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Top of the what now? Bees relish their Royal appointment.

11 Feb

Wow! Just wow. Brentford were at their very best to win 3-1 at Reading on Wednesday evening and overtake Norwich City at the top of the Championship table. The. Top. The penthouse suite in the promotion hotel. There’s still one heck of a way to go but after putting in about as resilient a performance as they come, against Premier League chasing opponents who took the lead and dominated proceedings in the first half, one can’t help but feel excited. Next up is a home game with Barnsley on Sunday lunchtime (given their own FA Cup tie with Chelsea tonight) followed by the midweek trip to Loftus Road. With them, the chance to improve on current figures that see us 21 games unbeaten in the league, Ivan Toney now up to 23 goals scored in the league this season and 25 points out of a possible 27 earned in the last 9 games. 21, 23, 25! What comes next in that sequence? Thankfully, for once, this isn’t part of the home schooling routine but more the excitement which seems to greet every game at the moment.

“What a team” – the words of Ethan Pinnock

For now though, we need to start by catching up on events last night. Thomas Frank shuffled his squad, with Josh Dasilva returning and Mbeumo / Fosu occupying the flanks. Sergi Canos and Samman Ghoddos having to be content with places on the bench. The former in particular perhaps disappointed after his excellent run of recent form but fitness and the squad come first. Besides, his entry into the fray  just after the hour coincided with Brentford continuing to turn the screw after holding off Reading for so long.

As seems to be the way at present, we conceded first. Thankfully not in the third minute and it was one from the penalty spot with Henrik Dalsgaard adjudged (and that’s the most generous word I can come up with) to have brought down former Bee Josh Laurent. He only ever played one game for us, ‘that’ Marinus inspired nightmare in the league cup at home to Oxford United, but the potential we saw was on evidence last night. He, and the Royals, were not here to make up the numbers even if the decision to award the spot kick seemed a soft one. Nobody complained, David Raya got his hands to it but Lucas Joao hit it too well and the hosts were ahead. 

In truth, it had been coming and if the award of the penalty itself had felt iffy (they always do when you are on the receiving end) there was no bitterness towards Reading who had been well on top. Then, things changed. Brentford pushed up (somebody needs to make a chant about that when we are allowed back in) and found their feet. Having spent 25 minutes being carved open we started to play. Josh Dasilva electric as he cut in from the right, waltzed through the defence and into the box before striking a beauty across the face of goal and into the opposite corner. It was a thunderbolt of a run and shot. A beautiful goal and one which really needed fans there to witness it. 

Alas we were all confined to barracks although at least had Mark Burridge and team to guide us through the action on i-follow. They had been sorely missed by many for the trip to Middlesbrough at the weekend but despite being stuck out in monitor free isolation at the Madjeski (not even given team sheets) were still on hand to do their thing in the bitter cold. And they had to be on their toes as Dasilva’s strike, sublime though it was, only seems to shake Reading back to life. David Raya and Ethan Pinnock both keeping the Bees in it as we were pushed onto the back foot for the last ten minutes of the half. The later in particular pulling off one quite incredible tackle that had penalty written all over it , were it not for the absolute precision in his timing.

1-1 at half time and if the first period had seen opportunity knock, the second felt very much as though both teams wold settle with a point. To be fair, it would still have been enough to see us overtake Norwich on goal difference but this team never say die. Never stop running. Had strength on the bench with Sergi providing a much needed breath of fresh air for in place of Mbeumo for the final half hour. Ghoddos adding further energy on 80 as the Bees wrapped things up in style late on.

First, it was Josh Dasilva. Again. Ivan Toney chesting the ball into his path with the deftest of touches , allowing the midfielder to lash home from close range. The finish was perfect but the build up play exquisite as Ivan made it all look so, so easy. 86 minutes gone and Brentford finally in front. With the clock reading 88 we were out of sight. A fierce drive from Sergi only able to be parried out and Ivan turned from provider to poacher, gobbling up the rebound before anyone could react. There aren’t enough superlatives to describe this man. Truly, truly incredible. Dean Holdsworth scored 38 in our own  ’91-’92 Third Division Championship season (all competitions) but one has to fear for the safety of that record should he carry on at this rate, given he’s already just up behind the total Deano scored in the league.

Josh equalised and then steered us into the lead

Four minutes of injury time became six but there was no danger. No feeling of stress or angst as the Bees held firm. It was an absolute huge result, make no mistake about that. The run and stats are impressive but now it is all about keeping the position at the top of the table we’ve finally been able to claim in our own right. Our own games in hand have played out and we’ve reached the summit with a little bit of clear air. There are still 18 games to go and now all we can do is chalk them off, one by one. Barnsley are next up on Sunday in a game that could take place with us having been replaced at the top given Norwich entertain Stoke on Saturday afternoon. And we’re assuming a game with Stoke could ever be described as entertaining. No doubt the Canaries will have a point to prove and its going to be very interesting which way this one plays out.

Still, that’s their issue. For us, the top of the table is now home. What a fantastic performance last night. What a team. Here’s to more of the same. Starting with Barnsley.

Can we reach 22…..?

Nick Bruzon 

Bees take their chance in style as Boris misses his.

20 Dec

I’m afraid we must look again at Christmas. As Prime Minister it is my duty to take difficult decisions to do what is right to protect the people of this country. Given the early evidence we have.. it is with a very heavy heart I must tell you we cannot sit through Mrs. Brown’s Boys and it is cancelled with immediate effect”. Not my words. The words of.. Actually, they are mine. If only Boris Johnson had come out with that bit of good cheer last night it may have taken the edge off his Christmas shut down. Alas, no. Instead we were reliant on Brentford to do the business and what a way to put a smile on the face. Bryan Mbeumo leading the charge in a 3-1 defeat of Reading that sees us overtake the Royals and move up to fourth. The Bees now on the longest unbeaten streak in the country (13 games, compared to Liverpool next up with 10 ) and all set for the visit of Newcastle United in the league cup quarter finals on Tuesday.

If only

It was a performance that deserved an audience, that’s for sure. Brentford rather than Boris or Brown. Blinkin’ Covid meant another game having to be played at Lionel Road behind closed doors but such was the excitement at the goals flew in, even sitting on the sofa felt that bit less frustrating . Mathias Jensen getting the first with barely ten minutes on the clock. Man of the month Sergi Canos playing a delightful ball through to the Danish international who shot straight down the corridor of saveability. Somehow, Cabral in goal for the Reading allowed it to go straight through him like a dose of salts. All he could do was turn and watch it bobble over the line. It should never have gone in but they all count. Take the festive gifts while you can or applaud the devious nature of Jensesn’s shot. Either way, the scoreline read 1-0.

Soon it was two. And then three. With less than a half hour played Bryan Mbeumo had put the game to bed. His first, magnificent. Josh Dasilva playing a cross field ball that put me in mind of Nico Yennaris to Jota against QPR. The result was much the same – a wondrous goal. Mbeumo picked it up in his stride, shimmied then unleashed a blockbuster from the corner of the box that left Cabral no chance It was just unreal and goal that deserved to be seen in person. Nevertheless, you could see what it meant to him from the celebrations with Josh and captain for the day, Ivan Toney.

Yessss!!!! What a goal !

Then it was three. This time, Toney turning provider. Bryan in the box, opening up the Reading defence as though it were nothing stronger than poorly wrapped Christmas present held together with value brand tape before firing low past the hapless Cabral. 3-0. 29 minutes gone. Game over man. Game over. More importantly, a return to the Bryan we know and love. Like Sergi, good players don’t go bad overnight. Whilst his name hasn’t been a familiar one on the scoresheet in recent months, this is what he does and what a way to do it ! The squad joining together to keep this fine form going.

Half time came and went. The defence somewhat testing the squad set up to the max. Having started with Fosu in place of Dalsgaard and Charlie Goode for the suspended Ethan Pinnock, Dom Thompson came on for Rico Henry. How he keeps going I’ve no idea but a well earned rest ahead of the Newcastle game. Further changes followed and so perhaps no surprise that , with the foot off the gas a tad, a consolation goal was conceded. But, you know, that was it. The lead could have been extended late on with flurry of chances somehow being kept out by the Reading woodwork and defence. Thomas balancing his changes and his squad to perfection once more. The record books showing a 3-1 victory that pushed Brentford up to fourth in the Championship – three points off second placed Bournemouth. That’ll do me.

Next up, Newcastle United. They’re hot off the back of being tonked 5-2 by Leeds United (the ‘wrong’ team falling apart in that one ) and then being held 1-1 by FulhamL. A chance for the Magpies to restore some pride or Brentford to record a fourth victory over Premier League position this season? Either way, it should be a Christmas cracker. Don’t forget the early kick off for this one . 5.30pm on Sky the time and place, unless you are a director, journalist or club official. Here’s hoping the 200+ can roar us on to victory inside the stadium. Back home, we’ll be screaming at our TVs. And not, for once, because Mrs. Brown is on.

On a day where Liverpool grabbed the main headlines with their 7(seven) – 0 bracketing of Crystal Palace, perhaps the result at Lionel Road will be the one to have far reaching top flight consequences. Talking at full time, Thomas was full of his customary good cheer as he noted, “When you look back at the end of a season there will always be some defining wins, this could be one of them”.

Too true. This time last season we’d just lost at Sheffield Wednesday. The Bees had slipped to ninth and had 30 points. A year later we’re on the rise, with 35 points from the same number of games and sitting pretty in the play-off zone. All this, despite the intensity of game frequency and the inevitable squad rotation that has to go with this. We’ve been saying all season this will be key. That the league (cliché alert, cliché alert) is a marathon not a sprint. How Thomas and his rivals manage resources and know when to rest tired limbs will be the answer to who goes up. So far, we’re doing just fine. With Christian Norgaard on the bench yesterday, there’s the prospect of even better to come.

See you on Tuesday. Even if it is on the sofa.     

Enjoy the goals, again….

Nick Bruzon

A royal appointment and a contract extension nobody asked for.

18 Dec

So awful that it is physically painful to sit through.” Not my words. The words of Sean O’Grady writing in The Independent. You may think he was describing the recent Brentford – Middlesbrough game or looking through the #frankout twitter feed. But no, worse than that. The Mrs. Browns Boys 2018 and 2019 Christmas specials. Please note: your definition of the word ‘special’ may vary. Now 2020 has given us the ultimate kick in the nuts. Bad enough that Corona virus will see us once more locked out of Lionel Road for the visits of Reading and Newcastle United (at the very least), Thursday saw even worse news when it was revealed everybody’s favourite mammy has been given a huge contract extension until 2026. Now, it seems, Mr O’Grady’s torment is to continue every year until well into the next decade as, Mrs. Browns Boys, this most awful of shows will run and run.

This latest crime agasint comedy, which broke in The Independent yesterday lunchtime, saw Brendan O’Carroll quoted as saying… “We’ve been doing it for nine years already — which is six more than The Royle Family had and more than Morecambe and Wise”. He added… “I wanted that because if it’s not good enough for Christmas Day, then we shouldn’t be making it”. You can read the whole horror story in the Independent online.

Where do you even start? Brown’s not fit to wipe Jim Royle’s arse. As for putting himself in the same bracket as Morecambe and Wise, that’s on a par with Harlee Dean saying “We’ve got quality in that squad. I’ve been in teams where we’ve finished fifth in this league and missed out on promotion by play offs. and this squad is ten times better than that.”

If its not good enough for Christmas Day??? Its not good enough for ANY day!! This tedious opium for the confused. This one joke routine – wig/cardigan/potty mouth  – repeated again and again and again. An alleged comedy which serves no better purpose than to plug unplanned gaps in the schedule. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. What dirt MUST O’Carroll have on the BBC to justify our licence feed being chucked at this year on year on year? How is it still going? Like a cockroach, the show would be the only thing to survive a nuclear war. And we’ve said that before, too, but if he can repeat his joke then appreciate the irony of us doing the same.  

Cripes we really must have been misbehaving this year to have that inflicted upon us. Talk about getting on Santa’s naughty list. There was me hoping for some Brentford training gear (if you are reading Kitman Bob….). Instead, we’ve had this thrust upon us. 

All of which neatly ignores the fact we have’t discussed midweek on these pages as yet. Brentford got the draw at Watford. Ivan Toney scored another ice cool penalty in a 1-1 marred by the somewhat dubious red card confusion which, eventually, saw Ethan Pinnock dismissed. Notes and thoughts on that one are in the matchday programme – either Reading or Newcastle United. I honestly forget which – they come thick and fast at this time of year but there’s been a lot of 11th hour scribbling.

Now, we have Reading this weekend. One point and one place above the sixth placed Bees. The top of the table in both teams’ sight. Brentford unbeaten in 12 games. Ivan Toney clear of Adam Armstrong at the top of the goalscoring charts. Yet when things couldn’t get worse than Mrs Brown, they have.

Keith Stroud is our referee. You know, the one man we don’t want to receive a card from at this time of year. Rico Henry in particular, even if that one was eventually rescinded.   

Much like Mrs Brown at a variety show, this is a royal appointment nobody needed.

Keith Stroud…..shudders

Nick Bruzon

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).

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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….

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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