Tag Archives: play offs

Never order a kit-kat on a train. What really happened at the play-off final.

28 Mar

There’s no football on. I’m bored. Very bored. So who wants to hear a story? A story about what really happened after the 2002 play-off final. That was the one Brentford lost. 2-0 to Stoke City in Cardiff, if it helps narrow things down a little bit. Although at least this time we had the consolation of not losing in the semi-finals or at Wembley. A story about how your journey home from that one may have been impacted, indirectly, by yours truly. The wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time and for which I can only apologise. Even if not my fault.

It was the game I attended with my brother Mark, my Stoke supporting flat mate Paul and HB’s now godfather, Carl (the names have been changed to protect the innocent) . A game where a Mr. Jack Segal (his hasn’t) of First Great Western trains tried to make an already awful day even worse on the way home.

The day, like all of them that had gone before and would come since, started with such great promise. The sight of Carl, sitting on a bench outside Twickenham station, holding a bottle of Baileys at 6am was one to put an early smile on the face abut the day ahead.

Surely, THIS time, Brentford would lay the play-off jinx to bed. There was no way we could cock up another one. For starters, it wasn’t taking place at the W place in North London. That hovel where footballing dreams go to die. At least, if you support the Bees. On what was shaping up to be a beautiful day, we had even been blessed with the ‘lucky’ dressing room. There was just no way we’d mess this one up. Championship, here we come.

Oh dear. There’s a reason I don’t bet on football. 12 hours later, our footballing dreams had died. Again. Different city. Same outcome. Brentford 0 Stoke City 2 the final score. The Bees putting in a no-show of a performance on an afternoon that the wheels came off our quite wonderful team. Steve Coppell’s squad falling apart on the pitch and then splintered into a million pieces almost immediately afterwards.

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Different city. Same outcome

Yet the pain of defeat was nothing compared to what came next. Tired, emotional and drained – the stuffing knocked out of us – it was time for the journey back to Paddington. The train arrived. Seats were taken. It left on time. Wow! At least the day would have a decent ending. Homeward bound, what could possibly go wrong from here? Well, quite a lot as it happens.

Whilst the early morning Baileys was a giddy high that, just for the record, had not been replicated over the course of the day let’s not pretend either that drinks had not been consumed. And whilst I am assuming that we were all fit to drive cars, say the alphabet backwards and pass breathalyser tests, discretion was deemed the better part of valour at this juncture. As such, a trip to the buffet carriage was undertaken with the sole intention of being to acquire four coffees and four kit-kats.

For reasons unknown, the kit-kats have always seemed an integral part to proceedings and what came next. There’s no specific reason but on the odd occasion that events have been re-told in private, that detail has remained constant. Close to twenty years on, other facts may have been lost to time, faded or even just been altered to suit the telling. Not deliberately, but as my good friend Bucko used to say “Never ruin a good story with the facts.” I’m not saying this is necessarily one which fits into that category, or that there has been any conscious manipulation of events, but the multi-fingered chocolate-covered wafers have always been a favourite so need to stay in.

Through the coaches we swayed. Purely due to the rocking motion of the train. The buffet car ahead of us. The sound of singing supporters coming through into the preceding carriage. Brentford and Stoke fans, mixed together and sounding in genuinely good spirits. Nothing moronic. Nothing stupid. Just good humour as supporters drank and partied together. Something more incredible given the defeat we had recently endured. Perhaps that side of things was more symptomatic with an ongoing acceptance that this is what probably would always have happened regardless of omens and good feeling.  After all, we’d just been in a play-off match and, to coin a phrase, it’s Brentford. Innit?  

In we went. Paul and I, that is. Carl and my brother had remained behind in the carriage. The bonhomie we’d presumed to be in place was indeed confirmed. Fans of both clubs intermingled and very much enjoying all that the First Great Western bar had to offer. It was a heartwarming sight and moreso given the reputation of travelling football fans.

The buffet car itself may have been a relic from the 70s but the attitude of the supporters was anything but. As we sped through the Welsh countryside at plenty over 100mph it should have been a picture postcard advert for travelling to and from a game by train. Were it not for the simple fact that the door was hanging wide open. Wide. Open.  Nothing but a distance of about two feet separating us from the high speed blur of trees and bridges on the other side of the open gap. The wind blowing in and everybody either oblivious or simply choosing to ignore it – the taste of High Speed Fosters too delicious to surrender for something as trivial as certain death should anyone have lost their footing and lurched towards the exposed doorframe.

By all rights we should have turned tail and fled back through the vestibule. Perhaps pulling the emergency cord as we went. But nobody else had and I certainly wasn’t going to be the one to rain on this parade. The person deemed responsible for turning the party atmosphere into one of angst. 

Instead, we stepped forward towards the  safety of the narrow passageway alongside the serving hatch, bypassing the deathtrap to our right. Those kit-kats weren’t going to buy themselves and, besides, we could always ask the chap dispensing the coffees if he’d happened to notice that his carriage was now exposed to the elements? And then, worlds collided.

Four coffees and four kit-kats, please”. As that phrase was uttered, enter stage left the guard. Jack Segal. He had a name badge announcing the fact. He may aswell have announced himself with the line, “‘Ello ‘ello ‘ello. What’s going on ‘ere then?” And as it slowly dawned on him, the man presumably responsible for the health and safety of all on the train, that neither could be assured he barked, “Buffet’s closed”. Then reached for the emergency alarm.

The caterer didn’t know what to do. With the train slowing to a halt, we asked if service was possible? Granted, in retrospect it was unlikely to be a well received request but, you know, just because the train had decelerated didn’t mean that serving a hot drink was impossible. Alas, it was. 

“Buffet’s. Closed” repeated Segal. Each word screeched with the sort of protracted delivery reserved for naught schoolboys from a particularly apoplectic headmaster determined to make a point amidst the mayhem unfurling around him.

He shouted again. Face growing an ever darker shade of Fergie red as everyone ignored him and continued the protracted negotiations for caffeine and chocolate.

Buffet’s. Closed” he screamed once more. The man behind the counter this time pulling the shutters down. It was a less a slam and more a meandering slide but with our hands on the counter top, it was a game of Russian roulette – albeit one utilising fingers and an industrial grill rather than a high velocity bullet and a brain. Yet, with the fear of an irate Segal now firmly instilled, there was no stopping this manoeuvre from playing out to a bone crunching conclusion. Not that we really though this would happen until experiencing the taste of metal on knuckle.

Oww. That really hurt. What did you did that for ?” or words to that effect were directed towards the train staff, although primarily Segal. There was no apology. Anything but. Instead, with our fellow fans having deserted the scene and the train now stopped, the fickle finger of Jack pointed from the door to us and then back again. He put two and two together, came up with five and made it quite clear that this near death experience was nothing to do with a faulty train but down to us. And that trouble was waiting.

Back we went to our seats. No coffee. No kit-kats. The door had been closed and the train limped towards Newport where everybody was kicked off to await a replacement service. Except for Paul and I. We were told to await the Transport Police where we could… help them with their enquiries. A phrase delivered with all the menace of a camp pantomime villain sporting a cape and waxed moustache . Only a Mwah-ha-ha-ha-ha-haaa! required at the end for a full house.

Which is what then happened. The police rather than the theatrical laugh. We were met by Her Majesty’s finest who, despite protesting our innocence, were given a very simple choice. Either disembark, come to the stationmaster’s office to give some more formal ‘assistance’. Or be arrested. Either way, we were going with them.

Put like that, it was an easy enough decision. As our fellow passengers waited on the platform for a rail replacement to be dragged out of God knows where, we began undergoing the process of interrogation into our involvement in the alleged train door opening which, it transpired, is what Segal had formally accused us of.

What? This was madness. Again and again we went over our version of events. Nothing changed. The questions kept coming. By all rights we probably should have had some sort of legal representation there but it didn’t even dawn on us to ask. Besides, we’d done nothing wrong.

That didn’t seem to matter. Segal’s accusation keeping us trapped in Newport as the man himself had since boarded the replacement service that was heading towards London with the rest of our fellow fans. 

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Trapped in Newport?

Well boys. That’s the last train to London tonight gone” said one of the officers. He didn’t go so far as to add “so now your fu*%ed” although I’m fairly certain he thought it. I did, that’s for sure. Locked in a stalemate this was going nowhere fast. The police continued, “You know how much this is going to cost? The entire network has been knocked out. We’ve had to pull a spare train out of mothballs and delay just about every other service going through here. A f*%king fortune is how much”. This time he did swear . Quite profusely.

Then, and I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred any earlier, somebody had the bright idea to call up Segal on the replacement train. We were oblivious to this part of proceedings until one of the station staff came forward to where we were still assisting and uttered those sweet, sweet words: “Stoke City have been eliminated for fielding an illegible player. You’ve been promoted.

Well, not quite but the joy was much the same. “We’ve spoken to him now. He’s admitted he didn’t, actually, see it happen and can’t say that it was these two.

Thanks a bunch, Jack. Mainly because it wasn’t us two. That was a rant for another day though. He continued, “Really sorry lads. We all know him here. He’s a right ‘toys out the pram’ type. So you’ve got two choices – we’ll put you up in hotel and get you home tomorrow or we’ll just pay for a taxi down to your final destination now”.     

If ever you needed the quintessential no brainer then here it was. A late night in a Newport Travel Lodge and a Sunday chugger / replacement bus home or back to our beds within a couple of hours. Hmmm. Let me think about that for about no seconds.

A taxi was duly summoned and took us all the way back through the dead of night to Twickenham. The meter reading £159 as we pulled up outside the station although, for reasons of almost Segal-esque anal behaviour, the driver wouldn’t take us the extra 500 yards to our flat above the snooker hall. Seriously? After driving for three hours, you couldn’t manage two more minutes? Still, it could have been a hell of a lot worse.

And then I remembered Carl, my brother and the rest of the Brentford faithful. Shit, they’d probably be worried. No worries. Out came the Nokia 3310 and a call was placed. I’d probably wake him up but, you know, he’d want to know we were safe rather than facing a prison sentence.

You’d think. But no. Anything but. He was not pleased to hear from me and not because he’d been roused from his slumbers….

You’re home? Already? Bastards. We’re stuck in Reading! I’ve had Carl sucking up to the guard all the way back and now we’ve missed the last connection back because the train was so delayed.”

I made my excuses and left. All of a sudden, losing a play-off final didn’t seem so bad.

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Happier times with Carl and Paul

Nick Bruzon  

Last game at Griffin Park – all you need to know about tickets so far.

18 Feb

Contender, ready! Gladiators, ready! Thus demanded (or asked, I was never quite sure) referee John Anderson back in the day. And it has the feel of a titanic struggle as the Barnsley tickets go on sale this afternoon. On the surface, an innocuous fixture but in practice the last time Brentford will get to run out at Griffin Park (officially – there’s always the possibility of the play-offs….).  In the role of the plucky contenders, we have the non-season ticket holding members. Lined up in Wolf’s clothing, TAPS. And with the club already warning that “We have significantly more Members than available tickets for this game”, expect somebody to end this one unhappy.

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Who will end up unhappy?

What are the club to do though? Already the hard luck  / panic stories are coming out on social media and the tickets aren’t even on sale. Moreso given the apparent worry / fear of Griffin Park being flooded by tourists (especially those on apparent Scandinavian package deals). We’ve had high demand games before and things have generally worked out for those wanting to get in. Yet this is next level. As emotive as they come and demand is absolutely sure to outstrip supply – even with the Ticket Access Point (TAP) tiering.

Club Members with 900+ TAPs (one per Member):
From Tuesday 18 February at 4pm to Tuesday 3 March at 4pm

Club Members with 750+ TAPs (one per Member):
From Tuesday 10 March at 4pm to Tuesday 24 March at 4pm

All Club Members (one per Member):
From Tuesday 31 March at 4pm 

You can absolutely understand everybody’s desire to get in for this one. The club could charge double and it would still sell out. They could but they won’t. They don’t really have any alternative as to how tickets go on sale. These are member only (with ST holders guaranteed a place so excluded from buying) and then members raked by TAP rather than an ‘all-in simultaneously’ bundle or even a lottery. In my opinion, and for what it’s worth, this is the fairest way possible.

Absolutely somebody will miss out that almost certainly deserves to be in there. Somebody will buy a ticket for their brother/mother/cousin who has been once in a blue moon. We’ll no doubt have our usual contingent of visitors from abroad (something which, for the record, nobody seems to have had kicked off about previously). This one is different though…

This one is huge. This one will have Brentford fans that miss out up in arms. That’s natural. We all want to go. We’ve all got reasons for not being able to attend certain games. We’ve always used Season Tickets and TAPS as a means of attempting to reward the most loyal supporters previously.

How could it have been done differently? Delegate attendance to a random away game as a means of prioritising for tickets? We’ve done that in the past – oh, the joys of a midweek coach trip to Wrexham in the fog and rain. But what about loyal supporters with prior commitments that weekend? A lottery is even worse whilst giving all members simultaneous access was a recipe for website meltdown and even huger fan upset as ‘deserving’ supporters with a long history could well have missed out.

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2002 – demand was ferocious.

Brentford are in a lose-lose scenario here. Whatever they do will upset somebody. Only Season Ticket holders are guaranteed access and whilst it’s easy to pontificate in that situation, one can’t help but feel for those that do miss out. I’ve been there before back in the  dark days of being so skint there were weeks I couldn’t even afford a match day ticket for Division One fixtures. Let alone the luxury of a season ticket. Of having to hope somebody somehow had a spare or trawl around the outskirts of Griffin Park to get in to the promotion decider with Reading (thanks, Jamie Cureton). My own cousin Charles from Gibraltar, who has been bringing a close to 100% record with him since the 80s, will likely miss out. That’s how it goes, sadly.

The club have made the best of trying to untangle this Gordian knot of a problem. It was always going to be impossible to keep everyone happy in advance. Asking Keith Stroud to keep the cards in his pocket or getting a cat into a bath tub would have been easier. 

That said, before fans get any more anxious than they already (and understandably) are, the club has also offered a further rays of light should the tickets indeed sell out. The article on the subject, which you can read in full here, notes that : 

A limited amount of additional tickets are likely to become available at a later date once we have a clearer understanding of the requirements we need to fulfil for various parties, including, but not limited to, the EFL and Brentford FC partners, the opposition club and players. As such, further sales information will follow in due course.

Likewise, there is also the prospect of the Brentford Ticket Exchange closer to the time whilst I’d be amazed if Utilita don’t run some form of competition. This seems to be de-rigeur at present and, whilst they don’t announce the winners or even get kick off times correct, it is another avenue of possibility. Woudn’t have happened on Siracusa’s watch, that’s all I’ll say about our goal sponsors.

So hold steady. Don’t panic. Easier said than done, I realise. Just be ready to sign on at the appointed hour and then cross you fingers that our server is up to the job. Failing that, get following Utilita on Twitter. 

Otherwise, we’re relying on Leeds United not falling apart (nobody wants that) and the prospect of our last game turning out to be our penultimate game with the play-offs coming in to contention……

Nick Bruzon

I’m buzzing. I’m excited. I want more.

7 Feb

Fun though the game at Hull was (and it was) there seems to have been an interminable wait for Brentford to get back in action. Perhaps it is wanting more of the same after that stonking 5-1 win on the road at the weekend. Perhaps it is knowing that if we are able to beat Middlesbrough (certainly, no easy ask) we move to within two points of second placed Leeds United. At least, until they travel to Nottingham Forest in the evening. Perhaps we just want to welcome back Saïd Benrahma and give him that hug in person – metaphorically speaking. Or actually. Saïd, if you are reading (unlikely, let’s be honest) the family Bruzon will be on the Braemar Road touchline at full time.

Elsewhere, for the lovers of social media amongst you it’s not Twitter we look at today but facebook, where there’s a new group you may wish to get involved with (blood oaths to the leader not essential).

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Thomas giving some big love. Here’s to more on Saturday

First, as ever, on pitch matters. Saturday was magnificent. We scored five. Being realistic, it could have been ten. That’s not arrogance but a fact. Saïd was on fire and grabbed the headlines but let’s not forget the unsung heroes in midfield – Christian Nørgaard and Mathias Jensen who, in particular was all kinds of the purest filth when carving open the opposition to push the Bees, erm, up. 

At the same time Hull helped us a lot, still reeling from the psychological blow of losing their two star players at the 11th hour (got to hate that transfer window – a pain we know too well). Twenty minutes in it looked as though the abacus and the brackets may need to come out but, in the end, we didn’t quite reach the magical 7(seven) marker. Yet to be anything but over the moon (Clive) about scoring five goals away from home and further boosting our already prolific goal difference would be nothing short of trite. So I’m not. I’m buzzing. I’m excited. I want more.

And it is Middlesbrough the team who offer that opportunity. Cripes, there was a time when even just mention of Boro would have had us quaking in fear. The Smoggies and defeat seemed to go hand in hand for Brentford as we began Championship life. The pain of the 2014-15 play-off semi finals being the rancid cherry on top of a very stale cake. That incredible first season almost coming to the fairytale ending of promotion to the Premier League. Instead, there were Middlesbrough to stop us in our tracks. Every time. An impenetrable fortress of iron clad solidity. A team of footballing Batfinks  – with Aitor Karanka making sure his team had added Karate. Kids ; ask an adult or just use the internet.

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2014-15 saw Middlesbrough like a shield of steel

That was then. This is now. A run of 7(seven) defeats and 2 draws out of 9 games reached an abrupt end with our 2-1 win at the Riverside last season – got to love that lucky brown/orange. Replacement goalkeeper Patrik Gunnarsson coming off the bench for Dan Bentley to keep the hosts at bay on his league debut whilst an own goal and Benrahma did the business for the Bees late on. Paths crossed again at the start of this season where Ollie Watkins popped up to grab the winner. Like the 65, you wait ages and then two come along at once. I guess there are advantages to being a bus stop.

Now for the hat-trick chance. Probably the most crucial of the three recent encounters, given the congestion now occurring at the top of the table. Leeds United are falli etc etc etc but looking purely at ourselves, we have a wonderful opportunity to start breathing down their necks and getting close enough to whisper in their ear (preferably ‘choke choke choke’).

Brentford will, in all likelihood, remain unchanged. Thomas Frank has already confirmed that Pontus Jansson will be unavailable. Albeit recovering rapidly and hoped to be ready for some part of the action on Tuesday night against his former club.  That said, one would imagine that new boys Shandon Baptiste and Tariqe Fosu may make the bench after our own deadline day shopping. 

As for the visitors, they are clear of the relegation zone they occupied for a long part of the early season although reaching the play-offs would seem even beyond the most optimistic supporter’s aspirations. Moreso, given a recent run of DLDD in the Championship. Cliche and expectation suggests they’ll be parking the bus at the Griffin Park stop. Past form also dictating that they’ll be robust in the challenge. These, situations the Bees have struggled against with an open and attacking flow to the game being very much our medium in which to shine. Still, with home advantage up the sleeve and the biggest incentive of all ahead of Leeds on Tuesday,  it’s our place to dictate the play. Here’s to giving that lesson.

Off field, for those of you wanting to increase your interaction with fellow Bees then there’s a rapidly growing group on Facebook – Brentford FC Facebook chat. It does what it says. Articles, chat, fan interaction and even the odd bit of dodgy photoshop (although perhaps not the full fat deification of the Bees found on some of the more, erm, intense pages). 

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Dodgy photoshop paying homage to our heroes? Why not?

As author Megan Whalen Turner so famously wrote in ‘The King of Attolia’ “It isn’t an easy thing to give your loyalty to someone you don’t know, especially when that person chooses to reveal nothing of himself. 

So why not reveal yourselves (not literally ; that isn’t what the internet is for) to your fellow supporters and get to know a bit more about each other – and our club. You can join up here.

Until then, here’s to Saturday. I can’t wait for  this one. See you there.

Nick Bruzon 

Victory would be huge but can we do it?

7 Dec

Here’s the good news. Win today and Brentford will go into the top six, regardless of other results. Victory at Sheffield Wednesday means we would overtake fourth-placed Nottingham Forest, who sit just three points ahead of the Bees following their own draw at Millwall last night, regardless of other results. Here’s the bad news. We’re at Sheffield Wednesday. Hillsborough has been somewhat of a bogey ground for us in recent seasons, losing four out of the last five played  from of our recent visits. The sole victory coming in 2017, courtesy of goals from John Egan and Harlee Dean. Yet with confidence high following the annihilation of Luton Town last week, we have to go into this one with our tails up.

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Brentford celebrated 7 (seven) times on Saturday

Besides, past form counts for nothing. So we may have found this fixture a tricky one historically but this team is now one that is on fire. They have the taste for goals, even prior to last weekend’s 7(seven) goal bracketing of Luton, whilst recent away games have seen us banish the alleged jinx of the chocolate and orange back to the rumour mill from which it emanated last season. 3-0 at Wigan. 3-0 at Swansea. 3-1 at QPR. I forget what happened at Blackburn the other night but we have, mostly, being picking up the points in emphatic style. Could there be more of the same to come today?

Well, the BBC stat page (for once not focussing on the number of non-English players we’ve used – thanks for that helpful insight) give us the good news that regular thorn in our side Fernando Forestieri will be missing . This is a bonus for Brentford and just one of several absences for the hosts. Wednesday’s last three home games have all ended as draws and whilst a point may be sufficient to take us in to that hallowed top six, you can bet Thomas Frank will have the scent of blood in his nostrils.

Last Saturday against Luton Town was about as complete a performance as we’ve had the privilege of watching. It was immense from start to finish. The Hatters may, in part, have been the architects of their own demise but you can only play who you are up against. Josh Dasilva’s hat-trick included that blockbuster from outside the box and the tightest of finishes on the angle. The ball from Said Benrahma to sit that up was about as filthy as they come. Yet for me, Clive, Mathias Jensen had the goal of the game. A cool head and clever positioning allowed him to stroke the ball straight through a defender’s legs with slide rule precision for our third. You’ve seen it. You know. Laser guided brilliance.

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Mathias and Josh celebrate

That was then. This is now. We know the chance that awaits us if we can do this . Brentford have had similar opportunities in the last two games. Then, though, victory also required other results to go our way in order to hit the top six. Against Blackburn we got the ‘other results’ but not much else. When Luton came to Griffin Park it was the opposite. Now, thanks to Millwall (not often one can say that) holding Forest last night, destiny is in our hands. The stage is set. Will Thomas Frank’s boys fluff their lines or are we going to give them a standing ovation?

The heart says that we’re flying and more of the same will come. The head says that this is going to be a tough afternoon. Don’t forget that Wednesday are only a single point behind us in the table. Their incentive to get back into the mix will be just as great as ours. If not more, given as they’ll be playing in front of their own fans in their former home. Owner Dejphon Chansiri holding the keys to Hillsborough these days after buying it from the club for £60million. Misconduct? Sounds fine to me. Good luck with that counter claim against the EFL. 

Perhaps all that nonsense is just what we need. An unnecessary distraction for the visitors at a time that the Bees need everything going for them if we are to really turn the screw on our divisional rivals. Not being funny, I’d be happy to come out of this with a point and no injuries ahead of the midweek visit from Cardiff. You can bet your bottom dollar that the team will be thinking otherwise. Win or bust will, I am sure, be the mentality.

I can’t wait for this one. Bring it on ! 

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The BBC show the state of play , as it stands..

Nick Bruzon

 

That was some weekend. But what’s happening today?

28 May

What a weekend! Brentford now know every team we’ll be playing in the Championship next season after Charlton Athletic triumphed in the League One play-off whilst Frank Lampard’s Derby County missed out to Aston Villa in the battle for a Premier League place. There were nothing but good wishes coming out of TW8 for Dean Smith as saw his dream come true in a game that could have gone either way in a frenzied final ten minutes. Back at Griffin Park, we have incoming news following a cryptic late night tweet from Brentford official on Sunday.

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Villa celebrate at Wembley

Love or hate the play-offs, nobody could deny that was the weekend that had it all. From what we could politely call a ‘defensive mix up’ that put Charlton on the back foot within minutes of kick-off to Derby County suffering their own goalkeeping malfunction that allowed the Villans to double the lead. Despite a late surge and the arrival of Flo Jo from the bench, Dean Smith and his team were able to hang on. The smiles at full time said it all. Smiles that we’ve never experienced as the tears on the faces of the Derby and Sunderland fans were a pain that we know all to well.

Screen Shot 2019-05-28 at 06.11.57The bonus of Aston Villa going up means that the Bees already climb a place in the fledgling league table. We’re currently fourth, clear of Leeds United, Fulham and QPR. Newly promoted Charlton are sniffing around the play-offs (not bad for a team that have just gone up) although there’s a shock at the top with both Barnsley and Birmingham City in ‘automatic’. I can’t imagine that will last for too long. Had Derby made it then we’d be sitting in fifth, albeit I can’t imagine Dean Smith would have settled on taking top spot as a palatable alternative.

The other big question from the play-offs was how much Brentford stand to make from Villa going up. What ‘clauses’ (if any) were written into the deal to let Dean go? More importantly, there’s a certain Scott Hogan. Somehow, he has got himself promoted to the Premier League twice in the same season. Officially with Villa and as an on-loan player at Sheffield United. Does this mean we get paid twice? Stranger things have happened.

Waking up this morning, Brentford official have started to prepare the way for some form of news. I say, some. In part this is obvious – we have incoming. The tweet that went up late last night noted : ✍ Announce 9am.

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The pen emoji presumably for a contract being signed rather than to highlight our new rnage of autograph books in the club shop. And if so, every bit of transfer gossip suggest this will be Danish midfielder Christian Nørgaard from Fiorentina. Whilst that bit may be fairly nailed on – if you believe what you read – what still remains uncertain at this moment in time is what form of ‘signing photo’ we are going to get.

The classic ‘pen poised over contract’? How about, ‘Holding a Brentford scarf’ – either aloft or at waist height? Yet perhaps this could a double whammy to link in with the kit launch. Imagine if the new player were to appear with our first look at the Umbro 2019/20 kit? Home or away? Don’t forget that last season, supporter Lucy Draper was given permission to drop the images on to Twitter to formerly launch the kit whilst the arrival of Said Benrahma was first revealed in a video clip to supporter Ryan.

The point being that we like to do things in an unorthodox style. Whilst unlikely (and it may not even be Christian who is joining), until such time as we see the images I won’t rule out the possibility of a new shirt being included.

Just as long as there isn’t a comedy hashtag……

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Is Christian now a Bee?

Nick Bruzon

Derby Does Dallas as Twitter (mostly) lines up to put the boot in. See you next season.

16 May

 

What a missed opportunity. After all the build-up and that gruelling season, when the moment came the chance was spurned. The ball was sitting up to be hit into an open goal yet there wasn’t even a lazy leg wafted in the general direction of the target. With Leeds United conspiring to throw away a two goal advantage against Frank Lampard’s Derby County™ last night, Brentford official have chosen not to wade in to the general Twitter explosion. As supporter Luis Adriano noted….

My word. What an evening. What a game. What a supersonic performance from Derby. What magnificence for the neutral amongst us. What utter horror for Leeds United supporters who have seen their side let a seemingly impregnable position at Christmas slide away and then watched it turn into a choke of Scottish goalkeeping proportions. The quite wonderful Marcelo Bielsa seing his masterplan dissolving in a sea of devastation as the end of season defeat to Wigan and, of course, the whooping handed out by Brentford came back to haunt the Elland Road faithful.

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Sky cameras show a full time that was as devastating as any play-off has ever been

From that moment at Griffin Park they stumbled out of ‘automatic’ and into the play-offs where, despite a first leg advantage earned at Derby County, Saturday’s chants of “Stop crying Frank Lampard” had a somewhat hollow ring as full time was called. And I take no pleasure in saying that after the circumstances of the Rams’ visit to TW8 for April’s 3-3.  

It was a sentiment picked up all around the world where Twitter was awash with comedians lining up to put the boot into Leeds. But you can understand why after a game that had everything which makes the play-offs so compelling yet so brutal.

Despite the heroics of former Brentford star Stuart Dallas, whose early goal gave Leeds a 2-0 aggregate advantage, the home side saw their chances fade away when a horrific mix up between Liam Cooper and ‘keeper Casilla just prior to half-time offered Frank Lampard’s Derby etc etc a lifeline.

From that point on, there was only one team in it. Incredibly, Two more goals for the visitors within fifteen minutes of the restart saw the tie tuned on it’s head. Although that man Dallas restored parity soon after to keep the dream alive, in the end it was the visitors who held their nerve in a quite wonderful final half hour of attacking football. With Leeds down to ten men Jack Marriott did the needful on 85minutes as Derby held on to reach Wembley and a show down with Dean Smith.

What came next was as brutal as we’ve ever witnessed. We’re all used to the scenes of distraught players on the pitch and devastated fans but this was next level misery. Moreso, given the complete lack of sympathy from just about anybody and everybody not connected with Leeds United. As the Derby heroes celebrated, the rest of the football community joined in. Starting with Derby official themselves where some might say that what they did was thoroughly deserved….   

There’s nothing else you can say after that. Except, perhaps, see you next season when I’m sure that a certain song may be requested on #BeeTheDJ ….

Nick Bruzon

Mascot magnificence poses big question. And is this the best football record ever?

15 May

So Brentford now know at least one more team we’ll be playing next season after West Bromwich Albion missed out to Aston Villa in the play-offs. A 1-0 win on the night in a game that our former head coach , not surprisingly, thought his team should have won wasn’t enough to see The Baggies reach Wembley. Frank Lampard’s Derby County ™ and Leeds United do battle this evening for the chance to join them . What price a Leeds – Villa rematch in that one….. More importantly, we have quite wonderful news c/o Matt Dyson on Absolute Radio about what is, quite possibly, the greatest football / music crossover since Hoddle and Waddle.

First up, the play-offs. Aston Villa are through. West Brom aren’t. It was yet another example about how wonderful an experience it is for the winning side aswell as the neutral observers. Conversely, how utterly devastating for those who missed out. I love them and dread them in equal measure yet let’s not pretend it would have been quite wonderful to see Brentford involved last night. Instead, we had to settle for Dean Smith doing his thing.

I’ve all the time in the world for Dean. We’ve written about him on these pages many, many times. Nobody could doubt his enthusiasm or passion. He took Brentford to the position of being joint favourites for the Championship title as recently as October before succumbing to the obvious lure of his boyhood club.

The only gripe being his constant insistence in every post-match press conference that his team ‘deserved to win’ – regardless of whether the game ended in draw, defeat or victory. We saw it at Griffin Park. We’ve seen it with Villa. Even our own three points taken from the Villans back in February saw him repeating those oft heard words following Neal Maupay’s injury time winner, “On the scale of chances, not what we deserve”.

Perhaps it is Dean’s party piece nowadays. As familiar a soundbite and football cliché as the flourish of a Keith Stroud yellow card, mention that ‘The shackles are off’ at Manchester united (even if they seem to have now reattached themselves) or the Rams being rebranded as Frank Lampard’s Derby County ™. And whilst it would be nice if Dean could perhaps change the record, it would be churlish to offer him anything but the hugest congratulations at this juncture. Nobody could deny how he has lifted Aston Villa and taken them to the brink of a top flight return.

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Bingo cards at the ready for the final

The other point of note from last night was a piece of mascot related magnificence. Things don’t get more pressured or stressful than a penalty shoot out. With West Brom looking to compose themselves and prepare for the vital spot kicks, who was that joining the huddle? None other than the club mascot, of course. As you do.  Sadly, the anthropomorphic onlooker was unable to inspire the team as they just missed out.

It also posed the question of what has happened to Boiler Man? Why wasn’t he in the huddle too? Could his absence from this crucial gathering have been the narrow margin between victory and defeat? Who knows. However, should Brentford find themselves in this position in twelve months’ time, then the key fact to note is that both Buzz AND Buzzette must be involved.  

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Get in there

Then, this morning, something even more incredible than Buzzette being caught In flagrante delicto with Boiler Man and Kingsley happened. Petr Cech has only gone and made a record. Yes, that Petr Cech. With drummer, Roger Taylor. From Queen (not Duran Duran).

Entitled ‘That’s Football‘ you can hear it below. Please. Do so. Now. The news was brought to us on The Absolute Radio breakfast show by co-host Matt Dyson and , it has to be said, the record is stunning. Absolutely stunning. So bad it’s amazing.

Described as John Barnes crossed with Kraftwerk, it sees the former Arsenal goalkeeper to produce a quite incredible performance that is, essentially, a list of things that happen at football. All of which are  spoken/delivered in alternate lines by Cech and Taylor.  Think Wiliam Shatner channelling Arnold Schwarzenegger

Victory. Happiness. Glory. Fame.

The Pitch. The Roar. The Crowd. The Score

It could be the best football record ever. And that’s saying something. I’d love to hear this on #BeeTheDJ next season. Better still, what about Brentford running out to this one…..?

Thank you Matt. Thank you Roger. And thank you, Petr.

Nick Bruzon

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

27 Apr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The amazing pile of swaps

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

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

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

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Nick Bruzon

Just when it couldn’t get any more exciting……

22 Apr

What an afternoon. If Fulham last week was huge then this one was monumental. Magnificent Brentford beating QPR 2-1 in a terrific derby day victory gained against the toughest of opponents – referee Mr. Madley and his assistants. Yet let the inconsistency and poor decision making of the officials take nothing away from a Bees team who were simply immense. With a raucous Griffin Park crowd urging them on, Dean Smith’s team have now moved to within ONE point of the play offs as those around us all fell to draw or defeat. One. point. Even, say it quietly, Birmingham City did us a favour of sorts in beating Sheffield United 2-1. With Sunderland now formally relegated and the Blues getting a bit of clear air (for now) our trip to bottom three Barnsley on Saturday gains even more significance than it already had.

Sunday morning. Where to start? Having slept on it, I’m still thrilled by Dean’s team selection but also the way they played. There was only one team in this over the first half as the rampant Bees poured forward in wave after wave. Sergio Canos and, particularly, Romaine Sawyers were magnificent. Flo Jo displaying a turn of speed that left his opponent for dead on more than one occasion. The move that freed an electric Ollie Watkins for the penalty (more to come) was as spell binding a display of one-touch pass and move football as we could ever hope to see. Absolutely delicious.

To do that on the training ground would be one thing. But at full tilt, in a blood and thunder local derby, something completely different. It looked incredible live. To see that exchange of passes once more on video shows just how dazzling it was.

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Sergi and Romaine – a rare moment of ‘slow it down’

I’m so pleased for Romaine, in particular. He came in for obscene levels of criticism at the start of his Griffin Park career but what a way to win the haters around. What a way to keep your mental focus and prove the doubters wrong. To demonstrate just what you can do with a football. Do check out the Sky highlights package (up now on their site), until the full fat Mark Burridge version can be added after mid-day to see our man in action. I’ve still got a stupid smile on my face now just thinking about it. Hmm, perhaps better go and watch that just once more.

The first goal was only ever going to come to Brentford. QPR were left standing in the blocks as The Bees went for this one from the off. Wave after wave of attacks were somehow repelled until Sergi Canos fired home from close in on the quarter hour mark. The visitor’s inability to deal with a corner kick proving their downfall. The story of the afternoon, really, as they were second to everything for such long swathes of the game. Clearances missed, passes made directly into touch and seemingly simple balls miscontrolled. At one point Luke Freeman was left with his head in his hands by the Braemar Road touchlines after spectacularly failing to trap a high ball forward and gifting a throw on to Brentford.

One goal up and the Bees continued pushing. As half time approached we had the aforementioned moment of magnificence from Romaine. With Ollie Watkins clean through and a goal all but assured, goalkeeper Matt Ingram came charging off his line and ploughed through our man. Penalty !! But no red card. Instead, after a protracted period of medical emergency that ended with all players deemed fit enough to continue, referee Andrew Madley showed yellow. Ingram was allowed to stay on and promptly saved the spot kick. To compound the felony , the visitors went down the other end and with their first meaning fun attack, equalised. You couldn’t make it up. QPR’s Sylla leaving a black mark on our copy book.

So. The penalty. Should it have been a red? Absolutely in my eyes. There was no attempt to play the ball but a cynical assault on a player bearing down on goal with the net in his sights. The crowd were incensed and understandably so. Perhaps the injury period allowed time for the ref to draw the sting from the event. A sympathy yellow for a player who was clearly unable to carry on and, like Ollie Watkins, was subbed before the second period had begun.

Now it is true that the rules surrounding such an incident have been relaxed. Previously, had a penalty been awarded in such a circumstance then a red card would have been awarded by default. Likewise, followed by suspension. However, this ‘triple’ punishment was first reclassified back in 2016 following an 18 month review and, instead, the rules tweaked to say that only deliberate fouls warrant a red. The yellow would be shown if the referee deemed that it had been accident.

I’m sorry but this was no accident. There was no chance whatsoever of stopping that ball, such was the way the QPR defence had been split open like an overly ripe watermelon by Romaine’s tracer bullet of a pass. Watkins was home clear and running at full tilt. Ingram committed to come off his line and through the player. Even Ian Holloway would admit after the match that, “The penalty save was huge. Should he have been sent off? I think he should but he then stood up, probably concussed, and made a wonderful save”

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An accident? Hmmmm. Sky TV cameras capture the moment

Madley got this one wrong. Very wrong. But then that was the story of his afternoon. Those yellow cards he did show handed out at random. There was no consistency. No boundaries set and, most importantly, no protection of the players. The Bees in particular on the receiving end of several studs up and scything challenges that themselves could have been candidates for ‘straight red’. Alex Baptiste, I’m looking at you.

1-1 at half time and if ever there was a candidate for Dean’s oft repeated lines that ‘We deserved to win’ then here it was. Brentford had been rampant yet somehow scores were level. The second half began at a much more sedate pace (relatively) with players readjusting and substitutions having been made. The pattern of the game being broken up by an even more robust approach form the hoops. Eventually, class told. Florian Jozefzoon proving the telling factor as he made room in the box and fired home.

From there the lead was never going to be a surrendered. Whilst Rangers did try to turn up the pressure, I only recall one save of note from Daniel Bentley in the second half. The defence were otherwise rock solid, dealing with high balls and corners as though they were stealing candy from a baby. It felt tense at times. In reality, the players were the epitome of confidence.

A word also for the crowd. What an atmosphere. What passion. What noise. For all Griffin Park is small and old, having everybody so close to the pitch DOES make a huge difference. Moreso in a game such as this against our staunchest of rivals. With all the history, a visit from QPR is always the one we look for when the fixtures are announced. When the game comes around, it is always the one where the noise is the most voluminous (is that even a word?). Loud. The QPR players knew they were in a game. Jake Bidwell, especially. He looked a beaten man in the second half. A resigned shrug to the Braemar Road crowd before his eventual substitution.

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Home supporters jump up to express consternation to Mr Madley and Alex Baptiste – again.

What next? We’re eighth. One point off sixth placed Derby County with two games to go. The trip to Barnsley and then the visit from Hull City. Derby do have that game in hand but its a visit from a Cardiff City team locked in a desperate battle for the second ‘automatic’ place behind Fulham. Should the Bluebirds do us a huge favour on Tuesday night – something that will have the double whammy bonus of railroading The Cottagers – then Saturday becomes even bigger. If that were possible.

Even Middlesbrough in fifth can still be caught, such is the proximity of the teams from positions 5-9. This has all the hallmarks of 2014/15. We were reliant on favours, and our own results, then. We’re in the same position now. The difference being that under Mark Warburton we’d spent large chunks of the season in the play-off zone. WE slipped out after bit of a late wobble results wise before recomposing oursleves nad having results go our way on the final day. Thanks, Derby! To fall short then, having been in control, could have been all kinds of demoralising.

This time around, it is a perfectly timed run. A play-off push that, and please correct me if I’m wrong, has so far not seen us in the top six at any point this campaign. What a way it would be to finish the season – hitting the top six for the first time on game 46. Or, preferably, game 45 on Saturday. At Barnsley. Themselves up to their necks in a relegation scrap.

As a side note to that, there would be no irony lost on anyone if it turned out to be those Brentford players that Birmingham City didn’t sign who helped keep them safe, rather than the ones they did. No doubt Harlee Dean will be cheering on his old team mates although, perhaps, just wishing they were ten times better.

Let it never be said football doesn’t keep us intrigued.

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Even Harry was kept on the edge of his seat until the end of this one.

Nick Bruzon

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

8 Apr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nice one, Alan.

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The view from Griffin Park

Nick Bruzon