Tag Archives: Monaco

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

3 May

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

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

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

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

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

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Ansah – wonderful Tekkers

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

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

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

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

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

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

As you do.

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

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

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

How about Brentford doing it again – for real ?

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

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Andy dons the monogrammed tracksuit in his Harchester United days

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s a hard job…!!”

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

Nick Bruzon

Solitary diamond atop a dungheap of a performance sees Bees devoured by hungry Wolves.

15 Mar

Brentford 1 Wolverhampton Wanderers 2. Let’s start immediately by saying well played to Wolves and that the points went to the right team. Much as it pains me to say this the visitors fully warranted the points on a night when only one side showed the desire, or the ability, to win a game of football.

We don’t deserve to ‘be any good’ by divine right. We don’t deserve to win every game of football, much as the fans would like it. Yet, by the same virtue, the supporters do deserve to see their team put a bit of a shift in.  Don’t let the Sky video highlights, or the stats, fool you. Wolves ended the game with an apparent 57% possession yet watching on from the sidelines I’d have said nearer 75%. It felt as though we were that much under the cosh, the second half especially.

Dean Smith would note afterwards in his BBC interview that, “That was certainly the worst performance at Griffin Park in my time here. I don’t even think we had a first gear and Wolves were better from start to finish….Normally we out-football sides but we couldn’t pass water.

Ha! Ha! Dean. Very funny. Everybody loves a comedian and, whilst honest, what was the reason your team were so flat? Why couldn’t we break down physical opponents who clearly wanted it? Why did we just sit back to try and ‘absorb’? There was plenty of finger pointing in his interview on ‘official’ Brentford and acceptance of poor performance but what was the reasoning behind us being so far off the pace? Why weren’t our basics good enough? Why were we so outmuscled?

It has been interesting to read Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola talking about his philosophy on the BBC today, ahead of the Champion’s League tie with Monaco. His own take on their situation is a simple one.“The best way [to defend] is score goals,” adding that “when one team scores many goals and you think about just defending, you kill yourself. The idea is to try and attack”.

The Brentford performance was an even odder one because we’ve all seen how good this team can be in recent weeks. I’m not going to slag off individuals. Players have off days but the rest of the group can soak it up. Yet when they all fail to spark, and the manager is unable to motivate them or change it, you get what happened here. It was quite apparent within the first twenty minutes that there was only one side in this. The biggest miracle of the night not being that that we went into half time one up but that we then held the lead right up until the 86th minute.

Maxime Colin’s goal was a thing of beauty. A flowing move (yes, we did have one) culminated in a delightful pass from KK before the full back broke free and shot across the goal into the far corner. Sadly, it was solitary diamond sitting atop an otherwise dung heap of a performance.

Despite Dan Bentley stopping everything that came at him, aided by some last gasp challenges and Nouha Dicko hitting the bar when it would have been easier to score, eventually the pressure told with barely minutes remaining.

Both Wolves goals came from balls down the right flank, crossed  into the box before being tucked home. The second, in particular, was shocking, Having already been reduced to a point by Matt Doherty’s 86th minute equaliser, Brentford then offered Helder Costa the freedom of the Griffin Park penalty box as he was left unmarked to volley into the ground and past Dan Bentley with just seconds of regulation time left.

With it went the chance of the most undeserved of points making their way into Dean’s back pocket.  Game over, man. Game over.

Even George Saville looked vaguely competent. The former Bee actually managed to tackle Jota at one point. Which probably tells you as much as you need to know. This, despite coming in for dog’s abuse on the Braemar Road side about an incident that had allegedly happened around the back of a hotel carpark, in Brentford lock.

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We may have lost, but I’d take Jota over Saville any day of the week

Only Keith Stroud’s assistant, who struggled on manfully despite being an accident waiting to happen with his clearly undone bootlaces, received more flak than Saville, Costa or any other of the players out there. Certainly it was more entertaining waiting for the inevitable ‘stack’ that failed to materialise, despite his steadfast refusal to do anything beyond eventually tucking the loose laces into his boot like a lazy schoolboy, than watching the game.

And talking of Keith Stroud, what of our favourite ref?  The diminutive man in the middle was somewhat restrained by his own reputational standards and had a generally good game. There were a few calls we all felt went the wrong way but that’s football. At one point, he even changed his mind in our favour following advice from the aforementioned assistant. I repeat. He changed his mind in our favour.

Instead, his convoluted prematch warmup routine of stretches, thrusts and synchronised dancing with his assistants was the highlight. Keith even went so far as to delay the prematch photos as he underwent one, final, shuttle run.

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Big bet ; diminutive ref. But a good performance from Keith Stroud

When the most exciting part of the evening was Buzzette dancing (in the most playful of fashion) with our Ealing Road wag, you know it’s one to file in the locker marked ‘painful’ and, instead, hope for some form of retribution up at Burton on Saturday.

Even the post match tweets from the players had a somewhat similar feel. Did Harlee and Sergi compare notes before tweeting? Are they handed these by the media team? Or is it just the ultimate summary of what happened – very disappointing tonight; can only apologise and say thank you.

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Did the players compare notes?

Hey, at least we weren’t offered the chance to go again.

There’s nothing else to say on this one. This was less the proverbial bad day at the office and more one of being put on immediate gardening leave from desk based activity, pending a full enquiry. Instead, we can only put it behind us and await Burton. There’s no way it will be even half this bad.

Roll on Saturday. I certainly wouldn’t want be in Nigel Clough’s position when Storm Brentford approaches.

Nick Bruzon

How do Bees fare against Monaco, Manchester City and Celtic in the pre-season buzz?

26 Jul

The season is almost here. New kits. New signings. New season tickets now in the post. Brentford, of course, have now unveiled their new strip which, presumably, will see another airing for the home version agasint Peterborough tonight. But we aren’t alone. Celtic took a (double) trip into the bizarre yesterday whilst AS Monaco and Manchester City are amongst those promoting themselves in unique style ahead of the big kick off.

First up, as ever, Brentford. The big talking point from Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Kaiserslautern was nothing to do with the on pitch matters but more one about the kit. Wonderful though it is, the universal opinion seemed to be that the shirt numbers were somewhat ‘tricky’ to read.

Very retro” was the diplomatic verdict from the Beesplayer team as they discussed this during the first half. Adding, “It’s a good job we know the players”. Was this fair? Will we get used to them? Could the players see a patch having to be added to the reverse? Will the football league change their font? More than likely, we’ll all just have to get used to it. Family time meant Saturday was a game too far but here’s to tonight and seeing the new kit in action, under floodlights. I’m sure it’ll all be fine.

The other thing that has impressed me about the new Brentford shirt was the way the launch was handled. For obvious reason there may be a slight element of bias but using the supporters was a wonderful idea.

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The new kit is available now

But it wasn’t just this. It was the subtle yet classy way we did this. No OTT catchphrases. None of those dreaded hashtags. Just a series of great (player) photos.

The same can’t be said about others. With passage to the third round of the Champion’s League now assured after edging past Lincoln Red Imps of Gibraltar 3-1 over two legs, Celtic have safely launched their third kit. And it is one born in the history of their European cup triumph of 1967.

#IfYouKnowYourHistory says the launch hashtag. And enough, but it is what the blurb says about the inspiration for a somewhat gaudy colour scheme that really intrigues. Apparently the shirt has been inspired by the colours used on the match ticket for the 1967 final, with the electric pink and black design honouring the ‘Lisbon Lions’ team.

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A historical inspiration – supposedly

It’s tenuous but if true then who am I to argue. It’s just a shame that, in choosing to honour what is probably the biggest moment in the club’s history, Celtic have done so in such appalling fashion. It is a shirt which, in this kit nerd’s opinion, gets a direct pass to the hall of shame.

Social media was awash with commentary, most of it less than favourable. Almost as much for the picture published (which since seems to have been removed), of new signing Kolo Toure. Perhaps he’d been shown the new kit just before the photo was taken?

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Happy to have joined

If Brentford have looked to take a different approach to kit launch this season, we aren’t alone. Over in France, AS Monaco have released a video to help with theirs. Sadly, this isn’t in the same ball park as the infamous Blackburn Rover’s effort  – Birdy’s date – instead being somewhat tasteful and rather innovative .

Virtual Reality – words not heard since the late 80’s and pixel laden video games accompanied by ill-fitting headsets and impossible controls. Well, it’s back (albeit via the medium of YouTube, and has been used on the Monaco kit launch.

With the release of a new kit becoming more and more a ‘big thing’ , one does wonder where this is going to go next. We’ve certainly come a long way since a photo in the programme or our own ‘reveal in the bathroom shop window’.

Monaco breaking new ground

Finally, have you got your new season ticket as yet? With the cards and wallets coming through letter boxes as we speak, it’s another indication of the forthcoming season. This has done nothing but further whet the appetite although I do wonder if it might have been possible to have some variety in design or even for of the year embossed onto the card or holder.

I guess this was for reasons of cost / continuation of design but football fans are, in many cases, completists and collectors. I have drawers full of the things from seasons gone by, as do many others. Being able to look back over them is a hugely sentimental / nostalgic thing for many. If the marketing chaps are reading, perhaps a small ask for next season?

Looking at Manchester City, their ticket has been despatched in a collectors box with pin badge for their new, old crest. Perhaps somewhat outside of our budget range and a tad OTT but, equally, you can’t deny it is a well meaning touch.

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Nick Bruzon

Thanks Fulham! Trotta’s (independent) trade pays dividends for Brentford.

28 Feb

Are you going to Carlisle with Brentford tomorrow? One person whom we can say should be is Marcello Trotta after the club broke the habit of a lifetime and commented on speculation, telling us that:

” Contrary to earlier suggestions, Marcello is not required to join up until Saturday evening.

Therefore he can play in Brentford’s Sky Bet League One match against Carlisle United on Saturday.”

This can only be good news for The Bees. Since returning from Fulham for a second loan spell, Trotta really has found form. Previous criticism leveled about the Italian’s perceived ‘laziness’ has been well and truly dispelled.

The player affectionately known to the Griffin Park faithful as ‘Rodney’ can now be seen putting himself about with more energy than the Duracell Bunny on a Red Bull binge.

To read the rest of this article, season 2013/14 is now available to download onto Kindle, in full. Containing previously unseen content, you can do so here for less than the cost of one matchday programme.

 Thanks for reading over the course of the campaign. For now I need to make space on this page for any follow up.  The ‘close season’ / World Cup columns continue in full, further on in this site.