Tag Archives: Mark Devlin

The many reasons we must win. The one reason we will.

10 Nov

Saturday morning and the 237 derby awaits. West London’s finest, and also QPR, prepare to do battle. With tier-gate resolved and the away-end sold out (barring a few £37 ‘restricted view’ seats), Brentford can prepare for the trip to Loftus Road in high spirits. Last weekend’s dominant performance saw The Bees back to winning ways and assuredly looking to pick up where we left off against Millwall. That one finished 2-0 and could easily have been double, but for the woodwork. Yet in a build-up that has been dominated by Friday’s news of Chief Executive Mark Devlin announcing his own departure from Griffin Park after 7 (seven) years, are we all missing out on the key factor that may decide this one?

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Off to Loftus Road again

First up, Mark Devlin. We’ve by now all heard the news of his own forthcoming departure which was shared yesterday morning. We’ve all read the praise being lavished upon Mark by everyone from Bees United to Matthew Benham and beyond. Understandably. The strides that Brentford have made in the last 7 (seven) years have been quite incredible. In no small part helped by his enthusiasm and dedication. His time taken to talk to anyone about everything – a spirit which continues to run through the club.

I’ve often maintained that if you want to know something at Brentford, just ask. Mark typifies this approach – where confidentiality allows, of course – whilst few could deny his openness with the fans at the forums, responding to email, on social media or in person. He’s a regular on the forecourt when there’s a game and will always stop for a chat. How many other clubs are fortunate enough to have this level of approachability from one of the men at the very top? There’s nobody doubting how much he’ll be missed whilst, personally, I’ll now need to find somebody else to harangue about the new kit. Good luck Mark. And thank you. Our loss is very much somebody else’s gain – even if it is Twitter spambots…

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Open comms. On any subject !!

Before he goes, Mark has one last QPR match to sit through. Which of his teams (wink emoji) will emerge with the points today? Brentford, obviously. Aside from our own strength and goal scoring potential, Nico Yennaris used his own appearance at the press conference to reveal how the team were fully aware of what this one means to the fans.

He explained how, “We know the importance of the game. Peter Gilham reiterates that every time we play QPR ; how important it is …the likes of myself, we’ve heard it enough from Pete but it’s the new guys coming in. The one’s that haven’t really been involved in a QPR – Brentford game. He lets them know aswell…”   

If anyone knows the history between the two clubs then it’s Peter. The story of the failed takeover can’t be told enough. It’s over fifty years on from that now yet still things remain fresh. In part helped by QPR’s own ‘accidental’ celebration of this event on their own programme cover last year. Something that their own head of media would subsequently explain, “Isn’t about inciting anyone – just charting our history at LR in chronological order”. This, before going on share how the dog had just eaten his homework and he’d left his P.E. kit on the bus. Probably.

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Old news on the programme cover. And the failed takeover

But then its all about the excuses with them. Who could forget the time they accidentally breached FFP rules after running up a deficit of £9.8 m aswell as owner Tony Fernandes and other shareholders writing off a £60m loan? October 2017 saw the £58m fine deemed not disproportionate and upheld. This, despite Fernandes’ earlier assertion that “My view has been consistent, that it is very unfair for a club that has been relegated as the wage difference between the Premier League and Championship is impossible. There should be a time period for clubs to rectify their salaries.

 “If we were in the Championship in two years with that wage bill it wouldn’t be right. I’m in favour of FFP but it is unfair for a club coming down.”

Ahhh. Poor QPR. If you can’t beat ‘em, cheat ‘em. In the end, the club and football league settled on a ‘mere’ £42m which included a £17m fine, amongst other measures. Perhaps a somewhat fortunate escape for a club who employed Harry Redknapp.

Whilst we all know this of course, there’s no harm reminding ourselves of the context. Moreso given our own efforts to comply with the financial regulations imposed on EFL clubs have often resulted in our own stars being sold to ensure compliance and fair play.

Recent form is very much with Brentford going in to today’s big game. Of the last 8 league and cup encounters, the record read W5 D2 L1 in favour of Brentford. The solitary blip in that run being Dean’s Smiths attempt to play Alan Judge as a false 9 in a 4-6-0 formation whilst the highlight being our April 2017 destruction of Rangers at Griffin Park. With Jota in inspired form that day, a 3-1 win was about as generous a scoreline to the visitors as they come.

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I wouldn’t disagree

I predict more of the same this afternoon. Forget form. Forget rivalry. Forget everything. There’s one fact more telling than any motivational speech Peter Gilham may give. More important than whether Thomas Frank starts with Yoann or Moses, Luke or Dan, Sergi or Said.

Put simply, Steve McClaren has just been named manager of the month for October.

What magnificent timing for yesterday’s announcement! Could it have been any better? We all know how this one works. Scoop the prize, fail to lose your next game. It’s a jjnx as long established as not shaving on a winning run, wearing the magic shirt, pulling on the lucky pants or whatever your own particular match day-ritual is. Yet none come bigger than having to make the awkward pose with the trophy, safe in the knowledge that the next points are sliding down the drain.

I’m pretty sure it’s a scientific fact. But don’t quote me on that. What you can quote me on is that this will be another three points for Brentford. I don’t want to rain on Steve McClaren’s parade but back-to-back wins are heading our way. Roll on 3pm when it all starts again.

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Incredible but true. It really has happened

Nick Bruzon 

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Team 54 becomes team 65 as Bees welcome new boss and Gibraltar go again.

17 Oct

Well that’s been all go yesterday. With Dean Smith having joined Aston Villa last week, Brentford announced the news that everybody associated with TW8 was expecting – namely, the appointment of Thomas Frank as the new head coach. With Leeds United fans still, seemingly, upset about the performance of ref Jeremy Simpson during our recent draw at Elland Road, their goalscorer Pontus Jansson is facing an FA charge for his own post-match comments. Over in Europe the UEFA Nations league has dominated international break with the headlines being made not by the new-fangled theme tune but by Gibraltar, who have broken their international duck in some style.

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Thomas opted for ‘signing shirt’ rather than ‘scarf aloft’ or ‘fake contract’

First up though, Thomas Frank has now been named as the new Brentford head coach. It is news which has surprised nobody, despite the best efforts of the bookmakers to talk up anyone from Roberto di Matteo to Marinus Dijkhuizen (pity anybody who ‘invested’ there at the terrifying odds of just 33-1). With Thomas being an integral part of the Griffin Park back room staff since December 2016, and his clearly visible role on match days, there was really only ever one name in the frame. Continuity being the absolute name of the game here.

Chief executive Mark Devlin used Twitter to reflect that : Thomas has been an integral part of our development over the past two years and deserves this opportunity.

Co-director of football Rasmus Ankersen followed up his own words at last week’s fan forum by noting how: “Thomas knows the Club’s strategy inside out and he is both respected and supported by players and staff at the Training Ground. He has played a major role in the development of our style of play over the past couple of years and we believe he is ready for the job as Head Coach.”

You can read that article in full on ‘official’. Albeit, I can’t imagine there are many who haven’t been there yet.

Yet the most intriguing tweet comes from Jonathan Burchill, whose statistical nuances are very much in the line of a Luis Melville when it comes to niche. And then some. He notes how : In last 40 years Brentford have had 4 promotions. 3 of the successful managers were internal club appointments: Warbs (13-14), Andy Scott (08-09) & Phil Holder (91-92).  The 4th being the promotion season of 98-99 where Noades appointed himself.

It’s an obvious appointment. It’s a sound appointment. The players know and respect Thomas. The fans are familiar. There’ll be no tip-toeing around getting to know each other. As pertinent, and as Jonathan noted, we’ve considerable success at Griffin Park doing things this way. Whilst I’m just the numpty on the terrace, this one seems a complete no-brainer even to me.

The only two questions I have at present are, firstly, whether Thomas will continue with rotating the captaincy? One would assume so, given the talk about this at the fan forum. Equally though, as an idea that Phil Giles confirmed was originally put forward by Dean Smith is it one Thomas will take forward? I hope so. If only to see Neal Maupay given the role at St. Andrews or for the return Leeds United match.

Secondly, and perhaps the most important of all. What will his match day attire consist of? Tracksuit manager, sports-casual or smart suit. Whilst current indications suggest the former, who knows what difference the new role might make to his own sartorial stylings. Roll on 3pm Saturday when we find out.

As for Leeds United, we’ve skipped over the post-match nonsense and barracking of Jeremy Simpson on these pages since that game. Largely because its all a bit pointless.

Shocking news –  supporters feel hard done by and blame referee for both their own inability to win a game and recent blip in form after a storming start to the season. Who’d have thought it?  Seemingly, one (correct) penalty decision given to tinpot/little etc etc Brentford is the reason for their own slip from the automatic positons into the play-off zone. Something that, for the record, I am sure will only be a temporary one.  

Pontus Jansson, their goalscorer that day, has now been charged by the FA (as have the club for fans throwing objects at Neal Maupay) after accusing the referee of ‘robbery’ and saying on live TV that the result felt a bit ‘shit’.  There’s talk of conspiracy, too. Seriously? Get a grip. They’ll no doubt get over it. Jansson will no doubt be found guilty of charges he has until 5pm today (Wednesday) to respond to. Leeds will no doubt be there or thereabouts at the end of the season. They’re too strong. They’ve too much backing and Sky Sports love them (another game moved now, along with our own Monday night trip to West Brom. Joy). What conspiracy?

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Neal’s penalty was well received by players and fans alike

I could rant. They can rant. They can nibble at the obvious fishing-rod emoji. It’ll change nothing. Let’s focus on ourselves. Let’s be gutted by not taking three points in a game that was there for the taking. Let’s see how Thomas rallies the troops to go one better at home to Bristol City on Saturday.

Next up, Gibraltar. Wow. After 22 consecutive losses in competitive football since they became the 54thmember of UEFA back in May 2013, the tiny nation (think an international Brentford if you want some comparison of general commentating cliché and relative size) has finally won a first game. And then another. Much like our own 65 bus, you wait ages and then two come along at once.

Saturday’s 1-0 win in Armenia was followed up by last night’s 2-1 win at home to Liechtenstein. A first ‘official’ win on home soil (friendlies not counting) and the first time they have scored more than two goals in a game. It was wonderful stuff to watch and about as tense as it comes with an additional 6 minutes of stoppage time added at the end.

Sky sports may wind us up with their Leeds United obsession or fixture shenanigans but the ‘blue button’ option was a life saver last night. Fuzzy feed from Gibraltar being beamed directly into sub-channel six and an opportunity to watch history being made. Sensational stuff.

Sensational, that is, until the ref blew for full time. Within about ten seconds the post match euphoria had been killed. Instead of players celebrating or excited interviews, the live stream was replaced by the footballing equivalent of the test card.

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Talk about a post-match passion killer

What can you do?  With Armenia beating group leaders Macedonia, this one is suddenly wide open. Miracles can happen. Gibraltar are now vying for top slot in group D4 and promotion to Group C where they may then be afforded the chance to play some of the bigger teams in Europe. Or Scotland.

All that’s a long way off. For now, it’s all about enjoying the moment. And what a moment it was.

Getting back to all things Brentford, the eagle eyed amongst you may have seen further progress at Lionel Road. With the South stand dominating the horizon, work on the East stand is now clearly visible. Whilst the groundwork has been underway for months, anybody approaching the site can now see clear evidence of one ‘end’.  

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The second stand appears

These are exciting times. I’ve no desire to wish my life away but, by the same virtue, things at Griffin Park at Lionel Road and on The Rock are all on the up. I can’t wait for more.

See you Saturday. Bring on Bristol City…..

Nick Bruzon

Hearty updates from the club top table as head coach news is absorbed.

12 Oct

With the shockwaves of Dean Smith’s departure from Brentford for Aston Villa still reverberating around Griffin Park, the timing was ideal for Thursday night’s ‘Fan Forum’. Sitting at the top table were chief executive Mark Devlin and Chairman Cliff Crown alongside co-directors of football Phil Giles and Rasmus Ankersen. As ever, Peter Gilham remained in-situ as MC. Directing questions from the floor in a two part event – the first half being dedicated to football matters and then the second looking at all things ‘Lionel Road’.

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Pass the mic

So what did we learn? Should fans be worried about Dean’s move to Aston Villa? Is there any news on the replacement name for the head coach role as yet?

Rasmus opened proceedings, noting “I’m sure you’ve seen the news…” and with that setting the tone for what was, as ever, an open session with no subject deemed taboo. He went on to add that “Brentford is not a one man band. It is a football club that has a strategy.” He emphasised the point by explaining how he reminded the players that Dean being approached was a complement to them. To Brentford. That we are more than just one person.

And he’s right. The togetherness and good wishes on social media when the news broke showed our fondness towards Dean. But as much as anything else, perhaps a corner having been turned in regards to widespread acceptance of how Brentford football club works these days. That we all presume the club will replace from within and Thomas Frank step up. That we all trust the decisions being made.

On the subject of Dean’s replacement, Phil explained how “Are we starting from scratch today? More or less, yes….We’d like to see it as an opportunity to improve.”

For Rasmus, it was as much about being open minded. The main thing being to find someone who fits our structure. Who is able to execute our strategy.

For me, and many others, the longer term concern being Dean Smith waving the Aston Villa chequebook at us in January. Phil was clear that, of course, there is nothing to stop them making offers but we are not duty bound to accept. He was unequivocal about the situation in regards to a promotion push, saying that “If we are in the top six in January we won’t be selling players….If we’ve a high likelihood of getting promoted we’d be very reluctant to sell.”

There was, from memory, a caveat about astronomical offers but the message on this front was an extremely positive one. Albeit one that hinges on us being in contention at that juncture. With over two months until that window opens that’s a long way to go.

Cliff was asked about ticket prices at Elland Road, a seemingly annual bone of contention and one felt throughout the Championship. His diplomatic reply, and one has to also recognise it was probably bound by his role on the EFlL board, was that they were doing nothing wrong. That all we can do is protect the fans and ensure they are not being charged more than home supporters – as the EFL rules dictate.

Peter Gilham came up with the suggestion of a £42 block in the corner of one home stand whilst Mark Devlin spoke about the potential of reciprocal pricing. Of exploring whether groups of clubs would be prepared to charge the same for each others ‘away’ support. This could then be proposed to the EFL .

Either way, not a subject that is going to go away (pun intended) anytime soon. However, with the FSF still pushing ‘Twenty’s Plenty’ I’m sure that drum will keep on being banged.

And so the single most important matter of the night. Kit. After a passionate plea from the floor about the desire to leave our current supplier, Mark confirmed that “We are unlikely to be with Adidas next season”. That on talk of the stripes and home shirt in general we were given a disappointing option. Likewise, other clubs he had spoken to – Sheffield United and Sunderland were mentioned- felt exactly the same.

Interestingly, Mark also added that whilst it was something we were talking about and looking at ways of getting around, plain backs are often preferred by not only the media but also the players. There was no talk of brown/orange.

An update on the injury front was provided. Rico Henry will be in full contact training next week with the hope of B-team games next month. Emiliano Marcondes has an ongoing foot injury that we’re struggling to get to the bottom of.

The final two points from the opening session were the Premier League and Midtjylland. On the former, was it feasible that should promotion be achieved our final season at Griffin Park could host Premier League football? Mark was very open on this.

Whilst we are miles away from being fully compliant with top flight regulations, and that proposals needed to be submitted in January, he was hopeful a middle ground could be reached. Specially given the clear work being done to build a fully functioning Premier League stadium at Lionel Road. As such, any deal to stay at Griffin Park in the top flight would only be for one season. Even then, it would cost £2-3million to do what we could but it would be our absolute priority to stay if at all possible.

Finally, FC Midtjylland. Matthew Benham’s other club. A friendly was requested from the floor and Rasmus replied explained how “We need to know who is the best team.”

The proposal was to look at doing something during an International break although, personally, I can only see that time as hampering The Bees given the 12-13 cap winners we now have on our books at all levels of the club.

What a nice problem to have!

More was covered over the ‘football’ half of the session but these seemed the main discussion points. A prior commitment meant at home meant the ‘stadium’ half was missed although no doubt social media / Brentford ‘official’ will have all you need on that.

It only remains to thank the club for their time. Likewise, to appreciate how lucky we are being given the opportunity to challenge, to ask, to question on such a regular basis. Long may it continue.

Nick Bruzon

Dean Smith goes from Brentford hero to Villan.

10 Oct

Oh my. It’s happened. Dean Smith has tonight left Brentford to take over as head coach at Aston Villa. John Terry is confirmed as number two. It is a move that has been widely rumoured since the Villa Park club sacked Steve Bruce and one which, as has been well documented in the build-up, now sees Dean given the chance to take over at his boyhood club. Yet with Dean still in charge for the promotion chasing Bees draw at table topping Leeds United on Saturday, I thought there may be glimmer of hope that the rumours would be unfounded. Sadly for us, this isn’t the case and Dean is now a Villan.

First things first, there seems to be a universal out pouring of good wishes for Dean from the Griffin Park faithful. Everyone from Natalie Sawyer and Mark Devlin through to supporters across the social media spectrum have been wishing him well. And understandably so. Dean has guided Brentford to successive top ten finishes in the Championship and leaves us with the team one point outside the play-off places. He has had them playing some quite wonderful football, most recently seen at Leeds where the home team snatched a (possibly fortunate) draw in the final moments of an action packed game at the weekend.

From here, he joins the club he and his family have always supported. Villa official have been quick to jump on the now predictable medium of a hashtag with #oneofourown (something I thought was the exclusive property of Frank Lampard’s Derby County) quick to appear in the signing ‘GIF’. Yet only last week we noted on these pages “Indeed, who would willingly step into the maelstrom of unpredictability that is Villa Park at present? There are those well documented financial issues that emerged over the summer and a fan base quick to make their opinions known. Whether vocally or via the medium of a rogue cabbage.

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The words of Aston Villa ‘official’

Well, it seems the lure of ‘his’ team calling was simply too great. A siren on the rocks enticing him from a promotion push to a challenge that was once one of the biggest jobs in football and is now a wonderful opportunity to restore a former giant of the game to the position they naturally aspire.

For Brentford it is a huge shame on a personal note. Dean has only ever conducted himself wonderfully and has been nothing but charm personified when I’ve had the pleasure of speaking to him. His enthusiasm and love of the game, and the club, has been infectious. And now it is his job to instil that same warmth at Aston Villa.

On the pitch our set up is a solid one. Thomas Frank, who has been assistant Head Coach since December 2016, steps up into temporary charge. With our model and stability well established, surely he’ll be offered the role on a permanent basis? With Richard O’Kelly’s position to ‘be clarified in the coming days’ (not my words but those of Brentford official, in their piece which can be read here) the only other credible alternate is the B-team’s King Kev although that is, perhaps, something to come in the future.

We’ve lost our manager from a winning position before. Look at what happened when Mark Warburton took over from Uwe Rosler. Brentford were promoted to the Championship. Of more concern will be our ability to retain the crown jewels in a squad that is hugely talented yet, sadly now for us, Dean knows inside out. Certainly January’s window will be even more traumatic than ever but if Thomas, or whomever takes up the reins full times is able to keep up our current form, then who would want to leave? Don’t answer – that’s one for a few months’ time.

Instead, now is the time to wish Dean good luck. To hope we cross paths in the Premier League next season. To thank him for some exciting times so far. But equally, to know this current team – on and off the pitch – is more than just one man.

I’m gutted to see Dean leave. I’ve no worries about what we’re going to do for the rest of the campaign – The Bees ARE going up and I can’t wait.

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Can Dean inspire this level of passion at Villa?

 

Nick Bruzon

What a way to nail our colours to the mast – on and off the pitch.

15 Aug

Oh my. With the paint still drying on Saturday’s draw at Stoke City, it’s been all go at Brentford. On pitch, we picked up where we left off in The Potteries with as comprehensive a win as they come against Southend United in the League Cup. Off field, Chief Executive Mark Devlin used the brief window between games to make about as powerful a statement as they come in recognition of the ‘Kick It Out’ campaign’s 25thanniversary.

First up, the last knockings of the Stoke game. Whilst those present were, quite rightly, salivating over our performance and perhaps disappointed to have ‘only’ picked up a point, it seems that those outside TW8 are now jumping on the Griffin Park bandwagon. And rightly so. Long has we sung about being the Barcelona of the Lower leagues and now it has been recognised, albeit the Bees are playing at a higher level these days. This one has been doing the rounds in the last 24 hours. If ever you wanted proof of how Brentford are set up to play and how it is all coming together, then here it is….

Then last night we travelled to Southend United for a first round league cup tie at Roots Hall. Whilst the home side hadn’t won a tie in this competition since 2010, it was the sort of game that always has the look of potential potato skin. Moreso, with head coach Dean Smith making 11 changes to the Brentford starting XI . His reward was progression via a 4-2 win for a team that included starts for Alan Judge and Ryan Woods (yes, cup tied !), amongst others regulars. Likewise, full debuts for Said Benrahma and Julian Jeanvier.

Said’s performance from the bench at Stoke had us purring. By all accounts, he played a blinder last night. Impressing from the off, scoring a stonker that sent ‘official’ twitter into meltdown and receiving a standing ovation from the visiting fans prior to his late substitution with Sergi.

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Ewww. A GIF. But my word, what a goal !!

Who’d be a head coach? Good luck to Dean trying to fit those two in to the team on Sunday for the visit of Sheffield Wednesday. Talk about a nice problem to have in naming that side.

Once official had towelled itself clean from the celebration, it would excitedly go on to describe Said’s strike: Another debutant goal and a star has been born tonight!! Benrahma with an incredible bit of skill and run, he plays a one-two with Mokotjo and then fires home. @Benrahma2 has been unplayable at times tonight!

The star may have been born on Tuesday night, but the waters broke against Rotherham and the ambulance was definitely rushing to the hospital on Saturday. Those brief tasters of skill we had already been teased with suggested there was something special about the Algerian international. Sunday could be very interesting indeed.   

For those not able to get to this one, our own commentator par-excellnce Mark Burridge has hit the nail on the head in one tweet. Who needs a match report when you have social media use of this concise quality?

The other impressive Brentford performance was off field where a story with the rather vague headline of FROM THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE’S OFFICE transpired to be an all guns blazing message from Mark Devlin. Specifically, in praise of 25 years of ‘Kick It Out’ whilst also waxing lyrical about Brentford’s approach to diversity and our place as one of the most welcoming clubs in the country.

I couldn’t agree more. Yet for me, the key point was his no holds barred declaration that: 

For those that don’t share these views, we will not compromise on our values: We don’t want you at Brentford if you can’t accept that or if you behave in a manner which is incompatible with these values. 

Wow. Talk about nailing your colours to the mast. About saying there is no place at our club for discrimination or bigotry. Whilst this is not the sort of behaviour anybody wants to see on the terraces, social media or around the ground (and thankfully it is rare at best) talk about making it absolutely clear to anybody who may indulge in that sort of hate speak what the consequences might be. 

Impressive stuff. Great job, Mark. If you haven’t read the full story then you can do so, here.

And I can’t say anything more after that. Have a great day and bring on the weekend.

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Buzzette does her thing for ‘Kick It Out’ last season

Nick Bruzon  

No stripes? Adidas sell fans short with back and sides. And why England could be in trouble on Tuesday.

30 Jun

Saturday morning. After a day to recover from England reaching the knockout stages following Gareth Southgate’s quite magnificent game of bluff against Belgium, the action picks up again with the quite delicious prospect of France and Argentina meeting in direct, winner stays on, combat. Back home, Brentford have revealed the first news about our new home shirt and it has the fans talking – thanks to the machinations of the good folk at Adidas. Plus today is the last day for one fan to win my own prize – the limited edition 2017/18 Bees ‘third shirt’ given to me by a source close to the club. The draw will take place tomorrow.

Where to begin? Well I suppose it can only be England. A second round tie with Colombia awaits following Thursday night’s 1-0 defeat to Belgium. It is a defeat that sees the team in the, so called, easier half of the draw – a comment that is as patronising as it is foolish; should things go wrong. On the flip side, swerving the likes of Argentina, Brazil, France and Portugal (for now, at least) is no bad thing and let’s not pretend that for those of us watching back home, there wasn’t what felt like a huge silver lining to the cloud of defeat. As my good friend Paul (with apologies for going all Ian Moose) said in the pub with the clock showing 85 minutes, “Holding on for defeat has never felt so tense.

Yet whatever the result, the game is as much best remembered for a master stroke from Gareth Southgate. With Roberto Martinez telegraphing his intention to utilise the full squad long before kick-off in what he deemed “a celebration game”, Gareth was making all the right noises about playing to win. Playing his team. And then he announced it. Boom. Eight changes. I’ve not seen this much rotation since watching the magic roundabout as a child.

So the B-team lost. And? The fans, which included Brentford big cheeses Mark Devlin and Mike Sullivan seemed to enjoy themselves. Beesotted sharing this picture on their own Twitter feed.

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Two businessmen on a jolly to Russia. What could go wrong…?

It sounded a phenomenal atmosphere with, thankfully, that band being drowned out for large sections of the game. At least, that was the perception for those of us who had just come in from work and were watching back home. Great work all round – long may it continue.

Yet whatever the mechanics of the draw and the group stages, it could all be in vain for England. With Tuesday’s game being shown on ITV, a stat reaches me via former Brentford video whizzkid and Alex Pritchard lookalike Sean Ridley…..

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The stats don’t lie…

Wow. That’s incredible. Who’d have thought the Glenn Hoddle effect was that far reaching? Yet as we’ve also said on these pages many times, it’s goals and not stats that win games. Here’s hoping that transpires to be the case this time around. Moreso, given Brentford chairman Cliff Crown will be in attendance, having been offered a very special opportunity.

He announced on Twitter yesterday that: I am delighted and honoured to have been asked to be one of the representatives from the  professional game as an English FA ambassador at the England v Columbia game in Russia.

This is special news. We all know how affable and generous with his time Cliff is. What a wonderful ambassador he is for our own club and the game in general. How hard he works to promote Brentford and the FA. So how wonderful to see him afforded this chance. Nice one, Cliff.

Finally. The second round. It IS the second round although I would also accept the last 16. Please, whatever FIFA may try to convince you, there is no such thing as ‘the round of 16’. Much like the faux verb ‘to medal’ or our own ‘Team GB’ (GREAT. BRITAIN.) this new fangled gumph is slowly eeking into public consciousness as a somehow acceptable term. It isn’t. It’s made up. It’s just a mouthful. There’s no ‘round of 8’. Nobody is sitting in the pub saying, I can’t wait for next Sunday when England get to play Portugal in the round of 2.

Dear FIFA, you may own the competition. You don’t own football. Please. Stop this nonsense.

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‘Easy’ side? Horrific terminology. SECOND. ROUND.

Ok – back to Griffin Park. An announcement was made out of Brentford ‘official’ about the forthcoming season’s Adidas produced home shirt. Specifically, that it will have no stripes on the reverse but, instead, a plain red back. This is not a decision taken by the club but one they are clear to point out is part of adidas’ design direction for the upcoming season for all their partner clubs in the UK (and beyond, it would seem if you look at the Juventus home shirt for 2018/19). The benefit being that they, “believe this will allow them to create more standout designs for clubs in the UK”.

That’s the marketing speak. Fairplay to the club for getting this news out early. Certainly I’d have done it this way, given we’ve had our hand forced by a ‘partner’. Looking at the new Sheffield United kit, they’ve also had to follow suit although have opted for an awful white. Something that, for yours truly, brings back memories of the Puma teabag and a missed penalty the last time we were forced down this route (something that the Blades somehow seemed able to bypass).

If we’ve had no choice then red is most definitely the correct option. Whilst there is no question whatsoever that we should have stripes on the reverse, if a plain colour is needed then the white was just too much. 

If anybody from Adidas is reading (unlikely, but….) I would ask why we couldn’t just replicate the ‘standout design’ from the front and apply it to the reverse? Even with a ‘patch’ should clarity for numbers be the crowbarred explanation – something that has never really been a problem in the past.

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Worse things have happened in a red back…..

Ahh, I can’t be too upset at present. At the end of the day (Clive), we’ve not seen the shirt yet. It could stand on its own merits or be a pinstripe nightmare – either factor regardless of the back. Besides, after the brown and orange beauty for the away shirt, I could forgive them just about anything at present. Even the lack of long sleeves.

Talking of the brown and orange, for anybody still doubting how incredible it looks the club shop now have it up in the window. If you happen to be in the vicinity of TW8 then do take a diversion. It’s well worth seeing this beauty up close.

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One of my favourite websites, historicalkits.co,uk have also added this one to their pages. Along with their own unique commentary which tends to border between sarcasm and dead-pan brilliance. This is the same site that described our own 2015/16 away effort as follows:  (Mark) Devlin also helpfully adds that the “Away kit needs to be significantly different from the home kit to ensure there are no colour clashes.” So pleased he cleared that up.

But which way did they go for the 2018/19 incarnation? Well, in the interest of fairplay I’ll leave this one to you….. Their Championship page can be found here.

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And with all the subtly of Ian Moose taking a selfie, the kit talks continues. Today (Saturday) is your last chance to enter the draw to win this 2017/18 Brentford ‘third’ shirt. The draw will take place on Sunday afternoon and I’ll look to film it if technology allows.

To be in with a chance of winning this, simply download a copy of the Last Word Season review Ten Times Better. Brentford FC Season review: 2017/18. Or the full fat five year version  There Is No Plan B. Brentford FC Season reviews: 2013/14 – 2017/18

ALL proceeds received go to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust and so even if you don’t win, know that your donation is going to a great cause whilst in return you get to OD on all things Griffin Park. And beyond.

As a bonus (please note, your definition of bonus may vary) there’s a whole host of new material. New that is, for my pages. Specifically, all the programme articles submitted (both home and away where, if nothing else, you can get the original versions of both Birmingham City and Millwall).

Should you be kind enough to take part, PLEASE DM/tweet me (@NickBruzon) a copy of your download confirmation mail and I’ll add your name to the list before an independent adjudicator will select a random Bees fan to win this on July 1st.

Thank you

Nick Bruzon

Will Brentford keep going? Can Aston Villa do us a favour? Saturday is HUGE!

27 Apr

Two games to go and this is still wide open. With the fixtures falling as kindly as one could have hoped for, Brentford travel to relegation threatened Barnsley on Saturday knowing that with two games to go we are three points off Derby County in sixth place. The same Derby County who head up to an Aston Villa side still looking at a slim chance of ‘automatic’ promotion to the Premier league. It is a chance that, much like our own play-off dream, will require three points on Saturday to keep it alive. Cardiff City may have dealt a blow to our own promotion ambitions on Tuesday night as they went down 3-1 to the Rams yet, at the same time, have given us a back door bonus by really handing Villa that incentive to try and catch them.

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I’ve always loved Aston Villa (eh, Simon ?)

Elsewhere, fifth placed Middlesbrough (four points ahead of Brentford) take on 7th placed Millwall (one ahead). That’s an evening game and by the time it comes around, our own game will of course have played out. Will it prove of supreme relevance or be a statistical anomaly by that juncture?

Realistically, three points for Brentford up at Oakwell are an absolute must. Any other result will leave us relying on a combination of mathematics and good fortune even more convoluted than the table already looks.  Barnsley have to go for it, too. Any permutation beyond home win will leave them all but down and needing both Bolton and Birmingham City to self-destruct. In itself, not an improbable combination based on the season’s results to date.

As ever, though, outside distractions really are that. Distractions. By virtue of the teams playing each other, something will go our way at some point. The worst combination of results being victories for Millwall and Derby. The best, home wins for Aston Villa and Middlesbrough. Both, more than feasible. Then again, I fancied Cardiff City to do it on Tuesday. One up at half time and in control, you have to tip your hat to a Derby County team that, aided by some suicidal defending, produced a devastating second half performance to break their three game losing streak.

Trying to call anything this weekend is a fool’s errand. As much as anything else, pressure and necessity will cause some teams to collapse like a house of cards. Others will rise to the occasion. The prospect of glory an adrenaline boost to the arm that sees them (and all being well us) surge towards those all critical three points.

Brentford were magnificent against Fulham. To the very end of the game where Neal Maupay produced one of THE moments. Likewise, for huge patches of the game against QPR where, but for Mr. Madley, the victory would have been a much more comfortable one. Then again, perhaps he has also done us an unintentional favour. What a way for a team to have to test themselves in the toughest of circumstances. 11 v 14 is never easy. Moreso, when the 14 were flying in with horror challenges, studs up, yet facing no real danger of card based justice.  

We know we have the ability to win this one. To beat anybody on our day. Only 3pm on Saturday will dictate how well we can meet that challenge. How much resistance Barnsley can provide or whether they are dead men walking. Either way,  I can’t wait for this one !!

Elsewhere, did you read Mark Devlin’s programme column in the QPR edition of BEES? Talk about putting his views on the line in a wonderful article about Sports Minister Tracey Crouch and, more importantly, her decision in regards to the Safe Standing application made by West Bromwich Albion.

With ‘Safe Standing’ a clearly stated and supported desire of The Bees, he was pulling no punches with comments that included:  “I fear that politicians will once more put their prejudice and fears ahead of what is needed and wanted by the football community” and “I was even more shocked that she appeared to claim there was insufficient demand or interest from clubs, fans and leagues”  

Well said Mark. How refreshing to see any Chief Executive standing up to be counted in such clear and uncertain terms. That’s Brentford, though. Trailblazers again.

The good news being that a public petition has now topped the 100,000 votes required for parliament to consider it for debate. Albeit, this still remains open and there is time to add your voice to the list on a matter that will potentially have a direct impact on Brentford, given the current construction of Lionel Road. The link to that one is here. Thirty seconds that could impact your club if you can make the time to sign.

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Lionel Road . I’ve not seen a hole this big since the Birmingham City defence turned up

Next up, football stickers. I’ve banged on a bit in the last few weeks about the World Cup 2018 album. Primarily, my son Harry’s rapidly developing interest in this most traditional of football related activities. For reasons unnkown the mere mention of the name’ Lucas Biglia’ (Argentina) has him in stitches whilst Spain and Iceland are his favourites. Not because of the countries but the kits – no idea where he gets that from.

So imagine my surprise just coming in from work on Wednesday to hear he had been presented with what Mrs Bruzon described as ‘a two inch wad of swaps’ (although, personally, I’d say it looked more like seven) by a mystery benefactor from the Bramear Road stand. 

I say ‘mystery’. I wasn’t with them at the time and so all we know is that she sits near us at Griffin Park and the one-sided exchange took place by St. Paul’s Park. If this was you – THANK YOU. I have a suspicion who it may be and will be donning the Columbo mac at the Hull City game.

Yet this is mentioned as much to say, yet again, how truly wonderful the Brentford FC family are. For a fellow fan to go out of their way to do this for a young supporter they’ve never spoken to before really made me feel proud. Thank you. Again.   

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The amazing pile of swaps

Finally, congratulations to my good friends (No, I’m not going all Ian Moose) at Beesotted. Their Pride of West London podcast has now made the final shortlist for the Football Blogging Awards. What an honour it would be for them to win this.

As noted before, we all know what a great job they do and just how entertaining Billy (Grant) and the team are. Likewise, how many painful train journies have been made ten times better by listening to them opine on all things Brentford. And beyond.

Please. Help give them the recognition they deserve in the Best Football Podcast category and vote Beesotted at the FBAS

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Nick Bruzon

One down. Five to go. We’re still in this.

8 Apr

One down, five to go. Brentford made it back to back wins as Neal Maupay’s penalty and Daniel Bentley’s record (at this level for a Bees ‘keeper) 14th clean sheet of the campaign proved to be the difference over an Ipswich Town side that began the game with Luke Hyam in the team and ended it with 10 players after running out of substitutes. Whilst, as ever, the likes of Beesotted and ‘official’ are usually the places to go for your match reports, in this case they really are. For reasons out of my control I had to miss this one. Instead of sitting at Griffin Park, I found myself holed up in a random pub with some random Barnsley fans (amongst others), watching the Merseyside derby and getting somewhat over excited by the Tykes comeback against Sheffield United. This before Birmingham City managed an 87th minute equaliser against fellow relegation candidates Burton Albion that brought everybody present back down to earth with a bump.

By that point though, it was too late to be overly concerned. Much as I’d love to see ‘ten times better’ Birmingham slip through the relegation trapdoor, primary focus has to be on Brentford. We’d absolutely done the needful despite a butt clenching final few minutes of time added on that had been spent waiting for the scores to refresh and confirm our 1-0 victory.

To be honest, I had considered spending the afternoon with Mark Burridge sneaking into my ear via a discreetly placed headphone. However, despite the wise words normally spoken by our commentator par excellence the lure of another beer in the afternoon sunshine and the somewhat less appealing prospect of Stoke City v Spurs on TV won out.

In a way, I’m glad. Not so much the sitting through the Stoke game (if ever there was any added incentive needed to go for the play-offs then just the prospect of bypassing them in the divisions should be sufficient) but more missing out on a match that sounded hard work. With Mick McCarthy setting his Ipswich team up on us man for man, it was always going to be a tough one for the fans. If you had to miss a game then in retrospect, and from a footballing perspective, this one sounds like it was up there.

Flicking through social media at full time, Chief Executive Mark Devlin seems to have summarised the feelings of most fans when he noted : “Thanks for your support and well done to the team. It was by no means a classic but the players got the job done.”

Likewise, Bees boss Dean Smith was quick to pay tribute to both his counterpart and the opposition. His post match interview (which you can catch up on in full over on ‘official’) includes the observation that Ipswich “Made it very difficult for us to get our free-flowing football going. We found chances hard to come by. We were due a penalty like that; it was soft and I would be slightly annoyed if it was given against us.

Hey, sometimes you just have to take the chances when they are offered. At this stage in the game, a win is a win. Whether scrappy, deserved, fortunate or other. That gap to the playoffs remains five points with five games to go. It’s all about getting the result and that’s what Brentford did. Whilst it may not have sounded like the most aesthetically pleasing performance, you get a feeling of what this one meant to all concerned. MrJamie88 summarising it quite beautifully on Twitter, with a bit of help from Sergi Canos.

Next up, the trip to Nottingham Forest awaits on Tuesday. There are five games to go. Five mini cup finals. Keep picking up the wins and I’ve no doubt we’ll be celebrating like a certain Russell Slade once so famously opined. Cliche alert but…..it really is about taking one game at a time whilst, perhaps, hoping for a favour along the way. It happened in 91/92; it could happen again.

Yet without wanting to get too far ahead of ourselves, at the bottom end of the table I’ve got half an eye on Barnsley. Yesterday showed yet again why I’d love them to stay up. Great fans and great camaraderie. There’s the added incentive that their safety would put even more pressure on Garry Monk’s Birmingham City team. With our final away game of the campaign being a trip to Oakwell, how big could that one turn out to be? Hopefully their fate will be well sealed by that point – in a positive way. Hopefully we’ll have carried on picking up the points that will make that game of quintessential relevance.

Before that, though, we’ve the Forest game and then a West London derby double header . First the trip to Fulham and then the home game with QPR. With just that handful of games to go, the season has got a ridiculous amount of fun left in it still and I can’t wait.

As one final word of note, how great to have Alan Judge back in a Griffin Park starting XI. Moreso given the opposition and their own line up. I won’t deny I felt a genuine pang of excitement when the team sheet was published at 2pm. What a journey back from the depths. What a team to do it against.

Nice one, Alan.

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The view from Griffin Park

Nick Bruzon

 

Is this the future ? Next season’s ‘must start’ player, ‘must have’ fashion item and big ticket.

23 Mar

Take a couple of days away from the blog and it all happens. Despite international break meaning the visit of Sheffield United is still a week away, Brentford fans have been kept well on our toes with a surfeit of good news. The interview conducted by the GPG with Matthew Benham has been published. Season ticket prices for 2018/19 have been revealed. Chris Mepham has made his international debut for Wales whilst Andreas Bjelland’s Panini incarnation for Denmark in the 2018 World Cup has been released to the world (thanks to Beesotted for spotting that one).

Chris does his thing. What a man !

First up, the GPG and Matthew Benham. Whilst he may not say much publically, when Matthew does give these sort of interviews they are well worth a read. This one is no different. I’m sure we’ve all seen it already although if you’ve missed it then it’s here.

Another very personal piece about his thoughts, hopes, investment (which is now up to £106million. One. Hundred. And six. Million. Pounds) and the future of the club amongst other varied topics. I’m not going to regurgitate it here, suffice to say this is well, well worth a read and so good job all round to the GPG readership and production team on this one. When Matthew speaks, it’s definitely worth listening.

The one point I did want to dwell on was in regards to his thoughts for a potential April Fools joke. Per the interview, at one point Matthew considered Rasmus would have appeared modelling the new look third and third scarves (Brentford, Fulham and QPR). The associated blub from Rasmus would, in Matthew’s words “Use loads of marketing speak and say like “this ticks a lot of boxes”.  “

Seriously. What a shame this never happened. This would have been absolute genius whilst the reaction alone would have been incredible. Better still, the hopefully positive fallout once our more knee jerk elements ( I’m sure I’d have bitten too) realised they’d been had. There’s no better way to get a positive reaction than taking the occasional moment to have a good natured laugh at yourself.

It did get me thinking though. Discussing this point on Twitter afterwards with @crumblechris , it has potentially lead us to stumble across a club shop winner. Whilst we all know the usual half and half scarf is the devil’s own product, merging two tradtional rivals onto one piece of ad-hoc merchandising, why not celebrate a more positive partnership? That of our co-directors of football.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you…the Phil and Rasmus half and half scarf.

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Kamo models 2018/19’s ‘must have’ fashion item. Possibly

I’d never, ever wear anything with a QPR crest on it but I’d happily hand over my money in the club shop for one of these. Matthew, Mark, Cliff. If any of you are somehow reading (unlikely, I have to be honest), how about it…?

Next up, season tickets. The news was announced yesterday that these are being frozen for the third, successive season. This is fantastic . Moreso given juniors have had their reduced to £49 in the family section. Talk about a way to get that next generation of fans along to Griffin Park . If you haven’t got one, then what better time to upgrade the membership card? Another season of Championship action (at the very least) awaits along with a team who, on their day, have played some of the most exciting football we’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. Brentford as an established Championship side? It’s happened. Now to see if we can take this to the next level. Full details are on Brentford ‘official’.

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The 5-0 destruction of Birmingham City. About as a complete a peformance as we’ve ever seen.

Congratulations Chris Mepham. We all know what an incredible start he has had to league life but to move up to his national side so soon shows just how much he is destined for big things in the future. Hopefully at Griffin Park and then Lionel Road. Yet there he was making his debut for Wales in China on Thursday afternoon. A 6-0 win was just about as perfect as it could have got for him. The only downside, if there can be one, being Wales missing out on that additional goal which would have seen the game officially deemed a bracketing. Of course, the magical scoreline being 0-7(seven).

Whilst I’ll leave the interviews (and genuine effort) to the likes of Beesotted and the GPG, what I can say (clanngggg, the sound of a name being dropped) is that I was fortunate enough to catch up with both Rasmus and Phil earlier in the week. Specifically during the event to mark ground being broken at Lionel Road. Talking with them about transfer strategy (including those summer moves to Birmingham City) you could hear the genuine pride and pleasure about the way Chris has come through and filled the void left by Harlee. Along with Brentford currently having five B-team players on international duty at U-19 level, you can’t deny the fruits of their labours as The Bees look to their next first XI.

If Chris just missed out on a slice of football mythology, Andreas Bjelland has achieved it. Being immortalised in Panini form. Big thanks to the eagle-eyed team at Beesotted who spotted this one when the World Cup sticker book was revealed this week. As big an honour as an international cap, Andreas, Denmark and Brentford could become one of the most valuable commodities in playgrounds and offices up and down the land this summer.

Congratulations, Andreas. Here’s to 2022 when we see Chris Mepham (Wales and Brentford) alongside you in the book.

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Got it. Got it. Need it. Could Andreas see his stock increase?

Nick Bruzon

Brentford do it differently. Three shovels in and our new home is a step closer

20 Mar

As statements go, this was a huge and very visible one. Whilst our new home away from Griffin Park has been on the radar for years, Brentford fans moved one step closer towards that dream becoming a reality on Monday as the official ‘ground breaking’ ceremony took place on the site at Lionel Road. Of course new stadia have very much become the norm over the last few seasons – indeed, one only has to look at Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur or West Ham (I hadn’t realised they’d left Upton Park; if only somebody in the press had mentioned it) to see it happening all over London. Yet it has always seemed to be somebody else’s journey. Not the sort of thing that would happen to Brentford. Well, here we are. More clearly than ever – we‘re on our way.

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Ground. Officially. Broken.

Savour Griffin Park whilst you can. With the stadium slated for an October 2019 completion and a first game in December of that year (following a series of test events) there isn’t long to appreciate the old girl. A mid-season change of home will follow – a first for any football club if my scratchy memory serves me well – of which the BBC has more detail following their own piece with our Chairman Cliff Crown. Yet all that’s for the future. Yesterday was all about talking the next step on that path.

Those fortunate enough to be in attendance yesterday heard Peter Gilham and then Cliff give very eloquent speeches prior to the ceremony. Talking passionately about where we’ve come from and where we are heading. Of the role played by yesterday’s hosts Fullers. Their orchard becoming Griffin Park back in the early 1900s and the proximity of our venue, One Over The Ait, to the rowing club where Brentford FC was formed. Likewise noting that this would be the first of events to mark our progress and future activities to involve more of the fans, of whom there were still a very generous group present.

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Peter Gilham captivates the guests

But that’s Brentford. You wouldn’t get this at other clubs. Supporters present to witness history at something which, bar the press, is normally a ‘behind closed doors’ event. A family whose connection with the club goes back over 80 years having the honour of planting that first shovel into the ground.

Hall of famer Ernie Muttitt, who made his Bees debut in 1932 and lived on Braemar Road, was represented by his son, grandson and great-granddaughter. Brentford fans to this day. What a wonderful group of people and means of connecting our past with both the present and the future.  

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THE moment – ground is broken at Lionel Road.

We all know how perilously close we’ve come to going under. How the work of the respective supporter’s groups helped keep our heads above water until Matthew Benham arrived. With him, came a lifeline and eventual acquisition of the Bees United supporter owned shares in the club. A shame, as such, he wasn’t there to witness events yesterday although being the centre of that focus perhaps not his style.

We all know where we’ve gone from there and where we would be without his colossal investment. Promotion. Championship solidity. A model which we may not have taken to immediately but one which is more than proving it’s worth now.  Players the likes of whom we could only have dreamed about in the past, with Brentford even looking as though we’ll have representation at this summer’s World Cup.

The possibilities of going under, moving to Feltham or even the much remembered monorail scheme have all dissipated. Let’s not take our eyes of those or take anything for granted. Yet, at the same time, we seem in better shape than ever before – on and off the pitch. The journey to a sustainable future is well under way and a new home beckons. Yesterday saw another step along that road. A small act of digging but a monumental stake in the ground about our ongoing intent.

There’s not huge amounts to be said about this without turning over old ground that has well been covered before. The BBC have a report whilst Bees United have shot a three minute video you can see below – probably an infinitely better means of summarising events than these ramblings.

Instead, I’ll simply offer a huge thanks to everybody involved for all their efforts to get us this far. It’s been a long and rocky road, have no doubt. October 2019 is a very aggressive target but one I am sure will be met.

Here’s to seeing that next phase of hard work begin and running out at our new home next year.

Bees United’s own film

Nick Bruzon