Can We Take Any More Excitement? – 10/7/14

SergioSomewhere in the dark recesses of Youtube I am sure you can find some long-forgotten blurred and faded black and white footage of a Watney Cup tie forty-four years ago between Hull City and Manchester United.

That game in a short-lived preseason tournament, heralded the first ever penalty shoot-out in a professional match in England.

The first player to take a kick was George Best, and the first to miss was Denis Law.

Ian McKechnie, the rotund Hull goalkeeper who Brentford fans still have clear memories of from THAT Cup tie in 1971, saved Law’s kick, and was also the first goalkeeper to take a kick; but his shot hit the crossbar and deflected over, putting Hull City out of the Cup.

The penalty shootout has become recognised as perhaps the best, the fairest, the most heartbreaking and certainly the most exciting way to settle a drawn Cup tie and last night was no exception.

As always there was a hero and a goat.

Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero was the match winner plunging to make two decisive saves whilst Holland’s hapless Jasper Cillesen was unable to break his duck as four penalties whizzed past him. two of which looked eminently saveable.

As for Tim Krul, who had thwarted Costa Rica so effectively if controversially in the last round, he remained helpless on the bench as Louis van Gaal was unable to produce another rabbit from his hat, having already used all three of his substitutes.

Poetic justice perhaps as Krul’s gamesmanship in the previous shootout, aided and abetted by a weak referee had stuck in the craw of all but the most rabid Dutch fan.

Anyone wishing to understand more about the subject is recommended to read Ben Lyttleton’s new book “Twelve Yards”, a groundbreaking and fascinating exploration and explanation of the art, psychology, history and culture of the penalty kick – and how not to miss them.

Given that last night’s was the fourth match of the 2014 World Cup to be settled by a shootout then perhaps you feel that some of the teams could have done with an early sight of Ben’s book!

Brentford fans are no strangers to the horrors and delights of the penalty shootout and whilst it has been unpleasant, if perhaps cathartic, to dredge up some of the memories, there have also been some triumphs.

Perhaps the most painful shootout was in 1995 when a Brentford team finished second in the Second Division in the only season which saw only one automatic promotion place owing to Premier League restructuring – it’s Brentford Innit!

We should have won comfortably in the Playoff Semifinal at Huddersfield where Bob Taylor’s open goal miss still rankles and amazes and the referee missed Andy Booth’s climb all over Kevin Dearden for their equaliser at Griffin Park.

Penalties it was and Denny Mundee, who ironically had scored two penalties against Huddersfield in the League that season, managed to outguess himself and missed.

Argentina’s Ezequiel Garay showed how a centre half should take a penalty last night, driving an Exocet of a shot into the roof of the net, straight down the middle but unfortunately Jamie Bates did not follow his example and his weak effort was easily saved by Steve Francis and the Bees had lost.

I can still hear the eerie quiet that descended like a blanket of fog around Griffin Park as we filed out after the match struck dumb by shock and disbelief.

Richard Lee had a wonderful penalty shootout record for the club back in 2010/11.

He needed something to go right as his start at his new club had not gone well and he was out of favour with manager Andy Scott. A succession of loan keepers came in but Lee played in the Cup ties and his overall performance and then penalty save in the shootout from Jermaine Beckford won Brentford the tie against Eveton.

Better was to come in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy as he masterminded an unprecedented three successive penalty shootout victories against Leyton Orient, Swindon and then Charlton, when touched by genius, Lee saved three successive spot kicks, a feat only previously achieved by Graham Benstead against Wrexham in 1991.

Richard’s account of how he prepared and psyched himself up for these shootouts richard leemakes for fascinating reading and I can highly recommend his book “Graduation” to all budding goalkeepers.

Brentford’s last penalty shootout remains fresh in the memory as victory over Swindon in the dreaded Playoffs was secured after five perfect penalties from Sam Saunders, Paul Hayes (yes, Paul Hayes!), Harlee Dean, an emphatic thump from skipper Tony Craig followed by a wild-eyed celebration and Adam Forshaw’s cool coup de grace.

Simon Moore too played a match winning role by saving Swindon’s fourth effort and the side taking their penalties second won the day, a feat only achieved in 40% of all penalty shootouts.

Love them or hate them penalty shootouts are here to stay but penalty kicks have proved to be Brentford’s nemesis on so many occasions recently and I am sure that we will return to this subject as soon as I can face it!


Brazil Nutted! – 9/7/14


So who expected that?

Has anyone ever seen anything quite like it?

What a humiliation!

Brazil one, Germany seven! I have just typed those words and I still cannot really believe it.

Talk about blowing it and choking and the images of Brazilian supporters in tears and a state of shock will stay with me for a long time.

The 7-1 scoreline was equal to the worst defeat in the history of Brazilian football and was also Brazil’s heaviest World Cup defeat, the next being their 3-0 loss to France in the 1998 Final.

It was also the first time that Brazil had conceded more than five World Cup goals since 1938, although on that occasion they managed to comeback to beat Poland 6-5 after extra-time.

Furthermore, Brazil had not let in seven goals at home… ever!

No other team has ever scored seven goals in the semi-finals of the World Cup and Germany’s six goal victory was the heaviest semi-final defeat in the tournament’s history, ahead of West Germany’s 6-1 defeat of Austria in 1954 and Uruguay’s win by the same scoreline against Yugoslavia in 1930.

I have never seen a top international team – or come to think of it, a Sunday League team after a night on the beer, defend so awfully as Brazil did and as somebody so memorably tweeted last night: “Well at least when your team gets a drubbing next season you can truthfully sing it’s just like watching Brazil!”

Brentford nemesis David Luiz was on his knees and in floods of tears at the end of the match, as would have been any defensive coach analysing his appalling performance in which he went totally AWOluizL.

Brentford supporters – still fuming at his cowardly and totally unnecessary assault on the diminutive Jake Reeves could easily be forgiven for their feelings of schadenfreude at Luiz finally getting his comeuppance – a true flat track bully being brought down to size!David Luiz collides with Jake Reeves

For their part, Brentford have also suffered some terrible hidings over the years, conceding seven goals on six occasions, most recently on that appalling November afternoon back in 2007 at Peterborough.

In its own way that was as much a capitulation as Brazil’s last night as Peterborough inflicted a joint record heaviest defeat on ten-man Brentford.

Bees keeper Simon Brown was sent off in the first minute for conceding a penalty which Aaron McLean tucked away and Clark Masters came on to do his best to stem the tide, like Canute trying to hold back the waves – and with about as much success!

McLean volleyed the second, put another penalty against the bar, and sealed his hat-trick before Chris Whelpdale scored from close in.

George Boyd’s low shot made it five, Craig Mackail-Smith ran free to hit the sixth and Rene Howe fired the seventh before Boyd had an effort disallowed.

As you can read from this brief match report, no mention of any Brentford attacks.

What is even more telling is that despite the severity of the defeat, not one Brentford player earned a yellow card which highlights how resigned they were to their fate and their lack of fight on the day.

Peterborough declared at seven, they were scoring at will and could doubtless have reached double figures had they been so inclined.

Looking at the Brentford team that fateful day, it has to be said that it was poorly led by Terry Butcher and was paper thin.

It included such luminaries as John Mackie and Matt Heywood forming an immobile and porous central defensive partnership that was no match for the pace and skill of Mackail-Smith and McLean.

Darius Charles and Charlie Ide represented the younger generation and journeymen Glenn Poole, Craig Pead, Ricky Shakes and Lee Thorpe also turned out.

Ironically Bees loanee Emile Sinclair, ploughing a lone furrow up front, must have done something right as he eventually joined the Posh a few seasons down the line!

The Bees eventually plateaued out under Terry Butcher and Andy Scott arrested the slide and led the team to promotion the following season.

For all of his subsequent failings, Scott’s achievement should never be minimised and he deserves much credit for restoring pride, passion and structure to what was a pretty disorganised rabble.

Just as Brentford recovered from their humiliation at London Road, so will Brazil from theirs last night.

The odd disastrous result here and there can be quite good for the soul and can also lead to introspection, re-examination and change.

Brazil will tear their team and infrastructure apart and will be the better for it, just as was the case with Brentford.

A Bite To Remember! – 24/06/14

Well sometimes you just have to go with the flow and be topical. My new blog containing a detailed, cogent and hopefully witty review of the brand new Brentford FC promotion DVD so pithily titled “We’re Going Up!” was all ready to go when Luis Suarez did… well you all know by now exactly what the charming Uruguayan did tonight.

So goodbye for now to the DVD review and hello to what?

I fully realise that Italian defenders traditionally make a meal of challenges they receive from opponents but Georgio Chiellini certainly did not appreciate being made THE meal by the snaggle-toothed striker or should that be biter?

I hope that FIFA give him the appropriate punishment that a three-times guilty gnasher deserves but I suspect that they will dither and vacillate mindful more of TV ratings than natural justice. Let’s see how toothless the faceless bureaucrats turn out to be.

So how do I put a Brentford spin on tonight’s appalling event?

The best that I can do is go back through the memory banks and briefly recall some the worst fouls committed by or perpetrated on Brentford players in recent years.

Does anyone remember Pat Terry a frighteningly tough journeyman centre forward from the sixties who saw out his long career with a final season at Brentford punctuated by goals and red cards? Never mind red cards it was the red mist that descended one autumn evening in 1968 when over seventeen thousand packed into Griffin Park to see if we could send Norwich City the same way as Hull City who we had pulverised in the previous round  of the Football League Cup.

A Hugh Curran inspired Norwich strolled to an easy victory marked by Terry, frustrated at the way his evening had gone, launching himself into a maniacal two footed kick into the chest of the gormless but totally innocent Laurie Brown who collapsed like a felled oak.

Those were violent times and earlier that season the bald assassin, Chesterfield’s Keith Kettleborough had to be smuggled out of the side door of Griffin Park with his head hidden in a blanket after his assault on star winger Allan Mansley left the star winger crocked and never the same player again.

Walsall’s Paul McShane will never be forgiven by the Griffin Park faithful after young striker Alex Rhodes, just blossoming into a confident and skilful attacker never fully recovered his pace or confidence after being clattered into the Braemar Road Paddock.

David Luiz collides with Jake Reeves

Let’s also give a well deserved name check to Chelsea’s David Luiz for his cynical, mean spirited and cowardly shoulder barge on young Jake Reeves – an assault that tarnished a wonderful day out at Stamford Bridge.

it’s not always the Bees who end up as the victims as Cambridge United’s Mick Heathcote and Paul Rayner’s spat over defensive responsibilities led to the former seeing red in more ways than one.

Not that we are immune to such behaviour as Darren Powell and Karleigh Osborne demonstrated at Bournemouth one Easter.

Nasty and unpleasant as all these incidents were, tonight’s assault took the biscuit and left me sickened to my stomach and unable to take another bite of my meal.