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Bees win at Bolton but Barbet wins at Twitter

24 Sep

And relax. Brentford thumped Bolton Wanderers 3-0 at the Macron on Saturday to record an opening league victory and move out of the bottom three. With Birmingham City failing to win (again), this time at a Derby County side who come to Griffin Park on Tuesday, it marked a quite wonderful afternoon for Bees fans. And players – for whom three stunning goals scored by Ollie Watkins, Nico Yennaris and Yoann Barbet were the icing on the cake of a performance that head coach Dean Smith has been promising for weeks.

If it was vindication for Dean Smith then what must it have been like for Yoann Barbet? The Frenchman started on the bench after taking what was, quite rightly, considered to be one of the all-time worst penalties ever seen at Griffin Park on Tuesday night. How he got such height from just 12 yards out was beyond the laws of physics in itself.

An early substitution for John Egan (Dean Smith telling BBC Billy Reeves that “He felt dizzy, felt coming off was for the good of the team” after getting a cut lip) saw Yoann enter the field of play. It saw him leave it at full time having been named ‘STAR of the day’. Not my words but those of the official EFL twitter feed. Although words I’d happily agree with.

Barbet EFL

Took his chance – and then some…

Sometimes, you just have to hold up your hands. Tuesday’s penalty was horrific. It lead to my own post match column noting that : “We’ve a tradition of centre backs hoofing dead balls over the bar. See also that ill-fated period of giving spot kick duties to number 26 … Likewise Miguel Llera and his attempts to channel Sam Saunders but which were more akin to Jonny Wilkinson. Why not just give it to a striker? A player whose job it it to strike the ball. To find the back of the net“.

Hmm. Ok. That’s why I’m the numpty on the terrace and Dean is the head coach. Clearly there’s something that we don’t see on the training ground because this effort, to open the scoring, was just about as good as it got.

Pick that out. Just about unstoppable and given the space available on the other side of the goal, the last thing any of us expected. More importantly, the last place Bolton expected it to end up. It was a truly wonderful effort.

It was an effort that would later see Yoann win at Twitter. For all the cracks from supporters about the Norwich effort, he nailed things with a clear demonstration of that team spirit Dean has been telling us about week in, week out.

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Yoann wins Twitter

It was a strike that made the final four of ‘goal of the day’ on Sky Sports news and was joined by our second. Step up Nico Yennaris. He doesn’t seem to do easy, that’s for sure. If the one against Birmingham City at St. Andrews last season was special, then this just about blew it out of the park. How does he do it? And so often?

You really had to feel for Ben Alnwick in the Bolton goal. If there had been little chance with Yoann’s curler, then he was left equally helpless here. They could have had two goalkeepers and it still would have gone in. 2-0 up and surely, now, the points secure.

But with the first half delayed by 7(seven) minutes and the second half starting late due to a kids penalty competition still taking place whilst the players were lined up to start, this had all the elements of squeaky bum time in it.

Anything but. Here came Ollie Watkins to heap further misery on Bolton. Ben Alnwick must have run over a cat on the way in because here was another thunderbolt to take the back of the net off. What a strike. You’ll have to catch the highlights on Channel 5 for that one but do take a look. They’re well, well worth a viewing. I’ll update this at mid-day once the Mark Burridge version goes up. It promises to be something very special….

Yoann and team do their thing, officially 

Three nil. Three points. Brentford finally finding their shooting boots and keeping it tight at the back. Dean Smith’s faith was unshakeable, as demonstrated in that aforementioned interview with Billy.

Our head coach was also honest enough to tell ‘official’ that: “I didn’t think we started very well in the opening ten minutes. They got into our faces and we didn’t move the ball as we would have liked but after that we took over the game.” This, before going on to enthuse about “three valuable points with three wonderful goals.” Do check out the full article. It’s been a while coming.

All very well and very easy to do after you’ve won. But still on message. We’ve criticised our indecision when it came to shooting after that Reading game. Even 7(seven) year old Felix Watts getting in on the act when he noted that , “The only thing we had to do today was shoot. Really quickly. When they were in the penalty box at Griffin Park all we had to do was shoot but we kept passing it.

What a way to answer that. But, more importantly, was it a flash in the pan? Or have we now turned the corner? The visit of Derby County on Tuesday night promises to be a huge test for the Bees. But a fascinating one.

Will Dean change his starting XI, again? This was our 12th different line up in 12 league and cup games. Might he have no choice if Yoann has played his way in past John Egan? Were Bolton Wanderers the cannon fodder that many expected or a strong team that felt the wrath of what can happen when we play as well as we’ve done in training, do it for 90 minutes and have that run of good fortune?

Without wanting to get ahead of ourselves, victory for Brentford would take us to within a point of Derby. Victory for the Rams would take them to within a point of the play-offs. This one will be huge and I can’t wait to see how it plays out. See you there….

And on a purely personal note, I’d like to thank Bolton for featuring my own thoughts as ‘away fan’ in the programme column yesterday. Moreso, the picture they used, in the Spall 87-88 away shirt. I apologise for the somewhat gratuitous size – nobody needs yours truly that close up. Yet it is included in today’s column as I’m pretty sure we’ve seen that picture and shirt somewhere before.

Fulham, wasn’t it…..?

Bolton and Fulham programmes

Nick Bruzon

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Decisions to be made. Will we get off the mark today?

23 Sep

Matchday. Winless Brentford travel to, erm, winless Bolton Wanderers with Dean Smith in confident mood. He used yesterday’s press conference to tell us: “In terms of how we play, then more of the same will certainly put us on the road to getting a win“.

Agreed, IF we keep up the good bits for a full 90 minutes. IF we are able to change how we play should things not be going to plan. IF we don’t need to rely on refereeing decisions to sink or save us.

As a management team and playing squad those people out there pulling the strings and kicking the balls need to take collective responsibility for performances. It’s not the fault of the paying supporters who, being honest, have been remarkably fair. Whatever has been said on social media where the keyboard warrior is king (and nobody forces anybody to read that), there hasn’t been any dissent where it really counts – the game.

Outside of the Norwich ‘performance’ in the cup (and I use that word at its loosest after we’d aped the Marinus/Oxford farce), there’s been none of the booing or moaning one might expect for a side at the foot of the table and without a win after almost 20% of the league campaign.

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No real booing to date.

It was interesting to note Dean used his briefing to also note this, saying “On the whole, our supporters have been very patient” as well as adding that “expectation and pressure is only built up from outside. The pressure we put on ourselves in the eighth or ninth game is no different to the first game”. You can read this in full on ‘official’

Expectation IS building up on the outside, Dean. Of course it is. This is our team and we want to win. Especially given the much touted quality of our squad. Indeed, I expect a win. Wins even. No question. I’m realistic enough to think the title may be a step too far but does that make me a bad person for hoping we should be able to pick up three points every now and again?

Even prior to the transfer window closing, where we still had the likes of Maxime Colin and Jota available. Stupidity at the back against Bristol City and Nottingham Forest saw us pick up 1 point instead of 6. The opening periods in the games at Ipswich Town and then the visit of Reading should have had us out of sight. By all accounts we dominated Aston Villa and were unlucky not to leave that one with a W.

So today is the day. Today IS the day. The BBC tell us that super computer SAM, the Sports Analytics Machine, is calling this as 54% chance of an away win. Having checked my online bookmaker (for research purposes only), they see Bolton at 5/2 and the Bees at evens for the win. However, having done that I made my excuses and left. If Mrs. Bruzon is reading, no bet was placed. Honest.

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SAM calls this one as ‘away’

It won’t be as simple as the odds make out. Dean was the first to acknowledge how determined Bolton will be to break their own duck whilst admitting that he’s “clashed swords with Phil Parkinson and Steve Parkin many times. You know you are going to be in for a battle.

With our head coach confirming there’s still no Sergi Canos or Lasse Vibe, it’s a case of as you were for his selection options. Which two of three play at centre back this week? Surely Josh Clarke to push up on the right ahead of Henrik ?

Does the (currently) misfiring Neal Maupay keep his place up top? Could there be a start for Justin Shaibu who was denied a beauty against Norwich by the thickness of paint on the inside of the post. Curse that meddling groundsman. Had it not been for his attention to detail we might have scored. Or how about goal scoring Ollie Watkins?

As for midfield, the impressive Romaine Sawyers was off this season’s pace against Reading but I’m sure he’ll be back in alongside Ryan and Nico with the likes of Kamo and Josh (M) on the bench.

And this is as much our problem as Dean’s . Just who is the starting XI? Who is the preferred team? It’s great having a squad but you also need some consistency. Chopping and changing every game , whether forced by circumstance or through deliberate choice, is not an ideal means of playing football.

But if we and Dean (at least, in public) don’t know, then you can be sure Bolton do. And, being quite honest, whatever pressure and expectation there is I still think we’ll have far, far too much in us for this one.

Prediction time: I’m with SAM. Dean will be able to sleep easy tonight. The Bees will open the gap over Bolton to five points and, with Tuesday’s visitor Derby County hosting Birmingham City, there could be further distance made between us and Brentford reserves. Gary Rowett will no doubt be desperate to prove a further point to his former employers and it’s a result that I for one could also get behind.

It’s one theory. I hope for all our sakes that at 5pm it proves to be the correct one.

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Dean Smith – hopefully he’ll inspire us to victory today

Nick Bruzon

As cup draw shows what might have been, where do you stand ?

21 Sep

As one last piece of fall out from the EFL cup defeat, Brentford fans now know who we would have been drawn against had we beaten Norwich City. With the Canaries having been handed the seemingly plum tie of a trip to Arsenal, I’ve seen several supporters bemoaning our own missing out on a trip to The Emirates stadium.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t even watch the draw this time around. The overly convoluted methodology used for rounds 1-3 had long since sapped any interest I may had had. That, and nothing to do with our capitulation against Norwich, were the reasons that an early night seemed an infinitely more palatable option. As such, it was a case of waking up to Arsenal this, draw that on my Twitter timeline this morning.

Yet at the case of formally labelling myself as the most boring man on the planet, rather than a visit to Arsenal the reward for a Brentford victory would (by my rough calculations) have been a home tie with Bristol City. And that’s assuming the balls had then been pulled in the same order.

The numerical sequencing (with Tuesday winners numbered 1-11) would have seen the Bees slot in at number 2 instead of Bristol City. They’d have taken the place of ball 3, Crystal Palace, and the tie that now sees the Robins host the Eagles would actually have seen them heading to Griffin Park for the chance to earn a quarter final slot.

Draw

A fourth round with Arsenal, Bristol City and Norwich. But no Brentford

It’s all conjecture. Free to concentrate in the league until January, our own immediate future sees the trip to bottom club Bolton Wanderers on Saturday, followed by Tuesday night’s game with Derby County. It’s a shame from many respects as a fourth round tie at home to a fellow Championship club would have presented a wonderful chance of progress. Mind you, we’d have said the same prior to Norwich City visiting and look how that ended up. A 3-1 defeat and one of the worst penalties ever seen.

Head Coach Dean Smith has already said his piece on how the third round ended up, telling BBC Radio London: “It’s not relevant (in terms of morale) at all compared to Saturday.”

Whether he would be saying the same thing now, having seen how the draw has panned out I do wonder. Likewise, I’m surprised he doesn’t think a win would have been good for the buzz around Griffin Park. I guess that’s why I’m the numpty on the terrace and he’s the head coach.

Still, there’s no point crying over a split milk (cup). Norwich deserved it. We didn’t. Here’s to a morale boosting win on Saturday instead. Three points at The Macron now very much the order of the day and, as Dean also noted in that BBC piece, “Bolton is very important to us and we’ll have a lot of fresh players come back for that.”

I’m not going to avoid the elephant in the room here. As is typical in this situation, I’ve seen some supporters calling for a change. That Thomas Frank or King Kev should be parachuted into the head coach role. For the record, my own thoughts are anything but at present. Putting aside the constant references to bad luck, refereeing and our own ‘wonderful’ performances, this is not the time or the place.

With a set up that includes two directors of football and multiple coaches, we win or lose together. We’ve even had a specialist in the provision of strategy, leadership, cultural engagement and performance management solutions and skills join the board with the announcement yesterday that Monique Choudhuri has been named as a club director.

With our current football philosophy, one man should not be made the solitary scapegoat for current results. Nor should he take all the plaudits when things go well.

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#WelcomeMonique ?

Let’s not forget that over the summer we were told how wonderful the scouting set up had been in helping bring in all these wonderful new players. And we have undoubtedly picked up some real gems over the last few seasons. Albeit it’s quite understandable that Dean is the focal point for how things go on the pitch. That his role is to pick the best team for the job. To have a consistent side. To motivate them. A side selected from the players he has had made available to him by our set up. And in my opinion, on Tuesday he got that all wrong.

Equally, his role is to get the best out of what he has. To say the right things when results don’t quite go to plan. I don’t get the ‘self-pity’ excuse thing. I don’t agree that we are yet to play a team better than us in the league. Four draws and four defeats tell you everything you need to know on that front. But I do think he is coming under an undue amount of flak at present. He is a head coach that has guided us to top ten Championship finishes over his two seasons in charge. For a club that has made no secret of the need to sell to survive.

If Dean can settle on his best XI, and pick it. If Dean can find a Plan B rather than subs by number or giving those like for like entrants to the field of play just a few minutes when the game is all but lost. If he can get some luck on the fitness side where the returns of Sergi Canos and Lasse Vibe alone would be huge, then expect things to change.

Roll on this week’s press conferences. I’m not a journalist but, if I was , my first question to Dean would be – who is your starting XI if everybody is fit? Followed closely by, when are we going to get a win?

Here’s to the weekend when hopefully we can find out.

Barbet pen Norwich

Tuesday happened. Move along

Nick Bruzon

We’ve got that Vibe (but Mark has a few things to answer)

6 Apr

Dean Smith’s team have done it again. That’s 6 goals and 6 points in two games for Brentford as they eased past Bolton with a 3-1 win at Griffin Park on Tuesday night. Again Nico Yennaris grabbed a goal from midfield and again, Beesplayer commentator par-excellence Mark Burridge was absent from the commentary box. Meanwhile, Mark Warburton and his Rangers team secured a return to the Scottish Premiership as the Glasgow outfit secured the Championship title with a 1-0 win over Dumbarton.

But we can only begin by reviewing events at Griffin Park where a 3 goal spell in 19 first half minutes wrapped things up for the Bees. Nico grabbed the opener from close range whilst Lasse Vibe completed the scoring with a fine pair. His first saw the Dane working through a crowd in the box until he found clear air whilst the second was a fine header from Judge cross.

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A handful of Bolton fans were present as Nico and Lasse scored 3 first half goals

It was a second goal in as many games for Nico and a third over the same spell from Lasse as the Bees matched the three goals they scored in Saturday’s second half at Nottingham Forest. But whilst it may look comfortable on paper, with some fans already looking ahead to the brackets that come with 7(seven) goals Bolton were allowed back into a game which, but for some better shooting, they may well have got something out of.

That’s not to overly criticise but more to note that we are by no means the finished article. The second half in particular saw us pushing our luck. Bolton were allowed to run at the Bees defence whilst Macca gave away a very soft looking penalty that Zach Clough converted to give the Trotters hope. That said, he nearly made it four himself with an absolute pile driver that Bolton ‘keeper Ben Amos did well to tip over at the last moment.

As for Nico Yennaris, he’s been viewed (unfairly) as one of the ‘fall guys’ by certain sections of social media all season and so to see him shine in midfield is nothing short of wonderful. Two goals in two games and another dominant, positive performance from the player usually found at right back have been a real plus for Dean Smith. This, at a time when both Josh McEachran and John Swift have been missing. Literally (with injury), rather than metaphorically as some have noted in recent games.

These wins have been earned against sides who, if we’re being equally honest, haven’t been great yet at the same time, we can only beat the team in front of us. As was noted just yesterday, how often in the past have underrated teams failed to read the script and given Brentford unexpected trouble?

Instead, yesterday’s game put me in mind of last season’s against Blackpool. Playing a similarly doomed team under floodlights, the Bees ended it looking like comfortable winners.

Clearly the players were in high spirits, with Twitter once more awash with plenty of good vibes and even, dare I say it, ‘bantz’ (Urrgh, I feel so dirty). What a world away from all the going again or apologising to the fans that were the hallmarks of the early months in 2016.

Sam tweet Lasse

As hit Andy Carol ??? Sam with the Twitter ‘bantz’

The gap to the bottom three is now 12 points (effectively 13 with GD) and the teams in the drop zone only have 6 games left to play. The Bees are up to 14th and 7(seven) points off a tenth place that Dean Smith was targetting as he spoke to the press after the game. “It means we can go to Ipswich on Saturday and try to make it three wins in a row and then we can be looking at a top 10 finish,” he told journalists.

Personally, I’d be ecstatic if we could build on this to finish as top team in West London. The Bees are 5 clear of Fulham and just 3 behind QPR with a game in hand on both sides – albeit at promotion chasing Hull City ! For now though, let’s just enjoy the moment and then start to think about a rematch with Jonathan Douglas and his Ipswich Town side at the weekend.

The other point of note for last night was one more applicable to those amongst us who look for omens, jinxes and signs. For the second game in a row , Brentford scored three goals and picked up three points. For the second game in a row, the commentating legend that is Mark Burridge missed proceedings due to his taking a well earned break.

Much as he is, without doubt, untouchable when it comes to this role, I can’t help but wonder if his absence is another catalyst in the Bees resurgence?  From an albatross on the golf course to an albatross in the commentary box? Or nothing more than Brentford playing to the best of their ability against struggling teams?

Saturday against Ipswich Town could be interesting – if nothing else for the phone calls to immigration should Brentford make it 3 in a row…

And finally, huge congratulations to Mark Warburton. Rangers 1-0 victory last night secured the Championship title, promotion and a return to the Premiership for the Ibrox team.

His popularity at Griffin Park was, and still is, no secret. Certainly something that was evident by the huge swathe of good wishes in his direction on Twitter last night.

Whilst the Bees are now heading well into a new era, nobody could deny the role Mark played in getting us to this point. Things were ‘that close’ for Warbs and the Bees last time out – how good to see this most admired of managers taking that next step this time around.

Nice one, Mark.

Nick Bruzon

Plenty of questions as Bees and Bolton await ‘win or bust’ clash

5 Apr

Brentford take on Bolton Wanderers tonight, knowing that a win should all but end any lingering thoughts about a shock relegation whilst, at the same time, dooming our opponents to League 1 (maths aside) should Fulham also emerge triumphant from their game . For one team, the chance to take on the likes of Aston Villa and Newcastle United – certainly on current form. For the other, trips to Northampton Town and Accrington Stanley could be on the cards.

Those are the stark realities between going down or staying up. At least, from a playing perspective. The off field and financial impact is sure to be infinitely greater but, from the supporters perspective, who and where the team is playing has to be well up there as the priority.

This has all been noted several times in recent weeks, of course. Yet to take survival for granted is a foolhardy action and moreso as a 14 point gap had halved over a period that had seen the Bees lose 11 out of 14 competitive fixtures in 2016. Then we beat Nottingham Forest at the weekend and everything seemed back to normal.

Whilst one would assume that the gap is too big now, I’ve supported Brentford far too long take to anything for certain. Season after season, until we are mathematically safe (or promoted – it does happen, sometimes) it becomes a case of gritting teeth and clenching buttocks. So, will we do it this time around?

The short answer is, yes. 9 points (effectively 10) is simply too big a gap. There are 7(seven) teams below us, many of whom need to play each other still. That’s almost a third of the teams in the league. Indeed, a win for the Bees tonight will take us to the same number of points as 12th placed Wolves .

And that’s not me assuming victory is a given. Bolton will no doubt provide very dangerous opposition. This really is ‘win or bust’ for them and so they may aswell just go for it. How often have we seen teams come out all guns blazing when their backs are to the wall ? How often have we seen an almost certain home victory fail to materialise?

Whilst I’d take nothing for granted in this most unusual of seasons, who didn’t honestly expect us to pick up all three points last campaign at home to Bolton and also Millwall? As the Bees entered the denouement of that one,chasing their Premier League promotion slot, both games ended 2-2 when form dictated that no result beyond ‘home win’ was possible.

Can we go one better tonight? With the Bees finally back to winning ways following the weekend win at the City Ground one would hope so. Morale should be high amongst both fans and players whilst the pressure should have eased off somewhat. At least, for Brentford.

Aside from over-confidence, the other point of caution is around injuries. The BBC report that Alan Judge and David Button, the main contenders for our ‘player of the season’, were both “nursing knocks after Saturday’s win at Nottingham Forest but should be fit”.

Alan Judge corner Rotherham

Alan Judge – goals and set pieces make him a ‘must’

All being well this is nothing but a cautionary note and both players will be available. I don’t think there’s any team in this league (or higher) who wouldn’t want players of this quality.

The other big name to be missing will be Mark Burridge. Whatever my thoughts on the Bees Player team in his absence, nobody can deny that they over saw a win for Brentford. Rather than lucky shirt, magic pants, Dean Smith’s tactics or any other reasoning, could a return to form simply be down to our commentator par-excellence being off duty for a few games?

Should the Bees secure all three points this evening, there could be more than a fair few ‘cheeky’ posts flying around social media in Mark’s direction.

In all seriousness though, this isn’t going to be easy. Yet, at the same time, Brentford should surely have enough in them to lay any fleeting relegation concerns to rest.

Surely…

Nick Bruzon

Bees make Walsall pact as Lee signs off at Bolton

1 Dec

Well that was some day. It was confirmed that agreement had been reached with Walsall to make Dean Smith the new head-coach of Brentford, prior to our match at Bolton Wanderers. The home side, meanwhile, failed to pay their players – a point that the watching Sky TV commentary team flogged to within an inch of its life before, during and after the game.

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The club announced Dean Smith as new head coach

And, of course, there was a game of football. Lee Carsley’s final match in his second stint as caretaker saw a 1-1 draw after Chelsea loanee John Swift had given Brentford an early lead with a beautiful goal from the edge of the box. An interchange of high speed passes with Alan Judge was followed by his opening up the Bolton defence before curling it home from the edge of the box.

It was a strike of real quality and one that, if we’re being honest, Brentford should probably have pushed on from to secure all three points. Swift had a very strong shout for a penalty that, instead, saw him booked for simulation. Peter Beagrie in the Sky punditry role deeming that, because he hadn’t given any back chat after being booked, then it must have been a dive. Is it too much to expect that a modern player could actually just respect the referee’s decision?

Then again, Carl Boyeson seemed to be very much set to ‘Uriah Rennie random booking generator’ mode. How Mark Davies stayed on the pitch after a first half horror challenge on Toumani I’ll never know. It got worse with every viewing, with even Beagrie later admitting the Bolton man should have gone.

Fair play to Lee Carsley who, rather than moan about it afterwards, took the diplomatic line of saying that it was the sort of thing that the norm when he was a player. I wonder if he would have been so sporting had it resulted in a medical situation?

But this wasn’t a game of one-way traffic. Bolton were allowed into the game and had as many, if not more, chances than the Bees. For all that Swift looked wonderful going forward, lets just say that the defensive element of his game needs some work on it whilst Ryan Woods was very quiet.

Despite Jake Bidwell almost finding the back of the net early into the second period (which, incredibly, would have been a first for him) when he headed just wide, the goal that Wanderers had been threatening eventually came just after the hour. Neil Danns fired one in off the post from distance after the Bees failed to clear as Bolton started to turn the screw.

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Sky show Ryan Woods take the brunt of the clearance to Danns

Indeed, Brentford were fortunate to keep things level before our own late burst that saw Lasse Vibe come desperately close. But it finished 1-1 – the clichéd ‘fair result’ – as the Bees now sit 3 points away from the play-off teams.

Dean Smith was present but understandably played no visible role beyond a burgeoning bromance with commercial director Mike Sullivan. Co-director of football Rasmus Ankersen, sitting open shirted alongside them, seemed very much the gooseberry in that threesome. Certainly to those of us watching at home.

And on that subject, hats off to those who did travel. 396 for a Monday night televised game, where the overall crowd of just under 13,000 seemed to rattle around the Macron, is an impressive effort. Moreso in the run up to the busy Christmas period. Equally though, similar praise is due to the club for laying on the coach travel.

The other point of potential note goes to James Tarkowski. With Harlee Dean suspended for another two games, Tarks picked up his fourth yellow of the season. Another one at home to MK Dons on Saturday could give Dean Smith a selection poser for the subsequent trip to Fulham. Who’d be a head coach?

Not Lee Carsley. He signs off after ten games with a record of: W5 D2 L3. More importantly though, he has put the self-belief back into both the squad and the fans after a start to the campaign which could be politely called ‘bumpy’.

We’re winning games again and playing attacking football. “That belonged in the Premier League” declared co-commentator Don Goodman at one point. Who am I to argue?

Thank you, Lee !!

Lee Carsley MOTM

Lee steps down with an impressive record

Nick Bruzon

Who will pass the ‘trial by TV’?

30 Nov

The pieces are falling in to place with Brentford travelling to Bolton Wanderers tonight knowing that victory will take us to within one point of Birmingham City in sixth place. Lee Carsley remains in charge (for now) whilst Dean Smith at Walsall is the new favourite to takeover longer term- certainly, if you believe what you read in the press. And for those not travelling, it all gets played out for us on Sky Sports 1 .

Formwise, Bolton aren’t in a good place at the moment. They haven’t recorded a win in eleven games and their solitary ‘three points’ all season came way back on September 12 against Wolves. Indeed, they are rooted to the bottom of the Championship table with a record that makes more painful viewing than an episode of Mrs. Browns Boys.

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The BBC table shows Bolton’s current predicament

Brentford, meanwhile, with memories of The Marinus experiment disappearing faster than you can relay a pitch, are back on inspired form. 5 wins from 7(seven) under Lee Carsley have seen us storm up the table to within touching distance of the promotion pack . It is a position that seemed impossible to many a few weeks ago but it just goes to show, once again, that the league is a marathon not a sprint. So can the Bees seize the moment?

The primary talking point about our team tonight is sure to be Harlee Dean or, rather, his absence. The centre back starts his three match ban tonight, following his sending off against Nottingham Forest. Whilst nobody can deny Jonathan Williams collapsed like a house of cards before his miraculous post red recovery, had Harlee not lashed out then we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

Jack O’Connell has impressed on the opportunities he has been given and so will, presumably, slot straight in. It will be very interesting to see what he does over the next three games to try and make the position his own and give our new manager an immediate decision to make (assuming they are in place by then).

Likewise, Jota took to social media on Sunday evening to tease an imminent return. Could tonight, even from the bench, be the time for the king to regain his crown? His Twitter feed (below) is getting Bees’ fans excited.

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Could we see Jota tonight?

I don’t write Bolton off by any stretch, either. With a four point gap between them and Rotherham in 23rd, they’ll be desperate to avoid another defeat. Further, I saw an interesting stat that, proportion wise (36%) they lead the Championship for the amount of their goals that have come in the final 15 minutes. Brentford, of all teams, know the importance of playing to the final whistle, as Ipswich and Nottingham Forest can confirm from this season alone.

Statistically, you can’t look beyond ‘away’ win. But, but – this is our team. And we all know how form and common sense go out of the window when it comes to your own team. Bolton hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for the Bees in recent years, with last season’s 3-1 defeat being a particularly scrappy performance where we struggled to carve out chances.

As such, I’m struggling to call it. The head says ‘three points’. The heart says ‘don’t lose’ .

At 7.45 tonight, we find out which.

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View from the terrace – even David Button tried up front last season

Nick Bruzon

Can ‘maths’ provide distraction from Swansea and Walsall manager talk?

29 Nov

Could the deal for Walsall boss Dean Smith to take over at Brentford be back on? The Saddlers’ boss had been mentioned as a potential target earlier in the month even though local paper the Express and Star deemed it to be “far-fetched” at the time. But with the trip to Bolton Wanderers upon us, the Daily Telegraph are now reporting the move is back on with Matthew Benham puling the plug on Pep Clotet at Swansea City and casting his eyes back up to the Bescot.

The story, by John Percy, can’t be deemed entirely accurate, given the description of Matthew Benham as our chairman. He may be many things – owner, investor, fan since 1979 – but I’m sure Cliff Crown may have something to say about any claims along those lines. Further, the article doesn’t actually include any quotes from any source so there is no way of knowing if it is factually accurate or mere speculation.

Cliff post MOTM 2014 interview

Cliff Crown – remains Chairman ahead of Matthew !

 

The one thing we can say is that the Brentford head coach situation has dragged on since the club ‘parted company’ with Marinus Dijkhuizen back in late September. Lee Carsley was appointed temporarily before first saying he didn’t want it, then winning manager of the month, last week saying he’d had his last game in charge and it then being announced he’d have control for the Bolton game. Understandably, both speculation and a desire for answers are rife.

Throughout this period the names of Swansea City and Pep Clotet have been the ones being bandied around. But the Telegraph is suggesting that despite an interview being conducted, Matthew is now looking elsewhere.

With Walsall just two points off the League One automatic promotion places, Smith would certainly appear to be a man on the up. Moreso, once who has a reputation for operating on what could be deemed a ‘limited budget’. Contrast this with Clotet, where Swansea City are struggling in the Premier League.

Only Chelsea and the other relegation candidates sit below them. A trip to Anfield today could see him looking for a new job, regardless of Brentford’s ambitions. Or even taking over in the Swan’s hotseat – at least, in a caretaker role – should Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool register a win.

Regardless, this remains intrigue and speculation from all parties. If any official announcement of substance is made on a Sunday I’d be amazed. That said, John Percy has since taken to Twitter to add a further nugget of information that could have Brentford and Walsall fans intrigued.

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For now though, we’d be as well concentrating on the game at Bolton tomorrow. Moreso, given Saturday’s results that saw QPR and Fulham both remaining behind the Bees. Victory in front of the Sky cameras will see us move four and five points clear, respectively, of our rivals and at the business end of the table, to within one point of the play offs.

After Birmingham City went down to new leaders Brighton, the Blues remain on 28 points – in sixth place after 18 games. And with the Bees currently on 24 after 17, it doesn’t take Rachel Riley to do the maths on this one.

Monday had plenty of promise already. The weekend news may just have increased that significantly.

The brentford mathematical model final

Our artist’s impression of Rachel ‘doing the maths’, Brentford style

Nick Bruzon

Five days and this is the explanation? It feels a bit ‘villagey’

28 Nov

So as expected by just about everybody, with the Bolton Wanderers game on Monday night and no new head coach in charge (are we waiting for a sacking at Swansea City?), Lee Carsley will start his second stint as caretaker at Brentford. Or, should I say, he “Will continue as head coach”, if you read the official statement.

Despite Lee’s own admission last week when talking to Billy Reeves at BBC Radio London, “That was the last game for myself and Paul today” he finds himself back in charge of Brentford – at least in the short term. And it is a decision which makes absolute sense, given the circumstance, although how we have got there remains what could politely be described as somewhat ‘peculiar’.

The interview with Billy seemed pretty definitive about his own position and forthcoming future, in which Lee went on to add, “I am going to miss all this. It has been a fantastic couple of months”.

And by peculiar, I specifically mean the five days of media and comms radio silence before Phil Giles published his statement yesterday, saying , “In Lee’s last post-match press conference, he discussed the possibility that the Nottingham Forest game would be his last in charge.”

The Possibility? Apologies, but that bears repeating. The..possibility. Seriously. That was the opening gambit. The phrase, “That was my last game” seems like a nailed on statement to me.

Come on. We aren’t a bunch of idiots and all know what we heard. Equally we know that this sort of process can take time and, after the start to the season, every Brentford fan wants the club to get this right. But handling things like this has produced the expected reaction – and by no means directed at Lee who the fans, myself included, are just chuffed to have back in time for (at least) one more game.

Twitter was awash with comments, all of those I saw along very similar lines. And you can ignore social media all you want, but this is the gut reaction of the people coming through the turnstile.

 

And there are plenty more along those lines. The point being that fans didn’t seem overly thrilled at how things had been handled. That said,at least we had the calming influence of the aforementioned Mr. Reeves to add to the mix.

Billy on Lee

 

Let’s be clear, I want to know what as going on as much as the next person. I wrote as much about the current scenario in yesterday’s column. Equally, whilst it may well have been Lee’s intention to step down after the Forest game – something Phil and Rasmus were also expecting – no immediate follow up statement , followed by five days of silence before this latest effort lends an almost ‘villagey’ feel to proceedings.

We’ve not been great at PR for years. Here’s another example. The most frustrating part of this being that it doesn’t even cost anything – just a bit of common sense.

Still, I’m sure this will all sort itself out but it doesn’t half leave a bitter taste in the mouth. That phrase about being able to organise parties and breweries springs to mind.

Things are going great on the pitch. I fully respect Lee’s decision and, indeed, am really pleased he’s agreed to continue in the short term.

Here’s to it all continuing on Monday at Bolton.

Nick Bruzon

 

And the new manager of Brentford is….

27 Nov

….still a mystery. In what was the epitome of a ‘slow news day’, there was nothing out of the club on Thursday beyond a series of photographs showing the players ‘doing their thing’ at the Brentford training ground. And with the trip to Bolton Wanderers rapidly approaching, I suspect there will be more than a few lingering shots of the manager’s place in the dugout from the Sky TV cameras on Monday night.

That no announcement has been made yet is not, necessarily, a bad thing. I’ve mentioned several names on these pages to whom you could also add the likes of Walsall’s Dean Smith and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink to the mix (although for the later, see also: QPR).

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The club released several pictures – but is a new manager in sight?

The simple fact of the matter is that at the time of writing (Friday, 6.30am) none of us have a clue and the club have kept their powder very much dry when it comes to any updates. Which wouldn’t be such a bad thing except we all remember Lee Carsley’s announcement in Saturday’s post-match interview that he had taken charge of the team for the last time.

Once again, as with Villagegate back in February, there has been no tangible follow up to the immediate story and the football world is left scratching it’s head. Of course, the club is under no obligation to tell us who will be taking control, if they even know for sure, but it does beg the question of who is pulling the strings?

Likewise, who will actually pick, and prep, the team for the game at Bolton? Even if a new manager / head coach was announced today, how much time would they actually have to have a side they had likely never seen, ‘match ready’?

Was it simply a case of Lee Carsley diverting from the script – much as he did when he first took over and admitted he didn’t actually want the position? Will he find himself back in charge for another game or two – at least until we can finally tie up whatever deal is in the offing? Or could King Kev even step up into a temporary role as the new caretaker?

I have no doubt that whatever happens in the next day or so, Lee Carsley will retain a strong influence on Monday’s proceedings. He knows the players and they know him – it would only make sense to rely on his experience.

That said, aswell as regaling us with their pictorial player updates, it would be great if the club could make some sort of update – even to say there is no news as it stands – in regards to the vacant head-coach situation.

Instead, we have the usual tumbleweed coming out of the comms department when it comes to this sort of issue. It just all looks a bit amateurish when you have the caretaker saying one thing and the club saying nothing.

Then again, nothing about what Brentford do is ‘to type’. Whilst football fans have certain expectation levels about how things should happen, regardless of club,  Matthew Benham has never been afraid to be different. Or nail his colours to the mast.

Behind the scenes, the head coach scenario is likely to be many steps ahead of what we know. However I do find his current lack of cryptic video clue somewhat disconcerting. This tradition is one which has very much tailed off this season and, if nothing else, has given us a sign that imminent incoming activity is due.

Still, it was great to see Jota out there in full training yesterday. Likewise, Max Colin. Whatever is going on off-field, one can’t deny the ever increasing quality in the squad as more and more of the injured are able to return to first team duty.

Now. If we just knew who was going to pick that team……

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The club Twitter feed shows Jota back in action – phew

Nick Bruzon