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New decade. Same brilliance.

2 Jan

What a start to the New Year. A 4-0 win for Brentford at Bristol City about as comprehensive as they come. Robins’ manager Lee Johnson self-combusting in a full time Scrappy Doo impersonation that saw him red carded at full time for an altercation with Thomas Frank.  With Leeds United being held at West Bromwich Albion, the gap to the top two is back down to single figures. The Bees sit third in The Championship after Fulham lost at home. Millwall, Forest and The Cottagers making up the play-off places. Ollie Watkins back up to one goal behind Aleksander Mitrovic at the top of the divisional goal scoring charts after his brace rounded things off following early goals from Bryan Mbeumo and Saïd Benrahma.

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The full time score at Ashton Gate, c/o Quest TV this morning..

We’ve all see this one, presumably? Either as part of the thousand plus who travelled to Ashton Gate or via the red button on Sky. Yet some performances need to be chewed over once more, such was the manner of victory. David Raya set up the first goal with just 6 minutes gone. His enormo-clearance one that might have been selected at Millwall on Sunday. This time he called it right with a ball that must have carried close to three-quarters of the pitch before Ollie picked it off and danced through the visitors defence. They tried but couldn’t stop him and it slipped through for Mbeumo to dink home his tenth of the season.

1-0 and game on. 1-0 and man off. Ashley Williams was shown red just minutes after he and Ollie had both been booked for a coming together. A scything challenge on Watkins resulted in his ejection and with it, the home team’s chance. It was 0-2 moments later. Less than half an hour gone and Benrahma got the goal he’s been looking for in recent weeks. Daniel Bentley could only pat down a Jensen shot and, despite upending Ollie when clean though, was unable to stop Saïd from doing his thing. It all looked ridiculously easy. The decision to trade him in for David Raya being proven more and more an incredible piece of business with each passing game.

A tactical readjustment for the hosts saw them working their way back in to the game. Relatively speaking. They didn’t concede anything further up to half time and even looked vaguely threatening. Yet there was no way through, with one kamikaze backpass in the second period giving even more opportunity for Ollie to join the scorers. His goals eventually coming in the final ten minutes. The first, guiding home a tracer bullet of a cross from Jan Zamburek down the left. His second, capitalising on a Mads Roerslev  (in for Dalsgaard) assist from the other flank.  Bentley only able to parry his header and there was to be no mistake as the ball fell nicely. 4-0 and all done. Barring the full time whistle and Johnson’s punishment. 

It really was a stunning, stunning performance. Thomas Frank’s BMW front three once more driving us forward with speed, skill and flair. It’s hard to believe the Mbeumo is only 20. Amazing to see the advances to Ollie’s game. Saïd on song just speaks for himself. All three once more dividing the goals between them. Benrahama back to his sizzling best. One second half flick over his own head had to be seen to be believed. Filthy, audacious, taking the p. All three rolled up into one and served up with a side salad of confidence and self-belief. Truly, he is a talent to behold.

With that accursed transfer window now open for a month, hanging on to B, M and W will be huge. If we can do it. Yet with spirits high and the team storming the table, why would anybody jump ship now? Yes, I know money talks and this is the naivety of being a fan but the chance to see what this team could do in the second half of the season is an intriguing one.

The defence is tight (we are now clear in the fewest ‘goals against’ chart), the midfield dominant and the attacking trio electric. Leeds United continue to wobble. Their 1-1 with West Brom meaning its only been one win out of the last five for them. Even that needed a 95th minute own goal by Birmingham City to hand them the points after having shipped four themselves.I still think that top two would be Boys Own stuff, relying on a staggering run of favours, but as long as we keep on doing our thing then anything else is a bonus. The gap in the-play off zone is starting to grow with clear air now between us and seventh placed Sheffield Wednesday. Four points the difference and our staggering goal difference of +21 bettered only by West Bromwich Albion.

It is easy to get excited, no question, but why not? Why shouldn’t we enjoy the moment? This team and this performance has been building . The goals have been flying in for months. The team slowly climbing up the table. Sneaking under the radar, if you will, to emerge into 2020 with plaudits from all. We’ve got the FA Cup against Stoke City next and then a return to Griffin Park in the league where QPR visit for our next Championship fixture. With the Lionel Road season tickets also going on sale to us non-premiums, it promises to be an exciting week or two.

Then again, when isn’t it?

Nick Bruzon

Sometimes it’s just important to set the scene.

1 Jan

Bristol City host Brentford today. At the very top of the table Leeds United and West Bromwich Albion meet later in the day. Good luck. Good luck everybody. Personally, this is all going to be hard work. 

I woke up, took one look at the detritus from the night before and knew immediately that things were not good. Empty bottles. Lots of empty bottles. Dirty plates. Mess. Wine glasses all over the kitchen counter. Ferrero Rocher wrappers littering the living room floor like the remnants of an ambassador’s reception gone rogue. Fuzzy memories of Craig David doing his thing on the TV. Thankfully, none of Jools Holland and his smug piano show. 

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Then, with the espresso kicking in I stumbled across it. The left over fondue pot containing the congealed remains of a kilogram of Swiss cheese. The pungent smell carried to the back of the throat on a wave of grease. The plan of reducing the pain felt today by last night lining the stomach with an early evening, pre-drinks blanket of bread and melted gruyere suddenly backfiring with abandon. Should have stuck to the original plan of pizza rather than trying to be clever.

Let’s leave that thought there. All being well, nothing some fresh air won’t sort out. Hopefully. Instead 2020 begins with an immediate chance to put Sunday’s anti-football at Millwall out with the empties. A stodgy game played (if that is the word) on an over watered ploughed-field of a surface. One can’t dispute that The Lions had a specific game plan, which worked, but it was very much one for the insomniacs. Too many Brentford players looked off the pace and unable to adjust to the visitors pressing game. I’m pretty sure today will be different.

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Millwall away – awful

That’s not to suggest Bristol City will be easy. Anything but. They’ve been in the play-off race for the vast majority of the season and are only one point outside of it at present. A run of four straight defeats has now ended with Sunday’s home win over bottom three Luton Town. You can bet your bottom dollar they’ll be expecting more of the same. Then again, so will Brentford. If ever motivation was needed it will be the chance to consolidate our own top six placing. Likewise, the opportunity to bury the memory of Sunday. For the talismanic Benrahma to get back on his top game – something so desperately missing at The Den. He wasn’t alone, either, but knowing just how good he can be, an off-key Saïd stands out more than anybody. That’s the price to be paid for such incredible talent, I suppose.

I’d love to pour forth with erudite learnings and big match previews at this juncture but it’s not really working. Not today. The thought that forcing myself to the keyboard after the treat of a rare lie in would help sort things out proving to be nothing more than wishful thinking. Instead, there’s another waft of scorched emmenthal drifting across the kitchen and it’s not good. Mrs. Bruzon and Harry are both asleep still. I can only envy them. No doubt each dreaming about Ollie Watkins and  Sergi Canos. Albeit I’d imagine different content in their respective minds’ eyes. Instead, a riverside walk beckons before the football. Possibly.   

Sometimes it’s just important to set the scene. Now, how about a Bloody Mary to settle the stomach…

Nick Bruzon

A tough one to take after a night of one way traffic.

3 Oct

Brentford 1 Bristol City 1. It is a score which does nothing to illustrate the performance of The Bees over 87 of the 90 minutes before a late, late equaliser, gifted to the visitors on a plate after a self-inflicted formation change, saw two points very much dropped. Brentford dominated and the stats more than bear this out. Yet as we’ve said many times, goals are the only thing that count at full time and all the wonderful play, brilliance from Daniel Bentley, domination and shots count for nothing if your opponents score as many, or more, than you. There’s a lot of positives to be taken from this one ahead of the trip to Nottingham Forest on Saturday aswell as a few very valuable lesson learned.

First up, credit to Bristol City. Let’s not sound like we’re full of the sour grapes enjoyed by the likes of Steve Evans and Russell Slade back in the day. Whilst Brentford clearly had the lions share of possession and chances, it wasn’t one way traffic. The Robins set up to defend and almost caught us on the break in the first half. Rico Henry losing the ball and a lightning fast counter attack saw David Raya making a fine save one-on-one, when a goal was all but chalked on. In the other goal, Daniel Bentley was on inspired form. Save followed save and chance followed chance as the former Bees ‘keeper and his five man defence did everything to keep out the rampaging red and white hoard.

The goal, when it did come, was quite magnificent. Josh Dasilva curling a wonderful effort into the far top corner from outside the box. It was a strike that was as tasty as a freshly toasted bagel smeared in marmite, crunchy peanut butter and fake plastic cheese i.e delicious. The celebration was equally emphatic. Arms out high, he  ran to the Braemar Road side with players coming from all directions to leap on the midfielder in congratulation. 

For me, the smile on the face of Pontus Jansson said it all. A man who wears his heart on his sleeve at all times, you could see what this one meant to our captain as he joined the ever growing pile of players. A grin from ear to ear mirroring just what the supporters were feeling. Contrast that the look in his face at full time after ‘that’ equaliser had salvaged a point for Bristol City. He cut a distraught figure in the centre of the park, taking in what had gone on around him. I do wonder if words were exchanged in the dressing room at full time, and towards whom, or whether it one where we have to recognise the calibre of the opposition and our own performances which are improving. 

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View from The Braemar – Josh celebrates (somewhere)

I guess the frustrating thing is not so much that we conceded a late goal after battering our opponents without reply – that’s just one of the many elements that make being a Brentford fan what it is – but more that it just seemed so needless.

The 4-3-3 that we’d employed to such good effect at Barnsley and then again last night, was ditched with the fat lady performing her vocal warm ups. Sergi was replaced by an additional centre back in Ethan Pinnock on 83 minutes as we switched defensive formation. Four minutes later, with the team already looking stretched despite the additional numbers in the back line, Andreas Weimann was given all the space he needed to get on the end of Jack Hunt’s long cross and leave Raya with no chance.

Bristol City had their chance. They took it. Well done. That’s how football works. We could, no should, have wrapped this one up against a well disciplined and solid team. Instead, that combination of great goalkeeping, intense defence and plain old ball luck kept them in it until the opportunity arose. And when it did, my word they grabbed it. The celebrations were as ecstatic as our own had been. Understandably so. Even then, Daniel Bentley still had to be on his game to keep things level, tipping over a dipping cross from Dalsgaard late on in the last meaningful move of the match. And that was it. 1-1. Full time.

Waking up on Thursday morning it was very much a case of the ‘D’ word to describe this one. ‘Disappointed’ rather than ‘deserved’. As in, to win. There were plenty of positives to be taken but a single point instead of the three we looked like taking for huge swathes of this game feels like the metaphorical nuts. It did last night and there’s still a numb feeling down there today. Metaphorically speaking.  When you can’t even find room, or motivation, to talk about the Kurupt FM takeover at Griffin Park then you know it’s been a hard one.

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Add your own punchline

But, we didn’t lose. The table has now ‘taken shape’ at the ten game mark and we are 15th. We are getting much better as new faces and returning heroes adjust to life without the likes of Sawyers, Bentley, Maupay and McEachran swell as each other. We have a trip to fourth placed Nottingham Forest on Saturday where, if we can hold our defensive shape and maintain the same level of positivity going forward, our rise up the table will continue. Probably. 

Brentford are six points off the promotion pack. I can’t wait for the weekend when we see if that gap can be further reigned in. See you there.

Nick Bruzon

Will it be raining goals once more?

2 Oct

Hot on the heels of thumping Barnsley, Brentford host Bristol City on Wednesday evening in game 10 of a Championship season that will finally see the table have officially ‘taken shape’. Both teams know what a win could mean – for the Robins, a chance to enter the play off zone whilst another three points for The Bees should see us hit the top half of the table and overtake Birmingham City (who lost another one last night – good luck there, Josh).  Leeds United have retained top spot but despite their game being televised, I know I’m in shock too – I can imagine most neutral observers would have been watching Spurs in the Champions League. That one, of course, saw Tottenham suffer the indignity of a home bracketing as they went down 2- 7 (seven) to Bayern Munich.

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Looks familiar……

As ever, we can only start at Griffin Park. Sunday was as morale boosting as they come for Brentford. The performance – opening quarter aside – was about as dominant as they come. Barnsley weren’t even second and struggled to get close to us. Ollie was our hat-trick hero but there were plenty of superstars out there beyond the headline maker. He’s currently joint top scorer in the Championship with 7(seven) but if he wants to stride clear of Aleksander Mitrovic then he’s going to have to beat former colleague Daniel Bentley. Of course, now plying his trade at Ashton Gate following his sale to Bristol City over the summer.

That’s not going to be easy. In his three season at Griffin Park Daniel was, largely, magnificent. Sure, there were a few wobbles last season but on the whole he was about as good as we’ve seen between the sticks on TW8. I remember BBC Billy Reeves making a very early declaration that he was our best ever and, whilst time may have forced us to slightly redraw that balance when compared to the legend that is Wojciech Szczęsny (to this day, I still do now know how we pulled that one off) for me, Clive, he’s certainly in the top few. A great shot stopper with cat-like reactions who we’ll be doing well to find the back of the net against. Perhaps we just need to pump those crosses into the box and shout ‘punch’ in a West Country accent.

So who will win the battle of the badges tonight? Let’s hope our crest is the only Brentford thing the visitors try to emulate, based on our performance at the weekend. Or perhaps they could pick up where they left-off defensively – shipping three goals on the road in a draw at Preston that saw them surrender the lead twice. Personally, I’m calling this one as another win for the Bees. The formation at Oakwell suited us wonderfully and we all know what the widemen did where the pace was electric and the delivery pin-point.

I can’t wait for this one. The modern day Michael Fish at the BBC have promised us a break from the recent downpours whilst Griffin Park always feels that much more exciting when the floodlights are on. Walking past the ground this morning on the school run, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky although do pack your gloves. Sergi, I’m looking at you in particular.

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Could it be raining goals in West London tonight ?

The win is there to be grabbed and the table is about to have become the true barometer of our rival’s ability. The draw with Stoke City L can formally be deemed a disappointment (they went down, again, last night and are rock bottom on two points) whilst we’ve already taken on table toppers Leeds United and missed out narrowly. It’s going to be tight. It’s going to be tense. But it’s going to be fun. See you there.

And in true Columbo style, just one more thing. Or should that be 7(seven)? Spurs were humped by Bayern Munich last night, leaving to a chorus of boos after the German giants hit the magical bracket mark. As if going down by this many in your own back yard wasn’t bad enough, Tottenham even had the temerity to take the lead before allowing the floodgates to open.  And what a way to rain goals as the heavens opened.

Cue obligatory shots of fans sitting in solitude at full time  – is there any more wonderful a piece of camera work in world sport? A shot akin to the sudden zoom that follows two ‘treble-twentys’ in darts. The camera lurching forward in anticipation of capturing the 180 scoring arrow in extreme close up. Probably not. Unless you support the team that has just suffered that footballing humiliation. And last night, it was the Spurs players & supporters left typing “We go again” into their social media accounts.

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Nick Bruzon

It’s all go in the Championship. Bee becomes a Robin and Derby prepare for historical change.

29 Jun

It’s all been kicking off in the Championship these last few days. Brentford have sold Daniel Bentley to league rivals Bristol City. A club who, as one source close to the club told me last night, “Are really going for it this season”. Elsewhere, there is more and more expectation that Frank Lampard’s Derby County will release their man to Chelsea. And Nottingham Forest sack Martin O’ Neill then replace him just 18 minutes later.

We can only start with the news about Daniel Bentley. He’s left Brentford for Bristol City in a fee that is thought to be at least £2million – certainly per the daily mail website, amongst others, so take that with whatever pinch of salt and disgust you need to apply first before searching it out. Presumably this will be with the usual add ons and clauses that we seem to make a matter of course as part of doing business. As we saw when Alfie Mawson joined Fulham from Swansea (prior to that, Barnsley), play it right and the money keeps on coming in.   

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Noooo. My eyes. They’re  burning

Being honest, I don’t think this will come as a surprise to anybody in TW8. The club are long thought to have been on the hunt for a new goalkeeper whilst time on Dan’s own deal with us was starting to run out. Moreso given the number of uncharacteristic slips seen last season from a player who, I think, has the potential to go all the way to the top. Let’s not forget Dan is only 25 and had two absolutely cracking seasons between the sticks for Brentford after joining from Southend United when his contract had run down.

Director of football Phil Giles told official that, “As most fans will know, Dan had one year remaining on his contract. With that in mind it makes sense to sell now and reinvest the transfer fee. We have been planning ahead with regards to bringing a new goalkeeper to the club and hope to make some progress soon“.

Dan is a cracking aquisition for the Robins. Some of his shot stopping has been out of this world whilst as anybody who has had the pleasure of meeting him will know, he’s nothing but the consummate gentleman with all the time in the world for supporters – young and old alike.

It does also beg the question of whether Dan will now be obliged to make one of those awful Twitter ‘gifs’, just in case he scores. The things you do to avoid our own 2019/20 goalkeepers kit…

With City having also hoovered up England U-21 defender Jay Dasilva from Chelsea (who’d have thought it – the Stamford Bridge club selling on one of their youngsters rather than letting him breakthrough) and due to sign Sammie Szmodics from Colchester United when his contract expires on Monday, perhaps they are a team with promotion on the agenda?

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Dan inspiring the next generation

What this means for Luke Daniels, who knows. We already have Icelandic youth international Patrik Gunnarsson and England U-20 Ellery Balcombe as part of the B team set up whilst Phil’s talk of a new target surely means that something has to give. Surely? Let’s not forget that Patrik has already made a Brentford debut, coming on for Dan when we won up at Middlesbrough in the brown/orange (not a typo) back in March. As such, one would think that we’ll be looking towards youth and the future once more.

Then again, yours truly is just the numpty on the terrace with no real inside knowledge – as ever, let’s just wait and see what plays out. One thing you can be sure of is that the club know what they are doing. Our business over the last five or so years has shown that. Sure, we may get the odd Nick Proschwitz but the Neal Maupay and Said Benrahamas (amongst many, many) of this world show that more often than not we get it very right indeed,

Next up, Frank Lampard’s Derby County ™. Rams’ supporters are bracing themselves for the fact that their club may be about to undergo a radical rebranding with Chelsea in the hunt for their manager. Frank Lampard.

It is widely expected he’ll be taking over at Stamford Bridge this week, meaning all sorts of questions will be asked about what’s going to happen next. Primarily, the immediate logical step being one which will see the Pride Park outfit having to be renamed. At present, the hot favourite title in the frame is a simple ‘Derby County’ . This is a choice which will only be seen as a nice historical nod to their origins and one which may help appease fans, upset by the loss of a man who helped keep them in sixth place in the Championship after replacing Gary Rowett.

Certainly, as a founder member of the football league back in 1888, they were known by this shorter format. It is one the club enjoyed for a long period after that in a run that extended all the way up until Lampard’s arrival last year. Now, it would seem, the name Derby County is set to return once more.

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Was this the last appearance of Frank Lampard’s Derby County ™ at Griffin Park?

Nottingham Forest sack manager Martin O’Neill. Nottingham Forest replace Martin O’Neill just 18 minutes later, with former Rennes manager and French international Sabri Lamouchi taking over. Wow!! Although is it?

The trigger happy club, who had already seen a parting of the ways with Aitor Karanaka and his physical approach (who could forget the Griffin Park kick-fest?), have moved again. Reportedly as a result of dressing room disharmony. Being the numpty on etc etc I’m not close enough to know the ins and outs but a great source close to the City Ground (a friend on Twitter)  has shared this link from Daniel Taylor at The Guardian.

Its well worth a read, if only to show how lucky we are to have such positivity in our own dressing room. Likewise, what can happen when that all goes South. Thank goodness for the likes of Thomas Frank at the helm and our own recruitment approach.

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We’re lucky to have Thomas and the great morale he inspires.

And finally, as unsubtle as ever,  for things that may not be worth so much of a read (but are for a great cause).. please do download a copy of the Last Word season season review – containing the least bad of these columns from the World Cup to Aston Villa deserving to win the play offs. It also includes the World Cup aswell as all the ‘Park Life’ articles submitted for the matchday programme and so not previously available on these pages.  

ALL proceeds received are being donated to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust so what better way to remind yourself how brilliant 2018/19 was? To kill a bit of time on the commute to work / on your summer holidays / on the toilet etc You can download it , now, for your kindle , iPod telephone or other electronic reading device here.

At £1.99 it’s cheaper than half a pint so what’s to lose? Apart from £1.99 – which then goes to The Community Sports Trust anyway. Many thanks again. And enjoy.

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Nick Bruzon

Football fans lost in the superunknown as Festive fixtures take hold.

28 Dec

Is it Friday? Saturday? Thursday? We’re in that dead-zone of the calendar where nothing makes any sense. A random televised game between West Ham and Southampton last night being the only clue that some half-arsed sort of normality is trying to be attained as the festive fixtures plough ever onwards. For Brentford, a 1-1 draw at Bristol City on, erm, let’s just call it Boxing Day for ease, saw The Bees make if 4 points out of 6 as our kamikaziesque tailspin was arrested and Thomas Frank pulled back hard on the rudder with his revamped team formation. i.e. he made us climb. But with a trip to play-off chasing Birmingham City (not a typo) next for Brentford will the return to more positive results continue ?

Fair dues to Garry Monk’s Blues. There’s no doubting we’ve enjoyed the lion’s share of points and jokes at the expense of Birmingham City on the pages over the last few years. How they swerved relegation to League One last campaign was a miracle akin to Christmas. There were the 7(seven) goals scored with none against. Four top ten finishes in the Championship for the Bees – each one above Garry Monk(/ insert name of previous incumbents) Blues. Then there was ‘that’ ten times better thing. 

Yes – I know Blues’ fans like to point it out as some form of ‘obsession’ every time it gets mentioned but football fans have long memories. As was written in the programme notes for Bolton, “The likes of Martin Rowlands, 10 times better Harlee and of course Mr. Moose’s own withering attacks on us have still not been forgotten.” . Even Dean Smith’s proclamation after his Aston Vila threw it away against Leeds United, causing him too declare that “From the celebrations, I thought they’d won the title” brought back found memories of Russell Slade after Leyton Orient had capitulated in that famous promotion clash six years ago. His own sour grapes are as much part of Griffin Park’s rich football folklore tapestry as the dog on the pitch, the hand grenade, badges being kissed or Mark Burridge exploding in the commentary box as Jota sliced through the Blackburn Rovers frontline… and midfield… and defence and goalkeeper… As magnificent as the time Stuart Dallas scored the best. goal. ever. at Craven Cottage.

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Stuart Dallas – one of THE Brentford moments

And so the somewhat meandering point is that whilst Harlee will no doubt continue to warrant a mention from time to time, don’t think there’s anything ‘exclusive’ about it. Don’t think it’s any form of singling out a player or a club. A club who we’ve more than held our own against in recent times. It’s just one of the many comedy moments to have graced our footballing experience that will no doubt be mentioned again and again over the years.

Although I do so this time around with some trepidation. One can only acknowledge current form and results where Birmingham City are flying. They’re up to 7th (seventh) in the table and know that a win could see them leap-frog Frank Lampard’s Derby County (TM). Brentford, on the other hand…. Well, we all know what has happened since being named as joint favourites to win the Championship back in October alongside Leeds United. The bookies never get it wrong, supposedly. I’d imagine there were a few red faces at the Leo Vegas Christmas party this time around when reviewing that one.

Yet, yet, yet. Form can be temporary. Good or bad. The brakes are now on and the team set up has changed. We have the Championship’s leading scorer in Neal Maupay – a player who buried an absolute beauty at Bristol City. Mind you, it needed to be after the opening goal we conceded. A neon highlighter pen would have done a better job at being a a reliable marker as Eros Pisano was given all the time and room he needed to give the hosts an early lead. Just about the only positive to be taken from that one was that it wasn’t followed by a second within a few minutes – something else that has looked like becoming a trademark of our play in recent months. Instead, it was a case of start again and earn a hard fought point.

I take umbrage at Thomas’s post match assessment that “The header for Bristol City’s goal would have gone wide if it had not hit a defender and overall I thought we deserved to win the game”. We’ve done ur piece on ‘deserving’ many, many times over the years. It was a favourite of Dean Smith’s and a dangerous trap to fall into. Moreso, when ignoring the obvious shortcoming around the goal – every man and his dog could see that with all 11 players back in the box to defend a corner, allowing an opposition player to remain totally unmarked is nothing short of shambolic. Something that was also picked up on when  defending a free-kick at Hull City.

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Sky cameras caught how bad this one was

Still, the defence shortcomings have looked to be addressed. The switch to three centre backs to support the pressing full backs is one which has come at the same time as our switch in form. No bad thing either, given today’s game won’t be easy. By any stretch of the imagination. Garry Monk has his team eating up the table for fun and they are where they are on absolute merit. To make matters worse for us, Jota is back after injury lay off and whilst we all know he’ll look to cut in from the right wing, he is a luxury I’d still love to have available.

The bottom line is that going in to this one, Birmingham City are favourites. They’re the team on form. They’re the team gunning for promotion at present. They’re the team the bookies see as the one with most chance of picking up three points. If they do, it’ll be the first time since November 2016 that they’ve recorded a notch in the ‘W’ column when up abasing Brentford. 

That in itself will be reason alone to go for it once more. If Thomas Frank wanted to do anything to win over any doubters on the terrace, then three points on Saturday (I think) will be the perfect way to do it. 

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Feliz Navidad

Nick Bruzon

With a key festive tradition denied, can we reach an all time high?

26 Dec

Where to go with this one today? By all rights we should be looking in depth at Brentford v Bolton. A 1-0 win for The Bees on Saturday saw Thomas Frank record a morale boosting win with the game’s only goal coming courtesy of Neal Maupay. Indeed, the closest in which lacklustre opposition got to scoring was via the head of their own goalkeeper Ben Alnwick who headed just wide as the game reached a buttock clenching (for some) denouement. Honestly, it was never in doubt and Bolton look to be in serious trouble whilst Brentford will no doubt have much tougher tests ahead in the coming days. Starting this afternoon with a Boxing Day trip to Ashton Gate to face Bristol City. Will the Bolton performance be the building blocks of a lengthy run up the table or a flash in the pan win against a team who will need something special to maintain their own Championship status?

Yet this morning (Wednesday, possibly…) yours truly is very much in relaxed mode. The thought of engaging the brain one which is very much playing second fiddle to drinking another coffee and just enjoing some contemplative time. Some time with the family. Some time off work and not getting upset by the pressures of life.

Why even last night, flicking through the TV selection (the first time in about four days the box has been on) we stumbled across Mrs. Brown’s Boys. A ‘hilarious’ ‘joke’ about an Alexa style device played out before we jumped onwards in a futile quest for a Christmas ‘Bond’ move. There was no rage. No rant. No observation that, “FFS. It’s a man. In a cardigan. And a wig. With one joke. One joke that has been spread thinner than a chunky tarmac driveway“.

Instead, we let it go in search of Roger Moore. Some traditions die hard in our house and whilst we were denied satisfaction in this instance, even ITV4 letting us down, perhaps it might be time to crack out the blu-rays later today. Nothing says ‘festive season’ like Victor Tourjansky trying to figure out whether 007’s latest bit of derring-do really happened or was simply the by product of drinking too much in the mid-day sun.

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And Brentford have won a game… Victor Tourjansky does his thing

 But then nothing says festive tradition like Boxing Day at Griffin Park. Sadly, after what seems like a good ten or so December 26th home games on the bounce (Luis / Jonathan – IF you are reading and could please confirm), we now have to do battle with the seasonal timetable and upsetting the family. And that’s a green card too far in our house. Moreso at a time when Mrs Bruzon has spoiled us fantastically. More than we have any right to expect. Indeed, a key part of her present to Harry and myself was not coming to the Bolton game given her own, alleged, albatross like qualities when it comes to home wins. Sure enough, three points followed. Although he showed bigger balls than me, and he’s only five, when replying to her own post-match question…   

Rachel: “They won!! Does that mean the jinx is off and I can come back to football?”

Harry: “No mummy. Bolton were so bad that even if you’d been here Brentford would still have won”

A bit harsh? Or fair reflection? Personally, I’ve not been so calm at football in a long time. Honestly, the game never felt as though it was in doubt (at least through my eyes) despite Alnwick’s late foray upfield. Another goal or two would have been nice – if only to alleviate some of the stress from those sitting around us – but the three points came gift wrapped and we took advantage of a seasonal offering. Thomas Frank shuffled his pack and his formation. Three centre-backs were named with the wings back continuing to push high up the field – although this time not exposing the defence. Henrik Dalsgaard was finally given what we will politely call a well-earned rest whilst we still had the flexibility to introduce Yoann Barbet when Chris Mepham had to leave the field of play early. Let’s hope that one was purely a precaution.

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Bolton were industrial in the challenge but offered little resistance to a positive Brentford team.

It all counts for nothing if we put in a turkey of a performance at Bristol City, of course. Yet I’m feeling upbeat. Feeling confident. The good vibe of the Junior Bees Christmas party washed over Griffin Park last week and continued through to the Bolton game when Thomas and the boys gave us all the perfect present.

Today, I’ll be following via the medium of social media or possible sneaking a look towards three wise men shouting at their TVs on Sky Sports News. There’s always the commentary option, too, yet locking myself away with Mark Burridge and an earpiece for two hours will likely be received about as well as HB’s attempts at diplomacy. Moreso when Roger is saving the world.

For those who do travel, good luck. And enjoy! For those elsewhere, I wish you well in whatever option you undertake to follow this one. Here’s to three more points. And perhaps, a bit of Bond….

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You could do worse…

Nick Bruzon

The new era begins with some familiar themes. Can we go again?

21 Oct

What is there to say after that?  Frustrating. Niggly. Poor decision making Awkward. Just not quite firing on all cylinders. But enough about referee Robert Jones – the latest in a long line of stinkers to grace Griffin Park this season. With Dean Smith firmly ensconced at Aston Villa (who themselves beat Swansea), new Brentford head coach Thomas Frank saw his tenure begin with a 1-0 home defeat to Bristol City. This, after the Bees were reduced to ten men following a second yellow for Chris Mepham and then conceded the only goal of the game in the 89th minute. It was a game that started brightly for the Bees but soon settled into a lethargic vibe with Brentford just not savvy enough to avoid getting sucked into some cynical play from the visitors and the arbitrary card waving of a referee whose default setting had been switched to ‘Stroud’.

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B&W to protect the retinas from Bristol’s kit

We can moan about the ref but it’ll make no difference now. Chris Mepham’s second yellow seemed innocuous at best from where we sat. The subsequent video highlights from Sky don’t show anything more to support Mr. Jones’ decision. Unless, of course, there was some back-chat that he deemed significant enough to warrant this level of sanction. Yet this was par for the course on an afternoon, second period especially, where just about anything that could be given the wrong way, was. Where minimal protectin was offered to a Brentford side who – Kamo and Romaine in particular – came in for some harsh treatment from both opponents and officials .

What’s the problem with your flag, lino? Too heavy to lift up?” They’re not my words but those of the legend we simply refer to as ‘angry dad in the Braemar Road paddock. His rapier wit, constant keeping in the ear of the officials and dead-pan sarcasm are always a joy to behold.  And he was right. They were words which received a round of applause from all around.

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Free kick to Bristol City. They were also awarded a free kick.

Yet it is as important not to get sucked in to a game of blaming the officials for everything. Bristol City did their homework and had the ball in the net twice before Niclas Eliasson stroked home their eventual winner with the fourth official readying his board. Their young goalkeeper Max O’Leary had a debut to remember on the few occasions we did get shots away. And on the one instance he was beaten by Ollie Watkins diagonal shot, he was saved by the ball bouncing back off the inside of the post.

How it didn’t go in, I’ve still no idea. But it didn’t. Instead, it was another late goal given away (see also: Aston Villa and Leeds United) to deny Brentford point(s) that it seemed we would claim. Thomas Frank has wonderful talent at his disposal but sorting out the approach to late pressure and our own discipline is going to be as much a challenge for him as reaching the Premier League. That’s not to say he/we can’t overcome it. Moreso, with two away games to come in quick succession (Preston on Wednesday and the Norwich on Saturday) he has every opportunity available to get back to winning ways.

We don’t do full fat match reports on these pages. Try the BBC, Beesotted, official etc. Probably a good thing too, based on yesterday. It was definitely one for the purists and best consigned to the statistical pages of history. Playing opponents we’ve had a great Championship record against, even Marinus Dijkuizen beat them, and the excitement of welcoming Thomas into the fold perhaps it could be said there was an air of, if not complacency, perhaps over-expectation. Well, there we go back down to earth with a bump.

There’s not much else to say on that one. So I won’t. See you at Norwich. And kudos to those of you on the midweek expedition to Preston. Here’s hoping you are rewarded with the points.

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A glorious afternoon. If not result

Nick Bruzon

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

20 Oct

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

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

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

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Love shack, baby

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stick with it for those magnificent Congas

Nick Bruzon

Bees get off the mark with plenty of positives on show.

16 Aug

Well, that was some day. We had contrasting announcements made about Lionel Road whilst on pitch Brentford hosted Bristol City and ended the game having taken a point but feeling, quite honestly, as though we’d lost. This after Bobby Reid delivered the ultimate kick to the knackers with his 98th minute equaliser. Yet it all seemed inconsequential given the desperately sad news announced by Ryan Woods just before kick off.

First up, Bristol City . What can you say?

And if you’d like to read more whilst helping the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust …. the rest of this article can now be found in the Kindle e-book Ten Times Better. Brentford FC Season review: 2017/18. Inspired by ‘that’ interview it contains the least bad of these columns in one, handy volume as it looks at our own campaign as well as wider divisional life and the promotion / relegation races.

As a bonus there’s a whole host of new material. New that is, for my pages. Specifically, all the programme articles submitted (both home and away where, if nothing else, you can get the original versions of both Birmingham City and Millwall).

In addition, There Is No Plan B. Brentford FC Season reviews: 2013/14 – 2017/18 takes us all the way back to the start of this latest leg in the journey. That penalty. League One. Harlee Dean was a hero. Jota was something we thought happened to the temperature for one week in July. Alan Judge had joined on loan whilst the Marinus Experiment was something nobody had contemplated. Bringing things bang up to date by the inclusion of this year’s volume alongside the four previously published campaign round ups, it has five seasons in one weighty tome. As weighty as a download can be, that is.

Relive the memories. See how often the same material gets regurgitated. Remind yourself about the likes of Betinho, Martin Fillo, Javi Venta and Marcos Tebar. Certainly, if there’s no Marcos Tea Bar at Lionel Road it will be an opportunity missed.

All proceeds from any sales will go to the Community Sports Trust. For less than the cost of a half / pint respectively, they may help while away some time on the commute. By the pool on holiday. In the bathroom. Who knows? It will certainly do some good for the Trust, whose work has been well documented at Griffin Park but you can read all about it on their site.

And if that wasn’t enough, I’ve been given something very special. A 2017/18 third team shirt with Lewis Macleod’s squad number on the reverse in the EFL typeface. Anyone with half an interest in Bees kits will know that these were never made available in the club shop.  Anyone who has read any of this before will know what a kit nerd yours truly is so when I say this is rare, take that in good faith!

To be in with a chance of owning it, download a copy of either before the end of June 2018 and you’ll go into a draw to win this. Just DM/tweet me (@NickBruzon) a copy of your purchase confirmation mail and I’ll add your name to the list before selecting a random Bees fan to win this on July 1st.

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Josh Brownhill’s opener is celebrated on twitter

 

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Brentford had most of the control but ended with a share of the points

Nick Bruzon