Tag Archives: record

7(seven) and out. Bees keep flying as Blues and Eagles have wings clipped.

1 Oct

It was all about lucky number 7(seven) yesterday. Or not so lucky for some. Brentford finally laid that Middlesbrough hoodoo to rest, Birmingham City came oh-so close to being on the wrong end of a bracketing whilst as for Crystal Palace. Well… With Matthew Benham’s comments on Tuesday night about moaners still fresh in our ears, anybody not overly happy with the Bees may want to look towards Selhurst Park.

But we can only start at the Riverside where the Bees took a first ever Championship point off Middlesbrough after those well documented six, straight losses. Arguably, we could well have returned South with all three. Hats off to the 332 supporters who made the long shlep up to the Riverside. Oh to have had the opportunity to be amongst them. Instead, it was their social media updates, commentary and the Sky Sports scrolly thing for those all important goal scores.

What can you say? Wow. 2-2 and genuine disappointment not to have got the win seem to be the order of the day. Chris Mepham followed up his midweek appearance with a full 90 minutes alongside opening goal scorer Yoann Barbet. The common consensus was of another rock solid performance and a potential star in the making. If they’re good enough, they’re old enough (or whatever the phrase is). What could have been a baptism of fire has shown once more the talent pool bubbling away under the surface of the B-team. Get it wrong as we did against Norwich in the cup, and overloading a team with newbies can be a disaster. Do it right and we get a wonderful glimpse of the future.

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A full league debut to remember for Chris

Twice Brentford took the lead. Twice Middlesbrough hauled it back to level things up. Ollie Watkins scored again, aswell as setting up the first. Yoann, Chris and captain (for the last quarter) Daniel Bentley were amongst those to later express their disappointment at not quite hanging on for the win. Perhaps, but just getting the psychological monkey of unbeatable Middlesbrough off the back can only be a wonderful thing. Putting in another performance that sees us creeping up the table with five points out of the last nine can only be a huge stride in the right direction for this season.

As ever, Sky Sports have the immediate highlights and you can catch them here. As ever, Mark Burridge will provide a much better flavour once the mid-day embargo is lifted.

Sadly, no comms but plenty of passion on pitch.

So great chances, great creation and more penalties denied. We certainly don’t get the run with the refs. Talking this morning to one terrace wag who had made the trip she noted, “I thought they looked better yesterday in terms of intention and actual likelihood to score. Rather than chances that aren’t chances.

The real challenge now is turning these performances into wins. There can’t be many amongst us who wouldn’t have taken five points if offered them at 2.59 last Saturday before we kicked off against Bolton. I would have. That win, followed by the draw with Derby and yesterday’s result all well and good. The one word of caution being that the Bees are very much the divisional draw specialists . Only Fulham and Bristol City (5) come close to our 6 from 11. Even looking further afield in the Football league we are still top of the draw table.

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Yoann – thought we should have got more

Next up, International break. Hopefully a chance for Andreas, Sergi and Lasse to get back to fitness. A hope that the injury which saw Rico Henry leave the field of play early isn’t as bad as feared. Whilst Josh Clarke filled in ably at left back, Tom Field is now tied in at Bradford until Christmas. Could we be dipping back into that B-team once more?

And then, back to back home games. Visits from Millwall and Sunderland are, on paper, a chance for Brentford to further continue that climb up the table. Of locking down that Championship status for a fifth season. For all our improving form we are still just a point above Birmingham City who still reside in the basement zone. Turning form and performance into clear air will only be a good thing.

As for Birmingham, well we’ve had a bit more of an interest in them than normal on these pages in recent weeks. For obvious reasons. And yesterday saw their brave new world further hit the skids as Hull City put six goals past the hapless Blues defence. I won’t deny bristling with anticipation as, at 6-0 down, another goal was reported for the KC stadium. Sadly, it wasn’t the bracket busting 7(seven) for Hull but, instead, a proverbial consolation. But it does show what a difference GD could make with the Blues (-12) Burton (-17) and Bolton (-18) effectively another point behind the Bees (-2).

Will the Bees compete at this level for a fifth season? Could Birmingham avoid a slide into League One. Will Crystal Palace be joining us in the Championship next campaign? Should the Bees keep on heading up the table then we are likely to be joined by the Eagles. Despite a change of manager, yesterday’s 4-0 loss at Manchester United sees their Premier League record for the 2017/18 campaign read:

P7 W0 D0 L7 Goals For 0 Goals Against 17 GD -17.

A record of 0-0-7(seven) with no goals scored is the stuff of nightmares. And James Bond puns. Next up, a visit from Chelsea. Should the Eagles mange to make the net ripple, I can only assume it will be very much a Victor Tourjansky moment.

However bad Brentford fans think we may have it at times, there’s always somebody worse off.

And then some…

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And Palace have scored…. Victor Tourjansky does his thing

Nick Bruzon

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Football is back as Blades set the standard and Bees miss out.

6 Aug

Another season begins, another round of opening day disappointment for Brentford. The Bees left Sheffield United on the wrong end of a 1-0 defeat which could have been more – the second of the hosts two disallowed goals subsequently being deemed very unlucky to be chalked off. Yet on a day dominated by home teams where only three away goals were scored in the Championship, including one for Hull City in their 1-1 at Aston Villa (as predicted yesterday – I’m still in shock), Bees fans should remain upbeat.

As ever, Sky have the highlights online already whilst the BBC, official, Beesotted and the likes are your place for match reports. This one moreso, where the long arm of the wife and her plans meant it would have been easier to escape from Alcatraz than TW8 yesterday. Yet despite an enforced absence from Bramall Lane, I was full of optimism.

Even the London Evening Standard had failed to put me off my stride on Friday’s journey back from work. Their typically supportive piece on the Bees highlighting our opening day win record. Or, rather, our opening day lack of win record.

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And now make that six. Yet it so easily could have been at least a point.

Most people will point to the double opportunity presented to Nico Yennaris and Lasse Vibe in the second half. Understandably so. It was the proverbial gilt edged chance. With Jota’s shot from outside the box only parried by Blackman in the Sheffield United goal, and the aforementioned players in acres of space just yards out, the ball was headed first against the crossbar and then over.

I’ve rewatched it a few times. You can look to the looping trajectory and height of the ball as it approaches our players. Blackman did well to put them off their stride, too. Yet being honest, one would still have expected to see the net ripple. Only the good people at TheIntakeGroup, Pinders, H.E. Barnes and Sky Bet taking any pleasure from seeing this one again….

Lasse and Nico at Sheff U

If ever an image summed up an afternoon. Sky have it in full

That’s football. Let’s not forget the staggering miss from Lucas João at Griffin Park last August when that other Sheffield side, Wednesday, were the visitors. Just yards out and unmarked in front of the goal, the back of the net was at his mercy as a Fernando Forestieri pass found its way past Daniel Bentley. João was even afforded the luxury of having a couple of stabs at the before somehow conspiring to hoof it clear of the bar.

I could also refer you to Daryl Murphy at Ipswich Town a few seasons ago. One that still sticks in the mind as the Bees were, once more, the beneficiaries of an impossible to miss opportunity being somehow missed with goal gaping and an unmarked player just needing to tap it it in.

It happens. A lot. Obviously we’d have preferred a goal but I’m not going to get hung about it. Besides, overall performance comes across as a largely positive one with the Bees dominating possession and shots at 59%/41% and 12/9 respectively.

Probably not what our performance deserved” said head coach Dean Smith after the game and while he may well be right, as we’ve said many times on these pages that its balls in the back of the net being the only stat that really counts. Sadly for us, Sheffield United aced that column by 1 to 0.

Still, at least our head coach acknowledged this too, noting: “Unfortunately, it’s about putting the ball in the back of the net and we didn’t take our chances today. Billy Sharp’s had one and has ended up winning the game.” And you can read read/see his interview in full on official.

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Dean does his thing at full time

Fair play to the Blades for doing so, too. The warning about their form and their packed house was there for all to see in advance. Safe to say they didn’t let the occasion get the better of them and, subject to the result of the Bolton – Leeds game, are one of eight sides on three points after this opening round of games.

I’d have loved three points. You can bet Sheffield United will be chuffed to bits with their win. And rightly so. On the plus side, we’ve now got a brace of home games in quick succession. Mark Warburton brings his Nottingham Forest team to Griffin Park on Saturday before we host Bristol City three days later. And there’s the small matter of the League cup first round at Wimbledon on Tuesday night.

After months of inactivity, the games are suddenly approaching us thick and fast. And I love it .

Nick Bruzon

King Kev the Eighth. Will you be a part of history on Saturday?

21 Oct

Kevin O’Connor. Is there nothing he can’t do? With Brentford approaching our 4,000th league game this Saturday, the home encounter with Barnsley, many of us just coming in from work last night (or who had been home in the morning) would have received a letter from the great man himself.

We all know Kevin as Mr. Brentford. A ‘one club’ man who made 501 appearances between January 2000 and August 2014. A man who is fourth in the club’s all time appearance list(behind Ken Coote, Jamie Bates and Peter Gelson). A man who is still with the club, as B Team Head Coach. This, having taken up the role after Flemming Pedersen left during the week to take over as Technical Director of FC Nordsjælland in Denmark.

Kevin even judged the first ever ‘Last Word’ caption competition back in the fledgling days of these pages. That, a picture featuring himself and Simon Moore, saw Iain Roswell earn himself a Buzzette mug with the line: “After last year’s success of London 2012, there was a massive disappointment with the anniversary games.”

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He’s done just about everything at Griffin Park, short of taking the microphone from Peter Gilham to announce Scott Hogan as a goalscorer – sponsored by Siracusa. It’s a little Italian restaurant by Brentford lock. And that, I would pay good money to hear.

But in addition to all of this, Kevin clearly holds sway as a club  figurehead. And rightly so. Certainly one of the nicest footballers I’ve had the pleasure to meet, something that can’t be a unique feeling to yours truly.

So it was a timely reminder, if one were needed, to receive the letter telling us that you can still buy tickets for Saturday’s 4,000th with Barnsley. More to the point, that Season Ticket holders can pick up extras for just £10 each via the online ticket site.

If you’re reading this and know somebody who might want to come along, it’s £10. £10. Ten pounds. That’s not even three pints these days. For the chance to see Brentford make another thrust for the play-offs. For the chance to be a part of history and say “I was there” for game 4,000.

4,000. Just to put that into context, it means Kevin (and Peter Gelson, who will also be in attendance) have both played in pretty much an eighth of our entire history. A quarter of every Brentford league game, ever, between them.

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To quote one regular correspondent, RebelBee: “Saturday is huge, both for the occasion and the chance to move into the play off places. It’s another tough game and we need to fill GP and give the same vocal support we’ve seen on the road this past few days”.

And if that wasn’t enough to tempt you, don’t forget that singer Annelies (who has already sung ‘Hey, Jude, prior to the 4-1 demolition of Reading) will be back at Griffin Park. As ‘official’ tell us, “ The Voice contestant and University of West London student performed ‘Hey Jude’ pre-match before our win against Reading last month and now returns for our half-time show against Barnsley on Saturday 22 October.  Tweet us your requests at BrentfordFC and she’ll choose the best two”.

I can’t believe I’ve missed that one and, surely, it is now too late? Or is it? I’d love to hear her covering The Quo.

As if Saturday isn’t going to be special enough already….

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Annelies was at Griffin Park for the Reading game.

Nick Bruzon

Football’s farcical 24 hours as one innovates and one goes a bit ‘Ratners’

31 Aug

This could be the most crazy 24 hours in modern football. We’ve already had the farce of last night’s Checkatrade trophy opening round where the lure of West Ham and Leicester City U-23 teams (please note, your definition of under 23 may vary) was not enough to persuade supporters to drop the proposed #BteamBoycott in this most maligned of tournaments. And then today sees ‘Transfer Deadline day’ as Brentford supporters join the rest of the footballing community in wondering if any new names will be coming through the ‘in door’ or if anyone is heading out?

Jim White, Natalie Sawyer and the rest of the gang lead the madness on Sky Sports before the window eventually ‘slams shut’ (TM) . You all know the drill by now. Yellow ties, yellow dresses and lots of cutting to empty stadia where nothing is happening. Plus, presumably, archive footage of Harry Redknapp leaning out of a car (subject to his sore knee).

To read the rest of this article, season 2016/17 is now available for download on e-book in the retrospective: Welcome Home, King Jota (Brentford FC season review 2016/17)

Priced at just £1.99, all sales are being donated to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust.

Likewise any sales from the previous titles – Celebrating like they’d won the FA Cup (2013/14), Tales from the football village (2014/15) and Ready. Steady. Go Again. (2015/16) – are also now going to the BFCCST.

Containing the least bad of the blogs from May 16 to May 17, you can pick it up, here. Its all for a great cause and,hey, you may even enjoy it…..

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Jim and Natalie do their thing on deadline days gone by

 

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Brentford’s most recent signing activity

 

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Nick Bruzon

The Last Word On….

11 Aug

With Championship action back on the agenda, Ipswich Town are next up for Brentford. As such, we have the first in a new regular feature about our forthcoming home opponents :  The Last Word on….  Much like ‘kit obsessive’, which will also return ahead of most home games, this features a series of regular questions/ categories about the visitors with the results picked using no more scientific criteria than personal taste. With apologies for any glaring omissions (and to sensitive Manchester United supporters) here is: The Last Word on…..Ipswich Town

The Brentford connection (he’s played for both) : It can only be Jonathan Douglas, surely? What about Nicky Forster ? Marcus Bent, maybe? Who could forget Icelandic demigod Hermann Hreidarsson ?

But no, my choice goes to Jay Tabb.

Part of my all time Brentford XI (Szczesny, O’Connor, Evans,  Hreidarsson, Grainger, Paul Evans, Forshaw, Sinton, Tabb, Holdsworth, Blissett),  the Bees picked him up in 2000 after being released by Crystal Palace. The wing wizard went on to make 128 appearances, aswell as earning 10 Ireland U-21 caps, culminating in the doomed play off campaign (is there another type?) against Swansea City in 2006.

The ever-popular Tabby left for (then) Championship Coventry, has since tasted top-flight football with Reading before making just shy of 80 appearances for Ipswich Town.

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Tabby in action for the Bees

The Brentford encounter (noteworthy game with the Bees): It is only in recent seasons where our paths have crossed with any form of regularity – certainly in my lifetime. As such, I’m going for the opening game of last season’s Championship campaign. With Brentford fans getting their initial taste of life under Marinus Dijkhuizen it also marked our first game without Jonathan Douglas – the new head coach having immediately released him from his duties at Griffin Park.

Where else but Ipswich Town would be his next destination as the Tractor Boys, with the former Bee on the bench, swept into a two goal lead despite an appalling playing surface that would quickly adopt the pitchgate monicker. Just twelve minutes remained as Dougie entered the (ploughed) field of play with the score still set at 0-2.

This was still sufficient time for Douglas to both break Jota in an ‘accidental’ challenge that would see the ever popular Spaniard miss out for the next few months and oversee a near certain victory turn into a draw. Goals from Andre Gray and James Tarkowski in the heart of Jota time rescuing a 97th minute point for Brentford.

Favourite son  (their most famous former player) : For the casual observer, there can be only one choice. Famous names from the Ipswich Town’s heyday include those such as Frans Thijssen, Arnold Muhren and Mick Mills.

However, for me it has to be John Wark. Voted the club’s all time cult hero in the BBC’s 2004 poll, who am I to disagree? A Scottish international, he was their player of the year 4 times in 6 seasons over a career that encompassed three spells from 1975 to 1996. With FA Cup and UEFA Cup winner’s medals in his cabinet (not to mention acting honours) there can be no other.

Famous fan: Ipswich have a few. Their director’s box is a veritable ‘who’s who’ of the rich and famous.Tom Chaplin from Keane, Charlie Eyebrows from Busted. Brian Cant. Yes, THE Brian Cant. Let’s hope The Tractor Boys don’t play away as wonderfully as the voice of TV’s Trumpton (kids, ask your parents).

But perhaps the biggest of all is Chester Bennington from U.S. rockers Linkin Park. Supposedly introduced to the club  by his father (a police office who had become friends with a fan from Suffolk one holiday) he has been pictured in the team colours  although it would seem he is yet to actually attend a game.

Presumably, if he did rather than sitting on the side you’d find him… in the end

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Bennington. A Tractor Boy, apparently…

Best ever league performance: There are sure to be plenty but one sticks out in particular for me. A top flight destruction of Manchester United by a staggering 6-0. That’s one short of brackets.

Back in March 1980 Bobby Robson’s boys, inspired by Town’s Dutch duo of Arnold Muhren and Frans Thijssen, destroyed a Manchester United side whose fans were left sining “We want 7(seven)”. Who doesn’t?

It could have been worse but for Gary Bailey in the United goal. The Red Devil’s ‘keeper saving three penalties, one of which had even been retaken.

It’s here, in fuzzy 80’s pixel vision

Moment of ignominy :4th March 1995. Roles were reversed. And then some. Manchester United setting a Premier League record for the largest winning margin as they humbled Town 9-0. Those beautiful brackets were achieved in little over an hour as they almost made it to double figures. Incredibly, less than 44,000 were present at Old Trafford for this one. How times have changed (or perhaps Season ticket holders were just impacted by trouble on the line up from Guildford).

Manager of the century ( most famous / popular manager) : There is only ever one answer to this question – the legend that is Sir Bobby Robson. In charge at Portman Road from 1969 to 1982, he took his club to the brink of the top flight title with a win ratio of close to 45% over this 13 year period.

Double silverware came with the 1977-78 FA Cup and the 1980-81 UEFA Cup before he left to take on an eight year spell in charge of the England team that culminated in that World cup semi-final heartache against Germany .

All time high ( the club’s defining achievement): You could pick any of the victories or cups noted above but, for me, Ipswich Town have a much bigger and totally unique place in football history. Specifically,  their representation in the film Escape To Victory.

This, a regular entrant to my all time ‘top ten’ films and one of that rare breed to successfully straddle the twin themes of football and WW2 POW camp escape

The aforementioned Wark appears (naturellement). As does Russell Osman, Robin Turner, Kevin O’Callaghan and Laurie Sivell. In addition, body doubles Kevin Beattie and Paul Cooper filled in for Michael Caine and Sylvester Stallone during some of the ‘match action’ scenes.

John Wark and Pele. Together. Only in Escape to Victory.

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We can win this…..

Nick Bruzon

A nice problem but I’m desperate to get back to normal

8 Sep

As a Brentford fan, international break proves a largely unsatisfying experience. With Stuart Dallas (Leeds United) and Will Grigg (Wigan Athletic) now departed, the interest in Northern Ireland (for the majority of us) has waned somewhat. Instead, our involvement this week remains sparse with Lasse Vibe’s place on the bench for Denmark in their 0-0 with Albania the only Brentford related presence at full International level. Even Gibraltar’s late goal in Poland, via the boot of Bristol Rovers Jake Gosling, was insufficient to get this fan excited. Being 8-0 down already will do that to you.

For all recent talk of the progress being made by the Boys from the Rock, it was a case of further punishment as the Poles advanced beyond brackets and closer to double figures with over ten minutes left on the clock. Even broadcaster Ian Abrahams (@BroadcastMoose on twitter) found sufficient time to put down the pies and poke fun at UEFA’s newest member.

Very clever

Very ‘clever’ – it’s Gibraltarians though, numpty

England play Switzerland tonight, with all focus on whether Wayne Rooney can get the goal required to move past Bobby Charlton as the all time leading goal scorer for the Three Lions. It’s a record to be proud of and interesting to note that both have taken 106 games to make the 49 goal figure. The England striker is 4/1 to grab the opener and 6/5 to score at any time tonight. In front of a large crowd at Wembley, and with qualification for EURO 2016 assured, expect the record to go.

That said, the excitement of Gibraltar scoring, home nations on the verge of qualification and England going ‘great guns’ still don’t help satisfy the big hole in the League calendar. Having reached the Championship, Brentford players now find themselves twiddling their thumbs. As does this supporter. The defeat to Reading seems an eternity away already as we now await the trip to Elland Road. The game against Leeds United will, of course, see us renew acquaintances with Herr Rösler and Stuart Dallas on Saturday.

With the transfer window closed, Marinus knows the make up of his new look squad. I’m desperate to see what he does with it ! Off field Jota dropped a promising message onto twitter last night. The Leeds game will be way too soon for his return but great to see him chomping at the bit to get back in action. Sentiments, no doubt, shared by supporters.

Is Jota back soon?

Is Jota back soon?

Otherwise, Lasse Vibe’s stunner against Reading has been named ‘goal of the month’ for August. A landslide victory, and rightly so, you can see that below. However, nice though it was to watch this again, it’s no substitute for seeing Brentford in action.

An enforced break is just part of Championship life and, if this is the price to pay for promotion, hardly one to complain about. It’s more a case of adjusting to what we have been used to for so long – football every Saturday and build up to it/ fallout from it every week.

That said, I can’t wait for the weekend. International intrigue is all well and good but nothing, quite, compares to that moment when your club walks out at 2.55pm on a Saturday afternoon.

He’s got that Vibe (come on, I’ve waited four games…)

Nick Bruzon

The day’s top tweets as Bristol City beat Hull City and West Ham to Andre. Allegedly

18 Aug

So the rumours are true. After weeks of speculation and leaked news the story we’d all been waiting on was confirmed. Brentford have dug up their pitch. Oh, and a £9million bid has, apparently been accepted from Bristol City for Andre Gray. Yes, Bristol City.

We can only start at Ashton Gate where the BBC have run the story saying that Brentford have accepted an offer in the region of three Lewis Grabbans for the ‘in demand’ striker. With Hull City long leading the running and even West Ham seen as 11th hour party poopers, could the Bristol story have any truth to it?

Andre - remains a Bee (for now)

Andre – remains a Bee (for now)

Certainly the club have been very open in their pursuit of Dwight Gayle before being publically snubbed by the Crystal Palace star. But with the ‘out door’ still swinging, their attention has turned to Andre in a move that has taken pretty much everybody by surprise. For a club that has just come up from League One, and lost both Championship games so far, to wave a cheque of this size under Matthew Benham’s nose seems almost crazy.

It is a price tag that has shocked even their own fans with social media in meltdown at the ‘news’. Considering Brentford paid just half a million for the player last year it would represent a stunning return and one which any club would struggle to resist. So which way will Matthew jump – cash in or look to hang on to one of his prize assets?

Tweet of the day from one shocked City fan

Tweet of the day from one shocked City fan

The above effort from @cardiniho_10 on Twitter surpassed my previous ‘tweet of the day’. One which had appeared in conjunction with the latest medical update from Bees head of medical, Neil Greig. Was he being ‘naughty’ with his choice of phrase to describe the prognosis for Lewis Macleod? Or was this nothing more than an accident for the midfielder who, of course, suffered a relapse after ‘tripping over a twig?

We’ll never know for sure, but fairplay to the wag on the New Road who spotted this.

The previous 'tweet of the day'

The previous ‘tweet of the day’

Getting back to Andre, though. Personally I’d love him to stay but £9m is just an incredible amount, if true. And whilst the ‘story’ has appeared on the BBC, it was in another of those infamous quote free stories that seem to be doing the rounds at the moment.

Yet if this is true, what’s in it for Andre? Well, the obvious answer is money. Bristol City are definitely building for the future but in terms of immediate success, the player would be leaving a club who reached the Championship play offs last time out (and have started just as brightly now) for one who have definitely had a shock adjusting to life in a higher division. Even Hull City or West Ham, whilst equally unpalatable for Bees fans, could be deemed ‘big clubs’ with recent Premiership grounding

Good luck to him. If Andre genuinely believes his best chance for future success is at Ashton Gate then who am I to argue with his logic. But do remember that as of Tuesday night these stories remain just that – stories. However, Wednesday promises to be a very interesting day.

One area where Bristol City definitely have the advantage over the Bees is in their playing surface.For a start, they have one. Our own game with Birmingham City was cancelled as a result of the shoddy pitch at Griffin Park finally having the repair work take place.

Anyone wandering past Griffin Park on Tuesday would have seen the ‘turf’ removed and work well underway. They might also have seen two visitors from Texas who were looking forward to taking in the Birmingham game as part of a sojourn in the UK. Alas, it wasn’t to be and, instead, their visit to TW8 consisted of nothing more than a photo outside the Director’s gate.

Sadly, I’d imagine this is one set of travel refunds the club won’t be able to process. That said, if we do pocket £9million in the next few days then perhaps we could stretch to a seat in the Director’s box – even for just one game.

All the way from Texas to TW8 then run out by a dodgy pitch

All the way from Texas to TW8 then run out by a dodgy pitch

Nick Bruzon

Flaccid mannschaft fails to excite as Gibraltar rock Germany

15 Nov

Well that was unexpected. Gibraltar travelled to Germany and more than held their own against the World Champions in Friday’s EURO 2016 qualifier. With the German fans prepping their calculators and leafing through the record books in anticipation of a goal fest, they were left more than disappointed after limping to a 4-0 win.

To read the rest of this article, season 2014/15 is now available to download onto Kindle (and other electronic reading device) in full. Containing additional material and even some (poor) editing, you can get it here for less than the cost of a Griffin Park matchday programme or Balti Pie.

 Thanks for reading and all your comments over the course of the season. For now, I need to make more space on the site for any follow up. However, ‘close season’ will continue in full, further along.

Even the BBC helped recognise the occasion ahead of kick off

Even the BBC helped recognise the occasion ahead of kick off

Will over confidence from Germany be fatal v Gibraltar?

14 Nov

Today is the day. With Brentford v Fulham still a week away, there can be only one place my attention is focused – Nuremberg, Germany where Gibraltar attempt the impossible. Beating the World Champions in their own back yard.

To read the rest of this article, season 2014/15 is now available to download onto Kindle (and other electronic reading device) in full. Containing additional material and even some (poor) editing, you can get it here for less than the cost of a Griffin Park matchday programme or Balti Pie.

 Thanks for reading and all your comments over the course of the season. For now, I need to make more space on the site for any follow up. However, ‘close season’ will continue in full, further along.

George Francis – Brentford legend

23 Oct

Brentford FC have announced the incredibly sad news that George Francis passed away yesterday, aged 80. George is, of course, the second highest goalscorer in the club’s history – just behind his strike partner Jim Towers – and, like his fellow ‘terrible twin’, the epitome of a Brentford legend

I never had the privilege of seeing George, who was this year inducted into the club’s ‘hall of fame’, play for the Bees and so would struggle to pay adequate tribute. However, I was fortunate enough to interview Jim Towers back in December 2009 for a piece which, inevitably, focussed heavily on the relationship with George and their playing days.

The article is reproduced below – as we pay tribute to a man who was a hero to so many Brentford fans, through the words of his team-mate and friend.

Where Are They Now – Jim Towers

The careers of Jim Towers and George Francis, Griffin Park’s own “Terrible Twins” are hard to separate. From their time playing against each other for rival Saturday teams though National Service together and then part of the same Brentford team for most of the 1950’s until a controversial sale to Queens Park Rangers, they truly are legends. With 163 and 136 goals respectively, Jim Towers still hold the all time Brentford goalscorer’s record!

It speaks volumes for their pairing and the team of the time that that they were able to accomplish this simultaneously as, fifty years later, Francis is still our second place all time scorer. A feat made all the more incredible when you consider some of the goalscorers that have followed them through the years and had the chance to make this record their own – Sweetzer, McCulloch, Holdsworth, Forster, Blissett and Owusu to name but a few.

“Where are they now” was fortunate enough to met up with Jim recently to find out how he got there, his opinions on the game today, his memories of the time and that move to Loftus Road.

In 1947 Brentford had been a top-flight team. Seven years later and they were back in Division Three, with a team heavily dependent on youth policy. However, this focus on youth, combined with the club’s slump in form, gave Jim Towers his opportunity.

“They had a fellow who ran Brentford juniors called Alf Bew. He didn’t really know a lot about football but what he used to do, and there were quite a few Brentford players in this area, was sign everybody on amateur forms. Brentford had a few schoolboy internationals but anybody in the area he’d sign!

I came from Shepherds Bush but when I turned professional there were quite a few schoolboy internationals who played for the first team but didn’t really go on. Alan Bassam, Roy Philpott. All schoolboy internationals in this area but that was Alf’s success. He just signed everybody on then other people used to look at them. It was a joke. You kept everybody and if somebody got injured, you got a chance.

I wasn’t really in the limelight though. I played for a boy’s club in Shepherd’s Bush. We were drawn against Brentford in a little cup match at Boston Manor and that’s how it came between me and Alf. We were a good team and beat Brentford juniors so he asked me if I would like to sign for Brentford Juniors. They had a couple of player’s short; I played and scored about four goals against somebody. So then I was part of Brentford juniors.”

From playing with the juniors, Jim’s next move was one which took him by surprise, especially as he was about head off to Germany with the British Army.

“Coming up eighteen years old, nobody at that age played although these days you’re in the first team. I was coming up to that age and going into National Service, which you had to do. Then they asked me if I’d like to turn professional!

It was out of the blue because I didn’t think I was any better than any of the others and so I signed professional around June and then went into the army on July the 4th. The only contact I then had with Brentford was minimal because I was in Germany all the time.

At that time there was a fellow called Jackie Gibbons here, who was a good player, and he was manager of Brentford. He was an amateur player but he was manager when I signed. When I came out of the army, Tommy Lawton had taken over so it was a matter of who knew me? Nobody knew anyone. Georgie Francis, my pal, had the same thing. He was stationed with me but got demobbed about seven months after so that’s how it went. You just came along and were lucky if you got twelfth man for the reserves in those days. Other than that, you just used to go and watch another match.”

Having come out of the army, although signed to the club it wasn’t a case of walking straight into the team.

Jim continues, “ It took a year and as I said, when I came out the army in 53, it was mid-season. Then you had that year where, at the end, I could have been let go. There were lots of players not being kept and in those days you used to get a letter saying you are or aren’t being retained. That’s how it was.

Luckily, I’d played a couple of games but it seemed fast, ever so fast. I was playing for the British army and playing not bad football but this seemed ever so fast and I thought I’d never make a living at it. Then, after I trained and started scoring a lot of goals for the reserves, they retained me. Then they took a lot of older players, such as Georgie Stobart. They didn’t do all that well so they started putting in the Brentford youth like Dennis Heath, myself, Georgie Bristow – all those type of players. That’s how it kicked off. I started scoring a few goals and luckily for me it just went on and on.”

To say it went on and on is putting things mildly. Whilst Jim was on the books for ten years from 51-61, his goals came in an even shorter period if you consider he only started playing in 1954.

“I was what they a call a fixture, I was always in the team. At the same time, if you look at the Guinness book of records or any other book, you’ll find that people who scored a lot of goals were at the club a long while. In my best year I got 37. Now, if somebody got 37 they’d be sold. No question. So, it’s nice to have the record but it’s a little bit artificial because players don’t stay that long. To score what I did now, you’d have to be at a club a fair while and you’re just not. Score twenty goals one year and you’re gone.

Look at all the records of clubs in the third division South and there were three players playing for England in that league. John Atyeo, who played for Bristol City. Then you had Matthews playing for Coventry. They were actually in the England line up and you couldn’t imagine that now.”

There must have been more to it than just being a regular in the team. What did Jim put his goalscoring feats down to?

“I had two good feet. Everybody thought I was left footed but actually I was right footed. That’s how good it was. If I had a penalty I’d take it with the right foot but the left foot, it didn’t make a difference. Once the ball was moving a bit, it made no difference. In actual fact, that’s what gives you the goal because you get that fraction of a second where somebody else tries to get it over and its gone. Bang. You get the goal.

Even Shearer was right footed although his left was good, but when you don’t mind what foot it comes on then it gives you the fraction of a second and that makes a big difference. ”

Whilst recognising his own skills, Jim is fair enough to admit where he may have been slightly weaker.

“I wasn’t all that good with my head, to tell you the truth. Infact, I used to take the corners sometimes although did score some with my head. If it was on the right, Dennis Heath would take them but if it was on the left, George McCloud had trouble hitting the corner over.”

It wasn’t just the ability to hit a ball with either foot but the ability to hit it with power, which was also key to Jim’s prowess in front of goal. I had read that at one point he actually knocked a spectator out. Is this true?

“Probably! The funny thing about it, and I can always see the funny side, was that when you used to come out on to the field, and they don’t do it now because they do all the run ups, everybody used to like a kick of the ball, even the defenders and everybody used to like a shot at the goal before the match started. There were often people not interested because the match hadn’t started and it was like a minefield by that goal.”

The type of ball probably accounted for a few casualties, as he continues.

“ The ball was a lot heavier! The ball’s changed. By the time I got in you had the white ball for floodlit matches and that was alright. The lace had gone. You’ve got to go back to 52-/53 for all that so I missed the laceup ball. It was a bit before I got in the first team.

It’s not just the ball that was different but the pitches, too. The playing surfaces now are beautiful compared to when I played and that must make a difference. I’ve walked on pitches that were all sand, like a bog. That makes a big difference.”

We’ve briefly mentioned his partnership with George Francis and I wonder whether this inspired him towards the amount of goals he scored. Was there any rivalry between the pair of them as they raced into the record books?

“There was no rivalry. It didn’t really matter. No disrespect to the game, he might have scored 35 in one year and me 30. The next I’d get more. It didn’t really matter.”

Infact, they were very good friends, having met years earlier and perhaps this helped forge that bond on and off the pitch.

“George, I knew from way back, long before the juniors. We used to play for the cinema teams. They used to have kids going along on Saturday mornings. George played for one and I played for another. It all seems like another world but that’s how I knew George. I went out with his sister for quite a while but nothing came of it. I knew his family well. George was Brentford through and through. He lived by Acton Town so was local whereas I was the other way.”

One theme that runs throughout my conversation with Jim is his continued interest in the modern game, especially when comparing how things were fifty years earlier for him and George.

“Now football’s always in the papers, on the telly. You think that these days, my name would be up on that Sky every week   – Jim Towers scored for Brentford. George Francis scores for Brentford.

Now your name comes up and you’ve never heard of them, other than in the Premier Division. Its high profile. The fellow giving the commentary knows everything about them – that’s his tenth goal of the season etc Some little Carlisle fellows got his tenth goal of the season. Back then, nobody even knew where Carlisle was ! That’s how it is nowadays.

It’s so high profile these days. If you look at Defoe who scored those five goals for Spurs against Wigan the other week…. I scored four goals against Southampton and I had to almost walk home after the match because by the time we got back to Brentford all the buses had finished and I didn’t have a car in those days.

I had to make my own way home after scoring four goals. I don’t think Defoe had to do that!!!

That’s exactly how it happened. It was an evening kick off and by the time you got back from Southampton the buses had stopped. How the game’s changed.

He got five goals out of nine; I got four from six but I had to walk home from Brentford to Shepherd’s Bush. It’s true. That’s what happened.”

Aside from transport issues, Jim also comments on another key differ between the way the game was played in his day and in current times.

“Players drink a lot now during the game which was unheard of when I was playing. It was amazing when you think about it. You used to go all the way up North and you wouldn’t have a drink before you played. You didn’t get one in the dressing room. A cup of tea maybe, afterwards. Now, there’s water being thrown at them at all directions. Even the subs drinking.

When I played we were running on empty all the time. You never had a drink. You’d go into the dressing room with no facilities. Maybe a pot of tea for half time and lemonade for afterwards. On hot days, which there were, nobody knew; you just got on with it. It was a case of, “ don’t drink a lot of water, you’ve got to carry it around”. Now you need it all the time. We were handicapped for a start by the way the game’s changed. We would have obviously been better because there were certain times when you were playing and you couldn’t pick your legs up. For some reason it wasn’t going right or whatever. That was probably what it was. Exhaustion. Nobody had said you need a drink of water. It was unheard of, you just didn’t know.”

Tower and Francis managed just short of 300 goals between them for Brentford, including 61 in 58-59 which saw Jim top scoring on 37. As such, it seems incredible now but the start of the 1961 season saw the club choosing to sell the pair of them to arch rivals Queen Park Rangers. To this day, Jim is still not sure why.

“ I didn’t particularly want to go to QPR. Why he sold me and George, I don’t know. They might have had a money problem but it wasn’t massive money we went for. About ten thousand in the end (the record books, officially, say eight) but it wasn’t big money so why they needed that I don’t know?

It was a certainty they’d get relegated the following year. Which is exactly what happened. After we went they were taking people on free transfers. My mate Kenny Coote, the club captain, still used to come and have a drink with me Sunday nights. Even he said, we’re a certainty to go down and that’s what happened.

There was no reason to go and now I‘m not sure why I didn’t make a stand.

I can’t think. George was the same. I can understand him selling me or I can understand selling George. I can’t understand him selling both of us at the same time, it was ridiculous.”

The passion with which Jim talks about the Brentford games against QPR, prior to his enforced move across West London, make the transfer sound even more ridiculous than he puts it!

“QPR. For me, and George, it was more than a local derby. We WANTED to win and to beat them more than anyone. Over the years, I don’t think QPR came off too well and perhaps that’s why they took a liking to us and bought us. We had a very good record against them. It was the special one.

More special to me and George than Ken, for example, who used to live over this way (Jim is still a Hounslow man). For us though, George was Acton and I used to actually walk from my house to QPR when we played there.

I can never remember QPR winning at Brentford. I think we had a 100% record against them here over eight or nine years. ”

Outside of the derby matches, Jim cites two particular games as real stand out moments. The more obvious one is that which resulted in his long walk home that one night.

“The standout game according to everybody is when I scored the four goals against Southampton. For me, it became more important afterwards. At the time it didn’t seem so important but as your career finishes, people say, “Oh, you scored four goals against Southampton” To get four away! Probably, if you look at the Southampton records there wouldn’t be many people who had done it against them.”

The other was actually at a rival of ours, about whom he explains… ,

“I had had a trial for Fulham but it turned out that I went to Brentford.

Many years later, which gave me a lot of pleasure, I went back to Fulham and played in an all-star match. A testimonial for a couple of players I watched – Arthur Stevens and Joe Bacuzzi. They were great players for Fulham and I went back and played in the all-star game with Billy Wright, Jones who used to play outside-left for Tottenham and all that crowd. All internationals. That was nice for me to have the chance again, after not getting in, to go back and play in that game.”

After leaving football, Jim went to work for British Airways where he stayed for twenty-five years. “ It was good. When footballers finished you didn’t have any money, not like now. Working there helped because you got a pension to keep you rolling over. Only through British Airways though. Most people who packed up football in those days didn’t have anything. Pack up and the next day you’re down the job centre. It happens.”

I do wonder if a man of his talents ever considered staying on in the game?

“I had a little gap between the football and going to the Airport as I played in the Southern League for a while. In those days, everybody used to pack up and go in the Southern League.”

However, in regards to working in the game, Jim is clear.

“Not really, because there was no money. It’s nice if you do well but there’s a lot of people just at the side of the road. I don’t think I’d have liked to go cap in hand. At least at BA you had a job. If you were coaching, unless you were the manager, once he got the sack you’d get it with him. There were lots who got the sack and you never heard of them again. And there was no big money in it ”

Outside of work, now that Jim is retired does he still watch Brentford much?

“Not very often. I go occasionally. I went last year and also when Brentford have played QPR but I don’t often go. Unless you go regularly you don’t get a feel of the players so you’re just watching a group of people. You’ve got to get to know them, to get the feel of the players. I could tell you more about Tottenham or Arsenal now because I watch it on Sky.

When I played, everyone knew one another. The team didn’t change and the teams you played would come back two years later and roughly have the same team. Nobody moved because if you got retained, you stayed. There was no point. I has the chance to go to Northern clubs and was asked if I’d be interested – Preston, Newcastle, Sheffield Wednesday – but I thought what would I want to go up there for? I was a single fellow and didn’t get married until quite late. I went to QPR and it was no big deal but going all the way to Sheffield, finding somewhere to live was different. Well, I’ve always been from this area and never ventured too far.”

It seems surprising, although perhaps more symptomatic of the way football has changed, that for all his goal scoring heroics Jim only has one hat-trick ball in his collection. Or should I say, had….

No. In those days you didn’t get them. I’ve only ever had one football from when I scored a hat-trick for Millwall, after I’d left QPR. They just didn’t give them out in those days. I never got a ball from Brentford.

I did have a ball from Millwall but what happened was, when I went to Gravesend they were always short of everything. Didn’t even have a ball. In those days Brentford were short, imagine what Gravesend were like!!

I said to (the then manager) Walter Rickett, I’ll fetch my ball. I let them play with it, then left it down there. Once you’d played with it, that was it. They weren’t like they are now and it had got a little bit torn so I said to keep it.

Then, the hat-trick ball was like a lucky charm but now, they’re all over the place. You don’t get the ball you scored the hat-trick with because they’re being thrown on from all over the place. Defoe probably wouldn’t know which ball he actually scored those five with – probably a different ball for each – so it would be a miracle if he got the same one afterwards. “

Meeting Jim has been a real eye-opener in the difference between the way football was played then and now. More than that, it has been a pleasure to meet a man of his reputation and hear him talk so modestly about his achievements. This is perhaps best summed up by Jim’s own appraisal of his time at Brentford.

“Anybody watching me when I was 20 and they were 30 is probably long gone now!

Time makes players better than they were. Everybody’s a great player when they’ve finished but when they’re playing “you’re useless”. Every player that’s talked about, the time they played is actually better remembered than they actually were.”