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Bees smash QPR to secure bragging rights. Again.

29 Oct

You wait ages at the bus stop and then three come along all at once. Brentford trounced Queens Park Rangers in their own back yard, again, last night as a 1-3 victory made it 9 points out of 9. It was a performance that, if anything, the scoreline fails to do justice to. But for home goalkeeper Liam Kelly it could have been double that. Only a series of fine saves keeping things respectable for the hosts who had no answer to the irrepressible waves of black and yellow. With Huddersfield Town next up, the Bees will be looking to strengthen their position in a top half of the table that is becoming increasingly congested.

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Players and fans alike celebrated this one

What a night. What a turn out. What a way to show our neighbours what this Brentford team can do. Three very much the magic number as our third successive victory saw Brentford hitting three goals. This following the 3-2 over Millwall and the 0-3 up at Swansea. Yet to so consistently outplay your neighbours, who missed their own chance to go second, in their own back yard takes special kudos. It was a game played out in a powder keg atmosphere, at least in the away end. The home fans barely mustering a squeak, barring one character with a sombrero, rattle and kazoo, until after the interval when Grant Hall’s equaliser gave them brief hope.

That goal, ironically coming from a corner earned off the back of a quite magnificent save from David Raya, briefly restored parity. Briefly. Ollie Watkins had already given us the lead, heading home a Mbuemo cross in front of the home fans. It was goal that had been threatening and was exquisitely taken. For once, Kelly left with no chance and after that it was only a matter of time and how many. Or so it felt.

Yet despite our domination, noise and attacking intent Brentford couldn’t quite squeeze through for the second. And with Hall rousing the snoozing home support from their own game of library simulator, one did have to wonder what would come next. Rise to the challenge or ‘do a Brentford’? The answer was emphatically the former. 

With little more than the next ten minutes played, the lead had been restored. Mbuemo was felled in the box and referee Andy Woolmer had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. It’s good enough for me.

That man Benrahma picked up the ball and smashed it high and hard into the top corner. Got to be honest that from where we were standing, it looked briefly as though he might have Barbet’d it, such was the height he got. Instead, it was all about technique with the speed and ferocity meaning it got no further than the back of the net.

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View from the stand – there you go. A lead restored.

And what a way to celebrate. What a smile. What a charge, followed by the rest of the team, over to the dugouts where he celebrated with Peter Gilham. We noted yesterday the history lessons installed by our beloved man-with-the-mic. This is why. This is what it meant. To him. To Saïd. To the team. To us. Get in you beauties.

The game continued. So did the pressure. Benrahma playing like a man possessed. He and Ollie teaming up with another of those filthy moments to come ‘that’ close to another goal of the season contender. Pontus Jansson busting every sinew. Screaming at anybody that would listen. Regardless of whether they wanted to. Nørgaard pulling strings in the middle. Mbuemo working the opposite flank. QPR huffing, puffing but doing nothing more than instigate the obligatory fire drill.

Sure, the final ten minutes felt slightly more tense. Purely because the random nature of referees or a flukey deflection, after such a fine Bees performance, could have played havoc on the points front with the margins still so fine. At least, on goals scored. There was no danger though. The fresh impetus added by Jensen and Valencia from the bench giving Brentford that final burst of energy needed to wrap things up. 

Boom. Watkins was there at the death to get his second and our third as the hosts were caught out in their hunt for some reward. Jensen slipping it through to Ollie who made no mistake in his own personal hunt for the Championship’s golden boot. His close range finish takes him to ten for the season already, equalling his highest total for Brentford . And we aren’t even in November. Neal who now?

Brentford are up to 12th but, more importantly, it’s getting tight at the top. Very tight. We’re four points off second place. One more win, and other results going our way, could even see us into the play off zone. Huddersfield Town visit Griffin Park on Saturday in a game that is sure to have a few more people now looking for tickets. That one won’t be easy but that’s a column for another day.

For now, it’s all about the moment. All about going to that horrible, horrible stadium and coming away with yet another win. About laughing at the jealous jeers on social media. About knowing how proud Thomas Frank must be feeling as he has held his head high , despite the nonsense being directed his way in recent weeks, to see his team come out the other side in quite magnificent style. About knowing that we may be a bus stop but West London is OURS. 

Pete Doherty. Mike O’Callaghan. John Storm. Comedian Bill Bailey. Are you reading? Your team took one hell of a beating last night. And it was absolutely beautiful.           

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A bus stop. Last night.

Nick Bruzon

Calling all agents. Let’s do this.

28 Oct

There’s not too much to say, today. Brentford travel to Queens Park Rangers with morale high after those epic victories over Millwall and then up at Swansea City. Thanks again, agent Bidwell. This time we’ve none other than Mark Warburton and Yoann Barnet filling the roles of Griffin Park legends who have taken the short journey by 237 to Shepherds Bush. With the hosts flying high, it promises to be tasty. The big question being which team continues with their recent form and which has their head coach searching through the kitbag for that envelope labelled ‘Plan B’ ?

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All of this is, of course, before you factor in the small matter of a local derby. The history between our two clubs has been well documented and, if nothing else, Peter Gilham seems on a one man mission to ensure that neither fans nor players every forget the failed takeover. Whatever your thoughts on his refusal to even mention them by name, a crash course in local history seems as much a part of new players joining as the pre-season karaoke,  half-chewed biro and obligatory signing photo pose with choice of contract, scarf or new shirt.

We all know what happened. Almost. We all know that our recent record against our near neighbours is a good one. A very good one. Brentford have won 5 and drawn 1 of our last 7(seven) competitive fixtures. We’ll draw a discreet veil over the incident of the 4-6-0 formation which culminated in something called a ‘false 9’. Very much a Plan C that will hopefully never be repeated.

The not so good news for Brentford fans is that the injury glut that has already spannered Sergi Canos has now done for Nikos Karelis. ‘Official’ describe him as having suffered a serious knee injury against Millwall which will see him out for a significant period of time. The flip side of this being that both players were missing for the Swansea game and look how we went there. Benrahma and Mbuemo are on fire whilst Josh Dasilva must be one of the first names on the team sheet in the middle.

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Swansea, last time out.

Chuck in a bit of revenge required for ‘that’ 2-2 capitulation (0-2 on 90+2 becoming 2-2 on 90+4 having an almost Millwallesque feel about it) and the hosts won’t have it easy. Then there’s the pressure of knowing that a point will be enough to take them into the play-off positions by virtue of goal difference.

Will Yoann Barnet add to his collection of penalties conceded this season? At least three at the last count. Will Ollie Watkins be able to keep himself at the business end of the Championship goal scorer chart? Can Brentford make it three wins on the bounce?

I can’t wait for the chance to find out. For those who can’t make it, there’s Sky and The Griffin are also showing the game.

Or how about ‘Our friends at radio’? How it’s going to work tonight is that BBC Radio London on DAB/Digital have comms with
Phil Parry, Paul Parker and the mellifluous Billy Reeves. Enjoy.

However, you choose to follow let’s bring it on. See you there!!!

QPR Loftus Road

Off we go, again….

Free agent joins new team. Club sack manager (again).

19 Jun

What’s there to say after Tuesday’s double whammy of Championship news? Yoann Barbet was the name in the frame for Brentford fans once it was announced that he had signed for QPR. There was always a fair chance our paths were going to cross again but Loftus Road was the last place anybody expected him to pop up, with Leeds United being the name that has appeared on more than a few occasions. I guess it just goes to show, once more, that the clickbait is nothing more than that. Elsewhere, Birmingham City will no doubt have somebody ten times better lined up for their own hot seat after sacking Garry Monk. I hear Gary Rowett is available.

So, Yoann Barbet. Emotions were mixed on social media after the news was revealed via the medium of cringey hashtag. #BonjourBarbet being the offending article this time around. You have to feel for Yoann. Whatever snake emojis were offered in his general direction (and there were a few) nobody deserves that. It put one in mind of the #JakeJoins they used when Jake Bidwell moved to Loftus Road.

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Urghh – hashtags

Personally, I’m not in the snake camp. If anything it’s an attitude of general ambivalence. He was a hero to us at Brentford and provided plenty of good times. Enthused team spirit. Was nothing but welcoming and friendly when approached by supporters – young and old. He could even smile at himself (if you recall the reaction to his goal at Bolton following ‘that’ league cup penalty v Norwich City’) . We had the chance to retain him if it was one we had both wanted to take but, for whatever reason, Yoann’s contract was allowed to run out and he became a free agent.

From there, he has taken the decision to join Mark Warburton at Loftus Road. A place where he will no doubt find himself having to do Plan A better. A lot. There’s no ill will pointed towards him – just surprise at the destination and a lot of good luck offered. He’ll need it. If nothing else, it’ll make the 237 derbies even more interesting than they had already become following the news about their new manager.

That’s the thing. Of all the clubs there had to be a better option. Surely? Leeds were rumoured. There was talk of Aston Villa looking to take him up a level. Then again, who hasn’t Dean Smith been linked with? Or Mark Warburton, for that matter. I’ve also heard Alan Judge’s name in the frame to reunite with his former manager. It’s an inevitable part of the transfer window as lazy journalists look for stories where none are even close to existing. Perhaps Yoann’s link to those clubs was nothing more than ‘fake news’. Urghhh.

At the end of the day (Clive), the player has made his choice. Whatever the motivation – be it money, staying local or maybe there were just no other offers. Who knows? Yoann will be well aware of the history between our clubs but as long as he doesn’t do anything along the lines of Martin Rowlands or Harlee Dean (surely nobody could be that stupid) then presumably we’ll all move on. Albeit, If Said wants to recreate Jota v Jake Bidwell then that would be nice.

 

Instead, it is left to Bernard Quackenbush on Twitter to sum up what many of us are thinking: Feel somewhat deflated by this. I wanted to give the guy a warm welcome if he ever returned with an opposing team. But just cannot applaud anyone wearing those hoops.

No meltdown – more an opportunity lost.

Yoann barbet post Forest

Better times

As for Birmingham City…wow!!  The tailspin they’ve been in since relieving Gary Rowett of his duties in December 2016 has been well documented. From a Premier league chasing position, they’ve gone on to flirt with relegation a couple of times, over spent, seen points deducted and consistently finished below Brentford (that’s five seasons in a row, now).

With Garry Monk, it looked as though he might arrest that decline. Instead, the sale of Jota to Aston Villa has been seen as the catalyst for a bizarre parting of the ways with the club formally announcing that: “The board of directors are hopeful that over time the team can adopt a fresh and modern footballing philosophy,“. Hmmmm – read as much between the lines on that as you can.

You couldn’t make it up after the Rowett affair but instead, another promising manger has gone.  No tears here – any rival choosing to weaken themselves through sackings and sales is only a good thing for us. The BBC report tells us how owners Trillion Trophy Asia are calling for a change in “footballing philosophy”. Good luck with that. It could be a long and painful season ahead at St. Andrews.

And finally, with a sledgehammer like unsubtle change of direction, huge thanks to all those who have downloaded a copy of the Last Word season season review – containing the least bad of these columns from the World Cup to Aston Villa deserving to win the play offs. It also includes the World Cup aswell as all the ‘Park Life’ articles submitted for the matchday programme and so not previously available on these pages.  

ALL proceeds received are being donated to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust so what better way to remind yourself how brilliant 2018/19 was? To kill a bit of time on the commute to work / on your summer holidays / on the toilet etc You can download it , now, for your kindle , iPod telephone or other electronic reading device here.

At £1.99 it’s cheaper than half a pint so what’s to lose? Apart from £1.99 – which then goes to a great cause anyway. Many thanks again. And enjoy.

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Nick Bruzon

Bees put a quarter pound of rubbish back in the bin as Thomas makes it 4 and 7(seven) in a row.

3 Mar

This is getting embarrassing now. Another home game, another win for Brentford. That’s 7(seven) on the bounce. Another visit from QPR, another win for Brentford. That’s four on the bounce. The latest, Saturday’s 3-0, was about as one-sided as they get. But for a somewhat moribund first half performance from both sides, with neither willing to concede first blood in the penultimate 237 derby to take place at Griffin Park, it could likely have been another 5 goal finish for the Bees. In the end we had to settle for goals from Sergi, Saïd and Neal’s 20th of the season – from the spot – to keep the points safe and see Queens Park Rangers fans streaming out early as though the proverbial fire-drill was taking place. Elsewhere, the excitement continued North of the Border where Partick Thistle and their ebullient mascot Kingsley even got in on the act.

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Thomas celebrates at full time

But we can only start at Griffin Park. It was magnificent. Again. That’s starting to become a regular phrase on these pages but when you see Brentford scoring goals for fun then it’s no surprise. The approach play has the crowd on the edge of their seats ; the inevitable finishes have them leaping high into the air. The excitement palpable. The celebrations euphoric.

Once more it was Neal Maupay who lead the charge. The first came from the penalty spot after Keith Stroud decreed that Ollie Watkins had, indeed, been thrown to the ground. The finish was as calm and comfortable as they have been all season from the spot. If ever there was a moment when the occasion might get the better of him then here it was. Instead, the net rippled and the crowd exploded.

The poacher turned provider for our second, breaking down the right and riding a challenge from goalkeeper Lumley outside the box that would have had Keith reaching for his red had the Frenchman tumbled. But no, with the scent of goal in his nostrils Maupay evaded the lunge and squared the ball for that man Benrahma to fire home. 2-0 and game over.

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Yesssss!!! HB celebrates at 2-0

It could have been more even prior. Dalsgaard producing a stunning save from Lumley with a point blank header whilst Kamo, amongst others, came close after the Bees had opened up our opponents as easily as somebody deploying an umbrella when the heavens open. 

QPR had no response. If they had looked out of it after the penalty, they were dead and buried now. All they could produce was gallows humour from the away end as they started singing about having had one shot. That, from Jake Bidwell, causing more danger to his own fans sitting in the upper tier than Daniel Bentley and his rock solid defence.

Yet rather than attempt to lock it down, Thomas Frank kept going. With just shy of ten minutes to go, the stage was surely set for Josh McEachran. But no. Instead we were treated to more pace as Emiliano Marcondes and Sergi Canos were introduced to the field of play. The crowd celebrated (and consulted the big book of Brentford tactics).

It proved to be inspirational stuff as the fresh legs mad further inroads into the already porous blue and white ‘defence’. More importantly, keeping the ball down the correct end until Sergi wrapped things up with another word class run and finish deep into injury time. 3-0. Dead and buried. Game over. 

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Sergi (and team) celebrate the third

The goals are up on the Sky Sports website. Enjoy them again. Please. With them comes a win that sees Brentford up one place in the table to sit four points off tenth and eight off the play-off zone with twelve to play. Is that possible? 

Well, if home form could translate to away then who dares to dream. Next up is a trip to Middlesbrough. If there is to be any aspiration of reeling in our rivals and making an incredible leap towards the top flight then now is the time to find our feet on the road. Moreso given that the game immediately after is a midweek trip to Sheffield United. By the time we all come together at Griffin Park once more, Thomas Frank could be planing for next campaign in the Championship or masterminding a blitzkrieg assault on the upper echelons of the table with only one target in sight. Sixth place.

That’s to come, of course. For now I’m still buzzing about another stunning performance from Brentford. Griffin Park is certainly the place for goals, points and excitement. Off the pitch as well as on it where man-with-the-mic Peter Gilham, for whom the attempted takeover of ’67 is still fresh in the mind, was steadfast in his refusal to acknowledge QPR. At various points in the afternoon he described them as the visitors, the opposition and just about anything else he could find from a well thumbed thesaurus. Kudos to the legend that is PG for sticking to his principals so strongly.

We all know what this one means to him. Even the players. Saïd celebrated his goal by running the entire length of the Braemar Road touchline. Whilst we weren’t sure what that particular celebration was about at the time, Thomas Frank would later reveal that the player had gone in search of Peter. To give him a hug and celebrate together. What a club !! 

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Saïd celebrates whilst looking for Peter

He wasn’t the only one celebrating. Hats off to football’s best mascot (that isn’t Buzzette). North of the border it would be fair to say that Partick Thistle’s Kingsley seemed pleased about his mention in the match day programme. 

If the  potential of Brentford going up a division is one to tantalise, equally exciting is the prospect of one day getting Buzzette and Kingsley together. What a photo-op. What an image.

Full time saw the players perform their now customary lap of Griffin Park at full time. The smile on Saïd’s face, in particular, almost as broad as those on the faces of the fans he stopped to talk with. Which was just about everyone along the Braemar Road paddock.

Thomas Frank was sporting an old school Bees scarf he’d, presumably, picked up from somewhere along the way before making his way to the press box for a chat with the BBC Radio London team of Billy Reeves, Sam Parkin and Phil Parry.

I can’t wait to hear that one in full. Just to see him walking around the ground and talking to fans, you can feel how much this all means to Thomas. How much he is enjoying life but, also, empathises with the supporters and the players. The aforementioned double-substitution was yet another demonstration of his ability to buck the trend and deviate from the Brentford norm.

Then again, the performances his team are puling out of the bag are evidence of that. Get things right away from Griffin Park and this could be a run-in to end them them all

As the song goes, “I did it myyyy wayyyyyy”. And yesterday, he certainly did.

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(with thanks to the brilliant BBC Billy)

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Saïd and young fans enjoy the moment at full time

Nick Bruzon

QPR visit is time to get the arousal level up (although hopefully not the ref).

2 Mar

Let’s draw a discreet veil about what happened midweek. Brentford went down 2-0 at Sheffield Wednesday after what has been reported all round as somewhat of a horror show of a performance. Our neighbours, on the other hand, arrested a run of form that had seen them lose 7(seven) league games on the bounce after getting one over Leeds United at Loftus Road. Well done there. That recent set of results has now been tweaked to read: LLLLLLLW . 

And we can now chuck all of that out of the window. It’s derby day. West London, as opposed to Frank Lampard’s County (TM) . Queens Park Rangers visit Griffin Park in a game that is a must win. Not so much for the chance to put further clean air between us and the not so super hoops as the opportunity to continue a fine home record against our neighbours from the other end of the the 237 bus route.

Last season saw us triumph 2-1 thanks to Sergi and Flo Jo. The year before it was 3-1 as Jota ran riot. 2015/16 saw us take the honours 1-0 in front of the Sky cameras courtesy of Marco Djuricin. The big question now being if Brentford can make to four on the bounce whilst, at the same time, wiping the memory of the return encounter earlier in the season where that ten minute blip just after half-time meant a less than happy afternoon spent in the environs of White City.

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Results at home to QPR have been stunning in recent seasons

The short answer to that one is ‘Yes.’ Being blunt. Even allowing for the reversal of league fortune suffered by both teams during the week, I’m still going into this one buoyant. Leeds United were clearly suffering from an ‘off day’, as was evidenced last night when West Brom took an absolute hammering. 4-0 that one finished and I’ve no doubt Thomas Frank will have Brentford producing a similar reaction.

Our home form has been blistering in recent weeks. The performance against Aston Villa was magnificent whilst to put five goals past both Hull City and blackburn Rovers has made it a quite incredible February.  The form of Saïd Benrahma has been electrifying whilst Neal Maupay was named as EFL player of the year the other night at the London football awards.

Besides, if you can’t get yourself up for this match then what’s the point?  There’s a great quote from Thomas on the BBC website in their match preview, where he notes that: “We know it is a massive game for the fans and the club. Griffin Park will be bang on it…..it is one of these games where I feel the same tension as the Brondby-Copenhagen derbies in Denmark, where you don’t have to say much to the players as the arousal level is up there.”

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Wonderful news for Neal, midweek

The arousal level is certainly up there at home. I love this game. I sit next to a Rangers’ fan at work whilst HB has been telling everyone from his school friends to Chairman Cliff Crown (after a chance encounter yesterday)  about the forthcoming visit from Quarter Pound of Rubbish. No idea where he picked up that from – the things they must say at football club or in the schoolyard. 

It promises to be a fierce encounter. One to set the pulse racing and the blood pumping. One where fans from both sides will be doing all they can to push their team on and remind the officials about the rules of the game (I’m looking at you, Braemar Road linesman). One where tempers could threaten to boil over in the heat of the moment and the passion of the occasion . So the great news is that the EFL have named Keith Stroud as our man in the middle….

We all know Keith of old. The battle of Bramall Lane can never be forgotten. The soul destroying flourish of a red card with all the authority of a picked upon school kid granted immunity from the bully by virtue of his prefect badge. The infamous penalty incident  at Newcastle United where he disallowed a goal for the Magpies and awarded an indirect free kick to Burton rather than allow it to be retaken after encroachment.

That one seemed to be the death knell of his career but he’s been back this season – officiating 20 games where, stat check, Keith has only shown two red cards and averaged 3.5 yellows. Somewhat restrained compared to his former reputation. Could we see a mellower version in action this afternoon? Or will he be performing his one man Clintons’ tribute show?

Roll on 3pm when we find out. See you there.

Keith Stroud montage

Which Keith will we get today?

Nick Bruzon

Another defensive copy/paste but at least we’re getting good at kick-offs.

11 Nov

QPR 3. Brentford 2. What can you say? Not much. Try the BBC, Beesotted or ‘official’ for your match reports. Results saw The Bees end the day in 15th whilst our next opponents, Middlesbrough are up to second after their own win. Only Norwich City, our previous ‘away’ opposition, stand between them and the table top. Nobody said Championship life was easy, that’s for sure. But those goals against yesterday. Ewww. Not pretty. It felt like Preston all over again. If you want to see them once more then the defensive highlights are below.

Defensively challenged

It had all promised so much. The Bees back to winning ways and picking up the first points for Thomas Frank after steam-rollering Millwall last weekend. The team flying once more after being bundled (and rained) out of it at Norwich City. QPR with the somewhat dubious lure of having just seen Steve McClaren named as October’s ‘manager-of-the-month’. We all know what ‘should’ happen after that.  Everything was in place for another win. And then disaster struck as the defence went walk about for a ten-minute spell in the second half.

You were there. You don’t need me to repeat the obvious or dissect this further. It was something that Thomas had no choice but to acknowledge in his own post-match interview –  which you can see in full further below. That chat, one which looked like it was taking place in front of a room previously occupied by the Loftus Road firing squad.  

Yet more agonising was the fact that this was the second time in the last three away games that we’ve gone awol for a short period, during which time three goals have been conceded and the game effectively lost. Don’t forget there was also the trip to Preston last month where the score reached 3-0 to the home team before we’d even left the changing room.

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Thomas  updates us. (But has anyone seen Ian Holloway or Chris Ramsey, recently?)

That we almost turned that one around and gave ourselves hope yesterday when the World Cup’s Henrik Dalsgaard of Brentford made it 3-2 with 82 on the clock makes it all the more frustrating. All the more confusing. Similar happened at Deepdale. We can score goals. We play beautiful attacking football at times. Our young centre backs are quite magnificent whilst it’s wonderful having Moses Odubajo back aswell. We all know how strong Daniel Bentley has been for us. Just why do we have these blips?  

Well, as Thomas noted in that video, “The most important thing for me at the moment is the desire to get better”. Likewise, his comments on the BBC after both yesterday’s game and the one at Preston have a very similar feel.

Preston: Three goals away from home should be more than enough to win three points but we need to defend better in general. In this league you need to be on it.

QPR: In the second half we had a blackout more or less for 10 minutes, where we defended way too soft for all three goals. We need to do that better in general.

Doom and gloom from me? No. Frustration and confusion. That’s for sure. As much due to the injuries. Ollie Watkins, who had a blinder after he came on against Millwall, was missing due to what Thomas described as, “A toe issue where the joint in the toe is twisted“. So nothing to do with any rumoured transfer interest, which is good….

Yet it was those injuries that occurred once the game had started that caused as much concern. With Brentford heading towards half time one up c/o Neal Maupay (now up to 12 Championship goals already) things were looking good. Then, with the tea brewing, he collapsed to the floor unchallenged and ended up being stretched off. The concern was palpable and was later confirmed as the result of a concussion.

Sadly there was worse to come with Said Benrahma taking his place on the stretcher after rolling his ankle in the build-up to Henrik’s goal. Thomas would later confirm that the Algerian had rolled his ankle although, as yet, there’s no prognosis as to severity or recovery time. Here’s hoping it’s not as severe as first thought. The only saving grace here being that we’ve two weeks off thanks to International break for that recuperation process to begin in earnest. And to practice defending…..

From 1-0 up on fifty minutes, Brentford were then given three further attempts to perfect our kick off routine as the clock reached the hour mark. Whilst we’d lost Neal Maupay, that shouldn’t stop goals going in. Should it?  

Well, with no viable alternative then taking the option to push Sergi (or anyone) up top would only ever have an impact on the shape. But who else was there to fill that void? With absolute respect to Alan Judge, we’ve tried him there at Loftus Road and things didn’t exactly work out well for the team. The lack of alternate striking option has long been flagged on the terraces as a concern. Moreso, with Ollie also sitting this one out. In this instance, the percentages backfired.  

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Recent periods of the defence going awol have been a gift for our opponents

But I still maintain we have absolute quality in this squad. On its day, our first team is about as strong as we’ve seen. Talking to a fellow dad (and former Bee) at Harry’s football training in the morning, he was enthusing about the quality of football he’s having the pleasure of watching at present. On the way home from that, we happened to spot Neal Maupay whose enthusiastic hello to HB and chat about what was coming up that afternoon suggested everything was set for a fairytale ending.

Sadly, it wasn’t to be. A frustrating finish to a day that had promised so much but, equally, one step missed in a longer journey being taken. The forthcoming Middlesbrough game is about as tough as they come. Moreso, given our own recent form against them. It would be great if for that one the defensive blips could be cured on the pitch rather than afterwards in the post-match analysis.

We’ve two weeks to really figure them out and get our players fit again. There’s been a hell of a lot of football played in the space of a few weeks. Perhaps all of us recharging would be for the best.

In the meantime, here’s that interview with Thomas…

Thomas talks

Nick Bruzon

The many reasons we must win. The one reason we will.

10 Nov

Saturday morning and the 237 derby awaits. West London’s finest, and also QPR, prepare to do battle. With tier-gate resolved and the away-end sold out (barring a few £37 ‘restricted view’ seats), Brentford can prepare for the trip to Loftus Road in high spirits. Last weekend’s dominant performance saw The Bees back to winning ways and assuredly looking to pick up where we left off against Millwall. That one finished 2-0 and could easily have been double, but for the woodwork. Yet in a build-up that has been dominated by Friday’s news of Chief Executive Mark Devlin announcing his own departure from Griffin Park after 7 (seven) years, are we all missing out on the key factor that may decide this one?

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Off to Loftus Road again

First up, Mark Devlin. We’ve by now all heard the news of his own forthcoming departure which was shared yesterday morning. We’ve all read the praise being lavished upon Mark by everyone from Bees United to Matthew Benham and beyond. Understandably. The strides that Brentford have made in the last 7 (seven) years have been quite incredible. In no small part helped by his enthusiasm and dedication. His time taken to talk to anyone about everything – a spirit which continues to run through the club.

I’ve often maintained that if you want to know something at Brentford, just ask. Mark typifies this approach – where confidentiality allows, of course – whilst few could deny his openness with the fans at the forums, responding to email, on social media or in person. He’s a regular on the forecourt when there’s a game and will always stop for a chat. How many other clubs are fortunate enough to have this level of approachability from one of the men at the very top? There’s nobody doubting how much he’ll be missed whilst, personally, I’ll now need to find somebody else to harangue about the new kit. Good luck Mark. And thank you. Our loss is very much somebody else’s gain – even if it is Twitter spambots…

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Open comms. On any subject !!

Before he goes, Mark has one last QPR match to sit through. Which of his teams (wink emoji) will emerge with the points today? Brentford, obviously. Aside from our own strength and goal scoring potential, Nico Yennaris used his own appearance at the press conference to reveal how the team were fully aware of what this one means to the fans.

He explained how, “We know the importance of the game. Peter Gilham reiterates that every time we play QPR ; how important it is …the likes of myself, we’ve heard it enough from Pete but it’s the new guys coming in. The one’s that haven’t really been involved in a QPR – Brentford game. He lets them know aswell…”   

If anyone knows the history between the two clubs then it’s Peter. The story of the failed takeover can’t be told enough. It’s over fifty years on from that now yet still things remain fresh. In part helped by QPR’s own ‘accidental’ celebration of this event on their own programme cover last year. Something that their own head of media would subsequently explain, “Isn’t about inciting anyone – just charting our history at LR in chronological order”. This, before going on share how the dog had just eaten his homework and he’d left his P.E. kit on the bus. Probably.

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Old news on the programme cover. And the failed takeover

But then its all about the excuses with them. Who could forget the time they accidentally breached FFP rules after running up a deficit of £9.8 m aswell as owner Tony Fernandes and other shareholders writing off a £60m loan? October 2017 saw the £58m fine deemed not disproportionate and upheld. This, despite Fernandes’ earlier assertion that “My view has been consistent, that it is very unfair for a club that has been relegated as the wage difference between the Premier League and Championship is impossible. There should be a time period for clubs to rectify their salaries.

 “If we were in the Championship in two years with that wage bill it wouldn’t be right. I’m in favour of FFP but it is unfair for a club coming down.”

Ahhh. Poor QPR. If you can’t beat ‘em, cheat ‘em. In the end, the club and football league settled on a ‘mere’ £42m which included a £17m fine, amongst other measures. Perhaps a somewhat fortunate escape for a club who employed Harry Redknapp.

Whilst we all know this of course, there’s no harm reminding ourselves of the context. Moreso given our own efforts to comply with the financial regulations imposed on EFL clubs have often resulted in our own stars being sold to ensure compliance and fair play.

Recent form is very much with Brentford going in to today’s big game. Of the last 8 league and cup encounters, the record read W5 D2 L1 in favour of Brentford. The solitary blip in that run being Dean’s Smiths attempt to play Alan Judge as a false 9 in a 4-6-0 formation whilst the highlight being our April 2017 destruction of Rangers at Griffin Park. With Jota in inspired form that day, a 3-1 win was about as generous a scoreline to the visitors as they come.

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I wouldn’t disagree

I predict more of the same this afternoon. Forget form. Forget rivalry. Forget everything. There’s one fact more telling than any motivational speech Peter Gilham may give. More important than whether Thomas Frank starts with Yoann or Moses, Luke or Dan, Sergi or Said.

Put simply, Steve McClaren has just been named manager of the month for October.

What magnificent timing for yesterday’s announcement! Could it have been any better? We all know how this one works. Scoop the prize, fail to lose your next game. It’s a jjnx as long established as not shaving on a winning run, wearing the magic shirt, pulling on the lucky pants or whatever your own particular match day-ritual is. Yet none come bigger than having to make the awkward pose with the trophy, safe in the knowledge that the next points are sliding down the drain.

I’m pretty sure it’s a scientific fact. But don’t quote me on that. What you can quote me on is that this will be another three points for Brentford. I don’t want to rain on Steve McClaren’s parade but back-to-back wins are heading our way. Roll on 3pm when it all starts again.

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Incredible but true. It really has happened

Nick Bruzon 

Toothless Lions tamed with strike of Sergi-cal precision.

4 Nov

My word. What an afternoon. What a way to return to form. What a time to do it with the trip to QPR next up. Brentford beat Millwall 2-0 in a game that, as it progressed, could easily have seen that score doubled. It was a magnificent team performance exemplified by solid defence, rapid counter attack football and a forward drive that had been so desperately missing last weekend at Norwich. Sergi Canos and Ollie Watkins took their chances brilliantly to give us the goals, each player clean through to tuck it home, but don’t underestimate the way the whole team played here. Said Benrahma must be wondering how his delicious first half curler from the outskirts of the penalty box stayed out (curse that far upright) whilst Said Maupay also touched wood in the second period. Even Daniel Bentley had to stay alert to make one smart save with the scores locked at 0-0. That’s not to overly lavish praise on one over another here. It was about as ‘team’ as it comes yesterday. You could see what this one meant to Thomas Frank at full-time, clapping all the home fans and acknowledging anyone who looked to single him out, as our new head coach got his first points on the board.

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View from the Braemar – Said had a cracking game

That’s the game in a paragraph. As you know, we don’t do the full-fat match reports here. Go to the always wonderful Beesotted, the BBC or, of course, Brentford ‘official’ for that. Sky TV have the highlights here but I’m equally looking forward to seeing if we get a chance to hear what Mark Burridge and Greville Waterman made of this one when the 12pm ‘official’ coverage gets released into the wild. No doubt voluminous praise and excitement of ‘Jota at Blackburn’ levels will be the order of the day. It really was that sort of afternoon as the team returned to a style of play and clinical finishing that we’d become somewhat spoiled with over the early part of the season. Pity QPR on Saturday if we can keep this up. Millwall weren’t even given a chance to come second in this one as Brentford defended about as solidly as I’ve seen us do (some first half faffing across the box in search of the perfect distribution aside – sometimes, it’s not wrong to lump it up if there’s a defender closing in).

What else can we take away from this? Well, first up the celebration from Sergi was just a thing of beauty. With the net still rippling he tore over to the Braemar Road touchline, leaping high in the air as his teammates joined him. This was followed by a double fist pump and exuberant salute – the smile on his face broad. This one meant one hell of a lot. It was a moment of joy only matched by an equally emphatic routine from Ollie Watkins as he made the points safe late on.

Kudos, too, for Neal Maupay’s wonderful interplay in providing the assists for both our goals. He’s the Championship’s leading scorer and provider now. The adoration of fans in marked contrast to 12 months ago as a new signing beginning to find his feet in this division, the likes of Ian Moose pouring scorn and dripping poison.  

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View from the Braemar  – Sergi salutes the fans

Romaine Sawyers was named captain, again. His third time in four games. Thomas Frank would later confirm that he has dispensed of our rotational captain system. Something that Dean Smith had specifically introduced but has now gone with him to Aston Villa. Instead, the pool of leaders has been whittled down to just two – Romaine and Henrik Dalsgaard (of Brentford). Romaine had a great game yesterday after what, it would be fair to say, had been a dip in the form of last season’s ‘players’ player of the year’. Long may this continue!

I thought Josh Dasilva really impressed on his debut, coming on late for Josh McEachran. He drove forward as he added fresh legs and further goalscoring potential with the Bees looking to close this out rather than sit back and allow Millwall to press. Interestingly, I’ve this morning had a message from a Lincoln City fan I work with, noting: “Young lad you have out on loan at Forest Green, Archibald, he can play the game! We won 2-1. Absolute smash and grab though as we were outplayed. He is a very good player, great balance and change of direction. Some would say a ‘typical Brentford player’. We couldn’t deal with him tbh.”

With Josh stepping up and Theo showing his own potential for Forest Green, it’s great to see the B-team system continuing to flourish.

I had fun yesterday. A lot of fun. It was just that sort of celebratory occasion. Moreso, coming after a rightfully sombre start with Peter Gilham leading a minute’s silence to recognise both Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and, especially, the 100 years since the end of WW1 as part of the Remembrance Sunday observations. It was impeccably observed by both sets of fans whilst due praise to Sam Marshall and his programme team in recognising this hugely significant event. The production that he – ably assisted by Paul Briers and Dave Lane – put together to recognise this was a quite wonderful piece of work and compulsive reading.  

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Get one if you still can

The Millwall fans continued their respectful silence throughout the game. Aside from the odd chant of “No-one likes us, we don’t care” (really – then why do you persist in telling us so often?) they were largely as impotent as their team. Toothless Lions on and off the pitch, easily tamed by ringmaster Thomas Frank. Brentford, on the other hand, coming in for rightful recognition in his full time press conference.

There’s not much more to add after this one. On a personal note, Harry’s reaction to the game told me all I needed to know about how exciting it had been. He grabbed my phone, asking if he could call Uncle Tim to give him a full time update, then broadcast this to the Braemar Road forecourt (including one senior club figure whom I can only thank for his own subsequent observations and chat with an uber-excited five year old). He next proceeded to remove his coat to show the world his Ollie Watkins shirt and sung all the way home. Harry, that is.

Yet it was at Harry’s bedtime that I was given the sign that the Thomas Frank era is truly now underway. “Daddy” he entreated. ”As a special treat can I wear my Watkins shirt in bed instead of pyjamas?”

Yeah, he’s hooked. Thank you Sergi. Thank you Ollie. Thank you Thomas. Roll on Saturday and QPR.  

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Unconventional pjs but it would have been churlish to deny him

Nick Bruzon

Maupay banned. Funeral Directors appointed.

24 Aug

Brentford head to Blackburn Rovers on Saturday knowing we’ll be missing the services of the Championship’s leading goal scorer, Neal Maupay. A three game ban (which also takes in the Carabao cup tie at home to Cheltenham Town and then the visit from Nottingham Forest in the league) being the result of his accepting a violent conduct charge following the stamp on John McGinn at Aston Villa on Wednesday. In happier news, kind of, the club have announced G Saville and son as their latest commercial partners – the Official Funeral Directors of Brentford Football Club. Just for clarity, that’s Graham and not George. His career hasn’t died yet.

First up though, Neal Maupay and the incident at Aston Villa. The retrospective video review was no surprise to just about anybody who saw it on TV. Whilst referee Jon Moss missed this at the time, the subsequent going over and over in super slo-mo on Sky meant that there was only ever going to be one outcome. And understandably so on seeing the footage. It didn’t look good at all. There is a brief statement on Brentford official (you can read that in full here) although the jist of it confirms the games which will be missed, accompanied by an update from Dean in which he said that Neal understands the severity of his action and that he will be suspended for three games.

I reviewed the incident with Neal and spoke to him this morning. He understands the severity of his action and that he will be suspended for three games. We did not want to prolong the process so have accepted the charge immediately”, said Dean.

Nobody needs me labouring the point about what was an ugly incident which, despite the provocation, can’t be justified. The FA have delivered their verdict and so there’s nothing more to add on that aspect.

It’s a real shame for the team and a player who is the league’s top scorer (5) and also provider of assists (4). Instead, the conversation turns to how we replace Neal in terms of that centre forward role. In at the deep end for Marcus Forss or pull Ollie Watkins in from the left? It seems a shame to break up an otherwise winning formation but I suspect that’s the way Dean will go. Personally, I’d love to see Marcus given a chance in an otherwise retained shape. There’s also the option to stick Sergi up top although then we might be starting to stray into old ground….

Who could ever forget the the ‘false 9’ experiment? Few who remember ‘that game’ at QPR back in March 2016, in which Alan Judge was pressed into an advanced midfielder role (what was actually described as the aforementioned ‘false 9’) would be looking for a repeat. It was a nightmare afternoon where a striker free team were abysmal and, whatever the perceived logic from Dean, his gamble brought about inevitable consequences. Let’s please never, ever do that again.

That said, and we digress slightly, that afternoon sticks long in the mind for two other reasons. Both of which have been mentioned before and will no doubt again. But some things bear repeating.

Firstly, the magnificent Billy Reeves doing his zero-to-catwalk in three seconds shimmy along the touchline at half time. It was a move that was equal parts Zoolander and Moonwalk. Not even Ian Moose’s movement when the half-time pies appear could match this for impressiveness. Any excuse to drag out that picture once more.

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BBC Billy had provided the one moment of joy the last time we tried a ‘false 9’

Secondly, being ‘fly on the wall’ to a conversation taking place in the row directly behind me. There, the emotion had clearly got to another fan who had been giving a running commentary down the phone to his, presumably, better half during the second half. As the Bees collapsed his call, which had been getting more and more aggravated, reached a sad denouement with the line, “Yes. I love you my darling. But we’re sh*t. Now please f**k off”.

Whomever Dean starts with at Blackburn, it can’t be that bad. Instead, with our head coach now facing his first mandatory test of personnel, it will be very interesting to see which way he jumps. More importantly, how the team cope. Bring it on…

The other news of note was the announcement of the club’s official funeral partners. Whilst I’ve no doubt there will be some who think it is a commercial opportunity too far and indicative that the game’s gone, others will welcome it. Certainly I do, if only for the pun potential it now offers. It was something the club themselves have recognised, leading with the headline.: Brentford ‘til I die. Cue immediate references to dead ball specialists and experts in the box, although perhaps Will Grigg may not want to think about being on fire just yet. Urghh. Is that still a thing?

There have been the usual knockers but, frankly, who cares? It’s going to happen to us all one day so why not have a name ready for when that sad moment comes? Why shouldn’t the club explore unique and innovative opportunities that get people talking about both us and our partners?

Keen eyed observers had already seen the adverts at the Sheffield Wednesday game on Sunday. I was sent this picture, wondering whether George was currently lying low at the Holiday Inn ahead of the announcement of a controversial career change and forthcoming return to West London.

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Not George

Whilst it will be a blow to many, such flights of fancy are yet to transpire. Instead, the true meaning was revealed in yesterday’s announcement. And you can read that one in full on ‘official’.

Otherwise, there’s not really much else to say. Safe travels to Blackburn and roll on 2pm tomorrow when Dean announces his team.

Nick Bruzon     

Just when it couldn’t get any more exciting……

22 Apr

What an afternoon. If Fulham last week was huge then this one was monumental. Magnificent Brentford beating QPR 2-1 in a terrific derby day victory gained against the toughest of opponents – referee Mr. Madley and his assistants. Yet let the inconsistency and poor decision making of the officials take nothing away from a Bees team who were simply immense. With a raucous Griffin Park crowd urging them on, Dean Smith’s team have now moved to within ONE point of the play offs as those around us all fell to draw or defeat. One. point. Even, say it quietly, Birmingham City did us a favour of sorts in beating Sheffield United 2-1. With Sunderland now formally relegated and the Blues getting a bit of clear air (for now) our trip to bottom three Barnsley on Saturday gains even more significance than it already had.

Sunday morning. Where to start? Having slept on it, I’m still thrilled by Dean’s team selection but also the way they played. There was only one team in this over the first half as the rampant Bees poured forward in wave after wave. Sergio Canos and, particularly, Romaine Sawyers were magnificent. Flo Jo displaying a turn of speed that left his opponent for dead on more than one occasion. The move that freed an electric Ollie Watkins for the penalty (more to come) was as spell binding a display of one-touch pass and move football as we could ever hope to see. Absolutely delicious.

To do that on the training ground would be one thing. But at full tilt, in a blood and thunder local derby, something completely different. It looked incredible live. To see that exchange of passes once more on video shows just how dazzling it was.

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Sergi and Romaine – a rare moment of ‘slow it down’

I’m so pleased for Romaine, in particular. He came in for obscene levels of criticism at the start of his Griffin Park career but what a way to win the haters around. What a way to keep your mental focus and prove the doubters wrong. To demonstrate just what you can do with a football. Do check out the Sky highlights package (up now on their site), until the full fat Mark Burridge version can be added after mid-day to see our man in action. I’ve still got a stupid smile on my face now just thinking about it. Hmm, perhaps better go and watch that just once more.

The first goal was only ever going to come to Brentford. QPR were left standing in the blocks as The Bees went for this one from the off. Wave after wave of attacks were somehow repelled until Sergi Canos fired home from close in on the quarter hour mark. The visitor’s inability to deal with a corner kick proving their downfall. The story of the afternoon, really, as they were second to everything for such long swathes of the game. Clearances missed, passes made directly into touch and seemingly simple balls miscontrolled. At one point Luke Freeman was left with his head in his hands by the Braemar Road touchlines after spectacularly failing to trap a high ball forward and gifting a throw on to Brentford.

One goal up and the Bees continued pushing. As half time approached we had the aforementioned moment of magnificence from Romaine. With Ollie Watkins clean through and a goal all but assured, goalkeeper Matt Ingram came charging off his line and ploughed through our man. Penalty !! But no red card. Instead, after a protracted period of medical emergency that ended with all players deemed fit enough to continue, referee Andrew Madley showed yellow. Ingram was allowed to stay on and promptly saved the spot kick. To compound the felony , the visitors went down the other end and with their first meaning fun attack, equalised. You couldn’t make it up. QPR’s Sylla leaving a black mark on our copy book.

So. The penalty. Should it have been a red? Absolutely in my eyes. There was no attempt to play the ball but a cynical assault on a player bearing down on goal with the net in his sights. The crowd were incensed and understandably so. Perhaps the injury period allowed time for the ref to draw the sting from the event. A sympathy yellow for a player who was clearly unable to carry on and, like Ollie Watkins, was subbed before the second period had begun.

Now it is true that the rules surrounding such an incident have been relaxed. Previously, had a penalty been awarded in such a circumstance then a red card would have been awarded by default. Likewise, followed by suspension. However, this ‘triple’ punishment was first reclassified back in 2016 following an 18 month review and, instead, the rules tweaked to say that only deliberate fouls warrant a red. The yellow would be shown if the referee deemed that it had been accident.

I’m sorry but this was no accident. There was no chance whatsoever of stopping that ball, such was the way the QPR defence had been split open like an overly ripe watermelon by Romaine’s tracer bullet of a pass. Watkins was home clear and running at full tilt. Ingram committed to come off his line and through the player. Even Ian Holloway would admit after the match that, “The penalty save was huge. Should he have been sent off? I think he should but he then stood up, probably concussed, and made a wonderful save”

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An accident? Hmmmm. Sky TV cameras capture the moment

Madley got this one wrong. Very wrong. But then that was the story of his afternoon. Those yellow cards he did show handed out at random. There was no consistency. No boundaries set and, most importantly, no protection of the players. The Bees in particular on the receiving end of several studs up and scything challenges that themselves could have been candidates for ‘straight red’. Alex Baptiste, I’m looking at you.

1-1 at half time and if ever there was a candidate for Dean’s oft repeated lines that ‘We deserved to win’ then here it was. Brentford had been rampant yet somehow scores were level. The second half began at a much more sedate pace (relatively) with players readjusting and substitutions having been made. The pattern of the game being broken up by an even more robust approach form the hoops. Eventually, class told. Florian Jozefzoon proving the telling factor as he made room in the box and fired home.

From there the lead was never going to be a surrendered. Whilst Rangers did try to turn up the pressure, I only recall one save of note from Daniel Bentley in the second half. The defence were otherwise rock solid, dealing with high balls and corners as though they were stealing candy from a baby. It felt tense at times. In reality, the players were the epitome of confidence.

A word also for the crowd. What an atmosphere. What passion. What noise. For all Griffin Park is small and old, having everybody so close to the pitch DOES make a huge difference. Moreso in a game such as this against our staunchest of rivals. With all the history, a visit from QPR is always the one we look for when the fixtures are announced. When the game comes around, it is always the one where the noise is the most voluminous (is that even a word?). Loud. The QPR players knew they were in a game. Jake Bidwell, especially. He looked a beaten man in the second half. A resigned shrug to the Braemar Road crowd before his eventual substitution.

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Home supporters jump up to express consternation to Mr Madley and Alex Baptiste – again.

What next? We’re eighth. One point off sixth placed Derby County with two games to go. The trip to Barnsley and then the visit from Hull City. Derby do have that game in hand but its a visit from a Cardiff City team locked in a desperate battle for the second ‘automatic’ place behind Fulham. Should the Bluebirds do us a huge favour on Tuesday night – something that will have the double whammy bonus of railroading The Cottagers – then Saturday becomes even bigger. If that were possible.

Even Middlesbrough in fifth can still be caught, such is the proximity of the teams from positions 5-9. This has all the hallmarks of 2014/15. We were reliant on favours, and our own results, then. We’re in the same position now. The difference being that under Mark Warburton we’d spent large chunks of the season in the play-off zone. WE slipped out after bit of a late wobble results wise before recomposing oursleves nad having results go our way on the final day. Thanks, Derby! To fall short then, having been in control, could have been all kinds of demoralising.

This time around, it is a perfectly timed run. A play-off push that, and please correct me if I’m wrong, has so far not seen us in the top six at any point this campaign. What a way it would be to finish the season – hitting the top six for the first time on game 46. Or, preferably, game 45 on Saturday. At Barnsley. Themselves up to their necks in a relegation scrap.

As a side note to that, there would be no irony lost on anyone if it turned out to be those Brentford players that Birmingham City didn’t sign who helped keep them safe, rather than the ones they did. No doubt Harlee Dean will be cheering on his old team mates although, perhaps, just wishing they were ten times better.

Let it never be said football doesn’t keep us intrigued.

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Even Harry was kept on the edge of his seat until the end of this one.

Nick Bruzon