The morning after the night before. And it STILL feels magnificent.

21 Feb

Brentford 5 Birmingham City 0. It was a night which began with such promise – the words of our former captain still ringing loud and clear. It was a night which ended with a scoreline that was beyond even our wildest dreams. I had an ecstatic Aston Villa supporting friend text me from his holiday at 4.30am. It woke me up. I didn’t care !

At one point during the game, I even saw one of the Braemar Road regulars having to explain to his son what brackets and the videprinter were. “Well, imagine a TV camera pointing at a really old TV screen….”, he began.

Harlee

How IS that working out for you?

Ordinarily I’d sleep on things before writing the post match article. Yet sometimes you have to go with the gut and so I did it last night upon returning home. You can find it it here. Now, having managed to grab a few hour’s sleep, this should be the time for a more considered view. A more mature piece. A lengthier column. But. But….

I make no apologies for the fact I still have a huge grin on my face. Besides, it’s not always about length. And when even Brentford official got in on the act at full time (quite beautifully), perhaps here was the ultimate lesson in why:

One: It never pays to open your mouth before engaging your brain.

Two: Football fans NEVER forget.

There’s not much else to say beyond, thanks for the motivation. And the cash…

Yes. We really did ditch Kool and The Gang

Nick Bruzon

Advertisements

Three points, five goals and ten times better. Magnificent Bees have a night to remember.

20 Feb

What can you say? What? Can? You? Say? For once, I’m lost for words after one of the most exciting and passionate games ever seen under lights at Griffin Park. After all the talk, all the build up, all the back story and all the blag it was Brentford who ended it three points, five goals and ten times better than an utterly abject Birmingham City team. The only real question of the night being how The Bees missed out on brackets. A 5-0 demolition of our old boys being the very least warranted by as one sided a performance as you could ever hope to see. Indeed, but for a 30 second period immediately after the second half began there was only ever one team in this.

DSC00513

Alan Judge doing his thing once more

We don’t do match reports on these pages. Never have done. At least, not in any detail. I’m lazy. I’m not a journalist and, quite frankly, it’s ‘the other stuff’ that goes into a game which is what captivates. And my, wasn’t this the consummate example?

We all know what happened in the summer. Our idol, Jota, left Brentford for Birmingham City. Le magnifique Maxime Colin left Brentford. For Birmingham City. Harlee Dean, having already had the captaincy taken away from him, left Brentford. For Birmingham City. He, of all players, hurt the most. Not so much his sale but the method of departure and those subsequent comments about his new squad being ten times better than the one he had left behind.

Football fans don’t forget. Ever. Just ask Martin Rowlands. And sure enough those words came back to haunt Harlee tonight. You knew something special was in the air when, on walking into the ground, the first song heard from #BeeTheDJ was Jessie J – Price Tag . “Money money money” blasted out over the speakers as Big Bee Radio demonstrated a wonderful sense of humour you can only get at a club like ours. At a place where everybody knows everyone. Where the bond between players and fans is like no other. Where our heroes still walk the same streets we do on their way in and out of Griffin Park.

And then the game began. David Stockdale in the Birmingham goal culpable for the first as he could only help an Ollie Watkins shot from distance into the net for 1-0. Flo Jo doubled the lead before half time as chants of “Harlee, what’s the score? Harlee, Harlee what’s the score?” began to ring around Griffin Park. Neal Maupay, who must have run Ollie close for man of the match, made it 3-0 and then 4-0 with less than an hour on the clock. His second courtesy of another howler from Stockdale who had an evening to forget.

It was only the goalkeeper’s decision to start playing at this point that stopped it getting even worse for The Blues. Pulling off a couple of magnificent saves, combined with our own profligacy as the game threatened to enter testimonial levels of showboating, the scoring stopped for almost half an hour.

There were contrasting faces in the Director’s Box. Sour from the visitors. Ecstatic from our own board and guests. Louder and louder songs directed towards Harlee. Daniel Bentley amongst those unable to suppress schoolboy levels of smirking every time the chants rang out. This couldn’t go on, surely? It couldn’t get any better, could it?

Jota’s arrival had barely registered. He picked up the odd pantomime boo but it was nothing compared to the unhappiest of returns for Harlee. Still, at least he could take consolation in it only being four. Until Ollie popped up to make it five. And that’s how it ended. Stunning. Just stunning.

DSC00524

The Bees celebrate the fourth. Or was it the fifth?

Yet just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, there was Brentford Official to change the ‘win music’. Kool and The Gang /Celebrate demoted. Instead, the ultimate of trolling. Daydream Believer. The chants of ‘Cheer up Harlee Dean’ which had being doing the round most of the game, cranked up to the loudest yet. Simply beautiful and, whilst I’ve seen comments suggesting we’re better than this, it captured the mood of the supporters quite magnificently.

I’ve never seen the place stay full for so long at full time. The crowd staying behind to cheer the players on a thoroughly deserved lap of honour. Birmingham City slinking back into the dressing room, unobserved.

Brentford were, to a man, magnificent. Dalsgaard’s cross for the third goal a thing of beauty. Maupay’s build up play delicious and he was thoroughly deserving of his brace. Even Daniel Bentley pulled off a quite wonderful save late on to preserve his goal’s virginity. Emiliano Marcondes delighting the crowd with a short, but very sweet, cameo role late on.

DSC00525

Emiliano impressed late on

It was a strange night. It was always going to be. No moreso than Peter Gilham finally getting Jota’s name right. After three season’s worth of Hoe-ta, he picked his moment to call him correctly.

That was just brilliant. Brentford are now a mere 3 points outside the play offs. We’re 20 points better off than a Birmingham City team who sit worryingly close to the League One drop zone. Harlee Dean may have joined The Blues to leave The Championship.

He just probably didn’t expect to do it in this direction.

All together now – Brentford official seize the moment. Beautifully

Nick Bruzon

Bring it on. West London’s biggest game in years has more than just a result to play for.

19 Feb

Tuesday night in West London and there’s one of the biggest football showdowns to have been seen in years. Whilst the casual observer might think its all about Chelsea v Barcelona in the Champion’s League, they’d be wrong. Of Course. Instead, we’ve the quite delicious treat of Brentford v Birmingham City. More importantly, the return of not just Maxime Colin, not just Jota (the real one rather than the Wolves version) but also former skipper Harlee Dean. Forget Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi visiting Stamford Bridge. The emotional significance of this trio returning, along with the circumstances of their deadline day departure, have been lost on nobody.

Jota team Rotherham

We felt the same way too

“The football industry is a volatile one and I think my departure was the best move for all concerned” Not my words but those of Jota upon his £6.8million (allegedly) sale to the St. Andrews outfit.

“We’ve got quality in that squad. I’ve been in teams where we’ve finished fifth in this league and missed out on promotion by play offs. And this squad is ten times better than that. Its just about getting the balance right.” Not my words but those of Harlee Dean after a Birmingham supporter’s ‘Blues Cruise’ back in late October.

We all know the scoop. On the one hand, a Brentford squad containing the likes of: David Button, Jake Bidwell, Number 26, Nico Yennaris, Sam Saunders, Moses Odubajo, Stuart Dallas, Alan Judge, Jon Toral, Jota, Alex Pritchard, Andre Gray, Scott Hogan. That’s before you add the experience provided by the likes of Dougie, Macca, King Kev and Toumani.

On the other, a Birmingham City squad who are now just 2 points outside the relegation zone and 17 (seventeen, why not) behind Brentford. A win for the Bees will put us 20 clear. That’s twice ten times better. What better incentive could there be for us to really go for it?

Whatever happened back in the summer has happened. I can’t deny any less how I felt back then although how great to see how the Bees have gone on to bigger and better things. The squad has come together in the most wonderful way to stick a metaphorical two fingers up to the Midlanders. Yet at the same time, I can’t forget the wonder of Jota at his very best.

Those goals against Derby. Against QPR. Leaving Jake Bidwell flat on his backside. The infamous Burridgegasm at Blackburn. Even if those memories do still feel slightly tarnished for now, you can’t deny how, on his day, Jota was just about the most skillful and exciting player many of us ever had the privilege of watching.  Name me somebody who wouldn’t want him or Maxime in the squad and I’ll show you a liar.

Mark Burridge and Jota’s infamous moment

As for Harlee, I feel for him. Genuinely. What a way to shoot yourself in the foot with that ill-fated quote. What a way to make Dean Smith’s team talk the simplest he’ll ever need to give. What a way to wind up the crowd.

Despite the red cards, ad-hoc positional awareness and own goals, you can’t deny Harlee was Brentford through and through. He gave his all. Not just on the pitch but off it, too, where he was so famously an unsung hero after a car accident outside Griffin Park. Where he was a total hero to my son and always made time to chat with the young fans. Try explaining to a four year old why his idol has left to join ‘the naughty team’.

HB Harlee and Dan

The smile says its all (apologies again for the sticky fingers)

He was there as we held the Champions of Europe, Chelsea, in the FA Cup. It was Harlee who scored at Wembley in the play-off final against Yeovil following ‘that penalty’. He was the man to help shore up the ten man Bees at Leyton Orient the day we celebrated like we’d won the FA Cup. He was a Championship regular – almost pulling off an unlikely ascension to the Premier League and eventually showed his true potential ending last season as our Player of the Year.

Then he opened his mouth and, with it, undid all the positivity with a moment as significant in our history as Martin Rowlands ‘kissing the badge’.

No doubt, he’ll have a point to prove. No doubt, so will we. Expect it to be lively. Very. Expect the songs to be loud. Expect the Terrace wags to have their fill on #BeeTheDJ before kick off. And not just for Harlee.  From my perspective, any of the following would be good :

Pink Floyd – Money

The Doors  – Love Me Two Times (although that may need five plays)

Oasis – Don’t Look Back In Anger

Aerosmith – Big Ten Inch Record

Dusty Springfield – I Close My Eyes And Count To Ten

Herb Alpert  – Spanish Flea

Blake Shelton – Ten Times Crazier

The flipside is that Birmingham City will be as up for it as we are. Their season has reached a place where, with two thirds gone, they are in very real danger of slithering into League One. Of demonstrating that throwing money at a problem doesn’t necessarily make it go away.

Every point will be vital and they’ll be doing everything possible to get at least one. Picking up all three will necessitate being able to shoot at goal, something they’ve struggled with this campaign. Saturday’s home defeat to Millwall saw them manage just one shot on target whilst, with a mere 22 netbusters, they are the division’s most goal shy team.

So if you haven’t got a ticket yet, what are you waiting for? Sure, Chelsea – Barcelona , in the armchair, might be the comfortable option. It might have some of the World’s biggest names.It might have huge global viewing figures. But it won’t have the passion that this one does and it certainly hasn’t got the sub-plot.

I’ve had this date in the diary for a long, long time. And I can’t wait.

See you there.

Harlee

Nick Bruzon

Black Cats roll over to have their tummies tickled. Birmingham City are on the way down (to Brentford). Plus FA Cup oddity.

18 Feb

Is everybody back from Sunderland yet? A 2-0 win for Brentford at the Stadium of Light on Saturday was the perfect way to bounce back from a mini blip that had seen The Bees pick up 1 point from the previous three games (although fully deserving of all 9, if Dean Smith’s post-match press conferences were to be believed). Yet this time it was Chris Coleman using his time with the media to put the black cat amongst the pigeons. The former Fulham man opining about the Bees that: “I don’t think they’ll ever get promoted, I could be wrong, because they don’t have the finances but, if they keep doing what they do, they won’t be relegated either. Elsewhere, I woke to news of Manchester United drawing Brighton in the FA Cup. Somehow….

First up, the Sunderland manager. West London’s Premier Journalist Tom Moore ran a story last night that included Coleman’s claim – a statement worthy of Steve Evans at his finest. We’ve all been here and done this so many times yet it never fails to amuse. The suggestion that playing your way to the top isn’t possible without gargantuan levels of spending. Little Brentford. Teams like Brentford. Even Sky Sports haven’t bothered to update our crest on their graphics package – and we’re two thirds of the way through the campaign. The awful ‘cluttered clipart’ crest still hanging around like a bad smell. Every time you think it’s gone, it comes back. Had it been around 65 million years ago, one can only suspect it would have survived the asteroid .

DWQAKxoWsAUOqgi

Curse that clipart graphic.

But enough of dinosaurs. Instead, Chris Coleman. Whatever his thoughts, we are seeing more and more that you can’t put a price on shrewd and innovative acquisition. On bringing the right people into the right set up. Look at how the Bees have continued to flourish season on season. Look at Birmingham City for the closest possible parallel to what happens when you just lump cash at it.

We’ve all had our doubts about the Brentford model over the years. Myself included. This summer in particular felt like a particular low point. Yet we’ve picked ourselves up and gone again.

Neal Maupay, now pretty much guaranteed a long run with the departure of Lasse Vibe, scored his eighth goal of the season with the cheekiest of back heeled efforts to go top of our scoring charts. This, after Kamo had opened the scoring with less than a quarter hour gone. Firing home hard and low from outside the box, he broke his Brentford duck and has given Dean Smith a real selection poser from the visit of Birmingham on Tuesday.  Brentford sit 10th in the Championship for the fourth successive season and with 42 points still available, there’s still a chance at the play-offs.

DWU7MxRW0AAgt-_

Neal celebrates another goal.

Tom’s story also sparked the clickbait-gate debate on Social media once more. You can read that one here – the story rather than the clickbait chat. Personally, I’ve said my piece on that in these pages previously. The likes of Here Is The City and Football League World don’t even warrant a read these days, such is the eventual anti-climax that follows upon selecting one of their ‘stories’.

These publications so often tempt the reader with what transpires to be worse transfer news than the demise of the Letraset ‘action’ range.  News Now is littered with headlines which lead to nothing more than the regurgitation of the same footballer’s twitter feed we all have access to. Is the need for ‘hits’ and internet traffic THAT desperate?

On a totally unrelated note, I did enjoy Alan Judge’s retort to Coleman on the Social media platform last night. A simple but deliciously sweet: Yeah but we won’t be goin down. Certainly it makes a wonderful difference to the usual ‘we go again’.

Top-003

Letraset Action Transfers – a sadly missed treat from the 70s

That said, even Brentford official have been guilty of it in the past. I’ll never forget the moment back in November 1991 when the club proudly announced that we’d be signing a Division One (now Premier League) player. The excitement. The calls to 0898 121108 (at 33p a minute). The tension. Who would it be? Gary Lineker? Lee Chapman? Gazza? Gary McAllister? With the greatest respect to the legend that he is, the return of Bob Booker was hardly one to have supporters dancing in the streets of Raith when he was revealed.

Getting back to events at Sunderland, you have to feel for a team who were in the Premier League last season and are now on a fast track to League One along with Burton and Birmingham City. Talking this morning to one Bees insider (a man with his finger very much on the pulse of relevance) his considered opinion was that Black Cats are doomed, describing them as a shadow of the team that played at Griffin Park for the 3-3 back in October. Something that is desperate to see, especially given they’ve such great fans too.

Yet as we’ve seen with the likes of Wolves and Southampton (who played alongside us in League One) or Newcastle and Leeds United, former glories count for nothing. Having a huge stadium and great fans mean naff all if you can’t get the spending right, keep the team motivated or perform on the pitch.

With the greatest respect, that’s their issue. Not ours. Brentford are safe and looking upwards. Barring a remarkable reversal of fortune, Sunderland can start programming Birmingham, Accrington Stanley and Luton into the Satnav for 2018/19.

Who are they? Sunderland might be about to find out.

This weekend has also seen the FA Cup fifth round ties taking place. It really has been a TV overload with Sheffield Wednesday – Swansea providing a low key start before things kicked off on Saturday. Manchester United got past Huddersfield despite some dubious use of VAR. One does have to wonder how hard it is to get watching a TV replay wrong. Yet here we went. Again.

If VAR was confusing, it was nothing compared to waking up on Sunday to news that the draw for the sixth round had already taken place. This, despite a quarter of the ties yet to have taken place. Is nothing sacred anymore? Like semi-finals at Wembley and virtual reserve teams taking the field of play (although that didn’t work out too well for Tottenham at Rochdale on Sunday evening), it’s yet another subtle erosion of the gilt from this famous old trophy. We still love it, of course, yet I can’t help feel the FA are allowing their tournament to become tarnished. Even if squad selection isn’t in their hands, other factors most certainly are.

Still, for me its all about looking forward. About getting ready for that Birmingham City game. This is one we’ve all had in the diary since the transfer window slammed shut. If ever there was time to avoid the whiff of slippage then it is now.  #BeeTheDJ selections are being lined up and the vocal chords loosened. Victory for Brentford will take us to the 50 point mark, 20 better than our old boys at St. Andrews. That’ll be twice ten times better.

See you on Tuesday, Harlee. Forget Chelsea v Barcelona in the Champion’s League. Griffin Park is very much going to be the place for a blood and thunder encounter. It’s going to be a lively one, that’s for sure, and I can’t wait. Bring it on.

Embed from Getty Images

Nick Bruzon

The time Peter Gilham saved Valentine’s Day.

14 Feb

Ahh, Valentine’s Day. For some, emotional blackmail. Held to ransom by the likes of Clinton Cards. For others a more personal time, when the date actually means something genuine. A time when Brentford took on Southend United at Griffin Park back in 2006. My first time officially ‘stepping out’ with the now (incredibly, still) Mrs. Bruzon. Rachel.

As a general rule I’m not a fan of Valentine’s Day. Let’s just be clear on that front. What used to be a wonderful occasion of sending mysterious cards to secret crushes has now changed beyond compare. That ritual is more commonly known as ‘stalking’ these days whilst if you believe the hype from card merchants such as Scribbler, Moonpig and Keith Stroud, any failure to shower your other half with mass produced tat on the specific day they tell you to makes you some sort of marital flop or romantic wet fish. And that’s if you are even in a relationship. What must they think of singleton ‘failures’?

Yet nothing says ‘l love you’ less than buying a crappy bear holding a cushioned heart on February 14th. If you need to be told to buy a card or gift on one, specific day to prove your love for somebody then that relationship is already fatally holed below the waterline.

It’s up there with Christmas for the ‘Can I just check – were definitely not doing anything this year?’ stakes and mutual agreement is then made. I then bottle it though. Every year. And yesterday was no different. I wasn’t alone, either.

The card shop was a tapestry of indecision. The line of people too scared to jump first was already a dozen strong and this was ‪at 8am‬ . Oh my. The peer pressure. The looks. The risk of choosing the wrong card. And that was just from fellow shoppers. I chose after a good few minutes deliberation that felt like an eternity. It’s a fine line between slush and crudity but I think I got it right.

Immediately, the chap next to me who had been there even longer went for the same card. I’m not sure whether mine was simply fantastic or he was using me as some form of human shield to avoid the ongoing pressure from the queue of shoppers building behind. However, that’s  two of us either in the dog house or in our loved one’s good books today.

92ce0df8-a0a9-4e89-a3df-b26fda527de9.jpeg

The 8am deliberation

I did go back later in the day, during the lunch time sweet spot. Just for a look. Wow. Just wow. The queue was coming out of the door. I’d not seen this much dithering since Les Dennis doing his impression of Mavis from Coronation Street. Still, that was their problem, not mine. My work had been done. For now. 365 days until the next time.

Besides, nothing will ever beat our first Valentine’s Day together. As ever, my first true love (Brentford FC) came to the rescue of my now true love.

The date: February 14th 2006.

The occasion: Griffin Park for a league game with Southend United.

The time and place: Half time on the pitch.

Putting a romantic spin on things, the club had arranged for rival female supporters to participate in the greatest Half Time competition to ever exist : Centre Circle Challenge. And guess who was up for the Bees?

Imagine Rachel’s ‘surprise and excitement’ when I revealed how we would be spending our first public date (we’d only been courting for a short time at that point). At Griffin Park, with her having to face off to a rival fan from Southend in front of over 7,000 fans. Having to ping footballs from the corner of the penalty box to the sweet spot on the meridian line. In trainers. On a greasy surface. With the supporters baying at her to get her tips out (I presume they were asking for help with the football coupon)

To be fair, it was a lot better than the reaction to the card I got her (from The Jet garage on the high road) which had a footballer and the message ‘good luck’ on the front. This, rather than showering her in buckets of slush and heart bearing teddy bears. Who knew women liked that sort of stuff? Although I guess it helped sharpen her kicking skills for later.

This situation was going to take some salvaging. Fair to say, and understandably,  she was feeling somewhat underwhelmed by the choice of card. But then the football started. And half time came.

Being cheered on by 7000 fans and the ever dulcet Peter Gilham, Rachel triumphed. His words of encouragement helping guide her to a victory that had far reaching consequences. Her opponent, doing the walk of shame back to the away end. Rachel, beaming in the moment. Me, dodging a romantic quagmire as Valentine’s Day was saved.

As ever, a huge I can only say a huge thank you to Brentford FC every time I think of that evening. What a win for the Bees….

From such small steps huge things grow and so I’ll also say a massive ‘love you’ to Mrs. Bruzon. She has has put up with yours truly for a further 12 years. Despite the ongoing collection of shabby cards. And that deserves more than a signed football in anybody’s book.

Rachy ccc programme

From Centre Circle Challenge to almost 10 years of marriage – so far…

Nick Bruzon

Bees get the point as Changchun Yatai get that Vibe. What next as Sunderland await?

11 Feb

Brentford 1 Preston North End 1. After that mini run of double defeats, here was a chance to get back to winning ways before the double header against two teams up to their hips and necks in the relegation quagmire – Birmingham City and Sunderland. Yet on a day which saw the long anticipated transfer of Lasse Vibe to Chinese Super League side Changchun Yatai for a fee rumoured to be £2m and a much changed Bees team lining up against promotion chasing Preston, in retrospect was it as disappointing as it felt at full time?

5a7e411e75c09

Any votes for ‘China in your hand’ on #BeeTheDJ ? Farewell, Lasse

No. In a word. As a fan, I’m always desperate to win no matter whom we are up against and whichever players are staring. Yet a first XI which, had it been picked during the transfer window would have had supporters screaming ‘conspiracy theory‘, more than held their own and arguably had enough chances and possession to have wrapped this one up. There was no Sergi Canos – suspended. Ryan Woods had to be content with wandering up and down the Braemar Road paddock, chatting to supporters and confirming he should be fit for the Sunderland game. Yoann Barbet was dropped to the bench whilst wunderkind Chris Mepham was awol.

Yet this was still a strong team with Josh McEachran having a very positive start before returning to the frustrating enigma that his performances so often are. When he’s on form he really is a talent and his forward passing is a joy to behold. Equally, there’s more sideways and backwards passing than down the road at Twickenham. Watching the England-Wales rugby after this one, I was half expecting our number 10 to put in an appearance. No irony lost, given one challenge he put in on Callum Robinson. Move along, nothing to see here. It’s a tough call for Dean how he crams that central midfield, who makes way and how he can get the very best from his available resources. Certainly, the arrivals of Lewis Macleod and Alan Judge were very welcome.

It was a game played out in front of a sparse crowd under drizzle soaked skies. It was a game that saw Brentford give away a goal out of nowhere. Tom Barkhuizen putting Preston ahead before Florian Jozefzoon levelled things up just eight minutes later with a goal described by Sky Sports (and you can get edited the highlights here) as a superb strike. I say this given I missed it, in circumstances described in the trade as ‘doing a JJ’. Still, anything for the cause. From then on, it was one-way traffic and I can’t wait to hear how the ever wonderful Mark Burridge described all this when the full fat package is available later *.

DSC00444

View from the Braemar: Andreas Bjelland v Preston – a Dane in the rain

With Greg Cunningham’s second yellow seeing the visitors reduced to ten men with fifteen minutes remaining, it was backs to the wall stuff. Ollie Watkins blazed just wide whilst Alan Judge came oh so close with a curling free kick in the dying seconds. Emiliano Marcondes added further threat from the bench and it is no surprise Dean came out with post-match comments that included his observation that, “We should have got three points today as our performance was good”.

Second half, it was good. Very. Although, equally, we can count our blessings The Bees didn’t go behind in the opening period. Tommy Spurr adjudged to have been marginally offside as he headed home for 1-0. But no. Instead it was that sweetest of football feelings – opposition cheers being snuffed out by the wave of a linesman’s flag. 0-0 it stayed, until Barkhuizen did the needful.

IMG_3292

It’s an early shower for you, number 3. Cunningham walks.

As for Brentford, up front remains a tough one for Dean. Neal Maupay had one, clear chance when put through one on one with Preston goalkeeper Declan Rudd. The man in black (Rudd, not the ref – if Kitman Bob is reading, what ARE the rules on that?) quick off his line to smoother the striker’s shot from eight yards. Other than that though, there were slim pickings in what you’d deem a typical striker’s chance. One thing’s for sure, with Justin Shaibu on loan and Lasse sold without being replaced, Neal is in for the long haul. That’s no bad thing either. We saw early on in the season what an impact he had off the bench. Here’s hoping that given a prolonged run of starts he’ll push on and find the back of the net on a regular basis.

My other thought is in regards to Dean Smith’s post-match observations. Both in this one and the previous two games. The 3-0 Loss v Derby saw him note that, “We had the better chances… the score-line wasn’t a reflection of what I thought was two-evenly matched teams”.

The game prior, our 1-0 Loss at home to Norwich, saw him opine how: I feel that the better team got beaten” going on to add later that, “I think Norwich will feel fortunate that they have gone away with all three points”.

Yesterday, it was that we should have won. Personally, my take on it is that we could have won. What a difference a letter or two makes. At least Dean recognises the chances we are creating but as has been said a gazillion times on these pages, they count for nothing if you can’t put them away.

As has also been said, who’d be a manager? Very much a case of damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Overall, He and his team are doing just about most things right. Certainly, there are no huge complaints from where I am sitting. Quite the opposite. We’re pushing it against the best in a phenomally tough division and more than holding our own.

Actually, there’s nothing wrong with not winning a game. We all want to. Myself included. I remember league two days. No money etc. etc. etc. I saw a reference on Twitter the other day to the Eddie May/ Micky Adams relegation season. Grim stuff. We’re more spoilt now than we’ve ever been. Moreso with the new stadium plans really gathering pace. But the football fan is never happy. We always want more. We live in hope of what might be. We all have a dream. We always want better.

I understand Dean’s passion and desire but I also know what I see when I’m watching the same game he is. Too much of the ‘we deserved to win/ should have won’ starts to lose impact after a while.

Hey, it’s a small gripe. At least he’s got faith in his team and is constantly reinforcing that positive message. If it’s the worst thing Dean does then we’re in good hands. He has tough decisions ahead, that’s for sure, and I don’t envy him picking the team to start against Sunderland. Likewise, his substitutions, whenever they happen….

But these are nice decisions to have to make. There is competition for the starting berth in just about every position. Yoann Barbet, in particular, must count himself very unlucky to have missed out this time around (albeit I love seeing Josh Clarke out there). No doubt he’ll be amongst those hammering down Dean’s door this week. Metaphorically speaking.

I’ve no clue who Dean will start on Saturday at Sunderland. Could this be Alan Judge’s time? I can’t wait to find out though. Given their own late comeback from 3-0 down to earn a point at Bristol City on Saturday, it’s not going to be as easy as the table suggests. That’s for sure.

There’s nothing more dangerous than a black cat backed into a corner and desperately fighting for survival. Bring it on.

As for Lasse Vibe, there’s not much more that can really be said. We all knew his contract was up. We all know what he has done for us over the last few years. How open and friendly he is. How enthusiastic and dedicated to the cause whilst at Griffin Park. Talking to supporters yesterday and reading through social media, I can’t see anybody wishing him everything but the best.

I can’t think of any other club or any other player where losing your main goal threat has been treated with nothing but universal good vibes. Yet that’s Lasse.

THANK YOU. Here’s to the World Cup..

* until then, here’s the post lunchtime update with the ‘official highlights’. Great job on the comms, too…

 

Nick Bruzon

 

There’s nothing superb about anything this weekend.

4 Feb

It’s not been a great weekend for football. Personally, I’ve kept the duvet over the head for as long as possible. Brentford left Derby County on the wrong end of a 3-0 scoreline and a somewhat harsh looking red card for Sergi Canos. But it wasn’t just there where pain was felt. Sheffield Wednesday 1 – Birmingham City 3 saw a brace for Jota. Fulham 2 Nottingham Forest 0 saw the Cottagers strengthen their play-off position. QPR 1 Barnsley 0 saw true horror –a home win for the Loftus Road outfit as they climbed higher into mid-table although at least we have the consolation of their remaining 7(seven) points behind The Bees. And then to cap it all, in the game Americans refer to as ‘football’, we have another piss weak entry into the pantheon of lame calendar related puns to annoy us for the next 24 hours. The Something Eagles play the New England Patriots in what is commonly referred to as ‘Superb Owl’ day.  Hilarious. Said nobody. First though, proper football.

Derby County 3 Brentford 0 will say the record books. They’ll even show a red card for Sergi Canos. I’ve watched it a few times and still think it’s somewhat dubious. Being polite. A 50-50 ball on a greasy surface for which even County manager Gary Rowett would later say,”If I’m being honest it didn’t look like a blatant sending off, it looked like a dangerous tackle although I’d have to see a really clear view to see whether I thought it was particularly dangerous”. Still, it’s the referee who makes the final decision and his was red card.

Sergi was clearly gutted. His twitter post on the way home said it all whilst giving the local press another ‘story’. Hey kids, don’t worry about reading the player’s social media feed when you’ve got hacks on hand to turn every tweet into a ‘story’. It’s journalism you could do in bed and does obscure the real stories driven by a never ending quest for hits.

The glut of clickbait headlines do make it it somewhat tricky to determine which articles are worth negotiating the subsequent sea of adverts and ‘pop ups’ for.  You can’t see the wood for the trees some days. Which one will simply turn out to be a regurgitation of Twitter? What is a managerial interview dissected into one line at a time exclusives? What is something that makes a genuinely intriguing read? Certainly, I’ve given up on the vast majority these days.

We digress. As ever, Sky Sports have the goals and the red card incident. Neither of which support Dean’s view as to us having had the better chances or the County players surrounding the referee at the crucial red card. Certainly, their reaction was no different from ours and along with the aforementioned quotes from Rowett, probably tells you all you need to know about the validity of this one. There’s a full match report on the BBC whilst Brentford ‘official’ have the interview with Dean in full. And if you haven’t read Sergi’s post then his Twitter page is your place.

Screen Shot 2018-02-04 at 08.52.29 1

Sky highlights show Derby players surround the ref as a red card is shown to a devastated Sergi

Still, what’s done is done. Preston are next up, at home on Saturday. Brentford may be slipping away from the play-off pack but to even be up there after a somewhat tricky start to the campaign is still a huge achievement. There’s plenty of time to go still and plenty of fun to be had en-route. I’d rather be where we are than, say, QPR or Birmingham City. As for Sunderland…. The table doesn’t lie and last season’s Premier league outfit are now in serious danger of being next campaign’s League One giant. Accrington Stanley v Sunderland as a league fixture for August. Who’d have thought that a possibility twelve months ago yet there is a very real chance of that happening should current form continue. Give me our position than their plight any day of the week.

That’s me. I’m done. Off to block the words ‘superb’ and ‘owl’ ahead of tonight’s Patriots – Eagles encounter. It’s a pun too far and (almost) as toe-curling as May the fourth’s Star Wars day.  Although nothing could get my heckles up as much as that one – at least this has given a cheap excuse to play with photoshop.

As funny as an episode of Mrs Brown’s Boys, set Twitter filters to stun. Or mute. Perhaps a few days of down time will do us all good.

superb owl

There’s nothing superb about a weak pun

Nick Bruzon

Is this a chance to get back to winning ways? Or will the table talk?

3 Feb

Brentford travel to Derby County safe in the knowledge that, a mass exodus to China aside (and Lasse Vibe is still very much flavour of the month there, per Phil Giles’ interview during the week), we know the make-up of our squad for the rest of the Championship campaign. It’s a good thing too, because things don’t come much tougher than a trip to Pride Park where the Rams have remorselessly climbed the table to the point that only Wolves sit above them. And even there the gap is closing. Yet as last night’s game between Bolton and Bristol City showed, anything can happen in this division. Anybody can beat anybody. Few people expected the Trotters to beat City but their reward for a 1-0 win was an escape from the bottom 3. The Bees don’t need to worry about relegation but that’s not to say our job is any easier. Equally though, the reward for victory could be a fantastic one. As for Leeds United, you’ll have to wait for the Preston matchday programme for thoughts on them – I’m sure we’ll all cope.

However, today is all about Brentford and Derby County. Whilst other teams have started to reel them in over the last few games, it is still our hosts who occupy an automatic place in the promotion race. At present. The gap to Wolves still 11 points and one would think it’ll take a choke worse than Wayne Rooney’s form at a World Cup finals for them to blow that one. Yet the race to second place is still wide open. Aston Villa are just a point off whilst Bristol City would have started the day level with County had they done the needful last night. Cardiff City are in a similar position, going into their own game at Leeds United today. Expect them to come away from that one with all three points.

Pressure and expectation can do funny things, though. I reference this a lot on these pages but I’ll never forget that final weekend of the 2014/15 Championship campaign. Derby didn’t need to do much more than just turn up to confirm their place in the play offs in a home against a Reading team with nothing to play for but Pride. Yet they didn’t even manage that, missing a penalty en-route to a 3-0 capitulation that saw them miss out on a promotion shot as Brentford were amongst the teams to overtake them en-route to the play offs for the Premier League. It still seems incredible, even now.

Might knowing that they have a chasing pack breathing down their own necks increase the anxiety for the home support? Could Brentford sweep in and clean up just as Reading did three seasons ago? Whilst we’ve had it tough against County in the past don’t forget we have our own, huge incentive. Prior to last week’s game with Norwich we’d been flying. Our own victory then would have taken us all but into the top six . Instead, it is Fulham who now sit in that slot whilst The Bees faced with the toughest of tasks, on paper, if we are to get back to winning ways.

players post Derby twitter

Harlee and the Judge – not a 70s cop show but a tough trip to Derby from days gone by

Whatever happens, it is just one game. One, tough game but that hasn’t phased us before. We know how well we have been playing at times. How poorly in patches. On the whole though it has been a pleasure watching Dean Smith’s team these last few months. We’ve a great run of fixtures coming up and what better incentive to hit them with than performing some sort of Ram Raid today to take the points from the hosts.

Yet bludgeoning our way through isn’t the Brentford style. There’s no crude unsophistication. A lack of tactical imagination at times, perhaps, but if we were perfect then we’d be top of the Premier League and lifting trophies. Instead, we have a team who play for each other and can play some quite breath taking football when we hit peak flow. The challenge today will be just who Dean starts with and how he sets them up.

An obvious point, perhaps, yet the first half against Norwich was as gloomy as the second was bright. Ok, we didn’t get the goal but at least we went for it. I like Dean a lot and he generally talks very objectively. But I didn’t buy his post-match analysis about Brentford being the better team over 90 minutes and deserving to win. We lost to a belter of a goal against a team who out played us in the first half. A team who out thought us in the second despite our wonderful approach play and infinite step up in both personnel and playing style.

DSC00414

The Norwich game has been and gone

That was then and I don’t want to labour the point. Instead it’s just a case of taking that one on the chin rather than dwell on what was a first home defeat since August. Of, dare I say it, going again. The only other team to beat us in recent months have been Wolves, and nobody needs a lecture form me on how well they’ve been doing this season.

So we are more than set up for today. We more than have the talent in this team. Who sits up top is going to be an interesting decision for Dean. As will be choosing who provides the width, how defensive his centre midfield is going to be and whether he has anybody to offer Neal Maupay support. Then again, I wouldn’t bet on him surprising all of us.

All this shows however is that like most of us, I have no clue who Dean will start. Does Neal continue up top? Will Josh McEachran retain his place in the starting XI? Could, no should, Sergi Canos be promoted from the bench?

Roll on 3pm when we find out.

Will who now? Sergi was on fire agasint Villa, despite the torrential downpour

Could a returning Sergi see it raining goals?

Nick Bruzon

As unexpected shocks go, this is up with the best of them. What next, though?

1 Feb

Can we look yet? 5.30am and the alarm has just gone off but, it seems, Brentford are in the clear. At least for now. The domestic transfer window has formally slammed shut and we have survived. Whilst outside of TW8, the biggest Bournemouth related shock of yesterday was their beating Chelsea 3-0 at Stamford Bridge, at Griffin Park we had our own cause to be wary of Eddie Howe. The Bournemouth manager reported by Sky Sports to have bid a staggering £5.5 million for Chris Mepham. Something that other sources later claimed had been upped to £7(seven) million pounds.

Chris is a huge talent and has done nothing but impress in the handful of appearances since making his Championship debut but a bid of that size is one that nobody expected. With all the talk of Lasse Vibe heading off to China or Ryan Woods to Sunderland, nobody had considered the thought that our new star could be on his way to the seaside. Thankfully, he isn’t. For now.

DSC00436

Chris Mepham won’t be turning his back on the Bees

Once again, it shows how much guess work and clickbait goes into those January rumours. Nobody saw this one coming and it will be very interesting to hear the official verdict on our January business. After the carnage in the summer when Harry Redknapp started to splash the cash at the 11th hour, you could have been forgiven for fearing the worst.

Instead it has been a case of tumbleweed at Griffin Park. Chris Mepham is still at Brentford and that can only be a good thing for all concerned. He has shown so much ability and maturity in such a short time that there is no doubt he can play at the highest level. Yet, for now, he continues his footballing education with Brentford and that’s fantastic news.

Instead, it is the ‘in door’ which has swung this time around with the signing of 20 year old Chiedozie Ogbene confirmed from Limerick earlier in the week. Another free scoring attacker (10 goals in 37 appearances last season) he is a player with huge potential. With Alan Judge staying at Griffin Park and Emiliano Marcondes taking those initial steps in the first team, competition is set to be even fiercer than ever before.

Ogbene

#WelcomeOgbene

In other ‘non’ news, number 26 is still at Burnley  – so no sell on clause for us. Although given his family ties, there was no way he was ever going to join the likes of Arsenal or any other Southern club. Manchester City would have been the only viable option out of all those clubs being linked with the strike happy centre-back.

That said, Justin Shaibu has gone out  – albeit on loan to Walsall. I really thought he may have been given a bit more of a try out in the first team – especially when Lasse has not been available. One does wonder what will happen should the Great Dane decide his career lies abroad. The transfer window in China remains open until February 28th so I don’t think we are quite out of the woods there. Still, all that is pure conjecture. We know from Dean Smith and other club sources that he has been in conversation with another club but, to date, no agreement has been met. Fingers crossed that Lasse sticks with the rest of his team mates to see where this season might take us.

I’m a very happy man this morning. Whilst it has got to the point that nothing would surprise us anymore (and almost did), when the worst that happened on deadline day was my triple Chelsea defence taking a fantasy football hammering – thanks, Eddie – then things have gone very, very well.

Yet had we sold anyone then I think it fair to say that whenever this has happened we’ve bounced back. This summer’s window has seen the quintessential example of this, with it taking Birmingham City the best part of four months to finally limp out of the bottom three. Even then, it took a win over fellow relegation strugglers Sunderland. Brentford, meanwhile, have picked ourselves up since losing Maxime et al to become the divisional form team as we’ve climbed from bottom of the table to the fringes of the play-off race.

But we digress. I don’t want to get caught up on the woes and travails at St. Andrew (albeit February 20th could be a very tasty encounter). Like it or not we are set up to grow, develop and sell players at present. Everybody has their price although clearly Chris Mepham’s is expected to be a lot more than has already been dangled under our noses.

We didn’t sell this time around. It’s brilliant. Moreso, it poses a very interesting question now about what happens should the Bees really kick on from that wonderful recent form. Espcially if Lasse stays put.

Large

 

Nick Bruzon

The unbeaten run is over. What next for Lasse and the Bees?

28 Jan

The unbeaten run is over. Brentford went down 0-1 at home to Norwich City in a game that won’t live on in the memory for long. Dean Smith would say afterwards that ”I feel that the better team got beaten” going on to add later that I think Norwich will feel fortunate that they have gone away with all three points”. He also confirmed the news everybody suspected the moment that the team was announced and Lasse Vibe wasn’t in the squad. Namely, that he is in discussions with another club – albeit all parties need to reach agreement.

My own source close to the club, and about as good as they get, had also confirmed the news prior to kick off. Noting much as Dean would later do, however, that the deal wasn’t done by any stretch. I say source. We’re hardly in wikileaks territory here, far from it. Yet at the same time it is marvellous who you bump into walking through the stand just before kick-off. Likewise, what a straight answer you can get to a straight question if you just ask.

DSC00414

Norwich came and conquered

On the plus side, Romaine Sawyers, also missing from the matchday 18, was confirmed as sitting this one out for genuine reasons – having been taken ill. The progression of Romaine’s game this season has been one of my own highlight’s of the campaign – seeing that ability shine through as he really has stepped up a level. The effortlessness with which he can spray the ball around. The rapier like way he bisects an opposition defence with one, killer pass. Not to mention the goals. Get well soon, Romaine. Here’s hoping we see you at Derby County on Saturday.

Dean would also use his post-match interview (and you can catch that article and video on ‘official’) to make a swipe at the crowd about Neal Mauapy, in for Lasse from the start for this one. His observation that I would have liked our supporters to have got behind him a lot more today” was lost on me, I have to be honest. Perhaps things were different on the New Road side but there was no negativity from where we sitting opposite. The cheers when he was replaced, along with a very poor Josh McEachran – sorry, but he didn’t have a great game – being more for the simultaneous arrivals of the ever popular Sergi Canos and, of course, Alan Judge.

How wonderful to see Alan back in action and in the first team. We all know what happened. We all know how long that road to recovery has has been, We’re all indebted to that anti-gravity treadmill – fair to say that has been ‘value for money’. We’ve all read that story and the follow up from earlier in the week – personally, I didn’t waste my time on it (long term injured footballer now back to fitness and wants to play – well d’uh!). Here’s hoping we have Alan for another few months – at the very least.

DSC00436

How good to see Alan Judge back out there

Dean really would go for broke or, as one terrace wag would note ‘Wow. He’s throwing the kitchen sink at it’ by also adding Emiliano Marcondes to the mix. Certainly, the second half saw a vastly improved Brentford performance after Norwich had threatened to run away with things in the opening period. James Maddison opened proceedings with barely five minutes on the clock. Whilst he was, perhaps, afforded space in the middle, his long range pile driver from well outside the box would have beaten just about any goalkeeper and was a goal you can only doff your cap to. Certainly, there is no blame attached to Daniel Bentley for this rare moment of seeing his nets bulge (not a euphemism).

Indeed, with Norwich continuing to push he had to visibly remonstrate with his defence on more than one instance. Whatever Dean would say about Brentford being ‘the better team’, I’d disagree on that first half showing. Norwich had the lion’s share of action and opportunities. They were well set up and an overly cagey Brentford couldn’t penetrate.

That’s football though. We haven’t got a divine right to win every game. To take things for granted. It’s certainly not the end of the world. More an opportunity missed to potentially climb even further up a Championship table that, for the fourth successive season, sees Brentford sitting in the top ten.

Sky have the highlights up already. You know the drill. They’re worth a watch, even just for Maddison’s goal. One even Nico Yennaris would have been proud of.

As for Lasse, here’s hoping he makes the right decision. Certainly, he’s one of the form players on the Championship at present. Whether for goals or assists. Supporters are worried about who will replace him should he leave. Equally, Matt Allard on Twitter nailed this one just about bang on.

Personally, it just feels like territory we’ve all been in before. I’ve given up worrying myself. I don’t want to see players go. Who would? Yet at the same time, life’s too short and if the last few season have taught us anything it’s that the club, the squad and our new acquisitions, will continue to surprise us.

Maybe it’s just the fuzzy head kicking in after four weeks of alcohol related abstinence that came to a tumultous end yesterday. Yet, genuinely, I’m not phased this morning. We may lose a few games along the way. We’ll hopefully win a few more! Yesterday it just wasn’t to be. Would Lasse have made a difference? Possibly. At the same time we still had enough talent out there but the set up was out of kilter from the off. Once the subs kicked in it looked a different team.

At the end of the day (Clive) we’re talking about not beating Norwich City. Let’s not forget the opposition that were in front of us. Likewise, it’s only our second defeat of the season at Griffin Park in the league. Perhaps Lasse’s absence had people feeling a bit flat from the off. It wasn’t a great afternoon but I wouldn’t have been anywhere else.

Ka-boom. The sound of a name being dropped. Talking to Delia Smith in the drizzle before kick off (not the Lasse source) and coming all this way in the manky weather, the one time  TV chef from the Multi-Coloured Swap Shop looked puzzled and said, “It’s football, isn’t it. Why wouldn’t you?” .

I couldn’t agree more. We love it. Whatever the weather. Whatever the result. There’s nothing better to be doing on a Saturday afternoon. Bring on Derby…

DSC00407

Ka-boom. The sound of a name being dropped

Nick Bruzon