Tag Archives: Play off

Friends reunited. The big one has arrived.

28 May

The much anticipated Friends reunion show has just taken place on TV. Apparently.  Moving swiftly on. There is, thankfully, something even more hotly anticipated (sadly not the Mrs Browns Boys dissolution show). It is now Friday and we are only one ‘wake up’ from the play-off final. Brentford v Swansea City at Wembley. A game which, after our own ‘friends reunion’ last week against Bournemouth, sees us once again given the chance to attend a match together.

Following our own prolonged absence from live football  – we were on a break?  (note to self, insert tumbleweed emoji before publishing) all of a sudden we are being spoiled to ambassadorial levels. Two games in 7(seven) days. An unexpected sale of player shirts and other amazing items at the Brentford superstore last night and, as expected, the additional 1000 tickets made available through the NHS experiment have flown off the shelves.

Friends reunited on Saturday

We’ve done the Bournemouth game at some length but for me, Clive, it was as much being handed the opportunity to catch up with those faces we’ve not seen for over a year which was as amazing as our performance on the pitch. Brentford has always felt like family and no moreso was this proven than at the weekend. We know how painful the enforced absence has been but meeting up again felt as comfortable as putting on an old shirt. Hobot Funky Bee? Don’t mind if I do. Seeing long missed faces and all the pain of being forced to play in empty stadia melted away in a heartbeat. 

Of course, a reduced crowd is never the same although you wouldn’t have guessed had you been standing outside. If anything, the noise generated was unlike anything I’ve heard in a long while at a Brentford game. Perhaps it was the occasion, the acoustics in the new ground, the fact that we all missed it so much or just Thomas Frank and his bonkers pre-match lap of enthusiasm that fired us up to insane levels. Whatever the catalyst, the response was immense. Oh to bottle that for Saturday against Swansea.

The great news being that we’ll have even more supporters present. 5,000 Bees screaming the place down. And we’ll need to. The stadium is cavernous whilst the reaction from the players to having fans present was clear. Henrik Dalsgaard showing that with his reaction to our third goal. Bournemouth crumbling from the off as the supporters gave it their all. There are no tickets left though. This is it. The ‘sold out’ signs went up last night on ‘official’ as the final TAPS threshold was met by the lucky few.

Henrik celebrates with the fans

Now, there is only one focus. Swansea City. No more ticket talk. No more Bournemouth. It is all about Saturday. All about who Thomas Frank starts. Who he has available. How Brentford deal with the pressure and enormity of the situation. The Swans likewise. At least we have last season to relate to, no matter the crappy outcome which eventually transpired (and there are no words to truly describe how horrific it felt).  At least we have fans present this time around.

Genuinely, I’m buzzing. I CANNOT wait for this one. Sleep has been a commodity as limited as belly laughs in a studio recording of Mrs Browns Boys this week. Only what feels like intravenous espresso and adrenaline are keeping me alive at this stage. Yet the excitement is palpable. Its a play-off, I shouldn’t be feeling like this. We all know our record. WE all know the stats.

Fine. Take them and stick them where the sun don’t shine. Cliche alert but… you’re only as good as your last result. What a result that was. In Thomas Frank we have a head coach who lives and breathes every moment as much as the fans. A team who, on their day are unstoppable. It doesn’t feel right to be this positive but there is no apprehension about our own ability. 

Equally, one has to recognise that Steve Cooper will have his own team fired up. The prize for Swansea as big as for us. The desire and expectation as huge. They aren’t just going to roll over except, perhaps, when tackled so let’s hope referee Mr Kavanagh has his eyes wide open). They aren’t going to hand it over on a plate. This will need to be earned. This will be hard fought. This will be about as big as they come. And it can’t come soon enough. It needs to be 3pm on Saturday right now.

Recent games against Swansea have seen a fair amount of theatrical ‘rolling over’ and flapping around

All the anticipation in the world won’t bring it any closer. Enjoy the build up. Enjoy the moment. Most importantly, enjoy Saturday. Swansea will be out to ruin the party. Let’s make sure this is one Wembley visit with a happy ending. One play-off campaign that has that sweetest of finishes.

We’ve been here before. This time, let’s make it happen. Everyone from David Raya in nets through to Ivan Toney, the Championship’s leading goalscorer, has the ability to play at the highest level. Sergi Canos and Bryan Mbeumo tearing it up down the flanks. Mads Roerlsev showing maturity beyond his years. Dalsgaard busting every sinew. Pontus with all his experience to draw on. Ethan Pinnock, a colossus alongside him. Emiliano on fire, Matthias Jensen finding his groove at the perfect time and Vitaly Janelt yet another one to roll off the conveyor belt of talent that our DOFS continue to astound with. My word, that goal last week still has me grinning like a split watermelon.

There’s not much else to say. We could big it up for pages and pages but this all comes down to 11 v 11 on the pitch and 5,000 v 5,000 off it. Now let’s do this !!!!

We’ve been here before. This time it feels different…

Frank. This, err, stuff just got real.

27 May

“Frank. This sh*t just got real…..” Not my words Carol, the words of Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) in cinema’s Hot Fuzz. Way back. Yet never more appropriate than this morning. Thursday. Little over 48 hours to go until Brentford and Swansea City slug it out for the right to play in next season’s Premier League. The quite wonderful news from yesterday being that each side will now have an additional 1000 supporters present at Wembley on Saturday. Whilst the game has still not been deemed a ‘test event’ in line with the FA Cup final, instead we are now human guinea pigs (metaphorically speaking) , assisting the NHS in what has been described as “a status service trial relating to the free NHS App.” Pass the placebo and sign me up. This is fantastic news and means Brentford, like Swansea, will now have 5,000 fans present. 5,000 loud, roaring , vocal fans. And is there an omen from last night’s Europa League final between Manchester United and eventual winners Villareal? 

Frank, this shit just got real.

Yet we can only start with tickets. Whilst there will still be those who miss out  – you could have made this one a full house in a heartbeat – the joy from those now able to attend thanks to the combination of helping the health service and meeting the new TAPS threshold (including our Harry) has been unconfined. The full story is on Brentford official with the additional ray of hope for those currently unable to attend that, ”If we still have any tickets remaining at the end of Thursday, we will broaden the TAPs group further, but from 5pm tomorrow (now today NB) availability will not be guaranteed, with tickets sold on a first come, first served basis.

It is still an awful situation that so many supporters of both team will miss out. There are so many sad tales out there and it almost feels gloating to even talk of being able to attend. As the club have also noted,” We share your anger and frustration and will do everything we can to ensure as many Bees fans as possible get to Wembley on Saturday to support the team.”  

I don’t envy the staff in the ticket office. Supplying insatiable demand is tough enough at the best of times. Let alone in circumstances such as this one. The ultimate game. An anything but infinite supply to somehow distribute. The responsibility on those able to go to really raise the roof and sing their hearts out like never before, even bigger than ever. Those watching back home and in the pubs screaming at the TV. A chance to celebrate like we’d won the FA Cup at Leyont Orient. A chance to relive England’s World Cup penalty shoot out triumph. Fair to say that the atmosphere in The Griffin was somewhat excited that night. You just KNOW this one is going to go to the wire.  

Cripes, sitting through the penalties last night was tense enough and I don’t even support Manchester United. A midweek affiliation with them aside, after living in the city for 18 months (any game is a game if you can go and the Bees aren’t playing), it was as neutral an affair as they come. Yet still. Watching twenty mostly perfect spot kicks was about as excruciating as it got. Five out of five at the start and then five initial rounds of buttock clenching ‘sudden death.’ The nerve shown by player after player incredible. The shootout score locked at 10 -10. Brackets? You’d probably need an entire paragraph.

And then it got to the end of the line. There was nobody left to have a go. Almost nobody. Oh, David de Gea. The heart went out to him as things reached the point where everybody barring the goalkeepers had scored. Up stepped Geronimo Rulli for the Spaniards. Boom. 21 out of 21. Sadly, his opposite number wasn’t able to emulate him. Heartbreak. Tears. Ecstasy. The obvious extreme of emotions depending on which colour gloves you were wearing . 

Yet all I could think of was us in this situation, ”And up steps David Raya….” If ever there was an additional motivation required to do it in normal time then here it was. Genuinely, I don’t think my heart could take sudden death. The pressure on Saturday will be big enough without going through this additional level of torture to try and claim this most sought after of prizes.

Things are now feeling very real. The first batch of tickets have arrived. Across Europe, silverware is being lifted. Some fans still have that additional chance, no matter how slim, of being able to get in to the game. Just keep your eyes on the website. Keep crossing your fingers. Keep on believing.

One more game…..

Nick Bruzon

A good news, bad news sort of day. Thieves, tickets and a lot of love.

25 May

So here we are. The build up to Saturday’s play off final between Brentford and Swansea City has well and truly begun. Our paltry ticket allocation (the same for both clubs) is now flying off the shelves to those fans with sufficient TAPS. The petition started by BIAS to have the attendance increased to 20,000 is gathering momentum (with Gemma Teale getting it as far as the BBC last night). As of this morning, the count was approaching 9000 signatures and there is still time to get this signed. Will publish a further link at the bottom. Closer to home, my faith in the goodwill of people has gone through both the roof and the floor. The love coming in for Woody and his family, following the words penned by his mum on Sunday morning, has seen emotions all over the place. On the flip side, thieves have targeted the Magpie and Crown pub on Brentford High Street at the weekend using the distraction of the post Bournemouth spirit to steal a squad signed  Bees shirt being raffled to raise money for a Hounslow food bank.

First up, tickets. We all know the scoop by now. Both Brentford and Swansea City will have less fans in on Saturday than they did for their respective semi finals. A stadium three or four times the size holding a fraction of supporters, despite the fact everybody was quite happy to double the capacity at the drop of a hat when there was the lure of a Champions League final at the same stadium on the same day dangled under the nose.Hmmm. 

BIAS have done sterling work in galvanising supporters with both Brentford and Swansea official also making their opinions very publicly known. We ALL want this to be the occasion it most definitely could and whilst the 8000 official fans (I’m not counting superfluous corporates etc) will do a wondrous job in building the atmosphere, imagine it with double that? There IS still hope. 

Today will be crucial to keep the momentum going. If you haven’t signed it as yet then please do. Please pass it on toy our football loving friends. Your families. Anybody you think would want this to happen / who has access to the internet. The link is at the bottom of this column.

On a personal note it was a real good news, bad news sort of Monday. As much through having been coming to Griffin Park (now LR) since 1979, I’m over the TAP threshold so got my ticket. I will be at Wembley with my friends but I won’t be with there with my family. Our Harry, who lives and breathes the club, misses out. Mrs B will be left behind, too. 

There are thousands of us in the same boat. Thousands of deserving fans with Season Tickets who, ordinarily, would be guaranteed a ticket to the game. Instead, we’ve all been torn apart. I haven’t missed a match with H in I don’t know how long. He’s gutted. I’m gutted. We’re gutted. He loves the club (especially Sergi) and his life revolves around it. From reading the teams pre kick off to being a mascot. From having the players in our house at Halloween to modelling the kit for the launch photos. Something which, even as recently as this weekend, I was given a wonderful reminder of when bumping into a fellow ‘model’ outside The Griff who also shared this photo. Thank you.

He’s still only 7(seven) yet thinks that’s ‘just’ how football works. That Brentford make this sort of stuff happen all the time if supporters want to get involved. The possibility of not going to a game when others can is one that hadn’t even crossed the mind. Until now.

The old ‘eagle distraction trick’ a tool up the sleeve of every decent photographer

Again, we all know this isn’t the club’s fault. We’ve been served up a dog’s dinner of a deal. We have SO MANY deserving fans who, like Harry, will miss out. I’m not after special treatment but simply giving my version of a personal story that I know is impacting so many of us. There will be many, many more similar. Many, many more who should be there and can’t . Who will be devastated about missing this. Who will be crammed in to pubs or front rooms trying to make the best of the situation. Many, many who like us will be sitting anxiously by the phone today. Please, get signing. Get your voice heard.

Look at Woody. The  positive reaction and love coming back on social media as a reply to the piece about him was nothing short of life affirming. Thank you. He won’t be there as it stands but If anybody needs to be it is him. If anybody gets the chance to lead out the team (should Corona somehow allow it) it is him. Here’s hoping he gets the first of the phone calls saying a ballot place has been awarded. Pretty sure everybody has read this one but, if not, then you can find that here…. Please do enjoy.

Harry – no eagle needed these days – and Woody at the weekend.

On the downside, local pub The Magpie and Crown have seen their own charity efforts hit by thieves late on Saturday night. A signed shirt being raffled to raise money for a Hounslow food bank was stolen. With everyone understandably distracted by the emotion of what had gone before, an opportunist(s) have pinched this off the wall behind the bar and it has gone walkies.

To date, the item has not been returned but if anyone has any information as to where it is, please get in touch with Scott Illman at the Magpie on the High Street. If you have it and have woken up with drunken regret, just pop it back through the letterbox or post it back – no questions asked. Hundreds of tickets had been sold to raise money for a cause that shouldn’t even require funds raised. Perhaps whomever took it was drunk and didn’t realise what it was for (he says being optimistic) but there can be no doubt now. Keep your eyes open on the auction sites, too. To date, this hasn’t been spotted online.

Finally, we have a referee for Saturday. Premier League Chris Kavanagh has been parachuted in to take charge of the final Championship game of the season. His record this season suggests yellow cards could be in the offing. Has a tense affair just go tenser? Roll on Saturday when we can find out. All being well, with 20,000 fans there.

That petiton link is HERE HERE HERE. Please sign it.

One more game…..

Nick Bruzon

Time to tell this albatross to do one. Time to say goodbye.

22 Aug

Well, here goes. Time to get back on the horse. Metaphorically speaking. I can’t ride for real. Much as I love our equine friends, motion sickness is a curse suffered at the best of times and would make me useless in a post-apocalyptic world. I dread the thought of society falling apart to the point where we are then reliant on saddling up as a means of getting from A to B. There’s bicycles, I suppose. Just as long as puncture repair kits don’t need to be invoked (unless the good folk at Halfords were also able to survive the opening waves of the Zombie plague or whatever it is that eventually does for us). No, it’s time to talk about Brentford once more. Football has come back into my life.

The end to the  Championship still feels far too raw. Far too recent. No complaints about who went up automatically. Likewise, play-off defeat is on us and the team that kicked us out are a genuine irrelevance. It was Fulham. It could have been Stoke City, Barnsley or anyone else in the division. The empty feeling in the stomach is still there. A knot of angst and frustration that has been niggling away for the last few weeks. A dead weight hanging around the neck like a particular piss-taking albatross. Hey, you know those play-off things? The thing that your own former chairman helped put in place? Well, guess how we’re going to make them even more painful? Even more frustrating than the previous 8 times? 

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Martin Lange – much missed

I saw a Twitter post from Beesotted asking fans to rank their play-off defeats in order of priority. Personally, I couldn’t even be bothered to reply to their request. Who needs to rake over it all, yet again? For what it’s worth, this one wins it hands down. Something to finally push Huddersfield into a very close second although the pair of them remain streets ahead over the other 7 in the pain charts.

The one thing these two have in common was our coming ‘so close’ over the run in. Of the prize almost being there and then missed out on as much through off-field circumstances as anything else.

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94-95. Still hurts. So much

The only positive to be taken being the record ‘low’ number of points The Cottagers are sure to acquire in the forthcoming season. Their defence something that is only going to give Fantasy Football managers nightmares. Mitrovic sure to be exposed (again) as the flat track bully he is. Unable to make that step up surrounded by the flotsam and jetsam of his team-mates.

Being blunt, football has been dead to me. I can’t help how I feel but that’s how it’s been. The positive for you guys is the blog has been at the bottom of the priority list. Likewise the thought of even putting together the usual season review.  That’s the normal means of keeping busy over the summer but the motivation has been non-existent. Not even close to picking up a keyboard. Let alone sitting through it all again. Self-inflicting the torture of coming so close not a particular cup I want to drink from any time soon. Perhaps that may come in the next week or two but for now I just can’t find the inspiration. 

It’s not even as though we’ve got new kits to salivate over. Despite a brief tease from Bob last week, throwing down the gauntlet to Brentford official on social media, there has been nothing. With pretty much every other club having released their efforts (and the Bristol City goalkeeper shirt / Watford home win the early plaudits) we’re spinning this out longer than Who Shot Mr. Burns. Come on already. If ever anything was there to give the fans a boost then we’ve a ready made opportunity. Surely this is the week? Surely……

Bristol City have taken inspiration from the Hummel back catalogue

So, fair to say, inspiration has been at an all time low. That’s before we even touch upon blinkin’ Covid and our own inability to see the team in action. To pay one last hurrah at Griffin Park. Of now knowing we won’t be allowed in to Lionel Road until October at the very earliest – not the club’s fault, I hasten to add.

Then, last night happened. Closure, of sorts. Mrs. Bruzon, HB and myself got our chance to go on the ‘Farewell Griffin Park’ tour. The opportunity to say goodbye to our home. To take one last look around. To actually remember that there are other Brentford fans out there in just the same boat. To admire the plethora of retro kits on display by our tour group – seems everyone had their Sunday best on with Osca, Spall and Hummel all out to play.

From the off, the flame began to burn once more. There was Mads in the ticket hutch to welcome us in and check us off. The smile broad. Her enthusiasm infectious. No question able to phase her – although how HB’s thought process happens, I still can’t even begin to fathom. 

Any questions before we start?” Silence from all until he piped up, “Yes. When were the turnstiles made? 

And with that, we were off. The group full of anticipation. The opportunity not one to be missed. The last look around an experience that will be different for all. For some, funereal. For others celebratory. For all of us, the knowledge that this really is now the last look at our home for so many years. The memories we have made over that time are what really counts. The good times, and the bad, what we’ll take with us. 

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Griffin Park now the stuff of ghosts and memories (good and bad) as we look to the future.

Yet to be able to draw the line under Griffin Park. To pay a silent farewell. To drink it all in one last time was beautiful. To look down from the top of the matchbox stand, a rare and unique view. Our visitors over the years probably unawares of just how lucky they were for having that perspective. Albeit one that doesn’t even come close to the magnificence of the Royal Oak stand.

Some photos were taken but probably won’t be looked at down the line. We’ve all got plenty enough of the place full. The ground rocking. The players celebrating with us. That’s what I’ll remember. That, for me, is what will live on about Griffin Park.

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Griffin Park at her best

But I wouldn’t have missed out on this last look for anything. No matter how low the last few weeks have felt, and they have been terrible, the club have been brilliant. Again. We’ve made the best of the shit situation that has been handed to us by the global pandemic and social distancing laws to at least give supporters this chance to say goodbye. 

And I’ve woken up with a smile on my face today. Football wise. There’s also been a message in the ‘in-box’ to help kick start my sorry behind (you know who you are) and the thought of being a Bee is once more front, central. Time to try and haul myself out of this pit of misery and despair. Time to, erm, go again. Sorry. Sorry.

So who knows what today will bring. Hey, I might even nag Kitman Bob again or check the fixture list. Apparently it was published yesterday…..

F*ck sake. Birmingham City away. I hate football. So much. But it’s in the blood. You can’t give it up. Here’s to the forthcoming season ending up ten times better than the last one.

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Time to say goodbye…One last look at the hallowed turf

Nick Bruzon  

Inevitable? Waking up the morning after.

5 Aug

Sometimes I think that being a Brentford fan should have been outlawed by the Geneva convention. Or, at least, being a Brentford fan in the play-offs. Never have we got closer to the top flight than this season. Never has it felt further away than it does this morning after waking up off the back of a 2-1 extra time defeat at Wembley. A torture and pain the likes of which, right now, feels like it has actually gone as far as outdoing Huddersfield ’94-’95. Our magnificent team on the verge of greatness yet now everyone fearing they are on the verge of being broken up. The vultures will be gathering. Chelsea looking at Benrahama has been the rumour for the last few months. Raya to Arsenal. Watkins to who knows where. Will it happen?  

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Pliers. Rack. Hot poker. The play-offs

I love this club. Love this team. Would do anything for it. Always try to exude positivity. But my word, it’s hurting today. One can’t even begin to imagine what it is like for the players and the staff. For Matthew Benham. For Peter Gilham. Twitter is being given a wide berth for fear of biting at our opponents. Very brave of them, once they’ve won (although, personally I’d be focussing on celebrating the moment. Go figure). Thankfully, there’s no work to go to today as the well-meaning platitudes and sympathy won’t help. Anything but. 

Nine bites at the play-off cherry. Nine defeats. I’ve been through them all and I think this is definitely the worst. Huddersfield and Stoke City narrowly just behind. The only glimmer of hope I can take this morning is that we kick on in a style akin to the Yeovil loss. You know, the season of ‘that’ penalty. The mid season break is short and whilst the window IS open, we’ll be back in league action in little more than a month. At least there isn’t a long summer to dwell on this.

Going out to Yeovil after coming so close in the regular campaign was sickening. The following months even longer. Yet the next season was just incredible. Celebrating like we’d won the FA Cup as we went up alongside Wolves. Look where they are now. The return of Marcello Trotta. The excitement of beating Preston to finally make it. Could we have the same reaction now? Could we kick on once more? Might the team stay together or are departures inevitable? Might Chelsea now get their man? Too soon to know. Too torturous to stress about. I’ve got a small boy who was dealt a double blow yesterday and there’s going to need to be a lot of shoddy parenting to try and put the smile back on his face today. Let alone mine.

The flip side is that we implode in a post-Stoke style. The team broken up before it was even back on the coach outside the Millennium stadium. The way the club is run these days gives hope that won’t happen. Or, at the very least, there are replacements stepping in and stepping up.  Oh, for a crystal ball to see what will happen. To have some way of easing the empty feeling in the pit of the stomach.  At least we will start the campaign on a sound financial footing, unlike some of our divisional rivals. Just look at Sheffield Wednesday and Wigan. Could others follow?

Regardless, this is just all too soon and all too raw. Match reports? You’ve seen it. Harrison Reed and Aleksander Mitrovic both lucky to avoid game changing red cards for blatant thuggery. Where was Keith Stroud when you needed him. Oh, the irony. A late goal giving a miniscule feeling of hope before the moment was gone once more. But we were second best on the night and, much as it hurts to admit that too, one can’t deny what played out. Outmuscled by a team that knew our tactics. Beaten by a freak free-kick. Sadly.

I’m all over the shop today. A broken man. I want to be magnanimous but it’s not possible. Well meaning tweets about playing well and going again aren’t helping any. I’ve no complaints about our team and the tremendous effort they have put in over a 13 month season. They are heroes to a man and have brought nothing but smiles, excitement and hope over a dark time. Yet right now, that all feels a million miles away. It will return, of course. I just hope it is sooner than later.

Trying to focus on the good times right now

Nick Bruzon 

Come on Brentford. Come on Sergi. The time is now !

4 Aug

Here we go. Tuesday is upon us. The biggest game in our history is a phrase that has been used many, many times before but with Brentford facing Fulham for a place in next season’s Premier League, perhaps it could actually be true this time. At least, if not in our history then certainly in living memory. The chance of returning to the top flight for the first time since that brief, war interrupted, spell from 1935-47 is one game away. Our most exciting team in recent times has the possibility to emulate what could be argued our greatest ever. 

Cripes. This is exciting. Ridiculously so. We all know about Brentford’s past form in the play-offs. An albatross around the neck that has now been removed. A beast of burden that has flown away with the move to Lionel Road. The Griffin Park gypsy curse has now been lifted. That’s not to say that victory is assured, of course, but at least we can start from fresh. Elephants in the room can be talked about and monkeys have jumped from our backs. The five semi-final and the three deciding game defeats nothing more than a historical footnote. We’ve tripped up as many times as there have been Fast And Furious movies (not counting 2019 spin-off: Hobbs And Shaw). Now, all jinxes have been reset. New ground, new Brentford.

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Lionel Road – the early years

Being quite honest, I AM confident. Not arrogantly so. We’re going to have to be on our best to win this. Just because we’ve beaten Fulham twice this season don’t mean a third time around is assured. But why not be positive? Why not believe in your team? That doesn’t make me a bad man. I’m going into this one on the up. Dreaming of what might be at the end of it. Celebrations. Excitement. Optimism. Just reward for what has been a season of some incredible football after a wobbly start. Seeing that incredible run-in, as Leeds Untied and West Brom were slowly reeled in, come to final fruition as we look to join them in the Premier League.

I’ve been to every play-off that Brentford have taken part in to date. Kevin Godfrey’s late equaliser against Tranmere. Kevin O’Connor scoring that first leg-penalty against Swindon. Trouncing Bristol City. There have been some highs. Not many, but some. Yet never quite getting over the line. No moment will surpass the semi-final defeat to Huddersfield Town on penalties. Quite possibly my lowest moment ever as a Bees’ fan – worse even than ‘that’ penalty.

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94-95. The all time kick in the nuts

These are mentioned for context aswell as positivity about the feelings that a win will engender. Nobody in this squad has survived even from the Middlesbrough semi at the start of Championship life, let alone further back. They are only looking forward. When it comes to tonight’s game, past results are nothing more than a historical curio known and experienced by those of us in our mid-thirties (and beyond).

The moment is approaching. I can’t wait for it all to start. The team will be in the special blue shirts (good news) and you can bet our flair players will love using the wide open spaces of Wembley to cause havoc down the flanks. And through the middle. Fulham have injury doubts over Mitrovic and Kabano but, at the end of the day (Clive) , it doesn’t matter who they start. This is purely down to us and how we play. Results over the season have proven that there isn’t a top six team that can stop us when we are on fire. Play like we’ve been doing and the momentum will be with us. The destruction of Swansea City last week showed that.

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Brentford are back in blue and white

Easy. On paper. In practice, who knows. At 7.45 we find out. We’d all love to be there. Are desperate to be there. SkyBet released the below film last night.

Yours truly was fortunate enough to be invited to take part and, being honest, it was quite emotional. A huge privilege being allowed back through the gates of Griffin Park to help out.

 

H came with me and is now buzzing under the belief that he is the last fan ever to step foot on the hallowed turf. Is he? Who knows? Personally, I’m taking inspiration from his shirt. The boy has a gift for calling games and he’s nothing but full of positive premonitions about tonight. Oh, if Sergi was to score the winner late on I think the roof would come off with the noise.

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Is this the ultimate good omen?

That’s all a long way off. I am confident, as noted, but it is with good reason. Confident because I know what our players can do. Confident because I know how driven Pontus Jansson is.  Confident because Thomas Frank has motivational powers unequalled by any previous Brentford manager (perhaps Martin Allen aside). Confident because if all else fails, we’ve still got ‘that’ whiteboard. 

Yet, at the same time, there are nerves at the moment. Perhaps as much due to the anticipation. To knowing how slowly the clock is going to be moving today as it inches towards kick-off time. Hoping we come out of the traps flying.

We took a family trip up to London yesterday. It was like a ghost town but still great fun. We came back via the river service from Westminster to Kew Gardens (always a great trip and about as Corona safe an outdoor activity as you can undertake). The boat went past both grounds  – Craven Cottage and Lionel Road – within the space of a few Peronis. We’re that close to each other. Near neighbours doing battle for the ultimate prize. 

Is it being knocked down, daddy?” asked H, looking at the cranes and bulldozers that lined our opponents three-sided ground. Let’s hope Fulham do, indeed, collapse tonight.

No pressure….

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H embracing his inner Bee at Kew

Nick Bruzon    

Let’s talk about Stroud, baby. Let’s talk about him and me. Let’s talk about all the bad things that may be.

27 Jul

And with that, the Keith Stroud we all know and fear was back. Brentford were edged out 1-0 at Swansea in a game that will be forever remembered as yet another ruined by this most terrifying of officials. Just when you thought he couldn’t surpass the ‘battle’ of Bramall Lane with Sheffield United ( three red cards, four penalties and more yellows than a rack of Coldplay CDs) , he’s gone and done it again in a crunch match. This time, sending off Rico Henry for nothing more than cleanly winning the ball from Connor Roberts whilst not even coming close to making contact with the player (until his own run took him over our man). This, with an open game poised at 0-0 and just moments after David Raya had made a quite wonderful penalty save from Andre Ayew. Then Keith did his thing.

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Hmmmmm

Look. No complaints abut Swansea. They played well and the goal they scored was an absolute screamer. Even if it did start down the left back position now bereft of Rico. Great saves from David Raya combined with chances that both Ollie Watkins and Said Benrahma may think they could have done better with in retrospect had this game hanging in the balance. It could have gone either way. And in the end it did – in favour of both Keith and the hosts.

Brentford can bemoan their position but the simple fact of the matter is that we are 90 minutes away from the final. 1-0 in either direction is crazy close. Only a fool, or Mr Stroud, would try and predict how this one is going to play out.

Thomas Frank was furious at full time. Certainly compared to his normal standards. 100% that is not a red card and that Rico will be back in the team on Wednesday. His incredulation at the lack of VAR in a game of this nature was there for all to see as he confirmed that Brentford will be appealing a decision. His view point was one shared by man on social media

Natalie Sawyer: Keith Stroud. Quelle surprise!!!

Sam Saunders: Disgraceful decision surely rescinded?

Marcus Bean: One of the worst decisions I’ve seen

Brentford Official: That is a joke! @ricohenry14 wins the ball on the touchline, it’s not even a foul but he’s been sent off

Skybet Championship official feed: @BrentfordFC’s Rico Henry is sent off. Big question marks over that one for sure! 

Getting any more upset about it than I already am won’t help any at this juncture. If anything, Keith may have given Brentford the opportunity to come out of the blocks flying to right a horrific injustice on Wednesday. Everybody associated with the club is livid. Fuming. Desperate to right the wrong. Frustrated that it was Brentford in the ascendency when the fateful card was shown. David Raya’s quite brilliant penalty save from Ayew giving us a morale boost that was snatched away as quickly as it had been given.

Yesssss. That’s put a bit of juice back in the carton”. Not my words but those of HB. A 7(seven) year old’s wisdom then replaced by a tirade at the man in black which Alex on the Braemar Road paddock would have been proud of.

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Raya playing his own mind games before a huge save

I’m not sure what else to really say at this juncture. A great game, ruined. Swansea may have gone on to win anyway. Brentford might have edged it but that chance was taken away the second Keith did what Keith does. All we can do is hold on for Wednesday and go ten to the dozen in the return leg. Ironically, Alanis, what we had to to do for the final 25 minutes last night. Albeit in different guise.

It promises to be a cracker. All being well, we can have a referee. What a shame that, once again, everyone is talking about Stroud rather than a great game of football.

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At least an old friend returned

Nick Bruzon

Don’t @ me. This isn’t even close to 94-95.

19 Jul

Where do you even start? It could have been dreamland for Brentford but instead we have to fight on. The dream of promotion from the Championship still well alive but one which is now reliant on either West Bromwich Albion dropping more points on Wednesday or us going through the play-offs. In a high pressure game at Stoke City the combination of brutal opposition, terrible refereeing from Geoff Eltringham and hosts set up so intent on smothering us that penetration was nigh on impossible all saw us slip to 1-0 defeat. The usual attacking flair booted out of us by a team boasting more kickers than a French exchange student. If Friday’s win for Huddersfield Town had felt like some cathartic relief from the 25 year pain that has gnawed away since the 94-94 play-off semi-final ( a moment for me which was way worse than ‘that’ penalty) yesterday brought the heartache of the 2002 play-off in Cardiff flooding back.

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You see, they’re also a brand of footwear popular with…

We’ve all seen it. There’s no point in going through even the briefest summary of the highlights beyond saying that our hosts had clearly done their homework. Brentford tried but had no way past. Eltringham and his team missing two blatant penalties (the second especially). Ethan Pinnock coming oh-so close at the death.

Much like the Doncaster game, going through the carcass of this one won’t change a thing. Pawing over the dead duck that was Crewe or Yeovil at Wembley doesn’t help. Nor does whining about the players, the team or their apparent ‘bottling’ it on social media. 

Sure, we’re all hurting. I am, and as much because I’ve followed this team through devastation and lowpoints since the back end of the 70s. My son, too. He only knows  Brentford set to ‘amazing’ mode and was in tears as this one reached a heart breaking conclusion.

Heart breaking as much because of the most incredible way this team have come together over the last few months. The team spirit and desire shown as they’ve caught up with our rivals through nothing more than guts, determination and win after win after win. Eight in a row, to be precise. The excitement and happiness they’ve engendered in a fanbase doing their best, and usually struggling, to get through the awfulness of lockdown. They’ve kept many of us going in a way more incredible than they  probably realise.

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For half an hour, the dream was on…

There’s been some nonsense spouted on social media about their apparent bottling it yesterday. Justified in the guise of: Oh, I’m hurting – I can say what I want. Now shut up and f*ck off.

Yes. We’re ALL hurting. Aghast to have missed out. It was the most amazing opportunity and, you know what, this time it wasn’t able to be taken. Couldn’t be taken. But to even get into that position is an incredible achievement.

To still be well alive with two more bites at the cherry is not to be sneered at or overlooked. 

Of course people are gutted. They have every right to be – it’s the natural emotion at a time like this. Our entire fanbase should be. I am. Beyond belief. But as much because I know how close we’ve come and how hard we’ve worked to even get into that position.

It was always going to be fragile opportunity, given how far off the pack we’d been when this amazing run started. Moreso, when in a game of few chances and bus parking opposition, we needed the help and protection of the officials. Not their failing an eyetest. Now, destiny is out of our hands as quickly as it had got there.

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You can’t blame Stoke for setting up as they needed to

This one feels different though. The season is still alive. We’ve not been relegated or lost a final. We’re still in with a huge chance to get promoted.

If not directly (and I’d hate to picture the scene in the Gilham household this morning, knowing that we are in the hands of West Bromwich Albion not winning when the Loftus Road mob visit on Wednesday) then via the play-offs. In all likelihood, needing to get past Cardiff City or Fulham in the final. Football. A cruel mistress.

For me, there has been no lower point than standing in the paddock, watching the celebrations amongst the Huddersfield Town players and staff back in ’95. I remember it still. Numb. Devastated. Shell-shocked. A glazed feeling washing over me. Not able to move but just stare out across Griffin Park and into space. Something made even worse by our actually coming second that season and the reason, in part, of my loathing Birmingham City so much.

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94-95. The all time kick in the nuts

Yesterday wasn’t that. It wasn’t even ‘that penalty’ levels of awfulness. It was brutal. Devastating. But it’s not the time to be slagging off the players and the team for not winning a game. If that’s your thing and way of coping then fair enough – I can’t argue with that mindset but would also ask this…..

Would you have the balls to say it to their face? To tell Thomas Frank or any of the players that you thought they bottled it. Bottled it. Were a team of bottlers. To actually say those words ? In person?  Hmm. It’s not so easy being a keyboard warrior for real.

That’s me done. @ me all you want. I don’t really care. From this point on I’m only focussing on the game with Barnsley. The thought that, as it stands, we are a possible 90 minutes away from the Premier League. I just wish I could be there on Wednesday night to join in.

As the returning Sergi Canos ( itself, a cause for celebration) noted last night: “Disappointing result but there’s no time to think about it. We are an amazing club as a whole on and off the pitch and we are going to keep fighting until the end. 

THIS IS NOT OVER YET.

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Sergi and his fighting spirit are back

Nick Bruzon

  

What a week. What a 16 years. Why today is more than just ‘another’ game.

11 Aug

Stoke City here we come. Brentford hit the road today, safe in the knowledge that Ryan Woods remains a Bee after a somewhat uneventful, albeit tense, transfer window slammed shut on Thursday ™ . That said, there can’t be one Bees fan who doesn’t know full well there still remains a gaping hole in the middle of it through which a player could still leave before month end. This, whether to / from another Championship club. Or Lower. Whilst we may be out of the woods in terms of the ginger Pirlo heading to Swansea City, that still remains a theoretical possibility for a few weeks. And with Sam Clucas leaving the Swans for today’s hosts after initially failing to agree terms with top flight Burnley, could their interest in Woodsy now be renewed?  Or might today see a renaissance for Ryan?  

First up, Stoke City. We’ve not had a competitive fixture with the Potters since the 2002 play-off final. That was the one we lost. 2-0. Although we had the unique experience of getting beaten in Cardiff, rather than in the semi-finals or at Wembley. That was the one I attended with my Stoke supporting flat mate and HB’s now godfather. Where the guard on our First Great Western service tried to make an already awful day even worse on the way home by taking the train out of commission at Newport. Amongst his lesser offences. How DID that evening all work out, Jack? How much did that taxi cost? The one where Steve Coppell’s squad was not so much broken up as splintered into a million pieces immediately afterwards. 

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Move along – nothing to see here. Again.

It wasn’t a great day all round by any stretch of the imagination. Frankly, I was glad to be clear of Stoke. They changed managers a few times but would hold station until the enigmatic Tony Pulis out shone their divisional rivals to make it into the Premier league in 2006/07. It was a position the Potters would maintain until their love-in with the top flight ended in a bitter divorce at the end of last season i.e. they were relegated. And now our paths cross once more. Sixteen years later.

Cripes, Stoke look tasty. Unlike most relegated teams, they’ve been able to keep the majority of their squad together. Clucas has come in from Swansea whilst they had already strengthened with the £6m+ purchase of midfielder Oghenekaro Etebo. In addition, Dean Smith was quick to recognise other new boys including Tom Ince and Ashley Williams in yesterday’s press conference. That’s before you factor in the likes of Joe Allen or England World cup squad member, goalkeeper Jack Butland.  

Then again, the Bees look equally impressive. You can only play the opposition presented yet Saturday’s 5-1 obliteration of Rotherham was about as one-sided as it gets. This despite Ryan Woods not being named in the matchday squad after the interest from Wales. Frankly, that we ‘only’ scored five is still about as confusing as it gets. Brentford were insatiable when pushing forward and could really have made a claim on those beautiful brackets that come with a 7(seven) goal score. Yet three points and top of the table after the first round of games are about as much as one could hope for.

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View from the Braemar – a great performance against Rotherham

Today will be an infinitely sterner test. Just where is that dividing line to be drawn between Rotherham being awful and Dean Smith’s team being considered able to take that next step up? Will the team change now that Woodsy is available? Even just the bench?  Dean told the media team yesterday that “Ryan is a full member of our squad. I am very pleased he didn’t leave. We had bids and there was an unsettling period for Ryan but nothing has happened. Our valuation was not met so he remains a Brentford player.

What that means for today is unclear. I just can’t see a winning team being changed but equally, and has been noted many times, I’m just the numpty on the terrace. One thing Dean does is surprise us with his choice of personnel. Last season’s opening period was punctuated by no team being the same in successive games for a stretch that seemed to last about two months, if I recall correctly. Might we see more of the same?

There’s only one place to find out and that’s 3pm at the bet365 stadium (things to note not to call Lionel Road – I think I’ll cry if we run out at the LeoVegas Arena). I can’t wait for this one. If for no other reason than we get to see how well the boys do in that quite magnificent brown and orange away shirt.

Roll on kick off and see you there.

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Looking forward to seeing more of Said in the brown today

One final note on the Woodsy situation. Or, more specifically, the Swansea City situation. What mess must they be in at present? I’m not close enough to be in any position of knowledge but looking in, it seems staggering. They’ve had years in the Premier League. They have those god awful parachute payments to help keep them afloat. Former Bee Alfie Mawson was sold to Fulham for a fee noted at close to £20m. Clucas for another £6m+, yet they couldn’t reach to Brentford’s valuation (thought to be £6.5m) for a player they had been courting all window.  Then again, that Clucas deal represents a somewhat awful turnaround for a player who cost £16m from Hull City (along with Stephen Kingsley heading in the opposite direction) just 12 months earlier.

That’s not to have a dig at Swansea. Far from it. We all know what it’s like being on the wrong end of your best player leaving or financial mismanagement. More, to note once more how well we are being run and how relatively stable things are at Brentford compared to a lot of other clubs.

Great job, Mr. Benham. Now here’s to three points  today.

Nick Bruzon

 

 

There’s only one team I want to do it on Saturday. For all that is good in football.

26 May

For us Brentford fans, the season is over. A fourth top ten finish in the Championship, our last significant action of the campaign (aside from beating the Loftus Road mob, again) was Neal Maupay’s magnificent 94th minute equaliser at The Cottage in mid-April. Those two points denied to Fulham have ended up being the difference between their attaining automatic promotion to the Premier League and now finding themselves in a play-off final against Aston Villa. That game is today. Saturday.

But actually, I’m not as into it as perhaps I normally would be. This is nothing to do with excitement about the chance to play Liverpool bingo later in the Champion’s League final. More with the participants and what I’ve seen on social media this week.

And if you’d like to read more whilst helping the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust …. the rest of this article can now be found in the Kindle e-book Ten Times Better. Brentford FC Season review: 2017/18. Inspired by ‘that’ interview it contains the least bad of these columns in one, handy volume as it looks at our own campaign as well as wider divisional life and the promotion / relegation races.

As a bonus 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).

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In addition, There Is No Plan B. Brentford FC Season reviews: 2013/14 – 2017/18 takes us all the way back to the start of this latest leg in the journey. That penalty. League One. Harlee Dean was a hero. Jota was something we thought happened to the temperature for one week in July. Alan Judge had joined on loan whilst the Marinus Experiment was something nobody had contemplated. Bringing things bang up to date by the inclusion of this year’s volume alongside the four previously published campaign round ups, it has five seasons in one weighty tome. As weighty as a download can be, that is.

Relive the memories. See how often the same material gets regurgitated. Remind yourself about the likes of Betinho, Martin Fillo, Javi Venta and Marcos Tebar. Certainly, if there’s no Marcos Tea Bar at Lionel Road it will be an opportunity missed.

All proceeds from any sales will go to the Community Sports Trust. For less than the cost of a half / pint respectively, they may help while away some time on the commute. By the pool on holiday. In the bathroom. Who knows? It will certainly do some good for the Trust, whose work has been well documented at Griffin Park but you can read all about it on their site.

And if that wasn’t enough, I’ve been given something very special. A 2017/18 third team shirt with Lewis Macleod’s squad number on the reverse in the EFL typeface. Anyone with half an interest in Bees kits will know that these were never made available in the club shop.  Anyone who has read any of this before will know what a kit nerd yours truly is so when I say this is rare, take that in good faith!

To be in with a chance of owning it, download a copy of either before the end of June 2018 and you’ll go into a draw to win this. Just DM/tweet me (@NickBruzon) a copy of your purchase confirmation mail and I’ll add your name to the list before selecting a random Bees fan to win this on July 1st.

 

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Could Scott Hogan celebrate another goal today ?

 

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Nick Bruzon