Tag Archives: Valencia

Now that, Alanis, is ironic.

9 Aug

A strange, strange feeling. Football began at the weekend yet there was no involvement for Brentford. At least, officially. Whilst Fulham and QPR both earned 1-1 draws in the Championship, the Bees were missing. That’s because we’re in the Premier League this season. I’m not sure if it has been mentioned yet but, quite frankly, it cannot be repeated enough. At least in our house. We don’t start competitive action until Friday evening when Arsenal visit Lionel Road. (Home games with Brighton, Liverpool and Chelsea follow). Finally, the dream has come true. We’re there. The top flight. The West London derby one which will take place against the Champions of Europe, Chelsea, rather than at the other end of the 237 bus route. The whole thing is nuts and I can’t wait.

It’s normally at this point in the season that Brentford have lost that opening game of the campaign – strong starts were never our speciality. We’d be getting ready to berate Gary Lineker on the forthcoming Saturday night when he tells Match Of The Day viewers that “Football is back.” No Gary, it was back last weekend when the EFL kicked off. Now, we’re the ones who are going to be on the BBC’s flagship football programme. For the first time since, well ever. A few fleeting FA Cup performances aside. All being well, shown at the business end of the schedule rather than slipping down the pecking order to the final few games. Hey, I’m a lightweight and have usually fallen fast asleep on the couch by the time Arsenal and the other clubs outside the top six are being shown.

The Bees on Match of the Day in 1989 – ‘That’ FA Cup quarter final at Liverpool

Instead, we’re waiting to kick off the campaign and already having games moved with abandon. Aswell as Arsenal (h), Wolves (a) and Liverpool (h) those with Leicester City (h) and West Ham (a) both being put back a day as a result of our opponents’ European adventures. Traversing the length of the Jubilee line on a Sunday to watch football from 100 yards behind the goal. Sounds fun.

Likewise, the home game with Chelsea due on October 16th remains a Saturday but now has a 5.30pm kick off to accommodate TV coverage. Saturday 3pm very much becoming an aspiration rather than a lifestyle choice. Something we always expected but what an intense way for it to kick in. 

Hey, at least the trips to Crystal Palace and Aston Villa kick off when we’d expect. Assuming we are able to buy tickets. Come on already. The game at Selhurst Park is on Saturday week and no sighting (as it stands). Not that I particularly want to have to use the overdraft facility but if it needs to be further decimated then what finer way than a trip to South East London?

Safe to say we’re excited. The game against Valencia saw our family able to sit together for the first time since Brentford were playing at Griffin Park. Sheffield Wednesday, in March 2020. It’s now August 2021. Cripes, that’s been tough. For all of us and for so many reasons. Each different. Each as hard as the other. Harry loved it. Even Mrs. B was impressed with our new seats. That’s no reflection on her or Lionel Road but, more, the relief. Yours Truly having been assigned the role of donning the virtual reality headseat back in January 2020 to choose seats on behalf of our group.

The fate of 7(seven) supporters resting in the hands of my dodgy eyesight and the reliability of the Brentford FC super computer. Thankfully, both worked to perfection. It’s been a long wait for that seal of approval to be delivered. If for no other reason knowing who will be sitting along side us. Knowing who will be replacing Alex, Courier Man and Missa Partridge in our immediate vicinity. So far, so good on that front. Hello Mary, John et al.

Computer simulation v actual reality

Talking of Alex (Austin), regular readers to this column will be well familiar with the enjoyment that came from his dishing out advice to the referee and his assistants. Those timely reminders of the actual rules of football. Those helpful explanations as to how a flag should be raised. Advice which, whilst hilarious to those of us sitting in the proximity of the touchline, was probably the last thing they wanted to hear. The sigh of relief from FA headquarters almost tangible as finally the move to Lionel Road and everybody being assigned new seats meant that gauntlet was one that no longer needed to be run.

The referee and his assistant often chose to ignore all reminders of the rules

Except…. Post of the week came up on Facebook during the Valencia game. Alex and his family are still on the touchline. Yet, if anything, in an even better position to dish out the helpful advice. Not only to the lino but, now, the fourth official. In his own words, “Referee review screen. I guess they asked for this to be in-front of me given my years of helpful advice to the linesman on the Braemar Road.” 

Sure enough, the accompanying picture is one that already tells its own story. Now that, Alanis, is ironic.

I do wonder if this showed up on the magic helmet or whether the footballing gods have simply delivered the most unexpected of helping hands? Either way, a year and a half on lockdown means we all need to sharpen our skills if the VAR performance on Saturday was anything to go by. No pressure, Alex. Keep it loud against Arsenal.

View from the seat…

Nick Bruzon

A fine win despite key absences and is that an incoming player?

8 Aug

Brentford completed pre-season with a 2-1 defeat of Valencia which saw the Bees go from strength to strength as the game progressed. Despite no Ivan Toney in the squad (conspiracy theories ranging from injury to sale – Tottenham, Aston Villa, anyone? doing the rounds), the arrival of Frank Onyeka from the bench and, seemingly, Yoane Wissa from L’Orient left us with the prospect of even better to come. A day which started so sadly, with news of Bees legend Robbie Cooke passing away at the age of just 64, ended with spirits high and Arsenal next up. You know, in the Premier League.

A winning goal celebrated at Lionel Road

Where to start? A crowd of over 10,000 (not bad for a warm up match) saw Brentford grow in stature over the course of a game in which VAR once again got in the way of proceedings. A goal for Marcus Forss was chalked off within five minutes after we’d all celebrated, prompting much frustration from both the crowd and Peter Gilham on the p.a.

VAR 1 Players 0’ he announced at one point, amongst other choice first half utterings. That tangle with the green screen doing nothing to affect his own skills as he would later reel off a list of substitutions for Valencia, concluding with ,”and one other, I think.”

If you’ve got it, use it…..

Instead, it was the Spaniards who took the lead midway through the opening period. Yours truly missing that one after ‘doing a JJ‘. Urgh. The summary from H and Mrs B being that “they pretty much walked it in”. Yet a goal down at half time soon turned into a rejuvenated Bees XI in the second period. Thanks largely, to that man Onyeka. My word, he looks immense. Dominating the midfield in place of Samman Ghoddos and from that moment on there was only going to be one winner. 

VAR getting in the way to deny what appeared, from where we sat, a clear penalty. Two incidents today and, of course, the Ivan Toney ‘equaliser’ in the League cup semi-final at Tottenham have meant our introduction to the much maligned system has been a less than happy one. Here’s hoping we’ve got the harsh calls out of the way early. Thankfully, in the end, it all proved irrelevant.

Biblical torrents in the second half doing nothing to stop the Bees . Instead, we weathered the storm and took the game to our opponents in some style. Ethan Pinnock got the first, heading home a corner from Sergi Canos. The Valencia ‘keeper given no hope as the big man did his dead ball thing once again. Perfect delivery. Perfect timing. Perfect finish. 1-1 and game on.

Within a few minutes we had the lead. Frank Onyeka with a low finish from the edge of the box to give us the lead after Rico’s cross had caused panic in the box. It was a beautiful finish which, combined with his overall performance (see also: West Ham) suggests the Brentford DOFs have done it again.

Celebrate good times, come on !!!! (‘official’ capturing the mood on Twitter)

It finished 2-1 and could have been more. Whilst friendlies don’t count for huge amounts, I’d rather be winning them and playing well than going home on the wrong end of a reverse. Brentford very much did the former. Onyeka aside, Rico looked strong as did Kris Ajer as part of a three man central defence. His ball carrying skills in particular giving the Bees another route forward. 

There was as much talk about those not selected though. Aswell as Tariqe Fosu and Shandon Baptiste, the absence of Ivan Toney had tongues wagging. Injured? Signing for Spurs to replace the outward bound Harry Kane? Resting? Presumably nothing more than the later with the talismanic front man the absolute first name on the team sheet for Arsenal on Friday. Thomas Frank taking the opportunity for one, last look at alternative systems and players as well as, perhaps, playing a few mind games. “A very minor injury” according to the BT Sport commentary team, apparently.

The other notable absentees being Buzz and Buzzette. That’s it. Pre-season done and no sighting of our iconic mascots. What’s the story, ‘official’? Where are they? Corona can’t be an excuse with those furry suits being about as self-isolating as it is possible to be, a deep sea diver’s get up aside. There’s going to be outrage on Friday night if they remain missing. 

One unexpected sighting was that of Yoane Wissa, if the pictures are to be believed. The player seemingly having signed for the Bees if you believe the GPG. As reliable a source as one could find these days with Jackson Grout on Twitter having the right seat at the right time to snap this one.

Yet on a day which saw a parade of legends prior to kick off, there was one notable absence. That of Robbie Cooke whose passing had been announced earlier in the day. The player, an absolute hero in his time at Brentford with the goal at Wembley in the 1985 Freight Rover Trophy being up there amongst his most fondly remembered moments. 64 is way, way too early and a really sad way to start the day for so many Bees fans, for whom it seems like only five minutes ago Robbie was doing his thing at Griffin Park.   

Instead, there were fond memories and dignified announcements from Peter, a man who has been such a longstanding part of the club and seen all our modern day heroes. Not to mention a few more. With Arsenal here in a few days time, now is the time to dream about who can add themselves to that list. I can’t wait to find out.

Roll on Friday. See you there.

Nick Bruzon

People. Don’t do nothing today.

7 Aug

Matchday. Brentford v Valencia. 9.15 am and the weather is still tipping it down in TW8. Who cares? We’ve got another chance to go to our new home. The formal opening with all sorts of pre-match stuff promised. Another chance to test the pies, have a pint and, of course, see some football. I still haven’t got over the corona enforced absence. I’ll never take for granted again the simple pleasure of being able to watch a game. Even though we’re only 6 days away from the big kick off against Arsenal, life currently feels like something in which any, and every, opportunity must be grabbed. So we’ll be there. The usual prematch drinks followed by a stroll up to Lionel Road. Our new home still within spitting distance of Griffin Park. Indeed, the reverse of the journey we used to take when  – and if Gerhard is reading, please look away now –  on occasion, we fancied mixing it up and taking pre-match at The Express Tavern. Those salt-beef laden burgers weren’t going to eat themselves. Now, that’s nothing but a distant memory with customers piled floor to ceiling in the closest watering hole to our new ground and The Griffin very much the destination of choice on matchday. 

About as short as journey as we could have hoped for from old to new

What else to expect today? Aside from channelling our inner Steve McClaren if the deluge continues? One, final clue as to who Thomas will be starting with against Arsenal on Friday? Three centre backs? Rico Henry tearing it up down the flanks once more? Baptiste and (all being well) Onyeka pulling the midfield strings? Perhaps we’ll get a look at Kris Ajer?

Prior to all of that, we’ve all manner of pre-match stuff in the hour leading up to kickoff with the formal opening of Lionel Road due to take place at 4.30pm. All being well there’ll be the sight of Cliff Crown brandishing a pair of ceremonial scissors (not a phrase that can have been used often) or, better still, Buzz and Buzzette performing the honours. At the very least, lurking in the periphery. 

Our anthropomorphic furry friends were still absent for the West Ham game and concerns for their safety are now becoming very real. Quite frankly, if it gets to next week and we’re deprived the sight of Arsenal running out alongside Buzzette pulling her much lauded funky-dance moves I’ll be ripping up my season ticket in disgust. I mean, assuming it has been delivered. The latest comms from ‘official’ suggesting these should start to land on our doormats in the next day or so. *

Elsewhere, we’ve also got both the on pitch return of the Kurupt FM crew (somebody, please make sure the chief exec’s office remains locked.) aswell as Martin Allen. There’s also the chance to pick up the new look matchday programme. Print deadlines feel a lot more forgiving than over lockdown, which is great news, as is more cover art from Dave Flanagan. Insert swoon emoji. Plus we’ve got Greville Waterman talking about Jota and another piece from my favourite of all contributors, Big Ben Burgess.

Come for the cover. Stay for Jota and BBB

For now, nothing to do except kick back for a few hours. A lazy pub lunch and a stroll up to Lionel Road. Football has been absent from our lives for far too long and I’m not going to let a bit of water get in the way. Tickets remain available this morning should you want to join us. 

Bring it on and see you there. Until then, here’s hoping Jon Varney is polishing up his script…

*Please note: I reserve the right not to rip up my season ticket

Nick Bruzon 

Those funky dance moves aren’t going to bust themselves.

1 Aug

August is upon us. Anything happening this month? Something something something Premier League. Less than two weeks for Brentford to wait until Arsenal come to visit. Exciting times are ahead and, already, under way. Having drawn with Manchester United during the week Saturday saw our first game at Lionel Road since the play-offs. It was the return of Said Benrahama with West Ham United for a pre-season run out that, as much as anything else, gave us a look at new players, old friends and our ‘actual’ seats for when it all starts properly. Of course ‘Corona Virus restrictions (a phrase to top the list of three word horrors) has meant that any entry afforded to our new home so far has been very much in the hands of fate as to where we were positioned. No complaints – even getting in was a privilege but it was an added bonus yesterday seeing how things would be when the season proper kicks off on Friday week.

A new chart topper for 2021

First up, West Ham. The visitors took it 1-0 courtesy of none other than Said Benrahama. It had to be really. The goal was the sort of top draw effort we saw him pull out the bag time and again in Brentford colours. It was a moment of sublime skill and if the hammers had to win, at least it was via spectacular effort that even had the Bees faithful offering respectful applause. Those that weren’t booing him through the game. I get we weren’t going to cheer him after the warm up but booing? Errrrr … Kayla pretty much nailing it on Twitter. Come for the comment, stay for the goal.

See also : the solitary voice constantly calling out 4 game loanee Ryan Fredericks (2012) as a Brentford reject. To do it once could be considered terrace wit. Constantly? Just odd. Still, it wouldn’t be football without a bit of niche reference and, frankly, how good to watch a game with fans present. Even away support who made a vociferous effort in the South-East corner prior to kick off then promptly decided to go all Arsenal i.e. silent.

For Brentford, another game where the opportunity to use the full length of the substitutes bench was taken. Shandon Baptiste impressed again with a jinking (happy, Jim?) run through the Hammers’ defence and a second half shot that came back off the post amongst several highlights. Likewise Frank Onyeka, whose first half performance was littered with impressive touches, runs and passing before injury brought it to a possible early conclusion. Fingers crossed his substitution was nothing more than precautionary. At least he appeared , unlike Kris Ajer who was again absent. Talk on the terrace suggesting that Celtic were delaying his paperwork although how true that is, of course, nothing more than conjecture.

Rico Henry was another welcome return. Pace down the left flank mirroring Mads Roerslev on the right as part of a defence that also included three centre backs. Is this how we’ll go in the Premier league ? Expect more clues on Saturday against Valencia. Regardless, expect Rico to start for sure. Like Josh Dasilva he was much missed in the run in last season and whilst the England U-21 still remains absent, at least we’ve one star name back in the starting XI .

To be fair, though, there was no poor showing. Brentford 2021/22 seem to have hit the ground with a consistently strong start all round. How much of this translates to league football remains to be seen. I tend not to read too much into pre-season showings but as much as anything else, it’s just nice to get back in front of our team. To see old faces aswell as a lot of new ones. To have a beer before and after the game. Even during – given the catering was not up and running at Lionel Road. Fast poor Guinness the way to go along with a lot of spicy offerings on the food front, including that most important of pre-match staples : the chicken balti pie. Even if there didn’t appear to be the more traditional burgers or hot dogs on offer which did seem somewhat of a surprise. Then again, perhaps it was just me being unobservant. Equally, seeing Thomas doing his end of game ‘thumbs up’ felt like things were back to normal.

Full time at Lionel Road

The other major absentees were Buzz and Buzzette. Presumably just waiting for that XXXXX kit to be delivered by Umbro. Who could forget the shameful pensioning off of Gunnersaurus driver Jerry Quy in October? Another victim of the corona virus cull. At the time, chairman Cliff Crown assured us they were safe but, to date, there has been no sighting of our furry friends. Whilst I am sure there is nothing to fear in their protected disappearance, one can only hope they return for Valencia and Arsenal. Those funky dance moves aren’t going to bust themselves.

Initial positivity but further comment definitely still needed

What else to say? Simply put: It was GREAT to be back. Lionel Road is a fantastic place to watch football. It’s not Griffin Park but it IS home. I’ve been lucky enough to make three visits since we were first allowed back for that Blackburn game. I’m enjoying it more and more each time. The anticipation for what it’s like when the place is full is already off the scale. That game with Valencia will be another step closer and then we’re up and running. As much, it was seeing old friends again. Of stopping at The Griffin for a pint or two. Of seeing the play-off final remembered once more. Emiliano may no longer be with us how nice to see Ewan Peleschka still choosing to honour his hero on this season’s shirt. Truly, the hallmark of a champion .

Loyal

Nick Bruzon

Just a bus stop in Hounslow. Yet….

22 Jul

The Premier League is getting closer. With tickets for the West Ham and Valencia pre-season games now on sale to Brentford ST holders, it doesn’t feel long until we will all be back together once more. Even more exciting, the question of who will be in the Bees starting XI has been opened up that bit further with confirmation of our first signings of the summer. The last few days have seen the chewed up biros out in force with Frank Onyeka joining from FC Midtjylland and then, yesterday, confirmation that centre back Kristoffer Ajer has left Celtic for Lionel Road. Both, moves about as telegraphed as a ‘joke’ in an episode of Mrs. Browns Boys yet, like the alleged comedy, nobody was laughing. At least in Glasgow where there were the usual cracks about #teamslikeBrentford. Comedy genius the likes of which we’ve never heard before and a level that Brendan O’Carroll could only aspire too.

Who might be next?

But we digress. With Midtjylland holding Celtic 1-1 on Tuesday night in the Champions League second qualifying, Ajer has swapped the chance to be knocked out of Europe’s top competition before his club’s domestic league has even started for a chance to play in an actual competitive Premier league. A place where more than just Rangers might actually win the title. Insert fishing rod emoji and stand back. 

It’s a great move for him and a wonderful one for us. A Norweigan international and only 23 years old, he fits the Brentford model perfectly. Thomas Frank has described him as his “First choice” signing, telling the told the BBC that, “we think he fits the position specific profile perfectly, especially on the ball….Kris is very composed and can find the right passes between the lines. 

Kris is now a Bee

Then there’s Frank Onyeka. A player whose name has been mentioned for months. Not surprising , given the Midtjylland connection. Another international, the Nigerian is seen by Thomas as a box to box player who has become the dominant midfielder in the Danish league. Our head coach telling ‘official’ that, “His performances in the Champions League last season convinced us that he is ready for the Premier League. 

Just as Kris is going to provide wonderful competition in defence, the battle for midfield places could be equally intriguing. Christian Norgaard and Mathias Jensen both featured all the way to the Euro 2020 semi-finals whilst we still have Vitaly Janelt and then, of course, Josh Dasilva is due to return from injury (at some point.Err….) . Again, all four players with international experience for their respective age groups and Vitaly, in particular, ending his close (closed?) season on a high for Germany.  

Clanggggg. The sound of a name being dropped. I was one of several fans involved in some filming for the Premier League about Brentford yesterday lunchtime (due to go out on Sky / BT August 4th) . It was an article looking at us as a club, our history, at Thomas and what to expect in the forthcoming months. One of the questions was about how we are perceived? The bus stop in Hounslow, the tinpot club who fly under the radar. We know it. We’ve all heard it. We love it. Whilst there was a lot of praise and thanks for Kris, there were as many snide comments from the Celtic faithful. Fair enough. It’s football. Nothing unexpected and the standard response from outside TW8 to anything we do.

Oh, I’ve missed it so much. Genuinely. The sneers. The frustration. Just the fact that we must be doing something right to elicit such a response. To sign such quality. We’re going to get it from certain quarters all season which is amazing given how little of a shit we give about any of that nonsense, beyond thriving off it. Beyond lapping it up and telling the joke ourselves. As Billy Reeves, amongst others, has noted: “In July 2013 we gave up three-quarters of our ground to Celtic fans for a friendly. Today we sign their star defender for £13.5mill.”

Football is definitely coming home (somebody really should write a song about that) and you can now count the weeks until the big kick off on the fingers of one hand. We’ve got the official shirt launch on Saturday and then the trip to Old Trafford next week. 

Now to ring up the boss and see if I can work the day out of our Manchester office. Pretty sure there’s a bus stop down this way I can travel from.

Just a bus stop in Hounslow…..

 

Nick Bruzon

A chance to remember ‘that’ goal then look forward to an epic build up.

13 Jul

And thus pre-season was complete. At least, in terms of the calendar. Hot on the heels of our trip to Manchester United, Brentford have had the final two games of the build up confirmed. Saturday 31st July sees a visit from West Ham United with Spanish outfit Valencia next up in a 5.30pm kick-off the following Saturday (7 August). Six days later it all starts when Arsenal jump on the Piccadilly line to South Ealing. Full details are on ‘official’, with the Valencia game expected to see a full house and even some away fans present for the visit of West Ham (presumably, actual fans rather than those in the half/half scarves).

Arsenal are a short tube ride away

With all Corona bets off from July 19th – albeit we’ll see how long that lasts – the next natural step is for Brentford to go for broke in terms of capacity. The Valencia game has been declared as the formal opening of our new stadium and I can’t wait. The atmosphere against Blackburn and Bournemouth was nothing short of incredible. When the place is full – and especially when Arsenal visit for a full blooded, full fat encounter – it only promises to be immense. More importantly these are three tests that, at least in terms of opposition, one would hope may provide a bit more a steer as how the Bees will fare in the forthcoming season. Assuming both teams go full tilt rather than use them as an experiment in squad rotation. 

We’ll likely end up somewhere in between but as much as anything else its just an excuse to go to football once more. Why wouldn’t you. Cripes, we’ve missed it. Desperately. Euro 2020 showed that, as if any reminder were actually needed, despite the painful on-pitch denouement to that competition (can’t even begin myself to start about the shameful stuff that happened off it). We’re still wiping up the tears in our house even now. A brutal punch to the stomach of a young boy who has so far experienced a World Cup semi-final and a Wembley win to reach the Premier league. Normally unshakeable faith in his team now tested once more following our assault by Fulham in the previous play-offs. Oh well, like Doncaster Rovers and Yeovil Town you can file them in the ‘where are they now?“ files.

Which pretty much sums up the quite magnificent enigma that is Brentford FC 2021. That we can now mention Yeovil and Doncaster in the same breath as Manchester United, Arsenal and Valencia. Talk about time being a great healer. Talk about looking forward to enjoying every moment of the most monumental season for our club since records began. Sink or swim? Stay or go? Still under the radar and under rated or flying high from the off? Nobody gives us much of a hope, although Ivan Toney’s popularity in the Fantasy football stakes suggests otherwise. Personally speaking, I’m hugely optimistic (quelle surprise) although will perhaps forego the annual bet on Brentford to win the league. Something that, over the years, has seen us just about in net-gain territory. Perhaps it may be more prudent to go ‘each way’ , this season. 

This far in to a small piece on West Ham and no mention of Said Benrahma. Yet. Ah, it’ll be great to see him back and no doubt there’ll be an appearance. A player up there with Jota in the ability stakes and one who has gone on to the next level, despite yet to break into the first team on a regular basis. He was AMAZING at Griffin Park. He had that brief cameo at Lionel Road when scoring ‘that’ goal in the league cup against a hapless Fulham outfit. The turn and beautiful back-heeled nutmeg before rounding Michael Hector to unleash the mother of all shots. No doubt he’ll warm up to a heroes welcome before it all goes ‘panto villain’ once the game starts. 

‘That’ goal against Fulham last season..

What an opportunity for us to lay down a marker as to how far we’ve come. The fears that selling him and Ollie Watkins would see Brentford come to nothing last season, dispelled as quickly as Fulham’s Premier league survival hopes. The faith shown by those that stuck by Thomas and the team rewarded in the most incredible style at Wembley in May. The moment still feels as fresh now as it did then. It was a long time coming and still deserves to be enjoyed to the max. A moment to provide all the inspiration we need going forward.

With the Bees back in training already you can be sure Thomas will have us set to hit the ground running. The Euros have gone. The close-season (closed?) break now feels over. Sure, we‘ve a month to wait until the Premier League kicks off properly but now it feels as though the clock really is ticking. As though we are racing full tilt towards destiny. Now, the only things in the way of that season opens with Arsenal are Manchester United. Are West Ham. Are Valencia. 

My word, this is going to be fun…..

And as our regular final thought, the entire Last Word from 2019/20 aswell as all the programme articles (previously unpublished on line) and our season-finale guest columns from Natalie Sawyer and Kitman Bob remain available for download. The later in particular, my favourite column of the season as the inside story of the big build up to Wembley was revealed.

With all proceeds going to Rob Rowan’s memorial fund for CRY, we couldn’t be looking to try and help a better or more personal cause to Brentford FC. If anybody can spare a few quid to help and wants to get hold of an amazing story, told averagely, then they can do so here. THANK YOU

Until then, why not enjoy that Benrahma goal one more time…..

Nick Bruzon

ITV on the rise but will Sky scrape the barrel? And what of John Swift?

27 Mar

There was mixed news on the International front last night. Despite many enjoying the 3-2 win for England in Germany, it was the performance of the U-21 team that saw potential bad news for Brentford where Chelsea loanee John Swift limped off less than half an hour into the game with a bloody foot. Elsewhere (and I need to thank the statistical demigod that is Luis Melville for his Twitter tip-off) there was terrifying news from the Daily Mail.

But first, England. What a night – primarily because the alleged  Supporters’ band couldn’t be heard over the TV speakers. Were they even in Berlin? Who cares! The lack of jingoistic parping from their off-key trumpets was music to my ears. If I wanted to hear the theme tune to the Great Escape I’d simply watch TV on any Bank Holiday.

That was my on-field highlight. Yes, of course the goals were wonderfully taken although if you want any form of match report than, as ever, I’d suggest the BBC. The said, the win was hard fought with the ITV commentary team doing their best to jinx it at the death. Eric Dier’s injury time goal was met with declarations of “A winner in Germany” and “a winner on his debut”, despite there still being 90 seconds on the clock.

The other plus point was the performance of Lothar Matthäus  in the punditry position. Channelling the look of Paul Robinson – Neighbours, rather than Birmingham City or Burnley – he was that rare example of an ITV pundit who it was actually a pleasure to listen to. Dead pan humour, common sense and a great reading of the game. Let’s hope they snap him up for the Euros over the summer.

Kit wise, just about everybody has said their piece on this already. England opting for traditional red with burgundy sleeves and blue socks (very much Dagenham & Redbridge 1995, as one Twitter observer noted) whilst Germany elected to wear two tone black/dark green(?) with lighter green sleeves. And don’t forget the white stripes down the side from armpit to hem that looked like a somewhat unsightly deodorant stain.

Screen Shot 2016-03-27 at 19.02.18

As the regular reader will (should one exist still) be aware, I’m all for the unusual and a bit of variety in team kit. These, however, both looked like the product of a “What might go well with jeans?” marketing meeting. And those blue socks should never see the light of day again.

For me Clive, this has surpassed the 1994 effort (oversized flappy collars, all those subliminal badges and a shade heading towards burgundy) as the worst ever England away shirt.

As a final thought on the game, what was with all the adverts for ‘Hooch’ that kept flashing around the pitch? Surely that died out in the 90s with Global Hypercolour t-shirts, VHS cassettes and ‘Eat my shorts’ ? Or are Student Union bars (three of the most terrifying words in the English language, to rank alongside ‘Rail Replacement bus’) about to see a resurgence?

Vintage-england-away-football-shirt-top-umbro-rare-classic2_1024x1024

No longer the worst England away shirt

Next up, John Swift. With Josh McEachran still being reported out injured (and the club saying nothing to deny these stories, unless I’ve missed it) there would have been heart in mouth when he got injured last night. Despite my best searches of the internet – and it is frustrating how often a search for his name is thrown off track by: Taylor Swift, Dear John – the most we know so far is that he has a cut foot judging by the pictures circulating on Twitter.

How bad this is remains to be seen although I am sure we’ll learn more today. Whilst he has, for the most part , divided Brentford supporters during his loan spell from Chelsea, one thing we can all agree on is that another injury is the last thing we need at this pivotal point in the season. We all recall how Chris Long’s nasty gash impacted him at the tail end of the previous campaign and so let’s hope this isn’t a case of déjà vu.

I’m not a hypocrite. I don’t think Swift has had the best start to his career at Griffin Park. An over indulgence on the showboating and tendency to lose the ball has been a frustration yet, at the same time, he clearly has ability as we have seen in patches. The Wolves game in particular highlighted what he can do when we get his ‘A game’. Besides, you don’t get called up for the England U-21’s unless there is something there.

Equally, and as we are reminded time and again, he IS a young player who is still learning his game. These skills and judgement calls will come as his game develops. John has become an easy target in some circles but at a time we need everybody pulling together, let’s hope his substitution was a precautionary one and we have him back, on top form, this Saturday.

Ok. The Daily Mail. Or, rather, Mailsport online have run a disturbing story to suggest Sky will be revamping Friday night football next season to make it, what seems to be, a bit more ‘laddish’. Nuts magazine does football if you will, as guest presenters are suggested to include – brace yourself – the likes of James Corden and Holly Willoughby.

Before anybody mistakes this for any form of misogynistic rant, let’s be 100% clear. I’ve got no issues with women presenting football. Quite the opposite. I think Kelly Cates has been the shining star in the (initially at least) car crash that was Football League Tonight whilst Gabby Logan has been doing her thing, brilliantly, for almost twenty years.

And, of course, who could forget our own Natalie Sawyer who has had her feet under the presenter’s desk for so long that she probably knows more about the beautiful game than most of us put together. (Perhaps Sky should be looking ‘in house’ where, of course, Natalie has also shown her punditry skills on Football League coverage?)

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Natalie at the Sky Sports desk – feet not pictured

My issue is with novelty presenters. Comedians great. Football great. Just please don’t combine the two. Nobody needs another ‘Russell Brand’ guesting on Match of the Day.

Football punditry is three men or women, who know about football, sitting on a sofa and talking about the game. You don’t need to jazz it up anymore. We’ll still watch.

Will anybody, honestly, say: “It’s Chelsea – Leicester City tonight. I was going to give it a miss but Gary Neville is busy with Valencia so Holly Willoughby is presenting. Get the Hooch in and make room on the sofa” ?

Aside from the fact that I’ve got more chance of managing Valencia than Gary Neville next season I can’t believe that situation is going to play out anywhere. Who needs Lothar Matthäus when we could have the host of Surprise Surprise, This Morning and Streetmate (don’t remember that one)? I’ve nothing against Holly per-se but when her sporting pedigree peaks at ‘Celebrity Wrestling’ and ‘Dancing on Ice’, perhaps one to give a miss.

Comedians, alleged or genuine, don’t mix well on football

Nick Bruzon

Manchester United in Europe and Dean Smith dominate Derby build up

19 Feb

With Brentford preparing to take on Derby County this weekend, Dean Smith was in buoyant mood at yesterday’s press conference. There was more from the club’s ‘phone a fan’ scheme where Alan Judge was in the hotseat and, of course, European football has been at the forefront of our attention with Manchester United, amongst others, making the news.

But I wanted to start with a few quotes from Dean’s press conference in regards to the Derby game. The Bees recent form of nil points, no goals, 7(seven) against from the games with Brighton and Sheffield Wednesday isn’t great. But for those who think we are in free fall, spare a thought for our opponents.

A change in manager wasn’t enough to reverse the fortunes of a team who have lost four and drawn four from their last eight league games. It is a worrying run of form for a side that have come ‘so close’ in the last two seasons and would be looking to go one better this time around. That they still remain in the play-off zone is testament to their early season form and the Rams will, no doubt, be bang up for three points this weekend with Birmingham now breathing down their necks.

It is a view shared by Dean Smith who noted “They got beaten last week and will be looking for a reaction. You only have to look at their squad to know what a good squad it is.

Obvious but true. On the flipside, one can only hope the squad that Dean has left to play with can also produce a reaction. The performance against Wednesday produced some horror defending, outside of the redcard that we won’t be appealing despite the ongoing belief that the ref “couldn’t make that decision from where he was.

The one positive I guess is that at least our head coach has acknowledged this. He could hardly not, to be fair. “The manner of the goals we conceded was not good” would seem to be somewhat of an understatement but, if we can stop shipping them quite so readily, that’ll be half the job done. Then we just need to find our way at the other end …..

Next up, yesterday’s European football.

Cup fever had this corner of West London gripped last night with the draw for the Gibraltar Rock Cup. Glacis United face a nightmare tie with all-conquering Lincoln Red Imps. They, of course, reached the second qualifying round of this season’s Champions League, before narrowly missing out to Danish side FCM . And given our current fascination with all things Manchester United, their Gibraltarian equivalents (in name, at least) the rebranded Manchester 62 face College 1975. Ties to be played the week of March 16 and you can see the full draw below, c/o @GibFootballTalk.

rock cup. updated

On the subject of Manchester United, it would be remiss of me not to mention the Europa League.

If you think Derby County are on a bad run of form, Gary Neville hasn’t exactly had things easy since taking over as manager of Valencia . How that has changed! After getting his first league win at the weekend, last night he saw his team become the first to score five goals in the opening half of a Europa League game. Agonisingly, Valencia fell one short of a 7(seven) -0 bracketing as they eventually ran out 6-0 winners over Rapid Vienna.

And finally, Brentford’s excellent ‘phone a fan’ scheme continued yesterday with Alan Judge manning the switchboard and the club having to convince another fan that yes, our man of the moment really had just called them up.

As ever, the background detail on these stories is what really makes them. The motivational pep talks aren’t just confined to our press conference, if the white board in the ticket office is to be believed.

Nick Bruzon