Tag Archives: Swansea City

A topsy-turvy day ends with a lot to be said for sustainable football.

1 Sep

In the end it all came to nothing for Brentford. Nobody in but nobody has gone and the transfer window has now slammed shut. Thankfully. Despite the lemming like collective jumping on the Fosu to Swansea City bandwagon, Tariqe is still a Bee. As are both Joel Valencia and Halil Dervişoğlu. None of those players moving out on anticipated loan with the former, apparently, floundering after Fulham failed to take Matt Grimes from the Liberty Stadium. Fosu having driven all the way to Wales in expectation before that one bit the dust. If you believe what you read. Which I didn’t. It made no sense and just goes to show you can’t always trust the Twitter rumour mill until things are done and dusted. The Athletic, amongst others, convinced it was on. It might have been but wasn’t. Well, I guess you get what you pay for.  Swansea clearly haven’t. Look positive though, its nothing compared to the mess at Barcelona.

Fosu. Deadline Day ended with Swansea trailing in his wake.

What else is there to say? Perhaps, as much as anything, is the question of why the Bees seemed set to offload a man popular with just about the entire fanbase and who has certainly proven his place? At one point it looked like we were going to have to start celebrating Canos Friday instead. And whilst, of course, supporters don’t decide team or managerial selection (thank goodness, based on some of the observations last season) , nobody could deny that this move seemed strange. Which is as much why trying to scratch below the surface will, once again, likely show why yours truly is the numpty on the terrace rather than anybody with any form of influence or input. 

Given his age, experience and development already I’m not sure the advantage to either Brentford or the player in sending him to Swansea? A club shedding players like a snake does its skin and positioned at the bottom end of the Championship table. Temporarily moving out a player who has always impressed for Brentford made no real sense, at face value. Perhaps there were deeper issues we are unaware of. Who knows?  

Maybe it was nothing more than looking to trim a squad that, per the GPG, is now one over the current maximum Premier League size of 25 (excluding Under 21 players).  As they put it, the current number of eligible players over 21 is 26. We still need one to go out. Or he sits on the sidelines. Albeit we have some temporary ‘respite’ on that side of things given Mads Bech would appear to be out for half the season at least. He can fill the somewhat unflattering ‘makeweight position’ in the short term and, as such, we may well see Tariqe in the Premier League.

Personally speaking, I’m just pleased there was no 11th hour bid for one of our ‘first name on the teamsheet’ players. Sergi Canos, Rico Henry, Ethan Pinnock and David Raya are still with us. There was no late, late bid to take Ivan Toney to Barcelona in lieu of the now departed Lionel Messi or Antoine Griezmann. £40m for the later a poor return on the £120m to bring him in just two seasons ago. The Catalan club off-loading their star names faster than Fulham exited the Prem last season. Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba taking wage cuts to keep the team within FFP limits whilst another £25m was recouped by the sale of Emerson Royal to Spurs.

Matthew Upson, commenting on the BBC live feed, would note. “For Messi to go says it all. I could not picture it. It has got that bad, we are seeing such a different Barca team – what will the team be like in coming seasons? To see it in thus position, I find it sad.”  

Why? As one source a bit  closer to West London said to me last night: “Why are so many people sad about it? Them and Real Madrid got so much more money than any other team just to maintain their cartel status and bring tourists to La Liga. F*ck ‘em. Get found out and go bust.”

Well said that man. Or woman. Brentford may not be going out and buying the big name players but, instead, we keep on doing our business the old school way. Albeit with a modern twist. Finding untapped talent and developing it. Building a squad through patience rather than remortgaging the house and putting the deeds on the line for an apparent quick fix solution. 

There’s a lot to be said for sustainable football.

Nick Bruzon 

Will this be the best deal on deadline day? Are we safe?

31 Aug

Deadline day is here. For unbeaten Brentford (the 1-1 at Aston Villa on Saturday making it WDD from our August Premier league fixtures) there is an unusual lack of speculation. This time of year should be sponsored by Anusol, such is the amount of itchy bum time felt at Lionel Road. There’s normally at least one of our top names linked with a move outside the club. Yet even Ivan Toney’s name has barely been mentioned this time around, despite our main man getting off the mark on Saturday at Villa Park. Instead, all the talk as the window prepares to ‘slam shut’ (TM)  has been around Manchester City, Manchester United – something, something, something Cristiano Ronaldo –  and the possibility of Daniel James leaving them for Leeds United (one of ten clubs currently below Brentford in the top flight). 

Celebrations after taking the lead at Villa. Another top-flight point the eventual reward

I don’t like it. The quiet, I mean. By now we should have complete faith in our directors of football. And, to be fair, I do. Yet that doesn’t make it any easier. Certainly, as an outsider looking in. Old habits die hard and having seen our loyalty tested so many times over the years, despite the fact that in recent times things have always gotten better as the replacements bed in, it doesn’t do anything to dispel those lingering doubts that somebody could rock up with a nuclear sized bid that it would be impossible to ignore. Such is the amount of cash currently sloshing around English, and European, football.

The Dean Holdsworth / Murray Jones ‘deal’ the one which we go back to time and again. Yet something that stands out as the the bit of business, if one can call it that, to show how hard it has been for Brentford to retain / attract talent over the years. Of course things are different now but that doesn’t stop the little devil from tapping on the shoulder. In football just about anything is possible when a dumper truck full of money turns up at the front door. Even as recently as the Birmingham City firesale in 2017, late exits have still delivered the mother load of unexpected shocks. Maxime Colin – gone. Jota – gone. Harlee Dean – gone. Insert ten times better comment.   

Time is a great healer

Honestly, it feels too late for anything to happen now. We’ve no intent, need or desire to sell. The start to Premier League life has been a more than positive one. Unbeaten and only one goal against. That, in Saturday’s draw with Aston Villa. It was a game yours truly missed due to a long overdue few days holiday and, instead, Match Of The Day was the place for source material on that one. It was another point and could have been three. Oh, Vitaly Janelt. Ingenuity and optimism that, despite the rules, was worth a punt in the spur of the moment. David Raya at the other end seeming to keep us in it on more than one occasion. 

Yet despite all the positivity on pitch, and inward movement being lined up off it, old habits die hard. Over an hour watching Sky Sports News last night (prior to changing channels for a fascinating ‘fly-on-the’wall’ documentary about weddings) revealed nothing beyond the fact that we are looking to move Joel Valencia out on loan. That was it for the Bees. No mention of Ivan Toney. Nothing. Not even a whisper. 

Instead, it was all Manchester City discussion now Harry Kane has confirmed he is staying put in the short term and Manchester United. The Ronaldo story about as exciting as they come but, in fact, the outward movement of Daniel James to Leeds United could be one of the shrewdest bits of business over the summer. 

£30m the price for a 23 year old who destroyed the Championship at Swansea City, has already got 74 appearances for the Red Devils under his belt and has been long coveted by Marcelo Bielsa. His powerpoint on the Welsh International must be one bursting with positive feedback and he could be a game changer at Elland Road. Certainly, a signing I’m watching with envious eyes in terms of a divisional rival picking up a player who could slot into any team with the potential to be devastating from the off. Cripes, our Harry is still traumatised by his game-changing wonder goal in the FA Cup fifth round a few seasons back….

The Daniel James impact. Brutal

We know our model. Honestly, how many supporters could say they knew much about Frank Onyeka or Yoanne Wissa prior to them joining the Bees? See also: Jota, Benrahma, Mbeumo et al. Ronaldo and Daniel James are oven ready household names. The sort of players that come with a huge cost, huger expectation and the ability to be immediate game changers. With the exception of Pontus Jansson, and perhaps Kris Ajer, we remain masters of tapping into the unknown. Those players tracked well in advance. Players who can do the business despite remaining largely off the broader radar. Shrewd acquisitions rather than five star names. 

Aston Villa have done similar. Their own business over the window lined up early to replace Manchester City bound Jack Grealish. For me, Clive, they are the ones to have come out of the latest round of wheeler-dealing ahead of the rest. So far. Emi Buendia in particular. We’re well familiar with what he can do from last season. There was more of the same on Saturday. As long as we can resist any 11th hour offers then Brentford could well be saying similar. Although if anybody at Lionel Road wants to do a bit more shopping then nobody would complain. 

Just as long as that ‘out door’ stays firmly shut. Just 16 hours to go. And counting……

Pontus – our most high profile signing in years and still a Bee

Nick Bruzon

Put simply, I can’t wait. See you there.

12 Aug

This is it. Thursday morning. One more wake up to go until Brentford open the 2021-22 Premier League. Arsenal the opponents in a much publicised fixture and the event of our first game at this level, the top flight of English football, since 1947. Cripes. It’s all getting a bit close. And as if that wasn’t enough, we’ve the pleasure of a home tie with Forest Green Rovers in the second round of the league cup which takes place the week after next. A chance to see if we can go one step further than last season’s epic run and eventual semi-final defeat by Tottenham. Ahh, VAR.

Insert usual cliches and well worn tropes about little Brentford. Exciting. First fixture (sorry, done that one already). Underdogs. Tinpot. Bus stops. Stats. XG. Moneyball. Thomas Frank’s luxuriant hair.  Underachieving Arsenal. A club currently sitting in the shadow of North London neighbours Spurs (last season’s table doesn’t lie). Fan TV. 

Come on. It IS luxuriant. Almost Ginola-esque

There we go. That’s about five paragraphs saved from pretty much any article about tomorrow’s game. Including this one. We’ve done Premier League excitement to death. I won’t deny I’m still absolutely buzzing about what will be over the next 9 or so months but it is as much about the chance for us to be part of a full house crowd once more. To have a pre-match pint with friends. And a few after. To share that mutual thrill whenever a new campaign begins. Only alphabetical order keeping Arsenal above Brentford at present. The Bees entering the game in the knowledge that victory on Friday evening, should it happen, will see us the highest placed club in English football. Three points clear of the rest and only 37 games to go.   

Throw it all out the window. The simple fact of the matter is that nobody knows what to expect. Nobody knows what will play out. Will record breaking goal machine Ivan Toney inspire the Bees to victory? Pick up where he left off last season? Who will even start? Two centre-backs or three?  Who plays at right wing back? How will new signing Yoanne Wissa ( the wide man now confirmed on ‘official’ after his being photographed in the crowd during the defeat of Valencia) fit in? Does Frank the Tank start? The only thing we can say for sure is, as suspected / known by just about everyone, Josh Dasilva is out long term. This, something confirmed by Thomas Frank in yesterday’s press conference.

Welcome Wissa etc etc

Ah, Thomas. Head coach par excellence and the man who steered us over the line of play-off hoodoo and into the Prem. His stock is as high as it has ever been amongst the Brentford faithful. Aswell as those dissenting voices from last season. Coventry away, anyone? He also used the occasion of meeting the press to talk about his hopes for, firstly, the Arsenal game: 

I expect two things from Friday; my players will run themselves into the ground and the fans will be right behind us through every minute. This is the kick-off to a new world where we have never been before.

As for longer term, he explained that: “There are two simple targets for me. One is to win the next game which is on Friday against Arsenal. Two is to finish as high as possible. We want to be positive minded and attacking for as many minutes as possible.

Oooh. This could be fun. Kevin Keegan style kamikaze football? Full tilt attack? Or go for broke, grab a goal and then lock things up? The full quota of possible attacking minutes having been reached at that juncture?

For me, Clive, our methodology has only ever been one of taking the game to the opposition. The best form of defence is attack and all that. The play-off final, about as high pressure a game as one would expect, being the consummate example. We attacked from the off and kept going. Swansea City not given a look in. It’s not our way to play overly cautious and as common as anything else to see attack minded substitutions made late on. Even when winning.

Come on. It IS luxuriant (attacking football, I mean)

The difference now being we are going to be playing at a higher level. The step up in quality of opposition about as huge a gulf as they come. Obvious, of course, but something which does call into question how much attacking will be possible. Will we have the nous, or inclination, to put the brakes on as and if needed? Will our attacking threat keep up the drive that has seen 7(seven) goal bracketing become a more regular thing in recent seasons and our GD go through the roof? More importantly, how much of a challenge will they find the step up?

Questions. Questions. Questions. That nobody gives us a significant hope is clear to all. Just look at the bookmakers’ (for research purposes). They’re rarely wrong when it comes to picking winners yet, in truth, nobody knows how this is going to go. Either on Friday against Arsenal or longer term. Brentford are the great unknown. A new team at this level and one looking to become only the 7th (seventh) to win their first ever Premier League fixture. It’s a huge ask, on paper, and there’s going to be a massive global audience on Friday night as things get underway. 

Put simply, I can’t wait. See you there.

Nick Bruzon

Half man. Half Robot. All Burridge.

15 Jun

Another date with the reality of our situation is coming. Fast. As Brentford fans continue to bask in the excitement of our play-off win, Wednesday sees the Premier League fixture list released. The moment we discover when The Bees will entertain and (hopefully) visit the famous names we’ve only seen in sticker books, on Match of the Day, the odd cup tie or perhaps their own ad-hoc visits to the lower leagues. Leeds United, Wolves, Manchester City, Everton, Liverpool. The list is a long one and is laden with anticipation. As was noted in the previous column, there’s not one opponent who doesn’t provide an added element of intrigue.

Yet before we get there, its time for another book back at last season from another of our special guest columnists. This time, the man that has seen it all. The man who has described most of it to us. Brentford’s commentator par-excellence and the king of I-follow, Mark Burridge. We caught up this week for a chat about all things from play-offs and Premier League to commentary and covid. Mark talks through his highlights on the pitch, his players of the season and the ethos coursing through the club – on and off the pitch.  Enjoy…..

As for today’s headline, we WILL get there…..

Mark and team at Wembley

Mark, let’s start at the end. 29th May at Wembley. For those in the stands it was the culmination of a life’s dream. Can you put it into words, both as a fan and a commentator.

How did you keep your cool? Did you? Any tears shed?

It was ultimate professional performance from players and staff, started fast, a brilliant counter attacking second goal and then they just comfortably managed the game. Swansea had only scored 3 goals twice all season, so I was convinced it was our day early in the match. There was no way back for Steve Cooper’s team. Every player was 7/8 out of 10 and when that happens with Brentford the opposition are in for a long day.

Being relaxed early on made it all more enjoyable, the fans clearly felt that way too, so many smiling faces on display at half time. It was a strange feeling at the end, nothing dramatic from me as the result had been clear for some time, particularly after the red card.

I felt intense relief, pride, a sense of justice and simply enjoyed the celebrations around me. The tears, hugs, generations of families together, a truly special moment that you knew had to be enjoyed. Stuart Wakeford came to embrace Marcus Gayle and like many fans, the final whistle was the signal for raw emotion and Stuart had found it overpowering. There was such a genuine warmth.

Marcus and Stu embrace

That very same togetherness was everywhere within our eyesight. Some fans had sunk to their knees, others waving flags, shirts, hats. It was our day, at last. The football gods, had called time on play off & cup final pain for Bees fans, at least for now. The infamous Doncaster penalty, the most cruel and numbing of last minute dramas, well if this now was the pay off we’ll shake hands and call a truce!

Knowing that we were finally going to leave Wembley as winners and had experienced just what reward the play offs could be, was very new to Bees supporters.. Martin Lange was smiling down on us.

We were going to carry on with broadcasting until after the trophy presentation, so it was just a time to treasure. Then I looked at my phone and saw a ridiculous number of Whatsapp messages…

After clicking on the first few, it was a still of my Dad in the stands which I knew might happen if we were victorious, as Sky wanted to feature some of the elder fans who were inside Wembley and had been watching Brentford the last time we were in the top flight (which has now gone viral much to Dad’s bemusement).

That really was an emotional moment and I started to think of our dear friend Greville, of Dan & Jamie Powell, how much this would mean to them after such a difficult time in the respective lives. They are here at Wembley, somewhere, loving this and drinking it in.

It was a beautiful emotion right then that I couldn’t put into words.

I just felt incredible gratitude that this moment could be shared by so many & mean so much to so many fans all around the world. Dry eyes suddenly became a little tearful, I’d never enjoyed a moment so much watching others and trying to describe what was taking place in front of our eyes. 

Being with Marcus Gayle & Ben Burgess and hearing their emotion and their thoughts on what this will do for the Club and community was another reminder of why ex pros have such an affinity Brentford Football Club. Contrasting backgrounds with Ben on loan for just one season (2001/2) but has always kept in touch with BFC, writes such good articles in the match day programme and does a sterling job on commentary when he joins us for games in his native north west.

Marcus is the fan who became a Bees professional footballer, Premiership player, World Cup international and then a role model through his work with Kick it Out. The man who had bought a season ticket and was enjoying the games as a fan again until we bumped into each other in a local food shop in 2016 and we had a conversation about joining us on match day commentary.

As everyone knows Marcus is now our proud Club Ambassador. Having seen him make his debut for Brentford many years ago, then to share this victory with both he and Ben, with my Dad in the stadium as well, it simply does not get any better than this. What a magical end to a long season.

You and the team have provided an absolute lifeline this season, With the gates to Lionel Road locked you’ve kept us going with the usual passionate commentary. To us, that side of things felt ‘normal’ but what was it like commentating in what was effectively an empty room? How do you maintain the enthusiasm?

I’ve heard others say working at stadia was joyless and soulless and can certainly understand why that would be said but everyone working at a match would no doubt have realised they were in a very privileged position. Travelling to and from games alone (EFL guidance) was something different and it was often a case of arrive, set up equipment and leave as soon as possible. It was all very well organised but quite surreal compared a usual match day

The games generally lacked the intensity & energy you would enjoy with crowds, which was to be expected. The players may well be professionals but they are human beings first and foremost, so it was tough for them, particularly with the condensed season. It was very difficult without crowds but we got use to it early on and had experience of this at the end of last season. The fans are the energy of football. They are to players, others fans and certainly commentators too!.

I had encountered some of the top names commentating on radio a few times without background noise and it was a hard listen. At Lionel Rd the gantry vantage point is simply incredible (a MUST see when tours are available) but we were the only ones up there broadcasting unless it was a SKY game, with the press level pitch side there’s so little you would hear in the way background noise, as we were are quite detached. 

One of the SKY commentators said he would find it very difficult without the fake noise they would have piped in their ears during the game. It certainly must have helped somewhat.

Fortunately I was lucky to be around people with a great knowledge of the game, all things Brentford and who were passionate, yet measured.

It wasn’t until the Bournemouth away leg in the play off semi final that it probably dawned on Marcus Gayle & I just how different football felt again. This totally changed again for the play off home leg. The volume was simply remarkable. Off  the scale. With just 4,000! This bodes well for next season!

iFollow raised about £42m for EFL Clubs. Were you aware just how important the service was to fellow fans. Did you feel it was important to stay as positive as you did?

There was hope that fans would be back after a few months, at least in reasonable numbers. So we had a numbers of ex players booked to join us who would be experiencing Lionel Rd for the first time and would be introduced to the fans inside the stadium before the match. Covid saw so many changes throughout the season, mirroring the case levels so it was effectively an ever changing feast. Some ex-players had to be cancelled and dignitary numbers were often being lowered from an already miniscule number.

Contrary to what was said after one game we certainly did not have 200 fans in the ground!!

Considering supporters had missed out on what should have been a packed house for the very last game at Griffin Park and then not had the chance to be at the first game at the new stadium it is fair to say that Bees fans had every right to feel very disappointed and frustrated. Allowing the options to freeze ST’s and offering iFollow free for so many games, along with the GP Tours are all examples of the Club being in tune with supporters. The input from the various fan groups playing a big part in the right decisions being made.

iFollow suddenly had a much larger audience and with it quite a few adverts! We never knew when they were coming on! Plus half time discussions were cut short because of the same. The cost to watch the games appeared to be good value and did allow fans to stay in touch with the season, even if it’s nothing like being at the game. 

Some supporters freely admitted they enjoyed it more as it allowed the opportunity to see all games when they might previously have only attend a handful during a usual season.

Covering both audio & visual commentary at the same time was also something that required tolerance from fans, as it is not perfect plus there appeared to be the occasional technical issue.

Overall though, iFollow worked well during a very testing time for everyone.

These past 16 months have tested the mental health of everyone and football has been so important for us all to feel connected to ‘normality’ so we were very aware that Brentford’s success might have mean more to people than ever before. Match day routines changed for everyone. No drink with your mates before, maybe now it was sit around the laptop, or the whole family around the TV.

We were positive because I know everyone involved on commentary regularly felt this team would get promotion from quite a long way out. When the squad was struggling for rhythm and consistency I don’t feel it is unfair to say so. Following the draw at Wycombe we did say as much.

We knew fans were getting frustrated. It was fast approaching winter, with much fear & uncertainty away from football itself and message platforms were the only outlet to vent an opinion.

At most games supporters will use up emotional energy at the game but last season was so very different and you probably saw the best and worst of social media. We couldn’t cover the ‘Boro away game due to Covid issues and the local BBC team did a great job. Once Brentford took control they were full of praise for our Club. Unfortunately there was criticism on a phone in by several home fans post match who, rightly or wrongly, felt the commentators were too generous to the opposition.

We have always intended, as is very the Brentford way, to be respectful to the opposition but it is a Bees service so you are representing the fans. Often away fans will connect to the opposition service, presumably just to hear what is said about their team. After the Leeds game last season we had their fans writing on Twitter how nice it was to hear opposition commentary say they the best team we had played since Wolves, some extending this as the ‘fairest’ they had heard.

Giving an honest opinion, hopefully a fair one is all you can really do. Some will like it, others not.

We love the game because not everyone sees it the same way.

What was a real tonic throughout the season is getting some lovely messages from fans, something for which we are very grateful.

What do you think was our performance of the season?

There were some key ones for me.

The 3 points at Barnsley came in the middle of monthly wins in South Yorkshire and got our season going. Some robustness was starting to become clear.

We were excellent for a long time at Watford, showed great character to get a point in the end and the Bournemouth league win at home was probably the best of the season at Lionel Rd

The formation change at Preston was much needed at a difficult time, the 5-0 win against a normally solid side was flawless.

The Cherries feature heavily for me in the whole season, the win at The Vitality Stadium at the end of the season was another important 3 points. 

Jonathan Woodgate’s team were on a great run at the time with 7 (errr brackets) straight wins, scoring for fun and clearly believing they had timed it right, to entering the upcoming play offs with an air of invincibility. Brentford winning, with 10 men for nearly 50 mins, dealt a blow to Bournemouth from which they never truly recovered.

In the end there can though only be one game that had absolutely everything.

Football is about excitement and drama, none of which you truly experience without fans. We all wish there were more supporters in The Brentford Community Stadium, on 22nd May but in this wretched season 4,000 was a huge bonus. 

It was the day Lionel Road finally became our new home, rather fitting in a week that saw bulldozers doing their worst at the wonderful Griffin Park.

So much has been written about that play off win but there wasn’t a hint of panic when Bournemouth went 2-0 up in the tie, in rather strange circumstances. Brentford still believed, Thomas Frank believed. Lionel Rd still believed. Our fans believed. Bournemouth did not.

So it proved, as we witnessed a catastrophic decision making meltdown by the opposition whilst under pressure from a rampant Brentford team that refused to give up. After Chris Mepham’s red card there was an air of inevitability about the outcome, yet it remained wonderfully tense at the same time.

Forss strikes late and Lionel Road erupted.

Begovic goes up for a corner in time added on and we notice the M4 Elevated Section is at gridlock both ways. ’Everyone wants a piece of this game’ we said, as it did feel the whole world would have been engaged in this thriller.

The scenes at the end will never fade either.

It was a reminder just why you love football and  simply worship Brentford Football Club.

There can be only one for Mark

Ivan Toney is, understandably, in line for our player of the season. You’ve seen a lot of Brentford teams over the years, is he our best ever? And who else do you think deserves to make up the ‘top three’ at the end of season awards

Without doubt Ivan Toney is the best for me. Not just for his goals. Barry Fry said he was also Peterborough’s best defender and we’ve all seen why. The amount of times we have seen our striker heading away from an opposition set piece. ‘I get back and defend because I want to help the team, I want to win’ he said at Wembley.

That’s what we had witnessed all season. He was a little rusty at the start of the campaign but once up to speed you could see Ivan’s quality.

It was at Sheffield Wednesday in October that he showed us what an incredible touch he possesses, linking up play with the cutest of touches and headers to feet. That’s when I thought there wasn’t much missing from his game. He scores, he’s brave, he has the skills of a midfielder, he defends, he leads. Can play out wide too, just see the quality of his cross for Ghoddos’ goal in the win against Luton!

Ivan was substituted late against Rotherham in the away game, allowing Aaron Pressley to make his debut. Before leaving the pitch he urged all his players to stay focussed for the last few minutes to see out the win, one of the little things you notice at a game that make you realise what a special team player he is too.

One of the greatest leaders in a red & white shirt we have ever seen. Pure winner.

My second choice would be Vitaly Janelt. Half man, half robot. A signing I thought likely to be ‘one for the future’, like many no doubt. Following the injury to Christian Norgaard the timing of his introduction was perfect. A solid debut up at Hillsborough, then impressive in the win at Oakwell, followed up with scoring his first Brentford goal against QPR.

Then he just kept getting better.

At Cardiff he got scythed down twice but just got up and on with it. A man made of steel.

He scores big goals as well – none more than against Bournemouth in the play off second leg.

Editors note: There have been more than a few from Vitaly – although not all commentated on by Mark…. 😉

Third choice has to go to Sergi Canos.

The way he has come back after a tough start to the season and following a bad injury has been remarkable. Nothing but admiration for him and the flexibility to play wing back so effectively was vital in helping gain promotion. 9 goals for the season, including a hat trick at Cardiff, he has been a bright spark for us on & off the pitch.

Love his ‘We want more’ tweets after each win. Still only 24. Hard to believe.

Sergi got 3 out of 3 against Cardiff City

Over the years you’ve been alongside the likes of Greville Waterman, Luis Melville, Geoff Buckingham, and co, what do you think the current team bring to the commentary?

Diversity, knowledge, pragmatism, humility and a big understanding of all things Brentford, both past and present.

They have all been excellent plus Karleigh Osborne & Charlie MacDonald fantastic new additions.

We always say to ex players ‘just come in when you like, at any time, fans want to hear your views more’. Their opinions are vital to make it work on a match day.

Where do you thing Brentford will finish in the Premier League next season?

I’ll go for 15th in our first season in The Premier League. Bees will take some big scalps and also possibly have a few uncomfortable scoreline.

Lionel Rd will be an important advantage when near or at full capacity. The crowd can play a very big part, as always. It will be fascinating to see how new signings blend in, alongside the players we all believe will prove their quality at the top level.

One thing is for sure, Brentford will have no intention of being tourists.

Finally, just how special do you feel last season has been for everyone connected with Brentford Football Club?

It has been a truly remarkable achievement to gain promotion this past season.

The team had the shortest of breaks last summer before the new campaign got underway and had also lost two huge players in Watkins and Benrahma.

There was a somewhat inevitable hangover from last season and the squad were at a new stadium where there was little advantage as fans had never been experienced – it was never going to feel like ‘home’ under these circumstances. After the last game it most certainly will do!

We lost the fewest amount of games (joint with Norwich), were top scorers again, and went of an unbeaten run of 21 games, then ending with another one of 12. Considering the gruelling schedule, this says all about the quality & character of the players and management but also speaks volumes about some of those not in the spotlight, such as Neil Greig, head of medical, plus Chris Domoney (aka ‘Sladey’) who looks after the aching limbs and muscles so well, whilst his effervescent personality can be infectious for all around.

Take in the Carabao Cup run as well, where we reached the semi final (including a quick taster of VAR) then to go on to achieve the ultimate prize is unheard of at this level.

How often do you hear of knockout tournament runs derailing a promotion campaign? Not to Brentford though, who bucked the trend with a relatively small squad.

If you also factor in losing the talismanic Christian Norgaard for a big part of the season, as well as captain Pontus Jansson, then hitting the top of the table only to promptly lose two more big players in Rico Henry and Josh Dasilva, you start to realise a little bit more about the magnitude of this success, to still achieve promotion.

Off the pitch we also have our heroes. Such as Bees fans Jamie Powell & Billy Coleman, whom the Club and fans have supported through extremely difficult times.

This shows the strength and warmth of the Brentford family. We all need each other. Together we are stronger.

The fans groups, Bees United, Bias, the social media message boards. All have played their part in trying to keeping fans engaged. When automatic promotion slipped away there were many reasoned voices stating the case to stay positive, including this column, and it has been very much appreciated by many.

Jim Levack also wrote an informative article towards the end of the season after a timely conversation with a staff member following the Cardiff game.  It was a time for cool heads.

There were also so many confident fans who sparked calmer debate ahead of the season extension.  After all if you’ve supported the Bees for some time the mere thought of play offs make your head spin a little! Yet there were so many believers this time who probably helped others to keep the faith.

Next season will hopefully see crowds back and we can all enjoy football as we have been use to over the years. In The Premier League.

The Club is in good shape. Both on and off the pitch. It is run by people with understanding of others, true empathy, kindness and warmth. You will be treated as a supporter, not a customer.

Brentford is entering a new chapter, the brand is set to grow. Most of us never dreamed we would see our football club play in the top flight. Yet he we are. Awaiting the fixtures this Wednesday.

Bring on the fixtures…The Bees haven’t played Liverpool since the FA Cup in 1989

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.” 

Relive it all once more, in style.

5 Jun

What more can you say? Well let’s start by saying that Brentford are Premier League. And yes, it HAS been said many, many times over the last few days but it just fits so well. Sounds so sweet. Finally, finally finally this stage of our journey is over. Finally we’ve got a notch in the ‘W’ column for a game at Wembley. It’ll be Chelsea rather than Craven Cottage for the West London derby. Brighton rather than Blackpool for our trip to the seaside. Manchester City and Aston Villa as the teams to discuss with two of my closest non-Bees supporting friends. There is nothing but excitement ahead and, as much as anything else, perhaps a summer now able to be spent enjoying the Euros rather than vast tracts of the squad being snapped up by top flight clubs. If you support Brentford, life is good. 

This time last week, the anticipation was building. As was an element of angst. On paper, we all knew that Brentford were the better team than Swansea City. Yet in our hearts, we all knew this was a one-off game at what for us had been the most jinx-laden of venues. Anything could happen in 90 minutes. In a one-off game of football. 

Thankfully, as revealed in Kitman Bob’s exclusive insight to the build up this week, those were not feelings shared by the squad. The togetherness and spirit we had seen all season combining once more to get us over the line during the week and on the day itself. You can read Bob’s diary here and, even if you have already, do it again. Just because these moments deserve to be relived.

Yet if Bob has done his thing, last night was the turn of Stu Wakeford, Marcus Gayle and Karleigh Osborne. The Warm Up was back on our screens for another look at the game, the beautiful, beautiful afters aswell as, of course, their thoughts and hopes for the coming Premier League season. 

They have the goals. The celebrations. Fan footage. The additional key moments of which, for me Clive, ‘that’ Ivan Toney blockbuster gets nearer and nearer to making it 3-0 every time I watch it. Obviously the result is the important thing, and we got it, but just imagine the noise had that dropped a few inches kinder to clear the line. What an absolutely stunning goal that would have been. One to rival Dallas at Fulham. 

There’s even the revelation that Karleigh ‘did a JJ’ (and if you know, you know). Quite possibly the real reason we won the game. There’s a lot of love for Thomas and our own, grounded approach to football. Marcus, in particular, absolutely nailing what it means to be a Brentford fan and what your club is all about. I’ve watched it once. I’ll do it again. Being quite honest, I can’t get enough of last weekend. It has been SUCH a long time coming. Even last night, with Gibraltar 4-0 down at half time in Slovenia (thankful there would be no brackets involved at the end of the game) , we flicked off the red button and there were the highlights on Sky again. Don’t mind if I do. Perhaps this time, the crossbar will give Ivan a slightly kinder bounce .

The Warm Up is on now. You can catch it below. Find out who wants Chelsea next season. Who is getting excited about Old Trafford. What Pep might say when Manchester City come to visit. Most of all, just enjoy the sheer, unadulterated happiness of what we have achieved.

Nick Bruzon

Kitman Bob, he writes what he wants. A week before destiny.

3 Jun

Brentford are in the Premier League. Repeat. Brentford ARE in the Premier League. If the Bournemouth play-off semi-final was immense, Saturday at Wembley against Swansea was next level. I’m still smiling now. Then, when it couldn’t get any better, it did. The chance to share the build up from inside the Bees camp arrived, courtesy of none other than the legend that is Big Bob Oteng. 

Our club Kitman and all-round Bees’ hero has collected his thoughts from the end of that epic encounter with The Cherries right through the build-up to Swansea and the final whistle at Wembley. A sneak-peak behind the curtain of just what went on and just why we won. But written in his own quite wonderful words.

Over to you Bob. A week before destiny. In his words…. and pictures.

Saturday.

It’s 4:55 PM and we’ve just won 3-1 in a game that had everything a football fan could wish for. As long as you’re on the winning side that is!!

The players have done the usual applauding of the fans in every section of the ground and I follow behind after making sure the old footballs were present and correct in certain sections. I’m greeted with the obligatory ‘Big Bob’ song !

As I enter the dressing room there seems to be different vibe and I mean a totally different vibe to a dressing room that has just won a football match. Brian Mbeumo give us a little speech prompted by Thomas who then brings the room to a silence, says one more and then retreats to his office. As I head back to the kitroom it’s the first time in these play offs I allow myself to start thinking of lions on the new shirt !!!

Monday

I arrive at the training ground early Monday morning, 6.40am. Thomas is already there which in itself isn’t unusual but there are a number of other coaches also present. Something big must be happening !! 

During the weekend Wembley emailed requesting how I would like the dressing room to look. I put in my request and they reply “is that all” as I can see  we are in the East as we were last season. Also during the weekend I’ve had countless DM messages from fans requesting to know what colour keep we will be playing in. This continued throughout the week until the reveal on Friday. As the team finishing the season in the highest position, we get choice of kit colours.

What I had done previously on the Saturday evening was to ask all the Brentford players what they wanted to play in. Each one of them just said RED & WHITE. David wanted his favourite amarilla.  It was such an air of confidence when they all said it.  I more than anyone knew about that red/white supposed curse on teams at Wembley. Last season I pushed for blue, now I just felt it could be time for the curse to be  broken and banished to history by the BEES.

Tuesday

Thomas had already told the players that he wants to build up to Saturday to be like an ordinary week. For the last two days nobody had really discussed what happened on Saturday because we were all there, we all witnessed it and there was a quiet air of confidence at Jersey Road.  

On a Tuesday before a Saturday game is when I start to prep the match kit for the weekend but this was no ordinary game. I had to apply NHS badges to each playing shirt,  to show gratitude for such a wonderful service that has served us all through such difficult times and not just during the last 18 months. Also new sleeve patches showing PLAY-OFFS.

As I prepped all the outfield players kits I started asking myself which one will get us to the promised land? Even a last-minute David Raya header would be welcome. They all will, as that’s what good teams do. The nerves are now building !!!

Wednesday

WELL EARNED DAY OFF FOR THE  PLAYERS !! However, I had to be in as new tracksuits and polo shirts are being delivered for the big day,  ( no white suits )…

Thursday

Today was quite relaxed for me. I’d prepped all the kit Tuesday / Wednesday and now I was waiting for the final squad to be confirmed or any additions from Saturday. 

I walked over to pitch 2 with a hint of curiosity and I have to say the boys looked absolutely on fire. Not sure whoever we are facing are going to be able to contain them for 90min.  Bernardo was walking the boys through some new set pieces For me Saturday couldn’t come soon enough.

Brian Riemer confirmed the squad was as per Saturday. As we chatted in his office, he asked me what I think will happen, (déjà vu took me back to the same question last August. I said then we will win, but when I say it now I truly believed it. All based on the previous Saturday).  I did my final checks and left Jersey Road with such a nervous feeling inside of me. Two more sleeps !!

Friday

Friday was a late report. 2pm for 3pm start.  Thomas had gone round to every member of Jersey Road staff requesting that they be on the training pitch for 3:45pm precisely. At 3:40 all the staff slowly ambled from the pavilion across to  pitch 2. Training was still going on ( patterns of play) – looked very nice these patterns !! 

Training over ran. Brian, Thomas and Kev drilling down certain instructions to the squad.  Once it finished, Thomas called over all the staff to join him with the players. We all formed a massive circle – it was actually the circumference of the centre circle. Thomas stood in between Pontus and Christian and delivered a speech that would have got me ready to play tomorrow. Two VIP coaches arrive at 4pm, we have a light snack and everything is loaded and we depart for the Hotel (dinner 7pm).

I keep my routine the same. Ring home and speak to the family. My little man is excited,  he actually predicts that Vitaly would score, (his favourite player). Myself Manu and Bernardo have usual Friday away night Spanish ritual (sobre la mesa). To discuss the next day and life over the table. We started it Friday night before Preston away.

SATURDAY THE DAY !!

Especially on away games I like to get up by 7am and go for a walk before breakfast. On my walk I passed a bar called The Hive. I also have lots of thoughts  about my friend Rob Rowan, I’m not really one for superstition but 95% of me thinks today is going to be our day !! 

The usual bus ride to the stadium is replaced by myself Peter G, Sladey, Joe N, Lorna walking the 500 yards to the entrance to the stadium. We pass the Hive then, as if my magic, we are met by big Shaun. Big Shaun is the main security tunnel steward at Lionel road, now I’m convinced todays the day.

We arrive at the stadium 10:45am We walk round which seems to be underground beneath 90,000 seats. So many people in suits all directing us in the right direction. If it’s your first time at Wembley you can be in awe. There were so many white sky OB trucks, it looked like a flock of flamingos at a watering hole.

The dressing room looks magnificent. It feels different to the last year. I set the players up in a totally different formation. Pontus likes to sit in the corner of any dressing room but this is going to be hard to achieve as it’s shaped like a horseshoe. 

There are two dressing rooms with a smaller one for the staff. I take 10 minutes to have a look around and have a look outside. I begin my favourite part of my working day (apart from a win at the end) ! By 12:30pm I’m happy and everything is done. 12:45 Mike the Swansea kit man pops in to have a catch up. We both have a laugh about not going to each other’s respective stadiums next season.

The players arrive at 1:15pm.  I sit in the corner of the staff dressing room playing word search on my phone,  Reidy wants a change of socks, then it back to word search. I’ve done 5 levels on my word search game and then it’s time for the warm up. The dressing room looks the same as it does on every away game. Sliders everywhere. Emiliano’s sliders always in the centre of the room. I’m sure it’s a thing with him. 

The nerves are kicking in now and I try and find work to kill the time. The boys come in, do their rituals pads on shirts on then it’s huddle time.  Christian delivers an emotional speech and again I wish I was going out to play.

The first 45 minutes for me are the best in 25 years. I can remember it all which is very rare for me. At half time the boys are really calm. Thomas is calm. All the messages are delivered in a calm way and I know that today is our day. I’m so confident I didn’t emerge for the second half until the 92nd or 93rd minute. Those last two minutes went really quickly but at the final whistle I went over to Mike and wished him commiserations. I run onto the pitch to join the huddle and just started jumping around. I don’t remember much after, hence I’ve watched the game back in full twice and the celebrations countless at times on social media. Also all the pictures will be sent at some point.

This day and this season I will never forget both personally and professionally. It has sunk in for me because I always knew the at one point during my time with  Brentford we  would reach the promised land, and I am so grateful and privileged that I was a small cog in the wheel of this wonderful bus stop in Hounslow about to join the premier league express !!

Bob Oteng

Forget Christian preachers. Harry and Woody tell it like it is.

1 Jun

There was a lot of gumph spouted on Twitter yesterday about Brentford. Primarily from Manchester United supporting Terry Christian. We won’t give that any further credence (beyond the fact that the entire TW8 family have no doubt copy/pasted his comments for future use). If ever you wanted to know why Brentford beating Swansea City to reach the Premier League is an amazing thing for both us and football, then I’m hopeful today’s piece may help. Or should I say, pieces? First up, our Harry with his own match report – including some home truths that, perhaps, I’m not sure we should be sharing – and then the real jewel in the Wembley crown, an account of Woody’s day. 

Fur Coat by Harry Bruzon (aged 7 (seven) )

This is about “Bentley” my cat (definitely not the goalie) having “Brentford promoted to PREMIER LEAGUE THROUGH PLAY-OFFS” on his coat…

One dark, gloomy night inside the head of Harry I dreamt it was raining. Bentley the cat was walking to a barbers and got Brentford promoted to PREMIER LEAGUE THROUGH PLAY-OFFS 2021 cut into his fur coat.  Then, he left the shop and padded down to the Griffin Pub. He had a play there with the 2 pub cats, then he tried to order a beer (weird). He ran back home. A split second before Harry woke up, Bentley was in the house.

I was awake, got up and went downstairs. Daddy was writing a blog upstairs so I got him down and fed Bentley (our real cat). We excitedly got ready for the day ahead and set off for Wembley via the Griffin Pub! After a few pre match morning pints – including my lemonade – we got our cab ordered and off we went.

It felt like a greenhouse in the cab, the driver took us a very weird route and it felt like forever. When we got out, I felt sick (but I was fine) I literally couldn’t wait !!  We met at our friend’s flat for drinks and snacks ; then set off for Wembley Stadium for my first ever visit)!!!!!!!!

Walking to Wembley, I felt so excited; the streets were packed.  I really wanted to get there. We turned a corner and WOW, Wembley Way, jam packed and brilliant. The noise was ear piercing and buzzing, just like us Bees.

My Dad took us up the stairs, but there was no need – our entrance was underneath the stairs.  Before the game, my Mum said she needed some exercise; well she got her wish as we had to do a full lap of the stadium trying to find our entrance.  She has a bad sense of direction…..

Finally, we made it to our seats, 5 minutes before kick off.  Then it started. For the first 5 minutes it was a bit cagey with the players getting used to the flow of the game.  Then on 9 minutes Sergi played a perfectly weighted ball, it looked like it was for Toney, but Ivan stopped in his run and Mbeumo ran across.

Freddie Woodman (the Swansea goalkeeper) ran out to collect the ball, but because it was so perfectly set for Mbeumo instead Woodman collected Mbeumo’s ankles rather than the ball.  Bryan won Brentford a PENALTY KICK!! Yesssss! The ref pointed to the spot. 

10 minutes on the clock…. I was actually pretty nervous because my dad had been saying all season that eventually he has to miss one. I was hoping it wasn’t the most important one of the season even though I thought he would score.

Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait – TONEY scores!!!!!  1-0 to BRENTFORD. The Brentford half of the stadium exploded; I was leaping around and cheering my heart out.  Brentford had scored first in their first play off final I had ever seen.  This was looking good.  The Swanseas fans did not look impressed.

14 minutes on the clock……… Naughton, Swansea player, forgets about the ball and rugby tackles Sergi Canos, it looks like Sergi does a cartwheel. Must have been fun (not) riding around on the floor. Free kick given to Brentford but it wasn’t used very well.

20 minutes on the clock….

Swansea City have a corner, Ayew heads the ball to the ground, he dives for good measure, no penalty given for Swansea – but a nice try Ayew.

Mbeumo came sprinting up field as Swansea are caught out on a 2 v 2 attack by Brentford.  Another Swansea player arrives but that does not matter, Roerslev comes up the outside of Mbeumo, who passes to him……

Wait, wait, wait. Emiliano comes running into the box from the other end of the pitch. Roerslev plays it perfectly into his path and Emiliano only goes and blasts it into the back of the Swansea goal… 2-0 to Brentford. Again the stadium exploded in the Brentford half!!

I couldn’t believe it. I was beginning to think my Dad saying Brentford always lost playoff finals was a bit of a joke.

This was so amazing as Brentford were totally dominating the half. When the half time whistle blew I couldn’t sit in my seat.  It was probably the best half time ever for me (plus I needed a wee). Time to check out Wembley’s facilities (not quite as nice as our Lionel Road)

Second half. (Reminder its 2-0 to Brentford). It felt like Swansea had 90% compared to our 10% in the first 20 minutes of the second half and it actually got a bit pressured at times. Is this what my dad calls “Squeaky bum time”? When Swansea got a corner, Brentford tried to clear it and Swansea player Jay Fulton went for a two feet forward tackle from behind Jenson with the clear intention to wipe him out – DIRTY !!!!! The ref was all over it though and hahahaha, the red card came out.  Fulton was off . The crowd exploded again.

At the full time whistle, the Brentford crowd waited about 3 seconds before exploding louder than any point during the match. Nobody could believe we had actually done it.

BRENTFORD HAD WON THE PLAYOFF FINAL

BRENTFORD WERE THROUGH TO THE PREMIER LEAGUE!!!

That thing about my Dad, always saying that Brentford never win at the play off finals was rubbish. I watched them play for the first time and they won. Not sure what he was on about…..

When I got home we gave Bentley a big cuddle and asked if he wanted to go to the barbers tomorrow.

HARRY BRUZON

And now we hand the baton to Natalie, Woody’s mum…..

Oorullie – that is Wembley to the rest of us

W like Woody it starts with a W….. With not much warning we had a ticket, another blessing, this mysterious place oorullie with a wuh was on Woodys mind from wake til sleep.  

The journey was interesting… we made some new friends wishing us well, many people in Waterloo found out Woody’s name as I desperately tried to navigate my way weighed down with ‘stuff’ I was worried would be snatched from me at the entrance.  My least favourite moment was Woody not getting on the escalator, in my mum wisdom I thought being in front of him was wise in case he fell. 

WRONG, I ended up sprinting the wrong way up the escalator as he stood at the stop staring at me.  Anyway, after a Macdonalds and more engaging with strangers we arrive at the magical Wembley.  Woody stole two bread rolls from a bakery and chatted to a man preaching in the street but after spending a lot of money on red items from the stall we were on our way.   

As we walked towards the arch, (not the golden ones), the sensory onslaught began, the wall of noise was like coming home to Woody.  It was another new place but seeing the ‘Bees’ around him was a magical reunion.  Those that recognised him chanting his name as we climbed the steps was nothing short of therapy and he definitely grew at least a centimetre.  

I am pretty sure Woody was holding his breath like the rest of us after the second goal just waiting for the whistle.  The importance of the game was not lost on him and in between stuffing his hula hoops his version of ‘ you’re shit aaah’ was definitely showing improvement.  What was definitely missing was Dennis, who always sat behind us at Griffin Park and had more impact on Woody’s development than any speech and language therapist.  Despite the huge space around us the excitement was touchable and he started his stealth like movements to the front as the minutes ticked by.

After the final whistle it all a got a little out of hand …..  Like the other lucky Bees the emotion was running high and it was expressed in many different beautiful ways.  Woody doesn’t really do things by halves so when we were asked to leave by one of the stewards things didn’t go well…. 

Imagine a Millwall fan on a really bad day….  I was floundering under pressure, I was the only person in the stadium that was not on the pay roll with a small very very angry person demanding to see TOM in a very loud voice.  

As Mum I knew exactly what he wanted but the lovely lovely staff of Wembley were completely perplexed by the frankly (excuse the pun) monstrous behavior.  In a nutshell he wanted to talk to Thomas Frank and in Woody’s world he could not understand why this was unreasonable.  Wearing Charlie Goodes medal and holding the cup handed by Emi were simply not enough he still wanted TOOOOOOOOOM.  

I was all out of ideas and beginning to think we were going to be banned for life from Wembley when someone in a suit arrived and told Woody if you join the press queue you can talk to Thomas, thank god. After always being the last person to leave Griffin Park even on the coldest darkest days, sitting in Wembley for a good 90 minutes after final whistle in the sunshine was an absolute privilege.  

If you don’t know what kindness looks like see the picture attached.  Woody can’t talk but Thomas didn’t care, he asked the right questions and Woody nodded.  Thomas gave him the greatest gift you can give anyone, his time, a few precious minutes in a day where everyone wanted this mans time.  

Holding his hand and looking him in the eye while the UK press waited for him.  I don’t know about football, I am just a mum, but I know about love, passion and kindness.  Thank you for letting us be part of this amazing family, we cannot wait for next season but honestly if we were playing Accrington Stanley it would be just as magical for us.  

Natalie – Woody’s mum

The time is now. One More Game….

29 May

Here…. We…. Go….. Saturday morning. The day has come. Brentford face Swansea City in the play-off final at Wembley. The prize, indescribable. The anticipation, immense. Gone are the nerves that have so preceded our previous nine bites at this particular promotion cherry. Now, there is only optimism. Now, there is only the knowledge that if our team do what we all know they are capable of then the top flight awaits. Turn up. Win game. Get promoted. Oh, it sounds so simple. In theory.

Can Ivan fire us to glory? 31 goals in the regular season is immense

Let’s start with the elephant in the room, our record. We all know Brentford have been in the play-offs nine times before, as recently as last season’s Championship final. We all know that Brentford have lost in the play-offs nine times before. Only Preston North End match that and even they won at the tenth attempt.

And?  For me, Clive, it is an utter irrelevance. History counts for naff all. It is a run that stretches back to 1990/91 and Tranmere Rovers. That’s over thirty years. A huge swathe of our fans wouldn’t even have been alive as Kevin Godfrey squared things up in the first leg before the Bees set off on that epic run of statistical anti-form. It happened and it has happened since. Thing is, we were a different club then. An outfit that needed to sell to survive. Had no budget. No genuine hope of going up, despite the best endeavours of everyone on the pitch and in the stands. Every few years the balance of playing staff would fit and we’d make a decent run at the top six or beyond. Then, we’d inevitably be forced into selling our one star player and the rebuilding process for another stab a few years later would begin again. 

Chuck in a few cruel hands from fate – finishing second yet still being forced into this mini lottery against Huddersfield in 94/95, where the penalties still haunt as though it were yesterday – and you could forgive supporters for being wary.

That was then. This is now. Where once we had Gus Hurdle, now we have Henrik Dalsgaard.  Instead of seeing goal machine Nicky Forster being sold, we now have Ivan Toney banging them in for fun. It could be anyone  – like for like the current team would undoubtedly beat any of those that have gone before were it somehow possible to throw them together. Gus and Nicky only mentioned as much because they were two of my favourites from an era that ended with the complete no-show against Crewe Alexandra. Watch the highlights again should you possess the masochistic vibe of wanting to see just how awful we were that day.

So yes, looking back at what ultimately boils down to intermittent games in a three decade stretch, one can imagine Roy Castle and Norris lining up to explain to an excited studio audience of boy scouts and school kids what has happened previously. How bad it may look on paper. Thing is, records are there to be broken. Good or bad. The performances of David McGhee and Robert Taylor 25 years ago will have no bearing on what Vitaly Janelt and Sergi Canos do today. The fans may remember and rightly so. If anything, it will only make any triumph even sweeter. 

Sergi has been immense this season

Watching the ITV News last night one of the Brentford segments included a piece with Thomas Frank. The question regarding an apparent ‘curse’ of red and white striped team’s losing in the final was put to him. His answer was that, less than 24 hours before the final, he didn’t even know what colour we were playing in. Oh, and that he had no thoughts to any omens.

Good man. True or not, the attention should not be on the colour of our shirts but purely on getting over the line. His attitude and focus were spot on last weekend against Bournemouth. More of the same this afternoon would do very nicely, thank you.

For the record, we will be in red and white this afternoon. Excellent news. Just like the curse of the Millennium Stadium South dressing room, broken in the 2002 final by Stoke City against, err…, all this stuff counts for nothing in the grand scheme (manager of the month curse aside, which I will defend to the grave).

Past record, past colours, past players. Use them for motivation but nothing else. There is no other parallel between the past and what will happen today. That will boil down to nothing more than Brentford v Swansea City. Who wins a one off game off football. Whose fans can do the most to help lift their team. Who holds their nerve and stays strong over the entire 90 minutes.

Kit colour has been confirmed

Look at last Saturday. It was a masterclass in discipline, in courage and in playing football. Playing the occasion. Despite going two goals down on aggregate within five minutes of kick off, Brentford were immense. Our fans were incredible. Bournemouth falling apart like Leeds United on a promotion push. Yet even the Elland Raod outfit got it right in the end and if we play anywhere near the levels last weekend, we’ll do the same.

Billy Reeves was in ebullient form on social media yesterday. Along with the GPG, sharing a photo of what has since been confirmed legitimate and titled “AFCB Frustration Hole”.  Asmir Begović lashing out after full time to vent his fury. If ever a sign was needed that Brentford had done a job when it counted then here it was. More of the same today would be very nice, thank you.

Oh, Asmir…

Obviously I’m going to call a Brentford win. I’m genuinely confident although not arrogantly so. As we’ve been saying all week, Swansea City aren’t going to hand it to us and will be as determined as we are. This will be hard fought and we’ll need to be at our best. Thing is, if we are then the memories of Crewe, Huddersfield, Stoke, Tranmere, Yeovil and all the others could be laid to rest. Finally. What Thomas says and does will be key. Obviously.

Sitting here with a very early breakfast, I just want to get going. Glory awaits. Can Brentford take it?  Roll on 3pm when we find out. The team have been incredible this season.  Imagine that moment on 90 minutes if the result has gone our way…. Think back to Saturday and recall how sweet that was. How absolutely ecstatic the moment felt. An orgasmic denouement that wouldn’t even have been bettered had Mrs Browns Boys and The England supporters band been exiled to the Falkland Islands. Then take it ten times better.

That’s what we’re playing for. That’s what awaits.  ENJOY. See you there.

ONE. MORE. GAME.

Nick Bruzon

Friends reunited. The big one has arrived.

28 May

The much anticipated Friends reunion show has just taken place on TV. Apparently.  Moving swiftly on. There is, thankfully, something even more hotly anticipated (sadly not the Mrs Browns Boys dissolution show). It is now Friday and we are only one ‘wake up’ from the play-off final. Brentford v Swansea City at Wembley. A game which, after our own ‘friends reunion’ last week against Bournemouth, sees us once again given the chance to attend a match together.

Following our own prolonged absence from live football  – we were on a break?  (note to self, insert tumbleweed emoji before publishing) all of a sudden we are being spoiled to ambassadorial levels. Two games in 7(seven) days. An unexpected sale of player shirts and other amazing items at the Brentford superstore last night and, as expected, the additional 1000 tickets made available through the NHS experiment have flown off the shelves.

Friends reunited on Saturday

We’ve done the Bournemouth game at some length but for me, Clive, it was as much being handed the opportunity to catch up with those faces we’ve not seen for over a year which was as amazing as our performance on the pitch. Brentford has always felt like family and no moreso was this proven than at the weekend. We know how painful the enforced absence has been but meeting up again felt as comfortable as putting on an old shirt. Hobot Funky Bee? Don’t mind if I do. Seeing long missed faces and all the pain of being forced to play in empty stadia melted away in a heartbeat. 

Of course, a reduced crowd is never the same although you wouldn’t have guessed had you been standing outside. If anything, the noise generated was unlike anything I’ve heard in a long while at a Brentford game. Perhaps it was the occasion, the acoustics in the new ground, the fact that we all missed it so much or just Thomas Frank and his bonkers pre-match lap of enthusiasm that fired us up to insane levels. Whatever the catalyst, the response was immense. Oh to bottle that for Saturday against Swansea.

The great news being that we’ll have even more supporters present. 5,000 Bees screaming the place down. And we’ll need to. The stadium is cavernous whilst the reaction from the players to having fans present was clear. Henrik Dalsgaard showing that with his reaction to our third goal. Bournemouth crumbling from the off as the supporters gave it their all. There are no tickets left though. This is it. The ‘sold out’ signs went up last night on ‘official’ as the final TAPS threshold was met by the lucky few.

Henrik celebrates with the fans

Now, there is only one focus. Swansea City. No more ticket talk. No more Bournemouth. It is all about Saturday. All about who Thomas Frank starts. Who he has available. How Brentford deal with the pressure and enormity of the situation. The Swans likewise. At least we have last season to relate to, no matter the crappy outcome which eventually transpired (and there are no words to truly describe how horrific it felt).  At least we have fans present this time around.

Genuinely, I’m buzzing. I CANNOT wait for this one. Sleep has been a commodity as limited as belly laughs in a studio recording of Mrs Browns Boys this week. Only what feels like intravenous espresso and adrenaline are keeping me alive at this stage. Yet the excitement is palpable. Its a play-off, I shouldn’t be feeling like this. We all know our record. WE all know the stats.

Fine. Take them and stick them where the sun don’t shine. Cliche alert but… you’re only as good as your last result. What a result that was. In Thomas Frank we have a head coach who lives and breathes every moment as much as the fans. A team who, on their day are unstoppable. It doesn’t feel right to be this positive but there is no apprehension about our own ability. 

Equally, one has to recognise that Steve Cooper will have his own team fired up. The prize for Swansea as big as for us. The desire and expectation as huge. They aren’t just going to roll over except, perhaps, when tackled so let’s hope referee Mr Kavanagh has his eyes wide open). They aren’t going to hand it over on a plate. This will need to be earned. This will be hard fought. This will be about as big as they come. And it can’t come soon enough. It needs to be 3pm on Saturday right now.

Recent games against Swansea have seen a fair amount of theatrical ‘rolling over’ and flapping around

All the anticipation in the world won’t bring it any closer. Enjoy the build up. Enjoy the moment. Most importantly, enjoy Saturday. Swansea will be out to ruin the party. Let’s make sure this is one Wembley visit with a happy ending. One play-off campaign that has that sweetest of finishes.

We’ve been here before. This time, let’s make it happen. Everyone from David Raya in nets through to Ivan Toney, the Championship’s leading goalscorer, has the ability to play at the highest level. Sergi Canos and Bryan Mbeumo tearing it up down the flanks. Mads Roerlsev showing maturity beyond his years. Dalsgaard busting every sinew. Pontus with all his experience to draw on. Ethan Pinnock, a colossus alongside him. Emiliano on fire, Matthias Jensen finding his groove at the perfect time and Vitaly Janelt yet another one to roll off the conveyor belt of talent that our DOFS continue to astound with. My word, that goal last week still has me grinning like a split watermelon.

There’s not much else to say. We could big it up for pages and pages but this all comes down to 11 v 11 on the pitch and 5,000 v 5,000 off it. Now let’s do this !!!!

We’ve been here before. This time it feels different…