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What happened off pitch showed our true colours. Regardless of the result.

2 Feb

My word. Brentford do it again – win handsomely, that is. My words Leeds United do it again – fall apart, that is. A day that began with our tonking Hull City 5-1 and further enhancing a goal difference ratio that could prove so crucial at the business end of the season, ended with defeats for Nottingham Forest (at Birmingham City, of all places) and the aforementioned Whites. Their latest debacle taking place at home to Wigan Athletic – something I’m fairly sure happened last season, too. Yet, really, the day was all about one man – Saïd Benrahma. The hat-trick, the celebrations, the emotion, the reaction of Thomas Frank. All this, of course, following the very recent death of his father.

There can’t be anybody at Griffin Park, or beyond, who wasn’t moved by what happened. To lose a loved one is about as heart-breaking as they come. Saïd’s return to the team for the Nottingham Forest game on Tuesday ended with the player sitting on the pitch in tears – the emotion seemingly still so raw. There was emotion yesterday, too, but of a different kind.  Benrahma playing out of his skin to secure another hat-trick for Brentford – his previous one also coming against Hull City. Each goal greeted with him pointing to the sky and a reveal of his under shirt showing the message – ‘JE T’AIME PAPA’. 

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Brentford ‘official’ capture the moment on Twitter

Referee Darren Bond left no choice but to enforce football’s stupidest rule and book him the first time he did this, with his blue shirt being fully removed. Whilst one would have hoped he might have chosen not to have seen the incident, it was a case of Bond or Benrahma. The man in the middle elected to cover his own backside and pulled out a yellow card in case anybody was watching on from the stands.

Sometimes you’ve got to take that hit and do what you need to, though. The whole of the Brentford family was behind Benrahma. Thomas Frank giving his man a huge hug that set off just about any last stragglers in TW8 who hadn’t as yet succumbed to the significance of the moment.

We talk so often about our togetherness as a club, as supporters, as friends, as a family. Here it was in bucketloads. Thomas the physical embodiment of this huge outpouring of love being directed towards the Algerian  – whether in the stands, in front of the TV or on social media. Thomas the head coach but, more importantly, Thomas the man to show once more the wonderful connection he has with his players.  

To see this coming together got me, I don’t mind admitting. Seeing the pair of them walk around the pitch at full time week in, week out is always a wonderful moment. They have a stunning connection with the supporters. Smiles, hugs, high fives and selfies – and we’ve had all from both this season –  are common place. There’s no slinking off and nobody missed out with at least a wave and an acknowledgement. We see the effort and love they both put into the game but this embrace summed it all up in a nutshell.   

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Thomas giving some big love

As for Hull city, well – they were either going to react to losing their two star players in the transfer window at 100mph or collapse. We got the later. A cautious opening few minutes then saw the game explode into life. Benrahma opening proceedings with a curling shot from the edge of the box and we were away. Ollie Watkins soon doubled the lead with just 20 minutes gone. Or, rather, Hull’s Reece Burke did as he attempted to head the goal bound effort clear. Instead, he somehow directed it into the net. 0-2, game over and possible brackets . Surely?

Of course not. This is football. This is Brentford. This is the place where, at least with the supporters, those inner demons still lurk. A game is never comfortable until we are four or five up. Ryan Tafazolli punting one from close to half way in the direction of David Raya. It wasn’t particularly powerful or bobbly yet, somehow, it went under his foot and in. So innocuous an effort was it that the stats didn’t even deem it to be a hot on goal but they all count.

Oh well. The way the commentary team banged on about if for the next hour you’d have thought that anything similar had never happened before. You’d have missed the fact that only Liverpool have conceded less goals than us this season in the top four English divisions. Still, with Hull offering nothing else whatsoever I guess there had to be some talking point for them.

1-2 and Brentford ahead at half time. It was a score we’d all have taken prior to kick off. It was a score that was then obliterated in the second half. Rico Henry doing magnificent work down the left channel to volley a cross directly onto Ollie Watkins’ head. 1-3 and this time it was game over. Except Saïd had unfinished business. Two more goals followed, each one with another reveal of the shirt although his playing kit stayed firmly on.

The hat-trick clincher culminating a quite magnificent passing move in which Jensen performed a 360 turn and move of the purest filth. Kudos to him. It was a thing of absolute beauty. “Oh, my. I hope they score from here. Just for that” was my comment to Mrs. Bruzon and HB watching alongside. Sure enough, they did. In a game that was once more overshadowed by our well-documented BMW, it was great so see the Jensen Interceptor dominating the middle of the park.

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The Sky graphics team having a moment – Surname 85 playing alongside Trialist 89

All in all, it was about as wonderful a lunchtime as one could have hoped for. Then the other teams did their thing. Ok, Fulham won – but they did their level best to throw away an early 3 goal lead and were left hanging on at the end. West Bromwich Albion secured the win (not a typo) although they were at home to basement club Luton Town. Yet it was at Elland Road and St. Andrews where the truly bizarre happened. If you can call Leeds United falling apart ‘truly bizarre’ – these days it seems to be happening more often than Mrs. Browns Boys winning comedy awards.

Their latest self-destruct happening at home to Wigan Athletic as they went down 0-1. Patrick Bamford needing to polish his shooting boots, by all accounts. Ironically, Wigan being the club and game they had the opportunity to wrap up promotion against last season, before they fell apart when a goal and a man up at Elland Road.

Ah, we can joke. Not that I can imagine anybody in Leeds is laughing (but enough about the recording session for Mrs. Browns Boys). They’re still too far ahead and there’s no way they’ll throw it away this time. Is there?

As for Nottingham Forest, having grabbed the initiative from Brentford midweek they promptly there it away at Birmingham City  – the club fast replacing Wycombe as the home for retired Bees. There were four  featured yesterday – Maxime Colin, Josh McEachran, Harlee Dean and Scott Hogan. It was the later of these who levelled things up before the home side secured all three points (not a typo). 

All in all, a sound afternoon that shows the only certain thing about the Championship is that nothing is certain. We’re five points off second placed Leeds United, whose next two games are away – at Nottingham Forest and then, erm, Griffin Park. 

Could it be time for Big Bee Radio to start warming up the Joy Division? No pressure, Patrick.…

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Last season’s form at home to Wigan…

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…continued at home to Wigan

Nick Bruzon

Penalty? This is football, not Frozen.

30 Jan

Big love and huge thanks to all at Nottingham Forest. The reaction to the column on their victory at Brentford on Tuesday night was top draw. The jist of the piece being that the ref had a stinker, Brice Samba wasted a LOT of time and started it early, that Forest played to a plan and, ultimately, were both quicker and stronger than us when it counted in a game of very few chances. They got a goal. We didn’t. They won the game. Well done. Well done everyone. They deserved it. That’s how football works

Yet the ‘not mentioning’ of a penalty that wasn’t given after Lewis Grabban fell over in the box during the second half was what has provoked an outburst of self-righteousness that I’ve not seen in a long, long time. Yes, in reaction to my piece but also on social media in general. My word, get over it. And then just when you thought they had, up popped another one. Let it go. This is football, not Frozen. I’ve not seen a saltier reaction from a bunch of supporters since Birmingham City were thumped 5-0 after Harlee Dean and his infamous 10 times better comments. 

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Nottingham, yesterday

Here’s the thing. If Forest fans are, for some reason, so desperate for me to include an opinion on a non-incident in a game that they won then I’m happy to give it. Gut reaction in the stadium was in line with them. The usual comments were made in such a situation, “Move along, nothing to see here”. Honestly, I thought we’d dodged a potential bullet. But then no surprise given the ‘performance’ of referee Tim Robinson who was the only person letting just about everything go. Including the ongoing time wasting. 

Yet on reflection, and having seen the challenge once more from the more relaxed confines of the sofa once I’d got home, revised opinion is that this was 50/50. At best. Sure, the players touched but this is football. A physical game. Something the visitors were so keen to demonstrate for huge swathes. Grabban goes down but there’s certainly no shove or trip. It wasn’t penalty but just another non-incident in a game that was an insomniacs wet dream. A turgid flat pancake of a performance that needs to be consigned to the dustbin of history and which Thomas Frank will have to use as a learning curve in order to get Brentford back to their best. The opposition didn’t sit back and roll over ; we had no answer to their advance. That’s a fact. 

Of course Forest fans think it was a penalty. It was a 50/50 so you will only lean towards your own team in that situation. But it wasn’t. Sadly for them.  If anything, and don’t cry, should Robinson have deemed it to be a non-penalty then really Grabban should have been booked for simulation. That’s not me being a bitch but the rules of the game. That’s also a fact.

The Ironic thing was that I actually used my programme column to big up Nottingham Forest and their supporters. Genuinely, I’ve a lot of love for the club. Very much one that those of us over a certain age grew up watching and who dominated early 80s football. The exact words used being, “Yet all of this achieved without the sense of entitlement shared by the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal supporters. With a level of modesty so missing from those watching their respective ‘miracle ofs..’ from the Anfield Kop.

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From Tuesday’s programme column

Hmm. I stand corrected. Certainly based on the post match whining and moaning all over social media. Honestly, I don’t care and don’t mind. It’s football and of course fans have an opinion. Of course supporters will see the good in their team and turn a blind eye to the other stuff. Frankly, it gave an additional nudge to visitors on the blog site (Perhaps the hit-seekers at sites such as Football League World need to follow suit rather than write another ‘Three things you do/don’t need to know about three players who will/won’t be a big addition to your club’ piece). So big thanks there.

It just got me thinking of what they’d have been like had something gone against them. Had they even lost the game. But they didn’t. And you know what, I hope Forest do keep this up. Their winning ways and style, that is. With games against West Brom and Leeds United coming up, they could be just what we need to soften up our divisional rivals. If nothing else, and the play-offs looking like potential options for both teams, who knows how valuable both this and their similarly achieved 1-0 win at The City Ground back in October may prove to be in the long run.

That is, assuming Leeds don’t fall apart. Again.

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October’s game was just as rigid

Nick Bruzon

 

Monsieur Lamouchi’s Boys do what they need. Ref loses cards and watch.

29 Jan

That was awful. Horrific. A brutal assault on the senses that despite there being, technically, a winner nobody could honestly admit to taking any pleasure from. The crowd favourite somehow pushed into second place. But enough about Mrs. Brown’s Boys beating Fleabag to the best comedy award in last night’s National Television Awards. At Griffin Park, Brentford went down 0-1 to Nottingham Forest in a game that made Brendan O’Carroll’s alter-ego seem like the height of cultural sophistication. The only consolation to be taken was the confirmation at full time that West Bromwich Albion had continued their awful form as they lost to Cardiff City. Even Leeds United picked up 3 points (not a typo) although had to come from 0-2 down at home to Millwall. 

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How could this happen?

Just like at the NTA ceremony, there was nobody laughing at Griffin Park. A game of few chances saw the visitors bludgeon us into submission with all the subtlety of a man in a wig and cardigan masquerading as an alleged popular Irish mammy. With Nottingham Forest time wasting and fouling from the off, referee Tim Robinson needed to get a grip on things immediately. It was something he failed spectacularly to do. Assisted by fourth official Keith Stroud and two linesmen who may aswell have not been there, Sabri Lamouchi’s boys were allowed to run riot – and they did. Why not? We’d have done the same. Play the conditions. If the referee has left his cards, glasses and watch at home then you’d be a fool to ignore that.

That’s not to be overly sour, although obviously it will come over that way should any away fans stumble across this page. Brentford were well, well below their best. It’s been a long time since we’ve been up against such stern opposition and, sadly, we couldn’t find a way through. Forest pressed tight and were quick on the break. Any attempt at creativity was snuffed out before it could begin. The Bees looking off the pace and stifled for huge swathes of this game, unable to adjust to the situation.

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A rare moment of space under the lights

In a game of few chances, the only goal came early. Joe Lolley left unmarked on the edge of the box and his weak shot from a corner took a wicked deflection off of Julian Jeanvier to loop past David Raya. Urghh. Less than a quarter hour gone and on the back foot. The clock already being run down with Forest goalkeeper Brice Samba soon booked for time wasting. Mr. Robinson then appearing to lose his cards as Brentford were given no protection or help. Left to fend for ourselves, we couldn’t cope. As one Braemar Road observer would later put it, Sammy Ameobi on Rico Henry was like watching Mick Fleetwood and Samantha Fox at the Brit Awards. Now that, unlike O’Carroll and his brood, WAS comedy. Albeit of the unintentional variety.

Being quite honest, the six point nature of the game didn’t even cross my mind once proceedings had got under way. It was just another match and one in which, sadly, we fluffed our lines after having the usual script ripped up. If only Mrs. Brown could do the same. Forest did exactly what they needed to and so took the points. That’s how football works. They are the ones now sitting just two points behind West Bromwich Albion. We’re the team in fifth. All the looking at the table and gnashing of teeth isn’t going to change that today. All the frustration at the officials just  wasted energy that can never be claimed back. 

Peter Gilham’s subtle as a brick announcements towards the end of the game telling us all we needed to know. “The referee has indicated there will be just three minutes of additional time. Just three minutes” and deep into the 93rd, ”A substitution for Nottingham Forest”. It felt like even he’d had enough, with all his customary courtesy and enthusiasm long out of the window. Even the emphasis on “Thank you for your TIME” as the crowd was announced saying more than any match report could.

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The referee and his assistant ignored all reminders of both the rules and timekeeping

Just about the only positives to be taken are another defeat for West Brom and more of that Leeds United leaky defence. That said, even they had the temerity to regain top spot after that comeback at home to Millwall and are surely, now, over their huge wobble. Surely?

Thomas Frank summed it up nicely at full time, using his interview to note that “From minute one you could see they wanted to make it a slow and scrappy game..we didn’t handle that well enough today.” HB in the Braemar Road cutting to the chase almost as eloquently…. 

He’s already watched far too much football for a six year old..

There’s nothing else to say this morning. Well done Nottingham Forest, I suppose. They took the points and rightly celebrated. The important thing being what we learn from this and where we go from here. Hull City being the obvious answer. A televised clash on Saturday lunchtime being the next test for Team Thomas. 

Let’s hope the Tigers prove to be bigger Fleabags than Monsieur Lamouchi’s Boys. I could do without another unpopular victory. Until then, here’s the ‘highlights’..

Nick Bruzon

Can anyone better LFC? Tuesday’s game is HUGE.

28 Jan

Here we go!! Forget Saturday and Leicester. It’s been and gone. THIS is currently about as big as it gets. Brentford host Nottingham Forest at Griffin Park tonight. Both teams locked firmly into the play off zone and knowing that a win for either side will take them third in the Championship table. With the two teams in the choke zone both facing tricky fixtures – Leeds United at home to Millwall and West Bromwich Albion visiting Cardiff City – there is the added incentive of knowing that victory could narrow the gap to the clubs currently set on ‘self-destruct’ even further. Yet with the visitors sitting one point ahead of the Bees after playing their long overdue ‘game in hand’, focus on our own game has to be the priority.

We all know what this one means. We know that Griffin Park is a sell out or as close as it can be to one – albeit, do check  the ticket office and resale website if there are any last moment aspirations to attend. We all know that the place is going to be absolutely rocking. FA Cup action has given us a bonus ‘Brentford night’ and with just ten games to go at our famous home, what better way to spend it than under lights?

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Griffin Park under lights is always special

Seriously, I cannot wait for this one. Whilst I am as confident as ever heading in to the game, one can’t underplay the significance of the occasion. Mrs. Bruzon and I are currently tossing the coin to see who gets to go and who stays at home with H (if his teacher is reading) 😉

It has all the potential to be season defining. Brentford on fire at present with a recent home record of WWWWWW in the Championship. Nottingham Forest very much the club of the moment as they have reasserted their early season form to climb back into the mix.

Now, like the Bees, they are looking upwards. Fulham don’t play this week and so Leeds United and West Bromwich Albion are very much the targets. With the BBC reporting them to be injury free, we know we are going to be up against the best that Sabri Lamouchi has at his disposal.

Then again, Forest aren’t going to have it easy. Aside from doubts over Pontus Jansson and Mathias Jensen, expect Brentford to be back at our very strongest too. The FA Cup side performed magnificently at the weekend and offered HUGE potential for the very near future. Maybe even this season. Who knows how valuable the ‘big game’ experience they earned will prove to be as we head towards the business end of the campaign. 

At the same time there can’t be a manager in the Championship, or higher, who would turn down the opportunity to bring Thomas Frank’s super car back out of the garage. The combination of Benrahma, Mbeumo and Watkins like a Lamborghini Huracán Evo  crossed with a Chevrolet and powered by the Ferrari 812. I appreciate there’s probably a better analogy, if only somebody could find one, but the point being that this turbo charged threesome are still setting the division on fire.

Bryan has found the back of the net in his last five home league games, Ollie is top of the pops in the Championship goal scoring charts whilst Saïd is just Saïd. We know what he does.  And it is amazing. I can only imagine an even warmer and louder reception for the talismanic wideman than ever after his own awful news of last week. The universal applause on the 10th minute at the weekend showing just how close is is to all of us.

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Like a Lamborghini crossed with a Ferrari and Chevrolet – can anyone better LFC?

I’m not sure what else to add at this juncture. Millwall and Cardiff City doing the business, any form of business, would be huge. Brilliant. Likely to have the crowd singing as one – Leeds, Leeds are falling apart. Again. And it’s not often that happens. But that’s a nice to have . The need to have is getting the three points. And I can’t wait to find out how this one is going to play out.

Roll on kick off and see you there !!!

Nick Bruzon  

Tricky choices for the boss. Brutal words to a special Guest.

21 Jan

Oh my word. Would you believe it?. There were smiles all over Brentford last night after yet another favour going our way at the top of the Championship table. Stoke City hung on to beat West Bromwich Albion 1-0 at the Hawthorns, meaning the gap between ourselves and the top spot is locked in at six points. With the Baggies and Leeds United both to visit Griffin Park still, along with Nottingham Forest in a week’s time, the league continues to prove itself the most exciting in Europe. Elsewhere, some audio has emerged from the Dave Berry Breakfast show on Absolute Radio after a listener, Brian Guest, got in contact regarding Fulham and their clappers at the weekend.

First up, West Bromwich Albion. Oh my, Just when the Championship couldn’t get any more unexpected, it has. And then some. I have to be honest that watching this one on Sky last night, I couldn’t help but feel Stoke City were only moments away from collapsing after their early goal. Surely West Brom would find a way through? Surely? But no. Wave after wave of pressure was repelled as the Potters closed out the game in some style. It all looked so, so controlled by the end of it. The home side unable to penetrate and their record now stretching out to one win in eight league games. See also: Leeds United. 

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As it now stands on the BBC

All of which makes the point earned by Brentford on Saturday seem even more valuable than it did back then. Sure, 0-0 hardly reeks of glamour (on paper) but I’d take it over defeat any day of the week. I’m ecstatic about the way the top two keep on hitting ‘self-destruct’. How that once humungous lead is now becoming thinner by the week.

It all goes to make next week’s visit of Nottingham Forest to Griffin Park all the more crucial. The Tricky Trees sit just behind us. Level on points but some way back on goal difference. However, they have that all important additional opportunity that is provided by having played one game fewer. Whilst I’m a firm believer in the adage that points in the bag are better than games in hand, you can bet they’ll be bang up for what is a real six pointer.

If anything, the short term destiny of The Championship is very much in their hands. Aswell as the game at Brentford, their next five fixtures include a visit from Leeds United and a trip to West Bromwich Albion. On current form, a guaranteed six points. Ahh, if only football really was that simple. The positive news here being that if Brentford keep doing their thing, then something else will go in our favour. One of those three teams has no choice but to drop points. 

I’d go so far to say that, and whisper this in hushed tones, Tuesday is more important than the visit of Leicester City in the FA Cup this weekend. I love the tournament and am desperate to proceed but if the price of keeping our assault on the upper echelons of the table going is to keep our squad fresh and play some of the B-team, then name Jan Zamburek as captain right now. Return Emiliano Marcondes to the line up. Stick Luke Daniels between the posts.

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I’m all for this on Saturday

Who knows what Thomas is thinking about there. Who’d be a head coach? For all we can’t get too far ahead of ourselves, and play-off zone consolidation has to be the immediate aim, that narrowing gap to the top makes for the most tempting prize. Like Indiana Jones reaching for the idol, would we unleash all manner of mayhem and chaos if we made a grab for it? For me, it has to be worth the gamble of naming a less familiar starting XI in the cup. 

I’ll still be 100% behind the Bees and screaming support but wouldn’t be anywhere near as disappointed as I was at Arsenal when we saw Dean Smith’s initial line up for that one last season. Then, the campaign was fresh with a wonderful chance to make a name for ourselves. Now, we’re knee deep in the blood of our Championship rivals and looking to take down more. That has to be where the resources are ploughed. Unless, of course, the players are fit enough for another stint of four games in fourteen days (at least, my fingers only go up to ten). Whomever is named, both games represent wonderful opportunities and I can’t wait.

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Alan Judge pulls one back against Arsenal

Elsewhere, I was listening to national station Absolute Radio yesterday morning. Specifically, the Dave Berry breakfast show where our eponymous host, co-host / Nottingham Forest supporter Matt Dyson, and sports anchor Glenn Moore were contacted by a listener. Brian Guest.

On hearing his name my ears pricked up. If memory serves, he may have once had a body of work published in the Fulham match day programme when The Bees came to visit. Getting one (or three) past the editor to reflect on some of their lesser moments whilst under the guise of supporting the home club. Or something like that.

Dave had asked listeners to sum up their weekend, but in just six words. It’s a regular part of the Monday show and it seems Brian is an avid listener. He got in touch to share the update, “Fulham had clappers. Why? Why? Why?”

It was a question which clearly nudged the boundaries of curiosity, and common sense, as the results are below. Enjoy. Unless you support Fulham……

Nick Bruzon  

Brentford lost in the forest.

6 Oct

That was 90 minutes we’ll never get back. Urghh. Brentford came away from Nottingham Forest on the wrong end of a 1-0 scoreline after a game that turned into an insomniacs wildest dream. That goes for both teams where despite a lot of huff and puff there were few chances and entertainment was at an absolute premium. The footballing equivalent of watching Mrs. Browns Boys with the volume on. Well, not quite that bad but it was certainly hard going. A masterclass in defensive solidity, with the exception of the host’s goal where they took advantage of some very generous positional play. The unmarked Ben Watson volleying home a corner that had been headed into his path by the unmarked Joe Worrall. And when The Bees had a rare break forward, Forest closed us down quicker than a small business post Brexit. Credit to them. Frustration for us.

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Defensive discipline at The City Ground

Positives? Are there any? Well we were up against one of the division’s form teams. They started the day in fourth and ended it in second. They are where they are for a reason. Sabri Lamouchi would pay Brentford compliment at full time and my guess is we’d all have been happy coming away from that one with a point. At nullifying a team with genuine aspirations for promotion. That a hard fought game on the road was the price to pay for remaining unbeaten. But that’s not how football works and that’s not what happened.

When the chance came, Watson took it. Despite over half an hour to go there was an almost palpable feeling of dread and expectation as to how this would now finish. That didn’t stop the Brentford fans from cheering the boys on. If anything, the noise was even louder in an attempt to drown out the singing that had finally started from the home supporters. Mind you, if ‘Mull of Kintyre’ was our ‘go to’ song, I can imagine we’d be quiet too. Hey, at least it’s not ‘Hi-ho Silver Lining’. Or some of the other dreadful efforts for the McCartney back-catalogue. ‘Spies Like Us’ or ‘The Girl Is Mine’, anyone? 

Dreadful film. Even worse theme tune

Yet despite the ever vocal exhortations from The Bees faithful there was no way through. Forest too disciplined at the back to be troubled by a somewhat off-colour looking Brentford forward line. Too quick to break and avert any threat of potential danger. Leading goal scorer Ollie Watkins drifting out wide time and again, leaving the central role vacant. Nikos Karelis given far too little time to make any impact. Sergi Canos forced to limp off the pitch with all our subs having been used.   

I saw a tweet from Brentford official whilst travelling home, quoting David Raya. His observation that “‘The game plan was going well at half-time, then we switched off for one second and conceded a goal” telling us all we needed to know about this one. Containment was the order of the day. Stifle the hosts. Pick up a point. We didn’t look close to threatening, let alone scoring. The one real save that home ‘keeper Brice Samba was forced in to making came when a Mathias Jensen free kick took a wicked deflection and momentarily threatened his unmblemished net. However, he moves well for a big man and was very much Forest’s Jensen interceptor.

Overall, it was poor viewing and a struggle on pitch. We’ve got great players and I’m utterly convinced it will come very good, very soon. Thomas Frank is a wonderful motivator and certainly has a challenge on his hands as to how he fits the pieces together. I’m not joining the vitriolic Twitterati in calling for a sacking. Anything but. However, he does have to figure out if Ollie Watkins is the solution to our centre forward conundrum, do we give Nikos a few starts (assuming fitness is not an issue) or is it just a case off hanging in there until January when the transfer of Halil Dervişoğlu from Sparta Rotterdam completes? Yesterday saw us looking dreadfully lopsided. It’s fine against the weaker teams such as Derby County and Barnsley. Not quite so good against a disciplined outfit. 

Either way, the international break is well timed. We can all cool off. We can all forget about a dreadful game of football. We can all put our feet up until visit of Millwall. At least, on the supporter side. I’d imagine for the players things may be somewhat different…..

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Nick Bruzon

The BIG questions answered by a very special guest as Brentford travel to Nottingham Forest…

5 Oct

Friday was an odd one. It was a day where all the weighty issues of the world were bouncing around my head. And that’s not a good place to be. For example… If one asteroid wiped out the dinosuars, why did the plethora of city-sized spaceships falling to earth at the end of the film Independence Day have no more inconvenient an effect than providing an invaluable cache of alien technology which was able to be reclaimed in time for the (unspeakable) sequel?  Whose version of a song entitled C’est La Vie is the best? With all due respect to The Stereophonics, and bypassing the suggestion of Robbie Neville from a fan of Frank Lampard’s Chelsea that I work with, this can only be won by the best band to wear double denim since Status Quo. Of course, I mean B*Witched. Most telling of all though, was the question of who carries off smart-casual knitwear the best? Nottingham Forest manager Sabri Lamouchi or Brentford head coach Thomas Frank. It is a question we may well be able to answer at the City Ground on Saturday afternoon.

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Great dress sense AND great music

The reason this particular thought had been turning over was c/o of today’s guest, Nottingham Forest fan and Absolute Radio DJ Matt Dyson.

Regular readers – should such a concept exist – will be aware that we’ve got the radio on in our kitchen. A lot. Combined with the unsocial hours kept by yours truly to churn this nonsense out, the radio is tuned to Absolute pretty much permanently.

It is something that has already reaped benefits, of sorts, when Christian O’Connell was able to finally put the question – Is Cameron Diaz a Brentford fan? – direct to the horse’s mouth. The result was categoric. Some might say catastrophic. Albeit one loaded with potential (you can find that here) although Cameron, if you are reading (you aren’t) or your legal people get hold of this,  I’m not for one second suggesting you look like a horse. That said, the clock IS ticking on your chance to visit Griffin Park. Get yourself over. I have it on good authority there is a permanent seat reserved for you.

We digress. As ever.  The co-host of the Dave Berry Breakfast show on 105.8 FM and DAB digital (apparently) is a long-time fan and very vocal supporter of The Tricky Trees. The highs and lows at The City Ground are a regular topic of discussion in the morning, aswell as on the weekend’s Rock N Roll Football along with fellow Forest fan Matt Forde.

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Matt Dyson – right. Co-host at breakfast wit Dave Berry

As such, who better to ask for his opinion on today’s opponents for a Brentford side very much looking to bounce back from what we will diplomatically describe as our ‘tactical meltdown’ in the last few minutes on Wednesday night? With his team flying high and his talk of Lamouchi playing havoc with my thought process, here’s our Q&A with Matt…..

Ten games in and the fledgling table is now deemed to have ’taken shape’. Nottingham Forest are two points off the top in fourth place (effectively third given Leeds United will start their annual choke at some point).  What’s happened at The City Ground?  Well, having changed our manager (and then the entire squad come the transfer window) every six months for what seems like the past decade, we’ve finally stumbled upon a good one! Sabri Lamouchi has effortlessly adapted to the Championship and he has instilled a great sense of confidence into the squad and an ability to play attractive attacking football.  Happy days.

Recent seasons have told us to expect mid-table at best. Can you hold your position? Until our incredibly brief stint at the top of the table towards the end of last month, we hadn’t reached the summit for 5 years.  That was when the legend Stuart Pearce was in charge. And while, at the time, we expected that form to tip (as tended to happen with Psycho’s teams after the honeymoon period ended) I’m not getting the same feeling this time around. I don’t want to curse us, but we look like ‘the real deal’ this season. We’re grinding out away draws even when we don’t deserve them. The players seem super confident.

What price Lewis Grabban? Brentford infamously game him away on a free a few season back , only to see his value increase with just about every subsequent move. What is he worth to you now ? He’s invaluable – the only thing that could seriously derail our season at this point is Lewis getting injured. He’s a wispy bearded behemoth of a striker. Grabbing goals left, right and centre. Brentford’s crazy loss was eventually our gain.

Who are the Nottingham Forest danger men? The aforementioned Grabban, the excellent left footed wing wizard, Joe Lolley (there literally ain’t no body like him) and the tiny Portuguese prince, Joao Carvalho.  But, in my opinion, our new sense of confidence stems from the back. The partnership of Michael Dawson (Forest past) and Joe Worrall (Forest future) had been an option for previous managers but they had other ideas. This blend of youth and experience is the backbone of Sabri’s red and white army.

Ahh, yes. Sabri Lamouchi. Is there a more wonderfully named manager in English football? What does he bring to Nottingham Forest that previous incumbents of the City Ground hot seat have struggled to do? Like I’ve said, he’s instilled confidence, made good signings and seems like our coolest manager since Cloughie. He rocks turtleneck knitwear in an effortlessly stylish way.

Brentford v Hull City - Sky Bet Championship - Griffin Park

Who will win today’s battle of C&A?

Tottenham got thumped 7(seven)- 2 during the week in the UCL. What is the correct use of brackets to reflect this. 7 (seven), 7 (Seven) or 7(SEVEN)? (SEVEN)

Author’s note: one can only presume Matt has not fully understood the question. As we all know, the correct answer should be 7(seven). Shouldn’t it? Can’t just be me….

The League Cup. You slipped up by the odd-ish goal in five at Arsenal, a similar fate to the one we suffered last season. Is there any point in this anymore, though? The League Cup, rather than Arsenal. Or should we just put it out of its misery?  We’ve done very well in the competition in the past, so I don’t want to ditch it. Those glorious trips to Wembley in my youth, for a cup final sponsored by a catalogue shop or an electrical goods rental store, were priceless. But if teams are going to play their reserves in the early rounds they should tell fans in advance. Going straight to pens after a draw is a step in the right direction, but a reserve team tournament is of no interest to anyone.

The big game….

I’m heading up by train and fancy downloading a movie. Which is the greatest football film ever made? Escape to Victory – John Wark’s inexplicable time to shine on the silver screen.

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We can win this….. Stallone and Wark stand shoulder to shoulder. Amazing !

Curses. My Netflix subscription has run out. I’ll make do with a podcast. Which episode of the Dave Berry breakfast show from 2019 should I listen to? Just subscribe and get all of them. Or listen live on Absolute Radio and pick which decade’s music you want to go with it. It’s ground breaking technology, so take advantage of it. Or listen to the Gameweek fantasy football podcast (which I do with my old mate Dan Prior) if you indulge in the anti-football stat-based weight around your neck that is the Fantasy Premier League. The Rock N Roll Football podcast with me and Matt Forde is also worth a listen.

Are you a Hooters man? Or is there another pub you can recommend to us travelling fans?  I used to frequent it occasionally. It’s just a family restaurant with a slightly saucy mystique. If you like being served chicken wings by women in Lycra head there.   But I think all away fans should be forced to drink in that soulless crappy looking pub at Meadow Lane (home of Notts County).  The Broken Wheelbarrow is built into the ground and looks like a hideous new build social club. Please try it and give it a rating on trip adviser

Finally, who’s going to win this one and what’s the score going to be? We should edge it 3-1. Sorry.

Thank you Matt. Very much appreciated, even if you are wrong about brackets. Regardless, this has all the elements of a cracker today. With man-to-watch Dawson, missing through injury does this give Brentford hope or will Grabban come back to haunt us? Roll on 3pm when we find out.

I can’t wait for this one. See you there. Perhaps in The Broken Wheelbarrow….

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Nick Bruzon   

All good things come to an end. Now is the time to go ag, ag, ag.. once more.

10 Feb

So it wasn’t to be 11 unbeaten. It wasn’t to be another victory on the road in the incredible orange and brown. A 2-1 win for Nottingham Forest saw Brentford defeated for the first time since that mid-December trip to Hull (and back?) . With back to back TV clashes at home to Aston Villa and then up at Swansea City in the FA Cup to come, January’s manager-of-the-month nominee Thomas Frank is now tasked with the challenge of getting the momentum going once more.

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Thomas will need to go ag.. once more

Brentford official would describe this one as ‘Frustrating’ on the club Twitter feed at full time. The stats would certainly bear this out with the game ending on 70% possession and 21 shots for The Bees.  Ollie Watkins had a goal disallowed, the woodwork was hit twice and Daniel Bentley pulled off a magnificent double penalty save. Sergi Canos provided hope late on with his fourth in four games. Yet we all know that ‘deserving’ and ‘stats’ count for nothing if you can’t take your chances or if you give away sloppy goals.

Certainly, Nottingham Forest will be well pleased with their win and made no mistake when opportunity knocked. The highlights are up on Sky’s website already and are very much a case of – move along quickly, nothing to see here. At least, at the back.

The defensive coaches will no doubt be having words on Monday morning about what were two very soft efforts to concede. In the cold light of day we can’t be pleased about either but, at the same time, let’s not deny Lewis Grabban or Molla Wague any kudos here. They worked their chances, were perhaps given a helping hand but still had to put them away.

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Another penalty save counted for nothing in the end

On another day we might have won this one. The positive news being that there were chances to take. The run of goals, goals, goals had to end at some point. We’ll bounce back. The visit of Aston Villa on Wednesday night couldn’t have come at a better time. If we can’t get ourselves up for this one then what’s the point of bothering? Who doesn’t want to prove a point to Dean Smith? Player or fan?

We all acknowledge why he took the ‘dream job’ and I can’t imagine there’ll be any ‘ill will’  but that doesn’t change the fact he left a wonderful young squad at a progressive club. He’d taken Brentford to a position where we’d been named as Championship favourites when Villa came calling and that mantle was passed to Thomas Frank. Now he returns with a team who are scoring goals, and shipping them, for fun. It could be a scintillating encounter.

Then there’s Swansea City in the FA Cup. What an incredible opportunity awaits in that game. A fleet of free coaches heading up the M4 in the hope of reaching the quarter finals in a winner takes all clash. there’s no chance of a replay now. It has to be sorted on the day, via the mediums of extra time and penalties if needed. No prizes for guessing which direction that one could end up heading. This is Brentford after all….

I’d love to have beaten Nottingham Forest. If only to extend a fine winning run in recent seasons agasint the Tricky Trees at the City Ground. There’s the personal reasons of wanting to get one over a few of their supporters whilst who doesn’t love extending an unbeaten run? Instead, It was former Bee Lewis Grabban who swung the axe to chop us down for the first time in five home games.

Now, we have to prove this was the blip that I am sure it will be after a fine run of form. Forest are pushing at the play-offs. Brentford looking at a cup run. As Harry said to me at full time, “Daddy. Was that a league game? … Thank goodness, so we’re still in the FA Cup then!

I can’t account for the naivety of youth and I’m certainly not going to dent his enthusiasm. Wednesday will be huge but Sunday could be epic.

Nick Bruzon

Natalie nails it as Forest fail to chop down the Bees.

2 Sep

What an afternoon. What a game of contrasting football styles. Brentford beat Nottingham Forest 2-1 in a game which will be as much remembered for the three points that take us back into play-offs as it will an infuriating performance from ‘referee’ Peter Bankes. That, and a display of physical thuggery from the visitors which, as was said many times yesterday, came over as ‘a typical Aitor Karanka performance’. See also the phrase: Brian Clough would be spinning in his grave. It was an attitude which spilled over into social media afterwards where none other than Natalie Sawyer waded in to defend her beloved Bees in the face of what could, at best, be described as sour grapes from fans of the visiting team.

It gives me no pleasure in having to write about anything negative from yesterday. Especially about a club I’ve enormous respect for. Why would we want any form of downer after Brentford scooped the win that lifted us back into the play-off zone following last weekend’s blip at Blackburn? We’ve overcome the three game suspension of Neal Maupay and showed tremendous spirit to bounce back after an uncharacteristic fumble from Daniel Bentley allowed Forest to haul themselves into the game on the hour mark.

Yet it was the approach of the visitors which was so at odds with what we’ve seen from them over the years. A team who previously out-thought and out-played opponents to win the trophies for which they are so well known. A team who rightly earned the two stars that adorn their famous crest. Now, their manager has them playing not so much ‘kick and rush’ as ‘kick and punch’.

That there were only 7(seven) bookings for the visitors was a miracle in itself. They were cynical, scything and nasty. Mr. Bankes in the middle seeming to forget he even had cards in his pocket during a first half where Forest had no answer to wave after wave of Brentford pressure. Except, of course, the one shown to Lewis Macleod for apparent diving.

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Two stars, well earned. Plus a welcome return for the castle badge in the programme.

There was no attempt to tackle. The Bees were allowed to run at their opponents with the ‘permission to foul badge’ rotated between the players by manager Karanka. How nobody received a second yellow I have no idea. Yet it was an approach that also allowed us to see Brentford at their finest. And, in the end, crush the visitors as easily as they would a ripe avocado. 

Josh McEachran had an extremely positive game, making one incredible surge forward in the first half that must have seen him take the ball close to forty yards upfield as he rode challenges and played deft flicks. Romaine Sawyers did what he does. Sergi was felled time and again by the yellow shirted lumberjacks. Mepham and Konsa at the back continue to look as though they have been partners for years rather than weeks. Benrahma was magnificent, supplying the crosses for both goals and almost nabbing a couple himself. 

The first, a cross from the right that dropped perfectly for the unmarked Lewis Macleod to head home just before half time. The second, delivered to Ollie Watkins to stroke home with just minutes left on the clock. Between these, Peter Gilham’s quite wonderfully announced substitution of Lolley for Cash looked like it would be bang on the money for our guests. The hero of Forest’s midweek league cup win over Newcastle did it again. Yet the goal from Matty Cash proved to be a small change and, in the end, it was Watkins (nose stuffed full of gauze after receiving a boot in the face from Jack Robinson) who sealed the points that take us up to fifth place in the table.   

Again, I don’t want to come over as negative about the visitors and the ref. I’ve friends who are Forest fans and a healthy respect for the club that goes back to my own formative football years when they were THE kings of Europe. Perhaps they just had a bad day at the office whereby physicality was the only answer to the electric pace of a scintilating Brentford side.  Yet it was awful to watch them yesterday.

Equally frustrating was finding ourselves beholden to the whims of a referee whose performance switched between turning a blind eye and guesswork. All credit to captain Yoann Barbet whose cool head at the very end prevented a major case of handbags turning into a Keith Stroud convention. He led by example throughout although you could also praise the spirit of all Dean’s ‘leaders’. Our unique approach of rotating the captaincy providing its own demonstration of success.

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Yoann Barbet at FT. How was that for you?

I apologise. The point has been laboured and the point has been made. But it is done because so often over the last couple of seasons, we’ve had no answer to teams like this. We’ve seen points dropped and games lost when brute force has triumphed over attempts to play intelligent football. Yet we’ve toughened up and adapted, whilst still retaining that core belief. Being honest, this one never felt in doubt. Even at 1-1 or throughout the protracted period of stoppage time added on at the end. 

It was our own Natalie Sawyer who really summed things up nicely, taking to Twitter at full time to first note that: If ever there was a victory for football today it’s what I’ve witnessed at Griffin Park. Really surprised by how Forest played today considering I thought they’d give us a much better game following what I saw on Wednesday night..

Confronted by frustrated Forest fans, rather than sit on this one she continued to make her point (and rightly praise the Forest midweek match) before eventually going on to add: Excuse me you came not to win, you came to by physical and cynical. It’s the most disappointing performance I’ve seen from a team. I’m not saying that Brentford are wholly innocent in every game they play but today they outplayed a team that just wanted to foul and time waste.

Well said. Professionally put and spot on. There’s not much more one can really say after that. Perhaps a bit more praise for Dean Smith and his wonderful team. Kudos to Yoan Barbet and my man of the match, Said Benrahma.

Put your feet up and enjoy international break. Roll on the 15th for Wigan at home where it’s not so much Will Grigg as the Bees who are currently on fire.

Nick Bruzon

Arsenal and Leeds dates confirmed. Bees heading back to TV and the 70s as Forest visit.

1 Sep

Good news, Brentford fans. We’ve got a date for the Carabao cup tie against Arsenal which has been confirmed as taking place on Wednesday 26 September. Bad news, Brentford fans. Our game up at Leeds United has been changed and will now be a midday kick off on October 6th rather than the original 3pm start time noted when the fixtures were announced. And we’ve the small matter of a trip back to the 70s with our game against Nottingham Forest at Griffin Park this afternoon.

First up, the Arsenal game. The Gunners published a statement on their ‘official’ last night simply noting that:    

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There’s not much more to say about that beyond good luck to Mads in our ticket office and Chairman Cliff Crown today. Both will no doubt be plagued with questions, from different perspectives, in regards to that game.

One things for sure, there’ll be a huge crowd there. At least, from the away contingent. Whilst B-team games against the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United and, on this week’s evidence, Bournemouth (whom King Kev’s boys beat 3-0 last night) are common place, this will be the first chance for the vast majority of us to see Arsenal reserves line up against the brown & orange army.

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A fine win at Bournemouth last night, via @BrentfordFC on Twitter

The other fixture news revealed yesterday saw the aforementioned update to our game at Leeds United. If ever a game was in doubt it was going to be the trip to Elland Road.

I’ve seen a stat that says Leeds were shown on TV an incredible 19 times last season. So far this campaign the’ve already been on at least (I may have missed one) four times – Stoke (h), Derby (a) , Swansea (a) and last night’s 0-0 with Middlesbrough. Then to come there’s a trip to Sheffield Wednesday in late September followed by the latest raft of games. Us and Nottingham Forest at home in October. Wigan and West Brom away in November. That’s 9 ‘main games’ already. And this before you discount the red button option which, to be fair, is available to all clubs for midweek Championship action.

Simply put, why? What is Sky’s obsession with Leeds United? They won something, once. Well done. Haven’t done in ages. There are plenty of other teams in the Championship who have done similar. The likes of double European Champions Nottingham Forest, West Brom and those other Sky regulars in Aston Villa.  Plenty of other, so called, ‘big clubs’. They don’t feature with anywhere near the same regularity. If it’s not Leeds, it’s not worth showing. Seemingly. Do the club just have a huge base of displaced  supporters? It’s not as though the footballing fare on offer is the sort to draw in the casual viewer, going by the Boro’ game last night.

Of course, that side of things is a matter of personal taste. If you don’t like it then don’t watch. Yet more pertinent is that fans of both Leeds and their opponents end up seeing travel plans in disarray. I know many Bees have already booked their trips to Elland Road to get in before prices go through the roof. I can’t see Sky or the train companies (LNER, in this case) refunding those. It would be great if they did or could team up with some sort of football related offer.  What a way to ‘give something back’ or show the fans they ARE thinking of them. No. Seriously.  One can only feel for Leeds supporters when their team are playing away – something they are infinitely more likely to fall foul of.

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The latest TV games are announced

On a personal note, whilst I’m in the minority this works out perfectly. Kind of. The Leeds fixture coincides with our 10th wedding anniversary. It’s a fairly safe bet Mrs. Bruzon isn’t reading this so I can continue with impunity.

The chance to travel for this game was never even an option. Not something even I’d been naïve enough to suggest. Now, there’s a chance of seeing the game. That rather than the special day out she (I mean we) had been planning there is the hope, albeit slim, that a trip to the pub could be on offer. Rather than a meal for two by the sea or at a swanky restaurant, how about a lunch of pork scratchings and Guinness? What better way of saying romance than finding a hostelry to show Leeds – Bees? Stranger things have happened…..

All that’s to come. For now, focus has to be on today’s visit of Nottingham Forest to Griffin Park where the club have announced that we’ll be going ‘Back to the 70s’. Hopefully this just means our ‘guests of honour’, a #BeeTheDJ special and the retro shirts that ‘official’ have suggested we wear rather than the dark days of hooliganism and vile chanting. Thankfully, those later elements have massively gone from the modern game whilst have rarely been an issue at Griffin Park – well done to the current regime for all their work on that front.

Given the advertising banner, I was wondering if Brentford were going to go for the controversial routine of wearing our quite magnificent ‘away’ colours at Griffin Park? Whilst there’s no doubt many would be in favour of an extra chance to see the incredible orange and brown in action, perhaps that is a flight of fancy too far. Instead, let’s just do the needful against Arsenal and hope for another away game.

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Nick Bruzon