Tag Archives: VAR

Let’s talk about Stroud, baby. Let’s talk about him and me. Let’s talk about all the bad things that may be.

27 Jul

And with that, the Keith Stroud we all know and fear was back. Brentford were edged out 1-0 at Swansea in a game that will be forever remembered as yet another ruined by this most terrifying of officials. Just when you thought he couldn’t surpass the ‘battle’ of Bramall Lane with Sheffield United ( three red cards, four penalties and more yellows than a rack of Coldplay CDs) , he’s gone and done it again in a crunch match. This time, sending off Rico Henry for nothing more than cleanly winning the ball from Connor Roberts whilst not even coming close to making contact with the player (until his own run took him over our man). This, with an open game poised at 0-0 and just moments after David Raya had made a quite wonderful penalty save from Andre Ayew. Then Keith did his thing.

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Hmmmmm

Look. No complaints abut Swansea. They played well and the goal they scored was an absolute screamer. Even if it did start down the left back position now bereft of Rico. Great saves from David Raya combined with chances that both Ollie Watkins and Said Benrahma may think they could have done better with in retrospect had this game hanging in the balance. It could have gone either way. And in the end it did – in favour of both Keith and the hosts.

Brentford can bemoan their position but the simple fact of the matter is that we are 90 minutes away from the final. 1-0 in either direction is crazy close. Only a fool, or Mr Stroud, would try and predict how this one is going to play out.

Thomas Frank was furious at full time. Certainly compared to his normal standards. 100% that is not a red card and that Rico will be back in the team on Wednesday. His incredulation at the lack of VAR in a game of this nature was there for all to see as he confirmed that Brentford will be appealing a decision. His view point was one shared by man on social media

Natalie Sawyer: Keith Stroud. Quelle surprise!!!

Sam Saunders: Disgraceful decision surely rescinded?

Marcus Bean: One of the worst decisions I’ve seen

Brentford Official: That is a joke! @ricohenry14 wins the ball on the touchline, it’s not even a foul but he’s been sent off

Skybet Championship official feed: @BrentfordFC’s Rico Henry is sent off. Big question marks over that one for sure! 

Getting any more upset about it than I already am won’t help any at this juncture. If anything, Keith may have given Brentford the opportunity to come out of the blocks flying to right a horrific injustice on Wednesday. Everybody associated with the club is livid. Fuming. Desperate to right the wrong. Frustrated that it was Brentford in the ascendency when the fateful card was shown. David Raya’s quite brilliant penalty save from Ayew giving us a morale boost that was snatched away as quickly as it had been given.

Yesssss. That’s put a bit of juice back in the carton”. Not my words but those of HB. A 7(seven) year old’s wisdom then replaced by a tirade at the man in black which Alex on the Braemar Road paddock would have been proud of.

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Raya playing his own mind games before a huge save

I’m not sure what else to really say at this juncture. A great game, ruined. Swansea may have gone on to win anyway. Brentford might have edged it but that chance was taken away the second Keith did what Keith does. All we can do is hold on for Wednesday and go ten to the dozen in the return leg. Ironically, Alanis, what we had to to do for the final 25 minutes last night. Albeit in different guise.

It promises to be a cracker. All being well, we can have a referee. What a shame that, once again, everyone is talking about Stroud rather than a great game of football.

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At least an old friend returned

Nick Bruzon

100% VAR gets it right. 100%. But who will blink first?

13 Feb

With the midweek fixtures all played out, Brentford find themselves two points off ‘automatic’ and Leeds United still in second place. Just. For a while, it looked as though things may get even better with West Bromwich Albion behind and Fulham crying out for VAR (looked onside to me !) at Millwall. In the end, the Baggies got their win although the Cottagers ended things level. With Preston taking sixth and Bristol City warming up for Saturday’s trip to Elland Road after edging past Wayne Rooney by the odd goal in five, things remain as unclear and open as ever. Only West Brom starting to make a bit of clear air but, as we’ve seen all season, that can change in a heartbeat. Our own game at Birmingham City this weekend couldn’t be any bigger.

Before we go any further, I’ll likely mention Birmingham City a few times in the next couple of days. We’re due to play them  – why wouldn’t anyone do so in that situation? So to try, but no doubt fail, and avoid the usual nonsense about this tinpot team’s apparent obsession with their enormous club, the Griffin Park perspective on why I’ve absolutely relished our teams crossing paths in the Championship is noted further below. Why such pleasure is taken every time Brentford finish above Blues – which has been every season since our return to this level.

Sure… the financial misconduct, the managerial mayhem, that ten times better nonsense or the triple transfer swoop were factors – the sort of nonsense that makes football great in retrospect –  but nothing compared to what had gone before.

Anyway, getting back to the present, one almost had to feel sorry for Fulham last night. Almost. The brief window of opportunity I was afforded to watch that game before Kirsty and Phil started doing battle over Woodford Green property renovation (ah, the Wednesday night price of a green card for the trip to St. Andrews on Saturday is a huge one) saw two early goals and a huge controversy. Aleksander Miitrovic continuing to trade metaphorical punches with Ollie Watkins at the top of the Championship leading goalscorer charts before the Lions equalised with a goal so far offside even I spotted it first time out. Fulham were rightly incensed but, as we struggled to contain the laughs on our couch, the officials allowed it stand. 

100% VAR gets it right. 100%. But there was no VAR. No second chance. No reprieve and things were level. Millwall even had the temerity to miss a penalty and that’s how things stayed. Apparently. What would I know? The things you do for the long term footballing pleasure.  With that result, Fulham go level on points with Leeds United whilst Brentford remain two points off the pair of them. The Cottagers may aswell chalk up the three points now with a home game against Barnsley this weekend but Leeds – Bristol City promises to be another massive one. 

The Robins are just outside the play off zone. Only goal difference keeping them away from a top six that once again plays host to Preston. It really is a case of seeing who can hold their nerve. Who blinks first. Whatever else, something has to give with West Brom hosting Nottingham Forest. I’m beyond trying to figure out who I want to win in these games though. Let’s concentrate on ourselves and hope those favours continue to come.

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As it stands…

That said, we are now at the point of experiencing that additional factor of a promotion shootout. That moment where the run-in starts and every result of every club around us seems critical. Phones are refreshed mid-game as goals conceded and points dropped here, there and everywhere are celebrated with abandon. Where even a win for the Loftus Road team is to be celebrated if it comes against one of the teams in close proximity. Where shifts in the table are tracked, even ‘as it stands’, and all favours are grateful accepted. We’ve had it by the bucketload during this week’s fixtures with Brentford even sitting in second place until Leeds equalised. Walking past Griffin Park on the school run with Harry, we’ve been going through permutations of results and possibilities – it’s amazing how much that can help with arithmetic. So, If Leeds lose, how many points will they have? Where will Fulham be if they beat Millwall?

There are, of course, a lot of games to go. Almost a third of the season still. But with nobody really striking out on their own, albeit West Bromwich Albion have a few points’ breathing space (at present) one can’t help but get drawn in by the situation unfolding around us. Which, as much as anything else, is why Birmingham City is a massive one for us Brentford fans. Regardless of the history. The obsession. 

I’ll absolutely love it if we pick up the points. Might even sing a song at full time. Roll on Saturday – see you there.   

 

Until then, here’s my take on it. Birmingham City – the ‘obsession’

For me the fascination – and it is one – with Birmingham City goes back to the late 80s / early 90s. I’ve written about this before and so apologies in advance but some things feel as though they bear repeating. No matter how forlorn it may be. Yet it is as crucial now as a means of seeing how far we’ve come compared to how things were before. Those of us a bit longer in the tooth will be well aware how our paths crossed over and over back in the day. 

1990-91 saw us go head-to-head in an epic Leyland DAF Southern zone semi with the Blues. Having already disposed of them in the FA Cup second round, Brentford could have fancied themselves as knock out football favourites. But with Wembley beckoning ,  there are no prizes for working out who eventually won both legs to record a  3-1 aggregate win.

The 91-92 Third Division title race famously saw things go our way in the final game of the season as Huddersfield Town and Gary Blissett ‘did the needful’ at Peterborough. A moment made all the sweeter by Saint & Greavsie having already used their Saturday morning show to congratulate Birmingham on being champions.

Deano and Bliss

Things weren’t so sweet the following season as  Birmingham edged past us in the battle to be named the least bad of our respective sides. Both teams fought a desperate, and in our case doomed, battle against relegation from Division One (now the Championship) with that final game humbling at Bristol City being enough to sink the Bees and save the Blues.

However, the coup de grâce was delivered in 1994-95 where, thanks to the joys of Premiership restructuring, there was only one automatic promotion place to the Championship available. With both teams neck and neck at the top, one game stood out like a sore thumb on the fixture list. For months in advance the trip to St. Andrews, only three games before the denouement of the campaign, was the one we all thought would be the crunch match.

Sure enough, it was. In the pressure cooker atmosphere of a packed stadium, where a win for Brentford would have made it all but mathematically impossible for even us to stuff things up, it was Blues who came out on top with a 2-0 win. To this day, I’ve been unable to watch half-time guest of honour Jasper Carrott. I’d love to blame psychological scarring from that result but, in fact, it’s more just his material. Ahhh, insurance claims.(kids, ask your dads).

Oh well, despite defeat at least we were still in the play-offs…..

So, yes. Whilst I DO focus on Birmingham City (a lot) it is as much about the history. About showing how far we have evolved. Rising up out of the primordial swamp and leaving the dinosaurs behind us – in more than one case . Shrewd ownership has proven that you don’t need to spend big to spend clever. Can we take it to the next level? Perhaps Saturday will give a bit more of a clue, but I wouldn’t bet against this race going to the very last weekend of the season. 

Nick Bruzon

Will Sunday Service resume? Have faith in our boys. Whoever they are.

29 Sep

Here we go. 7am Sunday morning and Brentford fans are beginning the trip to Barnsley. Personally, it’s a journey too far for yours truly. This one was covered off yesterday but, in summary, was a decision ratified the exact same second the people at Sky Sports Leeds decided to move us to a lunchtime kick off. That’s football these days and things could be worse. We might be suffering the vagaries of VAR being experienced by those teams a division up. With a rare period of Saturday sofa time able to be enjoyed yesterday, it was an excruciating afternoon of stop-start football as game after game was delayed (Aston Villa and Bournemouth providing the prime examples)  for this much maligned analysis of wafer thin decisions that would have been otherwise imperceptible to the human eye.

Choose your own VAR graphic

Still, at the moment any hope of being caught up in VAR frustration is a nice dream to have. First priority has to be getting back to winning ways. Brentford haven’t had as strong a start as hoped for, certainly given the way we finished last season, and two wins from our opening eight games isn’t form to set the world on fire. We’ve looked wonderful in places. Abject in others.

The decision to sell Neal Maupay was a huge one, no matter how much this was out of our hands (ahh, the joy of agents), which we’ve been slowly adjusting to. Said Benrahma missed a significant period out recovering from injury although is now back and itching to prove his invaluable role in this team. We’ve also been short of two midfield giants. Romaine Sawyers is currently top of the league at West Brom whilst Kamo has had to be content with a place on the bench following his own return and recovery time from an extended African Cup of Nations over the summer. 

Players need to recharge, of course, but I cannot wait to see him back in regular action. He was immense last season and surely, today, is the perfect opportunity for Thomas to shuffle his pack? If there is to be a switch in line up after three games unchanged then his is the obvious name. I’d love to see him start this one, although would be intrigued as to who makes place?

Likewise, it’s probably a bit too soon for Nikos Karelis to be starting a game although I’d expect him to put in an appearance from the bench at some point. We all know how well Ollie Watkins has done in adjusting to his new role but one can’t help felling it is only a short term positional change until we have a more traditional centre forward available. Then again, this is Brentford so who knows.

I had a message from an observer on the New Road last night that simply read ‘4-4-2’.

For a moment I thought he was live-scoring with the Strictly Come Dancing judges but after a moments reflection I questioned two things. 1) How did he know I was watching Strictly? I wasn’t, for the record. Just happened to be in the room at the same time as Mrs. Bruzon had it on TV. 2) It was actually his own suggestion of formation at Barnsley but would we ever go this far? 

Not a hope. There’s more chance of me watching ‘Strictly’. Something that hasn’t happened since the exact same second their best, ever, competitor in Judy Murray was voted off. The show has been dead to me since that moment. Nobody could reach the level she attained, although David James gave it a mighty fine stab last night and deserves to be booted out just for the gratuitous amount of chest hair on display. Not that I was watching. 

TX8 RESULTS SHOW

Safer with Anton than David. Don’t drop….

See also: Wagner being kicked out of the X-Factor. Not one of all those to follow in the illustrious footsteps of the (apparent) singer or dancer has come even half way close to emulating their efforts. If you are going to take part in these trials by TV then at least do it in style. As these two did.

You’ll be doing well to find a better moment than Anton du Beke precariously slinging Judy around a ballroom or Wagner making the effortless segue from ‘She Bangs’ to ‘Love Shack’ whilst positioning himself behind a giant pair of bongo drums.

Wagner bongos

Love shack, baby…. Better than a 0-0 v Stoke City

But we digress. Radically. The point being that Brentford won’t play anything as traditional as a 4-4-2 line up. No matter what prediction has been made by my fellow fan. So it’s Ollie or Nikos to start and, of course, it will be Watkins out of those two. Instead, any line up change will likely be in midfield with the rest of the team pretty much picking itself. Is there room for Nørgaard, Jensen and Mokotjo in the centre? Could any change to accommodate the South African come elsewhere? Or does Thomas keep faith with the team that destroyed Derby County but then struggled to break through against Preston and Stoke City?

One thing’s for sure, don’t take the advice of the numpty if you are looking for tactical insight. As we know full well, Brentford make a habit of constantly surprising us. On and off the pitch. Three games with a settled team is lovely but with a squad chock full of new and familiar faces, could something give when the referee gets proceedings underway at Oakwell? Roll on the 12.30pm team announcement (or 12.32pm on ‘official’) when we find out.

For those travelling to Barnsley, hats off and well done. It is a supreme effort when the game is, of course, available on BBC Radio London DAB or Sky Sports. The later of which is also being shown in the shadow of our own stadium at The Griffin pub.

Billy Reeves, Claire & Gerhard or Simon & Billy (Grant). Whoever you spend your afternoon with, enjoy the game. Win, lose or draw the season remains young and the table is still forming. There’s a LONG way to go in this campaign. Leeds United started at 100mph but things have started falling apart and the Elland Road outfit have dropped from 1st to 4th after picking up 4 points from the last possible 12 available. Beat Barnsley today and we’ll be on better form than Bielsa’s boys following our own 4 from the last 9.

Leeds will come good again. As will we. Starting today. I’m hugely confident about this one and am calling it now……. Away win.

The online bookmaker I use for research purposes also agrees and has us as ‘odds on’ favourites (marginally) at 19/20. Whilst not a game to bet the mortgage on, I take confidence in their faith. Let’s hope Sunday service is resumed at Oakwell.

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Let’s hope Brentford are more competitive today

Nick Bruzon

New signing ‘in’ and a look back at High Street shopping after horror kit reveal.

3 Jul

Sound the ‘incoming’ transfer klaxon. Brentford have confirmed the signing of centre back Ethan Pinnock from Barnsley. The player joined on Tuesday afternoon for a fee that is being widely suggested by local news sources as close to £3m. Elsewhere, Stevenage have launched their home and away kits with their somewhat unusual selections being met with widespread derision. Aswell as a suggestion that they have adopted a motif first set by Brighton & Hove Albion. And in the Women’s World Cup, there’s been horror for England – of more than one variety.

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First up, Ethan Pinnock. The news was revealed yesterday via, amongst other announcements, a somewhat ‘low key’ video reveal. No puffs of smoke, crazy graphics, jingles, cringey hashtags or foreign getaways – just a slow pan across the training ground to a distant shot of our latest acquisition. This can only be a good thing. Both the player and the sensible use of social media. 

He certainly has pedigree and was one of the players of 2018/19 as Barnsley secured a return to the Championship. The club’s player of the year, he had a hand in keeping 21 clean sheets aswell as being named in the PFA team of the season. 

Thomas Frank praised his aerial ability and left foot whilst Director of football Phil Giles told official that, “ The centre back position is an area we clearly needed to strengthen this summer, since both Chris Mepham and Yoann Barbet have left the Club in the last six months without replacement. Ethan fits the bill perfectly and follows a long tradition of good players who have chosen to join Brentford from League One and League Two. We welcome him to the Club and wish him every success”.

This certainly reads like a positive signing which will strengthen a defence that is also missing a goalkeeper after Daniel Bentley joined Bristol City. Presumably more news to come on that front at some point in the near future. Then again, Brentford being Brentford I wouldn’t hold my breath for anything anymore. One thing we continue to do is surprise with our transfer policy – both in and out. The only consistent thing being that, by and large, it is one which has seen us keep on improving as seemingly irreplaceable players are replaced for a fraction of the price.

Anyway, you can read the full story here and f you want to follow Ethan on Twitter he is at @EasyEatss.

Next up, new kit. As Bees fans wait for the 2019/20 away shirt to launch (come on, brown), we’ve been able to turn our attention elsewhere as more and more clubs offer up their latest designs into the public eye. Stevenage were amongst those going yesterday and, it would be fair to say, that theirs has not been well received. As a quick glance to the ‘reveal’ on social media will testify .

My word. Amongst those comments to really hit home were :

“Worst kit in the clubs history”, 

“Worst kit in football history tbh’, 

“Home kit looks like that sheet they put on the Burger King trays”  

“This has to be a joke surely”.

”Burger King as a sponsor and it looks like someone’s thrown mustard and ketchup all over the away kit.”

Although my personal favourite was…

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That was, until, Darren Thompson did his thing and pretty much nailed it.

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If for no other reason than it immediately put me in mind of Brighton and Hove Albion and one of their most iconic shirts – the 1989-91 effort produced by Sports Express. Much like the Stevenage Kwik Save now does, this was one of the first to model itself on a High Street carrier bag – the infamous Tesco design. 

Brighton Tesco carrier bag shirt 1989-91

Must.Resist.Deliberate ‘Tesco bag / shirt (l-r)’ caption mix up

That said, Brighton and Norwich aren’t the only club to have taken inspiration from the shops. Back at the same time as the Seagulls were doing the Tesco thing, Norwich City were aiming a little bit more upmarket.

Their own Asics ‘away’ shirt one which very much put one in mind of a Waitrose delivery van whilst, of course, who could forget the (incorrect) B&Q  / Sainsburys references inspired by our beautiful brown and orange last season?

Norwich Waitrose

Were the Norwich City club shop expanding their home delivery service?

All this does make me somewhat wary about what is going to happen whenever our own change option is revealed. There’s no way we can top 2019/20. Instead, it’s simply a case of crossing the fingers and waiting for Kitman Bob and Umbro to do their thing.

Last night also saw the semi-finals of the Women’s World Cup. England went down 2-1 to the USA, in a game that was, frankly, ruined by two things. Frist up, as ever, ‘that band’. Despite the sell out in Lyon, they were still allowed in – as they’ve been in all games previously – to sour the atmosphere with their moribund and off-key parping. Why? Why? Why? How? Regular readers to these pages know the rant off by heart at this juncture, I’m sure. But wit apologies for laziness, I’m going to repeat one of several variants.

I’m not going to mince any words here. I loathe them. Absolutely loathe them. When the Mexican Wave or Robbie Williams singing ‘Let me Entertain You’ (which you can find on: Now that’s what I call Stadium music, also featuring: ‘We Are The Champions’) have the moral high ground in the low brow sporting tedium stakes then there’s something seriously wrong.  

Given the choice of being gaffer-taped to a chair and subjected to them or Mrs. Brown’s Boys, I honestly think I’d have to side with Brendan O’Carroll performing his toe-curlingly unfunny Irish mammy/man in a cardigan routine. But enough about my private life.

Nobody is celebrating this news

Seriously? Who actually likes them? Who goes to a game thinking that their experience is going to be enhanced by the alleged band of England’s alleged supporters? This self-appointed bunch of footballing cuckoos in the nest. These tedious purveyors of off-key tromboning, repeating those ‘greatest hits ad-nauseaum. I’ve written it before – many times – and will no doubt do so again in future.

What this match needs to liven it up right now is some flaccid parping and a whiny rendition of ‘The theme from the Great Escape’, ‘The Italian Job’ or the National Anthem” Said Nobody. Ever.

So I was already in a bad place by the time VAR killed any remaining atmosphere stone dead. Talk about sucking the emotion, the passion and the excitement out of the game. A series of prolonged second half decisions , both of which were marginal at best, eventually denied England a hair’s breadth equaliser and then granted a soft looking penalty. Both were inconclusive. Both took an eternity. Both were wrong. Both killed the game. England deserved at least the draw. This time around, they had the ball in the et that would have given them that prize. Instead, another step was taken towards the beautiful game being slowly suffocated. Stop it now. Please.

And finally, as ever, I’d be hugely grateful if you were able to please download a copy of the Last Word season season review – containing the least bad of these columns from the World Cup to Aston Villa deserving to win the play offs. It also includes the World Cup aswell as all the ‘Park Life’ articles submitted for the matchday programme and so not previously available on these pages.  

ALL proceeds received are being donated to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust so what better way to remind yourself how brilliant 2018/19 was? To kill a bit of time on the commute to work / on your summer holidays / on the toilet etc You can download it , now, for your kindle , iPod telephone or other electronic reading device here.

At £1.99 it’s cheaper than half a pint so what’s to lose? Apart from £1.99 – which then goes to The Community Sports Trust anyway. Many thanks again. And enjoy.  

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Big new balls. Same old Maradona. And an innovation from Brentford.

27 Jun

The simultaneous sound of a million screen grabs being made and one director desperately screaming “cuuuutttttttttt”. Diego Maradona celebrating that late winner for Argentina against Nigeria in his own unique style is somethign that will long live on in the memory. Last night saw the relentless pace of the World Cup show no signs of abating. A point made even more pleasurable given the afternoon’s bore draw in which Brentford’s Henrik Dalsgaard (now something as locked into the media mind as eighteen year old Ryan Sessegnon’s eighteen year old age, West Ham’s move to the Olympic stadium, Trevor Brooking’s header in the 1980 FA Cup final and West Ham winning the World cup in 1966) made it three appearances out of three for the Dane.  There’s a new ball coming whilst for Brentford fans, we’ve a unique perspective on Lionel Road.

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Goaaaallll!!!

Cripes. The World Cup. We’re not even at the knockout stages and I’m already exhausted. This is just brilliant. The excitement, the pressure, the tears and the joy. VAR has gone haywire whilst over on the BBC, Mark Lawrenson has swung between bizarre brilliance with his ‘UHT’ joke and coming close to self-combustion during the denouement of the Portugal v Iran game.

This is getting seriously good. We’ve had to have a few days down time on these pages, just to catch breath. Plus I was extremely tired and emotional after the England – Panama match. A 6-1 win and two penalties hit so well you’d have thought Harry Kane was German (although, perhaps you could argue he is footballing royalty). It was a score beyond what anyone expected and means England are through to the knockout stages with a game against….. Well, nobody has a clue because Group H is wide, wide open. Poland aside, that one could finish with any combination of Senegal, Colombia and Japan in the top two places.

Then, on Monday, Group B finished up. Spain scraped through after twice trailing Morocco. Portugal hung on by the skin of their teeth against an Iran side who were left dead on their feet and mentally drained after running Cristiano Ronaldo and his team so, so close. It was edge of the seat stuff with VAR conspiring to provide a devastating impact on both games whilst sending Lawro to the heights of apoplectic rage. “It’s farcical” he ranted on more than one instance. You had to sympathise but my God, it made great viewing. If not for the right reasons.

Yet if Portugal had got knocked out they’d have had to doff hats to a team who played a great tactical game. Sadly, I fear we’d have just had Ronaldo in floods of tears. Still, all that’s to come.

DgpHwT0WkAo5rrJAnd then there was the Argentina – Nigeria game last night. It will be remembered as much for the actions of Diego Maradona in the stands. Switching from being caught fast asleep before later giving his own celebratory salute. Less Hand of God and more fingers of dog. He’s an emotional chap, I’ll give him that.

“‘There’s a danger of him becoming a laughing stock I’m afraid“ opined Gary Lineker from the studio. A fair point from the man who saw his Mexico ‘86 dream end via those very same finger tips? Or just more of what was to be expected from one of football’s larger than life characters?

On field, manager Stavros Flatley and his team sneaked through as Croatia topped the group. It sets up a mouth-watering last 16 game between Argentina and France on Saturday afternoon. Here’s hoping the French make it slightly more interesting than they did yesterday. The game against Denmark possibly the dullest in World cup history since records began. If Maradona fell asleep during the Nigeria match, he may need something to help lift him when the French come to town.

The plus point of all that was that it meant Brentford’s Henrik Dalsgaard is also still in Russia. His Denmark team finished second in the group and will now play Croatia on Sunday evening. The same day Spain meet hosts Russia. Wow. Fill the fridge, clear the couch and light up the barbie (cue rather than doll). This could be a long one….

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more, please.

New balls, please. That’s what’ll happen when those knockout stages begin. To date, we’ve been using the black and white Adidas Telstar 18. From Saturday it will be the new red and white Adidas Telstar Mechta. For reasons unknown beyond, presumably, a cash in.

The marketing speak on the official FIFA site is a joy to behold : ”New vivid red design inspired by the colours of the host nation, as well as the rising heat of knockout-stage football”. It continues, “The name Mechta translates as ‘dream’ or ‘ambition’ in Russian and is constructed with the same design elements as the Telstar 18, the ball used throughout the group stage, but adapted to reflect the added intensity and opportunity the knockout stage brings”. We then get to the rather more mundane, “The ball has a brand-new carcass that retains the best of the Brazuca “.

Good news though. Like the ‘18’, the Mechta also has an embedded NFC chip – the first time it is ever been used in an Official Match Ball . Not only does it make this the most innovative FIFA World Cup™ ball to date but, apparently, the chip enables consumers to interact with the ball using a smartphone.”

And there’s me thinking FIFA was just about the money and the sales figures. On the plus side, it does put one in mind of that rather odd, and short lived, Mitre ball from 1980.

red balls world cup

Is that Telstar or Telstra? Curse that typeface

Next up, Henrik Dalsgaard’s Brentford. Have you started to follow The Brentford FC Drone on Twitter as yet?

You can do so here via @TheBFCDrone This is brilliant. I’ve no clue who the pilot is but what a great idea and a fantastic way to show supporters how work is progressing on our new home. Aerial fly bys and progress reports from the Lionel Road build are going up weekly. They have a YouTube channel, too – and there’s a sample video below. Please DO check it out – this is brilliant. The only domestic Brentford story currently better than our awesome away shirt. Here’s hoping the drone action continues when the season proper kicks off  .

Catch it on Youtube, now.

Finally, there’s only a few days for the chance to give one supporter an ultra-rare 2017/18 ‘third shirt’ with Lewis Macleod’s squad number on the reverse in EFL font. Anyone with half an interest in Bees kits will know that these were never made available in the club shop. Indeed, this has been given to me by a source close to the club.   

All you need to do is download one of the Last Word season reviews. This isn’t a get rich slow scheme for yours truly. All proceeds from any sales will go to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust. For less than the cost of a half / pint respectively, they may help while away some time on the commute. By the pool on holiday. In the bathroom. Who knows? It will certainly do some good for the Trust, whose work has been well documented at Griffin Park but you can read all about it on their site.

To be in with a chance of owning this shirt, download a copy of either before the end of June 2018 – details below – and you’ll go into a draw to win this. Just PLEASE DM/tweet me (@NickBruzon) a copy of your purchase confirmation mail and I’ll add your name to the list before an independent adjudicator will select a random Bees fan to win this on July 1st.

The Kindle e-book Ten Times Better. Brentford FC Season review: 2017/18. Inspired by ‘that’ interview it contains the least bad of these columns in one, handy volume as it looks at our own campaign as well as wider divisional life and the promotion / relegation races. As a bonus there’s a whole host of new material. New that is, for my pages. Specifically, all the programme articles submitted (both home and away where, if nothing else, you can get the original versions of both Birmingham City and Millwall).

In addition, There Is No Plan B. Brentford FC Season reviews: 2013/14 – 2017/18 takes us all the way back to the start of this latest leg in the journey. That penalty. League One. Harlee Dean was a hero. Jota was something we thought happened to the temperature for one week in July. Alan Judge had joined on loan whilst the Marinus Experiment was something nobody had contemplated. Bringing things bang up to date by the inclusion of this year’s volume alongside the four previously published campaign round ups, it has five seasons in one weighty tome. As weighty as a download can be, that is.

Relive the memories. See how often the same material gets regurgitated. Remind yourself how it all began….

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Nick Bruzon