Tag Archives: Wembley

Farewell, Harlee Dean. Will it be adios Jota next?

31 Aug

Sad times for Brentford fans.  As anticipated these last few days, Harlee Dean has joined Birmingham City for an undisclosed transfer fee thought to be £2million. He joins Sam Saunders in breaking my four year old’s heart as two of his three favourite players departed Griffin Park to join what is known as ‘The naughty team’ (i.e. anybody who isn’t Brentford). That was a ‘fun’ conversation last night. Good luck and everything Harlee, genuinely, but the fallout from your move has been catastrophic in our house.  I’m only hoping that Jota doesn’t make it a full house today. Where, on the positive side, after yesterday’s early morning stories there has been tumbleweed out of Fulham.

With the transfer window due to slam shut(tm)  today, have Cottager’s fans been getting themselves excited a bit too early? Could the talismanic Spaniard be heading elsewhere? Or might, just might, there be a chance of him defying all expectation and staying at Griffin Park? Still, that’s to come. First up, Harlee.

I can only wish Harlee Dean the very biggest of thanks and the best wishes for the future. With the obvious exception of when he plays against us. I get the feeling already that he is going to be one of those players applauded back onto the Griffin Park pitch in the warm up when Birmingham come to visit in February, such has been the outpouring of love from the vast majority of supporters on social media. Although what happens once the real action kicks off, who knows?

The love for Harlee is obvious. What hasn’t he done at Griffin Park? There are those obvious staples of a Brentford centre back – the red cards, the own goals, the air kicks. But those were the thin end of the wedge. And besides, if he was the finished article from day one he wouldn’t be at Brentford or Birmingham City but Barcelona or Bayern.

Yet what we got day in, day out was passion. Was commitment. Was guts. Was a man who wore his heart on his sleeve when wearing the red and white. Was a man whose game improved so much that it culminated in him being named player of the year. How wonderful to see him develop as a player over those six years.

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Harlee Dean – never backward in coming forward.

A man who has been through it all with us. ‘That penalty’. Play-off heartbreak. Yet, at the same time, along with Robbie Cooke becoming only the second Brentford player to score a goal at Wembley in a competitve fixture. That being the ill-fated game agasint Yeovil Town (how is that working out for you, Glovers?).

He was there for the resurgence at Leyton Orient when we celebrated like we’d won the FA cup. Coming off the bench to shore up our ten man team in a backs to the wall siege following a red card for number 26.  There to see us gain promotion to League One. There when we humped Fulham time and again. There to see us finish above Birmingham City in the Championship these last three seasons.

Six long seasons. Six wonderful seasons. A man who won an ‘unsung hero’ award for his actions after a young supporter was hit by a car. A man who, himself, was hit in the face with a fish by Will Grigg on one pre-season tour (below). A man who would always take time out for fans and, as noted, was a hero to my son when we went to watch the Bees.

Birmingham fans wondering what sort of player they are going to get, Harlee is certainly one of a kind. In these days of identikit and bland footballers simply in it for the money and the next big move, you’ve got a wonderful addition to the dressing room and a player with the potential to make your armband his own, just as he did ours.

Great days fishing after training… Finished off with a fish slapping contest… @willgrigg9

A post shared by Harlee Dean (@harleedean6) on

I could talk about Harlee’s positives for hours. But, frankly, you’d get bored. Players come and go. That’s football. I get that. But, like Sam, he was one of our few remaining links to the past. To the League One days. To the times we were building a team and a squad to try and escape the lower leagues. All that is gone as he has now joined Birmingham. A team he would yesterday describe as, “A massive club, obviously the biggest one in Birmingham.”

Still, time to put all that behind us. Instead, we’ve a deadline day to sweat through. Although, perhaps, if there is one image that sums up Harlee. One that shows off his cheeky side. Reminds us of the odd gaping hole (sorry), it was the time he decided to join club captain Kevin O’Connor in an interview with Chris Wickham. Except King Kev wasn’t aware he had company…

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Farewell, Harlee Dean

Nice one Harlee. Good luck, so long and thanks for all the memories.

But wait, there’s more. Or there could be. Whilst we may have been denied the opportunity to see Harry Redknapp leaning out of a car window on Wednesday, there’s always today. Transfer deadline day. And for Brentford and Fulham fans, the word on everybody’s lips remains: Jota.

Will he go? Will he stay? Where might he end up? Is there any hope he’ll be running out against Aston Villa next Saturday? And if he does, will it be his choice or simply down to a lack of acceptable offers?

Yesterday was bad. The tension, the pressure, the scares coming across my twitter timeline. The constant observations of Ian Moose being retweeted over my social media feed. His presence about as welcome as a visit from Mrs. Brown. With or without ‘her’ ‘boys’. The only positive there being he wasn’t talking about pies or wishing a happy birthday to ‘his good friend’. But there were still the obligatory photographs of him with just about anybody who was the subject of a rumour.

Well if there’s one straw we can grasp at, then looking through Twitter I can’t find a picture of the Talksport shockjock posing alongside ‘The King’ for an obligatory photo. Should the sale happen, then at least we won’t have Moose rubbing our face in it with pictorial evidence.

Then again, that could just be my terrible ‘search’ skills.

Today promises to be long. It promises to be angsty. It is crying out for a cryptic tweet from Matthew Benham. A reassuring word from Jota. IF the Fulham story has any truth, then it promises to unleash cyber civil war across TW8.

So instead, let’s just share this beauty from iFollow’s own Mark Burridge. If anyone knows a thing or two about Jota it’s him..

  Nick Bruzon

 

 

 

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One out of three ain’t bad. Ian Holloway does it again as Huddersfield make it so (sorry).

30 May

That really is it. Football is over for the season. Congratulations to Huddersfield Town who made it up to the Premier League after beating Reading on penalties. For the Royals, a return to Griffin Park awaits as they endured a pain us Brentford fans know only too well – play off capitulation.

In truth, the first ten minutes aside, it was a dreadful game. Huddersfield came flying out of the blocks and looked like they were going for broke. Yet after missing two gilt edged chances from Izzy Brown and Michael Hefele it soon settled down into a game of cat and mouse. Cagier than a cage fight between Nicolas Cage and Xander Cage, it was two and half hours we’ll never get back.

But frankly, who cares? Whether you win on penalties or in a 4-3 goalfest, the net result is the same. Promotion for one side and tears for the other.

So football aside (and largely because there wasn’t any) what did we learn from yesterday’s game? Well, apparently Patrick Stewart was there. Yes, I know, you probably missed it too.

The Star Trek and X-men actor being to Huddersfield as Rhino from the Quo or Cameron Diaz (allegedly) are to Brentford. And once the cameras had picked him up, that was it. We saw as many shots of him as we did of Reading fans crying. Yes Sky, we get it – there’s Picard. Again. All we needed was a ‘make it so’ pun for a full house.

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What a miss from Izzy Brown

We learned, once more, that penalties are a most wonderful thing for the neutral to watch. Yet for the players and fans the most painful of all ways to decide promotion. Unless you are on the winning side in which case seeing your fate revealed at the exact moment of that one, decisive kick must be the most incredible feeling ever. Again, something us Brentford fans can’t really relate to. Play-off success (8 doomed attempts so far) or promotion sealing penalty kicks being something that we don’t overly talk about.

But the real talking point to come out of it was that Ian Holloway is to making pre-season predictions as Donald Trump is to tact and diplomacy. We’ve already mentioned his efforts for Sky TV on these pages many times. Holloway, not Trump. Indeed, they form much of the thrust in the current 2016/17 Championship season review. That’s available now on e-book, with all proceeds going to the Community Sports Trust.

But a focus on Holloway is no surprise given his prediction of Brentford to finish 22nd, and the narrative:  “Brentford are regressing. Mark Warburton got them punching above their weight. They still haven’t replaced Andre Gray and Alan Judge will be missing for the start of the season. They could be in trouble”.

Well, that one was thrown royally back in his face. We did the double over QPR, including a 3-1 win over his side at Griffin Park, as the Bees finished 11 points and 8 places above the not so super hoops. Our own management had immediately poo-poo’d his prediction at the fan forum and how great to see the confidence rewarded.

But for Huddersfield Town, he predicted even worse. They came out at 23rd in his table and his own summary of their fate was: “I haven’t seen much progression from the club during the back end of last season. David Wagner is pretty inexperienced and if results turn, then they may struggle to turn things around”.

If 22nd to 10th was a mile out, then 23rd to the Premier League was  his failng to hit a barn door with banjo in a brewery. An incredible miss on the punditry front.

It was a point well made in the aftermath of Huddersfield triumph. Not by the fans but the manager, who offered “Ian Holloway , all the best for the next season” . And the team, chanting “There’s only one Ian Holloway” as they celebrated in the dressing room.

Hey, at least Ian got basement club Rotherham United right. One out of three ain’t bad, I suppose.

Congratulations David Wagner. Congratulations Huddersfield. Tough luck Reading. We’ll see you at Brentford next season.

And, as noted earlier, 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 16 to May 17, you can pick it up, here. It’s all for a great cause and, hey, you may even enjoy it, Unless your name is Ian H…..

Nick Bruzon

This is the big one (for Wagner). And a special ‘thank you’ for Bees fans.

29 May

This is it. Today’s the day Brentford discover their final Championship opponent for next season. The play-off final sees Huddersfield Town and Reading doing battle in the, so-called, £100million match. Certainly, that’s the figure usually quoted in TV revenue for the team fortunate enough to come out on top in the choke off (there’s no other word for it) to reach the Premier League. That said, reading an article in The Independent last week, they are quoting it being as much as £170m rising to £290m. That’s just incredible.

For the winner . Riches and acclaim. Then the chance to see if they’ll emulate the likes of Watford, Bournemouth or Burnley in survival rather than Hull City and Middlesbrough with an immediate return. For the loser there’ll be tears, ‘if onlys’, the chance to come back Griffin Park (see – its not all bad) and inevitable comparisons to Derby County.

As a neutral, I love watching the play-offs. Moreso, this match. The FA Cup on Saturday was fantastic. Much as it loathes me to say it, Arsenal fully deserved their victory as Premier league Champions Chelsea were swept away. Victor Moses performing the worst dive since Greg Louganis cracked his head on the board during the 1988 Olympics pretty much summed up their effort.

Yet talking to a friend in The Griffin (other pubs are available) during the game, the conversation turned to the relevance of that tournament. It is the world’s oldest cup competition and, as a Brentford fan, I’d simply love us to do well. To embark on an epic cup run. To perhaps emulate that wonderful run of 88/89 or even go one better. To take a tinfoil cup to Wembley itself.

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The Bees haven’t reached an FA Cup quarter final since Liverpool in 88/89

But for other teams, certainly at the business end of the top flight, it is treated largely as an afterthought throughout most of the campaign. Weakened teams are fielded in what has become more of a nice to win than a need to win. Qualification for the Champions league, and the riches/prestige that come with that, is very much viewed as the ‘must have’ prize by many.

Did Spurs have a better season by finishing second in the Premier league and reaching that European tournament? Or could Arsenal, who played like they really wanted it, be argued to have been the more successful through getting their name on a trophy but missing out on the big one in Europe? The romantic in me says it is the FA Cup. The realist in me knows just what the Champions league can bring in terms of revenue and reputation to those clubs whose financial model and being able to compete absolutely rely on repeat qualification.

As it stands, Brentford are yet to make an FA Cup final (I’m not counting the War cup) or reach the play-off for the Premier League. That said, we gave it quite a go in 2014/15 when Middlesbrough were all that stood between us and a trip to Wembley for a crack at the top flight. Move along. Nothing to see here beyond another notch in the bedpost marked ‘challenging record’ after 8 attempts made.

Yet I’ll absolutely be glued to the screen this afternoon when Huddersfield and Reading walk out. This is no ‘nice to have’ match. This is all about the pressure and the reward that comes with victory. Everybody knows what is at stake. It is a game that combines the prestige of winning the FA Cup with the finances that come with making the Champions’ league.  There’ll be a global audience tuned in to this in a battle of who can hold their nerve.

Let’s be honest, nobody could pick a definite winner out of these two. I’m still amazed Reading made it, certainly based on the way Brentford played against them this season. Huddersfield led the table early and did the double over the Bees, yet it was the Royals who came third and despatched a very, very good Fulham team along the way. Much as it pains me to admit.

Instead, we’ll just have to leave this one to the players on the day. Who wants it more? Personally, I’m backing David Wagner’s team. And for no more illogical reason than the oft made reference on these pages to him and that one time X-Factor singer, err, Wagner.

Well, it seems that now worlds have actually collided. And how!! I’m not sure if this is car crash or sheer brilliance. Enjoy…

And finally.. a HUGE thank you to call those who have already downloaded this year’s e-book: Welcome Home, King Jota (Brentford FC season review 2016/17)

Priced at just £1.99, all funds from this one (and the previous titles) are being given to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust.

Containing the least bad of the blogs from May 16 to May 17 you can pick it up, here. Along with all the usual Brentford stuff, we look at how the Championship season played out as teams came and went aswell as the ‘other stuff’ (fans of Mrs. Brown and her boys should probably look away now).

Hearing Yoann Barbet and Lasse Vibe speak at the player of the year dinner after sharing the Community player of the year award for the work they do with the Trust was truly inspirational. We all know how wonderful our club is and so, from a personal note, I’d love to make some gesture back – no matter how small.

Downloading any of the titles is now for a great cause. Hey, you may even enjoy reading. Funnier things have happened.

THANK YOU

This is it - the latest version now available. For a great casue

The latest version now available – for a great cause
Nick Bruzon

That Sky One Harchester United thing. Dear Sky TV, Andy Ansah, Richie et al….

3 May

These pages usually talk about Brentford FC but, occasionally, we look further afield than Griffin Park. Today is just one of those. It is a time when we need to look back to look forward. And also ask the question – is it time for a footballing renaissance?

That Sky One Harchester United thing”. Not my words but those of Absolute Radio DJ Richie Firth, talking on Wednesday morning’s Christian O’Connell Breakfast show. Regular readers may well be aware of, amongst other things, the show’s role in resolving the Cameron Diaz / Brentford story (something which, for the record, our own club commentator par-excellence Mark Burridge also had a hand in at one point).

But this was not a discussion about celebrity fans (or lack of). Instead, it was talk of actor Ricky Whittle and his current role in TV series American Gods. The actor, who has also appeared in Hollyoaks and on Strictly Dancing, is probably best known for playing Ryan Naysmith on what Richie had called That Sky One Harchester United thing. Or, of course, Dream Team.

Ahh, Dream Team. Running for ten series, the show was centred around the ongoing and progressively more outlandish events at fictional football club Harchester United. Combining real life stadia and action (often Leicester City, Chelsea or Everton but with the contrast turned up to make their blue shirts look like Harchester’s purple) the show was as loved for its crazy plots as the frequent use of celebrity cameos. From Ron Atkinson to John Barnes, even one time Bee’s boss Steve Coppell had a go at channeling his inner Marlon Brando. It wasn’t good.

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

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Ansah – wonderful Tekkers

I caught up with Andy a few years ago whilst writing a ‘Where Are They Now’ article for the Griffin Park match day programme. It goes without saying that the main topic of conversation was this wonderful, wonderful show. It was a truly privileged behind the scenes insight (and you can read more below) but, if I’m being equally honest, since finishing in 2007 the show has slipped from most people’s memory.

But then Wednesday saw Richie do his thing, even taking to Twitter where he noted, “Everytime I pass the Dragon’s Lair on the train at Millwall I get misty eyed. Bring it back @sky1”

Boom. Quicker than you could say Karl Fletcher, Lynda Block or Luis Amor-Rodriguez (think of a low budget Jota) the memories came flooding back.

Murder at the FA Cup final. The plane crash. The coach crash. The coach explosion at the Millennium Stadium. Liverpool (the real Liverpool) being linked in the papers with a £3.5 million swoop for Didier Baptiste back in 1999. Cue much egg on face when it transpired they weren’t actually bidding for a Monaco player but actually looking at a character from a TV show.

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L-R, John Black, Luis Amor-Rodriguez, Karl ‘Fletch’ Fletcher, Sean Hocknell

It wasn’t just me. Pick of the highlights to subsequently flood Twitter was that of @JohnDryden1 who noted: Lawlor in goal? That must of been after Jamie Parker held his team mates at gun point in the changing room.

As you do.

But now, ten years on, is it time to bring back Dream Team? Does Richie, a one time self-proclaimed soothsayer of scores, have his finger on the footballing pulse once again?
Would people watch it ? Yes, yes and yes have to be the answers to all three questions.

Sky 1, if you are reading (you probably aren’t ) how about it? Natalie Sawyer, any chance you could have a word with the bosses?  Andy Ansah (again, probably not reading), if anybody has the contacts it must be you?

With Griffin Park around the corner from Sky HQ and a new stadium on the horizon in Lionel Road, then what better time to bring this back with a progressive club filling the role of the new Harcehster? They’ve used Watford. They’ve used Millwall. They’ve even used Brentford (albeit as part of the May 2007 Open Day when a Harchester United team played the Community Sports Trust at Griffin Park.

How about Brentford doing it again – for real ?

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

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Andy dons the monogrammed tracksuit in his Harchester United days

And if anybody was in any doubt about the love for the show, this is what Andy Ansah himself had to say about it in that aforementioned interview:

Having finally retired from playing, all of a sudden Andy appeared on Sky one’s football based ‘drama’ series, Dream Team, playing himself at fictional club ‘Harchester United.’ A guilty pleasure for many viewers, myself included, but for all the wrong reasons! Wooden dialogue, outrageous plots and, as Andy himself offers, “The Lynda Blocks of this world”, its combination of beautiful women and real match action made it compulsive viewing for close to ten years. So how did he go from footballer to actor?

“I went to a Take That concert at Wembley, believe it or not. I made my decision then that I was going to retire from football. I met two people there and I said, ‘What do you do ?’ “ Oh, we do ‘extras’ work?” They were stand in doubles.

I thought that sounded interesting because I’d always liked acting and I love my films. Some friends of mine were on Dream Team doing the footballing extras although they were a lot younger than me. So I thought, ‘ok’, this is what I’m going to do. I’m going to stop playing pro-football, play a bit of part time, join ‘Dream Team’ and learn how to be an actor.

Subsequently, I joined as one of the football extras but because I was older than everyone else, I was thirty then whereas they were nineteen/twenty, I used to spend all my time with the directors and producers who were the same age. They used to ask questions about football all the time – how would we do this or that? I found myself directing the football for them and then within a year they made me the producer of football on Dream Team. It was crazy!”

Alongside the move to producer came a step up from ‘extra’ to acting role aswell, portraying the club’s assistant coach, Andy Ansah (!!) This also meant a few lines per show, with regular Ansah gems including takes on , “All right, you lot ! Get out on the field and warm up,” and “Leave it, gaffer. He’s not worth it.”

I put it to Andy that it must surely have been fun to be involved?

“I loved it, I loved it. Listen, it was brilliant. The show itself was low budget but it was built up on people. The people were fantastic and it had cult status. No matter how bad it was, you’d be able to say – I know who that is. That was Drogba’s goal for Chelsea against so and so. That’s what made it so much fun.

At the end, it kind of died a death. I was there for six years and when I left I was offered a Hollywood job with the film, “Goal”. That’s when I left and they ended up employing four different people to take up my one post on that show. That’s how much I did.”

As for those famous/infamous cameos? “The guys were great. Being honest, I should thank the likes of Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke and the West ham players. They mainly got me that producer role because I pulled in my contacts to get those guys on the show. One time, Andy had just got called back into the England squad and all the press were outside the training ground at Man United. I had to go and meet him at the training ground and came out the back door with Andy and Dwight , then drove to Stockport County so we could film them on Dream Team – for nothing. It was absolutely crazy. Can you imagine a footballer now using his image rights and saying, ‘I’ll come on your show for nothing’ but that’s how much of a cult status it was.”

After six seasons at Harchester United, ‘Goal’, and the lure of the silver screen proved too much, although not for the first time !

“Infact, whilst I was doing Dream Team, after two years I also did a film called : Mike Bassett England manager. I cast Terry Kiely from Dream Team (popular character, Karl Fletcher) and Scott Mean who used to play for West Ham to come and work on that film. I did all the choreography on that film myself, which was a big job! We shot at Wembley and also went to Brazil. I was there for almost two months, filming at the Maracana, Botafogo and everywhere.

It’s a hard job…!!”

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Bassett / Tomlinson – one of the many famous faces to film at Griffin Park

Nick Bruzon

Who spent Saturday wandering around Griffin Park? Who spent Sunday in pole position at the EFL cup final?

27 Feb

Well that was some weekend. A 4-2 win for Brentford over Rotherham United will never be remembered as the classic that the scoreline suggests. That said, it will be remembered for the unadulterated excitement of seeing Jota wrap up his first hat-trick for the Bees. Yet with a lazy Sunday beckoning for the Griffin Park faithful and a chance for us all to recover from Saturday’s exertions, the Manchester United – Southampton EFL final at the W place in North London saw one of our number still hard at work.

First up though, the rest of the weekend round up from Griffin Park. Sitting where we do just below the director’s box, it really is the perfect place for seeing the great and the good from the world of football. And with Rotherham United in town, surely this would be the perfect place for spotting a Chuckle Brother or two?

Sadly, neither Paul of Barry were present. Or, if they were, they were maintaining a very low profile. Instead of the Chuckle Brothers, we had to be content with Rasmus putting in an appearance ‘upstairs’ and a rare pre-match sortie along the Braemar Road touchline from Dean Smith. Likewise, suspended Harlee Dean spent the day wandering around Griffin Park.

A prematch appearance in the club shop was followed by a similar touchline stroll to Dean aswell as then being spotted, twice, doing his thing on the forecourt at half time. It speaks volumes about our club that the manager (head coach) and captain can still walk around so easily, albeit happy to stop for autographs and photos, without being harangued by baying masses.

As my own guest for the day, Cousin Charles (and those who know of his ‘connections’ and win ratio should be chaining him to the terrace) would later note – Imagine that happening at Manchester United or Chelsea. There’d be mayhem.

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Harlee looking up at the Director’s box before kick off. A fan of the Chuckle Brothers?

Instead, its just Brentford. We know our players. We’ve all met them and, with the tight environs of Griffin Park being what they are, it is the most natural thing in the world to see them up close and personal. Long may this continue. Long may the likes of Dean Smith and Harlee Dean feel comfortable enough to walk around in such close proximity to the supporters.Long may they both be as personable and friendly as they were on Saturday.

But if Dean and Harlee were spotted somewhat out of context, it was nothing compared to Cliff Crown on Sunday. Having been afforded the rare privilege of being allowed to watch an entire football match undisturbed after a roast beef lunch, yours truly took full advantage and wasn’t let down by the EFL Cup final .

Whatever your thoughts on the tournament itself, the game between Manchester United and Southampton was a stone cold classic. United being somewhat fortunate to come away with a 3-2 win that left the neutrals purring and Fantasy Football managers up and down the land crowbarring Manolo Gabbiadini into their teams.

But with United victorious and Wayne Rooney, who hadn’t even made it off the subs bench, kitted up and preparing to lift the trophy John Terry style, there was a surprise in store. Was that Cliff Crown in the royal box? The Brentford chairman? Sure enough, and with apologies for ruining the moment of the Southampton players receiving their runner’s up medals, a double take on the ‘rewind’ button confirmed the very same.

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Cliff and Brentford jacket on full display

Even better, he’d gone in there with his Brentford colours on full display. Awesome stuff, Cliff. We may have missed the Chuckle Brothers in the Griffin Park box on Saturday but this more than made up for it the next day.

Brentford at Wembley. Who’d have thought it possible this season? Here’s hoping that next year we get a chance to do it for real.

Nick Bruzon

Enough of this West Ham nonsense. Bees need to focus on Chelsea

25 Jan

Brentford, of course, are due to visit Premier League leaders Chelsea on Saturday (and how often can you say that?) as the Bees continue their FA Cup campaign with a fourth round tie (and how often can you say that?). Yet at what should be a time of maximum excitement, I still can’t help but feel distracted by the ongoing Scott Hogan stories. West Ham? Watford? Other? Nowhere?

With the transfer window due to slam shut(tm) in less than a week, where will Scott be in 7(seven) days time? And will he even feature on Saturday as we look to take a step closer to the W place in North London?

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Another Wembley dream continues this Saturday

To be quite honest, I’m getting royally cheesed off with all of this now. West Ham are in pole position yet, in what would seem to be a display of arch-hypocrisy given their (understandable) stance over Dimitri Payet, we are no further on as Brentford’s valuation is yet to be met.

The Bees have made no secret of the fact that every player has a value – meet it and we’ll sell. Don’t and he’s ours. And, as such, should be playing against Chelsea on Saturday.

But he won’t. Everybody will be left sitting in limbo as West Ham dither and hamstrings will likely tighten once more. Scott failed to make it off the bench against Newcastle United and wasn’t even named in the 18 for the debacle at Wigan Athletic on Saturday. It was a decision that left Phil Giles fuming, livid and raging after agents had advised him of the potential riches elsewhere. With stories emerging yesterday of the 5% of any transfer he’ll earn as signing on bonus, what man wouldn’t have his head turned by that sort of cash?

Everybody will be left sitting in limbo as the Bees will be unable to finalise any potential incoming transfer plans. On January 3rd Phil’s fellow co-director, Rasmus Ankersen, confirmed that Brentford related transfer news was ‘in progress’ yet, three weeks later there’s only tumbleweed blowing across the Griffin Park forecourt.

To be fair to Rasmus, he didn’t say in which direction. This could simply have been an oblique reference to outward activity and he was giving us all an exclusive on Scott’s departure.

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Progress, apparently, still ,erm, in progress

I don’t envy anybody involved in this situation. Whilst, normally, summer is the time for our main transfer movements to lose a player of Scott’s calibre half way through the season would impact any team. Likewise, one would presume that some sort of replacement would need to come in immediately. Whilst promotion is now a pipe dream and relegation is surely too extreme to consider, complacency is the mother of all fu@k ups. More importantly though, we’ve got a cup run to try and focus on. Starting with the small matter of Chelsea away.

The image of Harlee Dean lifting that trophy on 7th May is one I still have in my mind’s eye. Could it happen? Well, the bookies have us at anything form 12-1 to 18-1. And that’s just to beat Chelsea. But this is the FA Cup where anything is possible. Our hosts have come unstuck in the past whilst the trophy remains synonymous with the words ‘shock’ and ‘upset’ – to this day

That said, things would be a lot easier if we know exactly who is in our squad. Preferably, that includes Scott Hogan. Realistically, I’ve already said goodbye.

Let’s just get this done so as we can focus on the football.

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Will cup romance be limited to dreams of Buzzette?

Nick Bruzon

As Brentford prepare for Chelsea, is the FA cup still valid? A guest columnist writes.

18 Jan

It’s a Last Word double today. Along with the column on Sam Saunders, let’s not forget that Brentford have a fourth round FA Cup tie with Chelsea approaching. Tickets are already flying off the shelves with those unable to use the internet lining up from 8am yesterday morning to get their hands on a coveted pair.

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Does this queue show the love of the cup is still there? Or is it simply because of the calibre of opposition? Would a fourth round trip to Cheltenham Town attract the same sort of queue as the one for Chelsea? As Brentford prepare to make the short trip to Stamford Bridge,  we have a special guest columnist.

Regular readers may be familiar with update from Bernard Quackenbush. Now, the entire page is handed over to him as BQ speaks about his love of, and frustration with, this oldest of tournaments. In his own words…..

I love the FA Cup.

There is an excitement like no other when it comes to the Cup. From the balls being plucked from a plastic bucket where a trembling handed ex-footballer valiantly attempts to read numbers through to the game itself. This very season, Brentford will experience the two extremes of the Cup from playing against non-leaguers dreaming of a scalp through to pitting our wits against the best team in the country.
So why have so many fallen out of love with the Cup?

When I was a kid, Cup Final Day was one of the most exciting days of the year. Both BBC & ITV would start their programmes at what felt like breakfast time. Tony Gubba would be posted outside a North London motel reporting on the type of bus that would take the finalists to Wembley. I am sure that did please one type of demographic. There would be special programming with Cup Final Jim’ll Fix It or Its A Knockout. Oh! Er…Nick? Shall we move on from that?

Live broadcasts from trains carrying moustachioed supporters from the North which culminated in seeing them sing Abide With Me after one too m any lagers, and then the game itself played under a scorching sun. And the day would not be complete without a pint…of milk.

So why do we not get this excitement anymore? Even respected journalist Tony Incenzo last week told us it broke his heart that the FA Cup was not held in high regard any more.

The obvious reason first. The Premier League.

In a day when finishing fourth is considered to be a greater achievement than winning the Cup, the old girl was always going to suffer. With the Premier League, came a greater intensity in television coverage with the Ford Super Sunday Battle for Fourth…and its live!!! happening more than once, thus putting a fairly big dent into our dear old Cup.

Its easy to blame Sky for all these woes, but they arent the only TV culprit. Already this season we have seen picks from BT that have been made purely on potential audience, therefore anyone Manchester United plays is going to be live. The decision to show their tie with Reading at Old Trafford rather than the far more appealing Sutton-Wimbledon tie made my heart sink.

Then there is dear old Auntie Beeb. Nick, may I suggest you look away. The BBC are not innocent in this. In fact a lot of blame can be pointed at the BBC for demeaning the Cup. Their early round coverage has meant that a number of ties have had to be put back to a Sunday at 2pm, just so a generic screechy BBC stock reporter can stand on the side of the pitch being patronising about both teams. We even had the sight of Nick’s favourite, Clem, trying to interview Graham Westley mid match. The look on Wesetley’s face said everything and the BBC’s profanity buzzer operator was looking forward to being able to justify his employment.

In Round 3 we have seen the BBC fall into the BT trap of picking a big team whoever they may be playing against, and on every occasion producing the dullest of matches. Spurs-Villa case in point.

The BBC’s dire coverage even extends to later rounds. Last year I looked forward to seeing highlights of the Semi Final which I didnt see as it was on BT earlier in the day, but no we all had to wait until highlights of the day’s Premier League dead rubber matches were shown and we were treated to a tedious goalless draw between two of the dullest teams in history, and then finally at some ungodly hour came the Cup Semi!

So TV has a lot to do with the degrading of the Cup, but who else? The FA!!

Right, let’s start with its marketing. Just thinking about it made me spasm.

Cringeworthy. Dire and so completely out of touch. This seasons politically correct film of friends going to a Cup match is difficult to get through without sticking pins in your eyes. Clubs, including our beloved #BeeTheDJ are being forced to play a Cup playlist, mostly of sponsored content. No doubt promoters are paying the FA to have their bland insipid music played before each tie. We even have the Cup sponsored. For me personally this is akin for the Roman Catholic church referring to ‘his Holiness the Pope as brought to you by Persil, brings out whites, whiter than white’.

Replays. I loved the days when replays went on forever. I can recall an Arsenal-Everton game which had about 4 replays. Yet these days clubs are moaning about having to play them, saying it effects our ability to succeed in Europe. Lets see. How many European trophies have English clubs won recently, then lets think back to the early 1980s when we had limitless replays when English clubs must have won nothing….Oh! Not sure if anyone knew this but Aston Villa were Champions of Europe in this period, just thought I should remind everyone of this. And this season for the first time we wont even have Quarter Final Replays (then why not have them on neutral turf)

One of the most exciting aspects of the Cup was seeing the Semi Finals at neutral venue. I’m sure we can all think of wonderful examples when we were younger of great semis (careful) at grounds like Highbury, Villa Park, Maine Road and Hillsborough, but we now have semis only at Wembley, as the new version of the national stadium (which still smells of wee) needs to be paid for. Where the stadium announcer has to check his schedule to announce in his local radio twang ‘its Team A vs Team B’.

Something many critics will point out is the likes of Stoke, Bournemouth & Watford fielding weakened teams in the Cup in order to preserve their Premier League status. Actually if you look back, these sort of mid to lower placed top flights often fielded weakened sides in the Cup. So its actually not a new practice. Although changing your whole team like my home town team of Bournemouth did, isn’t the norm and they got right royally spanked and embarrassed as a result.

The culmination of this grand competition was of course Cup Final Day. The crowds of spectators walking to Wembley on a hot day ready for a 3pm kick off. Unfortunately we now have a 5.15 kick off. The current time is an abomination, not for the reason you may think. The FA moved the time to 5.15 for a greater TV audience, but I question whether thats true. The tea time kick off is neither here nor there. Its not afternoon and its not evening. Its the time of day when people are getting home, having something to eat or going out to catch the rest of the sun.

5.15 is the worst possible time for the Final, and it feels like its been crowbarred into the TV schedules so people dont miss out on their weekly diet of a third rate singing contest or people having farcical accidents in Casualty. The Cup Final should be the sporting event of the year, and it should be treated as such. But I say 3pm is a thing of the past.

The Cup Final should be primetime, and it should be 7.45, just like the Champions League Final. Platini has plenty of faults, but he got the rescheduling of the UCL Final, spot on. The Cup Final should be pride of place in the TV schedules, the focal point of the day. Make it an event, rather than just another football match. Lets have the massive build up from 4pm. Bring in the special programmes, bring in the celebs and ex-footballers!

So theres my rant over and I thank Nick for giving me the opportunity to vent my spleen. But come 10 to 3, a week Saturday, slightly further West in London, where the posh people live, there will be at least 6000 of us still very much in love with the Cup.

Bernard Quackenbush

Gloves are off as rivalry with Birmingham City resumes

26 Nov

Saturday. Match day. Time to renew one of the more recent, but unlikely, rivalries. For Brentford supporters the likes of Fulham and QPR are, of course, the ones to get the blood pumping when it comes to those ‘must win’ games. Yet for those of us supporting a little longer, Birmingham City have more than given us a run for the money and some high stakes battles over the years.

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.

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View from the terrace – Deano and Terry celebrate promotion at Peterborough

Things weren’t so sweet the following season as the Blues just 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 camapign, 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 The 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…..

And that then, three seasons ago, something wonderful happened. Brentford returned to what is now the  Championship. With it, a chance to deliver some pay league back. Finally. Yet whilst our own campaigns at this level have seen wonderful finishes of 5th, 9th and the Bees currently five points off the play-offs, Birmingham have been somewhat of a bogey team. A solitary point from our four encounters to date being the best we’ve had to show for it  – that, a 1-1 back in August 2014 .

So which way will it go today? Money where the mouth is – a Brentford win. Gut reaction was to call it 1-1 in a match preview for the Birmingham Mail yesterday but, I’ve been thinking more and more about this. For me, this has the look of a gritty game played out between two sides with rock solid defences. Yet, at the same time, I think it will have goals in it. Three to be precise. With the Bees coming out on top by 2-1. Lasse, Scott and, for the visitors, a certain Mr Donaldson.

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Clayton – a Brentford legend

Yes, the other highlight of today (not counting the free chili in The Hive) is the chance to see Clayton back at Griffin Park.

Always a hugely popular figure, even to this day, he’s a Brentford legend whose goals helped fire us to promotion and earn the chance to take on the likes of Birmingham once more. Of course, there’ll be no pleasantries when action begins (although hopefully fans will show him the respect due) but I’m sure I won’t be alone in feeling a pang of fondness for the big man when he’s out there.

As a final note, a quick follow up to yesterday’s piece in regards to Rainbow Laces weekend. Fans may already be aware of the special match day programme on sale in/around the ground whilst Captain Harlee Dean (who also gives an exclusive on his ‘coming of age’ and life at Griffin Park) has already been photographed with a special armband.

Fans expecting to see him sporting that one on match day may be disappointed. Infact, the rainbow captain’s armband is a promotional item and it is expected that regular versions will be used at the games this weekend.

Indeed, Stonewall have told clubs that they understand that players might not want to change their laces for a game. Instead, players can show and document their support in other ways, such as Harlee did in such wonderful fashion on Thursday.

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Harley Dean shows his support

I can fully get behind that. We all have our match day kit jinxes, rituals and comfort factors – magic pants, lucky shirt, the ragged old scarf from the 70s that all go towards Brentford winning. I was devastated when the lucky ‘spiderman’ undergarments went to that great bin in the sky. For the players, I can only imagine the importance of kit, footwear, boots and laces that they are familiar with is tenfold to that of us on the terrace.

Whichever way they are dressed, here’s hoping for a great game and the right result. It’s been a long time coming. 62 years, to be precise. Looking at the BBC preview this morning I was shocked to see the last time Brentford beat Birmingham in a league fixture at Griffin Park being a 2-0 back in March 1954. Top scorer Frank Dudley adding further to his tally with both goals on that day.

Perhaps time to look to history and revise that bet? 2-0 Brentford with Scott Hogan scoring is 22/1. Then again, the earlier 2-1 /scorers prediction comes in at a very handsome 177/1. On second thoughts, knowing my betting history spare coins will probably better spent on the aforementioned match day programme instead.

I wouldn’t want to jinx the team….

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Nick Bruzon

Is Ian wrong, again? Can we do it? Newcastle v Brentford is here.

14 Oct

Just one more wake up until the weekend and the return of Championship football for Brentford. With it, the much anticipated trip to Newcastle United and our chance to catch up with the Magpies in the heart of the play-off zone should we get three points. Should….

International break is always a tough time. Much as I love following the football fortunes of Gibraltar, it has been another period of little satisfaction. Results wise, that is. 0-4 and 0-6 losses to Estonia and Belgium, the latter seeing Christian Benteke record the fastest goal in World Cup qualifying history, have given plenty of time to think things over on the domestic front. As for England, that’s a whole other world of pain.

So whilst Saturday’s game has always been a standout fixture on the calendar with (cliché alert), the game at Newcastle one of the first we looked for when the fixtures were announced, the long wait through a barren international weekend has given even more food for thought.

Everybody is saying to treat it like another game, myself included. That’s right, of course. Play the team, not the occasion. Yet, at the same time, one can’t help but be swept up with the moment. For a club that have, until recent years, been more accustomed to playing the likes of Newport than Newcastle there is an enormous swell of pride at where we are now.

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The last time we played Newcastle in the league, Phil Holder was the Bees boss

I’ll doff my hat to statistical guru Luis Melville when he proves me wrong but I can’t imagine we’ll have played in front of a crowd this big before. Whether in modern times or ever. The attendance at the W place for the 2012/13 play-off final was just short of 42,000 whilst our FA Cup quarter-final with Liverpool in 1989 was just over.

The flip side of this being that we thoroughly deserve to be where we are. This, our third season in the Championship, is the result of an awful lot of hard work on and off the pitch. Much of it unseen. Finishes of 5th and 9th have been no flukes, despite the many challenges we have faced – including those of our own making.

Yet still people sneer and write us off. Ian Holloway started the season by describing us as a club that were regressing, promptly tipping us for relegation. How wrong that one has proven so far as, instead, Brentford find themselves in 7th(seventh).

Indeed, so far have things changed that yesterday he used his Sky Sports column to predict we’ll win the game!! Indeed, he even held up his hands to admit, “I jumped to conclusions at the start of the season when Brentford couldn’t keep hold of their good players like Jake Bidwell. I couldn’t have been more wrong with my prediction. Dean Smith and the squad are proving me wrong. Good on them.

With Newcastle already having lost at home to Wolves and Huddersfield Town in the league, their last outing at St.James’ Park saw that epic 4-3 win over Norwich City. Yet even that one saw them going into injury time 3-2 down.

And with Scott Hogan having just scooped the Championship player of the month  award for his own goalscoring feats, could Ian be onto something?

The bookies don’t agree. Club sponsor 888sport have us at 21/4 to win. In real terms that means – put £10 on; get £62.50 back. Too good to be true? Free money? Or do the bookmakers know what they are talking about?

At 3pm on Saturday, we find out.

And if you’d like to read more, Ian’s full piece can be found here.

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Do 888 know something we don’t? (other bookmakers are available)

Nick Bruzon

Football’s farcical 24 hours as one innovates and one goes a bit ‘Ratners’

31 Aug

This could be the most crazy 24 hours in modern football. We’ve already had the farce of last night’s Checkatrade trophy opening round where the lure of West Ham and Leicester City U-23 teams (please note, your definition of under 23 may vary) was not enough to persuade supporters to drop the proposed #BteamBoycott in this most maligned of tournaments. And then today sees ‘Transfer Deadline day’ as Brentford supporters join the rest of the footballing community in wondering if any new names will be coming through the ‘in door’ or if anyone is heading out?

Jim White, Natalie Sawyer and the rest of the gang lead the madness on Sky Sports before the window eventually ‘slams shut’ (TM) . You all know the drill by now. Yellow ties, yellow dresses and lots of cutting to empty stadia where nothing is happening. Plus, presumably, archive footage of Harry Redknapp leaning out of a car (subject to his sore knee).

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 16 to May 17, you can pick it up, here. Its all for a great cause and,hey, you may even enjoy it…..

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Jim and Natalie do their thing on deadline days gone by

 

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Brentford’s most recent signing activity

 

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Nick Bruzon