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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……

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Nick Bruzon  

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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

Uncanny parallels on a day of Gayle v gale as the run comes to an end.

17 Mar

And with that, the home streak was over. After 7 (seven) straight wins at Griffin Park, Brentford went down to West Bromwich Albion 1-0 in a game dominated by two goalkeepers and awful conditions. On a day windier than a naughty puppy at Christmas after snafflling an entire family size tub of Roses, it was West Brom who played both the conditions and the ref to win the game with their one moment of true quality – Kyle Edwards embarking on mazy run through the midfield and the Brentford defence to steer it past Luke Daniels six minutes into the second half. Elsewhere, there was more than a passing interest in how our own FA Cup conquerors, Swansea City, would fare in the next round at home to Manchester City. It would be fair to say there was no irony lost in how that one turned out. But we can only start with matters at Griffin Park.

The writing was on the wall before the game even kicked off in anger, if we’re being honest. And not just the appointment of Andy Madley as our ‘referee’. There was that lowest of low tricks at the toss – changing ends. I’m not a fan of having to kick ‘the wrong way’ in the first half. It doesn’t feel right and gets everybody’s back up. Especially given it meant we’d spend the second period kicking into the wind. And it was strong, very strong. The trees behind the away end were bending double whilst three balls were lost over the stadium roof after being hoofed high into the gusty stratosphere.

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View from the Braemar – West Brom had it when to counted. Sadly.

It was a bad start to the game but entirely understandable given the circumstances. Despite pressure and chances, the Bees were unable to find a way past Sam Johnstone in goal for the opposition in that opening period. It was another game where we went for it from the off.

Yet where previously we’ve had the ability to step it up in the second period, this time there was no way through. The elements providing a massive help to a team who defended with strength whilst cynically running down the clock at every opportunity. The ball was kicked away whenever possible, the ref allowed The Baggies to get in his ear and under his skin, throw ins were delayed and dives that would have had Tom Daley smiling were common place.

Much as against Sheffield United midweek, Brentford were locked out by well drilled opponents. When the chances came, the ball didn’t quite fall right or Johnstone was on hand to pull off top drawer saves. One in particular, from a Yoann Barbet free kick, had the fans out of their seats for 1-0 Brentford before the diving’ keeper’s outstretched palm managed to guide it to safety at the explosion of the ‘goal’ celebration. Canos and Maupay also came close but it wasn’t to be. 

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View from the Braemar – Yoann comes close. So close.

When West Brom had their own opportunity, Edwards took it with style. There can be no complaints about the way he started and finished the move. Even if there were plenty afterwards as the clock headed towards it’s inexorable denouement with all the pressure and tension of a losing Countdown contestant trying to make a last round word out of JKXDZBEIO.

More so, when referee Madley followed a strong first hour with a final thirty minutes which suggested his focus was anywhere but on ensuring the game could flow. His own performance very much going to the dogs as Brentford battled against Dwight Gayle, a roaring gale and a rogue ref.

So after the play-off dream had briefly raised its head in recent weeks, we’re now nine points off the top six with nine games to go. Given the way this team can play, I’m not going to say it’s over until it’s over. But being realistic, things are going to need a remarkable swing.

On the plus side, we’ve got international break to all catch our breath and recuperate before that final push begins at the end of the month with two away games – Wigan Athletic and then a midweek trip to Swansea City. At the very least, another top ten finish is more than attainable. Another finish over the likes of Birmingham City and QPR well within our grasp.

Yesterday was frustrating and notably so, given the conditions we had to watch the game in. Whilst I’d never trade being at Griffin Park for TV, there was a pang of jealousy about the comfort of those watching ‘on screen’ from sunnier climes.

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Not exactly TW8….

Still, if it was all about the comfort then you may aswell stay at home. Something a group of West Brom fans must have been wishing after putting on the worst pre-match display for TV’s Soccer AM since, well, that day we don’t talk about against Doncaster Rovers.

With football done, it was back home to catch up on the FA Cup action. In particular, the game between Swansea City and Manchester City. That one being of particular interest to Bees fans after we’d seen a 1-0 half time lead at the Liberty Stadium in the previous round turn into a 4-1 fifth round exit at full time. The catalyst for that one being turned around was, of course, the unfortunate equaliser where a free kick had beaten Luke Daniels, hit the post, struck the back of the still diving goalkeeper on its return and deflected straight back into the net for 1-1.

So there was no irony lost as Swansea saw a 2-1 second half lead at the Liberty Stadium turn into a 3-2 sixth round exit at full time. The catalyst for that one being turned around was, of course, the unfortunate equaliser where Sergio Aguero’s penalty had beaten Kristoffer Nordfeldt, hit the post, struck the back of the still diving goalkeeper on its return and deflected straight back into the net for 2-2.

That the penalty decision, like Aguero’s late winner, had probably been made the wrong way can only have added to the sense of frustration felt by the home fans. Tell me about it. Yet another two fingers up delivered from VAR or, more the case, the lack of VAR. The FA Cup only allowing the system to be used in games players at Premier league grounds. Nothing like keeping the competition consistent, eh? 

For Manchester City, an incredible opportunity to scoop a quadruple still awaits. For Brentford and Swansea City, we’re back to the drawing board. The Championship play-offs remain a mathematical possibility but are going to take an incredible combination of wins and favours from other teams.

 With Leeds United and Frank Lampard’s Derby county still to visit, who knows what might sill happen…..

Nick Bruzon

Bees hoping for more, more, more as West Brom visit this afternoon

16 Mar

What a run it has been for Brentford. 7(seven) wins in succession at Griffin Park. The crowd behind the team. The team playing for fun. Those full time celebrations and walks around the paddock now becoming a very welcome, and regular, feature. Most of all, it’s fun. The smiles are broad and the goals are flying in. I love it and can’t wait for the next game to come around. However, promotion chasing West Bromwich Albion are in town today and will be the latest team looking to put a spoke in the wheel of Thomas Frank’s runaway home form. Everybody needs to be on red alert for this one. Despite relieving manager Darren Moore of his duties last week, they got back to winning ways on Wednesday night against Swansea City. It was a game which featured what must surely be a contender for worst. penalty. ever as the Swans missed out on the opportunity to equalise in quite spectacular style. When you have that level of fortune smiling on you, it’ll be no surprise if The Baggies come in to this one with their tails up. Yet with the table still tight and The Bees 7(seven) points off 6th with a game in hand, despite our own midweek slip up at Sheffield United, there’ll be no excuses for not going at this one full tilt.

And full tilt is what Thomas Frank specialises in. Our home record speaks for itself whilst last month saw Brentford hit five goals at Griffin Park on two separate occassions. Hull City and Blackburn Rovers being the teams to take that pummelling at the back. QPR were put to the sword with what looked like consummate ease last time we were all here. Then, of course, there was the win on the road at Middlesbrough. Finally, it happened. What a reward for all the hard work, effort and self-belief.

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Thomas celebrates at home. Again

Even our substitutions are positive. There’s no looking to run down the clock or grind it out in the last few minutes with additional defenders or holding midfielders. Instead, Thomas is swapping one attacking player for another. It worked a treat in that QPR game whilst was a tactic deployed very early up at Sheffield United. It was a tactic that almost paid off against a side whose own defence is tighter than a pair of 80’s football shorts.   

As for the team, Saïd Benrahma has been on fire and this week captured the Championship goal of the month award for February aswell as also being earlier nominated in the ‘player’ category. Neal Maupay is becoming a cult hero to rival the best of those we’ve seen over the years as he mixes fighting spirit with goals. His 20 in the league, to date, is a figure beaten only by a small clutch of players and the crowd love him. Sergi is once more playing like the Sergi of old. Romaine is the absolute unsung hero of the side. The choice of wing backs and three centre backs is giving both added protection in along with another option of being able to turn defence into attack. 

The squad is about as full strength as one could hope for at this point in the season. Rico Henry remains absent whilst, of course, Daniel Bentley is a casualty of that game at Middlesbrough. Luke Daniels came in for the Sheffield United game and Thomas has already confirmed he’ll be starting again today. We’ve all see what Luke can do over the last couple of seasons and he can, perhaps, count himself unlucky not to have been given a chance earlier on this tie around. The life of a goalkeeper must be a frustrating one at times.

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Saïd, Neal and the team are providing goals and smiles

So it all sounds very promising for The Bees but let’s not forget the small matter of our visitors. West Brom almost pulled off an 11th hour stay of execution from Premier League relegation last time out and they’ve picked up where they left off. At least, in terms of position. The play off zone has been an almost constant feature this time out, something that their illustrious neighbours (please note, your definition of illustrious may vary) have really struggled with in recent seasons following their own demotions from the top flight. Aston Villa and Birmingham City, I’m looking at you. 

Dwight Gayle is still banging them in, sitting just behind Neal in the Championship goal scorers table. He has managed 3 from his last 2 games against The Bees and will no doubt be looking to improve on that today. The run of results that saw Darren Moore pushed out was immediately reversed with that 3-0 defeat of Swansea City. If nothing else, could the change of manager (given what many fans were describing as confusing tactics) and the huge slice of luck in ‘that penalty’ prove pivotal in lifting them back to a position of being promotion favourites ?

All is forgiven, Marcello…

My heart says ‘home win’ today. Brentford have been on fire, especially at Griffin Park, whilst West Bromwich Albion are still dusting themselves down after the upheaval and wayward performances of the last few weeks. Yet with the visitors looking to lock down their play-off position and the Bees still with hopes of ghosting up the table to sixth, could pressure and expectation be the biggest factors here? Will the winning team be the one the handles this the best? Or will Thomas Frank have more of those wonderful motivational cards up his sleeve to inspire the team and the fans to another home win?

I’m just the numpty on the terrace and have no means of being able to answer that with any form of accuracy. But I tell you what, I can’t wait for kick off to find out how this one is going to go. It promises to be as exciting a game as any we’ve had to date.

Roll on 3pm. See you there.

Nick Bruzon 

Is something rotten in the state of Brentford?

9 Dec

We’ve not really touched these pages in the last week or two. Matters outside of Griffin Park (namely, a social life rearing it’s head once more like some long forgotten relic of pre-parental life) have meant the column takes a back seat. To be honest, it’s probably no bad thing given the recent run in form that for Brentford finally looked like it may be coming to a halt with that 1-1 draw at West Bromwich Albion on Monday night. We all know what happened there, with the Bees doing to ‘deserving’ opponents what our own head coaches have felt hard done by so many times over the last few seasons. An injury time equaliser from Lewis Macleod rescuing a point after the hosts had conspired to miss all manner of seemingly unmissable chances earlier on. Good news, we thought. We have stopped the bleeding (not my words but those of Thomas Frank). Then Swansea City happened and a 3-2 defeat that was about as shambolic as it has been in recent months.

The Bees were a goal down with less than 30 seconds on the clock. The Griffin Park scoreboard hadn’t even sprung into life by the time Wayne Routledge had tapped home the opener after the defence had failed spectacularly to clear the most innocuous of pass backs and straight crosses. It was 2-0 Swansea soon after as Chris Mepham turned into his own net to gift the visitors a second. That the clock was registering 27 by the time Swansea made it three was only due to the injury suffered by Martin Olsson. One can only hope that the lengthy treatment before play resumed (there were 8 minutes added on at the end of the first half) was precautionary but it didn’t look good from where we sat on the far side.

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No minutes on the clock and already a goal down. 

That third goal was everything that was wrong with the team at present. A listless ball across midfield that was picked up by nobody. A needless free kick awarded on the right hand side. A ball delivered in that wasn’t cleared far enough before spaces were left for the return that would have embarrassed my son’s U-6 team. Kudos to Ollie McBurnie for attempting the overhead kick that lead to their goal but that he was even afforded that much room was a crime in itself. Leroy Fer made no mistake as the Brentford defence were unable to mop up the resulting detritus. I’ve seen better markers in a packet of Sharpies. 3-0 down and 27 minutes gone, 8 of which had seen the clock stopped for Olsson’s injury.

Frustratingly for Brentford, that unfortunate break in play should have allowed the team time to regroup. To have a chat about what next to avoid the inevitable third and actually find a way back into the game. But there had been nothing and the inevitable happened.

That’s it. If you want to read about inspired comebacks. About almost snatching a point. About hitting the bar two or three times then be my guest. Here’s the BBC website. Here’s Brentford official. Here’s Sky Sports where the report is about as lightweight as our midfield was for that opening period but they do have the goal highlights. I’d suggest you watch them just to see how not to play football.

Don’t let a fight back fool you or mask over another dreadful start. I’d hope Thomas has been up all night figuring out how to repair the gaping holes in the team, in their confidence and in supporter morale. The boos on the third goal and half time suggest that the crowd as finally been lost.

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View from the Braemar. The perimeter boards really rubbing it in during the first half.

It was yet another game where quite wonderful individuals have been that. Individual. Where the team spirit has seemingly gone out the window. Where the inability to kick a ball forward instead of faff has cost us. Where the result of being unable to put in a challenge has been a glut of goals conceded in a short space of time. See also Preston. QPR. Middlesbrough. Sheffield United. I honestly thought the game with the Blades had seen us as off the pace as we could possibly be but this one really trumped it.

That first half was on a par with, if not worse than, Oxford United in the league cup a few years back. At least in that one (and we’re clutching at straws) Marinus could blame his relative short time in the job, the sandpit of a pitch and his own tactical naivety in picking eleven players with barely a handful of first team appearances between them. But Thomas has been part of the set up for two years. He knows the players. They know him. This was a good line up – on paper – but instead it did what it has done time and again in recent weeks. Defensive hesitancy. Midfield absence. Full backs brutally exposed. Passing the ball sideways and backwards instead of forward. Inability to make a challenge, close down or simply mark an opponent. Just not kicking it away when it was near the goal. The ‘discussion’ amongst the team after the third went in was there for all to see.

To be fair, it changed after. As the heavens opened, the Bees came alive. Albeit Brentford very much had Daniel Bentley to thank for even keeping us alive at 3-1 down. This after Ollie Watkins had pulled one back in the first half and before Said Benhrahma gave us hope with a wonderful freekick midway through the second. But it was all too late. You can’t keep on giving away 2 or 3 quick fire goals – bang, bang, bang – and expect to take anything from a game.

From the point where we were named as joint favourites for the league title with Leeds United, Brentford have not so much hit the skids as gone through the crash barrier and plummeted down the mountain side. We’ve got games coming up at Hull City and then home to Bolton Wanderers. Both sides in the rapidly diminishing clutch of teams currently below the Bees. Failure to pick up at least 4 points out of 6 in those will see us getting sucked into that relegation vortex.

It’ll be a big ask given Thomas has only picked up 4 points from his opening 9 games. Even Marinus had managed 8 from the same period. What we’d give for that sort of form at the moment although please note the Dijkuizen experiment is not one I’m calling for a return of. Ever.

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Marinus and the Oxford United fiasco (not a prog rock band). Never forget

What’s really troubling me is why this isn’t working at the moment. We’ve had many poor teams and poor runs over the years at whatever level we’ve played. But the squad is currently packed full of internationals. It is the same squad Dean Smith had. We have the Championship’s second top scorer (Neal Maupay currently one behind Lewis Grabban). Top flight clubs covet the likes of Ollie Watkins, Chris Mepham, Daniel Bentley and Ezri Konsa. Josh McEachran (up there for player of the season so far) has pretentions of playing for England.

We’re not talking about times where the set up has been so thin that we’ve had to beg a favour off Neil Shipperly. These are good players. Great players. Players who hit the ground running and propelled Brentford to the very top end of the table back in August and September. Now, they’ve got all the confidence of a studio audience going in to a recording of Mrs. Brown’s Boys.

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Neil Shipperley. Never forget

Is it simply bad luck? Injuries limiting selection? Or is there something going on behind the scenes. Something as simple as an arm around the shoulders that is missing? Or something more in tune with a change in tactical set up? This should have been a seamless transition but for whatever reason it’s just not working out at the moment.

Let’s not pretend that the end of Dean Smith’s time here didn’t see us in a mini-blip relative to what he’d done prior with just 1 win out of 6. Yet what was intrinsically different then was that he had the winning form that made nobody in any doubt it would be back again soon. Even when we weren’t taking all three points, there was none of this constant shipping of goals over a short space of time.

Nobody has a divine right to be any good. We can’t just rock up and expect to win. Equally though, you still need to rock up in the first place. You can’t keep on giving the opposition two or three goal leads and expect to come away with anything.

Thomas has got a huge, huge challenge ahead of him. Both tactically and psychologically. I hope he has thick skin and a plan B. Or C. The way the crowd reacted yesterday after a frankly awful opening period suggest that if he can’t turn things around fast, things could get very ugly. For everyone.

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Raining (goals) at Griffin Park v Swansea

Nick Bruzon