Tag Archives: Mark Burridge

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

Act of god, my arse. Why did we turn up on a random school playing field?

7 Jun

Brentford and Bournemouth. For most of us, the connection is one that instantaneously transports us back to the recent Championship play-off semi finals. You know, the one where we came from 2-0 down on aggregate before reaching Wembley and the Premier league. Oh, Asmir Begović…. 😉

What an afternoon that was at Lionel Road

Yet for one supporter, Bernard Quackenbush (pretty sure that’s not his real name but it’s the one he goes by on social media), the connection runs much deeper. It is a story that, in part, those who follow him on Twitter may be familiar with but there is so much more to it. Following on from Kitman Bob and Natalie Sawyer, Bernard  – who is a regular to these pages –  becomes the latest of our special guest authors with his own tale of supporting the Bees in the most unusual of circumstances.

Enjoy……..

Quackenbush! Quackenbush! Brentford are on the playing field’. Those were the words (well the first bit I have changed) on some dreary Friday lunchtime in early January in 1987 at my school in Bournemouth.

I was 14 years old at the time, and I had been living on the south coast for 6 years already. Despite our overwhelming mediocrity, I was always very proud to be a Bee. That lunchtime, I had boy after boy come up to me in the playground, most of whom I had no idea who they were, but each one was telling me that Brentford were on the field. 

How the hell did the whole school seem to know that I was a Brentford supporter? Its not as if I went around with a Brentford shirt on, or even a badge or a scarf, but it seemed the whole school knew. It was then I realised I was a bit of a novelty in the school. It was known that the tall boy in the 5th form with the London accent was known as ‘the Brentford supporter’, and with it seemed to come respect. Being over 6ft, and built well, also seemed to help. The classrooms seemed to be full of Liverpool, Aston Villa & Southampton supporters, but I seemed to be unique in supporting a lesser successful side, although that was to change with the local team’s promotion to Division 2 later that year.

So, off I went down to the field, and there they were, like Greek gods, people I had posters on my wall at home. The likes of Ian Holloway, Paul Maddy and Wayne Turner were there, and whom I wandered past to get to the gods that were Francis Joseph, Robbie Cooke & Andy Sinton. I was astounded and awestruck, and then the question in my head was…. what the hell are they doing at my school? 

To this day, I have no idea, but I assume one of the sports teachers knew someone who knew someone else. But there I was telling anyone within earshot, most people had walked away, how wonderful and amazing these group of players were, despite the overwhelming mediocrity. For the record, the Bees played at Dean Court the day after for a dull 1-1 draw, the most notable incident being Micky Droy getting homophobic chants from the South Stand and then growled back at the crowd who consequently became more subdued.

When I first arrived in Dorset back in 1980, Brentford & Bournemouth were not in the same division, and this stayed the same until I finally got to see the Bees at Dean Court on New Years Day 1983. For some inexplicable reason, my dad did not take me to the away end, but instead opted to go in a stand which looked like a cowshed. We were then surrounded by the idiots from Townsend and West Howe, and therefore I wasn’t even allowed to celebrate a goal, as we lost to the odd goal in 7. 

This game sparked something in me. Whereas all Bees fans always look forward to facing the Putney RiverRats and Shepherds Bush, the game against Bournemouth became just as important to me. The times I have had to walk into a classroom or office to face ridicule and taunts, but then to be able to walk tall and proud into the same places after a Keith Cassells hat-trick or a Marcus Bean masterclass was just the best feeling.

I will add at this point that the vast majority of Bournemouth fans have always been supportive and generous in their praise of the Bees. Even these past couple of weeks, I have had messages from Cherries fans saying ‘what the hell was Begovic on?’ and ‘the best team won, and good luck in the Final’. As Bees fans, we can look to Bournemouth and their success in the Premier League as inspiration for us.

Of course, being so far away from GP, meant it was rare for me to get to games. Through the 80s I probably only went to a maximum of 10 games, and this same frequency continued after our sole Division 1 season, but of course, I would always get to the game at DC (or Dorchester), with additional trips to Exeter, Yeovil and Southampton. I even made it to some rather unusual settings for pre-season friendlies at Havant, Bashley & Hamworthy. You may need to look at the map for those ones.

In the mid 90s, I managed to track down a number of Bees fans living in the area. To my surprise, there were quite a number of us living across the conurbation, and the numbers to this day continue to grow. In recent years, I have seen cars with Brentford stickers parked in my local Asda, and sweet vans with a giant Brentford badge on the back going around the town. I have now worked in adoption for many, many years, and people will always say to me ‘oh I know someone who is adopted/an adopter’.  When people discover I am a Brentford supporter, I get just as many that say to me ‘I know someone who supports Brentford’. It’s happened at school with teachers, at college with lecturers and at work with managers. Everyone seems to know someone who supports Brentford far, far away from the confines of the M25. I’m sure if I ever traversed the great Tsavo reserve in Kenya to finally make it to a lodge with a waterhole whilst covered from head to toe in red dust gasping for some water, the first person I would meet would come up to me and say, ‘I know the real reason why Steve Perryman quit’.

If you ask most Bees fans to list their greatest ever matches. They will say the Play Off final last week, or Peterborough in 92 or Blackburn in the Quarter Final or of course Fulham on Good Friday. For me, i’d also include the win at Bournemouth when Karleigh & Powell had a punch up, or the FRT QF win when Kammy scored 2. There have been disaster games like Bournemouth’s Great Escape in 95. I even travelled on the Bournemouth supporters coach for that one! Or the day Neil Clement allegedly played, or the one where Rio Ferdinand played for the Cherries and it rained so hard they took us all off the terrace for safety reasons, but the greatest moment before the Marcus Forss winner 2 weeks ago was the Christmas game of 1993….. 

It had everything. My all time Bee, Denny Mundee banging in a penalty against his old club and booed, a Lee Harvey goal, two missed Steve Cotterill penalties, soft furnishings raining down on to the pitch from the main stand (that’s how middle class Bournemouth supporters are) and the best moment when Vince Bartram sliced it into his own net to seal noises. He claimed in the local press that it was an ‘act of god’. No Bartram, you were never Maradona, you were just crap. As my friend Ken the postman from Poole so eloquently and accurately put it in a fanzine, ‘Act of god, my arse’.

Denny Mundee – better file photo needed

I could waffle on forever about my life as a Bee away from London and in a county where motorways are yet to be invented, but I know im not the only one. There are Bees fans not only across Dorset, but also in the far flung reaches of these isles. With the advent of social media we are now hearing about Bees everywhere and all over this blue planet too. Those Bees fans are now producing new Bees fans and these fans would have never lived anywhere near the Great West Road, or ever will.

We have kept in touch from afar through the website, social media, or the dulcet tones of Mark Burridge. And thank you Mark, Marcus, and everyone else for keeping us in touch with our great club for so many years, when we have not been able to be there. It does not matter if you live in Brentford or Hounslow or whether you live in South Wales, Leeds, Scotland or even Australia. We are all Bees fans, we are all equally loyal, and wow, we are all about to embark on one hell of a journey over this next year!

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.” 

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

Was this the best performance ever?

23 May

It was during the full time rendition of Hey Jude that I finally went. Bottom lip wobbling and tears streaming down the face. The emotion of everything that had gone before kicking in at the next level. Quite simply, the most incredible afternoon of football experienced as a Brentford fan. A 3-1 win home win over ten man Bournemouth (Special agent Mepham playing his own part to perfection) something where the scoreline alone can’t even begin to scratch the surface of the story. Swansea City now await in the final. Themselves, aggregate winners over a Barnsley side who couldn’t quite catch up in their semi. That’ll be a feisty one on Saturday but its not really a huge topic for now. What played out at Lionel Road was about as a special as it gets. To be part of it a privilege. A performance up there with Leyton Orient away. Burton Albion away. Preston at home – the one where we finally got promoted after the pain of what happened the season before. Oh for a repeat this time around.

It was an afternoon where everyone played their part even prior to kick off. The 4000 Brentford supporters making the place a cauldron of noise as the players warmed up. As the line ups were read out. As the players went back in. Peter Gilham doing his thing. Cripes, I was sounding like Madge Bishop after smoking 40 JPS by the time we made it to The Griffin last night. Can only imagine what his voice must be like now.

Bournemouth, warming up in our corner, left under no illusions as to the reception they were going to face when the game began. A crescendo of cat calling and jeers accompanying their own pre-match prep. Oh, I’ve missed being part of a crowd so indescribably. This little taster of what was to come sending goose bumps up the spine and that was even before Hey, Jude came over the P.A. For once, a ‘studio’ version rather than the rambling live one we were so used to at Griffin Park (“This time, just the ladies”) that, even better, seems to have edited down to cut quickly to the “Naaaa. Na-Na. Na-na-na-naaaahhhhh” . 

Then, our first blow of the day. This had all been going too well. The BBC match reporting revealed that Christian Norgaard had been replaced by Mads Roerslev. Himself, initially pushed to the bench to accommodate the return of Henrik Dalsgaard. True enough, Peter Gilham reading the teams out one last time confirmed we’d be needing an 11th hour rejig. Oh Brentford, it’s never easy. No matter. With Bryan and Emiliano starting this game alongside Sergi and Ivan, our attacking intent was still clearly the focus. Yet if this had us on a momentary backfoot, what happened next is one of those things that will go down in football folklore.

Thomas Frank had talked at length in the build up to this one just how important the crowd would be. We’d seen the videos and one even played out on the big screen. Of course we all knew this and were already doing our bit when, over in front of the main stand he started running down the touchline , gesturing to the supporters to raise the roof. Fair enough, until he turned the corner in front of the West Side. One North stand observer standing next to me said,”He’s going to do it. He’s going all the way.” Sure enough, he did. The crowd feeding off his energy. Thomas pumping them up. Taking fist bumps en-route. Arms whirling like some crazed dervish. Lifting the crowed and getting them whipped up in a manner that Delia Smith could only aspire to. Twelfth man? We were the entire squad.

Thomas turns it up to 11 prior to kick-off

And then it began. Brentford one goal down on aggregate but 90 minutes to turn it around.

And then it began. Brentford two goals down on aggregate but 85 minutes to turn it around.

If Christian Norgaard missing out was as bad as we thought it would be then think again. Danjuma broke at speed as the Bees attacked and with nobody but David Raya back, he had all the time in the world to bear down on goal ,  pick his spot and make no mistake. Crap. This wasn’t in the script. An absolute disaster of a scoreline. A catastrophe of a start. Yet if this was going to silence the crowd and take the wind from the sails, it was a case of anything but. Push up, Brentford? Oh yes. 

With a quarter hour gone (about one minute of actual game time, given the way that Bournemouth and goalkeeper Begovic in particular were time wasting – an injury free opening period seeing an additional ‘6’ awarded ) Brentford were back in it. Lloyd Kelly deemed to have handled Emiliano’s cross and referee Gillet pointed to the spot. I’ve seen them given, Clive. Cue pandemonium. Cue petulance. Cue Ivan Toney eventually being allowed to step up and do that thing he does, once more. Calm as you like and goal 32 for the season was the reward. The ripple of the net sending Lionel Road in to meltdown. An ear splitting wave of noise greeting the finish. 

Whilst I’ve not watched any of the replays as yet, Mark Burridge has shared this today. His own view (and comms) from the gantry. You want goosebumps? Take a look, and listen, to this….

1-1 on the day although a goal down still. Brentford kept going. Bournemouth kept it niggly. Trying to reach Wembley by not allowing a game to take place. The Bees pushed. Chris Mepham stumbled and there was Bryan Mbeumo to whip it off his toes. He rounded our former player and was clean through. A chance to run one-on-one at Begovic much as Danjuma had done to Raya. Except. Except. The sneakiest of rugby style ankle tap tackles followed as his out-stretched hand saw the flying winger felled. The decision was a no brainer. The photograph now doing the rounds to accompany it a work of art. I’ve no idea who took it but kudos. Straight red. No choice.

If a picture paints a thousand words….

Whether Bryan would have scored or Begovic smothered the chance we’ll never know. It doesn’t really matter. Instead, Bournemouth were left to play the final hour, and any possible extra time, with ten men. Frankly, given the performance of Beogvic over the course of the afternoon they were lucky it wasn’t nine. I’m still not sure how he only got one yellow. The time wasting aside, the ‘injury’ he suffered after running into one of his own players was about as cringeworthy and embarrassing as it gets. Still, that was their problem.

Half-time came at about a quarter past six. Brentford had been unable to add any additional goals despite our best efforts, our crowd and our team. Sergi was on fire. Emiliano showing just why he is so highly valued by the coaching staff. Matthias Jensen (and the second half especially) stepping up his game to new heights. Surely a second goal would come after the break? Surely?

Within five minutes, our prayers were answered. Vitaly Janelt scoring a goal that I’m still not sure how it went in. He seems to tackle one of our players, one of theirs, fall over and unleash a blockbuster of a shot all at the same time. Even seeing that on the screen in The Griff later in the evening, it defies logic. But in it went. In it flew. A strike of the most incredible sweetness. The aggregate scores tied. Any pretensions of holding on that Bournemouth may have had sent back in to the dressing room to keep Chris Mepham company. Lionel Road erupting once more. The aforementioned cauldron threatened to bubble over. Bournemouth, a team visibly falling apart in front of us. Piece by piece. Their meltdown as clear as Michael Douglas after he couldn’t get his McDonalds breakfast.

On we went. On we pushed. The Bees with an extra spring in the step. Bournemouth wilting. A punchdrunk boxer desperately hanging on and awaiting that killer blow. Set up Marcus Forss to deliver it. 82 minutes on the clock and boom, it was there. A deadly first time finish from close in. The hunter’s aim was true. The place exploded. The players celebrating in the shadow of the water tower. All except Henrik Dalsgaard who stood in front of the North Stand. A messianic pose. Veins bulging. Mouth screaming. The crowd being egged further on. The intensity etched across his face. The moment one that, in retrospect, I only wish I’d had more than a mobile phone to capture.

Its fuzzy, but….

But that doesn’t matter one jot. What matters being that there were now less than ten minutes for us to hold the lead. What a time to take it. What a response followed. We kept going. We tried again. Bournemouth waiting until the four minutes of added on time to finally threaten. Begovic heading up for a last, desperate gamble. The stress levels were, I’ll admit, there. If it were to happen at that point then….. but it didn’t. The defence remained rock solid. The Cherries not given a sniff from their flurry of corners and set pieces. The final whistle greeted with the most deafening of roars. One to wake the dead. The waves of relief palpable. The hugs and ecstasy clear for all. It was a moment to top them all. 

Our record in the play-offs is about as well documented as they come. Whilst the job is any half-done, the feeling at full time was one of really getting a monkey off the back. To come back in such style. To show such strength of character. For Thomas to get his tactics spot on, despite the blow of losing Norgaard so late. It was just about the perfect performance. To be part of it a true honour. I can only hope those watching in the pubs had as much fun. The next best thing to being there. 

Then Thomas did his thing, again. The full time lap of honour greeted with more photos. More smiles. Yet instead of giving his traditional ‘thumbs up’, this time around he gave something special. “One more to go”…..

One more to go

I’m not an idiot. Swansea City will have enjoyed their own moment equally and be as pumped for the final as we are. Like us, they’re only 90 minutes from the Premier League. It’s going to be one hell of a tense affair on Saturday. Yet having experienced last seasons and then this, any additional motivation we may have needed was delivered in bucketloads yesterday.

Talking to Mark this morning, he nailed it just about perfectly. “Yesterday, Lionel Road became our new home.” 

I can’t wait to move in. I can’t wait to see who we may be inviting around for dinner. Just got the small matter of getting Saturday out the way first…

What else is there to say? Hats off Thomas Frank. As much as anybody, he got it spot on yesterday. From that bonkers lap at the start, through enforced last minute changes, excellent tactics and key substitutions. A top, top performance from that man.

THANK YOU.

Nick Bruzon

Rams await as Sergi speaks out.

16 Mar

Tuesday night. Another round of fixtures at the business end of the Championship table. The weekend played out with Brentford seeing our own win on the road matched by away wins for Swansea, Barnsley and Watford on Saturday. Norwich picking up three points the following day. Now, we’ve another chance to see if things can change around any. For the Bees, a trip to Wayne Rooney’s Derby County awaits. The Hornets are at Rotherham whilst Steve Cooper’s side face a trip to Bournemouth. Themselves, once looking nailed on for automatic and now trying to play catch up to the play-off pack. How quickly things can change. How quickly they can return with a few wins on the bounce. Easier said than done, of course. Elsewhere, Sergi Canos has spoken to Sky Sports about his own return from injury and the social media abuse being handed out this season by some of our followers.

Sergi got 3 out of 3 against Cardiff City

First up, Brentford face Derby County at 7pm this evening. The Rams are very much at the wrong end of the table compared to recent seasons and whilst relegation is probably not a subject on the agenda, they’ll want to start picking up a few points to make sure. Should Birmingham City start winning a few Derby may find themselves sucked in once Rotherham’s mammoth four games in hand play out. Stranger things have happened.

They’ll need to start finding the back of the net though. Saturday’s home loss to Millwall was their fourth game in a row without troubling the scorers. The sort of stat that always makes me angsty. I’ve been following Brentford far too long to take anything of that nature for granted. Following football far too long, to be fair. Complacency is the mother of all f*ck ups and we’ll need to be at our very best tonight. Pride Park never an easy place to go, regardless of how well our opponents are playing. The Championship a division where anyone can beat anyone. Something we’ve said many, many times. Mainly because it’s true. All being well a philosophy Watford and Swansea City will be on the receiving end of this evening. Much as we need to focus on ourselves only, let’s not pretend we won’t be keeping an eye on those other results.

The good news is the Bees played out of their skins to beat Blackburn Rovers on Friday night. Rock solid at the back and dominant in midfield. Winston Reid and Ethan Pinnock (a player I saw described afterwards as a ‘heading machine’) locking it up in the CB positions. The combination of Vitaly Janelt and the returning Christian Norgaard made the midfield a dream to behold. Ivan Toney doing what Ivan Toney does. Scoring. It was the sort of game that might have seen us pegged back or even beaten in days gone by. This time around, we held our nerve and took three crucial points. More of the same tonight would do very nicely, thank you. Here’s hoping everyone remains fit as, if so, I can’t see Thomas changing anything up. Sergi Canos the obvious choice to come in but given how the team played, I’d imagine he’ll have to be content with a place on the bench and trying to make his usual high energy impact.

Ah, Sergi Canos. What can you say? Well, if we’re on these pages its only going to be positive stuff. Or, at least, fair.  Then again, any regular reader (should such a concept exist) will know that. Aside from being our Harry’s favourite player he’s one of those you can’t help but love. The passion, the desire, the team spirit. The goals. The speed. The enthusiasm. The love for Brentford and our fans. Sure, he’s had his off days but who hasn’t ? The season has been a long one and players must be knackered. Moreso coming off the delayed end to the previous campaign. For Sergi, there was also that injury suffered at Nottingham Forest that kept him out for the best part of 2019/20. It’s amazing to think that at only 24 years old he’s fast closing in on his 200th Brentford appearance. 

Yet all this hasn’t stopped a quite bizarre hate campaign, bullying even, from a sub-strata of apparent fans on Twitter this season. Criticism and objective comment is one thing but this has been nothing short of consistent bile. Poison. Keyboard warriors at their very worst. We all know who they are. Their crud keeps popping up. You can try to avoid but still it appears. Frankly, I’ll call it out anyway. We can pretend it isn’t going on but it is. See also: FrankOut. Err…..?? Our team have been on an upward trajectory all season, everyone wants the same thing – promotion – and moreso after the frustration of how last season played out. So how does a ‘special’ group think they can help? By putting the boot in to one of the players trying to achieve that goal. Go figure. And sure enough, Sergi has seen it.

His interview with Dan Long on the SkySports website is here. Everyone should read this. Regardless your opinion on the player. WE all have favourites. We all have players whom, perhaps, we may inwardly groan when we see their name on the team sheet. My word, some of those to have worn the red and white over the years…. Cripes, it makes your hair curl to think back. Yet despite all of this we’ve supported them through thick and thin. Certainly, at the time. No matter how frustrating it was. And that’s been the (relatively) crap ones. The sad thing being Sergi’s actually ‘any good’. Yet the lemmings have had it in for him. His own comments sum it up..  

Normally, when you are not injured, you are playing and you manage that criticism during the season, but because I was going from zero to 100, it did affect me a little bit because it wasn’t only coming back from injury, it was also handling that pressure and that criticism from everyone. It was quite shocking because it was all at once. It didn’t help me, I’m not going to lie.

Perhaps it’ll subside. Perhaps just one person might change their choice of words or think before committing comment to social media. Might also consider the mental health of players. Just because they have the dream job and the public eye doesn’t make them immune to a constant barrage of abuse. Be kind, everyone. Would you say it to his face? Well, we all know the answer to that. 

I’m glad Sergi has said his thing. It’s a shame he has had to but it’s nothing we haven’t been banging about for months on these pages. Now, perhaps, everyone can just shut the heck up and back our boys. All of them. There’s 11 games to go and every point, every goal, is going to be crucial. Starting tonight at Derby County.

I’d love to be there in person. Instead, it’ll be time spent on the sofa with Mark Burridge. Metaphoriocally speaking. Sky also have it on the red button. See you there. In spirit.

Amazing to think this was 2015 yet he’s only 24

Nick Bruzon

Sergi? Jota? Dallas? The Hoff? Who scored our best ever goal?

3 Mar

Curses. Overslept. Normally this nonsense falls out at some ungodly hour, through no other motivation than general insomnia. Not today though. Small mercies I suppose. For all of us. So instead of a look ahead to tonight’s huge game for Brentford, the second v first clash at Norwich City, let’s just cut to the social media chase. Goals. Goals. Goals. We all know what Vitaly Janelt did against Stoke City at the weekend. An absolute howitzer of a shot that had fans and pundits purring alike. If you have, somehow missed it, then here you go. Albeit, please forgive the ropey editing that sees the normally mellifluous Mark Burridge replaced with North Norfolk’s finest.

However, it got me thinking. Incredible an effort that it was, have we had better? Quite simply, what was the greatest Brentford goal ever scored? As ever, social media came to the rescue. Roger Cross against Notts County. Glenn Poole’s volley direct from a corner when Wycombe Wanderers were in town. Tony Folan and Paul Evans, twice. Peterborough and Cambridge United / from the half way line and, err, from the half way line respectively. Jota, Benrahma and Ollie Watkins also amongst those appearing multiple times. 

Those earlier efforts goals which, magnificent though they were, only live on in the minds eye or some really grainy footage. With apologies to Glenn Poole whose effort was later highlighted on this old Sky Sports feature by Ian Westbrook. That one is still worth a look and you can see it immediately below.

Instead, the various choices were whittled down to four choices and the vote is now live on Twitter. If you need any reminder of these then why not take another look? Come for the goals. Stay for Mark Burridge. Then the vote is at the bottom.

1: Stuart Dallas at Fulham. Where to even start? The approach play. The lay up by Andre Gray. The acceleration. The power. To do this at any time would be amazing but in front of your own fans, in our neighbours’ back yard was nothing short of wonderful. ‘Limbs’ indeed. What a return to Championship action for the West London derby.

2: Jota at Blackburn. The king scored some incredible goals. Fulham in the last minute. Making a mockery of Jake Bidwell as he ran rings around QPR. Take your pick. However, we settled on this one up at Ewood Park. Not usually a happy hunting ground, especially midweek, he re-wrote the rule books with this run that covered almost the entire length of the pitch before a sublime finish. #Burridgegasm.

3: Sergi Canos . Oooohh, Sergi Canos. I wanna know etc etc etc . A goal which you can’t see enough. If only for how young he looks (even compared to now). The trap, then feint, the second touch, the finish. Poor Ryan Woods, his opener in this game had ‘goal of the season’ sewn up. For about forty minutes…

4: Philipp Hofmann. The game with Nottingham Forest at Griffin Park was one with everything. A red card for Harlee Dean. A scoreline hanging in the balance. Sergi at his finest. A crowds. Ah, I remember them. Then, with full time almost upon us, up stepped the Hoff. It may not have been a thirty yard blockbuster but chocked full of deflections (count ‘em, 1.. 2.. 3) is sent the home crowd wild and was the perfect denouement to the most stressful of evenings at Griffin Park.

The vote is here. Dive in and enjoy. Thanks . And then for a proper preview of the Norwich City game, why not read Ian’s piece. You can find that here. At least one of us was up on time !!!

The choice, is yours…..

Nick Bruzon.

Let’s be Frank. Hats off to Thomas ahead of Wednesday on Tuesday.

26 Feb

Here we go again. To coin a phrase. No sooner has the dust settled on yet another five goal spree for Brentford (Saturday’s tonking of Hull City still fresh in the memory) than we’re back on the road. A trip to Sheffield Wednesday, Tuesday, now awaits Thomas Frank and his free scoring Bees. The big question tonight being whether our home form can be translated into that on the road. And before we go any further, let’s not start blaming the brown shirt. I love it. You probably don’t. However, the only crime it can be blamed for is, possibly, one against sartorial elegance. Or stealing my heart. I guess it all depends on your point of view.

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Saturday was fun….

But we digress. As ever. We all know our record on the road isn’t the best this season. Likewise, recent trips to Hillsborough haven’t seen it the happiest of hunting grounds. As a general rule. Yet with our tails up, is this the time for the form book to go out of the window? Who knows? I’m just the numpty on the terrace and any perceived expertise could be consigned to the back of an envelope. (I would also accept: postage stamp / matchbox).  

Yet what we also know is that Thomas Frank has pulled Brentford out the slump that Dean Smith’s side began nosediving into during the last few games of his own tenure. His enthusiasm is absolutely palpable. You can see what every game, every goal, means to him. Those full time sorties around the pitch at Griffin Park seeing him lauded as a hero. His desire to win clearly translating to the players where broad grins are as de rigueur a fashion item as our away kit (sorry). How distant the negativity from so many angles back in November and early December must now seem. How much egg has been wiped off faces and hands since held high in acknowledgement? 

One thing that has remained constant on these pages over the last few years has been faith in our model. Faith in the management and the team behind the team. Trust in what we are doing as a club. Whilst I’m the first to acknowledge my own personal views were somewhat tested (that’s the polite term) after the Birmingham City triple transfer swoop of summer 2017, it would be absolutely fair to say we’ve kicked on since then. And how!! 

Hats off to the current regime but, more importantly, no surprise that when Thomas was coming in for dog’s abuse from all angles, with more calls for his head than Henry the Eighth in the mood for a wedding, the top brass didn’t even flinch. Not even a vote of confidence. Instead, he was allowed to go about his business as sanity prevailed and the points began pouring in.

Now, we’re flying. This is in part down to the players (of course) but as much to Thomas and his staff looking at who we had. Looking at how we were playing. Rebuilding the system. Even the enforced placement of Sergi Canos as emergency wing back has proved a masterstroke. Albeit, we’ll draw a discreet veil over the second half of the FA Cup – en masse (in case you are reading, Sergi. You aren’t, obv).

I cite two personal examples. First up, the away game at Norwich City back in October. With HB fortunate enough to be mascot for that one, we were afforded a unique view behind the scenes. We’ve mentioned this before but it bears repeating. Thomas was nothing but the consummate host in the early stages of the build up. Welcoming, cordial and talking with enthusiasm about the job in hand after taking over from Dean. Even in those early stages, his desire to progress and knowledge of the task ahead was apparent to even a numpty such as yours truly. 

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When Harry met Thomas

Secondly, the Junior Bees Christmas party in December. It would be fair to say that moment in time was probably about the low point, results wise, for Thomas and his team. Yet there was no hiding behind the safety of an autograph table or a sanitised photo op with officials on hand. Instead he stood slap back in the middle of the forecourt, willing to talk with anybody who approached. Others may have hidden away or ducked questions. Not Thomas. And let’s not pretend there weren’t as many adults as children there – obviously, in the guise of guardianship! 

Since that moment, the points have come thick and fast. The morale has soared. The smiles have returned. Even at Swansea City last Sunday, his arrival was greeted with applause. The first thing he did upon exiting the team bus was to head across to the waiting supporters for autographs and photos – especially with the tinfoil FA Cup that proudly bore his image.

Let’s make no mistake. Sheffield Wednesday away is about as tough as it comes. Moreso for a midweek fixture where travel is a gargantuan challenge for supporters. To compound our watching woes, it’s not on either the ‘red button’ or the Ifollow streaming service. Whilst there may (apparently) be other ways of following the action, I’d suggest it’ll be e a significant audience share for Mark Burridge and his commentary team.

However this one ends, it won’t be season defining. Yet with the table very much locking up towards the top ten, it presents a quite wonderful opportunity to really close in our rivals. I can’t wait to see how it turns out (plus ca change) and whilst am unable to say “See you there” this time, will instead sign off with another thought – stolen directly from the BBC Match preview (let’s not take any credit for picking up on this otherwise).

Since last season, this is our fourth successive game against Sheffield Wednesday in the Championship with their having a different manager at the helm. Carlos Carvalhal, Lee Bullen, Joe Luhukay have all held the reins prior to the current incumbent, Steve Bruce. Compare that to the solidity of the Brentford model to see who is taking very much that long term, sustainable, approach.

Here’s to seeing how it can be rewarded this evening.

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Thomas celebrated with the fans at full time on Saturday

Nick Bruzon

BBC Wales stick two fingers up to The Bees ahead of Blackburn visit

2 Feb

Brentford host Blackburn Rovers this afternoon, looking to make it 9 games unbeaten and continue the climb up the table that Thomas Frank’s rejigged team have been enjoying since just before Christmas. It is a game that will see him looking to kick on from the disappointment of being held at Barnet in the FA Cup on Tuesday night. That in itself, a game which now presents a further headache beyond the forthcoming replay. Namely, BBC Wales selecting the fifth round tie at Swansea City for a Sunday afternoon, 4pm TV fixture. The reaction to that news one of universal frustration as a day of motorways or train disruption awaits anyone looking to make that trip.

First up, Blackburn. I have to be honest that their position in the table had escaped me. Instead thoughts of Rovers normally turn to Gary Blissett in the FA Cup, ‘Birdy’s date’ (THE single best kit launch video ever – Kitman Bob, if you are reading I remain available) and Jota causing Mark Burridge to explode in the commentary box. Yet a quick glance at the Championship standings shows them just four points behind Frank Lampard’s Derby County (TM) in the hunt for a play-off place. They’ve won four on the spin, conceding just a solitary goal whilst the BBC match preview tells us that they are the kings of the second half goal. Brentford, beware.

Come on Bob. I’m game if you are

Yet The Bees are no slouches either. With goals being scored for fun and Neal Maupay exhuding all the confidence and prowess of a Grand National winner, we’re a force to be reckoned with ourselves. The squad is now confirmed after what was, thankfully, one of the dullest deadline days in history. There was none of the alleged interest from Dean Smith up at Villa Park and so Thomas can be confident he has his boys until the rest of the campaign. Unless, of course, any of them fancy joining Nico Yennaris in China. That being the news that was confirmed on official yesterday but which even Matthew Benham had been tweeting about the day before.

The goals against Barnet were all great. Ollie’s strike from distance, Neal slotting home another ice cool penalty and then Sergi maintaining his composure after a quite delightful ball to feet from Henrik Dalsgaard. Then there were the three efforts against the post. Had Moses Odubajo found himself an inch or two luckier I think we may have had another ‘Jota moment’ in the commentary box. #burridgegasm. Instead, we’ve been left with a tricky replay and the image of John Motson talking tactics under the shadow of Ian Moose stuffing his face. For crying out loud man, at least chew.

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Motty and Chris do their thing as Ian Moose does his

The goals against, and the midfield, were very much a case of ‘move along, nothing to see here’. I guess in part this was down to the slight squad rotation in a game played out against the backdrop of a passionate full house. One thing’s for sure, you can see the incredible difference Kamo makes to the squad. We’re a different team when he starts and one has to hope he’ll be back in the Brentford line up today.

I can’t even come close to calling this one. It promises to be a fascinating match up and I’m intrigued as to how hard we react after Tuesday night. The only thing you can be sure of is that’s going to be bitterly cold out there. Whatever you do, please take care and wrap up warm. The slush may have been cleared but I almost lost a few toes to frostbite on the school run past Griffin Park yesterday.

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A carpet of slush is clear from Griffin Park, Friday

From the league to the cup, next. “An away game at Championship rivals Swansea City has about as much romance, of the cup or otherwise, as a Valentines card and bunch of flowers from petrol station forecourt. I’ve no doubt they are thinking the same…… As I can’t imagine it’ll be one that is selected for TV, if we actually win the replay, at least it should be a traditional 3pm kick off“. 

My words, written on Wednesday morning. Well that’s just another example, if one were needed, of why yours truly is the numpty on the terrace rather than any sort of informed source. As was revealed yesterday, whomever wins the replay on Tuesday night has now seen the match at Swansea City moved to 4pm on a Sunday afternoon.

Well thanks a bunch, BBC Wales. Talk about sticking two fingers up to the fans who now face the prospect of the three scariest words in the English language – ‘Rail replacement bus’- which we’re all thrilled to hear is operating between between Bristol and Cardiff on the Sunday. Expect a return home of about midnight if you chose to take the most godforsaken mode of transport since records began.

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Bad news for The Bees

The reaction has been almost universal. It all seems so pointless. A game that’s not even likely to sell out being picked for a regional arm of the BBC – albeit one available outside of Wales via the medium of Virgin and Sky. Yet we all know that watching it on the armchair is nothing like being there. And why do it at such a ridiculously inconvenient time, given the travel hell that is sure to unfold (see also: moving the cup final to an evening kick off). 

I’ve no doubt the club will point out that we are beholden to the rules of the competition and the whims of broadcasters. Broadcasters who clearly don’t give a monkey about the people that actually make the competition what it is – the fans. Let’s wait to see if BIAS swing into action. This would be the perfect forum for them to say their piece or, better still, our fans’ group get involved. Seriously Adam, if you are reading then you’ve got a quite wonderful opportunity to do something for the supporters. No matter that we already know it is a decision which won’t be over turned.

And yes, I realise that we have to get past Barnet first. They’re in exactly the same boat as us but there’s nothing to stop our clubs, and fan groups, presenting a united front on this one. At least until 7.45pm on Tuesday night.

Still, that’s for then. For now, we’ve got a visit form Blackburn Rovers to look forward to and I can’t wait. See you there.

Now, how about one more look at Jota…..

 

Nick Bruzon   

Tie of the round sees Sparkes fly as Bees sting Bees

29 Jan

We are all, presumably, bang up to date with events for last night. If you weren’t at the game, the TV option presented a warmer alternative whilst there was also Mark Burridge and co on the iFollow commentary. Yet it was one of those where a final score of Barnet 3 Brentford 3 doesn’t even begin to do justice to what was as pulsating an FA Cup tie as one could hope to see. Albeit with the winners now facing a tough trip to Swansea City in the fifth round, having to go the extra mile of a replay on Tuesday night was probably the last thing anybody wanted. Given the way this one ebbed and flowed (BBC Sport describing it at full time as ‘simply brilliant’) from some perspectives one could almost argue that for either team to still be in with a chance of winning should be cause for relief.

Barnet will be disappointed. Brentford frustrated. The hosts fought back from a 1-0 half time deficit (Ollie Watkins guiding it home from distance late on) to take the lead with a quick fire brace from Shaq Coulthirst. Game on and then some. It was pulsating stuff. Neal Maupay restored parity from the spot after Watkins was adjudged to have been tripped out wide. It was about as innocuous a connection as has been seen, with the player quoted as apologising afterwards for what looked like minimal contact. At best. Certainly we’d have been as incensed as the Barnet fans seemed to be on social media afterwards had it gone the other way. Yet how many times have we been victims of refereeing inconsistency? Far too many to count and whilst it looked shonky in hindsight, Maupay made no mistake as he added another million or so to his valuation. It was as cool and precise a penalty as you’ll see.

With that Brentford pushed on. A quite wonderful ball from Henrik Dalsgaard into the feet of Sergi Canos freed the Spaniard for 3-2 up. It was a wonderful pass and a calm finish under pressure. Surely that would be it? Or not. Just moments later Dan Sparkes stepped up to curl as magnificent a free kick as the Barnet fans could have dreamed of around the wall and past Luke Daniels. It was an incredible a strike and what a tie to get it. The crowd erupted. And rightly so. Full credit to the hosts who showed no signs of giving up despite Brentford’s domination.

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Brentford official capture the moment that Sergi restores our lead

So it ended 3-3. Brentford will point to also hitting the post three times – a header from Yoann Barbet and two from Moses Odubajo. The first of these, had it gone in, would have been a curling left footer to perhaps surpass even the brilliance of Sparkes’ free kick. Barnet will understandably point to the penalty spot and question, again, how referee Andy Madley was able to, ermmm, point to the penalty spot. Given the inconsistent use of VAR throughout the tournament – surely that in itself was a call for an all or nothing approach? See also: Everton at Millwall.    

Brentford should have won. Could have won. The defence seemed off the pace and out of sync. The midfield minus Kamo and Sawyers (although the later did appear from the bench in the second half) were out of touch with the game. On a slick looking surface there should have been more than enough to put this game to bed and lock out the non-leaguers. Instead, Barnet were fully deserving of their draw. They won’t make it any easier in a replay where Thomas Frank will be hoping that the old adage about lower ranked teams taking their chance when it presents itself proves true. On last night’s showing, I wouldn’t be so sure.

So what else happened? Well, kudos to Chris Wickham. I saw a great quote from Mark Burridge on Twitter prior to kick-off, noting how none other than John Motson himself described Chris’s run through of the Brentford line up saying: ‘Thank you, that’s the best explained team formation I’ve ever been given” . What wonderful words from one of THE most respected voices in football. 

It was a moment which also captured our good friend and favourite pantomime villain / ongoing critic Ian Moose in the background of the shot. In typical pose. And I don’t mean the one about taking selfies with footballers before wishing them happy birthday. Hey, at least he’s consistent. Although please chew – it doesn’t need to go in whole.

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Motty and Chris do their thing as Ian Moose does his

Then there was the fifth round draw. An away game at Championship rivals Swansea City has about as much romance, of the cup or otherwise, as a Valentines card and bunch of flowers from petrol station forecourt. I’ve no doubt they are thinking the same. Ironically, a game against the same opposition as we were due to play that weekend. The same opposition that we allowed to race into a 3-0 first half lead in early December before almost rescuing a game that ended 3-2. As I can’t imagine it’ll be one that is selected for TV, if we actually win the replay, at least it should be a traditional 3pm kick off. 

On the plus side, we were spared another trip to Chelsea. Assuming we make it through on Tuesday night. See you there.

Nick Bruzon