Tag Archives: Stoke City

Never order a kit-kat on a train. What really happened at the play-off final.

28 Mar

There’s no football on. I’m bored. Very bored. So who wants to hear a story? A story about what really happened after the 2002 play-off final. That was the one Brentford lost. 2-0 to Stoke City in Cardiff, if it helps narrow things down a little bit. Although at least this time we had the consolation of not losing in the semi-finals or at Wembley. A story about how your journey home from that one may have been impacted, indirectly, by yours truly. The wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time and for which I can only apologise. Even if not my fault.

It was the game I attended with my brother Mark, my Stoke supporting flat mate Paul and HB’s now godfather, Carl (the names have been changed to protect the innocent) . A game where a Mr. Jack Segal (his hasn’t) of First Great Western trains tried to make an already awful day even worse on the way home.

The day, like all of them that had gone before and would come since, started with such great promise. The sight of Carl, sitting on a bench outside Twickenham station, holding a bottle of Baileys at 6am was one to put an early smile on the face abut the day ahead.

Surely, THIS time, Brentford would lay the play-off jinx to bed. There was no way we could cock up another one. For starters, it wasn’t taking place at the W place in North London. That hovel where footballing dreams go to die. At least, if you support the Bees. On what was shaping up to be a beautiful day, we had even been blessed with the ‘lucky’ dressing room. There was just no way we’d mess this one up. Championship, here we come.

Oh dear. There’s a reason I don’t bet on football. 12 hours later, our footballing dreams had died. Again. Different city. Same outcome. Brentford 0 Stoke City 2 the final score. The Bees putting in a no-show of a performance on an afternoon that the wheels came off our quite wonderful team. Steve Coppell’s squad falling apart on the pitch and then splintered into a million pieces almost immediately afterwards.

_1981580_handy_alls300

Different city. Same outcome

Yet the pain of defeat was nothing compared to what came next. Tired, emotional and drained – the stuffing knocked out of us – it was time for the journey back to Paddington. The train arrived. Seats were taken. It left on time. Wow! At least the day would have a decent ending. Homeward bound, what could possibly go wrong from here? Well, quite a lot as it happens.

Whilst the early morning Baileys was a giddy high that, just for the record, had not been replicated over the course of the day let’s not pretend either that drinks had not been consumed. And whilst I am assuming that we were all fit to drive cars, say the alphabet backwards and pass breathalyser tests, discretion was deemed the better part of valour at this juncture. As such, a trip to the buffet carriage was undertaken with the sole intention of being to acquire four coffees and four kit-kats.

For reasons unknown, the kit-kats have always seemed an integral part to proceedings and what came next. There’s no specific reason but on the odd occasion that events have been re-told in private, that detail has remained constant. Close to twenty years on, other facts may have been lost to time, faded or even just been altered to suit the telling. Not deliberately, but as my good friend Bucko used to say “Never ruin a good story with the facts.” I’m not saying this is necessarily one which fits into that category, or that there has been any conscious manipulation of events, but the multi-fingered chocolate-covered wafers have always been a favourite so need to stay in.

Through the coaches we swayed. Purely due to the rocking motion of the train. The buffet car ahead of us. The sound of singing supporters coming through into the preceding carriage. Brentford and Stoke fans, mixed together and sounding in genuinely good spirits. Nothing moronic. Nothing stupid. Just good humour as supporters drank and partied together. Something more incredible given the defeat we had recently endured. Perhaps that side of things was more symptomatic with an ongoing acceptance that this is what probably would always have happened regardless of omens and good feeling.  After all, we’d just been in a play-off match and, to coin a phrase, it’s Brentford. Innit?  

In we went. Paul and I, that is. Carl and my brother had remained behind in the carriage. The bonhomie we’d presumed to be in place was indeed confirmed. Fans of both clubs intermingled and very much enjoying all that the First Great Western bar had to offer. It was a heartwarming sight and moreso given the reputation of travelling football fans.

The buffet car itself may have been a relic from the 70s but the attitude of the supporters was anything but. As we sped through the Welsh countryside at plenty over 100mph it should have been a picture postcard advert for travelling to and from a game by train. Were it not for the simple fact that the door was hanging wide open. Wide. Open.  Nothing but a distance of about two feet separating us from the high speed blur of trees and bridges on the other side of the open gap. The wind blowing in and everybody either oblivious or simply choosing to ignore it – the taste of High Speed Fosters too delicious to surrender for something as trivial as certain death should anyone have lost their footing and lurched towards the exposed doorframe.

By all rights we should have turned tail and fled back through the vestibule. Perhaps pulling the emergency cord as we went. But nobody else had and I certainly wasn’t going to be the one to rain on this parade. The person deemed responsible for turning the party atmosphere into one of angst. 

Instead, we stepped forward towards the  safety of the narrow passageway alongside the serving hatch, bypassing the deathtrap to our right. Those kit-kats weren’t going to buy themselves and, besides, we could always ask the chap dispensing the coffees if he’d happened to notice that his carriage was now exposed to the elements? And then, worlds collided.

Four coffees and four kit-kats, please”. As that phrase was uttered, enter stage left the guard. Jack Segal. He had a name badge announcing the fact. He may aswell have announced himself with the line, “‘Ello ‘ello ‘ello. What’s going on ‘ere then?” And as it slowly dawned on him, the man presumably responsible for the health and safety of all on the train, that neither could be assured he barked, “Buffet’s closed”. Then reached for the emergency alarm.

The caterer didn’t know what to do. With the train slowing to a halt, we asked if service was possible? Granted, in retrospect it was unlikely to be a well received request but, you know, just because the train had decelerated didn’t mean that serving a hot drink was impossible. Alas, it was. 

“Buffet’s. Closed” repeated Segal. Each word screeched with the sort of protracted delivery reserved for naught schoolboys from a particularly apoplectic headmaster determined to make a point amidst the mayhem unfurling around him.

He shouted again. Face growing an ever darker shade of Fergie red as everyone ignored him and continued the protracted negotiations for caffeine and chocolate.

Buffet’s. Closed” he screamed once more. The man behind the counter this time pulling the shutters down. It was a less a slam and more a meandering slide but with our hands on the counter top, it was a game of Russian roulette – albeit one utilising fingers and an industrial grill rather than a high velocity bullet and a brain. Yet, with the fear of an irate Segal now firmly instilled, there was no stopping this manoeuvre from playing out to a bone crunching conclusion. Not that we really though this would happen until experiencing the taste of metal on knuckle.

Oww. That really hurt. What did you did that for ?” or words to that effect were directed towards the train staff, although primarily Segal. There was no apology. Anything but. Instead, with our fellow fans having deserted the scene and the train now stopped, the fickle finger of Jack pointed from the door to us and then back again. He put two and two together, came up with five and made it quite clear that this near death experience was nothing to do with a faulty train but down to us. And that trouble was waiting.

Back we went to our seats. No coffee. No kit-kats. The door had been closed and the train limped towards Newport where everybody was kicked off to await a replacement service. Except for Paul and I. We were told to await the Transport Police where we could… help them with their enquiries. A phrase delivered with all the menace of a camp pantomime villain sporting a cape and waxed moustache . Only a Mwah-ha-ha-ha-ha-haaa! required at the end for a full house.

Which is what then happened. The police rather than the theatrical laugh. We were met by Her Majesty’s finest who, despite protesting our innocence, were given a very simple choice. Either disembark, come to the stationmaster’s office to give some more formal ‘assistance’. Or be arrested. Either way, we were going with them.

Put like that, it was an easy enough decision. As our fellow passengers waited on the platform for a rail replacement to be dragged out of God knows where, we began undergoing the process of interrogation into our involvement in the alleged train door opening which, it transpired, is what Segal had formally accused us of.

What? This was madness. Again and again we went over our version of events. Nothing changed. The questions kept coming. By all rights we probably should have had some sort of legal representation there but it didn’t even dawn on us to ask. Besides, we’d done nothing wrong.

That didn’t seem to matter. Segal’s accusation keeping us trapped in Newport as the man himself had since boarded the replacement service that was heading towards London with the rest of our fellow fans. 

Screenshot 2020-03-28 at 16.34.03

Trapped in Newport?

Well boys. That’s the last train to London tonight gone” said one of the officers. He didn’t go so far as to add “so now your fu*%ed” although I’m fairly certain he thought it. I did, that’s for sure. Locked in a stalemate this was going nowhere fast. The police continued, “You know how much this is going to cost? The entire network has been knocked out. We’ve had to pull a spare train out of mothballs and delay just about every other service going through here. A f*%king fortune is how much”. This time he did swear . Quite profusely.

Then, and I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred any earlier, somebody had the bright idea to call up Segal on the replacement train. We were oblivious to this part of proceedings until one of the station staff came forward to where we were still assisting and uttered those sweet, sweet words: “Stoke City have been eliminated for fielding an illegible player. You’ve been promoted.

Well, not quite but the joy was much the same. “We’ve spoken to him now. He’s admitted he didn’t, actually, see it happen and can’t say that it was these two.

Thanks a bunch, Jack. Mainly because it wasn’t us two. That was a rant for another day though. He continued, “Really sorry lads. We all know him here. He’s a right ‘toys out the pram’ type. So you’ve got two choices – we’ll put you up in hotel and get you home tomorrow or we’ll just pay for a taxi down to your final destination now”.     

If ever you needed the quintessential no brainer then here it was. A late night in a Newport Travel Lodge and a Sunday chugger / replacement bus home or back to our beds within a couple of hours. Hmmm. Let me think about that for about no seconds.

A taxi was duly summoned and took us all the way back through the dead of night to Twickenham. The meter reading £159 as we pulled up outside the station although, for reasons of almost Segal-esque anal behaviour, the driver wouldn’t take us the extra 500 yards to our flat above the snooker hall. Seriously? After driving for three hours, you couldn’t manage two more minutes? Still, it could have been a hell of a lot worse.

And then I remembered Carl, my brother and the rest of the Brentford faithful. Shit, they’d probably be worried. No worries. Out came the Nokia 3310 and a call was placed. I’d probably wake him up but, you know, he’d want to know we were safe rather than facing a prison sentence.

You’d think. But no. Anything but. He was not pleased to hear from me and not because he’d been roused from his slumbers….

You’re home? Already? Bastards. We’re stuck in Reading! I’ve had Carl sucking up to the guard all the way back and now we’ve missed the last connection back because the train was so delayed.”

I made my excuses and left. All of a sudden, losing a play-off final didn’t seem so bad.

Screenshot 2020-03-28 at 16.20.03

Happier times with Carl and Paul

Nick Bruzon  

Tricky choices for the boss. Brutal words to a special Guest.

21 Jan

Oh my word. Would you believe it?. There were smiles all over Brentford last night after yet another favour going our way at the top of the Championship table. Stoke City hung on to beat West Bromwich Albion 1-0 at the Hawthorns, meaning the gap between ourselves and the top spot is locked in at six points. With the Baggies and Leeds United both to visit Griffin Park still, along with Nottingham Forest in a week’s time, the league continues to prove itself the most exciting in Europe. Elsewhere, some audio has emerged from the Dave Berry Breakfast show on Absolute Radio after a listener, Brian Guest, got in contact regarding Fulham and their clappers at the weekend.

First up, West Bromwich Albion. Oh my, Just when the Championship couldn’t get any more unexpected, it has. And then some. I have to be honest that watching this one on Sky last night, I couldn’t help but feel Stoke City were only moments away from collapsing after their early goal. Surely West Brom would find a way through? Surely? But no. Wave after wave of pressure was repelled as the Potters closed out the game in some style. It all looked so, so controlled by the end of it. The home side unable to penetrate and their record now stretching out to one win in eight league games. See also: Leeds United. 

Screenshot 2020-01-21 at 11.54.01

As it now stands on the BBC

All of which makes the point earned by Brentford on Saturday seem even more valuable than it did back then. Sure, 0-0 hardly reeks of glamour (on paper) but I’d take it over defeat any day of the week. I’m ecstatic about the way the top two keep on hitting ‘self-destruct’. How that once humungous lead is now becoming thinner by the week.

It all goes to make next week’s visit of Nottingham Forest to Griffin Park all the more crucial. The Tricky Trees sit just behind us. Level on points but some way back on goal difference. However, they have that all important additional opportunity that is provided by having played one game fewer. Whilst I’m a firm believer in the adage that points in the bag are better than games in hand, you can bet they’ll be bang up for what is a real six pointer.

If anything, the short term destiny of The Championship is very much in their hands. Aswell as the game at Brentford, their next five fixtures include a visit from Leeds United and a trip to West Bromwich Albion. On current form, a guaranteed six points. Ahh, if only football really was that simple. The positive news here being that if Brentford keep doing their thing, then something else will go in our favour. One of those three teams has no choice but to drop points. 

I’d go so far to say that, and whisper this in hushed tones, Tuesday is more important than the visit of Leicester City in the FA Cup this weekend. I love the tournament and am desperate to proceed but if the price of keeping our assault on the upper echelons of the table going is to keep our squad fresh and play some of the B-team, then name Jan Zamburek as captain right now. Return Emiliano Marcondes to the line up. Stick Luke Daniels between the posts.

Screenshot 2020-01-05 at 08.37.24

I’m all for this on Saturday

Who knows what Thomas is thinking about there. Who’d be a head coach? For all we can’t get too far ahead of ourselves, and play-off zone consolidation has to be the immediate aim, that narrowing gap to the top makes for the most tempting prize. Like Indiana Jones reaching for the idol, would we unleash all manner of mayhem and chaos if we made a grab for it? For me, it has to be worth the gamble of naming a less familiar starting XI in the cup. 

I’ll still be 100% behind the Bees and screaming support but wouldn’t be anywhere near as disappointed as I was at Arsenal when we saw Dean Smith’s initial line up for that one last season. Then, the campaign was fresh with a wonderful chance to make a name for ourselves. Now, we’re knee deep in the blood of our Championship rivals and looking to take down more. That has to be where the resources are ploughed. Unless, of course, the players are fit enough for another stint of four games in fourteen days (at least, my fingers only go up to ten). Whomever is named, both games represent wonderful opportunities and I can’t wait.

IMG_E7172

Alan Judge pulls one back against Arsenal

Elsewhere, I was listening to national station Absolute Radio yesterday morning. Specifically, the Dave Berry breakfast show where our eponymous host, co-host / Nottingham Forest supporter Matt Dyson, and sports anchor Glenn Moore were contacted by a listener. Brian Guest.

On hearing his name my ears pricked up. If memory serves, he may have once had a body of work published in the Fulham match day programme when The Bees came to visit. Getting one (or three) past the editor to reflect on some of their lesser moments whilst under the guise of supporting the home club. Or something like that.

Dave had asked listeners to sum up their weekend, but in just six words. It’s a regular part of the Monday show and it seems Brian is an avid listener. He got in touch to share the update, “Fulham had clappers. Why? Why? Why?”

It was a question which clearly nudged the boundaries of curiosity, and common sense, as the results are below. Enjoy. Unless you support Fulham……

Nick Bruzon  

Thomas’ #trophyfriends reach FA Cup fourth round (feat. ball details)

5 Jan

Well that ended up being a lot of fun. Brentford are through to the fourth round of the FA Cup. A 1-0 victory over Stoke City sufficient to ensure the side, made up largely of B-team players, go into the hat for the draw on Monday night. The Bees will be number 26 when the ties are picked on Monday night at the Emirates, ahead of the Arsenal – Leeds United match. That’s to come. For now, a chance to reflect on a much anticipated team selection and how well they did. With the added bonus of Keith Stroud in the middle, this one really could have gone any way. Ultimately though, it went ours.

Brentford Stoke FA Cup third round

Could this have been our last Griffin Park Cup tie?

Ethan Pinnock was the only current first-team starter to begin this one, albeit Joel Valencia, Emiliano Marcondes, Jan Zamburek and a long awaited debut for Halil Dervişoğlu were among the more familiar names. Plus, of course, captain for the day Luke Daniels in goal. Prior to the game, the news of his own contract extension had announced with Thomas Frank ebullient in his praise. He talked in length, nothing how amongst other things that “One of the reasons that David (Raya) has had such a good season is the way that Luke both tests him and helps him in training and on match days”. You can read that one in full on ‘official’.

As for the game itself, whilst the second half was free-flowing and exciting stuff, the first period was one played out in a subdued atmosphere and which, perhaps, could be described as ‘slow’. There was little real action as players adjusted to the system and to each other. The goal coming just before half time with Marcondes finding the top corner from a free kick out near the Braemar Road touchline. It really was a delightful finish from a cross delivered so precisely that when nobody got there, the back of the net was the only possible destination.

Screenshot 2020-01-05 at 08.37.24

Dare we say it….. #trophyfriends

It was due reward for a player whose Griffin Park career has not had the 100 mph start so anticipated by many, given the wave of potential he arrived on. Injury and loan have denied us the chance to see him in regular action whilst the social media criticism directed his way can only have added to the expectation levels. Yet he played quite superbly in a box to box role, starting deep but breaking forward time and again. Certainly, a wonderful addition to the bench and beyond there, who knows? As we enter the second half of the season and a promotion push, how nice for Thomas to have additional options ! 

And with that, subtle as a brick, enter stage left… Halil Dervişoğlu . Finally, we got our first look at the Turkish U-21. This most protracted of moves, with deal having been agreed months ago, finally came to fruition. First impressions were more than positive. Nice touches and good movement. He didn’t get the goal , this time, but more than looks as though he’s in the Ollie Watkins and Neal Maupay camp rather than being the next Nick Proschwitz or Betinho. You can absolutely expect him to be on the bench come the visit of QPR on Saturday. Or rather, as Peter Gilham reminded us, “The team from Shepherds Bush. 

This was a good day, make no mistake. We’re in the hat for the fourth round. Ethan Pinnock impressed, yet again, whilst the B-team has proven just what it is there for. It is something we have already seen with Jan Zamburek making first team appearances form the bench and another run out for Mads Roerslev after he stood in for Henrik at Bristol City. The players looked more and more comfortable as the game progressed with Dru Yearwood almost doubling the lead following a fine run through the heart of the Stoke City defence. A move which began with former Bee Ryan Woods in control but then, somehow, tackling Mr. Stroud before losing both the ball and his own momentum.

Screenshot 2020-01-04 at 19.02.35

Thanks, Keith (not a typo)

All of which means we’re going to have to watch the Arsenal – Leeds United match on Monday evening. Or, at least, the build up to it. Coverage starts at 7.11pm on the @EmiratesFACup Twitter channel (although presumably The One Show will also have it. Urghh….) with the draw itself due to begin at around 7.35pm. However you follow it and wherever you find it, be sure that this one is going to be exciting. At least, until we get drawn away to Carlisle or Cardiff. Until then, we can dream of a home tie with 32 (Birmingham City), 3 (Fulham) or 18 (Manchester City). I reckon they might bring Gary Blissett out for that one ! 

The full numbers and teams are available on the FA website – enjoy. 

Bliss Manchester City

Get dreaming tonight

Nick Bruzon

It’s………….Wayne Rooney’s Account

3 Jan

Brentford host Stoke City in the FA Cup tomorrow. Liverpool moved 13 points clear at the top of the Premier League, having gone unbeaten in a year after yesterday’s 20 win over Sheffield United. However, none of that matters compared to the 2-1 victory for Wayne Rooney’s Derby County over Barnsley, played out live on Sky Sports last night to the entire planet. A dominant Wayne Rooney destroyed the Tykes, as the newly appointed Wayne Rooney’s Derby County captain provided both assists and scored a brace on his long awaited debut.

You’ll forgive me for feeling somewhat overwhelmed by the Derby County love in that took place on Thursday evening. Or, specifically, that surrounding the all time England goal scoring record holder. I hadn’t realised. If only somebody had said. About a dozen times. Every touch from the stocky looking midfielder was greeted as though it had been played by Pele. Every pass seemingly as sublime as a Cristiano Ronaldo through ball. 

Only an idiot would fail to realise that Wayne’s arrival was going to attract attention. That was guaranteed from the announcement of his signing, the gifting of his traditional ’32’ shirt and the protected lead up to this one. By the time the 34 year old finally made his debut it was beyond all previously seen hype levels. The records set by Frank Lampard’s Derby County being obliterated within moments of coverage starting. You’d be forgiven for thinking the family Rooney had somehow hacked Sky’s account to influence the coverage, such was the fascination. Except, of course, that sort of stuff could never happen. Carry on like this and they’re going to shit themselves next Saturday when the cameras are back at Griffin Park for Brentford – QPR.

Except, of course, they won’t. We aren’t global. We don’t have his former glories. His baggage. His wife, who was there looking on from the stands and even got her own graphic. His wage bill.

Good luck to Derby County. Limping past rapidly improving Barnsley, to stay in 17th place in the Championship, is only the first step in what will need to become a very much long term project. Who knows? Wayne could be the man to inspire them. Filling the Championship void left by the departure of Aston Villa’s John Terry.  Inspiring his younger team mates to retain their former glories. It’s going to be a lot easier – for them and for us – without the eyes of the world watching.

Two tweets summed it up for me last night. This is what it felt like for anyone outside the Pride Park love in.

There we go. The high bar has been set. No doubt the media will now be tripping over themselves to shoot him down the second anything, no matter how small, fails to go to plan. Derby and Bet 32 have take an a massive gamble. It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out.

Getting back to TW8, Brentford and Stoke meet in the FA Cup third round on Saturday. With promotion to the Premier League very much a genuine aspiration at present, what would you do if you were Thomas Frank? Give the B team and substitutes a run out or stick with the team that has done so well over these last few months?

For me, Clive, it’s an odd one. I absolutely love the FA Cup and have advocated full strength for year after year,. The chance to progress in this famous old competition too big an opportunity to cast aside with abandon. The potential of entertaining a Liverpool or Manchester City a delicious incentive for reaching the fourth round. Moreso in what is our final season in Griffin Park.

Yet, yet, yet….. Bloody hell. We’re third in the Championship. The gap to seventh place is starting to grow. The two teams above us – Leeds United and West Bromwich Albion, whilst still well, well clear are both starting to wobble. Relatively. Each team having a current league record of only one win in five. If ever there was a time to give the first team a chance to catch their breath then now is the moment that Thomas Frank could be forgiven. For letting the broader squad stay match fit.

I’m absolutely with him on this one. I’m fully expecting the BMW to stay in the garage. For Luke Daniels to be named captain. For Julian Jeanvier to start this one after Ethan Pinnock as come in and performed heroics alongside Pontus. For the long awaited debut of Halil Dervisoglu – should clearance come through 🙂 .

And, it would seem, I’m not alone. As ever, the medium of Twitter summarising in one comment more than all this gubbins could ever do….

Whomever Thomas picks, it’s still a special occasion. Still a game we’ll be going out 100% to win. Whilst I’m absolutely with Luis on the team selection strategy, it doesn’t mean the occasion will be enjoyed any less. The desperation to win as enormous as ever. Peter Gilham busting a gut to big up the crowd. Tin foil trophies being hoisted high in the sky. The lure of Wembley still as strong as ever.

I can’t wait for this one. Bring it on!! Whatever the team.

FA Cup tin foil

Nothing says FA Cup tradition like a home made trophy

Nick Bruzon

Time to crack out the tin foil once more.

3 Dec

Brentford will play Stoke City in the FA Cup third round. After the magnificence of 7(seven) at the weekend, Monday evening’s draw saw the same numbered ball less than exciting as we were presented a tie with all the allure of Mrs. Brown in a bikini. With the audience making the strange coo-ing noises usually reserved for that cringeworthy banter between Ally, Matt, Phil and Sue Barker on ‘A Question of Sport’ each time a ball was pulled or ‘glamorous’ tie revealed ( they practically shat themselves over Liverpool v Everton and Manchester United v Wolves) , there was nothing but tumbleweed when Stoke were announced as our opponents. Even the ‘fascinating fact’, something so wonderfully delivered when Jim Rosenthal owned the presenter’s rostrum, was somewhat underwhelming. Brentford, apparently, going well in the Championship.

I love the FA Cup third round and will be there whomever the opponents. After our reaching the fifth round last time out (what second half at Swansea?) there was the hope of more excitement. Instead, it was just disappointing that having swerved the likes of a trip to Reading, Cardiff, Preston or Middlesbrough (breath most definitely being held when each of those came out first) we were then presented with the sort of same division opposition tie that goes to make up the more workmanlike aspect of the draw. Very much part of the supporting cast. Put there to make up the numbers which will allow the romantic side to play out.

DSC04182

Initial joy ended in fifth round tears at Swansea, last time out

It is a tie that straddles the perineum of team selection. Eminently losable yet theoretically, on paper, equally winnable against a side who are struggling this time out. And we’re at home. You can’t, really, ask for more. Beyond a bit of excitement.

I guess thats the way the balls drop and it is one that now presents Thomas a really interesting team selection. Go full tilt or rest players given the demands of a long season where we are , as it stands, right up there in the promotion race. 

IMG_2959

The cup is always full of optimism, regardless of who we are playing

Despite having zero interest to the TV companies ( you can already see the BBC fighting over the games at Liverpool and Manchester United despite these being there sort of matches we are swamped by week in, week out on Sky, BT and, for the next few days, Amazon Prime) there’s no guarantee of a Saturday 3pm kick off. Like Brentford, West London neighbours Chelsea, QPR and Fulham were also given home ties. Good luck carving up the police duties there. With the third round normally spread thinner than the laughs in an episode of Mrs. Browns Boys, there are likely to be as many games on the Saturday as there will be on the extended weekend that goes around it. That’s TV for you.   

Even listening to the radio this morning, it is the Liverpool  – Everton game that is at the top of the list when the draw is being summarised. We shouldn’t be surprised. I expect Manchester United to follow next. Their non-selection for live coverage is something as rare as a laugh in an episode of etc etc etc…. So if you want the chance to see their under strength team (aka the first XI) in action, then Old Trafford is sure to be up there when the TV picks are selected.

If this sounds a little bitter, then I apologise. Genuinely, it isn’t meant as such. It is more a case of disappointment at what might have been. About the potential that is there just before the first name is pulled. Anybody could face anyone. The foreplay of Tony Adams with his hands on those magic balls as the pain, and pleasure, is teased out over the next 10 minutes. 

Yes. Not Chelsea (again) .

Yes ! Dodged the potato skin of a trip to Millwall. 

Yessss !!! We’re at home . 

Urghh. Noooo – it’s Stoke City. 

Something which, for the record, I have no doubt they are thinking exactly the same about. The FA Cup third round is one which, for me Clive, still produces the most exciting weekend for football as a whole. The knowing that somewhere, somebody big will go down. Something unexpected will happen. Somebody will end up with their tail between their legs.

Who are we kidding, though? Southampton or Scunthorpe. Stevenage or Stoke. It doesn’t, really, matter as long as we are still in that velvet bag. Get the bacofoil ready. Order in the extra large pizza (purely for the cardboard box). I’ve got a tinfoil trophy to make.

cup wembley

Can Brentford make a start on the “Road to Wembley” ?

Nick Bruzon

I missed a Columbo double bill for that…

23 Sep

What is there to say after a game that saw Brentford and Stoke City share the spoils from a 0-0 at Griffin Park? Well not much, and for no more reason that yours truly has been away this weekend so didn’t get a chance to see this one, barring via the medium of highlights. With the trip to Barnsley next up,  the ‘d’ word (disappointing’ rather than ‘deserved’, as in: to win) is the overall takeaway from this one after lining up against a team that had shipped 17 in their previous 7 league games. Instead of a form returning win against fragile looking opponents we had to be content with a draw. Let it never be said that Brentford aren’t generous hosts 😉 Yet when your own club start trolling themselves at full time, you know it’s one best consigned to the record books and, perhaps, in time we’ll remain grateful at keeping another clean sheet whilst actually climbing one place in the fledgling table.

Screenshot 2019-09-23 at 05.30.04

Says it all….

Brentford ‘official’ weren’t the only ones left feeling despondent after a game in which Stoke City had really been expected to roll over and die. As we’ve said so many times, play the 11 in front of you, not the reputation. These are still early days in what is always a long season. It was a trap even this numpty fell into, predicting a hat full of goals before kick  off. Instead, the reaction on Twitter was almost universal

Scott James Whittart:  @miniwhits5 Referee was shit, both teams were shit. Cannot even think of a highlight to be shown on TV tonight.

Emma Briden : @EmmaBfc90 At least we won on possession AGAIN 

Mick Cabble: @mickcabble There are good nil nils and this wasn’t one of them both teams deserved nothing and were lucky to get nil for this stinker of a game  Bees slow and dry in front of goal it was a painful watch 

Tweet of the day, and perhaps the best summary, goes to Oh Fuffuxake! : @TheChauffeur_  He noted that: I missed a Columbo double bill for that shit.

107ee086175977498e68f099b0555663

Better than watching a turgid sounding stalemate

Bryneth Paltrow: @bryncurran God we were shite today – well, not  @WatfordFC shite – but shite nonetheless.

Scott James Whittart: @miniwhits5 Worst game of football I’ve seen in years!!

Met Police Brentford FC: @MPSBrentfordFC A game to forget for all spectators today at Griffin Park

Even ‘my good friend’ Ian Moose was present to offer his view on things although, not surprisingly, with no Neal Maupay to slag off they were more concerned with the state of Matthew Benham’s boardroom buffet (how did he get in?) rather than any real action.

Screenshot 2019-09-23 at 05.31.23

As ever, perspective is required. From both Henrik Dalsgaard but first another supporter,  TonyCross @Lokster71. He opines:  Honestly, today’s #BrentfordFC performance was pretty poor but the panic talk of relegation is nonsense. “Oh, but Stoke will get better.” And we won’t? I’m the worst pessimist when it comes to football, but this talk makes me look like an American sales guru.

As for the World Cup’s Dalsgaard, of Brentford :  ‘I know it’s hard for the fans to hear this but I think it’s a positive that we’re more solid defensively, and I know the attacking part is going to pick up.’

The highlights are below. They are worth a look, if only for the save from David Raya following what we will politely call a mix up between Rico Henry and Pontus Jansson left Peter Etebo bearing down on goal with just the ‘keeper to poke it past. Instead, Raya was quick off his line to smother the ball and keep the Bees in a game that neither side looked able to win. How they’ve padded these out to over two minutes is a wonder to match the Spaniard’s save.

Enjoy, if you can, but don’t panic. The season is young. The team are strong. This really is a marathon not a sprint and things will come together. Starting at Barnsley on Sunday.

 

Nick Bruzon

Only two things on the agenda today – three points and a new shirt….

21 Sep

Hurry up 3pm. Brentford host Stoke City this afternoon, with everyone wanting to put the defeat at Preston behind us (2-0 last weekend) and get back to winning ways. Well, d’uh! Cliche alert and copy/paste your basic football soundbite by rote. Yet sometimes the simplest and most basic sentiments are the best and today is no exception. If any further morale boost were needed then it has come in the formal confirmation of the much touted Kurupt FM shirt – and then some. Not only is the limited edition top now available (we hope, still)  but next month’s home game against Bristol City sees a very special tie up. I’d go so far as to describe it as a crossover that hasn’t been bettered since Scooby Doo met Sonny and Cher.

x1080

Come on Fred, don’t be so bashful

First up, Preston. We lost. They’re in the play-off zone and we’re six points off it. But the season is still early and still three games short of that magical point when the table can formally have been declared to have ‘taken shape’. Let’s just file that game under ‘Move along, nothing to see here’. The only other take away being that we got a look at the orange goalkeeper’s shirt in action. 

There’s been nothing on these pages since that game which is probably a good thing for all concerned. Instead, there’s been a bit of down time but now we’re set for the visit of Stoke City. Bottom of the league Stoke City. With the televised trip to fellow basement club Barnsley a week later, the next 8 days represent an excellent opportunity to push us into the upper reaches once the current nascent state of the league has become almost ‘fully formed’.

Will Thomas stick with the same or utilise the numbers at his disposal? He has pretty much the full squad available to him with the main question being when we get a look at front man Nikoloas Karelis. Brentford have looked magnificent going forward and the return of Said Benrahma has been a more than welcome one. Along with Bryan Mbuemo, who is finding his feet very quickly, Brentford haven’t been afraid to try their luck in front of goal. Even if the results have been mixed at times. Yet with the BBC telling us that Stoke have conceded the highest percentage of their shots faced (23.3%), could this be the game to try our luck from distance? It almost worked last weekend. 

DSC06416

Benrahma – does everything. Even helping the fans with their ‘selfies’

Look, I’ve no idea which way Thomas is going to jump. We’re all full of conjecture but, for what its worth, I’d keep the same starting XI. When we’ve fired we’ve been imperious. Two wins out of the first seven isn’t prolific form but that can soon change. We were magnificent against Derby County last time out at Griffin Park and with Stoke struggling, I’m going to stick my neck on the block and say that I expect more of that form we saw against the Rams. Another game packed full of attacking intent from Brentford and another three points. The Potters have shipped 17 already, the leakiest defence in the Championship, and I wouldn’t be surprised if full time saw that figure take a further battering. Just bring on the afternoon when we get our chance to go for it.

The other news to put a spring in the step is that around the Kurupt FM shirt which Matthew Benham and his family first unveiled. It has finally been confirmed as being made available with all profits going to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust. Even better though, Brentford ‘official’ have now revealed that the local stars will be joining us for the game at home to Bristol City as they takeover Griffin Park. Cripes. #BeeTheDJ could be very interesting….

You can read about it all on ‘official’ whilst, of course, don’t forget to pick your shirt up – assuming there are any left (at present the online store only has these remaining at either end of the size spectrum).  It promises to be special. Until then, though, here’s to Stoke City.  

Large

This really is happening

Nick Bruzon

Romaine and Kamo lead the charge as magnificent Bees dominate and ‘jinx’ rules are established.

12 Jan

Brentford 3 Stoke City 1. Where to even start with this one? It was a performance that was every bit as dominant as the reports will suggest. It was a game that saw Thomas Frank make it 6 unbeaten as his team scored two quite magnificent goals following a calamitous o.g. opener from Ryan Shawcross. Yet most importantly, we got as emphatic an answer as one could hope to the question, “Does the ‘manager-of-the-month’ curse travel if the winner changes clubs after being nominated?”. This, after Nathan Jones had of course scooped December’s League One honours for his ongoing heroics at Luton Town.

ugvwnl7e.jpg-large

Stoke were second to everything all afternoon

Brentford were magnificent. Slick. Irresistible. Irrepressible. Like a greyhound out of the traps, they were in the face of the visitors for the off. Much like the ball. With just 7(seven) minutes gone the Bees were ahead after an attempt to clear a corner (correctly taken ‘not short’) was simply hoofed into the face of Shawcross and returned straight back in the direction it had come . With interest. Boom. One-nil Brentford and more to follow. Neal Maupay almost made it two, forcing Jack Butland into a full length save to push the Frenchman’s goalbound strike from just inside the corner of the box around the post. 

With Brentford continuing to push (up) it wasn’t long before the lead was doubled. There was little over a quarter hour on the clock when Said Benrahma made it two. An exquisite first time connection from a slide rule pass into the box, delivered with aplomb by Romaine Sawyers, saw the ball steered wide of Butland for two. The crowd erupted. Benrahma followed suit, running half the length of the pitch to celebrate with his family. You could see the what this one meant from the smile on his face. It was a delightful moment but one which owed as much to the ball played in from his captain. 

s5semtzn.jpg-large

View from the Braemar – Said celebrates

Romaine may not have made the headlines today but he had a a game he’ll never forget. There were tackles, passes and sublime moments of skill that looked as though they had been made with the proverbial ‘ball-tied-to-foot with a piece of string. He was every bit of his very best, turning in a performance that has to be amongst his top three in a Bees’ shirt. Equal praise must be handed out to Kamo, who absolutely bossed the midfield. Looking through supporter comments on social media afterwards, MOTM award seemed to be very much a two way battle.

Yet nobody should be overlooked after Brentford put in what was about a complete a performance as they come. Thnas Frank will sleep well tonight, that’s for sure. Nathan Jones will still be having the nightmares that must have begun to haunt him within a minute of kick off.  Benik Afobe pulled one back in the first half but it was his and Stoke’s only meaningful contribution all afternoon. The rest of their game saw a reversion to the agricultural style of play we’d seen in the corresponding fixture up in the Potteries back in August.    

8rryeyzn.jpg-large

Romaine was flying today

And then Rico Henry happened. The second half started much the same as the first had done. All Brentford. The highlights are up already c/o Sky but they don’t even begin to do justice to our play or the build up to Rico’s sizzling run that saw him cut into the box, keep on cutting before unleashing a low drive into the bottom corner. If the crowd had gone crazy for Said’s they were all on their feet for this one. What a move. What a noise. What a goal. 

It could have been more. Neal Maupay and Ollie Watkins both hit the crossbar in a period that saw Brentford continue to take the game to their opponents. It finished 3-1. It could have been more. Like Oxford in the cup, it was never in doubt. The defensive trio of Jeanvier, Konsa and Barbet as rock solid as they have been since Thomas Frank changed our formation and his fortunes.

One does have to wonder how Chris Mepham will get back in to this team if they continue to play like that. The confidence emanating from the back line flowed through the entire team. Frankly, this is the easiest post-match column I’ve had to write in months – we really were that good.

ipen-bjx.jpg-large

Neal pushed but didn’t get a goal his performance deserved.

How nice, also, to see the goals starting to come from other areas of the pitch. To see chances created by players other than Maupay. To see Jeanvier really starting to deliver and Kamo back to last season’s best. 

The other thing to come out of today’s game was an answer to the question posed in the previous column. Namely, “Is the manager of the month curse transferable? Or does it stay with the winning club”. This, after Nathan Jones – then of Luton Town –  was named as one of the nominees for League One manager of the month for December. He subsequently took up the reins at Stoke and picked up the award itself on Friday. Just over 24 hours later the trophy holder proved that the jinx travels. He saw his new charges played off the park to add another notch in the ‘L’ column whilst Luton picked up a point in the League One top-of-the-table clash with Sunderland.

But, to be fair, the Bees were so good today that Thomas Frank could have run over a black cat on the way to the ground whilst ducking under a ladder and we’d have still got the win. Even Mrs. Bruzon was allowed back into Griffin Park (by Harry) to see us at our very best.

Long may it continue. Roll on Rotherham next weekend when we find out.

dwui7xrxcaaq5rw.jpg-large

Mrs B. and Harry enjoy the moment as Rico makes it 3

Nick Bruzon 

A day of questions for Clem, Sky, the BBC and lovers of football folklore.

10 Jan

Well that was a day that threw up all manner of questions. Brentford have been offered a potential ‘gift horse ahead of the visit from Stoke City this weekend whilst Manchester City have once more thrown open the age old question of brackets. This, after they hit the 7(seven) goal mark for the second time in less than a week when filling their boots against Burton Albion in the Carabao Cup.

First up, Stoke City. There’s an article on Brentford ‘official’ at present ( you can find that one here) , reminding us that it was 27 years ago that a Dean Holdsworth inspired team beat The Potters 2-0.

Cripes, it still feels like it was five minutes ago and is well worth a look. If for no other reason than the shorts and shirts on display – both of which I possess but only one of which Mrs. Bruzon allows me to wear in public. Or private. They certainly made shorts short in those days but, if nothing else, it will be a good excuse to crank something retro out of the wardrobe on Saturday.

large

Yet the visit of Stoke City offers a more intriguing prospect than yours truly being poured into a pair of vinyl effect Chad shorts. Not so much the return of their new signing Ryan Woods but more the fact that the visitors have new manager. Nathan Jones. Who has, of course, joined from Luton Town. Aside from being a shoe-in for #BeeTheDJ, it does pose a a much broader question.

On the day he joined Stoke, Nathan was also named as one of the nominees for League One manager of the month for December. I hope he wins it for no other reason than it will then provide an answer to the question that probably nobody has ever asked. Until now.

Is the manager of the month curse transferable ?

We all know what is supposed to happen. Win the award, lose your next game. It is a piece of footballing folklore as old as time itself and as certain as a team featured by Clem on his ‘football focus’ previews also failing to win. At least, historically. It is worth noting that in recent times that jinx has turned itself on its head and Clem is now viewed more as a black cat than a beleaguered albatross.

But what happens when a manager moves with the award ’inflight’ ? Should he succeed, does the jinx remain at Luton Town? Does it travel with him to Stoke City? I’m desperate for Nathan to pick up the trophy just so as we can find out.

Clem Clemwatch after norwich 2

Could Clem provide the answer?

Alongside this footballing curse, the other curio to visit these pages on a regular basis is the phenomenon of vidiprinter brackets. Regular readers will know of our love for a team scoring 7(seven) goals so that this additional qualification can be provided. No, it’s not a typo. Someone really has managed to score this many. 

And on the subject of favourite methods of goal clarification, see also use of the early evening World Cup phrase, “For those of you just coming in from work, the score is….”    

In the last 7(seven) days ‘brackets’ has happened three times. Spurs on Friday night against Tranmere and then Manchester City v Rotherham. Both in the FA Cup. Then last night, Manchester City did it again before eventually running out of steam after hitting 9 past Burton in the first leg of the league cup semi-final. The only saving grace for The Brewers meaning that as away goals don’t count double, they are spared the indignity of needing 11 should City find the net in the return game.

Yet more importantly, it once more opened the can of worms that is the etiquette of brackets. Do you keep going after 7(seven) to 8(eight), 9(nine) and beyond? Is it just prime numbers? High single figures? And then what case? Lower, Upper or a Capital letter? 

My own preference is 7(seven) only and always lower case. Never full ‘upper’ or higher numbers – both are brash, unnecessary hammering home of the fact that a team really has taken a kicking. Even a capital letter seems a little OTT. Absolutely use the 7(seven) but have a modicum of discretion and sportsmanship.

The reason for bringing this up again today – aside from having to doff several hats to Manchester City – is due to the BBC live text as last night’s game unfurled. They went through several permutations up to 9(Nine) before even chucking a 16(SIXTEEN) into the mix. 

A crossing of the streams that was as confusing as it was a terrible example for any younger fans that may have been watching. Probably. 

The point being that if anyone can give definitive authority on what the correct protocol is, and why, it would be appreciated. Until then I’ll stick with my 7(seven) and nothing else.

z0ckpg_w.jpg-large

Have the BBC gone rogue?

Nick Bruzon

Sheer Bliss for Neal and Thomas. Who or what comes next?

6 Jan

Brentford 1 Oxford United 0. The Bees are through to the fourth round of the FA Cup. It’s another clean sheet. It’s five games unbeaten. It could have been by more but in the end Neal Maupay’s penalty kick proved to be the crucial difference between the two sides. It never felt in doubt yet, but the same virtue, could have gone either way with the visitors pushing late on. Who cares though? I don’t. The most important thing is the Bees are ball number 4 of those to be decanted from the velvet bag into the tombola for Monday night’s draw. We’ve successfully navigated the potato skin already trodden on by the likes of Cardiff City, Huddersfield Town and even divisional rivals Norwich City on Saturday. We can now start making another tin foil trophy and blocking out the diary for the last weekend in January. Start dreaming of a visit from the likes of Manchester City or Accrington Stanley. Start dreaming of another cup run.

img_0562

Buzz Bee was up for the cup before kick off

Brentford looked positive and were dominant without creating bucketloads of chances. Oxford United did sufficient to close us out and would slowly find a way into a game played out against a strong starting XI. Moreso, one which was bolstered from the bench by the arrival of Neal Maupay. Indeed it was our top scorer who would eventually prove pivotal. His mazy run through the midfield and into the box was brought to a crunching halt by the intervention of former Bee John Mousinho. Maupay made no mistake from the spot and with ten minutes left on the clock that was it, surely?

Indeed it was. Nothing further transpired and despite a late flourish from the visitors it always seemed as though we would progress. Brentford did what they needed to. End of. The game wasn’t a classic by any stretch of the imagination but when the balls drop for Monday’s draw (live on the BBC from Molineux – hopefully not another dreadful crossover with TV’s The One Show) nobody will care how we got there. Nobody is going to begrudge us a visit from Manchester City or a trip to Accrington Stanley because we failed to feast at the Oxford United all you can score buffet. It’s massively disrespectful to both our opponents and to the team which Thomas put out. They did what they had to. They kept it tight at the back. They scored the winning goal.  

img_0615

Yesss!! 1-0 as we celebrate Neal Maupay’s penalty

What else can we take from this one? Neal Maupay is now cup tied. As are the likes of Ollie Watkins and Rico Henry. Good news all round on that front. Was there as much to be read into those who were left out of the 18 man squad altogether? There was no room for Henrik Dalsgaard, Nico Yennaris, Romaine Sawyers, Daniel Bentley or Chris Mepham. Was this injury, simple squad rotation or anything deeper, given the obvious lure these players offer to the top flight. Dean Smith, of course, is also rumoured to be sniffing around now that the transfer window is wide open. Given his own Aston Villa were tipped out by Swansea City availability for the cup (or not) won’t be on any list of his concerns.

Brentford and transfer stories go hand in hand at this time of the year. That will never change. With Ryan Woods having had his loan at Stoke City confirmed to a fully fledged sale earlier this week (who on earth saw that one coming?), have we perhaps already concluded our business? We live in hope although I can’t imagine we’ll have seen the last of such activity this time around. Even if it is simply rebuffing further approaches from Eddie Howe for Chris Mepham or politely telling Dean Smith that his money’s not welcome at Griffin Park. One can dream.

But that’s what it’s about at the moment. Dreams. Some are dreaming of keeping the squad intact. Others of a dream FA Cup draw again the likes of a Liverpool or Manchester City. Personally, I’ll be happy with a home tie and a chance of progression. There’s nothing to stir the blood and fire the imagination like an FA Cup run. It’s been a while since we’ve been able to really embark on one of these. The days of Martin Allen and a fifth round replay at home to Southampton, the winners knowing they would host Manchester United in the quarter finals. Of course, for those of us a bit longer in the tooth there was 1988 /1989 when we reached an Anfield quarter-final. Gary Blissett’s heroics that season are as fresh in the memory now as they were then. 

The fact that you can count these on the fingers of one hand show just how infrequent a Brentford cup run is. With league form starting to solidify and Thomas Frank’s new look defence having finally eradicated the silly mistakes that had been symptomatic of our game prior to the Christmas fixtures, could this be the year to finally focus on a stab at Wembley? No matter what our form at the ‘W’ place is ! 

Roll on Monday night. I can’t wait to find out….

Bliss Manchester City

The iconic Bees cup image as Bliss puts Manchester City to the sword

Nick Bruzon