Tag Archives: The Den

Dream Team. Final Score. And the small matter of a London derby

19 Apr

Brentford travel to Millwall this lunchtime for a fixture that has everything to give. For the Lions, a mere two points separate them from the relegation places whilst the Bees will be looking to close in on another top ten finish. With Promotion chasing Leeds United due to visit on Monday, if that is an aspiration that Thomas Frank is serious about then three points today will be a must for the red and white (hopefully) machine. It will be a task made all the trickier with the news that Said Benrahama is out for the rest of the season with an ankle injury.  Devastating stuff for Bees’ fans but presumably (please….) nothing more than a precaution ahead of his, and our, final campaign at Griffin Park. Yet there’s as much to take out of today ‘off-pitch’ as well as on it, thanks to a surpise contender – West Ham United.

There’s not much can be said about Millwall that hasn’t been said before. Jellied eels. Cockles. The Den. ‘That’ walkout song which also doubles up as goal music – something which is already the most heinous of supporter inflicted tortures then made worse by that banjo filled gumph  . Violence. Racism. No-one likes us  etc etc etc . It’s fair to say that the club don’t have a great reputation, something made all the worse by playing in a breeze block stadium that visiting supporters are then kettled out of once the home fans have dissipated.

As such, you could perhaps be forgiven for giving this one a swerve today. Catching up via I-follow in the sunshine with a few cold ones and the barbecue cooking could be well up there on the list of more pleasurable options. Even better, catching up via BBC Radio London digital in the sunshine with a few cold ones and the barbecue cooking. There we have the pleasure of the dream-team of commentary – Phil Parry and Billy Reeves doing their thing from the seats above the Meridian Line. The programme starts at 12.30 ahead of the 13.00 kick off.

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Yet, as always, whatever the reasons not to go you can bet that we’ll be there en-masse. Easter bank holiday has that beautiful footballing double–header of the Lions and Leeds aswell as being one of the last chances to gorge on the beautiful game before the barren summer months. Besides, for yours truly Millwall has an additional reason for the annual pilgrimage. Dream Team. Not so much Billy and Phil but that much lamented Sky One thing.

I’ve spoken about it before on these pages and will no doubt do so many times again. But why wouldn’t you? It was magnificent. For all the wrong reasons. Running for ten series, the show was centred around the ongoing and progressively more outlandish events at fictional football club Harchester United. Combining real life stadia  – Millwall’s ‘New’ Den played host to the exterior shots in later series – and action (often Leicester City, Chelsea or Everton but with the contrast turned up to make their blue shirts look like Harchester’s purple) the show was as loved for its crazy plots as the frequent use of celebrity cameos. From Ron Atkinson to John Barnes, even one time Bee’s boss Steve Coppell had a go at channeling his inner Marlon Brando. It wasn’t good.

Yet perhaps the most famous of these actors was another former Bee (and member of our ‘top ten moustaches‘ club), Andy Ansah. Forget his later work on ‘Street Striker’ or numerous films and adverts though. For me his crowning glory was six series reciting variants of: ‘Get warmed up lads’ and ‘Alright, Gaffer?’ whilst playing himself, as the club’s first team coach.

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Dream Team – Fletch is sorely missed

The plots were riddled with more holes than our defence. Murder at the FA Cup final. The plane crash. The coach crash. The coach explosion at the Millennium Stadium. Goalkeeper Jamie Parker holding his team mates at gun point in the changing room. Liverpool (the real Liverpool) being linked in the papers with a £3.5 million swoop for Didier Baptiste back in 1999. Cue much egg on face when it transpired they weren’t actually bidding for a Monaco player but actually looking at a character from a TV show.

It was truly awful yet compellingly addictive. Sadly, the show was axed in 2007 yet many loyal fans still campaign for a return . Indeed, with Griffin Park around the corner from Sky HQ and a new stadium on the horizon in Lionel Road, then what better time to bring this back with a progressive club filling the role of the new Harchester? They’ve used Watford. They’ve used Millwall. They’ve even used Brentford (albeit as part of the May 2007 Open Day when a Harchester United team played the Community Sports Trust at Griffin Park.

How about Brentford doing it again – for real ? If any show deserves a reboot, then Dream Team must be top of the list. If it worked for Doctor Who and Dallas then imagine what could be done now. Come on Sky, the world of football demands it.

If nothing else, the 2018 film ‘Final Score’ shows the appetite for terrible football drama combined with stadium movies remains alive and kicking.  If you haven’t seen it as yet then please do. The Independent described it as “The most preposterous film of the year”. Things are bad when a movie doesn’t even go ‘straight to video’ but instead, ‘straight to sky movies’. Albeit, with a supposedly simultaneous big-screen release.

For those who may not be aware, season 2015/16 saw West Ham leave The Boleyn Ground (as the media insisted on calling a stadium they had only ever previously referred to as Upton Park) in a departure that was very much ‘blink and you’ll miss it’. I think it got the odd mention on Sky Sports over the campaign but don’t quote me on that. The denouement of their protracted exit saw supporters thinking demolition work had started early as a series of explosions ripped through the old ground back in June 2016. Infact, this turned out to be the filming of something I had promptly forgotten about until the aforementioned tweet crossed my social media stream.

Oh, my. Preposterous doesn’t even begin to touch the sides on this one. When it was released, Mrs. Bruzon and myself took the first opportunity to watch this shocker about a terrorist hostage-taking at The Boleyn Ground. A name they must have mentioned about a dozen times in the first half hour, in case anybody was in any doubt. All this happens in secret (don’t ask) and whilst West Ham are taking part in a European Cup semi-final against Russian outfit Dynamo FC. Count the number of things wrong in that last sentence alone. All the while, the hostage takers are searching out Pierce Brosnan, whose East European accent was even dodgier than his beard, whilst Drax from Guardians Of The Galaxy attempts to save both the day and the annoying daughter of a former army comrade whose death he feels responsible for.

This REALLY happened.

It was incredible. So truly bad it crossed to the other side and became unintentional comedy gold. Equal parts Nicolas Cage (if only he’d been available) and Sean Bean’s ‘When Saturday Comes’ with a decent dollop of Dream Team on top.

If it worked for West Ham and Pierce than how about resuscitating the corpse of Dream Team. Come on Sky. Come on TV Producers. Come on Andy. Oh, and come on Brentford. Great though it is to visit the home of Harchester united, six points from Millwall and Leeds United would make this a quite wonderful Easter weekend.

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Final Score – if Dream Team ever reached the big screen

Nick Bruzon

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Tony Craig day is here as an inevitable pun is released into the wild.

30 Jul

Brentford travel to Millwall this afternoon for Tony Craig’s thoroughly deserved testimonial. Elsewhere Championship rivals Wolves, a club we have focussed on a lot more in recent years, have finally succumbed to the almost inevitable in providing the most expected of bad punnery.

First up, Tony Craig.  His transfer to Millwall in July of last year was a particularly disappointing one. As we’ve noted previously, he was one of these players who gave his all in a Brentford shirt over three seasons in which he was one of our standout players.

Tony bounced back from a dubious red card administered by Keith Stroud during the infamous battle of Bramall Lane in the year of ‘that penalty’. He was a colossus at the heart of the defence during our promotion season in which he scooped the player’s player of the year award.

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Tony – as seen on the club site after helping the Bees to promotion

One particular game from that campaign, home to Oldham Athletic and just into Warbs’ managerial tenure following the departure of Uwe, was notable for one of the most incredible pieces of defending I’ve ever seen, described at the time thus:

On the only occasions Athletic really threatened, Tony Craig was there to mop things up. The highlight of which being a 5 on 1 breakaway in the first half where he stood his ground, kept standing and did sufficient to fend off the Oldham hordes. Lesser players could have been forgiven for lunging in but not Tony. It was my moment of the game – until the goal itself”.

There was no fuss and no showmanship with Tony for Brentford. That’s not to say he wasn’t skillful but he just got on with his game. No more so was the difference in attitude between him and the more outrageous players seen than in the Championship fixture with Wolves at Griffin Park back in November 2014.

That was the one where, you may recall, Bakary Sako was due to play against us in golden boots, encrusted with Swarovski crystals. Tony was the complete opposite. The anti-Sako, if you will. For one terrace wag, whose identity I’ll protect, the sight of even neon teale or electric pink boots on a Brentford player will usually elicit a cry of, “Rubbish. I like Tony Craig. Sensible, no nonsense footwear.”

Tony played the full 90 minutes that day as Wolves and Sako were locked out, leaving TW8 on the wrong end of a 4-0 thrashing. It was part of that #Novemberkings phase (please ‘official’, let’s never use hashtags again) that saw Warbs win manager of the month, Tony feature prominently and the Bees get within a sniff of the table top.

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Bakary Sako’s boots failed to sparkle

Indeed, his absence from the side in the back end of the season coincided with some defensive howlers but, more importantly, a seeming fragility across the defensive area of the team when, perhaps, his experienced head would have been the perfect tonic. Whilst he remained available for selection, Warbs kept faith. with his chosen two.

I can’t knock him for that and the end result was Brentford reaching the Play-Offs. Itself, a phenomenal achievement when viewed independently. However, I do also wonder had Tony stayed in the team, might we actually have gone one better and achieved ‘automatic’?

We’ll never know but what better way to celebrate then by getting along to Millwall this afternoon? Admission is just £10 for adults and, more importantly, Tony is using the proceeds to make a donation to Headley Court, the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre which treats injured members of the Armed forces.

The other Bees news is the just announced (Saturday morning) signing of Callum Elder on loan from Leicester City for the season. Filling the gap at left back made by Jake Bidwell’s departure for Loftus Road earlier this month, the move was one which had been very widely anticipated.

Fair play to the rumour mill, it has been spot on this season. Either they’ve upped their game or the Brentford press team have become leakier than the Fulham defence. Regardless, this can only be good news on the playing front and nice to see a change from the normal ‘signing photo’. This time around, we’ve gone for the rarely seen line up of the shirt  / contract combo.

And talking of Wolves earlier ( a link made with all the subtly of Bakary Sako’s boots), it has been announced overnight that the Molineux club have parted company with / sacked manager Kenny Jackett.

This is an inevitable part of modern football life. Moreso in the Championship where managers seem to have the longevity of a cornetto in a greenhouse. Yet, I feel a particular affinity to Wolves.

Despite the initial mocking from a minority of their fans in regards to how big they were compared to ‘little old Brentford’ (somebody should use that one) it’s fair to see we’ve given as good as we’ve got over a wonderful last three seasons.

There was the 2013/14 League One campaign where, despite a record number of points for the Bees and that huge unbeaten run, Wolves stormed to the title with a final total of 103. In any other season our own 94 would have been more than good enough for top spot.

However, the following two campaigns have seen Brentford fare better than Wolves, positionally. 2014/15 saw our two clubs locked on 78 points, with the Bees reaching the play-offs in fifth and Wolves coming so close to edging out Ipswich on that incredible final afternoon. In the end, it was a goal difference gap too far but 7th place still not one to be sniffed at for a newly promoted club.

Last season saw a 7(seven) point gap split the teams with Dean Smith’s team ending it in 9th and Wolves 14th. The moral high ground for Brentford and some consolation for the £250 bet proceeds lost as a result of our being beaten (deservedly so) to that League One title.

So it was sadness that I woke this morning to the news of Kenny Jackett’s departure. Undoubtedly a huge club with big ambitions  – whether new or otherwise – (hello, is that the marketing team?) he has perhaps been an inevitable casualty of failure to make an immediate return to the top flight.

On the other hand, a rare opportunity for lazy headline writers and lazier pun makers. Chin up Kenny, I’m sure you’ll get a chance to go again soon.

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No words required

Meet Jim White and Natalie Sawyer (and win £5k !)

7 Nov

Doing anything on Friday? With Brentford heading to Millwall tomorrow there’s a chance to get in the mood for the game, thanks to Sky Bet. None other than Bees fan Natalie Sawyer, along with her fellow deadline day host Jim White, will be opening up a ‘pound shop’ in Shoreditch. And you can pop along to meet them between 12pm and 1pm.

But don’t be thinking that Natalie will be flogging you three Kit Kat chunkys for 99p or Jim will be dishing out the bulk buy Jaffa cakes. Whilst Jim and Nat’s Pound Shop may sound like an episode of TV’s The Apprentice, it’s actually an event to promote the League sponsor’s Transfer Fund campaign.

Jim and Nat's Pound shop - last seen on The Apprentice

Jim and Nat’s Pound shop – last seen on The Apprentice

The Sky Bet Transfer Fund  gives you the chance to win £5,000 and, for your club, £250,000 to spend on players during January’s transfer window. That’s a quarter of a million pounds or, at today’s prices, one-twelfth of a Lewis Grabban.

Saturday’s opponents are going one better with Millwall also offering one fan a ten year season ticket at The Den as part of the competition. I’ve not seen whether the Bees are offering any club related prizes as yet, but I’m sure we’ll be on the case soon.

The Den - second prize a 20 year season ticket?

The Den – second prize a 20 year season ticket?

In the meantime, for your chance to win that quarter million cash pot for Brentford, aswell as five grand for yourself, you can enter here. And if you’d like to get along to meet Jim and Natalie, their Pound Shop is open at 53 Curtain Road, London, EC2A 3QL from 12pm. There’ll be more prizes on offer inshore.

Be quick though, the door slams shut at 1pm

You can meet Jim and Natalie. Oh, and there's £5k on offer too

You can meet Jim and Natalie. Oh, and there’s £5k on offer too