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Could we have to make any tougher a decision? What a choice awaits.

25 Apr

Monday really was a day that saw us entering the final days of the current Championship campaign. Newcastle United confirmed their return to the Premier League, although the battle with Brighton to see which of the teams who achieved automatic promotion will be crowned champions is one which will could still go down to the final round of games. And on the subject of winning titles (oh, the subtly) Brentford have officially opened voting for the 2016/17 player of the year.

We all know what’s happened at Griffin Park this season. The second half of the campaign especially has seen some of the most free flowing and exciting football to be played by Brentford in years. This, despite the sale of top scorer Scott Hogan to Aston Villa in January.

Yet following that move, the Bees have flourished. Lasse Vibe has moved to within one strike of the former Bee in the Championship leading scorer’s table, with Jota just behind. Ah, Jota. To say he has had an eventful return to Griffin Park would be like saying the Titanic had a few stability issues.

Few of us honestly thought he’d be back after heading out to Eibar on loan, myself included. And even when there was talk of a possible return, being quite honest there was no way he could match former glories. Especially with the weight of expectation on his shoulders. Was there?

He hasn’t just matched them but taken his, and our, game to a whole new level. We’ve all seen the goals, the runs and the beautiful touches that have left opposition players floundering. Richard Keogh (Derby County) and Jake Bidwell (QPR) being just the latest to have been left with egg on face .

Yet Jota seems to play for pure pleasure. Something that could also be said of fellow Spaniard Sergi Canos out on the other wing. His return to Brentford has been an equally wonderful one.

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Danni showed perfectly how Twitter can be used to capture the current mood.

Then there are the new boys. Rico Henry has hit the ground running at 100mph whilst John Egan’s performance have propelled him toward selection for the Republic of Ireland. Romaine Sawyers has scored some stunners whilst, at times, totally bossed the midfield. His defence splitting passes are a thing of absolute beauty whilst Saturday against QPR saw me wondering if he had no fear, no danger sense or just supreme confidence – such were the deft touches and trickery he demonstrated.

How about Dan Bentley? What can you say about him beyond a huge doffing of the hat? The prospect of losing David Button was one that genuinely worried me but he’s not even been missed, such is the huge impact Dan has made. You could probably count the mistakes on the fingers of one finger yet the world class saves have been legion. He kept us alive on more than one occasion at the start of the season as the team found our collective feet and, right up to Saturday, has continued to pull top draw saves out of the bag.

As for the (metaphorical) elder statesmen, it really is a case of unsung heroes. Ryan Woods has, at times, seemed to be filling three midfield roles in his constant quest to tackle and distribute. He really is a serious contender for this season’s honour. Yoann Barbet has proven just why he was picked out in our new look recruitment drive with wonderful tackles and a fair few goals being added to his game. Pity Dean Smith having to pick between him, John Egan and Harlee.

Ah, Harlee Dean. The player on a one man mission to become the new Mr Brentford. He has been incredible. A colossus at the back this season, up there with the likes of Terry Evans. He’s had to learn his game over the last few seasons but now it is complete, just what a player. The tackles, the voice, the leading by example, the goals, the back heels (hmm, maybe not too many of those). He’s doubled up as a last minute target man whilst those driving runs forward have been a wonderful development to his style of play.

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Harlee – has led by example all season. A fine role model.

What about Nico? Josh? Max Colin? Any of them. It really is a tough call this time around. Reading the Ben Burgess article in the match day programme on Saturday, he was bemoaning the fact that so much player of the year voting takes place in February. Certainly, for the national awards. Yet this despite the season still having a third of the way to go.

It really was fascinating piece and, from a personal perspective, Ben’s column has been one of the standout features in the match day programme this time around. What an honour for the club to have some truly intelligent writing on the back page !

Well Ben, when it comes to Brentford you have your wish. The only question now being who to vote for. Good luck anybody trying to pick one out of those. And for those wishing to have their say, ‘official’ have the full details and form on the club website.

As for next season, the Championship has been nothing more than a one shot deal for Newcastle United. The Rafalution has been a triumphant one (despite the awful, awful hashtag) and at least we can rest easy in not needing to pack the mountaineering gear next campaign. Massive congratulations to the Magpies and, of course, Brighton for what was a supremely exciting battle.

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Worst. Hashtag. Ever. But a great performance from Newcastle United

Despite being Bookies’ favourites, Newcastle haven’t had it all their own way with pundits being reminded, yet again, that the Championship isn’t the cake walk a big club might expect. Aston Villa, we’re looking at you. Indeed, even the title looks a long way off with a four point deficit and two games to play keeping the Magpies just about alive in that race. Whilst you’d fancy the Seagulls to scoop the title, anything can happen in football and nobody at Griffin Park needs any reminders about what can happen in the final promotion shootout. I’m pretty sure there was something about a penalty?

Instead, they look certain to be replaced by Sunderland and Middlesbrough, at the very least. The trip to Sunderland one already being anticipated by many at Griffin Park whilst Middlesbrough will be very familiar territory.

Still, all that’s for another time. We’ve got two more games and a higher finish than last season to focus on. And, of course, deciding on just who to vote for.

I now know what my decision is, but I don’t fancy yours much. What a choice.

Nick Bruzon

Newcastle United share a pain that Brentford know so well as Keith does his thing once more.

6 Apr

Keith Stroud. A name to strike fear into football fans up and down the land has done it again. Of course, at Brentford we are well aware of the card happy man in black’s past form. Now Championship table toppers Newcastle United are the latest club to fall foul of his obsession with random decision making in last night’s game with Burton Albion.

Who could forget the infamous battle of Bramall Lane? Rather than a League One promotion shootout between the Bees and Sheffield United, it was another game that turned into the Stroud show. “The maddest game of football that ever existed” said Mark Burridge after that one as it finished with three red cards shown, four penalties awarded and 12 players booked (8 alone in the first half). That the Bees came out of it with a point,despite playing most of the second half with 9 men, was more down to our own character than any protection from the referee.

It was a game which, to the casual observer, would suggest one akin to the titular battle. In reality it was nowhere close to that, with the hardest fought contest being that between Stroud’s ego and the frustration of both sets of supporters.

Whilst he’s never topped that moment in Sheffield, his name is one that still brings an almost audible wince of negativity (should such a thing be possible) whenever he is announced as a referee for a forthcoming game. His card ratio alone is, season on season, higher than just about any other official to take charge at Griffin Park . The current campaign has seen him show an incredible 171 yellows and sent off 12 players during his 39 games officiated. Only Uber have more bookings than Stroud, it seems.

Then, last night happened. With Newcastle United hosting Burton Albion in a league fixture (a phrase in itself which bears more than a moment’s consideration) they were awarded a penalty. With Matt Ritchie subsequently finding the back of the net for 1-0, Stroud struck. Social media went into meltdown as , for reasons unknown, rather than declaring the goal he chalked it off and gave a free kick to Burton.

This was later revealed to be for what Mr Stroud considered encroachment into the box by Dwight Gayle. Whilst the rules of the game dictate that the spot kick should be retaken in such a circumstance, Keith’s head and the rules of the game are not things that always see eye to eye,

Unfortunately the referee has misapplied the law. Keith and his team are understandably upset at the lapse in concentration and apologise for the mistake,” said a referee’s spokesman afterwards. Hmmm. Sorry about that folks. Imagine the furore had things then turned out differently to the eventual 1-0 home win for Newcastle?

I do feel sorry for Keith in many ways. To give credit, his recent performances officiating for Brentford have, by and large, been relatively restrained with no real controversy. He even changed his mind in our favour upon the advice of an assistant during the recent reverse at home to Wolves.  So we know he can do it. Unfortunately, there are so many games that see the other side of Keith.

The flamboyant flourish of a red card. The turning his back on a player he has just admonished. The random bookings and decisions offered out at a level not seen since Uriah Rennie. Yet he has been allowed to continue unchecked. Nobody has had a word and, instead, he has become almost a cult character. But for the wrong reasons.

People now expect bookings and oddity when Keith is in charge. People go into the game on edge. When he has a good one there’s a sense of relief more than a sense of pride. Season on season his statistics speak for themselves but no real action is taken to reign him in. Football isn’t that consistently dirty a game, except in Keith’s head.

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Keith Stroud – we all know the drill

Equally though, last night bears additional scrutiny. This was no heat of the moment decision. This wasn’t a foul that needed to be replayed in the head. It was a basic rule of football that he got backwards in the most glaring of styles. But what about his assistants? Was no support given ? No advice offered? Or was this a case where Keith’s rule was law?

Let’s be clear, I’d hate to be a referee. Balls of steel and skin as thick as rhino’s are the pre-requisites. With players, journalists and fans all thinking they know better the ref is only ever on a hiding to nothing. He clearly loves what he does although, whilst I’d hate to see any serious sanction as a result, that’s no justification for allowing anyone to run around unchecked.

Will Keith ever change? Unlikely. Will the FA do anything? Expect a week’s demotion to the lower leagues and then business as usual.

Yet, out of all this, Keith may wake up this morning and look himself in the mirror. You never know. Perhaps this will be the catalyst that triggers some self-reflection and a reigning in of Keith the card.

We know he can do it. We’ve all seen him have good games. Why not just go back to being the anonymous man in the middle rather than the reputational nightmare he has allowed himself to become.

Can a leopard change his spots? You never know.

 

Nick Bruzon

Mark Burridge wins Twitter for the day as Brentford prepare for trip to Ipswich Town

3 Mar

Roll on Saturday. Brentford travel to Ipswich Town looking to make it three wins in a row whilst, at the same time, building on a ‘goals scored’ record that has seen us find the net 16 times in the last 6 games. The last of which saw that smile inducing hat trick from Jota (just think of it and tell me you aren’t still grinning). And those of you up early may have spotted something on Twitter from the midweek win for Newcastle United at Brighton, c/o of our commentator par excellence Mark Burridge.

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View from the Braemer – unadulterated joy from Jota and the team on Saturday

But we can only start with Brentford and Ipswich Town. Last season saw a 3-1 win for Brentford at Ipswich, in a game that was marred by Luke Hyam’s horrific lunge through Alan Judge. It was a foul subsequently defended by Tractorboy’s boss Mick McCarthy who, even given time to reflect , made no attempt to reconsider his opinion.

Hyam was shown a yellow for the assault on Judge which broke his leg, ruled him out of EURO 2016 and 11 months later still sees him nowhere close to a first team return. The Ipswich man was eventually shown a second yellow for going at Ryan Woods just before half time.

Dean Smith’s suggestion that he had been  “a bit naughty” and deserved straight red prompted a somewhat bizarre reply in which McCarthy noted, “I’m disappointed if he’s said that. I don’t think it is. I think he’s won the ball. I’ve actually complained to the referee as to why it’s a booking if he’s won the ball. I don’t think it’s naughty at all. That surprised me and disappoints me if he’s said that, but we all have opinions”.

Hyam hasn’t featured this time around but don’t expect anything different from Mick and his team. If not career threatening injuries, certainly a side who are robust in the challenge and have lost the form that has seen them threatening the play offs in previous campaigns. Instead, a squad that contains Jonathan Douglas and Toumani Diagouraga have seen their stock fall and sit below Brentford in the league table.

As for Brentford, there’s been more than a touch of Keegan-era Newcastle United about us in recent weeks. Dean’s return to picking a four man defence has seen goals aplenty, at both ends. Is kamikaze football better than the turgid possession game? Absolutely. Is it just a matter of time before the team re-adjust to both their ‘new’(traditional) system and new faces  such as Flo Jo and Sergi ? I have no doubt. Which of those two Dean starts with on Saturday will be tough choice but, like Justin Shaibu, the impact made from the bench by the Spaniard was clear for all to see.

Harlee Dean has flourished in recent months. He really has been indispensable, both at the back and going forward. He’ll be missed in his second game out following his tenth yellow, but it gives Andreas Bjelland  and John Egan a chance to really give Dean another selection headache. Along with Yoann Barbet, we really have been blessed with centre backs – the trick for Dean being which combination to pick and which players to sit alongside them.

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Suspension saw Harlee spending Saturday very much put of position

And there’s another thing. Rico Henry. He’s barely featured on these pages since, finally, making his debut in the 2-1 win up at Sheffield Wednesday. Rico, if you are reading (you aren’t) I can only apologise.  Commentators and supporters alike were left enthusing about his performance. Those who saw him in the flesh against Rotherham could only agree. Pace, skill, tricks and tackles. In abundance.

Tom Field has been magnificent at left back but Rico really has thrown down a gauntlet. In doing so, he has shown just why the statistical model has identified a second Dean Smith ex-player as one we should move for.

As for Romaine Sawyers, his killer ball through for the goal to complete Jota’s hat-trick showed just why our head coach must have been smiling when ‘the model’ threw up his name over the summer. Like Brentford, consistency has been the main problem here in a tricky first season but we’ve nobody who can split a defence like Romaine when he is on his A game.

Rotherham, like Sheffield Wednesday, saw him very much a fish out of water. The ‘false 9’ formation is not one that we’ve been overly comfortable with and Saturday was the archetypal example. A set up that looked good on paper pre kick off clearly wasn’t working and Dean Smith really should have rescued his man earlier.

As for the experts, the bookies see Brentford as 39/20 to win this one whilst ‘over 2.5 goals’ is evens. And for those of you with a penchant for curse of the ex-player (as so ably demonstrated by John Swift at Reading) Toumani is 15/2 to score at any time. Whilst the big man was only the bench last time out, football being football then surely that’s where the smart money is?

Calling the shots will be Mark Burridge, as ever. With travel chaos expected thanks to the rail service, could Beesplayer be the best place to catch up on the action? Whilst there is no substitute for being there, the thought of spending the afternoon with Mark and his team is a tempting one. If for no other reason than we can expect quick off the mark observations from our man at the mic.

Does he ever sleep? Is his attention permanently tuned in to all things Brentford and Greyhounds ? We alluded to an early morning social media spot at the start of the article and sure enough, Mark / Newcastle United delivered.

Nice one Mark . Here’s to more zingers on Saturday. And goals.

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Nick Bruzon

Could we go one better with next season’s third shirt? A groundbreaking opportunity awaits.

5 Feb

Finally. 24 hours after the majority of our Championship rivals, Brentford get the chance to get back into action. And what a test it will be, against league leaders Brighton and Hove Albion. Although, of course, that should now read ‘former’ league leaders after Newcastle United regained top spot on Saturday.

With third place Reading also picking up a point yesterday afternoon, the pressure will be on the Seagulls to really go for broke. Brentford, of course, will be looking to build upon Tuesday night’s tonking of Aston Villa. We looked at the forthcoming challenge in the previous column which you can find here.

However, today I wanted to mention the Football v Homophobia (FvH) campaign. Don’t worry, this is no attempt at cod moralising or patronising anybody. The last thing anybody needs, the LGBT community especially, is an article that goes all preachy.

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Yet with February being designated the international month of FVH, today’s game with Brighton has been selected in support of the campaign. You can read more about this on Brentford official where the article notes that as many as 72% of fans have heard homophobic abuse at football matches.

Thankfully, and as we’ve mentioned many times before, at Brentford this would seem to be very much the exception rather than the rule. Aside from an odd incident at Newcastle United this season from a few of the visiting fans, this isn’t anything I’ve encountered before. Home or away. It’s just one of the many reasons I’m glad I can bring my son,family and friends to Griffin Park.

And so, despite no real issue of homophobia at Brentford, the club continue to back the campaigns and make all the right noises. We support the rainbow laces promotion, print the statements on the website whilst the excellent matchday programme will, no doubt also contain similar messages today. Likewise, we also have the @LGBT_Bees group on Twitter who are well worth a follow.

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Harlee Dean shows his support earlier in the season

Yet, equally, it does sometimes feel a little bit like lip service and some clubs going through the mentions. That’s no disprespect to Brentford, who certainly push the right buttons, but more an observation about football in general. How do a club really nail their colours to the mast? Or, rather, their kit?

German club VfL Bochum have long been noted amongst supporters for their late 90s kits, which sported the rainbow colours so closely associated with the LGBT community on one half of the chest. Yet whatever the connotations of this colour scheme, this  was no precursor to the FvH campaign.

Instead it was a case of taking sponsorship to Coventry City levels (the Sky Blues famously attempting to bypass football regulations by incorporating Talbot’s ’T’ directly into their early 80’s kit design). The rainbow colour scheme was actually that of club sponsors Faber, who ran the German lottery. However well meaning this shirt may be considered by the casual observer, it was chosen for nothing more than commercial gain.

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The Bochum kit (with Faber logo inset)

But it did get me thinking. Why not introduce the rainbow colours to a shirt? Even just for one match ? Event specific shirts are hardly uncommon these days and it would be a wonderful way to bring awareness to a new level. Nobody could deny the that the Bochum effort got people talking, even if for the wrong reasons.

One can only presume that contractual / commercial reasons would probably get in the way of such an enterprise before it got off the drawing board. Yet if any club and Adidas wanted to lead the way in throwing their support behind the FvH campaign, then what a groundbreaking way to do it? Even if just by tweaking the colour scheme on the famous shoulder stripes?

Bochum have shown this could be done, albeit by accident. How about Brentford do it for real ?

I’d be proud to wear this or some similar variant. Even if it was for one night only.

Would you?

 

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Could this be in Bob’s locker next season?

Nick Bruzon

In Matthew we trust. Whatever happens over the next two weeks.

15 Jan

Newcastle United left Griffin Park with all three points last night and nobody can deny them that. They scored twice. Brentford scored once. Newsflash: that’s how football works. Yet even in defeat, I woke up this morning (duh-duh-duh-duh-duhh) full of positivity. As, it would seem, have the vast majority of those out in cyberspace. This, despite losing a game and the prospect of our star man on his way to West Ham/other after Dean’s strange decision in regards to team selection.

Thoughts on that were published in yesterday evening’s post match article. Worth a look purely for the ever eloquent views of Bernard Quackenbush in the comment’s section. And Bernard, if you are reading, then that special guest slot remains yours should you ever want to go ‘full fat’ on the column (not a euphemism).

Looking across Facebook and Twitter (other sources are also available) there is a lot of pride out there today at how well Brentford played. There is huge recognition of how well Lasse Vibe performed up top. Perhaps the immediate answer for when Scott is sold is sitting right under our noses. There is huge regret at the fact that Jota couldn’t quite complete his moment of magic in the 90th minute.

If not for the well deserved point that we would have scored but the sheer and unadulterated moment of mutual celebration that the 10,000 home supporters would have shared. Jota. In the last minute. After the Bees had been knocking on the door all second half. Just imagine the sheer ecstasy had he found the back of the net in such circumstances…

Even Mark Burridge has posted on facebook this morning to say that the game, “Was a pleasure to commentate on, Marcus, Mick and I really enjoyed it….had the last minute Jota goal happened then I feel the stadium would have erupted.”

Eruption probably the understatement of the decade.

So it is a morning of regret. But lovely regret. Disappointment yet in the nicest way. Honestly, I’m struggling to explain it properly. We lost. It’s normally the cause for a moan about not creating enough chances and, had we, then things might have been different. But yesterday we played. And we played so well. No pressure Dean, but a bar has been raised after outperforming the league leaders for huge periods.

As for Scott Hogan, well I’ve see some nonsense out there today. He didn’t come out for the second half. He didn’t warm up, his attitude sucks. Allegedly. Utter garbage.

If you want bad attitude then look at Dimitri Payet or Diego Costa. Scott has done nothing but carry on doing his thing when selected. Just look at the Birmingham game when rumours had long been gathering. You can’t blame the player for the manager’s decisions to declare him available, to not start him and then to not bring him off the bench.

We’ll sell him at some point, no question. But once the price is right. Standing outside The Griffin yesterday evening, Matthew Benham and his family walked past. “Don’t sell Hogan…” shouted one supporter . “Unless the price is right” , added another.

The response was immediate: “I’m holding out”. Anybody thinking they’ll get a cut price deal might do well to remember this isn’t the Brentford of old.

We’ll reinvest, but once the players are right (Hello? Operator? Can I have the number for Norwich City please?)  The likes of Tom Field, who had another great game yesterday, and Josh Clarke have already shown we have strength within the deeper squad. Chris Mepham has now had his debut whilst Jota is back and Rico Henry has still to show us what he can do. Alan Judge gets closer to fitness each day although perhaps that is a dream too far? Or is it?

One thing Matthew has shown is he loves to surprise us. Who would ever have thought Marcello Trotta would return after the rarely mentioned penalty incident? Yet return he did as he not only won back the fans after the lowest of lows but his goals then inspired us to that wonderful promotion.

They celebrated like they’d won the FA Cup”. Not my words but those of Russell Slade after that incredible Lunchtime at Leyton Orient. Trotta scored the winner that day yet, but for Mathew’s shock decision, we’d never have seen him in Brentford colours again. But for Matthew’s decision who knows what might have happened that season?

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Marcello – Matthew brought him back despite everything

Whatever happens with Scott Hogan, anybody doubting the player’s attitude should probably take a step back. Anybody doubting that a decision made will be for the long term good of the club and the team might want to consider how the side has ebbed, flowed and transformed over the years.

Co-director of football Rasmus Ankersen, made that famous quote back in September 2015, telling supporters that “The goal is to get stronger after each transfer window”. Being honest, it has never quite felt as though we are stronger in the immediate short term yet this team and this squad keep going.

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Perhaps this is as much through long term injury. As Andre Gray was doing his thing, Scott was undergoing that long, long recuperation. Imagine a team with those two together?  Now we have Rico Henry and Lewis Mcleod out for most of the season. Yet this has given others the chance to shine and I can’t imagine Tom Field giving up his place without a fight once the former Walsall man is fit again.

I’m bored of people getting overly critical about the make up of the squad or our long term direction. And that includes myself. How that squad is managed is a different issue altogether but Dean Smith showed yesterday we have players who can do it.

We came close. We lost. But we impressed. Can Dean get us to go one better? Can we get a repeat of our last away performance when we travel to Wigan next weekend? And then there’s the small matter of Chelsea away.

Whoever is picked, it’s a great time to be a Brentford fan. We’re fast approaching our fourth season in the Championship with a wonderful opportunity to cause an incredible cup upset. I’ve said it before but need to say it again. That’s just bonkers. Moreso, for those of us who have been here for sometime.

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Mike Ashley and Cliff Crown yesterday – Brentford now mixing it with the big boys

Anybody who doubts how far we’ve come just needs to look at yesterday’s match day programme. Part one of Mark Chapman’s piece on the failed takeover attempt by QPR is well, well worth a read to remind ourselves of what once might have been.

I disagree with how Dean handled Scott yesterday. A poor decision. One of the B-team should have been recalled. But I admire his trust in Lasse and how good to see that rewarded.

Who knows what will happen over the next two weeks? It might not be pretty. It might not be pleasing. Yet one can only trust in everything that has gone before and the way we are continuing to build for our long term future.

Now, who’s got shovel ? There’s a stadium to build.

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The programme this season has been quality – credit to Mark Chapman

Nick Bruzon

Unlucky Bees end day with nil points but loads of positive Vibes. Is Scott Hogan on the way?

14 Jan

What an afternoon. What a game. How Brentford emerged from that with nothing is one we’re still chewing over hours after the referee blew the final whistle. How Newcastle United got away with all three points remains a mystery after a backs to the wall second half which saw the Bees do everything but add to Lasse Vibe’s equaliser. They won’t care though – and why should they? Balls in the back of the net and points in the bag are all that counts. And with Dean Smith choosing to keep Scott Hogan on the bench (Hello? Operator? Can I have the number for West Ham please?) there were more talking points than just the on pitch action.

First things first, well played Newcastle United. The defended like champions whilst Dwight Gayle’s first half opener was absolutely top class. We’ve bigged him up on these pages all season but here was yet another demonstration of why.

Cutting in from the left touchline he had no right whatsoever to shoot from that angle, let alone beat a keeper of Daniel Bentley’s quality from there. But what a finish – power and precision. It hurts to lose, really hurts, yet at the same time one can only extend the hand of sportsmanship to admire that finish (one to check on the video highlights).

Yet with the danger man going off injured after less than half an hour, Brentford woke up. The brand of cagey-sideways-backwards football made way for a more pressing form. A trend continued in the second half where, despite kicking ‘the wrong way’ (sneaky, sneaky from Newcastle at the toss) we came out like the proverbial express train.

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Brentford were compelled to attack the home end in the first half – never a popular move

Vibe’s equaliser after a goalmouth melee more than justified as the Bees continued to apply pressure on what was, being honest, a very solid side but one ultimately made to look quite average relative to the Bees. Certainly, on the day. Griffin Park erupted as he stabbed it home and then the atmosphere built as the Bees went again.

Ooohh. Vibe off the inside of the post almost gave us the lead – the ball somehow staying out with the home fans already cheering –  before Daryl Murphy rose between two defenders to nod home a cross in a rare Newcastle break upfield. With stonewall penalties being denied (again) it looked all up for the Bees.

Yet in an incredible 9 (nine) minutes of added time for injuries and stoppages mercurial midfielder Jota almost gave the consummate demonstration of his party piece. Weaving around the box and shrugging off defenders, he eventually found enough space to unleash a thunderbolt . Kudos to Newcastle custodian Karl Darlow, flinging himself to his right to deny the talismanic Spaniard with a quite magnificent save.

Jota in the last minute? Sadly not this time. There would have been scenes had he done it. And that’s just on the gantry where Mark Burridge would likely have self-combusted.

And there, it finished. Heads held high for Brentford yet Newcastle took all there points back to the North-East. With Brighton losing at Preston ( no surprise to regular readers given who had previewed them on Football Focus this morning…), the Magpies end the day at the top of the Championship table.

That’s the good stuff. The weird stuff surrounds Scott Hogan. After that buttock ‘injury’ that caused him to miss the FA Cup, he was declared fully fit by Dean Smith on Thursday. Indeed, our head coach had gone one better by telling us he was available and adding “I fully expect him to want to score a hat-trick against Newcastle United and show people who may question his Premier League credentials that he can do it.”

So how do we then get to a situation where he ends the day as an unused substitute?

I’ve no issue with him not coming onto the pitch today. Absolutely I’d have loved to see him involved  – especially in a game where we were pushing for a winner. Yet given the sums of money being talked up and a potential transfer still hanging in the air, the risk of getting hurt was too great. Something demonstrated by the visitors who lost three players (include substitute Vernon Anita) to injury.

But if that was the worry, as intimated in the post match interviews, then why name him on the bench at all? Either start him or give the place to somebody who might have had chance of making it onto the pitch.

We’re not stupid. We know he’s going at some point. That’s football. Maybe I’m being too simplistic but the second he was named as as substitute (and that’s with the utmost respect to Lasse Vibe who had a GREAT game) there was no chance we’d see him in action.

Why limit your options? Why not call one of the B-team back from Germany if the decision had been made on Friday ? That, something you can hear about in Billy Reeves’ post match interview.

As for those penalties, or lack of, well Dean was on the mark here when talking to the BBC man as he told  Billy, “Normal service was resumed in non-penalties for Brentford football club….. You have one careful what you say but a big club against a smaller club – there were three defies”. And you can listen to that one, here.

Well played Brentford. Yet again, an example of close but no cigar. Had we gone for it from the off then who knows? Had the ref done us a favour for once then who knows? Had Jota pulled that last minute moment of magic out of the bag then who knows?

Yet this time, defeat feels like a victory. Ok, we’ve got no points but I’m so proud of how our boys played for huge swathes of this one. Beautiful passing football and wonderful periods of domination.

So often we’ve said that balls in the back of the net are the only stat that counts. That remains true yet, at the same time, this really feels different today.

Positive vibes? He was brilliant today.

Bad luck, Brentford. Now let’s go and stuff Wigan next weekend.

Nick Bruzon 

Dean talking buttocks as Newcastle match day arrives and Chelsea details emerge.

14 Jan

Saturday morning, 7am. It’s cold out side, very cold, but thankfully the snow has failed to materialise in Brentford. With the FA Cup behind us for now (although the club did confirm details about the Chelsea game on Friday – more below) it is back to League action for the Bees as Newcastle United are the visitors to Griffin Park.

In the red corner, Scott Hogan. He’s the man, the man with the midas touch. Worth his weight in gold, and goals, he’s been finding the net for fun this season yet now finds himself the absolute centre of transfer speculation as those West Ham stories just won’t go away.

In the blue corner (with orange trim), Dwight Gayle. Outright occupant of the penthouse suite in the Championship leading scorer hotel. Scott’s 14 are still 5 behind the Newcastle United man who showed first hand back in October how deadly he can be. Gayle’s brace contributing to a 3-1 win over the Bees at St. James Park and he hasn’t looked back.

So the big question, will we see them face off today? From one respect the good news was Dean Smith’s confirmation in Thursday’s press conference that “Scott Hogan’s buttock is fine, he has trained all week and is available for selection,” The pair were due to speak yesterday to assess the situation and then, come 2pm (or closely after) we’ll get our first look at the team sheet to see if Lasse Vibe retains his place up top or Scott walks straight back into the side.

I can only expect the later. With no fee having been agreed or deal signed then one can only presume he’ll be leading the line. Unless Scott is having some form of hissy fit à la Diego Costa or Dimitri Payet (how angry must Chelsea and West Ham fans be today?) then surely the chance to prove his mettle against the second best team in the division will be the perfect shop window for a player harbouring dreams of top flight football at some point in his career. Whether that be next week or next season.

As Dean went on to add (and you can find the full article on ‘official’ ), “I fully expect him to want to score a hat-trick against Newcastle United and show people who may question his Premier League credentials that he can do it.”

No Brentford fan wants to see Scott leave but is anyone naïve enough to think we could turn down figures in the region of £15million? More to the point, given what he has been through in his career to date, would anybody really stand in the player’s way?  Scott will go to the Premier League at some point soon – whether January or the summer. Of that, have have absolutely no doubt. He’s just too good.

Today could well be our last chance to see him at Griffin Park. At least, in the red and white of Brentford. We’ve only one more home game until the transfer window closes and that’s an evening kick off, on January 31st, against Aston Villa. I’d love to see him starting that one but in my heart of hearts I fear we’ll have said farewell by that point.

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Come on Scott. Could today be the last time we’ll see scenes like this?

Instead, let’s just live for the moment. Can Harlee Dean and crew keep out Dwight Gayle at one end, leaving Scott free to try and catch Newcastle’s free scoring goal machine at the other? Here’s hoping. This  afternoon’s game has goals in it, no doubt. The only question being just how many?

The one piece of news that the club have been able to confirm is that surrounding the FA Cup fourth round tie at Chelsea. It was announced yesterday that that game will be a 3pm kick off on Saturday 28th January. A not surprising decision but, at the same time, given the home team’s subsequent league fixtures there was always the thought it might be brought forward to Friday night or even Saturday lunchtime.

As with our previous visit to Stamford Bridge, we’ve been allocated all 6,000 tickets in their ‘Shed’ end. Details of sale are yet to be released although with the game only a fortnight away expect this to be imminent. The pricing structure of £30 adults and £15 kids is (relatively) competitive – I’m still baulking at the £41 charged by Leeds United –  so filling that end to get Chelsea rocking won’t be an issue.

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Everything we know about the Chelsea game in two tweets

With a home game against Brighton and the aforementioned Villa match immediately after that one, it has all the potential to be a wonderful few weeks for Brentford.

This time ten years ago we were playing games against Leyton Orient, Yeovil Town and Carlisle United as the Bees eventually finished the season a the bottom of League One. Now we’re talking about selling players for £15million whilst taking on some of the biggest names in English football.

It makes you think.

For now, though, it’s all about Newcastle United. See you there.

Nick Bruzon 

Amidst all the noise and distraction, let’s not forget the main event this weekend as Newcastle visit.

12 Jan

There’s been so much going on in the last week that one could be forgiven for being distracted by the main event for Brentford. It’s been all West Ham this, West Ham that over the alleged £15m sale of Scott Hogan to the Olympic stadium team. Likewise, Chelsea have been at the forefront of our attentions as the FA Cup draw has paired us with the current Premier League leaders once more. There’s even a case for adding Norwich City into the mix, given the paper talk about Sergi Canos – the only piece of transfer gossip to have the longevity of the Hogan rumour. Yet amongst all this I’ve not seen many people getting excited about Newcastle United in social media.

This Saturday sees one of THE games of the season as the Magpies are the visitors to Griffin Park. The match was, of course, originally moved to Monday night for the benefit of the TV cameras before a last minute rejig (and the inevitable travel chaos that will be caused for many) as a result of their FA Cup draw with Birmingham City.

This is a huge occasion and was without doubt one of the first games we looked for when the fixture list was published last summer. Yet now it is here, such are the other distractions at present that Newcastle United seem to be the last team on anybody’s radar.

Which, for me, is just great. Whilst nobody can deny our visitors’ history, let’s go into this as just another game rather than any form of special occasion. Newcastle have earned their place in the Championship through top flight ineptitude just as we have done through hard, hard work. Now, both teams are competing in the same division on the the same terms. If not financially then certainly in terms of opposition, games, TV rescheduling and even just the random level of refereeing.

Despite a blistering first few months to the campaign, the wheels are starting to fall off the ‘Rafalution’. Relatively speaking. Not only have Brighton caught up with the one time runaway leaders of the Championship but they now sit two points clear with a game in hand. Indeed, should Reading win their home game with hapless QPR tonight then the gap between second and third place will have shrunk to just three points.

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Worst. Hashtag. Ever.

That’s not to say I won’t be looking forward to Saturday’s game. It’s not every day that Rafa Benitez comes to town – the last time seeing him leave Griffin Park as the beneficiary of a very late draw in the FA Cup with his then Chelsea side . I’d love to see us go one better this time around, and if only to avenge the 3-1 defeat his team inflicted on us at St. James Park back in October. At one stage, that looked like it was going to be a real drubbing as the Bees were somewhat overawed by the occasion and the venue in the opening quarter hour.

Yet, equally, that can work to our advantage. There can’t be too many of the Newcastle team to have played in such a compact stadium as Griffin Park. A place where the changing rooms are less ‘palatial’ and more ‘garden shed’. A place where the fans will be on top of the pitch and on top of the opposition. A place where songs about table service  will, no doubt, be sung in the vicinity of the away dug out.

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Rafa has been here before; albeit he was outthought and outplayed by the Bees

So our approach to this one has been quite low key. That’s good. The Chelsea game will happen regardless whilst West Ham will, by all accounts, need to invest in a bigger calculator before even considering an investment in of our prize assets. If these things act as smoke screens to take the pressure off in the build up to Saturday then all well and good.  If John Swift and Reading win tonight to heap the pressure on Newcastle then even better.

Best of all though, with all of this going on there’s been no room to focus on the most horrific story of all this week. One worse than the image of the soon to be President Trump indulging in whatever golden medal wining video performance he is alleged to have indulged in. Yes, the BBC have announced the return of Mrs Brown in a new prime time Saturday night show.

The blurb from the Beeb tells us that the new show will featuring celebrity guests and allegedly outrageous stunts. Even more scary is the promise of ’shenanigans’. See also: ‘zany’ and ‘crazy’ in the list of words used to massively over compensate for extreme tedium.

I want to beat Newcastle United. I’d love the Bees to get promoted. Yet, if we are to find ourselves in the Championship  in 2017/18 then, at least, there’s the consolation of not having to sit through this tediously unfunny nonsense (It’s a man. In a cardigan.) whilst waiting for Match of the Day to start.

See you at Griffin Park on Saturday.

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Mrs Brown. Be afraid. Be very afraid

Nick Bruzon

Romaine’s rocket rounds off fine win as Jota returns, youth shines and Buzzette has her own moment.

8 Jan

In the end there was no potato skin for the Bees and there was no cup upset as Brentford made light work of the FA Cup third round tie with Martin Allen’s Eastleigh. Yet a final scoreline of 5-1 barely tells the story of an afternoon which saw as much interest in our own tie as that involving Newcastle United and Birmingham. That game ending in a draw means we now host the Magpies this Saturday afternoon (14th) rather than a Monday night televised game two days later.

As ever, if you want the full match report then ‘official’, Beesotted, the BBC (who also have the video highlights on theirs) are your best bets. That said there were still plenty of talking points from this one, not the least of which Dean Smith’s team selection.

Given the ‘injury’ suffered by Scott Hogan in the 93rd minute at Birmingham and which the striker is apparently still suffering from he was never likely to feature in this one but, otherwise, it was as strong a line up as one could hope to see. Lessons had clearly been learned from last season with no chances being taken. The response to this decision was an emphatic one.

The Bees found the back of the net 5 times in the first half, with the pick of the bunch being the fifth. Romaine Sawyers unleashing a low shot from well outside the box that was less piledriver  and more laser guided missile. Oh, what a shot. Whoever you are playing there’s just no legislating for this sort of quality. More and more we are starting to see just what this man can do. And it’s wonderful.

Prior to this, Yoann Barbet opened proceedings from the spot before Tom Field made it two. The young left back nodding home a quite delightful ball in from that man Sawyers. Lasse Vibe grabbed the third as the Bees threatened to run riot. Instead, with goal four Eastleigh were given new hope as Daniel Bentley punched a corner onto his own bar and it was stabbed home for 3-1.

It was short lived. Instead of the Spitfires turning the tide, they were shot down by Tom Field’s second and the aforementioned rocket from Romaine. Surely things could only get better?

5-1 up at half time,  Field having what he would later tell ‘official’ was “easily the best day of my life” and Jota was yet to make it not the pitch. At the very least we were odds on to crack open those glorious brackets that come with 7(seven) goals when the second period began. Alas, it was not to be.

With Brentford winding it back we had to be content with a half hour cameo from Jota. But what a sight. The reaction from the crowd said it all as the Spaniard made his way onto the pitch, every subsequent touch being treated to a huge cheer. One can only imagine the noise had he scored whilst Peter Gilham, who had spent the first half plugging little Italian restaurants on Brentford lock, would likely have self combusted.

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 Peter remains the king of effortless cool

The return of the talismanic midfielder does raise a question, though. Just how does one pronounce his name? I heard three variants yesterday:

Yacht-a : Dean Smith 

Hoe-ta : Peter Gilham

Hotter : everybody else

Answered on a postcard please, marked: Hotter

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Guess who’s back? Jota returns, as seen on official Twitter

Aswell as Tom Field doing his thing, it was great to see another youngster, Chris Mepham, given his first chance in the team as he came on for captain Harlee Dean. Looking calm and composed already, if Chris makes even half the impact that Tom has done so far then good times can surely be ahead.

As for Scott Hogan, if he is genuinely injured then fair enough but nobody was buying it. At least, amongst the supporters who were convinced this omission was simply to avoid being cup tied prior to any sale.

To be fair, I can sympathise with Dean for resting his star man (regardless of the state of his buttocks) although I wasn’t convinced by his subsequent talk about the player whilst undergoing Billy Reeves’ post match probing.

What can he do, though? Very much a case of damned if you do and damned if you don’t when it comes to discussing this situation. Let’s just hope that with the Newcastle United game now on Saturday he is very much recovered and still a Bee. As Dean told Billy, “I’m hoping Scott will be back in training Monday or Tuesday. It wasn’t right to risk him in today’s game.

Yet all of that is a case of ifs, buts and maybes. At least, for now. On a day which saw the hero that is Martin Allen return to Griffin Park (where he was given a quite wonderful and fully deserved reception before , during and after the game) Brentford made it through to the fourth round of the FA Cup.

As supporters held their traditional tin foil trophies aloft, even Buzzette got in on the act – waving the pizza box based trophy from yesterday’s column around Griffin Park. This, something even Match of the Day would later pick up on.

Let’s just hope she hasn’t got pepperoni on her paws this morning.

Nick Bruzon

As transfer window starts to creak, will we be saying farewell?

30 Dec

Brentford host Norwich City on New Year’s Eve with supporters wondering if this could be our last chance of seeing Scott Hogan in a Brentford shirt. With the transfer window due to creak open on January 1st prior to the inevitable ‘slam’ shut (tm) at the end of the month, the free scoring front man is currently being linked with everybody from Newcastle United to West Ham. Even Aston Villa have been mentioned although anyone who had the misfortune to sit through the turgid encounter with Leeds United will realise it’s not so much a centre forward they need as a few crates of Red Bull. And that’s just for supporters. (please note : other energy drinks are available).

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Could these Championship rivals be the villains of the piece?

With fees as high as £15million being quoted, one really can’t see anybody blocking this move if that sort of money is genuinely on the table. Brentford have a new ground in the offing whilst have made no secret of the need to sell players over the last few seasons to ensure financial fair play criteria are met.

It is surely just a question of when rather than if? If the Christmas build up was all about the excitement of what we might receive, this next period is the opposite for supporters of a club like Brentford. The fear of who we could lose.

Like it or not, that’s the reality the club find themselves in. Being honest with ourselves, the play-offs look a leap too far at present. Much as I’m a footballing romantic and never say never, the simple fact is that we have too much quality ahead of us in the league table. Too much consistent quality.

Were Dean Smith’s team putting in the performances game after game then fair enough. But sadly, we aren’t. For every last twenty minutes against Birmingham or Cardiff is a performance like the respective first halves in those games. For every defeat of a Brighton(a) or Reading is a Barnsley or Fulham no-show.

The manager is still struggling to settle on his best team and formation. Substitutions seem haphazard whilst certain players are untouchable; others can’t get a look in. At times we look like world beaters. At others, a side lining up to let the opposition dominate.

You have to remember, also, that historically we’ve rarely (if ever) had things so good. After years of mediocrity results wise, we had that wonderful period under Uwe Rosler before Mark Warburton got us over the League One line. Since then, we’ve more than held our own in the Championship. The. Championship.

Whilst everybody wants wins and results , things need to be put a little bit into context. To see 10,000+ crowds week in, week out. To see Brentford on the cusp of a fourth season at a higher level after decade upon decade of League One or Two mediocrity. To have players that other teams are prepared to pay us millions upon millions of pounds for.

All of this is just a bit surreal. Even now. I’m still of the belief that we could, probably should, have gone up to the Premier League in 2014/15. But for village-gate who knows what might have been. Equally though, that’s behind us and the aforementioned context now needs to be the thing with which we view our longer term prospects.

But if we are unlikely to go up, this time, what about the other way? Allowing for the rose-tinted glasses of home support, going down would seem a tough act for any team in Brentford’s position. Even if we were to lose our principal goal threat.

Rotherham lost, again, last night whilst Wigan are doing their level best to join them on a trip back to League 1 ( sorry, who’s on fire did you say?). After that, QPR, Blackburn and Cardiff City are slugging it out for third spot. I’m still hoping Ian Holloway’s pre-season prediction of a West London relegation comes true. Moreso with the Bees due to host the hapless hoops towards the end of the campaign.

Other sides and other supporters have it no easier than us. I’d much rather be in our shoes than those of former Premier League champions Blackburn. For all that, at times, we’ve frustrated on the pitch in recent months, Brentford aren’t alone.

Just watching the fare on offer between Aston Villa and Leeds was a stark reminder that a gritty form of combative football followed by a final fifteen minutes of frenetic thrusting is not uncommon. And this was from two, so called, giants of the English game. Teams with genuine aspirations to return to a top flight they graced for so long. With aspirations to return to European competitions they’ve previously performed heroics in – something that looked a long way off on Thursday evening.

Should Scott Hogan leave us for Newcastle United, West Ham or other then I’ll be gutted. Likewise, if Alan Judge says farewell or Jota fails to return from Spain. Both are equally possible. But I’m also realistic about our position and how the club works. Given where we are this season then, for now, it seems a case of cashing in and holding station. A case of taking a tactical gamble whilst still picking up points and goals from other sources.

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Could scenes like this be a thing of the past?

I’ve seen some supporters say they’d give it up for the season if the aforementioned triumvirate leave in January. I don’t believe that for one second. I may be a numpty on the terrace. There may be twits on the sidelines or over enthusiastic keyboard warriors in a banana republic. That’s football and we all have opinions. However, the one thing we also all have in common is that we’ve supported this club for far, far too long. And it’s great.

We know we sell. We know we make things hard for ourselves. But we all know how much we love it supporting the Bees, no matter what fate throws at us.

Dean spoke about Norwich City yesterday, saying: “It is an important game for us because we want to exorcise the demons from the Carrow Road defeat

This much is true, but should Scott Hogan be sold then it could also see those of us who are a bit longer in the tooth needing to exorcise a more familiar demon. That of history. Dean Holdsworth, Gary Blissett, Nicky Forster, DJ Campbell and Andre Gray to name but a few.

Will it happen? Next month, we find out. Until then, here’s to stuffing the Canaries. See you there.

Nick Bruzon