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Neal going? Neal staying? Names – and nonsense – all over the place.

14 Jul

Yawn. Rumours. We should be talking about amazing things such as how the live YouTube stream of Dynamo Kyiv v Brentford (0-0) held stable throughout Saturday morning’s game. About how solid we looked at the back – second half especially (sadly, HB’s football club meant I missed a first half that Thomas Frank would later describe in glowing terms). We should be talking about the wonderful new home strip that the team wore and whether this may be the week where the ‘away’ colours finally put in an appearance (Come on Umbro, do your thing. Please). About our first proper look at the likes of Pontus Jansson and David Raya. But instead, it is all Neal Maupay – Sheffield United, Leeds United, Aston Villa and now even West Ham are being added to the rumour mill. Presumably as a result of their non-purchase of Scott Hogan a few years back.

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Still hoping to say happy birthday to my good friend next season – to coin a phrase

OK – let’s just cut to the chase and deal with the Neal Maupay situation from this perspective. That of outsider looking in and, as such, not privy to any club knowledge. Oh to have Phil Giles or Matthew Benham’s numbers in my i-pod telephone now. But, to be fair, even if I did I can’t imagine either party would be letting any cats out of bags. Why would they? This is a football club – not a committee meeting between supporters and top brass. Strategies and models have been laid out, precedents have been set and trust has long been earned. The amount of money invested in this club over the last 10 years and the players we have seen are a thing to behold. The sight of the new stadium springing up at Lionel Road, something to make the heart beat a little bit faster every time I walk past it.

I’m not in the employ of the club. Yes, I write in the match day programme but that’s voluntary and as much for my own pleasure or the chance to sneak past the editor some ‘in jokes’, a couple of references that only two or three other New Road Observers, Ealing Road fans & Braemar Road residents may get or simply a few open digs at our rivals. Thanks, Sam 😉

If something needs to be said on these pages then it’ll be said. But frankly, it hasn’t in recent years. The team are magnificent. Our top brass open and engaged. Our transfer business phenomenal. We’ve shrewdly and carefully built this club up. Improved and strengthened . Seen new heroes created. And, yes, leave. I still weep at the though of Jota sent to St. Andrews but take comfort in the fact that he is, at least, now an Aston Villa player. There’s one name going straight into my Fantasy Football team. Perhaps alongs side Chris Mepham, Ezri Konsa and number 26.

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Oh, Jota….. Any excuse

I also know that, like myself, we’ve a hardcore of long standing supporters for whom this positive period is something that still feels somewhat unusual. That success is brilliant but odd. That we’re only a moment away from selling Dean Holdsworth and replacing him with Murray Jones. To saying farewell Nicky Forster, Andy Sinton, DJ Campbell et al. That it’s Brentford, innit. Something is bound to go wrong. We’ll discover that Lionel Road is built on the site of an ancient burial ground. That somebody messed up the bluerprints and got the cms / inches mixed up a la Spinal Tap. That Neal Maupay’s contract was signed with invisible ink that is slowly disintegrating before our very eyes.

But it won’t. The evidence is there before our eyes. The difference is that when things happen that supporters may not like  – primarily the sale of a fan favourite – we now have a Plan B and C already lined up and in operation. Sometimes we sell early. Sometimes we sell late. Always we invest in potential. Now we are also investing in experience. The signing of Pontus Jansson a huge marker post that things continue to evolve at Griffin Park. 

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The final piece is lowered in to place at Lionel Road. Errrr “Chaaaaappp-mannnnn”

It is so apparent how things work these days. That Brentford still feels very much our club despite Matthew Benham and his team being at the helm. That they are deserving of our faith and trust. Be honest, NO football club is going to share transfer plans and divulge details of bids to supporters or journalists. Not even Brentford. Ignore the clickbait. Ignore the rumour. Trust the system.

Sure, Neal Maupay may well end up leaving us imminently. He may not. He was missing from the Dynamo Kyiv game, with Thomas conforming at full time that he had gone back to France for a couple of days but that there was nothing wrong with his approach and he’d be in training next week. Likewise, Said Benrahama although Kamo will be out for a few more weeks given his extended progress at the African Cup Of Nations.   

I’m not an idiot. I know we’re in clickbait season and that all manner of publications publish all manner of nonsense. Some of it may stick in hindsight. Most of it won’t. Maupay can’t be going to Aston Villa, Sheffield United AND West Ham. Romaine Sawyers can’t be going to Leeds United AND Aston Villa. Somebody might move. They might not. I’d love it if Neal lines up against Birmingham City on August 3rd. Absolutely love it. If only because I think he’ll destroy Harlee Dean and that’s worth anybody’s entrance fee. Let’s be blunt – I do NOT want him to leave. No matter how strong my trust in the system.

But, at the same time, IF he does then it’s not going to be a case of wailing and moaning. Most of our fans seem to get it, too. A twitter poll set up by the GPG (below) showed only 29% of voters saying that Neal must stay whatever. Likewise, the piece published by fellow blogger Luis Adriano – which you can read here – really hits the nail/neal on the head.

The last few years have more than shown that the board know what they are doing. Without Matthew Benham there probably wouldn’t even be a club now. We’d likely be watching AFC Brentford Phoenixes running out against Dulwich Hamlet or some such. Look at how Leyton Orient’s fortunes changed as a result of roping those three points to Marcello Trotta’s goal when we celebrated like we’d won the FA Cup. Look at how Doncaster and Yeovil have fared since being promoted at our expense the season prior.

We may not always do it immediately. But we ARE doing it right. I’d love Neal and/or Said to stay and really hope they do. Yet if they don’t, we’ll survive and who knows who we’ll unearth next….  

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The mutual love at Brentford is palpable – from Neal to Said and beyond

Nick Bruzon

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The Brentford transfer machine rolls on. Will Dean swoop again?

12 Jul

And then the door swung the other way. Following the sudden influx of players to Griffin Park, it was perhaps inevitable that Daniel Bentley would not be alone in leaving Brentford. Sure enough, the expected sale of Ezri Konsa to Aston Villa was announced yesterday. With Pontus Jansson ( thanks, Leeds United ) and Ethan Pinnock (c/o Barnsley) having been unveiled in recent weeks, something was going to give. With the BBC reporting a sale price of £12million, a year after Ezri joined us for £2.5m from Charlton, Dean Smith has got his man and Matthew Benham has more than balanced his books.

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Nice work. Nice training gear. Sponsored by Wolves?

Much as when Dean himself moved to Aston Villa in October, the universal reaction seems to be one of positivity and well wishes from the Griffin Park faithful. The arrivals of Ethan from Barnsley and, especially, Pontus from Leeds United had more than boosted morale whilst signposting a back three that will presumably feature Julian Jeanvier as the final part of this defensive Holy Trinity. Likewise, turning around a price differential of close to £10m in such a short space of time for a player who is already part of the England U-21 set up. Very much a case of win-win for all parties. 

Presumably we’ve added the usual sell on, appearance, international clauses that seem to be our way these days. Whether Charlton Athletic did the same last time out, who knows, but I’ve seen words out there to suggest this was not the case. Then again, that could be the usual conjecture and clickbait that is so prevalent at this time of year so perhaps best to draw a discreet veil and move on. Ultimately, we’ve got a price we’re happy with and Ezri has a dream move to the Premier League. 

If selling a CB seemed an obvious move , what about central midfield? With Dean Smith having already taken old boys Jota and Ezri to Aston Villa, could he be looking to a third? Is there any substance to the Romaine Sawyers / Leeds United stories that are flavour of the week? Again, dispensing with all gossip the fact that we have picked up Nørgaard and Jensen makes us suddenly look very strong in that area with Romaine and Kamo already in situ. Especially given the Thomas Frank preference for a plethora of centrebacks and wide men.

Clickbait journos are putting 2+2 together . Strength in depth. Our approach of selling on. Dean Smith hoovering up his old boys. The Leed United rumours. As an outsider looking in, I can see why. As an outsider looking in, I’ve no idea whether they have got 4 or 5. And I don’t particularly care. 

By which I mean that I obviously want the best for the squad. I want to see how it all plays out and who will be in that starting XI to face Harlee Dean and whoever else is left at Birmingham City when they visit on August 3rd. But to overly expend energy following clickbait and rumour or upsetting myself over what is so clearly outside of any control is time that could be infinitely better spent. There are away shirts to launch, pre-season friendlies to follow, Tyrolean tour blogs to read, Leeds fans to get upset and season review e-books (all proceeds to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust) to download here.

Subtle as a Neal Maupay goal celebration but I thank you for your indulgence.

There’s not much else to say today beyond a final good luck to Ezri. I’m sure there may be more to follow but until they do, life’s too short to get stressed by rumour and rubbish. We’ve an incredible squad at our disposal and every day that passes is one closer to the accursed transfer window ™ slamming shut. I’d also offer you these words of comfort / approach from Phil Giles , given at last year’s fan forum when the news of Dean’s departure for Aston Villa meant players would follow despite our strong start to that campaign. 

He was unequivocal about the situation in regards to a promotion push, saying that “If we are in the top six in January we won’t be selling players….If we’ve a high likelihood of getting promoted we’d be very reluctant to sell.”

That was then. This is now. Of course things change but given the gauntlet already being placed in front of our Championship rivals, do we honestly think the club will then look to cut off a metaphorical arm and haemorrhage the very life blood of a promotion push?

Ultimately, the answer to that depends on what plans are being forged behind the scenes. Obvious, I realise. Yet those words from Phil are quoted to illustrate that we’ve stayed strong and shown positivity before. Here’s hoping we can do it again.

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Nick Bruzon

If it helps, blame Greville. Warning : may contain typos.

10 Jun

Welcome back, Brentford fans. The dust has finally settled on 2018/19 and we’re now into that long wait for proceedings to begin in anger once more. The Bees finished 11th in the Championship, despite flirting with both ends of the table. Aston Villa ‘deserved to win’ in the play-off final as Griffin Park head coach Dean Smith swapped TW8 for his boyhood club back in October. Leeds United fell apart in quite spectacular style although will no doubt be amongst the favourites when the fixtures are announced this month. And Thomas Frank won over the doubters in some style as his free flowing team, spear-headed by Neal Maupay and Said Benrahma, started scoring goals for fun.

It was some season, that’s for sure. Season tickets are already flying off the shelves for 2019/20 as realisation dawns that we have just over 20 games left to play at Griffin Park. It’s going to be an emotional campaign and I for one cannot wait to get going once more. No matter how tedious the wait for early August already seems. Cripes, we don’t even know what we’re going to be wearing yet. Come on Bob – give us another kit clue. That said,  Umbro have at least had their name revealed and Lionel Road stadium building firm Ecoworld have been named as our new sponsor. 

For yours truly, it’s ‘that’ time of year aswell. I wasn’t going to bother and was then caught unawares by Bob Booker biographer Greville Waterman. I say unawares, more under the influence. A few pints had been consumed when he caught up with me and asked if I’d be doing it this time around, “Sure. Why not” was the answer. Curse you, Guinness. And so it began.

And as a result we’re live as of…. now. It’s annual e-book time. As ever, any and all funds raised from this (or previous titles) are going to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust. This season’s effort is entitled ‘The Jaffa cake Shirt’ because we all know how amazing this was(n’t) – delete as applicable. It contains the least bad of the Blogs from this site swell as all the articles submitted for The Park Life feature in the Griffin Park match day programme – league and cup. 

Starting with the summer and the World Cup (when it got mentioned once or twice that we had a player involved – Henrik Dalsgaard of Brentford) it goes on through all the fun and games.  Remind yourself how we out played Aston Villa. Again. Even if Dean did think they deserved to win. Re-live the goals from Neal Maupay – and the quite magnificent mentality! Watch Fulham and QPR self destruct, Birmingham City prove that overspending is anything but a ten times better strategy. Remember how Leeds United fell apart. Curse as Mrs. Brown’s Boys still exists.

Regular readers of these pages know the drill. The  quality may not be great. There WILL be typos. I probably use the phrases ‘That said’, ‘Then again’ and ‘However’ far too often. Much of it you will already be familiar with.

On the plus side, what better way to remind yourself how brilliant 2018/19 was? To kill a bit of time of the commute to work / on your summer holidays / on the toilet etc You can download it , now, for your kindle , iPod telephone or other electronic reading device here. That’s here !

Many thanks in advance for your time. At £1.99 it’s cheaper than half a pint so what’s to lose? Apart from £1.99  – which then goes to a great cause anyway.  I’ll apologise in advance for mentioning this again over the next few weeks but it will all benefit our quite fantastic Community Sports Trust. 

And if it helps, blame Greville. I have !

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Nick Bruzon

Rumour meltdown: Jota, Bentley, Maupay. And a certain game (of Liverpool bingo) awaits.

1 Jun

The wait is over. Strap yourselves in for a wild ride. This is the big one. Sure, there may be something going on in Madrid this evening between Tottenham and Liverpool (and we WILL get there for a bumper game of bingo) but back in Brentford it begins. With Aston Villa confirmed as a Premier League team, there was always going to be untold speculation linking Dean Smith with not only his old club but just about any target that may have been potentially available. Yes, clickbait season – aka the early knockings of the summer transfer window – is here.

The desperate hunt for stories and transfer news sees all manner of sources close to clubs being quoted and suspicions alluded to as news sites will publish anything in the desperate search for hits. Usually involving the phrase, “We understand that…” and  “The player is thought to be: unhappy / desperate to force a move / frustrated / keen to test himself at a higher level”.

We don’t normally do rumours on these pages but with some corkers out there at present, you have to make an exception every now and again.  I’ve already seen a lot of talk about Aston Villa making a £20million swoop for Neal Maupay. It’s an obvious link between Dean Smith and Brentford with an incredible amount of money being suggested but it won’t be happening. No chance. The player is too deeply ingrained into the set up at Griffin Park. The club love him. He loves the club. The final season in our current home is where its going to be happening.

Indeed, if anyone leaves Brentford for Aston Villa then its more likely to be somebody like now out-of-contract Yoann Barbet or Josh McEachran – both of whom thrived under Dean at the start of the season just gone. Nobody can doubt Yoann’s versatility or passion and our loss will be anybody elses’ gain when pen is eventually put to paper. As for Josh, he was widely quoted as still harbouring England ambitions and, to be fair, was one of our stand out players prior to the autumn blip in form that saw us dumping our promotion ambitions for a short lived dalliance with the lower end of the table.

But rest assured, Neal is going nowhere. His value as an individual is, of course, immense but it is his interaction with those around him something that you cannot put a price on. The link up play with the likes of Sergi, Ollie and Said was a thing of beauty to behold. He needs them as much as we need him. If nothing else, can you honestly imagine him and John McGinn in the same team? Let’s just stamp on this rumour right now.

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Going nowhere

I’ve also seen whispering of Dan Bentley to Stoke City. That one seemed pretty random and probably based on nothing more than their all-round awfulness in 2018/19 and our own goalkeeping conundrum that eventually saw duties shared. Let’s not forget our first away game of last season, at Stoke, where the opening goal he and Chris Mepham conspired to let in between them was hardly a great advert for any prospective employer. Personally, I think Dan is great and would hate to see him go. Don’t let the odd hiccup last campaign tarnish his overall quality between the Griffin Park sticks.

Yet the best rumour involves the King. Jota. Despite the quality we have now, one can’t help but go misty-eyed thinking about all he did at Griffin Park. How awful it was to see him end up in that footballing backwater and cultural desert that is Birmingham City.

Now, there are stories doing the rounds that are linking him with a move across the city to reunite with Dean Smith as part of a swap deal involving somebody called Gary Gardner. I have to be honest, he’s not a player I’m overly familiar with but , regardless of the stories validity, it’s my favourite so far. Purely because of the reaction form the St. Andrews faithful. Talk about Twitter meltdown.  

DPE3B5xW0AE7Fz4I hope this one is true. Presumably we’d be in line for any sell on clause whilst it would be incredible to see Jota in the top flight.  He has the ability, that’s for sure. Jota v Jota in the Wolves – Villa game would be magnificent. Anything that causes Birmingham City angst can only be a good thing in my book and they’re likely looking to rebalance their wage bill after last season’s little bit of bother with financial irregularities and that points deduction.  Plus he’s a shoe-in for any fantasy football selection if so.

Come on – make it happen, Dean.

The genuine news out there at present is this evening’s Champions League final between Tottenham and Liverpool. It’s a game that is harder to unravel than one of Matthew Benham’s cryptic video clues. No matter who you think is the strongest of the two, the double ‘miracle’ of the semi-finals where seemingly insurmountable leads were reeled back in prove that both teams have what it takes. And both defences must be somewhat porous to have got into that position in the first place.

If anything, Tottenham pulled off the bigger miracle. Liverpool were at home and had the full 90 minutes to reel in Barcelona. Spurs were playing in Amsterdam and had capitulated to a position that saw them needing their three goals in the second half alone. To hang in there until finally taking an aggregate lead in the 96th minute of the second leg was nothing short of incredible.

I can’t even come close to calling who will win this one. What I can predict, however, is that we’ll have a field day in Champions League final bingo. For no other reason Liverpool are playing. Chuck another English team into the mix and you can bet the related clichés will be on overdrive.

If you’d like to play along, then here’s your card….

anfield bingo

Enjoy

Nick Bruzon

That was some weekend. But what’s happening today?

28 May

What a weekend! Brentford now know every team we’ll be playing in the Championship next season after Charlton Athletic triumphed in the League One play-off whilst Frank Lampard’s Derby County missed out to Aston Villa in the battle for a Premier League place. There were nothing but good wishes coming out of TW8 for Dean Smith as saw his dream come true in a game that could have gone either way in a frenzied final ten minutes. Back at Griffin Park, we have incoming news following a cryptic late night tweet from Brentford official on Sunday.

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Villa celebrate at Wembley

Love or hate the play-offs, nobody could deny that was the weekend that had it all. From what we could politely call a ‘defensive mix up’ that put Charlton on the back foot within minutes of kick-off to Derby County suffering their own goalkeeping malfunction that allowed the Villans to double the lead. Despite a late surge and the arrival of Flo Jo from the bench, Dean Smith and his team were able to hang on. The smiles at full time said it all. Smiles that we’ve never experienced as the tears on the faces of the Derby and Sunderland fans were a pain that we know all to well.

Screen Shot 2019-05-28 at 06.11.57The bonus of Aston Villa going up means that the Bees already climb a place in the fledgling league table. We’re currently fourth, clear of Leeds United, Fulham and QPR. Newly promoted Charlton are sniffing around the play-offs (not bad for a team that have just gone up) although there’s a shock at the top with both Barnsley and Birmingham City in ‘automatic’. I can’t imagine that will last for too long. Had Derby made it then we’d be sitting in fifth, albeit I can’t imagine Dean Smith would have settled on taking top spot as a palatable alternative.

The other big question from the play-offs was how much Brentford stand to make from Villa going up. What ‘clauses’ (if any) were written into the deal to let Dean go? More importantly, there’s a certain Scott Hogan. Somehow, he has got himself promoted to the Premier League twice in the same season. Officially with Villa and as an on-loan player at Sheffield United. Does this mean we get paid twice? Stranger things have happened.

Waking up this morning, Brentford official have started to prepare the way for some form of news. I say, some. In part this is obvious – we have incoming. The tweet that went up late last night noted : ✍ Announce 9am.

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The pen emoji presumably for a contract being signed rather than to highlight our new rnage of autograph books in the club shop. And if so, every bit of transfer gossip suggest this will be Danish midfielder Christian Nørgaard from Fiorentina. Whilst that bit may be fairly nailed on – if you believe what you read – what still remains uncertain at this moment in time is what form of ‘signing photo’ we are going to get.

The classic ‘pen poised over contract’? How about, ‘Holding a Brentford scarf’ – either aloft or at waist height? Yet perhaps this could a double whammy to link in with the kit launch. Imagine if the new player were to appear with our first look at the Umbro 2019/20 kit? Home or away? Don’t forget that last season, supporter Lucy Draper was given permission to drop the images on to Twitter to formerly launch the kit whilst the arrival of Said Benrahma was first revealed in a video clip to supporter Ryan.

The point being that we like to do things in an unorthodox style. Whilst unlikely (and it may not even be Christian who is joining), until such time as we see the images I won’t rule out the possibility of a new shirt being included.

Just as long as there isn’t a comedy hashtag……

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Is Christian now a Bee?

Nick Bruzon

Mascot magnificence poses big question. And is this the best football record ever?

15 May

So Brentford now know at least one more team we’ll be playing next season after West Bromwich Albion missed out to Aston Villa in the play-offs. A 1-0 win on the night in a game that our former head coach , not surprisingly, thought his team should have won wasn’t enough to see The Baggies reach Wembley. Frank Lampard’s Derby County ™ and Leeds United do battle this evening for the chance to join them . What price a Leeds – Villa rematch in that one….. More importantly, we have quite wonderful news c/o Matt Dyson on Absolute Radio about what is, quite possibly, the greatest football / music crossover since Hoddle and Waddle.

First up, the play-offs. Aston Villa are through. West Brom aren’t. It was yet another example about how wonderful an experience it is for the winning side aswell as the neutral observers. Conversely, how utterly devastating for those who missed out. I love them and dread them in equal measure yet let’s not pretend it would have been quite wonderful to see Brentford involved last night. Instead, we had to settle for Dean Smith doing his thing.

I’ve all the time in the world for Dean. We’ve written about him on these pages many, many times. Nobody could doubt his enthusiasm or passion. He took Brentford to the position of being joint favourites for the Championship title as recently as October before succumbing to the obvious lure of his boyhood club.

The only gripe being his constant insistence in every post-match press conference that his team ‘deserved to win’ – regardless of whether the game ended in draw, defeat or victory. We saw it at Griffin Park. We’ve seen it with Villa. Even our own three points taken from the Villans back in February saw him repeating those oft heard words following Neal Maupay’s injury time winner, “On the scale of chances, not what we deserve”.

Perhaps it is Dean’s party piece nowadays. As familiar a soundbite and football cliché as the flourish of a Keith Stroud yellow card, mention that ‘The shackles are off’ at Manchester united (even if they seem to have now reattached themselves) or the Rams being rebranded as Frank Lampard’s Derby County ™. And whilst it would be nice if Dean could perhaps change the record, it would be churlish to offer him anything but the hugest congratulations at this juncture. Nobody could deny how he has lifted Aston Villa and taken them to the brink of a top flight return.

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Bingo cards at the ready for the final

The other point of note from last night was a piece of mascot related magnificence. Things don’t get more pressured or stressful than a penalty shoot out. With West Brom looking to compose themselves and prepare for the vital spot kicks, who was that joining the huddle? None other than the club mascot, of course. As you do.  Sadly, the anthropomorphic onlooker was unable to inspire the team as they just missed out.

It also posed the question of what has happened to Boiler Man? Why wasn’t he in the huddle too? Could his absence from this crucial gathering have been the narrow margin between victory and defeat? Who knows. However, should Brentford find themselves in this position in twelve months’ time, then the key fact to note is that both Buzz AND Buzzette must be involved.  

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Get in there

Then, this morning, something even more incredible than Buzzette being caught In flagrante delicto with Boiler Man and Kingsley happened. Petr Cech has only gone and made a record. Yes, that Petr Cech. With drummer, Roger Taylor. From Queen (not Duran Duran).

Entitled ‘That’s Football‘ you can hear it below. Please. Do so. Now. The news was brought to us on The Absolute Radio breakfast show by co-host Matt Dyson and , it has to be said, the record is stunning. Absolutely stunning. So bad it’s amazing.

Described as John Barnes crossed with Kraftwerk, it sees the former Arsenal goalkeeper to produce a quite incredible performance that is, essentially, a list of things that happen at football. All of which are  spoken/delivered in alternate lines by Cech and Taylor.  Think Wiliam Shatner channelling Arnold Schwarzenegger

Victory. Happiness. Glory. Fame.

The Pitch. The Roar. The Crowd. The Score

It could be the best football record ever. And that’s saying something. I’d love to hear this on #BeeTheDJ next season. Better still, what about Brentford running out to this one…..?

Thank you Matt. Thank you Roger. And thank you, Petr.

Nick Bruzon

Prince William. Tom Hanks. David Cameron. Simon Hateley. Your boys took one hell of a beating. Again

13 Feb

Come on, Aston Villa. Perhaps one day you’ll give Brentford a game. One can’t even begin to describe the performance and dominance tonight as Thomas Frank’s Bees made it three on the spin at home to the Villans. Chuck in three away draws and that’s a mighty impressive record against the one time European Champions (1982 in Rotterdam, in case you hadn’t heard it mentioned before). Dean Smith’s return to Griffin Park was anything but a happy one as we warmed up for Sunday’s FA Cup fifth round tie at Swansea City in mightily impressive form. 

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Romaine brings the ball out of the back

It was another case of true domination against Villa. We’ve all been used to it over the last few seasons but this was about as one sided as it came. The visitor’s midfield was non-existent. Only a mass of bodies at the back, and the vagaries of our ‘referee’ Gavin Ward, keeping Brentford out. Yet the fact that it took injury time before Neal Maupay finally found the net made the eventual result all the sweeter.

It had never seemed in doubt from the first few minutes as Aston Vila were put on the immediate backfoot. It was a position from which they struggled to make any inroads but, and as we’ve said many times is the thing that actually counts in football, Brentford were unable to make the possession count. Brentford were unable to find the back of the net. Brentford looked like they may finally drop two points at home to Villa. Then that man Maupay stepped up and did his thing.

Oh my word, what a goal. What an explosion of ecstasy and relief from the crowd. What a finish as Maupay burst clear into the box before curling it high into the top corner. Visiting goalkeeper Lovre Kalinic left rooted to the spot as ball flew past him. Unable to do anything more beyond turning to watch the ball make the net ripple from the sweetest of strikes.

I’m struggling to remember specifics at present. The brain is a blur of excitement and relief. Despite outplaying our illustrious opponents for huge swathes of the game, we’d been unable to find a way though. The impressive Sergi Canos forcing a fine early save from Kalinic in the first half to set the tone for what followed in all aspects beyond the actual scoring of a goal. Here’s hoping he’s fit for Sunday and the injury related substitution was nothing more than a precaution. 

Even the most ardent of Brentford supporters were perhaps beginning to feel that this one may have to go down as an opportunity missed. Neal Maupay thought otherwise. It was one of those where you HAD to be there. I’m sure it was great on TV but the communal outpouring of celebration as the goal went in was one of THE moments of a season that is rapidly building pace to a frenzied denouement. Whilst one has to appreciate there were those who missed this game through their own personal circumstances, those choosing to deliberately stay away are missing out on something quite wonderful. 

Of course Warbs, Dean and Thomas have all played their parts in quite magnificent style but you have to doff your cap to Matthew Benham and the current regime at the helm of the club. Their vision and guidance has brought through the likes of Said Benrahma, Sergi Canos and Neal Maupay. Ezri and Julian continue to impress at the back. Long term Bee Yoann Barbet continues to exude enthusiasm from every pore. The last player to come in from the warm up and one of the last to leave the field of play at full time.It really is a special time to support Brentford.

That said, Thomas named a side without a traditional right back that instead chose to take the game to their illustrious opponents. Perhaps here was the answer to how you fit Watkins, Benrahma and wing back Sergi Canos (not a typo) into the same team. Moses Odubajo on the other side pushing an extremely high line as Villa struggled to get out of their own half. It was delightful to watch.   

Full time came with a traditional response from Dean Smith. Catching up with the replay upon the return home, he opined to Sky how it was, “On the scale of chances, not what we deserve”. Come on Dean, next you’ll be telling us that Villa won the European Cup. For once, don’t do press by rote. Just try and tell it like it was. This was as one sided a game as I’ve seen since the last time Villa visited this part of West London. Prince William. Tom Hanks. David Cameron. Simon Hateley  – your boys took one hell of a beating. Again. 

Where I would agree with Dean is his commentary about the referee. He’s always been one to say it like it is when it comes to the man in the middle and here he was spot on as he observed, “I’ve said this season the refereeing has been pathetic at times.” Truly, Gavin Ward was a nightmare. A Keith Stroud in Bobby Madley’s clothing. Penalties denied. Advantages pulled back. Decisions made with all the authority of a roulette ball trying to find an eventual resting place. How lovely would it be to have a referee and linos who get on with the game rather than instil a pre-match level of dread which is then fulfilled as proceedings get underway.  

The flip side to all this being that we won. Nobody will care that Gavin did once more what Gavin does so often. All that counts are the three points. 

Now bring on Swansea City and the FA Cup.

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Said takes the plaudits at full time

Nick Bruzon

The return of ‘the ex’ presents a wonderful opportunity to show how we’ve moved on.

13 Feb

Like the return of Harlee Dean et al with Birmingham City last season, tonight’s game certainly has an extra level of spice. Brentford entertain Aston Villa and, of course, former head coach Dean Smith in front of the Sky cameras in a clash that has the imagination running into over drive. What a wonderful opportunity awaits Thomas Frank and his Bees team to show just how we’ve progressed. Just how much Dean left behind. 

Dean SMith and Mick

Dean Smith – friends with just about everyone

Dean Smith brings his Villa team to Griffin Park, having only tasted victory once this year. That, a 2-1 triumph over basement boys Ipswich Town. Indeed since our paths crossed in the Championship, the Villans are yet to earn all three points against Brentford. Three draws on the road and two home victories – including the 3-0 hammering administered on the day Scott Hogan left TW8 for Villa Park – sees recent form between the two sides very much in our favour. Not bad for a pub team !

Indeed, that 3-0 at the end of January 2017 was one of the finest displays that we’ve produced since our ascendency to this level of football. It’s amazing what a bit of inspiration or the desire to prove a point can do.

And if those are your motivating factors then they don’t come any bigger than chucking in the return of a manager who left us for another. We all know his reasons for leaving Brentford. Turning down the opportunity to take the reins at the club you supported as a boy (and beyond) would have been an incredible decision. Those sort of chances don’t come around every day and so one can sympathise with Dean in making that leap to what is one of the most famous names in club football.

Villa Park is a wonderful stadium with a huge fanbase and a club with genuine aspirations to return to the Premier league. Apparently they won the European cup once – if only somebody had mentioned. Who could forget the moment assistant coach John Terry lifted that famous trophy high into the Rotterdam night sky?

We’ve been consistently strong - especially against Villa, despite the torrential downpour

Rain or shine, we’ve had plenty of recent highlights against Villa

Yet as was noted in the previous column, all this doesn’t doesn’t change the fact that Dean left a wonderful young squad at a progressive club. He’d taken Brentford to a position where, quite fantastically, we’d been named as Championship favourites when Villa came calling earlier this season. He’d got the team playing some quite wonderful football, albeit we’d started to wobble as he left.

Now Thomas Frank has the hot seat. The team have been scoring goals for fun in a scintillating hot streak and face an FA Cup fifth round tie this Sunday. We’d gone ten unbeaten prior to the weekend’s trip to Nottingham Forest. Even that 2-1 slip up saw enough chances created (along with a couple of goals conceded that the coaches have no doubt been reviewing at the training round) in a performance that on another day would have seen us come away with at least a draw. 

Aston Villa on the other hand only have the aforementioned 2-1 home win over Ipswich and have to look back as far as Boxing Day (Swansea) since the previous time Dean was able to taste victory. No doubt I’m sure they’ll feel that they should have claimed a few more since then but the proof is in the ‘W’ column. ‘D’ counts for draw, not ‘deserved to win’. Their last run out, the 3-3 draw at home to Sheffield United, saw them at their best. And worst. Racing into a 3 goal deficit they somehow clawed things back to earn a point with goals on 82, 86 and then deep into injury time. 

Indeed, our own game at Villa Park this season ended in similar circumstances. Jonathan Kodjia popping up deep, deep into injury time to snatch a point after Neal Maupay had stamped his authority all over the game with another brace to give us a late lead. We all know what happened after that one when a retrospective red card was issued to the French man. I’ve no doubt he’ll be the subject of pantomime booing and niggly challenges tonight. That’s football. There’s nothing finer than trying to wind up one of the opposition – moreso when you have a point to make. Just ask Harlee and Birmingham City (5-0, wasn’t it…?).

On paper, this one has home win all over it. Current league form and recent performances against Aston Villa both see Brentford in the driving seat. Yet we all know that’s not how football works. Anything but. I can only imagine this one being tense. It’ll have goals but try to pick how many for each team and you may aswell stick your hand in the barrel marked lucky dip. The one thing you can be sure of is that there won’t be a repeat of  The Monkees. 

Will there…..?

 

Nick Bruzon

All good things come to an end. Now is the time to go ag, ag, ag.. once more.

10 Feb

So it wasn’t to be 11 unbeaten. It wasn’t to be another victory on the road in the incredible orange and brown. A 2-1 win for Nottingham Forest saw Brentford defeated for the first time since that mid-December trip to Hull (and back?) . With back to back TV clashes at home to Aston Villa and then up at Swansea City in the FA Cup to come, January’s manager-of-the-month nominee Thomas Frank is now tasked with the challenge of getting the momentum going once more.

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Thomas will need to go ag.. once more

Brentford official would describe this one as ‘Frustrating’ on the club Twitter feed at full time. The stats would certainly bear this out with the game ending on 70% possession and 21 shots for The Bees.  Ollie Watkins had a goal disallowed, the woodwork was hit twice and Daniel Bentley pulled off a magnificent double penalty save. Sergi Canos provided hope late on with his fourth in four games. Yet we all know that ‘deserving’ and ‘stats’ count for nothing if you can’t take your chances or if you give away sloppy goals.

Certainly, Nottingham Forest will be well pleased with their win and made no mistake when opportunity knocked. The highlights are up on Sky’s website already and are very much a case of – move along quickly, nothing to see here. At least, at the back.

The defensive coaches will no doubt be having words on Monday morning about what were two very soft efforts to concede. In the cold light of day we can’t be pleased about either but, at the same time, let’s not deny Lewis Grabban or Molla Wague any kudos here. They worked their chances, were perhaps given a helping hand but still had to put them away.

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Another penalty save counted for nothing in the end

On another day we might have won this one. The positive news being that there were chances to take. The run of goals, goals, goals had to end at some point. We’ll bounce back. The visit of Aston Villa on Wednesday night couldn’t have come at a better time. If we can’t get ourselves up for this one then what’s the point of bothering? Who doesn’t want to prove a point to Dean Smith? Player or fan?

We all acknowledge why he took the ‘dream job’ and I can’t imagine there’ll be any ‘ill will’  but that doesn’t change the fact he left a wonderful young squad at a progressive club. He’d taken Brentford to a position where we’d been named as Championship favourites when Villa came calling and that mantle was passed to Thomas Frank. Now he returns with a team who are scoring goals, and shipping them, for fun. It could be a scintillating encounter.

Then there’s Swansea City in the FA Cup. What an incredible opportunity awaits in that game. A fleet of free coaches heading up the M4 in the hope of reaching the quarter finals in a winner takes all clash. there’s no chance of a replay now. It has to be sorted on the day, via the mediums of extra time and penalties if needed. No prizes for guessing which direction that one could end up heading. This is Brentford after all….

I’d love to have beaten Nottingham Forest. If only to extend a fine winning run in recent seasons agasint the Tricky Trees at the City Ground. There’s the personal reasons of wanting to get one over a few of their supporters whilst who doesn’t love extending an unbeaten run? Instead, It was former Bee Lewis Grabban who swung the axe to chop us down for the first time in five home games.

Now, we have to prove this was the blip that I am sure it will be after a fine run of form. Forest are pushing at the play-offs. Brentford looking at a cup run. As Harry said to me at full time, “Daddy. Was that a league game? … Thank goodness, so we’re still in the FA Cup then!

I can’t account for the naivety of youth and I’m certainly not going to dent his enthusiasm. Wednesday will be huge but Sunday could be epic.

Nick Bruzon

New drums, same beat? Here’s hoping for some samba style.

20 Oct

And we’re back. Brentford host Bristol City today for our first taste of Championship action since being robbed at the death by then leaders Leeds United two weeks ago. A hard fought point at Elland Road something we’d probably all have taken before yet one which still feels a little disappointing given the conclusion and performance in the 1-1 at Elland Road. Still, that was then and this is now. Two weeks has seen a monumental change at Griffin Park with Thomas Frank now in the head coach role after Dean Smith followed his heart and his dreams to take over at Aston Villa. But what can we expect?

First up, Danish pastries. Oh wow. I’m still drooling at the thought of the Cinnamon rolls that Thomas was talking up in his press conference this week. This, after being presented with a gift from Bees United and then sharing the love for Ole & Steen bakery. It’s different I guess. But that’s a good thing. Great though Dean was, and he more than had his share of media soundbites, this was somewhat of a deviation from the norm. But perhaps we needed it. The one thing most people agree on is the consistency of Thomas’ appointment. Of how shrewd it was to appoint somebody from within the set up. A man known and respected by players and fans alike. Who has worked alongside Dean with the squad for almost two years.

As such one can only anticipate a segue as smooth, yet incredible, as that of Brazilian singer Wagner Carillho back in 2010 on TV’s The X-Factor. Who could forget the wonderful moment he burst into the public consciousness? The point at which he transitioned from butchering ‘She Bangs’ to seamlessly moving behind a pair of over-sized Conga drums that had appeared on stage and then proceeded to beat out smooth samba rhythms whilst singing the refrain from ‘Love Shack‘.

Wagner bongos

Love shack, baby

Whilst I can’t imagine we’ll see Thomas in a velvet suit, revealing a sweaty chest or chunky medallion, Brazilian beats are likely. The pass and move style of the Brentford team surely one which will continue today at Griffin Park. The main question being who plays in goal. Could Dan Bentley return to his usual position between the sticks or has Luke Daniels done enough to retain the position he has waited so long to make his own? Certainly, the performance at Leeds United will only have enhanced his reputation with a number of smart saves, one of which at almost point blank range.

For Bristol City, the BBC preview suggests that they will also have a goalkeeping question to answer. With both Niki Maenpaa and Frank Fielding out of action, 22 year old Max O’Leary is in line for a Championship debut. I’d expect the Bees to test him early. Those electric starts are something we’re already familiar with at home whilst the chance to unsettle a newbie before he’s had the chance to adjust, surely one we’ll be keen to try and take advantage of.

Then again, I’m just the numpty on the terrace. What do I know? Cagey defence could well be the order of the day whilst happy news from the McEachran household yesterday might dictate a change in midfield.   

As ever, 3pm Griffin Park is the time when we see how it all pans out. How the new era begins. That’s not to see there won’t be half an eye on the midlands, either. Purely out of curiosity. With Aston Villa only three points (albeit vastly inferior goal difference) behind the 7th(seventh) placed Bees, will Dean Smith see his new team catch up a few places on his former one? Or will his dream job have a nightmare start when the Villans face Swansea City?

Ultimately, it’s a moot point. I wish Dean well but as long as Brentford keep winning then everything else is largely inconsequential. It sounds so simple. In theory.

In practice we all know that’s not how football works. And we love it. Roll on 3pm when we see how this one plays out. See you there.

And in the meantime. Here’s Wagner. Did somebody say #BeeTheDJ….?

Stick with it for those magnificent Congas

Nick Bruzon