Tag Archives: Sky

Just a bus stop in Hounslow. Yet….

22 Jul

The Premier League is getting closer. With tickets for the West Ham and Valencia pre-season games now on sale to Brentford ST holders, it doesn’t feel long until we will all be back together once more. Even more exciting, the question of who will be in the Bees starting XI has been opened up that bit further with confirmation of our first signings of the summer. The last few days have seen the chewed up biros out in force with Frank Onyeka joining from FC Midtjylland and then, yesterday, confirmation that centre back Kristoffer Ajer has left Celtic for Lionel Road. Both, moves about as telegraphed as a ‘joke’ in an episode of Mrs. Browns Boys yet, like the alleged comedy, nobody was laughing. At least in Glasgow where there were the usual cracks about #teamslikeBrentford. Comedy genius the likes of which we’ve never heard before and a level that Brendan O’Carroll could only aspire too.

Who might be next?

But we digress. With Midtjylland holding Celtic 1-1 on Tuesday night in the Champions League second qualifying, Ajer has swapped the chance to be knocked out of Europe’s top competition before his club’s domestic league has even started for a chance to play in an actual competitive Premier league. A place where more than just Rangers might actually win the title. Insert fishing rod emoji and stand back. 

It’s a great move for him and a wonderful one for us. A Norweigan international and only 23 years old, he fits the Brentford model perfectly. Thomas Frank has described him as his “First choice” signing, telling the told the BBC that, “we think he fits the position specific profile perfectly, especially on the ball….Kris is very composed and can find the right passes between the lines. 

Kris is now a Bee

Then there’s Frank Onyeka. A player whose name has been mentioned for months. Not surprising , given the Midtjylland connection. Another international, the Nigerian is seen by Thomas as a box to box player who has become the dominant midfielder in the Danish league. Our head coach telling ‘official’ that, “His performances in the Champions League last season convinced us that he is ready for the Premier League. 

Just as Kris is going to provide wonderful competition in defence, the battle for midfield places could be equally intriguing. Christian Norgaard and Mathias Jensen both featured all the way to the Euro 2020 semi-finals whilst we still have Vitaly Janelt and then, of course, Josh Dasilva is due to return from injury (at some point.Err….) . Again, all four players with international experience for their respective age groups and Vitaly, in particular, ending his close (closed?) season on a high for Germany.  

Clanggggg. The sound of a name being dropped. I was one of several fans involved in some filming for the Premier League about Brentford yesterday lunchtime (due to go out on Sky / BT August 4th) . It was an article looking at us as a club, our history, at Thomas and what to expect in the forthcoming months. One of the questions was about how we are perceived? The bus stop in Hounslow, the tinpot club who fly under the radar. We know it. We’ve all heard it. We love it. Whilst there was a lot of praise and thanks for Kris, there were as many snide comments from the Celtic faithful. Fair enough. It’s football. Nothing unexpected and the standard response from outside TW8 to anything we do.

Oh, I’ve missed it so much. Genuinely. The sneers. The frustration. Just the fact that we must be doing something right to elicit such a response. To sign such quality. We’re going to get it from certain quarters all season which is amazing given how little of a shit we give about any of that nonsense, beyond thriving off it. Beyond lapping it up and telling the joke ourselves. As Billy Reeves, amongst others, has noted: “In July 2013 we gave up three-quarters of our ground to Celtic fans for a friendly. Today we sign their star defender for £13.5mill.”

Football is definitely coming home (somebody really should write a song about that) and you can now count the weeks until the big kick off on the fingers of one hand. We’ve got the official shirt launch on Saturday and then the trip to Old Trafford next week. 

Now to ring up the boss and see if I can work the day out of our Manchester office. Pretty sure there’s a bus stop down this way I can travel from.

Just a bus stop in Hounslow…..

 

Nick Bruzon

What do ‘that’ band see when they look in the mirror?

7 Jul

This is it. Later tonight England host Denmark in the Euro 2020 semis. At stake, a place in Sunday’s final against Italy. Themselves winners in the penalty shoot-out on Tuesday evening. Aside from the much noted Brentford connection, there’s also Bees news from closer to home with the game against Liverpool and the trip to Wolves also joining our visit from Arsenal on the early season TV fixture list. For those wanting ‘in’ to those games, yesterday’s announcements about tickets and memberships will certainly have a huge impact so do read up on that one. 

First up, the Euros. I’ve woken up this morning to ‘Kasper’ trending on Twitter. Hmm, who could they mean? The Korean rapper? Former Australian cricketer Michael Kasprowicz? The friendly ghost? (getting tenuous, now). Of course, it could only be Denmark goalkeeper Schmeichel. He appears to have upset a lot of people with his response to the question: 

What would it mean to you guys to stop it ‘coming home’ tomorrow night?” in yesterday’s press conference. 

Call it banter. Call it fact. Call it what you want. There was no denying the sabre rattling with his response:  

 Has it ever been home? Have you ever won it?” 

Good man! Love it. And to be fair, with his dad in the team that actually won the tournament back in 1992 one could argue that football has, at least, been to the Schmeichel home. Yet at the same time, nobody could deny the revival of the incredible Euro ’96 anthem (the less said about the subsequent re-recordings the better) has been a galvanising force of nature. The fans adore it in a manner that the England Supporters’ ‘band’ can only look on and marvel at with envious eyes.  A Wicked Witch staring into the mirror but rather than seeing Snow White, instead casting eyes on Frank Skinner, David Baddiel and The Lightning Seeds.   

When the England Supporter’s ‘band’ look in the mirror…

The radio is playing it to death. It was amazing being a part of it back in ’96 and now we’re there once more. Regardless of past prowess, it’s the England fans’ song and their moment. Of course it is going to be of insignificance to Denmark. Their focus can only be on their own progression. Of course they’ll look to play it down. Yet, equally, only a fool would ignore the huge advantage that what is effectively home support will bring.  

Gareth Southgate has, as ever, attempted to play things down. Even seeming to mirror the thoughts of the Denmark ‘keeper, as he noted that, “We don’t have as good a football history as we like to believe sometimes. 

That’s all true but you can’t deny the feeling of excitement in the air. The game against Germany in 1996 saw England come within an outstretched boot of making the final before succumbing to the inevitable heartbreak of penalties. Denmark, winners four years earlier , will also be looking to history for inspiration. Something has to give when kick-off comes around. With Mathias Jensen and Christian Norgaard both coming off the bench on a regular basis, what are the odds it’ll involve the Brentford contingent? Roll on 8pm when we find out. 

clunky photoshop for our boys

Back home, we’ve had a few days off on these pages. In between, it was confirmed that along with Arsenal, two more Brentford games have been moved for TV. The trip to Wolves on Saturday 18 September now has a 12.30pm. kick off. That one’s on BT Sport. The next weekend’s visit from Liverpool has been pushed back a few hours to a tea-time 5.30pm kick off on Sky Sports. The date remains the same. Saturday 25th. No real surprises here and it least it means the trips to Crystal Palace and Aston Villa can now be planned with some degree of accuracy. Albeit subject to whatever curtailment of Lockdown and social distancing is announced on July 19th  

For those wanting ‘in’, Brentford official have now announced that no more season tickets will be sold. Instead, the remaining allocation of seats at Lionel Road will now be available to on a game by game basis, with priority going to members. At the same time, our new membership scheme has launched with the club making the promise that subject to a few understandable conditions, supporters signing up before August 13 will have guaranteed priority to at least one home league match during the 2021/22 season. 

Full details are on the website. You can read them, here. Please do if you want a chance of getting in to a game this season. If the atmosphere against Bournemouth in the play-off semi was anything to go by, this is going to be immense… 

And as a final thought, the entire Last Word from 2019/20 aswell as all the programme articles (previously unpublished on line) and our season-finale guest columns from Natalie Sawyer and Kitman Bob remain available for download. The later in particular, my favourite column of the season as the inside story of the big build up to Wembley was revealed.

With all proceeds going to Rob Rowan’s memorial fund for CRY, we couldn’t be looking to try and help a better or more personal cause to Brentford FC. If anybody can spare a few quid to help and wants to get hold of an amazing story, told averagely, then they can do so hereTHANK YOU.

Nick Bruzon

Natalie Sawyer: From Moss Rose and Meadow Lane to Anfield and the Emirates

6 Jun

Brentford FC. The club where anything can happen.. and usually does. We are now just over a week into our Premier League status and, being honest, I’m still finding it somewhat hard to believe. Not because of our bus stop in Hounslow status or the sneering from outside TW8 but as much because of everything that has gone before. But it’s true. It’s happening. Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United et al will be amongst the visitors next season. Get used to it.

Part of the reason I love this club so much is the lack of any pretension, anywhere. Hearing Marcus Gayle talk about our spirit and our approach during ‘The Warm Up’ on Friday night was spot on. If you, somehow, haven’t seen it as yet then it is well, well worth a watch. If for no other reason than it is yet another chance to relive that incredible afternoon at Wembley moments.

For me, Brentford is a place where the great and the good can rub shoulders. Complete neutral ground. The close quarters of Griffin Park meant one was as likely to see Sergi Canos in the street as Jumper man. There’s Jack Whitehall in the pub sharing a drink with our chairman. Delia Smith walking down Braemar Road. Err, is that Peter Andre sitting in New Road? Apparently it was. Where if you see the owner, and ask a question, you get as honest an answer as you can. Thank for the kit reveal, Mr B (we’re going back a few season now but…). Where everybody knows everybody’s name and is happy to get involved.

Nowhere more is this seen than with Natalie Sawyer. To those outside of TW8, one of the most recognisable faces on our TV screens during her time at Sky and now holding court on talkSPORT Radio Breakfast. To those at Brentford, she is just another fan. Albeit about as passionate as they come. Likewise, one of Mark Burridge’s longstanding and regular guests during his i-follow commentary alongside Marcus and Mick. Ah, who could forget Sheffield United away? You know, ‘that’ game. Keith Stroud….

Natalie is the face of talkSPORT weekend breakfast

The reason for this long winded intro is that, unlike Cameron Diaz, Natalie is as regular and knowledgable a Brentford fan as any of us. So when she has something to share it is well, well worth a read. And, my word, today we are in for a treat. 

Hot off the heels of Kitman Bob’s exclusive look behind the Brentford curtain, Natalie has very kindly taken the time to share her thoughts. What we had initially hoped may be a few words has, instead, turned into something that is as much ‘cathartic’ as anything else. Not just about the week leading up to Wembley and the game itself, but everything that has gone before.

HUGE thanks to Natalie for taking the time to share just what this means to her..…  

From Moss Rose and Meadow Lane to Anfield and the Emirates

It’s the week after the week of all weeks for Brentford fans but it still doesn’t feel real. “Little ol Brentford” are heading to the Premier League for the very first time. So, in the next year we will face the champions Manchester City, Champions League winners Chelsea and FA Cup holders Leicester to name just 3 sides. I haven’t even computed the historical giants of Liverpool and Manchester United as well! How is this happening??? Do other side’s fans go through this same doubt???

Let’s rewind…I was there for Crewe, I was there for Stoke and also for Yeovil. So, I’ve suffered like many Bees fans. I’ve headed to those finals full of optimism, only for it to be extinguished. I’d like to think ordinarily I am a positive person, most of the time. I try to live the glass half full life but when it comes to Brentford, and the playoffs, I’ve simply learnt to be pessimistic and then hopefully be pleasantly surprised. (I just didn’t think it would take this long!!) 

After every playoff defeat, us fans have all rallied to believe it will happen for us one day, that the next time the footballing gods would be on our side. But, truthfully having been scarred 9 times, as we have, I had partly resigned myself to never winning the playoffs. So this surreal feeling I am having about us being in the Premier League after that Wembley final, I think is pretty fair.  

It’s funny to think the season didn’t start off the best way. 1 win in our first 4 league games had a few fans twitching I’m sure. But not long after we went on that incredible 21 game unbeaten run in the Championship, one time taking us to the top of the league. We were living the dream (little did I know more was to come!). The fun bus didn’t look like it was going to an end, such was the high that we were on. But, in typical Brentford-style we were brought back down to earth with those 3 straight losses, frustratingly with one of those at the hands of QPR (who I’d forgotten were in the league, such was their lowly position! ☺) We dusted ourselves off and went again and although our hopes of automatic promotion fell away, our end to the season was strong and convincing, But, that didn’t mean I didn’t have my fears and nerves and I had that little negative devil sat on my shoulder saying “its Brentford innit” as I feared the approaching playoffs. 

We all know what happened in the first leg against Bournemouth, so I’ll cut to the second. My family were lucky to have got tickets and a few days before the game, I was having sleepless nights. Waking at silly o’clock and having those whirling thoughts of losing. I knew I’d be devastated to lose to Bournemouth in that semi-final as felt we were simply the better team, for all their Premier League experience. But there it was gnawing away at me, our playoff curse and it played on my mind constantly. 

I had to be up early the Saturday morning, so I could be at talkSPORT for 5am. My alarm as usual was set for 330am, but as normal I rarely am woken by it as I always have that fear of sleeping in. This time it wasn’t sleeping in that woke me, constantly, but the impending game with Bournemouth and knowing we were already a goal down in the tie! 

I know I’m very lucky to combine my passion for sport with my job but sometimes it can be wretched. More about that later. After my shift I raced back home as fast as I could and joined my family to make our way to the stadium. It was simply amazing to be among so many fans and feel that excitement in the ground that had been missing for so long. Seeing the players and Thomas do their lap of honour before the game got me ready to be the 12th man as instructed by the team. With Hey Jude being belted out around the ground prior to kick off, it certainly warmed me up for it but the anxiety of a must-win game played on my mind. 

Pre match from Thomas.

There are certain moments in the match, I will confess I didn’t see in real time. Arnaut Danjuma’s goal I didn’t see as I looked away as he broke, and even Ivan Toney’s penalty I missed as I can’t watch any penalty being taken. That doesn’t mean I don’t celebrate like mad once it’s been scored. But my nerves cannot take it, cannot watch it. And just before the ball is struck and you can hear a pin drop, I often squeeze my eyes shut and even have my fingers in my ears, such is the fear that goes through me.

Being sat in the stands with my family, I kept my mask on and it’s the first time ever I felt I could scream and shout at a game whilst feeling anonymous. I’m not normally one to do that at a game, other than every now and then when a chant chorus’ round the ground. But this day felt like no other. I’d been told to make it hostile and I was going to do my bit. 

And so did every other fan in the stadium. The atmosphere was incredible from the 4000 or so fans that were there. And it certainly whetted the appetite for when we can all be back together in what we know now will be a sold-out Community stadium every match day.  

So much of that second leg is a blur now but it was a performance worthy of the win. Agent Mepham did his bit, followed by Janelt’s thunderous shot and Forss’ quick thinking for the third, but of course what does stand out is the ridiculous antics of Asmir Begovic. I’ll never understand how an experienced, seasoned pro could have resorted to such bizarreness. We can laugh at it now because we won but it’s still a head scratching 90 minutes that I wont forget whenever I see or hear his name! 

Begovic – the nicest picture of his antics

When the referee Jarred Gillett blew the whistle, it was some feeling to know we were back at Wembley for a second successive season, hoping to right the wrongs, but guess who was back?? – that devil!!!! Thankfully, I was able to put that pest to one side for the night as we enjoyed a few drinks at One over the Ait, with a number of the commercial department from Brentford, who happened to be there as well. The feeling was one of excitement as attention turned to the following weekends’ final. If I could just tame that devil so I could enjoy the build-up. 

Not. A. Chance. That devil is annoying. I could go hours without thinking about the final, only for, out of nowhere, that nervous feeling you get in your gut would emerge and I would have severe pangs of fear. I didn’t want to comprehend a 10th playoff loss but that’s more often what I thought than thinking we’d win. Scarred, you see. 

Most of my family were pretty calm about it all, the other half (Captain fantastic, Mr D) kept telling me it was in the bag but I didn’t want to hear that. I didn’t want to jinx the game. On paper I thought we were better than Swansea, on paper we deserved to win, not just for the last 8 months but also for our missed opportunity last season. But no game is ever won on paper, nor because you deserve it. And also those footballing gods just didn’t like to answer our prayers. So, I had the fear. A constant fear. 

Remember I said my job is great as it combines my passion but that it can be wretched too. Well, here’s why? When you’re constantly asked to talk about the biggest game in football, the richest game in football, the playoff curse, the what happens to the squad if you don’t go up, you are just constantly on edge. Talking about it positively could jinx us, talking about it negatively could jinx us. I felt like I couldn’t win! But I also couldn’t not talk about it as it was part of my job so the only way I could handle it was to try and be measured for fear I would be the reason for the curse continuing. 

I even feared requesting the Sunday off work because I’d be the jinx, but I justified it by saying I was doing that to cover all eventualities. There was no way I would want to work if we lost knowing we’d be dissecting where it all went wrong, whilst also hearing the celebrations of Swansea and yet if we’d won, I knew I needed to party!!

So, waking up as I did on that Saturday morning, I went to work as normal but I’m not entirely sure I remember what we talked about, so much was my mind on Wembley. But I got through the three hours chatting about some final in Porto whilst also occasionally having to talk about the Championship final. Former Swansea midfielder Leon Britton joined us at one point and he was confident his side could win the game. Believe me that is something I didn’t need to hear. That didn’t help the tension. 

Thankfully at 9am, we were done and there was little time for pleasantries with my colleagues at the end of the show, as once again I had to rush home to get ready for the biggest game in our history in which a select few of us could play our part, under the arch. I remember arriving at Waterloo station and as I was going up on the escalator, I spotted something on one of the steps. A sticker. A Brentford sticker. I took it to be a sign. I’m on the up escalator, the Bees are going up? I was hesitant to post it but decided to share the positivity on Facebook, thinking it might give more and more of us a nice little omen of confidence. I didn’t share the news that on the train back I spotted one magpie!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Going to the game with my dad and my brother, we had to get to the ground early as I was asked to appear on talkSPORT again in their live show from Box Park. En route to it we bumped into a few of my former colleagues from Sky Sports, all who believed it was our year. They clearly had not been given the script. No jinxing please!! Once at Box park, it was amazing to see so many Bees fans already inside, sampling the local beverages and soaking up the atmosphere. There was such a positive vibe that it did momentarily ease my fears. The few drinks that followed afterwards also helped! But, it’s amazing how quickly that can change when the nerves kick in!!! And that’s exactly what happened at kick off. 

Once again, the Brentford fans were brilliant. It felt electric in the stadium as our east stand did what we could to roar the team on. I wasn’t sure I could take 90 minutes with my emotions all over the place but as we know it didn’t take long for us to be jumping up from our seats as Bryan Mbeumo was brought down by Freddie Woodman for a penalty, and Ivan gave us the early lead. Obviously, I didn’t see the penalty, but I roared all the same with everyone else when the ball clearly had gone into the net. Ten minutes later, it all felt like a dream as it was 2-nil. Bryan instrumental in our break as Swansea tried to level, Mads Roerslev making an incredible run to get himself into the mix and Emi Marcondes with the finish that got us all thinking could this be our year? The momentum was very much with us and not long after Ivan’s volley could have sealed it. If only it had gone in. How did it not? It’s those gods again!!! 

It did all feel comfortable it has to be said. But, they always say a 2-0 lead is never safe and knowing we had another half to come, my nerves were still all over the place. I kept jostling my feet, my knees kept shaking and even with Swansea’s Jay Fulton sent off just after the hour mark, I still didn’t feel job done. Because, well, you know why; That devil was there on my shoulder again saying “it’s Brentford innit”. 

Swansea didn’t have a single shot on target in the game, but I wasn’t thinking that whilst it was going on. I was thinking, even in added on time, this is agony. So, when the whistle went, I sprang out of my seat, jumped around in ecstasy. Had we really just won? Had we really just won a playoff? Are we really in the Premier League? That moment of being in Wembley still feels unreal. Turning to my 82-year-old dad, his eyes were wet and red. He is an emotional person any way, but he’s never cried at football. Never. But here he was with his emotions for all to see and the best thing I could do was pull him in for a hug. He couldn’t believe what he’d seen, and he couldn’t believe our club were going to be one of the top 20 teams in England. Not just that but our global reach had just grown epic proportions. Next to join in our huddle was my brother and I am forever grateful that that whole moment was captured on video so that we can relive it over and over again as it’s the most special footballing moment for us. 

I was lucky after the game to be invited to the Brentford celebrations at the stadium. It was wonderful to experience, to see the joy on everyone knowing they had just achieved what for so long felt impossible. A little over 10 years ago Brentford were in League Two facing Barnet, Macclesfield, Aldershot, Notts County, Chester, Darlington, Dagenham & Redbridge – not one of them are in the Football League anymore. 

That could have been us had it not been for Bees United and Matthew Benham. There will never be enough words to say a big thanks to those important game changers for the club. But, going from those days at Moss Rose and Meadow Lane to Anfield and the Emirates is still incomprehensible. We’ve lived in a bubble of hope for so long and although we will fondly refer to us as “a bus stop in Hounslow” and there will be some that think it’s wrong a club like ours should be in the Premier League (Really Terry Christian?!), we are going to have to get used to it as we can no longer say “it’s Brentford innit”, instead it’s “we are Premier League, say we are Premier League.” 

Eyes down for a full house. Of sorts….

22 Dec

Here we go. Time for some festive cheer. A Christmas cracker etc etc etc. With London plunged in to Tier 4 and the next few weeks looking like the equivalent of being tied to a chair and force fed Mrs Brown’s Boys on repeat, could Brentford provide a much needed boost to morale? Tuesday evening sees our league cup quarter final with Newcastle United and I for one can’t wait. With doom and gloom all around us (but enough about Mrs Brown’s Boys) the chance of making the semis is a huge opportunity waiting to be taken. The chance to get closer to another appearance at the W place in North London. The chance to increase our lead over Fulham L of Premier league clubs beaten this season. The chance to actually qualify for Europe – via the medium of the Uefa Europa Conference League (UECL) place that goes to the winner. The chance to actually lift a trophy.

There are only eight teams left in this. The Bees and Stoke City sole representatives from outside the top flight. Flying the Championship flag but, equally, there in our own right. Tough opposition in Southampton, West Bromwich Albion and Wycombe Wanderers have already been despatched. And also Fulham L. Thomas Frank’s red and white army unstoppable. Now, 13 games unbeaten as the goals fly in. Ivan Toney doing his thing. Vitaly Janelt our latest unsung hero. Sergi Canos back to his best. Bryan Mbeumo lashing in two top, top goals during the weekend’s destruction of Reading. Rico Henry, surely knocking on the England manager’s door from his left-back berth. The rest of the defence being picked with all the consistency of car keys being plucked from a bowl yet whomever gets selected, locking out those coming at us. 

Bryan did his thing in some style on Saturday

Expect more changes tonight. Ethan Pinnock has served Mads Bech Sorensen’s suspension for the red card at Watford (hmmm) and will surely be catapaulted straight back in to the team. Likewise, Christian Norgaard is fit once more. Could he and Vitaly start alongside each other? Will it be a straight swap? Or is the bench the best he can hope for at present? 

Up top, with coverage beginning at 5.00pm you can set your Sky bingo cards to 5.01pm for mention of ‘Ivan Toney proving a point against former club Newcastle United’. Personally speaking, one can only imagine his primary goals being to see Brentford make it through whilst adding to his own tally for the season.Not sure I could sit through another of his penalty kicks, though. The technique incredible although one that gives me kittens in the run up. Doing it in normal time would be just fine, please.

Positivity is great but let’s not forget who we’re up against. Newcastle United (are they still everyone’s ‘favourite second team’?  – thanks, Sky) remain a top flight club and pushing to win a first trophy since 1969. With the 5-2 tonking handed out by Leeds United still fresh in the mind and then, even worse, failing to beat Fulham L, Steve Bruce will be desperate to inject his own brand of good cheer into the North-East. He’ll have to do it without Allan Saint-Maximin and captain Jamaal Lascelles, both of whom are suffering from the fallout out of Corona Virus. Urghh, there we go. The C word. Just add  – Brentford’s longest run in the competition for a ‘full house’.

The one could go either way. For me, Clive, there’s no sense in trying to predict it. It’s hard enough knowing who is even going to start let alone who will emerge on top. Instead, let’s sit back with some snacks, with a beer and watch the action unfold. The kick off is at 5.30pm and its live on Sky. Grab your bingo card and let’s do this…..

Nick Bruzon 

What’s brewing at Birmingham for Brentford? Will Bees’ keeper get stung on the Arse(nal)?

12 Sep

Brentford head to Birmingham City this lunchtime for a Championship opener sure to be overshadowed by transfer speculation. Number 26’s move back down South from Burnley to West Ham (they’re actually going to pay for somebody?) sure to reap us a healthy windfall should it happen. Elsewhere, the talk around David Raya to Arsenal shows no sign of abating, with his agent stoking the flames on that one. I don’t, now, expect him to play today with the answer to that one hidden in plain sight on Brentford ‘official’.

If yesterday morning’s piece was lacking the usual buzz about the season to come then the prospect of having a match today is making things feel slightly better. An early kick off on Sky sure to set the pulse raising when things get back under way in Birmingham at 12.30. 

Who starts for Brentford remains to be seen, of course.

David Raya  / Luke Daniels between the sticks is the big question. The answer is Luke Daniels. I call that specifically based on the match preview published yesterday by ‘official’. It notes that “Mads Roerslev will be absent due to a foot injury while David Raya has missed the last three matches with a knock”. Before also adding that “There are no tanks”. Possibly.

There you go. Forget the rumours – its injury. Having not played in weeks, and so presumably off the pre-season pace given this health related update, I’d be amazed if it is anyone but Luke Daniels who starts today. The club have made it quite clear they have no desire or need to sell Raya. His recent absence has been down to nothing more than a knock. Honestly! Who could think otherwise?

Look, I don’t know what’s actually going on here. Who does? Phil and Rasmus aside. Arsenal are involved in quite public dealings with Aston Villa to sell goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez. Dean Smith being able to wield the chequebook is like watching a kid at Christmas. The smile on his face when Ollie Watkins walked in to the room was infectious. In a nice way. Will he get a new ‘keeper and thus add more smoke to the Raya rumours? Or will the club hold firm and show him that the Premier League, with Brentford, is the future. Oh to be a fly on the wall at Benham towers these days.

Whatever happens, happens. We don’t need or want to sell. If we do then it will be on our terms. Common sense dictates that Luke Daniels is our lunchtime starter and then we go from there. Wait for Raya to recover and then see if he is a Bee or a bookworm (because they play in a libra.. oh, why do I bother?). 

David Raya – still a Bee. For now.

On the plus side, all this has distracted from Benrahma talk. Nobody has mentioned his name for a good week or so. Move along. Nothing to see here. Again, I can’t see him starting against Birmingham or being involved in any capacity but we’ve more than enough in the squad to do the business today.

Hand on heart, I’m calling this as ‘away win’. There’s too much talent and too many memories of how last season played out to do anything less than looking to start at 100 mph. The BMW may have lost some constituent parts but it will still be pedal to the medal for our, ermm, MTC. That one needs a little work.

New season – different model rolling off the forecourt

The other transfer story doing there roads (Josh Clarke to Wigan aside) is the alleged move of number 26 to West Ham. We all know the terrible personal circumstances that led to him refusing to play against Burnley before suddenly signing for them. That’s happened and we can’t change it. Only remember. What is it with our ex-centre backs and their dealings with the press? Something something something ten times better…. 

But the plus side to this is, of course, the windfall we’ll receive should it go through. Whilst, personally, I take the majority of football rumours with a huge pinch of salt, the prospect of multi-millions was enough bait to make me click. Lancslive are clapping it could be as much as £8.5million to the Bees, given any sale  needs to factor in what they describe as a whopping “27.5 per cent sell-on fee to Brentford of any profit on the £3.5m the Clarets paid the Bees for the 27-year-old’s services in 2016. That means that should Tarkowski depart for £35m then Brentford could pocket more than £8.5m, cutting the Clarets profit to around £26.5m.” You can read the full piece here if you want.

Rasmus models his new look

Again, I’ve no idea how true any of this is / isn’t. The only thing we can say for certain is that Brentford are masters of the transfer market. Buy them cheap, sell them high, take a cut on anything in the future. It’s more than plausible we’re in line for further financial reward and, if so, reduces the need to make any hurried sales ourselves. In theory. Arsenal may need to add an extra nought on to their offer.

Still. All that’s to come. For now, it’s a case of Brentford v Birmingham City. Of taking your place on the couch. Chosing a lucky shirt and cracking open the goal sweets. And the beers. See you at lunchtime on social media and in front of the TV. 

And finally… e-book, season review etc etc. If you’d like to read more then you can still pick up 2019-20 for free, here. Time is ticking on this one so move fast before Amazon stick a price back on them (at which point any proceeds received go to the Community Sports Trust). From Birmingham City to Ollie Watkins and beyond….

Enjoy

New season – new lucky shirt

Nick Bruzon

Just what the doctor ordered? Possibly.

11 Sep

Ollie Watkins has gone. Aston Villa his new home. Brentford move on. What does the weekend promise….? Birmingham City. Birmingham City. Owned by a per… well, we don’t sing that one any more. Things have changed at the top of the club. Then again, we won’t be singing anything for a while. The Bees travel to St. Andrews tomorrow for a Championship opener which, save for our dozens of journalists, will be bereft of fans. Much like the conclusion to the previous campaign. 

There will be no fans an no noise this time around

Given the ever evolving advice about Corona Virus (and ‘advice’ is a word used in the loosest sense), one can’t see that changing anytime soon. Oh, good. More couch time at home watching the games on i-follow rather than nail biting away days to those far flung pubs that are visited once a year (subject to cup ties).  Just what the doctor ordered. And this one is on Sky, meaning that per my non-Sky sources, even the online service won’t work. Now TV, a pub or a social bubble are your options. Assuming we are still allowed to meet some of our friends this weekend? 

Anyway, the point being it promises to be a very different start to the season compared to normal. I can’t see anything significant changing any time soon, either. Talk of experiments at allowing fans into grounds seems diametrically opposed to the tighter rules about gathering that come in to play from Monday. It’s all a bit underwhelming now. Everybody well sick of this (no pun intended) and longing for the day we can do something as simple as attend a game of football with our friends. Dreams about filling Lionel Road nothing more than that in the short to mid term.

Cripes. I turn 50 next month. There had been a lot of thought about doing the Preston or Coventry games in style. Of going hell for leather with friends. Now, we’ll be lucky to watch it with more than six of us in the same room. On the plus side, it does make up for there fact I don’t actually have more than six friends who’d want to celebrate.

Anyway, We digress. I’m tired.The dawn of a new season is upon us and that should be an exciting time. There have to be some positives and, of course, there’s always light on the horizon. Benrahma and Raya are still Bees. Will either start / feature  for Brentford tomorrow? Is Luke Daniels our new skipper or will Pontus step straight back in to the team and exert control of the armband?  Can Ivan Toney fill the boots left empty by Ollie Watkins following his move to Aston Villa. Only Thomas Frank knows that one and whilst I can’t see anyway in for the mercurial Algerian, as much through his lack of participation in the pre-season games as any transfer related wrapping in cotton wool (“Hello? Matthew? It’s Dean Smith here…”).

That first team selection is, as we have said many times already, going to be telling. The window has a long way to run – October this year – and the cramped fixture list means we could be well into the campaign by the time our final squad is locked down. Then again, our  directors of Football have their heads screwed on. Time has more than proven that and so whilst it’s easy to panic, gritting teeth and trying to stay calm has to be the way forward. An infinitely tougher task for those of us on the outside looking in but that’s part of being a football fan. Especially at Brentford.

As for our opponents, they’ve got Aitor Karanka in charge and no longer have a number 22 shirt, having retired it after club icon17 year old (is that compulsory still?) Jude Bellingham moved to Borussia Dortmund. With the flair gone and the former Middlesbrough man at the helm, expect a more robust than ever approach from our hosts. Their squad may not be ten times better than it was last season but no doubt Harlee Dean, Maxime Colin, Josh McEachran (inj) and now Jon Toral will all have a point to prove. We’ve more old boys there than a school reunion. Even Aston Villa only have three (although the dream I had last night about Jota – get your minds out of the gutter – perhaps only two).

And Toral must score….

It should be super exciting. And to an extent it is. Yet it would be a lie to say this has the the overwhelming buzz of previous campaign launches. This is nothing to do with ‘that’ result at the W place in North London but more because it all feels so detached still. So disjointed. So close to being awesome yet, instead, we’re locked out of our new home with more of the same to follow. I-follow and Sky coverage ARE great but watching football on TV, being played out in front of empty seats, just doesn’t have the same allure as normal. 

Of course it doesn’t. Its an ersatz replacement but one which will hopefully line us up for when we do get the chance to return. Whenever that may be and however that may look. 

Once the table starts to take shape and the games begin then hopefully the usual positive feelings will return. A win on the road will be the perfect tonic. See you on the sofa for Saturday brunch.

And finally… e-book, season review etc etc. If you’d like to read more then you can pick them all up for free, here. Time is ticking on this one so move fast before Amazon stick a price back on them (at which point any proceeds received go to the Community Sports Trust). From Betinho to Ollie Watkins and beyond….

Nick Bruzon

Things are now so desperate, it may be time to channel the spirit of Dream Team.

1 Aug

Saturday morning. The coffee is flowing and the sun is already up in TW8, even if Mrs. Bruzon and H are both asleep. Very much that last moment of calm before the domestic excitement begins once more. Yet rather than a 7 (seven) year old with volume control issues, Brentford v Fulham in the Championship play-off final is the only thing on the mind at that moment. Cripes, there are still three more wake ups and almost four more days until this one comes around. I know life is a precious gift which shouldn’t be wished away but right now I can’t wait for this game. It needs to be now. Please. Any scrap of news is being leapt upon. So high is the anticipation in our house, I  was ‘that’ close to opening some clickbait from Football League World  – “The three reasons this team will win the play-offs” can only be moments away. Instead, there is a scrap of genuine news out there with the announcement of our referee – Martin Atkinson.

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This is good, I think. If only because Atkinson is not a name to conjure up nightmares in the same vein as Stroud, Attwell and Ward (the ‘referees’ rather than a low budget law firm). A quick flick through the Last Word archives only find one reference to him, encouraging free flowing football whilst he has refereed games at the highest levels – Premier league, Europe and Internationals. If anyone knows differently please send in a postcard and don’t forget to mark it ‘Atkinson’ in the top corner.

Cripes, so desperate is the hunt for information I’ve even listened to something called a ‘podcast’. What a great concept. Jonathan Oakes, the Sky Sports EFL reporter, reviews the play-off semi-finals and the big game itself alongside Scott Minto and Andy Hinchcliffe. You can listen on your laptop or download for later consumption. Succinct discussion, informed opinion and a smattering of highlights. This is an amazing idea and is one that, I think, could really take off. You can find that here.

Equally interesting was Minto’s take on Fulham goal threat Aleksander Mitrovic who, of course, missed the game against Cardiff City: “I personally don’t see how he can start when he can’t even be on the bench [for the semi-final]. The fact he wasn’t even an option tells me, five days later, how can he be 100 per cent fit?”  

Opinion is great, of course, and especially when it bigs up your team. Really instilling a sense of confidence in what we can do. Brentford had that little wobble but really bounced back to our brilliant best in the game against Swansea City. What a way to come flying our of the blocks. What a way to put the disappointment of Barnsley behind us. 

Crash: 1-0 Ollie Watkins. 

Bang : 2-0 Emiliano Marcondes. 

Wallop : 3-0 Bryan Mbeumo.    

It was pedal to the metal stuff from the turbo charged BMW, with Benrahma doing everything but got his name on the score sheet. There was the assist for Emiliano, the footwork to create ‘that’ opening in the first half and, of course, the double strike against the woodwork. Had he been able to make it three on 18 minutes, rather than see his direct drive flash across the goal line after hitting the inside of the post, it really could have been a 7 (seven) – 0 bracketing. 

That was then, this is now. We go into this one on a high and I’m desperate to get going. Again. Alas, when we do it will be behind closed doors. With all jinxes now reset, missing out on a visit to Wembley is devastating. I’d LOVE to be there. We all would. Instead, the best we can hope for is the pandemic petri dish of the Box Park or being lucky enough to get a seat in a pub. So near yet so far. The game played out in front of nothing more than a sea of flags and a smattering of visiting dignitaries. If ever there was a time for Cliff to really lose his composure. For Matthew Benham to sneak in a megaphone (or Simon) under his coat. For Peter Gilham to take over p.a. duties then it is Tuesday. This is no place for decorum. It’s a big stadium to fill, with almost all the 90,000 seats remaining empty.

I want to be there. I need to be there. It’s not going to happen. Having watched that many episodes of Dream Team, I’m pretty sure that the only way to gain entry will be to simply stroll up to the stadium in a neon yellow tabard, marked ‘PRESS’.  Whistle innocently and then ghost in via the tradesman’s entrance. 

If only life was that simple. Instead, it’ll be on the couch once more. The beers in. The lucky shirts on. The only real decision to be made one of ‘home’ or ‘away’. Our lucky sofa or sitting in the shadow of the now dark floodlights of our former home, Griffin Park. Roaring the Lionel Road team on from the comfort of a house on Brook Road South.

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It worked for the Wembley assassin on Dream Team

Sadly, there are only three ways to get in to Wembley and I can’t see them playing out. The call is yet to come through from Kitman Bob for an apprentice to help lay out the shirts. Unless his letter has got lost in the post, Matthew Benham is yet to invite me on to the board. The chance of trying to blag it in as a journalist a gesture as futile as the dinosaurs trying to deflect an asteroid.  

Instead, it’s going to be three and a bit days of killing time and waiting for the big one. The chance to be crowned the ultimate kings of West London football. To hit the top flight. Hurry up Tuesday, please.

Screenshot 2020-08-01 at 09.08.39

Surely it couldn’t work in real life?

Nick Bruzon

Hamer House Of Horror. Killer Bees do it again but now face awful prospect.

12 Jul

Oh. My. Word. Even by current Brentford standards that was just ridiculous. Wayne Rooney’s Derby County swept away 3-1 to make it a magnificent 7 (seven) wins on the spin for The Bees. Saïd Benrahma on fire and Ollie Watkins back to the top of the Championship goal scorer charts after giving us the lead with less than four minutes on the clock. West Bromwich Albion subsequently held 1-1 at Blackburn Rovers, despite taking the lead, and now just three points ahead. Likewise, Leeds United, although they play their game in hand today against Swansea City. That’ll be a Swansea team who know that victory will see them hit the play-off zone. It’s all getting crazy exciting. And that’s before we get to the most bonkers bit of all – Tuesday night will see us all cheering on, err, Fulham… Open brackets: for one game only, not a typo, purely due to longer term potential benefit. Close brackets.

First things first, Brentford. It was a day of miracles. Not least our family managing to avoid the scores all day long until our return home at 8pm. Phones off. Wine opened. Game successfully recorded. Sit back on the couch and let enjoyment begin. But enough about studio pundit Sam Saunders and the returning Sergi Canos. 

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Sergi was back

Within moments, any stress had melted away. Ollie Watkins popping up at the back post with the wine still breathing. 1-0 Brentford. Derby left floundering as the Bees sliced them apart. The neighbours presumably thinking we’d lost the plot. Screaming our heads off and dancing around the front room like a bunch of loons. Game on. What a start. What Manager of the month curse?      

It was shortly after that I chose to remind Mrs. Bruzon of the game at Pride Park a few years back where we’d been 1-0 up, missed chance after chance before being pegged back at the death. Lightning doesn’t strike twice though. Does it….?

So of course, Jason Knight chose to level things and serve up a plate with some words, a knife and a fork. Hey, it’s not easy being a numpty on the couch . Words were well and truly eaten. Washed down with the obligatory ‘goal sweet’ (one Starmix per person per goal, regardless of which team scores).

Still, 1-1 at half time. Brentford looking comfortable. Rooney and (eighteen year old – are we still doing that?) Louie Sibley keeping the hosts alive. Norgaard and the defence snuffing out pretty much anything, as ever. Pontus fired up and putting himself about. Pinnock a rock. Roerslev overlapping down the right in lieu of the benched Henrik Dalsgaard and Rico Henry on the other flank doing his level best to become this season’s unsung hero.

Sam Saunders came on to do his half time thing and then thirty minutes later we all settled down to watch the second period. Oh. wow. One can’t even begin to imagine what Thomas did with his white board at half time. Brentford went ballistic. Derby were obliterated. The Bees starting at 100mph once more with man of the moment Said Benrahma restoring the lead as quickly as Ollie had done first time around.

His shot from distance going at, through and past former Bee Ben Hamer. It had no right to go in but, frankly, at this stage of the campaign we’ll take any gifts offered. The shake of the head from Derby manager Phillip Cocu said it all. As did the smile on the face of Saïd. It was as awful a moment for the home side as it was enjoyable for us. A real horror show of a moment but you don’t score goals without taking shots. Sometimes they go in.

Hamer had another spillage soon after, somehow flapping it just past the back stick, before he was beaten by a strike of ridiculous quality from the Algerian wideman. Stepping in from the left wing, Saïd curled it from outside the box and into the top corner on the far side. Hamer diving but not even getting close to it. Cocu would later bemoan the space offered to Benrahma by the two defenders nearest him but the form he is in at present, you wouldn’t bet against him doing that with blindfold on. It was a quite special goal from the man who continues to exceed even his own incredible standards.

Little over an hour gone. 3-1 up and in complete cruise control. The final 25 minutes passed in a blur of red wine and wotsits. The bench was used to full effect although there was to be no return to action for Sergi Canos. Yet. Who knows what the visit of Preston may bring on Wednesday evening.

And what a match that promises to be. The beauty about watching yesterday’s game on an 8 hour time delay meant the West Bromwich Albion result was already in the bag before we even hit play. So huddled around the laptop there was a scroll upwards through the results for the big reveal. Charlton.. Derby…. Barnsley…. Blackburn….. YESSSSSS!!! Oh my. 1-1. More screaming. The police knocking on the door having received a report from the neighbours. Not literally but nothing would have surprised me, given the reaction at that moment ! Oh.. My… Can we be manager of the month every week, please ?

All of which means that the Baggies are three points ahead of us but with inferior goal difference and on level games. Three left to play. Fulham visit the Hawthorns on Tuesday evening, knowing that any aspirations they have for ‘automatic’ are 100% reliant on their winning that one.

Which means if they do, and then we beat play-off chasing Preston on Wednesday, we’ll finish the day in second place. At the least. Leeds still have to host Swansea today and then aren’t in action again until their home banker with Barnsley on Thursday. They’re still as good as up but, put simply, wins for Swansea, Fulham and Brentford will see us top on Wednesday night. 

I appreciate one shouldn’t be looking too far ahead. Thomas Frank has been adamant about that as he attempts to keep his players’ feet on the ground. Yet, at the same time, one has to dream. It’s what football fans do. We look at the next game. We look at what other results may do. And if it means that we need to wish Fulham well for one night only, then let’s at least be ready for that awful prospect. Crack open the Victoria sponge, pour yourself a G&T and dig Thriller out of the record collection. See you next Tuesday for that horror show.

All that’s to come. I don’t want have to consider the prospect overly. Perhaps taking a leaf out of Thomas’ book is the way to go. Just check the result at full time. Besides, any emotional investment in foam fingers counts for nothing if we don’t do it in what is a huge challenge against Preston. Perhaps that’s where the focus really needs to be.

For now, though, let’s pause to reflect on where we have got to. How close we are to what would be a quite incredible conclusion to the season. At are very least, we are guaranteed a play-off place. A few more results in our favour, combined with this quite scintillating form continuing, and  who knows what may happen……  

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Brentford ‘official’ Twitter capture the moment at full time

Nick Bruzon

Busting every sinew to make the abnormal seem normal

27 Jun

No pressure Fulham and Leeds United. Brilliant Brentford battered Bilic’s Baggies – (c) The Middlesex Chronicle big book of 80’s aliteration – at a packed (sounding) Griffin Park last night to move within five points of table topping West Bromwich Albion. With the second and fourth placed teams due to play this lunchtime, something has to give in our way as the Bees continue this dogged pursuit of promotion. At a time that others are starting to fall apart around us, Thomas Frank saw his team make it three wins on the spin, unbeaten since March and 8 goals for whilst none conceded over that period. Ethan Pinnock was a colossus at the back. Ollie Watkins proving he still has the golden touch up front. Peter Gilham giving it his all on the tannoy – his dulcet tones reverberating all around TW8. Screams of Brreeennttfffoooorrdddddd drifting over the neighbourhood. His one man mission to make Griffin Park sound as loud as ever leaving our man-with-the-mic hoarse at full-time.

If it wasn’t the same match day experience for those of us mere mortals usually allowed inside the stadium, the club did the very best to make it feel as normal as possible in the circumstances. The compact nature of our home allowing us to fill the ground with supporter banners and flags to quite wonderful effect. A sea of faces filling the paddock as the 3D effect of the banners gave the look of a large crowd to those of us watching on TV i.e. everybody except those few whose names had appeared on a guest list of journalistic credentials that was nigh on impossible to gain access to. And I did try. Ian Moose would have had more luck walking in to a McDonalds to buy a Big Mac at the moment than Joe Public did of busting in to Griffin Park.   

But with Sky getting better and better at the ‘fake crowd’ noise, to the point of club specific chants, appropriate cheers and the usual boos for Keith Stroud  ( perhaps I made that last one up  – our man in the middle once again belying his reputation) it wasn’t as odd watching it on TV as it should have been. Moreso when we were lucky enough to spend the evening camped out with friends in their back garden that nestles in the shadow of the ‘away end’. Whilst the West Brom supporters may have been so loud they sounded like Aldershot, PG more than made up for it on the home side.

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You’re so loud you sound like Aldershot…

If anything, his bellowing was even more ferocious than usual. There was no breaking his stride. No deviation from the norm. He gave it everything with all the regular stylings. The prematch music remained the same. Likewise at full time with another three points in the bag, thanks to our 1-0 win. Even down to his “Have a safe journey home tonight”. There’s no one there and he don’t care. He could have been the last man on earth and I get the feeling he’d have carried on as though there was nothing untoward.

Honestly, it was life affirming. If ever you wanted to describe to somebody what it feels like to support Brentford. To show them true passion and utter devotion to a team.  If ever there was a living embodiment of a club, our club, then it is Peter. And last night it was demonstrated more than ever. 

As it happens, H and I popped out for some fresh air some time after the game had finished. Who should we bump in to but PG himself. From a safe distance, of course. My word the grin and the croakiness said it all. The enjoyment in what had played out before clear. We’d heard every scream from the garden – including the goal announcement 30 seconds before seeing Ollie guide the winner home on TV with little more than a quarter hour gone. We’d felt every moment. Now we had the quite perfect denouement to a quite wonderful evening. 

Honestly, being trapped outside a locked stadium is not the way to watch a game. We were lucky enough to be sitting within a few yards of the goal. Just the slight problem of a twenty foot fence separating us from seeing the action. The TV coverage is definitely improving and, all being well, it won’t be long until we are allowed back in to the ground. The players are, I am sure, as keen as the fans to have full houses. The full time celebrations showed what it meant to them. Imagine doing that with our usual sell out crowd roaring them on? 

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Close but no cigar. Never has a few yards felt more like a few miles

For now, it remains a case of locked doors. Of wall to wall TV coverage. Of having crept to within touching distance of Leeds Untied and West Brom.

Dare I say it, but could a win for Fulham be the best outcome today? Or a draw? Leeds are five points ahead. We’d need two wins to overtake them, obv. Should the gap become six then it would still be the same, given the huge goal difference in our favour over everybody else in the division. Perhaps it is best just to focus on ourselves. We can’t influence that game and have our own trip to mid-table Reading on Tuesday night. With the games coming thick and fast, perhaps we’ll see a few changes coming on that front. Could Bryan Mbeumo start? His own recovery from the positive Corona virus test confirmed by his place on the bench last night.

Still, all that’s to come. We were immense last night. It was weird to watch but magnificent at the same time. Our club is incredible. Busting every sinew to make the abnormal seem normal. We’re beating our rivals on the pitch. Looks like we’re doing the same off it. Just 7(seven) games to go. Can we close the gap? Roll on Tuesday when we find out ….

And if Leeds could fall apart, again, that would also be appreciated.

Nick Bruzon

TV review. Football : 3 out of 5. Can Brentford do better?

18 Jun

Well that was quite the surreal experience. It looked like football. Kind of sounded like football. But without the fans it certainly wasn’t football. Mrs. Bruzon summed it up nicely during the Manchester City v Arsenal game with the succinct observation that, “My God, this is shit”. On the plus side, we had the tragedy of David Luiz to enjoy – one that always brings a smile to the face of us Brentford Fans and an elbow to the face of Jake Reeves. Prior to that was the ‘return of football’ with Aston Villa v Sheffield United. A game which saw Hawkeye ball tracking fail to return from furlough and Dean Smith, not unusually, believing his team deserved that (because they’ve previously been on the receiving end). But with the trip to Fulham coming ever closer, what did we learn last night ?

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Nobody has forgotten…

Well the first thing being that the game at the Cottage has come into question from some fans, with the announcement from Brentford that, “We have had a positive test from the latest round of Covid-19 testing. The individual concerned is now self-isolating in accordance with the EFL guidelines”. There’s nothing further added. No word on how the individual is faring or who it is although the priority here being we all wish them well for a quick recovery. There has been no suggestion of any postponement either – from either the club or the EFL  – so it’s pretty safe to assume that we will be going ahead as (new) normal come Saturday lunchtime. The short hop to Fulham set for a televised 12.30pm kick off.

Of course I’ll be watching on Saturday. The chance to tear Fulham a new one never one to be missed. The opportunity to close in on ‘automatic’ as appealing . For those needing a reminder, victory would take us within a point of our third placed neighbours whilst table topping Leeds United are 11 points clear at the top of the pile. And I did have to check, it’s been that long. It’s been missed a lot. Even Harry said to me last night, “Daddy, I really miss my seat at Griffin Park. I wish I could be back there”. Don’t we all. Instead, TV coverage is the next best thing and we had our first taste of it last night.

There was the option of genuine coverage – the one where you could hear every pin drop, exhortion from the coaches and clanger from David Luiz – or the version with fake crowd sound piped over the top. We settled on the later. It made a very odd experience, where supporters had been replaced with giant flags, slightly less surreal. But not much. It was weird. It wasn’t football as we know it but at least it was here. Arsenal showing their customary irrelevance. Their pretentions of success nothing more than a rapidly fading memory. Manchester City imperious and sweeping all before them.

Curse Liverpool and their enormous lead at the business end of the Premier League. The only consolation being that the inevitable triumph will be greeted with, “Well, you won it. But….”. That said, I’m sure their fans will be gracious when the moment finally comes and it won’t be mentioned much.

Yet even with fake sound I found it tough going. Fans are such a vital part to every game and never more has it been seen. Or not. There was no humour. No terrace wags. No natural reaction to events unfolding but more a background hum much akin to motorway traffic heard from a distance. Personally, I don’t know what it’s gong to be like watching a game at Griffin Park without Angry Dad giving his advice to the touchline officials and the referee. 

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The referee and his assistants can now ignore all reminders of the rules

One New Road observer has been in touch to share his thoughts about the prospect of watching Brentford in such circumstance, and they are, as ever, infinitely more eloquent than anything yours truly can put together….. 

“As someone who regularly attends football, what makes the atmosphere at football special and genuine isn’t that sanitised “this is what football sounds like” image. It’s the spontaneity, the characters unique to your section of the crowd, the extra edge a midweek match has as people arrive having had quite enough of work. It’s the chatter and buzz of the crowd before kick off, it’s the lone joker that pipes up with a slice of dark humour at the sight of yet another turgid midfield display, it’s the vociferous rebuke of a player at an FA Cup tie that has the TV producer scrambling for the mixing desk (although let’s keep it inclusive at all times), it’s one away player being singled out as that afternoon’s pantomime villain, it’s the crowd shouting “handball” with every pass to mock the opposition’s failed claim for a penalty. That’s the romance of football. That’s atmosphere. 

You can’t replace that with carefully vetted recordings of Barcelona fans performing their manufactured anthem or, heaven forbid, a crowd using cardboard clappers instead of making noise with their hands and mouths. Genuine atmosphere isn’t someone in the booth pressing a button to play GenericCrowdGoesOohClip3 as another wayward shot sails over the bar. If you want that, you can get plenty of it in FIFA Soccer. I’m not interested in hearing what Sky Sports wants us to think football sounds like. 

One Bundesliga referee recently reported feeling like the job is easier and his heart rate is lower without a baying crowd on his back. Playing recordings of the home crowd jeering a decision won’t have any significant effect on that. The referee and players know it’s fake. Pressuring a referee is part of our job as fans and something that can’t be replicated.

Will anyone dare play a clip of their crowd booing the team off at half time as they’re 3-0 down? But it would be a very brave club that piped in a recording of their entire home end letting Lee Tomlin know he’s a wanker. For example.” *

All this aside, I still can’t wait to see Brentford in action on Saturday. The involvement so desperately lacking by watching two teams I’m not overly bothered by will definitely be present. And then some. We’ll be shouting from our couches and social bubbles. Beer in hand and shirts worn with pride. The fake sound will be turned off. I want to hear Pontus screaming. I want to hear Fulham silent. Albeit, it does seem they have plans to pipe in their own noise. Groan. 

View from the stand - Stuart Dallas celebrates doing that thing.....

Moments, and sounds, like this will be denied

Manchester City – Arsenal definitely whetted the appetite but it wasn’t really more than a distraction. Something to finally give me back remote, control after close to 100 days of outback murder, property shows and Gogglebox. Oh, Mancunian dog owner. You may be funny but please get those boots away from the cakes. Please.

To repeat an oft used analogy on these pages, it was like a Timothy Dalton ‘Bond film’. The rest of the crew and supporting cast may be the same, the action and the sound are similar and he even wears the same clothes. Yet ultimately, without the one-liners and raised eyebrow of Roger Moore, or the cameos from Victor Tourjansky, it all seems to be missing critical element. Atmosphere. Passion. Emotional Investment.

Here’s hoping that when it is our turn, things feel better. I’m sure they will. I’d say “See you there” but we all know that’s not possible. Pretty sure social media might be busy though…

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Any excuse for the Victor montage

Nick Bruzon

* Please note, the views shared by one New Road observer about Lee Tomlin are personal but also shared by this page.