Tag Archives: Rock

From Brentford and brackets to Gibraltar and San Marino.

6 Sep

Brentford fans were left scratching around for interest this weekend, with minimal satisfaction coming from the Euro qualifiers. As expected, England successfully navigated their qualifying group (the easiest since records began) whilst for Gibraltar, although they are starting to find their feet after an international baptism of fire, the Republic of Ireland still presented a tough test as they ran out 4-0 winners on Friday night. There was no Brentford involvement, beyond a brief reminiscence about Stuart Dallas for Northern Ireland although, of course, Lasse Vibe was on the bench for Denmark in a 0-0 at home to Albania.

Instead, the weekend has left more questions about those two perennial debates – ‘minnows’ and brackets. Specifically, should the ‘smaller’ teams be allowed to play with the big boys and, when conceding more than six goals just how should we signify this 7, 7 (seven), 7 (SEVEN), seven or SEVEN?

As a footballing romantic and nostalgic, I’m all for a spot of small team involvement. Equally, I won’t deny a large element of emotional involvement as, having waited years for Gibraltar to finally be given full UEFA membership, the chance to see them test themselves against the great and the good is one I’m loving.

Are they whipping boys at the moment? Unfortunately, the stats would certainly suggest that to be the case although anybody who has seen their games against the likes of Germany, Poland and the Republic will see what strides they have already made. Tougher to break down and a lot less naïve, the boys from the Rock are finding their feet, fast.

Gibraltar have packed their boots to start international life.

Gibraltar have packed their boots to start international life.

The Faroe Islands already have six points from a group in which they have overtaken former Euro Champions Greece whilst Albania have beaten Portugal in their qualifying group. This is the same Portugal who recently lost a home friendly with Cape Verde Islands.

Minnows do get stronger and regular games against a mix of opposition are the way to do it. Not shunting them aside to pre-qualifying where they can only play each other, as seems to be the common suggestion. If this is your logic then just disband qualifying all together and draw the teams for the tournament finals based on seeding.

It only seems like yesterday that England were spannering their own qualification for the World Cup as Davide Gualtieri took less than nine seconds to open the scoring for San Marino with a goal that shook the world. Both teams have grown massively since then, even if England have remained as consistently sub-par when it gets to the tournament itself (Euro 96 aside, and that one they qualified for by default).

Davide Gualtieri opened the scoring against England back in 1994

Davide Gualtieri opened the scoring against England back in 1994

Wales have stepped up the blindside in recent seasons and have moved from 117th ranked team in the world four years ago to the point where a victory against Israel on Sunday could see them deemed the second best team on the planet. Indeed, they are, surely, going to qualify for a first major finals since 1958.

Just to put that into perspective, the teams currently occupying the 117th slot are hardy those we would consider to be traditional powerhouses of international football.

The teams currently in the same spot as Wales, four years ago

The teams currently in the same spot as Wales, four years ago

I could go on. People have very short-term memories and attention spans. I hope UEFA don’t give in to the current clamour emanating from certain circles and give all their members a chance to compete on a level playing field.

That said, games such as yesterday’s 6-0 won’t help the likes of San Marino as they came awfully close to a 7(seven) -0 bracketing. That’s a result that Gibraltar have experienced a couple of times in early qualifying whilst, domestically, former Brentford player/manager Nicky Forster was the unlucky recipient as his Staines Town side went down by that infamous scoreline to Brentwood Town in the Ryman Premier on Saturday.

Nicky Forster (left) formally the deliverer rather than recipient of 7(seven)

Nicky Forster (left) formally the deliverer rather than recipient of 7(seven)

And, as ever in these circles, it prompted the usual questions as to how this should be recorded. One local journalist ended up very much insistent about it being an unbracketed, headline grabbing, SEVEN. For somebody who then used twitter to rally against the vide printer favourite, saying: “Will live in the here and now”, the irony of his bio describing himself as “Ex Woking FC striker” was not lost.

There are others that love the bracket but insist it should be 7 (SEVEN). I’ll spare the regular reader another lecture on the unsubtly and bad sportsmanship of this. A brash, block-capitalled effect to really push home the point that someone has been on the wrong end of a thrashing. It’s gloating for the sake of it.

Clearly, an emotional subject and I don’t think we’ll ever, all, agree. Football is a modern game and one that continues to grow. That said, what’s the harm in a little bit of nostalgia along the way?

And finally, Channel 5 and Football League Tonight. Much as the minnows have been going from strength to strength on the pitch, the same can be said about the latest newcomers off it.

Saturday night was the latest point in case as, despite it being International weekend we actually had a show. In days gone by, Manish and team were shunted to one side when the Championship teams had a break, despite full fixture list in both Leagues One and Two.

So fairplay to Kelly, George and the rest of the production team for still bringing us a show. The disasters that plagued the series openers are a distant memory already and, last night, the biggest problem seemed to be Adam Virgo. More to the point, his sporting of a collared shirt with the top button done up but no tie.

Yet if a pundit’s dress sense (something all channels have suffered from over the years) is the worst we’ve got to worry about then things must definitely be moving in the right direction.

Rio Ferdinand and the BBC panel have had their own fashion problems

Rio Ferdinand and the BBC panel have had their own fashion problems

Nick Bruzon

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Is this really the end of the line for Dougie ?

22 Jul

Is the Brentford beard club going to lose its most famous member? In a move akin to Stevie G departing Liverpool, TW8 reacted to reports that Jonathan Douglas seems to have been declared surplus to requirements for the coming season and can leave the club. This, despite having a year left on his contract. And over in Gibraltar, local Champions Lincoln Red Imps hosted Matthew Benham’s other team, FC Midtjylland, for the second leg of their Champions League second qualifying round.

But first, Dougie. A seemingly nailed on selection under Mark Warburton, his time at Brentford looks as though it has come to an end.

To read the rest of this article, season 2015/16 is now available to download onto Kindle (and other electronic reading device) in full, as :   Ready. Steady. Go Again. : Brentford FC season review 2015 – 2016

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

But wait, like all the best infomercials, there’s more. The last three seasons of the Last Word : Celebrating like they’d won the FA Cup; Tales from the football village and Ready. Steady. Go Again are also available in one combined volume as: 

Brentford Football Club – The Bees are going up. Season reviews: 2013/14, 2014/15 & 2015/16 

We did. And we still are ! 

Is this Matthew Benham’s toughest challenge yet?

8 Jul

With Brentford now settled in Portugal for their customary pre-season training camp, you could be forgiven for wondering if Matthew Benham’s attention was elsewhere on Tuesday night. His ‘other’ team, FC Midtjylland, discovered their Champion’s League second round opponents following the game between Lincoln Red Imps of Gibraltar and FC Santa Coloma of Andorra.

Whilst we’ll get to that intriguing battle shortly, we can only begin on the Iberian peninsula where there have been two notable updates in the last few days.

Firstly, news that is sure to excite Brentford fans – the return of Northern Ireland International Will Grigg following his prolific season on loan at promoted Milton Keynes Dons.

To read the rest of this article, season 2015/16 is now available to download onto Kindle (and other electronic reading device) in full, as :   Ready. Steady. Go Again. : Brentford FC season review 2015 – 2016

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

But wait, like all the best infomercials, there’s more. The last three seasons of the Last Word : Celebrating like they’d won the FA Cup; Tales from the football village and Ready. Steady. Go Again are also available in one combined volume as: 

Brentford Football Club – The Bees are going up. Season reviews: 2013/14, 2014/15 & 2015/16 

We did. And we still are ! 

 

Could Gibraltar – Germany see the biggest upset since records began?

13 Jun

Whilst I would imagine most Brentford eyes are going to be on Stuart Dallas and Northern Ireland’s attempt to beat group leaders Romania in the Euro qualifiers tonight, there is an alternative. And in one of football’s most unlikely yet romantic fixtures, it sees Gibraltar entertain Germany in Group D.

I talked about Gibraltar many times last season (all of which are in the 2014/15 review) with the reverse fixture in Germany, back in November, being one of the highlights. Despite Liam Walker almost scoring a stunner for the boys from the Rock with a dipping shot from 35 yards that left Manuel Neuer furiously backpedalling to just beat out for a corner, the World Champions eventually ran out 4-0 victors.

Gibraltar come close to one of the goals, and shocks, of the season.

It was a game that Germany boss Joachim Löw had gone into full of bellicose confidence, promising at the time, “ There will be many attacking players on the pitch tomorrow. We don’t need four defenders at the back. We need players to set the tone up front.”

Instead he was left to rue coming up against a resolute opposition as he was forced to admit, “We wanted to play as world champions and four goals are too few”.

Things have moved on for Gibraltar since that night. They’ve already dropped the bracketings that saw their opening qualifiers end in 7(seven)-0 defeats whilst, last time out against Scotland, they scored their first international goal as Lee Casciaro levelled things up 18 minutes into the game. Whilst Scotland went on to win, things are definitely improving on the pitch for European football’s newest member.

Sky Sports viewers saw Lee Casciaro make history for Gibraltar in Scotland

Sky Sports viewers saw Lee Casciaro make history for Gibraltar in Scotland

So what does it mean for tonight? Well, Joachim Löw was certainly a lot more understated about his team’s chances than last time out in the final press conference before the game. Acknowledging that, “The matches against Australia and USA proved that there is a means of killing our game early on, which makes it hard for us.” has he given Gibraltar a clue about the approach they should take?

For me, it is another ‘nothing to lose’ chance for this team to find their feet on the international stage. Löw was honest enough to admit that last time out, “It wasn’t an easy game. They’re tactically astute and we found it tough for long periods” before going on to hope that Germany “score lots of goals”.

So – strangle the game, and catch them on the break. Indeed, the pressure of knowing that not only do they need to win, but win heavily, can do strange things to a team currently fighting it out with Scotland for second and third place. The difference between automatic qualification for the finals and play off against, potentially, Netherlands or Ukraine is a huge one.

Could it happen for Gibraltar tonight? It would be the biggest upset since records began but then I said something similar last time out. Probably.

One thing’s for sure, they’ll be giving it their all and will have an entire nation behind them. I just wonder how far the tentacles of Matthew Benham’s statistical model reach?

Tonight Sky Sports 5; tomorrow Griffin Park? You never know….

Gibraltar have packed their boots.What about the defensive wall?

Gibraltar have packed their boots.What about the defensive wall?