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A question of kit. Could we? Should we?

16 Mar

The spectre of fixture reshuffling for TV hangs heavy once again. “Our match away to Manchester United has been moved to Monday May 2. This game will kick-off at 8pm at Old Trafford. Fans should note that this date is subject to Manchester United’s involvement in the UEFA Champions League Semi-Final”. Not my words. The words of Brentford official. At the same time confirming that the home game with Tottenham Hotspur on 23rd April has had kick off pushed back to 5.30pm. Again, subject to potential European fixtures . Much like January’s game in Liverpool, the date is now locked in. Unless cup football gets in the way. Nothing like looking out for the fans although, at least, the risk of Manchester United being further moved has disappeared as quickly as it was announced. Tuesday night’s defeat at home to Atlético Madrid just hours after the TV announcement means that interest in this season’s European competition is well and truly over. Elsewhere, with Leicester City next up for Brentford, we look to that game aswell as mulling over a possible kit ‘first’ for the Bees.

More to follow, below

First up, TV. For Brentford it’s the sort of ‘nice’ problem to have. A club in demand and a further reminder that we’re a Premier League team. Sometimes, its still a case of a self-administered pinch to remind ourselves we’re in the top flight. Such has been the journey to get here over the years. Yet here we are. Deserving of our place and back on form. Ivan Toney banging them in for fun and Christian Eriksen fast carving himself a place in club history.

His signing could end up being the shrewdest, boldest move of the Premier League season. His impact has been immediate. Burnley and Norwich carved open. Less canaries, more turkeys. But hey, enough about the commentators. Eriksen’s reward being an immediate recall to the Denmark squad announced yesterday for the games with the Netherlands and Serbia later this month. If he carries on at this rate the queue to secure his longer term signature over the summer is going to be a long one. Of course, I’d love it to be with Brentford but that choice is going to be down to the player and bigger powers than the aspirations of one supporter with his head in the clouds.

Then again the lure of our set up, Thomas Frank and the welcome received so far may talk louder than any dumper truck full of cash offered up by other clubs. You never know…

Christian Eriksen – had a blinder against Burnley

Until then, we’ve got the trip to Leicester City this Sunday. A 2pm kick off (again, European football getting in the way) with no official TV coverage. Presumably those unable to get a ticket for the sold out away end may find a means to circumnavigate technologies ‘The Internet’ for live streaming.

The focus on Sunday will be in Brentford maintaining the winning run. In seeing if Ivan Toney can keep up that goal scoring form that sees him up to fifth in the Premier League goal scoring charts. His eleven for the season see our man one behind Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United), Sadio Mané and Diogo Jota (both Liverpool) in joint second place and level with Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min (Spurs). Not bad company to be keeping and with only Mohamed Salah above them (cripes, its no wonder Liverpool are still in the title race with that amount of firepower), the calls for Ivan to be selected for England are starting to grow. Whether they are answered at this point remains to be seen but, if nothing else, the national team’s historic form in penalty shoot outs alone suggests his eventual selection is inevitable.

Sunday also sees another coming together with pantomime villain James Maddison. He may aswell have turned up in a top hat, cape and sporting a waxed moustache when the Foxes visited Lionel Road back in October. His full-time admission that “I want to be the villain,” …“it makes it all the sweeter when I score up that end.”  Further endearing him to Brentford fans whose skin he’d spent the entire game getting under with his theatrics. Then again, he wasn’t alone.

Hmmmmm

Our Harry asked me at full time. “Dad. Do you know who men of the match should be?”   Err, ‘men’? I questioned.  He continued, “The Leicester physios”. The regularity with which they collapsed to the floor before making a full recovery had not gone unobserverd by H, us, the entire North stand and fourth official who would eventually hold up the board. My word, It was almost as though it had been a preordained tactic. The Foxes collapsing like chimneys. Brendan Rodgers very much channeling his inner Fred Dibnah when it came to setting up his team.

Channelling their inner ‘Fred’ was a success for Leicester last time out

Just like the visit of number 26 with Burnley at the weekend, football fans don’t forget. We have long memories and this one will be front and centre on Sunday. Much like Russell Slade and ten times better Harlee Dean, these things have a tendency to come back and bite you in the backside. Here’s hoping Brentford can invoke the spirit of another pantomime villain and remember that revenge is a dish best served cold. Or, in this case, lukewarm.

The season continues to deliver. Most observers had Brentford written off before the campaign began. Instead, its Leeds United and Everton who are the ones duking it out in the relegation places. Whilst most fans would, I am sure, like a few more points for comfort I’m still looking upwards. Beating Leicester City on Sunday with sufficient GD swing will see us overtake the currently 12th placed team. That’s not a bad incentive to go for it with less than ten games remaining in the season.

The other question remains one of ‘kit’. Or should that be two questions? Firstly, yours truly. I make no secret of my own shirt nerdy. With ‘several’ shirts from the last five decades at home, one has always been worn when watching Brentford. Always, That is, until Norwich City when the new ‘lucky’ green jacket got an an outing. A late ‘70s polyester masterclass in fashion that time forgot. Yet… we won. No shirt. No colours, beyond the addition of the yellow / blue hat ‘away’ hat. Next up, Burnley. Same again. No colours. Just the green jacket and the hat. We won.

It seems obvious what to do wear next time out but, the one small problem being…..Mrs. Bruzon hates it. Absolutely hates it. “You look like a gnome” being the polite way of putting things. My protests that, “The table doesn’t lie” falling on deaf hears. As it stands. 

Domestic bliss or playing the part, no matter how small, in keeping a winning run going ? What to do? What to do…..? 

The other kit question being that of this season’s offerings. We all know what’s going on in Europe at the moment. The reaction of the International community to the attrocities in Ukraine has been pretty much universal – the handful of dickhead countries aside. Here, Premier League games have seen stadia drapped in Ukrainian colours and huge murals of the national flag held aloft prior to kick off. Again, support has been largely universal – the dickhead club aside.

However, how about going one better? How about getting a one off kit commissioned? Match shirts to be auctioned off afterwards for charity to help Ukranian refugees?

Might Brentford be the ones to nail our colours to the mast and help lead the way as we have done so often before?  Kitman Bob? Matthew Benham? If either of you are reading (err, its a lovely thought….)  Brentford official? Could we? More importantly, should we?

Everyone talks the talk but why don’t we walk the walk? Forgive the shoddy photoshop but you get the gist. What about it?

For now though, at least we can start booking the train to Manchester United and awaiting the game with Leicester City. I can’t wait for that one. Bring it on and see you there. All being well, in the green jacket.

Until then, here’s the Burnley catch up.

Nick Bruzon

View from the opposition. Manchester United fan opens up ahead of Brentford game.

18 Jan

Brentford host Manchester United at Lionel Road on Wednesday evening. The build up to this one has been as much post-mortem from Liverpool as it has been excitement about Christian Eriksen (hey, you have to dream). Now though, we need to cut to the chase. To look at the opposition. One of the most famous clubs in the land but, by their own illustrious standards, perhaps not at the races in recent years. The challenge of following Fergie a riddle to challenge the deepest of minds. A conundrum to file along side the question of just what makes Mrs Browns Boys popular or whether anyone, actually, enjoys the England Supporter’s band.

Liverpool has been and gone now

Those, of course, are well trodden paths on these pages. Instead, let’s look at Manchester United. Through the eyes of Dale O’Donnell. The blue ticked editor of the @strettynews website, Sky Sports News contributor and member of the Football Writer’s Association. Thats the Twitter bio done. Onto the questions…

What a tumultuous season for those of us looking in. Ole sacked and the Red Devils languishing in 7th (seventh) place. European qualification – even for the Europa Conference – hanging in the balance. Are things at Old Trafford as bad as being made out? 
Well, yes, because it’s not difficult to see the root of our problems. Just look at the Glazer family and how they only see our club as a commercial cash cow. One they can continue to milk despite the team showing utter mediocrity on the pitch.

From my perspective, being any good back in the day isn’t a guarantee of success and most clubs would love to be in your position. Do the supporters have unrealistic expectation levels?
No offence – but we are Manchester United. The biggest football club – not only in England, but – in the world. We’ve seen a lot of poor recruitment, ill-advised decisions from the hierarchy and a lack of planning over the years but it still beggars belief that we’re so poor on the football pitch, with the players we have available. We’re a million miles away from where we need to be.

What about Ole? A club legend. Was he let go too early? Or was it the right move?
It was the right move because the results got so bad and our season objective looked out of reach just two or three months into the season. Ole will forever be remembered as a club legend — mostly as a player, but I think he did a lot of good as manager too — and I’m still gutted that he wasn’t the one to bring the Premier League back to Old Trafford. That would have been amazing.

How have things changed since the arrival of Ralf Rangnick? 
Not much if I’m being honest. We can see that the manager wants to play a totally different way and that was always going to take time. However, rumours about dressing room unrest are unsettling because the players might not give this man the respect he deserves, with Rangnick moving upstairs at the end of the season.

Who would you like to take over following his interim stint and who do you think will get the role?
It’s got to be Pochettino for me. I know most online polls show that United fans are rooting for Ten Hag, who I also rate as a leading candidate, but I’m not sure he is quite up to task. As ever I’d happily be proven wrong.

Donny van de Beek ? What’s going on?
Not fancied by previous management team and I don’t think Rangnick feels he can cut it in the Premier League.

What has been your best performance of the season to date? And the lowest?
Giving Leeds a good hammering on the opening day of the season was great, but our season has nosedived since. The lowest point for me, though, was obviously losing 5-0 to Liverpool. At least the Stretford End was loud that day…

Getting to the matter at hand, who are the current danger men Brentford need to be aware of?
Ronaldo (if fit) and Fernandes. You never quite know with the rest. De Gea has been our best player this season which tells you a lot.

As outsiders looking in, what’s the take from the Old Trafford faithful on the Bees?
I’ve been very impressed by your style of play and willingness to go at teams in your first season in the Premier League. A welcome addition to the top-flight.

If you could sign any one player from Brentford in the current window who would it be? Indeed, would you?
I’d probably say Kristoffer Ajer because he can play as a defensive midfielder and we badly need one of those.

Your score prediction for Wednesday?
2-1 win for United.

What would you consider to have been a successful season for our respective clubs when we get to the end of the campaign?
I’m going to say… United 4th and Brentford 10th.

And if you’d like to read more……. the return feature (the Brentford take on Manchester United) can be found here. Enjoy.

Nick Bruzon

Liverpool, Manchester United and Christian Eriksen latest plus the video to make our eyes light up.

18 Jan

Another day in the non-stop rollercoaster ride that is Premier League life. Brentford have done with Liverpool and we’re now set to host Manchester United . There’s FA Cup news out of Everton plus more midfield news than you can shake a stick at with Christian Eriksen of Denmark being just one of the names out there at the moment. 

Could we actually do this?

Which, with all due respect to Liverpool and Manchester United, needs to be where we start. The GPG have had the story building for over a week but now the rest of the world seems to have caught up with this. The BBC and several newspaper sites confirming that Brentford have been in touch with the Danish midfielder who has been released from his contract with Inter Milan. Serie A rules not allowing the sort of pacemaker which he has had fitted following that terrifying moment over the summer at Euro 2020.  

109 international caps. A pedigree in domestic football that also takes in Ajax and Spurs. 36 goals for his country from a variety of midfield positions. There are no words needed to describe his talent and word on the street is that there are a number of other top flight clubs looking to sign him. However, the actual word out of TW8 being that talks HAVE taken place between Brentford and the player about a six-month deal. Now, the inevitable negotiations begin.  

I can’t imagine somebody of his stature comes cheap, that’s for sure. How big a draw the power of Thomas Frank and the other Danes on our playing staff over wages will be remains to be seen. I’m drooling at the prospect of seeing him alongside Christian Norgaard. Chuck in Mathias Jensen for the full triumvirate. Right now, its more the case of hoping Thomas can do his thing to sell the Brentford project to his fellow countryman. 

Likewise, and perhaps more importantly, being hugely grateful that we can even be having this conversation. The sheer awfulness of what happened over the summer needs no revisiting. The despair and panic felt at the time unable to be put into words. And that was just us watching on from back home. It’s not possible to even half imagine how it felt for his team mates and family after he suffered that on pitch cardiac arrest in the game against Finland.

Thankfully, of course, the medical staff and his own team mates worked wonders to bring him back following the emergency treatment administered at the time. Now he’s in wonderful health by all accounts and chomping at the bit to go again – even targetting a place at the World Cup in December.  

That journey has to start somewhere and Brentford are the ones at the forefront of looking to help him take that first step. Could it happen? Will it happen? Is an unveiling before Manchester United too far flung a dream to cling to? Might it all come to nothing? Fingers are certainly crossed with, I have no doubt, much more to come in the coming days. 

The other news to set tongues wagging concerned a player already on our books. With video footage to match. We’ve all seen the pictures of Josh Dasilva in recent weeks but now he’s been in actual match action. You know, kicking a ball and everything. 45 minutes at Jersey Road in a game with Havant and Waterlooville. The comeback is most definitely on and whilst it may take a while longer to be involved in full fat first team action, this is about as big a boost as they come. Feast your eyes on this. 

Elsewhere, we’ve now gone live with the post match player and performance review following the game at Liverpool. Who were the top five for Brentford? Who is ahead in the race to be our season long star man? Who should have been included but missed out? You can find the answers and catch up on that piece, here.

In other news, TAP limits for the FA Cup fourth round tie at Everton have been announced. The figure cited by Brentford ‘official’ means just about anyone who has seen us on the road can take the trip to Goodison Park on Saturday 5th February. Season Ticket Holders with 1200+TAPs will be able to book their guaranteed place from today. 6,000 tickets are, I believe, available and priced at just £15 these are sure to fly off the shelves. If nothing else, it gives a chance to complete the Stanley Park bingo card following Sunday’s game. 

Two for the price of one

Until then though, it’s almost time for another home game. The chance to have played all 19 clubs in the Premier League will finally arrive. Manchester United being the last of the outliers following their 11th hour Covid related cancellation request back in December. How long ago does that feel now? The delay has allowed us to welcome back Kris Ajer and strengthen our goalkeeping options, amongst others permutations. It seems like another lifetime away when we were talking about having to bring out 18 year old Matthew Cox against the Red Devils for his Brentford debut? Perhaps we still will although any change should it come will, surely, be in the direction of Jonas Lössl. 

Today’s press conference will be telling as to both injuries and team selection. Even if it does end up being dominated by talks of another Dane in Christian Eriksen. All that’s to come, of course. For now we need to focus on Manchester United and the chance to pick up another three points. They looked wobbly (the story of the season) against Aston Villa and may well be without Cristiano Ronaldo which, if nothing else, is disastrous news for all the ‘Can I have your shirt…?’ placard makers. 

Could we do it? Will we do it? There’s only one place to be to find out. Lionel Road. See you there. 

Nick Bruzon 

Who were the top five performers at the weekend?

17 Jan

So Brentford lost out at Anfield on Sunday. A 3-0 reverse to Liverpool coming after 45 minutes of rock solid defending had almost threatened to send the half-time crockery flying. Then, the dam finally broke after wave upon wave of Red pressure and the rest is history. With Manchester United next up on Wednesday, are there grounds for expectation that another big name scalp will be claimed? Will the defensive, err, blips that gifted the third goal in particular be consigned to the waste bin of history?

Brentford push forward at Anfield

As ever at this juncture, we take a look at who deserves to keep their place in the Brentford starting XI after the Liverpool game and who were our top five players at Anfield? Does anyone deserve to miss out against Manchester United or will it be more of the same when Thomas names his team? Looking further afield, how is the race to be our season long star man shaping up?

You can find the answers to all these questions along with the summarised version of the team performance here. Who missed out? Who should have been included? Have we got it right? Over to you….

And that silenced The Kop

17 Jan

Liverpool 3 Brentford 0. The Bees returned to Anfield for the first time since that 1989 FA Cup tie for the return Premier League fixture following our 3-3 draw at Lionel Road earlier this season. This time, however, there was no contest. The odd flurry of chances aside – Bryan Mbeumo channelling his inner Richard Cadette for the closest of these – it really felt like one-way traffic. Yet with Manchester United next up there were still plenty of positives to take ahead of Wednesday night’s home game. Primarily, the return of Rico Henry and the backs to the wall defending – a mile away from the Southampton horror show – that accompanied the opening 44 minutes. Liverpool dominating and pushing but unable to find a way through.

Bryan runs at the Liverpool defence

We don’t do full fat match reports on these pages, albeit the player review is now up. For now, the headlines surround two levels of Bees’ defence. That opening phase where despite the hosts having 75% possession, there was no way through. Kris Ajer ploughing through Jota. Pontus heading it clear time and again. Most exciting of all, the return of Rico Henry. His substitution just into the second half confirmed by Thomas Frank as being nothing more than precautionary, with the left back apparently available for Manchester united during the week. Whilst he was on the pitch, there was no holding back the man who is on a fast track to challenge for our player of the season.

Yet when the goals came, they were awful. Awful. A corner that bypassed the entire defence for the opener. A cross that could have been claimed or cleared for the second. A totally needless attempt to play it out from the back that culminated in the inevitable disaster for the third. What Alvaro Fernandez was thinking not once but twice before Minamino wrapped it up I have no idea. A huge shame because he has kept us in it as much as anyone prior to that with a series of smart saves.

What can you say? Resolute defence and valiant effort count for nothing when the final scores are read. Moreso when the nature of the goals conceded was as frustrating as we all saw. Yet having contained our hosts for the vast majority of the opening period and only falling out of sight relatively late on, the contest always felt even. At least in terms of Brentford potentially hauling themselves back in to it. Had Bryan gone the other side of the post with the away support already cheering the equaliser, who knows what might have been? Instead, class eventually shone through and the game ended as comfortably as the scoreline and the statistics suggest.

Ah, yes. Class. Let’s not forget who we were up against. And where. A team second only to Manchester City in the race for the Premier League title. A transfer budget, spending power and sheer quality of playing staff. A stadium with three times the amount of supporters than is possible at Lionel Road.

At face value these were insurmountable odds but we gave it a damn good shot before administering the fatal blow ourselves. That’s not to be harsh. This was a huge learning curve and should Premier League football be on the agenda for next season (Liverpool do seem safe, to be fair) then this sort of experience will only stand us in good stead.   

The Brentford fans were magnificent, btw. What an atmosphere being generated at the away end. What a noise. Singing throughout and cranking it up as the game progressed. In contrast, The Kop less a 12th man as more a library. Certainly, by the sound of things. The fabled atmosphere very much muted for vast swathes of the game.

Keep it like that for Wednesday and who knows what could happen.

Special mention for the rail seating, btw. Everyone stands away from home, anyway, so nothing new there but great to see this legitimised. Hopefully more to follow in our own West Stand shortly off the back of a trial that is only going to get formal approval based on all the evidence seen so far.

The only thing probably worth being aware of as we progress our own drive towards this type of standing, being how anybody lacking in stature gets to see the game. Specifically the kids. Our Harry spent the opening period staring into the backs of the fans in front given, unlike a traditional terrace, there was no room to move. The obvious answer is to stand on the seat, which he did, much to the chagrin of two Brentford ‘fans’ behind him who then started taking photos and went crying to the stewards about it. This despite the eight year old’s head being lower than everyone else in the rest of our group. My word. Seriously? Hats off to the stewards, too, who after ten minutes of their nonsense told him to stand on the seat and get on with it. He wasn’t overly phased whilst all this was going on and, instead, spent the time asking why it was called The Kop rather than The Klopp.

Rail seating looks here to stay based on the evidence

On the other hand, it was so good seeing all the other friendly faces. Including Harry Potter, whom I still can’t get used to seeing in anything beyond his now absent Gunnersaurus coat (Burgundy is not the new green), and somebody who came ‘full Sherlock Holmes’. The good vibes culminating in a chorus of “We’ll race you back to London” as the Liverpool fans poured out before full time.

Overall, a result which was expected by many observers but despite pressure, pressure, pressure The Bees held strong for so long. Had Bryan’s second half chance gone in at 1-0 down well, it would have been dreamland for Brentford, wouldn’t it? It was inches wide of the post. And that…silenced the Kop.

RIP Tony Gubba.

See you all on Wednesday for Manchester United

Nick Bruzon

Get the f*@k in !! Now THIS is what it’s all about.

15 Jan

Well here we are at last. If the Premier League hadn’t been exciting enough so far, Brentford now go into a sequence of games that sees us go to Liverpool on Sunday, host Manchester United on Wednesday and then welcome back old friends Wolves on the Saturday. It is a week of fixtures that at one point in most supporter’s lifetime would have been nothing short of fantasy football. Now it is very real and now it is here. Not to mention the news out of Lionel Road yesterday about Pontus Jansson signing an extended contract. The club captain clearly relishing his time with The Bees following that move which took him from Leeds United to Griffin Park back in 2019.

We can only begin with all things Liverpool, of course. A Sunday afternoon 2pm kick off sees our first visit to Anfield since that 1989 FA Cup quarter final. Brentford, then, a Division three club for whom Andy Sinton, Keith Jones, Allan Cockram, Gary Blissett, Keith Millen and Terry Evans were amongst the players to make yours truly go dewy eyed even now. Checks Wikipedia – Neil Smillie is 63. Cripes – that’s how long ago it was. Yet it was a rare opportunity to step up in class.To continue that epic cup run that had already seen us beat Manchester City and then a fine fifth round win up at Blackburn Rovers.

What an afternoon it was.

Liverpool, of course, were next level. In general and on the day. Reaching the ground relatively late, we walked into an already full stadium to be greeted by a wall of noise and a teeming mass of supporters. The fans moving as one on the Kop at the far end of the stadium. I remember suddenly being hit by the sheer impossibility of the task ahead but also the excitement and the potential if, somehow, footballing fate were to smile on us. If David were to beat Goliath. And it almost happened.

“No Offside!! Cadette!!! Ohhh, he’s missed!! Sinton’s lovely little ball and Richard Cadette, top scorer with seventeen goals this season… how close did he come to putting this quarterfinal? Well, it would have been dreamland for Brentford, wouldn’t it? It was inches wide of the post. And that…silenced the Kop”.

Ahh, Tony Gubba. His immortal words with the score locked at 0-0 still ring in the ears. The chance still visible in the minds’ eye. An opening ten minutes with more action than you get in most games. Then Liverpool turned it up to 11. 1-0 at HT became 4-0 by the end. We did well to hang in there but eventually class told. We went back to West London and that was it for over thirty years. Until this season and that quite incredible 3-3 at Lionel Road.

The inflatable Bee may have gone but the photo from my last trip to Anfield remains

If the trip to Anfield had been a highlight in my life as a Brentford fan, then the Premier League game in September has now overtaken that. To see the two clubs competing on an equal footing. Both in the same division. Decades of ambition finally coming to fruition. The long, hard years having to explain that our team, largely unheard of outside TW8, were Brentford rather than Brentwood (in Essex ) now nothing more than a dusty relic from a previous time. To have my family with me and little H, the excitement painted all over his face in thick brushstrokes. His tears as they scored again. The screams of joy as we pulled them back. Again. Liverpool’s lead falling apart as easily as a Leeds United promotion campaign.

That’s what a Wissa equaliser for 3-3 does

Ahh, good times. Amazing times. But a memory to file alongside Anfield ’89. Now, we’ve the chance to make new ones. Thee points the priority against a Liverpool side shorn of their best player (Mo Salah on AFCON duty along with Sadio Mane and Naby Keita) yet still putting out a terrifyingly strong looking line up for Thursday’s League Cup semi with Arsenal. That one ended 0-0, against ten men. Stoic resistance does work. With the Bees enduring that horror show at Southampton on Wednesday, one so woeful it culminated in a hard hitting approach to the player performance review – the only way is up. There’s just no way we can defend that abysmally again. Whether playing Liverpool or Lincoln City. We were victims of our own lethargy. This time around things will be different. They have to be.

Thomas Frank has hinted that Rico Henry will be ready. Amazing if so but one can’t help but think these are nothing more than mind games and Manchester United will be when we see him back in action. The attacking potential and defence quality he brings is, of course, something that needs no expansion upon. We all know it. We all love him. We all hope there will be no gamble with fitness although if he IS ready then happy days. Roll on 1pm Sunday when the team is announced and we find out.

The other big call will be in nets. Does Jonas Lössl get a start or will Alvaro Fernandez keep his place? It always takes time for a new goalkeeper and defence to sync up whilst nobody could replace David Raya. It’s a task as impossible as following Fergie at Old Trafford. The manager rather than the Black Eyed Pea. Yet, equally, we all know that things have been up and down. Moments of brilliance – he arguably saved us two points late on at home to Aston Villa – have come alongside a frustrating lack of clean sheets. The only people smiling there being the marketing team at Dormeo as another  promotional mattress and duvet set gets to stay in the warehouse. Is it all down to him? What would you do? For me, Clive, there’s nothing to lose by making the change. Something needs to give after Southampton and I’m afraid most eyes will be pointing in the obvious direction – that last line of defence.

Look, I know nothing about football. Really. I love it, live it, breath it. But I’m not a coach. I’m not involveld in what happens. Like most of us, a peripheral figure on the outside looking in when it comes to team selection and actually knowing what goes on behind the scenes.  Everyone’s an expert and a tracksuit manager. Everyone’s a critic and its the easiest thing in the world to pour forth. Indeed, that’s all part of what makes it such a wonderful game. The conjecture. The discussion. The ongoing debate with friends. Listening to pundits and then shouting at the tv as to how wrong they are. 

Ultimately though, it comes down to Thomas Frank and his squad as to who our best eleven are on the day. Rico or Sergi. Jonas or Alvaro. Whomever we go with, this promises to be as loud and exciting an experience as they come. It shouldn’t have the feel of ‘big day out’. That was for 1989 and a one off experience. An amazing one but we were a different club then with different aspirations. These days Brentford have big new ambitions (sorry, sorry, sorry – couldn’t resist) and these upcoming games the Reds, Manchester United and Wolves will go a huge way towards telling us how realistic they are. Bring it on!!! See you there.

The other news was , of course, Pontus Janson and his contract extension. This is fantastic news. He’ll now be with us until the end of of next season after it was announced yesterday that he had put pen to paper. 

No word, of course, as to whether it was ‘that’ pen but one can only dream….

That biro

Nick Bruzon

A brutal evening ends with a reset needed for Sunday.

12 Jan

Where to even start with any of that ? Brentford were humped 4-1 at Southampton in a game that saw a sub-Burnley level of frustration. Even Vitaly Janelt comparing it to Brighton in his own post match comments to ‘official’. In a season packed with so many giddy highs, this truly was as moribund and frustrating an experience as they come. Moreso, given that on paper the return of Kris Ajer and a central midfield of Janelt, Norgaard and Baptiste should have given us as strong a heart as they come. Instead, there was no answer to the hosts combination of fast pressing and long balls forward. With Liverpool next up on Sunday, dial in even half as close a performance – and the word is used in the loosest sense – and we’re going to be in trouble. Regardless of who they have missing at the African Cup of Nations.

Thomas acknowledges the fans at Full Time

We’ve all seen it, I’m sure. Whether through being there, the re-run that began at 9pm or via the video highlights that are now online. Go dig them out, if you must. I have but wish I hadn’t. What felt painful last night looks even worse in the cold light of day. Southampton on top of us at all times and not giving Brentford any chance to breath. Pushing. Pressing. Chasing. Closing us down. Winning just about every second ball. The Bees adopting a much more zonal set up, in that we seemed to be playing in a different time zone. The fetid whiff of 2006/07 and Rosenior-Butcher hanging over the team like a bad smell. Defence awol. The freedom of Saint Marys being handed to our hosts time and again. My word, they punished us. Hard. 

The first goal conceded within minutes. A corner flicked over and through the entire Bees defence. Yes, it was a fast ball but nobody reacted. Nobody got close to even trying to attack it, Ivan Toney aside. He and Fernandez offering little resistance to Jan Bednarek. Urghhh. 

Yet then Brentford hit that little patch of hope. First Vitaly levelling up with the most exquisite left footed volley, his leg at right angles to the pitch, after picking out a ball from Bryan. Then, the same man forcing Fraser-Frster to go full stretch. Promising. Might we actually show the spirit seen so often? The fire and guts that hauled us back time and again when Liverpool came to visit? That roared us on to the last minute at West Ham? 

Err, no. Ibrahima Diallo ligning himself up for a shot on the edge of the box that was predictable as the outcome inevitable. Nobody charged him down or even tried. The merest of shrugs from Ethan as the ball went past another Fernandez dive that didn’t, quite, reach the ball (longer gloves needed? Better positioning?). Either way, he shouldn’t have been beaten on his inside post and even though saved by the post, the ball ricocheted straight into his hand and the back of the net. Urghhh. Hearts sank. Half time came. Surely we’d start at 100 mph? Surely?

Alas not. A long ball forward caught Pontus short. 3-1. A long ball forward caught Pontus short. 4-1. He wasn’t alone btw. The entire defence awol for most of the game. The nonchalant fannying around cross the box lucky not to hurt us further. A brief flurry at the end where Bryan, Wissa and Ivan came close was far too little, far too late.  An absolute 0 out of 10 performance from Brentford, even despite the ref moment of joy elicited by Vitaly’s goal  

The biggest challenge of all then being after full time and attempting to complete the usual post-match piece where we find the top five Brentford performers. Well, I’ve done it on the way home and you can find that here. Please do go take a look. Let us know who, if anyone , missed out or should  / could have been included.   

The positives, if we can, being that this was very much out of character. This is Premier League football where no game is easy. The gaps for a team off their game likely to be exposed even more easily than at any other level we’ve played before. Likewise, one absolutely needs to acknowledge Southampton’s desire. Their drive. Their refusal to give us an inch. The difference bing that when faced with this approach before (e.g . Chelsea, home) we’ve generally hung firm at the back and avoided the avalanche. Not this time. Oh for a T-Rex last night. Or a defence. Or the ability to take the ball to our opponents. 

It happened. Its over. It was one game. No matter how unpalatable it felt at the time. Let’s never talk of their goals ever again and, instead, hope Thomas can pick the boys up in time for Liverpool on Sunday. Hope he can give us the Brentford that travelled to Wolves and West Ham so wonderfully. Not this.

On the plus side, if Rasmus Ankersen was looking to impress his new consortium in charge at Southampton with talent they may be interested in then they’d have laughed him out the ground. The wonderful recruitment strategy he was so instrumental in at Brentford offered up nothing more than … well, we get it. No point dwelling further. The frustration around was evident last night. Having slept on it, one has to remember what this team can do when they are on it. 

Was Rasmus in the boardroom or on security?

Over to you Thomas. Can you get us back to our best for Liverpool?  One thing’s for sure, I can’t wait to find out. Bring it on and see you there.

In the meantime, that ‘heat of the moment’ post-match analysis is here. Go strap on a tin hat…

Nick Bruzon   

Jurassic Park !!! Crazy costume heralds ‘keeper return.

11 Jan

Game on. Brentford travel to Southampton this evening. Victory, should it be earned, will take us into the top ten. Any other result is not even an option being considered by yours truly. Optimism is high following a strong start to the year and some wonderful news off the training ground. We’ve got Liverpool (a) and Manchester United (h) to come after this one and an FA Cup fourth round tie at Everton. Immediately followed by the trip to Manchester City in the league. If Thomas Frank’s team ever wanted to be tested at the highest level then the opportunity is very much here in the next few weeks. First up though, the injury update.

Ordinarily we’d start with some reference to the Southampton game. Rightly so. It is the immediate focus but the news out of Brentford ‘official’ yesterday was jaw droppingly good. Not to mention laced with the simple question…. “Why?”

If ever some ‘Monday motivation’ (urghh – see also humpday Wednesday and Gameday Saturday) were needed then here it was by the bucketload. David Raya back in training. Or, rather, David Raya back in training but rocking up at Jersey Road in a T-Rex costume. Repeat, a T-Rex costume. To clarify, a dinosaur rather than a Mark Bolan corkscrew perm and dapper threads combo.

Jurassic Park !!!

Back on the grass? Or just the painkillers taking hold to inspire a remarkable return? If the smiles were broad at Jersey Road they were even bigger in cyberspace. The Brentford family as exited on Twitter about the next step in his return as his choice of unexpected training gear. It was one of those,  “What the actual…?” moments. One best just enjoyed. As much for his entrance as the sight of our number one looking as solid as one could hope in a shot stopping drill for the cameras.

Brentford official captured it in full. David’s idea, apparently. No idea why but you can’t deny its impressive. Not to mention making me wonder whether there is somebody else inside Buzzette at present if this is what he does as part of that journey back to full fitness?

Whilst a return to playing may be some way off still, just to see David doing his thing was a phenomenal boost. Kris Ajer’s return against Port Vale in the FA cup at the weekend had already given Bees’ fans a lift and then there was this. Yet just when things couldn’t get any better, they did. Thomas Frank using his press conference for the Southampton game to talk about Josh Dasilva. We’d all seen those pictures of him back in training last week but the news on a potential return was about as good as it gets for a player who has missed the entire Premier League campaign.

“I said to Josh the other day that he could be our best signing this year. I really hope he comes back in a fantastic place. Hopefully, five or six weeks if everything goes to plan and he could potentially be available”. That’s no time at all.

Granted, there was an understandable air of caution in the proviso that, “We need to build him very carefully and strong. He needs to have a proper pre-season to load him well. We can’t get too over-excited but everything has been fine so far. The medical staff have been fantastic and done a top job”. However, this suddenly feels close. Very close.

Josh was absolutely immense in the Championship and has already gone on to represent England U-21. With him and David back out there and Kris already in the team, it feels like we’ve had a transfer window hat trick without signing anyone. Just phenomenal news. Let’s not forget either that Josh is only 23. Whilst this absence has felt like an eternity, time is very much on his side when it comes it the future. Here’s to it being with Brentford.

Exciting news from the training ground

As for tonight, Southampton are no push-overs, that’s for sure. The challenge will be as tough as the aforementioned games with Liverpool, Manchester United and Manchester City. If not harder, given nobody outside of TW8 expects us to do anything against the teams from the North-West. Yet tonight, we are ahead of our hosts in the Premier League and are back to winning ways following the thing at Brighton. The comeback against Aston Villa was inspirational, with the pressure being cranked up to the nth degree until victory eventually came (even if the ultimate talking point remains Trezeguet’s theatrics at the death…).

So yes, we may be back in the zone but that still needs to come with the ultimate respect for who we are up against. Thomas would talk about their pressing and their drive.  “They go very front-footed and are at some stages the best high-pressing, energy team in the league. Then they have some key players; James Ward-Prowse is maybe the best set-piece taker in the league”.

He knows it. We know it. Sadly, there isn’t even time to parachute Ward-Prowse into my Fantasy Football team. A curse which worked so well against Aston Villa with the no-show from Ollie Watkins and two goals conceded by Ezri Konsa. Perhaps just an ‘any time’ goal scorer bet. Whilst it may mean missing out on a whopping £2.30, it could be the best pound invested given my own ongoing ineptitude when it comes to predicting football or winning bets.

Forget Wissa’s rocket – the Villa win was as much down to my own team selection

Still, whatever nonsense takes place in the build up, it all comes down to who Thomas starts and how they go? Can Kris Ajer force his way into the back three or will an appearance from the bench be part of his own, well planned return? Sergi Canos and Matthias Jensen are both available once more although I’d be amazed if Mads Roerslev misses out on the right. So it turns out to be a three-way fight between Dominic Thompson, Sergi or perhaps even the wildcard option of Saman Ghoddos on the left. Rico Henry is expected to be back for the weekend trip to Liverpool. With respect to the other three, the second he is fit then he will unquestionably go straight back in to the team.

As for the middle of the park, it has to be Janelt, Baptiste and Norgaard. Only injury to one of those will see Matthias Jensen force his way into the starting XI. They’re simply that good at present. Up top, Bryan alongside Ivan writes itself after the weekend. Albeit, we don’t know how much strength is in the legs after that short-term lay off. Roll on 6.46 when ‘official’ announce the team news.

Finally, just a thought about those who can’t make it at present. And no, this is not a reference to the ‘plastic’ fans who weren’t at Port Vale. Seriously? Personally speaking, I had a great time drinking a glass of wine on the couch with Mrs. B in front of the tv on Saturday. Sometimes, things have to give for any number of reasons – financial or otherwise.

Something which has come to a head for some of our own friends who sit alongside us in the North stand. If they are somehow reading (stranger things and all that) then know your presence has been sorely missed. Whilst we hope you are back soon, just look after yourselves and know that all in our group are thinking of you. Some of us miss games through choice. Others have less control over matters. It doesn’t make you any ‘less’ of a fan. Genuinely, I’d love a 100% attendance record but that’s just not always possible. At least I get a choice though. Take care and see you soon x

Until then, its on to Southampton. Safe travels to all that can make this one. See you there.

Nick Bruzon

The New Year started with a bang. Now, the games come thick and fast.

7 Jan

And so it begins again. Covid may have put paid to the traditional December fixture pile up but, instead, Brentford see the games coming thick and fast in January. We’ve got Port Vale in the FA Cup this Saturday, swiftly followed by a midweek trip to Southampton and then Liverpool away on Sunday week. That, in itself, a topic of huge contention as supporters were once again proven to be the second class citizens we so clearly are in the eyes of those pulling the strings. This is swiftly followed by the rearrangement of the home game with Manchester United (Wednesday 19 Jan). The one cancelled at the 11th hour after their covid outbreak. The one following the insipid performance at Norwich. Then, a fortnight after that FA Cup, we’ve the visit from Wolves in the league. As it stands. Who knows these days?

Another journey on the “Road to Wembley” begins

First up, the FA Cup. Thomas Frank has used his press conference to confirm that Kris Ajer will start that game. His return to fitness is magnificent news. Primarily for his own contributions so far this season, where he has hit the ground running despite the tougher challenge compared to the Scottish Premier league. His own comments about it being easy to make the step up from a division where you are expected to win even game have, so far, been proven. Brentford have most definitely been stronger with Kris in the team whilst his return is as welcome given the injuries still being felt by Zanka and Charlie Goode. All being well he comes out of this unscathed against opponents who will no doubt be going for the juggular. 

Their own recent battles with Covid and fixture congestion means that Vale are sure to start strong. Thomas telling the media that manager Darrell Clarke, “Needs a game for his starting XI. We know they like to play and attack but we will be ready for that.

Trying to help Brentford avoid slipping up on an FA Cup potato skin will be Bryan Mbeumo although for Rico Henry it is seen as “One step too early for Saturday”. Sergi Canos and Matthias Jensen also miss out although should be available for Southampton.

Whether either will start that game is another matter altogether. Janelt, Baptiste and Norgaard are the absolute three nailed on names for just about every Brentford fan, subject to fitness. Likewise, with Mads Roerslev in fine form down the right, it looks like a three way battle between Sergi, Dominic Thompson or even Saman Ghoddos until Rico is ready once more. The later in particular impressing against Aston Villa and breaking in to the top five performers in the post match player review.

The FA Cup is then followed by Southampton (a), Liverpool (a), Manchester United (h) and Wolves (h). Four Premier League games in 12 days. The sort of congestion we saw following lockdown one. Or was it two? The difference this time around being that fans will be present to roar us on. We all know what a difference the atmosphere makes with the crowd really helping drag the players back into that second half against Aston Villa. The visits of the ‘big’ clubs seeing things go nuts from the off and so expect the roof to be ripped off when we get a visit from possibly the biggest of all during this run. Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Our games with Wolves have always been special. Going neck and neck in both League One and the Championship over the last ten years, its been wonderful crossing paths once more in the top flight. Long may the duel continue. Especially if we pull out the result as we did up at Molineux earlier in the season. Another ice-cool penalty from Ivan Toney, a wonder tackle from Kris Ajer and a new pair of gloves for David Raya being the stand out moments from a fine win on the road.

Another round in the ongoing battle of Wolves v Bees approaches.

Before that is the rearranged trip to Liverpool (thoughts on which will likely be saved for the programme column for Manchester United) followed up by the visit from the Red Devils. Certainly two of the toughest fixtures in a back to back sequence of league games. One does have to wonder how they’ll cope with these two? The trip to Lionel Road to take on Brentford is followed by Man U then hosting a West Ham United side looking to consolidate their own, perhaps unexpected, challenge for that fourth Champions League spot. 

Two tough games but that’s their problem. For Brentford, it’s all about Port Vale (the ‘official’ build up is here) and Southampton. Perhaps with half an eye on Anfield. There’s a lot of excitement to come, that’s for sure. Beating Aston Villa was immense. Moreso after Trezeguet attempted to mug us off after channeling his inner Platoon late on. Instead, three points were earned and the Bees started the new year with a bang. Long may it continue. 

Here’s to a glut of football. See you there. Until then, here’s the only ‘highlight’ from last time out.

Nick Bruzon

Heroes and Villans at Lionel Road. Was this the worst dive ever?

3 Jan

Brentford are now half way through a first Premier League campaign that finds the Bees on 23 points and as close to the Champions League spots as we are the the relegation zone (a difference of 12 in either direction). The first game of 2022 seeing a 2-1 victory in a pulsating game with Aston Villa. A game where the Bees started weighed down by lethargy but ended it on fire. So much so that cringey last minute theatrics were brought into play but, thankfully, the officials were not fooled by the sniper in the crowd. Saman Ghoddos being a good yard away from Trézéguet as the Villa man pulled off the worst piece of acting since Mrs. Brown’s Boys graced our screens. A dive Tom Daley would have been proud of. Now, its onwards and upwards to Southampton and then Liverpool….

A sniper takes aim. Surely…..

Talk about a game of two halves. Brentford were awful at first. Slow. Disintersted. Leaden. One North stand observer would explain afterwards how she spent he first half hour doing her accounts on spreadsheet whilst her other half spent the time watching , well…. What he was watching was best summarised as: somebody from the world of music watching his son watching the flight tracker app on his mobile phone. I know Villa were hard to beat but it wasn’t that bad an opening period, was it?

A change in starting XI seeing Sergi in for Dominic Thompson (bench) and Mads Roerslev continuing at right wing back. Kris Ajer was, at least, on the bench with Mads Bech retaining his place in the middle. A midfield trio of Frank the Tank, Christian Norgaard and Matthias Jensen supporting Wissa and Ivan Toney up top. Shandon Baptiste making way. Only Mads Bech keeping us in it during a ghastly first 40 minutes.

Danny Ings produced the opening goal with little more than a quarter hour gone. Emi Buendia, our scourge of last season, producing a moment of absolute brilliance in the middle of the park to open up the Brentford midfield and release Ings. The Aston Villa man making no mistake with an inch perfect drive that squeezed between the despairing finger tips of Alvaro Fernandez and the far post. 1-0 Villa and it could, probably should have been more. Brentford not at the races. Or perhaps we were, because we certainly weren’t at a flat feeling Lionel Road.

Then, the game exploded into life with half-time beckoning. Mads Roerslev exchanging passes with Jensen and then breaking forward down the right. An inch perfect ball across the face of the box found Wissa. One touch, control and then a left footed curler guided home with laser like precision. Martinez in goal left with no hope. That trademark celebration igniting the crowd and his team mates from their slumbers.

Watched this on MOTD2 a few times 🙂

As we’ve said many, many times  – possession and chances are all well and good but the only thing that truly counts is the amount of times the ball has hit the back of the net. Aston Villa should have been out of sight. Instead, it was Steven Gerrard rather than Thomas Frank smashing the tea cups as the opening period ended up 1-1. Brentford with a solitary effort but what a way to take it. What a way to come back to life.

From that point on it was game over. Thomas Frank’s substitutions just heaping the pressure on. First the determined Ghoddos. Here was a man playing for his chance against Southampton. Then Baptiste who gave a masterclass in midfield. His partnership with Norgaard a constant thing of beauty. Chuck in Vitaly for a late cameo and it ended about as good as it can from a playing perspective (certainly, given the options available at present). Then, Mads Roerslev cemented his place in history. Became our 11th Premier League goal scorer.

With 83 minutes gone, Shandon played it into the box on the diagonal. The overlapping Roerslev leathered it at Martinez who could only push it back into the wing back’s path. There was no mistake with that second bite of the cherry. If Lionel Road had erupted for Wissa, the roof was positively torn off this time around. Oh, my. What a moment. What a sound. What a feeling. What a win, we hoped….

It’s Brentford, innit. Another 7(seven) minutes plus a further five of injury time added on saw Martinez charging up for the last few corner kicks. It had been bad enough against Leeds. Surely lightning couldn’t strike twice? Surely?

It didn’t, as much thanks to the alertness of the officials after Trezeguet had channelled the spirit of Rivaldo as one magnificent save from Alvaro Fernandez. How Ings didn’t level I have no idea but there was our ‘keeper to keep it out at point blank range. The spirit of Elland Road well and truly exorcised.

Fairplay to Villa. They deserved more than their nothing based on effort. One can only imagine the words had Dean Smith been at the helm still. But football hangs on moments. Hangs on goals scored. The simple truth is that Brentford seized theirs and stopped the visitors doing the same. It may have been scrappy at times but there was no disputing the quality of the goals or the phenomenal second half effort. Had we been scuppered by Trézéguet’s blatant cheating late on there may well have been a riot. Thankfully, justice was done.

Next up, the FA Cup trip to Port Vale and then back to back away games in the League. Southampton first and then Liverpool. With the African Cup of Nations seeing the Anfield outfield denied a galaxy of starts, could we be hopeful of taking a minimum four points from these two games? Who knows? Play like we started yesterday and we’ll be coming home from both empty-handed. Play like we finished it and anything is possible…..

The player review is up now and you can find that here. Until then, nothing more to do but reflect on a job well done. The table doesn’t lie. Nor does the scoreline. We’ve been hard done by at home this season when playing out of our skins (Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City in particular). For once, it was nice to see that despite a woeful start, chances can be taken. Points can be earned.

Well played all round. Until then, here’s that dive……..

Nick Bruzon