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Who goes? Who stays? Who is back to his best?

3 Sep

New month. Same Brentford. Transfer rumours hang around like a bad smell. The wait for live action seems an eternity away. Despite our new stadium finally hosting a game (the 2-2 friendly draw with Oxford United) the headlines are dominated by talk of Arsenal, Aston Villa and even West Ham looking at the likes of Rico Henry, Ollie Watkins and David Raya. Plus ça change. It’s Brentford, innit.

Sergi does his thing against Oxford. Twice.

The prospect of attending a game in person still seems a long way off. Arsenal allowing 2,500 fans into the Emirates in October – presumably in a bid to keep the atmosphere identical to when it is empty – was the talk of the pub last night. How accurate this is remains to be seen, of course.  Then there’s the obvious question is whether we / other clubs could follow suit? How would tickets even be allocated? One thing’s for sure, it’s a tightrope of supporter happiness that I wouldn’t want to tread. Especially for the Bees when we’ve got the prospect of visiting our new home added to the mix of what is already a desperate craving to see a ‘live’ game again. No matter how sparse the attendance. 

Good luck there. Good luck everyone. Until then we can at least see a few games on TV. Sunday’s cup tie with Wycombe Wanderers is on Sky. As is the season opener at Birmingham City. I’d love to be there in person for that one but instead , the couch beckons. Urghh. The chance to see our team in action will be undertaken from the sofa instead of St. Andrews or Lionel Road. Welcome to season 2 of Covid 19.

Who will start either game, though? The much rumoured signing of Ivan Toney was revealed during the week. He slotted straight into the team for the Oxford game. That, a line up which (like the 2-1 reverse at West Ham) was missing Said Benrahma, Ollie Watkins and David Raya. Read what you want in to that. Likewise, take heart from this post by the GPG….

 We all know they have their ear very close to the ground and are pretty much spot on when it comes to advance warning of incomings and outgoings. The spine of the team would seem to be remaining intact. Our ‘keeper and left-back going nowhere. Aston Villa and West Ham (won’t happen – see every rumour, every season) forced to dig very deep should they want to try and prise the others away. 

I’m a realist. I know how the club works and the signing of Ivan Toney would suggest the out-door is going to swing. Who, when and where the questions that remain to be seen? I’d happily be proven wrong, of course, and this be the season to really go for it from the off. To make a full tilt charge for the top of the Championship after coming ludicrously close last time out. To do this with a full fat squad bursting at the seams. But we all know that’s not our model.

Keep it lean. Keep it trim. Keep it topped up with talent. Have the B-team step straight in when the time comes. The bookies still have us as 6-1 favourites for the title. Sergi Canos is fit again and chomping at the bit. His brace against Oxford United seeing him become the first person to score at Lionel Road. The ever popular wideman is sure to be a key player this time around after that crippling blow suffered at Nottingham Forest last time out. Indeed, he could have had a hat-trick but for a penalty being saved (It’s Brentford, innit).

Match action , here

We’ve bought shrewdly with Ivan and Charlie Goode following our usual model of buying highly-rated young talent from divisions below us. Of knowing these are players already able to compete at this level. And beyond. Toney was heavily linked with the top flight so it’s great for us he’s made the decision to go there with the Bees. He was also linked with the Scottish Premiership so it’s nice that he has chosen to step up rather than sideways following the move from Peterborough.

As for the rest of this week, distraction from transfer rumours begins with the auction pick up. That starts today with winning bidders able to start collecting their items from 9am in The Hive. Good luck to anybody who ordered a turnstile…..

Come for the collection. Stay for the excuse for one last, last, final, last visit to Griffin Park. 

The previous, last , last visit to Griffin Park

Nick Bruzon 

Sheer Bliss for Neal and Thomas. Who or what comes next?

6 Jan

Brentford 1 Oxford United 0. The Bees are through to the fourth round of the FA Cup. It’s another clean sheet. It’s five games unbeaten. It could have been by more but in the end Neal Maupay’s penalty kick proved to be the crucial difference between the two sides. It never felt in doubt yet, but the same virtue, could have gone either way with the visitors pushing late on. Who cares though? I don’t. The most important thing is the Bees are ball number 4 of those to be decanted from the velvet bag into the tombola for Monday night’s draw. We’ve successfully navigated the potato skin already trodden on by the likes of Cardiff City, Huddersfield Town and even divisional rivals Norwich City on Saturday. We can now start making another tin foil trophy and blocking out the diary for the last weekend in January. Start dreaming of a visit from the likes of Manchester City or Accrington Stanley. Start dreaming of another cup run.

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Buzz Bee was up for the cup before kick off

Brentford looked positive and were dominant without creating bucketloads of chances. Oxford United did sufficient to close us out and would slowly find a way into a game played out against a strong starting XI. Moreso, one which was bolstered from the bench by the arrival of Neal Maupay. Indeed it was our top scorer who would eventually prove pivotal. His mazy run through the midfield and into the box was brought to a crunching halt by the intervention of former Bee John Mousinho. Maupay made no mistake from the spot and with ten minutes left on the clock that was it, surely?

Indeed it was. Nothing further transpired and despite a late flourish from the visitors it always seemed as though we would progress. Brentford did what they needed to. End of. The game wasn’t a classic by any stretch of the imagination but when the balls drop for Monday’s draw (live on the BBC from Molineux – hopefully not another dreadful crossover with TV’s The One Show) nobody will care how we got there. Nobody is going to begrudge us a visit from Manchester City or a trip to Accrington Stanley because we failed to feast at the Oxford United all you can score buffet. It’s massively disrespectful to both our opponents and to the team which Thomas put out. They did what they had to. They kept it tight at the back. They scored the winning goal.  

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Yesss!! 1-0 as we celebrate Neal Maupay’s penalty

What else can we take from this one? Neal Maupay is now cup tied. As are the likes of Ollie Watkins and Rico Henry. Good news all round on that front. Was there as much to be read into those who were left out of the 18 man squad altogether? There was no room for Henrik Dalsgaard, Nico Yennaris, Romaine Sawyers, Daniel Bentley or Chris Mepham. Was this injury, simple squad rotation or anything deeper, given the obvious lure these players offer to the top flight. Dean Smith, of course, is also rumoured to be sniffing around now that the transfer window is wide open. Given his own Aston Villa were tipped out by Swansea City availability for the cup (or not) won’t be on any list of his concerns.

Brentford and transfer stories go hand in hand at this time of the year. That will never change. With Ryan Woods having had his loan at Stoke City confirmed to a fully fledged sale earlier this week (who on earth saw that one coming?), have we perhaps already concluded our business? We live in hope although I can’t imagine we’ll have seen the last of such activity this time around. Even if it is simply rebuffing further approaches from Eddie Howe for Chris Mepham or politely telling Dean Smith that his money’s not welcome at Griffin Park. One can dream.

But that’s what it’s about at the moment. Dreams. Some are dreaming of keeping the squad intact. Others of a dream FA Cup draw again the likes of a Liverpool or Manchester City. Personally, I’ll be happy with a home tie and a chance of progression. There’s nothing to stir the blood and fire the imagination like an FA Cup run. It’s been a while since we’ve been able to really embark on one of these. The days of Martin Allen and a fifth round replay at home to Southampton, the winners knowing they would host Manchester United in the quarter finals. Of course, for those of us a bit longer in the tooth there was 1988 /1989 when we reached an Anfield quarter-final. Gary Blissett’s heroics that season are as fresh in the memory now as they were then. 

The fact that you can count these on the fingers of one hand show just how infrequent a Brentford cup run is. With league form starting to solidify and Thomas Frank’s new look defence having finally eradicated the silly mistakes that had been symptomatic of our game prior to the Christmas fixtures, could this be the year to finally focus on a stab at Wembley? No matter what our form at the ‘W’ place is ! 

Roll on Monday night. I can’t wait to find out….

Bliss Manchester City

The iconic Bees cup image as Bliss puts Manchester City to the sword

Nick Bruzon

Bingo cards and tinfoil ready? Can Bees avoid upset or match the Spurs 7(seven) ?

5 Jan

There’s excitement in our house this morning. The bacofoil is about to be  liberated from the kitchen. FA Cup third round day is here at last! Albeit proceedings began last night with that most wonderful of footballing moments. A bracketing. Spurs hitting 7(seven) without reply in the opening game of the round up at Tranmere. And now it is our turn as what is one of, if not, THE highlight of the football calendar for yours truly. Brentford entertain Oxford United in a game that may not have had the TV schedulers rushing for this one but which presents a stern challenge for the Bees. 

On paper, a home tie against lower division opposition is about all you could ask for when looking for a means of progression. In practice, it is anything but as Brentford fans know only too well. Recent third round ties at Griffin Park against Notts County and Walsall have ended in tears whilst who could forget ‘that’ 2015 league cup tie with today’ visitors? Very much a case of ‘move along, nothing to see here and please close the door on the way out, Marinus’.

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The FA Cup third round has seen a few rubbish endings in recent years

It is a threat that Thomas Frank would seem acutely aware of. His own pre-match video recognises the potato skin which awaits us, despite the relegation vortex into which League One Oxford United are being sucked. He used this to note that, “We’ll put a very strong side on the pitch, maybe make a few changes but not like we’re changing seven players” .

The BBC suggest the Chris Mepham may well return. That’ll be great to see and if for no other reason than ensuring a player who is once again coming on to the Premier league radar becomes cup-tied. Curse that blinkin’ transfer window. I’d also expect Luke Daniels to start. This is no reflection on Daniel Bentley but simply what we do. Luke has more than proven himself when given the gloves this season and so it would be very interesting to see what happens next Saturday at home to Stoke City – should this happen and he then pull out all the stops this afternoon. The likes of Nico, Alan Jugde and Josh will no doubt contest the midfield starting berths but otherwise there’s not much more room for Thomas to flex his muscles. Is there?

Whoever starts and whatever the result, today also sees a chance for two of those other cup traditions to raise their heads. And they don’t come any bigger than the tin foil trophy. The regular reader will know I absolutely love this ritual and despite my advancing years, will be helping Harry knock up another over-sized replica later this morning. With a post-Christmas overload of the shiny stuff still sitting in the kitchen and a few old cardboard boxes being repurposed, all systems are go.  

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Buzzette – up for the (tinfoil) cup

The other thing I love is FA Cup bingo. Anybody following the coverage over the course of the day will no doubt be given the chance to play along with this third round staple and really go for that full house. Tottenham have already obliged on the ‘team given a shoeing’ square but you can also add any of the following as those lines and events to look out for :  

Trevor Brooking’s header (apparently, he scored once and West Ham won the cup). 

The magic of the cup. 

Radford’s rocket. 

The White Horse. 

This is their cup final.

David v Goliath. 

Romance

Manchester United on TV. 

Minnows. 

Form goes out of the window

You could have sold this one out three times over.

The phrase “His other job is…  with a bonus point available if the player’s fitness routine is also referenced. For example:  Somehow he manages to fit in training three times a week and a game at weekends with his job as a postman/plumber/firefighter (delete as applicable)”.

Let’s just hope Griffin Park isn’t the place where anyone playing along can tick off their ‘cup upset’ box. Bring on 3pm when we find out.

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Fingers crossed that the Bees mark their “Road to Wembley” card today

Nick Bruzon