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Bring it on! Championship action is back.

14 Sep

Preston boss Alex Neil faces a raft of injury concerns ahead of Brentford’s visit to Deepdale…… Not my words but those of the BBC big match preview this morning and, with the greatest respect to our hosts, great news for the travelling Bees. After the interminable wait through international break following the humping of Derby County – a period punctuated by the obvious results of double victory for England along with twin defeats for Gibraltar & Scotland (sorry, JJ) – we’re back to the important stuff. Championship action. And, as ever, I can’t wait.

There’s something quite special about that moment you wake up and, as the fog clears, realising that it’s a weekend. For most of us, there’s no mad rush to get ready for the school run. No stress of having to go to work for the day. No commuter hell to fight through just to face all manner of other challenges once you reach the office.

Instead, waking up can be done at leisure. Lie ins can be enjoyed – yours truly had the luxury of 7(seven)am today. Fantasy football teams can be prepared, BBC match previews read and blogs written. The morning can be eased in to. Until the mad rush to get ready for Harry’s football club begins. But it’s fun. It’s relaxing. Mrs B is asleep and H is yet to surface. A rare moment of stolen tranquility before the fun starts. 

And that’s all before train rides North and the proper action scan be served up where this afternoon we have Preston v Brentford as our dish of the day. I’m really excited about this one. We’ve already kicked last season’s away day blues in to touch with the win on the road at Middlesbrough. Last time out at Griffin Park was magnificent. Derby County were trounced in a game that saw us really unfortunate not to extend the 3-0 lead that had been built at half-time. 

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Raining (goals) last time out, against Derby County.

Brentford really were scintillating with the team looking solid at the back and irrepressible going forward. Wing back Sergi Canos a joy to behold. Bryan Mbuemo a new hero in the making. Ollie Watkins making centre-forward look more and more comfortable a role with each passing goal.

Then there was Saïd Benrahma – a player who seems to have a permanent smile on the face and one who has the ability to pass it on to the supporters, too. Words cannot say how pleased I am that we’ve retained the mercurial wide man. Consolidating our form and position over the next few months will be crucial to retaining his services, one would presume, as the top flight can only be his inevitable home. Fingers crossed it will be with Brentford.

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Just a few men of the moment. 

Getting ahead of ourselves, perhaps, but one needs to aim high. It’s part of being a football fan. One of the many reasons we come . The expectation. The hope. Yes, there’s the social side too. Something that is more prevalent on those wonderful away days we get to experience in the Champinship. “Why are you leaving at 9am” asks Mrs Bruzon, “when the game doesn’t kick off until 3?”. She is yet to experience playing away and so doesn’t understand that the 90 minutes of on-pitch time are often the least enjoyable of the day.It’s as much about meeting your friends sharing that train ride, discovering a new pub in a new town and ticking another stadium off the list. The football itself is another bonus added to a great day out with your mates. Especially when there’s a win at the end of this.

And today, Preston is the place. This one won’t be easy, despite their own apparent injury concerns. Even at this early stage in proceedings the Deepdale outfit find themselves separated from the play-off zone by nothing more than goal difference. It is a  position they will no doubt expect to consolidate after three wins out of three in the league (Stoke, Sheffield Wednesday and Wigan). Yet Brentford are no slouches. We’ve seen the team really start to find their feet as we adjust to the loss of Neal Maupay and the acquisitions of those new faces. Derby County was the quintessential demonstration that Thomas Frank has the tools at his disposal. How he uses them today will be key.

Thankfully, injury is not something that will trouble him. Whilst we had nobody on England duty (one day…one day), those who did represent their countries have come back healthy. And hopefully not too tired ! With England scoring goals for fun – and shipping them too – supporters went home happy after the victories over Bulgaria and Kosovo last week. We won’t overly dwell on Gibraltar v Denmark and Switzerland, where the ‘shipping’ was our main issue.

The point being that it was still enjoyable. But it was still England qualifying. A largely redundant exercise for those seeking a competitive edge given the size of the groups, the amounts of teams who can get through and the quality of those playing. Give me the Championship any day of the week. At least until the tournament proper kicks off in 2020.

Until then, here’s to Preston away. Enjoy…..

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Supporters enjoy watching England win at Wembley

Nick Bruzon

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Neal’s going nowhere (fact) as Thomas unleashes his Action Forss. What a finish!

6 May

The morning after the night before. For you, Bees fans, the season is over. The wait until August 3rd already seems an interminable one yet, at the same time, what a way to end the campaign. What a high to finish up on. As comfortable a 3-0 won for Brentford as one could hope to see, with Preston swept aside and barely a glimmer off resistance offered. An incredible 13 minutes of first half injury time added on as fans feared the worst for Julian Jeanvier, knocked cold within the first 30 seconds but thankfully back on pitch by full time for the customary lap of honour. Another goal for Neal Maupay. Peter Gilham on fire. A top 11 finish for The Bees whilst that ever useful yardstick, the difference between us and ten times better Birmingham City, was this time around recorded as 12 points. In our favour. And Leeds United fell apart. Again. This is all before you even get to the sad farewells and the player of the year do.

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An anxious wait

The other key point, of course, being that this time next season there’ll be no more Griffin Park. No more waking up and imagining our return in a few months time. That’s not to be fearful of Lionel Road but merely to note how much we should appreciate our current home whilst we still can. Taking the kids for a pre-match stroll around TW8 and up to the club shop for the magnificent scarves c/o Audrey (thank you again, so much) it really began to hit home. We’ve all known this is coming but suddenly things seem very, very close. And I’m one of the lucky ones fortunate to have the stadium as a near neighbour. For others, I can only imagine those moments are disappearing quicker than Keith Stroud waving a yellow card.

Still, that’s for the future. For now, let’s savour another incredible afternoon. The pre-match vibe was killed stone-dead within moments of kick-off following the horrific looking injury suffered by Jeanvier. The haste with which referee Mr. Linnington and the players in his vicinity summoned the medical staff told you all you needed to know. Over ten minutes of treatment later the neck brace, oxygen and some very delicate stretcher work had us all fearing the worst. Sickening. Absolutely sickening. Sergi Canos in particular, seemed particularly shaken with his emotions going through the roof. Something seen moments after play resumed where he was quite direct in his asking the linesman what game he was watching.

With no further news as to the injury forthcoming and fans fearing the worst, it’s no surprise things took a while to get going once more but when they did, wow!! It was another master class in the Thomas Frank brand of free flowing football that we’ve all come to know and love. This, without Romaine Sawyers or Saïd Benrahama on the pitch but inspired once more by Sergi and Neal. Rico Henry ripping it up down the left flank. Moses Odubajo on the other side, winning balls he had no right to even come second to after a few ‘bambi on ice’ moments.

Ezri Konsa got the first. On what the clock says was 45 although there were close to another ten minutes played after that. One can only imagine the havoc this would have caused had there been a Big Bob Giveaway happening. The centre back swept it past ‘keeper Connor Riley to break his Brentford duck and effectively kill the game stone dead going in to half time. Preston had offered nothing to this point and were now left a mountain to climb.

It got worse for them in the second half. Brentford picked up where they left off and the second goal was only a matter of time. Sergi was inspired as he pushed and pushed before eventually setting up who else but Neal Maupay for his 25th league goal of the campaign. Yet such was his contribution and celebration that Peter Gilham, quite rightly, name checked the Spaniard for the assist as part of his goalscorer announcement. But it was that sort of day. Our man with the mic feeling the moment as much of anybody in the stands. I’ve not heard such voluminous cheering since Boris Johnson took the stage at the Conservative Party Conference and was greeted with cries of “Britain Trump. Britain Trump. Britain Trump.”

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Neal has been wonderful this season

As for the third, it was something anybody in Griffin Park will never forget. A side that was already seeing some heavy B-team presence with Marcondes, Racic and Dasilva all starting the game, ended it with more than a passing nod to Kevin O’Connor’s side. Ollie and Sergi were subbed late on for Jaakko Oksanen and Marcus Forss. And four minutes later it was 3-0. Marcus Forss with a quite wonderful run through the Preston midfield before firing home low and hard from distance.

Riley was left once more with no chance yet if Sergi had enjoyed his own moment, this was next level celebration. The young Finn running full tilt towards the home fans on the Ealing Toad. Arms aloft and loving it. Absolutely loving it. Fist pumps, Cheers. Acknowledgements. Big grins. He just kept going and going. It had the works. Yet understandably so.

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What a finish

And there it ended. 3-0 and up to 11th. Whilst we couldn’t, quite, make it five Championship top ten finishes in a row it was near as it gets. To come top half, yet again, still a quite magnificent from a squad that is founded upon discovering untapped potential and selling at profit when the time is right. Contrast this to your Leeds United and Birmingham City type teams. I cite these two in particular given the ongoing glut of tinpot accusations and ridiculous levels of overspending that have already led to some terrible acquisitions and points deductions.

Leeds have, once more, thrown away a seemingly impregnable position (although at least they are in the play offs. This season). Yesterday’s capitulation to Ipswich Town telling you all you need to know about theur current mental fragility. I still think they can do it but my word, Marcelo Bielsa will need to deliver the mother of all pep talks in the coming days.

As for ten times better Birmingham, there’s no team I enjoy trouncing more. And boy are Blues the gift that keeps on giving. Looking at our relative form over the last five seasons in the Championship, I’m spotting a trend here…..

2014/15: Brentford 5th   (78 points) Birmingham City 10th (63 points)

2015/16: Brentford 9th   (65 points) Birmingham City 10th (63 points)   

2016/17: Brentford 10th (64 points) Birmingham City 19th (63 points)

2017/18: Brentford 9th   (69 points) Birmingham City 19th (46 points)  

2018/19: Brentford 11th (64 points) Birmingham City 17th (52 points)   

You can’t make up that form of consistency and I cannot wait to see what next season brings. One thing we can be sure of is that we have now seen Yoann Barbet play his last Brentford game. Both the player and Thomas Frank have confirmed that it will be very much a case of ‘Au revoir’ for this fan favourite.

 I’m genuinely saddened. The passion and versatility alone are going to be a huge job to replicate. His popularity second to none as he went out of his way to show the love for all things, and fans, red and white. Yet fan love alone does not make a football team and, as we have now seen many times, our Directors of Football would seem to very much know what they are doing. I shot my emotional bolt after the loss of Jota and Maxime Colin to Birmingham yet look how that all played out. I’m gutted to see Yoann go, from a personal level as much as anything else, but trust implicitly what we are doing.

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What a man

The flip side to all of this is Neal Maupay. Last night he scooped supporters’ player of the year aswell as the same accolade from his team mates. He is one of the most hotly sought after talents in this squad and there’s no doubt his name will be linked with all manner of clubs over the summer.

The goals alone only tell half the story. There’s the pace, the approach play and, like Yoann and Sergi, that raw passion. He absolutely loves it and the fans love him like no other player I’ve seen in a while. Even better, everything he says suggests there is no intention whatsoever to leave. He’s already said as much to BBC Radio London and then yesterday afternoon did one of those things that you only get at Griffin Park –  he took a post-match stroll down Braemar Road and past The Griffin pub.

Seizing the opportunity to do my own one man Ian Moose impersonation although without the pies, corpulence or slagging off Maupay’s goal scoring ability (how IS that working out for you Ian?) – why not take the chance of a picture and to ask about next season’s plans? The answer was as categoric as they come. Definitely staying. Not moving. Absolutely loves it here. He even shook hands on it and promised. Fact.

Neal, just for the record we all know that a promise to a fan is as legally binding as any contract. Don’t let any agents tell you otherwise!

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Happy birthday to my good friend – to coin an (incorrect) phrase

Next season is going to be special. Very special. The emotion of leaving Griffin Park something that you can’t buy. The enthusiasm from Thomas Frank infectious. That he has won over the fans so incredibly well tells you all you need to know about his character, his mindset and his own popularity levels. With players like Ollie, Sergi, Neal and Saïd in the team, you know there are goals to come. Josh Dasilva has impressed in his late season cameos. Marcus Forss has hit the ground running. The difference that the return of Kamo made was quite apparent whilst some of Romaine Sawyers ball control has been nothing short of sizzling.

Of course players will go over the summer. They will also come. That’s how things work at Brentford. Yet if we keep the key components in the squad then this could be as exciting a close (closed?) season as it will be when things kick off once more in August.

For now, thank you Mr. Benham. Thank you Thomas Frank. Thank you Neal, Saïd, Sergi et al. Thank you Yoann. Most of all, thanks to all my fellow supporters for making 2018/19 special in so many ways. I’ve got a felling 2019/20 is when this pahse of life at Brentford is all going to come together. And I cannot wait.

See you there….

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Nick Bruzon

Farce of the missing game comes to an end. Can we end on a high ?

4 May

Pope declares his admiration for the Catholic faith. Bear defecates in small forest. Laurence Bassini has insufficient cash.  EFL call off Bolton v Brentford. The most obvious facts since records began were formally, finally, declared yesterday morning with the Bees being awarded a nominal 1-0 win and all three points for the game which will not be played and never had a hope in hell of happening the second it was called off last Friday. Instead, Sunday lunchtime’s visit from Preston North End will now become our final game of the season and, with it, the chance to secure a top ten finish is still on. Likewise, the chance to ensure that the nine points deducted from Birmingham City for breaking financial regulations give no chance of claiming ‘if only’ as we finish above them, again, with Bees already ten points better. 

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At least we got to play Bolton at home this season

What a mess. What a farce. What a shame. The only positive to come out of this in the immediate short term was the game being cancelled. Something which should have happened the exact same second Bolton Wanderers were unable to field a team. We all know the circumstances around why they did this, and there’s no vitriol being directed towards their first team, but the can of worms this opens with teams being able to cancel games unilaterally with no immediate form of solution, sanction or recourse available to the EFL is a worrying one. Might want to update that BCP plan, chaps.

Moreso, it begs the question as to how on earth they felt adequate safety personnel might be in place on Thursday afternoon when the next morning it was realised they wouldn’t. That being the formal reason the game was called off, rather than any considerations around fans, players or other clubs who now see Brentford climb to 12th after our third away win of the season.

Most frustratingly, there was no confirmation from the authorities as to whether we’d recorded the win in our magnificent away kit or who had scored the goal. With Neal Maupay (24) sitting four behind leading scorer Teemu Pukki of Norwich City (28) this would have been an excellent chance to try and narrow that gap. Instead, there’s only the Preston game left for Neal to try and finish top of the Championship pile .

Likewise, the brown and orange has been denied a triumphant farewell. Brentifrd fans were left crying into their beer last night at this devastating news, with Kitman Bob having used Twitter to declare that..

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For all I’m rooting for Neal in the goalscorer stakes, for the purposes of this result I’m pretty sure it was Sergi Canos on 7(seven) minutes who got this one. That said, it was @OllieW3BB on Twitter who probably wins the BBGiveaway this time around. His own shout for the time of the first goal deserving of more than a few ‘likes’ – something which at least one person seemed to appreciate.

Ollie: If my maths is right, the 8493rd min!!! Almost 6 days after KO 😂😂😂     

Kitman Bob: deserves a training top at least !!!

As for Brentford, like it or not as to how this happened we’re now up to 12th. I still say we would have won, regardless, and the point been Brentford’s had the game taken place on pitch.

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Brentford have won away?

If nothing else, The Trotters visit back in December brought about a most telling exchange in our house between Mrs. Bruzon and five year old Harry.

Rachel: “They won!! Does that mean the jinx is off and I can come back to football?”

Harry: “No mummy. Bolton were so bad that even if you’d been here Brentford would still have won”

Recent form and the current situation suggest nothing had changed on that front. Instead, we’re now in a position where, in theory, 10th place is still available. for that to happen we not only need to beat Preston on Sunday (something which is by no means a given) but also rely on favours. Including a win for Bolton at Nottingham Forest. With morale through the floor, the realist in me just can’t see that happening although I live in hope.

Regardless, our own victory is an essential. Primarily, to end the season on a high but as much to widen the gap over Birmingham City to a potential 13 points. That, an outcome which will please yours truly (at the least) for reasons which have been well documented on these pages and of which Harlee’s ten times better nonsense is only the most recent. Although at least on this day of piss weak ‘jokes’ (Star Wars fans, I’m looking at you) it has brought a smile to my face thinking about his interview and the on-pitch payback. Again. Thinking about their inability to beat us or finish above us. Again.

Roll on Sunday. See you there.

League after game 45

After 45 games, there’s still plenty to play for

Nick Bruzon

We’d have gotten away with it if it hadn’t been for that meddling defence.

25 Oct

Hmm. Move along, nothing to see here. Quite literally, thanks to the machinations of I-follow. Brentford went down 4-3 at Preston in a game which, by all accounts was nowhere near as close as the scoreline suggests. Then again, going three goals down in the opening twenty minutes will do that to you. Instead we are left with a second successive defeat for Thomas Frank. One which is now followed by Saturday’s trip to play-off chasing Norwich City – themselves midweek victors over Dean Smith and Aston Villa. One which in the heat of being beaten, produced the greatest bit of photoshop since Marinus and the unicorn.

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Marinus and the unicorn. Has it now been bettered?

I can’t say too much about the performance. If indeed it was one. Prior commitments meant a midweek trip to Preston was never on the cards. Lack of access to Sky TV meant the ‘red button’ option couldn’t be brought in to play. Instead, it was the iFollow route which was taken. Albeit despite prior confirmation and subsequent purchase, then declared ‘Video blocked in your country’. Hmm, that’ll be the same country and device I was able to subscribe from/on? Go figure. Perhaps it was just driver error but the net result was no action on show. But enough about the Brentford defence.

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Small mercies?

Crisis? Meltdown? Missing Ryan Woods? Or simply a better than expected start to the season now seeing the balance redressed? Whatever the answer, 7(seven) games without a win isn’t the best form yet, equally, is the sort of blip we saw at least twice in the Dean Smith era. That this straddles two head coaches and comes immediately after such a magnificent start is probably bringing things even more into focus. Yet, and this has been said on these pages many times already over 2018/19, the talent in this squad is vast. Channeling it and getting them firing at the same time is the challenge Thomas faces in the immediate short-term.

I’m not panicked. I’m not throwing the toys. I truly believe this team will make the play-offs. Albeit a return to winning ways would be nice.

Yet at the same time, I’m not hypocritical enough to pretend that Ryan Gaffney’s effort on Twitter at half-time didn’t have me smiling. A lot. The greatest use of social media since Ross from Friends went shopping for beer. Regardless of whether views are shared, one can’t help but admire magnificent use of photoshop. Ryan’s hit all the right social media buttons, that’s for sure. If ‘Jim’ll Paint It’ did football….

We’d have gotten away with it if it hadn’t been for that meddling defence…..

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Harsh from Ryan? Or spot on satire?

There’s not much more really to say here. Neal Maupay got another goal whilst Sergi had hit a first half stunner to give faint hope. Yet chasing a game from 3-0 down is a Herculean task beyond just about any team. And last night was no exception despite a final five minutes of hope after the division’s leading scorer had added to his haul. Sadly, there was to be no repeat of the miracle at Burton this time.

Norwich City are next up in a few days time. Our trip to Carrow Road at least having the recognition of being too tough to call. Certainly, if you follow the bookmakers where there’s no huge favourite – for any result. That, if anything, as much an indication of the potential and ability in this team.

How Thomas can unlock that and return both confidence and winning ways to his boys will be compelling stuff to watch. Preferably, after last night’s attempts, at the game itself. Does he stick with the captain’s musical chairs or hand duties back to the clear leader, Yoann Barbet, aided and abetted by a core sub-group?

Bring on Saturday for an idea of how he starts. See you there.

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The bookies can’t call Saturday

Nick Bruzon

I’m looking to Preston, Norwich, drones and Ash for entertainment. Not Mrs. Brown.

23 Oct

Saturday’s been and gone. Brentford now have trips to Preston (Wed) and Norwich City (Sat), hoping for an immediate reaction following the pain of our first home defeat of the season. Bristol City took the points against a team and ref that played us like a fiddle but whom we’ve all done to death on social media over the last few days. Instead it’s an appropriate juncture to talk Lionel Road, shirts, bands and, be warned, Mrs Brown.

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A glorious afternoon on Saturday. If not result

First up, Lionel Road. I’m fortunate that my son’s school run combined with the commute to work takes me past the site of our new home on a daily basis. And what a sight it is. The speed with which the Community stadium is rising out of the ground takes the breath away at times. Likewise, the efforts of all those involved in the building process.

That’s me. I’m lucky enough having this on the doorstep so able to see the future coming to life all around. Yet for those a bit further afield, sorties into Brentford are a luxury afforded only on matchday. Which is where we need to stop and give thanks to The Brentford FC Drone on Twitter. With over a thousand followers already, the photos and films put up on social media are a quite wonderful means of being able to see the progress being made. At how incredible a job is being done. At keeping us all emotionally invested in a project on which all our footballing dreams hang. Without the drone we’d be the poorer in terms of information and appreciation, that’s for sure.

I love it. If you don’t follow this account as yet, I’d heartily endorse you climb on board. The aerial derring-do from the Biggles of Brentford can be found on Twitter c/o @TheBFCDrone.

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Aerial brilliance from The Drone

Next up, shirts. The eagle eyed amongst you may have seen the infamous ‘Super league’ prototype on eBay a few weeks ago. The one that proposed we switch red and white stripes for red and black, then was promptly booed all around the four sides of Griffin Park when it was shown to the crowd to gauge their reaction at an end of season fixture. Presumably also leaving one of the youth team scarred for life.

First up, huge thanks to Mrs. Bruzon who banned me from bidding for this on pain of death but then secretly did her own shopping for just about the best birthday present this kit nerd could ask for. I have to say, whilst never having the magnificence of red/white, in retrospect is it really as bad as we thought back then? Has time been kind to this one? With Adidas sure to be replaced next season, is there any chance of our new supplier might go back to black?

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It exists….

Unlikely on all counts but mentioned as much to say that eBay does seem to be a treasure trove of older shirts at present. There’s everything from player spec Hummel 93/94 to a plethora of the ‘100 years at Griffin Park’ blue/yellow special. That one, in our colours of the time, a particular favourite of yours truly. If anything, perhaps this is a scheme that will put in a reappearance when we either leave Griffin Park or move in at Lionel Road.

For the record, these aren’t my items. There’s more chance of me watching Mrs. Browns Boys than selling a Bees shirt. Likewise, the chances of buying anything at present are slim to zero. Instead, it’s mentioned purely to recognise the rarity of these aswell as direct anybody with an interest towards the chance of picking up something unusual. Just head to their site and a search of ‘Brentford shirt’ should do the rest.

Next up, live music (and the main reason there’s no spare cash for shirts). We’ve been blessed in the last few weeks on the ‘gig’ front. Highlights have included The Bluetones (at the 100 club), ELO (with a geriatric audience approaching their 100s) and then on Sunday an impromptu trip to Norwich to see Ash. This, after some hastily arranged babysitting and spontaneous decision-making the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the exact same second we became parents.

I’ve got to be honest here. I love The Bluetones, even putting aside the Brentford connection. Yet for me, Ash are all time live favourites. The excitement of a random road trip to see them once more, further enhanced by going ‘Full Partridge’ as we headed North into Norfolk. The road sign for ‘Linton’ had me sniggering like a teenage school boy. Mrs B, unimpressed by my knowledge that we had reached the midway point between Norwich and London.

The show was, as expected, magnificent. We were even afforded an early chance to scope out Carrow Road and the local pubs ahead of Saturday’s return visit.

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Ash. Norwich. Go and see some decent live music.

Getting home on Monday I was still in high, high spirits. Then, a double whammy hit me like the proverbial runaway freight train. A double whammy of brown. Mrs Brown. Urghh. We go again. Again…

Firstly, c/o Bluetone Adam Devlin. He shared this on Twitter…..

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Seriously. How? Why? Presumably this was a spoof story, yet it seemed to be true with the same piece coming up elsewhere. How can the ‘joke’ be spread so thin? Genuinely, WHO is watching this? Who would willingly pay money to go and see him (man. wig. cardigan etc) ‘live’. Cripes, the live music scene is still so vibrant. So intoxicating. So exciting. And then you get this. Ersatz music wrapped up as entertainment.

Yet it seems the ‘joke’ is being spread even thinner. We’ve already had the tv show, ‘da movie’ and then a second series – All round to Mrs Browns. A primetime chatshow / audience participation event that retained all the zany characters we, apparently, know and love.

But wait. Come here. There’s more. Now, aswell as being offered the musical there’s also ‘For Facts Sake.’ BBC One giving us a new chance to enjoy another flaky spin on the same tired format. This was on last night as I wondered, yet again, just what dirt Brendan O’Carroll has on the BBC. How does he keep on getting commissioned?

I don’t get it. I have tried and I have said this before. It’s entertainment for morons. Brain dead lemmings too afraid to admit the one joke has been told many, many times yet are now too embarrassed to jump off the bandwagon.

The man dressed as a woman act died many years ago. This is nothing to do with gender or stereotypes, purely comedy. And there isn’t any here. Despite the baffling lack of genuine laughs, the plaudits and series’ keeps coming.

It’s also nothing to do with football. But sometimes you need to get things off your chest. Prosthetic or otherwise.

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The Bluetones. Go and see some proper live music. Not Brown

Nick Bruzon

Bees get the point as Changchun Yatai get that Vibe. What next as Sunderland await?

11 Feb

Brentford 1 Preston North End 1. After that mini run of double defeats, here was a chance to get back to winning ways before the double header against two teams up to their hips and necks in the relegation quagmire – Birmingham City and Sunderland. Yet on a day which saw the long anticipated transfer of Lasse Vibe to Chinese Super League side Changchun Yatai for a fee rumoured to be £2m and a much changed Bees team lining up against promotion chasing Preston, in retrospect was it as disappointing as it felt at full time?

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Any votes for ‘China in your hand’ on #BeeTheDJ ? Farewell, Lasse

No. In a word. As a fan, I’m always desperate to win no matter whom we are up against and whichever players are staring. Yet a first XI which, had it been picked during the transfer window would have had supporters screaming ‘conspiracy theory‘, more than held their own and arguably had enough chances and possession to have wrapped this one up. There was no Sergi Canos – suspended. Ryan Woods had to be content with wandering up and down the Braemar Road paddock, chatting to supporters and confirming he should be fit for the Sunderland game. Yoann Barbet was dropped to the bench whilst wunderkind Chris Mepham was awol.

Yet this was still a strong team with Josh McEachran having a very positive start before returning to the frustrating enigma that his performances so often are. When he’s on form he really is a talent and his forward passing is a joy to behold. Equally, there’s more sideways and backwards passing than down the road at Twickenham. Watching the England-Wales rugby after this one, I was half expecting our number 10 to put in an appearance. No irony lost, given one challenge he put in on Callum Robinson. Move along, nothing to see here. It’s a tough call for Dean how he crams that central midfield, who makes way and how he can get the very best from his available resources. Certainly, the arrivals of Lewis Macleod and Alan Judge were very welcome.

It was a game played out in front of a sparse crowd under drizzle soaked skies. It was a game that saw Brentford give away a goal out of nowhere. Tom Barkhuizen putting Preston ahead before Florian Jozefzoon levelled things up just eight minutes later with a goal described by Sky Sports (and you can get edited the highlights here) as a superb strike. I say this given I missed it, in circumstances described in the trade as ‘doing a JJ’. Still, anything for the cause. From then on, it was one-way traffic and I can’t wait to hear how the ever wonderful Mark Burridge described all this when the full fat package is available later *.

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View from the Braemar: Andreas Bjelland v Preston – a Dane in the rain

With Greg Cunningham’s second yellow seeing the visitors reduced to ten men with fifteen minutes remaining, it was backs to the wall stuff. Ollie Watkins blazed just wide whilst Alan Judge came oh so close with a curling free kick in the dying seconds. Emiliano Marcondes added further threat from the bench and it is no surprise Dean came out with post-match comments that included his observation that, “We should have got three points today as our performance was good”.

Second half, it was good. Very. Although, equally, we can count our blessings The Bees didn’t go behind in the opening period. Tommy Spurr adjudged to have been marginally offside as he headed home for 1-0. But no. Instead it was that sweetest of football feelings – opposition cheers being snuffed out by the wave of a linesman’s flag. 0-0 it stayed, until Barkhuizen did the needful.

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It’s an early shower for you, number 3. Cunningham walks.

As for Brentford, up front remains a tough one for Dean. Neal Maupay had one, clear chance when put through one on one with Preston goalkeeper Declan Rudd. The man in black (Rudd, not the ref – if Kitman Bob is reading, what ARE the rules on that?) quick off his line to smoother the striker’s shot from eight yards. Other than that though, there were slim pickings in what you’d deem a typical striker’s chance. One thing’s for sure, with Justin Shaibu on loan and Lasse sold without being replaced, Neal is in for the long haul. That’s no bad thing either. We saw early on in the season what an impact he had off the bench. Here’s hoping that given a prolonged run of starts he’ll push on and find the back of the net on a regular basis.

My other thought is in regards to Dean Smith’s post-match observations. Both in this one and the previous two games. The 3-0 Loss v Derby saw him note that, “We had the better chances… the score-line wasn’t a reflection of what I thought was two-evenly matched teams”.

The game prior, our 1-0 Loss at home to Norwich, saw him opine how: I feel that the better team got beaten” going on to add later that, “I think Norwich will feel fortunate that they have gone away with all three points”.

Yesterday, it was that we should have won. Personally, my take on it is that we could have won. What a difference a letter or two makes. At least Dean recognises the chances we are creating but as has been said a gazillion times on these pages, they count for nothing if you can’t put them away.

As has also been said, who’d be a manager? Very much a case of damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Overall, He and his team are doing just about most things right. Certainly, there are no huge complaints from where I am sitting. Quite the opposite. We’re pushing it against the best in a phenomally tough division and more than holding our own.

Actually, there’s nothing wrong with not winning a game. We all want to. Myself included. I remember league two days. No money etc. etc. etc. I saw a reference on Twitter the other day to the Eddie May/ Micky Adams relegation season. Grim stuff. We’re more spoilt now than we’ve ever been. Moreso with the new stadium plans really gathering pace. But the football fan is never happy. We always want more. We live in hope of what might be. We all have a dream. We always want better.

I understand Dean’s passion and desire but I also know what I see when I’m watching the same game he is. Too much of the ‘we deserved to win/ should have won’ starts to lose impact after a while.

Hey, it’s a small gripe. At least he’s got faith in his team and is constantly reinforcing that positive message. If it’s the worst thing Dean does then we’re in good hands. He has tough decisions ahead, that’s for sure, and I don’t envy him picking the team to start against Sunderland. Likewise, his substitutions, whenever they happen….

But these are nice decisions to have to make. There is competition for the starting berth in just about every position. Yoann Barbet, in particular, must count himself very unlucky to have missed out this time around (albeit I love seeing Josh Clarke out there). No doubt he’ll be amongst those hammering down Dean’s door this week. Metaphorically speaking.

I’ve no clue who Dean will start on Saturday at Sunderland. Could this be Alan Judge’s time? I can’t wait to find out though. Given their own late comeback from 3-0 down to earn a point at Bristol City on Saturday, it’s not going to be as easy as the table suggests. That’s for sure.

There’s nothing more dangerous than a black cat backed into a corner and desperately fighting for survival. Bring it on.

As for Lasse Vibe, there’s not much more that can really be said. We all knew his contract was up. We all know what he has done for us over the last few years. How open and friendly he is. How enthusiastic and dedicated to the cause whilst at Griffin Park. Talking to supporters yesterday and reading through social media, I can’t see anybody wishing him everything but the best.

I can’t think of any other club or any other player where losing your main goal threat has been treated with nothing but universal good vibes. Yet that’s Lasse.

THANK YOU. Here’s to the World Cup..

* until then, here’s the post lunchtime update with the ‘official highlights’. Great job on the comms, too…

 

Nick Bruzon

 

As Bees beat Preston, brilliant Billy cuts to the chase about Birmingham.

29 Oct

Bring on Birmingham City. Brentford keep marching right on! Saturday’s 3-2 defeat of Preston North End saw it 7(seven) games unbeaten in the Championship and 13 points out of the last 21. Our third win over this period saw the Bees move to within six points of the play off zone. Although with the bottom three the same distance behind us, things are still far too tight to be getting too excited. In either direction.

Preston away was always going to be a tough one. With Dean Smith changing his team once more, as he has done every game this season, Romaine Sawyers was dropped to the bench in favour of Kamohelo Mokotjo. But whilst the team was different, the outcome was the same. More goals and more points for Brentford.

As ever, the BBC, Beesotted, ‘official’ etc are your places for the full match report. Or you could catch the highlights on the internet c/o Sky – at least until the league allow the club to do their thing at mid-day. Yet what you get are another goal for Nico Yennaris (that’s four now) and Romaine Sawyers hitting a beauty from the edge of the box to restore our lead in the second half.

The sun is now past the yard arm

There was no irony lost in it being a year to the day since Brentford had beaten QPR at Loftus Road and he’d scored an absolute wonder goal that night. Twelve months later and another netbuster. Whilst it wasn’t quite in the same ball park, it was still a delicious strike. How nice to see Romaine continue to prove all the doubters wrong. He took an inordinate and unfair amount of flak last season. Some fans should now be eating humble pie.

Equally pleasing is being able to see our goals/shots ratio creeping up. A lot had been made in the opening phase of the season about how we’d had the most attempts of any Championship club despite failing to find the back of the net as frequently. 13 goals over the current unbeaten run certainly suggests this stat is changing for the better.

Yet the pick of the goals was, in my opinion, the third. “An absolute peach from a coaching point of view .” Not my words but those of BBC Billy Reeves as he probed head coach Dean Smith after the game. A beautiful exchange of passes at speed between Kamo and Flo Jo saw Preston carved open as easily as a Halloween pumpkin. The move culminated in the Dutch master delivering a ball across the face of the box which Ollie Watkins slid home.

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Ollie, Flo Jo and Lasse celebrate a wonderful winner for the Bees

Three more points and Brentford continuing to impress. The only sour note being the foul on Nico Yennaris that saw the player poleaxed by Jordan Hugill before going off after a lengthy period of treatment. Dean Smith would tell Billy in the aforementioned interview that : “For me its a possible red card because he could easily have got out the way, He’s dipped his shoulder into Nico’s head.”

More importantly, confirming that Nico is ok. Although with a similar injury being suffered by Henrik Dalsgaard recently he also added somewhat tongue-in-cheek that : “I spoke to the players earlier. A few of them have got be able to take one on the chin and not go down.”

Yet it wouldn’t be a Billy Reeves interview without him asking what the fans wanted to hear. There’s no sycophancy when the BBC man has the mic in his hand. And its why we love him so much. Master of the gentle probe, he gets the answers to the questions we all want to know. And there’s only been one subject on everyone’s lips this week. “10 times better” Birmingham City. Not my words but those of Harlee Dean etc etc etc

Billy cut to the chase. As he does. “For the fans, and maybe yourself, Wednesday’s a grudge match, isn’t it?”

Deans’ answer was as expected. “No, It’s just another game” and was meet with an immediate retort. “No, it isn’t”, pushed back Billy . At the same time echoing exactly what every Brentford supporter is thinking at the moment.

The man is a national treasure. A cat playing with a mouse. And whilst Dean’s answer was ever professional, we all know full well what is at stake this Wednesday. Not just three points but consummate bragging rights. The chance to really try and prove something. Not just following that deadline day triple transfer swoop but, probably of greater ire to supporters, Harlee Dean’s nonsensical claim this week about the current Birmingham City squad compared to our own from 2014/15.

DO listen to Billy’s interview. Not just for the probing but for Dean’s responses. Our Head Coach really is in good form at present. Not surprising, given the results. And with games against Birmingham and then Leeds United to come, things could get even more exciting.

But so is Billy. We are undeniably fortunate to have a local journalist who is a true fan. Somebody who asks the same questions that suporters would if we were lucky enough to be in his position. There’s no clickbait grabbing gumph lifted from twitter and padded out into a ‘story’ . Just a steel fist wrapped up in the most delicate of sik gloves, using the microphone like some form of journalistic broadsword to cut straight to the heart of the matter.

Here’s to Wednesday night. Whilst the players will, no doubt, be as level headed as ever, expect our fans to have an extra level of bite to them. And, perhaps, more of Billy’s oh so gentle probing.

It’s going to be fun.

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Billy – the Bard of Brentford did his thing quite superbly. Again

Nick Bruzon

As Blades go top, will Brentford enjoy more success at Preston?

28 Oct

There’s been a lot going on this week and that’s before a ball has even been kicked : all fine at Loftus road whilst Harlee seems to have forgotten his history and manners in Birmingham. But relax. The latest round of Championship action can now take place, having kicked off last night with Sheffield United winning at Leeds to go to the top of the table. It was a largely one way performance and a deserved win for the Blades. Yet whilst we’ll look a bit further at that shortly, our main focus has to be, as ever, on Brentford and our trip to Preston North End.

It would be fair to say that, after a somewhat rocky start Dean Smith’s Bees are beginning to find their feet. The squad has settled down after a frenetic summer of activity which culminated in that last minute triple cash in to Harry Redknapp (a man currently residing in the ‘where are they now?’ files). Yet with the uncertainty done, spleens vented and players returning from injury things are starting to get back to normal.

Brentford are six unbeaten and have even started to have some of that ‘luck’ whose absence had been frustrating our Head Coach. We’ve 10 points out of the last 18 and will be looking to take the current run of form to 7(seven) games when we play Preston on Saturday afternoon.

There’s more good news for Dean Smith. Specifically, no new injuries. Might he be able to name an unchanged starting XI (following last Saturday’s 3-3 with Sunderland) for the first time this season? Or will Sergi Canos be pushed back into the first team after his substitute’s appearance against the Black Cats?

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A sight for sore eyes last weekend

Having played and scored in the B-team’s 3-1 win over Inter Milan during the week (and count the things right in that sentence) might a first team start be a step too far at present? Moreso with games to come against Birmingham City on Wednesday and then Leeds United next Saturday. We’re all desperate to see Sergi back in action but having already been spannered by injury the last time, up at Aston Villa, caution will surely be the order of the day as he rebuild s match fitness.

With Lewis Macleod also getting B-team minutes under his belt after that long, long recuperation there’s more good news on the horizon for Dean. I’d imagine that Preston will be a trip too far for Lewis, at least now, but the midfield options available in a few weeks time could cause some real selection posers.

Still, all that is then. This is now. Let’s focus on the present. With many Brentford fans already licking their lips at the prospect of our midweek trip to Birmingham following Harlee’s comments on Thursday, keeping our focus today will be imperative. Preston are no slouches and know that a win will take them into the play off zone, potentially as high as fourth place following that defeat for Leeds United last night. This, after finishing just below our own top ten Bees in a more than impressive 11th place last season.

Whilst we’ve had plenty of joy against Preston in recent seasons (including that penalty – for Alan Judge, in League One) past performance is not indicative of current form. “It will be a tough ask for us” said Dean in Thursday’s press conference and he’s not wrong. But he has the options at his disposal to answer that ask. As long as he locks it up at the back.

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Happier times at the denouement of out promotion campaign

Yoann Barbet and Chris Mepham can both count themselves very unlucky to have lost out in recent weeks. With three first half goals shipped against Sunderland last Saturday, could this be today’s ‘change’? Or has Dean nailed his selection colours to the mast and this is it? At 3pm, we find out.

We couldn’t end today’s column without a brief nod to the Sheffield United connection . Not so much Jack O’Connell and the magnificent Clayton Donaldson (who I STILL miss) or Keith Stroud (who I don’t) but more their form. Like Brentford three seasons ago, The Blades have come up from League One and taken the division by storm. But whereas we missed our chance to go top in the Boxing Day game with Ipswich Town (move along, nothing to see there) there was no fluffing of the lines for United last night.

Their performance against Leeds was fully deserving of their position and whilst things may have shifted around come 5pm, nobody can deny who is currently top of the table. Yet for me (Clive) the telling stat is in that L column. United have lost four games. Brentford have lost 4 games. The difference being the ability to turn draws into victory. The Blades have proved to have the cutting edge in the box, winning their other 10. If we can get that bit right then who know how high we can go?

The draw at Middlesbrough last time we travelled showed just what this side can do. Here’s to more of that spirit this afternoon. Moreso, given Deepdale has been a relatively happy hunting ground for us in recent seasons whilst, for personal reasons, Preston are always a club I’ve followed with particular interest.

Preston letter

Keith never did write back. Or did he…?

To date, my first and only foray into the world of professional football club management. It was an application that would eventually prove fruitless. I never heard back with an interview date and can only assume that, in those pre-internet days the follow up letter got lost somewhere in the Royal Mail. Had the postal service done their job properly, who knows how things might have turned out had  a then struggling North End taken that gamble?

Not well, being my guess.

Nick Bruzon

 

What happens in Preston, stays in Preston as Harlee makes a frank admission.

12 Feb

F*ck off Brentford” said one supporter on Twitter after this one. Others were calling for Dean Smith’s head. I’ve even seen comments reminding us that Mark Warburton is available after his resignation/non resignation from Rangers. Seriously? Seriously?? Sure, The Bees had been beaten 4-2 by Preston North End but let’s leave that nonsense and put this one down to the proverbial bad day at the office.

After those two tonkings administered to Aston Villa and Brighton, had Dean Smith gone into this one with anything but the same approach then, perhaps, there could have been casue for frustration. But no, he stuck to his guns and rightly so.

This team and formation were the exact same decisions I would have taken and, whilst just the numpty on the terrace rather than any form of Championship Manager, it was great to see Dean continue with this attacking intent. Indeed, despite the availability of John Egan, amongst others, the only change was one of personnel as fit again Maxine Colin replaced Josh Clarke in the right back position.

The anti-performance at Chelsea had been followed by a new look team and a new set up. Despite the absence of Scott Hogan, six goals had followed from five different players.

Now make that 8 goals from 7(seven) players in three games as Lasse, Nico, Harlee, KK and Jota were joined by Maxime Colin and Tom Field on the list of recent scorers. For Tom in particular, his first league goal for Brentford – and one which gave us an early lead –  was the perfect riposte to his critic after last Sunday’s post match nonsense.

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Post goal celebrations for Tom Field, c/o the Sky Sports highlight reel

After that, though, the wheels fell off. Aiden McGeady waltzed through the Brentford midfield and defence to equalise from distance for the hosts. Preston then took the lead early into the second half as Callum Robinson stole in totally unmarked between Harlee and Andreas to beat the offside trap and tap home.

And with the Bees pushing to get back into it, Mcgeady (again)  and Daryl Horgan put the game beyond doubt as it became a case of “After you, Claude” from Brentford. Maxime Colin pulled one back late on via a generous deflection but that was how it ended.

As ever, proper match reports are available on the BBC, Besotted or ‘official’. Likewise, you’ve got free video highlights on Sky – at least, until we get the full fat Burridge infused version on Beesplayer lunchtime.

It was interesting to read the post match comments of both Dean Smith and Harlee Dean after this one. Talking to ‘official’, Dean admitted that “We lost our organisation and our discipline, we opened up too easily and they could have scored more. We need to be disciplined and have emotional control. Football is about scoring goals and you can’t get too emotionally involved when the opposition score one”.

As for Harlee, his observations were on a similar line. Along with a captain’s standard post defeat apology to those who travelled, there was an admission of tactical naivety from the players combined with their poor decisions and poor performances. Coming from the man in the midst of the action, these are probably more telling and comments I take heart from.

It is hard to remember that Harlee is only 25. One forgets just how young he was when he first turned out for Andy Scott’s Bees way back in November 2011. Yet here is a man who has fought his way up from non league and loanee to now being club captain and one of the first names on the team sheet.

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Harlee Dean – also appearing on Twitter at FT

Don’t get me wrong, nobody wants to make that long journey home (longer for those who travelled on Virgin Rail if head of media relation’s Chris Wickham’s twitter account was anything to go by) on the back of a 4-2 scoreline. Yet if the players themselves are aware of where they went wrong and where they showed inconsistency (another phrase used by Harlee in that post match article and which has been visible to all but the most blinkered of supporters this season) then there is hope that this newly reinvigorated team can continue to do what they’ve been doing.

We’ve two very tricky fixtures coming up. Midweek trips to teams currently looking for play off points. Reading this Tuesday and then Sheffield Wednesday a week later.

Here’s hoping Dean can hold his nerve in regards to team selection again.

Here’s hoping the team can learn from those mistakes on Saturday.

Here’s hoping that what happened in Preston, stays in Preston.

Nick Bruzon

 

How can the same stuff happen to the same guy twice as Rangers meltdown? Can the same scoreline happen again as Bees travel North?

11 Feb

Well that’s been a busy few days off. Most of us have woken to news that Mark Warburton, David Weir and Frank McParland have, apparently, all ‘resigned’ at Rangers – something our former manager claims to know nothing about. With the Scottish club announcing that Graeme Murty is in charge, things could get interesting in the dugout at 3pm. Back in Brentford,  Josh Clarke and Dean Smith (nothing more than coincidental timing, I am sure) have both signed contract extensions whilst on pitch, not that one exists as yet, Hounslow council have given rugby club London Irish permission to ground share at Lionel Road. Yet all these are mere appetisers ahead of the main course – our trip to Preston North End.

Of course, we can only start at Deepdale. Brentford annihilated Preston 5-0 at Griffin Park earlier in the season and, based on current form, the casual observer would only expect more of the same. We’ve scored six goals  in our last two games – the first of the Hogan free era.

Aston Villa were despatched as simply as a half time balti pie offered to a hungry supporter. There was literally no resistance from the former Premier League team who were left looking somewhat like a pub side. The only disappointment being that 3-0 was scant reflection of a game where there was only one team in it.

As for Brighton on Sunday. 2-0 up and with a penalty opportunity to make it three, that one looked very much like another win fro the Bees. That it ended 3-3 was as much testament to the quality of our opponents (still very much promotion favourites and title contenders) combined with, perhaps, a touch of naivety from Brentford as the lead was retaken with 95 minutes on the clock. No criticism though. It was an honour to be part of the crowd for that one.

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KK is in there, somewhere, celebrating a late, late ‘winner ‘ against Brighton

Yet, as we’ve mentioned before, part of this resurgence is as much down to Dean Smith’s new formation. Lasse Vibe just one of five players to get on the scoresheet in front of two wide men and two centre backs in Harlee Dean and Andreas Bjelland. More room in the middle. Jota destroying all comers and looking a class above anybody trying to stop him. With a bench that includes Josh Clarke and Sergi Canos aswell as the finally back in favour Konstantin Kerschbaumer and Alan McCormack, Dean seems to have got the balance just right. Can he do it again for a third successive game ?

Surely he’ll go for more of the same today? Although Preston are five points above the Bees, they haven’t won in four games. We know we have the beating of them and that was in a team without Jota. Yet the BBC report that with John Egan fit again, he could return to the starting line up.

All being well, this is nothing more than opportunistic journalism. And this is meant as no disrespect whatsoever to a player who has more than justified his own contract extension. Yet playing with a traditional back four, albeit one where the defence still push up, has been nothing short of revalationary. A breath of fresh air after what could, politely, be described as some turgid, sluggish and inconsistent performances.

Come on Dean, here’s hoping you have the same courage of your convictions away from home as at Griffin Park. The bookies still have Preston as favourites  – only 2 defeats in the last 12 at home likely helping their position – but the new look Bees are a force to be reckoned with. I can’t wait to see how we fare on the road.

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Jota helped destroy Brighton. And Aston Villa

Rugby is the other news to make us sit up and take notice – Mark Warburton at Rangers aside, where one can only wonder what on earth is going on. In a communications debacle to make our own media team seem like Pulitzer Prize winning journalists, the Glasgow club have released a statement to say he has quit whilst Warbs seems unaware that he has, supposedly, penned his resignation letter.

This is a situation where nobody comes out the winner. Aside from, perhaps, Celtic whose 27 point lead over closest challengers Rangers and Aberdeen seems even safer than ever. With alleged new destination Nottingham Forest already having named their interim management team, could Mark Warburton find himself temporarily out in the cold again?

It was 10 February 2015 when the story about his ‘replacement’ at the end of Brentford’s Championship season was leaked by The Times. The club handled news about that one terribly – the only way worse could have been had we included a hashtag – as Warbs , in public at least, carried himself with dignity whilst retaining the love of players and supporters alike.

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Warbs , Jota and the team on the day of village-gate 2015

Two years to the very day, it has happened again. Another announcement about his position, this time at Rangers, clouded in confusion and controversy. Who’d be a manger. Or  in a comms role…

As for the rugby, well it seems that London Irish will be the new tenants at Lionel Road, once the stadium is built. Hounslow Council have granted permission for a ground share at the new stadium. Official tell us us that “Progress on the implementation of the Brentford Community Stadium project is continuing apace, ahead of a moving in date of the season 2019/20. The full story is on the club website.

And finally, if you can get through all the adverts , pop ups and surveys on their site, (Get) West London’s Premier Journalist Tom Moore has another video. Do check it out, it’s well worth a look.

Until then, here’s to Preston.

Nick Bruzon