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Bees make Walsall pact as Lee signs off at Bolton

1 Dec

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

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The club announced Dean Smith as new head coach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you, Lee !!

Lee Carsley MOTM

Lee steps down with an impressive record

Nick Bruzon

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

29 Nov

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

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

Cliff post MOTM 2014 interview

Cliff Crown – remains Chairman ahead of Matthew !

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nick Bruzon

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

28 Nov

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Billy on Lee

 

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

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

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

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

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

Nick Bruzon

 

And the new manager of Brentford is….

27 Nov

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The club Twitter feed shows Jota back in action – phew

Nick Bruzon

And the winner is….announced very early but fully deserved

6 Nov

Brentford fans have woken up to the news that Saturday’s game against Blackburn Rovers has just been made all that harder. This, after Lee Carsley pipped Steve Bruce of Hull City, amongst others, to the much coveted ‘Manager of the Month’ award for October. And whilst, of course, Lee deserves nothing but the hugest congratulations, the associated ‘jinx’ that comes with it (scoop the award, lose your next game) will be something he needs all his powers to overcome.

Spoiler alert - its a Bees double for October

Spoiler alert – its a Bees double for October

Considering Lee’s long-term reluctance to take on this sort of role, one can‘t deny the impact he has had although, equally, he is quick to recognise the help provided by his assistant, Paul Williams. In an article that went live on the official site in the small hours of Friday morning (somebody may have been reading at 1.35am ) he said, “If I could cut the award in half, he would get the other half. I see this as a reward for a great team effort over the month.”

Whoever gets the kudos, to be recognised in such a fashion just five weeks after taking over from Marinus is an incredible achievement. The transformation has been a stunning one whilst, whatever else happens this season, Lee has guided us to victory over our fiercest rivals.

Whilst the jinx worthy amongst us may now be worried about what comes next on Saturday, the oft-quoted stat regarding the post-award defeat is one that has, to be fair, bypassed Brentford in recent years. Both Uwe and Warbs (twice) have managed to dodge it. Could Lee continue that trend at Blackburn?

Well, Brentford supporters will be hoping that October’s player of the month is available to help him with this challenge.

Alan Judge made it a Brentford double, picking up the onfield prize. And if Steve Bruce thought he might have had a shout for the managerial top spot after Hull City had stormed to the top of the Championship table, nobody could have disputed Alan’s reward.

Three goals and four assists have seen the Bees firing on all cylinders and the opposition left very much in his wake. His absence was definitely felt in Tuesday night’s game against Hull, such is the impact he has had. The club’s YouTube video, whilst ending on a precautionary note about his potential availability for this weekend, sees the Judge in enthusiastic form talking about the month just gone.

Congratulations due to Alan.

Whatever happens this weekend and this month, the season has a long way to go. Lee Carsley and his back room team have done a stunning job in reversing our fortunes. Regardless of results, it is as much the way we are playing football.

With the likes of Josh McEachran, Jota and Lewis Macleod due to return to first team fitness soon, that style of football is one we could be set to enjoy even more.

Nick Bruzon

Matthew Benham swings the axe as Marinus waves goodbye

28 Sep

On Saturday he finally gave us a wave. Little did Bees fans realise it would turn out to be a wave goodbye. Just a day before we entertain Birmingham City, and hot off the heels of that agonising last minute defeat to Sheffield Wednesday, Brentford have parted company with head coach Marinus Dijkhuizen (along with his assistant Roy Hendriksen).

‘Parted company’ – presumably the diplomatic term for ‘sacked’ – is something which has taken pretty much everybody (Marinus included) by as much surprise as his original signing. But was it the right move?

Marinus - all over after less than four months

Marinus – all over after less than four months

A record of four defeats in the opening eight league games, along with the League cup humiliation at home to Oxford United, was hardly the stuff of a solid start. Moreso, given the high on which we finished the last campaign – almost pulling off a shock promotion to the Premiership.

But there were so many factors outside of his control. The atrocious pitch, which eventually saw the Birmingham City game postponed, hardly augured well. Then there were the injuries – how could one person be so unlucky? Josh McEachran was broken before he even played a game. Jota was crocked by Dougie in the season opener. Andreas Bjelland lasted 45 minutes before being written off for the season whilst Maxime Colin, who offered so much in such a short space of time, was yet another to fall foul of the training ground ‘jinx’.

Combine this with the loss, through transfer, of Stuart Dallas, Moses Odubajo and the free scoring Andre Gray to really see just how hard we’ve been hit from a personnel perspective.

Equally, Marinus just wasn’t Mark Warburton. Whoever followed the (now) Rangers manager was on a hiding to nothing. Warbs reeked of popularity with the vast majority of Brentford supporters. His success after taking over from Uwe was there for all to see whilst the dignified manner in which he carried himself after February’s ‘Village-gate’ affair only strengthened that bond further.

Warbs - had huge success, even if no Plan B, at Griffin Park

Warbs – had huge success, even if no Plan B, at Griffin Park

But if Warbs had the supporters in the palm of his hand, the apparent lack of touchline body language from Marinus was the polar opposite and made it hard for some fans to bond with him.

Ultimately, it is results that count. Not only had we lost 5 out of 9 competitive fixtures but to fall behind in all but one of them tells it’s own story. The negative brand of possession-based football was frustrating to watch – moreso when that possession was largely in our final third at the expense of genuine attacking intent.

When Marinus pushed the team up we looked a threat – the problem was it took so long to get there. Yet there must have been enough to persuade Matthew Benham to bring him to Griffin Park in the first place. And having spotted this, why end the arrangement so quickly? Surely he would have known what he was going to get?

Was it the results? The very open arrangement he had with the press where the refreshingly honest answering of questions was everything we’d come NOT to expect from a football manager? Or were words exchanged behind the scenes?

I doubt we’ll know for a while, if at all. The club’s opening statement revealed little whilst the subsequent follow up from Chairman Cliff Crown focused more on his successor until the end of the season, Lee Carsley, rather than any real explanation.

The one positive to take from all of this is that we didn’t have a repeat of last season where rumours of a parting of the ways with Mark Warburton were at first ignored, then rebuffed in the bizarre ‘village’ statement before eventually being confirmed a few days later. Although the news has been handled with all the subtlety of a breezeblock, at least this has been dealt with quickly. Moreso given the simultaneous availability of Steve Evans.

Steve Evans - no longer at Rotherham

Steve Evans – also all the subtlety of a breezeblock

I feel desperately sorry for Marinus. He came across as a genuinely likeable bloke and has seen the pitch, and squad, fall apart around him. His press conferences and post match interviews were compelling stuff but, in the end, that wasn’t enough.

Instead, Lee Carsley takes charge and in that wonderful symmetry that football so often throws up, his first game will be against former club Birmingham City.

Life is never dull at Griffin Park, that’s for sure. Now, what price a second home win of the season on Tuesday night? (6/5, for the record).

Nick Bruzon