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Ifs. Buts. Maybes. Possibilities. Permutations.

4 Jul

Brentford v Wigan Athletic. Blackburn v Leeds United. West Bromwich Albion v Hull City. Those are the big three games, on paper, as we head into the latest round of Championship fixtures. With just six to play, victory at Griffin Park this afternoon will take us within just a couple of points of West Brom (who don’t play until tomorrow). Their own return to winning ways at Hillsborough during the week keeping them safe in ‘automatic’. For now. Yet although the Bees are the ones in form, let’s not forget about the team directly behind us. There’s also the small matter of Nottingham Forest who travel to Frank Lampard’s former club, Wayne Rooney’s Derby County, at lunchtime for a game where their own victory would see the Tricky Trees leapfrog the Bees. Even if just for a few hours.

Rooney caravan

Wayne Rooney – Lockdown has been tough on all of us

It would be fair to say that phase II of the Championship has been quite bizarre. A behind closed doors campaign played out in front of flags, banners and cardboard cutouts rather than fans. Games streamed back to back on TV and I-follow as everybody rushes to complete the season in as ‘normal’ as possible a style. That’s before we even get to the quite depressing situation playing out at Wigan where, if the current stories on social media about their ownership, betting irregularities and the subsequent administration are true (the thread is here), could and should lead to some extremely tough questions for Rick Parry and the EFL. Most of which will, no doubt, be swerved. One has to feel for their supporters for whom missing out on a trip to Griffin Park is probably the least of their worries.

Yet other things have remained the same. Leeds United falling apart. Again. Fulham playing in an empty and soulless stadium. Brentford on fire as our record reads: Played three. Won three. Goals for: six. Goals Against: NONE. We’ve beaten the (then) third placed team and table toppers in our opening fixtures, with the team looking stronger than ever. 

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Ollie leaves the scoreboard hanging as he silences the away ‘fans’ last week

That’s not to rest on any laurels, of course. Cliché alert. Cliché alert. Cliché aler…. You’re only as good as your last result whilst Thomas Frank has been very much advocating a policy of taking each game as it comes. Making it very public that he is only concentrating on the next training session or the next game. Which is exactly the right thing to say and do. Even if for us supporters it is very much different….

Our own fixture list and those of our rivals have been sliced, diced and analysed. Where might Leeds United drop points? (everywhere, presumably). Might we be grateful to Fulham taking points at Nottingham Forest or West Bromwich Albion in the coming weeks? What would Peter Gilham say or do if a win for the Loftus Road team at The Hawthorns in the final game of the season were to do us the ultimate favour?

Ifs. Buts. Maybes. Possibilities. Permutations. These are all part of football’s rich tapestry. The pre and post match debate that simply adds even more to it’s allure. That makes it so compelling. Of which going to the game is only one, albeit significant, part.

I love the live action. Of being part of the sellout crowds we’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy. But I love as much the interaction with my fellow fans in the build up to the games. The travel together. The drowning our sorrows or celebrations afterwards. The point we start to look ahead or when, as I believe Harlee Dean calls it,  We go again.” Although, to be fair, that phrase is usually preceded by some combination of: “Supporters deserved more. Apologies to the fans. Not good enough today.”

Harlee Birmingham tweet

Come on. He did say it a lot.

So whilst we may all indulge in fantasy or thoughts of what may come, Thomas Frank has his troops grounded. And that’s just the way to be at present. Don’t get distracted by the noise, the furore or the stress. Leave that to supporters to enjoy/endure (delete as applicable) all of that. Which given the sad state of affairs at Wigan Athletic is the perfect approach. 

If football was tough enough to predict at the best of times, their going into administration – something being linked to stories of bets on them being relegated placed by sources close to the current owners – is about as wild a psychological card as one could ever play. Will their players be demoralised? Devastated? Dead in the water? 

Or will they come out all guns blazing? Points to prove? Supporter morale to uphold? Relegation now staring them down the barrel with the 12 point deduction only to be applied once their final place in the table has been declared. Go down and it takes hold next season. Stay up and it comes into effect now, to see what then happens to the table.

I take no pleasure from any of this. I’m certainly not close enough to comment on any more than I read but, at face value, it all sounds about as shonky as things come. Moreso, with ‘that’ Rick Parry video now doing the rounds. Their fans are furious and it’s easy to understand why. What effect this has on their players remains to be seen but we find out at 3pm today.

Stay safe and crank up the I-Follow. All being well, Mark Burridge has been able to get his hands on some new tech after the mid-week meltdown at Reading. I’m still not sure how he held it together but top marks for effort and reaction to impending disaster just twenty minutes before kick-off. Here’s hoping he has a quieter afternoon, off pitch. Here’s hoping he has an even noisier one on it !

ENJOY.. LET’S DO THIS !!! 

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Goal sweets at the ready….

Nick Bruzon

When you phone in a performance, look what happens…

1 Jul

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

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

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

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Football on the big screen. Goal sweets in hand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Nick Bruzon

How the week could play out. Who gets the elbow and who gets clear air?

29 Jun

Here we go. Brentford travel to Reading on Tuesday night, knowing a win will take us to within touching distance of second place West Bromwich Albion. With Fulham the ones falling apart at Elland Road on Saturday afternoon, a 3-0 win for Leeds United saw the gap to the third place Bees stretched out to 8 points. Surely not even they can blow that with 7 (seven) games to play? Funnier things have happened but perhaps the current shape of the table means it is the Baggies game at Sheffield Wednesday, on Wednesday, where we need that additional level of external interest.

Any decision about whether Brentford fans should be cheering Fulham or hoping for the draw was  taken out of our hands almost immediately. Aleksander Mitrovic was lucky to avoid straight red just minutes in to the game (and will surely be summoned by the FA to explain his use of the elbow today) and it went downhill from there. Goal followed goal with the Cottagers left floundering and Leeds looking strong as, to be fair. The only pleasure to be taken was seeing who had replaced Osama Bin Laden in their sea of cardboard cutout supporters – Joe Exotic, amongst others. 

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An ‘accident’ or deliberate brutality? Either way, the ref missed it

But with Fulham in a slump and their goal threat looking like he’ll be snuffed out, Brentford have an excellent chance to keep up the momentum that saw us head up to third place after Friday night’s fine win over West Bromwich Albion. Put simply, a win at Reading on Tuesday night will see us move just two points behind the second placed team. They then travel to Hillsborough the following night for a game that will be as significant as ours.

A trip to Reading won’t be easy. Let’s not rest on any laurels that come with those two fine wins that have kickstarted our return to Championship action in fine style. Sure, Brentford have played some wonderful football and looked solid at the back but this one has all the potential to be a giant potato skin. The unknowns of a team resting safely mid-table and under no pressure to stay alive or win are well documented.

Thankfully, we have Thomas Frank at the helm. A man who oozes confidence and common sense in equal measure. He’ll have his boys grounded and the possibility of an extra boost that may even see Bryan Mbeumo starting a game once more. Emiliano Marcondes is currently bursting with self-belief whilst David Raya and his back four have looked solid as a rock.

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David Raya – rock solid

As for West Brom, might Sheffield Wednesday be an even tougher challenge for them than Reading are for us? The Owls put a massive dent in Bristol City’s promotion aspirations yesterday and might even fancy themselves for a late surge towards the top six.

Poor Lee Johnson. His hopes of using the play-offs to kick lumps out of Said Benrahma now becoming nothing more than something he’ll need to use FIFA 20 to accomplish. All being well the beleaguered Bristol City boss will see the opportunity taken out of his hands by our own achieving of ‘automatic’.

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The full time score at Ashton Gate, c/o Quest TV.

Cripes. This is getting exciting. With Fulham on the slide and West Brom on the ropes, could we see things move even further in our favour? This week is full of ifs, buts and maybes. Focus has to be on our own game with anything else a bonus. The trip to the Madjeski is always a horrible one – so near yet so far, taking as long to reach the out of town car park from the station as it does to get to Reading from West London.

I’d still love to be given the opportunity to make the shlep down there but, sadly, social distancing laws mean it is a case of having to watch the EFL streaming service. Hands tied and voices gagged – metaphorically speaking – rather than screaming on the players in person.

Instead, it’ll be our TV that takes the abuse and the frustration. But enough about trying to make I-follow work.

Reading hashtag

Reading – have previously beaten us. In the game of embarrassing hashtags

The other result that may have gone unnoticed at the weekend and, perhaps, offers further hope was Luton Town staying alive with an incredible 1-0 win at Swansea City. Incredible, given the Hatters’ struggles with relegation and their hosts proximity to the top six. Yet as we discovered at Kenilworth Road, underestimate anybody at your peril. Our own 7(seven) – 0 win earlier in the season counted for nothing when we were outmuscled 2-1 in a horrible game just prior to Lockdown. 

Whilst nobody really expects Leeds Untied to drop points tomorrow, perhaps we may have half an eye on what plays out at Elland Road. Just in case. I mean, it’s not as though they have any reputation for falling apart at the critical moment……. 

Nick Bruzon

Busting every sinew to make the abnormal seem normal

27 Jun

No pressure Fulham and Leeds United. Brilliant Brentford battered Bilic’s Baggies – (c) The Middlesex Chronicle big book of 80’s aliteration – at a packed (sounding) Griffin Park last night to move within five points of table topping West Bromwich Albion. With the second and fourth placed teams due to play this lunchtime, something has to give in our way as the Bees continue this dogged pursuit of promotion. At a time that others are starting to fall apart around us, Thomas Frank saw his team make it three wins on the spin, unbeaten since March and 8 goals for whilst none conceded over that period. Ethan Pinnock was a colossus at the back. Ollie Watkins proving he still has the golden touch up front. Peter Gilham giving it his all on the tannoy – his dulcet tones reverberating all around TW8. Screams of Brreeennttfffoooorrdddddd drifting over the neighbourhood. His one man mission to make Griffin Park sound as loud as ever leaving our man-with-the-mic hoarse at full-time.

If it wasn’t the same match day experience for those of us mere mortals usually allowed inside the stadium, the club did the very best to make it feel as normal as possible in the circumstances. The compact nature of our home allowing us to fill the ground with supporter banners and flags to quite wonderful effect. A sea of faces filling the paddock as the 3D effect of the banners gave the look of a large crowd to those of us watching on TV i.e. everybody except those few whose names had appeared on a guest list of journalistic credentials that was nigh on impossible to gain access to. And I did try. Ian Moose would have had more luck walking in to a McDonalds to buy a Big Mac at the moment than Joe Public did of busting in to Griffin Park.   

But with Sky getting better and better at the ‘fake crowd’ noise, to the point of club specific chants, appropriate cheers and the usual boos for Keith Stroud  ( perhaps I made that last one up  – our man in the middle once again belying his reputation) it wasn’t as odd watching it on TV as it should have been. Moreso when we were lucky enough to spend the evening camped out with friends in their back garden that nestles in the shadow of the ‘away end’. Whilst the West Brom supporters may have been so loud they sounded like Aldershot, PG more than made up for it on the home side.

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You’re so loud you sound like Aldershot…

If anything, his bellowing was even more ferocious than usual. There was no breaking his stride. No deviation from the norm. He gave it everything with all the regular stylings. The prematch music remained the same. Likewise at full time with another three points in the bag, thanks to our 1-0 win. Even down to his “Have a safe journey home tonight”. There’s no one there and he don’t care. He could have been the last man on earth and I get the feeling he’d have carried on as though there was nothing untoward.

Honestly, it was life affirming. If ever you wanted to describe to somebody what it feels like to support Brentford. To show them true passion and utter devotion to a team.  If ever there was a living embodiment of a club, our club, then it is Peter. And last night it was demonstrated more than ever. 

As it happens, H and I popped out for some fresh air some time after the game had finished. Who should we bump in to but PG himself. From a safe distance, of course. My word the grin and the croakiness said it all. The enjoyment in what had played out before clear. We’d heard every scream from the garden – including the goal announcement 30 seconds before seeing Ollie guide the winner home on TV with little more than a quarter hour gone. We’d felt every moment. Now we had the quite perfect denouement to a quite wonderful evening. 

Honestly, being trapped outside a locked stadium is not the way to watch a game. We were lucky enough to be sitting within a few yards of the goal. Just the slight problem of a twenty foot fence separating us from seeing the action. The TV coverage is definitely improving and, all being well, it won’t be long until we are allowed back in to the ground. The players are, I am sure, as keen as the fans to have full houses. The full time celebrations showed what it meant to them. Imagine doing that with our usual sell out crowd roaring them on? 

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Close but no cigar. Never has a few yards felt more like a few miles

For now, it remains a case of locked doors. Of wall to wall TV coverage. Of having crept to within touching distance of Leeds Untied and West Brom.

Dare I say it, but could a win for Fulham be the best outcome today? Or a draw? Leeds are five points ahead. We’d need two wins to overtake them, obv. Should the gap become six then it would still be the same, given the huge goal difference in our favour over everybody else in the division. Perhaps it is best just to focus on ourselves. We can’t influence that game and have our own trip to mid-table Reading on Tuesday night. With the games coming thick and fast, perhaps we’ll see a few changes coming on that front. Could Bryan Mbeumo start? His own recovery from the positive Corona virus test confirmed by his place on the bench last night.

Still, all that’s to come. We were immense last night. It was weird to watch but magnificent at the same time. Our club is incredible. Busting every sinew to make the abnormal seem normal. We’re beating our rivals on the pitch. Looks like we’re doing the same off it. Just 7(seven) games to go. Can we close the gap? Roll on Tuesday when we find out ….

And if Leeds could fall apart, again, that would also be appreciated.

Nick Bruzon

Could this player be a free transfer signing to complete the promotion push?

23 Jun

Saturday was immense. Brentford thumped Fulham (plus ça change) before West Bromwich Albion dropped points. Then it got to Sunday and Leeds United fell apart, again. This time at a Cardiff City side who now find themselves right on the verge of the play-off pack. The only way the last few days could have gone any better would have been an air traffic control strike in the immediate vicinity of Manchester City during the Burnley game. What a bunch of pricks. Something we’re not totally immune to either, going by some of the weekend social media commentary – kudos to Ollie Watkins for saying what he did in such eloquent and restrained style.

On pitch, it really was a chance to see who was going to hit the ground running and who wanted it more. To discover how this mini-season will play out as the run towards promotion concludes in a concentrated burst of non-stop action. Brentford, of course, started at 100mph as Fulham were put to the sword once more. We’ve talked about that one already and whilst it was quite the finish, the points are on the board and we move on. Let’s not dwell in the past anymore. There’s the small matter of West Bromwich Albion coming to Griffin Park on Friday night.

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Fulham – put to the sword

It is a visit made all the more tantalising by not only the Baggies dropping points but the ‘L’ awarded to Leeds United after they went down in Cardiff. Should the Bees make it three in a row on Friday (and a game against the table toppers is no foregone conclusion) then it will see us overtake the Cottagers to start breathing down the neck of the Elland Road outfit. Not that they have any tradition of choking when the pressure is on.

There is the added incentive of those two teams then playing each other on Saturday afternoon in a game which, if ‘automatic’ is a genuine aspiration for Brentford, will see a win for the Michael Jackson fan club as the least bad outcome.

That’s all ifs, buts and maybes of course. Football rarely goes to plan and even moreso at present. The club are doing all they can to make the fans feel as involved as possible. The I-follow is ‘up and running’, supporter banners and flags are being put into position whilst they are even producing a match day programme for the remaining home games. The article for that one was submitted on Saturday evening. All being well the celebratory mood not impacting the quality too much. Hic. Please note: your definition of quality may vary.

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Yet despite our engagement, watching on TV is no substitute for being there. Missing out on this most exciting of run ins is desperately sad. We all know and understand why, of course, but it doesn’t make things any easier. I’d love to be there. We’d all love to be there. Never have I appreciated just how much we’ve taken for granted. Those mid-week Autowindscreen games where it was a case of ‘M’eh – can’t be bothered’. Makes you think in retrospect. Now I’d sell the (metaphorical) family silver or the last existing pack of ‘Griffin Park favourites’ Top Trumps for the chance to see us host West Brom or Wigan Athletic.  

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If Matthew Benham is reading, I’ll swap them for a ticket

Last night I took a walk around Griffin Park. I’d been talking to a fellow supporter about Friday’s game and feeling glum at the thought of missing out, decided a stroll around the stadium would help. We only live a few minutes away so why not? People go to church to reflect. A visit to the Bees is much the same  It’s something I’ve done many times before but feels even more poignant now. Our time here is fast running out and every sight of Griffin Park is cause to drink it all in. Perhaps this would help lift the gloom. 

When we lived on Braemar Road you could see straight through the gap in the stand to the penalty box and home end goal from our bedroom window. Whilst that has since been sealed off, perhaps some hitherto unseen peep hole onto the pitch might be discovered? The network of houses and alleyways around our compact stadium might afford a new glimpse onto the pitch for those truly desperate. 

No chance. Sadly. It was all locked up tighter than the Arsenal wallet. Whilst the pitch was still (kind of visible) from the one obvious spot in the car park, expect that to be sealed off on matchday. TV trucks and security guards, quite possibly with Alsatians named Tintin and Pickles, will be the order of the day. There’s no hope of anyone beyond players, officials and journalists seeing anything in the flesh. Don’t waste your time. 

That said, if Thomas Frank is (somehow) reading then perhaps a suggestion. Whilst the squad is looking formidable, perhaps the one area where we are lacking consistent depth is in the category of slightly over-weight 49 year old goalkeepers. As luck would have it, I tick both those demographics, have my own boots and no plans for Friday night beyond watching TV. If he were to make the call I’d reluctantly ditch my family and Sky to join the squad on a game by game basis. If it helped out, of course.  

Failing that, I take a mean photo of pre-match kits hanging up. Kitman Bob, if you need a hand……

Shirt pictures available. Get your free shirt pictures

Nick Bruzon  

The Brentford BMW has a new M as Fulham are flayed. Again.

21 Jun

Well that was just magnificent. It wasn’t the same as being there, let’s not pretend otherwise, but Brentford were nothing short of incredible as they destroyed Fulham at a more atmospheric than usual Craven Cottage on Saturday lunchtime. Benrahma and Marcondes doing their thing in Jota time to send the TV audience wild and silence the home team’s tannoy. Scott Parker was left looking as though he’d caught Alexsander Mitrovic red-handed going through his fridge whilst one can only imagine the scenes that would have played out had we been in the away end for this most incredible of denouements. I believe what the kids would call ‘limbs’. Even Pontus was smiling at full time. Not a typo. His former club, Leeds United, have already been displaced at the top of the table and the gap to our next opponents, West Bromwich Albion, reeled in by two points.

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The smile says it all

Imagine choosing not to watch that. What else were you going to do on a Coronavirus Saturday lunchtime? Online shopping? Cleaning the house? Or sit in your social bubbles with a few drinks to see if the impossible might become possible. Could Brentford pick up where we left off in March and keep up the push for ‘automatic’?

Well, a 2-0 win for the Bees means we are now eight points off West Brom and Leeds (albeit Bielsa’s boys have a a game in hand at Cardiff today) with the Baggies due to visit Griffin Park on Friday night under the lights. That one’s going to be huge but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There’s the small matter of destroying Fulham to talk about first.

Brentford took the game to our hosts from the off. This, despite Thomas Frank confirming that Bryan Mbeumo would be missing out as the individual who had tested positive for Coronavirus. The player has shown no symptoms but is self-isolating at present whilst the rest of the squad had all come back negative on their subsequent tests. Take care Bryan and see you soon. But if his absence might have felt like a blow, it wasn’t impacting the team. Tarique Fosu stepped in and the hairy Bees (Benrahma’s bouff, Dasilva’s beard and Jensen’s top knot – oh dear) went for it.

Both keepers were in good form as the hosts, in the unusual situation of being  roared on…by their p.a. system…. found a way back in to the game. Being honest, David Raya kept us well in it at times whilst they probably had the better of the first half chances. Despite our possession, drive and one close effort from Josh, it was Decordova-Reid who hit the bar whilst Knockaert and Mitrovic both came close. The later even found the back of the net in the second half although was correctly adjudged to have been well offside. The linesman’s flag being lowered with almost slow-motion accuracy to chalk off the rotund striker’s effort.  

And with it, their chance was gone. The arrival of Shandon Baptiste and Emiliano Marcondes breathing new life into Brentford as we kept on pushing. Break followed break until, with the game well into the clock 88th minute, Emiliano played a ball across the box which Benrahma guided home from close in. Yessssss!!! The scream from our house probably loud enough to wake the dead. It was a noise replicated across this part of West London as the Bees moved into a (surely) unassailable position.

No word of a lie, there was calm in our house. This is not the Brentford of old. The Brentford that cock it up late to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Thomas Frank’s brand of football is part Kevin Keegan (minus the meltdown), part confidence and a huge dollop of faith in his players. We kept going. If the ball is up the other end then the opposition can’t score. And sure enough, they couldn’t. Fulham left very much in second place as Marcondes wrapped up the points, and his own man-of-the-match award, late into stoppage time with a cool finish. Not bad for twenty minutes work.

Fulham were broken. Battered. Down and very much out. They retain third place, for now, although have the Bees breathing right down their neck and a trip to Leeds United next up. Either way, something has to give there. With the visit of West Bromwich Albion to Griffin Park taking place the night before, that Elland Road game could turn out to have even more significance than already. Especially if Cardiff City can pull a favour out of the bag today when Bielsa and co resume their own campaign.

I didn’t expect West Brom to drop points yesterday. I mean, Birmingham City? But it happened and that’s a dirty favour we’ll gratefully accept. These early games are going to be critical as teams rediscover there form and fitness. Accept the gifts whilst you can and enjoy our own moment. Beating a team above us in the table, whoever they are, is no small feat. Don’t let the derby nature of the game take away what we achieved. Likewise, Blues at the Hawthorns. No matter how it may feel.

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…Our squad is ten times better than yours ever was…

Yet for now it would be trite not to focus on our own performance. A never give up reminder that football is a 90 minute game. Football is a squad game and if you keep going to the very end, rewards can come.

I’d love to have been there. No question. It was a quite amazing finish to a fixture that always brings out the best in Brentford. Everybody from Jota and Stuart Dallas to Neal Maupay and even Brian Guest have written their own particular chapter in the Brentford- Fulham story. To that you can now add Emiliano Marcondes. The BMW found a new M when it mattered.

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We can’t celebrate in person but this was the next best thing

I’m desperate to attend on Friday but it’s not going to happen. Sadly. I’m not alone. Instead, it’s another shift in front of the TV and the genuine belief that the Bees will pick up where we left off. Yesterday was such a huge morale boost. Something that was quite evident in our own post-match Zoom chat aswell as from dipping in and out of social media. Wherever you went, there we were celebrating. And why not?

Roll on Friday night. Football Is back. It is very different and it is very echoy. But it also has Brentford winning and foe me, Clive, that alone is cause for celebration. Four derbies this season and four wins. Kings of West London. I’ll take that.

See you Friday. In spirit. 

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Nick Bruzon   

So close to another mulled win on a day of celebration.

22 Dec

The morning after the night before. Head foggy. Eyes sore. Mouth tasting like Fullers has curled up, fallen asleep in there and then passed away at about 3am. Espresso now on rewind. Yesterday was fun. A lot of fun. We had a kids / grown ups party at ours, meaning a trip to The Hawthorns was out of the running. Yet the seasonal celebrations continued long after the final guests had left with the knowledge that Brentford will be in the play-off zone at Christmas. This, following a 1-1 draw at West Bromwich Albion where, if we’re being honest, perhaps some are feeling miffed about not taking all three points from the league leaders. Certainly, going by the reports of one way traffic and chances created in the first half. There was a further present as second placed Leeds United dropped more points – albeit at the Cottage as they lost 2-1 to Fulham. Despite their losing a 3-0 lead at home to Cardiff last time out, surely not even the Elland Road outfit can throw away what is now a ten point lead from their second place to third. Surely? It’s not as though they have any form of reputation for falling apart or stuff like that.

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Loved this from ‘official’

Still, the tribulations of Leeds United and Fulham (recording a first win since I don’t know when – it wasn’t last weekend, that’s for sure) a mere dollop of cream on top of the Festive treat served up at West Brom. With my usual group displaced by holiday prep, the aforementioned party, transatlantic travel and shopping it was a case of communication via Whatsapp. The screen shot showing that Brentford were dominating our hosts with 57% possession, 7(seven) shots with 2 on target – compared to nil from The Baggies – was followed with the not unusual comment that “We all know what happens next” becasue, of course, stats don’t win matches. Goals do.

Sure enough, thirty seconds later it did. But not as expected….

A scream from the front room was followed by Harry running through to the kitchen where the dads were hiding out by the vat of mulled wine, talking sh..op and steering clear of the mayhem. He was closely followed by his friends Felix and Darius who stand on the Ealing Road with their dad JJ (he of the goal inducing pea-sized bladder with which regular readers may be familiar – not literally). It was less a run and more a charge. Guests scattering and voices raised. “Daaaad. Daaaaad. We’ve scored!! We’re beating West Bromwich Albion.” Oh. Wow. Sure enough we had. Just before half-time and confirmation followed from Felix that it was the World Cup’s Denmark international Henrik Dalsgaard of Brentford who got the all important strike. Oh my. Get in !! Another mulled wine? Don’t mind if I do.

This was weird. Really weird. And if for no more reason than JJ had been with us when the goal went in rather than taking a comfort break.

Sadly though, the request for Harry to retrieve the deeds to the house and lump them on the Bees going up was retracted as quickly as it had been issued. Despite a penalty being denied us in between (“a clear, clear handball”, per Thomas Frank), Dalsgaard’s 43rd minute flick on from a corner was followed up by an almost identikit goal from the hosts. Fellow full back Darnell Furlong levelling things up deep into first half stoppage time. Oh well. Parity restored. A kick to the psychological nuts but a scoreline we’d all have taken prior to kick off, I’m sure. The important thing now was to not ‘do a Leeds United’ and, erm, fall apart. Keep that concentration going. Keep on pushing in what was sounding and reading like one way traffic (something the subsequent video highlights bear out altough our little group didn’t know this at the time).

The kids were sent back to the front room to ignore the rest of their guests and watch Jeff Stelling on mute, then keep us appraised of any second-half goal update. Nooooo. 2-1 Brom. Disaster. Charlie Austin.

Yessssssss 1-1. The lino had his flag up. Offside. “It was definitely offside, dad”, confirmed Harry. Not quite sure how he knew but his word was good enough for me. It was, on later review, the correct call and was the last action of any meaning in the afternoon. The game finishing 1-1 and the gap to Leeds in second being cut by another point. The Bees in the play-off zone and set for the visit of Swansea City on Boxing Day. Relentless West Bromwich Albion striding clear at the summit.

I’d love to have been there. The visiting contingent looked huge. The Hawthorns a magnificent stadium. Instead, yesterday’s ‘live action’ was confined to standing in a deluge and watching Harry at his Spartans FC training. Any excuse for a shot of that blue shirt in action.

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Watching one ‘Bee’ in the rain

Instead, it’ll be a case of the trip to Millwall next Sunday for that next ‘away’ hit. But that’s one for the future. For now it’s a case of enjoying the moment. Of seeing how far we have come . We’ve only been in the Championship play off-zone at Christmas once before – the season Mark Warburton had the reins, dear (reader). Back then we hung on and scraped into the top six on that incredible final day after Derby did a Leeds at home to Reading. It was a position we’d got into of our own making through an over reliance on out of form Harlee Dean (Tony Craig being confined to the bench a tactical decision I still cannot align myself with) . 

Yet Thomas Frank shows none of that ‘loyalty to favourites’. Form is recognised and Ethan Pinnock has retained his place on merit following Julian Jeanvier’s suspension. It was a decision that has now been rewarded. The absence of Pontus Jansson with a ‘minor injury’ one which might have caused trepidation prior to kick off. Yet any worries proved futile and now I’d be intrigued to see who the choice centre-back pairing will be when Swansea visit on Thursday. What a lovely problem to have !

Perhaps if anyone can sum things up it is none other than Romaine Sawyers. How nice to read his words on Twitter at full time, where he opined: “Everyone knows I’ll always hold @BrentfordFC in high regard! You guys should be proud of the team this season and keep pushing them on to the finish line! Thank you for the reception at the end of the game appreciate it!! So glad to see all my brothers today and you fans”

Thank you Romaine. Here’s to playing you next season. In the top flight….

 

Nick Bruzon

Peter living the dream for all of us. Let’s do this!!

21 Dec

Wasn’t that the week just gone? This little bus stop in Hounslow celebrating the moment we won ‘our cup final’ on Saturday. Or, put in correct terms, tearing apart a Fulham side who only had the woodwork to thank them for not having anything more humiliating than a 1-0 defeat to take back up the road with them. It was a victory that saw the Bees jump above our neighbours and up to fourth place in the Championship after as comprehensive a performance as one could ever enjoy. Today promises to continue the excitement with a chance to make ground on the top three. Our own trip to leaders West Bromwich Albion the above shining star at the top of the Championship festive tree. Of equal interest though, as much for the comedy value of who will hit the self-destruct button, is the visit of second placed Leeds United to The Cottage. Whatever happens there, something will give in our favour.

Fulham was magnificent. A non stop, barnstorming performance from Brentford which, a brief open flurry aside, never saw the visitors even close to coming second. Peter Gilham would write during the week about the energy levels expended in that one and the quite staggering High Metabolic Load Distance figures achieved by the team. I had visions of him in a lab coat, examine test tubes as he talked about record levels of decelerations,  accelerations  and high speeds. It was all very Doctor Science and gave me more admiration than ever for Peter’s versatility. Albeit the subsequent reference that “For Players: HMLD = High Metallic Load Distance” had me yearning for some Metabollica on #BeeTheDJ when Swansea visit on Boxing Day. Blame the spellcheck, Peter – it’s my standard excuse!!

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Peter checks those HMLD results

 

In all seriousness though, I think in layman’s terms all this – and you should read what is a quite fascinating piece on official – means that the players put a bloody shift in. Something that was quite apparent to all watching. The science aside, it really was an article written form the heart of a man who is the living embodiment of the club. He talked about his own upbringing and, crucially, the importance of the fans. About raising the decibels even further. About making the second half of this season one to really remember.

Sitting where I do in The Braemar, I’m fortunate enough to be able to grab a word with Peter most games. He’s never too busy to say hello and is, ultimately, a fan. A fan with more knowledge and more years of support under the belt than most of us. The decibel factor is something he never fails to mention when you talk in person. The absolutely HUGE lift it gives the players. The way they respond to it. Fulham was the perfect example and what a way to finish that one. Please do take a look at his message on the club site and don’t take those words lightly.  

That was then. This is now. A trip to West Bromwich Albion just about the toughest challenge a team in this division is going to face. The Baggies pushing for a return to the top flight and relentless in their pursuit of top spot. Brentford, without a victory abasing this particular opposite since 1948. One could argue there’s a case for a ‘nothing to lose’ mentality but that’s the wrong one. Think like that and you think defeated. We’ve a first XI who are on fire at present. Who attack with pace from just about every angle. Who are rock solid at the back, having conceded less Championship goals than anyone else barring Leeds United this season. Who have a GD that is only bettered than Albion and , again, Leeds. Credit where it is due. 

The point being, we’re not a little/tinpot/pub team of underdogs. We’re absolutely up here on merit and, with that early season wobble done, Thomas Frank is a hero to all. His players busting every sinew to bring home the points. Genuinely, I’ll be disappointed if we come back to Griffin Park empty handed today.

West Brom are awesome, no doubt. So are we. Romaine Sawyers may be in the form of his life (and that’s saying something by his already impressive standards) but so are Benrahma. Dasilva, Watkins. Bryan Mbeumo is improving game on game on game. It’s hard to think he is so young, such is the way he has set this division alight in the last few months.

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Bryan impressed early season and has just accelerated further

Today will be tough. No doubt. But today could be season defining. Win this and it’s going to make people really sit up and take notice. If they aren’t already. Flying under the radar is brilliant but you have to emerge at some point. Will it be this afternoon ? I’d love to be there to find out in person but, sadly, Christmas build up means it’s a case of prior engagements. Hats off to those who have persuaded the other half to give them the afternoon off or, better, go together to the Hawthorns.

Instead, my Bees last fix remains the one at the annual Junior Bees Christmas party on Monday. It was, as ever, the most wonderful event. The team spirit must be high – if only for Pontus getting away with wearing that seasonal jumper of his. Good man.

Peter Gilham was in his usual top form, going full ‘accidental Partridge’ at one point as he announced “And in The Hive, it’s scalectrix with Bryan Mbeumo and Julian Jeanvier”. Thomas Frank was talking to all comers on the forecourt whilst the rest of the squad were scattered around the various stalls and kids games. With the choir in fine voice, it really was the consummate example of why everyone involved in our club continue to make it the most incredible family to be a part of.

Thanks Peter. Thanks Matthew. Thanks everyone. Now lets go beat some Baggies…..

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Pontus gets in the Christmas spirit on Monday

Nick Bruzon

This is my last request. And have Beesotted seen the transfer vultures circling?

26 Jul

If you hold your breath, you can almost hang on until the season proper kicks off. Brentford have beaten Norwich City midweek. We host Bournemouth on Saturday afternoon as the final bit of prep ahead of ‘the big kick off’ ™ against Birmingham City. The squad numbers have been released and we’re good to go. All that is needed is for the accursed transfer window to shut and all will be good with the footballing world. Talk of West Bromwich Albion or Aston Villa nothing more than a passing reminder about the butt-clenching way in which business is now conducted.

What can we say at this juncture? Word on the street (and by which I mean Beesotted, so a ‘legitimate’ source in my eyes rather than the usual clickbait nonsense) suggests Romaine Sawyers is bound for The Hawthorns today.

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We don’t normally do rumours on these pages but Dave, Billy (Grant, not Reeves) and the gang are normally bang on the money when it comes to their information. £3million subject to medical is the fee in the air. With the centre of the park having been strengthened by Nørgaard, Jensen, McEachran leaving and Josh Dasilva getting stronger each game, one can see why this may well play out. Don’t forget, Kamo has been dominant there too. And with Romaine having a year left on the contract perhaps we have no real choice but to cash in on the silky-skilled midfield-maestro. (c) The Middlesex Chronicle big book of 80s alliteration (see also: Beleaguered Bees Boss).

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Romaine brings the ball out of the back

Whether it is a case of ‘done-deal’ of 2+2=5, remains to be seen, of course. The Beesotted boys are always a reliable mine of information so I’m only bracing myself for this one. Besides, it wouldn’t be pre-season if the previous campaign’s captain didn’t move on! And if it does transpire then it’ll be a case of trusting the DOFS, saying a huge ‘thank you’ to Romaine and moving on up. 

On the plus side, it does detract from all the talk about Neal and Said moving on. For now. With both players conspicuous by their absence over the pre-season games – even the 3-1 defeat of Norwich City – one can only curse those niggly injuries that have kept them out. Presumably that’s all it is.

No doubt the visit of Bournemouth tomorrow will see Thomas Frank trying out as much of his ‘first choice’ starting XI for Birmingham as is possible? Assuming he even has one. And that’s no disrespect to either him or the players but with the diversity of talent available, we are more and more approaching a position of choice in many berths. Whether it would be the supporter choice, of course, is another thing altogether. 

Neal and Said are without doubt amongst the first names on any and every Brentford fan team sheet. The flair and raw talent that both players have is undeniable. Their popularity unrivalled. Nobody can deny what they bring to the team and nobody wants to see them leave. If talk about Romaine is tempered by the fact that we’ve had the pleasure of seeing him grow over the last few seasons, to lose either or both of this pair after the impact made last season will be truly gutting.

No matter how much faith and trust I have in the upper echelons of the club, I can’t pretend it won’t be demoralising should either depart. Equally though, the ecstasy about somehow hanging on to beat the transfer window will be something else. 5pm on Thursday August 8th, that’s still almost two weeks, is when we have to hang on in there until. Nothing to it….

Next up, squad numbers. These have been now published although there are some noticeable gaps. Mainly at number 10 (unless that one has moved sideways and become 11). A shame that Marcus Forss wasn’t given this. Our goalscoring Force 10 from Navarone (as one Braemar Road observer noted) will have to wait for another day. Sadly.

I would also have accepted: Fox Force 5 but Ethan Pinnock has been given that honour. And with David Raya understandably bequeathed Daniel ‘David’ Bentley’s old number (sorry, Billy 😉 )(Grant), the cinematic trinity of bad puns has been missed as there can be no Air Force One. 

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Instead, we’ll just have to content ourselves with rushing out to get our number 19 shirts printed. Unless, of course, that news is confirmed. In which case it’ll be 9 or 21 for me. I’m trusting here. I’m convinced both will feature against Birmingham City next week. The transfer gods can do one! 

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Does this tell us anything…..?

Next up, and finally, this is the last time I’m mentioning this. It’s been a summer of me annoying you and you indulging me. The Last Word season review e-book (The Jaffa cake Shirt) has been limping off the cyber-shelves to ‘entertain’  – your definition may vary – dozens of you via the medium of kindle, i-Pod telephone or other electronic reading device. However, with all proceeds received from the £1.99 sale price going to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust I can only thank everybody who taken the time to download this already. 

I make no apologies for the fact that I’m still spotting typos in it. That some of the jokes are almost as weak as The Huddersfield ‘shirt launch’. That much of it has been seen before. Equally though, it does have new material in all the ‘Park Life’ programme columns (which have never been published on these pages) and, if nothing else, is simply a way to relive some of the exciting moments from last campaign as we wait for Harlee Dean and his Birmingham City team-mates to visit next weekend. Ahh, ten times better. 

Best of all though, it’s all for charity. I don’t like to overly bang on about ‘good deeds’ – that’s not my thing. But the chance to help the BFCCST, more than anything else, is why I keep on at you about getting hold of this. No more. You can now relax. I’ll be sending the BFCCST a postal order on Monday morning.

Just please go grab it now. You can download it here. Who knows, you may even enjoy it….

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Nick Bruzon

Mascot magnificence poses big question. And is this the best football record ever?

15 May

So Brentford now know at least one more team we’ll be playing next season after West Bromwich Albion missed out to Aston Villa in the play-offs. A 1-0 win on the night in a game that our former head coach , not surprisingly, thought his team should have won wasn’t enough to see The Baggies reach Wembley. Frank Lampard’s Derby County ™ and Leeds United do battle this evening for the chance to join them . What price a Leeds – Villa rematch in that one….. More importantly, we have quite wonderful news c/o Matt Dyson on Absolute Radio about what is, quite possibly, the greatest football / music crossover since Hoddle and Waddle.

First up, the play-offs. Aston Villa are through. West Brom aren’t. It was yet another example about how wonderful an experience it is for the winning side aswell as the neutral observers. Conversely, how utterly devastating for those who missed out. I love them and dread them in equal measure yet let’s not pretend it would have been quite wonderful to see Brentford involved last night. Instead, we had to settle for Dean Smith doing his thing.

I’ve all the time in the world for Dean. We’ve written about him on these pages many, many times. Nobody could doubt his enthusiasm or passion. He took Brentford to the position of being joint favourites for the Championship title as recently as October before succumbing to the obvious lure of his boyhood club.

The only gripe being his constant insistence in every post-match press conference that his team ‘deserved to win’ – regardless of whether the game ended in draw, defeat or victory. We saw it at Griffin Park. We’ve seen it with Villa. Even our own three points taken from the Villans back in February saw him repeating those oft heard words following Neal Maupay’s injury time winner, “On the scale of chances, not what we deserve”.

Perhaps it is Dean’s party piece nowadays. As familiar a soundbite and football cliché as the flourish of a Keith Stroud yellow card, mention that ‘The shackles are off’ at Manchester united (even if they seem to have now reattached themselves) or the Rams being rebranded as Frank Lampard’s Derby County ™. And whilst it would be nice if Dean could perhaps change the record, it would be churlish to offer him anything but the hugest congratulations at this juncture. Nobody could deny how he has lifted Aston Villa and taken them to the brink of a top flight return.

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Bingo cards at the ready for the final

The other point of note from last night was a piece of mascot related magnificence. Things don’t get more pressured or stressful than a penalty shoot out. With West Brom looking to compose themselves and prepare for the vital spot kicks, who was that joining the huddle? None other than the club mascot, of course. As you do.  Sadly, the anthropomorphic onlooker was unable to inspire the team as they just missed out.

It also posed the question of what has happened to Boiler Man? Why wasn’t he in the huddle too? Could his absence from this crucial gathering have been the narrow margin between victory and defeat? Who knows. However, should Brentford find themselves in this position in twelve months’ time, then the key fact to note is that both Buzz AND Buzzette must be involved.  

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Get in there

Then, this morning, something even more incredible than Buzzette being caught In flagrante delicto with Boiler Man and Kingsley happened. Petr Cech has only gone and made a record. Yes, that Petr Cech. With drummer, Roger Taylor. From Queen (not Duran Duran).

Entitled ‘That’s Football‘ you can hear it below. Please. Do so. Now. The news was brought to us on The Absolute Radio breakfast show by co-host Matt Dyson and , it has to be said, the record is stunning. Absolutely stunning. So bad it’s amazing.

Described as John Barnes crossed with Kraftwerk, it sees the former Arsenal goalkeeper to produce a quite incredible performance that is, essentially, a list of things that happen at football. All of which are  spoken/delivered in alternate lines by Cech and Taylor.  Think Wiliam Shatner channelling Arnold Schwarzenegger

Victory. Happiness. Glory. Fame.

The Pitch. The Roar. The Crowd. The Score

It could be the best football record ever. And that’s saying something. I’d love to hear this on #BeeTheDJ next season. Better still, what about Brentford running out to this one…..?

Thank you Matt. Thank you Roger. And thank you, Petr.

Nick Bruzon