Tag Archives: Sam

Decisions to be made. Will we get off the mark today?

23 Sep

Matchday. Winless Brentford travel to, erm, winless Bolton Wanderers with Dean Smith in confident mood. He used yesterday’s press conference to tell us: “In terms of how we play, then more of the same will certainly put us on the road to getting a win“.

Agreed, IF we keep up the good bits for a full 90 minutes. IF we are able to change how we play should things not be going to plan. IF we don’t need to rely on refereeing decisions to sink or save us.

As a management team and playing squad those people out there pulling the strings and kicking the balls need to take collective responsibility for performances. It’s not the fault of the paying supporters who, being honest, have been remarkably fair. Whatever has been said on social media where the keyboard warrior is king (and nobody forces anybody to read that), there hasn’t been any dissent where it really counts – the game.

Outside of the Norwich ‘performance’ in the cup (and I use that word at its loosest after we’d aped the Marinus/Oxford farce), there’s been none of the booing or moaning one might expect for a side at the foot of the table and without a win after almost 20% of the league campaign.

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No real booing to date.

It was interesting to note Dean used his briefing to also note this, saying “On the whole, our supporters have been very patient” as well as adding that “expectation and pressure is only built up from outside. The pressure we put on ourselves in the eighth or ninth game is no different to the first game”. You can read this in full on ‘official’

Expectation IS building up on the outside, Dean. Of course it is. This is our team and we want to win. Especially given the much touted quality of our squad. Indeed, I expect a win. Wins even. No question. I’m realistic enough to think the title may be a step too far but does that make me a bad person for hoping we should be able to pick up three points every now and again?

Even prior to the transfer window closing, where we still had the likes of Maxime Colin and Jota available. Stupidity at the back against Bristol City and Nottingham Forest saw us pick up 1 point instead of 6. The opening periods in the games at Ipswich Town and then the visit of Reading should have had us out of sight. By all accounts we dominated Aston Villa and were unlucky not to leave that one with a W.

So today is the day. Today IS the day. The BBC tell us that super computer SAM, the Sports Analytics Machine, is calling this as 54% chance of an away win. Having checked my online bookmaker (for research purposes only), they see Bolton at 5/2 and the Bees at evens for the win. However, having done that I made my excuses and left. If Mrs. Bruzon is reading, no bet was placed. Honest.

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SAM calls this one as ‘away’

It won’t be as simple as the odds make out. Dean was the first to acknowledge how determined Bolton will be to break their own duck whilst admitting that he’s “clashed swords with Phil Parkinson and Steve Parkin many times. You know you are going to be in for a battle.

With our head coach confirming there’s still no Sergi Canos or Lasse Vibe, it’s a case of as you were for his selection options. Which two of three play at centre back this week? Surely Josh Clarke to push up on the right ahead of Henrik ?

Does the (currently) misfiring Neal Maupay keep his place up top? Could there be a start for Justin Shaibu who was denied a beauty against Norwich by the thickness of paint on the inside of the post. Curse that meddling groundsman. Had it not been for his attention to detail we might have scored. Or how about goal scoring Ollie Watkins?

As for midfield, the impressive Romaine Sawyers was off this season’s pace against Reading but I’m sure he’ll be back in alongside Ryan and Nico with the likes of Kamo and Josh (M) on the bench.

And this is as much our problem as Dean’s . Just who is the starting XI? Who is the preferred team? It’s great having a squad but you also need some consistency. Chopping and changing every game , whether forced by circumstance or through deliberate choice, is not an ideal means of playing football.

But if we and Dean (at least, in public) don’t know, then you can be sure Bolton do. And, being quite honest, whatever pressure and expectation there is I still think we’ll have far, far too much in us for this one.

Prediction time: I’m with SAM. Dean will be able to sleep easy tonight. The Bees will open the gap over Bolton to five points and, with Tuesday’s visitor Derby County hosting Birmingham City, there could be further distance made between us and Brentford reserves. Gary Rowett will no doubt be desperate to prove a further point to his former employers and it’s a result that I for one could also get behind.

It’s one theory. I hope for all our sakes that at 5pm it proves to be the correct one.

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Dean Smith – hopefully he’ll inspire us to victory today

Nick Bruzon

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As Sam says farewell does ‘that song’ still apply? And Wigan appear out of nowhere.

21 Jan

Sad times. Sam Saunders has left Brentford for Wycombe Wanderers. We all suspected this was coming after the midweek update from co-director of football Rasmus Ankersen to West London’s premier journalist, Tom Moore. And then, on the eve of our trip to Wigan Athletic, the news was confirmed.

I said my piece on Sam during the week. It’s available here. Feedback at the time from the likes of Twitter and Facebook was unanimous in agreement. A first for The Last Word but, undoubtedly, this due to the calibre of the man being discussed. Likewise, when the news was confirmed, the tributes were legion, with this one from Tom Cox being my pick of the bunch.

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So there’ll be no regurgitation today from your’s truly. Instead, here’s the farewell message from the man himself. Even in leaving, he hasn’t failed to raise a tear and a smile. That song….

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Whether ‘that song’ still applies remains a matter of conjecture for married men and women everywhere. One thing that will definitely remain in perpetuum is the area known as ‘Saunders territory’. It’ll be a long time coming until somebody in red and white can hit a dead ball at goal so sweetly and so consistently. So long, Sam. And thanks for all the goals.

As for Wigan Athletic on Saturday, it seems to have almost crept up on us. Aside from Sam, all the talk of West Ham, Scott Hogan, Chelsea and the FA Cup tickets has provided a huge diversion. All of a sudden it is match day morning and Wigan await.

Club sponsor 888sport have the home side as favourites. I don’t see it. Brentford were magnificent for huge swathes of the game against Newcastle United whilst, of course, won handsomely at hapless Birmingham City on our last road trip. A blockbuster form Nico Yennaris sealing the points in that one.

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The bookies here rarely wrong. But surely this is too generous?

Will Scott Hogan feature against Wigan? Unlikely. Given Dean Smith’s comments prior to the Newcastle game followed by an abrupt u-turn when the teams were announced. Something one could just about give him the benefit of the doubt over until the striker failed to make it off the bench. The whole thing smelt very fishy.

Perhaps that’s why we are priced at almost 2-1 to beat a team buried deep in the relegation quagmire. A team who are only being kept off the bottom of the table by virtue of Rotherham United’s ongoing ineptitude.

Brentford are stronger with Scott Hogan, no question. But even without him, Lasse Vibe has started finding the back of the net, Josh McEachran was amongst those to have a great game against Newcastle United whilst the deliciousness of Jota is a luxury we are beginning to enjoy the taste of once more .

There’s more to the team than just one man. How Dean Smith juggles those pieces is, as ever, the conundrum.

At 2.15 we find out.

Nick Bruzon

This is the transfer story that has me worried. Is the king about to leave?

18 Jan

c2iaagfxaaau7icNoooo! Say it isn’t true? Could the legend that is Sam Saunders really have played his last game for Brentford? With all the talk being about the FA Cup and Chelsea yesterday , you may not have seen a story from West London’s Premier Journalist, Tom Moore, in which he reports that along with Alan McCormack, the wing wizard is available to leave Griffin Park.

The source no less than co-director of football Rasmus Ankersen, who is quoted as saying (amongst other things), that: “If they want to leave, the club is willing to let them go and someone makes the right offer then they’ll go. We have conversations with all players that are not playing.”

You can find the full article here. It’s worth a look , if only for the latest of Tom’s ‘transfer talk’ videos’.

If this happens it really will be the end of an era. Sam is as close to Mr Brentford as Kevin O’Connor and Peter Gilham. Having been signed back in 2009 from Dagenham (alongside Danny Foster and Ben Stevens) he soon made his mark.

Those free kicks. That tan. That song. The effortless cool – even after playing a match. He is the sort of player that brings a rare spark of character and personality to the game. One who puts me in mind of a latter day Allan Cockram in terms of his ability and interaction with the fans.

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As cool off pitch as on it

Regular readers will know of the terrace ritual that has sprung up whenever a free kick is awarded within about ten yards of the box. “And this is Saunders territory”, just has to be said (ITV Ronaldo style). This, regardless of whether the great man is on the pitch.

Whilst that one may be somewhat of a niche call, there is that other terrace routine – known by all. THE song.

“Oh Sammy Saunders, you are the love of my life.

Oh Sammy Saunders , I’d let you sh&g my wife”

It never fails to raise a smile. And none moreso than when Sam, always a regular on Twitter, responded to a fan’s request for a message to be read at his Brentford supporting friend’s wedding.

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This sort of good natured banter off pitch is as much the part of Sam’s charm and popularity as his ability to curl it around a defensive wall and into the back of the net from 25 yards out. And he’s done that more than a few times.

Who needs a dead ball coach? I could do that job – “Just give it to Sam.”

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View from the Braemar. Sam – a magnificent 7

Cracks about the tanning. Photos with the lads where he’s wearing not more than a rubber glove or a bit of gaffer tape to keep those photos ’twitter friendly’ . The ‘car wash’ is still the stuff of legend – if you’ve seen it, you’ll know.

Nothing is ever too much for him. Hospital visits, supporter requests or even just something as simple as asking for an autograph. On personal note, he is, along with Harlee, my own three year old’s favourite player. This one is going to be like explaining the concept of a death in the family if Sam really does leave.

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Sam is popular amongst all age groups

Yet, at the same time, if he does leave it will be with nothing but profound thanks and huge best wishes. It is so rare for a player to make such an impact and, whilst I’m sure Sam may have an idea of how much he is appreciated, it doesn’t hurt to say it again.

And in the mean time, why not let’s give ourselves another look at what has, quite rightly, been labelled the greatest free kick routine ever. Boxing Day 2013. Swindon Town were the visitors.

Only one man could get away with this……

Sam Saunders does what only Sam Saunders can

Nick Bruzon

The good, the bad and the ugly. Bees held, Norwich cast aside and a taxi for Sam. A week in football

3 Oct

Brentford made it 10 games unbeaten at Griffin Park, despite being held by a Wigan Athletic side who were more on the buses than on fire. This, following our midweek destruction of Reading. Huddersfield Town and Norwich City occupy ‘automatic’ whilst the Bees are currently 7th(seventh). That’s still well clear of Fulham and QPR who played each other on Friday night. Like having to chose between Trump and Clinton in that one, let’s at least take solace from the Cottagers missing two penalties as they went down 2-1. Rotherham, Blackburn and Cardiff City all lost to nil, leaving them rooted in the bottom three.

That’s the latest Championship action in nutshell. Yet there has been so much more going on in the division and beyond(did somebody mention Fat Sam and England?). In the latest edition of our regular, weekly feature we look back at those things you might have missed from the world of social media over the last 7(seven) days.

As ever, we start with Brentford where the weekend’s 0-0 with Wigan had been preceded by that incredible humping of Reading on Tuesday night. Feedback from players and fans for both results highlighting the salient points…

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As an aside, we’ve also seen an intriguing update from a Reading supporter. Has somebody been moonlighting?

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But away from this, there was only one topic of conversation. And we’re not talking about Richard Keys.

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Just about everybody had a view on Fat Sam getting stung by the Telegraph and, eventually, leaving his role as England manager after just one game. Here’s how the story played out on Tuesday.

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In the Premier League, bizarre photo of the week goes to Snoop Dogg and Burnley. Just everything about this is bonkers. Where do you start?

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That said, Norwich City fans can feel somewhat hard done by. What next Snoop, a half and half scarf?

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Mind you, on Monday night at Everton there was an equally bizarre sight to greet BBC Radio London man Phil Parry.

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And finally for this week, kit news. First up, our own club sponsors taking time out to start sledging a Manchester United fan. You have to say, they do have a point.

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Then hot off the press this morning, Perth Glory (Australia) have launched something discreet.

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Nick Bruzon

Bees a Royal pain as Sam abdicates on a night of goals and glory.

28 Sep

After a day where the majority of the footballing world were talking about Fat Sam leaving the England job ‘by mutual consent’ (definitely not sacked. Just to be clear. Not. Sacked) one would imagine that outside of TW8, Brentford thumping Reading 4-1 will quite likely be low on most people’s topics of discussion this morning. Which is a massive shame because the victory, which saw the Bees rise above the likes of  Newcastle United to fourth place in the Championship table, was one to savour.

Even now (Wednesday morning, 6 a.m.), I’m speechless. The questions going in to the game were how would Dean Smith rebuild his midfield whilst, at the same time, countering the perceived attacking threat from a supposedly rejuvenated John Swift? Didn’t they get answered in some style?

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 2016 to May 2017 along with a smattering of new material, you can pick it up, here. Its all for a great cause and,hey, you may even enjoy it…..

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Reading’s lurid kit was about as awkward as it got for Brentford

 

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View from the terrace – Annette Curran grabbed this one of Daniel doing his thing

 

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Maybe a slightly more modest restaurant these days

Nick Bruzon

Plus ça change. After Euro 2016, England continue with the bang average

4 Sep

Slovakia 0 England 1. Three points. And a win. On paper that’s all that Big ‘Sam’ Allardyce could have asked for on his opening game in charge. Yet having stated up front that he’d have been happy with a draw, he was that close to achieving his stated low key level of start to his time in charge of the national team. That may work at Sunderland or West Ham but for England, after their woeful Euro 2016 (and let’s not pretend it was anything but) this was just more of the same.

England won. That’s an indisputable fact . And so often I’ve bigged up the fact that goals are the only thing that count at full time. Yet at a time when the impossibility of qualification failure makes results largely irrelevant, performance is as key as result. And this was nothing but anti-climax.

0-0, 1-0. Forget the scoreline. A draw or a win away to England’s ‘closest rivals’ makes no difference. Failure to qualify from a group including Malta, Lithuania and Scotland is simply unfeasible. That’s not arrogance; that’s fact. Yet that game was, to quote one sofa based observer,  ‘bang average’.

At a time when the best sort of kick back from the Euros was needed, England did everything possible to continue with the uninspirational. Non-chance followed non-chance. Even when Martin Skrtel was eventually (arguably, he should have gone earlier) dismissed, England still flattered to deceive.

It was like watching the cast of American Pie v the cast of Porkys in a race to lose their viginity. There was a lot of bluster, a lot of fighting talk, a lot of huff and puff yet no thrust, no penetration and no scoring. In the end, it was a last gasp stab through the legs as Slovakia’s keeper let Adam Lallana’s poke claim his first England goal. At the 27th attempt .

Instead, after the horror of the summer and Euro 2016 nothing has changed – Glen Hoddle was still there talking bollocks; England were still doing their best to make the mediocre look like world beaters.

Any positives?  Either my TV was broken or ‘that band’ weren’t present. Regardless, that was the only win for those of us watching at home.

We’re two years away from knowing how well England may perform at the World Cup finals. We’re two years away from knowing which of Sunday’s starting XI will even kick off   England’s attempt to lift the trophy.

But, for now, we know one thing.

Huge improvement is needed.

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Nick Bruzon 

 

 

 

After Sunday roast, time for kebabs. Just no umbrellas

4 Sep

The middle Sunday of international weekend. There’s no Brentford result to digest (it’s another 6 days until the trip to Brighton and a week since Sheffield Wednesday salvaged an injury time draw in a game they could have actually won much earlier) whilst the national team are yet to kick things off in anger. Yes, ‘Big’ Sam Allardyce begins his tenure as England manger tonight with the trip to Slovakia after leaving Sunderland in the summer to replace Roy Hodgson.

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Can Sam bring a smile to England supporters?

Cue hand wringing about EURO 2016. Talk of a new era. Questions over Joe Hart or the selection of Wayne Rooney as captain. Sly digs about this ’rough diamond’ being a different choice to the normal selections from those suits at FA HQ. And, of course, being forced to listen to ‘that band’.

There’s bound to be mention of Sam’s win ratio at supposedly less illustrious teams  (37.57% West Ham and 29.03 at Sunderland). Although what that proves, I have no idea. Even Roy Hodgson managed 41.94% at Liverpool, for what its worth. And, of course, with that West Ham link there’s bound to be some crowbarred reference to some sort of new stadium. It wouldn’t be a televised football game in 2016/17 without one.

Yes, my ITV cliche bingo card is fully charged and ready to begin crossing off those squares although, being honest, I’m not fully engaged at the moment. The Euros were painful. Dreadfully so. It is still far too recent a bad memory.

To see England earnestly attempt to go again feels like being faced with a groaning table of all-you-can-eat kebabs having just consumed an oversized Sunday Roast. Whilst normally this would be a delicious prospect, given what came before I’m not going to enjoy it. That said, what harm would it do to take a tentative nibble and see what develops from there?

Besides, regardless of who is at the helm, a 6 team qualifying group containing the likes of Lithuania , Scotland and Malta should be about as tough a nut to crack as using a sledgehammer on some stale dry roasted. Forget Big Sam. Big Ron from Eastenders or Big Daddy could get them through the group. And they are both sadly departed.

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Even Big Daddy could get England through this group

For me, the genuine excitement is over in Group H where Gibraltar have Cyprus and Estonia amongst their opponents. Whilst, of course, you’d expect Belgium to run away with that one, could the boys from the Rock make a few waves? As ever, the bookmakers don’t think so and have them at anything from 2,000-1 to 5,000-1 to win the group.

But, whatever happens, surely this is still a more rewarding prospect than watching England cruise through the qualifiers to an inevitable first place. Just remember though, 10 wins out of 10 en-route to Euro 2016 didn’t prove a particularly auspicious omen as to long term tournament success.

I hope England do well. I hope Gibraltar can upset Greece on Tuesday night.I hope we don’t get overly carried away, however the qualifying groups turn out. As has been proven again, success at a tournament proving somewhat more difficult a prospect than getting there.

Indeed, aside from Euro 96 or West Ham’s triumph in the the 1966 World Up (both home tournaments) it is only really the wonderful efforts of Bobby Robson’s team back in 1990 where England have come even vaguely close to getting their hands on foreign soil. The Premier league may be ‘the best league in world football’ (is that line still being trotted out?) and have the most over inflated transfer market, but when it comes to keeping pace with International rivals then there is still a huge gap.

All the money and all the expectation in the world are no substitute for simply being ‘any good’ or knowing how to play as a team. Just look at what Wales achieved over the summer.

After the summer, the thought of winning a World Cup feels a million miles away. The prospect of investing the emotions in a qualifying campaign that has stopped the fledgling Championship season dead in its tracks so soon and so awkwardly is a tough one. And, being blunt, a frustrating one. Just as Brentford have got going and assembled our post-transfer window squad, the shutters have come down.

Yet come 5pm I have no doubt whatsoever the TV will be tuned to ITV to see just what life under Big Sam will look like. Say what you want about him, and many have, but I can guarantee you that if it’s raining there’ll be no umbrellas in sight.

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Whatever happens, it can’t get this bad

Nick Bruzon

Happy birthday to you. Three years in Brentford pictures

5 Jun

Its one for friends and family today  – albeit with a Brentford theme.

Harry Samuel Bruce Bruzon has just turned three years old. I’ve no idea where that time has gone already, beyond saying that the subtle scheme to introduce my first born to all things Griffin Park related is, so far, working.

That’s introduce, not indoctrinate. Honest!

Buzzette, Sam, Harlee, New Road observers and terrace wags  – thanks all for your help with that job.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s a life  – well, the first three years anyway – in Griffin Park related pictures .

Happy Birthday HB !

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A TV debut (of sorts). Something about some sort of penalty thing followed

 

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First trip to Griffin Park

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Harry Sam Bruce Bruzon – middle name coincidence, honest 😉 

 

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Practice that dribbling

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poster boy !

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Introduction to Buzzette didn’t go well

 

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New shirt – a perfect fit

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HB at Griffin Park once more

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Learning those all important pre-match rituals

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Jota puts a smile on the face of Family Bruzon at 2-2 against Forest

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HB – now friends with Buzzette…

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….and Harlee

 

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Don’t forget Buzz

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Never too young for a retro shirt

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Call the police – the Bees have been robbed

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Brennnnt-forddddd!!

Magic of the cup? Real tans, bad jumpers and great results

5 Jan

I love the FA Cup.  Unlike Paul Lambert at Aston Villa, I’m not going to pretend that our Brentford could do without it. Last year’s excitement proved how much this tournament still means to supporters and, as such, I probably wasn’t alone in allowing myself a little smile when Villa were dumped out by League One Sheffield United yesterday.

Whilst Lambert’s Villa outfit struggled against United, the same could be said for Martin Allen’s studio outfit on the ITV highlight’s package later that evening. He was always known for his tops at Griffin Park but this one was less ‘tank’ and more an entire squadron.

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

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

Sam Sodje match fixing allegation – WATN interview

8 Dec

Say it’s not true. Please…

One of the real Brentford success stories under Martin Allen, Sam was today at the centre of accusations in regards to alleged match fixing. According to several sources including the Mail Online, Sam got himself deliberately sent off to aid a betting syndicate when he punched Oldham’s Jose Baxter, twice, whilst playing for Portsmouth.

The evidence presented seems pretty damming and makes you wonder, if true, how long this sort of thing has been going on for. Heaven forbid anything happened whilst at Brentford – campaigns that saw us narrowly miss out on promotion after botched play-off attempts. To suggest either way would be foolhardy, so I’m not going to do it.

Instead, I’ll share the interview I carried out with Sam for the matchday programme last year. A chance to remember the good times but, also, get an insight into his mindset whilst playing for the Bees….

SAM SODJE – Where are they now

As a young footballer hoping to get that ‘big break’ from non-league to a professional club, there are several ways to impress a potential new manager. For some, it could be a dedication to training and fitness. Others may rely on a series of strong ‘on pitch’ displays, perhaps backed up with a DVD show reel. However, today’s guest took the unorthodox approach – rough up his prospective new employer’s team before attempting to, literally, punch out his future boss. Thus saw the 2004 introduction to league football of today’s ‘Where Are They Now’ guest.

At the time, one of our more ‘controversial’ signings (thanks largely to the lengthy suspension this ‘unknown’ had arrived with) when he left two years later at the end of the 2005/06 campaign, this centre-back had been deemed one of our best ever. One of that rare breed to make his international debut whilst on Brentford’s books – the first of several appearances for the Nigerian national side – he has since gone on to grace the Premier League, alongside several of his former Griffin Park colleagues. These days lining up for Notts County with the likes of Stuart Nelson, Gavin Mahon and BBB, would you please welcome back to Griffin Park – Sam Sodje.

Whilst recent issues of WATN have also focused on this period in the club’s history, rather than dwell too much on certain games Sam provides us with an absolutely unique insight into his mindset at the time. Likewise some open and, perhaps, surprising opinions about his team-mates. He speaks with a genuine enthusiasm and appreciation of both the fans and his time at Griffin Park but we begin with his arrival  – which took place in that typical ‘Sam style’ we all came to love.

“My story about joining Brentford is a funny one. I was playing non-league for Margate. We were playing up at Barnet where Martin Allen was the manager.  I didn’t know who anybody was although my teammates recognised him.”

As if to quantify what came next, he assures me, “I really didn’t know who he was.  I was just playing my normal game the way I play, putting all my heart into it and he thought I was being rough with his players. He came onto the pitch and tried to tell me, ‘Why was I being rough?’

I just tried to punch him!

It’s not good but that’s what happened. I didn’t know who he was so just tried to fight him and he couldn’t believe that I did it. The next day I had the phone call saying he had joined Brentford and would like to sign me!”

I suggest to Sam that, in retrospect, he was somewhat of a brave man considering whom it turned out that he had confronted. Maybe he wouldn’t have done this had he been aware of ‘Mad Dog’s’ reputation?

“It didn’t matter. I wasn’t brave because I really didn’t know who he was. Brentford fans know I put my heart into everything I do and I play the game the way I live my life.”

Before Martin signed him, there were other opportunities with trials at both Chester & Yeovil, amongst other teams, which didn’t really work out. When these fell through, was there any thought that maybe his chance had gone or was Sam always hoping to make that step up?

To be fair, when I was first playing non-league I always knew I was going to make it. I was that arrogant about my ability. Going to Yeovil and going to Chester, I didn’t think of that as a downside. I just thought that it was only about time before I was in the Premiership.

I know it sounds cocky but I was very arrogant and cocky in those days and really believed in my abilities. Those trials were not a setback for me. They were something where, deep down I knew was just a matter of time before I played in the League.

I enjoyed them aswell. I just went there because I thought I should go but also I always knew the day would come where I was playing top-flight football.”

Clearly, Sam wasn’t alone in this belief about his ability with Martin calling him the next day, despite his best efforts to deck him! Was it that much out of the blue or were other clubs interested?

“Yeah. I had a chance to go to Leyton Orient at that time and had a couple of other calls. However, he called me up and I just wanted to play in the League, to be fair. He spoke to me and although I didn’t know who he was, he said to me: ‘Sam, it’s my job at Brentford and I want to sign you.’

No-one knew about me. I came to Brentford and thought I was going to play every week. I thought I was just good enough to be in the league.”

Having arrived at Brentford, the contrast to what he had known before was apparent!

It was the best I’d seen. Remember, I was coming from a non-league side in Margate where the training pitch was not the best whilst the club was part-time aswell so training was in the evenings. Then coming to Brentford, who has just moved to a new training ground, it was all I wanted. I couldn’t wait to start playing.

It was so funny though, because Martin signed me not knowing I was suspended for the first half-a-dozen games or so. I carried over a red card from Margate and people were saying ‘Who is this guy he signed?’

So I missed those games but then got my chance and I took it. It went from there, really. I just believed and, when I speak to young kids nowadays, I tell them how at that time I really believed I could make it all the way. My belief took me through.”

This belief seemed to spread through the entire team. For the spectators, it was a thing of beauty watching it all come together. For the players, especially one just starting his first league campaign, it must have been fantastic.

I loved it and the main thing that helped me enjoy it more was that I didn’t feel as though I was making the step up. I really thought it was where I was meant to be. I know it sounds arrogant but that is what I wanted and I thought I could be playing higher. I think that helped me and also in achieving my goals.

Even Martin Allen aswell. When you play for a club where the fans love you, it’s great. It wasn’t like a ‘first season’ for me. After the first three or four games I felt like a hero to the fans and it meant I had to reach a standard where in every game I did not want to play badly because I knew they rated me highly. So I was playing for the manager, my team-mates and I had good players around me. I just enjoyed coming to work. Every day !! That’s what young people should be able to do and I enjoyed it so much.”

Sam may have enjoyed it and none so more than in the FA Cup runs. His first season saw us paired with Premiership side, Southampton, in the fifth round. He talks about the first game as part of his ‘Career highlight’ and the 2-2 draw meant a replay at Griffin Park with the prospect of Manchester United for the winners.

Oh..My..God..! I tell you what. That year was the biggest of my career and even the build up to that game was too much. Martin called us into the office and spoke to a few of us. Brentford days were good days and we really believed that bringing them back to Griffin Park, we were going to win. They showed the class they had from the Premiership, though, but it was still happy days.”

Cup aside, that’s not forgetting we did very, very well in the league where The Bees got all the way to the play offs against Sheffield Wednesday.

“Yes. Sheffield Wednesday away was the biggest, loudest crowd we had been against. It was so loud but being a Brentford fan or player then, we knew we had the heart to go anywhere and to win. Unfortunately, we didn’t get through but the belief we had was incredible.”

If anything though, this incredible belief set Brentford up for that second season (2005-06) where it more of the same – exciting cup runs and table topping league action. Sadly, in the end, the outcome was also the same.

“I keep saying to people that if you look at the players who were in that team, they all worked hard and have gone on to do well. I WISH we had the chance to get that promotion because it would have been a different story. A lot of people think that I am just saying this but if we had won promotion, we would have been the Swansea City of today. The team had so much belief that we should be playing in the top flight.”

If season 2004/05 had been a nice surprise for the fans after the previous campaign’s ‘Great Escape’, to get so close again but fall at the last was a bitter pill to swallow.

“It was too much but thinking about it now, that’s something you will always remember and think about. If it had gone the other way, what would my career have been like? I loved Brentford. I had a few offers to leave (including one to Southampton in the midway point of that season) but I never wanted to – I thought we were going to go up. I’ve never seen a club where the fans loved the players that much. It was so much that I could never afford to, play a bad game.”

This relationship with the fans is something that Sam had mentioned before but he is happy to confirm it was that strong. As such, with Notts County due to visit next month, it could be interesting.

It (the relationship) was too much! They had my song and everything. I don’t think I’ve been back since I left. People at Brentford know me! I’m going to come there and play my heart out anyway. I left in a good way and still hold the fans strongly but that won’t stop me coming back and being Sam Sodje. If I have to score, I’ll score, but I’ll always have the Brentford fans in my heart.”

Aswell as interim success for the team, 2005/06 saw Sam triumph on a personal level. Domestically, he was named in the end of season ’League team of the year’.

“It was great. The same thing, again, though.  Now I find it a real achievement because I know what I did but at the time it was not a big deal because I thought – I prefer to go up with the Brentford team than to win this. Whether I was good enough, I wanted to get promotion.

People spoke to me before and said, ‘Sam, you sound really confident’. I just trusted my ability. It was my point of view. At that time, it was still a great honour to be named as one of the best defenders in that League but now I appreciate it all the more.’

Going further afield, Sam also made his international debut for Nigeria.

“I played against Romania, I remember. I’ve gone on to get more caps, play in World Cup qualifiers and it’s all from Brentford. Even when I go to Nigeria, people say ‘Sam – the Brentford days’, so the club always comes into the picture.”

Whatever personal success Sam achieved over his two seasons at Brentford, with the team failing to get promoted it seemed obvious that our better players would depart. As with Jay Tabb (see WATN v Carlisle) the opportunity to test himself at a higher level would prove to be too much.

“To be honest with you, it was too good a chance. To get that chance to go to a Premiership club. I could even have gone to a bigger team but because I was so cocky, again, I decided to go to Reading as I thought I’d get more games. I had a chance to go to Blackburn and travelled there but decided to go to Reading because I wanted to play in the Premiership. I thought that if I went to Blackburn I might not get my chance.”

It’s always interesting to ask our former players whom they really rated as players alongside them. Asking Sam this question, the answer is one that may come as a bit of a surprise to some.

“Both seasons we had a great back four. It was me, Turner, Frampton and O’Connor for most of those two seasons but, when I first came, Scott Fitzgerald was playing at centre-half. Coming from a non-league team, I learnt a lot from him. He taught me more, and might not know this, but I learnt so much from him. That is how I got into the Premier League, because I was watching him play. There are little things that you may not understand but as footballers, little tricks he did. As he was reaching the end of his career, I could understand where he was coming from. Just using my head around the pitch.

I don’t think he knows, even now,  what I learnt from him.

Then it came to me and Michael Turner and I had an understanding that I don’t think I’d ever had before. Even when he’d click his fingers, I’d know what he was going to do next. He’d shake his head, and I’d know what he was going to do next.

Talking about helping me out, Kevin O’Connor was very good with me. I’d just come from non-league and he was such a good talker. He probably made me look better than I was because he would just talk me through the game. He made sure I was in the right place at the right time. I was pacy and I was strong so he made sure I was winning the headers because he talked a lot. Andy Frampton, the same. Me and Jay Tabb were very good mates. He was one of my best friends.

It was the defence, though; I always remember that, because we kept so many clean sheets. We knew exactly what we would do. Michael Turner was one of the best players I ever played with because of the understanding. Even when he was turning his head I knew what he would do.

Stuart Nelson, aswell. We were similar in that we were mad and would always fight on the pitch. Best friends off it but we would always fight, every game. Now I get older I realise that he just wanted to win so badly, the same as me, which is good.”

Despite whatever on pitch runs ins there may have been, Sam and Nels are team-mates once more, this time at Notts County. Whilst Sam still retains the same love of playing, the style has changed a bit.

“I am enjoying my football although it’s different now. I’ve got an older head so it’s a bit more experienced. It’s different from the days of Brentford.

My game has changed dramatically because I have had an injury.  I left Brentford, went to the Premiership and had a knee injury – my cartilage. I have played all through my career with it, which is fine although I need a manager that understands me. I’ve had a few that didn’t – Charlton, for example.

I’ve done well in my career, even played internationals. So my game has changed where now I might play a little bit more like Scott Fitzgerald, with that bit more experience.”

What has become clear from my time talking to Sam are his love of playing football, an indefatigable self-belief that has driven him on and perhaps, most of all, the genuine warmth he still feels for both Brentford FC and our supporters. It is a combination of factors summed up as he reflects on his eventual move away from Griffin Park.

Things happen at the time and it didn’t take away how I feel about the Brentford fans. I hope they would be happy to have got a player from non-league who has since gone on to appear at Wembley and play for my country. I think Brentford should be proud of that. I was going through the airport the other day and met a Brentford fan who was loving me and I loved him because it was Brentford! I think me and Brentford are always going to be like the husband and wife thing who are together in life forever

CAREER HIGHLIGHT

“I’ve got three.

My first goal I scored, against Torquay (a 2-2 away draw and only his third game for the club). I think that’s what made me as a Bees player.

Second up, you cannot take away my goal against Southampton. That was just unbelievable. I’ve said it before – in that game people keep asking me what I remember about it.

What I remember was that we played a Premiership side but the team we had at that time thought that WE should be in the Premiership. I know if might sound arrogant, and looking back it is, but we really thought we should play there. The fans were loving it and I just thought, ‘that’s where I want to play’.

I think I actually played better in the big games. I didn’t think of that game as us playing a Premiership side but more ‘This is where I want to be playing every week’ and I think that is why we did well.”

Sam’s final selection comes from the FA cup fifth round tie, in his second season.

“If I say this one, you’ll be surprised. Against Charlton I was sick the day before the game and was struggling to play. The minute I came up from out of the toilets, the whole crowd were singing my song. They will have never known what that did to me.

It just made me go mad and I thought. ‘I don’t care. I’m going to play today’. It ended up that I had a great game and the fans were singing my name.’