Tag Archives: Manchester United

What a weekend awaits. Sofa Saturday and a Super Sunday.

28 Dec

A rare Saturday without football for Brentford. Our time comes tomorrow with the trip to Millwall and the chance to see if we can build on the Boxing Day tonking of Swansea that saw the Bees end the day in third place. Instead, there’s the rare opportunity for the Premier League to take centre stage this afternoon. It is one that should be grabbed, lest we forget about the people who actually invented our beloved sport back in the early 90s. More importantly, it’s a reminder that The Last Word Fantasy Football competition is still running. Suddenly, the 3-2 kicking administer by Wolves to Manchester City last night becomes of crucial importance. There’s more than just the comedy factor of watching Manchester United hit self-destruct (again – think of them as a top flight Leeds United) in the evening game at Burnley. And who doesn’t love seeing Neal Maupay do his thing? Fingers crossed for a Brighton penalty kick today!!

Neal Maupay Leeds

Come on Neal. More of this would be lovely ( I need the points)

So what have we learned so far? Well, yours truly really is the numpty on the terrace. Ranked 52 out of 66 – and that’s by actually trying to compete. Why bother? Honestly, setting the team to random mode would have more success. I’m that tempted to go there for the second half of the season, just to try and prove a point.

On the plus side, it does mean I can’t win my own competition – as if that was ever even a possibility. For those still curious / playing, the current top ten is below. Ben Shephard is at the top (anyone? Presumably not the host of daytime TV’s  Tipping Point ?)  and then supporter Simon Burns is coming in second. This is taken post Wolves but pre Brighton, so this could all move around once the rest of the games play out.

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Current standings

In all seriousness though, the thought of a lazy day is something I’m quite looking forward to. Some calm before tomorrow’s storm. Harry’s football club is closed, for once, and Brentford go to Millwall on Sunday. Mrs Bruzon is out with her parents so there’s nothing more to do today than watch Neal banging them in for Brighton at lunch, fall asleep on the couch in front of Jeff Stelling in the afternoon and then pay a passing homage to events at Turf Moor.

Not that I’ve got anybody from either side in my Fantasy team. Not even number 26. Although given the aforementioned inability to pick winners, his absence from my line up is one that should be considered a de facto guarantee to lump it on. He’s 14/1 to score (for Burnley) at any time, although those odds don’t seem to factor in any potential family related absence so invest at your own risk.

And then it all goes again tomorrow. Brentford make the short trip across London to the Lion’s Den where the pressure on the team will be immense. From the top of the club to the very bottom we all know what is at stake. From Matthew Benham through Thomas Frank, the players and the fans. Everybody is fully aware what will be the consequences of anything not going to plan….

Concede and we’ll be subject to ‘that’ toe-curling song. If Mrs. Browns Boys teamed up with Dick Van Dyke to do goal music. Whilst wearing Ali-Baba slippers.

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We’ve been there before…

Forget the ‘no-one likes us’ stuff. Good luck if it makes them happy. Besides, I can relate to this. In part. It’s as much a part of the Millwall legacy as our own being called a tinpot / little / pub / bus stop team Albeit, theirs is self-created (why is that now?) whilst we always look to answer our critics on the pitch.   

But that song. Urghh. Take a look at yourselves. And I apologies for mentioning it every season but it’s godawful shite. F*ck me, I’d be more embarrassed than Madonna on a staircase if that was my club. And we should know about cringe, given the awfulness of #trophyfriends. Never forget.  

Just about forgivable as ‘walk out’ fodder, it’s only a Pearly queen short of a full house in cliche bingo. But the true horror being that it then doubles up as goal music. Something we all know shouldn’t be allowed in football stadia – see also: ball boys waving giant flags, fans with drums, Mr. Portsmouth and his bell, Mexican Waves and the England supporters band. Basically, anything needed to try and generate an atmosphere.

For crying out loud, if you can’t get turned on by the ball hitting the back of the net then there’s something seriously wrong. If things are so flaccid that you need Roy Green singing about jellied eels to give you a boost of footballing viagra then perhaps it’s time to just give up and call it a day.

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The Millwall song. Currently residing alongside Mr. Portsmouth and Mexican waves.

We digress. The point being that Brentford have it all to do if we are to maintain third place and, maybe, further close the gap on Leeds United. That’s a big ask, of course. Much as they have that wonderful ability to hit self-destruct, and their current record reads DLD, not even they can cock up a trip to Birmingham City. Harlee Dean and his Blues are simply too poor at present. Whilst Boxing Day saw just about everybody at the business end of the table do us a favour, this time we’re on our own.  We have to win to progress. We have to keep a clean sheet to spare the supporters.

Frankly, I can’t wait for this one. I expect everybody around us to get maximum points on Sunday . Even Fulham, who are home to Stoke City. So the onus has to be on us to go for it. And we will. This team only knows one way to play. Attack. Score. Win.  Our goal difference speaks for itself. Our defensive solidity is renowned. Our fans loud. The atmosphere magnificent.

It won’t be easy. Bums might even squeak for a bit. But it has the potential to round off 2019 in quite wonderful style. If you are still thinking about going, then what’s to decide? Get off the couch and get going. It’s a Sofa Saturday followed by a Super Sunday.

See you there.

Nick Bruzon

Time to crack out the tin foil once more.

3 Dec

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes. Not Chelsea (again) .

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

Yessss !!! We’re at home . 

Urghh. Noooo – it’s Stoke City. 

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

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

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

Nick Bruzon

What do you associate with specific other clubs? Oh, and Sergi Canos…

13 Apr

With just five games to go, next season in the Championship already has the potential to include a whole raft of local games for Brentford. Fulham are already down, down deeper and down whilst QPR should be safe. In league One, it’s looking good for Luton Town whilst my most favourite of away games, Charlton Athletic, could well be back on the menu with the Addicks sitting pretty in the play-off zone. Yet today’s trip to Reading could be our last in a while with the Royals placed just two points clear of the relegation spots. Hot on the heels of our 2-0 stroll agasint Ipswich Town on Wednesday and chasing a fifth, successive top ten finish (the gap to Sheff Wed just five points there), Thomas Frank will now doubt be exhorting his boys to give it their all. Yet with Reading playing for their lives, this one is going to be anything but easy and has the potential to be a real cracker.

It’s funny how football throws up certain associations with certain clubs. For example, Liverpool and the media love-in with the fact they did ok in Europe for a couple of seasons  in the late 70s/early 80s go hand in hand. Get your bingo cards ready and eyes down for an Anfield glory, glory nights full house. I’m particular partial to reference of Manchester United and the phrase “playing with the shackles off” that we have at present whilst, apparently, West Ham moved from the Boleyn Ground / Upton Park to the Olympic Stadium a few season back. You may have missed that one, of course, but I gather it was mentioned once. The plus point to that being how it stops us being reminded how they won the World Cup in 1966 or FA Cup in 1980 (a Trevor Brooking header, I believe).

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We can still play this season

With Charlton Athletic (given we’ve mentioned them earlier) it is always the walk through what looks like the deserted set from an episode of The Sweeney, before settling in to one of my most favourite pubs on the ‘away’ circuit (should such a thing even exist).  Strolling through the back end of North Greenwich there’s always the expectation of a Ford Cortina or some such vehicle screeching to a halt outside a gangland lock up, accompanied by a shout of “ Get your clothes on. You’re nicked”.  

With Fulham, the list is endless. Foam fingers, clackers, run out music for the warm up, the neutral stand, Michael Jackson, the gin bar, Brian Guest, Stuart Dallas, Neal Maupay, Gary Blissett, Jota in the last minute. The list goes on and on.

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one best served up to the river rats.. in their own programme. I thank you

As for Reading, there are two things in particular. First up, Boxing Day 1989 and a trip to Elm Park. Brentford lost that game 1-0, apparently. I say apparently as despite being there, the fog was so bad one could barely see beyond the half way line from behind the goal. To this day I’m still amazed that game went ahead but somehow it did. I guess having made the effort to get everybody there, it would have taken an absolute disaster to call it off so late.

The other memory is a more recent one. Sergi Canos and THAT goal. Brentford official shared it again yesterday and I’m still salivating over the thought of it. Moreso, given Ryan Woods had already done more than enough to win goal of the month to give us the lead Than Sergi did his thing….

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Sergi. Great goal, great shirt, great hair

To be honest, there’s not much more we can say after that. So I won’t. Beyond, enjoy. With over 2,000 Brentford fans making the short hop to Reading station and then the long hop to Reading’s stadium, whilst I’m still banking on the three points coming back to West London let’s hope that other results go the way of the Royals to keep alive the chance of more moment’s like this…

Nick Bruzon

Of course the football is interesting but what about the other matter…?

10 Apr

Sure, Liverpool and Spurs may have both recorded Champions League victories last night (Porto and Man City respectively) . There’s the potentially intriguing visit of Barcelona to Old Trafford where Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team will continue their post-Mourinho resurgence. Manchester United playing with the shackles off once more  – (c) the entire internet. So whilst one could be forgiven for thinking that this week may have been all about the Champions’ League, those focussing on Europe have missed what is, without a doubt, the BIG one. A clash between two of football’s top clubs with a prize bigger than silverware at stake – namely, Championship survival. Forget the UCL, Wednesday evening sees Brentford play host to Ipswich Town.

This is the game that has it all. There’s the return of Alan Judge to Griffin Park. The chance for Thomas Frank and his own boys to get back to winning ways. Biggest of all, Ipswich Town will be relegated should Brentford record the win and the three teams sitting directly above the relegation trapdoor (Reading, Millwall and Wigan) all pick up three points themselves. Even if not tonight, surely it will only be a matter of time before the Tractor Boys find themselves ploughing a lone furrow into League One.    

What else is thee to say about this one? Not much, really. For Brentford, top ten is about as much as we can hope for now. A disappointing run of recent results following that magnificent surge which began just prior to Christmas have seen the slim dream of the play-offs evaporate. Yet by the same virtue, Saturday’s game against Derby County saw us at our attacking best (and defensive worst). No doubt Thomas will be hoping to pick up where we left off in a game that saw us somewhat unfortunate not to end it with all three points whilst the visitors can count heir own blessing that they ended it with all eleven players.

Top ten for a fifth successive season would still be a wonderful achievement. We have a team with an attacking set up to die for. Indeed, it has been the form on the road  – which could be described as patchy at best – that has been our achilles heel this time around. Even yours truly has finally consigned the brown/orange colours to the draw for retired kit. Magnificent though it sill is, even I can tell when the battle is over. Here’s hoping for more change next season.

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All good things come to an end

If nothing else, there’s the mystery of who takes over as kit supplier with our Adidas deal finally set to expire. I’ve heard everybody from Hummel, Puma, Nike, Umbro, New Balance and beyond chucked into the mix. For now, nobody outside the club inner circle knows who it will be and nobody is revealing. Although if Mr. Benham or Kitman Bob are reading (unlikely, let’s be honest) and would like to share the news early then that would be welcomed by all. 

Then again, with Mark Devlin now plying his trade at Dundalk it poses a further question. And not the one of whether chief executives would even ply their trade or if another phrase should be used? With a new team at the top, could this spell an end to the late-summer drip release of the new kit via the chief executive’s proverbial strip tease? We’re normally well behind the other clubs in the annual beauty pageant as the guessing games go on well into the close/closed season. If Jon Varney is reading (unlikely, let’s be honest) then how about bucking the trend? How about going early? How about starting his tenure with about as big a mission statement as one could ask a chief-executive to make?

Come on Jon, get your kits out! 

2011 kit launch bathwise

Could anything top the 2011 away shirt launch in a bathroom shop window?

Nick Bruzon

Off-field matters for Brentford (and Liverpool) provide main talking points ahead of Derby County visit.

6 Apr

There’s not too much to say about on-pitch matters today. With Brentford set to welcome Frank Lampard’s Derby County ™, the hope is a simple one. Please, please, please , pleeeease just be better than the last week’s games at Wigan and Swansea. Even slightly. It’s not that much to ask, is it? Elsewhere, Liverpool got the weekend’s proceedings under way at Southampton last night where they duly returned to the top of the Premier league. Their battle with Manchester City proving as intriguing as the one at the top of the Championship – just who is going to blink first? And once more, Matthew Benham proved why he is the club owner like no other.

Hulk_(comics_character)First up, matters at Griffin Park. Brentford have been like the Incredible Hulk this season. At home, a side that seem permanently set to ‘rampage’ mode. An irrepressible, destructive force beating back all comers as easily as a cat toying with a spider. Yet away from home, we’ve been that other side of his alter-ego, Doctor Bruce Banner. All the right ideas but none of the physical prowess.

Last week was the consummate demonstration of our split personality this campaign (I would also accept: Jekyll and Hyde team). I’m sure there may even be a few supporters wishing we were still bedecked in 2017/2018’s gamma ray green rather than the current brown & orange (best. away kit. ever).

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We did ok in green….

Thankfully, we are back home today. This time around Frank Lampard’s etc etc are the visitors. Even allowing for the traditional Leeds United ‘choke’, automatic promotion is probably an aspiration too far. However, sitting 7th(seventh) in the Championship, Derby still have a quite magnificent chance of making the play-offs. It is no doubt a position they will look to strengthen this afternoon although, as ever, might the pressure of a ‘must win’ game play into our hands?

For Brentford, the season is all but mathematically over. The ten points to sixth place just too big a gap to reel n with just 7(seven) games to go. It’s a massive shame that we hit the skids after having hauled ourselves back into contention but that’s how football works. Consistency is rewarded with league position. The table doesn’t lie (obvious, but….) and unfortunately we’ve not been able to do it on the road this time around.

I saw a stat on the BBC which was a damming indictment of what happened on Tuesday evening at Swansea – namely that the Bees attempted just six shots as we went down 3-0. Our lowest in a league match since performing the same feat  having six against Middlesbrough. That’s one attempt every 15 minutes – not great. To put it mildly.

The plus point from that game is that a reaction must surely be imminent. Thomas Frank pulled no punches after the game and has since used his press-conference to note : “We need to bounce back, everyone can see that.  . Add to that our own form at home combined with the aforementioned knowledge that Derby really have to win and I think we’re going to be going home very happy at 5pm. 

It has been a long, long season but a thrilling one. Mostly. If only we’d been able to pick up few more wins away from home then who knows what might have been? Yet with the nucleus of a wonderful squad at his disposal (for now), should Thomas be allowed / able to keep them together, our final season at Griffin Park could be a most incredible one. Here’s hoping that push starts today.

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View from the Braemar – I’m expecting a happy Thomas at full time.

Moving on. I watched the Southampton – Liverpool game last night. Jürgen Klopp’s team showed a relentlessness that money can’t buy. Despite conceding an early goal from Shane Long (not a typo) they just kept going and going until the points were secured. It was a performance that showed them as Hulk like on their travels as they are at home. Anyway, I’m not here to specifically bang about Liverpool – beyond admiring their travelling form. Such chat usually leads into a rant about the media love in and we end up playing Anfield bingo – tick one of your cards for every reference to the Kop being like a twelfth man, “Glory, glory European nights”, the miracle of Istanbul, Shankley, Paisley, Klopp getting over-excited etc 

Instead, it was more just a chance to tear the hair out in regards Jamie Carragher. Back in the early 2000’s Sky TV had a brief flirtation with the red button option for ‘fan commentary’. Should you have been crazy enough to select this, the reward was a supporter from each club pouring forth on their team and the game in question. It was horrific although, to be fair, still better than Richard Keys and Andy Gray. This ‘service’ was quietly pensioned off but now seems to have returned – specifically in the guise of the former Liverpool defender. 

Oh. My. Word. Could he have been anymore biased? Could he have been any more fanboy? We all know he used to play for Liverpool but plenty of ex-players have made that transition from pitch to commentary box. None have quite matched his level of reminding us all how amazing his former are. How excited he is is that they are winning. Even full time saw him running on to the pitch to interrupt Kelly Cates and Gary Neville in the middle of their own post-match interviews as he attempted to take centre stage.

Contrast this to the erudite views, opinions and questioning of Neville (even when Manchester United are on). I’m sure Gary would like to remind us he used to play for a successful team and still follows them, but that’s not the job of being a commentator or a pundit. Likewise  quite wonderful Kelly, as the daughter of Kenny Dalglish, comes form a footballing pedigree that would more than entitle her to rave about Liverpool. Whilst you could understand her wanting to enjoy the moment, there was but nothing beyond consummate professionalism here. 

Look, I’m all for a bit of excitement and enthusiasm but have some class. Have some decorum. Know your audience. If nothing else, Jamie has played the game at the highest level and won some major honours. He’s been there and done it so knows what he is talking about.

Yet instead of this, it was almost like the early days of Beesplayer when from time to time they had to draft in the more excitable elements from the media team. Being able to write about a game isn’t the same as being able to talk about. Before Sky made the quite ridiculous decision to let Natalie Sawyer go, you could see her almost itching to reference the benefit to Brentford every time she was  involved in a game where one of our rivals was shooting themselves in the foot. Instead, she kept it classy. 

I’m sure Carragher has his fans. Good luck to them. And him. You can’t deny his passion but when it comes at the expense of proper analysis then doesn’t it kind of defeat the point? At least, for those of us who just want to enjoy a game of football. Perhaps it’s just me.

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The king and queen of Griffin Park commentary. Jamie could learn a thing or two

And finally, Matthew Benham. We all know our owner has a quite special means of using social media. He doesn’t say too much on Twitter these days but when he does, it’s always worth a look. As happened yesterday evening.

I’m not sure what else I can say, beyond this is quite magnificent. Only at Brentford……

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Nick Bruzon

Last Tango In Brentford ? Or dancing in the streets of Algiers?

8 Mar

Bring on Middlesbrough. Brentford are back in action on Saturday after what has felt a somewhat disjointed week in terms of footballing action. For the interested observers / half & half scarf wearers amongst us, there was the excitement of Manchester United doing their thing in the Champions League as Real Madrid failed to do theirs. Yet for us Bees last weekend’s thumping of QPR now seems as far off as the chances of Fulham staying in the Premier league. Keep up the good work, Scott. That victory over the Loftus Road mob was another emphatic notch in Thomas Frank’s metaphorical bedpost as he made it 7(seven) wins in a row at Griffin Park. Yet the big questions as we head up to the Riverside were whether that form could be replicated on the road this season, would Saïd Benrahma scoop the Championship’s player of the month award for February and is it going to be a case of ‘Au revoir, Yoann Barbet’ ? 

First up, Middlesbrough. If ever there was to be a test of our credentials then here it is. If ever there was to be a question as to whether the play-offs are a genuine aspiration then here it is. The game marks a run of three in two weeks against sides going for promotion. Boro’ are currently in the zone, as are Tuesday night hosts Sheffield United and then next Saturday’s visitors in West Bromwich Albion. It is about as tough a run as we could have served up yet the price for success needs no spelling out with the gap to the top six currently reeled in to eight points.

We all know our Championship record against Middlesbrough doesn’t make great reading. We all know that Brentford playing away from home this season doesn’t take a genius to predict how we’ll perform – regardless of the kit colour we turn out in. Had we been able to translate home form to away then the top flight would be beckoning. So this one will be about as tough as it comes. Moreso given the home sides’s miserly defence. Thomas Frank used his press conference to note that “I can only praise Tony Pulis (for Boro’s defensive record) because it’s fantastic.

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Thomas celebrates at home. Away would be wonderful !!

Indeed it is. Sadly. Only 24 goals have been conceded in 34 league games. Yet there are positives to be taken, too. Firstly, past form counts for nothing. Brentford may not have beaten Boro’ since our paths have crossed in this division but that was then and this is now. Players change and the squad we have now is not the one it was then. Results from seasons gone by count for nothing more than statistical niceties / horror shows (delete as applicable). Believing they are anything more is akin to suggesting that the colour of our away kit dictates performance. Jinx shirts? Never heard such nonsense. Move along now. Nothing to see here. 

The other topic of conversation that came up in Thomas’s ’ press conference was that of Yoann Barbet. His contract is up at the end of the season and the word on the terrace is that he won’t be staying. Which would be tragic given his relative longevity at Griffin Park, his popularity, his versatility and the role in our new look defence that he has made his own. If ever there was a player who embodied that cliche about cutting them open to discover that they bleed red & white / brown & orange it is Yoann.

So when pushed on the point yesterday the answer was one which suggested the clock is ticking and farewell collections are going around the changing room. Thomas has been quoted as saying :”We know that Yoann is very popular among the fans. He is very popular among the staff too. He has done very well in the back three. He is a player that we would like to keep at the club but there needs to be two to tango”.

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View from the Braemar – Yoann sums up the spirit in the Bees camp

We all know the club model. That players come and go – especially if valuations are met. New talent emerges to replace that which has departed. Contracts may not necessarily be offered or, certainly, at the level asked for. Nobody knows for sure what is happening here but the words from the club suggest the ball is in the player’s court. Whether it is one he wants to pick up remains another thing.

Personally, I’ve heard a lot of terrace talk (conjecture rather than the much lamented matchday video feature) and of course, have no idea what is true. So it doesn’t get published. Do we take the club’s words at face value? Would Yoann want to stay? How hard do we fight? Or is this simply part of the ongoing cycle of players coming in, impressing and eventually moving on. Whatever happens, you can absolutely bet he’ll be giving his all until the end of the season. And hopefully beyond.

The final news heading in to the Boro’ game was that of the monthly EFL awards. There was genuine surprise when Saïd Benrahma wasn’t even nominated for January’s player of the month prize following a quite magnificent start to 2019.

As such, there were belated plaudits when he was named on the shortlist for February’s award earlier this week. Surely this time the honours would be Saïd’s?

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View from the Braemar – Saïd is as popular with the fans as Yoann

Sadly not, as it transpired this morning. The club breaking the news on twitter (below) although there’s still a chance to sweep our man to some deserved glory. The chance to vote for him to scoop ‘goal of the month’ is still available, if you follow the link. Whilst he’s up against some divisional rivals with huge fan bases, as Ajax proved at Real Madrid this week it isn’t always the biggest club that wins. Whatever they may expect. So go on – get voting.

Then onwards and upwards to Middlesbrough.

Nick Bruzon 

Are we all set for a jolly boys (and girls) outing? The quarters are beckoning….

16 Feb

Oh my. The FA Cup fifth round is here. Opportunity is very much knocking. Watford are already through to the quarters after winning 1-0 at Loftus Road last night. Now we’re getting ready for our shot as Brentford fans begin to countdown for Sunday’s trip to Swansea City. There’s plenty to whet the appetite for that one today with Newport County hosting Manchester City and the visit of Millwall to AFC Wimbledon. That’s before you even get to the likes of Doncaster v Crystal Palace or Monday’s final game denouement that had TV producers reaching for the ‘coverage selection’ button the second Chelsea v Manchester United came out of the hat.

We can only start at the Liberty Stadium. On paper, there isn’t much to grab the neutral about the prospect of Swansea City v Brentford. Whilst both clubs and their fans will be viewing it as a wonderful chance to progress, it hardly has the upset potential of Manchester City at Newport County. The follow up story to Wimbledon’s wonderful humiliation of West Ham (winners of the trophy in 1980 and World Cup in 1966) from the previous round. Don’t let that fool you for a second. This one is huge and I can’t wait.

You could hear the collective groan echoing around TW8 and the GPG as the decision was made to move this to a Sunday afternoon, 4pm kick off for the benefit of BBC Wales. I’ve said my piece on that decision already and we just have to move on now.

With the prospect of a rail engineering works ruining it for everyone, the club sprang into action quicker than Neal Maupay running though on goal with the announcement of free coach travel to the game. Along with the reduced ticket prices , it was about as supporter-friendly a gesture as one could get. Consequently, myself and Harry are the ones now re-upholstering the tinfoil trophy that has seen us through the previous rounds. An £11 return trip for two of us, including entrance to the game, a bargain in anybody’s book and the reason The Bees will be there en-masse as the coaches filled up in nano-seconds.

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Who doesn’t love a coach trip ?

It’s not going be easy, that’s for sure. For either team. Only four points separate Brentford and Swansea City in the Championship table. Advantage traditionally favouring the home side as we’ll be running out in that glorious brown and orange. Here’s hoping for a repeat of the performance at Rotherham in that one, rather than a repeat of the performance just about anywhere else on the road whilst wearing this most stylish of shirts.

The good news for those deeming this to be some sort of jinx (honestly, I’ve never heard such nonsense, now where are my lucky pants?) being that we’ll have a new goalkeeper’s shirt making its debut. If what a source close to the club told us plays out, this one promises to have us kit nerds salivating.

The other factor to play more into the hands of Sunday’s eventual result is, of course, our recent form. We’ve only lost once in the last 12 whilst the midweek victory over Aston Villa was just about as comprehensive and stylish a performance as one could ever hope to see. Truly, Brentford were magnificent. Dean Smith left shell-shocked at full time and chuntering all sorts of nonsense about his team ‘deserving it’ (change the record) after Neal Maupay sent the hone fans wild in the 91st minute. Even now, Saturday morning as this is being written, I have a huge grin on my face thinking about that moment.

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This one from Brentford official said it all about Wednesday

Prior to that and, excusing the Forest game, it has been a case of scoring at least three goals a game in the previous five. A streak that coincided with Brentford playing stylish football with confidence and swagger. The ball being moved around the team for fun as we took the old mantra of “Push up, Brentford” to heart. It was a self-belief that was in evidence once more on Wednesday night. Here’s hoping Swansea City get to experience it themselves on Sunday afternoon. 

For sure they’ll be feeling as upbeat as we are. A home draw is the first thing any club hoping to progress would ask for in the later rounds of the FA Cup. Swansea have had that prayer answered  whilst on pitch have had a fairly strong start to 2019, winning five out of their nine games played so far in all competitions. They’ll no doubt fancy this in their own back yard whilst also have the benefit of ‘Mark’ Lawro Lawrenson using his BBC prediction column to back the Bees. Trevor Nelson and DJ Big Zuu (literally no idea – parents, ask a kid) going for the home side.

My main concern with this is Lawro’s assertion that, “I am backing Brentford to stay unbeaten, and get through on penalties.” We all know the nonsense he spouts these days and his presence as a pundit or co-commentator is generally greeted with the same fear felt by a pre-match press room buffet as Ian Moose approaches. But penalties? Seriously? You’ve got to think our name is on the cup if that’s going to happen. Here’s hoping he’s right. You can read that one in full, here.

Otherwise, its going to be a case of trying to make today feel as much like a normal Saturday as possible. I make no apologies for being excited or loving the FA Cup. Perhaps it’s an age thing but this tournament remains, for the supporters, about as exciting as it gets. The nostalgia, the romance, the potential, the shot at glory and even the cliches. 

I saw a quite wonderful tweet from @DeanCornish1966 yesterday about the Newport – Manchester City game, noting that:

ITV news preview on Newport v Man City just included:

2 x ‘The whole town is buzzing’

1 x ‘biggest match in history’

1 x ‘David v Goliath’

3 x ‘unbelievable’

1 x ‘dare to dream’

1 x ‘Gulf in class’

2 x ‘dreams are made of’

1 x ‘stacking shelves’

If ever there was close to a full house in cup upset bingo then here it was. But it’s what makes this trophy so special. Even now. It’s why I’m taking a five year old boy on a marathon coach trip to see if we can equal our furthest ever progression. Or perhaps even go beyond.

I’ve no doubt that when me and H are sitting down this evening to see if Newport can throw a potato skin under the feet of Manchester City (that’s one which ITV missed), the talk will be all about what awaits on Sunday afternoon. 

That, and maybe seeing if we need to add another layer of tinfoil to our replica trophy. 

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We’re all up for the cup

Nick Bruzon

Could Barnet serve up the final potato skin of a stunning fourth round?

28 Jan

Arsenal : out. West Ham : out. Everton : out. Tottenham : out. Wolves and Middlesbrough just about hanging in there. A weekend which has seen all manner of upsets and big names dumped on their backsides in the FA Cup comes to a frenzied denouement this evening as Brentford travel to Barnet for the final tie of the fourth round. Only Manchester City looked assured as they swept Burnley aside by five goals without reply. 

Tonight’s game is in equal measure just about as good a chance of progression as one could hope for (on paper) but also about as big a potato skin as could be lobbed under the feet of Thomas Frank. Just ask West Ham about that ! And please, stop sniggering. They did it win it back in 1980. A Trevor Brooking header, apparently. If only somebody had mentioned.

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Barnet represent a potato skin of the highest order

THE big question of course being whether Thomas will follow the fate of his predecessor Dean Smith and slip up on it or will safe transit to the fifth round be achieved for the first time in what feels like a long time? Brentford will be in the unusual position of knowing who we might be playing and where (subject to replays) before the Barnet game kicks off, given the draw takes place prior to kick off. We’re number 13 in that one, for the record. Wimbledon are 2, Manchester City 12 (oh to play them again), Manchester United 15 and Spurs are…out. 

Yet let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Whilst we may know who the potential opposition are going to be for this one, we still need to get past the current team in our way. Barnet will no doubt make it about as tough as they can with a full house roaring them on in a bid to make The Hive as intimidating as possible. 

Cripes, didn’t it work well for Wimbledon on Saturday. Facing a West Ham team who looked anything but up for it and playing like a beginner on FIFA 19, the higher ranked team were torn apart time and again before the goals started to flow. It was a quintessential example of playing the position rather than the situation and the Hammers came unstuck in quite glorious style. 

Brentford will be doing very well to learn the lessons from that one. You can bet that the press, BT Sport (who are showing this one live) and any neutral fan watching on TV will be desperate for a home win. Even if it is a non-Martin Allen year at Barnet. As noted at the top end, this one has the potential to see us left with as much egg on our face as those illustrious names to have already fallen this year. Just look at how Newport County took Leicester City part in the previous round to know that there is nothing guaranteed in football. No matter how lowly the other team may appear to be.

Even Frank Lampard’s Derby County (TM) were left hanging on during Saturday lunchtime’s game. That one was a classic cup tie played out on the proverbial quagmire of a pitch. Only some last gasp fouls and a cracking save from visiting ‘keeper Kelle Roos kept the Rams in the hat as they snuck through 1-0.

The point being that no matter how easy this one looks, it won’t be. The only thing that counts will be progression. Nobody will remember an unlucky loser when the fifth round kicks off in anger. Eyes will only be looking forward.

The FA Cup is that most incredible of tournaments. That most unique of formats. Think of all those combatants who have done battle through the preliminary rounds to bring us to the position we are now in. Their roles, perhaps, forgotten but pivotal to the rich tapestry of a competition which is still watched the world over.  Clubs and broadcasters may try to tinker with the format and the spirit of the tournament but at the end of the day (Clive) it boils down to a one off game of 11 v 11.

And I really can’t wait for this one.       

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Here’s hoping Brentford continue on the “Road to Wembley” .

Nick Bruzon

At least Martin will be happy as fourth round offers an excellent chance of progress.

8 Jan

But for the drop of a ball. Brentford will travel to Barnet for our fourth round FA Cup tie at the end of January. It is a match that was immediately picked out as a ‘tie of note’ by the BBC production team post–draw, despite Gary Lineker’s own assertion live on Match Of The Day that, ”Barnet. I’m sure they wanted a giant. Perhaps they can get one in the fifth round if they beat Brentford… “. Whilst that came across as somewhat patronising given the huge divisional gap and the history between our two sides, I guess we should be used to the ‘Little Old Brentford’ / ‘Tinpot Brentford’ school of thought by now. Yet if you look at who was left behind in the draw: Portsmouth, QPR, Manchester United,  Arsenal, Spurs and Crystal Palace, one can’t help but feel supporters of both sides will have been dreaming of what might have been and, perhaps, this is where Gary was coming from. The only person 100% happy with this one will be Martin Allen, no doubt lining up his place on the Match of the Day or BT Sport sofas already.   

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Martin has form at this stage

Personally, I’m very happy with this one. It represents a great chance of progression to the last 16 for Brentford. Something that I have no doubt Barnet supporters will also be thinking. They’ll have been buoyed by their own incredible victory up at Sheffield United and inspired by Newport County dumping Leicester City out on Sunday. They have a wonderful opportunity in a game which offers a massive divisional advantage to Thomas Frank’s team yet also a potato skin of the first degree. On paper there’s only one team should win it yet in practice we all know that’s not how it works in the FA Cup. Just ask Fulham.

I’m not a hypocrite. I’d have loved the chance to host a Manchester United or make a trip to Crystal Palace. Yet looking at the rest of the balls that were left when we came out of the hat, the trip to Barnet is so much more intriguing than what might have been.

Arsenal – already been there, done that, got the half and half scarf this season.

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They really did exist – The Arsenal / Brentford half & half

Tottenham – they play at the ‘W’ place. Given our past form, let’s avoid going there until we have no choice.

QPR – nobody needs the vagaries of a West London derby when looking to progress.

Portsmouth – any opportunity to avoid the walking cliche that is ‘Mr. Portsmouth’ and his bell can only be a good thing.

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No Bell. End of.

So it is Barnet rather than Manchester United for Brentford. I can’t wait. I love the FA Cup and make no apologies for saying so. Always have done. From the making of a tinfoil trophy to the dreaming of what might come next. From the chance to make a name for ourselves in the upset stakes through to the eventual prospect of being there when our captain for the day lifts that most famous of trophies.

Even better, we now have the words of Gary Lineker ringing in our ears. Any motivational speech that Thomas Frank may have needed to make for this one has just become an awful lot easier. I genuinely can’t wait for this one and will be doing all possible to make the trip to North London – tickets allowing. We may not travel with the 8,500 that went to Arsenal  – (the capacity at The Hive is officially showing as 5,176) but you can absolutely guarantee this one will be a sell-out. Bring it on!

And finally, did you catch the piece about Peter Gilham on the ITV London news last night? What a wonderful look at a man for whom no words are needed! If nothing else, we got to see one of those famous goal celebrations in the flesh. Pity the ears of anyone sitting within 25 yards – excitement, thy name is Gilham! It was an excellent article, even allowing for the cameo from yours truly – shot from a somewhat unusual angle that only accentuated nostrils and double chin.

More importantly, the club announced on Twitter last night that:We’re looking to get the footage so we can put it out on our channels later in the week“.  Given the diversity of the Brentford fanbase, with supporters living as far apart as Swindon to Salisbury and Hong Kong to somewhere else beginning with ‘H’ , that’s something that will be more than welcome. Failing that, there’s always ‘ITV Player’.

Nick Bruzon

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

6 Jan

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

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Buzz Bee was up for the cup before kick off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nick Bruzon