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I’ve seen them given, Clive. Just not like this.

10 Mar

Finally. Games in hand have played out. If anything, Brentford and Swansea City are now the ones with the opportunity of playing catch up. Watford the team looking over their shoulders. Current occupants of second place in a Championship promotion race that is going to run and run. Last night’s 1-1 draw at Blackburn Rovers meaning the Swans are now three points ahead of the Bees with both teams having played 34 of our 46 games. Only goal difference keeping them behind The Hornets who have, of course, played that extra fixture. Whilst, personally speaking, I’m a firm believer in the ethos that points in the bag are better than games in hand there is extra comfort to be gained by the fact that our goal difference currently is clear of both our main rivals. Hopefully we’re all a bit less stressed now. Blips happen to the best of teams. Even in the top flight Liverpool are turning Fortress Anfield into an all you can score buffet for visiting teams whilst normally indestructible Manchester City ‘lost’ a game at the weekend (not a typo). 

I’d rather be second than fourth. No question. Prefer 66 points to 63. Only a moron would say otherwise. Yet the doomsday scenario being played out by so many after our own  disaster showing against Coventry City has failed to materialise. Swansea having three games in hand at that point and the potential to go 8 points clear should they win them all. They didn’t. Instead, were humped soundly by Bristol City and Huddersfield Town. Turned one point into three c/o of 96th minute penalty awards that were straight out of Dodge City. Fishier than Michael Fish eating fish and chips. Then, last night, another one awarded although this time in the first half but when a goal down. A penalty that was as soft as any other we’ve seen awarded recently. I’ve seen them given, Clive. Just not with this regularity. Alan McInally reporting for Sky Sports aghast at what he’d just seen after Andre Ayew made it four goals from the spot in as many games.

Penalty to Swansea. Awarded whilst listening to pop music’s Dodgy

Good luck to them. As we said before, Brentford wouldn’t turn down the opportunity if offered. We’d be right on the spot, trusting Ivan Toney to do his thing. That so many have been awarded , and in such controversial circumstances, is of course going to frustrate. That’s the polite phrase. Shonky refereeing to those looking in. The EFL powerless, impotent, silent.  We can’t change that. We still have plenty of opportunity to wrestle control of our destiny. 12 more games. That’s a lot of time and a lot of points. Even if we need to do it from open play. Err, Bryan Mbeumo at Norwich anyone…? Besides, I’m still firmly of the belief that this one is going to go all the way to the wire. If for no other reason than Watford visit Brentford then host Swansea in their final two games. 

All being well, things will be a lot clearer by then. If the recent run of LLL was stressful for some think how that final brace of fixtures is going to be? That’s a level of angst I don’t want to be part of although can only presume things will head that way. None of the teams around us will drop that many points between now and then.  At least we got back on track with those defeats of Sheff Wed and Stoke. Next up Blackburn Rovers on Friday.

Cripes, that trip to Ewood Park is going to be tough. By all accounts they should have won last night. We all know our own injury situation at the back. That said, we all know our own goal scoring potential going forward. The choice being faced by Thomas Frank over who from Tariqe Fosu, Bryan Mbeumo and Sergi Canos to start with a tough one. A nice one, I suppose. For me (straps on tin hat) the later had been the most consistent performer this season from the three although nobody could deny the game against Norwich City was one where he was at anything than his best. I still stand by the fact that the abuse he came under was way out of line and totally out of order. If nothing else, there were enough others who went awol in a game against the runaway league leaders. But we’ve done that one to death. 

Brentford may well lose again this season. Sadly. That’s football. As noted earlier, even Manchester City got a nil return on Sunday. It happens. Liverpool have hit such a rough patch of home form that even Fulham picked up three points over the weekend. Swansea City have fluctuated between whipping boys and relentless winners over the last five games. The only consistent thing about the beautiful game is its inconsistency. Nothing can be predicted. Although if everyone could just stop awarding Steve Cooper’s team penalties, that would be nice. As a side note,  those bemoaning Barnsley inflicting one of our own defeats in the blip period may care to notice the Tykes now sitting in the play-off spots. Talk about a surge up the blindside. 

We can talk about others in the same breath as we do ourselves. That’s not obsession. That’s a fact. That’s what makes football so exciting. So addictive. Delivers the agony and ecstasy in equal measure. We can be at our best yet still be undone by outside influence. Be ropey as but nick the points and then see our rivals do everything but score. Of course we have to focus on Brentford as a priority. Of course we shouldn’t get overly upset about what the others do, as long as we continue to pick up the points. Yet with our destinies so inter twined, it’s hard not to look at the other games with microscopic interest. Luton v Swansea on Saturday and Cardiff v Watford will be two such games. Moreso with our own game taking place on Friday night. Fingers crossed we’ll be back in automatic by the time our nearest and dearest kick off. Fingers crossed….

Nick Bruzon  

Were you guessing? Gavin does what Gavin does in a frustrating end to the week.

7 Mar

Well yesterday was about as frustrating and infuriating as it gets. But enough about having to watch And and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway with Mrs B. A soul destroying and futile exercise without an audience present. If that’s even your thing in the first place (it isn’t). Noooooo… they’re ‘dancing’ with a cartoon cat and mouse whilst Tom Jones is wandering around with a giant butterfly net. Make it stop. Please make it stop. Yet if that was a painful exercise then the same could be said for Brentford fans who had earlier tuned in to the day’s live Championship matches on Sky earlier. Watford and Swansea City got the expected wins over Nottingham Forest and Middlesbrough, no complaints there, but the manner of their respective victories left a sharp reminder that football has more twists and turns than a game of snakes and ladders. Left Neil Warnock set to explode and surely facing sanction for saying what we were all thinking.

As painful as anything that had played out before

Watford now three points clear of Brentford in third. An extra game played. A 1-0 win coming courtesy of a strike from Adam Masina that seemed to go straight through the legs of Forest goalkeeper Brice Samba. The goalkeeper then receiving lengthy treatment after appearing to take some sort of knock to the head in the build up but eventually able to continue. It was never in doubt. The Hornets did what they needed to. The visitors spending the afternoon being stretched at the back and unable to make inroads up front. Well played Watford. We’d have been ecstatic to pull a result like that out of the bag.

However, that was nothing but the appetiser for the main event. Swansea City v Middlesbrough which, to my surprise, had full match coverage on Sky. Excellent. Sit back on the couch with a Guinness and a hot cross bun to hope for the best but fear the worst. What we got was as awful as Mrs Brown, her boys, Tom, Jerry, Dec, Ant and the England supporters band teaming up for a musical medley. We got Gavin Ward….

Remember Swansea’s game at Stoke City midweek? The scores locked at 1-1 until they were offered a 96th minute penalty after the softest of non-challenges? Of course Andre Ayew converted. That’s what he does. Well, yesterday saw more of the same, It saw Neil Warnock livid at full time after Middlesbrough were denied one point, possibly three. It saw Marc Bola have a wonder strike chalked off for Boro’ after Yannick Bolasie had, apparently, fouled Jay Fulton after playing the ball through. It saw the scores locked at 1-1 until Swansea were awarded a 96th minute penalty after the softest of non-challenges? Of course Andre Ayew converted. That’s what he does.

Even more frustrating this time around (the ex Brentford connection aside) was how it happened. George Saville taking the ball off Jake Bidwells’ toes and clearing for a corner before the defender went over. Ward pointing to the flag until changing his mind and under protest deciding it had been a foul. 2-1. Six points in the last two games where both had been heading for 1-1 draws. That’s football. You can’t blame Swansea for taking their chance. Do you think we’d have turned down the opportunity to take both penalties? Of course not. Doesn’t make it any less shonky though. Dodgy refereeing playing havoc with what is about as tight a promotion race as they come. This, from @VickiLee_1 on Twitter, summing it up in a nutshell

Neil Warnock summed up Gavin Ward and the two game changing incidents incidents in quite direct style, saying first about the Bola that Ward ”thought it was a free-kick to them. He hadn’t see (Yannick) Bolasie won the ball. It’s either a penalty or a goal. He’s blown the whistle before Bola’s shot hit the goal and gave a defensive free-kick.”

As for the penalty… :“I’m a little bit bewildered about the penalty. He pointed for a corner kick but he assures me that when he thought about it he thought George didn’t get any of the ball and he thought it was a penalty. I asked ‘Why did you point to the corner flag? Were you guessing?

Were you guessing?’ If ever Mr Ward writes his autobiography then there’s the title. No doubt the Middlesbrough manager will be fined for his comments. His full interview a masterclass in straight talking. That’s what the EFL do though. They’ll protect their refs to the last and hit the managers for speaking up. I was incensed after the penalty award at Stoke. So was Warnock, by the sound of it. This was equally poor. Swansea riding their luck and taking the opportunity offered. They’ll argue they kept going until the last second which, of course, they did. Yet once more offered the big helping hand of refereeing incompetence makes your task all the easier to achieve. Now, they sit two points ahead of Brentford with Tuesday’s trip to Blackburn Rovers next on the agenda. There’s still one hell of a long way to run in the promotion race. For once, we’ll be hoping Adam Armstrong closes in on Ivan Toney at the top of the Championship goal scorers charts.

Sour grapes? Yes. By the bucketload. As much about the circumstances that have played out. About referees unable to distinguish between fair means and foul. “By that reckoning they should get promotion, shouldn’t they? If they keep getting the right referees.” Not my words, Carol. The words of Neil Warnock.

Equally, with 12 games to go, and the Swans travelling to Vicarage Road for the final game of a tough run in, let’s not get too downbeat. Blackburn have a key role to play this week, we then visit them on Friday, but it will only be one step in the journey. Neither result will be definitive. Whichever way they go.

Albeit, if we could avoid any dodgy decisions that would be just great.

Nick Bruzon

If you can’t take it then don’t give it. Here’s to us ‘doing a Leeds’.

20 Feb

I’ll bite. Brentford head to Coventry City today for a game that, if no way season defining, is one in which three points will be gratefully received. For the second placed Bees, a chance to get some clear air in the automatic slots before Norwich and Swansea play. Watford’s 2-1 defeat of Wayne Rooney’s (presumably we can just drop the extraneous ‘Derby County’ now) seeing a fourth team getting knee deep in the promotion punch up. For nomadic Coventry, efforts continue to ensure that at least some Championship football will be played at St. Andrew’s next season. Never has the decision by Birmingham City to name the ‘Trillion trophy stadium’ seemed a more unfortunate one. Yet regardless of the build up to the game (which, for the record, I have as ‘away win’ all day long) it was a tweet from Leeds United, via Gibraltar, that has made me laugh this morning.

My cousin’s husband is as staunch a Leeds fan as they come. We’ve had a lot of fun over the last few seasons as Brentford have gone toe to toe with the Elland Road outfit and come out on top more often than not. Oh, Neal Maupay. You god amongst men. That Yehudi Menuhin of footballers, playing them as easily as he would a cheap fiddle. Fans enjoying the moment and singing along as Leeds fell apart. Again. How we laughed. Until last season happened.

Genius

My word, Leeds United held it together in some style. They finished the campaign like a runaway train regardless of how sensitive they have since appeared to be about any criticism of the break enabling them the opportunity to reset. Despite the saltiness about Thomas and his white board. Put simply, Leeds deserved to go up and kept their nerve when it counted. This time. It hurts to say it but one needs to recognise a team’s achievement. The motivational power of Bielsa. More importantly, unlike Fulham and West Brom they’ve taken to the top flight like a duck to water. Say what you want about them but they’ve got it bang on again.

Thomas Frank’s whiteboard was the gift that kept on giving.

Yet if Birmingham City are going out of their way to find an example of the word ironic that’s ten times better than anything Alanis could come up with (or should that actually be a trillion times better ?) the aforementioned tweet from Gibraltar was right up there.

Leeds’ fan Julian sending me this graphic from sky, predicting how the Championship table may play out, along with the narrative ‘surely not again’…..

Hmmmm

Oh well. I suppose if any team knows about falling apart (again) it is Leeds United. Pot. Kettle. Black. Isn’t THAT ironic? Well done. Well done everyone. Successful deployment of the fishing rod emoji. Although, to be fair, if you can’t take it then don’t give it. I’ve had massive fun pulling his, and their, leg over the last few campaigns. I want promotion if for no other reason than to continue that good natured family rivalry.

Heading into the final third of the season, this sort of graphic and prediction is going to be more and more prevalent as the games count down and the run in begins. I’ll take it as a huge positive . A massive inspiration. We all know how last season ended and if nothing else, nobody but nobody wants to go through that a second time. Rather than a wind up I take it as an even greater motivational factor to get back in the groove. Of keeping touch with the boys at the top and slowly turning the screw once more. Of doing what we did from late October through January and beyond. Just letting the results take care of business.

The obvious factor here is getting those results. We’ve a tough run of games coming up. Coventry today and then visits from Sheffield Wednesday and Stoke City. The former looking to leapfrog Birmingham City in the scramble to avoid relegation ; the later with an eye very much on the play offs. Yet it is getting back to winning ways today that needs to be the priority. I’m not in the knee jerk doom and gloom camp – cripes, we’ve lost five games all season and are still second in the table. Second. At the same time, the team have seemed off their usual pace in recent games. Barnsley was awful to watch. At least we started at 100mph in midweek but it very much had the feeling of the wheels coming off in the second period. On another day we might have hung on but alas it wasn’t to be.

That’s football. As we said at the time, no team is Manchester City. No team wins every game. Look at how untouchable Liverpool have hit the skids in recent weeks. We can’t change those results and the quicker our own form returns, the quicker they will be forgotten about. Consigned to the waste bin of history as, all being well, nothing more than a bump in the road on the way to promotion.

I’m still utterly convinced we’ll follow Leeds and do it this season. I’m still sitting here this morning with nothing more than complete faith in this team. In knowing that when our big guns fire we’ve more than enough to outshoot and outscore anybody. Home or away. That said, if we started to pull the trigger today it would make me a much happier man. If only for keeping up some semblance of family pride. Of hoping that the personalised Toblerone bar that made its way to Gibraltar in the autumn doesn’t come back to bite us in the backside.

It was funny…at the time

Kick off is at 12.30pm today. The game is live on Sky aswell as iFollow for Season Ticket and Premium Seat Members. Audio Match Passes are available to buy for those of you that prefer to listen old schools. BBC Radio London digital are sure to be involved, too, and are always a wonderful choice. Whichever option is available, I can’t wait for this one. See you there. In spirit. On the sofa. Here’s to form returning. Here’s to us ‘doing a Leeds’.

Nick Bruzon

Put down the crowbar and look at the shoddy photoshop. The latest big game is upon us.

3 Feb

Tonight’s the night. We hope. Brentford finally play Bristol City after the teams have already seen our coming together twice cancelled. First due to Corona Virus suspicions and then, actual, cases. It is a game that reeks of potential for both clubs after recent results from our Championship rivals. Defeats for Watford and a fourth in a row last night for Bournemouth, along with Millwall holding Norwich City, make the business end of the table as open as it has been all season. The Bees are 2 and 7(seven) points behind Swansea City and The Canaries respectively but have games in hand on both. For The Robins, a win will take them level on points with sixth placed Bournemouth and possibly above them, should GD swing by more than one. Elsewhere, Manchester United did their one team bus tribute act. Not so much parking it as waiting for one.

We can, of course, only start with Brentford. It seems we’ve waited an eternity for the Bristol City game. One can only hope that severe injury list that coincided with their 11th hour cancellation of our New Years Day fixture has got a bit healthier. Much like their staff whom one can only be thankful that the sudden onset of Corona Virus symptoms proved to be nothing more than a false alarm at a time where the testing laboratories were closed. Relief all round, I am sure. It feels like we’ve all got a lot older waiting for the Bees to play the Robins…. And, with that, I’ll put away the crowbar and instead present the shoddy photoshop.

We’ve all grown old waiting for the Bees to play The Robins (kids, ask a grown up)

We all know the stats, of course. Brentford remain unbeaten in the league since October 24th and the Stoke City debacle. Since then, we’ve been unstoppable. Ivan Toney has been banging them in for fun with the hat-trick (now officially confirmed) against Wycombe Wanderers on Saturday the latest in a long line of goals, goals, goals. That was quite the performance from the entire team. Tarique on fire. Josh a welcome return to our midfield and Sergi blitzing it in the second half. The net still rippling from his goal(our fifth). An absolute blockbuster. 

If only we’d been allowed in to see Sergi, Josh and co..

We’re currently third placed on 48 points after 25 games and have just hit Wycombe for brackets. A 7(seven) -2 victory one that, being honest, could have gone to double figures had we taken those first half chances rather than allowing them back in to the game. For context, at the same marker last season we were sitting fourth with a still hugely respectable 40 points 3rd. We’d just gone down 1-0 at Millwall, fourth on 40 and were hoping Leeds United would fall apart. Again. 

Now, destiny is in our complete control. The table doesn’t lie and the prize for winning tonight , whilst not season defining, would lay down a huge marker to the top two teams Norwich City and Swansea. Especially given they then play each other on Friday night. Yeah. Frank Out!! Sergi’s rubbish. Sign somebody Benham, we’re doomed. Oh, and insert Picard graphic. Again, I’ll put away the crowbar and insert…. 

Hmm. They’ve gone very quiet…..

All this, of course, ignores Bristol City. They aren’t just going to roll over and die. Surrender meekly and hand over more points to Brentford. Although it would be nice if they did. However, with Bournemouth picking up the mantle from Leeds United, the Robins will be chomping at the bit to do their thing. The play-off zone is back in sight and Dean Holden has the hottest instead of the sadly departed Lee Johnson. Last season’s fun and games feeling even further away than the original date for tonight’s fixture and another excuse to wield the photoshop.

Last season was fun. Farewell, Lee Johnson.

Moreso, we need to be wary of the Robins given how they slipped up to Wayne Rooney’s Derby County at the weekend. Or, should that be, Rooney’s derby. Cripes, the castration of the Rams continues apace. Having got through Frank Lampard’s, Steve McClaren’s and, to a lesser extent, Ashley Cole’s it looked like they were once more Derby County. Then Rooney came in, took over, and now Derby have already lost their capitalisation. Rooney’s derby proclaimed the weekend updates….

derby further emasculated (thanks to Trevor for spotting this one !)

Etc etc etc. We could go on. But won’t. With Bournemouth serving up that favour last night and reopening the door to Bristol City, they’ll no doubt have their own spirits lifted. Here’s to our high flying Bees doing our thing one more. Even half the performance on Saturday would be sufficient. As long as it’s the second-half.

The other news last night came at Old Trafford where Manchester United hit Southampton for 9. Cripes. If we were destructive on Saturday, this was next level. Like buses, you wait ages for brackets to come along and then two appear at almost the same time. My own phone alerts suddenly going off late in the evening suggesting something happened and , sure enough, The Red Devils hit the magical 7(seven) goal mark. A feat they managed on 87 minutes yet still then finding time for an additional two goals. Well played all round and a scoreline we could only aspire to. Whilst there’s no chance of it happening tonight – Daniel Bentley’s not a flappy ‘keeper – I’d be happy with a gritty 1-0 and the three points. 

Will we get them ? Roll on 7.45pm when we find out. Mark Burridge has the hot seat on the quality comms. There’s also Sky for those of you with that option, should you prefer. Regardless of the provider, this could be huge. Bring on kick off and see you there. In spirit, if not body.

Nick Bruzon

Bring on Brendan. Rodgers rather than O’Carroll. FA Cup excitement continues.

24 Jan

This is about as intriuging as an FA Cup tie gets. Brentford, two points off second place in the Championship, host Leicester City, two points off the very summit of the Premier league, in Sunday afternoon’s fourth round tie. The winners know they will be given the opportunity to welcome Brighton in the last 16. With heavy snow forecast in the area from 8am, this one really could have it all. Perhaps, even, an orange ball (although one would presume we’ll get the insipid, dog piss yellow version). Yet with an absolutely massive game on Wednesday at Swansea City, and the sheer exhaustion quite clearly in evidence during the second half against Luton on Wednesday, don’t go into this one expecting the full fat first team. I’m still expecting excitement. Having had the appetite whetted with Chorley – Wolves and Cheltenham Town – Manchester City, now its our turn to strip up to that TV plate.

Thomas Frank has already dropped all the hints you need about who is going to be starting this one today. We know Ivan Toney is missing because of that suspension so Marcus Forss will be up top. That Luton match saw the start of a 14 game run of midweek / weekend fixtures and we looked absolutely fit to drop during that most painful of second halves. It was unmissable stuff and you couldn’t look away. Albeit in the same excruciating way as being tied to a chair and force-fed Mrs. Browns Boys. That Brentford hung on for another win after the two week closure of the training ground was quite amazing but it is clear these are men, not machines. As such, no surprise to hear Thomas announce in his press conference that, “I will use the squad but not like a full rotation. We will put a strong team out there tomorrow.”

The second half against Luton was about as painful viewing as Mrs. Brown’s Boys

Regardless of the Swansea City game, this is absolutely the right thing to do. We’ve a fantastic squad and already seen in the league cup how deep this runs. Four wins out of five against Premier league opposite this season. Only Jose Mourinho getting in our way. A sixth game upon us now and a chance for the likes of Tarique, Samman et al to show what they can do once more. Could there be more action for the likes of Alex Gilbert, Lewis Gordon, Fin Stevens and Max Haygarth who all featured against Middlesbrough in the previous round? Who all impressed, Stevens in particular. We already know that Marcus Forss, a player Thomas says “The Club have a strong belief that he will be a top striker”, starts. This, for me , is a great thing.

Marcus’ form this season has been quite outstanding to watch. His goal for Finland in France a quite wonderful cherry on the cake of his own personal growth. He has a foot like the proverbial traction engine and when he hits that ball, it stays hit. I can’t wait to see what he can do against Leicester City and if we can give him the service then the results could be quite incredible. With Ivan Toney missing through suspension, the door is open to lay down a claim to a more regular starting berth. Whether now or in the near future. 

Marcus has only impressed when he has featured.

It won’t be easy, of course. Leicester City were the visitors for the fourth round last year. They ran out 1-0 winners and despite our best efforts, it felt comfortable all the way through. Albeit a much changed Brentford team including relative unknowns (then) Yearwood, Racic, Thomspon, Roerslev and Zamburek gave a strong account of themselves. Bryan Mbeumo saw an equaliser chalked off by the officials but in the end an early goal from Kelechi Iheanacho was enough to separate the two teams. With Jamie Vardy’s well documented injury today, expect the same player to start again. Wes Morgan and Dennis Praet are also missing from a selection where Brendan Rodgers hinted at a similar approach to Thomas, “We always try to rely on the collective, the group has always been able to find results.

Whomever he goes with, Leicester are gong to be strong. About as tough a test as they come. Just as when they won the league before, the Foxes are the one team nobody is really talking about. Liverpool choke. Frank out (at Chelsea). Manchester City and their early stumble. Manchester United at the top despite the odd reaction of their own fans to Ole earlier on. Sound familiar? Yet it is Leicester who have avoided the noise, shirked the nonsense and just got on with what they are great at. Winning football matches. Indeed, they went top during the week until United did their thing, Treat this one as a casual affair at your peril. It is an FA Cup tie that is about as hard as it comes.

Despite the lack of crowds – even next season is now feeling optimistic at best – the tournament has continued to provide excitement. Who couldn’t help but be moved by Chorley? Their game on Friday night with Wolves could, genuinely, have gone either way. It was quite the cracker. Cheltenham Town had us all believing in the magic of the cup last night until Manchester City stepped up very late to crush the dreams of the nation’s armchair fans. Blackpool had us on the edge of our seats yesterday afternoon until Brighton retook the lead with the most severe of deflections. It was cruel but it was a goal. That’s football. For a moment, the outride world forgotten about until full time came around and then there was nothing else to do except watch The Masked singer. Apparently. I mean, I don’t, but I believe some people may. The crushing reality of having to watch Davina Macall gurning her way through truing to fathom out who was lurking beneath a Bushbaby  costume (if only there was a mask for her) no replacement for celebrating like we’d won the FA Cup in the Griffin at full time. Moreso given it wasn’t Jason Donovan or Joe Mangel when his head eventually came off.

We digress. Cripes, do we digress. I can’t wait for this one. As ever, I’d love to be there. I understand why we can’t but it doesn’t make it any easier. At least we have the TV to provide a bit of an escape and we’ll be huddled around it for sure. Taking consolation in the fact we’re not freezing to death in what already feels absolutely bitter outside my front door. The lack of frostbite a small benefit for being forced to stay home although there isn’t one amongst us who wouldn’t happily lose a few toes if it meant being able to see the game at Lionel Road?

Kick off is at 2.30pm today. BT Sport the place. There are no cameras on I-follow although Mark Burridge and team will still have audio commentary. As do BBC Radio 5 live although for me (Clive), the Parry-Reeves line up offered by their London based counterpart is always infinitely preferable for anyone heading down the wireless route. 

The day is upon us. Enjoy the game however you are following it. On tv, in the bathtub with a terrace tranny, in the gym with internet radio or just sat on the sofa. We’ll be doing the later. We’ll be hoping for another upset. Another Premier League notch on the belt. Another excuse to watch something that isn’t people giving it their all in oversized anthropomorphic costumes. Buzz and Buzette aside. Yet even they are victims of the current Corona rulings, it would seem. Oh to have a pre-match welcome from their furry faces. Curse you, Covid. Curse you.

Still, at least there is a game to watch. I’m just glad we’ll be seeing Brendan Rodgers rather than Brendan O’Carroll – the usual automatic replacement for ‘no football’. No matter how hard it is doing it from the couch. The prospect of being able to welcome a 7th (seventh) top flight team, whilst playing in the Championship, would be a quite wonderful mark of how this strangest of seasons has gone. Should we first beat a 6th. Just the small matter of Leicester City standing in the way….

This time last year – my sort of masked mystery

Nick Bruzon.

Back in action. Time to test ourselves as the door opens.

20 Jan

Here we go, again. Brentford are back in action after that three week Corona Virus related lay off. Luton Town the visitors this evening and then Premier League leaders Leicester City in the FA Cup on Sunday. The players are all reported as well (injury aside) and Thomas Frank was back at the helm in a series of photographs published from the training ground earlier in the week. As one correspondent noted, short of holding up a copy of ‘The Sun’ (other fetid rags are available), the photos couldn’t have been any more ‘honestly, these are fresh’ if we’d tried. And that’s great news. Even better is the shape of the table. Whilst we’ve fallen a few spots due to inaction, the Bees find themselves four points ahead of 7th (seventh) placed Stoke City with three games less played. More importantly, Bournemouth hitting the skids with DLL sees the opportunity to go clear in second open up. Should we win those games in hand. Hmm, no pressure lads 😉 

Thomas, and the squad, were pictured back in action this week.

I can’t wait for this. If anything, the delay to football has felt even longer than last season’s Covid cancellation. Then, everybody was in the same boat. This time around we been amongst a handful of teams unable to play whilst everyone else has carried on. Its very much felt like outsiders looking in. One must be thankful that, at the least, things haven’t got any worse. We did talk about the need for football to call a halt as increased numbers of positive cases were bing reported across the football world. Whilst the opportunity of seeing a game in person still seems as far away as ever, at least that decision is one which hasn’t needed to be taken. Long may that level of good health continue.

Getting back to this evening’s game, it really is a quite wonderful opportunity for Brentford. There’s no Pontus, of course, but otherwise it looks like we have that full squad to pick from. I’d absolutely expect the same starting XI as that which began at Spurs : Raya, Dalsgaard, Pinnock, Bech Sørensen, Henry, Dasilva, Janelt, Jensen, Mbeumo, Toney, Canós.  Or, at least, were Josh still not under suspension. Honestly, didn’t forget about that at the ungodly hour these are written at. Could it be Marcondes? A return for norgaard? Pan C?

Regardless, that last league game saw a line up which also took Bournemouth apart, albeit Pontus played then, in our last league fixture. That, one of the most encouraging and determined performances from a Bees team in a long while. The balls and never say die attitude. The fortitude. The attacking intent. It really was an excellent game of football with new levels of expectation now being set.

What. A. Performance!! Cherries picked.

Luton Town won’t be easy, of course. They did us that recent favour of their own whilst we were out action, beating Bournemouth. The side that got hammered 7(seven) – 0 at Griffin Park last season nothing more than a distant memory. They have found their feet and then some. Indeed, the play-offs are a more than realistic aspiration in what is one of the most open Championship campaigns in years. The quality of our opponents something Thomas picked up on in his press conference, noting that, “I know that we will be there performance-wise tomorrow night but I am more worried about Luton because I know they are a very underrated team in this division…on their day they can make it difficult for any team because of their style of play. They work hard throughout the team and are very good on set pieces. They want to play, and can play, because they have some quality players.

Yet there’s no reason to be scared. It’ll be a tough game for sure but we’ve more than proven we can handle those in recent months. The prize for victory will be a return to third place. The opportunity to sit just two points behind Swansea City with a game a in hand. The chance for Ivan Toney to open up a gap at the top of the Championship leading scorer table. What more could you want at this stage?

Personally speaking, I’m just happy to be back in action. That Thomas is feeling fit and well once more. That we have no apparent casualties of this relentless virus. That we have another exciting week upon us. Luton this evening. Leicester City on Sunday and then that HUGE trip to Swansea City next Wednesday. It does big the question as to what line up Thomas may go for in the FA Cup. He kept nothing back for Spurs but that was a semi-final in the middle of a brief respite from frenetic action. Now, the door to the Premier League is opening once more. I’d love the chance to take on the Foxes at full strength. Being realistic though, I can only see that as an opportunity for the squad to show just how deep it goes. To repeat what it did against that legion of Premier League sides in the League Cup. 

That’s to come. For now, all eyes and all focus have to be on this evening. On Luton Town. On doing all possible to pick up another three points. On keeping that huge unbeaten run of league form going. I’d love another bracketing. If it ends up being a scrappy 1-0 we’ll be just as happy. Kick off is at 7(seven)pm. See you there. In spirit.

Our last home game with Luton ended in brackets.

Nick Bruzon

Maupay does it again. What a way to celebrate. Again.

17 Jan

Life isn’t great at the moment. Not compared to normal. The relentless grind of Lockdown and ‘that’ virus. Games played out in empty stadia. Brentford not even able to take the field at the moment due to our own training ground being closed – albeit results have gone largely in our favour whilst we’ve been away – thanks, Luton.) Yet sitting at home yesterday afternoon there was a moment to put a smile on the face once more. Delivered in the game between Leeds United and Brighton c/o that king of shithousery, Neal Maupay. A cult hero at Griffin Park to rank alongside the best of them. 

We all loved Neal. No question. That goal and celebration at Fulham. The absolute dirt that went alongside his game. Cheeky digs. Sly tugs. A side to a Brentford player we’d not seen in a long, long time. Somebody you wouldn’t want to get close to, yet had that wonderful combination of mercurial talent combined with unpredictable volatilty. Err, what Aston Villa game? He was, rightly, lauded at Griffin Park. We’d have loved him to stay but we’ve all moved on. Our loss, Brighton’s gain. Had he stayed there’d have been no Ollie Watkins up front. Win-win.

The classic Neal image? Perhaps….

Yet, as we all know, his ultimate moment was up at Elland Road. Back in October 2018, with the scores locked at 0-0 in an early season Championship pacesetter, Ollie was brutally fouled (errr) by Leeds ‘keeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell. Up stepped Neal to not only score from the spot but then celebrate in that quite wonderful style. Only he would have had the balls to take on the home contingent, arms aloft and fronting them out in the face of all manner of , understandable, abuse flying back. Cripes, had the boot been on the other foot we’d have been spewing. It was bad enough that the spot kick had been deemed questionable but this was then the ultimate indignity for the home support. A celebration to rank with the best of them and an iconic moment. 

It was a moment only bettered in the return fixture at Brentford when Neal scored again. Right in front of the away fans. He celebrated, again. Right in front of the away fans. Same pose, same stare, same abuse. Talk about king of wind up. The man has balls of steel. If anybody was looking to endear themselves to the home support then here it was. Griffin Park erupted. If it wasn’t possible to love him anymore, then here was the opportunity to do so. 

Then, Brighton came knocking and we went our separate ways. That’s football. Neal is still a fixture in my life – even if just through the medium of Fantasy Football. Then, yesterday, at Leeds United, it all came flooding back. He scored for Brighton. The Seagulls 1-0 up. The only thing missing being supporters to see the goal live. 

No matter. This is Maupay. This was Leeds. This is the man who lives for the moment. And sure enough, he did. He celebrated in the only way he knew how. Despite the fact there was nobody there to wind up. Oh, we all knew how much this meant. And it was brilliant. Never have I enjoyed a goal in a different division for a club I don’t even support so much. This one was all about the man, the moment and the place. What a way to liven up an otherwise desperate Saturday.

Thank you, Neal. Thank you for doing this.

The two tweets that sum it up. And how…

5 Jan

Tottenham 2 Brentford 0. That’s one way to look at the League Cup semi-final. Congratulations Spurs and all that but, at the same time, we need to review ‘the list’…

Mrs. Browns Boys. 

Made up coffee words – where Star*ucks have now added Trenta to their ‘made up words‘ size range that also includes ‘Tall’ (small, obviously), ‘Grande’ and ‘Venti’. 

Team GB. Why? Where? How was this allowed to become a thing? It’s not Mannschaft D or Equipe F.

See also the faux verb: To medal

The England ‘supporters’ ‘band’. Show me one person to claim this self-appointed bunch of trumpet wielding clowns enhance a game of football and I’ll show you a liar.

Polls about ‘Best Bond’ which have Roger Moore anywhere except number one. 

You could do worse…

Espresso spelt or pronounced Expresso. Its an ‘x’. Clearly an X. Stop getting coffee wrong.

The world’s weakest joke: Star Wars Day (the one between May the third and May the fifth – aka the fourth of May in our house)

Mixing up Ant and Dec – how is that possible? Ant always stands on the left (contractual obligation to stop old people getting confused).

Ian Moose and his ego. The man has more good friends than Paul Nicholas and Jan Francis.

Sir/Lord Alan Sugar saying ‘You’re fired’, Granted, it’s a catchphrase, but surely by definition his wannabe employees/ business partners need to be hired before being able to be fired?

Corporate Account hashtags on Twitter. Who could forget the joy of #BigNewAmbitions, #Novemberkings or #Trophyfriends?

The Stone Roses – how? Three good songs (at best).

Mrs Brown’s Boys. If ever The Emperor’s New Clothes was reimagined for the 21st Century then here it is.

Yes – we said it twice. Just to be sure

Getting videprinter brackets wrong. They start at 7(seven), not sooner . Or, at least, they should.

Eric Clapton – unplugged. Worst. Album. Ever. The plinky plonk versions. The toe curling between song ‘banter’. Six months in the back of an overland truck going across Africa with that locked on repeat in the tape deck is too much.

West Ham. See : Winning the World Cup in 1966. Trevor Brooking scoring a header. Media love in with their season long farewell to Upton Park. If only somebody had mentioned.

iPod headphones. For supposed technological giants, the singular inability of Apple to create a product that plays music inwards rather than outwards is one that astounds.

Footballers reassuring us that ‘We go again ‘ after a particularly bad performance.

Clackers and foam fingers to ‘enhance’ the atmosphere. See also: drums. Not quite in the same league as ‘that band’ but not far behind.

John Bishop (adoration levels). Apparently he’s from Liverpool and likes football.

etc etc etc

Well to that list we can now add VA f’ing R. We’ve seen the game. We know what happened. Perhaps best summed up in these two tweets.

And these are the last words tonight on Mike Dean’s sh*t show…

Nick Bruzon

There’s an upset coming….

4 Jan

Here we go. The weekend action is done. Spurs warmed up for Tuesday night’s league cup semi-final with Brentford by thumping Leeds United 3-0. The Bees, meanwhile, put their feet up after Bristol City pulled the plug on our own game at the 11th hour following the discovery of untestable symptoms in the squad. Apparently. We’ve said our piece on that one here. Now is the time to look forward. Perhaps with a bit more juice back in the tank, history awaits at Tottenham.

The quarter-finals were awesome. Next up, Spurs.

Cripes, this is exciting. 90 minutes away from the W place in North London. A chance at a first major cup final. With all due respect to the Sherpa Vans / Leyland Daf etc etc. In our way, the unpredictable genius of Jose Mourinho and his galaxy of International stars. If they go full strength then any team would be up against it. Champions League regulars and currently sitting fourth in the top flight. For Brentford, a question more of how deep into the first team we delve. Sure, we’ve beaten four Premier League outfits to get here (which is still more in total than Sheffield United, West Brom and FulhamL combined have managed in the league all season) but this is next level opposition. Teams like us don’t win these sort of games? Little old Brentford haven’t got a prayer. Have we?

Insert usual lecture about magic of the cup. How both teams deserve to be here and, at the end of the day (Clive) its 11 v 11 over 90 minutes. All of which is true, of course, if not somewhat clichéd. Yet for me this one is even more open than ever. Might Bristol City have even done us an inadvertent favour?

Tottenham fighting it out for the Premier League title. Every point and ounce of energy vital to their cause. The added complication of a huge potato skin coming up on Sunday with the FA Cup tie at Marine. There’s a lot of juggling to be done there. Will it impact selection or are the players simply too strong ? Chuck an empty stadium into the mix and the game takes on the neutrality of a training ground – atmosphere wise, at least. You can bet the regulars will be banging on Thomas Frank’s door for the chance to start this one and just to maintain fitness after the Bristol City debacle. To prove just what they can do and that last season’s wobble when, for once it wasn’t Leeds United who fell apart (amazing how much that break helped them restore their momentum before reaching a deserved promotion), was nothing more than that. An abhoration. A freak. Something to use in order to show that it has only made us stronger.

Despite the loss of Ollie Watkins and Said Benrahma we’re arguably stronger this time around. Defensively strong, the midfield has bite and the goals still flow. Perhaps not as quickly as before but we’re not shipping them. Josh Dasilva, David Raya, Sergi Canos and Ethan Pinnock amongst those to be looking even better than ever. Rico Henry surely the most coveted star in the Championship. Ivan Toney banging them in for fun. Vitaly Janelt the latest on the conveyor belt of previously undiscovered talent. 

We’re further ahead in both league placing and points scored than this time last season despite the non-stop cavalcade of games. The performance against Bournemouth last week one of the best games of football seen in many years. The Bees relentless, determined, ruthless. Weathering the early storm. Coming back from going a goal down (see also: Cardiff City away the game before) to blitz our opponents and kill their own free flowing game. Seeing them resort to bypassing their more creative elements proof, once again, that Thomas Frank had it spot on.  Has a game plan that works.

The denouement to last season was death by a thousand cuts. Despite the optimism and genuine belief I felt going in to every game – even the play-offs – that game in North London did for my psyche. Floored emotionally. The thought of having to start it all again, knowing it would be without our star names, a prospect up there with being strapped to a chair and force-fed Mrs. Browns Boys. Nobody in their right mind would want to go through that but, eventually, it ends. The new season has come and with it, renewed love of football and faith in our team. Of trust in our set up and the pleasure of seeing that (cliché alert) calls of it being a marathon not a sprint have been well founded. We never win every game. We’ve had to find our feet. We’ve done that and our now firing.

Spurs have still got too much for us and should, surely, reach the final. On paper. If nothing else, they’re well used to these big games where the line is in sight and the silverware is glistening. For Brentford, this is very much the sort of ad-hoc opportunity which is about as familiar as a decent joke in the Mrs. Browns Boys Xmas special. Or any episode for that manner.

Yet, somehow, Brendan O’Carroll and his fetid creation keep going. Keep defying the odds. Continue to buck the trend. Could Thomas Frank do the same? Nobody expects us to win but this huge unbeaten run and our current approach have to count for something. Its a game where the approach needs to be 110% disciplined but, equally, there is no pressure on us because outside of TW8 there is no expectation.

At the end of the day Clive, it IS 11 v 11 over 90 minutes. The bookies have Spurs as red hot favourites. Brentford the 6-1 longshots. Yet, to me, the gap doesn’t feel that big. Is it? Meet you on the sofa tomorrow evening when we find out. Say this quietly, but I’ve got a feeling we’re going to pull off a shock…

Not my maths….

Nick Bruzon       

And for our next trick, watch as the dog makes this homework disappear.

2 Jan

New Year, same Covid. Brentford saw this afternoon’s game with Bristol City canned last night after the visitors declared that due to a number of their squad apparently exhibiting Corona virus symptoms, and the testing laboratory being closed for the bank holiday so they couldn’t know for sure, they would be unable to safely fulfil the fixture. The timing of the sudden outbreak of symptoms to an injury hit squad (at least 8 at the last count) combined with the inability to perform any testing is one which had supporters up in arms. Fishy is not the word. Jose Mourinho would describe the late cancellation of Spurs game against FulhamL as being like Under-13s football. One can only imagine what the Tottenham boss would make of this one.

Everyone at Brentford FC sends their best wishes to Bristol City for a safe and speedy recovery to all those who are affected.” (as opposed to infected ) said the diplomatic blurb from Official on Twitter that went with the announcement. I do wonder what they made of the situation behind closed doors but the narrative on the BBC home page regarding the three games impacted by Corona Virus said it exactly as it was. Read into this what you will.

The BBC website last night

Genuinely, one hopes nobody is ill. The frustration here being the late cancellation of a game in what reads as somewhat murky circumstances. The story is one that, at face value, is about as fishy as Michael Fish dodging a salad to eat fish and chips in Dodge City whilst listening to the greatest hits of pop music’s Dodgy. A Bristol City team who had been pushing for the play-offs but fallen out of contention after losing four of their last five games. A team decimated by injury. A team due to travel to the Championship’s form club. A team who the day before the game suddenly declare an out break of ‘symptoms’, not confirmed cases, but are unable to prove this due to an inability to get tested in this brief window. Hmmmm. Read into this what you will.

An artist’s impressionif it’s good enough for them

The club won’t say anything. They don’t need to. Thomas Frank will, of course, avoid getting himself or us into trouble. Perhaps there will be good wishes to our opponents and then that will be it. Brentford now facing a sudden gap in the fixture list and needing to crowbar this in somewhere else. A Bank Holiday Saturday now cut short and the chance to spend some more time  in our own company now upon us instead. Urghh. We’ll have to do something.

The flip side to all of this, if I can grasp for any positive, is the chance to restore some fitness. Next Saturday is the FA Cup game with Middlesbrough and one in which, no doubt, the team will be made up of fringe players and those normally used to starting on the bench. With our next league game the trip to Reading on January 16th, it does mean we’ll have had a break of over two weeks without Championship action or international call ups. Might it tempt Thomas to start at full strength against Spurs on Tuesday night? If for no other reason than to keep things ticking over. The selection for the League cup semi-final was always going to be a divisive one, whichever way he went. Show faith with those that have got us this far or strengthen the team even more? After all, the ‘W’ place in North London is only 90 minutes away.

My own feeling is that he would have stuck with the Newcastle side. Now, he’ll go for the one that beat Bournemouth. Perhaps with the exception of Luke Daniels. Our reserve ‘keeper more than earning his own chance on merit this season and, were it not for the outstanding ability of David Raya, would surely have had more starts.

That Tottenham game is all to come. For now, we have an afternoon off. A chance to watch the other results roll in as Brentford sit tight. Time spent kicking our heels instead of looking to extend that unbeaten run further. Perhaps evening finishing off our Christmas holiday’s homework, assuming the dog hasn’t eaten it.

The closest we’ll get to anything at Lionel Road today

Nick Bruzon