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All to play for on Saturday after a gritty night and controversy at Griffin Park.

3 Oct

Brentford climb the table after a 1-1 draw with Birmingham City at Griffin Park but it was very much a case of Cheer up, Garry Monk. Or however it is the song goes. Blues manager Monk was left fuming after a red card for Maikel Kieftenbeld, following a clash with Neal Maupay, saw his side reduced to ten men. And his own subsequent dismissal from the touchline. Yet if it was a soft decision, and both managers’ words at full time were telling, The Bees were due something back after Saturday’s quite awful officiating in the 2-2 with Reading. As Leeds United returned to the top of the Championship, themselves 1-0 winners at Hull, Dean Smith has a lot to think about ahead of our trip to Elland Road on Saturday.

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View from one New Road observer.. fight,fight, fight….

If we were due a refereeing kick back (and in true Arsene Wenger style, I didn’t see the incident whilst even Sky Sports Leeds were somewhat selective with their post-match highlights package) then perhaps we were also due one on pitch. Dean Smith very much shuffled his after replacing Daniel Bentley with Luke Daniels. This, following Saturday’s double fumble. So there was no irony lost in Birmingham goalkeeper Lee Camp – a man who has had more clubs than Harlee Dean has had red cards – allowed Josh McEachran’s first half free-kick through his hands and into the back of the net for 1-1. It WAS a wonderfully hit effort from the New Road side but, being honest, should never have allowed a first goal in 188 appearances for a player who would rightly go on to scoop ‘Man of the match’ honours.

Prior to this, Michael Morrison had given the visitors the lead, heading home from a Jota cross. Or Hoe-ta, as Peter Gilham still insists on calling him. How I’ve missed that wonderful pronunciation from our redoubtable man-with-the-mic . Yet it was just about all the mercurial Spaniard did in the hour and a half he was on pitch. Yoann Barbet had him in the back pocket whilst Josh whipped the ball of his toes a number of times.

Daniels wasn’t the only change for the Bees. Out wide, we were missing both Saïd Benrahma and Ollie Watkins (suspended and injured respectively). Whilst Alan Judge and Sergi Canos are both wonderful, it deprived Dean Smith his normal option to mix it up in the second half. And with Birmingham City packing 11 behind the ball, there was no third gear to accelerate into as the game progressed. Indeed, and you have to give credit to Monk, his stifling of the game meant our short sharp passing game had no way through. Our 74% possession unable to be turned into real chances. Only Henrik Dalsgaard, pushed forward towards the end with Maupay having little joy against the lumbering Birmingham defence,  came close to sending The Bees faithful home happy. Camp making amends for his earlier butter fingers to pull off a point blank save with the clock deep in injury time.

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Brentford ‘Official’ capture the goal on Twitter

It was very much a case of parking the proverbial bus with the Bees unable to get past. That’s a tactic I suppose. Whatever you think, it worked. The only exception being with the goal where rather than parking the bus, Harlee and crew may aswell have parked a small car, slapped a bow on the front and left the keys in the ignition with the engine running. It was all the more silly given they’d had time to line themselves up and so, perhaps, as much credit needs to be given to Josh for pulling off something that nobody expected. Either way, in a scrappy match let’s be grateful for the opportunity.

One apiece at full time. The Ealing Road reminding Harlee Dean that “You can’t”. At least, I think that’s what they were singing. Another point gained and another place climbed in the table. We’re now up to fifth after other results went the way of The Bees. Yet, at the same time, Leeds and Middlesbrough have opened up a five-point gap on us in the top two slots whilst only two points separate The Bees from Bolton in fifteenth. The table really is that tight at present.

Dean Smith would use his own post-match interview to give credit to Birmingham for their game play which saw our own bright start snubbed out in a game that very much felt “Like one that got away again.” As for the sending off his opinion was that, “The lad raised his hands…so he goes down. Have a go at the fourth official”.

Dean talks to ‘official’ at full time.

For Birmingham City, Garry Monk had his own thoughts on the red card. He told reporters that “I thought the opposition player would be booked for feigning injury so to see a red card was a complete shock…After 23 years in football I know something when I see it.” Certainly, his reaction was one of fury as he was sent to join Kieftenbeld for an early bath. Or wherever it is red carded managers go to. I’ve no doubt the player’s ban will be appealed going by his own touchline explosion

As for Saturday, let’s hope Ollie is fit and able to rejoin Saïd in the matchday squad. Dean would tell ‘official’ how he had an injection in an ‘angry toe’ at the Reading game. By his own admission, the absences limited our own attacking options but, and it needs to be noted again, Birmingham City did a job on us. They were deserving of a point that makes it an incredible 8 draws out of 11 games for them. That record, I fear, something that is going to be trotted out as much as West Ham’s moving stadium West Ham’s winning the World Cup in 1966, Trevor brooking’s header in the cup final or The World Cup’s Henrik Dalsgaard being a Brentford player. If only somebody had said.

There’s not much more to say. We didn’t win. We have a tough trip to Leeds United coming up. But nobody said it would be easy. More importantly, we’ve jumped another place in the league. I’m not quite sure how that has happened but the table doesn’t lie.

And that’ll do me.

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Garry goes for a bath – c/o Matt Davis

Nick Bruzon

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Time for Brentford to let the football, not the music, do the talking.

1 Oct

Brentford host Birmingham City on Tuesday night, knowing the significance of a return to winning ways. The Bees are just four points off the top of the table, chasing new leaders West Bromwich Albion. Blues, five points off the bottom and looking to improve a record that has seen 7(seven) draws from their ten games played. But what can we expect, aside from the Griffin Park Oktoberfest Lederhosen? Surely there’s no way we’ll get a repeat of last season?

Let’s get one thing clear. The Monkees are old news. Fun though it was (and it was) let’s not get distracted by any of that stuff this time around. Too much. The last thing we need is Harlee Dean fired up, feeling hard done by and with a point to prove before the game has even kicked off. That’s when mistakes happen. I’m all for letting our football lead the way rather than #BeeTheDJ, which opened on Monday evening. Albeit there are some quite wonderful suggestions going up already. Aswell as the obvious.  Yet one would hope that the memory of our 5-0 victory at Griffin Park in February should be all the incentive needed to go again.

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

Besides, our old boys have been talking to the press once more. This time in an article that appeared in The Birmingham Mail on Monday. Whilst in no way anywhere near last season’s quite wonderful soundbite, there’s still enough in there for anyone looking to find a fuse for this particular powder keg of a game.  

We can only start with former captain Harlee, who tells the Mail that “The comments I made before the home game against Brentford were blown out of proportion, but that’s football.”

For me (Clive), that’s less football and more a matter of conjecture. One man’s proportion is another’s petrol poured on a chip pan. Thankfully, we did our talking on the pitch (and singing off it, at full time) with that epic 5-0 win last time out.  

It’s Jota who gives the numerical assessment of the current side this time around, saying that, ”It is 100 per cent a better Birmingham team going there on Tuesday than the one that lost last year.” Fair enough. Although does that then make them twenty times better than the Brentford team that finished fifth in the Championship, reaching the play-off semi-finals?

Oh Jota. What a hero he was back then. I still have his shirt and struggle to imagine him in anything but the red and white. Skinning Jake Bidwell. Causing Mark Burridge to lose himself in the Ewood Park commentary box. Writing that love letter to the Brentford fans when he left us the first time. The less said about his second one the better. He remains, from what I’ve seen of them this season, the most potent weapon in Garry Monk’s arsenal. A hero to many Bees and now, presumably, beloved by the St. Andrew faithful. Yoann Barbet’s ability to read that step inside will be key to stopping the visitors.

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Faster than a speeding bullet – the Spanish superman was a hero at Griffin Park.

Brentford, of course, are without our latest wing wizard. Said Benrahma misses out this time after running the gauntlet of Eltringham’s confetti card dispersement system on Saturday. Presumably Sergi Canos will step directly into the team in his place, looking to keep up the supply to the division’s top scorer Neal Maupay. With Ollie Watkins on the other side, we still have more than enough to give any defence in the league a run for their money. As long as we can stay fit and the referee can offer some protection. The likes of Aitor Karanka, Gary Rowett and Paul Clement have already set their teams to ‘hack’ mode in a bid to combat Dean Smith’s free flowing Bees. Cards have followed.

Yet, and this is nothing to do with our former players or what happened last campaign, I’m struggling to see anything beyond a return to winning ways at Griffin Park. This team has so much talent available when on song as we’ve seen numerous times already. Had the officals not got in the way on Saturday we’d more than likely have 15 points from 15 at home rather than a ‘mere’ 13. By the same virtue, Birmingham City are undoubtedly a tough nut to crack. Like our Bees, they’ve only lost twice this season. The key difference being we’ve scored double the amount of goals they have. And what do goals make….?

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Yoann Barbet is our latest goal scorer

Forget any monkeying around. It’s time to focus. To let the football, rather than the music, do the talking. Genuinely, I want a good game. I want to win, of course, but it would be great to do it on our terms. To beat a team going for it and playing football rather than a bunch of backs-to-the-wall hackers of the sort we’ve come up against several times already this campaign. Surely Monk’s revitalised Birmingham are better than that?

How many times, better I’m not sure. Roll on 7.45pm, Tuesday, when we can all find out.

Nick Bruzon

PS. That said, if anybody feels the need to sing then who am I to stop you….

2-2 to the referee but the table shows all to play for on Tuesday.

30 Sep

Brentford 2 Reading 2 . Ten games played, the table having now ‘taken shape’ and the Bees sitting in the play-off zone. Just four points off leaders West Bromwich Albion. We’ve another home game to come on Tuesday night, the always welcome return of Birmingham City, and have just run Arsenal super close in the cup. We should be ecstatic. And I am yet equally can’t help still feeling somewhat subdued having woken up off the back of a quite awful display of spoiling tactics and atrocious officiating. It was one that has surely denied the Bees all three points and the fans any semblance of a quality game.  Geoff Eltringham and team, we’re looking at you.

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Thanks. Ref.

We’ve crossed swords with Mr. Eltringham before. And I don’t mean last season’s oversight of the 5-0 hammering inflicted on Birmingham City. His performance that night being ten times better than anything seen since. Or previously. The straight red card administered to number 26 in the home game with Sheffield Wednesday a few seasons back, after he’d allowed himself to be harangued by opposition players, being an additional slap to the face in a game that saw Marinus Dijkuizen ‘in charge’ for the last time. It should have been a warning that we were looking at an acolyte of Stroud. Alas, he struck again.

Saïd Benrahma was shown red for two bookings in a second half that saw the man in the middle wave the yellow 7(seven) times. It was a period that saw a crazy ten minutes of additional time added on in about as frustrating a half as we’ve had to endure. There were close to five of those alone, just for faffing around at a free kick awarded to the Bees from which he promptly failed to control or organise an opposition team who, understandably, were pushing the man as much as they could get away with. Which was lots. It was like watching a nervous supply teacher having to cover a bunch of rowdy fifteen year olds. And he couldn’t cope.

That there were ‘only’ ten minutes added on for a game where nobody was seriously hurt tells you all you need to know. Frankly, it could have been closer to fifteen. Dean Smith was his diplomatic best at full time, telling Brentford ‘official’ how, “The second half exploded into something that probably only the referee can explain” whilst from the aforementioned deadball situation he noted that “I don’t know what’s happened but we’ve ended up with six cautions and they’ve ended up with one. And that was the wrong person.

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View from The Braemar – This ‘no throw’ decision another to incense the crowd

That’s not to deny Reading their two goals. Both came as a result of what we’ll call defensive ‘fumble’. They were presented their chances and took them. That’s how football works. If you‘ve seen them then you know. And if you haven’t then Sky have their highlights up at present. This isn’t the day for castigating individual mishaps when, frankly, even with ten men Brentford would ordinarily have still walked this one – based on current form. Yet such was the stop-start nature of the game, the physical approach of Paul Clement’s Reading side and the roulette wheel nature to Eltringham’s decision making that any attempt at proper football was nothing more than a pipe dream. The visitors came to do a job on us and succeeded – they got their point. Well done Reading. Well done Geoff.

Prior to all that Neal Maupay had given the Bees an early lead, slotting home from close range to bag his 9th Championship goal of the season. Not a bad return prior to October for a player who has appeared just eight times. We should maybe have turned the screw from there but the opposition gameplan and an attempt to restrict our passing game meant Reading were able to contain the situation. This, before taking their own two chances twenty minutes either side of half-time.

Yet it was in that gargantuan period of stoppage time that Brentford hauled themselves back into it. The incredible Yoann Barbet heading home to send the Griffin Park faithful delirious. His constant enthusiasm and seeming love for the club is nothing but infectious. So to see him of all players pop up to ensure summary justice was executed generated the natural response. Yessssssssss!!!!!!!!!!!! You beauty.

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Yoann. Involved in everything fr0m ballet to goal scoring

2-2 and that was how it remained. The Bees kept pushing but were unable to turn one point into three. 10 men against 12 is always an uphill battle but it certainly wasn’t for want of trying. Instead, we’ll need to reflect on a table that sees us very much at the business end as we approach the quarter point of the season. As we await the visit of Birmingham City on Tuesday night. The Blues also earning themselves a point in their 7th(seventh) draw from 10 games after going two goals behind at home to Ipswich Town yesterday. That sort of fighting spirit something we’ll need to be accutely aware of if last season’s results are to be emulated. Moreso given we’ll be missing the mercurial Benrahma. But with Sergi Canos no doubt chomping at the bit to regain his place in the starting XI, things aren’t all bad on that front.  

There’s not much more to say from here. The officials had a stinker. Reading were industrial. Brentford earned a point and are sixth after ten games. I’d have absolutely taken that positon all day long if offered it when proceedings began at home to Rotherham last month.

The question being how we push on from here.

Roll on Tuesday night when we find out.

Geoff Eltringham said Reading guide dog

Saïd can’t believe he’s been sent off.

Nick Bruzon

 

The grass isn’t always greener. Time to let our football do the talking, again.

18 Aug

Brentford have a rare Saturday off with our visit from Sheffield Wednesday (all being well, bereft of ‘that’ band) being put back by 24 hours to accommodate the Owls league cup tie with Sunderland on Thursday. That hasn’t dampened the football spirit any in our house though, with Sky serving up the game between Birmingham City and Swansea last night as an aperitif to a weekend of gorging on the beautiful game. Even Mrs. Bruzon got involved in that one. At least, until (alleged) Celebrity Big Brother started. To be fair, she probably made the right choice in retrospect.

IMG_E5817What we got was a 0-0 that was as laborious as they come. Birmingham City were wasteful. Profilgate. Couldn’t hit a barn door in a brewery. Are yet to win a game all season and had already limped out of the league cup during the week c/o John Swift and his Reading team. Jota was named man of the match – presumably for his services to facial hair.

Swansea were turgid. Barely able to scratch the surface of a gritty, if functional, home defence. Yet at the same time one can only respect the fact that they secured another point. This taking their total to 7(seven) from three league games and up to second place in the nascent table.

We’ve said many, many times that goals and points rather than pretty play and chances are, ultimately, what decides the league placings. Whilst I’m waiting for that magical ten game mark, for now we can only judge on what we’ve seen and the Swans record of WWD is one that I’d be very happy if Brentford can match by the point Mr. Webb calls time on our game with Sheffield Wednesday.

It didn’t make for good viewing. A torturous showing that was edging towards a breach of the Geneva convention. Something perhaps anticipated by the home supporters, given the vast amount of empty seats on show. If you really want them, Sky have the highlights up on their website or you can watch them below.

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We go again. Birmingham City 0 Swansea 0

Yet none of this is mentioned to have a pop at Birmingham City. We all know what happened last season and how wonderfully that finished up. For us.

Let’s park the cheap shots for now. I won’t even include the Harlee video. Besides, there’ll be plenty of time for proper focus on their situation soon – 2ndOctober the date that the Blues visit Griffin Park.

Instead, it is mentioned more to talk about Brentford and what happened beyond that. Obviously the Bees chose to sell three players last season. They thought they could better themselves. We knew we could replace for a fraction of the price and, as would now seem infinitely clear, a huge raising of the bar in terms of quality. With Mepham, Benrahma and the World Cup’s Dalsgaard already earning rave reviews, it’s fair to say that has worked out ten times better for us than them. At least, in terms of football progression.

Ryan sums up our current situation in one tweet.

We all know money talks and if that is your motivator then happy days. It’s not for me to criticise an individual’s decision but what I can say as fact is that, and likewise with the incessant talk of Ryan Woods being courted by Swansea City hanging around like a bad smell, we all know who is playing the better football. Who are the team that people outside of TW8 are starting to raise an inquisitive eye towards.

That goal against Stoke City was less Barcelona – as I have seen touted around the internet – and more like watching 70’s Brazil. I have no doubt Soccer AM may feature it again this morning!

The Bees are scoring goals for fun and stroking it around like champions. Cool. Confident. Dare I say it, effortless. Brentford have managed 10 in the opening three games and looked ominously good in our two league outings. Playing with a level of confidence and charisma that one can only embrace. Whilst Sheffield Wednesday will, surely, be a sterner test than our previous home game against Rotherham, you can only play who you are put up against. And we have looked wonderful to date. Even better, getting the goals to match the performances.

Good luck to the Birmingham three. Whilst the money and the city may be nice, the style of football is certainly, erm, different.  I’m hoping Ryan Woods watched the game last night and it has perhaps caused him a moment of inward reflection in regards to his next steps. Imagine a midfield featuring him alongside the likes of Romaine, Said, Sergi, Ollie et al. I’m salivating at the thought.

At the end of the day (Clive) this is football. Money talks. Players move on. We get it. I get it. At Brentford we’ve been hammered more than anyone over this. It is our strategy as much as anything else. Sell, replace for less but continue to improve. Get mocked by the media for daring to be different.

Well, money isn’t the only thing that talks. Performances do, too. The banknotes may be greener elsewhere but the grass isn’t necessarily the same.

Here’s hoping for another stunner against Wednesday on Sunday.

Yoann free kick Sheff Wed

The Bees beat the Owls 2-0 at Griffin Park last season

Nick Bruzon

Hashtags, bans, predictions and new signings (for some of us).

31 Jul

Finally. The Championship is back this weekend. There’s no doubting how fantastic the World Cup was yet, at the same time, I’ve a huge feeling of anticipation at the prospect of Brentford entertaining Rotherham United before our own trip to Stoke City the following Saturday. We’ve another new signing (which is more than Birmingham City can say after their own announcement yesterday) in centre back Julian Jeanvier from French Ligue 2 champions Stade de Reims whilst both Beesotted and the Brentford FC Drone also return.

We can only start with transfer news. No sooner has the out-door swung with John Egan heading to Sheffield United for a fee estimated at a minimum of £4million than his replacement has come in for half that – certainly if reports are to be believed. The Jeanvier speculation had been mounting on Twitter for the last few days and was confirmed yesterday with a series of photos (‘leaning on the terrace’ being a new addition to those other signing staples of : holding / wearing new shirt, scarf raised aloft or pen poised over contract) . There was also a hashtag. #JeanvierJoins. Boo.

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A new addition to the range of ‘signing poses’

Julian certainly has form. His Reims side ‘romped to the Ligue 2 title’ last season (those aren’t my words but the words of Brentford official in their own article of ten things you might not know about Jeanvier) , keeping 18 clean sheets and conceding just 24 goals. On a personal basis, he has been in the team of the season for the last two campaigns and would appear to be yet another success for our recruitment team who continue to hoover up quality talent on a more than sustainable basis.

The same can’t be said for Birmingham City who were forced to publish their own official statement yesterday, in which their own transfer embargo was confirmed somewhat obliquely. You can read their full comment here if that takes your fancy, yet the salient line would seem to be the point that: “Unfortunately and disappointingly the EFL are currently refusing to allow us to make additions which would enable us to strengthen the Manager’s squad”.

Oh dear. That’s not good. Even if it is painted in such a way, ending with a rather abrupt, “The Club will make no further comment”. Curse those naughty people at the EFL. All they did was try to make their squad ten times better and look what happens. Big spending Harry would seem to have gone well beyond his means and now, like QPR, no further investment is currently being allowed.

All of which is mentioned not to gloat at Birmingham City where their fans can’t be held responsible for the profligacy of the manager, the misguided indulgence of the board or Harlee Dean opening his mouth. Besides, there’s on pitch results for that. 2-0 and 5-0, wasn’t it?

Click at your peril. Oh, maybe once more….

Instead, it is mentioned more to reflect on how right we continue to do things. Big names and big spending are not the Brentford way yet, somehow, Phil, Rasmus and team continue to unearth the talent. I cannot wait to see how not only Jean but also the likes of fellow new boys Ezri Konsa and Said Benrahama slot into the team.

Saturday against Rotherham is the place to find out whilst 7(seven) days later we travel to title favourites Stoke City. My online bookmaker (purely for research purposes etc etc etc ) has the Potters as 5-1 to win the title. Next up are Middlesbrough at 8s whilst the Bees are 9th favourites at 18-1. At the other end of the spectrum, Birmingham are 50-1 whilst the only teams at a longer price are Hull City, Ipswich, Bolton and then Rotherham themselves at 200-1.

On paper, you’ll be doing well to find two as contrasting games. Being honest, we couldn’t have picked a more favourable start than a home game with the divisional long shots. I can absolutely guarantee it won’t be anywhere near as easy as those prices make out. If for no other reason than early season form needs a while to settle in whilst the Bees haven’t won an opening day fixture in 6 seasons. Likewise, Stoke City won’t fancy a visit from Dean’s brown machine. They’ll be adjusting to Championship life after long stint in the Premier League and this will all be a new experience for many of their fans. And that’s just the quality of the visitors’ shirts! If Stoke do turn out to be the form team predicted then I’d rather get our trip out of the way early.

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Good times against Rotherham the last time they were in the Championship

It is way too early to predict results but, instead, I will do my Ian Moose thing. By which I mean directing you towards my good friends at Beesotted rather than wishing a footballer ‘happy birthday’ via the medium of a narcissistic selfie or banging on about half-time catering in the Premier League.

They have published their annual feature predicting what lies ahead for Brentford aswell as reflecting on the highs and lows from last campaign. Put together by a number of guest contributors, it is always a great read and if you haven’t already seen this one I’d thoroughly recommend you check it out. You can find that one here…

Finally, Lionel Road. The Brentford FC Drone (which you can follow on Twitter : @TheBFCDrone) is back with the latest video on everything that is happening up the road at our new home. It seems incredible to think how far we’ve come on this journey already. Likewise, that in 16 months’ time there will be a new stadium on this site. Yet that’s the aggressive timeline being aimed for and so this really is on track to be our last full season at Griffin Park. That’s not much more than 30 games and a couple of cup runs to go.

Starting with Rotherham on Saturday. I can’t wait. See you there.

Get your latest Lionel Road views, here.

Nick Bruzon

The three-five players our club can’t afford not to not sign/let go. Farewell John Egan. And Flo?

20 Jul

Welcome back to Championship life, Brentford fans. You can now ignore the weeks of clickbait as things have actually happened. With The Bees already accepting a bid for Florian Jozefzoon (Leeds United thought to be the original target but Derby County now in the box seat to complete that one) it was John Egan who was the first to leave Griffin Park yesterday. Sheffield United splashing out their record transfer fee (£4million is the word on the street) to take our captain up to Bramall Lane where he will line up in a defence featuring fellow ex-Bees Jack O’Connell and Simon Moore. Yet unlike last season’s summer sale (© the Middlesex Chronicle big book of 80’s alliteration) to Birmingham City, this feels totally different.

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The words of Sheffield United about John Egan

Four. Million. Pounds. Wow! Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder has been quoted on the BBC as saying ,”We see him as a leader and he is worthy of the fee we’ve paid for him, in my opinion he is a better player than a couple of those who have already moved for bigger fees this summer”

Meanwhile, over on Brentford official I had images of Phil Giles being handed a hessian sack, over-flowing with bills and a dollar sign stenciled on the front. His take on it was a simple one – they offered what we wanted and so the club accepted. Noting specficially that, “We were happy to complete the transfer once our valuation had been met for a player who has done very well for us and who was our captain last season. The remaining group of centre backs are young but hugely talented so it will remain to be seen whether we need to replace John directly over the final weeks of the transfer window”.

You can read that one in full, here.

It marks a stark contrast to his approach when pressed on the Birmingham City transfers back in September. When last season’s summer window closed with ‘that’ 11th hour triple move to St. Andrews  his explanation was slightly different as to why it had happened in that fashion. Eleven months ago  – it had always been the plan to buy over the summer and sell just prior to the window closing. “Strategically it’s the ideal way to do it. Sell them late and buy them early.”

Now, with John gone to the Blades and Flo seemingly also out the door to Derby County, we’re doing business early. Likewise, let’s not forget that fellow centre back Andreas Bjelland has also departed after declining our new offer when his contract expired.

Am I upset? Yes, but no. On a personal note, John was always massively popular in our house. He visited Harry at Halloween and took great care of him when he was fortunate enough to be mascot last season (leading the team out rather than dressed up as Buzzette).  It will be sad to see such a likeable individual and talented player leave. Four million speaks volumes about his quality. Let’s not forget, either, that aswell as being Captain he is also a full international.

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Thank you, John. From HB (and dad)

Yet the reaction on social media seemed to be one of universal agreement – with that much money on the table, for a player who has given great service and that we picked up when his own contract had expired, this was great business. It is a view I absolutely concur with and as much because it really gives Chris Mepham a chance to make a huge name for himself this season. Whether alongside Yoann, Mads or new boy Ezri Konsa.

If nothing else, what must that say about his (Meps’) valuation? Eddie Howe has been well, well out of his depth if this is what our players are going for. As long as the first team stay fit  (and at Griffin Park) then this has the makings of a great defence.

Let’s just hope Dean doesn’t make Chris captain, though. Or Woodsy!  Jonathan Burchill (@Jonathan77777) on Twitter has done his own analysis and come up with the following gem:

Kevin O’Connor retired at end of 2013-14 promotion season. Since then every @BrentfordFC captain has left the club within 12 months of taking the armband:

14-15 Craig (& Douglas, who was capt more often that season)

15-16 Bidwell

16-17 Dean

17-18 Egan

Interesting stat, Jonathan. My own immediate question would be whether this mean Nico Yennaris and Josh McEachran, who stepped in as captain last time out, could be also be leaving before Rotherham visit?

Alfie Mawson to Barnsley (currently Swansea). Jack O’Connell and now John Egan. Both Sheffield United. Harlee to Birm… ok, maybe not that last one. Yet the list of quality centre backs that have left in recent years but will line up against us this season for famous clubs is one that is growing. You could also chuck in the likes of Andreas, Tony Craig and number 26 to that mix of quality, albeit their paths now lie elsewhere. It says how blessed we have been in this positon. How well we have continued to recruit.

The obvious question is, who next? Whether in or out. With Flo seemingly as good as gone, that’s two that have departed. The likes of Meps, Ryan Woods, Ollie Watkins and Daniel Bentley are amongst the other big names whom fans are, understandably, sweating on. Will these two sales have been sufficient to staunch the flow of departures? Are they enough to counterbalance inward movement that has seen Said Benrahama and Ezri already joining Dean Smith’s exciting young squad.

We’ve still a while to go until the transfer window slams shut. I’m sure this won’t be the last of it. This is Brentford. We are now well used to how things happen. Heroes leaving when valuations are met. Unknowns and young potential joining who then go on to become the next big thing. I’ve promised myself I won’t get upset this season. That we’ll really show some faith in what the club are doing. Four top ten Championship finishes in a row show they know an awful lot more than me about football, that’s for sure.

At the same time, keeping this squad together will only be seen as an immediate good thing. A chance for us to really build and make a push for that top six. Could we even strengthen further? Who knows? One step at a time.

For now, it is a case of thank you, farewell and good luck to John. And don’t even think about scoring against us. Please ! 

Die8MNFXkAEnifd

That’s about as official as it gets

Nick Bruzon

Just when it couldn’t get any more exciting……

22 Apr

What an afternoon. If Fulham last week was huge then this one was monumental. Magnificent Brentford beating QPR 2-1 in a terrific derby day victory gained against the toughest of opponents – referee Mr. Madley and his assistants. Yet let the inconsistency and poor decision making of the officials take nothing away from a Bees team who were simply immense. With a raucous Griffin Park crowd urging them on, Dean Smith’s team have now moved to within ONE point of the play offs as those around us all fell to draw or defeat. One. point. Even, say it quietly, Birmingham City did us a favour of sorts in beating Sheffield United 2-1. With Sunderland now formally relegated and the Blues getting a bit of clear air (for now) our trip to bottom three Barnsley on Saturday gains even more significance than it already had.

Sunday morning. Where to start? Having slept on it, I’m still thrilled by Dean’s team selection but also the way they played. There was only one team in this over the first half as the rampant Bees poured forward in wave after wave. Sergio Canos and, particularly, Romaine Sawyers were magnificent. Flo Jo displaying a turn of speed that left his opponent for dead on more than one occasion. The move that freed an electric Ollie Watkins for the penalty (more to come) was as spell binding a display of one-touch pass and move football as we could ever hope to see. Absolutely delicious.

To do that on the training ground would be one thing. But at full tilt, in a blood and thunder local derby, something completely different. It looked incredible live. To see that exchange of passes once more on video shows just how dazzling it was.

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Sergi and Romaine – a rare moment of ‘slow it down’

I’m so pleased for Romaine, in particular. He came in for obscene levels of criticism at the start of his Griffin Park career but what a way to win the haters around. What a way to keep your mental focus and prove the doubters wrong. To demonstrate just what you can do with a football. Do check out the Sky highlights package (up now on their site), until the full fat Mark Burridge version can be added after mid-day to see our man in action. I’ve still got a stupid smile on my face now just thinking about it. Hmm, perhaps better go and watch that just once more.

The first goal was only ever going to come to Brentford. QPR were left standing in the blocks as The Bees went for this one from the off. Wave after wave of attacks were somehow repelled until Sergi Canos fired home from close in on the quarter hour mark. The visitor’s inability to deal with a corner kick proving their downfall. The story of the afternoon, really, as they were second to everything for such long swathes of the game. Clearances missed, passes made directly into touch and seemingly simple balls miscontrolled. At one point Luke Freeman was left with his head in his hands by the Braemar Road touchlines after spectacularly failing to trap a high ball forward and gifting a throw on to Brentford.

One goal up and the Bees continued pushing. As half time approached we had the aforementioned moment of magnificence from Romaine. With Ollie Watkins clean through and a goal all but assured, goalkeeper Matt Ingram came charging off his line and ploughed through our man. Penalty !! But no red card. Instead, after a protracted period of medical emergency that ended with all players deemed fit enough to continue, referee Andrew Madley showed yellow. Ingram was allowed to stay on and promptly saved the spot kick. To compound the felony , the visitors went down the other end and with their first meaning fun attack, equalised. You couldn’t make it up. QPR’s Sylla leaving a black mark on our copy book.

So. The penalty. Should it have been a red? Absolutely in my eyes. There was no attempt to play the ball but a cynical assault on a player bearing down on goal with the net in his sights. The crowd were incensed and understandably so. Perhaps the injury period allowed time for the ref to draw the sting from the event. A sympathy yellow for a player who was clearly unable to carry on and, like Ollie Watkins, was subbed before the second period had begun.

Now it is true that the rules surrounding such an incident have been relaxed. Previously, had a penalty been awarded in such a circumstance then a red card would have been awarded by default. Likewise, followed by suspension. However, this ‘triple’ punishment was first reclassified back in 2016 following an 18 month review and, instead, the rules tweaked to say that only deliberate fouls warrant a red. The yellow would be shown if the referee deemed that it had been accident.

I’m sorry but this was no accident. There was no chance whatsoever of stopping that ball, such was the way the QPR defence had been split open like an overly ripe watermelon by Romaine’s tracer bullet of a pass. Watkins was home clear and running at full tilt. Ingram committed to come off his line and through the player. Even Ian Holloway would admit after the match that, “The penalty save was huge. Should he have been sent off? I think he should but he then stood up, probably concussed, and made a wonderful save”

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An accident? Hmmmm. Sky TV cameras capture the moment

Madley got this one wrong. Very wrong. But then that was the story of his afternoon. Those yellow cards he did show handed out at random. There was no consistency. No boundaries set and, most importantly, no protection of the players. The Bees in particular on the receiving end of several studs up and scything challenges that themselves could have been candidates for ‘straight red’. Alex Baptiste, I’m looking at you.

1-1 at half time and if ever there was a candidate for Dean’s oft repeated lines that ‘We deserved to win’ then here it was. Brentford had been rampant yet somehow scores were level. The second half began at a much more sedate pace (relatively) with players readjusting and substitutions having been made. The pattern of the game being broken up by an even more robust approach form the hoops. Eventually, class told. Florian Jozefzoon proving the telling factor as he made room in the box and fired home.

From there the lead was never going to be a surrendered. Whilst Rangers did try to turn up the pressure, I only recall one save of note from Daniel Bentley in the second half. The defence were otherwise rock solid, dealing with high balls and corners as though they were stealing candy from a baby. It felt tense at times. In reality, the players were the epitome of confidence.

A word also for the crowd. What an atmosphere. What passion. What noise. For all Griffin Park is small and old, having everybody so close to the pitch DOES make a huge difference. Moreso in a game such as this against our staunchest of rivals. With all the history, a visit from QPR is always the one we look for when the fixtures are announced. When the game comes around, it is always the one where the noise is the most voluminous (is that even a word?). Loud. The QPR players knew they were in a game. Jake Bidwell, especially. He looked a beaten man in the second half. A resigned shrug to the Braemar Road crowd before his eventual substitution.

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Home supporters jump up to express consternation to Mr Madley and Alex Baptiste – again.

What next? We’re eighth. One point off sixth placed Derby County with two games to go. The trip to Barnsley and then the visit from Hull City. Derby do have that game in hand but its a visit from a Cardiff City team locked in a desperate battle for the second ‘automatic’ place behind Fulham. Should the Bluebirds do us a huge favour on Tuesday night – something that will have the double whammy bonus of railroading The Cottagers – then Saturday becomes even bigger. If that were possible.

Even Middlesbrough in fifth can still be caught, such is the proximity of the teams from positions 5-9. This has all the hallmarks of 2014/15. We were reliant on favours, and our own results, then. We’re in the same position now. The difference being that under Mark Warburton we’d spent large chunks of the season in the play-off zone. WE slipped out after bit of a late wobble results wise before recomposing oursleves nad having results go our way on the final day. Thanks, Derby! To fall short then, having been in control, could have been all kinds of demoralising.

This time around, it is a perfectly timed run. A play-off push that, and please correct me if I’m wrong, has so far not seen us in the top six at any point this campaign. What a way it would be to finish the season – hitting the top six for the first time on game 46. Or, preferably, game 45 on Saturday. At Barnsley. Themselves up to their necks in a relegation scrap.

As a side note to that, there would be no irony lost on anyone if it turned out to be those Brentford players that Birmingham City didn’t sign who helped keep them safe, rather than the ones they did. No doubt Harlee Dean will be cheering on his old team mates although, perhaps, just wishing they were ten times better.

Let it never be said football doesn’t keep us intrigued.

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Even Harry was kept on the edge of his seat until the end of this one.

Nick Bruzon

Goals mean wins see. No matter how they come.

14 Mar

There’s not much you can say after that. Cardiff City beat Brentford 3-1 in a game that was as much a victory for the much derided tactics of manager Neil Warnock as it was for his players’ ability to find the back of the net. With Aston Villa being thumped at home by QPR (how?) and Wolves finally getting back to winning ways, the top two are going to require a horrific stumble to be caught. But at least there was something for us to smile about at the bottom end of the table. A point for Barnsley in their ‘game in hand’ along with victory for Hull City has increased the pressure on this month’s Birmingham City manager Garry Monk and his team.

We can only start with Brentford where there’s not much more to be said. If you weren’t there then you’ll have likely caught it on TV (unless you were busy swooning over Sam Saunders in the pundit’s chair). The Bees came flying out of the blocks at 100mph. Neal Maupay with a wonderful chance to have opened the scoring whilst most people were still taking their seats before finding the back of the net for 1-0 with little more than five minutes on the clock. Cardiff a goal down and on the ropes. Brentford continuing to spread the ball amongst them as they couldn’t cope with our free flowing football. Surely a second goal was only a matter of moments away?

And on twenty-five minutes it came. To the visitors.  Sol Bamba with a quite wonderfully taken turn and volley that left man of the match Dan Bentley beaten all ends up. It was a finish one can only doff the hat to, no matter how begrudgingly that feels, yet it was one that  let the visitors back into the game. From that point on, they started to really make their presence felt.

Hooooofffff” went the crowd as every ball was humped forward out of the back. “Crunnccch” went the challenge as Warnock’s team made themselves known in the most agricultural of styles. There was no real help from a referee and his assistants who seemed set to random mode. I don’t envy them their role but they need to do it properly if they step up to the challenge. Dean Smith seemed incensed by some of the decision making and inconsistency at full time. As were the crowd throughout a second half that saw Sergi quite perplexed (that’s the polite word) with the officials on more than on occasion.

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Sergi saying what we were all thinking

But for all that the men in the middle didn’t help, a goal on the stroke of half time gave the visitors a lead which they would never surrender, whatever the cost. Football very much coming second to the three points. They fought us in the penalty box. The fought us in the middle. They fought with growing confidence and growing strength in the air. A style of football that ended up being little more than scraping and spoiling. Despite our own 67% of possession, they mopped up everything and made sure there was no way through. With a third goal sealing the deal just shy of the hour, there was no way back for the Bees. The clock was carefully run down and it ended 3-1 to the visitors

It was a triumph for Warnock and his team. You can’t deny them their current run or the win that their methodology presented. 7(seven) points clear of third placed Aston Villa suggest they are doing something very much right in terms of getting the results. At the same time, for all Dean was rightly frustrated at full-time, perhaps this was a beneficial lesson in the long term. Our ability to play against the more ‘robust’ teams in the division has been questioned before. The first twenty minutes, with the Bees at full flow against a team we dictated the pattern of the game to, were quite beautiful to watch. The final seventy had a painful inevitability.

Next up for the Bees, the visit of Middlesbrough. Whilst they are looking to consolidate their sixth place, if Brentford are to have any chance of reeling in that 8 point gap then Dean was quite clear about how it needs to be done. Every game is going to be a cup final for us,” he said at full time. “If we want to hang onto the coat-tails of those above us we have to make sure we win games, starting on Saturday”. It’ll be a tough one that’s for sure and if for no other reason than our failure to beat Boro’ since paths crossed in the Championship. Six defeats (including two play-off semis) and a draw are the best we have to show. But what a time to break that record Saturday is. What a chance to show that although we struggled against a Warnock team, we’ve learned from this and can do it against a Tony Pulis side.

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View from the Braemar – the Bees were outmuscled last night

I’ve woken up this morning feeling disappointed and frustrated more than anything else. I’m still immensely proud of what our team have achieved and one has to remember that Cardiff City are where they are for a reason. At the end of the day (Clive), and as one visiting supporter noted last night on Twitter: “Goals mean wins see“. I can’t argue with that.

Besides, looking to the lower end of the table a gap really is starting to form in the relegation zone. Barnsley’s draw with Norwich City last night sees them open up a three-point lead over Birmingham City. When you factor in the Blues’ inability to score and wonderful propensity to concede, the goal difference is so significant as to effectively make that difference four.

They entertain (sorry, that’s surely a breach of trades descriptions) they host Hull City on Saturday. With the Tigers running out 3-0 victors at Ipswich Town last night, they are surely safe. Three more points would all but secure this and what a time to get them.

I can’t wait for the weekend. The atmosphere is going to be huge at Griffin Park where it really is a case of win or bust in the race for the play offs.

See you there.

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The gap is starting to grow

Nick Bruzon

 

Will the Burton (wagon) wheels finally come off as Brentford visit? Can Monk save Birmingham?

6 Mar

This is getting exciting. Brentford travel to Burton Albion tonight for a game where victory could propel us back to the fringes of the play-off race. With 9th placed Preston entertaining Bristol City in 6th , Fulham hosting Sheffield United and Middlesbrough (7th) travelling to Birmingham City, something has to give from the teams above us. Even if it would take that most unlikely of events, a victory for the Blues, to help our cause. To be fair, on current form even a goal for Birmingham would be a major achievement. But with Garry Monk officially at the helm (more on that later) who knows what might happen?

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Monk surveys his new domain. The goalmouth, devoid of action (plus ca change)

Still, this is all pointless conjecture if we can’t fulfil out part of that bargain. The gap between Brentford and Bristol City is 7(seven) points although we do have tonight’s game in hand. But with the Cardiff City game having been rearranged for next Tuesday and the Sky cameras, the trip to Burton marks a run of four matches in 12 days . Twelve days that by the end will determine if the play-offs are nothing more than a pipe dream or, alternatively, whether the famous words of Rasmus Ankersen might come true.

Back in September 2015 he told the Brentford fans’ forum : “ It is not an option to not be in the Premier League. It has to happen in the next three years…. At the moment there is no Plan B. we’ll be in the Premier League in three years.”

Well, that opportunity comes to an end at the denouement of the current campaign and they are words I’ve never forgotten. They are words that often get quoted on these pages but still remain fresh in the mind (and not just because they’ll be in the Millwall programme on Saturday – although through legitimate reasons rather than any ‘Brian Guest’ style interloping). Quite simply – it was as bold a claim as we’ve ever heard.

Being quite honest, there have been times over the last few campaigns when there’s been more chance of laughing at an episode of Mrs. Brown’s Boys or Len Goodman’s Partners In Ryme than Brentford reaching the Premier League.

That same fans forum featured Marinus Dijkhuizen sitting alongside our top brass (move along, nothing to see here) whilst Dean Smith has seen his own tenure have a couple of wobbles along the way. March 2016 (and the admission we were in a relegation battle) and the start of this campaign (four points from the first eight games) being just a few of those moments when it has been much easier to fear the worst than to show some blind faith.

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Mrs Brown. Never. Forget.

That’s football. So often the glass half empty. Even when it is Dom Perignon being quaffed compared to the lukewarm Fosters we’ve been more accustomed to drinking over the years (Terry Butcher, anyone?). Yet this run of games (Burton and Millwall away, followed by Middlesbrough and Cardiff City at Griffin Park) could see our co-director starting to earn himself a place in Brentford folklore if his prediction comes true. Nostra-rasmus?

There are more Bees going to Burton tonight than went to Leeds United recently. That’s great. They’ll be sure to make some noise in the compact confines of the Pirelli stadium. The mini run starts here and with a good run of results going our way over the next 12 days, along with a few favours tonight, who knows what might happen when we emerge on the other side? One things for sure, I can’t wait to find out.

Elsewhere, Birmingham City have appointed Garry Monk ahead of their game with Middlesbrough tonight. Twitter was awash with photographs yesterday, as Monk was officially ‘unveiled’ (if only they’d had the balls to remove a drape, museum style) to the watching media. Yet there he was, along with Pep Clotet, pulling out all his best poses. Man at C&A, wistful stare into the middle distance, cheesy smile and the obligatory shirt picture all put in an appearance as @BCFC came awfully close to jumping the Twitter shark.

Their proclamation that : It’s just another manic Monkday... was only a hashtag away from joining the Twitter hall of infamy that will be forever topped by our own #trophyfriends (or #bignewambitions, or…).

Just one of the many posts as @BCFC went into Monk overload. Steve who now?

Can he turn things around? Will he arrest a slide towards League One which, given the club’s reported wage bill alone, would be disastrous for a club of this historical stature? It’s not going to be an easy start with promotion chasing Middlesbrough the vistors and with 11 games left, time really is running out.

If our own mini run over the next twelve days is huge then theirs, with a trip to Cardiff City and a relegation six pointer with Hull, could be of equal importance. Get that wrong and the chance of league games against Accrington Stanley and Mansfield next season will be one step closer to reality.

Still, that’s their problem. For Brentford, it’s all about Burton Albion and a game agasint a team who will be fighting for their very Championship survival. This might not be pretty, even if memories of that incredible 5-3 win on the road are still more than vivid. Personally, I’d settle for a gritty 1-0, a clean bill of health and no bookings. If only football was that easy to predict.

Then again, if Rasmus can do it…

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What an afternoon that was…

Nick Bruzon

Snow day for Brentford still sees carnage at Birmingham City. Again.

4 Mar

So Brentford need to ‘go again’ with Cardiff City. The wintry conditions in the preceding few days putting paid to any chance of the game going ahead. And whilst hindsight may be a wonderful thing as things thawed rapidly on Saturday, making the call early was the correct decision. Moreso given the icy blast that was still blowing through TW8 at the weekend. Yet, with two away trips to come this week (Burton Albion on Tuesday and Millwall, Saturday) perhaps a day off was a blessing in disguise. Even without our game there was still plenty to keep us entertained in the Championship – starting and ending with Birmingham City who went down at Nottingham Forest.

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Griffin Park was among the places caught in the snowy conditions this week.

Positives for the Blues were that they scored their first goal in five games. Unfortunately, their opponents managed it twice, consigning the division’s lowest scorers to another defeat. Five in a row. Anti-manager of the month form for Steve Cotterill who despite embarking on a post-match Kevin Keegan style ‘I’d love it’ rant on BBC Radio, was consequently sacked. It is a decision which leaves Birmingham City looking for their fourth manager of the season and the club firmly locked in the bottom three. With a visit from Middlesbrough next up, it certainly won’t get any easier for whomever comes in next.

Garry Monk is hot favourite. His name being added to the mix over the last few days was something which proved the catalyst for Cotterill’s frustration. “If that’s been going on behind my back, it’s best for them to get on with it”, he told BBC WM 95.6FM. Gordon Strachan and Mark Warburton are names that have also been bandied about.

The latter’s selection, if it somehow happened, would certainly make things interesting for ‘BeeTheDJ’ (or at least, at full time)  – assuming our club paths crossed next season. The respective directions that Birmingham and Brentford are currently heading, could conceivably see a two division gap between us for 2018/19.

It finished 5-0. It finished loud…

Then again, the knee jerk actions of a board whose hiring and firing policy could be written on the back of a fag packet mean nobody is safe for any amount of time. Even if the Bees and the Blues are both in the Championship next time around, there’s no guarantee that whomever inherits the manager’s office will still be there when we play each other once more.

Since the incredible decision to jettison Gary Rowett with the team on the fringe of the play-off race back in December 2016, they’ve been through more incompetent henchmen than a Bond Villain. Think Max Zorin in his zeppelin, finger poised over the ‘eject’ button.  There was the disastrous Gianfranco Zola period, Harry Redknapp (but only after he’d splurged the the transfer budget and wage bill – mostly towards us), three games for Lee Carsley and then Cotterill’s ill-fated period at the helm. Talk about self-inflicted suicide.

Max Zorin

Max Zorin – any excuse

Our own model – in terms of management and spending – proving to be the infinitely stronger tactic. A fourth, successive Championship top ten finish, with the possibility of a second play-off challenge, is more than on the cards. Contrast this to a team who despite their huge reputation and even bigger spending, have finished below us every year since our paths re-crossed at this level

Brentford fans had been quick to request the likes of ‘Price Tag’, Money’ and ‘I need a dollar’ as pre-kick off song selection for our recent game with The Blues. What had happened over the summer still so very fresh in our minds. As such, there was no irony lost yesterday in Joe Lolley and Matty Cash getting the Nottingham Forest goals that would ultimately prove the final nail in the Birmingham coffin. Certainly, this this latest incarnation.

Can they pull themselves out of this downward spiral? Barnsley above them have a game in hand, are already two points better off and have infinitely better goal difference. Likewise, Hull City (who entertain Millwall on Tuesday) are starting to see a bit of clear air. Burton, one point below them, also have a game in hand but are the bookies favourites, along with seemingly doomed Sunderland and the Blues.

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The current relegation prices. For research purposes.

Still, that’s their problem. The only downside out of all this for the Bees being our own trip to Burton on Tuesday. Whilst the table suggests this will be a formality, a team with their backs to the wall and staring into the abyss always have that potential to come out all guns blazing. They really are entering ‘do or die’ territory now as games start to run out. Whether the target is one of still harbouring play-off aspirations or consolidating another top ten finish, then these are the sort of games that need to be won.

To even be talking like this is, I still think, incredible. And as much in the show of faith invested by the club in our players and staff. We all know the horror start that the Bees had. Four points and in the bottom three after eight games. A wealth of experience and talent sold. Yet we’ve put out heads down, not panicked and built on the base of shrewd acquisition, experience and belief in our own process. The evidence has been tangible.

I’m gutted that yesterday’s game was cancelled. I’d love to have seen how we went against Cardiff City. Yet, perhaps it has also given us a chance to take stock. Both on and off the pitch. To look at what is happening around us. With the first shovel due to be planted at Lionel Road on March 19th, it’s fair to say things are looking positive!

Moreso, compared to some of our divisional rivals.

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Until next time, Cardiff….

Nick Bruzon