Tag Archives: Slovakia

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 

 

 

 

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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.

Big Sam

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.

Big Daddy

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

Glenn, Slovakia, Saint Etienne. So Tough, for England

21 Jun

England are through to the last 16 of EURO 2016. Wales topped the group. Russia are going home (presumably to huge cheers all round). Slovakia are now hanging on for other results after a peculiar brand of anti-football that, fair play to them, shut out Roy’s boys and leaves them waiting to see if third place can be secured.

Those are the headlines as group B came to a close for England in St. Etienne but there was so much more to it than that. Roy tinkered. Roy lost out.

It was a demonstration, if ever us Brentford fans needed another one after some of the Marinus era performances, that stats and possession don’t win games. Although, to be fair, at least England managed some shots (come on Bees fans, it’s all good now !). The BBC figures show how one sided a game this was in all but the key category – goals scored – as the match ended 0-0.

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BBC stats don’t lie….

 

Jack Wilshere was anonymous whilst Postman Pat after an all night ‘bender’ would still have offered better delivery than Jordan Henderson showed. In what seemed to be a wonderful atmosphere – so loud even ‘that band’ were drowned out for vast swathes of the game – England had the chances but just couldn’t take them. Any of them. Not even one.

Then there was Glenn Hoddle. Oh, for some level of decent co-commentary on ITV. Talking to one New Road observer during the game, his take on it was that Glenn had been replaced by a random sentence generator. Another, that Sacha Baron Cohen was filling in for him.

Whatever the answer, his performance was the normal drivel infused nonsense . “I think that’s a tactical move,” he observed after one substitution aswell as noting that “Sturridge has just had a mouthful.”

Glenn went on to explain how the lack of England’s ability to breakdown Slovakia was because “We’ve got all footballers out there at the moment”, with the solution to this being a call for Andy Carroll.

I could go on. Those are but a handful of the examples plucked at random although , equally, perhaps it is something that ITV are putting in the water. Over in the Wales  – Russia game  my sources tell me how Tony Pulis noted that, at 3-0 up, “Wales will be happy to stay in front here” .

Yes. Gareth Bale made it 3 goals from 3 to see his team top the group by a point after what seems to be a steamrollering of Russia. I didn’t see it, can’t comment but can only say “well done”.

Outside of all this, England ARE through. England remain unbeaten. They now face a last 16 game agasint the second placed team in Group F which, all things considered, could have been a lot worse on paper. Mind you, so should a game against Slovakia have been. On paper.

It will take a better man than me to call who Roy & co face next out of Hungary, Iceland, Portugal or Austria. The only thing I’d say for sure is that given recent history, what chance another encounter with Cristiano Ronaldo? He of ‘cheeky wink’ infamy.

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Ronaldo, a cheeky wink never too far away

It isn’t all doom and gloom, whatever you read.

It would have been wonderful to top that group and failure to breakdown a bus parking defence has cost England dear in that respect. Yet is it that bad?

Roy has ended the group stages happy. Indeed having dominated three games to such a level that he told reporters after the game, “That gives me some sort of satisfaction.”

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A Slovakian bus, parked. England couldn’t get past

 

For now, though, the most important task of escaping the group has been achieved. There’s a few day’s break until Monday, 8pm, when England ‘go again’.

Until then, there’s four more groups to play out and, of course, the release of the Championship fixtures tomorrow (Wednesday). For us Brentford fans, this will make a nice diversion and a chance to see how our next 9 months will map out.

Until Sky get the carving knife out…

For now, here’s St.Etienne….

St.Etienne. So Tough. Why do I bother….

Nick Bruzon

The game is here and England WILL win. Fighting talk?

16 Jun

Finally. The match that has been a stand out on the domestic fixture list for the last 7(seven) months is here. England take on Wales today. But will there even be a game?

Of course there will although the morning after the night before, with 36 more arrests after further trouble and tear gas, could UEFA come anywhere close to their threat of sending Russia and / or England home?

Russia going down to Slovakia yesterday has aided their chance of a natural return home but, surely, England will have too much in the tank for the Welsh? Qualification for the second round a certainty. I don’t predict much but I’m predicting this. 2-1 to England.

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Matt Dyson – guru

A small number of supporters seem hell bent on getting Roy Hodgson’s team thrown out of EURO 2016.” Not my words but those of news guru Matt Dyson on this morning’s Absolute Radio Christian O’Connell breakfast show. An over reaction or genuine fear?

Fear not helped by Wales manager Chris Coleman predicting the game to be “an old fashioned dust up”. Probably not the best choice of phrase amidst all the fighting talk in the build up to the clash. Again, probably not the best choice of phrase etc etc etc …….

Whatever the cause and whoever is to blame, the scenes we’ve been shown back home are pretty horrific. Billy Grant and Stan Collymore (a pairing I never thought I’d put in the same journalistic related sentence) have been doing their thing over the last few days. Brentford supporters’ Dave and Billy’s Beesotted page continues to pump out the blogs (with their YouTube footage going viral) whilst Stan has been running the gauntlet of ‘supporters’ and accusations of being a ‘snitch’ as his video links on Twitter are starting to take on a life of their own.

There’s not too much else to say today. I have genuine excitement about the game but, at the same time, it is tinged with an uneasy feeling of awkwardness.

Not about Wales winning – although if the reaction is anything like Gareth Bale’s pre-match mind games that will be horrific. Max Boyce and Manic Street Preachers all over the radio; Welsh footballing icons such as Vinnie Jones and Robbie Savage giving it large. Possibly.

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Vinnie Jones – Welsh

Should they win then it will, no doubt, be deserved. Likewise, congratulations offered. But they won’t win.

The awkwardness isn’t even the underlying worry that, with French Police ready to wield the tear gas and Ingerland supporters displaying their penchant for bawling out God Save The Queen in Town Squares, something is going to give. And then UEFA are gong have to make an unpopular decision one way or the other.

No. It’s something worse than that. With an England game just hours away, the ‘alleged’ supporters band will be tuning up and polishing their French horns.

Nobody wants anymore violence, that’s for sure. But if I hear ‘that band’ doing their thing then I won’t be held responsible for my actions.

Nick Bruzon

Roll on Friday, despite an unsavoury presence

7 Jun

Roll on Friday. EURO 2016 can’t come soon enough. Such is the dearth of Brentford related news and, in equal measure, anticipation for this most hotly contested of tournaments that not even Friday’s opener between France and Romania being on ITV has dampened the enthusiasm. Even the news of the alleged England supporter’s band being present (shakes fist angrily at Sheffield Wednesday supporters) hasn’t detracted any .

On the domestic front we’ve had nothing more than the ‘fake’ fixture list and more rumours about Jake Bidwell leaving Griffin Park for Loftus Road to keep us entertained these last few days. Please note – your definition of ‘entertained’ may vary. Much in the way the England supporters band might have been said to have ‘entertained’ locals with their moribund parping and jingoistic greatest hits.

Sorry – but I can’t stand them. You’ll find better atmospheres in a decompression chamber. Who, honestly, thinks a game is enhanced by their unwanted presence? Who honestly thinks any game is helped by hearing the theme tunes from ‘The Great Escape’ or ‘The Italian Job’ repeated ad-nauseam,  but not quite as you remember them? Not even ITV are that bad that they need their commentary team soundtracked by an off key version of the national anthem or 7 nation army. Something so cringeworthy that I won’t even dignify it with brackets.

With high profile sometime member Bernie Clifton boosted by a public renaissance following his appearance on TV’s ‘The Voice’ and then that album mix up with popular music’s Death Metal ensemble ‘Abhorrent Decimation’ – their track listing having been accidentally printed on the back of his recent ‘long player’  – could we see even more of this outfit than ever before?

I’m assuming Bernie is still part of this awful combo. Much like their setlist, they don’t appear to have actually updated their website since 2014.

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That. Band. Banned

Much as an early exit for England will see the country distraught, the only slight benefit would be a simultaneous departure for that band.Frankly, I’d rather listen to Abhorrent Decimation. FA, if you are reading this (you aren’t) they don’t represent the vast majority of supporters.

As it happens, England are going to top their group. An opening game draw with Russia will be followed by victories over Wales and Slovakia, giving Roy’s boys 7 (seven) points out of a possible 9.

From there, they play ACD3. That’s not, infact, a really poor covers band but the third place team out of those groups. With C and D already looking like the proverbial groups of death, could it be all over by June 25? Or will England be cruising past the likes of A’s Switzerland, Romania or Albania into the quarterfinals?

Only time will tell, of course. With this tournament being one of the most open in years, the last 16 could see some intriguing match ups and big names falling. The heart says England to win it but the head is still backing Germany. Purely because I see so many tight games going to  penalties and we just all know what happens there.

Back to the Bees, my own pre-season focus (until the proper fixture list comes out) remains on the new kit release. All we know so far is that it is in, that the club are working with a new sponsor, that both ‘home and away’ will be released on July 23rd and that ‘green’ is not involved. This time around.

Chief executive Mark Devlin dropped a further hint on Twitter last night, saying that :

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new sponsor. A ‘marketed’ launch (come on, video…..)

I’ve mentioned the infamous Blackburn video before (#Birdysdate on Twitter should help you find this). Here’s hoping we are going down a similar route i.e. of trying some sort of video launch and, certainly, something different. It’s going to be a painful enough wait as it is – let’s hope it’s worth our while . I have no doubt it will….

Until then, of course, we’ve got that month of International football to look forward to. I cannot wait for it all to start on Friday night.

Nick Bruzon

Plug time (regular readers know the score from here) : As ever, The Last Word ‘season review’ : Ready. Steady. Go Again and the three year anthology : The Bees are going up remain available for download. Should anybody want to go over this nonsense, relive these moments once more and remind ourselves of the pain induced by ‘that band’ you can do so now.

It has been a stunning few years. Here’s to more of the same. We may have had a few lows (something about a penalty, the football village, the FA Cup, the pitch, the Marinus experiment) but there have been plenty more highs as the Bees made an unexpected challenge for the Premier League.

Thanks for reading.

‘That band’ play second fiddle to Team 54

19 Nov

“0-0 – an incredible result”.

Not my words but those of commentary team Paul Grant and Richard Lavagna as Gibraltar (population 29,436 at the last count) made their ‘official’ international football debut against Slovakia. So exciting was the moment that I’m not sure if it was even Paul or Richard  although, to be honest with you, it probably wasn’t the best game for the neutral in terms of football. However, for what it represented, it blew the subsequent England-Germany game out of the water. So much so that even the ever tiresome ‘Supporter’s band’ couldn’t upset me.

After years of Spanish objections, Gibraltar were, in May, of this year, finally allowed entry into UEFA as their 54th member.

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.