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Neal makes Moose eat more pie at Fulham as magnificent Brentford help Wolves go up.

15 Apr

Where do you start with that? A scoreline of Fulham 1 Brentford 1 doesn’t even begin to touch the sides of a dramatic afternoon that saw Wolves’ promotion to the Premier League confirmed, The Bees keep our own play-off dream alive and The Cottagers slip out of a top two they had so briefly graced. At the bottom, things are locking up with a win for Burton aswell as Bolton drawing at Barnsley really keeping the heat on Birmingham City.

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View from the away end – Brentford go for it at Fulham

Another season, another failure for Fulham at The Cottage against Brentford. Being honest, they were lucky to get away with even a point after The Bees came out of the traps flying. Ollie Watkins was cruelly denied an opener by a (subsequently incorrect) offside decision. Yoann Barbet had a stonewall penalty turned down after Stefan Johansen manhandled his freekick. The player and fans were incandescent. From the far end it had looked nailed on. Something the TV would later confirm.

Yet backed by 3000 fans, Brentford continued to pour forward. Ryan Woods superb. Chris Mepham mopping things up at the back when the odd Fulham sortie found a way through. Ollie Watkins and Florian Jozefzoon displaying electric pace, supported by the ever overlapping full backs and Sergi Canos.

Truly, it was a performance that made a mockery of Fulham’s Premier League credentials and, more importantly, outlined our own progress. Despite ending 0-0 at half-time, surely that goal would come?

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Dan Bentley snuffs out a rare first half attack from Fulham

Alas, not. Instead it was a very much smash and grab effort by Aleksandar Mitrovic, on loan from Newcastle United, to give the home side a seventieth minute lead. It was a lead that was against the run of play but as we’ve said so many times, goals are what count. Craven Cottage erupted. Finally. Prior to that, Fulham’s dependency on those dreaded paper ‘clappers’ to try and generate an atmosphere had been an embarrassment. A repugnant creation and terrible indictment of a club allegedly chasing promotion that they are needed for a game of this magnitude. For any game. Then again, the use of ‘run out’ music for the warm up showed the level of desperation /  atmosphere building that was required at the Cottage. Cringeworthy.

Contrast this with the 3000 or so Brentford fans who had remortagaged the house to pay the £35/£40 adult ticket price. Who had spurned the TV to get along and make an ear shattering noise. I’ve not been in a crowd like this one for a long, long time. I’ve not celebrated a goal like Neal Maupay scored to level things up in this manner all season. It was one of THE Brentford moments.

With Mitrovic having done the needful, the brakes came on. The clock was run down. Fouls became more cynical. Substitutions were dragged out as the home team used all manner of underhand tricks to put an end to the game. Neeskens Kabano suffered the indignity of an 87th minute ‘sub subbed’. The minute and a half it took Stefan Johansen to make his own switch with injury time approaching did not go unnoticed by referee Neil Swarbrick. He was quite vehement in his pointing to the watch, wrist held high for all to see. Time wasting was the verdict. Four additional minutes was the sentence. Four additional minutes for Brentford to get what the performance warranted and railroad our rivals’ promotion push.

90+1. 90+2. 90+3. 90+4….. And then it happened. With Fulham twitter sites already declaring a win, the ball was whipped in by Yoann. A deep cross found the head of most definitely onside Flo Jo who steered it towards Neal Maupay, unmarked on the edge of the six yard box. Surely, surely, surely……?

YEEEEESSSSSSSSS!!!! Goal, goal, goal goal, goal, goal, goallllllll. Maauuu-paaaayyy!! His header eluding Marcus Bettinelli as it bounced in front of the keeper’s despairing dive and hit the back of the net. What scenes. What noise. What an out pouring of emotion. What a moment. Mark Fuller’s quite wonderful photograph captured it all from the players’ perspective. His caption doing it from that of the supporters 🙂

Incredible. Absolutely incredible. Sitting here writing this on Sunday morning, I’ve got goose bumps even now. I’ve got a stupid smile on my face that has Mrs. Bruzon thinking I’m up to no good. But it was just breathtaking. If ever people want to know why we go to football, then here it is. Everything encapsulated in a single, late moment. The promotion dream stays alive. Fulham’s takes a firm blow to the unmentionables.

A blow delivered by a striker who has taken all manner of flak, most noticeably from Ian Moose. The catering and pie obsessed journo having put the boot in after the young striker missed one chance at Cardiff yet how Neal has responded.  Every goal serving up another helping of humble pie to the Talk Sport shock jock. From a striker who now has the most goals from the bench of any player in the top four English divisions.

But it wasn’t just us. The goal also meant that Wolves were assured of promotion to the Premier League. They are now uncatchable by third placed Fulham at the top of the Championship whilst victory over Birmingham City at lunchtime will hand them the title, subject to a freak run of results and goal difference swing.

Full credit to Wolves. They’ve been fantastic this season and it will be very interesting to see how they fare next campaign. For now, though, let’s just hope they haven’t over celebrated last night and really go for it today. What is turning into a quite fascinating relegation battle has, with just three games to go for most sides, seen nobody fall though the trap door as yet. Defeat for Birmingham (who also need to play Sheffield United, QPR and a final game with Fulham) could also place an exponential increase of pressure on their survival hopes.

Still, that’s for them to worry about. For Brentford, there’s the prospect of another West London derby on Saturday as dead in the water QPR visit. We’ve three games to reel in a four point gap to Middlesbrough in fifth and Millwall in sixth. Can we do it ? Play like that on Saturday and anything is possible. Make noise like that and QPR will be blown away before they even step out.

As Sergi Canos asked on Twitter…

Frankly, I can’t top that. Just when we couldn’t love him anymore.

Nick Bruzon

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Wolves prove a game too far but who was talking the most sense afterwards?

3 Jan

In the end it was a game too far. Wolves, by all accounts, romped to a 3-0 home win over a Brentford side who had picked up all 9 festive points prior to this one and had genuine hopes of coming back from Molineux with something. Alas, it was not too be. On a night that saw the most disappointing combination of results possible (a win for Birmingham City at Reading aswell as Fulham breezing past Ipswich Town) The Bees return home having slipped a place to 11th in the table.

Wolves, meanwhile, are now 12 points clear of the chasing pack and, perhaps more importantly for them, a further 2 ahead of third placed Cardiff City. That’s before you even look at their incredible goal difference of +30

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View from the opposition – somebody may need to update their graphics…

I wasn’t there. I wouldn’t profess to be. This was never on and even the radio proved to be one step too many in the end. Instead, it was the sofa and Sky Sports news. 0-0 at half time and Brentford under the cosh but hanging in there. Could we perform a second half smash and grab? Then the last few days took hold and the next thing I knew Mrs Bruzon was rousing me from my slumbers. Up and down the country, full time had been called. Through bleary eyes, the score was all too clear. Well done Wolves. Hard luck Brentford.

So I’m not best placed to give any manner of significant opinion on this one. Instead, I’ll leave it to social media and other sources to pick the meat off the bones of this one.

Dean Smith summed things up in his post match interview when speaking to the BBC. Their match report notes his comments that: “They pulled Costa off and then could put Cavaleiro on. That’s what you can do when you have £40m to spend. They should make a difference….Dan Bentley’s pulled off some very good saves to keep it at 0-0 and I was almost surprised to see the free-kick go in as he very rarely gets beaten from that distance….They showed their class in the way they finished. But, in the end, it was the manner of the way we conceded that disappointed me.”

Whilst pulling off Costa or bringing on Cavaleiro is not an option available to him, at least Dean can take solace that Emiliano Marcondes is now officially a Brentford player. The much touted Dane was on the bench for this one and whilst he didn’t put in an appearance, I’m sure we’ll get our first glimpse of him in action on Saturday. Expect him to be one of several changes as tired legs get a bit of a break.

Twitter was the usual wealth of opinion with a most respected of opinions, that of commentator par excellence Mark Burridge, top of my list. If anyone knows a thing or two about watching the Bees it is him.

For Mark to draw this conclusion tells you all you need to know about the quality of our opponents. The fans were quick to opine aswell.

As for the players, ‘That phrase’, is appearing once more in various guises.

Whilst video whizzkid Sean Ridley is clearly enjoying his post-Brentford career with a change in direction. Sean, I hear you.

Even waking this morning, Wolves are everywhere. The quite wonderful Miles McClagan sharing this one c/o his account @TheSkyStrikers (which is well, well worth a follow for lovers of all things programme / odd / both).

So Brentford lost. Wolves are rampaging at the top of the table. Fair play to them. Here’s hoping we get a chance to play them next season . If for no other reason it will mean The Bees have made it into the Premier League.

Until then, there are still two interim positives. First up, the FA Cup third roiund on Saturday. Perhaps a chance to see the aforementioned Marcondes in action. Not to mention a certain Alan Judge.

And there’s always the bottom of the table. Tentimesbetter Birmingham City are still deep in it.

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Nick Bruzon

Can Brentford take away all three points from the Golden Palace?

2 Jan

Back to work. Tuesday morning and doing the zombie shuffle around the kitchen. Granted, my progress not helped by forgetting to switch off the regular weekly alarm and so New Year’s day saw the klaxon going off at 5.15am, having gone to sleep just a few hours earlier. It’s not good. I say Tuesday. The only reason I can tell for sure is the mention of Brentford on national radio this morning in the sports headlines. Absolute Radio bigging up this evening’s game with Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux.

However, it is less about us with The Bees being served up as a sacrificial lamb to the slaughter. Wolves are able to use this game to go 12 points clear in the Championship (effectively 13 when you factor goal difference into the equation) should they win again tonight. Monday’s results, with Bristol City losing and Derby County drawing 1-1 with Sheffield United, have certainly seen the closest challengers doing all possible to help the cause at the, so called, Golden Palace.

This is my sort of Golden Palace

Can the Bees take away all three points tonight?

So I know it IS Tuesday. But only because the fixture list is there to remind us that our New Year’s day game was one of three held over to tonight. It’s another break with scheduling tradition and one which means that, with no pay on the door available, we’ll have approximately 400 fans present. Hats doffed there. The only positive being an extra night for legs to have recovered after the festive exertions. Like the most of us, I’ll be on commentary tonight – listening, rather than performing. Mark Burridge, Ciaran Brett and half time guest Tom Moore amongst those doing the needful later today.

Despite our own fine form and three wins from three over Christmas, all the talks is of relentless Wolves. Their last game saw a 2-1 win at challengers Bristol City. Even with the loss of captain Danny Batth on a red card (missing tonight – small mercies), a goal in the fourth minute of injury time secured all three points to leave that monumental gap at the top. Even the bookies have Brentford as 4-1 to win tonight – there really is just one team in this. Certainly, for the outsider looking in.

Can the Bees spring a ‘shock’? We’ve our own huge incentive to go for it, of course. Victory would put us up to 9th in the table, a mere three points outside the play-off zone. Such a thing wouldn’t have seemed anywhere near possible a few months ago where we were rock bottom with just 4 points from 8 games. Now it is hapless Birmingham City who prop the rest of us up and the Bees who continue to defy the expectations. To beat the likes of Sheffield Wednesday, Aston Villa and Norwich City over the space of just 8 days warrants special mention. Then again, could those exertions come back to haunt us tonight or will Dean be able to rally his troops for one final burst of energy?

There is a glimmer of hope in the form table, too. Just a few weeks ago, Wolves were held at home by Sunderland whilst drew with Millwall on Boxing Day. That, a game where they let the lead slip. And they have lost this season – even if it was Queens Park R@ngers who last inflicted a reverse on them. Back in October.

But, you know what? This is how I like it. ‘Teams Like Brentford’ syndrome. Nobody giving us a hope. To be fair to their fans, there hasn’t been any talking down from the Wolves faithful. Certainly not like we’ve had from the likes of Birmingham, Leeds or Villa. If anything, this is a no pressure game – at least, looking in. I have no doubt Dean Smith will be desperate to come away from Molineux with at least one point. The prize on offer is just too great and his players will be as keen as he is to show what they can do against the best in the division.

This one promises to be huge tonight. I wish I could be there. Sadly, it’s the wireless for me. I’m already tuned in.

Will who now? Sergi was on fire agasint Villa, despite the torrential downpour

It has been raining points for Brentford in recent weeks

Nick Bruzon

Bees don’t give a hoot about the Owls. Will Wolves have more bite?

31 Dec

Well there you go. What a way to finish the year. As comfortable a win as Brentford could have ever hoped to achieve, despite coming up against a Sheffield Wednesday team who had proven to be more than a thorn in the side at Griffin Park in days gone by. We’d not beaten the Owls at home since a 2010 League One encounter (Charlie MacDonald grabbing the only goal of the game in that one). But a 2-0 Championship win saw that statistical relic consigned to the dinosaur’s graveyard. It really was THAT much a cruise control performance as one could hope to see.

As ever, ‘official’, Beesotted or the BBC are your places for the full fat match reports. Which is no bad thing, given any Wednesday fans still here are likely to get more joy reading a tale from the Brothers Grimm rather than any looking at any in depth analysis.

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A cheap set up for brackets

Looking on from the sidelines, it was a game that was never in doubt from the moment Lasse Vibe made it 1-0 on the 20 minute mark. Picking up the ball from Nico Yennaris, he fired home from just inside the box to send the Bees on their way. Dean Smith would later admit that, “We didn’t find our fluidity for the first 20 minutes but once we got the goal we moved up a level.” He’s spot on. From that point, there was only one team in it. The points were as good as ours. Or should have been.

However, complacency is the mother of all f*ck ups and lord knows we’ve had our issues throwing away leads this season. But not this time.

With Wednesday offering little, the Bees continued to press. Sergi Canos in particular coming close with one marvellous effort from distance which was the highlight of an otherwise quieter game for the ever popular Spaniard. Eventually, it was Flo Jo who doubled the lead with a quite marvellous finish from a Maupay through ball. 2-0 up, 7(seven) minutes to go and not even Brentford could mess this one.  Surely? We didn’t.

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The Bees kept going for goal until the end

Next up, a trip to Wolves on Tuesday night. The Molineux outfit are an incredible ten points clear at the top of the table following their own last gasp win at Bristol City yesterday. It’s effectively 11 if you factor in goal difference. Could that huge gap play into our hands? Might suspension (captain Danny Batth being sent off at Ashton Gate) and changes after that tough Christmas break play into our hands? Or will it be a case of pedal to the metal for the runaway leaders?

Dean Smith has his own decisions to make.  Chris Mepham had another wonderful game. The apparent ease with which he has adjusted to Championship life making a mockery of his relative inexperience at this level. He looks as in control and comfortable as his senior partner, the World Cup’s Andreas Bjelland.  Here’s hoping Dean Continues to show faith in the Welsh U-21.

Nico Yennaris once more looked totally at ease in the right back berth. Although Henrik Dalsgaard is still on club shop duty as he recovers from injury, Josh Clarke is now fit again. He found himself alongside Alan Judge on the bench for yesterday’s game and so might hope to start. But then who makes way in the middle for Nico? Josh McEachran being the obvious candidate, positionally, yet his own distribution in the first half was as controlled and calm as one could hope to see.

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Next stop, the bench.

Then there’s Lasse Vibe. You can’t put a price on goals and he’s scoring them for fun at present. The brace against Norwich City was followed up by one against Villa and then his latest yesterday (one which you can see on the Sky highlights, available now). Long may we be able to hang on to the great Dane – especially on this kind of form.

Alternatively, feast your eyes on the action c/o Mark Burridge and the official highlights, now up.

A great way to end the year.

Yet with the transfer window about to creak open, he’s one of several candidates that Brentford fans will no doubt spend the next month sweating on. There’s always some pain to get in the way of our enjoyment. But that’s football. Should anything happen off field over the coming weeks, in or out, then if there’s one thing we’ve all learned by now it’s that Dean Smith and his team keep on going – whoever is in the starting XI.

Still, all that’s to come. If at all. For now, let’s just enjoy our third win on the spin. Let’s enjoy Brentford ending the year in tenth place in the table and (say it quietly) just four points outside of the play-off zone. Can we push on? Will we hold station? Is it going to be an FA Cup run this year following the damp squib of our surrender to Chelsea last season?

That game against Wolves and then Saturday’s cup tie with Notts County could well prove to be of huge consequence.

And I can’t wait ! Roll on 2018.

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Sergi – could be key over the coming weeks

Nick Bruzon

 

0-0 at Griffin Park as the Lionel Road fan forum provides the main highlights.

26 Aug

Brentford 0 Woves 0 . A point apiece probably a fair result as both sides ended this one guilty of missing gilt edge chances. For The Bees, Jota and Maupay. For Wolves, some players. At the death, it was almost a case of Doncaster Rovers all over again as a fluffed dead ball (Nico’s great, but he’s no Sam Saunders) saw a three on one break saved only by the linesman’s flag. And that wasn’t the worst of them. Yet before all this was the lunchtime fan forum to discuss the Lionel Road updates.

Joining compere Billy Grant at the event were Chairman Cliff Crown, director Nity Raj (also CEO at Smartodds and Matthew Benham’s lawyer, as he was introduced), Mark Devlin, Dave Merrit from Bees United, Trevor from the GPG and representing BIAS, Gemma Teale. The hour and a half session was split between the panel answering pre-submitted questions before going to the floor.

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Last minute preparations from the panel

Whilst Matthew Benham’s personal message yesterday had clarified a lot of what was happening, we still learned more from this meeting than we’ve done from any of the previously published press releases. As Billy noted from the off – this wasn’t meant to be negative or positive but more that there were a lot of questions in the air .

So how to summarise 90 minutes in a few paragraphs? First up, I’d suggest you listen to the podcast when Beesotted release this. Likewise, one needs to say it’s a case of hats off to the club, our fan groups and our supporters. Cliff talked eloquently and in depth about the reasoning behind Matthews’ decision making process. Mark was very realistic and open with fans about strategy – especially around premium seating. Even if it was a message we may not have wanted to hear. Gemma wasn’t shy to hold back, speaking passionately and from the heart about why it was so important to involve the fans, even at this juncture.

Salient points? Whilst the external build, with the new schematics, is locked down there is still scope for review internally. It was confirmed that after listening to BIAS the area allocated for a potential safe standing zone has been flipped to allow for additional capacity. The board also acknowledging that giving over that entire stand to a potential safe standing zone was something that hadn’t been overly considered. Yet.

That the primary revenue stream is going to be through the ‘premium seating’ . A move away from the original conference and event business.Market research carried out by the same team who reviewed West Ham’s stadium has brought us to the decision to have 2930 places in this bracket. It is a number that the club consider is achievable, with first dibs going to existing Season Ticket holders. Albeit, unlikely there’s any age related discount if you want these places. Yet Cliff also confirmed there would be several tiers of premium seating and you would have the choice of if you wanted to pay ‘thousands’ (for the full works) or ‘hundreds’.

The flip side of all this being that it will allow the rest of the stadium to provide affordable seating for longstanding supporters. Even with the smaller capacity, after you factor in away fans and premium seats, that still leaves 11,820 – 12,920. With current supporter levels on an average gate (again, after factoring in the away fans and your 80 premium seats) at approximately 7,700 this allows 5,000 additional seats for newcomers. As Mark noted, we’re not looking for the new stadium to rinse the fans.

This in response to Gemma’s point that if you aren’t here today, if you haven’t even been born, then how can you get a ticket in the future? How can you be a part of this? It is a proposal very much aimed at current fans. That people aren’t going to be able to bring along friends, new family members.

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The new look Lionel Road picture as doing the rounds

The Hive has had to be sacrificed as part of the Outside Broadcast facilities being incorporated directly into the stadium at a Premier League standard. This is all part of the future proofing model, illustrated by the fact that despite Brighton having a spanking new ground, their recent promotion has required an additional upgrade cost of a figure estimated between £3.5 – 5 million.

The build will be quicker as a result of the redesign allowing the road to be built. With a fair wind it could be completed by October / Novemebr 2019 (Cliff’s words) although could slip to early 2020. This would then be followed by a series of test events before health and safety was passed – whether pre-season friendlies or league games played out in front of a reduced, but steadily increasing, capacity.

That said, the capacity is what the capacity is. Whilst technically there is always the potential to increase this would involve buying land on the other side of the railway and building over it. Something that would need the co-operation of Network Rail, too. Instead, there will be no future foundations laid and , if the council green light the scheme, the intention is to be on site and working by the end of January 2018. Cliff also announcing that if the new plans are not approved by the council, there will be no stadium.

Nity was at pains to point out that the change in plan was due to the need to de-risk the investment. That what we are talking about is a bet on football. It happens to be with Matthew’s money. He’s pretty good at bets on football and in his opinion we have reduced the risk by following this path.

Gemma would eventually thank him for allowing everybody to fill in their Benham bingo cards (‘It’s his money‘ being mentioned more than once). Yet, by the same virtue, rounded this off with both thanks and an emotional plea to keep taking this plan forward, but with us all involved.

Several questions from the audience, along with observations from our fans groups, made it clear that whilst we are all aware his plan is the way forward, we still have opinions. That these could and should be considered . Especially whilst there is scope to still do this on the internals. It is something that Mark acknowledged (twice over the meeting), “We certainly will be consulting with fans”.

Was more said? Absolutely. I’ve likely missed tonnes so please go and download the podcast. Is it perfect? No, but with the ongoing communications now being made the rationale behind the new plans is a lot clearer. So much more flavour was given as to what we are doing and why.

Were we ever going to change anything? No – at least to the physicals. Yet what was abundantly clear from the club side was a desire to now explain the reasoning. Likewise that the focus for all of this was in finding the most risk free means of building the stadium quickly, with premium seats the way forward. Mark noted that there would have to be some difficult conversations – although hopefully not too many.

From the supporter side, there is an absolute desire to remain involved and discuss what we may still be able to have an influence on. Not just from the likes of BIAS, The GPG and Beesotted but the fans on the floor. We know this is Matthew’s money. We know what he has done. We know we’d be dead without him. But as the people supporting the club and buying the seats, we still have a voice. It would be wonderful if this can continue to be heard as we take the next steps forward. Together.

Back to the game at Griffin Park, there’s not much to be said that hasn’t already. Both sides had their chances. Neither side took them. Sky have the video highlights – you can catch them here. We should have won. We might have lost.

Jota looked off the pace, less the usual thoroughbred and more a retired greyhound. I single him out purely because, with all the stories going around, one can only wonder if this is the last we have seen of him? Obviously I hope not yet the usual flare and excitement seemed to be missing and there were few complaints when Flo Jo came on in his place.

We’re now off the bottom of the table. Just. But in the words of Yazz (feat. her Plastic Population) in the 1988 chart topper, the only way is up.

Here’s to international break and the transfer window slamming shut ™.

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Jota on a sortie forward

Nick Bruzon

Today’s the day. For more than one reason.

26 Aug

Brentford are back at Griffin Park today, hot off the heels of that 4-1 humping administered to QPR in the Haribo cup. The visitors, Wolves, themselves midweek winners at Premier League Southampton. And now back in league action its a case of Jota v Jota. Hopefully. The original and best v the temporary incumbent of that name. At least until the EFL decreed he was to be known as Diogo José Teixeira da Silva rather than the nickname with which he was first introduced to the Molineux faithful.

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We say ‘hopefully’. Our own Jota, of course the subject of two transfer bids – neither of which have come anywhere close to the club’s valuation. That, according to Dean Smith in the midweek press conference. Instead the player remains ready and available. With Sergi Canos back in training, too, could supporters be treated to the return of the Spanish duo at Griffin Park this afternoon? Or could there be an 11th hour recurrence of the lower back injury? See also: Scott Hogan’s buttocks. And calf.

Here’s hoping both players are fit and available, although Dean Smith has some tough choices ahead of the Wolves game after the midweek mayhem handed out at QPR. I for one wouldn’t want to be in his shoes with some interesting decisions ahead of him.

Egan and Barbet at CB, surely? Will Maxime retain his place on the right? Josh Clarke tore it up ahead of him on Tuesday night whilst Neal Maupay is an undoubted starter, regardless of how fit Lasse Vibe is. The finish from Romaine Sawyers’ magnificent through ball on Tuesday night was exquisite. Although credit, once more, to Romaine. Along with Neal one of the standout players so far this season.

Then there’s Ryan Woods. Is it too soon for him to rejoin the starting XI? Who loses their place if so? Sometime captain Nico? Will Kamo be given a rest? Tough choices all round in a bid to find the perfect balance for a team who are bottom of the nascent table.

As for Wolves, they currently sit in third place. Nuno Espírito Santo’s team have three wins out of four under the belt already, with their only defeat coming at the hands of current league leaders Cardiff City. And, of course, there was that morale boosting win on the road at Southampton in the EFL cup on Wednesday. With the speed the draw for round four was being made, I’m guessing they are due to find out their own opponents by about Monday afternoon.

I’ve not seen enough of Wolves to know how well they are playing relative to results. But victories over Middlesbrough and Hull City are not to be sniffed at in any season or at any point in the campaign. I’ve not doubt it’ll be another huge test for The Bees but one I’m very much looking forward to. Since we crossed paths once more back in League One, our clubs have followed a very similar trajectory. This, despite Wolves’ rich tapestry of historical form and massive fan base.

Here’s hoping today sees another exciting chapter in the story. Albeit, ending in three points for Dean Smith.

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Who wins in the latest battle of Wolves v Bees ?

Before this there are two huge events. Greville Waterman will be hosting a book signing in the club shop for his latest tome : OOH-AAH: The Bob Booker Story . The book does what it says on the tin, to coin a phrase, and is my current reading material of choice. Whilst I’m nowhere near finishing another voluminous effort, so far, so good. Nice one  Greville.

And he won’t be alone at the signing table today either. None other than Bob himself will also be present in the club shop from 2pm.

Yet the day’s non-footballing event is undoubtedly the fan forum in the church hall at St. Pauls, where supporters have the chance to put their questions to Cliff Crown and Mark Devlin (amongst others) in regards to the revamped stadium plans. Many of these have now been anticipated / further stoked (delete as applicable) by the personal message to supporters published yesterday by Matthew Benham.

We’ve no doubt all read this by now, although there’s a link here if not. As has been noted previously on these pages, the change in plans are disappointing to many whilst decisions around the club shop and, especially, The Hive are hard to fathom. These, all points acknowledged by Matthew.

As we’ve also noted on these pages, we aren’t going to get a choice in any build or substantial decision. Like it or not, and many don’t, that’s not how these things work. Matthew cuts to the chase telling fans: “In my opinion, it would make sense to consult only when such a consultation would be meaningful. In this instance, my concerns over the risks of the stadium build and business model took overwhelming precedence over a consultation which would not have ultimately impacted on what needed to be done.

For me (Clive) the most telling line was the penultimate one, which read: “We will continue with a transfer policy which will help to fill the rest of the funding gap”. Is this an indication that the likes of Jota and Harlee, both the subject of intense rumour in recent weeks, could be leaving imminently? Or that we will continue to buy the unknown but the potential filled?

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Harlee. Could he be looking away from Griffin Park soon?

Communication on the subject of the stadium has been drip fed out of the club in a seemingly strange order. Did Matthew have to do this letter? Perhaps not but given the close bond between supporters and our family like club, talking to us to explain his reasoning for these decisions is only a sensible step.

Does he need to ask / listen to us? Well, he’s the man who has pumped all the money in and who has already built a wonderful team on the pitch. His ball, his rules. We all happily exchanged our BU shares for this new lease of life. For this new Brentford. For this survival.

Should we have been engaged more along the line? Again, his decision and his view about this seems quite categoric. Yet at the same time, regardless of the eventual size bums still need to go on seats. Especially if the riches of the Premier League ever run dry or remain out of reach. We may not be paying for it up front but we are the ones who will be coming along in the future.

3000 empty premium seats when Barnsley, Burton or beyond come visiting could present an interesting sight. Ultimately, we want Griffin Park or Lionel Road. Not club Wembley where vast swathes of empty seats are so often on view in the middle of the stadium.

It’s going to be really interesting to hear some of the rationale behind the rebuild. About the premium pricing. About why none of this was originally considered / realised when , in Matthew’s own words: “A complicated build process, for a complex stadium design, on a difficult site to develop, was likely to lead to further delays and further escalating costs and thus endanger successful completion”.

Yet, the size of the site and the surrounding infrastructure hasn’t changed. And this not to criticise per se – we’re getting a brand new stadium –  but to understand. It has been a long and emotional journey for all of us. If not investing the millions, we have invested our lives into supporting this team and this club. We’ve put our hands in our pockets and our money into the buckets when the club was at its lowest pint. We’ve fought off the impending QPR takeover. Said farewell to Mr. We££ and tried to clear up after Ron Noades. You may not know this, but one fanzine even bought a player.

I can’t wait for Wolves at 3pm. But I’m equally keen to hear what Cliff and Mark have to say at 12.30.

See you there.

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Nick Bruzon

Every cloud has a silver lining. There’s only one Jota (although we’ve two Mads).

2 Aug

We’ll be doing well to top yesterday’s column  (at least in terms of ‘feel good factor’ rather than quality) but with Brentford fans still sweating on the future of Jota, there has been some relief out of Molineux where Wolves have had to make an interesting update. Despite all the stories linking West Ham, Burnley et al to our talismanic Spaniard, it seemed that they had blindsided everybody late last month when the club website proclaimed: Wolves announce Jota.

Having already swooped for Portuguese midfielder Rúben Neves at close to £16,000,000 anything was possible. That’s some serious money to be splashing around. Are Wolves joining the ranks of the big spenders in a bid to get back to a top flight they have graced on numerous occasions over the years?

Snatching Jota from under the noses of West Ham would have been another indication this was their intent. Thankfully, of course, once the heart attack had been averted the story turned out to be anything but the case. Infact, it was another Portuguese player, although this time Diogo Jota.

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Jota signs – kind of

And relax.

Then, yesterday morning, Wolves sparked up the Jota talk once more when they announced their official squad numbers. Despite that initial declaration to supporters, it seems the player has changed his surname. Or, rather, has had it changed for him. Despite still calling him by the aforementioned name, the club have had to concede that:

Also in today’s ‘squad number news’ Diogo Jota will have SILVA on back of his shirt due to EFL regs about players needing to use surnames”, declared official Molineux twitter. Then adding “That is part of his surname. Jota is just a nickname he has become known by… Obviously fans can still choose whatever they like on the back of shirts – Jota if they wish – but he can’t wear in games”.

Move along. Nothing to see here. Turns out there is only one Jota after all.  And, as it stands, he’s nowhere near West Ham. The closest Burnley will get to him was last night’s 2-2 friendly with the same Celta Vigo side turned over at Griffin Park three days earlier.

Whether this remains the case is, of course, a matter of conjecture and something well outside of all our hands. But for now, with the game at Sheffield United just a few days away, he is very much a Bee. Long may this continue.

That said, the transfer door did swing open at Griffin Park yesterday when it was announced on ‘official’ that another Dane joined the ranks. Mention the name Mads to any Brentford fan and chances are that the first thought will be one of Mads Tarrant and the team in our wonderful ticket office. But now there are two.

Defender Mads Bech Sørensen has become the latest to join the B-team after signing from AC Horsens in his native Denmark. With the likes of Andreas Bjelland, Lasse Vibe, Henrik Dalsgaard and Justin Shaibu in the first team squad, not to mention the B-team set up, is it a case of us now becoming Brentfjord?

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There’s only one Jota although two Mads at Brentford.

Bad puns aside, given the strike rate of our recruitment team to date this marks a really interesting signing as another player with international experience (he is a current Danish U-19) is added to our playing staff. The set up at Griffin Park is really now becoming one of strength in depth. The competition in the first team is already clear to see with most positions having genuine alternatives whilst the performances of the B-team have, to date, vindicated that decision.

It’s not often we’ve been able to say this in the past.

Is it too soon to get excited ? Is it time for the Bees to really push for the Premier League after three successive top ten finishes in the Championship. Should we be happy with survival? Are we all getting carried away? What are your hopes for the forthcoming season ? See you here this time tomorrow when we explore in depth.

Nick Bruzon

Solitary diamond atop a dungheap of a performance sees Bees devoured by hungry Wolves.

15 Mar

Brentford 1 Wolverhampton Wanderers 2. Let’s start immediately by saying well played to Wolves and that the points went to the right team. Much as it pains me to say this the visitors fully warranted the points on a night when only one side showed the desire, or the ability, to win a game of football.

We don’t deserve to ‘be any good’ by divine right. We don’t deserve to win every game of football, much as the fans would like it. Yet, by the same virtue, the supporters do deserve to see their team put a bit of a shift in.  Don’t let the Sky video highlights, or the stats, fool you. Wolves ended the game with an apparent 57% possession yet watching on from the sidelines I’d have said nearer 75%. It felt as though we were that much under the cosh, the second half especially.

Dean Smith would note afterwards in his BBC interview that, “That was certainly the worst performance at Griffin Park in my time here. I don’t even think we had a first gear and Wolves were better from start to finish….Normally we out-football sides but we couldn’t pass water.

Ha! Ha! Dean. Very funny. Everybody loves a comedian and, whilst honest, what was the reason your team were so flat? Why couldn’t we break down physical opponents who clearly wanted it? Why did we just sit back to try and ‘absorb’? There was plenty of finger pointing in his interview on ‘official’ Brentford and acceptance of poor performance but what was the reasoning behind us being so far off the pace? Why weren’t our basics good enough? Why were we so outmuscled?

It has been interesting to read Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola talking about his philosophy on the BBC today, ahead of the Champion’s League tie with Monaco. His own take on their situation is a simple one.“The best way [to defend] is score goals,” adding that “when one team scores many goals and you think about just defending, you kill yourself. The idea is to try and attack”.

The Brentford performance was an even odder one because we’ve all seen how good this team can be in recent weeks. I’m not going to slag off individuals. Players have off days but the rest of the group can soak it up. Yet when they all fail to spark, and the manager is unable to motivate them or change it, you get what happened here. It was quite apparent within the first twenty minutes that there was only one side in this. The biggest miracle of the night not being that that we went into half time one up but that we then held the lead right up until the 86th minute.

Maxime Colin’s goal was a thing of beauty. A flowing move (yes, we did have one) culminated in a delightful pass from KK before the full back broke free and shot across the goal into the far corner. Sadly, it was solitary diamond sitting atop an otherwise dung heap of a performance.

Despite Dan Bentley stopping everything that came at him, aided by some last gasp challenges and Nouha Dicko hitting the bar when it would have been easier to score, eventually the pressure told with barely minutes remaining.

Both Wolves goals came from balls down the right flank, crossed  into the box before being tucked home. The second, in particular, was shocking, Having already been reduced to a point by Matt Doherty’s 86th minute equaliser, Brentford then offered Helder Costa the freedom of the Griffin Park penalty box as he was left unmarked to volley into the ground and past Dan Bentley with just seconds of regulation time left.

With it went the chance of the most undeserved of points making their way into Dean’s back pocket.  Game over, man. Game over.

Even George Saville looked vaguely competent. The former Bee actually managed to tackle Jota at one point. Which probably tells you as much as you need to know. This, despite coming in for dog’s abuse on the Braemar Road side about an incident that had allegedly happened around the back of a hotel carpark, in Brentford lock.

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We may have lost, but I’d take Jota over Saville any day of the week

Only Keith Stroud’s assistant, who struggled on manfully despite being an accident waiting to happen with his clearly undone bootlaces, received more flak than Saville, Costa or any other of the players out there. Certainly it was more entertaining waiting for the inevitable ‘stack’ that failed to materialise, despite his steadfast refusal to do anything beyond eventually tucking the loose laces into his boot like a lazy schoolboy, than watching the game.

And talking of Keith Stroud, what of our favourite ref?  The diminutive man in the middle was somewhat restrained by his own reputational standards and had a generally good game. There were a few calls we all felt went the wrong way but that’s football. At one point, he even changed his mind in our favour following advice from the aforementioned assistant. I repeat. He changed his mind in our favour.

Instead, his convoluted prematch warmup routine of stretches, thrusts and synchronised dancing with his assistants was the highlight. Keith even went so far as to delay the prematch photos as he underwent one, final, shuttle run.

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Big bet ; diminutive ref. But a good performance from Keith Stroud

When the most exciting part of the evening was Buzzette dancing (in the most playful of fashion) with our Ealing Road wag, you know it’s one to file in the locker marked ‘painful’ and, instead, hope for some form of retribution up at Burton on Saturday.

Even the post match tweets from the players had a somewhat similar feel. Did Harlee and Sergi compare notes before tweeting? Are they handed these by the media team? Or is it just the ultimate summary of what happened – very disappointing tonight; can only apologise and say thank you.

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Did the players compare notes?

Hey, at least we weren’t offered the chance to go again.

There’s nothing else to say on this one. This was less the proverbial bad day at the office and more one of being put on immediate gardening leave from desk based activity, pending a full enquiry. Instead, we can only put it behind us and await Burton. There’s no way it will be even half this bad.

Roll on Saturday. I certainly wouldn’t want be in Nigel Clough’s position when Storm Brentford approaches.

Nick Bruzon

As Bees prepare for Wolves, who won Twitter last night?

14 Mar

Here we go again. Brentford continue one of our more unlikely rivalries of recent seasons as we prepare to entertain Wolverhampton Wanderers. Nobody needs any reminder of the epic League One campaign that saw us go neck and neck with Wolves and celebrate like we’d won the FA Cup as promotion to the Championship was confirmed three seasons ago (although if you would like to read more….. here’s the place) . And which former Manchester United player won Twitter last night ahead of the FA Cup clash with Chelsea?

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Who will win the battle of Wolves v Bees ?

However, we can only start with tonight’s game at Griffin Park. It is an encounter which sees Brentford looking for the win that will take us back into the top half of the table whilst,for the visitors, things are somewhat more fraught. Only one point separates Wolves from the relegation spots currently filled by Rotherham (R), Wigan and Bristol City. Albeit they have slightly less bad goal difference and two games in hand.

But points in the bag are better than games in hand as one terrace wag is so fond of saying and failure to capitalise tonight will put Wolves right in the mire. Could Keith Stroud direct them back towards League One? Was Saturday’s 1-0 defeat of divisional whipping boys Rotherham (a win which ended a run of one draw and five straight defeats from the previous six games)  the sign of better things to come?

If Wolves picked up on Saturday, the opposite could be said for Brentford. Purely in terms of goal scoring where we failed to find the net in the league since the 0-0 draw with Norwich City on December 31 last year. Then again, we were facing a Huddersfield Town team with their sights on ‘automatic’ . This, after our own recent impressive form that had seen wins at Sheffield Wednesday and Nottingham Forest as well as the obligatory three points from Rotherham.

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View from the Braemar – three points and a lurid kit for Huddersfield on Saturday

But with exhaustion kicking in and Dean Smith promising changes, who starts tonight? Could Tom Field, Konstantin Kerschbaumer and Sergi Canos all make it off the bench? Rico Henry has been impressive since his return from that long injury but I thought he started to flag on Saturday whilst Nico’s injury niggles have been well documented. As for Sergi, having been rested for the Huddersfield game then a straight switch between him and Florian Jozefzoon is a substitution by numbers.

Here’s hoping for a big crowd tonight. Griffin Park under the floodlights is always a special place and it would be wonderful to see the Bees get back to winning ways. With 30 points still to play for the season is anything but dead as we look to follow up on our previous Championship finishes of 5th and 9th.

Not bad for a ‘tin pot’ team who many tipped for immediate relation from this higher division  but with the gap to 9th place currently 7(seven) points, a win tonight will be a huge step towards achieving that goal.

In other news, last night saw Chelsea reach the semi finals of the FA Cup after their 1-0 win over Manchester United at Stamford Bridge. Whilst his team may have lost, former Red Devil Mikael Silvestre won Twitter with this riposte to perennial name dropper, Ian Moose from Talk Sport.

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Silvestre 1 Moose 0

There’s not much more to say, really. See you tonight.

Nick Bruzon

What to do on FA Cup weekend? The best (and worst) of football film plus an offer for the fans.

18 Feb

With Brentford having gone missing in action at Chelsea last month, it means we’ve got a free weekend. Instead of a league game against Wolves at Griffin Park, our would be visitors host our FA Cup conquerors in a fifth round encounter that has all those classic ingredients to serve up a potential potato skin. As for Bees fans, we’ll need to put the tinfoil back to regular use and find something else to occupy us until we visit Wednesday on Tuesday. Sheffield, that is.

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For Brentford fans, the tin foil has now reverted to normal use until next season

So? What to do ? Of course, there are still the televised games. These include the aforementioned encounter at Molineux aswell as the one at Turf Moor where Andre Gray, James Tarkoswski (is he still even there?) et al provide the Goliath role as Lincoln City pay Burnley a lunchtime visit.

That one’s well worth a watch, purely for the novelty factor of seeing Burnley playing the role of giants. Yet, at the same time, I’ve got a sneaky feeling this will be the one where we have a weekend shock. Whilst the ties at Wolves and Sutton United are the obvious TV draws, expect the top class opponents, and also Arsenal, to go through. Yet with motivation, form and the entire country behind them, Lincoln look remarkable value.

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But if watching Chelsea is a painful reminder of what might have been then could I suggest an alternative? A football film. Regular readers, should such a thing exist, will know of my love of these. The pinnacle of the genre being Escape To Victory.

This has it all. Actors playing football, badly. Footballers acting,very badly. Michael Caine alongside Pele. Sylvester Stallone sharing screen time with Bobby Moore. John Wark’s moustache is worth the entrance fee alone. Come for the facial hair; stay for the Ardiles flick.

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Pele scores as the Allies escape to victory.

Yet for every Escape to Victory and, to a lesser extent, The Damned United, Fever Pitch, Mike Bassett: England Manager or even TV’s Dream Team, is a Green Street, a Soccer Dog (and the even weaker sequel, Soccer Dog: European Cup) or The Goal Trilogy. The football film is a veritable minefield of weak acting, poor script and overly laboured cliché.

Aside from Luis Figo doing ‘Just for Men’ (still got it, Figo) the only on screen football to transcend both good and bad is, perhaps, When Saturday Comes. It is a film so loaded with cliché it is fit to burst. Hard drinking park footballer Jimmy  – played by 37 year old Sean Bean  – eventually gets his break for Sheffield United after stuffing up his first trial before taking on Manchester United in an FA Cup semi final.

It is a film so loaded with inaccuracy (an FA Cup semi final at The Blades home ground, in the middle of winter, being just one of many) that you have to wonder just who gave this script the green light. And, of course, it is a film with Emily Lloyd displaying the worst Irish accent this side of Alan Partridge telling TV execs, “There’s more to Oireland, dan dis” .

Yet this underrated classic is so bad it’s brilliant. It goes beyond nonsense and into the realm of unintentional comedy gold. No mean feat for what, on paper, should be a complete car crash of a movie.

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If you haven’t seen this, you haven’t lived.

And thus talk of football films brings us, with all the subtly of an Alan McCormack challenge, bang up to date and back to Griffin Park.

Next Tuesday, 28th February,  sees Brentford and Sky Sports joining forces for an exclusive screening of the film Wonderkid.  The short film looks at one of football’s biggest issues – that of homophobia in the modern game – with Brentford doing their part to help raise awareness.

It is a cause we’ve always looked to promote and now the Bees are tackling this from a different angle, through the medium of cinema. The football film is a tricky enough genre to get right as it is, let alone with the added pressure of a serious issue. Yet, at the same time, I can’t wait to see how this goes and how it is received.

Full information about the event, including how to get free tickets, is on the club website now. See you there.

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Nick Bruzon