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Dean’s captain call. The right decision or is there more afoot?

9 Aug

Brentford progressed to round 2 of the Carabao cup with a 3-1 victory over AFC Wimbledon, albeit needing extra time to complete the job. Yet with Nottingham Forest next up, the talk remains around that of captain Harlee Dean. Or, rather, former captain Harlee Dean. With the Sheffield Wednesday rumours hanging around like a bad smell and the player out of contract at the end of this season, Dean Smith has chosen to hand the armband to Nico Yennaris.

League cup progress was nice. Very nice. Even if we are going back to August 2013 for the last time we won a tie in regulation time. Farid El-Alagui popping up to get a 90th minute winner in a 3-2 victory over Dagenham & Redbridge at Griffin Park. But going through is all you can ask for and a rocket for Romaine Sawyers, followed up by an extra time beauty from Ollie Watkins and Justin Shaibu (in the very last minute) were sufficient to achieve that aim.

But it is the captaincy where the talking points remain. Dean Smith confirmed to Get West London that Harlee ”Is in a bit of limbo with contract negotiations. With that going on it’s right that someone else carries the armband.” This, before adding that, “I’m sure his representatives are pitching him around to other clubs as well”.

A reference to the Sheffield Wednesday rumours? Great bluffing by Harlee’s ‘people’ in contract talks? Who knows? But with three other quality centre backs in the wings, its not a game of bluff I’d overly fancy playing. Certainly, if my long term future was at Griffin Park. Might Dean and Matthew actually just decide to ‘cash out’? Should they?

You can’t criticise a player for exploring opportunities. That’s human nature. If, indeed, these are available. Could it simply be a case of holding out for the best offer Brentford are prepared to put in front of him? Only Harlee knows that and only time will tell. But with the Bees travelling to Sheffield Wednesday on 12th Sept, after the transfer window has slammed shut, it will be very interesting to see the shape of our squad at that point.

For me, the choice of Nico was as intriguing a one in as much as who wasn’t picked. For me, and regardless of transfer talks, Harlee wouldn’t be my captain anyway. Unless truly exceptional, no defender would.

Whilst he had a wonderful season last time out, culminating in those player of the years awards, there was still the odd rush of blood to the head. Nobody can doubt he wears his heart on his sleeve and stands up for his team mates but with referees taking a harder line stance, shouting loudest isn’t necessarily the only tool in the captain’s box.

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Leading by example? Or a rush of blood?

For me, positionally, I’d want my captain at the centre of the action. Sure, he still needs that Harlee style ‘bite’ but, as much, the ability to help dictate play. To carry out the manager’s orders. To be where he can be most effectively seen and heard. And that for me is midfield. Preferably centre. That for me is Nico, Josh, Kamo or Ryan Woods.

Kamo is too new. Josh too inconsistent, for now. Nobody can doubt Nico has been around this squad for a few years and more than earned his stripes. He has shown wonderful maturity in overcoming those initial boo-boys to make a centre midfield berth his own.

The goals are equally impressive. It’s a surprise call but a good one aswell as recognising a player who has shown long term commitment to the club. A player who has, almost by stealth, become a ‘King Kev’ style part of the furniture. And that’s meant in a complimentary style.

Yet, equally, I’d have to ask why Ryan Woods has been overlooked. He started on Saturday against Sheffield United. Nico didn’t. John Egan was captain. Woodsy was man of the match in the eyes of many observers – despite the vote going to the ever popular Jota.

True, he didn’t make the team last night but even at the start of last season I’d gone on record of saying Ryan was my choice. For whatever that is worth. He went on to have a blinder, culminating in his being named ‘player’s player of the year’. With a long contract under his belt and this clear demonstration of respect from his team mates, surely he’d have been nailed on if Harlee was having this privilege removed?

Which begs the question of why? Is there an ulterior factor at play? Sunderland talk was rife a few weeks ago although, thankfully, that has gone quiet. For now. Could it just be that Ryan doesn’t want that extra responsibility? Or is it simply that Nico is deemed the best man for the job in Dean Smith’s eyes?

If so then I’m chuffed to bits for him. What an honour. He’ll absolutely do us proud.

At the end of the day (Clive), I’m just the numpty on the terrace with no access to the club inner circle or what gets said behind closed doors. It’s just a question being thrown out there as to what people think and who would they choose?

Instead, I can only call it as I see it from the stands. As a supporter. Whilst Ryan would have been my pick, bring on Captain Nico. Bring on Nottingham Forest. Let’s see what he can do in the league.

I can’t wait for Saturday.

Nick Bruzon

Will we slip on another potato skin or dodge that lower league bullet ?

8 Aug

It seems like only five minutes ago that Brentford performed those League cup heroics against Hull City and Everton, before narrowly missing out on Round 5 via a last minute equaliser and penalties against Birmingham City at St. Andrews. Infact, it was 2010 and The Bees first XI included the likes of Mickey Spillane, Craig Woodman and Pim Balkestein. Whilst the squad has evolved from that small League One group it would be fair to say that our record in the competition hasn’t been a great one since then. Could Tuesday night’s game in Kingston against AFC Wimbledon see us get back to winning ways?

The wins over higher division Hull and Everton were wonderful occasions, no question. The latter in particular seeing a practically full strength Premier League team beaten by a never say die Brentford XI. Gary Alexander scored the equaliser and Charlie MacDonald even had the luxury of seeing a penalty saved before the eventual spot kick triumph. Richard Lee the man on form then.

Gary Alexander does his thing against Everton. 1-1

Now, we are the team to be shot down. A high performing Championship club travelling to an AFC Wimbledon side whose own ascension through the divisions and struggle to find a home has been a story in itself. Yet the game presents a huge potato skin for a Brentford side that is sure to be changed one from that which lost out to Sheffield United on Saturday.

The last time we won a League Cup tie Montell Moore and Nick Proschwitz (not a typo) were amongst the scorers in that defence shredding 6-6 at Dagenham and Redbridge. Kevin O’Conor played what was, if I am correct, his last ever game for the Bees – scoring what proved to be the decisive spot kick in the subsequent shoot out.

Since then the wheels have come off somewhat. We lost at Griffin Park to Fulham. At the time, something of a rarity for the Cottagers whom we would go on to take 10 points out of 12 from over the course of the following four league games. Didn’t Jota do something in the last minute, too?

Then there was the humiliation handed out by Oxford United at home as the Marinus experiment came crashing down to earth with a bump. Regular readers may be aware this gets mentioned a lot but it is important to never forget how bad that was. The team he selected was one which, long term, had a few players who are now regular (Nico, Lasse, Andreas) but at the time was an untested mixture of youth and new faces. 3-0 down in 12 minutes, that we only lost 4-0 was the main miracle of the night.

It was the consummate example of the flawed logic in both wholesale, untested change and woeful man management. Never forget.

Marinus Oxford touchline

The Oxford United fiasco  / Marinus experiment (neither being prog rock bands)

Then last season it was the turn of Exeter City to dump us out in the first round. Despite Harlee Dean, John Egan, Josh Clarke and Sam Saunders amongst those picked, Brentford struggled to a 0-0 before Ryan Hartley got an extra time winner for the Grecians.

And now is the time to go again. I can only expect more change tonight but this time I fear for Wimbledon. Harlee is available after suspension.Yoann Barbet was benched on Saturday. Likewise Maxime Colin. Expect the pace of Josh Clarke down the flank and surely starts for Neal Maupay and Ollie Watkins. I’d imagine Flo Jo will begin on the left with with a very strong bench, just in case.

As the higher placed team we’re there to be shot down, just as Everton and Hull were all those years ago. That’s one of the privileges of being a Championship side and, sadly, a bullet we’ve taken more than once in recent years.

Will this time around be any different? A full house of Bees fans will be there to roar us on with only 200 tickets remaining on the gate. Watch out for the traffic delays though and get there early.

See you there. Until then, here’s one of the highlights from the Everton game. When our mascot was told to keep holding the hand of his young counterpart, he took that instruction quite literally.

 

Nothing puts Peter Gilham off his stride

Nick Bruzon

Crazy transfers, spray on pants and the chance to win a cup tie

9 Aug

Brentford travel to Exeter City in the first round of the League Cup tonight, no doubt anxious to make up for last season’s humiliation at this stage when Oxford United were given the freedom of Griffin Park. Elsewhere, those of us with half an ear to the wider football grapevine can breath a huge sigh of relief at the news that the Paul Pogba to Manchester United saga is finally over. And Olympic fever is slowly taking hold in the Bruzon household.

First up, as ever, Brentford. The trip to Exeter City marks a chance for the Bees to start another attempt at a cup run after a  somewhat disappointing last couple of seasons. Capitulation in the FA cup against Brighton in 2014/15 was followed by last season’s no show at home to Walsall. As for the League Cup, who needs any reminder of the tie with League Two Oxford United?

Well, all of us do – just to make sure it never happens again. Dean, if you are reading (you aren’t)  I realise this wasn’t your fault but….

To read the rest of this article, season 2016/17 is now available for download on e-book in the retrospective: Welcome Home, King Jota (Brentford FC season review 2016/17)
 
Priced at just £1.99, all sales are being donated to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust.

Likewise any sales from the previous titles – Celebrating like they’d won the FA Cup (2013/14), Tales from the football village (2014/15) and Ready. Steady. Go Again. (2015/16) – are also now going to the BFCCST.

Containing the least bad of the blogs from May 16 to May 17, you can pick it up, here. Its all for a great cause and,hey, you may even enjoy it…..

 

Marinus Oxford touchline

The Oxford United fiasco (not a prog rock band)

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Steve Austin – 0.5 of a Grabban

Nick Bruzon