Tag Archives: Martin Allen

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

28 Jan

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

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

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Barnet represent a potato skin of the highest order

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I really can’t wait for this one.       

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

Nick Bruzon

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

8 Jan

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

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Martin has form at this stage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Portsmouth bell

No Bell. End of.

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

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

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

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

Nick Bruzon

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

6 Jan

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

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Buzz Bee was up for the cup before kick off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bliss Manchester City

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

Nick Bruzon

Romaine’s rocket rounds off fine win as Jota returns, youth shines and Buzzette has her own moment.

8 Jan

In the end there was no potato skin for the Bees and there was no cup upset as Brentford made light work of the FA Cup third round tie with Martin Allen’s Eastleigh. Yet a final scoreline of 5-1 barely tells the story of an afternoon which saw as much interest in our own tie as that involving Newcastle United and Birmingham. That game ending in a draw means we now host the Magpies this Saturday afternoon (14th) rather than a Monday night televised game two days later.

As ever, if you want the full match report then ‘official’, Beesotted, the BBC (who also have the video highlights on theirs) are your best bets. That said there were still plenty of talking points from this one, not the least of which Dean Smith’s team selection.

Given the ‘injury’ suffered by Scott Hogan in the 93rd minute at Birmingham and which the striker is apparently still suffering from he was never likely to feature in this one but, otherwise, it was as strong a line up as one could hope to see. Lessons had clearly been learned from last season with no chances being taken. The response to this decision was an emphatic one.

The Bees found the back of the net 5 times in the first half, with the pick of the bunch being the fifth. Romaine Sawyers unleashing a low shot from well outside the box that was less piledriver  and more laser guided missile. Oh, what a shot. Whoever you are playing there’s just no legislating for this sort of quality. More and more we are starting to see just what this man can do. And it’s wonderful.

Prior to this, Yoann Barbet opened proceedings from the spot before Tom Field made it two. The young left back nodding home a quite delightful ball in from that man Sawyers. Lasse Vibe grabbed the third as the Bees threatened to run riot. Instead, with goal four Eastleigh were given new hope as Daniel Bentley punched a corner onto his own bar and it was stabbed home for 3-1.

It was short lived. Instead of the Spitfires turning the tide, they were shot down by Tom Field’s second and the aforementioned rocket from Romaine. Surely things could only get better?

5-1 up at half time,  Field having what he would later tell ‘official’ was “easily the best day of my life” and Jota was yet to make it not the pitch. At the very least we were odds on to crack open those glorious brackets that come with 7(seven) goals when the second period began. Alas, it was not to be.

With Brentford winding it back we had to be content with a half hour cameo from Jota. But what a sight. The reaction from the crowd said it all as the Spaniard made his way onto the pitch, every subsequent touch being treated to a huge cheer. One can only imagine the noise had he scored whilst Peter Gilham, who had spent the first half plugging little Italian restaurants on Brentford lock, would likely have self combusted.

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 Peter remains the king of effortless cool

The return of the talismanic midfielder does raise a question, though. Just how does one pronounce his name? I heard three variants yesterday:

Yacht-a : Dean Smith 

Hoe-ta : Peter Gilham

Hotter : everybody else

Answered on a postcard please, marked: Hotter

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Guess who’s back? Jota returns, as seen on official Twitter

Aswell as Tom Field doing his thing, it was great to see another youngster, Chris Mepham, given his first chance in the team as he came on for captain Harlee Dean. Looking calm and composed already, if Chris makes even half the impact that Tom has done so far then good times can surely be ahead.

As for Scott Hogan, if he is genuinely injured then fair enough but nobody was buying it. At least, amongst the supporters who were convinced this omission was simply to avoid being cup tied prior to any sale.

To be fair, I can sympathise with Dean for resting his star man (regardless of the state of his buttocks) although I wasn’t convinced by his subsequent talk about the player whilst undergoing Billy Reeves’ post match probing.

What can he do, though? Very much a case of damned if you do and damned if you don’t when it comes to discussing this situation. Let’s just hope that with the Newcastle United game now on Saturday he is very much recovered and still a Bee. As Dean told Billy, “I’m hoping Scott will be back in training Monday or Tuesday. It wasn’t right to risk him in today’s game.

Yet all of that is a case of ifs, buts and maybes. At least, for now. On a day which saw the hero that is Martin Allen return to Griffin Park (where he was given a quite wonderful and fully deserved reception before , during and after the game) Brentford made it through to the fourth round of the FA Cup.

As supporters held their traditional tin foil trophies aloft, even Buzzette got in on the act – waving the pizza box based trophy from yesterday’s column around Griffin Park. This, something even Match of the Day would later pick up on.

Let’s just hope she hasn’t got pepperoni on her paws this morning.

Nick Bruzon

As both managers speak, who will come out on top in FA Cup third round and who will start?

6 Jan

Brentford begin their FA Cup campaign on Saturday and it couldn’t be more intriguing if it tried. Martin Allen, a man who needs no introduction to Bees’ fans, brings his non-league Eastleigh side to Griffin Park for a third round tie that has so much to offer. But where to start ? And who will start?

Staff wise, the two names on everybody’s lips at the moment are Jota and Hogan. The former having returned from his loan in Spain this week with supporters desperate to see this most popular of players back in the red and white. One can only imagine the roof will come off when his name is announced, let alone when / if he makes it onto the pitch. Is it too soon? Could it be the perfect opportunity to reintegrate him to the first team? What a lovely decision Dean has to make.

As for Scott Hogan, stories are flying around thick and fast in regards to bids coming in fro the likes of Watford and West Ham. To those of us on the outside looking in, his sale looks a foregone conclusion but could Matthew Benham hold firm in regards to his most coveted asset?

Starting Scott on Saturday, effectively cup tieing the player prior to any potential move,  would be a key sign that we are not looking to sell. However, injury looks to have taken that one out of Dean’s hands anyway. The spasm in his right buttock which led to Scott being substituted in the 93rd minute on Saturday has now been changed to a glute injury, according to BBC Radio London.

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Is Scott on the injury list? Or the shopping list?

Whatever the cause, one could imagine him being rested tomorrow. Although, equally, West Ham host Manchester City tonight in their own third round tie. It is more than feasible that one of Scott’s reported suitors might not even be involved by the time we start proceedings.

Whomever starts tomorrow, this game represents a huge opportunity for Brentford to (apologies in advance) go again. Our recent form has not been great in this oldest of competitions and that’s being polite.

Brentford’s previous FA Cup game, at home to a Walsall side that Dean Smith had just left to join the Bees, was utterly shambolic. Apologies but there’s no other word for it. And moreso coming off the back of our League Cup humiliation at the hands of Oxford United where Marinus seemed to have picked his team on the basis of youth and inexperience.

Last year’s third round was a day that started with so much promise and ended with so much frustration. I’m absolutely convinced we’ll have learned from that and won’t make the same mistakes of complacency this time around. The lure of the fourth round and the prospect of fans being able to lift their tin foil trophies high are simply too great.

Certainly, Dean seems set for a cup run, despite acknowledging the slip hazard this game represents when he spoke to ‘official’ yesterday. Let’s just hope he has earned the lessons of last time out.

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Last year’s FA Cup third round had a rubbish ending

Then there’s the Martin Allen factor. As most of us can probably remember, he knows a thing or two about cup runs and upsets. He certainly knows a thing or two about motivation.

One of our most popular managers in modern times, he remains a favourite at Griffin Park and only this week has spoken to the team at Beesotted with his thoughts on the game as well as reflecting on events at Brentford back in the day.

Great work from Billy Grant and team in getting hold of the opposition manager just prior to a big cup tie for what really must be an exclusive and rare interview in such circumstances. You can find that one an hour in to the latest podcast, which is available here. Well, well worth a listen.

Tickets remain available on the day and start from  just £10 for adults (that’s less than the price of two pints in some pubs these days) or £5 for the kids.

Where else are you gong to go? Ikea? Westfield? The mother-in-law’s?

Surely it can only be Griffin Park? Surely it can only be a Brentford win?

Surely…..

See you there.

Nick Bruzon

Bees beat Birmingham but should supporters be worried about Scott’s buttocks?

2 Jan

Well what a difference a few days has made for Brentford. Having ended 2016 with the insipid draw against Norwich City, the Bees began 2017 with a 3-1 thumping of Birmingham City as Gianfranco Zola’s poor start in charge of the Blues less than justified their board’s decision to dispense with the services of play-off chasing Gary Rowett.

Brentford could even afford the luxury of missing a penalty as we ran riot in the second half. Perhaps Scott Hogan (who grabbed our first)  – was a shocked as anybody else that the Bees had finally been awarded a spot kick.

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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Was it a pen? It made no difference

 

 

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Nick Bruzon

Is this an FA Cup plum tie or potato skin? Could ‘you know who’ return?

6 Dec

The FA cup third round draw has happened. With Brentford fans hoping for the likes of a Manchester United or a Chelsea, we have been drawn at home to a non-league team with the winners of the replay between Halifax Town and Eastleigh due to visit in January. The later, of course, now managed by Martin Allen who will no doubt be chomping at the bit for a return to the place where he is still considered a hero to many. Bees supporters will no doubt be chomping at the bit just for a chance to progress. Aside from our current form (filed in the ‘where are they now’ drawer), our previous efforts starting at this stage have all seen us at home and all seen us dumped out. Grimsby Town, Brighton and Walsall delivering the respective killer blows. Prior to that, we’re going back to the 30s and 40s,

The third round draw is one of football’s most exciting moments. That point where any permutation of random pairings is possible. Would it be a Premier League club at home? Might we embark on a journey to one of those famous stadia such as Old Trafford or Anfield? Do we face a road trip to a lower division team – the sort produced in the Preston v Arsenal, Leeds v Cambridge or Bolton v Crystal Palace ties?

Instead, we have none of that. We’re at home, which is nice from the comfort factor, but with a tie that is less a plum and more a potato skin of the highest order. On paper, the divisional gap should be far too great. Brentford will be odds on favourites to progress whilst the visitors, whoever they are, will have nothing to lose. Yet we all know that isn’t how football works.

With Dean Smith’s team on a less than favourable run (I swear if he says the word ‘blip’ once more I won’t be responsible for my actions) this could be a season defining game. It is now there on the calendar as a point where we can look, once more, to make some progress in this oldest of Cup competitions.

Will Dean repeat the mistakes he made last season in the horror show at home to his former club Walsall? If ever there was a game to win it was that one yet the Bees were outclassed by a team who were clearly up for it and with a point to prove. It was an afternoon that I never want to experience again, moreso when you chuck into the mix all that nonsense with FCM at half time. Random laps of honour rarely work (see also: the unveiling of the smudge shirt – and if ANYBODY even has a picture of that, please get in touch….) but this one was utter madness and the ultimate kick in the nuts for those loyal supporters braving the elements.

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The FA Cup dream was over after a rubbish afternoon last time out

And that is what worries me. Not the thought of a half time parade, but a repeat of last season’s cup complacency from Brentford (see also: Marinus v Oxford). Whoever we play will be desperate to make a name for themselves and, without being arrogant, we are now an established Championship side, despite our humbler origins. But that doesn’t give an automatic right to progress just because of the gap in the table.

Martin Allen has been there and done it. He masterminded our fourth round defeat of Premier League Sunderland ten years ago whilst was that close to taking the Bees to a quarter final at Manchester United. Southampton eventually, getting the better of us in a fifth round replay. If anybody knows how this works it will be him whilst nobody needs the media circus that his presence will bring.

Hopefully, Dean and the team will have rediscovered our form by then. We’ve got 6 games between now and that one, starting on Saturday with Burton Albion. Hopefully Dean will take it seriously and play a full-strength team with a desire to go out there and win. The cup has a wonderful place in our hearts at Griffin Park and what happened last season, in both competitions, was horrific, embarrassing, shameful etc

Whilst cup success has been an infrequent visitor,  when it comes along it is a wonderful thing. The place is buzzing and the mood, especially in the build up to that next tie, is a wonderful experience. Just look at the Chelsea tie (although it’s nice that we can no longer sing:  ‘Champions of Europe we’re coming for you’  in relation to our West London neighbours).

Saunders territory Chelsea

These are the sort of cup memories I want

Whatever people’s opinions about this one being any form of foregone conclusion, think again. Recent FA Cup ties agasint non-league opposition haven’t been as easy on paper as they were expected to be. 2013 saw the 5-0 defeat of Marcus Gayle and Staines Town in the first round but prior to that we’ve struggled. The 2011 defeat of Basingstoke was by the slenderest of margins – Sam Saunders with a free kick on 7(seven) minutes being the difference between the two teams and,sadly, coming before Kitman Bob and the BBgiveaway were a thing.

But it was that woeful second round loss at Barrow, in front of the TV cameras, back in November 2008 that really sticks out. A chance to square off agasint the big boys was instead flung aside as Andy Scott’s team were dumped out 2-1 and left with ten players on the pitch. Substitute goalkeeper Lloyd Anderson coming on for the red carded Ben Hamer.

Come January, let’s just hope the lessons from history, from last season and most importantly from current form have been learned. If we win, nobody outside TW8 and the losing team will give it any notice. Anything less and they’ll be the sort of headlines Dean Smith won’t want to wake up to.

Look, let’s be positive here. Whoever you play, the chance to go into the fourth round of the FA Cup is something that should produce a buzz of excitement. It should be a pressure free game where we can play of fun and the potential lure of an even bigger carrot as we progress. Whilst I’m aware of the pitfalls, I’m also cautiously optimistic. Surely there’s no way we’ll have a repeat of last season as long as Dean does it right?

See you in 2017. Now, where’s my tinfoil?

Sam Saunders doing his thing back in 2011

Nick Bruzon

Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Where’s Billy when you need him?

1 Dec

Brentford head into Saturday’s game with Norwich City on the back of three successive defeats and only one win out of the last 8 games. That recent hat-trick of ’nil points’ against Fulham, Blackburn Rovers and Birmingham City has only intensified scrutiny on Dean Smith with supporters starting to ask where the next win is going to come from. This is probably not how Dean envisaged his one year anniversary at Griffin Park (which the club announced on Twitter yesterday) and so it will be very interesting to hear what the press ask him today.

Dean SMith and Mick

Dean Smith at the start of this season

Here’s hoping they ask some hard hitting questions, for once. Less money for old rope and more action would be nice. With the king of gentle probing Billy Reeves currently out of action until the end of the year, there’s been nobody to really step up and fill his boots in recent weeks.

Ahh, Billy. The deadly assassin. Practiced in the dark art of asking that killer ‘to the point’ question, albeit delivered in the most charming and almost apologetic of styles, I’d love to know what he would put to Dean at the moment in regards to the current run and his approach to the game with Norwich City. Can anybody pick up the gauntlet?

Billy and Uwe

So Uwe. Stevenage…..?

Nobody could pretend we’re not displaying anti-form at the moment, certainly result wise. Is it as simple as just needing that little twist of fate; for something to go our way? Certainly we had the lion’s share of possession and chances against Birmingham – just couldn’t quite put more than one of them away for well documented reasons. Or is it more down to his team selection and substitution strategy  – the later of which has seemed dreadfully late, reactive and decided using a roulette wheel in recent weeks?

Being more down to earth, are the team just finding their level in the Championship this season? We’ve been wonderful at times; awful at others. The table doesn’t lie and so he (and we) can have no complaints with 16th based on what we’ve seen. The questions are now – Dean, what are you going to do about it? When are we next going to win a game?

I saw a comment on Twitter last night in regards to the aforementioned one year anniversary. Official highlighted his win ratio and a reply was posted comparing him to previous managers.

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Whilst not strictly true – who could forget the Marinus experiment – further investigation via the medium of our most recent result records at Soccerbase.com has revealed this isn’t too far off the mark. Looking at managers who have been in charge over the last 10 calendar years – so starting with Martin Allen who left at the end of the 2005/06 season – the ranking for all those occupying in the Griffin Park hot seat, including caretakers  is as follows :

51.28%  Mark Warburton (41 wins out of 78 games)

50% Lee Carsley (5 out of 10)

43.79 % Uwe Rösler (60 out of 137)

43.55% Martin Allen (54 out of 124)

42.85% Nicky Forster (9 out of 21)

38.1% Andy Scott (64 out of 168)

36.73% Dean Smith (18 out of 49)

25% Barry Quinn (1 out of 4)

22.22 % Marinus Dijkhuizen (2 out of 9)

21.74% Terry Butcher (5 out of 23)

16.67% Scott Fitzgerald (4 out of 24)

13.04% Leroy Rosenior (3 out of 23)

0% Alan Kernaghan (0 out of 1)

So no surprises up at the top and one which will no doubt have many asking the eternal question – why? That’s been and done. Much like Jota, Stuart Dallas, Moses Odubajo, Andre Gray, James Tarkowski (well perhaps not) et al, crying over it isn’t going to bring him, or any former fan favourite back to Griffin Park . Is it?

Besides, I’m more interested in the ‘here and now’. Discussing the win ratios with one New Road observer last night, he has pointed out something which stacks up far more interestingly than overall career percentages. Recent form. Look at the result records in Marinus’ last 9 games and Dean’s most recent over the same period…..

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Marinus form

dean-last-9

Dean Smith form

Matthew Benham doesn’t strike me as the trigger happy sort so those calling for a change (there are some, apparently) would probably be better putting their energies elsewhere.  From what we’ve been told, the Marinus experiment ended because of more than just results. Yet at the same time those of us on the sidelines only have results to go on. And at present they aren’t great.

If Dean was ever going to give an invigorating press conference, then today would be a good day. If Brentford were ever going to get back to wining ways, then Saturday against a Norwich City team whose current form read: LLLLL, would be the perfect time.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Come on Dean – let’s see what you’ve got.

Come on you Beeeeesss!!

Nick Bruzon

 

When push comes to shove – The Last Word on….

26 Aug

Brentford host Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday and so, as part of the big match build up, we’ll move on from talk of Alan Judge to Newcastle United and look at our next opponents. It’s time for our new regular feature, The Last Word on…and today Wednesday are in the hot seat. Featuring a series of regular questions/ categories about the visitors , the results are picked using no more scientific criteria than personal taste. With apologies for any glaring omissions, here we go (again).

The Brentford connection (he’s played for both). Without the benefit of any super computer, I’m having to rely on my somewhat scattergun knowledge for this category. That, certainly, something which accounts for Stan Bowles missing out last time in the Nottingham Forest article. Sorry, Stan. And whilst I’m sure that similar gaps will appear this time around, a few names do spring immediately to mind.

There’s Deon Burton, whose time at the Bees included that epic season under Martin Allen in 2004/05 where his goals in a 2-1 win and 3-3 draw with Wednesday helped us towards an eventual play-off semi final place…..

How about his teammate Michael Turner? One of the classiest centre backs to ever grace Griffin Park and somebody who was last seen at the Owls during the previous campaign whilst on loan from Norwich City.

But the choice of standout name boils down to one of two Andys. Sinton was THE man at Griffin Park back in the late 80s. Back to back supporters player of the year in 86/87 and 87/88 he was an almost constant feature in his three seasons. Attacking play and goals were the order of the day as his form played a key role in our epic 88/89 FA Cup run the that would eventually end at Liverpool in the quarter finals. A transfer to QPR would follow where international recognition (12 England caps) and his move to Sheffield Wednesday came next. One of the all time Brentford legends.

But, for me, when you mention Brentford and Sheffield Wednesday there is one name that always strings to mind  – Andy McCulloch. 48 goals in 127 league games for the Bees from 76- 79 were match by an almost identical record at Hillsborough where he notched 44 in 125 following his transfer.

And it is that transfer which, in Andy’s own words, is one of the more unusual in the annals of football history footballing

It was a classic. I scored a header at Griffin Park and had my nose broken. I was on a stretcher, going into the dressing room and Ian St. John, who was at Sheffield Wednesday, pointed to me as I’m going in the door and said , “would you fancy coming to Sheffield Wednesday?” At Brentford –after I had just scored a goal. He tapped me up!

The deal was completed on the camera gantry  at Wembley stadium with their manager Jack Charlton. Andy explaining , “It was before a Scotland-England game, I think . I’d gone up there just to meet Jackie. It was the only way of meeting him in London.”

Andy McCulloch

That iconic image of Andy

The Brentford encounter (noteworthy game with the Bees). Our return to the Championship hasn’t seen great results. Last season, in particular, seeing us lucky to escape from Hillsborough having only gone down 4-0 after Yoann Barbet was shown the red card just five minutes into the game.

Instead, we’ll look at the aforementioned 2005/05campaign under Martin Allen. Again, the result was an equally painful one but, for a time, the prospect of playing Wednesday was nothing but the ultimate in excitement.

Having already seen a wonderful FA Cup campaign that finally saw us go out in a fifth round replay to Premier League Southampton, knockout football held no worries. And so we approached our play-off semi final with Wednesday in high spirits. A 1-0 defeat at Hillsborough soon took the wind out of those sails with the home team taking the lead on 12 minutes and never giving us a look in.

The return match at Griffin Park saw the Bees go down 2-1. Even then, Andy Frampton’s goal was nothing more than a very late consolation. Hardly a highlight in our history but one noted to remind us of the pain suffered in this end of season lottery. Moreso, given the hope that one day we will get it right. One day….

Favourite son  (their most famous former player ). The 80s and early 90s were, in particular, a time where the name Sheffield Wednesday evoked nothing but the best imagery. Mr Tom was on their shirt whilst the likes of Lee Chapman and the free scoring David Hirst were on the pitch. To that mix you can add Des Walker (who, of course, featured in this category last time out for Nottingham Forest and Chris Waddle although the latter was sadly bereft of ‘that’ mullet by this point.

From the more recent era, two names spring to mind for the neutral.  Benito Carbone channeled the spirit of Chris Waddle with exciting play, long, long hair and even his iconic ‘Alice band’. Yet it was another Italian who scoops the honours this time around.  Paolo Di Canio.

The club’s top scorer in 1997-98 and a firm fan favourite (apologies for the sub-Chronicle alliteration) he won their player of the year award that season. However, it was the following campaign that secured his cult status when he received an 11 match ban for pushing referee Paul Alcock over during a match against Arsenal.

Nobody could deny it was a flash of unjustifiable temper from the temperamental genius. Yet, at the same time, Alcock’s comedy pratfall certainly added to the seriousness with which the incident would be viewed

And the oscar for best fallover following a shove goes to…

Famous fan. Fast becoming a personal favourite category in this feature, Sheffield Wednesday don’t let us down when it comes to their celebrity supporters.

The biggest names here would seem to be the Arctic Monkeys – all of them, apparently. A fact further emphasised by the fact you normally see them described as ‘Sheffield band….’

Cricket’s Michael Vaughan and former England captain is also an Owl as is, of  all people, singer Jermaine Jackson. The one time Jackson 5 star supposedly began following the club in the late 80s and even wrote a song for last campaign’s play-off defeat to Hull City AFC.

Yet it wouldn’t be The Last Word without mentioning ‘That band’ . If not celebrities, they are certainly recognised faces.

Their moribund parping and off-key trumpeting, so long the bane of England international fixtures, also features at Hillsborough. Flaccid renditions of ’Love will tear us apart’ or their jingoistic movie medley “The Great Escape/Italian job’ being the last thing anybody outside of this self-appointed ‘supporters band’ wants to hear.

Sheffield wednesday band with trevor francis

That band. With Trevor Francis (inset)

Best Ever League Performance. In terms of pure scoreline, a simple one this week. Any excuse to crank out the brackets and a 9-1 victory over Birmingham City at Hillsborough back in December 1930 saw the Owls easily cruise past the 7(seven) goal mark

Moment of ignominy – ( what it says – opposite to above). I could pick ‘that band’ but we’re bigger than that.

Likewise, in terms of pure results then going back over a century to October 1912 saw Wednesday go down 10-1 at Aston Villa. In recent years, Villa have struggled to score 10 goals in an entire season let alone in one game

But the turn of this century saw them go on an eight game First Division (second tier) losing streak that lasted over a month: 9 September until 17 October saw their form guide read: LLLLLLLL. Beginning with a 0-5 home humping at the hands of Wimbledon, a Steve Harkness goal finally brought this dismal run to an end with a 1-0 win over Birmingham. Incredibly, they stayed up.

Manager of the century ( most famous /popular manager). Howard Wilkinson ? Big Ron? Erm. Move along, nothing to see here. Whilst the purist will likely go for Wilkinson, for me  you can’t knock the achievements of Trevor Francis.

Taking over as player-manager with the team back in the top flight, he lead them to third place in the league in 1992 and, with it, a hard-earned UEFA cup place. There was no entry to the league of fake Champions for coming third or fourth then.

His Wednesday team then took part in the first ever Premier League where they came 7th (seventh). However, the season was as notable for a double Wembley appearance where they reached the finals of bot the League and FA cup.

All time high ( the club’s defining achievement). First division champions in the ‘20s. The wonder years under Francis. Wednesday even won the League cup through the wisdom and guidance of Big Ron. Yet, for me all this pails into insignificance compared to the greatest thing not to come out of Sheffield.

That band doesn’t travel.

Nick Bruzon

Do we really want Griffin Park to become Jurassic Park?

21 Mar

Are Brentford on social media lockdown after #SwiftHipstergate overshadowed the post match press conference following the Blackburn?

And no, that’s not a typo but at present we can all take subsequent use of the word ‘debacle’ as a given.

image

John Swift wasn’t smiling (or a hipster) after Dean swung the disciplinary axe

None of the usual suspects have tweeted anything football related, let alone gone again. Whatever your thoughts on that most awkward of phrases, the use of Twitter and Instgram (amongst other mediums) provides a valuable insight into squad morale and feeling. Both good and bad. Yet there has been nothing out of Harlee, Sergi, Sam, or Nico since the loss to Blackburn.

Has Dean Smith ordered a clampdown to try and maintain some semblance of control? Are the players taking a deliberate step back given the oxygen of publicity breathed into the situation by our head coach after he walked straight into Billy’s gentle probing with a very honest answer to Swift’s absence? Or is there nothing more to this than an overactive imagination from yours truly?

Personally speaking I think that although pushed into a corner from one respect, Dean has made the wrong decision here. Swift shouldn’t have started against Blackburn simply for the performance, or lack of, in the QPR game. But to then limit your bench options when there is a player who has apologised immediately, and must be chomping at the bit to prove doubters wrong, is very much the proverbial condemned man opting for canibalism as a final meal.

Casting the social media net that bit further afield to upper management, only Chief Executive Mark Devlin has dipped his toes into the waters of cyberspace on anything like a regular basis. Whilst Matthew Benham published his ‘cryptic clue’ last week, it was the first time he’d posted in a long while – albeit understandable given his prior absence (presumably as a result of some of the crazy abuse and comments being directed his way).

Chairman Cliff Crown and co-director of football Rasmus Ankersen, both previous exponents of Twitter, haven’t posted in almost a month. 27 and 22 February respectively, to be precise. Both of which is a huge shame for a club that has always been so big on fan interaction and, whether we like it or not, are going through somewhat of a rough patch on the field.

Whatever the reason I can understand why the players, at least, are taking somewhat of a backseat. Any attempt to pour oil on troubled waters at that moment would be more like chucking it onto an already raging chip fire. Indeed, such is the depth of feeling and emotion out there about our current predicament that I’ve seen people calling for Dean Smith’s head (metaphorically) and a return for the likes of Andy Scott or Martin Allen.

Say that slowly. Andy Scott or Martin Allen.

Both are men I loved in their day. Andy – both on the pitch and in his early stint as manager. Martin – well to say he is larger than life is probably an understatement to rank alongside suggestions that Steve Evans gives a calm and measured post-defeat press conference. These days though, Andy is more associated with highlights in ladies hair than on Football Focus whilst Martin Allen would, surely, be a step back into the Jurassic era?

Martin Allen tank top

Martin – larger than life

Whilst I have huge respect for both men, they’ve had their time at Griffin Park. More importantly, would a fourth different Head Coach in less than a season be of any real benefit? Things aren’t working out at present, that’s for sure, but to bring in yet somebody else with so few games to go would be both a brave and risky call.

Much like the loan signings we are supposedly after, if anybody was any good they’d already be in employment at the moment. Unless, of course, Steve Coppell is reading (he isn’t).

Whatever the pitchfork wielding mob are calling for, I fully expect Dean to be at the reins when we start up again against Nottingham Forest in just under two weeks. Besides, IF Matthew was even contemplating a change (and its a bigger IF than Steve Evans) surely he would look for a short term internal fix?

Somebody who has their UEFA A coaching badges. A former player with diverse knowledge of the European game. A man who knows the players, who has a reputation as a motivational speaker and, now that FCM are out of the Europa League, may have a bit more time on his hands.

I’ll leave that thought with you…

Nick Bruzon