Tag Archives: Mark Burridge

That Sky One Harchester United thing. Dear Sky TV, Andy Ansah, Richie et al….

3 May

These pages usually talk about Brentford FC but, occasionally, we look further afield than Griffin Park. Today is just one of those. It is a time when we need to look back to look forward. And also ask the question – is it time for a footballing renaissance?

That Sky One Harchester United thing”. Not my words but those of Absolute Radio DJ Richie Firth, talking on Wednesday morning’s Christian O’Connell Breakfast show. Regular readers may well be aware of, amongst other things, the show’s role in resolving the Cameron Diaz / Brentford story (something which, for the record, our own club commentator par-excellence Mark Burridge also had a hand in at one point).

But this was not a discussion about celebrity fans (or lack of). Instead, it was talk of actor Ricky Whittle and his current role in TV series American Gods. The actor, who has also appeared in Hollyoaks and on Strictly Dancing, is probably best known for playing Ryan Naysmith on what Richie had called That Sky One Harchester United thing. Or, of course, Dream Team.

Ahh, Dream Team. Running for ten series, the show was centred around the ongoing and progressively more outlandish events at fictional football club Harchester United. Combining real life stadia and action (often Leicester City, Chelsea or Everton but with the contrast turned up to make their blue shirts look like Harchester’s purple) the show was as loved for its crazy plots as the frequent use of celebrity cameos. From Ron Atkinson to John Barnes, even one time Bee’s boss Steve Coppell had a go at channeling his inner Marlon Brando. It wasn’t good.

Yet perhaps the most famous of these actors was another former Bee (and member of our ‘top ten moustaches‘ club), Andy Ansah. Forget his later work on ‘Street Striker’ or numerous films and adverts though. For me his crowning glory was six series reciting variants of: ‘Get warmed up lads’ and ‘Alright, Gaffer?’ whilst playing himself, as the club’s first team coach.

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Ansah – wonderful Tekkers

I caught up with Andy a few years ago whilst writing a ‘Where Are They Now’ article for the Griffin Park match day programme. It goes without saying that the main topic of conversation was this wonderful, wonderful show. It was a truly privileged behind the scenes insight (and you can read more below) but, if I’m being equally honest, since finishing in 2007 the show has slipped from most people’s memory.

But then Wednesday saw Richie do his thing, even taking to Twitter where he noted, “Everytime I pass the Dragon’s Lair on the train at Millwall I get misty eyed. Bring it back @sky1”

Boom. Quicker than you could say Karl Fletcher, Lynda Block or Luis Amor-Rodriguez (think of a low budget Jota) the memories came flooding back.

Murder at the FA Cup final. The plane crash. The coach crash. The coach explosion at the Millennium Stadium. Liverpool (the real Liverpool) being linked in the papers with a £3.5 million swoop for Didier Baptiste back in 1999. Cue much egg on face when it transpired they weren’t actually bidding for a Monaco player but actually looking at a character from a TV show.

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L-R, John Black, Luis Amor-Rodriguez, Karl ‘Fletch’ Fletcher, Sean Hocknell

It wasn’t just me. Pick of the highlights to subsequently flood Twitter was that of @JohnDryden1 who noted: Lawlor in goal? That must of been after Jamie Parker held his team mates at gun point in the changing room.

As you do.

But now, ten years on, is it time to bring back Dream Team? Does Richie, a one time self-proclaimed soothsayer of scores, have his finger on the footballing pulse once again?
Would people watch it ? Yes, yes and yes have to be the answers to all three questions.

Sky 1, if you are reading (you probably aren’t ) how about it? Natalie Sawyer, any chance you could have a word with the bosses?  Andy Ansah (again, probably not reading), if anybody has the contacts it must be you?

With Griffin Park around the corner from Sky HQ and a new stadium on the horizon in Lionel Road, then what better time to bring this back with a progressive club filling the role of the new Harcehster? They’ve used Watford. They’ve used Millwall. They’ve even used Brentford (albeit as part of the May 2007 Open Day when a Harchester United team played the Community Sports Trust at Griffin Park.

How about Brentford doing it again – for real ?

If any show deserves a reboot, then Dream Team must be top of the list. If it worked for Doctor Who and Dallas then imagine what could be done now. Come on Sky, the world of football demands it.

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Andy dons the monogrammed tracksuit in his Harchester United days

And if anybody was in any doubt about the love for the show, this is what Andy Ansah himself had to say about it in that aforementioned interview:

Having finally retired from playing, all of a sudden Andy appeared on Sky one’s football based ‘drama’ series, Dream Team, playing himself at fictional club ‘Harchester United.’ A guilty pleasure for many viewers, myself included, but for all the wrong reasons! Wooden dialogue, outrageous plots and, as Andy himself offers, “The Lynda Blocks of this world”, its combination of beautiful women and real match action made it compulsive viewing for close to ten years. So how did he go from footballer to actor?

“I went to a Take That concert at Wembley, believe it or not. I made my decision then that I was going to retire from football. I met two people there and I said, ‘What do you do ?’ “ Oh, we do ‘extras’ work?” They were stand in doubles.

I thought that sounded interesting because I’d always liked acting and I love my films. Some friends of mine were on Dream Team doing the footballing extras although they were a lot younger than me. So I thought, ‘ok’, this is what I’m going to do. I’m going to stop playing pro-football, play a bit of part time, join ‘Dream Team’ and learn how to be an actor.

Subsequently, I joined as one of the football extras but because I was older than everyone else, I was thirty then whereas they were nineteen/twenty, I used to spend all my time with the directors and producers who were the same age. They used to ask questions about football all the time – how would we do this or that? I found myself directing the football for them and then within a year they made me the producer of football on Dream Team. It was crazy!”

Alongside the move to producer came a step up from ‘extra’ to acting role aswell, portraying the club’s assistant coach, Andy Ansah (!!) This also meant a few lines per show, with regular Ansah gems including takes on , “All right, you lot ! Get out on the field and warm up,” and “Leave it, gaffer. He’s not worth it.”

I put it to Andy that it must surely have been fun to be involved?

“I loved it, I loved it. Listen, it was brilliant. The show itself was low budget but it was built up on people. The people were fantastic and it had cult status. No matter how bad it was, you’d be able to say – I know who that is. That was Drogba’s goal for Chelsea against so and so. That’s what made it so much fun.

At the end, it kind of died a death. I was there for six years and when I left I was offered a Hollywood job with the film, “Goal”. That’s when I left and they ended up employing four different people to take up my one post on that show. That’s how much I did.”

As for those famous/infamous cameos? “The guys were great. Being honest, I should thank the likes of Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke and the West ham players. They mainly got me that producer role because I pulled in my contacts to get those guys on the show. One time, Andy had just got called back into the England squad and all the press were outside the training ground at Man United. I had to go and meet him at the training ground and came out the back door with Andy and Dwight , then drove to Stockport County so we could film them on Dream Team – for nothing. It was absolutely crazy. Can you imagine a footballer now using his image rights and saying, ‘I’ll come on your show for nothing’ but that’s how much of a cult status it was.”

After six seasons at Harchester United, ‘Goal’, and the lure of the silver screen proved too much, although not for the first time !

“Infact, whilst I was doing Dream Team, after two years I also did a film called : Mike Bassett England manager. I cast Terry Kiely from Dream Team (popular character, Karl Fletcher) and Scott Mean who used to play for West Ham to come and work on that film. I did all the choreography on that film myself, which was a big job! We shot at Wembley and also went to Brazil. I was there for almost two months, filming at the Maracana, Botafogo and everywhere.

It’s a hard job…!!”

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Bassett / Tomlinson – one of the many famous faces to film at Griffin Park

Nick Bruzon

Brilliant Bentley, play-offs, clappers and a special guest in the programme. What an afternoon.

30 Apr

Well, that was some afternoon. Brentford travelled to Fulham where a point was probably a fair result in a game we were lucky not to have gone in three or four down at half time but which ultimately ended 1-1. That they didn’t win will be the least concern for our hosts . With Leeds United going three down at home to Norwich City before eventually managing a point, those results mean that barring a staggering swing in goal difference, Fulham have reached the play-offs and we’ve another trip to Elland Road. And off field, did anybody pick up a copy of the match day programme…..?

First up though, congratulations to Fulham. Yes. It has to be said. A full house at Craven Cottage saw a cracking game of football as the hosts set out to ensure Leeds couldn’t catch them. What happened was as afternoon that will go down as on of those ‘I was  there’ days – for both sides.

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A full house saw a great game in a wonderful atmosphere

Easily one of the best teams to visit Brentford this season (Fulham, not Leeds), Saturday saw them come flying out of the blocks as they looked to get the win they needed to secure a play off spot. With Brentford on the back foot and being carved open for fun, it was only a matter of time before the first goal. Tom Cairney grabbed it after eight minutes and that was, surely, the cue for the floodgates to open?

With the Bees rocking, chance after chance came. Floyd Aite in particular firing so very high and so very wide when clean through. A second goal would have probably been fair on the balance of play but possession, stats and chances count for jack if you can’t put them away.

And sure enough, goal of the season contender Nico Yennaris stepped up. An interchange of passes with Konstantin Kerschbaumer saw the sweetest of finishes into the far corner on the diagonal from just inside the box.
1-1 and the Bees took the noise up another few decibels.

And a good thing too. The goal, obviously, but the even louder support for an already vociferous away following. Anything to drown out those infernal clackers/clappers. Those things that, if you check out the video highlights (and Sky Sports have their version up now), sound like hundreds of charity buckets being rattled.

But with Brentford having hauled themselves back in to it, charitable donations seemed to be the order of the day. How goalscorer Cairney didn’t restore Fulham’s lead I still have no idea. He was left totally unmarked, and I mean totally, 8 yards out but could only guide the inch perfect cross well wide of the goal. Daniel Bentley wasn’t even forced into a save.

Moments later, another chance. Referee Darren Bond awarding what seemed, at the time, a totally innocuous penalty against the Bees. The ball had been crossed in and was pinging around the middle, going nowhere, when he pointed to the spot.

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View from the stand. Penalty – obv

Even watching it afterwards, Yoann Barbet does make contact with Stephan Johansen but only as the ball had been delivered into the heart of the crowded penalty box.  Generous would seem very much the verdict on this one.

Step up Tom Cairney with another chance to let Fulham retake the lead. Step up Daniel Bentley to do his thing quite magnificently and show just why he is up there as a serious, serious contender for player of the season. Diving low to his left he not only pushed the ball clear but then made the bravest of second saves as he threw himself amongst the onrushing boots and onto the ball.

Yessss!  The away fans erupted. Again. The clackers were drowned out. Again. Fulham had seen another gilt edged chance spurned. Again. Daniel Bentley, you beauty.

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View from the stand – Brilliant Bentley does his thing

And with that, half time. Checking the scores saw Leeds United 3-1 down and as good as out. Despite our best efforts in the second period, both teams had really given their all and it couldn’t match the pace of the first. The highlight being a debut for Zain Westbrooke who, along side full backs Tom Field and Josh Clarke really marked a positive embrace of those who have come up from the youth set up and B team.

Sure enough, with the 90 played out and Leeds United all but shooting themselves in the foot, the hosts were happy enough to stroke it around their defence and settle for a point. Brentford fans stayed to applaud the players off (Lasse Vibe, Yoan Barbet and KK amongst those handing over their shirts and really taking in the moment – do we need to read anything into this?) before going off to settle for a pint. The fans, not the players.

Off the field, two moments of real note. Firstly, Matthew Benham taking to Twitter. Always a good thing when this happens, he put the kibosh on any prospect of Lionel Road Clackers.

Like Goal Music, another thing that will have to reside in the drawer labelled : Do not open. Ever.

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And secondly, forgive a bit of self-indulgence.

Back in January, my hitherto unseen identical twin brother Brian Guest saw a tweet from Fulham, looking for home supporters to participate in the ‘Your Club’ section of the matchday programme. This could be amusing (he told me) and applied. One thing led to another and along with a photo of Brian sporting the Spall ’87 Brentford away shirt, a series of tongue-in-cheek answers were submitted. Surely this would never get past the editor?

But it did. Brian’s selection was swiftly confirmed, “A while off but appropriately enough, for the Brentford game”.

Seriously? Had they actually read the answers?

A reminder of the 4-0 defeat at Brentford.  Mention of the recent 4-1 home hammering administered by Stuart Dallas, Alan Judge, Jota et al. The Intertoto Cup – prestige and honour.

It went on. The wonderful Michael Jackson statue appeared. The Pizza Hut shirt. The Richard Osman / Pointless ’joke’ –  something that should contractually be met with tumbleweed these days.

Surely somebody would then look at this and rumble it? Surely?

But no. Before even reaching the Cottage, one Braemar Road observer (and fellow fan of the World Polo finals – thanks!) had already been in touch. It had got through. Commentator par-excellence Mark Burridge then took to Twitter advising likewise. And on reaching the Cottage, there it was (part of which you can see below).

Big thanks Fulham. Seriously. The game may have ended 1-1 but all three points to the Bees off the field.

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Nick Bruzon

Who wants it most? There’s all to play for in West London today.

29 Apr

What a few days. There have been awards, goal of the season and of course a game or two coming up with Saturday seeing a huge day for West London football. Brentford travel to Fulham, hot on the heels of last weekend’s 3-1 win over QPR. It was an encounter which saw Jota’s latest stunner wrap up the points in a game where, at times, we played some quite sumptuous football yet at others Dan Bentley and the linesman kept us in it. However, the net result was anther three points for the Bees and QPR still flirting with relegation. As for Fulham…..

Well, what can you say? They are in with a very real chance of making the play offs, as it stands, and have even finished above Brentford for the first time in three seasons. The table doesn’t lie and they’ve slowly reeled in Leeds United et al to finally break into the top 6. A derby day win for them will all but mathematically see that play off spot guaranteed, with the gap to 7th (seventh) currently 3 points and +13 goal difference.

But Brentford have their own motivation. Fulham’s win at Griffin Park earlier this season was as decisive as a 2-0 scoreline could be. Much as it pains me to admit, they were one of the better teams to come to this part of West London and we were very much left in second place that night.

Equally painful, it saw their first win over us since both teams returned to the Championship – albeit from different directions. Prior to that one, 2014/15 had seen Jota do his thing in the last minute at Griffin Park and that screamer from Stuart Dallas very much the pick of the bunch in a 4-1 rout at The Cottage. Last time out, only an errant linesman denied us all three points away from home with Jota ruled offside as he headed it in for 3-2. The return fixture saw the season come to an end in some style – Tom Field making his debut and Sam Saunders getting us of to a flier as we were three goals clear by half time to comfortably wrap up the points.

View from the stand - Stuart Dallas celebrates doing that thing.....

View from the terrace – Stuart Dallas after doing that thing at The Cottage…

The Bees were crowned Kings of West London. Again. Then this season happened. With David Button between the sticks, Fulham have had the honours.  A return to winning ways will be very much the requirement. The possibility of a nil points against these neighbours, moreso given such strong previous form, is just not on the agenda.

Then there’s the current table. The Bees are just two points and one place off last season’s points total with the potential to finish a place higher than our previous 9th. What a wonderful incentive to go for it. And that’s without pooping a party.

For the last month or so it has become apparent that Fulham are heading upwards. Crashing this one and doing Leeds United a favour, no matter how distasteful that might seem, is a very real possibility and has long been something many fans have been aware of. Now the game is here and that chance is available for both teams. Who will take it? At 3pm we find out….

As for QPR, they host fellow bottom six side Nottingham Forest still needing two points to guarantee safety (third bottom Blackburn, needing two wins themselves, have too close a goal difference for a draw to be sufficient). With Rangers in freefall, current form of LLLLLL leaves them with nobody to blame but themselves for their predicament.

Much as the situation is a novel one, they won’t go down. Birmingham City are just horrific whilst Blackburn still need six points from a season that concludes with a trip to Griffin Park That said, wins today for Mark Warburton, Birmingham and Blackburn could make the final round of games very interesting indeed.

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Can Fulham make the play offs, Brentford beat last season or QPR stay up?

All that of course is to unfold later today. However, there’s been plenty to keep us intrigued over the last few days. Alongside the Player Of The Year vote, supporters are now able to nominate their winner for goal of the season.

Oh, wow. If picking POTY was tough then this is another level of hard. I struggled to draw up a shortlist, let alone select a winner. They are, all ten, corkers. The build up play and finish for Josh Clarke v Reading, Nico’s piledriver in the Birmingham City game, Lasse Vibe finishing off the most incredible run from Sergi Canos at Forest or Jota’s recent pair against Derby County and QPR.

In the end, it’s just been an excuse to watch the video again. And again. The level of Burridgegasm also being an added help. The more excitable our commentator par-excellence gets, the better the goal seems to be has become a handy yardstick when trying to rank these in some sort of order.

In the end, I’ve voted. It had to be Jota. It had to be QPR. Derby County was that close and I’ve swung back and forth between the two of them yet, in the end, the way he collected Nico’s wonderful pass was the deciding factor.

That’s my opinion. Yours will quite likely, and quite rightly, be different. All we can say for sure is that whoever gets it will be a worthy recipient. You can see the video below and vote here.

Which is top of the pile?

Next up, awards. It was a double celebration for the club yesterday as the EFL have awarded us both their Family Excellence Award for the 2016/17 season aswell as the Friendliest Club Staff Award. Particular recognition has been given to both the ticket office staff and the stewards in the family enclosure.

One can’t begin to stress how deserved these awards are. Part of the pleasure in supporting Brentford FC comes from our wonderful family atmosphere. The club, players and staff cannot do enough for supporters – of all ages. The ‘meet the players’ pre-season event and Junior Bees Christmas party are staples on our calendar whilst who doesn’t get excited, young or old, when receiving a high five or fist bump from Buzz and Buzzette?

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Buzzette always makes time for fans – of all ages

The players and staff never fail to stop for an autograph or photo  – whether in the ground or in the street – an attitude that courses through all echelons of club. We’ve had supporters heavily involved in the kit launch this season whilst the care and attention shown to the match day mascots is just staggering.

What could have been quite an intimidating experience for a three year old – walking out in front of over 10,000 supporters – turned into one of the best days of his life. Big thanks there, again, to Harlee Dean and apologies once more for the lollipop covered hands you had to hold walking out (that’s HB, not me).

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The smile says its all (apologies again for the sticky fingers)

Then you’ve got kitman Bob Oteng. His own BBgiveaway is the stuff of legend but even outside of this he is a cult figure among Bees fans. His reaction to those who regularly sing his name at away games as he goes where he wants on the visitor’s pitch is always wonderful. Even the likes of Chief Executive Mark Devlin, Chairman Cliff Crown or Mr Benham himself consistently take time to respond to and interact with fans on social media.

As for the ticket office staff ! Special mention and rightly so. We’ve all had some form of interaction with them. We all know just how incredible the level of service they offer is . We all know how consistently friendly and helpful they are. Doing what could be deemed a somewhat stressful job – given how demand often outstrips supply – isn’t something I’d be able to cope with.

I could go on. But instead, why not read the official take on the awards which you can find on Brentford ‘official’?

And finally, Billy Reeves & Grown Men In Tears have closed the door on the Welcome Home, King Jota charity single. The video has come down from YouTube and the song is no longer available for download.

The net result has been a donation of £350 for Prostate Cancer Research. As Billy noted himself on Twitter yesterday, “not bad 4 an arvo’s fun

Not bad indeed, Billy.

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Billy shares the news, and the love, yesterday

Nick Bruzon

Welcome Home, King Jota. Majestic finish completes another derby day defeat of QPR.

23 Apr

Where do you start with this one? The scoreline? Brentford 3 QPR 1. The record? Three wins out of four in Brentford’s favour since our paths crossed again in the Championship. The current form guide? That’s LLLLLL for a QPR side who are by no means out of the relegation woods yet and entertain fellow strugglers Nottingham Forest next up. Or that man, Jota?

There was a welcome home, with very open arms, to the King yesterday and didn’t he repay his adoring subjects back in style? If his second goal against Derby County last time we were all at Griffin Park was something special, yesterday’s is one where words really can’t do it justice.

A delightful cross field ball from Nico found the King of Spain whose first touch, past Jake Bidwell, was simply magnificent. With the ball  travelling straight towards him he knocked it forward, mid air, already running and then picked it up once more the other side of the former Bee. Cutting into the box, as against Derby, he then shot through three defenders and past the ‘keeper for a goal that sent Griffin Park bonkers. It was a thing of absolute beauty  – from the control, at speed, on the first touch to the jinking through the defence and net rippling denouement.

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As seen on / stolen from Brentford official. Nice.

Oh, the smile on his face. The noise from the crowd as the scoreboard moved up to 3-1. Former Bee and one time QPR player Les Ferdinand, sitting up in the director’s box, could only applaud the majestic finish from the Spaniard. He is quite possibly the most exciting and skillful player we’ve ever had the pleasure of watching at Griffin Park. Jota, not Les.

One could well understand the exhilaration of the moment causing him to take his shirt off and earn the mandatory yellow card. We all know the rules but nobody cared.

Let’s not overlook the pass from Nico that started the move either. Like Ryan Woods yesterday, perhaps one of the unsung heroes from this game, but the accuracy of his delivery from a good 40 yards was the catalyst to this goal.

Prior to this Yoann Barbet had given the Bees a lead in a cagey first half where, perhaps, the visitors had the slightly better chances. Daniel Bentley was called upon to make a couple of smart reaction saves, a feat repeated during a second period that saw an additional 7(seven) minutes of injury time added on. By then, though, it was far too little, far too late.

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View from the Braemar. QPR try to get stuck in during the first half

Jota had doubled our lead from the penalty spot following a foul on Max Colin and whilst the reply from the visitors for 2-1 was almost immediate, they’d barely finished celebrating before the Nico and Jota show graced Griffin Park. I cannot wait to hear what Mark Burridge and co on the Beesplayer team made of this one when the highlights go live at lunchtime. Until then Sky have the best of the action, including one for the visitors that definitely didn’t cross the line (who needs goal line technology?).

But, really, like Burton away (one imagines!) it was the sort of game and the sort of atmosphere where watching on TV can only part replicate the moment. A full house in the sunshine saw Dean Smith’s boys go for it as supporters and players alike delighted in returning Ian Holloway his pre-season prediction in a giftbox . With a card. Marked three points.

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Even the fanzine sellers made their point to Mr Holloway

On a weekend that saw Billy Reeves, Adam Devlin and Rich Archer forming their super group Grown Men in Tears to release the wonderful ‘Welcome Home, King Jota’ for charity (and PLEASE, rush out and buy this before it is deleted on Friday – all proceeds from the 79p download go to Cancer Research UK) , there was no irony lost at the charitable donation made by QPR. To Brentford.

Another three points. A 237 derby double over our near neighbours. What was, by all accounts, a somewhat emotional post match press conference from Ian Holloway (oh, to have been with the journalists for that one). But best of all, Brentford up to 9th in the Championship table. With two games to go we’ve a very real prospect of a third top ten finish and even creeping into 8th to overtake last season’s final slot.

That’s all to look forward to though. For now, let’s just enjoy the moment once more.

Welcome home, King Jota.

Please don’t go anywhere.

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A full house and returning favourite were blown away by the king

Nick Bruzon

Rams raided in demolition derby. The Great Dane and King of Spain inspire killer Bees.

14 Apr

Sometimes, there’s nothing you can do but stand back and gasp in awe. There’s Good Friday and then there’s this. Bloody Marvellous Friday. Brentford swept Derby County aside by 4-0. It was a scoreline which, if anything, underplays just how complete a team performance this was. Barnsley should be quaking in their boots if we can even half replicate this one on Monday.

Three hours after full time and I’m still staggered by just how beautiful that was. We’ve spoken all season about what would happen if the Bees could play a full 90 minutes at full tempo. Well, here was the answer. And boy, wasn’t it a joy to behold?

“A game of two halves. And Derby weren’t in either” . Not my words but those of one New Road observer. Top comment from a top cat. He really couldn’t have summarised it in a more poetic or appropriate fashion. Sentiments shared at the bar of The Griffin post game, where the first comment I heard was one of , “4-0? 4. 0. To Brentford? Just what’s that all about?”

Ah. The tale of the unfancied and underestimated underdog being played out yet again. Derby committing the fatal mistake of playing the reputation (a traditional mid tier three outfit) rather than the team in front of them (a free scoring XI with the tastiest wings this side of Colonel Sanders).

Oh, Jota. Could we love this man any more? Every time you think he’s reached his peak he then goes one better. Or, in this case, two. His opening goal, to double Lasse Vibe’s first half opener (one that the Spaniard himself had provided the assist for) was beautifully taken. But the second, to hammer home the four goal advantage, was up there with the best of them.

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View from the Braemar. Jota points the way

The King of Spain let the ball slide one way past the hapless Richard Keogh, the player himself going the other, before reuniting with the ball. It was a moment to take the breath away and as close to Pele in 1970 or Maradona against England in 1986 as one could hope to see in West London.

But then, with supporters gasping for air, he completed the stranglehold. On Derby, that is . From a seemingly impossible angle he fired home from the corner of the six yard box, through three defenders, past the ‘keeper, across the goal and into the net at the back stick.

How the crowd roared. How the king, arms aloft, soared. Grown men gasped. The director’s box, to a man (and woman) stood as one. Acknowledging a moment that truly was the crown jewel in a consumate performance.

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The Bees line up to celebrate with the man of the moment

Between Jota’s pair, Lasse Vibe had made it 3-0. His shot from outside the box already wrapping things up and leaving the Great Dane on the cusp of what would, possibly should, have been a well deserved hat-trick. Scott who? With the greatest of respect to the former Bee, Lasse has well and truly proven what he can do and what a great piece of business that Matthew and the team pulled off back in January.

But just as against Leeds United, to overly single out any one payer would be unfair. It was one of those performances where we saw just how good Dean Smith’s team is. The difference being that, whilst both games saw great Bees’ performances, this time we kept it going for the full 90. Indeed, if anything, we actually accelerated.

Marcus Gayle summed things up nicely at full time . His twitter analysis encapsulated it in succinct fashion. “That was the most complete 90 min team performance by @BrentfordFC this season – full of confidence,creativeness and goals at  Grifffin Park

If you were there, you know what happened. If you weren’t, then my condolences. It really was THAT good. As ever, the BBC, Brentford ‘official’ or Beesotted are amongst the sources to get your full fat match report.

The next game can’t come soon enough. The trip to Barnsley may be a long one but if Brentford put in even half the shift they did today, then three points are the least we’ll come home with.

That’s for Monday, though. For now, it’s a chance to maybe play those goals once more. Sky sports have the video up now on their internet page, with Bees Player to follow tomorrow.

I can’t wait to hear what Mark Burridge made of this one.

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Derby were yards behind us, in both halves

Nick Bruzon

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

6 Apr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Keith Stroud – we all know the drill

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

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

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

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

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

Can a leopard change his spots? You never know.

 

Nick Bruzon

Bees got that vibe as that man beats Robins.

2 Apr

Another Saturday, another win. Brentford eased past a hapless Bristol City side 2-0 as though they weren’t even there. And in truth, for most of their first half showing, they weren’t. It was another game where we were left waiting for the consummate 90 minute performance. That’s no criticism. Perhaps with the game well safe and Tuesday night’s visit from Leeds United in mind, one can understand us slipping back down into cruise control. At the end of the day, Clive, Dean Smith will rightly point to a clean sheet, a dominant (if somewhat restrained) display, two goals and a clean sheet. And I defy any fan to tell me they wouldn’t have taken that if offered before kick off?

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View from the Braemar – Romaine Sawyers got stuck in to City (c/o Tim Griffiths, thanks!)

As ever, get your full fat match reports on the BBC, Brentford official, Beesotted etc. Those of us that were there would have seen a game that was never in doubt from the off and was all but wrapped when Lasse Vibe doubled the scoreline on 26 minutes. This, after Sergi picked up where he’d left off at Burton Albion.

The spaniard’s opener one that Brentford fans were relieved to see in more ways than one after Joe Bryan had scythed through the wing wizard leaving him prostrate in agony. For a while it looked like our man of the moment was in all sorts of trouble. “I heard that one from up here”, one observer at the back of the Braemar Road would later note. For those of us on the touchline, right in front of where the incident occurred, there were most definitely hearts in mouths

You’re Donald Trump, you are”, shouted one young fan at referee Simon Hooper. The yellow card waved at the Bristol City man engendering the wrath of supporters who had been closer to the assault than the man in the middle. Thankfully, the enthusiastic young Bee (Sergi, rather than our own political commentator) was soon back on his feet to administer the perfect payback – an opening goal as he fired home from a parried free kick on 18 minutes.

Lasse Vibe soon made it two, heading home from a ball that was fired forward into the box, flicked up as it continued it’s journey to the back of the bet and finally steered home by the Great Dane. It was due reward not only for the Brentford faithful as for two IFK Göteborg fans who had come across to see their former favourite in action.

Interestingly, Lasse’s own own strike rate in Brentford colours of 0.367 (25 goals in 68) is now just behind that of Andre Gray on 0.38 (18 in 47). However, to see just how prolific he has been (Will Grigg supporters, please take note of this true definition of ‘on fire‘) , Brentford official nailed things wonderfully.

After that, we were all expecting it to be a question of how many Brentford chose to inflict upon the visitors. Instead, as the one-sided first half came to an end,  we sat back and waited for Leeds United. Sure, City hit the bar and the post in some rare sorties but, in truth, they could still be playing now and one can only imagine they’d have struggled to hit a barn door with a proverbial banjo. They really were that far out of their depth.

As ever, Sky TV have the video highlights up already. Alternatively, the official highlights are longer, have the commentary from none other than our own Mark Burridge and, more importantly, are now available to all.

We’ve got that Vibe. And that Canos. And Mark Burridge

Outside the ground, there was a stranger than usual vibe. Choruses of  “No surrender, No surrender to the IRA” ringing around the beer garden of The Griffin in a somewhat unusual choice of prematch song from Robin’s supporters. Seriously? In 2017 this one seemed about thirty years past its sell by date. Likewise, whilst perhaps more understandable, there seemed to be a lot of agitation towards Bristol Rovers. This is Brentford. Who? Cares?

As the aforementioned Braemar Road observer would also note – “How bad do things have to be that you hate, actually HATE, Bristol Rovers?” . A team about as inoffensive to most as pink unicorns or the Care Bears.  Despite the divisional gap (for now) it did seem as though they had somewhat of a huge inferiority complex. Yeah, we get it. You hate Bristol Rovers. Yawn.  Then again, geography counts for a lot. An awful lot. Perhaps Rovers being to City as Mrs Brown and her boys or the Loftus Road mob are to yours truly.

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City supporters in happier mood at full time, despite sliding down (the table)

Oh well, perhaps they can sort it out amongst themselves in League One next season. That’s assuming City aren’t overtaken, of course. With Rovers just two wins away from the League One play offs, there’s only one point separating fourth bottom City from the relegation places in the Championship. As for Brentford, we’re up to twelfth and the knowledge that a win over Leeds United on Tuesday night could see us back in the top ten.

Beating Leeds United will be a huge ask, of course. But their own defeat to play-off rivals Reading yesterday shows it is possible, despite the goal scoring prowess of Chris Wood. With a place in the play offs all but assured, can we use this one to continue our own upward trajectory? The Bees are three points clear of QPR and Fulham have to be next in the sights. With games against both still to come, the crown of Championship kings of West London (one worn by the Bees last season) is still, mathematically, up for grabs.

If anybody was in any doubt as to what we still have to play for, Beesplayer commentator par excellence Mark Burridge summed things up perfectly once the dust had settled . “Still lots to play for, another top 10 finish & win the derby games – so much to look forward to for Brentford FC fans next season too” he opined on social media.

Well said, Mark. With just 7(seven) games to go, the season still has plenty to offer. On Tuesday night at Griffin Park we find out how much.

Nick Bruzon 

From the ridiculous to the sublime. Did that just happen?

18 Mar

Burton Albion 3 Brentford 5. Let’s just repeat that, for clarity.  Burton Albion 3 Brentford 5.

Now let’s look at the half-time score. Burton Albion 3 Brentford 1 (not a typo).

“The whole of the Smith era summed up in 90 mins”. They aren’t my words but those of regular Last Word correspondent Bernard Quackenbush. In a season where Brentford’s search for consistency has been one of the themes on these pages, BQ seems to have hit the nail on the head. For every Rotherham ‘away’ has been a win at Brighton. For every Wolves ‘home’ has been victory at Nottingham Forest. And now for every first half at Burton has been a second half at Burton.

I can’t comment on the game specifically. I wasn’t there. I should have been. We have a rule in our house that once something is on the calendar, that’s it. It is agreed and set in stone. When I check it even now, there you go. Saturday 18 March and one word. ‘Football’.

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Does anybody have any plans for Monday?

But then something happened. A rogue entry appeared on the schedule. Also on Saturday 18 March. And in our family only one person wears the trousers. Without naming names let’s just put it this way – there’s only Pepe 2 behind your’s truly in the pecking order. And he’s a cat.

So my attendance at today’s game has had to go for a Burton. Still, what was the worst that could happen? Indeed, at half-time I was that close to thanking Mrs Bruzon (I mean, Person X).Brentford were on the wrong end of a 3-1 deficit that, from watching the subsequent video highlights on the internet c/o Sky, was as close to a masterclass in how not to defend set pieces as one could expect to see.

Then half time happened. With tweets including the phrase “We go again” already being prepped and the Bees facing an even more ignominious fate than being humped by Burton, that of being overtaken in the table by QPR, there was no way back. Surely?

Yet four goals without reply put the Bees on the brink of brackets and has sent Twitter into meltdown. I have no idea what Dean Smith said in the changing room but credit to him for sticking with the same XI that started the first. They got us into it, could they get us out? The answer being an emphatic “Yes”.

Soccer Saturday on Sky would describe Sergi’s second, that to make it 3-3, as being scored from an impossibly tight angle. Whilst it wasn’t quite a volley akin to Marco Van Basten or Gary Alexander for Crawley against Peterborough (I’m not joking), the angle was as acute as you could expect. More was to follow with who else but Jota adding to braces from Sergi and Lasse Vibe. Albeit in the 86th rather than the last minute. Hey, that’s just being picky.

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Jota. Who else. Sky TV capture the moment.

Check out the BBC , Brentford ‘official’ or Beesotted for the match report. Or just watch the Sky highlights. Personally, I can’t wait for the Mark Burridge infused full-fat YouTube clip tomorrow lunchtime.

Brentford. From the ridiculous to the sublime. At times we are infuriating. We’re very much inconsistent. But nobody could deny we aren’t exciting and there’s never a dull moment.  And this one was up with the best of them. Even following from home you could sense something special unfolding. One can only imagine how wonderful to have been there for this one.

Indeed with fans on the way home reporting Sergi Canos, one of the men of the moment, at the railway station and posing for photos with supporters it just tells you all you need to know about our club.

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Yes. He really was. Sergi – what a man

With Bristol City next up, who knows what will happen then? You’d need to be Nostradamus to call that one and, frankly, I’ve given up trying.

Well played lads. If ever a reminder were needed that football is a game of two halves then here it was. As official noted at full time….

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I can’t top that. A safe journey back to all those fortunate enough to have travelled.

Nick Bruzon

With a jinx lurking, can Dean make it so when Huddersfield visit?

11 Mar

What an afternoon it promises to be at Griffin Park. Huddersfield Town are the visitors as Brentford look to make it 13 points out of the last 15 and increase upon a goalscoring record that has seen us nab 20 goals in the 8 games since Scott Hogan departed. With the Terriers hitting the back of the net 14 times over the same period, this could be one to keep the scorekeepers busy and little Italian restaurants (by Brentford lock) in the public eye. With Brighton joining Newcastle United at the top of the Championship table following last night’s 3-0 win over Derby, nothing but a win will do for our third placed visitors.

So what can we expect? Short of any midweek injuries after our fine win at Nottingham Forest, surely Dean Smith has no choice but to name the same starting XI. Jota continued to grab the headlines but the incredible run from Sergi Canos to set up the second was my highlight of the highlights whilst Lasse Vibe continues to flourish up top since the departure of Scott and got two more goals.

There will no doubt be expectation on the terraces for Jota to prove a point after missing out on the Championship player of the month to Aiden McGeady of Preston. The Spaniard’s five goals, two assists and bucketloads of exciting play being deemed secondary to three goals, four assists and keeping North End within optimistic distance of the play-off pack.

Personally, I can only imagine Jota’s motivation being enjoyment rather than revenge or point proving. Since his return from that loan period with Eibar, he more than lived up to his word in that emotional farewell letter. Not only has he returned but he has come back bigger and better than ever. He gives the impression of a man who plays for the sheer fun of it and boy do the fans lap up his enthusiasm.

With Sergi Canos doing the same on the other flank (thanks to Alex Neil for sanctioning that sale and just not playing Sergi before his own departure form Norwich yesterday) these remain exciting times at Brentford. “I think it is a fun team to watch” he said yesterday. Spot on, Sergi. Here’s to more of the same today.

As for Huddersfield Town, what can we expect? Well, if the Bees were disappointed about our lack of award for Jota, we’ve been handed a massive boost by Terriers’ boss David Wagner being named manager of the month for February.

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David Wagner is the latest to face the ‘Manager of the month’ jinx

There can’t be a football fan the land over who isn’t aware of the supposed jinx/curse (call it what you will) that accompanies this award. Pick up the honour, lose your next game.

With Brighton adding to the pressure last night by moving 9 points clear of third placed Huddersfield, could the weight of this trophy further crank up the tension for the Terriers? Forget David. Once that award is presented Wagner of X-factor fame would have more chance of coaching a winning team than the recipient of the trophy.

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Wagner – remember him?

And what of the other big name for Town? Well, if it was a case of Brentford saying #WelcomeGraham last week (Gooch, that is, in the Bees player commentary box), could there be more star names making the trek to Mark Burridge’s lofty perch today?

Sir Patrick Stewart is, of course, an avid fan of Huddersfield Town and not averse to visiting Griffin Park. Yet with promotional duties for the new Wolverine film, Logan, currently occupying his time in the States, it seems he’ll be missing this one out (unless, of course, he’s hot footing it across to Heathrow on the overnight red eye).

Instead, we’ll have to be content with shared tweet of the week (at least, it was until that BBC news video went viral) for those wanting a glimpse of the man best known as Captain Picard or Professor X.

As for the Bees, can we make it 4 wins out of 5? Here’s hoping Dean Smith can make it so.(I’ll get my coat)

At 3pm, we find out. See you at Griffin Park.

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Sir Patrick Stewart – somewhat harsh from Shaz

Nick Bruzon 

Absolute football and an absolute tonking. Bees sting Forest (?!) as fake champions crash out.

8 Mar

What can you say after that? The Last Word was due to be on temporary hiatus this week (hence no update on the 1-1 from Portman Road) but another away win for Brentford, and in such wonderful style, has prompted an early return. With most of the football world focussing on Arsenal receiving another 5-1 tonking at the hands of Bayern Munich (the Germans romping to a 10-2 aggregate defeat and what happens when you allow non-champions in the Champions League) those outside TW8 probably won’t pay much notice to the defeat of Nottingham Forest. A 3-2 win for Brentford at the City Ground as the Bees made it 10 points from the last 12 saw the Tricky Trees prove anything but, save for a brief flurry as the game reached a denouement that was probably more fraught than it needed to be.

To read the rest of this article, season 2016/17 is now available for download on e-book in the retrospective: Welcome Home, King Jota (Brentford FC season review 2016/17)

Priced at just £1.99, all sales are being donated to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust.

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

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

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Jota – carried on at Forest where he left off at Griffin Park

Even Alan Jugde (not a typo) was spotted in attendance.

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There are just too many questions

 

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Absolute Radio. No Bees but talked about Arsenal at ten to seven, ten to eight etc

Nick Bruzon