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Will Stoke get Woods? Does it have a beach? Can Bees push on at Blackburn?

25 Aug

Strap yourselves in folks, this could be some day. Brentford travel to Blackburn Rovers looking to continue that unbeaten run of early season form which currently sees us sitting fourth in the pack of twenty-four teams. Yet the big question is whether Ryan Woods will be travelling with The Bees as news of the rumoured interest from Stoke City cranked up a few notches yesterday when the Potters as good as let the cat out of the bag. If you believe them. Yet if this comes to pass, it will end one of the most protracted moves of the summer following the initial stories and bid from Swansea City. At the same time making somewhat of a mockery of a transfer window which contains the biggest hole this side of the QPR defence (nil points. P4 L4).

The trip to Blackburn represents the mid-point of an intense two-week period that has already seen us beat Wednesday on Sunday and then have victory at Aston Villa cruelly slip from our grasp deep into the 95thminute out of 95 on, erm, Wednesday. That was a game which will as much as anything else be remembered for the goals from Neal Maupay which took him to the top of the Championship scoring table. Likewise, his retrospective red card which means he is missing from today’s game aswell as the League Cup on Tuesday and then the visit from Nottingham Forest next weekend.

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The Villa game ended 2-2 (and with a retrospective ban for Neal)

So what does Dean do to compensate? Personally, I think he’ll push Ollie up top and mix the wingers up. Said Benrahma and Sergi Canos have been doing quite magnificent battle over that right hand berth but can they be accommodated at the same time? Will Alan Judge make a start (although hopefully not as a false 9 – see yesterday) ? Does Marcus Forss then come off the bench and Ollie go back to our traditional shape if we need to change things up? Or, indeed, might Dean start like that anyway?

Who knows? I’m just the numpty on the terrace rather than anybody with any real knowledge – whether behind the scenes or just of football in general. Whilst on the one hand it may expose our lack of an alternative out and out second striker, based on what we’ve seen to date, the one thing Brentford have always done is play as a team. Score (and show) goals from every angle. From every positon bar goalkeeper. And with the length he gets these days, one wouldn’t be totally surprised if Daniel Bentley was to find the back of the net.

The other change I would think may also come is in central midfield. Both Nico Yennaris and Kamo have been superb when they have come off the bench for Lewis and Josh. The step up in play at both Stoke and Aston Villa was demonstrable by their entrance to the field of play. Dean has a wonderful bench available and is yet to change his starting XI in four league games. Yet with the matches coming thick and fast, and one enforced move in Maupay already thrust upon him, don’t be surprised if Dean twists further when the teams are announced at around 2pm.

One player that even I’m not so naïve as to think will be starting is Ryan Woods. Sadly. As noted in the introduction, Stoke City seems to be edging ever closer to getting their man. BBC Radio Stoke were bigging it up on Wednesday evening (be glad you can’t get it down here, given the Bees observer they had to drag in to opine on that one) and then yesterday it was the turn of current Stoke manager Gary Rowett. He announced that Woodsy, who was of course an unused substitute for that Aston Villa game, has already had a medical. He went on to claim that, “We are quite close to concluding a deal but we are not there just yet.

Brentford official are, of course, saying nothing. The club never comment on rumours and whilst history teaches us that you’ll never learn anything from fanzines, this all has a somewhat familiar ring to it. I think back to July 2013 when Simon Moore was being linked with Cardiff City, Back then their manager Malky Mackay (who, for the record, is currently the performance director of the Scottish Football Association – good luck with that one) told the media two days prior to signing the player that, “It’ll be paperwork first thing Monday morning, that’s the only thing holding that one up.”

An odd statement to make when infact we all knew Simon was simply on holiday. At the beach. In Cardiff.

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Cardiff beach. Simon Moore once holidayed there. According to Uwe.

Unless Stoke does have a beach then it kind of suggests this one is all but nailed on. The fee reckoned to be £6.5-£7(seven) million depending on which which source you read. Presumably with the usual clauses that Brentford have the shrewdness to insert. Who’d have thought we’d get money from Alfie Mawson’s sale to Fulham after all this time?  

Do I want him to go? No. In a word. That’s me being an emotional, selfish fan. Will we miss Ryan? Absolutely. The tussle that has gone on for his services (and those of us looking in only know of Swansea and Stoke’s interest to date) show the regard with which he is held in this division. Would we cope? Well, here’s the thing. I don’t want to tempt fate overly but look at what we’ve already done this season and Woodsy hasn’t got close to the pitch. The first XI and oncoming substitutes have performed quite wonderfully. It has been our best start to a campaign since 2013/14 and we we ended that one with promotion to the Championship. The squad would be stronger with him, no question, but it has still had a stunning start without.

This club has made no secret of transfer strategy. That we won’t stand in the way of players who want to leave if the price is on our terms. That we have got the player replacement technique pretty much nailed on now. Don’t get me wrong, I want him to stay. But I also trust what we’ve seen before. Adam Forshaw, Simon Moore, Moses (welcome back), number 26, Andre Gray. The Birmingham three – Jota, Maxime and Harlee. Aww, I do miss those defensive wobbles. They’ve all gone. We’ve survived. If Ryan decides his time has come then good luck to him. And huge thanks. He’s a hero and an inspiration at Griffin Park.

Yet now it seems that chapter is coming to a close, should the announcement indeed be confirmed today. Stoke City need a player of his ability, that’s for sure. Despite the wealth of talent they already seem to have their midfield was conspicuous by its absence when we traveled up there the other week. Supporters disappointment at ‘only’ getting a draw, further exacerbated by then seeing Wigan hump them 3-0. Even Will Grigg scored a penalty. The reward for that a (surely temporary) place in the relegation zone.

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Stoke have bite. But not much more…at present

The one other thing this has exposed is just the vagary of a transfer window that shut weeks ago yet still sees players able to move between Championship clubs on loan or, as would seem to be happening here, ‘loan with a permanent contract in January’ deals. It does seem to defeat the purpose somewhat and one can only feel for managers trying to put their squads together when they now have not one but effectively two windows to cope with.

QPR themselves have signed strikers Tomer Hemed from Brighton and Burnley’s £5m man Nahki Wells on loan for the duration of this campaign. Not quite sure how that all works but it seems to be legal – an unusual strategy for them given the £42m fine and transfer ban they finally agreed to in July following the breach of FFP rules.

Still, that’s their issue. I’m focussed on Blackburn and Brentford. Regardless of whether Ryan Woods is in the squad or sitting in the bottom three with Stoke. That a position I can’t imagine that they’ll occupy for very long should the move go through.

As for us, I’m calling this one as an away win. Complete confidence for the boys in brown and orange. Maupay may be missing but this squad is just too good at present. Enjoy the game!

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The current table. Come on Ryan. If you go, at least leap frog 20th….

Nick Bruzon

What a night. Harlee and Jota go head to head at Player of the Year awards.

8 May

What a night. With the dust not even settling on Sunday afternoon’s defeat by Blackburn Rovers at Griffin Park, the Brentford family reconvened for the season end Player of the Year awards.

With Natalie Sawyer hosting the ceremony , ably abetted by Peter Gilham, the night marked a wonderful end to a third successive season in the Championship. And a third successive top ten finish. It was something noted by Chairman Cliff Crown who, as with those who would follow him to the microphone, was quick to note not just the great job done by all at Brentford this season but, as importantly, the optimism with which we can view the forthcoming season.

No more so was this demonstrated than with the ‘breaking news’ (and there was even a graphic for this) that Jota’s contract extension had been triggered. He’s with us for 2017/18 ! He’s staying with us. This is just stunning news and received one of the biggest cheers of the night. As one would expect.

In terms of the awards, Harlee Dean scooped a brace including the big one – supporters’ player of the year. He gave an interesting pair of speeches, highlighting where he has come from over the last few years, despite the various levels of trust shown in him by Dean Smith’s respective predecesors. On the sending off against Blackburn his own admission was that he just wasn’t going to let them score, even though it wouldn’t have made a difference to us. If anything told you what you needed to know about his fighting spirit then here it was.

All being well the club will publish the video highlights of these over the next day or so. The positivity and goodwill emanating from not just Harlee and Cliff but also the likes of Dean Smith, Mark Devlin and a departing Alan McCormack in their speeches was almost tangible.

Ryan Woods was named player’s player of the year. Perhaps one of our unsung heroes, he’s somebody we almost take for granted. Obviously he’s good, very good. Yet it is only in his absence that we truly see how much he does, what value he is to this side and how conspicuous the gap created by his absence is.

There were touching stories from Yoann Barbet and Lasse Vibe in picking up their Community awards whilst Zain Westbrooke picked up the first honour of the night in being named B-team player of the year. But it was that man Jota who really took the limelight.

Firstly with his goal of the season award. That wondrous, wondrous moment against QPR at Griffin Park which Jake Bidwell, and the rest of their defence, are probably still having nightmares about. Well played Nico Yennaris and Josh Clarke in not making it a Jota 1-2 in this category as the one against Derby County failed to make the top 3. What a mark of the quality we have !

But secondly, and with due respect to Captain Harlee, perhaps the REAL big one of the night was a return for Hottie of the Year. Joining a list of previous winners including Andre Gray, Jonathan Douglas and Sam Saunders, the latest name to be added to that list is now Jota.

Let’s be honest, even for us married men that one was never in doubt. His hair, something most of us aspire to as much as his footballing ability, could have won that prize on its own. Here’s to seeing if he can scoop it in 2019/20.

What a season it has been. There’ll be more to come over the week. Until then, it simply remains to say a HUGE thank you to all involved in last night’s event. It really was enormous fun, the players were magnificent and it showed yet again (as if any reminder were needed) what a wonderful club we have.

THANK YOU Brentford FC.

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Jota – the hair.

Nick Bruzon

Top ten Bees and win for Forest doom Blackburn.

7 May

A third season in the Championship. A third top ten finish for Brentford. Despite a 3-1 defeat to Blackburn Rovers, the ubiquitous ‘other results’ conspired to send the visitors down to League One and ensure the Bees continued their proud ascendency. Whilst  Birmingham City boss Harry Redknapp suffered a very squeaky bum and Mark Warburton at Nottingham Forest endured a short term scare, both managers recording wins meant that the three points and two goal victory margin were ultimately insufficient for Blackburn.

We’ll keep this brief, for now. Besides, what else can you say? Not much. It seems trite to revel in another team’s moment of misery. Rovers fully deserved their win and came so, so close to securing Championship survival. Brentford were very much observers in a first half that saw an early two goal lead given away and an improbable tale of survival almost unfold at Griffin Park.

Alas, it was not to be. As Nottingham Forest started to find the net in their own fixture up at the City Ground, so did Brentford. Lasse Vibe all but scuppering Blackburn’s slender survival hopes when he got on the end of a low cross from Harlee Dean, of all people. The captain finding himself in uncharacteristic territory out on the right but still able to deliver a killer ball into the box.

That was as good as it got. Rather than press home the psychological advantage, Brentford were unable to penetrate. Indeed, Harlee was the man still involved in the action, although not for any reasons he’ll care to remember.

I’m sure by now we’ve all seen the picture of him and Craig Conway engaged in what official would describe with the somewhat diplomatic phrase: ‘ the two debated the decision at close proximity’.

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Tom Moore shared ‘the’ moment on Twitter

This was sufficient to earn a yellow card and was followed up shortly afterwards with a second for a foul in the box. Red card and penalty were the obligatory next steps. 3-1 and effectively game over. Indeed, that’s where the scoring stopped and the game ended as Blackburn then had to endure ‘trial by TV’, waiting to see if Bristol City could equalise against Birmingham at the death. They couldn’t.

What else can we take from today? Well, it was a fond farewell for Alan McCormack whose decision to move on at the end of the season is one which has been made very public these last few weeks. The programme contained fitting tribute whilst the player himself made a gladiatorial entry to this footballing arena. His name ringing around three sides of a packed Griffin Park.

Sam Saunders was inducted into the Brentford Hall of Fame at half-time whilst even ex-Bee Sam Wood was in attendance. He, along with Maxime Colin, amongst those enjoying the sunshine on the forecourt at half time.

We’ll round up the season properly over the next few days. For now, there’s the Player of the year evening to prepare for and a few more celebrations so we’ll cut this one dead here.

Although, in true Columbo style, there is just one more thing.

Seeing Harlee’s flesh pressed up so close to another player did make me recall that this isn’t the first time we’ve been here. Whilst perhaps not in such close proximity, who could forget that cheeky gatecrashing of Chris Wickham’s interview with then captain Kevin O’Connor ?

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Back in the day….

Nick Bruzon

Brentford, Blackburn or Nottingham Forest? Who will win (or lose by less)?

6 May

This is it. The last weekend of the season with so much excitement still to come. And that’s just off pitch where the club have asked fans to dig out their retro shirts to mark the occasion of our current crest (badge) making one final appearance before being retired. Then there’s the small matter of Mark Warburton and Nottingham Forest hoping Brentford can do them a favour when Blackburn Rovers are the visitors to Griffin Park. With Birmingham City still not safe either, live on TV we’ve Sunday’s relegation shootout.

So what will happen? Will Brentford take the foot off the gas and Blackburn survive? Can Forest get the home win they need and hope their goals are sufficient? Both they and Rovers are locked on the same points and so if they match each others results, it comes down to goal difference. Which is currently -13 Forest and -14 Rovers. It could even turn into a case of whoever loses less heavily stays up.

And I have to say that because I fully expect Brentford to win. We’ve a chance to get up to 8th place, which would be one better than last season. Then again, for that to happen it means we need  to rely on victories for both Rotherham United and QPR. We’ve got to be realistic here.

But a win for the Bees, something that is in our hands, will see us surpass last season points total by two. That alone will be incentive for Dean Smith and a team that I fully expect to be focussed on going out in style.

I feel for the Nottingham Forest and Blackburn supporters in their having to rely on another result. Moreso, from teams who they may think are already on the beach or, in our case, at the Player of the Year awards that are taking place later on Sunday night. However, I refer you back to season 2014/15.

This was Brentford’s first in the Championship and Mark Warburton was looking to go out in style. Despite a little wobble towards the end, the Bees went into that final weekend needing to beat Wigan Athletic then rely on a slip up from Derby County or Ipswich Town in order to make the play offs. The Rams were home to hapless Reading and needed just a point to secure their own spot. We’d beaten the Royals a week earlier and they looked awful. Ipswich were on fire though and, likewise, avoiding defeat was all they needed.

On an incredible afternoon, BOTH results went our way. Despite taking an early lead at Ewood, the Tractor Boys were eventually reigned in and went down 3-2. As for Derby, they missed an early penalty and hit the self-destruct from that point. A 0-3 home loss to a bang average team with nothing, absolutely nothing, to play for was as unexpected as it was hilarious.

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Post Wigan: Err. You know that holiday? Well, Derby and Ipswich have both lost.

The point being that strange results can happen. That the team who appear to have nothing to play for on paper won’t just switch off. We’ve definitely been the beneficiaries of this fact in the past.

However on Sunday, and I take no pleasure from this prediction, my gut feeling is that Brentford are going to be the executioners. We’ve more than just pride to play for. For Blackburn Rovers to stay up, it’s going to have to rely on Nottingham Forest losing by more than they do.

Then again, as has been said many times, I’m just the numpty on the terrace. Take results based advice from these pages with a huge dollop of caution. Indeed, given the aforementioned favour they did us, there’s a big part of me that hopes Blackburn losing by less than Forest is the way this one plays out. Everybody in TW8 can go home smiling. Especially if Rotherham and (something I can’t believe we need or want to happen) QPR also win.

Then again, there’s the Mark Warburton factor. A hero to many at Griffin Park, could we take any pleasure from putting a nail in his Championship coffin? Perhaps it’s not one to overthink. Let’s just go out and let the football do the talking – whatever will be will be.

Besides, there’s more to think about off field. I make no secret of being a kit nerd and the club putting out this challenge to supporters has got me intrigued.

Just what could we see? What will the fans’  ‘favourite’ be? Does anybody even own that wonderful Hummel-lite version from 94-95; our first to feature the current crest (badge)? Is there a Samvo shirt out there that still has the sponsor intact rather than having disintegrated the first time it went through the washing machine?

On a personal note, I’ve whittled it down to a choice of three. Or four. But there are more than a few stunners to pick from.

Being fortunate enough to take part in filming an episode of Britain’s top rated day time TV show Bargain Hunt yesterday, both the Bees and the kit obsession made it into that really awkward chat bit at the start.

And that bit, when the show goes out, is quite likely to be the highlight. Let’s just say it’s a lot harder than it looks ‘playing’ live rather than when you watch from home.

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Just some of the shirt choices – although current crest (badge) only

Likewise, subject to any last minute editorial decisions then I gather the match day programme will feature a very special top ten.  Although after last weekend’s Brian Guest affair at Fulham, which the club knew nothing about in advance, we probably shouldn’t take anything on that front for granted.

So if you haven’t done it yet, why not have a root through the back of the wardrobe and see what you can pull out? Whatever your thoughts on the current crest (badge) why not help see it off in style?

The next time we all get together, there’ll be a new design in place….

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Coming soon. To a shirt near you….

Nick Bruzon 

 

A goal, a goal is all we need…

23 Nov

It’s only Wednesday. The interminable wait until Brentford host Birmingham City on Saturday continues. If anything, it is a wait made all the more painful by our previous outings – the lacklustre defeat to Fulham followed up by Brentford going down by the odd goal in 5 at Blackburn.

In the understatement of the decade, Dean was quoted after that one as saying that he didn’t expect us to concede the goals we did. “I felt this was a place that we could come and score goals. Unfortunately, I didn’t expect us to concede the goals we did”, said Dean etc etc.

Just for good measure, we got a graphic of this one too.

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Whilst it seems obvious, and the gut reaction was one of contemplating whether this was even an act of parody, thinking about it more I think I get what he is trying to say. The goals were all sloppy, all unexpected and all out of character (other cliches are available). Indeed, of our 17 Championship games so far, 6 have seen us keeping clean sheets whilst it would be fair to say that Daniel Bentley hit the ground running between the sticks.

Further, only 7(seven) Championship teams have conceded less than our 19 goals over that period. That said, the left back situation is one I’d like to see cleared up sooner than lately. Nobody can doubt the international class and calibre of Andreas Bjelland but he is still a man pressed into an unfamiliar role. Roll on the return of Rico Henry and then the hope he lives up to all his plaudits . No pressure there.

It is up front where perhaps the situation is more interesting and different to any of our previous seasons playing at this level. In our first Championship campaign, Andre Gray was our top scorer in the league (16) but was ably supported by Alex Pritchard, Jota and even Jonathan Douglas who all weighed in with 13, 10 and 8 goals respectively . Last time out, it was another shared load. But for injury, who knows where Alan Judge would have stopped – he’d got 14 league goals up until that horrific broken leg. Lasse Vibe ended on the same figure whilst Scott Hogan, Sergi Canos and John Swift all managed 7 (seven)

Granted, we’re only just over a third of the way through the campaign but it doesn’t seem to me as though the same pattern is being repeated this time around. Rather than the shared workload, we are reliant on one man. And what a man !

Goal machine Scott Hogan is miles out in front with 10 league goals already. He’s picked up the baton from where he left off last season and is currently just a few behind Newcastle United’s Dwight Gayle in the race for leading Championship scorer. But after that it is a  case of slim pickings in the league. Centre back John Egan is next with 3, Josh Clarke and Lasse Vibe 2 before a handful of players have one apiece.

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Can one man do it all on his own?

It’s great that we have a free scoring centre forward. His timing and technique are clear for all to see. The question now is whether he gets the support that has been so much a part of our game over the last few campaigns ? Whilst, generally, we’re keeping it tight at the back up front we’ve drawn a blank 4 times out of the last 7 (etc) games . Is this a blip? Are teams getting wise to us? Does Dean have a plan B for getting the goals? Does he even need one?

At the end of the day, Clive, I’m just the numpty on the terrace. I’ve no sort of tactical insight and what I know about running a football team you could write on the back of a matchbox. But for a club who, whether rightly or wrongly are held up as one for whom statistical analysis is a a key part of our make up, those are a few for thought.

I’m genuinely not sure which way will it go against promotion chasing Birmingham City. Will the goal machine keep on firing? Could somebody else get their name on the scoresheet? Will it be another blank for the Bees? The permutations in my head keep veering wildly between the three and I can’t call it at this juncture.

However, with our record against the Blues a less than favourable one in recent seasons W0 D1 L3), not to mention a fair amount of historic rivalry, I’d be well happy with a gritty 1-0. Hogan.

We can worry about the bigger picture after that.

Nick Bruzon

The good, the bad and the ugly. Bees miss out, fans rally round Manchester United man and birthday wishes. A week in football

20 Nov

Brentford went down 3-2 at Blackburn despite Scott Hogan grabbing the first of his brace quicker than most people can spell antidisestablishmentarianism. Newcastle United are now 9 points clear of third place whilst Dwight Gayle, also with a brace as Leeds were despatched 2-0, occupies the penthouse suite at the Championship leading scorer hotel (i.e. he’s number 1). Norwich City made it four in a row – defeats that is. Their ignominy being compounded by this being at the hands of Ian Holloway and his QPR side who now sit a point ahead of our super Bees. At the bottom, it’s business as usual. Blackburn, Wigan and Rotherham continue to make up the final three.

That’s the latest Championship action in nutshell. Yet there has been so much more going on in the division and beyond. In the latest of our regular, weekly feature we look back at those things you might have missed from the world of social media.

As ever, we start with Brentford where defeat at Ewood Park was hard to swallow. Despite Scott Hogan making it 9 and 10 for the season, those expecting us to ‘bounce back’ after Fulham were left ruing a lost chance. Indeed, it seems we’re struggling against the less fancied teams.

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That said, away from the action it was good to see Beesotted main man Billy Grant find the pub in Blackburn. Presumably, those aren’t wasps?

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Talking of which, (and this really IS the last comment on the crest confusion) anybody thinking our new logo looks like a wasp may want to refine their opinion. Or start supporting Alloa Athletic. Now THIS is a wasp (with thanks to @sarangipani for this spot).

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As a final Bees related though, Bernard Quackenbush just can’t let this one go. And rightly so, quite frankly. This time, the normally accurate BBC being the ones to feel his ire.

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Instead, the main story of the week has been the furore surrounding Manchester United and England man Wayne Rooney. Regular readers to this page will know that the Old Trafford outfit are frequent visitors (largely thanks to the black humour in their ongoing struggle to pick up where Sir Alex Ferguson left off). Yet, for once, I must spring to Rooney’s defence.

Seriously, what a fuss over nothing. What a ridiculous attempt by the press to once again knock the England team and kick the players that they’ll be the first to be fawning over when something goes well. It all started when he was photographed at a wedding party and then made to apologise like a naughty schoolboy….

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Fortunately, most people could see through the sham. From the Brentford angle, none other than Bluetones guitarist Adam Devlin and Irish international Alan Judge were quick to weigh in with their thoughts. The former being first out of the blocks with a double whammy.

 

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Manchester United legend Phil Neville also added his own voice to proceedings in defence of his former team mate.

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But it wouldn’t be the weekly round up without mention of Manchester United failing to hit the heights.  With local rivals Manchester City winning on the road at Crystal Palace thanks to a brace from Yaya Toure, the Telegraph were quick to post the following statistic.

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Elsewhere, the peril of wearing ludicrous luminous kits was highlighted – quite literally.

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We’ve spoken this week about the ongoing fall out at Charlton Athletic. Following a group of supporters confronting owner Roalnd Duchatelet in his home town of St. Truiden on the occasion of his 70th birthday meal, the Addicks were taking no chances this time around.

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‘Football on 5’ host George Riley put us in mind of one of the most favourite football cliches whilst preparing for the weekend’s show.

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With it , a cheap excuse to crowbar in another look at ‘the wellness scale’ of typical shot methods. I love this but can take no credit for producing what is a work of genius.

 

Wellness scale

Those of us who didn’t make it to Ewood Park were later afforded the opportunity to watch another 3-2 game. Namely, Tottenham’s home win over West Ham on Saturday night. Like our own game, the visitors took the lead before a soft penalty turned the scores.

BBC Radio London man Phil Parry was on hand to witness the action, where our own Billy Reeves laid down a gauntlet.

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And the answer, according to Billy today, saw the Children In Need coffers swelled further thanks to the ding-dong antics on BBC Radio London.

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They weren’t the only station reporting on this one, obviously. Ian Moose from Talksport was also present for another combo of commentary, banging on about pies and referencing ‘my good friend’ (insert name of player) – the regular form if his social media feed is to be believed. Mr Moose’s address book must be fit to burst whilst I dread to think what his birthday card bill is.

Friendship couldn’t get in the way of the result, however, as West Ham lost out at the death.

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And finally, on the same subject, regular followers of the Twitter scene may be aware of Ian offering what seem to be daily birthday wishes to one of his good footballing friends. Shameless name dropping or simply a public service keeping us abreast of all matters age related?

So it’s time for Ian’s football friend birthday of the week.  In a column that sees us looking at Manchester United, it is perhaps appropriate that this week Ian offers birthday wishes to his friend : Paul Scholes.

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Nick Bruzon

Bees come a sloppy second to Blackburn. Get me out of here…

20 Nov

Blackburn Rovers 3 Brentford 2. The scoreline does’t even begin to sum up a frustrating result after the Bees had taken the lead with barely half a minute of the game gone. That we then conspired to present our hosts with three goals (and no complaints about them for taking their chances – you can only put away what is in front of you) is something out of character with the Bees and hugely disappointing.

Equally, though, with still almost an hour to play at 3-2 down Brentford had plenty of time to salvage something. Instead, the records will show that we managed 3 shots on target all game.

Listen, I’ve no issue with holding up my hands and knowing when we’ve not deserved a thing. Look at our last home game, against Fulham, and then look away fast. There was no creativity and nothing to inspire. At least this time Dean loaded his team for attack, gave Romaine Sawyers a break for the first time this season and it paid immediate dividends. Lasse Vibe releasing Scott Hogan who sprung the offside trap and ran clear on goal to make it 1-0 Brentford after a mere 33 seconds.

Likewise, Hogan’s second, to level things up at 2-2, was the culmination of a beautiful move around the Blackburn midfield that ended with the striker taking his total to ten Championship goals for the season. With parity restored at 2-2 after just a half hour, and headline writers preparing the phrase ‘goal fest’ surely we were back in the driving seat? But no. Sloppiness followed just as sloppiness had preceded.

Sam Gallagher had been earmarked as the man to watch prior to this one but it was Danny Graham who took advantage of the huge holes in the Brentford defence to equalise on the quarter hour. It was marking that would have embarrassed a league two club, let alone a tier two Championship team, and the goal machine made no mistake. Five minutes later, he’d doubled his tally and given the home side the lead from the penalty spot. It looked a pretty innocuous challenge on the TV in what were slippery conditions – just check out the skid marks – but referee Chris Kavanagh had no hesitation and the penalty was dispatched perfectly.

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Bees hit the skids – did snow trail make it look worse than it was?

As for the winning goal though. The tales of Brentford centre-backs putting it past their own goalkeeper are legion. I’m not going to moan at Harlee Dean – the defensive o.g. has happened so many times before and will no doubt happen again. Indeed the biggest crime was even giving the ball away in the first instance, with the Bees in a very safe position on the half way line and taking it forward. Suddenly we were under pressure and paid the ultimate price as the ball was swept into the box.

Those of us watching back home could only mutter under the breath as this one popped up on the Sky Sports scrolly thing. Those of us wearing anoraks could only smile at the thought of Renton scoring in Edinburgh. At least one team displaying a lust for life there.

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The highlights of this one are on Sky now. Alternatively, if you prefer to see whether Mark Burridge and the team can salvage anything from the game, then there are double length highlights on Bees Player now we’ve got past the 12pm curfew.

Is it any better with Mark at the helm?

As for any more of an in-depth report,  regular readers know the drill. The BBC, Brentford official or Beesotted are your places. When even official lead with : Lasse vibe on “sloppy” defeat to Blackburn Rovers then it’s fairly safe to know what you are going to get.

Besides, yours truly wasn’t even allowed anywhere near Channel 5 for the highlights last night, with the remote control having been commandeered for watching Carol Vordeman (who seems to have been rebuilt more than the Brentford defence) and Danny Baker subtly attempting to wind up a daytime TV property ‘expert’.

An act which, if we’re being honest, they largely succeeded at under the watchful eyes of Ant and Dec. If only we’d had such acumen but alas it wasn’t to be. Then again, the thought of Harlee making a meal of pig’s anus or Sam Saunders standing in an oversized fish tank with an eel merging from his shorts are not the sort of images I particularly want so perhaps we park that analogy here, with apologies.

Can there be any positives from that? And by which I mean the Blackburn game rather than ‘I’m a celebrity’… ? Well, you have to start with two wonderfully taken goals. Scott Hogan is now in double figures in the Championship, level with Glenn Murray and just one behind Dwight Gayle at Newcastle United.With the Repulic of Ireland reportedly sniffing around, he is very much the ‘man of the moment’ in the Championship. January could be stressful..

Equally, at least, we can sleep that bit easier knowing that the media team won’t be dusting off the #Novemberkings moniker which was so cringe worthily chucked around during our first Championship season.

Beyond that though, it is a case of slim pickings. On a snowy day we weren’t even granted that rare treat of an orange ball. Instead, the mid-winter yellow version is deemed sufficient and I fear that really could be it now for this nostalgic favourite. Unless, of course, the FA Cup can produce something magical.

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Is the combination of snow and orange ball now a thing of the past?

So what next for the Bees? A win would be nice, for one thing. That wonderful victory over QPR has been our only real bright spark in a 7(seven) game run that has otherwise seen four defeats and two 0-0 draws.

Tablewise, we are now just into the bottom half. Five points shy of the play-off zone and six ahead of the basement clubs. With Blackburn, Wigan and surely doomed Rotherham United (already 11 points and vastly inferior goal difference off safety) still occupying those places, that’s not even a situation worth contemplating .

Yet, equally, complacency won’t win you games or keep you up. Look at Newcastle United last season. And Aston Villa. No club is too safe or too big to go down. Keep losing and that’ll happen. Not anything to worry about for now, that’s for sure, but a swift return to winning ways will be a good thing.

As the interview with Dean Smith on Brentford official noted:

Next Saturday The Bees return to Griffin Park to host Gary Rowett’s Birmingham City with Dean saying that he wants to see a response after consecutive losses.

“Next week’s game takes on extra importance because, after back to back defeats, we have to bounce back,” said Dean. “

Never a truer word and so important it had to be mentioned twice..

Nick Bruzon

Harlee offers an alternative to going again. Dean conjures up strange images.

18 Nov

Footballers, eh? Normally the first to come out with anodyne soundbites about how the boys did well well or that despite the defeat (for which we apologise to the fans – it wasn’t good enough)  ‘we go again’. But with Brentford heading into Saturday’s game with Blackburn, club captain Harlee Dean has given a really interesting, and honest, interview on ‘official’ as part of the big match preview.

Talking about his own performance, current form, team mates and, of course, the threat posed by Blackburn it recognises our own, what we’ll call, ‘blips’ .

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Harlee speaks to the press on Thursday

Fairplay to Harlee. I’m not normally one for these interviews. If nothing else, the technique of previewing what a player is about to be quoted on and then quoting it , often verbatim, still rankles. This one has a classic example and does make me wonder if we have problems with the required ‘word count’:

Harlee, who has missed just two games all season, feels that a mid-table position is where The Bees deserve to be based on the opening 16 games of the season but has aims on being much higher.

“I feel the team should be where we are but we could be a lot better,” said Harlee.

But it is a small gripe. It’s great to hear our captain being so open, so honest and saying what we can all see. The question now is one of how we follow up these words. As he notes:

“The boys will be honest that a few of them have been good in spells and then dropped off…..  We can easily do it but we all have to be consistent, not just for one game or for 135 minutes, but for two, three, or four games in a row and see where it takes us.”

If you haven’t read the full interview yet, you can find it on ‘official’. Alternatively, the whole piece is on the Brentford YouTube page which you can find below.

Harlee. Great words, great jumper 

Dean Smith also gave his press conference, where ‘official’ began by telling us he is expecting Blackburn to offer both “a tough test” and a “stern examination”. I had to double take on reading that opening gambit. Visions of daleks gliding onto the Ewood Park pitch were soon dispelled upon noting it said stern examination rather than extermination (and with it, the photoshop imagery hit the ‘trash’ folder). That’s what writing this nonsense so early in the morning does to you!

Like Harlee, Mr Smith also noted that “The consistency element is something that we are working on.” Certainly the right mantra and let’s hope it sinks in. Consistency , consistency, consistency. Repeat it enough and, like saying Candyman, Candyman, Candyman into the mirror – will it magically appear?

On Saturday, we find out.

And if you’d like to read more, Dean’s full interview is also available on Brentford official.

In the meantime, the thought of Doctor Smith and the Daleks has been niggling. Here’s hoping Blackburn can be exterminated on Saturday (in the nicest possible terms).

dean-dalek

Nick Bruzon

Brentford walking into weekend protest at Blackburn as Charlton crank theirs up

17 Nov

Blackburn Rovers v Brentford. By rights we should be talking about Gary Blissett sending the Bees into a 1989 FA Cup quarter final against Liverpool or Jota sending Mark Burridge into near meltdown as he scored ‘that goal’ (#Burridgegasm). Instead, it seems that this Saturday we could be walking into the heart of a maelstrom with a supporter protest being planned against club owners Venkys. Like Charlton Athletic fans before them (and stick around to see how they took things to the next level at the weekend) it is another protest against an ownership that is deemed to have run a once successful club to the brink of disaster. And then pushed it over the edge.

Any excuse to take a look at this one again

The Lancashire Telegraph is reporting this morning how fans plan to raise red cards on both the 18th and 75th minute – a reference to the club’s formation in 1875 prior to their becoming founder members of the football league – as a sign of their dissatisfaction with team performance and the club’s rising debts.

Will this affect Brentford? Will it play into our hands ? Will we be able to get back to winning / goalscoring ways against a team who have been  rooted in the bottom three for what seems like most of the season ? Or could it even inspire the home side to up their game?

Who knows. What I can say is that it certainly puts our own ‘problems’ in perspective. In Matthew Benham and the current board, we have an outfit making no secret of the fact that the club is looking to be run in a financially sound way. For sure, the glut of sales / departures alongside Mark Warburton were tough for many to swallow but nobody could deny a subsequent Championship finish of 9th was a false or unimpressive position. The table doesn’t lie,

As recently as our last game, the Bees were a win away from hitting the play off zone. Sadly, we capitulated against Fulham with a, frankly, woeful performance that saw the Cottagers finally record a win against us at the fifth attempt.

Our biggest supporter dissatisfaction is currently in regards to the new club crest and, whilst all observations pro/against equally valid, it’s hardly in the Blackburn / Charlton category of doom and gloom.

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I love the nod to the past in our new crest

As for Charlton, just when things couldn’t get any crazier at the Valley supporters took matters further into the hands in the ongoing protest against owner Roland Duchatelet. They visited his home town of St Truiden on the weekend of his 70th birthday with the intention of handing out leaflets to outline their concerns.

Not only did they do this but, likewise, stumbled across the man himself enjoying a birthday meal as his team went down 3-0 at Swindon. The Coventry Telegraph is amongst those with the story whilst you can see the video footage below.

For all that Brentford fans may be unhappy about certain aspects of life at Griffin Park, things could be an awful lot worse.

Charlton fans take protest up a notch.

Nick Bruzon  

Do we really want Griffin Park to become Jurassic Park?

21 Mar

Are Brentford on social media lockdown after #SwiftHipstergate overshadowed the post match press conference following the Blackburn?

And no, that’s not a typo but at present we can all take subsequent use of the word ‘debacle’ as a given.

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John Swift wasn’t smiling (or a hipster) after Dean swung the disciplinary axe

None of the usual suspects have tweeted anything football related, let alone gone again. Whatever your thoughts on that most awkward of phrases, the use of Twitter and Instgram (amongst other mediums) provides a valuable insight into squad morale and feeling. Both good and bad. Yet there has been nothing out of Harlee, Sergi, Sam, or Nico since the loss to Blackburn.

Has Dean Smith ordered a clampdown to try and maintain some semblance of control? Are the players taking a deliberate step back given the oxygen of publicity breathed into the situation by our head coach after he walked straight into Billy’s gentle probing with a very honest answer to Swift’s absence? Or is there nothing more to this than an overactive imagination from yours truly?

Personally speaking I think that although pushed into a corner from one respect, Dean has made the wrong decision here. Swift shouldn’t have started against Blackburn simply for the performance, or lack of, in the QPR game. But to then limit your bench options when there is a player who has apologised immediately, and must be chomping at the bit to prove doubters wrong, is very much the proverbial condemned man opting for canibalism as a final meal.

Casting the social media net that bit further afield to upper management, only Chief Executive Mark Devlin has dipped his toes into the waters of cyberspace on anything like a regular basis. Whilst Matthew Benham published his ‘cryptic clue’ last week, it was the first time he’d posted in a long while – albeit understandable given his prior absence (presumably as a result of some of the crazy abuse and comments being directed his way).

Chairman Cliff Crown and co-director of football Rasmus Ankersen, both previous exponents of Twitter, haven’t posted in almost a month. 27 and 22 February respectively, to be precise. Both of which is a huge shame for a club that has always been so big on fan interaction and, whether we like it or not, are going through somewhat of a rough patch on the field.

Whatever the reason I can understand why the players, at least, are taking somewhat of a backseat. Any attempt to pour oil on troubled waters at that moment would be more like chucking it onto an already raging chip fire. Indeed, such is the depth of feeling and emotion out there about our current predicament that I’ve seen people calling for Dean Smith’s head (metaphorically) and a return for the likes of Andy Scott or Martin Allen.

Say that slowly. Andy Scott or Martin Allen.

Both are men I loved in their day. Andy – both on the pitch and in his early stint as manager. Martin – well to say he is larger than life is probably an understatement to rank alongside suggestions that Steve Evans gives a calm and measured post-defeat press conference. These days though, Andy is more associated with highlights in ladies hair than on Football Focus whilst Martin Allen would, surely, be a step back into the Jurassic era?

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Martin – larger than life

Whilst I have huge respect for both men, they’ve had their time at Griffin Park. More importantly, would a fourth different Head Coach in less than a season be of any real benefit? Things aren’t working out at present, that’s for sure, but to bring in yet somebody else with so few games to go would be both a brave and risky call.

Much like the loan signings we are supposedly after, if anybody was any good they’d already be in employment at the moment. Unless, of course, Steve Coppell is reading (he isn’t).

Whatever the pitchfork wielding mob are calling for, I fully expect Dean to be at the reins when we start up again against Nottingham Forest in just under two weeks. Besides, IF Matthew was even contemplating a change (and its a bigger IF than Steve Evans) surely he would look for a short term internal fix?

Somebody who has their UEFA A coaching badges. A former player with diverse knowledge of the European game. A man who knows the players, who has a reputation as a motivational speaker and, now that FCM are out of the Europa League, may have a bit more time on his hands.

I’ll leave that thought with you…

Nick Bruzon