Tag Archives: UEFA

Team 54 becomes team 65 as Bees welcome new boss and Gibraltar go again.

17 Oct

Well that’s been all go yesterday. With Dean Smith having joined Aston Villa last week, Brentford announced the news that everybody associated with TW8 was expecting – namely, the appointment of Thomas Frank as the new head coach. With Leeds United fans still, seemingly, upset about the performance of ref Jeremy Simpson during our recent draw at Elland Road, their goalscorer Pontus Jansson is facing an FA charge for his own post-match comments. Over in Europe the UEFA Nations league has dominated international break with the headlines being made not by the new-fangled theme tune but by Gibraltar, who have broken their international duck in some style.

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Thomas opted for ‘signing shirt’ rather than ‘scarf aloft’ or ‘fake contract’

First up though, Thomas Frank has now been named as the new Brentford head coach. It is news which has surprised nobody, despite the best efforts of the bookmakers to talk up anyone from Roberto di Matteo to Marinus Dijkhuizen (pity anybody who ‘invested’ there at the terrifying odds of just 33-1). With Thomas being an integral part of the Griffin Park back room staff since December 2016, and his clearly visible role on match days, there was really only ever one name in the frame. Continuity being the absolute name of the game here.

Chief executive Mark Devlin used Twitter to reflect that : Thomas has been an integral part of our development over the past two years and deserves this opportunity.

Co-director of football Rasmus Ankersen followed up his own words at last week’s fan forum by noting how: “Thomas knows the Club’s strategy inside out and he is both respected and supported by players and staff at the Training Ground. He has played a major role in the development of our style of play over the past couple of years and we believe he is ready for the job as Head Coach.”

You can read that article in full on ‘official’. Albeit, I can’t imagine there are many who haven’t been there yet.

Yet the most intriguing tweet comes from Jonathan Burchill, whose statistical nuances are very much in the line of a Luis Melville when it comes to niche. And then some. He notes how : In last 40 years Brentford have had 4 promotions. 3 of the successful managers were internal club appointments: Warbs (13-14), Andy Scott (08-09) & Phil Holder (91-92).  The 4th being the promotion season of 98-99 where Noades appointed himself.

It’s an obvious appointment. It’s a sound appointment. The players know and respect Thomas. The fans are familiar. There’ll be no tip-toeing around getting to know each other. As pertinent, and as Jonathan noted, we’ve considerable success at Griffin Park doing things this way. Whilst I’m just the numpty on the terrace, this one seems a complete no-brainer even to me.

The only two questions I have at present are, firstly, whether Thomas will continue with rotating the captaincy? One would assume so, given the talk about this at the fan forum. Equally though, as an idea that Phil Giles confirmed was originally put forward by Dean Smith is it one Thomas will take forward? I hope so. If only to see Neal Maupay given the role at St. Andrews or for the return Leeds United match.

Secondly, and perhaps the most important of all. What will his match day attire consist of? Tracksuit manager, sports-casual or smart suit. Whilst current indications suggest the former, who knows what difference the new role might make to his own sartorial stylings. Roll on 3pm Saturday when we find out.

As for Leeds United, we’ve skipped over the post-match nonsense and barracking of Jeremy Simpson on these pages since that game. Largely because its all a bit pointless.

Shocking news –  supporters feel hard done by and blame referee for both their own inability to win a game and recent blip in form after a storming start to the season. Who’d have thought it?  Seemingly, one (correct) penalty decision given to tinpot/little etc etc Brentford is the reason for their own slip from the automatic positons into the play-off zone. Something that, for the record, I am sure will only be a temporary one.  

Pontus Jansson, their goalscorer that day, has now been charged by the FA (as have the club for fans throwing objects at Neal Maupay) after accusing the referee of ‘robbery’ and saying on live TV that the result felt a bit ‘shit’.  There’s talk of conspiracy, too. Seriously? Get a grip. They’ll no doubt get over it. Jansson will no doubt be found guilty of charges he has until 5pm today (Wednesday) to respond to. Leeds will no doubt be there or thereabouts at the end of the season. They’re too strong. They’ve too much backing and Sky Sports love them (another game moved now, along with our own Monday night trip to West Brom. Joy). What conspiracy?

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Neal’s penalty was well received by players and fans alike

I could rant. They can rant. They can nibble at the obvious fishing-rod emoji. It’ll change nothing. Let’s focus on ourselves. Let’s be gutted by not taking three points in a game that was there for the taking. Let’s see how Thomas rallies the troops to go one better at home to Bristol City on Saturday.

Next up, Gibraltar. Wow. After 22 consecutive losses in competitive football since they became the 54thmember of UEFA back in May 2013, the tiny nation (think an international Brentford if you want some comparison of general commentating cliché and relative size) has finally won a first game. And then another. Much like our own 65 bus, you wait ages and then two come along at once.

Saturday’s 1-0 win in Armenia was followed up by last night’s 2-1 win at home to Liechtenstein. A first ‘official’ win on home soil (friendlies not counting) and the first time they have scored more than two goals in a game. It was wonderful stuff to watch and about as tense as it comes with an additional 6 minutes of stoppage time added at the end.

Sky sports may wind us up with their Leeds United obsession or fixture shenanigans but the ‘blue button’ option was a life saver last night. Fuzzy feed from Gibraltar being beamed directly into sub-channel six and an opportunity to watch history being made. Sensational stuff.

Sensational, that is, until the ref blew for full time. Within about ten seconds the post match euphoria had been killed. Instead of players celebrating or excited interviews, the live stream was replaced by the footballing equivalent of the test card.

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Talk about a post-match passion killer

What can you do?  With Armenia beating group leaders Macedonia, this one is suddenly wide open. Miracles can happen. Gibraltar are now vying for top slot in group D4 and promotion to Group C where they may then be afforded the chance to play some of the bigger teams in Europe. Or Scotland.

All that’s a long way off. For now, it’s all about enjoying the moment. And what a moment it was.

Getting back to all things Brentford, the eagle eyed amongst you may have seen further progress at Lionel Road. With the South stand dominating the horizon, work on the East stand is now clearly visible. Whilst the groundwork has been underway for months, anybody approaching the site can now see clear evidence of one ‘end’.  

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The second stand appears

These are exciting times. I’ve no desire to wish my life away but, by the same virtue, things at Griffin Park at Lionel Road and on The Rock are all on the up. I can’t wait for more.

See you Saturday. Bring on Bristol City…..

Nick Bruzon

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Get the goal, slow it down and secure the win. Easy !! And a possible ‘best ever’ shirt.

26 Mar

Well that was some weekend. Despite Brentford not being in action due to International weekend, the cause of our lay off has not been without it’s talking points. Alan Judge completed an emotional return to the Republic of Ireland team despite his side going down in Turkey. England fans completed an embarrassing return to Amsterdam despite the team going on to register a win. Over in Gibraltar, Liam Walker of Notts County scored the only goal of the game as the boys from the Rock beat Latvia 1-0, despite never having previously registered a win as a full member of FIFA. Get in you beauties! And could Andreas Bjelland be turning out in the mother of all shirts for Denmark tomorrow night?

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What a win for Gibraltar

We can only start with Gibraltar. Despite being 16/1 to beat a Latvia team who sit 75 places above them in the FIFA rankings, a return to the Victoria Stadium across the road from the airport after a two year soujourn in Portgual came with the most wonderful of results.

You can’t ask for anything more than a clean sheet, a goal and a win on your return home. And that’s what we got. Liam Walker stepping up after a tense game to hit the most delicious of dead ball winners, Sam Saunders style, with the clock almost at it’s denouement.

What a moment.  A first victory on home soil. A first victory as a FIFA member. A first clean sheet in, erm, some years. Regular readers to these pages will know of Gibraltar’s goals ‘against’ being the international equivalent of Birmingham City or Leeds United. Fishing the ball out of the net has been a lot easier then putting it in there. A statement that is made with absolutely zero offence intended. A statement made by somebody who has played (badly) at the same stadium that Walker made his mark and who was there as Belgium went beyond brackets late last summer.

The strides that Gibraltar have made on the international stage since becoming members of UEFA in 2013, for a nation of their size, have been vastly impressive. Both at international and also club level where Celtic were, of course, beaten by Lincoln red Imps in a 2016 Champions League Qualifier

And now we have a win. This is a moment of huge significance and how appropriate that it is Liam Walker who should get the goal. The record cap holder and, with this strike, heading to the top of the scoring charts. Whilst the Chipolinas and Casciaros of this world are, perhaps, the household names it is Walker who is currently ploughing a lone furrow as Gibraltar’s ‘export’ to the English football league.

Plying his trade for a Notts County team very much at the business end of the League Two table. A Notts County team that knocked Brentford out of the FA Cup in the third round and for whom Walker came on to the Griffin Park pitch to shore things up late on when the teams met back in January. We noted then his prowess and now it has been demonstrated in the most visible and global of styles.

Get the goal, slow it down and secure the win. Next stop, the Nations League in the autumn. Easy. In theory. I can’t wait.

The. Moment. Danny Higginbotham, eat your heart out

Before that is the World Cup. Whilst Ireland didn’t make it this time, we can’t let the moment of Alan Judge’s return to international football pass without mention. If Gibraltar’s win was of huge national significance, Alan’s own appearance was equally significant – purely for personal reasons.

We all know how he was set for Euro 2016 until that horrific assault at Portman Road left him with a double leg break that has taken the best part of two years to recover from. It is a journey that we have all taken alongside him in spirit although one cannot begin to envisage the tremendous psychological and mental fortitude that has been required to get him through what must have been some dark hours. Let alone the physical recovery.

Alan’s tweet – simple but beautiful

To see Alan put on a Brentford shirt once more has been a thing of beauty for Bees fans. Yet to see him in his national shirt really was the icing on the cake. Congratulations, Alan. What an honour and what a moment. Here’s to the next set of qualifiers…

The current round of friendlies concludes this Tuesday with Andreas Bjelland, Henrik Dalsgaard and their Denmark team entertaining Chile. Ordinarily, I’d call this as April fool but we’re a few days early. However, it would seem that when they  run out against Alexis Sanchez and co, the Danes will be wearing a quite unique shirt. One that celebrates their heritage and has been, apparently, put together by the fans based on classics over the years.

I hope this is true. It’s so bad it’s brilliant. Very much the Nicolas Cage of football shirts.

I’d love one.  

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Is this for real ? Wow !!

Nick Bruzon

Time for an annihilation? It’s already happened. Twice. Newcastle set the standard ahead of our Villa Park trip

14 Sep

Brentford travel to Aston Villa tonight knowing victory will take the Bees into the top six following last night’s opening games in the current round of Championship fixtures. Newcastle United hammered hapless QPR 6-0 at Loftus Road to retain second place whilst, over in the Champions League, Barcelona went one better and attained those legendary brackets as Celtic came home on the wrong end of a 7(seven) – 0 humping.

To read the rest of this article, season 2016/17 is now available for download on e-book in the retrospective: Welcome Home, King Jota (Brentford FC season review 2016/17)

Priced at just £1.99, all sales are being donated to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust.

Likewise any sales from the previous titles – Celebrating like they’d won the FA Cup (2013/14), Tales from the football village (2014/15) and Ready. Steady. Go Again. (2015/16) – are also now going to the BFCCST.

Containing the least bad of the blogs from May 2016 to May 2017 along with a smattering of new material, you can pick it up, here. Its all for a great cause and,hey, you may even enjoy it…..

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How’s that going?

 

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Ian Holloway – lining up against…?

 

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Dave Gorman

The test of a real football fan (or just a kit nerd)

Nick Bruzon

Super Lincoln go ballistic, Celtic were atrocious

12 Jul

It’s been done before. I don’t care! Brentford fans, you get your ‘Last Word’ fix tomorrow.Right now, let’s just cut to the chase and reflect on the enormity of Lincoln Red Imps (champions of Gibraltar) beating Celtic (one time European cup winners) 1-0 in the Champion’s League .

Long have these pages celebrated those fleeting moments of triumph from this most fledgling of footballing nations. Long have we absorbed the mocking of Spanish (and other) supporters.

Yet, yet, yet…. write off anybody at your peril when it comes to football. Forget the statistics. Forget the futsal. Forget the tippy-tappy. When it comes down to it, there’s only one thing that counts – the result after 90 minutes.

“A result which ranks as the most embarrassing in Celtic’s history.” Not my words but those of journalism’s, The Independent.

“The Shock of Gibraltar: Celtic beaten by minnows in Brendan Rodgers’ first match.” Not my words but those of The Mail.

Brendan Rodgers’ first game as Celtic boss ended in humiliation as his Hoops side were humbled 1-0 by Lincoln Red Imps in in the first leg of their second Champions League qualifier at the Victoria stadium.” Not my words etc.etc…. The Telegraph.

“Celtic suffered arguably the worst defeat in their history when they were humbled by Gibraltarian part-timers Lincoln Red Imps in the Champions League second qualifying round.” This time from the BBC.

“We wanted an easier job after the first leg, and this makes it a bit more complicated, but we will be fine for the second game.” Most definitely not my words but those of Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers.

Brendan, I wouldn’t be so sure.

It was a scoreline you can only dream of.Let’s not forget that Gibraltar (pop 30,000ish) have only been UEFA members since 2013.  If Iceland beating England in the Euros may have been deemed an upset, this one comes in at an 11 on the Richter scale of shocks.

Forget sleeping giants. This was a sleeping policeman. MOD police office Lee Casciaro giving Rodgers a (cardiac) arrest in his first competitive game at the helm of Celtic.

No, being the clear answer

What more can you say? Celtic are still giving it large, despite having lost. On reputation and history then surely they will sweep the boys from Gibraltar to one side in the second leg next week.

The again, on reputation and history they should have done that on Tuesday night.

What a result. Congratulations to Lincoln Red Imps in producing a shock on the Rock. Here’s to the second leg…..

Nick Bruzon

 

As the EURO winners show, what would be our Phoenix From The Flames ?

18 Jun

With EURO2016 now fully underway, Friday’s games saw Spain crank things up a notch and Croatia lose it – on and off the pitch. With much of what involves the England fans dividing opinion and generating some very contrasting views from those ‘on the ground’, there was no doubting what we saw on our TV screens yesterday. Plus, in an effort to blow away the current glut of Griffin Park tumbleweed, we have Brentford thoughts, updates and pictures.

First up, Croatia. 2-0 up and cruising against the Czech Republic, not only did they throw it away to be held 2-2 but their ‘fans’ have, surely, lined them up as the next nation to be given a suspended disqualification alongside Russia. This, after a shower of flares and firecrackers descended onto the pitch from the Croatian end as the game reached it’s denouement.

Combined with fighting amongst their own fans, they were ugly scenes that also saw one steward lucky to escape injury as a device went off in his face. Slaven Bilic, talking as part of the ITV panel for the Spain game, attempted to quantify it with the observation that “There are many fans who are against the FA”. That these are protests against a perceived Zagreb bias in Croatian football.

I can’t comment either way on that. My knowledge of the wider problems in European football extends about as far as when Gibraltar’s 2018 World Cup qualifier against Belgium is going to take place. But what I can say is that, like the flare launched at England fans during the Russia game, one can only wonder again how security – with France on its highest state of alert – is working? Moreso, just what can UEFA do, if anything, to stop what should have been a wonderful tournament (and still can be) turning into one which will as much be remembered for all the wrong reasons?

As for Spain, a second clean sheet and three goals against Turkey saw them step up an ominous gear. Wth many people’s favourites France leaving it late to record their second victory, the Spaniards by contrast made their six points look simple. After 61% possession, 707 passes and 18 shots (although with goals to match those stats)  they’re already in to 10/3. Forget patriotism – grab that price whilst you can.

Just one other observation on the Spain game, which comes courtesy of Jamie Lovell (@jtlovell1979 ) on Twitter. I can’t take the credit for this but he put into words, wonderfully, the exasperation many of us were suffering from at the hands (or voice) of co-commentator Tony Pulis.

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For me, Clive

Look positive Jamie, at least it wasn’t Glenn Hoddle

Ok, back home and Brentford. I took a stroll past Griffin Park yesterday and couldn’t resist the chance to stick my head over the wall. I have to say the pitch is looking wonderful already.

Granted, the club took the steps to dig it up as soon as we’d played our last ‘home’ game ( if I recall, some sort of thrashing administered to Fulham, wasn’t it?). That, following the pitch-gate shocker at the start of the season.

But, you have to say, credit for what seems to be a job well done already. Here’s to seeing how the Bees perform on it when Championship action recommences in August.

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The pitch is looking luxuriant

And when it does, Brentford will find themselves joint 7th (seventh) favourites for the title. Checking my online bookmaker for research purposes this morning, this odds are now up and we’re priced 20/1.

Somewhat stingy for a team who, by our own head coach’s admission, were in a relegation scrap as recently as March? Or easy money for a team who have rediscovered the way to goal via Scott Hogan and those signings who have now ‘bedded in’ to the side? Either way, this is how the bookies see the Championship at present.

And finally, Euro ’96. Kind of. With the football in everybody’s faces at the moment, even the radio is getting in on the act. You can’t move on Absolute Radio at present for World in Motion or Three Lions. Which is no bad thing.

The latter, especially, bringing back all sorts of memories. And not just about how terrifyingly bad David Baddiel was at singing. Seriously, that was the best take?

But talk on the subject amongst some of my Brentford supporting friends led from there to the TV show from which it sprang, Fantasy Football League (of course, co-hosted by Frank Skinner). In particular, the ‘Phoenix From The Flames’ segment in which a famous moment from footballing days gone by would be recreated on a council pitch, featuring the original protagonists.

Specifically, conversation got onto the topic of which Brentford moment would we recreate? Perhaps with the wonderful Sean Ridley and Jo Tilley in the Baddiel and Skinner roles ?

That penalty’ is perhaps too obvious Besides, having not really been discussed in the media after the event, people might not remember. Other topics for consideration included:

Mike Grella destroying Bournemouth; Jota v Fulham; Paul Hayes and Will Grigg being less than on fire when taking home debut penalties; promotion v Preston; Gary Blissett knocking Manchester City out of the FA cup and inciting a banana wielding pitch invader; DJ Campbell giving Gary Breen nightmares.

In the end, though, we settled on cup action. Against Everton. Richard Lee’s penalty saves were the highlight for many but, equally, the pre-game footage of the respective club mascots still gets a watch every now and then.

Whilst the respective kids must be close to teenagers now, that would almost add to the recreation. That said, I’m not sure if we could afford Leighton Baines’ appearance fee.

Could this be recreated, Phoenix style?

Until then, here’s to a weekend of six games and, hopefully, some more magical moments.

Nick Bruzon

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

16 Jun

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

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

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

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Matt Dyson – guru

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

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

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

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

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

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Vinnie Jones – Welsh

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

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

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

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

Nick Bruzon

As one door closes, another opens

14 May

Friday was a day of both sadness and celebration. On the down side, shocked fans and families were coming to terms with the announcement about the Brentford Academy ‘restructure’ .The positive of the day, certainly on a personal note, was the admission of Gibraltar (along with Kosovo) into FIFA. On pitch, Sergi Canos could make a shock Liverpool debut whilst it is advantage Sheffield Wednesday in their Championship play-off with Brighton.

First up, the Academy. Today’s column is not to criticise the club for this decision. Putting aside the huge emotional aspect for the individuals involved, one can only assume this isn’t one that they have taken lightly. Or at least, I hope not.

The Academy was much heralded as part of our future model upon opening. It was a set up that, rightly, all at Brentford FC  seemed proud of. The supporters and community, likewise.

And now, in what seems like the blink of an eye, it is all over.

Having read and re-read the somewhat wooly ‘official statement’ I’m still not 100% clear as to the full reasoning or, certainly, why it was made so quickly. Likewise, how the alternative will work in terms of finding players?

Cost, lack of end product, viability, competition and a belief that alternate methods will work better all seem to be contributory with the financials being the primary driver on that first part. Certainly if you are to read lines such as :

We cannot outspend the vast majority of our competitors

and

Moreover, the development of young players must make sense from a business perspective. The review has highlighted that, in a football environment where the biggest Premier League clubs seek to sign the best young players before they can graduate through an Academy system, the challenge of developing value through that system is extremely difficult.”

So what has suddenly changed?

There wasn’t a hint of a mention when Rasmus gave his ‘state of the nation’ video address prior to the Huddersfield Town game. Likewise, as has been well identified on social media, the club even paraded some ‘future Bees’ on the pitch at half time in the 3-0 win over Fulham. That was just two weeks ago.

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Hindsight is a wonderful thing

I cannot for one second believe we would be so heartless as to do that to our youth. Whilst the parade of the Under 8-s has an unfortunate reminder of Marinus being put in front of the fans where we were told everything was going well, before being sacked just days later, this leak (along with the subsequent statement) has more than a whiff of Village-gate.

Equally, how do the press get hold of these internal stories? Why are our ‘official statements’ so poorly written? Is somebody purposely leaking this information to do our dirty work for us and, almost, prepare fans for the worst ?

Like it or not, this is a decision the club have made. I’m just desperately hoping that we have some form of follow up to further clarify matters. The press love a ‘bad news’ story whilst supporters are upset. As Bob Hoskins so famously said, “It’s good to talk“.

OK – Gibraltar. Exciting news !! UEFA’s Team 54 are now Team 211 in FIFA after football’s world governing body last night accepted their application to join by an overwhelming majority. Members at the annual congress in Mexico City (it’s never Blackpool or Grimsby) voted 172 – 12 to allow them in. Presumably 11 others going (again) with Spain in voting ‘against’.

Understandably , if not quite “dancing on the streets of Raith” , social media was awash with excitement, celebration and congratulations for FIFA’s newest member. Whilst there is now hope that Gibraltar can be parachuted into one of the World Cup qualifying groups for Russia 2018 before that kicks off, I’m just pleased to have a ‘feel good’ story coming out of FIFA.

Congratulations Gibraltar. Here’s to that first qualifying point. See you in ……?

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Gibraltar have packed their boots to start life as FIFA team 211.

And on the subject of ‘feel good’, could Sergi Canos make his Anfied debut on Sunday as the Premier League season comes to an end? With Liverpool taking part in the Europa League final against Sevilla on Wednesday evening, I’d imagine that Jürgen Klopp may make ‘a couple’ of changes for the weekend’s game with West Brom.

I’m still desperately hoping that Sergi comes back to Griffin Park next season (one can only live in hope) but I’d love to see how he goes in the top flight. It was a privilege to watch Sergi’s career blossom at Griffin Park and he certainly ended the season on fire. The Premier League title and relegation have been decided but there may still be more intrigue to come.

Next up, Sheffield Wednesday. They lead Brighton 2-0 after the first leg of their play-off semi final. I only know that from reading the Internet. Having  turned on to watch after Coronation Street had finished (don’t ask) I turned promptly off.

Being greeted by ‘That band’ massacring ‘Oldham’s song’ will do that to you.

This summer’s  EURO 2016 finals could make painful viewing.

And finally, a HUGE thanks to all those who have so far downloaded both the Last Word ‘season review’ (Ready. Steady. Go Again) aswell as the three year anthology (The Bees are going up). These are both available now.

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Goal of the season winner Sergi (and Gibraltar) both feature

Nick Bruzon

From Brentford and brackets to Gibraltar and San Marino.

6 Sep

Brentford fans were left scratching around for interest this weekend, with minimal satisfaction coming from the Euro qualifiers. As expected, England successfully navigated their qualifying group (the easiest since records began) whilst for Gibraltar, although they are starting to find their feet after an international baptism of fire, the Republic of Ireland still presented a tough test as they ran out 4-0 winners on Friday night. There was no Brentford involvement, beyond a brief reminiscence about Stuart Dallas for Northern Ireland although, of course, Lasse Vibe was on the bench for Denmark in a 0-0 at home to Albania.

Instead, the weekend has left more questions about those two perennial debates – ‘minnows’ and brackets. Specifically, should the ‘smaller’ teams be allowed to play with the big boys and, when conceding more than six goals just how should we signify this 7, 7 (seven), 7 (SEVEN), seven or SEVEN?

As a footballing romantic and nostalgic, I’m all for a spot of small team involvement. Equally, I won’t deny a large element of emotional involvement as, having waited years for Gibraltar to finally be given full UEFA membership, the chance to see them test themselves against the great and the good is one I’m loving.

Are they whipping boys at the moment? Unfortunately, the stats would certainly suggest that to be the case although anybody who has seen their games against the likes of Germany, Poland and the Republic will see what strides they have already made. Tougher to break down and a lot less naïve, the boys from the Rock are finding their feet, fast.

Gibraltar have packed their boots to start international life.

Gibraltar have packed their boots to start international life.

The Faroe Islands already have six points from a group in which they have overtaken former Euro Champions Greece whilst Albania have beaten Portugal in their qualifying group. This is the same Portugal who recently lost a home friendly with Cape Verde Islands.

Minnows do get stronger and regular games against a mix of opposition are the way to do it. Not shunting them aside to pre-qualifying where they can only play each other, as seems to be the common suggestion. If this is your logic then just disband qualifying all together and draw the teams for the tournament finals based on seeding.

It only seems like yesterday that England were spannering their own qualification for the World Cup as Davide Gualtieri took less than nine seconds to open the scoring for San Marino with a goal that shook the world. Both teams have grown massively since then, even if England have remained as consistently sub-par when it gets to the tournament itself (Euro 96 aside, and that one they qualified for by default).

Davide Gualtieri opened the scoring against England back in 1994

Davide Gualtieri opened the scoring against England back in 1994

Wales have stepped up the blindside in recent seasons and have moved from 117th ranked team in the world four years ago to the point where a victory against Israel on Sunday could see them deemed the second best team on the planet. Indeed, they are, surely, going to qualify for a first major finals since 1958.

Just to put that into perspective, the teams currently occupying the 117th slot are hardy those we would consider to be traditional powerhouses of international football.

The teams currently in the same spot as Wales, four years ago

The teams currently in the same spot as Wales, four years ago

I could go on. People have very short-term memories and attention spans. I hope UEFA don’t give in to the current clamour emanating from certain circles and give all their members a chance to compete on a level playing field.

That said, games such as yesterday’s 6-0 won’t help the likes of San Marino as they came awfully close to a 7(seven) -0 bracketing. That’s a result that Gibraltar have experienced a couple of times in early qualifying whilst, domestically, former Brentford player/manager Nicky Forster was the unlucky recipient as his Staines Town side went down by that infamous scoreline to Brentwood Town in the Ryman Premier on Saturday.

Nicky Forster (left) formally the deliverer rather than recipient of 7(seven)

Nicky Forster (left) formally the deliverer rather than recipient of 7(seven)

And, as ever in these circles, it prompted the usual questions as to how this should be recorded. One local journalist ended up very much insistent about it being an unbracketed, headline grabbing, SEVEN. For somebody who then used twitter to rally against the vide printer favourite, saying: “Will live in the here and now”, the irony of his bio describing himself as “Ex Woking FC striker” was not lost.

There are others that love the bracket but insist it should be 7 (SEVEN). I’ll spare the regular reader another lecture on the unsubtly and bad sportsmanship of this. A brash, block-capitalled effect to really push home the point that someone has been on the wrong end of a thrashing. It’s gloating for the sake of it.

Clearly, an emotional subject and I don’t think we’ll ever, all, agree. Football is a modern game and one that continues to grow. That said, what’s the harm in a little bit of nostalgia along the way?

And finally, Channel 5 and Football League Tonight. Much as the minnows have been going from strength to strength on the pitch, the same can be said about the latest newcomers off it.

Saturday night was the latest point in case as, despite it being International weekend we actually had a show. In days gone by, Manish and team were shunted to one side when the Championship teams had a break, despite full fixture list in both Leagues One and Two.

So fairplay to Kelly, George and the rest of the production team for still bringing us a show. The disasters that plagued the series openers are a distant memory already and, last night, the biggest problem seemed to be Adam Virgo. More to the point, his sporting of a collared shirt with the top button done up but no tie.

Yet if a pundit’s dress sense (something all channels have suffered from over the years) is the worst we’ve got to worry about then things must definitely be moving in the right direction.

Rio Ferdinand and the BBC panel have had their own fashion problems

Rio Ferdinand and the BBC panel have had their own fashion problems

Nick Bruzon

Is this really the end of the line for Dougie ?

22 Jul

Is the Brentford beard club going to lose its most famous member? In a move akin to Stevie G departing Liverpool, TW8 reacted to reports that Jonathan Douglas seems to have been declared surplus to requirements for the coming season and can leave the club. This, despite having a year left on his contract. And over in Gibraltar, local Champions Lincoln Red Imps hosted Matthew Benham’s other team, FC Midtjylland, for the second leg of their Champions League second qualifying round.

But first, Dougie. A seemingly nailed on selection under Mark Warburton, his time at Brentford looks as though it has come to an end.

To read the rest of this article, season 2015/16 is now available to download onto Kindle (and other electronic reading device) in full, as :   Ready. Steady. Go Again. : Brentford FC season review 2015 – 2016

Thanks for reading and all your comments over the course of the season. For now, it’s the annual clean up to make more space on the site for the inevitable follow up. However, ‘close season’ will continue in full, further along.

But wait, like all the best infomercials, there’s more. The last three seasons of the Last Word : Celebrating like they’d won the FA Cup; Tales from the football village and Ready. Steady. Go Again are also available in one combined volume as: 

Brentford Football Club – The Bees are going up. Season reviews: 2013/14, 2014/15 & 2015/16 

We did. And we still are ! 

What next after a super Tuesday?

15 Jul

Brentford have played their first game under Marinus, Birmingham City (second up at Griffin Park this season) have launched a stunning new kit and Will Grigg has joined Wigan Athletic. Meanwhile, elsewhere in Europe Matthew Benham’s other team, FC Midtjylland, were in Champions League action against Lincoln Red Imps of Gibraltar.

First up, though, Portugal where two Brentford teams (the line up changed at half time) cruised to a 3-0 victory over SC Farense. With only Chris Wickham’s match report and Twitter to rely on, I’m not sure how much we can take from this. Likewise, in a game where 22 Brentford players were used.

Certainly, it seemed comfortable and, as Chairman Cliff Crown noted on twitter at half time, the only thing Jack Bonham caught was a tan – a reference to our dominance rather than his ability. Which, by that logic would then make Sam Saunders a world-class goalkeeper.

Chairman Crown bought comms and match action via Twiter

Chairman Crown brought comms and match action via Twiter

Despite us changing the line up at half time, notable absentees included Andreas Bjelland, Josh McEachran and David Button (read what you will into any of that) but good to see Marcos Tebar get a run out. As interesting was the description of our line up in the aforementioned report as a 4-3-3 throughout with two deeper lying midfield players but their wide attackers pushed high up the pitch.

Sunday at Boreham Wood and then the following Saturday at home to Stoke City give Bees fans, barring a small hardcore who made it over to the Algarve, their first chance to see this in action. I can’t wait.

One player who won’t be there is Northern Ireland International Will Grigg, who has joined Wigan Athletic for a fee rumoured to be GBP1,000,000. Club owner Matthew Benham took to Twitter to offer him his best wishes, saying: “v unlucky in 13/14 with intl call ups, niggling injuries and the form of Marcello, still scored vital goals for us though. Then had a great season at MK last year”

Will seemed an excellent signing, on paper, for Brentford and got off to a flying start with a brace, and a missed penalty, on his home debut against Sheffield United. Sadly, things went downhill from there and a record of 5 goals in 34 games tells its own story.

View from the terrace - Will was denied a home debut hat trick

View from the terrace – Will was denied a home debut hat trick

That said, as he has proven with both Walsall and MK Dons, he can certainly find the net at that level and so who knows just how well he’ll do in future. Good luck, Will.

From our own perspective, it does present an interesting problem as it leaves Brentford with Andre Gray as the only recognised striker on our books (although you could have said the same last season given the way things worked out for Nick Proschwitz). Will Matthew be flexing the chequebook, scouring the European lower leagues of even promoting from within?

The youth team are chomping at the bit whilst we’ve more midfielders than you could shake a stick at. Could Jonathan Douglas or even Harlee Dean (who has been pressed into emergency action before) prove a statistical enigma that nobody had considered previously? Whilst it would mean they were pulled from their traditional positions, competition in those slots is already sure to be tough with some quality players joining the club.

Whilst the Dougie/Harlee suggestion is, perhaps, too far a flight of fancy, stranger things have happened. With four weeks until the big kick off (™), expect more news on that soon. One thing’s for sure, Andre was desperately crying out for some support last time out and I don’t expect us to make the same mistake this time around.

Although we won’t be seeing Will at Griffin Park in league action this season, barring an 11th hour transfer then Clayton Donaldson will be back with Birmingham City. And, it has to be said, he’ll be looking good.

The St. Andrews outfit launched their new kit last night and it is a stunning effort. Whilst the club were keen to point out it harked back to their 1875 incarnation as Small Heath Alliance, the universal reaction was – Thunderbirds. Let’s hope Clayton isn’t pulling the strings for them when they visit.

5 4 3 2 1. Birmingham City are go!

5 4 3 2 1. Birmingham City are go!

Finally, the Champions League. David certainly met Goliath last night as Lincoln Red Imps of Gibraltar travelled to Danish Champions FC Midtjylland for the first leg of their their second qualifying round. There can’t be (m)any Brentford fans unaware that Matthew Benham owns FCM whilst, on a personal note, my own Gibraltarian roots do mean this column is often peppered with references to football life in UEFA newest member.

Indeed, the build up to last night’s game saw the local Gibraltar Chronicle offering Matthew’s Bees a promotion and Premiership place we haven’t, yet, earned.

If only

If only

The final score saw the Danes run out to a narrow 1-0 win, as both Kyle and Lee Casciaro came close for the visitors in the final few minutes. With the return leg to come next week on the Rock, this is anything that the foregone conclusion it looked like when the draw was made.

Could the Gibraltarians cause the shock of the season before league action begins? We’ll keep you posted.

Lincoln Red Imps prepare for kick off

Lincoln Red Imps prepare for kick off

Nick Bruzon

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As ever, should you want to read more about  Brentford  (through the eyes of a supporter) then the amalgamated Last Word compendiums from the last two seasons are available for your kindle. Celebrating like they’d won the FA Cup (2013/14) and Tales from the football village (2014/15) tell the full stories of our promotion and subsequent life in the Championship, through the eyes of a supporter.

Featuring the best of the not so bad columns and some additional, previously unseen material, they’re just another way to get through a few days over the summer as we wait for any more transfer news to be confirmed and the season to start.