Tag Archives: Manchester City

Sheer bliss with fixture list ‘reveal’. And who is Thomas shopping for?

17 Jun

Brentford v Arsenal. Norwich City v Liverpool. Manchester City v Spurs. That concludes the draw for the third round of the FA Cup. Except, of course, it doesn’t. That actually concludes the headlines from the opening round of Premier League fixtures. Games to be played at 3pm on Saturday 14th August, subject to television coverage. It is about as perfect an opening game as the Bees could have asked for. A home start. The chairman’s boyhood club. A chance to hit the ground running before away trips to Crystal Palace and then Aston Villa. Oh, Dean Smith. The ‘deserved to win’ derby is back and I can’t wait for it. Can’t wait for any of it.

At an (ambassadorial ?) dinner with friends last night, the excitement was palpable. The hope of being able to play in front of a full house following the additional month’s extension of Corona restrictions from June 21st an obvious topic of conversation. Those of us lucky enough to attend the play-off semi against Bournemouth where 4,200 ripped the roof off Lionel Road know just what a huge difference having fans present makes. Of course, we need no reminder of that but at the same time, the effect it had on the Cherries was beyond anything I had seen before.

A team visibly crumbling in front of us. The self-destruct button hit as Brentford played them off the park on it and destroyed their mindset off it. Sell the place out and Arsenal won’t know what to expect for that first game. From their own library  (pre/during corona) to a cauldron of noise. It’ll be immense. And that’s just game one.

What an afternoon that was at Lionel Road

We’ve all got the ones we are looking forward to. Seeing the likes of Manchester City and Spurs on our fixture card still takes some belief. As much because of the huge journey taken to get here. But, we have done it. We are there. We are going to be playing shoulder to shoulder as league rivals rather than ad-hoc cup opponents. The BBC have updated their graphic. Newsnow have shifted us into their ‘Premier League’ category. Our transfer from the Championship is completed. Believe it. It’s happening. Enjoy the build up but bring on the real thing.

Manchester City will now be league rivals rather than ad-hoc cup opponents. Sheer Bliss For Brentford in 1989

Thomas Frank spoke to Sky Sports Premier League yesterday. You can see that one below. Even he acknowledging that it has finally sunk in. His own thoughts on the Arsenal game being that, “To be honest, I don’t really care who we are facing in the first game… if there was one wish then it was that the first game was at home”. There was plenty more said in between so do take a look. If only for the transfer exclusive…

Like the rest of us, Thomas is hoping for a full house at Lionel Road. With Wimbledon tennis finals and business end of the Euros seeing more and more able to attend, one has to remain optimistic. No pressure, Boris. Johnson. Not Becker. I darnel even think of the meltdown should supporters not be able to attend. Whether we’ll be able to travel en-masse fo r ‘away’ games another consideration but, for now, everybody is going to be sweating on that July update. 

That’s for then. This is now. A moment to start memorising dates. Planning the Christmas schedule. Looking forward to another season. The difference being that this time, rather than finishing the campaign against Portsmouth and Doncaster (something something something penalty) it’ll be games with Southampton and Leeds United. This fixture card I found at he back of the draw during the week really emphasising the progress made over the last ten years. Now, to see where we go from here. 

I can’t wait. See you there  

That was then

Nick Bruzon

Half man. Half Robot. All Burridge.

15 Jun

Another date with the reality of our situation is coming. Fast. As Brentford fans continue to bask in the excitement of our play-off win, Wednesday sees the Premier League fixture list released. The moment we discover when The Bees will entertain and (hopefully) visit the famous names we’ve only seen in sticker books, on Match of the Day, the odd cup tie or perhaps their own ad-hoc visits to the lower leagues. Leeds United, Wolves, Manchester City, Everton, Liverpool. The list is a long one and is laden with anticipation. As was noted in the previous column, there’s not one opponent who doesn’t provide an added element of intrigue.

Yet before we get there, its time for another book back at last season from another of our special guest columnists. This time, the man that has seen it all. The man who has described most of it to us. Brentford’s commentator par-excellence and the king of I-follow, Mark Burridge. We caught up this week for a chat about all things from play-offs and Premier League to commentary and covid. Mark talks through his highlights on the pitch, his players of the season and the ethos coursing through the club – on and off the pitch.  Enjoy…..

As for today’s headline, we WILL get there…..

Mark and team at Wembley

Mark, let’s start at the end. 29th May at Wembley. For those in the stands it was the culmination of a life’s dream. Can you put it into words, both as a fan and a commentator.

How did you keep your cool? Did you? Any tears shed?

It was ultimate professional performance from players and staff, started fast, a brilliant counter attacking second goal and then they just comfortably managed the game. Swansea had only scored 3 goals twice all season, so I was convinced it was our day early in the match. There was no way back for Steve Cooper’s team. Every player was 7/8 out of 10 and when that happens with Brentford the opposition are in for a long day.

Being relaxed early on made it all more enjoyable, the fans clearly felt that way too, so many smiling faces on display at half time. It was a strange feeling at the end, nothing dramatic from me as the result had been clear for some time, particularly after the red card.

I felt intense relief, pride, a sense of justice and simply enjoyed the celebrations around me. The tears, hugs, generations of families together, a truly special moment that you knew had to be enjoyed. Stuart Wakeford came to embrace Marcus Gayle and like many fans, the final whistle was the signal for raw emotion and Stuart had found it overpowering. There was such a genuine warmth.

Marcus and Stu embrace

That very same togetherness was everywhere within our eyesight. Some fans had sunk to their knees, others waving flags, shirts, hats. It was our day, at last. The football gods, had called time on play off & cup final pain for Bees fans, at least for now. The infamous Doncaster penalty, the most cruel and numbing of last minute dramas, well if this now was the pay off we’ll shake hands and call a truce!

Knowing that we were finally going to leave Wembley as winners and had experienced just what reward the play offs could be, was very new to Bees supporters.. Martin Lange was smiling down on us.

We were going to carry on with broadcasting until after the trophy presentation, so it was just a time to treasure. Then I looked at my phone and saw a ridiculous number of Whatsapp messages…

After clicking on the first few, it was a still of my Dad in the stands which I knew might happen if we were victorious, as Sky wanted to feature some of the elder fans who were inside Wembley and had been watching Brentford the last time we were in the top flight (which has now gone viral much to Dad’s bemusement).

That really was an emotional moment and I started to think of our dear friend Greville, of Dan & Jamie Powell, how much this would mean to them after such a difficult time in the respective lives. They are here at Wembley, somewhere, loving this and drinking it in.

It was a beautiful emotion right then that I couldn’t put into words.

I just felt incredible gratitude that this moment could be shared by so many & mean so much to so many fans all around the world. Dry eyes suddenly became a little tearful, I’d never enjoyed a moment so much watching others and trying to describe what was taking place in front of our eyes. 

Being with Marcus Gayle & Ben Burgess and hearing their emotion and their thoughts on what this will do for the Club and community was another reminder of why ex pros have such an affinity Brentford Football Club. Contrasting backgrounds with Ben on loan for just one season (2001/2) but has always kept in touch with BFC, writes such good articles in the match day programme and does a sterling job on commentary when he joins us for games in his native north west.

Marcus is the fan who became a Bees professional footballer, Premiership player, World Cup international and then a role model through his work with Kick it Out. The man who had bought a season ticket and was enjoying the games as a fan again until we bumped into each other in a local food shop in 2016 and we had a conversation about joining us on match day commentary.

As everyone knows Marcus is now our proud Club Ambassador. Having seen him make his debut for Brentford many years ago, then to share this victory with both he and Ben, with my Dad in the stadium as well, it simply does not get any better than this. What a magical end to a long season.

You and the team have provided an absolute lifeline this season, With the gates to Lionel Road locked you’ve kept us going with the usual passionate commentary. To us, that side of things felt ‘normal’ but what was it like commentating in what was effectively an empty room? How do you maintain the enthusiasm?

I’ve heard others say working at stadia was joyless and soulless and can certainly understand why that would be said but everyone working at a match would no doubt have realised they were in a very privileged position. Travelling to and from games alone (EFL guidance) was something different and it was often a case of arrive, set up equipment and leave as soon as possible. It was all very well organised but quite surreal compared a usual match day

The games generally lacked the intensity & energy you would enjoy with crowds, which was to be expected. The players may well be professionals but they are human beings first and foremost, so it was tough for them, particularly with the condensed season. It was very difficult without crowds but we got use to it early on and had experience of this at the end of last season. The fans are the energy of football. They are to players, others fans and certainly commentators too!.

I had encountered some of the top names commentating on radio a few times without background noise and it was a hard listen. At Lionel Rd the gantry vantage point is simply incredible (a MUST see when tours are available) but we were the only ones up there broadcasting unless it was a SKY game, with the press level pitch side there’s so little you would hear in the way background noise, as we were are quite detached. 

One of the SKY commentators said he would find it very difficult without the fake noise they would have piped in their ears during the game. It certainly must have helped somewhat.

Fortunately I was lucky to be around people with a great knowledge of the game, all things Brentford and who were passionate, yet measured.

It wasn’t until the Bournemouth away leg in the play off semi final that it probably dawned on Marcus Gayle & I just how different football felt again. This totally changed again for the play off home leg. The volume was simply remarkable. Off  the scale. With just 4,000! This bodes well for next season!

iFollow raised about £42m for EFL Clubs. Were you aware just how important the service was to fellow fans. Did you feel it was important to stay as positive as you did?

There was hope that fans would be back after a few months, at least in reasonable numbers. So we had a numbers of ex players booked to join us who would be experiencing Lionel Rd for the first time and would be introduced to the fans inside the stadium before the match. Covid saw so many changes throughout the season, mirroring the case levels so it was effectively an ever changing feast. Some ex-players had to be cancelled and dignitary numbers were often being lowered from an already miniscule number.

Contrary to what was said after one game we certainly did not have 200 fans in the ground!!

Considering supporters had missed out on what should have been a packed house for the very last game at Griffin Park and then not had the chance to be at the first game at the new stadium it is fair to say that Bees fans had every right to feel very disappointed and frustrated. Allowing the options to freeze ST’s and offering iFollow free for so many games, along with the GP Tours are all examples of the Club being in tune with supporters. The input from the various fan groups playing a big part in the right decisions being made.

iFollow suddenly had a much larger audience and with it quite a few adverts! We never knew when they were coming on! Plus half time discussions were cut short because of the same. The cost to watch the games appeared to be good value and did allow fans to stay in touch with the season, even if it’s nothing like being at the game. 

Some supporters freely admitted they enjoyed it more as it allowed the opportunity to see all games when they might previously have only attend a handful during a usual season.

Covering both audio & visual commentary at the same time was also something that required tolerance from fans, as it is not perfect plus there appeared to be the occasional technical issue.

Overall though, iFollow worked well during a very testing time for everyone.

These past 16 months have tested the mental health of everyone and football has been so important for us all to feel connected to ‘normality’ so we were very aware that Brentford’s success might have mean more to people than ever before. Match day routines changed for everyone. No drink with your mates before, maybe now it was sit around the laptop, or the whole family around the TV.

We were positive because I know everyone involved on commentary regularly felt this team would get promotion from quite a long way out. When the squad was struggling for rhythm and consistency I don’t feel it is unfair to say so. Following the draw at Wycombe we did say as much.

We knew fans were getting frustrated. It was fast approaching winter, with much fear & uncertainty away from football itself and message platforms were the only outlet to vent an opinion.

At most games supporters will use up emotional energy at the game but last season was so very different and you probably saw the best and worst of social media. We couldn’t cover the ‘Boro away game due to Covid issues and the local BBC team did a great job. Once Brentford took control they were full of praise for our Club. Unfortunately there was criticism on a phone in by several home fans post match who, rightly or wrongly, felt the commentators were too generous to the opposition.

We have always intended, as is very the Brentford way, to be respectful to the opposition but it is a Bees service so you are representing the fans. Often away fans will connect to the opposition service, presumably just to hear what is said about their team. After the Leeds game last season we had their fans writing on Twitter how nice it was to hear opposition commentary say they the best team we had played since Wolves, some extending this as the ‘fairest’ they had heard.

Giving an honest opinion, hopefully a fair one is all you can really do. Some will like it, others not.

We love the game because not everyone sees it the same way.

What was a real tonic throughout the season is getting some lovely messages from fans, something for which we are very grateful.

What do you think was our performance of the season?

There were some key ones for me.

The 3 points at Barnsley came in the middle of monthly wins in South Yorkshire and got our season going. Some robustness was starting to become clear.

We were excellent for a long time at Watford, showed great character to get a point in the end and the Bournemouth league win at home was probably the best of the season at Lionel Rd

The formation change at Preston was much needed at a difficult time, the 5-0 win against a normally solid side was flawless.

The Cherries feature heavily for me in the whole season, the win at The Vitality Stadium at the end of the season was another important 3 points. 

Jonathan Woodgate’s team were on a great run at the time with 7 (errr brackets) straight wins, scoring for fun and clearly believing they had timed it right, to entering the upcoming play offs with an air of invincibility. Brentford winning, with 10 men for nearly 50 mins, dealt a blow to Bournemouth from which they never truly recovered.

In the end there can though only be one game that had absolutely everything.

Football is about excitement and drama, none of which you truly experience without fans. We all wish there were more supporters in The Brentford Community Stadium, on 22nd May but in this wretched season 4,000 was a huge bonus. 

It was the day Lionel Road finally became our new home, rather fitting in a week that saw bulldozers doing their worst at the wonderful Griffin Park.

So much has been written about that play off win but there wasn’t a hint of panic when Bournemouth went 2-0 up in the tie, in rather strange circumstances. Brentford still believed, Thomas Frank believed. Lionel Rd still believed. Our fans believed. Bournemouth did not.

So it proved, as we witnessed a catastrophic decision making meltdown by the opposition whilst under pressure from a rampant Brentford team that refused to give up. After Chris Mepham’s red card there was an air of inevitability about the outcome, yet it remained wonderfully tense at the same time.

Forss strikes late and Lionel Road erupted.

Begovic goes up for a corner in time added on and we notice the M4 Elevated Section is at gridlock both ways. ’Everyone wants a piece of this game’ we said, as it did feel the whole world would have been engaged in this thriller.

The scenes at the end will never fade either.

It was a reminder just why you love football and  simply worship Brentford Football Club.

There can be only one for Mark

Ivan Toney is, understandably, in line for our player of the season. You’ve seen a lot of Brentford teams over the years, is he our best ever? And who else do you think deserves to make up the ‘top three’ at the end of season awards

Without doubt Ivan Toney is the best for me. Not just for his goals. Barry Fry said he was also Peterborough’s best defender and we’ve all seen why. The amount of times we have seen our striker heading away from an opposition set piece. ‘I get back and defend because I want to help the team, I want to win’ he said at Wembley.

That’s what we had witnessed all season. He was a little rusty at the start of the campaign but once up to speed you could see Ivan’s quality.

It was at Sheffield Wednesday in October that he showed us what an incredible touch he possesses, linking up play with the cutest of touches and headers to feet. That’s when I thought there wasn’t much missing from his game. He scores, he’s brave, he has the skills of a midfielder, he defends, he leads. Can play out wide too, just see the quality of his cross for Ghoddos’ goal in the win against Luton!

Ivan was substituted late against Rotherham in the away game, allowing Aaron Pressley to make his debut. Before leaving the pitch he urged all his players to stay focussed for the last few minutes to see out the win, one of the little things you notice at a game that make you realise what a special team player he is too.

One of the greatest leaders in a red & white shirt we have ever seen. Pure winner.

My second choice would be Vitaly Janelt. Half man, half robot. A signing I thought likely to be ‘one for the future’, like many no doubt. Following the injury to Christian Norgaard the timing of his introduction was perfect. A solid debut up at Hillsborough, then impressive in the win at Oakwell, followed up with scoring his first Brentford goal against QPR.

Then he just kept getting better.

At Cardiff he got scythed down twice but just got up and on with it. A man made of steel.

He scores big goals as well – none more than against Bournemouth in the play off second leg.

Editors note: There have been more than a few from Vitaly – although not all commentated on by Mark…. 😉

Third choice has to go to Sergi Canos.

The way he has come back after a tough start to the season and following a bad injury has been remarkable. Nothing but admiration for him and the flexibility to play wing back so effectively was vital in helping gain promotion. 9 goals for the season, including a hat trick at Cardiff, he has been a bright spark for us on & off the pitch.

Love his ‘We want more’ tweets after each win. Still only 24. Hard to believe.

Sergi got 3 out of 3 against Cardiff City

Over the years you’ve been alongside the likes of Greville Waterman, Luis Melville, Geoff Buckingham, and co, what do you think the current team bring to the commentary?

Diversity, knowledge, pragmatism, humility and a big understanding of all things Brentford, both past and present.

They have all been excellent plus Karleigh Osborne & Charlie MacDonald fantastic new additions.

We always say to ex players ‘just come in when you like, at any time, fans want to hear your views more’. Their opinions are vital to make it work on a match day.

Where do you thing Brentford will finish in the Premier League next season?

I’ll go for 15th in our first season in The Premier League. Bees will take some big scalps and also possibly have a few uncomfortable scoreline.

Lionel Rd will be an important advantage when near or at full capacity. The crowd can play a very big part, as always. It will be fascinating to see how new signings blend in, alongside the players we all believe will prove their quality at the top level.

One thing is for sure, Brentford will have no intention of being tourists.

Finally, just how special do you feel last season has been for everyone connected with Brentford Football Club?

It has been a truly remarkable achievement to gain promotion this past season.

The team had the shortest of breaks last summer before the new campaign got underway and had also lost two huge players in Watkins and Benrahma.

There was a somewhat inevitable hangover from last season and the squad were at a new stadium where there was little advantage as fans had never been experienced – it was never going to feel like ‘home’ under these circumstances. After the last game it most certainly will do!

We lost the fewest amount of games (joint with Norwich), were top scorers again, and went of an unbeaten run of 21 games, then ending with another one of 12. Considering the gruelling schedule, this says all about the quality & character of the players and management but also speaks volumes about some of those not in the spotlight, such as Neil Greig, head of medical, plus Chris Domoney (aka ‘Sladey’) who looks after the aching limbs and muscles so well, whilst his effervescent personality can be infectious for all around.

Take in the Carabao Cup run as well, where we reached the semi final (including a quick taster of VAR) then to go on to achieve the ultimate prize is unheard of at this level.

How often do you hear of knockout tournament runs derailing a promotion campaign? Not to Brentford though, who bucked the trend with a relatively small squad.

If you also factor in losing the talismanic Christian Norgaard for a big part of the season, as well as captain Pontus Jansson, then hitting the top of the table only to promptly lose two more big players in Rico Henry and Josh Dasilva, you start to realise a little bit more about the magnitude of this success, to still achieve promotion.

Off the pitch we also have our heroes. Such as Bees fans Jamie Powell & Billy Coleman, whom the Club and fans have supported through extremely difficult times.

This shows the strength and warmth of the Brentford family. We all need each other. Together we are stronger.

The fans groups, Bees United, Bias, the social media message boards. All have played their part in trying to keeping fans engaged. When automatic promotion slipped away there were many reasoned voices stating the case to stay positive, including this column, and it has been very much appreciated by many.

Jim Levack also wrote an informative article towards the end of the season after a timely conversation with a staff member following the Cardiff game.  It was a time for cool heads.

There were also so many confident fans who sparked calmer debate ahead of the season extension.  After all if you’ve supported the Bees for some time the mere thought of play offs make your head spin a little! Yet there were so many believers this time who probably helped others to keep the faith.

Next season will hopefully see crowds back and we can all enjoy football as we have been use to over the years. In The Premier League.

The Club is in good shape. Both on and off the pitch. It is run by people with understanding of others, true empathy, kindness and warmth. You will be treated as a supporter, not a customer.

Brentford is entering a new chapter, the brand is set to grow. Most of us never dreamed we would see our football club play in the top flight. Yet he we are. Awaiting the fixtures this Wednesday.

Bring on the fixtures…The Bees haven’t played Liverpool since the FA Cup in 1989

We’re third, everyone. But do Fulham have to sell theirs back…?

11 Jun

The Premier League is coming. This time next week we’ll have programmed 19 trips from Brentford into the satnav. Places as far flung as Burnley and Liverpool. Manchester and Leeds. Not Fulham, though. They’re down (and Bees up). This time next month we’ll have reprogrammed most of those trips as we find out that 3pm Saturday kick offs are an aspiration rather than a lifestyle choice. I can’t wait. Euro 2020 is upon us and it has barely registered. Instead, it still seems to be nothing but Brentford in our house. Billy and The Beesotted crew organising Wednesday night’s live podcast from the pub with none other than Phil and Rasmus. Then, Cliff Crown popped up on Twitter to share something very special. It was also confirmed we’ve said a fond farewell to three of our Wembley winners as contracts are set to expire. But first, the forthcoming Premier League season.

Wednesday night – We’re fly-ing without wings……

Who are you looking forward to seeing the most? Home or away? A tweet from the Prem’s official feed got the juices flowing once more yesterday. ‘Refreshed and ready for 2021/22’ it said. There was the league table. Gone were Sheff United, West Brom and Fulham. On their place, the Bees, Watford and Norwich City. Even better though, Brentford are already in the Champion’s League spots. We’re third, everyone…. 😉 Just 38 games to go to hold that spot.

Of all the illustrious opponents we’re due to face, everyone has one they are looking forward to the most. Some are obvious. Others less so. For me, there’s not one game with out an extra angle. An additional layer of intrigue…

Arsenal – a bit of league cup payback would be nice. A chance to see our regular starting XI from the off rather than the bench. Oh, and they have a certain David Luiz in their squad. WE haven’t forgotten ‘that’ elbow.

Aston Villa – do we need to spell it out? Dean Smith. Ezri Konsa. England international Ollie Watkins. I’d absolutely LOVE to pick up three points, even if only to hear which team actually ‘deserved to win’.

Brighton – Neal Maupay. The undisputed king of shithousery. ANY excuse to see him in action. Even if it will feel a bit weird seeing him against us. Pantomime villainy awaits.

Burnley – number 26. We took the longer route around but both of us are now in the Premier League. Villainy awaits.

Chelsea – Champions of Europe. The West London derby – sorry, Fulham (I’m not of course). Some FA Cup payback and the thought of ‘that’ elbow already add recent colour to this game.

Crystal Palace – One of several London derbies. A new ground for us. The Ron Noades (RIP) derby

Everton – who could forget Richard Lee’s heroics? TC, where are you going to be?

Leeds United – teams like Brentford shouldn’t be in the Premier League. Pontus. Maupay. My cousin’s husband. This one is pretty much top of my list.

Hi, Julian….

Leicester City – the former champions. We’ve played them twice in the FA Cup. Ryan Murrant. Oh, Ryan Murrant……

Liverpool – a chance to crack open the bingo cards and show Jurgen Klopp what he missed out on when opting for Anfield over Griffin Park…

Manchester City – the league champions. Not to mention a certain FA Cup tie. Still, up there in my favourite Brentford moments.

The quintessential Brentford FA Cup image

Manchester United – seeing the Bees walk out at Old Trafford is going to be weird. In the nicest sense.

Newcastle United – simply put, one of the best away days in the calendar.

Norwich City – Delia Smith. Carrow Road. A club with a special place in my heart after they were so generous to us when H was mascot.

Carrow Road – October 2018

Southampton another new away day for us. At least, in this league. (err…. Definitely didn’t forget about League One).

Spursa chance to see if, this season, VAR works in our favour.

Now it will be in the league

Watford – Indestructible at the back end of last season. Will be very interesting to see how we both step up this time around.

West Ham – Benrahma. Oh, Benrahma. I’m sure there may be a few half and half scarves out, too.

Wolves – we went toe to toe in those League One and early Championship seasons. They’ve now gone up a notch but I cannot wait to cross swords once more.

It’s going to be amazing. All of it. Then up popped Chairman Cliff Crown on Twitter last night with, in his words. ‘This beauty’ . And he’s right. It is beautiful. We are official.

We are official

There were several obvious questions coming off the back of it.

Did he actually have to handover £1 in exchange? Coin or PayPal?

Was it signed with a half-chewed BIC ? One can only hope the Pontus Jansson ceremonial biro has been retained for posterity.

Did Fulham have to sell their share back?

Best. Pen. Ever. We ARE Premier League !!

Whatever the answer, nobody can deny that we ARE Premier League. We may be a bus stop in Hounslow but we are as deserving of our place as our 19 divisional stable mates.

On slightly sadder, albeit totally expected, news was the official cofirmation that Henrik, Emiliano and Luke Daniels will be leaving us. Their contracts expire this month and so we say adieu. Henrik in particular had already seen the news leaked by Midtjyland (the owner really needs to have a word) earlier in the week but all three will be missed. If nothing else, Emiliano has ‘that’ goal that will be forever in our hearts…

One thing I hope doesn’t change with top flight status is the interaction between club and supporters. This has been well, well documented over the years and nowhere more was it seen than just this week when Dave, Billy Grant, not Reeves) and the Beesotted crew organised their live podcast from the pub.

Surprise special guests were none other than our Directors of Football – Rasmus Ankersen and Phil Giles. As Billy said afterwards, How many clubs – never mind PremierLeague clubs – will you have the Directors of Football come down the pub for over 3 hours & chat & joke w fans & be completely honest?
BrentfordFC of course

Indeed it was completely honest and anything goes. Even when the camera stoped rolling. Part one is now up and you’ll find it on Twitter and the Beesotted ‘Pride of West London’ podcast page.

Or, just click below

On personal note, it was great to get out and about with my fellow Bees once more. Wembley was indescribable. Bournemouth incredible. Yet they were both ‘match situations’. To sit back and discuss it all, now the news has really sunk in, was equally special.

That’s the club we have though. Please, never let it change.

Never change

Nick Bruzon

Natalie Sawyer: From Moss Rose and Meadow Lane to Anfield and the Emirates

6 Jun

Brentford FC. The club where anything can happen.. and usually does. We are now just over a week into our Premier League status and, being honest, I’m still finding it somewhat hard to believe. Not because of our bus stop in Hounslow status or the sneering from outside TW8 but as much because of everything that has gone before. But it’s true. It’s happening. Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United et al will be amongst the visitors next season. Get used to it.

Part of the reason I love this club so much is the lack of any pretension, anywhere. Hearing Marcus Gayle talk about our spirit and our approach during ‘The Warm Up’ on Friday night was spot on. If you, somehow, haven’t seen it as yet then it is well, well worth a watch. If for no other reason than it is yet another chance to relive that incredible afternoon at Wembley moments.

For me, Brentford is a place where the great and the good can rub shoulders. Complete neutral ground. The close quarters of Griffin Park meant one was as likely to see Sergi Canos in the street as Jumper man. There’s Jack Whitehall in the pub sharing a drink with our chairman. Delia Smith walking down Braemar Road. Err, is that Peter Andre sitting in New Road? Apparently it was. Where if you see the owner, and ask a question, you get as honest an answer as you can. Thank for the kit reveal, Mr B (we’re going back a few season now but…). Where everybody knows everybody’s name and is happy to get involved.

Nowhere more is this seen than with Natalie Sawyer. To those outside of TW8, one of the most recognisable faces on our TV screens during her time at Sky and now holding court on talkSPORT Radio Breakfast. To those at Brentford, she is just another fan. Albeit about as passionate as they come. Likewise, one of Mark Burridge’s longstanding and regular guests during his i-follow commentary alongside Marcus and Mick. Ah, who could forget Sheffield United away? You know, ‘that’ game. Keith Stroud….

Natalie is the face of talkSPORT weekend breakfast

The reason for this long winded intro is that, unlike Cameron Diaz, Natalie is as regular and knowledgable a Brentford fan as any of us. So when she has something to share it is well, well worth a read. And, my word, today we are in for a treat. 

Hot off the heels of Kitman Bob’s exclusive look behind the Brentford curtain, Natalie has very kindly taken the time to share her thoughts. What we had initially hoped may be a few words has, instead, turned into something that is as much ‘cathartic’ as anything else. Not just about the week leading up to Wembley and the game itself, but everything that has gone before.

HUGE thanks to Natalie for taking the time to share just what this means to her..…  

From Moss Rose and Meadow Lane to Anfield and the Emirates

It’s the week after the week of all weeks for Brentford fans but it still doesn’t feel real. “Little ol Brentford” are heading to the Premier League for the very first time. So, in the next year we will face the champions Manchester City, Champions League winners Chelsea and FA Cup holders Leicester to name just 3 sides. I haven’t even computed the historical giants of Liverpool and Manchester United as well! How is this happening??? Do other side’s fans go through this same doubt???

Let’s rewind…I was there for Crewe, I was there for Stoke and also for Yeovil. So, I’ve suffered like many Bees fans. I’ve headed to those finals full of optimism, only for it to be extinguished. I’d like to think ordinarily I am a positive person, most of the time. I try to live the glass half full life but when it comes to Brentford, and the playoffs, I’ve simply learnt to be pessimistic and then hopefully be pleasantly surprised. (I just didn’t think it would take this long!!) 

After every playoff defeat, us fans have all rallied to believe it will happen for us one day, that the next time the footballing gods would be on our side. But, truthfully having been scarred 9 times, as we have, I had partly resigned myself to never winning the playoffs. So this surreal feeling I am having about us being in the Premier League after that Wembley final, I think is pretty fair.  

It’s funny to think the season didn’t start off the best way. 1 win in our first 4 league games had a few fans twitching I’m sure. But not long after we went on that incredible 21 game unbeaten run in the Championship, one time taking us to the top of the league. We were living the dream (little did I know more was to come!). The fun bus didn’t look like it was going to an end, such was the high that we were on. But, in typical Brentford-style we were brought back down to earth with those 3 straight losses, frustratingly with one of those at the hands of QPR (who I’d forgotten were in the league, such was their lowly position! ☺) We dusted ourselves off and went again and although our hopes of automatic promotion fell away, our end to the season was strong and convincing, But, that didn’t mean I didn’t have my fears and nerves and I had that little negative devil sat on my shoulder saying “its Brentford innit” as I feared the approaching playoffs. 

We all know what happened in the first leg against Bournemouth, so I’ll cut to the second. My family were lucky to have got tickets and a few days before the game, I was having sleepless nights. Waking at silly o’clock and having those whirling thoughts of losing. I knew I’d be devastated to lose to Bournemouth in that semi-final as felt we were simply the better team, for all their Premier League experience. But there it was gnawing away at me, our playoff curse and it played on my mind constantly. 

I had to be up early the Saturday morning, so I could be at talkSPORT for 5am. My alarm as usual was set for 330am, but as normal I rarely am woken by it as I always have that fear of sleeping in. This time it wasn’t sleeping in that woke me, constantly, but the impending game with Bournemouth and knowing we were already a goal down in the tie! 

I know I’m very lucky to combine my passion for sport with my job but sometimes it can be wretched. More about that later. After my shift I raced back home as fast as I could and joined my family to make our way to the stadium. It was simply amazing to be among so many fans and feel that excitement in the ground that had been missing for so long. Seeing the players and Thomas do their lap of honour before the game got me ready to be the 12th man as instructed by the team. With Hey Jude being belted out around the ground prior to kick off, it certainly warmed me up for it but the anxiety of a must-win game played on my mind. 

Pre match from Thomas.

There are certain moments in the match, I will confess I didn’t see in real time. Arnaut Danjuma’s goal I didn’t see as I looked away as he broke, and even Ivan Toney’s penalty I missed as I can’t watch any penalty being taken. That doesn’t mean I don’t celebrate like mad once it’s been scored. But my nerves cannot take it, cannot watch it. And just before the ball is struck and you can hear a pin drop, I often squeeze my eyes shut and even have my fingers in my ears, such is the fear that goes through me.

Being sat in the stands with my family, I kept my mask on and it’s the first time ever I felt I could scream and shout at a game whilst feeling anonymous. I’m not normally one to do that at a game, other than every now and then when a chant chorus’ round the ground. But this day felt like no other. I’d been told to make it hostile and I was going to do my bit. 

And so did every other fan in the stadium. The atmosphere was incredible from the 4000 or so fans that were there. And it certainly whetted the appetite for when we can all be back together in what we know now will be a sold-out Community stadium every match day.  

So much of that second leg is a blur now but it was a performance worthy of the win. Agent Mepham did his bit, followed by Janelt’s thunderous shot and Forss’ quick thinking for the third, but of course what does stand out is the ridiculous antics of Asmir Begovic. I’ll never understand how an experienced, seasoned pro could have resorted to such bizarreness. We can laugh at it now because we won but it’s still a head scratching 90 minutes that I wont forget whenever I see or hear his name! 

Begovic – the nicest picture of his antics

When the referee Jarred Gillett blew the whistle, it was some feeling to know we were back at Wembley for a second successive season, hoping to right the wrongs, but guess who was back?? – that devil!!!! Thankfully, I was able to put that pest to one side for the night as we enjoyed a few drinks at One over the Ait, with a number of the commercial department from Brentford, who happened to be there as well. The feeling was one of excitement as attention turned to the following weekends’ final. If I could just tame that devil so I could enjoy the build-up. 

Not. A. Chance. That devil is annoying. I could go hours without thinking about the final, only for, out of nowhere, that nervous feeling you get in your gut would emerge and I would have severe pangs of fear. I didn’t want to comprehend a 10th playoff loss but that’s more often what I thought than thinking we’d win. Scarred, you see. 

Most of my family were pretty calm about it all, the other half (Captain fantastic, Mr D) kept telling me it was in the bag but I didn’t want to hear that. I didn’t want to jinx the game. On paper I thought we were better than Swansea, on paper we deserved to win, not just for the last 8 months but also for our missed opportunity last season. But no game is ever won on paper, nor because you deserve it. And also those footballing gods just didn’t like to answer our prayers. So, I had the fear. A constant fear. 

Remember I said my job is great as it combines my passion but that it can be wretched too. Well, here’s why? When you’re constantly asked to talk about the biggest game in football, the richest game in football, the playoff curse, the what happens to the squad if you don’t go up, you are just constantly on edge. Talking about it positively could jinx us, talking about it negatively could jinx us. I felt like I couldn’t win! But I also couldn’t not talk about it as it was part of my job so the only way I could handle it was to try and be measured for fear I would be the reason for the curse continuing. 

I even feared requesting the Sunday off work because I’d be the jinx, but I justified it by saying I was doing that to cover all eventualities. There was no way I would want to work if we lost knowing we’d be dissecting where it all went wrong, whilst also hearing the celebrations of Swansea and yet if we’d won, I knew I needed to party!!

So, waking up as I did on that Saturday morning, I went to work as normal but I’m not entirely sure I remember what we talked about, so much was my mind on Wembley. But I got through the three hours chatting about some final in Porto whilst also occasionally having to talk about the Championship final. Former Swansea midfielder Leon Britton joined us at one point and he was confident his side could win the game. Believe me that is something I didn’t need to hear. That didn’t help the tension. 

Thankfully at 9am, we were done and there was little time for pleasantries with my colleagues at the end of the show, as once again I had to rush home to get ready for the biggest game in our history in which a select few of us could play our part, under the arch. I remember arriving at Waterloo station and as I was going up on the escalator, I spotted something on one of the steps. A sticker. A Brentford sticker. I took it to be a sign. I’m on the up escalator, the Bees are going up? I was hesitant to post it but decided to share the positivity on Facebook, thinking it might give more and more of us a nice little omen of confidence. I didn’t share the news that on the train back I spotted one magpie!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Going to the game with my dad and my brother, we had to get to the ground early as I was asked to appear on talkSPORT again in their live show from Box Park. En route to it we bumped into a few of my former colleagues from Sky Sports, all who believed it was our year. They clearly had not been given the script. No jinxing please!! Once at Box park, it was amazing to see so many Bees fans already inside, sampling the local beverages and soaking up the atmosphere. There was such a positive vibe that it did momentarily ease my fears. The few drinks that followed afterwards also helped! But, it’s amazing how quickly that can change when the nerves kick in!!! And that’s exactly what happened at kick off. 

Once again, the Brentford fans were brilliant. It felt electric in the stadium as our east stand did what we could to roar the team on. I wasn’t sure I could take 90 minutes with my emotions all over the place but as we know it didn’t take long for us to be jumping up from our seats as Bryan Mbeumo was brought down by Freddie Woodman for a penalty, and Ivan gave us the early lead. Obviously, I didn’t see the penalty, but I roared all the same with everyone else when the ball clearly had gone into the net. Ten minutes later, it all felt like a dream as it was 2-nil. Bryan instrumental in our break as Swansea tried to level, Mads Roerslev making an incredible run to get himself into the mix and Emi Marcondes with the finish that got us all thinking could this be our year? The momentum was very much with us and not long after Ivan’s volley could have sealed it. If only it had gone in. How did it not? It’s those gods again!!! 

It did all feel comfortable it has to be said. But, they always say a 2-0 lead is never safe and knowing we had another half to come, my nerves were still all over the place. I kept jostling my feet, my knees kept shaking and even with Swansea’s Jay Fulton sent off just after the hour mark, I still didn’t feel job done. Because, well, you know why; That devil was there on my shoulder again saying “it’s Brentford innit”. 

Swansea didn’t have a single shot on target in the game, but I wasn’t thinking that whilst it was going on. I was thinking, even in added on time, this is agony. So, when the whistle went, I sprang out of my seat, jumped around in ecstasy. Had we really just won? Had we really just won a playoff? Are we really in the Premier League? That moment of being in Wembley still feels unreal. Turning to my 82-year-old dad, his eyes were wet and red. He is an emotional person any way, but he’s never cried at football. Never. But here he was with his emotions for all to see and the best thing I could do was pull him in for a hug. He couldn’t believe what he’d seen, and he couldn’t believe our club were going to be one of the top 20 teams in England. Not just that but our global reach had just grown epic proportions. Next to join in our huddle was my brother and I am forever grateful that that whole moment was captured on video so that we can relive it over and over again as it’s the most special footballing moment for us. 

I was lucky after the game to be invited to the Brentford celebrations at the stadium. It was wonderful to experience, to see the joy on everyone knowing they had just achieved what for so long felt impossible. A little over 10 years ago Brentford were in League Two facing Barnet, Macclesfield, Aldershot, Notts County, Chester, Darlington, Dagenham & Redbridge – not one of them are in the Football League anymore. 

That could have been us had it not been for Bees United and Matthew Benham. There will never be enough words to say a big thanks to those important game changers for the club. But, going from those days at Moss Rose and Meadow Lane to Anfield and the Emirates is still incomprehensible. We’ve lived in a bubble of hope for so long and although we will fondly refer to us as “a bus stop in Hounslow” and there will be some that think it’s wrong a club like ours should be in the Premier League (Really Terry Christian?!), we are going to have to get used to it as we can no longer say “it’s Brentford innit”, instead it’s “we are Premier League, say we are Premier League.” 

Relive it all once more, in style.

5 Jun

What more can you say? Well let’s start by saying that Brentford are Premier League. And yes, it HAS been said many, many times over the last few days but it just fits so well. Sounds so sweet. Finally, finally finally this stage of our journey is over. Finally we’ve got a notch in the ‘W’ column for a game at Wembley. It’ll be Chelsea rather than Craven Cottage for the West London derby. Brighton rather than Blackpool for our trip to the seaside. Manchester City and Aston Villa as the teams to discuss with two of my closest non-Bees supporting friends. There is nothing but excitement ahead and, as much as anything else, perhaps a summer now able to be spent enjoying the Euros rather than vast tracts of the squad being snapped up by top flight clubs. If you support Brentford, life is good. 

This time last week, the anticipation was building. As was an element of angst. On paper, we all knew that Brentford were the better team than Swansea City. Yet in our hearts, we all knew this was a one-off game at what for us had been the most jinx-laden of venues. Anything could happen in 90 minutes. In a one-off game of football. 

Thankfully, as revealed in Kitman Bob’s exclusive insight to the build up this week, those were not feelings shared by the squad. The togetherness and spirit we had seen all season combining once more to get us over the line during the week and on the day itself. You can read Bob’s diary here and, even if you have already, do it again. Just because these moments deserve to be relived.

Yet if Bob has done his thing, last night was the turn of Stu Wakeford, Marcus Gayle and Karleigh Osborne. The Warm Up was back on our screens for another look at the game, the beautiful, beautiful afters aswell as, of course, their thoughts and hopes for the coming Premier League season. 

They have the goals. The celebrations. Fan footage. The additional key moments of which, for me Clive, ‘that’ Ivan Toney blockbuster gets nearer and nearer to making it 3-0 every time I watch it. Obviously the result is the important thing, and we got it, but just imagine the noise had that dropped a few inches kinder to clear the line. What an absolutely stunning goal that would have been. One to rival Dallas at Fulham. 

There’s even the revelation that Karleigh ‘did a JJ’ (and if you know, you know). Quite possibly the real reason we won the game. There’s a lot of love for Thomas and our own, grounded approach to football. Marcus, in particular, absolutely nailing what it means to be a Brentford fan and what your club is all about. I’ve watched it once. I’ll do it again. Being quite honest, I can’t get enough of last weekend. It has been SUCH a long time coming. Even last night, with Gibraltar 4-0 down at half time in Slovenia (thankful there would be no brackets involved at the end of the game) , we flicked off the red button and there were the highlights on Sky again. Don’t mind if I do. Perhaps this time, the crossbar will give Ivan a slightly kinder bounce .

The Warm Up is on now. You can catch it below. Find out who wants Chelsea next season. Who is getting excited about Old Trafford. What Pep might say when Manchester City come to visit. Most of all, just enjoy the sheer, unadulterated happiness of what we have achieved.

Nick Bruzon

We’ve only gone and done it.

30 May

We. Are. Premier League. Said we are Premier League. My word. It happened. It only went and actually happened !! Brentford beat Swansea City 2-0 at Wembley to reach the top flight of English football. Not a typo. It was a game which was as comfortable as the scoreline suggests, following a blistering start from the Bees. Ivan Toney from the spot and Emiliano Marcondes putting us as good as there within twenty minutes. But for the woodwork it would have been three moments later and once the Swans were reduced to ten men in the second half (straight red for Jay Fulton) it was a game over, man. Game over. A few heart stopping flurries aside, our opponents weren’t in it. Or, rather, the Bees were dominant. Calm. Composed. Deadly on the counter attack. Now, our West London derby will be with Chelsea. Will be at Stamford Bridge. Not Loftus Road or Craven Cottage.

Sunday morning. Wide awake. By all medical logic kidneys, liver and other internal organs should have packed up a few hours ago yet. Brain should not be functioning given lack of sleep. Instead, there’s a ludicrously oversized Joker-esque smile across the face and espresso being mainlined. The minute Mrs B and our Harry wake up, we’ve a date with the Skybox and a rewatch of the game. I’ve not seen any of it back yet. The night was a procession of beer and more beer. First at The Box Park and the The Griffin before back at home. Celebrations that have been SO long coming given our well documented record at Wembley. Success that we have been slowly building towards over the last few years. If it felt amazing after Alan Judge got the winning penalty against Preston to help us leave League One, this was ten times better.

The season has been a crazy one. All but a handful of games played behind closed doors. The gates to our new home at Lionel Road padlocked for so long. The heartbreak of last season and the inevitable sale of Ollie Watkins to Aston Villa a blow to test the firmest of resolves. The subsequent departure of Said Benrahma another sad, sad day for many. Questions over David Raya’s future seeing Luke Daniels beginning in nets. Our Championship campaign starting at a sedentary pace, albeit the league cup run kept things ticking over nicely until league form finally kicked in.  And when it did. My word…..

Ivan Toney has grabbed most of the headlines. Understandably. 31 goals in the regular campaign will make him the number one transfer target for just about everyone else over the summer. His penalty technique the stuff of legend. And heart attack. He didn’t miss one all season though. Yesterday at Wembley, under the pressure of the richest game in English football and the albatross around the neck of all that had gone before, he did it again. Calmness personified. Freddie Woodman coming close but no cigar. The stadium erupting as ten minutes in, the scoreboard reflecting a strange stat – Brentford actually ahead in a play off final.

But it is not just about Ivan. Sergi Canos has copped dogs’ abuse at times. Something he spoke about publically in the end. However, he used it to get better and better. Stronger and stronger. His performance in the final few games, the semi final especially, up there with the very best of them. His hat trick at Cardiff over Christmas pushing him and us on to bigger and better things. 

Bryan Mbeumo was immense. He never stoped running. He won the penalty for the first goal and was the architect of our second. Energy levels finally back to what they were before that bought of Covid last season. Whether they were related, who knows, but he hadn’t seemed himself in the earlier part of the season. Yesterday, we got the M of our our much touted BMW (remember when that was a thing) back in some style.

Matthias Jensen was imperious at Wembley. He, Mads Roerslev – given the freedom to break with abandon thanks to Henrik – and Emiliano the candidates for man of the match. Imagine saying that a few months ago? Marcondes scooped the honours in the end but it could have been anyone. To a man, the team were magnificent. Thomas Frank sticking with the same starting XI as that which beat Bournemouth. Swansea City unable to answer the questions which, after an understandably cautious opening few minutes for both sides, came at them thick and fast.

We could name check everybody. Brentford were magnificent. There aren’t enough superlatives. If there were any nerves they weren’t showing. Any thoughts of the pressure or the past form then they’d been consigned to the dustbin of history. Previously unseen levels of bottle discovered. It may not have felt like it watching back home or in the pubs but, for the lucky few granted entry the roof was raised and the atmosphere incredible. Fans united. Voices raised. The impossible becoming possible with every inch towards full time. 

Even an additional six minutes added to the clock at the end insufficient for Swansea to do anything of significance. Then came the whistle. Then came the tears. Then came the numb feeling of actually having done it. Celebrations on and off the pitch a memory to keep forever. The smile on Sergi’s face saying it all. Thomas Frank tossed into the air by his players. The sight of a trophy being raised is certainly one for the record books. Brentford have done a win at Wembley. Brentford are in the Premier League. The Premier F’ing League! We’re just a bus stop in Hounslow. We’re also a top flight club. We’ll be hosting some of the biggest names in English football. And also Arsenal. It feels like we’ve gone down the rabbit hole and into a next level world of craziness. Forget the Begovic Frustration hole. I just hope the club retain the damage at Lionel Road, get it framed and turn it into part of club history.  

Get it framed

A few seasons back, as a League One club, we were paired with Chelsea in the FA Cup fourth round. It was an amazing time and we came ‘that’ close before eventually losing the replay. The build up was full of that ‘Champions of Europe, we’re coming for you’ song. With the Stamford Bridge club once again lifting the trophy last night (their 1-0 win over Manchester City feeling almost like an after thought amidst our own celebration), it is a song we will no doubt sing again. Yet this time it will be on an equal footing. This time it will be as members of the same league rather than two clubs thrown together by nothing more than the fortuitous paring of two balls plucked from a velvet bag.  

There are a million other amazing thoughts and things to consider about where our footballing journey now takes our club. By bus, obviously.  We’ll be on Match of the Day. We’ll be in the Panini sticker book. That’s going to cost me a fortune. For Harry, obviously. There are apparently something called ‘Match Attax’. Then we’ve got Fantasy Football selections. Sh*t – who do you go for? We can only have three per team. This is before you even get to the amazing stuff like who we will see in the flesh. Like where we get to visit (and when – hurrah for televised fixture chaos).

I apologise. I’m all over the place today. It is the most incredible feeling of happiness. Of relief. Of incredible calm following all the stresses we’ve been through over the years. As a fan since 1979, the highs have been incredible but they have been fleeting. Disappointment and frustration have so often been our more regular bedfellows. It doesn’t matter, in the grand scheme. The reason I’ve kept coming back. The reason Mrs B and Harry have bought in to Griffin Park and Lionel Road. The reason we were all there together yesterday is down to the amazing sense of family that is part of being a Brentford fan. 

Everyone knows everyone. From the chairman down to Thomas and the players, come Saturday afternoons we are all part of the same group. Everyone treats everyone equally. We all know each others faces. We all talk to people whose names we may not even know but who are wearing red and white. It is our Friday night dinner but on a Saturday afternoon. Wonderful time spent in the company of friends, regardless of the  90 minutes on pitch. An adopted family we have been thrown together with but whom being separated from over the last 15 months has been horrific. 

That the club goes to such lengths to incorporate the supporters is , frankly, ridiculous. Yours truly inflicts a programme column on readers. H has done, well, just about everything from reading out the teams to kit launch photo shoots to having the players over to ours and he’s still only 7( seven). We’re not alone. Woody is a hero. As is Jumper Man. Harry Potter. Why-aye Mister Partridge. Courier bag early exit man. Mark Burridge. Greville Waterman. Billy Reeves. Kitman Bob. Trevor. Eamon. Billy Grant and his selfie-stick. The cry of ‘Push Up, Brentford’ one I am only looking forward to hearing in the top flight. We all know each other, even if just by face. I’m buzzing at the thought of seeing all this continue next season.

Woody does his thing at Wembley

Peter Gilham. Cripes Peter Gilham. He’ll be doing his thing with the mic in the Premier League. He’ll have all manner of new names to wrap his tongue around. He’ll be even louder than ever before. He’ll be utterly bonkers. In the nicest sense. If ANYONE deserves to enjoy this moment it is him. If anyone deserves all the excitement of what now lies ahead it is him. Everyone knows Peter. Everyone loves Peter.  

Oh, I can’t wait. I can’t wait for any of it.  Forgive the lack of cohesion on this one. It’s words thrown down with abandon, Even less thought to structure than normal. Perhaps we can be more considered down the track but for now, I’m still in shock. Happy, happy shock. 

We’ve only bloody well done it!! 

Nick Bruzon

I’ve seen them given, Clive. Just not like this.

10 Mar

Finally. Games in hand have played out. If anything, Brentford and Swansea City are now the ones with the opportunity of playing catch up. Watford the team looking over their shoulders. Current occupants of second place in a Championship promotion race that is going to run and run. Last night’s 1-1 draw at Blackburn Rovers meaning the Swans are now three points ahead of the Bees with both teams having played 34 of our 46 games. Only goal difference keeping them behind The Hornets who have, of course, played that extra fixture. Whilst, personally speaking, I’m a firm believer in the ethos that points in the bag are better than games in hand there is extra comfort to be gained by the fact that our goal difference currently is clear of both our main rivals. Hopefully we’re all a bit less stressed now. Blips happen to the best of teams. Even in the top flight Liverpool are turning Fortress Anfield into an all you can score buffet for visiting teams whilst normally indestructible Manchester City ‘lost’ a game at the weekend (not a typo). 

I’d rather be second than fourth. No question. Prefer 66 points to 63. Only a moron would say otherwise. Yet the doomsday scenario being played out by so many after our own  disaster showing against Coventry City has failed to materialise. Swansea having three games in hand at that point and the potential to go 8 points clear should they win them all. They didn’t. Instead, were humped soundly by Bristol City and Huddersfield Town. Turned one point into three c/o of 96th minute penalty awards that were straight out of Dodge City. Fishier than Michael Fish eating fish and chips. Then, last night, another one awarded although this time in the first half but when a goal down. A penalty that was as soft as any other we’ve seen awarded recently. I’ve seen them given, Clive. Just not with this regularity. Alan McInally reporting for Sky Sports aghast at what he’d just seen after Andre Ayew made it four goals from the spot in as many games.

Penalty to Swansea. Awarded whilst listening to pop music’s Dodgy

Good luck to them. As we said before, Brentford wouldn’t turn down the opportunity if offered. We’d be right on the spot, trusting Ivan Toney to do his thing. That so many have been awarded , and in such controversial circumstances, is of course going to frustrate. That’s the polite phrase. Shonky refereeing to those looking in. The EFL powerless, impotent, silent.  We can’t change that. We still have plenty of opportunity to wrestle control of our destiny. 12 more games. That’s a lot of time and a lot of points. Even if we need to do it from open play. Err, Bryan Mbeumo at Norwich anyone…? Besides, I’m still firmly of the belief that this one is going to go all the way to the wire. If for no other reason than Watford visit Brentford then host Swansea in their final two games. 

All being well, things will be a lot clearer by then. If the recent run of LLL was stressful for some think how that final brace of fixtures is going to be? That’s a level of angst I don’t want to be part of although can only presume things will head that way. None of the teams around us will drop that many points between now and then.  At least we got back on track with those defeats of Sheff Wed and Stoke. Next up Blackburn Rovers on Friday.

Cripes, that trip to Ewood Park is going to be tough. By all accounts they should have won last night. We all know our own injury situation at the back. That said, we all know our own goal scoring potential going forward. The choice being faced by Thomas Frank over who from Tariqe Fosu, Bryan Mbeumo and Sergi Canos to start with a tough one. A nice one, I suppose. For me (straps on tin hat) the later had been the most consistent performer this season from the three although nobody could deny the game against Norwich City was one where he was at anything than his best. I still stand by the fact that the abuse he came under was way out of line and totally out of order. If nothing else, there were enough others who went awol in a game against the runaway league leaders. But we’ve done that one to death. 

Brentford may well lose again this season. Sadly. That’s football. As noted earlier, even Manchester City got a nil return on Sunday. It happens. Liverpool have hit such a rough patch of home form that even Fulham picked up three points over the weekend. Swansea City have fluctuated between whipping boys and relentless winners over the last five games. The only consistent thing about the beautiful game is its inconsistency. Nothing can be predicted. Although if everyone could just stop awarding Steve Cooper’s team penalties, that would be nice. As a side note,  those bemoaning Barnsley inflicting one of our own defeats in the blip period may care to notice the Tykes now sitting in the play-off spots. Talk about a surge up the blindside. 

We can talk about others in the same breath as we do ourselves. That’s not obsession. That’s a fact. That’s what makes football so exciting. So addictive. Delivers the agony and ecstasy in equal measure. We can be at our best yet still be undone by outside influence. Be ropey as but nick the points and then see our rivals do everything but score. Of course we have to focus on Brentford as a priority. Of course we shouldn’t get overly upset about what the others do, as long as we continue to pick up the points. Yet with our destinies so inter twined, it’s hard not to look at the other games with microscopic interest. Luton v Swansea on Saturday and Cardiff v Watford will be two such games. Moreso with our own game taking place on Friday night. Fingers crossed we’ll be back in automatic by the time our nearest and dearest kick off. Fingers crossed….

Nick Bruzon  

Bring on Brendan. Rodgers rather than O’Carroll. FA Cup excitement continues.

24 Jan

This is about as intriuging as an FA Cup tie gets. Brentford, two points off second place in the Championship, host Leicester City, two points off the very summit of the Premier league, in Sunday afternoon’s fourth round tie. The winners know they will be given the opportunity to welcome Brighton in the last 16. With heavy snow forecast in the area from 8am, this one really could have it all. Perhaps, even, an orange ball (although one would presume we’ll get the insipid, dog piss yellow version). Yet with an absolutely massive game on Wednesday at Swansea City, and the sheer exhaustion quite clearly in evidence during the second half against Luton on Wednesday, don’t go into this one expecting the full fat first team. I’m still expecting excitement. Having had the appetite whetted with Chorley – Wolves and Cheltenham Town – Manchester City, now its our turn to strip up to that TV plate.

Thomas Frank has already dropped all the hints you need about who is going to be starting this one today. We know Ivan Toney is missing because of that suspension so Marcus Forss will be up top. That Luton match saw the start of a 14 game run of midweek / weekend fixtures and we looked absolutely fit to drop during that most painful of second halves. It was unmissable stuff and you couldn’t look away. Albeit in the same excruciating way as being tied to a chair and force-fed Mrs. Browns Boys. That Brentford hung on for another win after the two week closure of the training ground was quite amazing but it is clear these are men, not machines. As such, no surprise to hear Thomas announce in his press conference that, “I will use the squad but not like a full rotation. We will put a strong team out there tomorrow.”

The second half against Luton was about as painful viewing as Mrs. Brown’s Boys

Regardless of the Swansea City game, this is absolutely the right thing to do. We’ve a fantastic squad and already seen in the league cup how deep this runs. Four wins out of five against Premier league opposite this season. Only Jose Mourinho getting in our way. A sixth game upon us now and a chance for the likes of Tarique, Samman et al to show what they can do once more. Could there be more action for the likes of Alex Gilbert, Lewis Gordon, Fin Stevens and Max Haygarth who all featured against Middlesbrough in the previous round? Who all impressed, Stevens in particular. We already know that Marcus Forss, a player Thomas says “The Club have a strong belief that he will be a top striker”, starts. This, for me , is a great thing.

Marcus’ form this season has been quite outstanding to watch. His goal for Finland in France a quite wonderful cherry on the cake of his own personal growth. He has a foot like the proverbial traction engine and when he hits that ball, it stays hit. I can’t wait to see what he can do against Leicester City and if we can give him the service then the results could be quite incredible. With Ivan Toney missing through suspension, the door is open to lay down a claim to a more regular starting berth. Whether now or in the near future. 

Marcus has only impressed when he has featured.

It won’t be easy, of course. Leicester City were the visitors for the fourth round last year. They ran out 1-0 winners and despite our best efforts, it felt comfortable all the way through. Albeit a much changed Brentford team including relative unknowns (then) Yearwood, Racic, Thomspon, Roerslev and Zamburek gave a strong account of themselves. Bryan Mbeumo saw an equaliser chalked off by the officials but in the end an early goal from Kelechi Iheanacho was enough to separate the two teams. With Jamie Vardy’s well documented injury today, expect the same player to start again. Wes Morgan and Dennis Praet are also missing from a selection where Brendan Rodgers hinted at a similar approach to Thomas, “We always try to rely on the collective, the group has always been able to find results.

Whomever he goes with, Leicester are gong to be strong. About as tough a test as they come. Just as when they won the league before, the Foxes are the one team nobody is really talking about. Liverpool choke. Frank out (at Chelsea). Manchester City and their early stumble. Manchester United at the top despite the odd reaction of their own fans to Ole earlier on. Sound familiar? Yet it is Leicester who have avoided the noise, shirked the nonsense and just got on with what they are great at. Winning football matches. Indeed, they went top during the week until United did their thing, Treat this one as a casual affair at your peril. It is an FA Cup tie that is about as hard as it comes.

Despite the lack of crowds – even next season is now feeling optimistic at best – the tournament has continued to provide excitement. Who couldn’t help but be moved by Chorley? Their game on Friday night with Wolves could, genuinely, have gone either way. It was quite the cracker. Cheltenham Town had us all believing in the magic of the cup last night until Manchester City stepped up very late to crush the dreams of the nation’s armchair fans. Blackpool had us on the edge of our seats yesterday afternoon until Brighton retook the lead with the most severe of deflections. It was cruel but it was a goal. That’s football. For a moment, the outride world forgotten about until full time came around and then there was nothing else to do except watch The Masked singer. Apparently. I mean, I don’t, but I believe some people may. The crushing reality of having to watch Davina Macall gurning her way through truing to fathom out who was lurking beneath a Bushbaby  costume (if only there was a mask for her) no replacement for celebrating like we’d won the FA Cup in the Griffin at full time. Moreso given it wasn’t Jason Donovan or Joe Mangel when his head eventually came off.

We digress. Cripes, do we digress. I can’t wait for this one. As ever, I’d love to be there. I understand why we can’t but it doesn’t make it any easier. At least we have the TV to provide a bit of an escape and we’ll be huddled around it for sure. Taking consolation in the fact we’re not freezing to death in what already feels absolutely bitter outside my front door. The lack of frostbite a small benefit for being forced to stay home although there isn’t one amongst us who wouldn’t happily lose a few toes if it meant being able to see the game at Lionel Road?

Kick off is at 2.30pm today. BT Sport the place. There are no cameras on I-follow although Mark Burridge and team will still have audio commentary. As do BBC Radio 5 live although for me (Clive), the Parry-Reeves line up offered by their London based counterpart is always infinitely preferable for anyone heading down the wireless route. 

The day is upon us. Enjoy the game however you are following it. On tv, in the bathtub with a terrace tranny, in the gym with internet radio or just sat on the sofa. We’ll be doing the later. We’ll be hoping for another upset. Another Premier League notch on the belt. Another excuse to watch something that isn’t people giving it their all in oversized anthropomorphic costumes. Buzz and Buzette aside. Yet even they are victims of the current Corona rulings, it would seem. Oh to have a pre-match welcome from their furry faces. Curse you, Covid. Curse you.

Still, at least there is a game to watch. I’m just glad we’ll be seeing Brendan Rodgers rather than Brendan O’Carroll – the usual automatic replacement for ‘no football’. No matter how hard it is doing it from the couch. The prospect of being able to welcome a 7th (seventh) top flight team, whilst playing in the Championship, would be a quite wonderful mark of how this strangest of seasons has gone. Should we first beat a 6th. Just the small matter of Leicester City standing in the way….

This time last year – my sort of masked mystery

Nick Bruzon.

Hopes, dreams and shocks – FA Cup still delivers. Plus fourth round ball details.

11 Jan

7pm, Monday night. The draw for the FA Cup fourth round takes place. And the fifth. Brentford are in it following Saturday evening’s impressive showing from our youngsters. So are Chorley after their own fine win over (not Wayne Rooney’s) Derby County on Saturday lunchtime. It was a result which set the tone for the weekend. Leeds United fell apart. Again. Blackpool despatched an abject West Bromwich Albion. In an even bigger shock, Sheffield United won a match. There would be no further slip ups from the big boys with Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea and Spurs amongst those into the bag of balls. Cripes, even Arsenal got through.

A velvet bag awaits…

So, when is it? 7(seven)pm is the designated hour. You can follow the action on the FA Player or on BBC2. Thankfully, for once, we’re not obligated to watch The One Show as the draw has its own specialist programme presented by Mark Chapman (not that one) rather than segued between features on hedgehog hibernation and ten things Gyles Brandreth does to alleviate Lockdown boredom.

BT sport also have an extensive programme that features the final chance of an upset when Stockport County host West Ham. Who doesn’t love a cup shock and I think the Hammers have enough about them to pull one off.  Worth watching if for no other reason than than Brentford loanee Said Benrahma likely to be give a rare start.

As for the balls themselves, Brentford are number 24 (out of 32). Liverpool are 23 and Manchester City 25. We’re very much the meat in a top flight sandwich that nobody will be wanting to take a bite out of. Both teams we’ve faced in this competition before, as are Chelsea – ball 27. Our league cup conquerors, Spurs, are number 4.

The quintessential Brentford FA Cup image

The Marine – Tottenham was huge enjoyable for the neutral (of which there can’t have been many outside of Seven Sisters) , at least until the second goal went in. That said, the non-leaguers still lasted longer against Jose Mourinho’s outfit before going a goal down whilst almost had the temerity to take the least themsevels. With the eyes of the world (and several supporters sitting aside garden sheds watching) Joe Hart’s blushes were only saved by the woodwork with the scores still level. And that…well it would have been dreamland for Marine. 

But we’ve been there and done that. For me (Clive) the chance to see how the current generation fair at Anfield would be the ideal scenario. Even if we are stuck watching it on TV. Instead, it’ll probably end up being away to Nottingham Forest.

We played at Livepool back in 88/89. There was no quarter-final upset

The fourth round draw is immediately followed by that for the fifth. Ball numbers will be generated at that point. Go figure. However, the numbers for the next round are as follows:

1) Plymouth Argyle

2) Southampton / Shrewsbury Town

3) Chorley

4) Spurs

5) Wolverhampton Wanderers

6) Stockport County / West Ham

7 (seven) AFC Bournemouth

8) Manchester United

9) Swansea City

10) Everton 

11) Nottingham Forest

12) Arsenal

13) Barnsley 

14) Sheffield United

15) Millwall

16) Doncaster Rovers

17) Leicester City

18) Wycombe Wanderers

19) Crawley Town

20) Burnley

21) Bristol City

22) FulhamL

23) Liverpool

24) Brentford

25) Manchester City

26) Luton Town

27) Chelsea

28) Sheffield Wednesday

29) Norwich City 

30) Blackpool

31) Brighton & Hove Albion

32) Cheltenham Town

The third round was one of the best yet. For once, the presence of television and the spreading out of the fixtures something to be thankful for. Traditionalists (myself included) have argued for years that the dilution of the games – spreading over four of five days – has been killing the magic. Yet with supporters of all clubs confined to barracks at present, this is exactly what we needed to make a bad situation slightly more bearable. Game after game after game. Upset following upset. 

Let’s see if West Ham can pull off another one this evening. After the draw, of course. Here’s hoping for a big name. And also the prospect of a Crawley – Chorley…..

Could it be Chelsea again?

Nick Bruzon

Tin foil? Check. Sofa? Check. Corona Virus? Check.

9 Jan

The FA Cup third round is here. It began last night at Aston Villa (we’ll get to Dean Smith in a bit) and now Brentford host Middlesbrough this evening. Another run at the stadium in North London near Ikea awaits. Memories of the epic afternoons against Manchester City and Sunderland flooding to the fore every time this competition is mentioned. Even last season’s game with Leicester City at Griffin Park is up there – if only for the fact it was one of the last occasions we were all together. Now, we begin another journey although one I get the feeling is going to see a lot of less familiar faces helping us along the way. A side much more akin to the one that started the early rounds of the League Cup likely to be the direction chosen by Thomas Frank. Albeit, he won’t be there to put an arm around the shoulder or impart some top, top words of advice. Yesterday’s news certainly put paid to that. Award winner in the morning followed by the confirmation he has tested positive for Covid 19. Ten days self-isolation now follow and, of course, everybody wishes him nothing but the best. Talk about the ‘curse’ of manager of the month ! For once, it really is a case of ‘Frank out’. In all seriousness though, one can only hope our inspirational head coach is back amongst us as soon as possible and not suffering any ill effects.

The quintessential Brentford FA Cup image

Yet whomever is picked for Brentford – and even Charlie Goode has noted in his programme interview that “I am sure the squads will be very different today” (from ‘that’ 0-0 with Middlesbrough – the game that dare not speak its name) it is still the FA Cup. It is the third round. It is the single most exciting weekend in the football calendar. The chance for the mighty to fall. For heroes to be made. For the armchair fan to sit back and gorge on all that the cup has to offer. Every game will be available to sofa dwellers and, with nothing else to do, why not. A cup tie is the one occasion where you can dip into a random game and pick a side. The desire to see an ‘upset’ is almost instinctive.

 For example, next weekend sees Sheffield United host Newcastle United in the Premier league. Honestly, is anyone outside of their own fans going to think that looks like an attractive means to spend two hours? Cripes, talk about boredom on a plate and I wouldn’t go near it with a barge pole. Personally speaking. I’ve suffered enough already this season when Middlesbrough came to visit in the league  – and that was my own team dragging themselves through 90 minutes – so have no desire to inflict similar on myself. Yet offer up the prospect of this afternoon’s encounter between Bristol Rovers and Sheffield United, then all of a sudden the chance to watch the Blades limp through a game takes on a whole new level of intrigue. And with our own kicking off at 6pm, it means both can be watched. If you want.

We won’t be there in person. Nobody will. One has to feel for the fans of Marine in particular. Hosting cup kings Spurs yet forced to watch it from the safety of home. There’s an entirely different question out there as to whether football should even go on hold for a while, as it did last season, with more and more clubs returning positive tests. Or, in the case of Bristol City, sore throats. Yet until, or if, that happens, we’ve got this. Watching on from home and hoping to progress. Hoping to get through without injury or suspension that has already robbed us of Josh Dasilva.

I’d still love to be there and would have gone like a shot had we been able. The chance to see Brentford, against anyone, always a pleasure. The opportunity to wield that tin foil trophy – something our Harry has done every season – one that is always grabbed with relish. The creation of the trophy a  Saturday morning ritual of gluing and cutting that we’ve always enjoyed but, alas, not this year. Or maybe we will anyway. Just because.  

Win or lose, we’ve had our moments. Hosting Marcus Gayle and Staines Town. The aforementioned game with Leicester City. Even being dumped out by Walsall. As much because of their own reaction to recently departed boss and ‘Ginger Judas’ Dean Smith who had joined us at Griffin Park. A quite remarkable reaction, a cracking afternoon of cup football and one it would be fair to say that the Saddlers ‘deserved to win’. 

Dean certainly upset the Walsall fans

The league cup run has certainly lifted spirits, that’s for sure. Coming so close to a Wembley final with Manchester City one that, whilst everyone is rightly still looking at with pride, would have been a quite incredible experience had we managed to pull it off. Now, we must go again.

I’m not an idiot. The absolute 110% priority is the league. We’ll never have a better chance to reach the hallowed ground of the top flight and I have no doubt Thomas will juggle resources accordingly. Yet, at the same time, that’s not to say I won’t be investing any less in the FA Cup. Our squad have shown what they can do already and I‘m sure they’ll be out to do the same again this afternoon. Bring it on !!

Now, where are the scissors…?

Another FA Cup journey on the road to Wembley begins.

Nick Bruzon