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When you phone in a performance, look what happens…

1 Jul

Brutal. Brilliant. Together. Brentford blitzed Reading 3-0 where, but for the last line of defence, it could easily have been more. The hosts not getting a look in as the gap to ‘automatic’ closed further. West Bromwich Albion sit a mere two points ahead of us heading into their own game at Sheffield Wednesday tonight whilst Leeds United limped to a 1-1 draw with Luton Town. Most generous hosts. 

With the stress over getting the I-Follow on the TV dissipating ten minutes in (it worked, far too easily, when I’d tried previously so was obviously going to fail when it came to a ‘live’ game) there was nothing more to do than sit back, pop a beer and ready the ‘goal sweets’. It wasn’t long before that bag of Haribo ‘Starmix’ saw a Tuesday evening debut. The Reading defence breached by Bryan Mbeumo after the Bees had been banging on the door all game.

With the BMW finally starting a game together for the first time since lockdown, it was Ethan Pinnock who provided the assist. A corner being headed back for the wide man to steer home. Get in. It felt as though it had been coming but pressure, possession and stats count for naff all if you can’t take the chances when you create them. All the shots on goal are deemed meaningless if you can’t keep it tight at the other end. A lesson so ably demonstrated by Leeds United later in the evening as their 75% ball retention and 23 shots to their opponents’ 3 could only result in a 1-1 with bottom club Luton Town.

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Football on the big screen. Goal sweets in hand

Half time came and went. A first foray into I-Follow deemed what could well be described as a successful one after those initial teething troubles. Whether we could say the same for Mark Burridge and Mick Cabbie in the commentary box is a matter of debate. And that’s not meant as a critique of their skills.

Rather, that they did quite wonderfully holding it all together after a tech failure just prior to kick off meant the dynamic duo were obliged to commentate via mobile phone. It was like taking a step back in time an early 80s UEFA Cup match coming at you from close to the Iron Curtain, with commentary being delivered ‘down the line’.  

Bonus points to Mark for his use of the early evening ‘For those of you just coming in late or from work’. With the unique sound that can only come from phone commentary, shut your eyes and it could have been World Cup Argentina ’78. As @the_mattfinish on Twitter would also compare : Motson’s commentary of the Platini goal had this same crackly greatness.

But whilst Thomas Frank’s boys may be playing with the same confidence as World Champions, 1-0 at half time was still only 1-0. As we saw against West Bromwich Albion on Friday night, we rarely have things our own way all game and, sure enough, Reading matched the Baggies by coming for us in the second period.

However, the Bees were also able to ensure a repeat with another clean sheet being earned. Pontus Jansson with the one notable clearance to keep on lockdown at the back whilst the attackers did their thing at the other end.

First, Josh Dasilva. The midfielder following up his own shot to beat the home defence to the ball and double our lead just after the hour. What a man and what a performance. With Christian Norgaard equally strong, and named man of the match at full time, the Bees looked solid throughout. More importantly, 2-0 and any pressure off. For the supporters if nothing else. Brentford back in in the driving seat. Reading nothing more than passengers. Shares in Haribo going through the roof. 

With Thomas Frank taking full advantage of his expanded substitution allowance, changes were made. They allowed the team to push up (Brentford) and yet another late goal for the Bees rounded things off in style. This time, Joel Valencia the man as he lashed home an absolute beauty from distance with the clock entering Jota time. 3-0. Game over, man. Game over. Brentford clear in third. West Brom within touching distance. 

A further bonus then delivered later in the evening as the scoreline from Elland Road came in. It was a result that barely anyone saw coming. Yours truly especially. All gifts gratefully accepted though and whilst one would suspect that Leeds United are all but up (not even they’ll choke this) there’s always the morale boost of watching them wobble. Of being able to sing that Joy Division song.

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Fail to take the chance ; pay the price… The BBC stats tell a sorry tale for Leeds

Fulham finally got back to winning ways but still sit behind us. Nottingham Forest play tonight so have the chance to overtake them with a win at home to Bristol City. Things really are that tight now. Every win counts. Every notch on the goal difference chart could prove vital. Brentford have the momentum but we have to keep it going. Of course the supporters are going to look ahead to what ifs and those permutations when ‘x’ beats ‘y’.

That’s part of being a football fan. Thomas Frank seems to be taking a much more grounded approach and is focussing on nothing more than the next training session and the next game. Acknowledging at full time that whatever is coming next is always the biggest one. It is not about yesterday or tomorrow but ‘now’.

And that is home to Wigan Athletic. Like the Royals, they are currently languishing mid-table. Does the fact they have nothing to play for beyond pride bode well or is a side under no pressure perhaps the most dangerous of all? Roll on Saturday when we can find out. 

That’s for then. For now, we can reflect on a job very well done. It wasn’t so much that Reading were awful but Brentford were, quite simply, awesome.  We’ve put ourselves into a position where defeat or a draw for the Baggies tonight will see the Bees go second should we manage to pick up maximum points against Wigan.  

Perhaps even Thomas Frank may have half an ear on proceedings at Hillsborough this evening. I know I will…

 

Nick Bruzon

The latest round of fixtures is as big as they come. Here’s why.

30 Jun

How different does the Championship table look since the restart? Brentford head to Reading tonight, hot on the heel of Leeds United and West Bromwich Albion in automatic whilst Cardiff City have now hit the top six. Nottingham Forest have overtaken Fulham to close in on the Bees whilst the hapless Cottagers must now go the next three games without scorer Aleksander Mitrovic. This, after the front man was yesterday given a retrospective ban following his use of the elbow at Elland Road. It is understood that Fulham are not appealing. Neither will they be speaking to the FA to contest the punishment. 

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The verdict was ‘violent conduct’

All of which means that not only are Brentford faced with a quite wonderful opportunity at the Madjeski at 6pm this evening (please don’t forget the early start and try to sign in to I-Follow early) but there is added incentive for Ollie Watkins. 

Whilst most observers were marvelling over Saïd Benrahma channeling the spirit of Paul Daniels against West Brom  – i.e. his magic tricks rather than dodgy hairpiece – Ollie went top of the Championship goalscoring charts after converting the game’s only strike. Although he and Mitrovic both have 23 goals, Ollie has now overtaken the Fulham man on ‘assists’. And with the free-eating frontman out of action for the next few games, what an opportunity for Ollie to move clear.

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All being well, a scene that will play out tonight

If anything, the golden boot threat could come from former Bee Lewis Grabban. He is up to 19 as Nottingham Forest turn up the heat. The Tricky Trees are the ones to keep a wary eye on now and a home game with free falling Bristol City tomorrow night will surely have the goal hungry striker licking his lips. What must he be worth at present? 

Still, it all counts for nothing if we can’t beat Reading this evening. That’s the eternal ‘if’, of course. Things that look like a given on paper rarely play out as simply in real life. This isn’t to say I’m not confident about our own team’s ability, because I am. We’ve picked up like we left off and it takes huge guts and ability to beat the first and third placed teams. Moreso in these quite bizarre circumstances of crowd free football. But they’ve been and gone. The table doesn’t lie and all they mean now is that we are up to third. Fine though those wins were, they have been and gone. Now is the moment to keep the heat on West Brom and Leeds. 

Moreso given that I can’t see anything beyond ‘home win’ at Elland Road tonight. Luton Town are in huge trouble but not even Leeds will choke that one. They looked too strong on Saturday. Too solid and clinical when the moment came. Patrick Bamford found the net early and it was game over from that point. Fulham all huff and puff – picked off with clinical precision by Bielsa’s assassin like team. A cat toying with a spider. 

So Brentford need to beat Reading. Victory would take us just two points behind West Brom and very much game on. Talk about cranking up the pressure ahead of their trip to Sheffield, Wednesday. It’s a genuinely exciting prospect and I can’t wait for kick off tonight. There are snacks in the cupboard, beer in the fridge and goal sweets at the ready. 

Bring it on. I can’t wait for this one. With Fulham starting their own game (the battle between the two worst teams in West London at Loftus Road) half an hour later and then Leeds kicking off at 7.45pm, dare we dream what the table could look like when referee Dean Whitestone calls full time at the Madjeski?

Let’s do this !!!!! 

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Can the kings of West London football kick on this evening?

Nick Bruzon

Thank you NHS. Thank you Sergi. Thank you Jan.

22 Mar

What can you say? Yesterday we should have been watching Brentford play Reading in an out of town car park. The most soul destroying of trips to somewhere that looks, as the crow flies, so close yet in reality is a trip that would test even Bear Grylls. The sort of thing we’d take an almost masochistic pleasure in moaning about yet, right now, I’d give my right arm to be in a position to be upset about having made the shlep to the Madjeski. The realisation of just how much we take for granted is hitting home with all the subtly of Ian Moose at a buffet. Should such a thing still exist. Buffets, I mean. Football is over for the foreseeable. Life is all about staying sane and staying healthy. Thoughts of Griffin Park and the last game with Barnsley nothing more than an optimistic light on the horizon. 

Yet optimism is what we need right now. With the news making for such hard going it would be easy to sink into despondency. I’m not going to pretend I haven’t had low points in the last week or so. I’m sure I can’t be alone and I am sure there will be more to come. With self-isolation becoming more and more prevalent – whether enforced or voluntary – even walking past Griffin Park yesterday morning on an almost clandestine trip to the shop felt like a guilty pleasure.

Moreso given how hard those people on the front line are working to keep things going. Food and drink should be available (as long as people don’t act like dicks in the supermarket) and our NHS staff are busting an absolute gut, despite being in the very forefront of what is impacting us all.

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Griffin Park is understandably on lockdown

The trip back from the shop was punctuated by a call from Mrs. Bruzon. Where was I? Harry had suffered a horrific fall and smacked his head open!!! Blood everywhere and losing consciousness. My heart stopped. Panic set in – and as much because I had to start running to get the last mile back to them. It wasn’t a pretty sight on arrival (but enough about my knackered lungs). Blood everywhere, H looking grey and not even crying. Just slumped lethargically against mummy who was heading off to the hospital.

The short hop to West Mid was not a good one. I have to be honest I’ve not been so scared in a long, long time. Sat in the back with Harry, he was barely coherent. Barely awake. I did my best to keep him talking. Asking silly questions about Brentford. The answers made no sense. Dalsgaard isn’t a centre back. Ollie Watkins has scored more than 16 goals. This was not a good sign. At least he recognised that Sergi Canos is his favourite player.

All I could do was promise that if he kept talking to me and then did everything the doctors and nurses asked, I’d give him the one shirt from my collection he’s had his eye on to go in his bedroom – Jan Zamburek’s Ecoworld blue ‘Farewell Griffin Park’ shirt (don’t ask ; that’s a story for another day).

We reached the hospital in a hurry. Thankfully, people seem to finally be taking the advice to stay indoors seriously and traffic was at a minimum. Scooping him from the back seat, I ran in with H in my arms. Heart pumping – but , again, as much through lack of fitness as panic. Here we go…..

Wow! The NHS staff were amazing. Incredible. Moved so quickly. Got him in, cleaned up, assessed, treated and slowly the colour returned to his cheeks. The shock he had suffered worn off. The huge gouge above his eye now sealed up and sure to leave a proper ‘Action Man’ style scar. With all the carnage going on in the outside world and the incredible pressure / stress they must be under at present, to see how calm and caring they were was nothing short of life affirming. Huge love and huge thanks from me and Mrs B, that’s for sure! 

Harry is now fine. He is home. His composure returned and Zamburek’s shirt is hanging in his room, alongside what I think is Gary Blissett’s 92-93 ‘away’ (again, don’t ask). I’ll say one thing for H, he does have good taste. 

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H now has a new favourite shirt

We’re all sitting around in self-isolation – wondering how to get through the coming weeks but knowing that we will. Knowing that thanks to those wonderful people in the NHS, a personal nightmare has been avoided. Things are likely going to get very tough for while. They’ll be the ones out there looking after us. You only need to look at the news to see how things have played out in other countries. To see how irresponsible some people have still been as recently as Friday night, having ‘one last hurrah for the road’ before pubs shut down.

I don’t want to go all holier than thou because I’m not. But having seen health workers in action first hand, the last thing we need to do is pile any more pressure on them. The last thing we want is them, or anyone, going hungry. Do think before you hit ‘stockpile’ mode or go walkabout. It might not be much fun compared to our usual freedoms (although the alternatives are 10 times worse, to coin a phrase).

If for no other reason that aside from going stir crazy, many of us need to double up as teachers. Cripes!!  If the NHS, supermarket workers and all those others whom we have, let’s be honest, probably taken for complete granted over the years deserve respect than I am sure this will be equally applicable to those who keep the schools running. Me and H have already had our first science class – making bouncy eyeballs (well, he was worried he may need a replacement). 

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It is also a time that is bringing out the best in people. Neighbours are suddenly looking out for each other. Strangers doing good deeds. Streets and communities coming together to try and help each other through these unprecedented times. We have warmth. We have the internet. We have a lot of TV and board-game time coming up. Hopefully we all have food.

But I also know we will get through this. Stop. Think. Look out for your friends. Your neighbours. Each other. Pick up the phone. Send a text message to somebody who might not be expecting it. Let’s stay talking to each other. This is the chance for Social Media to be an amazing power for good rather than the hotbed of vitriol and nastiness it can so often be.

Just reading the words of Sergi Canos yesterday put a huge smile on my face.  There may be no football at present but it’s probably the least of our concerns in the immediate grand scheme. Let’s keep on remembering the good times and look forward to them returning at some point.

Nick Bruzon

Are we getting close to dusting off ‘that’ hashtag after another fine performance?

24 Nov

Get in Ollie Watkins! An 11th goal of the season was sufficient to separate Brentford and Reading, with a 1-0 win for the Bees seeing us climb up to 8th in the Championship table. A mere 2 points outside the play-off spots. With a midweek trip to Blackburn Rovers and then the visit of Luton Town in six days, there’s everything to play for ahead of this time next week. How far away does that season opening home defeat to Birmingham City seem now? Thomas Frank’s fifth win in six league games seeing us on a fast track to dusting off the dreaded ‘Novemberkings’ hashtag. And with Ollie, likened at full time to none other than Juventus legend Cristiano Ronaldo, just one goal behind Aleksandar Mitrovic at the top of the Championship goalscorers table the mood at Griffin Park is buoyant. 

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Heyyyy. Thomas Frank a very happy man at full time

This one was about as hard fought as it comes. In form Reading setting up to stifle the play (see also: Huddersfield Town last time out) and restrict the attacking prowess of The Bees. It was a tactic that worked in the first half with Rico Henry nobled early, requiring a lengthy period of treatment, as Brentford eased their way in to a game that had chances at a premium. Indeed, it was the visitors with the best opportunity of the opening period when George Puscas found himself clean through and bearing down on goal. It had 0-1 all over it but David Raya was equal to it and then some.

Haring off his line, he closed down the gap before spreading himself to close out the threat of certain goal. It really was a magnificent piece of quick thinking, Virtuoso goalkeeping from a man who has fast become a hero the The Griffin Park faithful. The need for precision vital, with referee David Coote showing two very early yellows and then set to ‘random mode’ in his decision making. How Andy Yiadom stayed on in the opening period I have no idea.

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Rico took an early hit

He wasn’t helped by his officials, with the linesman on the Braemar Road side making the foolish mistake of interacting with, and talking back to, the crowd. The magnificent ‘angry dad’ seized on this in a heartbeat and was amongst the many explaining the rules and cajoling the hapless assistant. I will miss this level of interaction and closeness at Lionel Road but, with the price of Premium seating to replicate my current touchline view being what it is, we’ll likely be up in the Gods next time out.

But we digress. Raya did brilliantly. There wasn’t even a glimmer of a potential penalty or a goal as the chance chance was extinguished. And with it, seemingly, Reading’s hopes. Brentford built the pressure in the second half with that man Ollie Watkins finding the back of the net on the hour. Mathias Jensen delivering a beautiful cross from the New Road side of the field straight on to the head of the free scoring number 11. Watkins made no mistake with a powerful downward header back across the face of goal and into the bottom corner.

Griffin Park erupted. As it does. The rain soaked crowd off their seats. Voices raised as high as those pumping visits. Players celebrating as the deadlock was broken. Oh, what a moment. There’s no place like it at times like this. But still there were thirty minutes to go. Still, a referee with no grip on the game or idea what was really going on. Yet Brentford kept going. Watkins again with the chance to double the lead just a few minutes later but not quite able to turn it in on the line.  And as the clock wound down, the pressure built.

Reading are no slouches and they showed it. With five minutes of additional time added on at the death, they started turning the screw. Attack followed attack with more scrambles than an 80s amusement arcade (I absolutely LOVED that game – go check it out). It felt very much like the last attack in a game of rugby. Phase after phase of possession in an attempt to find that elusive way through. Chance after chance cleared as the Brentford defence held firm until Mr Coote finally put us out of our misery. Yesssss!!!!  Well done Pontus, Ethan Pinnock et al as the rejigged backline kept it up until the death.

It was an afternoon of tension and brilliance. Full credit to Reading for pushing us to the absolute limit. They may feel hard done by but it is chances taken that win games. Not possession. Not frustration. Not bad luck. Ollie Watkins got the one effort that counted and it was enough for Brentford. His stock continues to rise and talk on the Quest TV highlights show this morning has very much been that that he is the one that the (so called) big clubs will be looking towards when the transfer window opens.

I’ve no doubt that he will remain in the public eye but why would Thomas want to sell? As he noted at full time, “He’s definitely a number nine now, because he’s so flexible. Cristiano Ronaldo did quite well in the beginning as a winger. Hopefully Ollie can do something similar.

What higher praise is there? What better indication of his ability as the goals continue to flow?

All that’s to worry about in January, though. For now we’ve had another fine win and another three points. The table is really starting to lock up as our progress continues upwards. Keep the wins coming and the rest will look after itself. Blackburn Rovers away on Wednesday is going to be another tough one. But then so was Wigan. So was Swansea. And look what happened there.

Bring it on. I can’t wait…

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Hands off

Nick Bruzon   

An unusual case of The Royals enjoying time in the public eye.

23 Nov

Guess who’s back? We are back. Oh yes. International break blah blah blah. Brentford host Reading this afternoon, no doubt keen to continue the recent run of fine form that has seen us pick up 12 points out of a possible 15 and find the back of the net three times with each victory. It is a purple patch that has seen the 3-2 win at home over Millwall aswell as 0-3 at Swansea, 1-3 at Loftus Road and, most recently, that brutal 0-3 at Wigan. We’ll draw a discreet veil over the Huddersfield Town sludge fest. The net result of all this being that the Bees now find themselves in a position where victory over the Royals could take us to within a single point of the play-off zone. Yet if Huddersfield came to Griffin Park as the Championship’s form team, you can today substitute the Terriers for Reading.

Recent form has been (mostly) wonderful – home and away

Despite what could be described as patchy start, the visitors have come good. And how. Since taking over, manager Mark Bowen has seen his side pick up 10 points from his four league games in charge. By means of showing just how hard he has yanked on the handbrake, this is 2 more than they won in their first eleven matches of the season. Don’t let their position fool you. The table may never lie over the course of a season but, at present, the Royals are very much enjoying life in the public eye. And it’s not often you can say that. 

These next words make me a little queasy. Chief architect in their on-pitch revival seems to be none other than John Swift. He, of course, being one of several from the Chelsea youth production line that went on to enjoy a run at Griffin Park. I’ve said this before, to much chagrin from our reader, but I never really thought he quite cut it. Not at McEachran levels of underwhelming  but the form relative to potential was excruciating at times. We could all see the class but the consistency wasn’t there. 

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File photo.  I don’t remember what this tenuous link was about , either.

Hey, let’s put it down to youth. Certainly, John seems on form now and you are only as good as your last results. Historical form counts for naff all. The BBC note how he has has already created 50 chances in the Championship this season. A figure which comes in at 13 more than any other player. At the same time, he has also been credited with the ‘assist’ six times and, as such, would seem very much their danger man. These are impressive figures although one would imagine that should Saïd Benrahma continue this own prolific return from injury, they are stats that will soon see him overtaken.

Excitingly, the mercurial Algerian is available to Thomas Frank today. A double bonus given the absence of Joel Valencia, who sustained a shoulder injury in the win at Wigan. Like Pontus and Ollie, Said is one of the first names on the team sheet. Inked in with permanent marker in style akin to Mark Warburton with Harlee Dean and Jonathan Douglas. The sort of players deemed utterly essential by the head coach to his own strategy, regardless of their form. Thankfully, our three current stars have all been shining brightly and they will need to be today. 

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Saïd – ever popular with the fans

Also missing are Christian Nørgaard (suspended) and Julian Jeanvier, after seeing red very late on at Wigan. Pontus will need to be at his very shoutiest today with a new look defence in operation. Presumably Ethan Pinnock will slot straight in alongside the vociferous Swede but knowing Thomas, anything could happen. The squad is very much at the thin end with several other key players out injured (Canos and Karelis at the top of that list) but, as we all know, the starting XI is a match for anyone on their day. Or should that be month?  And then some given recent results.

Thomas Frank really has his team on fire. The win at QPR was about as exciting and exhilarating as they come. The victory on the road at Wigan as unexpected yet complete as any we have had this campaign. The alleged ghost of orange/brown long laid to rest. Today has all the potential to lift morale even higher than it already is . To propel The Bees ever upward. To maintain a stranglehold over our visitors that, and not to put any pressure on Thomas, hasn’t seen us slip up at home since the dark days of the Marinus experiment back in 2015.

No pressure Thomas. No pressure…..      

Roll on 2.01pm when we see who he starts with.  Roll on 3pm when it all kicks off.

See you there. Enjoy.

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Any excuse to crowbar this one in – no pressure, Thomas.

Nick Bruzon 

Don’t let patchy away form mask longer term potential. Are we preparing for take off?

14 Apr

There’s not much to say about the result, really. Let’s look at the positives. Another goal for Neal Maupay. Another chance for Brentford to make the short trip to Reading next season. Who knows how important it may be to have the 2000+ fans we’ll take to the Madjeski rather than the 500+ we’d likely take to a Wigan Athletic or Rotherham United, for example. That is, assuming of course, that there are no further twists in a Championship race that is reaching an intriguing denouement. Likewise, and we spoke about this yesterday, the position of Charlton Athletic was further strengthened on a Saturday that saw them record a handsome victory over all but promoted Luton Town in League One. With even Millwall hanging in there via a last gasp equaliser at Bramall Lane, our final season at Griffin Park looks like it could have all the makings of a campaign that is played out very close to home.

Ruddy hell, even QPR won yesterday (not a typo) as did Fulham (not a typo). For the former, Championship football is all but a mathematical formality whilst the Cottagers have already been plugging the likes of Stoke, Swansea and Preston into the sat-nav following their rapid demotion from the top flight. And, of course, Brentford. See you next season, chaps. Whilst it would be trite to ignore our own blip in form that has seen the campaign very much decelerating to a gentle halt after briefly teasing a stab at the top six, the focus surely has to be about looking forward.

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See you next season…..

Thomas Frank alluded to this in his own post match press conference. Trying to pluck positives from a 2-1 defeat at Reading, he praised our second half improvement whilst making his intentions clear. “We now have four games left and we need to do everything we can to get 12 points. That’s the aim.” With trips to Millwall and Bolton aswell as visits from Leeds and Preston to come, it’s still possible. With the exception of the Leeds match, you’d bet on victory for the Bees in each of those. Theoretically. Of course Marcelo Bielsa is going to be about as formidable an opponent as they come but we’ve had home advantage over Leeds United in recent seasons and with our visitors having the added pressure of a promotion shoot out (3 into 2 just won’t go) to contend with, who knows what could happen in that one.

Ultimately, it counts for nothing in the short term beyond the mathematical nicety of ending the season as high as we can and increased prize money.  Of course finishing in the top ten once more will be a tremendous notch on the progress chart of Matthew Benham and his directors of football. We’ve done it in the previous four seasons and that must be the final objective for this campaign.  Whether we make it it or not won’t really change what comes next though. Whatever that is. And therein lie the biggest questions as to life at Brentford. With Season Ticket sales racing ahead of previous levels, the fans are already well up for 2019/20. Whatever that brings. 

Will there be more sales? More accumulation of untapped talent that has served us so very well in recent years? For all the derision and scorn poured at Brentford over the years as we moved away from traditional management and scouting techniques, the acquisitions and subsequent sales have more than proven we are on to something. Now, with Lionel Road on the horizon, might the top brass be tempted to ‘stick’ for a season rather than twist? The likes of Daniel Bentley and Yoann Barbet are already amongst those presumed to be on their last knockings. Sadly. Josh McEachran is who knows where (mini golf course?) whilst Ollie, Neal and Said are a holy trinity of players very much coveting some admiring glances from the wider footballing wolrd. That’s before you even factor in Dean Smith. With Aston Villa well set for a play-off push this time around, could he be thinking about using the Villa Park cheque book? Regardless of how that attempt turns out? 

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Whatever else happens, we’ll always have this

For all the paper talk, gossip and click bait nobody actually has a clue what is going to happen. Beyond Mr. Benham and his inner circle. One thing he has done consistently is surprise us all. Flip, we don’t even know what next season’s kit is going to look like or who will be replacing Adidas? How on earth are we meant to be able to figure out a recruitment strategy that has always been played very close to the chest when we don’t even know the colour of the shirt.

Just because we have sold when the price is right in the past, doesn’t mean we’ll do so again when there’s a new stadium on the horizon. How incredible would it be to start life at Lionel Road in the top flight. To make those “Bees up, Fulham down” chants a reality once more.

The fact we’re even having this conversation is ridiculous enough. In the nicest sense possible. That some fans were losing their heads as Autumn turned to Winter because we’d embarked on a bad run of Championship form. Three months later we were talking about play-off potential. That’s life at Griffin Park though. After years of underwhelming performance on the field of play (albeit a whole load of fun off it) we’re now well established. The kids don’t know they’re born.

I apologise for going all ‘during the war’ but some of those league one / two (or equivalent) campaigns over the years have been hard work from a footballing perspective. Some of the players we’ve had plying their trade, whilst full of commitment, did make you wonder just ‘how’ in retrospect. But that’s the level we had to operate at then. This is the quite wonderful scenario we are in now. Where success and victory is the expectation. Multi-million pound players , and sales, are the norm. Even if carried out within a very controlled environment. Nobody wants another Birmingham City or QPR…. 

So we lost to Reading yesterday. Bugger. Away form has been a challenge this time around, certainly compared to previous seasons at this level. There almost seems to be an acceptance amongst fans that we’re weak away from home. Which is not to have a pop at our supporters who have been consistently magnificent on the road . More, that the inability to consistently channel home performances into similar on our travels is perhaps the biggest frustration of all.

Then again, we won at Middlesbrough this season. If we can do that, and if we can hold on to this squad, then who knows what could happen next time around? Either way, I can’t wait. Once we’ve got the small matter of those final four games out of the way. How wonderful will it be to head into the summer holidays smiling, with the prospect of more to come…..

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Despite all the unknowns about next season, it’s a safe bet the Jaffa cake will be retired. Sadly.

Nick Bruzon 

What do you associate with specific other clubs? Oh, and Sergi Canos…

13 Apr

With just five games to go, next season in the Championship already has the potential to include a whole raft of local games for Brentford. Fulham are already down, down deeper and down whilst QPR should be safe. In league One, it’s looking good for Luton Town whilst my most favourite of away games, Charlton Athletic, could well be back on the menu with the Addicks sitting pretty in the play-off zone. Yet today’s trip to Reading could be our last in a while with the Royals placed just two points clear of the relegation spots. Hot on the heels of our 2-0 stroll agasint Ipswich Town on Wednesday and chasing a fifth, successive top ten finish (the gap to Sheff Wed just five points there), Thomas Frank will now doubt be exhorting his boys to give it their all. Yet with Reading playing for their lives, this one is going to be anything but easy and has the potential to be a real cracker.

It’s funny how football throws up certain associations with certain clubs. For example, Liverpool and the media love-in with the fact they did ok in Europe for a couple of seasons  in the late 70s/early 80s go hand in hand. Get your bingo cards ready and eyes down for an Anfield glory, glory nights full house. I’m particular partial to reference of Manchester United and the phrase “playing with the shackles off” that we have at present whilst, apparently, West Ham moved from the Boleyn Ground / Upton Park to the Olympic Stadium a few season back. You may have missed that one, of course, but I gather it was mentioned once. The plus point to that being how it stops us being reminded how they won the World Cup in 1966 or FA Cup in 1980 (a Trevor Brooking header, I believe).

Liverpool bingo

We can still play this season

With Charlton Athletic (given we’ve mentioned them earlier) it is always the walk through what looks like the deserted set from an episode of The Sweeney, before settling in to one of my most favourite pubs on the ‘away’ circuit (should such a thing even exist).  Strolling through the back end of North Greenwich there’s always the expectation of a Ford Cortina or some such vehicle screeching to a halt outside a gangland lock up, accompanied by a shout of “ Get your clothes on. You’re nicked”.  

With Fulham, the list is endless. Foam fingers, clackers, run out music for the warm up, the neutral stand, Michael Jackson, the gin bar, Brian Guest, Stuart Dallas, Neal Maupay, Gary Blissett, Jota in the last minute. The list goes on and on.

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one best served up to the river rats.. in their own programme. I thank you

As for Reading, there are two things in particular. First up, Boxing Day 1989 and a trip to Elm Park. Brentford lost that game 1-0, apparently. I say apparently as despite being there, the fog was so bad one could barely see beyond the half way line from behind the goal. To this day I’m still amazed that game went ahead but somehow it did. I guess having made the effort to get everybody there, it would have taken an absolute disaster to call it off so late.

The other memory is a more recent one. Sergi Canos and THAT goal. Brentford official shared it again yesterday and I’m still salivating over the thought of it. Moreso, given Ryan Woods had already done more than enough to win goal of the month to give us the lead Than Sergi did his thing….

Sergi Canos v Reading

Sergi. Great goal, great shirt, great hair

To be honest, there’s not much more we can say after that. So I won’t. Beyond, enjoy. With over 2,000 Brentford fans making the short hop to Reading station and then the long hop to Reading’s stadium, whilst I’m still banking on the three points coming back to West London let’s hope that other results go the way of the Royals to keep alive the chance of more moment’s like this…

Nick Bruzon

2-2 to the referee but the table shows all to play for on Tuesday.

30 Sep

Brentford 2 Reading 2 . Ten games played, the table having now ‘taken shape’ and the Bees sitting in the play-off zone. Just four points off leaders West Bromwich Albion. We’ve another home game to come on Tuesday night, the always welcome return of Birmingham City, and have just run Arsenal super close in the cup. We should be ecstatic. And I am yet equally can’t help still feeling somewhat subdued having woken up off the back of a quite awful display of spoiling tactics and atrocious officiating. It was one that has surely denied the Bees all three points and the fans any semblance of a quality game.  Geoff Eltringham and team, we’re looking at you.

SAid red v Reading in black white

Thanks. Ref.

We’ve crossed swords with Mr. Eltringham before. And I don’t mean last season’s oversight of the 5-0 hammering inflicted on Birmingham City. His performance that night being ten times better than anything seen since. Or previously. The straight red card administered to number 26 in the home game with Sheffield Wednesday a few seasons back, after he’d allowed himself to be harangued by opposition players, being an additional slap to the face in a game that saw Marinus Dijkuizen ‘in charge’ for the last time. It should have been a warning that we were looking at an acolyte of Stroud. Alas, he struck again.

Saïd Benrahma was shown red for two bookings in a second half that saw the man in the middle wave the yellow 7(seven) times. It was a period that saw a crazy ten minutes of additional time added on in about as frustrating a half as we’ve had to endure. There were close to five of those alone, just for faffing around at a free kick awarded to the Bees from which he promptly failed to control or organise an opposition team who, understandably, were pushing the man as much as they could get away with. Which was lots. It was like watching a nervous supply teacher having to cover a bunch of rowdy fifteen year olds. And he couldn’t cope.

That there were ‘only’ ten minutes added on for a game where nobody was seriously hurt tells you all you need to know. Frankly, it could have been closer to fifteen. Dean Smith was his diplomatic best at full time, telling Brentford ‘official’ how, “The second half exploded into something that probably only the referee can explain” whilst from the aforementioned deadball situation he noted that “I don’t know what’s happened but we’ve ended up with six cautions and they’ve ended up with one. And that was the wrong person.

John Swift Reading ball OUT

View from The Braemar – This ‘no throw’ decision another to incense the crowd

That’s not to deny Reading their two goals. Both came as a result of what we’ll call defensive ‘fumble’. They were presented their chances and took them. That’s how football works. If you‘ve seen them then you know. And if you haven’t then Sky have their highlights up at present. This isn’t the day for castigating individual mishaps when, frankly, even with ten men Brentford would ordinarily have still walked this one – based on current form. Yet such was the stop-start nature of the game, the physical approach of Paul Clement’s Reading side and the roulette wheel nature to Eltringham’s decision making that any attempt at proper football was nothing more than a pipe dream. The visitors came to do a job on us and succeeded – they got their point. Well done Reading. Well done Geoff.

Prior to all that Neal Maupay had given the Bees an early lead, slotting home from close range to bag his 9th Championship goal of the season. Not a bad return prior to October for a player who has appeared just eight times. We should maybe have turned the screw from there but the opposition gameplan and an attempt to restrict our passing game meant Reading were able to contain the situation. This, before taking their own two chances twenty minutes either side of half-time.

Yet it was in that gargantuan period of stoppage time that Brentford hauled themselves back into it. The incredible Yoann Barbet heading home to send the Griffin Park faithful delirious. His constant enthusiasm and seeming love for the club is nothing but infectious. So to see him of all players pop up to ensure summary justice was executed generated the natural response. Yessssssssss!!!!!!!!!!!! You beauty.

BArbet Reading

Yoann. Involved in everything fr0m ballet to goal scoring

2-2 and that was how it remained. The Bees kept pushing but were unable to turn one point into three. 10 men against 12 is always an uphill battle but it certainly wasn’t for want of trying. Instead, we’ll need to reflect on a table that sees us very much at the business end as we approach the quarter point of the season. As we await the visit of Birmingham City on Tuesday night. The Blues also earning themselves a point in their 7th(seventh) draw from 10 games after going two goals behind at home to Ipswich Town yesterday. That sort of fighting spirit something we’ll need to be accutely aware of if last season’s results are to be emulated. Moreso given we’ll be missing the mercurial Benrahma. But with Sergi Canos no doubt chomping at the bit to regain his place in the starting XI, things aren’t all bad on that front.  

There’s not much more to say from here. The officials had a stinker. Reading were industrial. Brentford earned a point and are sixth after ten games. I’d have absolutely taken that positon all day long if offered it when proceedings began at home to Rotherham last month.

The question being how we push on from here.

Roll on Tuesday night when we find out.

Geoff Eltringham said Reading guide dog

Saïd can’t believe he’s been sent off.

Nick Bruzon

 

Back to league action. And ‘thanks’, Michael Palin. Way to try and ruin a great thing.

29 Sep

The cup runneth over. Kind of. With Arsenal out of the way (not the right way) it’s back to League action today as Brentford host Reading. The first of a double bill at Griffin Park over the next few days sees this one closely followed by Birmingham City on Tuesday. With Leeds United making it just one win from five last night, a great opportunity is opening up whilst Twitter has delivered not once, but twice, in quite wonderful fashion.

First up, the Reading game. This one has everything to play for and promises to be a stunner. In theory. Reading have started to win games after their abject start and have now escaped the bottom three. 6 points out of the last 9 sees them finding form and reaching the dizzy heights of 20th. Brentford will, of course, be hugely cheered by that fight back at Arsenal during the week. It was one-way traffic as we came that close to hauling ourselves into the fourth round after a blitzkrieg second half. The only downside being the first half! Oh well, that’s football. We go ag, ag, agai.. once more. The obvious question being one of whether Dean sticks or twists ?

Such was the fight shown in the second period, I do wonder if he’ll continue with any of his normal bench players? Whilst, surely, one would expect Neal Maupay, Henrik Dalsgaard and Daniel Bentley to return to the starting XI is that as far as it goes? I thought Kamo was superb whilst Sergi ran them ragged once the team got going. Mind you, so did Saïd Benrahma when he came on. Who’d be a head coach?

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Yesssssss !!!!! Alan Judge’s free-kick sent the away end ballistic

Whomever starts, Brentford have even more incentive to go for it. Table toppers Leeds United being held at Sheffield Wednesday, Friday, means a win could take us to within a point of first place. Naturally, subject to other results. But the league is so tight at the moment that as far down as 14th, Swansea are only 6 behind Leeds. With Birmingham the same gap behind us, effectively 7(seven) when you factor in the draw specialists woeful goal difference, every game is crucial. Every point critical. Already. And its not even October. I love this division!!  

The cup was a lovely diversion and visiting Arsenal taught us a lot of things, as much off-field (see last column) as on, but it’s great to be feasting at the main table once more. Let’s hope Dean serves up a five-star banquet rather than skin and bone.

One of those Arsenal ‘things’ was giant flags at the home end. We’d seen similar before at Chelsea. Tucked behind the hoardings but then waved high to welcome the teams out or celebrate a goal to the home team. I’m not sure exactly what the benefit is or why they are needed – if you need a flag waver to generate an atmosphere (see also: the Mexican wave, England Supporter’s band,  goal music) then we’re already in trouble.

Thankfully, Matthew Benham is in agreement. The joy of Twitter where a casually asked question on Friday morning to the club owner brings about a response within minutes:    

@NickBruzon : Hi Matthew. You’ve often been quoted as (thankfully) saying there will never, ever be ‘goal music’ at Lionel Road. Is it safe to say the same will apply to Arsenal style ‘goal flags’ ?

@matthew_benham : Absolutely!

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Another Lionel Road crisis averted

Result! No flags and no goal music ! With Lionel Road looking bigger and better with each passing day, it’s great that he’s also on point about those matters that really count ! Here’s hoping the previously backed hot seat idea also comes to fruition. Even if Cameron Diaz won’t be the one filling it. That said, perhaps the sausage train remains a leap too far.

So that was yours truly feeling pretty pleased with the day’s social media activity. Easy come, easy go. As ever. No sooner had that gone up than it’s been blown out of the water first thing Saturday morning with a quite incredible spot on the social media platform from @HongKongBee , aka Andrew Cooper, after watching the Michael Palin In North Korea documentary from the BBC.  

Wow. There’s not much you can say here. Beyond a bit of photoshoppery just to really take a look at this in depth.

Whilst the North Korean regime of secrecy and oppression is totally abhorrent and about as far flung as you could get from all-embracing Griffin Park, that’s an eerie sartorial spot. Great observational skills, Andrew. It is incredible how something so wonderful in one format (our away kit) can look so awful in another. Thankfully, quality shines through and it will be the football kit that people remember long into the future rather than any quirky uniforms.

All being well Brentford official will be reporting a 7(seven) – 0 win for The Bees today for legitimate reasons rather than propaganda based ones.

North Korea Brentford away

Kit wrong-un

Finally, please don’t forget #BeeTheDJ today…..

Given the sad passing of Chas Hodges last weekend, what better way for fans to remember him than by bombarding the Griffin Park tannoy (other brands of p.a. system are also available) with the likes of Gertcha, Rabbit, Margate, Ain’t No Pleasing You, The Sideboard Song, London girls etc etc etc.

You can get choosing here. What better way to get the crowd buzzing prior to kick off whilst, more importantly, remembering the great man.

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How do you even try and whittle this down to one choice?

Nick Bruzon

Twitter and Bees tell it like it is. What a performance – and that was just the fans!

21 Jan

Well this is all getting quite exciting. Brentford went to Reading on Saturday and returned victorious. Three more points in the bag c/o Lasse Vibe’s solitary strike, two more places up the table and a fifth win in six league games. It was another clean sheet for the defence of Bentley, Barbet, Mepham, Bjelland and Yennaris. Indeed, that’s just 5 goals conceded in the last 7(seven) league matches. But for the 3-0 reverse at runaway leaders Wolves earlier this month, an already wonderful copybook would have even less of a blot (a word used in the least possible sense). This really is a great time for Brentford supporters.

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Lasse enjoying his goal celebration – shared this one on Twitter

And it was the Brentford supporters, numbering close to 3,000 out of a total 17.893 in the Madjeski, who deserve as big a pat on the back as those players out on the pitch. Looking through social media afterwards, their presence had clearly been felt. Twitter was awash with comments.

Kitman Bob Oteng: Would loved to have watched the game from smack bang in the middle. Ledge support the the ‪@BrentfordFC boys and girls yesterday.

Captain Nico: Another solid team performance from all over the pitch  3 points and great travelling support.

Sergi Canos noted similar, even giving us that rare moment when it IS accepatable to ‘go again’.  “What a fantastic win. Felt like playing at Griffin Park today. Unbelievable support once again, this is for you!!! Let’s enjoy it, we go again next weekend! Come on ‪@BrentfordFC !!!!!

Yoann Barbet is Brentford royalty. He was also enthusing – as much about his attempts on goal as the result – although the key observation being: “What a win !!!! Really tough game, but another 3pts and another clean sheet. Unbelievable support today from the fans , you were unreal.

Yoann v Reading

Yoann comes close. ish

The upshot of all this being Brentford are 9th in the table. Whilst reaching the top 6 yesterday was a somewhat improbable ask given the number of results needing to go our way, at least a few of the teams around us dropped points. Leeds United being our main benefactors in going down 3-4 to Millwall at Elland Road although Preston were also pegged back at home. By Birmingham City.

These two scores making somewhat of a nonsense from yours truly and the pre-match prediction that: Being realistic, Birmingham haven’t a prayer at Preston. Leeds, despite their own recent poor form, now have Adam Forshaw added to their ranks and are surely good for at least a point at home to Millwall ? Middlesbrough WILL hump QPR.

Hey, one out of three ain’t bad. Besides, as the revered and respected Ian Westbrook would later opine on Twitter : “Another great result today for ‪#brentfordfc And to see all the players as one applaud the fans all together for such a long time at the end was tremendous. Let’s hope the whole squad is still together on 1 February as we could be on to something special!”

Too true, Ian. Too true. It WAS A great result even if it was a tough one. My bum is very much itchy when it comes to thinking about that accursed window. One would hope that sales are not needed or that players want to stay and be a part of what we have going on at Griffin Park. That’s a subject for another day, though.

Besides, this was hard but the result needs to be celebrated. As one of my own friends and most sardonic of observers, an Ealing Road WAG, said to us during the first half. “We should be destroying them, they have nothing to offer at all, but we’re not” although subsequently adding, “we’ve had a fairly exciting miss.” Yet the same observer would also make the erudite observation that Lasse had been immense since Canos came on. I couldn’t disagree. The goals are up now on the Sky Sports website, with our own to be added here once the sun is past the yardarm – or whenever league regs let them go live.

And we’re off. How about a bit of Burridge…?

As for Lasse, well I’ll leave it to the man who knows anything and everything about Brentford, Billy Reeves, to have the Last Word today : “Give this lad a new contract. One for the future, I reckon”.

table post Reading

The current table makes very pleasant reading

Nick Bruzon