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Quite simply it was top, top football. What a way to say goodbye.

30 Jul

The morning after the night before. Smile broad. Head throbbing. Who cares? It was worth it. If you have to go, go out in style. Brentford said goodbye to Griffin Park by reaching the Championship play-off final in the the most incredible manner. Swansea City were swept aside 3-1 (3-2 agg) in a second leg that the Bees dominated from the off. Now, Fulham or Cardiff City await on Tuesday for the £170m shot at the Premier League. It was a far cry from the mini-run that had seen us lose three on the bounce but with Rico Henry restored to the line-up, we were back to our brilliant best and then some.

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Ollie sums up what we all felt (on Brentford official twitter)

What a night. What excitement. If there had been any stress in the build up then it wasn’t evident. Thomas and the players seemed calm on arrival at the ground. 1-0 down from the first leg, they came out of the blocks flying. It was a tactic that Thomas had suggested would be coming but nobody could have expected this fast a start. Certainly not yours truly who had nipped in to the kitchen to stick pizzas in the oven at the same time as Mathias Jensen bisected the Swansea defence and midfield with a quite incredible low pass. The timing was exquisite (not mine) as it went direct to who else but Ollie Watkins? Our leading scorer  was there to run on to it, bear down on goal and give The Bees the lead. Parity in the two-legged tie restored. The cheers in the streets around the ground evident for all. Nerves calmed. Goal sweets eaten.

Four minutes later and it was two. This time, Marcondes the man to get his name on the scoresheet. Benrahma delivering a cross into the box which Emiliano guided home from the penalty spot with a text book headed glance. He made it look so simple yet it was anything but. It was a moment that was all about keeping your cool and he more than did that. A quarter hour gone and already Keith Stroud’s moment of madness was a distant memory. Brentford had taken the lead overall and were on fire. 

This wasn’t the ‘play-off’ mode Brentford we know and love. That have seen us cruelly denied so many times in the past. But then this isn’t the Brentford of old. From top to bottom we are ten times better than anything that has gone before 

At the other end, David Raya keeping us in it with a fine low save before Said cut into the box and saw his low drive beat the ‘keeper, only to be denied by the inside of the near post. It was a blistering shot that ran agonisingly across the face of the goal after hitting the woodwork. It could have been three but no matter. The way the Bees were playing it would surely be a matter of time. Turning the screw when we had the momentum was key if there was to be any hope of reaching Wembley. 

Instead, it stayed 2-0 at half-time. Brentford dominant and with a slim lead but Swansea only a moment away from levelling things up. They would be the ones to start the second half at 100 mph, wouldn’t they? No chance. With a minute of the restart we had a third. Jensen freed Rico who delivered an inch perfect cross into the box for Bryan Mbeumo to fire home from the edge of the six yard box. It was a great finish under pressure but plaudits for the assist. What a ball and what a way to find personal peace of mind after the heartache of Sunday’s wrongful dismissal. 

Oh. My. Word. The screams. The excitement. The relief. Not even we’d cock this up, would we? The way Brentford were playing there was a danger of brackets being required. And then Swansea woke up. David Raya pulling off another fine save as the visitors began to dominate. First half roles reversed with the Swans left no choice but to go for it and with little less than a quarter hour to go, they got their goal. Rhian Brewster capitalising on what we’ll politely call an otherwise excellent Pontus losing his bearings trying to clear a ball that have been played into the middle from distance. The youngster made no mistake lobbing David Raya to bring the Swans within a goal of extra time.

Tension. Stress. Edge of the seat stuff. Perhaps in our house but not on the pitch. The Bees calm as you like as, if anything, we were the ones coming closer to the next goal. A yellow card for Thomas Frank showing how hard fought this one had become before a horrible six minutes of injury time were added on (from where?) but we held firm. Pontus using all his experience to help see it over the line. Said almost putting things out of sight with a curling effort that went just wide of the upright. One last cross into the box from Swansea cleared. Full time blown. The noise from Griffin Park ringing across St. Paul’s Park and through Brentford as it became evident fans were gathering celebrate. The mood ecstatic. The relief palpable. After going down in our eight previous attempts at the play-offs, this was about as composed and exciting as I’ve ever seen the Bees in this game of footballing roulette. Quite simply it was top, top football.

Leaving Griffin Park was always going to be an emotional experience. I wrote a piece yesterday afternoon about what saying goodbye to our lifelong home meant to me. It’s here and I would please ask you please take a look if for no other reason than to share your thoughts.  Yet if there was tear in the eye putting that piece together, this morning there’s a grin as broad as a split watermelon. Sleep has been at a minimum, such was the buzz and the post match celebrations at our friends house back on Brook Road. An extra pint or three  – not that they were really needed after the amount of, err, nerve calming that had gone on the few hours previous – were enjoyed. The fat was chewed and then waiting in the street to watch the lights go out on Griffin Park for the last time. CLUNK. That was it. Gone. It’s all over on the playing front for our home of 116 years. The next time we run out together will be at Wembley on Tuesday evening. Then it’s on to Lionel Road.

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The lights are on for the last time

On the pitch, the players and staff celebrated. Despite the best efforts of Mr. Benham (who pulled a post match ‘Trotta’) Bryan Mbeumo goes down as the last Bees player to score at Griffin Park. Yet it was all about the team last night. They were immense. Gutsy. Confident. Back to their brilliant best. Doing it for the fans. The fans living the dream through our heroes.

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The ball sailed over – curse that crazy player finding stats computer

It was an incredible experience. Today we can enjoy it and then the build up to the next one can begin in earnest. The small matter of the Premier League…… 

Tonight we can watch the second leg with genuine interest tonight. Will it be Fulham or Cardiff City? With the Bluebirds 2-0 down from the first leg, the smart money would be on a West London derby in the final. But if Cardiff start like we did last night then anything is possible. Whatever will be will be. We’re going to Wemb-er-lee. I’m looking forward to finding out who joins us.

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Loved this one from Bees United

Nick Bruzon 

Farewell, Griffin Park. It’s been emotional. It’s been amazing.

29 Jul

Mid-afternoon. For Brentford, the final game at Griffin Park approaches. Little more than four hours away. Sitting here in the pub, the floodlights clearly visible through the window, it’s with the knowledge that when they go out tonight that really will be for the last time. The Bees host (entertain is probably too generous a word given the circumstances of this one) Swansea City, knowing that whomever comes out on top this evening will be afforded the opportunity to take the last spot in next season’s Premier League. With Bournemouth now relegated, somebody needs to keep up the top flight tinpot factor. If for no other reason than to keep our friends at Leeds United on their toes. Can The Bees do it ?

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Tonight the lights go out forever

This evening’s events will determine that one, of course. For now it is time for reflection. For a last reminisce before the curtain finally goes down on our our ‘shitty stadium’. Not my words but those of Brentford head coach , Thomas Frank. And he’s right. Fans love it. A reminder of days gone by in this era of identikit bowls. The likes of Griffin Park are a dying breed in an era of soulless new stadia with no endearing features. Each a carbon copy of the last. Wayne Rooney’s Derby County. Middlesbrough. Leicester City. Southampton. Arsenal. Wrap around bowls with none of the character that so infused their former homes. Even Millwall 2 is a shadow of it’s former self. All the character and intimidation of Cold Blow Lane sucked out of it and lost in a sea of breeze blocks. Nothing remaining beyond that toe-curling goal music. Let’s not even start on West Ham. A ‘proper club’ (not my words…) now squatting in the Olympic stadium. That’s worked well.

We love Griffin Park. Visitors love it. A chance to experience football how it used to be. Terraces. Over flowing toilets. Cramped seats. And…? Who cares? We’ve got a pub in every corner. We can still stand, or sit, right on top of the pitch. We can hug our heroes at full time. Exchange a thumbs up with the manager. Pose for a selfie. Act like human beings and the family that we are. Or, at least, were until Covid-19 came and took all that way somewhat prematurely.

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Cramped surrounding make for a unique bond between players and fans

The last Brentford game together, Sheffield Wednesday on 7th March. A 5-0 thrashing administered by a Bees team with our tails up and the goals flying in. Fans there because they wanted to watch the game rather than participate in the last rites and awful occasion that would have been Barnsley. Leaving at full time, there was half an inkling in the back of the mind that things may soon be up. Certainly looking at the news coming in from around Europe. Sure enough, they were. Now, games played out in front of the directors and our fan banners. Supporter confined to barracks or the, finally, re-opened pubs.

But whilst we may have missed out there are, at least, more than enough memories of better times. And worse. What’s yours? I honestly can’t choose.

I was fortunate enough to be invited to GP by the BBC to participate in their piece about Brentford that went out on the London evening news yesterday where, amongst other things, the question of favourite moment was asked. Cripes – where do you even start? 

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Tuesday afternoon. My final photo of Griffin Park

Bob Booker and his hat-trick against Hull? Newport County 6-0. DJ Campbell in the FA Cup. Gary Blissett doing his thing when boyhood club Manchester City came to town. Alan Judge’s penalty against Preston. The 4-0 v Fulham in the build up to promotion back in 91/92. Jota in the last minute. Jota tearing Jake Bidwell a new one v QPR. Jota returning – even better than before. ‘That  penalty’…..? (hey, there may be masochists amongst us).

Then there’s the off pitch stuff. Just the fact that is as normal to see players walking down the street to a game as it fellow supporters. Something evidenced in the post-Preston promotion party where fans and first team celebrated arm in arm. There was King Kev at the bar of The Griffin, waiting his turn to be served. There’s was no chance he was going to buy a pint that day. Never have I been happier to put my hand in my pocket. 

Regardless of status, if you want in then you have to run the gauntlet of Braemar Road. Everybody from Greg Dyke to Delia Smith. Ant and Dec to Jack Whitehall. Lee Dixon spent a period holding court outside The Griff whilst its not uncommon to see the cream of Britpop chatting football out front (assuming, of course, that like me you place The Bluetones and Hard-Fi in that bracket).

Not that it is a gauntlet. We’re all so familiar with each other that it is as exciting to spot Jumper Man as it is Natalie Sawyer. There’s more of a thrill from seeing Kitman Bob than Ian Moose. The environs of Griffin Park are like some sort of neutral zone. Leave all celebrity hang ups at the door – we’re all friends and your power to appear in heat magazine won’t work here. 

Players and staff. Celebs and fans. Nobody is better than anybody else. It’s all about the football and the fun. The communal feel that only Griffin Park can engender. Neal Maupay popping out for a post match curry? Why not. Only at Griffin Park could you do that. An injured Sergi Canos on the forecourt at half time chatting to fans? Well, yes.  

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Maupay visits Albany Spice for a post-match curry. Only at Griffin Park

I’ve made friends for life at Griffin Park. Some who are, sadly, no longer with us. Genuineiy, I’ll have a tear in my eye tonight about one in particular. His passing has been recent and I wish to high heaven he could have been here but sometimes life is just shit. Serves up a kick in the nuts that is one hundred times worse than any missed penalty kick. Thinking of you, J.

Others, who I’d do anything for. People with whom there is no finer moment spent than in building up the big match excitement pre game. Drowning our sorrows (or celebrating) together afterwards. The football family is an odd one. People thrown together by chance and only one thing in common – mutual love of a football club. A not very good one for most if my life. But they are my club. I’ve stuck with them for nigh on 40 years. The odd highlight something to be cherished. The usual abject failure something to be shared together.

Then it all changed. 10 years on the up. Yet still being played out at Griffin Park. We should have moved on ages ago but delays, property battles, protests and land grabs have all put it on the back foot. Now, though, the time has come. Last knockings really are here. We’ve 90 minutes left (not accounting for possible extra time and penalties) yet I still feel blessed. My own son has had the chance to experience and absorb everything Griffin Park has to offer and so much more. Everything from new kit photo shoot through mascot, reading out the teams and just being able to talk to the players with that dead pan innocence that only a child has.

Yet if there was one Griffin Park moment, then on a personal note it is one which sums up everything about our club. Why is it so special and why I can only hope they are able to bottle what we have and keep it going at Lionel Road.  I’m talking not about Thomas Frank (whom I could write a book on) but Dean Smith. He always made me and my son feel so welcome whenever we spoke. One such instance occurred at the Junior Bees Christmas party – itself another Griffin Park ‘thing’ where the great and the not so good rubbed shoulders without a care in the world –  in December 2017. Harry (then just 4) approached Dean. Plucking up the courage and overcoming his shyness, he asked about his former favourite player, now at Birmingham City. “Why has Harlee Dean joined the naughty team?

Having inspired a shy youngster to talk, how do you then avoid breaking his heart or exposing him to the ‘evils’ of agents, wage hikes and Harry Redknapp? Dean Smith knew. He crouched down to eye level, gave it a moment’s thought and then said: “Well, Harlee’s headed the ball so many times that he doesn’t really know what he‘s doing any more”.   

I’m going to miss this place like you wouldn’t believe. We all are. Tonight really is the end. Here’s to it being the next step in an amazing journey.

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Tonight sees the sun go down on Griffin Park for the last time.

Nick Bruzon

Time to say goodbye to our past. On and off the pitch.

29 Jul

Let’s. Do. This. Brentford stand 90 minutes away from Wembley and a shot at the Premier League. Swansea are the visitors on an evening that sees our last, last, last ever game at Griffin Park. Despite the build up of the regular campaign, it has been typical of life at Griffin Park that it has come to this one rather than the Barnsley fixture. And now we are here. Steve Cooper’s team standing in our way but the good news being that Rico Henry will be standing in theirs. This, after Keith Stroud’s reckless decision to award our man a straight red in the first leg was over-turned yesterday.

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The verdict was – great tackle

Finally. Something has gone our way. A frustrating few days for the players has ended with them being given a huge shot in the arm. Swansea have that narrow 1-0 lead but everybody around the club is talking the right way. Whilst Cooper says his team won’t be playing for the draw Thomas Frank is in no doubt how our team will approach this one, telling the press that: “We are in total combat mode. We are so ready to play and we will come out flying …There are important games and then there are little bit more important games; this is one of those defining games and moments. We are not nervous; we know we need to attack

As for Steve Cooper’s approach of going for the win, whilst offering all the necessary respect Thomas was clear that they could be split. “In the back of their minds they know they have something to protect.

And therein lies the beauty / stress of two-legged football. Do they stick or twist? Will their approach waiver? Might the pressure of holding this slim advantage do strange things to them? The prize on offer is a huge one. Namely, that £170million chance of top flight football. It feels as though we’ve had more bites at this than Jaws but now really is THE time and I’m 100% confident we’ll do this.

The beers, pizzas, goals sweets and even mid-game extra strong mints are in. If you do one thing this evening, PLEASE have a packet of these on hand – something on a par with the lucky shirt, magic pants and JJ’s bladder in the lucky omen stakes when it comes to good goal news.

What will Thomas do? Subject to any injuries, I’d imagine he may be looking to mix things up a little bit. Knowing how well we play at our very best, the team names itself but there has been one hell of a lot of football played on recent weeks. There could be some exhausted players. What price would you put on somebody who may not have started every game but does have potentially fresher legs. Might we see a start for Shandon Baptiste or even Sergi Canos?

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If anyone can inspire us, it is Thomas

Brentford official name the teams at 6.45pm and from there, we know what the approach will be. For me, it is one of channeling the spirit of the season. Play with confidence. With swagger. Run at our your opponents. Know the way to goal. Keep going and never , ever give up. Think Jota. Not just in playing until the final minute but remember Jake Bidwell. Our former captain has had what could politely be described as a turgid time in recent returns to Griffin Park. More of the same would do very nicely, thank you.

As for farewell Griffin Park, what can you say? Now really is the time. We’d all LOVE to be there. We are all desperate to be there. The players would love us there but for that reason alone, I truly believe they will have the extra impetus to do this tonight. Peter Gilham will say the right words. He’ll make the right noise on the microphone. Nobody will be in doubt what this means. Not only for our future but also as a means of saying goodbye to our past. On and off the pitch.

I can’t wait for this one. It promises to be one the biggest games in our long history. One can’t under estimate how much is riding on this. We’ve never been in the Premier League before – could this be the moment we leave the EFL behind? The Bees have the power – will Thomas Frank’s big guns fire?

See you at kick off when we find out.

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This really is it…..

Nick Bruzon

Let’s talk about Stroud, baby. Let’s talk about him and me. Let’s talk about all the bad things that may be.

27 Jul

And with that, the Keith Stroud we all know and fear was back. Brentford were edged out 1-0 at Swansea in a game that will be forever remembered as yet another ruined by this most terrifying of officials. Just when you thought he couldn’t surpass the ‘battle’ of Bramall Lane with Sheffield United ( three red cards, four penalties and more yellows than a rack of Coldplay CDs) , he’s gone and done it again in a crunch match. This time, sending off Rico Henry for nothing more than cleanly winning the ball from Connor Roberts whilst not even coming close to making contact with the player (until his own run took him over our man). This, with an open game poised at 0-0 and just moments after David Raya had made a quite wonderful penalty save from Andre Ayew. Then Keith did his thing.

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Hmmmmm

Look. No complaints abut Swansea. They played well and the goal they scored was an absolute screamer. Even if it did start down the left back position now bereft of Rico. Great saves from David Raya combined with chances that both Ollie Watkins and Said Benrahma may think they could have done better with in retrospect had this game hanging in the balance. It could have gone either way. And in the end it did – in favour of both Keith and the hosts.

Brentford can bemoan their position but the simple fact of the matter is that we are 90 minutes away from the final. 1-0 in either direction is crazy close. Only a fool, or Mr Stroud, would try and predict how this one is going to play out.

Thomas Frank was furious at full time. Certainly compared to his normal standards. 100% that is not a red card and that Rico will be back in the team on Wednesday. His incredulation at the lack of VAR in a game of this nature was there for all to see as he confirmed that Brentford will be appealing a decision. His view point was one shared by man on social media

Natalie Sawyer: Keith Stroud. Quelle surprise!!!

Sam Saunders: Disgraceful decision surely rescinded?

Marcus Bean: One of the worst decisions I’ve seen

Brentford Official: That is a joke! @ricohenry14 wins the ball on the touchline, it’s not even a foul but he’s been sent off

Skybet Championship official feed: @BrentfordFC’s Rico Henry is sent off. Big question marks over that one for sure! 

Getting any more upset about it than I already am won’t help any at this juncture. If anything, Keith may have given Brentford the opportunity to come out of the blocks flying to right a horrific injustice on Wednesday. Everybody associated with the club is livid. Fuming. Desperate to right the wrong. Frustrated that it was Brentford in the ascendency when the fateful card was shown. David Raya’s quite brilliant penalty save from Ayew giving us a morale boost that was snatched away as quickly as it had been given.

Yesssss. That’s put a bit of juice back in the carton”. Not my words but those of HB. A 7(seven) year old’s wisdom then replaced by a tirade at the man in black which Alex on the Braemar Road paddock would have been proud of.

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Raya playing his own mind games before a huge save

I’m not sure what else to really say at this juncture. A great game, ruined. Swansea may have gone on to win anyway. Brentford might have edged it but that chance was taken away the second Keith did what Keith does. All we can do is hold on for Wednesday and go ten to the dozen in the return leg. Ironically, Alanis, what we had to to do for the final 25 minutes last night. Albeit in different guise.

It promises to be a cracker. All being well, we can have a referee. What a shame that, once again, everyone is talking about Stroud rather than a great game of football.

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At least an old friend returned

Nick Bruzon

7(seven) year old calls Championship play-off winners….

26 Jul

Here we go, again. The play-offs await. For Brentford, the Premier League is just three games away. Blocking our path, a Swansea City team that host the first leg this evening following their quite incredible overtaking of Nottingham Forest during the week. The other side of the draw sees Fulham and Cardiff City lock horns. That’s their problem, of course. All focus here has to be on the game at the Liberty Stadium.

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Brentford lock, yesterday. Swansea 0….?

Let’s be honest. Spirits can’t have been more contrasting following the end of the regular Championship campaign. For Brentford, the chance of automatic came so close and we had to be content with third place. A quite remarkable achievement over the course of a season yet still a night which ended, for so many, washed away on a sea of ifs, buts and maybes.

That’s only natural in the immediacy of the moment. Totally understandable. This is football. A place where the glass is so often half-empty and the thought of what might have been, red-raw as the referee blew for full time. Most hurting but empathising with their heroes. The odd few choosing to..well, let’s just say that perhaps rather than wallowing in self-pity and the apparent divine right to slag off their heroes some need to take a look at themselves.   

Swansea, on the other hand, will have been absolutely buzzing. Again, only natural. To be three points and -5 GD behind Forest heading into that last round of fixtures yet to still make it in to the final four will be an emotional high like no other. Moreso, given how late that final swing happened. 

Like us, they’re here on merit based on the season’s performance as a whole. Of course game 46 is that final, final chance to alter the table. But the table has been forming since August. And now it is locked in. Emotional highs and lows have been and gone. Both teams have been back on the training ground. Neither side is now beholden on other results. Control is back with us once more. We don’t need the thought of favours at the back of our mind. 

That element bemoaning the results at Stoke City and Barnsley are playing the ultimate disrespect to both teams. Stoke were turgid, no question. The ref was horrific, true. Yet they still did for us then went out and put four goals past Forest in the next game. This was a side out to prove some points and wreck some parties. As for Barnsley, look how they played in the run in. Matching Leeds United where only an o.g. separated them. Taking Forest all the way until their late, late winner. Playing with confidence and a never say die spirit against us. 

Yes, one might have expected us to win one of these ( I did, and even predicted brackets against Barnsley  – being quite truthful) but that’s not how football works. The final game was one played out in the horrible knowledge of matters elsewhere being ultimately responsible for our fate. Whether we’d won 7(seven) – 0 or lost 1-2, had West Brom got their win then it would have been the play-offs regardless. None of us are professional footballers. It’s so easy for any numpty on the terrace to say “Just concentrate on your own game” but you wouldn’t be human not be aware of the broader situation. I can’t imagine what that must have felt like.

Anyway, that’s all been and gone. We are no longer reliant on West Brom. On Huddersfield Town. On Mark Warburton and QPR. This is now done to us. We’ve two games against Swansea to focus on. If league form teaches us anything it is that Brentford have the advantage so far. Our 3-0 win at the Liberty Stadium in October was followed by a 3-1 victory at Griffin Park on Boxing Day. Quite how that translates will only be seen at full time on Wednesday night once the second leg has concluded. One of these teams will be going to Wembley to face Fulham or Cardiff City.

Will it be a West London derby? An all Welsh affair? Or some combination of both. Well, for what it’s worth I’m taking comfort from the words of a seven year old. In the days leading up to the Barnsley game, all H would say to me was, “Daddy, QPR are going to draw 2-2 at West Brom”. He was utterly convinced it was going to play out like that. Now, he’s calling a Brentford – Cardiff City final. “Daddy, it’s going to be my team versus Iwan’s in the final. What a shame they can’t come up with us though.” 

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H – knows his football.

Is he on to something? Or just trying to see the positive? To help out a dad who has been through every one of our previous play-off campaigns and explained them all in excruciating detail. From Tranmere to Middlesbrough via the horrors of Stoke, Huddersfield and Crewe. Martin Allen’s double stab against Sheffield Wednesday and, err, Swansea. The frustration of Yeovil Town. My word, Yeovil. How did that work out for everyone longer term? 

Ok. So our record is worse than than the The Very Best Of Simply Red . We all know how things have turned out since our 1991 trip to Prenton Park but history counts for nothing. Not when you have the season and the players that we’ve all had the privilege to enjoy over 2019/20. In a campaign which has been the most crazy on record, wouldn’t it be just like us to finally break the ultimate hoodoo. Hey, if we can win a game after a visit from Clem or receiving the Manager of the month award then anything is possible.

Bring it on !!!! 

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Thomas and Clem prove that positivity can triumph.

Nick Bruzon

Frank is sense. Christmas gifts see Bees go third.

27 Dec

What an afternoon. Brentford ended the day sitting third in the Championship after Swansea City were the latest to be on the receiving end of a Griffin Park trouncing. A brace from Ollie Watkins and another goal for Bryan Mbeumo putting this one out of sight, despite a tired second half flurry from the visitors. With Leeds United falling apart (again), the gap to ‘automatic’ is now down to single figures – 8 points being the difference. Even then, they needed an 89th minute equaliser from Stuart Dallas to rescue a point at home to Preston. With West Bromwich Albion (Barnsley) and Fulham (Luton) both drawing against the divisional whipping boys and Sheffield Wednesday going down to Stoke City, our rivals for the top spots formed an orderly queue to take their turn of delivering The Bees a Christmas gift. Specifically that of doing us a favour. The thought of our trip to Millwall on Sunday has suddenly become very appealing (not a typo).

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Thomas enjoys the moment at Full Time

You’ve all seen the action, presumably. Either as part of a packed Griffin Park or c/o the Sky coverage that meant our game went out live to the nation yesterday. At least, the part that doesn’t want their live action left in a recycling box or sitting on the doorstep. Otherwise, the official highlights are further below. Mbeumo opened proceedings early on. Guiding home a corner that had been headed back across the face of goal by an unmarked Ethan Pinnock. The big man, who had retained his place alongside the returning Pontus Jansson, doing magnificently to make the room and plop it straight on to Bryan’s head.

Twenty minutes gone and 1-0 up. There was barely time for anybody taking a toilet break to get back to their seats before the lead was double. None other than Ollie Watkins. The striker, and that’s what he is, grabbing a true poacher’s goal as he stuck out a leg to steer a Rico Henry cross past the despairing Freddy Woodman in the away goal. 2-0 and, surely, that was it?

Well, yes. Although being Brentford we had a little moment just after the hour when David Raya was unable to smother a shot from Bersant Celina and Andre Ayew was closest to the loose ball. Urghh. With that, the Swans got their tails up. But rather than breaking Brentford’s arm with their wing men, it was the Bees who broke their spirits. The pressure was, as ever, contained and Ollie Watkins wrapped things up. Sprinting clear, he charged down on the goal to make things safe as we headed towards injury time. There was to be no sweating on the result. No clenched buttocks. No last minute stress. The final whistle a perfunctory noise greeted with ecstasy rather than relief. And that was before we checked ‘other results’.

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The Bees were dominant

Honestly, one can’t even begin to describe the mood around the place at present. EVERYBODY has faith. Has confidence. The players are calm under pressure and exhilarating on the ball. The fans lapping it up. Peter Gilham losing his shit on the public address system. Each announcement becoming more and more enthused.

The piece about him in The Guardian yesterday described how he was offered a script but refused it. Thank goodness. We all know how incredible he is but to hear his joy transmit to the fans and the players is all a part of what is helping make our success. Even at half time, he stood there with mic in hand, not even lifting it to his lips until he had clapped everybody off and into the changing room. You may not have noticed this in the rush for the beer queue and the ablutions block but I stood and watched. What a man. The beating heart of our club.

But then, what a team. Matthew Benham’s genius and Thomas Frank’s approach have delivered up a squad that is the envy of all. A team built on a metaphorical shoe string (relatively), with a makeshift centre forward, that continue to defy expectation. At least, of those looking in. We’ve seen this coming for years. The diamonds unearthed and sold on. Their replacements being even better than before. The momentum building. The confidence high. 

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Safe to say that this performance was well received

Yet this feels like nothing I’ve experienced before. Even under the continuing highs that we’ve been served up over the last ten seasons. Now, I expect to win every game. That’s not arrogance. It’s confidence. It’s a reflection in the ability that this team has. The perfect blend of youth and experience. Unfettered skill allowed to run riot. Wise heads at the back to give guiding advice. Pontus is our big name at the back but don’t overlook Henrik Dalsgaard either. His lungs must be be gargantuan.

Next up Millwall (away) on Sunday. What an opportunity awaits if we can carry on doing what we’ve done so far. Then it’s Bristol City on New Year’s Day. Whilst one doesn’t like to look too far ahead, that game is mentioned more as an incentive (should any, somehow, be needed) for that trip to the New Den. After we run out at Ashton Gate,  West Bromwich Albion host Leeds United. Either way, something has to give.

For now, though, it’s a period of reflection. Of enjoying what was a quite incredible end to 2019 at Griffin Park. There’s the short hop to South-East London on Sunday and with it, the opportunity to carry on this enjoying this fantastic period. I’m sorry, the words are kind of failing me this morning. I’m sitting here with a huge grin on the face at this obscene hour of the day. I’m about to head back to work but the thought of commuting is, for once, not the usual harbinger of doom and gloom that comes with rising at this time of the day. Instead, there’s a big smile and a genuine feeling of well being. That’s down to Peter. To Thomas. To Matthew. To Bryan. To Ollie. To Henrik, Pontus, Josh, Ethan and the rest of the team. 

That’s down to everyone. THANK YOU. See you on Sunday… Until then, here’s the action once more

 

Nick Bruzon

As the fixture list kicks in, there’s a wonderful opportunity to be grabbed.

26 Dec

Thank goodness for football today. However you celebrated yesterday, the pressure is now off. Gifts have been bought, meals cooked and kitchen cleaned. Kind of. Still, that’s a problem for later. This afternoon we’ve got one of several opportunities to catch Brentford in TV action over the coming weeks as we play host to Swansea City in the live Sky game. A wonderful opportunity for supporters displaced by the festive period, I suppose, but no substitute for actually being at Griffin Park. The game sees our Bees sitting in the play-off zone and the Swans just outside by virtue of goal difference. Both teams knowing that a mere two points separate them from third placed Sheffield Wednesday. With Brentford flying, the mood is one of excitement. We annihilated Fulham last time out at home and can probably feel justified in thinking we may have come away from West Bromwich Albion with more. It promises to be a Christmas cracker (urghh, went there). But can we land a knockout blow on Boxing Day? (sorry).

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Full time celebrations last time out at home

The performance at West Bromwich Albion sounded immense. Talking to one fan in The Griffin yesterday lunchtime, he told me that if anything the highlights underplayed how dominant we were in that opening period. Of course, the score is what counts and both teams managed a goal apiece. However, things might have been very interesting had we gone in leading and a penalty been awarded for the wonderful diving save pulled off by defender Kyle Bartley immediately after we’d taken the lead. Instead, the officials waved play on rather than handball and the hosts did what they do – ruthless counter and subsequent equaliser. Credit to them – you can only play what the officials give. 

The Baggies are looking so, so strong and sit where they are on merit. Top of the table. Yet so do Brentford, just a few places below them. Whilst those around us have started to wobble – Swansea City being the prime example, only just recently pulling themselves out of a dreadful slump after starting at 100mph –  we’ve only got stronger. No better is this illustrated than at centre back. Despite the absence of both Julian Jeanvier and Pontus Jansson at various points recently, the addition of Ethan Pinnock to that holy trinity of defensive solidity has meant that whichever pairing Thomas Frank has started with have looked as comfortable as it comes.

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Could Pontus be back today?

The midfield trio have done the unthinkable of both replacing Romaine Sawyers and ousting Kamo to the bench. Faith in the system, the manager and his players now being well rewarded as Nørgaard, Jensen and Dasilva  pull the strings. Locking out the opposition and feeding Mbeumo and Benrahma . Those two ably supported down the flanks by flying full backs Rico and Henrik, with Ollie leading his chase for the golden boot up top. Yet it is in goal where we have perhaps our most unsung of all the current 11 heroes. The arrival of David Raya has seen the decision to sell Daniel Bentley to Bristol City more than justified. 

I was a huge fan of Bentley’s, and it’s good to see him doing well at Ashton Gate, but for Brentford things have stepped up a level. David is big, strong, quick off his line and has great distribution. He exudes confidence and there’s no fear of those random moments, flappy fingers or miscommunications with the back four that we’ve all seen so many times in the past. Our Championship goals against figure is only bettered by Leeds United (we’re 18 to their 15) and whilst this stats has been quoted on these pages before, it bears repeating. Everything starts from the back. Keep the goals out and that’s half the job done. Especially when you have the attacking options that Thomas then has available to him in his starting XI.

That’s the back slapping stuff. Now, we‘ve got another match to focus on. Yes, we have the ability to do it but congestion at the top of the table really means you need to keep winning to keep your place. Slip up on the pitch and you’ll fall down off it. Blink and you miss. I love this division so much. Anybody can beat anybody. This is not the case of  the Premier League where the wining team is usually telegraphed well in advance. Here, we’ve got to go for it and keep on going. The relentless holiday period sees trips to Bristol City and Millwall before the visit from QPR in early January. That’s before you even look at the FA Cup options.

Like today’s game with Swansea, you’ll be able to follow most of those on Sky. Certainly the Bristol game (red button) and QPR ( full fat coverage at lunchtime) but why would you? Given the choice, I mean.

Money, travel and time are the obvious factors against but if you’ve got any ability to go then let’s make it happen. These are all games that are going to be absolutely critical to our season. A glut of matches where the 12 points on offer over the next 17 (I think) days could have real bearing on our promotion campaign. Somebody has to slip up at some point. The big question being if Brentford can take advantage.

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

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Here’s to more of this today….

Nick Bruzon

If Saturday was crazy, that was just unbelievable…

23 Oct

I can’t call this tonight. The heart says Brentford. The table says Swansea. The Championship says anything can happen. All I’ll say for sure is that it can’t be as awful as last season. It can’t be exciting as Millwall. Can it…..? 

Those, the last words written on these pages yesterday as Brentford prepared for their trip to the Liberty stadium. They were words written on the back of last season’s record against Swansea which had read:  P3 L3 Goals scored 3 Goals against 10.

Yet they were also words written in the aftermath of that scintillating comeback and eventual victory over Millwall on Saturday. A game that will live long in the memory for those fortunate enough to have been present. One that social media, amongst other sources, has helped draw those who missed out into the communal outpouring of excitement that continued long after the final whistle had blown.

And boy, what a way to kick on from there. What a way to pick up that ball and run with the momentum of confidence. A 3-0 win on the road for The Bees lifting us up into the top half of the table and a mere four points from the play-off zone. And we’ve not even had the chance to become #Novemberkings yet. Urghh, feel so dirty. Should have just said it’s still October. 

The scoreline was emphatic. The preference and quality of the goals equally so. The first coming from Saïd Benrahma, curling home from the edge of the box. It was a finish to match any of his ten from last season as he opened his account this time around. His return to fill fitness very much being rewarded with a continuation of where he left off last time out.

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The moment, captured on film

It was two before half time. Special agent Jake Bidwell firing home from the penalty spot, under pressure from Ollie Watkins.  The own goal from our former skipper something that even the YouTube highlights describe as almost being as though he meant it. I’m sure he didn’t. I’d have been amazed if he could. Who cares though. As we’ve said many, many times before – balls in the back of the net are the only thing that count. No matter how they get there.

Thanks, Jake. Thanks everyone.

The best was yet to come. Bryan Mbuemo with a quite ridiculous third. Running through the Swansea midfield before firing home with a sublime finish on the diagonal. If we’re going to quote yesterday’s column, and frankly why not, then I’l crave forgiveness for a little more self-indulgence with the observation that “Bryan Mbuemo is looking as though he could be our latest hidden gem, unearthed.   To put it mildly, the French U-21 would seem to have found his feet in the Championship. What perfect timing with the trip to Shepherds Bush next up.

If Millwall was an ‘I was there’ moment then, being honest, this was probably more the case of ‘I wasn’t there’. Not surprisingly, the number of visiting fans seemed thin on the ground judging by the shots afforded us in the highlights reel. The final report on ‘official’ counts it at 215. Hats off to each and every one of them.  Their reward, a fine victory and having the pleasure of seeing Mbuemo fire home that splendid final goal at the away end.

It could have been better. Sleight of foot and almost interplay between Benrahma and Watkins that seemed almost choreographed ended up with the Algerian curling one just wide of the far post. It was a moment of magic to rival a drunken Paul Daniels and Hans Moretti firing crossbow bolts at the lovely Debbie McGee. The finish was almost as deadly.  Metaphorically speaking. That one’s on the highlight reel too. Benrahma rather than Daniels. Paul rather than Luke. Do check it out.

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Debbie – lovely

There’s not much more to say. On a game where Swansea City dominated the possession and the shots on target, it was Brentford who came away with all three goals and all three points. I’m sure there’s a lesson in there somewhere but it’ll take greater intellect than this numpty on the terrace to work it out.

It was a stunning result. It’s been a magnificent few days. Here’s to Monday evening. Here’s hoping another former Bee or two can pick up where Jake left off. Better still that Bryan, Saïd, Ollie and the rest of the gang do the same. 

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More of the same would do nicely on Monday

Nick Bruzon

How do you top Saturday? Simple. Don’t repeat last season.

22 Oct

It’s an obvious question. The turnaround that saw Brentford go from 0-2 down with 84 minutes on the clock to end the game as 3-2 winners over Millwall was one of those ‘I was there moments’. See also: Burton away, Fulham away or the time somebody laughed at Mrs. Browns Boys. Oh well, as Meatloaf once sang… And the simple answer is that we go again. This time to Swansea City where an intense period of Championship action resumes this evening with the hope that we forget about 2018/19….

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What a finish on Saturday

It would be fair to say that whilst it probably can’t get any better than Saturday for The Bees, it certainly can’t get any worse than last season. Swansea were the Mrs. Brown to our sanity. An undefeatable nemesis whose performance against us in the FA Cup fifth round at The Liberty stadium was a humbling experience only made worse by their performance against in the League  at The Liberty Stadium. 

The 4-1 trashing administered in the cup, one which was earned from an Ollie Watkins inspired 0-1 HT lead. The turnaround in the second period was immense. Swansea scoring four times as they earned a quarter final at home to Manchester City, Daniel James earned a transfer to Manchester United and Neal Maupay earned the wrath of the BBC and (probably) Ian Moose. That after firing over late in the game .

The league game in April saw Brentford on the wrong end of a 3-0 scoreline in an encounter that had it been the proverbial boxing match, would have been stopped within the first minute after Nathan Dyer gave Swansea the lead with what even the BBC described at the time as “One of the fastest goals scored at the Liberty stadium”. Don’t forget, either, how we’d also lost the early season league game 3-2 after shipping three goals in an opening half hour that had already included a close to ten minute delay for an injury break. It would be fair to say that we were all well glad to see the back of Swansea City last season.

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Swansea in the FA Cup wasn’t good.

That was then. This is now. Swansea are riding high in the table. Currently sitting in third position and surely favourites for this one tonight. Surely? Well, having already buried last season’s away shirt ‘hoodoo’ (there wasn’t one, but if it makes the brown/orange haters, of which there were apparently a few, then all the better) with our form on the road this time out, Brentford had THAT morale boosting win at the weekend. Ollie Watkins is at the business end of the Championship leading goalscorer charts whilst Bryan Mbuemo is looking as though he could be our latest hidden gem, unearthed. Sergi may be injured but the likes of Pontus and Said lead the the charge of players with their hearts on the sleeve. Josh Dasilva has discovered his appetite for goalscoring and seems to enjoy the taste.

Hats off to those travelling. Long midweek journeys provide a very easy option these days via the medium of the Sky ‘red’ button. There’s also the lure of iFollow for those of you who like your coverage ‘old school’. The excitement of the team as Ollie did his thing on Saturday very much akin to the moment Mark Burridge exploded up at Blackburn after Jota went on that little sortie forward.

 I can’t call this tonight. The heart says Brentford. The table says Swansea. The Championship says anything can happen. All I’ll say for sure is that it can’t be as awful as last season. It can’t be exciting as Millwall. Can it…..?

Nick Bruzon

Could it have been any worse? Well, I’m smiling this morning.

3 Apr

What a night for Brentford fans. Simply magnificent. Twitter was awash with celebrations well into the small hours. Nothing to do with the performance at Swansea City, if one can even call it that, but more the fact that Fulham are down. Officially. They will now have to spend the last five games of the season being described as Fulham (R),  after their inevitable return to the Championship was confirmed at Watford. With Huddersfield Town already doomed, we now know two of the teams that we’ll be lining up against next time around. It’s just a shame that we’ve not been able to fulfil the opening part of the “Bees Up Fulham down” refrain, this time around. Woeful away form will do that to you though.

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Watford administer the fatal blow

The magnificent post-Christmas run that saw us within sniffing distance of the top six has well and truly come to a halt. We’ve not scored in four games whilst away from Griffin Park have been on the wrong end of some pretty turgid performances. Last night’s obliteration by Swansea City had been preceded by the stinkfest at Wigan (0-0), a 1-0 home defeat to West Brom and the post Middlesbrough 2-0 loss at Sheffield United. That’s one point earned in four games where we’ve failed to trouble the scorers. To this we can now add the latest, a 3-0 battering at Swansea City that saw us a goal down within a minute and that lead then doubled in a first half which also saw the hosts hit the crossbar twice.

The ‘highlights’ are here if you can do it to yourself. Oh, those first two goals are awful. One has to feel for the fans who travelled for this.  And the players, although at least Thomas Frank recognised that they knew the level of under. His post-match interview was pulling no punches as he noted,  We can lose. Ok, that’s football but I think the performance we put into the first half was under our normal standards. It was slightly better second half but first half is not good enough, no matter if you concede an early goal or not…we are definitely not satisfied with that and we need to sort it out as soon as possible”.

His interview, which you can see below went on to describe how we had played without intensity or belief. All well and good but why? Is it simply exhaustion as the squad, which has also seen Ryan Woods & Chris Mepham sold for many, many millions, is stretched to the very limits after a long season? Why have we had such a devastating contrast between home and away form? 

Thomas tells it like it is.

Let’s not forget how this season Griffin Park has borne witness to us scoring goals for fun and taking teams apart as easily as a kitten toying with a spider. Rotherham, Hull City and Blackburn Rovers (the latter two as recently as February) were all on the wrong end of five goal hauls. QPR were obliterated last month in a game where the most confusing factor was how we only managed three. The combination of Neal Maupay and Said Benrahma has fans purring like the aforementioned kitten, such has been the prolific nature of their form in recent months. 

So how does wonderful home form (mostly, let’s not linger on the visit from Swansea City where we were three down in about twenty minutes) translate to death on the road? I wish I knew. The second half at the Liberty Stadium in the FA Cup being about as horrific and shambolic as it has been.

That had seen us 1-0 up at HT and heading into the quarter-finals before the self-destruct button was hit and Luke Daniels was left scooping the ball out of his net four times. Five if you count the offside.

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Swansea in the FA Cup wasn’t good.

That’s not to get on the back of the players or the management. The former are amongst the most exciting we’ve had in years. A team packed full of young internationals and goals, goals, goals. Mostly. Thomas, a wonderful orator and that rare quality of being a head-coach who tells it like it is rather than how he would like it to be (#deservedtowin) . How the fans see it. A man who exudes confidence and faith in his squad. We’ve a new stadium being built at Lionel Road, for which surely next season will see a big push in order to open preceding in the top flight. That, in itself, a quite outrageous thing for those of us a bit longer in the tooth it even be considering !

Ultimately, we’ve not blown £100m on players. Oh dear. We’ve not been divisional whipping boys. We’ve not had an owner who has felt compelled to argue with supporters on social media as to whether he attends games or performs unspeakable with dogs. 

For all that Fulham slipped into the Premiership last time around, they’ve dropped out as quickly as they entered. Noses very much bloodied, foam fingers wilting and clappers crushed. The coffers emptied and a third manager now in charge. Scott Parker unable to arrest the dreadful form seen under Claudio Ranieri who himself had been unable to arrest the dreadful form seen under Slaviša Jokanović. 

Swansea City may have ensured that it won’t be Bees up but Watford definitely pressed the button to make it Fulham down. The season has had plenty of smiles and despite our own performance last night, I’ve woken up with another one across my face.

Here’s to a few more against Frank Lampard’s Derby County ™ on Saturday. 

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The season has still had plenty of smiles

Nick Bruzon