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Hearty updates from the club top table as head coach news is absorbed.

12 Oct

With the shockwaves of Dean Smith’s departure from Brentford for Aston Villa still reverberating around Griffin Park, the timing was ideal for Thursday night’s ‘Fan Forum’. Sitting at the top table were chief executive Mark Devlin and Chairman Cliff Crown alongside co-directors of football Phil Giles and Rasmus Ankersen. As ever, Peter Gilham remained in-situ as MC. Directing questions from the floor in a two part event – the first half being dedicated to football matters and then the second looking at all things ‘Lionel Road’.

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Pass the mic

So what did we learn? Should fans be worried about Dean’s move to Aston Villa? Is there any news on the replacement name for the head coach role as yet?

Rasmus opened proceedings, noting “I’m sure you’ve seen the news…” and with that setting the tone for what was, as ever, an open session with no subject deemed taboo. He went on to add that “Brentford is not a one man band. It is a football club that has a strategy.” He emphasised the point by explaining how he reminded the players that Dean being approached was a complement to them. To Brentford. That we are more than just one person.

And he’s right. The togetherness and good wishes on social media when the news broke showed our fondness towards Dean. But as much as anything else, perhaps a corner having been turned in regards to widespread acceptance of how Brentford football club works these days. That we all presume the club will replace from within and Thomas Frank step up. That we all trust the decisions being made.

On the subject of Dean’s replacement, Phil explained how “Are we starting from scratch today? More or less, yes….We’d like to see it as an opportunity to improve.”

For Rasmus, it was as much about being open minded. The main thing being to find someone who fits our structure. Who is able to execute our strategy.

For me, and many others, the longer term concern being Dean Smith waving the Aston Villa chequebook at us in January. Phil was clear that, of course, there is nothing to stop them making offers but we are not duty bound to accept. He was unequivocal about the situation in regards to a promotion push, saying that “If we are in the top six in January we won’t be selling players….If we’ve a high likelihood of getting promoted we’d be very reluctant to sell.”

There was, from memory, a caveat about astronomical offers but the message on this front was an extremely positive one. Albeit one that hinges on us being in contention at that juncture. With over two months until that window opens that’s a long way to go.

Cliff was asked about ticket prices at Elland Road, a seemingly annual bone of contention and one felt throughout the Championship. His diplomatic reply, and one has to also recognise it was probably bound by his role on the EFlL board, was that they were doing nothing wrong. That all we can do is protect the fans and ensure they are not being charged more than home supporters – as the EFL rules dictate.

Peter Gilham came up with the suggestion of a £42 block in the corner of one home stand whilst Mark Devlin spoke about the potential of reciprocal pricing. Of exploring whether groups of clubs would be prepared to charge the same for each others ‘away’ support. This could then be proposed to the EFL .

Either way, not a subject that is going to go away (pun intended) anytime soon. However, with the FSF still pushing ‘Twenty’s Plenty’ I’m sure that drum will keep on being banged.

And so the single most important matter of the night. Kit. After a passionate plea from the floor about the desire to leave our current supplier, Mark confirmed that “We are unlikely to be with Adidas next season”. That on talk of the stripes and home shirt in general we were given a disappointing option. Likewise, other clubs he had spoken to – Sheffield United and Sunderland were mentioned- felt exactly the same.

Interestingly, Mark also added that whilst it was something we were talking about and looking at ways of getting around, plain backs are often preferred by not only the media but also the players. There was no talk of brown/orange.

An update on the injury front was provided. Rico Henry will be in full contact training next week with the hope of B-team games next month. Emiliano Marcondes has an ongoing foot injury that we’re struggling to get to the bottom of.

The final two points from the opening session were the Premier League and Midtjylland. On the former, was it feasible that should promotion be achieved our final season at Griffin Park could host Premier League football? Mark was very open on this.

Whilst we are miles away from being fully compliant with top flight regulations, and that proposals needed to be submitted in January, he was hopeful a middle ground could be reached. Specially given the clear work being done to build a fully functioning Premier League stadium at Lionel Road. As such, any deal to stay at Griffin Park in the top flight would only be for one season. Even then, it would cost £2-3million to do what we could but it would be our absolute priority to stay if at all possible.

Finally, FC Midtjylland. Matthew Benham’s other club. A friendly was requested from the floor and Rasmus replied explained how “We need to know who is the best team.”

The proposal was to look at doing something during an International break although, personally, I can only see that time as hampering The Bees given the 12-13 cap winners we now have on our books at all levels of the club.

What a nice problem to have!

More was covered over the ‘football’ half of the session but these seemed the main discussion points. A prior commitment meant at home meant the ‘stadium’ half was missed although no doubt social media / Brentford ‘official’ will have all you need on that.

It only remains to thank the club for their time. Likewise, to appreciate how lucky we are being given the opportunity to challenge, to ask, to question on such a regular basis. Long may it continue.

Nick Bruzon

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Following a day of massive news, a ‘special guest’ reflects on the most important story of all.

11 Oct

You couldn’t make it up. The tumbleweed of International break had been in full effect and then suddenly Griffin Park exploded into life like a Leeds United fan taking to social media. There was Brentford news everywhere. The night was, of course, dominated by the story of Dean Smith taking over at Aston Villa (LW thoughts on that one are here) whilst our home game with Middlesbrough on 24 November has been moved to a 5.30pm kick off for the benefit of Sky TV. The club celebrated our 129th birthday whilst also released the teaser video for the first team photo (good luck unwinding that one…..).

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Ctrl-C ; Ctrl-V…..? Time to get updating

Yet perhaps the biggest off-pitch matter to happen yesterday was World Mental Health Day. Chatting to fellow Brentford fan (and long time Last Word contributor) Bernard Quackenbush yesterday evening about what was, then, the potential Aston Villa news, he suggested adding his own thoughts on the subject via the medium of a ‘guest’ column. Moreso, given his own personal story and the role played by the club in helping get through this.

I love it when BQ writes. More importantly though, a subject as important as Mental Health shouldn’t be forgotten about on the other 364 days of the year. It was truly uplifting reading much of the material at times yesterday. Likewise, a lot of it really made us think – which is how mine and Bernard’s conversation unfolded.  

But rather than ramble on, here’s the man himself…

Bernard Quackenbush writes

For those of us on Twitter it is apparent that every day is some sort of commemorative day, whether its National Chilli Sausage Day or World Wind Up A Leeds Fan Day. I’m not stranger to this as through my job I shall be promoting National Adoption Week next week. Most of the days are relatively unknown until a PR machine moves into action and there it is under ‘trends’. One such day appeared today ‘World Mental Health Day’, and our very own Brentford have been raising awareness all day today.

First was a great article featuring Jay Reza, Finance Officer for the Community Sports Trust. He talks about dealing with his depression and how Brentford supported him when his line manager noticed he wasn’t his normal self and encouraged to seek advice and help and he describes how his colleagues at Brentford CST were all very supportive.

Secondly we saw a story about Richard O’Kelly and Sergi Canos taking a training session with Hounslow Hawks and the West London Football Project which was captured by the Sky cameras.

Just two examples of how our wonderful club, despite our ambitions, still manage to connect with the local community and recognise and understand that we all have difficulties within our lives.

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I myself have had a very difficult time since I last wrote a guest blog a couple of years ago. In fact my contributions in the comments section have been much fewer and far between during that period. This is because one March morning last year my wife of 20 years unexpectedly told me she was leaving me. As you can imagine this came as the mother of all shocks and left me reeling till at least this January. My own mental health suffered greatly and I went into deep depression. I sought help and realised that I have been suffering from depression since I was a child, after having an ‘unfulfilling’ childhood. I have not recovered and still experience depression every day.

So why am I telling you all this on Nick’s cheerful and chirpy Brentford blog? It’s because I have found that one of the very few positive constants in my life has been Brentford. Whenever times have been bad in my life, Brentford has always been there for me. Whether we have been at our current lofty heights or the horror of the Terry Butcher period, there has always been something positive for me to draw from in any period following Brentford.

Case in point, was the day after my wife left and we were due to have an evening match against a struggling Wolverhampton Wanderers. I did feel for some time I was not up to going, but I though damnation to her, or words to that effect, I am going to go. So off I left Bournemouth a little earlier than normal for an evening match, plugged my iPod into the car and made my way up to GP.

As I was so early it was time for a pint in the Lord Nelson and things had already began to feel differently. Then the walk to the ground. Anyone who has ever crossed that railway bridge on a night game can never fail to be overawed by the sight of GP’s floodlights illuminating the area with Brentford Towers in the background and an A380 overhead. Its quintessentially Brentford, and a view which is truly a great wonder of this world!

I like the EUro qualifiers but want to get back to Griffin Park

The approach to GP Is an uplifting one.

Entry into the ground to the accompaniment of the dulcet tones of Peter Gilham followed by devouring a sausage in a bun, which is not a euphemism, are all part of the sights of sounds of GP on match day. Despite what happened the previous day things felt a lot better. Griffin Park is like a safe place, somewhere you can lose yourself for 2 or 3 hours. Just forget all your problems and troubles. For the record, Wolves did a number on us and scored 2 goals in the last 4 minutes to win, but that day the result was unimportant to me. What was important, was that I was able to take some time out from the devastation within my own life, and feel part of something very special. Brentford on a match day.

So when you go to the Bristol City game on 20th October have a look around you. Yes, there are TV cameras about, but look at the people. 1 in every 4 people suffer from some kind of mental health issue. Someone you will be looking at has a mental health issue, maybe you have one, but we are all there because we all love Brentford and we are all there to have some time out from our busy and often tricky lives. COYB!!

Bernard Quackenbush

P.S.. You can follow BQ on Twitter at @BernardQuack . Thoroughly recommended for Brentford fans. 

Dean Smith goes from Brentford hero to Villan.

10 Oct

Oh my. It’s happened. Dean Smith has tonight left Brentford to take over as head coach at Aston Villa. John Terry is confirmed as number two. It is a move that has been widely rumoured since the Villa Park club sacked Steve Bruce and one which, as has been well documented in the build-up, now sees Dean given the chance to take over at his boyhood club. Yet with Dean still in charge for the promotion chasing Bees draw at table topping Leeds United on Saturday, I thought there may be glimmer of hope that the rumours would be unfounded. Sadly for us, this isn’t the case and Dean is now a Villan.

First things first, there seems to be a universal out pouring of good wishes for Dean from the Griffin Park faithful. Everyone from Natalie Sawyer and Mark Devlin through to supporters across the social media spectrum have been wishing him well. And understandably so. Dean has guided Brentford to successive top ten finishes in the Championship and leaves us with the team one point outside the play-off places. He has had them playing some quite wonderful football, most recently seen at Leeds where the home team snatched a (possibly fortunate) draw in the final moments of an action packed game at the weekend.

From here, he joins the club he and his family have always supported. Villa official have been quick to jump on the now predictable medium of a hashtag with #oneofourown (something I thought was the exclusive property of Frank Lampard’s Derby County) quick to appear in the signing ‘GIF’. Yet only last week we noted on these pages “Indeed, who would willingly step into the maelstrom of unpredictability that is Villa Park at present? There are those well documented financial issues that emerged over the summer and a fan base quick to make their opinions known. Whether vocally or via the medium of a rogue cabbage.

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The words of Aston Villa ‘official’

Well, it seems the lure of ‘his’ team calling was simply too great. A siren on the rocks enticing him from a promotion push to a challenge that was once one of the biggest jobs in football and is now a wonderful opportunity to restore a former giant of the game to the position they naturally aspire.

For Brentford it is a huge shame on a personal note. Dean has only ever conducted himself wonderfully and has been nothing but charm personified when I’ve had the pleasure of speaking to him. His enthusiasm and love of the game, and the club, has been infectious. And now it is his job to instil that same warmth at Aston Villa.

On the pitch our set up is a solid one. Thomas Frank, who has been assistant Head Coach since December 2016, steps up into temporary charge. With our model and stability well established, surely he’ll be offered the role on a permanent basis? With Richard O’Kelly’s position to ‘be clarified in the coming days’ (not my words but those of Brentford official, in their piece which can be read here) the only other credible alternate is the B-team’s King Kev although that is, perhaps, something to come in the future.

We’ve lost our manager from a winning position before. Look at what happened when Mark Warburton took over from Uwe Rosler. Brentford were promoted to the Championship. Of more concern will be our ability to retain the crown jewels in a squad that is hugely talented yet, sadly now for us, Dean knows inside out. Certainly January’s window will be even more traumatic than ever but if Thomas, or whomever takes up the reins full times is able to keep up our current form, then who would want to leave? Don’t answer – that’s one for a few months’ time.

Instead, now is the time to wish Dean good luck. To hope we cross paths in the Premier League next season. To thank him for some exciting times so far. But equally, to know this current team – on and off the pitch – is more than just one man.

I’m gutted to see Dean leave. I’ve no worries about what we’re going to do for the rest of the campaign – The Bees ARE going up and I can’t wait.

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Can Dean inspire this level of passion at Villa?

 

Nick Bruzon

Was this the game that had everything? Fans and players nail it on Twitter as Bees hold Leeds.

7 Oct

Where do you even start with the one? Well, the result obviously. Leeds United 1 Brentford 1. Yet this was surely the consummate example of that old cliché that the result doesn’t even begin to tell half the story of a blood and thunder league game that was a quite wonderful example of Championship football. It had everything. Great saves, red cards, crossbars hit, pantomime villains and controversy. It was a day that saw the hosts end it in third place, The Bees still sixth and Neil Maupay become the first player in the top four divisions of English football to reach the ten goal mark.

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Neal does his thing for the tenth time( on official twitter )

On a personal note, big thanks to Mrs. Bruzon. What greater treat could a man be offered than to wake up in Lisbon on the morning of his tenth wedding anniversary and be told that he was to be taken to the pub to watch the game? Love? Worn her down? Her own secret desire to watch this one? Or some very hefty payback coming my way? Whatever the answer, it was worth every moment.

We’ve all seen the game. We’ve all got our reasons for where we watched it. I’m not going to over elaborate here as there’s a programme column to write for next Saturday’s game with Bristol City. Frankly, you’d need a volume to do this one justice. Both on and off the pitch where one can only doff the hat to those Bee’s supporters who braved the early start, the journey and remortgaged the house to cover the cost of the ticket.

What I would say is that to play like that and then concede so late was frustrating beyond belief in the moment that Pontus Jansson headed home with just two minutes left on the clock. Was there any reason we couldn’t hang on at the death? It felt like Aston Villa all over but that was short term disappointment when, stretching desperately for another cliche, I think the vast majority of us would have taken a guaranteed point had it somehow been offered before kick off. 

Yet for that perspective I’ve been reaching for all season, we’re upset about ‘only’ drawing with Leeds United. About going to the league leaders and not being beaten. About putting in a stonking performance on the road. I thought the first half in particular we gave everything. But instead of tiring and burning out, the Bees kept going. If anything, that was ultimately our undoing and, perhaps, a touch of naivety as rather than put a foot on the ball to “Slow it down. Slow. It. Dowwnnn” (as somebody much wiser than me once said) we kept on playing. Luke Daniels had pulled off a quite wonderful save . Kamo was magnificent. Neal Maupay did his best to make friends and influence people, slotting home the opening goal under the most extreme pressure and ‘encouragement’.

The players’ appearances on social media afterwards tell you everything you need to know about how this one went……  

As ever, the likes of Brentford ‘official’, Beesotted and the BBC will have all the reports on this one. We do more of the other stuff on these pages and so instead, we´ll leave it to Twitter to talk through the highlights of a game that had everything:

And I can’t beat that for a summary.

GREAT work you Bees.

Nick Bruzon

Is this a case of ‘If’ or when?

4 Oct

Aaaaargghh. 5.30am. Alarm clock ringing. Eyes sore and head thumping with a plane to catch. I’m not going to lie – a few beers were drunk last night. And by a few I mean a lot. A rare night without Mrs Bruzon had been spent at The 100 Club in London’s swinging West End, watching popular music’s The Bluetones. Brentford fan Adam Devlin doing his thing quite brilliantly (guitar, rather than Twitter – where he is one of the undoubted kings of social media) and, as such, the cause of this morning’s discomfort. All of which meant thoughts of Aston Villa, Leeds United at the weekend and the swathe of stories I think I’d read on the way home had all been forgotten.

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I blame (and thank) Mr Devlin. Adam, not Mark

No bad thing, either. The last thing anybody in a fragile state needs at that ungodly hour is to start visualising cabbage or Steve Bruce sweating. So there was a half hour of respite until Absolute Radio kicked in. Specifically the sports bulletin where it all came flooding back with the news that, of course, Aston Villa had sacked their manager last night. That much anticipated decision finally made, despite the club only being two points behind a Brentford side who retained their place play-off spot after yesterday’s results planned out. I’ve no idea who won what games but a cursory glance at the table showed us in sixth.

The obvious question from a TW8 perspective is who will be pick The Bees starting XI for our own trip to table topping Leeds United on Saturday? The real snap back to reality was the news story continuing with the reminder that “Dean Smith, Thierry Henry and John Terry” were the early favourites for the now vacant seat. John Terry? Seriously? Wow.

Putting him to one side, there’s been talk for the last couple of years about Dean taking the position. The Villans are, of course, the team he grew up supporting whilst our own success in The Championship speaks for itself. Moreso, given the ‘small’ budget and controlled spending compared to some of the monumental transfer fees our more high profile rivals have splashed out. Indeed, Brentford have been the beneficiaries of a consistent buy low, sell high policy that has seen us stay within FFP rules despite our obvious size.

But being a fan of a club doesn’t make you a shoe in for the role. Dean may be the last person on Dr. Tony’s mind, especially given all the Thierry Henry talk over the summer. Yet given our man’s ability to work on a budget, and with his obvious connections to the talent in our squad, the lure is an obvious one.

Would Dean go if offered? You couldn’t begrudge anybody the chance to takeover at their boyhood club. I’m desperately hoping he’d politely decline if anything came his way now. That – and I think it was Natalie Sawyer who mentioned this yesterday – he’d want to stay put for now to see our job though. We’ve a wonderfully talented squad, a great attitude and a new home on the horizon. The future is very much a bright one.

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

We’ve been consistently strong, whatever the weather

Indeed, who would willingly step into the maelstrom of unpredictability that is Villa Park at present? There are those well documented financial issues that emerged over the summer and a fan base quick to make their opinions known. Whether vocally or via the medium of a rogue cabbage. A story which then led to getting lost down the rabbit hole of the internet, searching out ‘that’ A-Team episode when their Heath-Robinsonesque device of the week was the infamous cabbage launcher. Likewise, the question as to why they were always locked up in barns that were chock full of farm machinery, surplus machine parts, blow torches and welders goggles.

Yet we digress, as ever. These chances don’t come around very often and in my heart of hearts I’m already imagining the letter to supporters. His thanking Mathew Benham for the opportunity and noting how there was only ever one club he’d leave for. How he wishes Brentford all the very best for the future and can’t wait to play against us….in the Premier League.

Come on Dean, prove me wrong. Please.

Instead, let’s hope Thierry or anyone else gets it. Well, almost anyone. The last thing we need is another club being rebranded. Bad enough we’re currently being dragged kicking and screaming into the ‘Frank Lampard’s Derby County’ era.

One can only imagine how awful ‘John Terry’s Aston Villa’ will sound.

Nick Bruzon

P.S. If anyone from the band is reading (unlikely, let’s be honest) apologies for going all fan boy. But it was a quite magnificent night. On the plus side, that’s #BeeTheDJ sorted for Bristol City.

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That’s BeeTheDJ sorted at least

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

3 Oct

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

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

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

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

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

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Brentford ‘Official’ capture the goal on Twitter

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

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

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

Dean talks to ‘official’ at full time.

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

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

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

And that’ll do me.

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Garry goes for a bath – c/o Matt Davis

Nick Bruzon

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

1 Oct

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Yoann Barbet is our latest goal scorer

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

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

Nick Bruzon

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

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

30 Sep

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

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Thanks. Ref.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Yoann. Involved in everything fr0m ballet to goal scoring

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

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

The question being how we push on from here.

Roll on Tuesday night when we find out.

Geoff Eltringham said Reading guide dog

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

Nick Bruzon

 

Back to league action. And ‘thanks’, Michael Palin. Way to try and ruin a great thing.

29 Sep

The cup runneth over. Kind of. With Arsenal out of the way (not the right way) it’s back to League action today as Brentford host Reading. The first of a double bill at Griffin Park over the next few days sees this one closely followed by Birmingham City on Tuesday. With Leeds United making it just one win from five last night, a great opportunity is opening up whilst Twitter has delivered not once, but twice, in quite wonderful fashion.

First up, the Reading game. This one has everything to play for and promises to be a stunner. In theory. Reading have started to win games after their abject start and have now escaped the bottom three. 6 points out of the last 9 sees them finding form and reaching the dizzy heights of 20th. Brentford will, of course, be hugely cheered by that fight back at Arsenal during the week. It was one-way traffic as we came that close to hauling ourselves into the fourth round after a blitzkrieg second half. The only downside being the first half! Oh well, that’s football. We go ag, ag, agai.. once more. The obvious question being one of whether Dean sticks or twists ?

Such was the fight shown in the second period, I do wonder if he’ll continue with any of his normal bench players? Whilst, surely, one would expect Neal Maupay, Henrik Dalsgaard and Daniel Bentley to return to the starting XI is that as far as it goes? I thought Kamo was superb whilst Sergi ran them ragged once the team got going. Mind you, so did Saïd Benrahma when he came on. Who’d be a head coach?

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Yesssssss !!!!! Alan Judge’s free-kick sent the away end ballistic

Whomever starts, Brentford have even more incentive to go for it. Table toppers Leeds United being held at Sheffield Wednesday, Friday, means a win could take us to within a point of first place. Naturally, subject to other results. But the league is so tight at the moment that as far down as 14th, Swansea are only 6 behind Leeds. With Birmingham the same gap behind us, effectively 7(seven) when you factor in the draw specialists woeful goal difference, every game is crucial. Every point critical. Already. And its not even October. I love this division!!  

The cup was a lovely diversion and visiting Arsenal taught us a lot of things, as much off-field (see last column) as on, but it’s great to be feasting at the main table once more. Let’s hope Dean serves up a five-star banquet rather than skin and bone.

One of those Arsenal ‘things’ was giant flags at the home end. We’d seen similar before at Chelsea. Tucked behind the hoardings but then waved high to welcome the teams out or celebrate a goal to the home team. I’m not sure exactly what the benefit is or why they are needed – if you need a flag waver to generate an atmosphere (see also: the Mexican wave, England Supporter’s band,  goal music) then we’re already in trouble.

Thankfully, Matthew Benham is in agreement. The joy of Twitter where a casually asked question on Friday morning to the club owner brings about a response within minutes:    

@NickBruzon : Hi Matthew. You’ve often been quoted as (thankfully) saying there will never, ever be ‘goal music’ at Lionel Road. Is it safe to say the same will apply to Arsenal style ‘goal flags’ ?

@matthew_benham : Absolutely!

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Another Lionel Road crisis averted

Result! No flags and no goal music ! With Lionel Road looking bigger and better with each passing day, it’s great that he’s also on point about those matters that really count ! Here’s hoping the previously backed hot seat idea also comes to fruition. Even if Cameron Diaz won’t be the one filling it. That said, perhaps the sausage train remains a leap too far.

So that was yours truly feeling pretty pleased with the day’s social media activity. Easy come, easy go. As ever. No sooner had that gone up than it’s been blown out of the water first thing Saturday morning with a quite incredible spot on the social media platform from @HongKongBee , aka Andrew Cooper, after watching the Michael Palin In North Korea documentary from the BBC.  

Wow. There’s not much you can say here. Beyond a bit of photoshoppery just to really take a look at this in depth.

Whilst the North Korean regime of secrecy and oppression is totally abhorrent and about as far flung as you could get from all-embracing Griffin Park, that’s an eerie sartorial spot. Great observational skills, Andrew. It is incredible how something so wonderful in one format (our away kit) can look so awful in another. Thankfully, quality shines through and it will be the football kit that people remember long into the future rather than any quirky uniforms.

All being well Brentford official will be reporting a 7(seven) – 0 win for The Bees today for legitimate reasons rather than propaganda based ones.

North Korea Brentford away

Kit wrong-un

Finally, please don’t forget #BeeTheDJ today…..

Given the sad passing of Chas Hodges last weekend, what better way for fans to remember him than by bombarding the Griffin Park tannoy (other brands of p.a. system are also available) with the likes of Gertcha, Rabbit, Margate, Ain’t No Pleasing You, The Sideboard Song, London girls etc etc etc.

You can get choosing here. What better way to get the crowd buzzing prior to kick off whilst, more importantly, remembering the great man.

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How do you even try and whittle this down to one choice?

Nick Bruzon

The lunchtime after the night before. Arsenal through despite storming second half from Bees.

27 Sep

If only….. So close….. Why didn’t he go for it from kick off?…. Why can’t we just enjoy a big game just even one fuc&ing time?…. I enjoyed half a big game – should have been a whole one but for team selection.” These, just some of the things I saw / heard after Arsenal beat Brentford 3-1 in Wednesday night’s Carabao Cup third round. It’s the obvious reaction to a game that, once The Bees stepped up in the second half, was about as exciting as they come. Likewise, and I’m not going to pretend I wasn’t disappointed on seeing that our usual starting XI weren’t in the frame for the opening period, it really has the feeling of an opportunity missed. In the immediate short term.

I don’t subscribe to any ‘big day out’ nonsense. This was a cup tie in an arena that was about as sanitised and sterile as they come and hardly the place where, but for a ball pulled from the hat, one would come to voluntarily. Giant ‘goal flags’, players giving out counter terrorism advice on the big screens and even mid-match graphics exhorting the home fans to ‘Come On You Reds.’ At one point I had to double check that the flag saying Arsenal Library actually said Arsenal Liberia. For me, this was all about the chance to progress against a club still labouring to escape the grisly shadow of, by their esteemed standards, recent mediocrity. A team sure to have been playing several reserves. They duly obliged.

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Arsenal library

Let’s be honest here, the first half was hard work. We weren’t even close to coming second as the hosts, helped by a very early goal, slipped effortlessly into cruise control. Reserves or otherwise. The Bees looked lethargic; the crowd subdued. That we were only two down at half time was as much thanks to Arsenal failing to put this one to bed. Halftime couldn’t come soon enough but, with it, Dean Smith seemingly delivered the mother of all team talks.

Sergi and, in particular, Alan Judge burst into life. Kamo mopping up the midfield. Dean’s initial selection more than justified as The Bees woke up. A goal threatened and came via a quite wonderful free kick from Judgey on the hour. Situated deep in the heart of Saunders territory, he was the last person anyone expected to hit it from the clutch of players gathered over the ball. But boy, what a sweet strike up, over and around the wall that left Jay Leno in the Arsenal goal with no chance. Sumptuous.

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Over the wall and en-route to goal

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Yesssssss !!!!!

An immense knee slide followed as the Brentford fans exploded. Not literally. Although that earlier advice might at least have come in handy. Could we haul ourselves back into this? The addition of Henrik Dalsgaard adding further strength. Likewise Maupay and Benrahma. It wasn’t for a want of trying, that’s for sure.

Sadly though, it wasn’t to be. The prolific Lacazette putting it out of sight deep into stoppage time to give the game that final 3-1 score. No complaints from me with the end result but a lot to think about on the way home and a lot of time to do it thanks to the tube strike.

Dean’s team selection…. Absolutely I was gutted to see the likes of Said Benrahma, Neal Maupay and Daniel Bentley on the bench when the teams were announced. After all the hype, build up and ‘that’ Chelsea cup tie I really thought we’d hold firm. We didn’t. I understand why. These were still more than recognised players who came in at a point where the team are in the midst of a 7(seven) game run over 22 days.

Fitness and rotation are the obvious factors at play here whilst the second half proved that, actually, Dean called it right. He picked a side that had the ability to do a job. To a man they came out and put a stunning shift in after half-time with the performance further bolstered by later substitutions. It was the first half ‘no show’ that left us on the backfoot and with a mountain to climb. Rabbits in the headlights of slick, but comfortable opponents who play at that level for a reason.

We could have won. We maybe should have won. I’m still not sure why we took so long to start firing given how we came flying out of the traps in the second period. Would the team that lost at Frank Lampard’s Derby County on Saturday have fared any better? Alan Judge scored a wonder goal but that’s all I can take away from this in the direct aftermath. So close counts for nothing. That’s not to overlook the fact that, personally, I’m immensely cheered and proud by how we grew into this one.

As ever, some perspective. And as much to me. Whilst this was from many respects a chance to really make a name for ourselves, at the end of the day (Clive) we’re moaning about not beating Arsenal. Despite a moribund first half we were alive and in it until the final minute.

That’s no bad yardstick of progress in my eyes. We’ve got two more league games to come in less than a week. Thankfully, both at home. Get six points against Reading and Birmingham then we’ll be looking at last night less as an opportunity missed, less as us ‘not enjoying a big game’ as was earlier noted and more a stepping stone en route to bigger and better things.

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The moment- 2-1 and game on!!!

Nick Bruzon