry releasing Flo Jo, whose slide rule pass across the box found the great Dane unmarked and Ward flatfooted. Yet instead of stroking it home, he somehow managed to sky it over the bar from eight yards out. In truth, the ball was travelling at him, at speed, yet even allowing for that movement one would still have hoped to see the net ripple. And that, a deflected effort that looped onto the top of the crossbar aside, was as good as it got.

After the game, Dean Smith would talk about fine margins being the difference. In the interview which you can find on Brentford ‘official’, he noted how:  “If the goal is given, if Lasse takes his chance, if the free-kick is given at the end of the game then it is different. Unfortunately we are not getting loads of those calls at the moment.

Was this a thinly veiled dig at referee Oliver Langford? A man who incensed captain Harlee Dean and the entire Griffin Park crowd with a series of odd decisions. Certainly, we’ve been getting the goals (and even penalty calls) in recent weeks. Yet even watching from the sidelines, Dean was more animated than I think I’ve ever seen him before as decision after decision went the way of the opposition. He was less Dijkhuizen and more Saturday Night Fever, such was the way he waved his arms around every time a crunching foul was overlooked.

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Dean channeling his inner Travolta, with Huddersfield staying alive in the promotion race

I’ll be keen to see the official highlights later on today. The 90 seconds served up by Sky (in as much all you need to know about the game) glossed over any refereeing faux-pas. Instead, they are just a chance to remind ourselves about what might have been.

That said, I did find Dean’s assertion that, “I thought that we more than matched them today” a bit of an odd one. Statistically speaking alone, the visitors had more possession, more shots and more goals whilst just looking at the game as a supporter I can acknowledge when we’ve been nullified. Huddersfield weren’t streets ahead but they were the better team on the day, no question. They are where they are for a reason.

Instead, we’ll just have to regroup for Tuesday night’s game against Wolves. Expect personnel changes for no other reason than the amount of games we’ve played in such a short space of time. Again, something Dean alluded to in that interview. Could the likes of KK, Tom Field, Sergi Canos and Josh Clarke find themselves back in the starting XI?

Whoever he picks will have the somewhat dubious privilege of Keith Stroud being the man to wave the cards in that theatrical style of his. Here’s hoping Keith is the restrained man in the middle that we have seen on occassion rather than the Keith of Bramall Lane infamy.

This season his record is 161 yellows and 11 reds in his 35 games. That’s an average of 4.6 bookings per game. By comparison, Mr Langford has 113 yellows and 5 reds over the same period. I’m not sure which is better really, going on yesterday.

Instead, let’s just hope it’s our football that everyone is taking about once more come Tuesday night.

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Keith Stroud – your eyes aren’t wrong. There is NO card in hand

Nick Bruzon

Mark Burridge wins Twitter for the day as Brentford prepare for trip to Ipswich Town

3 Mar

Roll on Saturday. Brentford travel to Ipswich Town looking to make it three wins in a row whilst, at the same time, building on a ‘goals scored’ record that has seen us find the net 16 times in the last 6 games. The last of which saw that smile inducing hat trick from Jota (just think of it and tell me you aren’t still grinning). And those of you up early may have spotted something on Twitter from the midweek win for Newcastle United at Brighton, c/o of our commentator par excellence Mark Burridge.

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View from the Braemer – unadulterated joy from Jota and the team on Saturday

But we can only start with Brentford and Ipswich Town. Last season saw a 3-1 win for Brentford at Ipswich, in a game that was marred by Luke Hyam’s horrific lunge through Alan Judge. It was a foul subsequently defended by Tractorboy’s boss Mick McCarthy who, even given time to reflect , made no attempt to reconsider his opinion.

Hyam was shown a yellow for the assault on Judge which broke his leg, ruled him out of EURO 2016 and 11 months later still sees him nowhere close to a first team return. The Ipswich man was eventually shown a second yellow for going at Ryan Woods just before half time.

Dean Smith’s suggestion that he had been  “a bit naughty” and deserved straight red prompted a somewhat bizarre reply in which McCarthy noted, “I’m disappointed if he’s said that. I don’t think it is. I think he’s won the ball. I’ve actually complained to the referee as to why it’s a booking if he’s won the ball. I don’t think it’s naughty at all. That surprised me and disappoints me if he’s said that, but we all have opinions”.

Hyam hasn’t featured this time around but don’t expect anything different from Mick and his team. If not career threatening injuries, certainly a side who are robust in the challenge and have lost the form that has seen them threatening the play offs in previous campaigns. Instead, a squad that contains Jonathan Douglas and Toumani Diagouraga have seen their stock fall and sit below Brentford in the league table.

As for Brentford, there’s been more than a touch of Keegan-era Newcastle United about us in recent weeks. Dean’s return to picking a four man defence has seen goals aplenty, at both ends. Is kamikaze football better than the turgid possession game? Absolutely. Is it just a matter of time before the team re-adjust to both their ‘new’(traditional) system and new faces  such as Flo Jo and Sergi ? I have no doubt. Which of those two Dean starts with on Saturday will be tough choice but, like Justin Shaibu, the impact made from the bench by the Spaniard was clear for all to see.

Harlee Dean has flourished in recent months. He really has been indispensable, both at the back and going forward. He’ll be missed in his second game out following his tenth yellow, but it gives Andreas Bjelland  and John Egan a chance to really give Dean another selection headache. Along with Yoann Barbet, we really have been blessed with centre backs – the trick for Dean being which combination to pick and which players to sit alongside them.

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Suspension saw Harlee spending Saturday very much put of position

And there’s another thing. Rico Henry. He’s barely featured on these pages since, finally, making his debut in the 2-1 win up at Sheffield Wednesday. Rico, if you are reading (you aren’t) I can only apologise.  Commentators and supporters alike were left enthusing about his performance. Those who saw him in the flesh against Rotherham could only agree. Pace, skill, tricks and tackles. In abundance.

Tom Field has been magnificent at left back but Rico really has thrown down a gauntlet. In doing so, he has shown just why the statistical model has identified a second Dean Smith ex-player as one we should move for.

As for Romaine Sawyers, his killer ball through for the goal to complete Jota’s hat-trick showed just why our head coach must have been smiling when ‘the model’ threw up his name over the summer. Like Brentford, consistency has been the main problem here in a tricky first season but we’ve nobody who can split a defence like Romaine when he is on his A game.

Rotherham, like Sheffield Wednesday, saw him very much a fish out of water. The ‘false 9’ formation is not one that we’ve been overly comfortable with and Saturday was the archetypal example. A set up that looked good on paper pre kick off clearly wasn’t working and Dean Smith really should have rescued his man earlier.

As for the experts, the bookies see Brentford as 39/20 to win this one whilst ‘over 2.5 goals’ is evens. And for those of you with a penchant for curse of the ex-player (as so ably demonstrated by John Swift at Reading) Toumani is 15/2 to score at any time. Whilst the big man was only the bench last time out, football being football then surely that’s where the smart money is?

Calling the shots will be Mark Burridge, as ever. With travel chaos expected thanks to the rail service, could Beesplayer be the best place to catch up on the action? Whilst there is no substitute for being there, the thought of spending the afternoon with Mark and his team is a tempting one. If for no other reason than we can expect quick off the mark observations from our man at the mic.

Does he ever sleep? Is his attention permanently tuned in to all things Brentford and Greyhounds ? We alluded to an early morning social media spot at the start of the article and sure enough, Mark / Newcastle United delivered.

Nice one Mark . Here’s to more zingers on Saturday. And goals.

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Nick Bruzon