Get the goal, slow it down and secure the win. Easy !! And a possible ‘best ever’ shirt.

26 Mar

Well that was some weekend. Despite Brentford not being in action due to International weekend, the cause of our lay off has not been without it’s talking points. Alan Judge completed an emotional return to the Republic of Ireland team despite his side going down in Turkey. England fans completed an embarrassing return to Amsterdam despite the team going on to register a win. Over in Gibraltar, Liam Walker of Notts County scored the only goal of the game as the boys from the Rock beat Latvia 1-0, despite never having previously registered a win as a full member of FIFA. Get in you beauties! And could Andreas Bjelland be turning out in the mother of all shirts for Denmark tomorrow night?

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What a win for Gibraltar

We can only start with Gibraltar. Despite being 16/1 to beat a Latvia team who sit 75 places above them in the FIFA rankings, a return to the Victoria Stadium across the road from the airport after a two year soujourn in Portgual came with the most wonderful of results.

You can’t ask for anything more than a clean sheet, a goal and a win on your return home. And that’s what we got. Liam Walker stepping up after a tense game to hit the most delicious of dead ball winners, Sam Saunders style, with the clock almost at it’s denouement.

What a moment.  A first victory on home soil. A first victory as a FIFA member. A first clean sheet in, erm, some years. Regular readers to these pages will know of Gibraltar’s goals ‘against’ being the international equivalent of Birmingham City or Leeds United. Fishing the ball out of the net has been a lot easier then putting it in there. A statement that is made with absolutely zero offence intended. A statement made by somebody who has played (badly) at the same stadium that Walker made his mark and who was there as Belgium went beyond brackets late last summer.

The strides that Gibraltar have made on the international stage since becoming members of UEFA in 2013, for a nation of their size, have been vastly impressive. Both at international and also club level where Celtic were, of course, beaten by Lincoln red Imps in a 2016 Champions League Qualifier

And now we have a win. This is a moment of huge significance and how appropriate that it is Liam Walker who should get the goal. The record cap holder and, with this strike, heading to the top of the scoring charts. Whilst the Chipolinas and Casciaros of this world are, perhaps, the household names it is Walker who is currently ploughing a lone furrow as Gibraltar’s ‘export’ to the English football league.

Plying his trade for a Notts County team very much at the business end of the League Two table. A Notts County team that knocked Brentford out of the FA Cup in the third round and for whom Walker came on to the Griffin Park pitch to shore things up late on when the teams met back in January. We noted then his prowess and now it has been demonstrated in the most visible and global of styles.

Get the goal, slow it down and secure the win. Next stop, the Nations League in the autumn. Easy. In theory. I can’t wait.

The. Moment. Danny Higginbotham, eat your heart out

Before that is the World Cup. Whilst Ireland didn’t make it this time, we can’t let the moment of Alan Judge’s return to international football pass without mention. If Gibraltar’s win was of huge national significance, Alan’s own appearance was equally significant – purely for personal reasons.

We all know how he was set for Euro 2016 until that horrific assault at Portman Road left him with a double leg break that has taken the best part of two years to recover from. It is a journey that we have all taken alongside him in spirit although one cannot begin to envisage the tremendous psychological and mental fortitude that has been required to get him through what must have been some dark hours. Let alone the physical recovery.

Alan’s tweet – simple but beautiful

To see Alan put on a Brentford shirt once more has been a thing of beauty for Bees fans. Yet to see him in his national shirt really was the icing on the cake. Congratulations, Alan. What an honour and what a moment. Here’s to the next set of qualifiers…

The current round of friendlies concludes this Tuesday with Andreas Bjelland, Henrik Dalsgaard and their Denmark team entertaining Chile. Ordinarily, I’d call this as April fool but we’re a few days early. However, it would seem that when they  run out against Alexis Sanchez and co, the Danes will be wearing a quite unique shirt. One that celebrates their heritage and has been, apparently, put together by the fans based on classics over the years.

I hope this is true. It’s so bad it’s brilliant. Very much the Nicolas Cage of football shirts.

I’d love one.  

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Is this for real ? Wow !!

Nick Bruzon

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Is this the future ? Next season’s ‘must start’ player, ‘must have’ fashion item and big ticket.

23 Mar

Take a couple of days away from the blog and it all happens. Despite international break meaning the visit of Sheffield United is still a week away, Brentford fans have been kept well on our toes with a surfeit of good news. The interview conducted by the GPG with Matthew Benham has been published. Season ticket prices for 2018/19 have been revealed. Chris Mepham has made his international debut for Wales whilst Andreas Bjelland’s Panini incarnation for Denmark in the 2018 World Cup has been released to the world (thanks to Beesotted for spotting that one).

Chris does his thing. What a man !

First up, the GPG and Matthew Benham. Whilst he may not say much publically, when Matthew does give these sort of interviews they are well worth a read. This one is no different. I’m sure we’ve all seen it already although if you’ve missed it then it’s here.

Another very personal piece about his thoughts, hopes, investment (which is now up to £106million. One. Hundred. And six. Million. Pounds) and the future of the club amongst other varied topics. I’m not going to regurgitate it here, suffice to say this is well, well worth a read and so good job all round to the GPG readership and production team on this one. When Matthew speaks, it’s definitely worth listening.

The one point I did want to dwell on was in regards to his thoughts for a potential April Fools joke. Per the interview, at one point Matthew considered Rasmus would have appeared modelling the new look third and third scarves (Brentford, Fulham and QPR). The associated blub from Rasmus would, in Matthew’s words “Use loads of marketing speak and say like “this ticks a lot of boxes”.  “

Seriously. What a shame this never happened. This would have been absolute genius whilst the reaction alone would have been incredible. Better still, the hopefully positive fallout once our more knee jerk elements ( I’m sure I’d have bitten too) realised they’d been had. There’s no better way to get a positive reaction than taking the occasional moment to have a good natured laugh at yourself.

It did get me thinking though. Discussing this point on Twitter afterwards with @crumblechris , it has potentially lead us to stumble across a club shop winner. Whilst we all know the usual half and half scarf is the devil’s own product, merging two tradtional rivals onto one piece of ad-hoc merchandising, why not celebrate a more positive partnership? That of our co-directors of football.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you…the Phil and Rasmus half and half scarf.

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Kamo models 2018/19’s ‘must have’ fashion item. Possibly

I’d never, ever wear anything with a QPR crest on it but I’d happily hand over my money in the club shop for one of these. Matthew, Mark, Cliff. If any of you are somehow reading (unlikely, I have to be honest), how about it…?

Next up, season tickets. The news was announced yesterday that these are being frozen for the third, successive season. This is fantastic . Moreso given juniors have had their reduced to £49 in the family section. Talk about a way to get that next generation of fans along to Griffin Park . If you haven’t got one, then what better time to upgrade the membership card? Another season of Championship action (at the very least) awaits along with a team who, on their day, have played some of the most exciting football we’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. Brentford as an established Championship side? It’s happened. Now to see if we can take this to the next level. Full details are on Brentford ‘official’.

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The 5-0 destruction of Birmingham City. About as a complete a peformance as we’ve ever seen.

Congratulations Chris Mepham. We all know what an incredible start he has had to league life but to move up to his national side so soon shows just how much he is destined for big things in the future. Hopefully at Griffin Park and then Lionel Road. Yet there he was making his debut for Wales in China on Thursday afternoon. A 6-0 win was just about as perfect as it could have got for him. The only downside, if there can be one, being Wales missing out on that additional goal which would have seen the game officially deemed a bracketing. Of course, the magical scoreline being 0-7(seven).

Whilst I’ll leave the interviews (and genuine effort) to the likes of Beesotted and the GPG, what I can say (clanngggg, the sound of a name being dropped) is that I was fortunate enough to catch up with both Rasmus and Phil earlier in the week. Specifically during the event to mark ground being broken at Lionel Road. Talking with them about transfer strategy (including those summer moves to Birmingham City) you could hear the genuine pride and pleasure about the way Chris has come through and filled the void left by Harlee. Along with Brentford currently having five B-team players on international duty at U-19 level, you can’t deny the fruits of their labours as The Bees look to their next first XI.

If Chris just missed out on a slice of football mythology, Andreas Bjelland has achieved it. Being immortalised in Panini form. Big thanks to the eagle-eyed team at Beesotted who spotted this one when the World Cup sticker book was revealed this week. As big an honour as an international cap, Andreas, Denmark and Brentford could become one of the most valuable commodities in playgrounds and offices up and down the land this summer.

Congratulations, Andreas. Here’s to 2022 when we see Chris Mepham (Wales and Brentford) alongside you in the book.

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Got it. Got it. Need it. Could Andreas see his stock increase?

Nick Bruzon

Brentford do it differently. Three shovels in and our new home is a step closer

20 Mar

As statements go, this was a huge and very visible one. Whilst our new home away from Griffin Park has been on the radar for years, Brentford fans moved one step closer towards that dream becoming a reality on Monday as the official ‘ground breaking’ ceremony took place on the site at Lionel Road. Of course new stadia have very much become the norm over the last few seasons – indeed, one only has to look at Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur or West Ham (I hadn’t realised they’d left Upton Park; if only somebody in the press had mentioned it) to see it happening all over London. Yet it has always seemed to be somebody else’s journey. Not the sort of thing that would happen to Brentford. Well, here we are. More clearly than ever – we‘re on our way.

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Ground. Officially. Broken.

Savour Griffin Park whilst you can. With the stadium slated for an October 2019 completion and a first game in December of that year (following a series of test events) there isn’t long to appreciate the old girl. A mid-season change of home will follow – a first for any football club if my scratchy memory serves me well – of which the BBC has more detail following their own piece with our Chairman Cliff Crown. Yet all that’s for the future. Yesterday was all about talking the next step on that path.

Those fortunate enough to be in attendance yesterday heard Peter Gilham and then Cliff give very eloquent speeches prior to the ceremony. Talking passionately about where we’ve come from and where we are heading. Of the role played by yesterday’s hosts Fullers. Their orchard becoming Griffin Park back in the early 1900s and the proximity of our venue, One Over The Ait, to the rowing club where Brentford FC was formed. Likewise noting that this would be the first of events to mark our progress and future activities to involve more of the fans, of whom there were still a very generous group present.

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Peter Gilham captivates the guests

But that’s Brentford. You wouldn’t get this at other clubs. Supporters present to witness history at something which, bar the press, is normally a ‘behind closed doors’ event. A family whose connection with the club goes back over 80 years having the honour of planting that first shovel into the ground.

Hall of famer Ernie Muttitt, who made his Bees debut in 1932 and lived on Braemar Road, was represented by his son, grandson and great-granddaughter. Brentford fans to this day. What a wonderful group of people and means of connecting our past with both the present and the future.  

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THE moment – ground is broken at Lionel Road.

We all know how perilously close we’ve come to going under. How the work of the respective supporter’s groups helped keep our heads above water until Matthew Benham arrived. With him, came a lifeline and eventual acquisition of the Bees United supporter owned shares in the club. A shame, as such, he wasn’t there to witness events yesterday although being the centre of that focus perhaps not his style.

We all know where we’ve gone from there and where we would be without his colossal investment. Promotion. Championship solidity. A model which we may not have taken to immediately but one which is more than proving it’s worth now.  Players the likes of whom we could only have dreamed about in the past, with Brentford even looking as though we’ll have representation at this summer’s World Cup.

The possibilities of going under, moving to Feltham or even the much remembered monorail scheme have all dissipated. Let’s not take our eyes of those or take anything for granted. Yet, at the same time, we seem in better shape than ever before – on and off the pitch. The journey to a sustainable future is well under way and a new home beckons. Yesterday saw another step along that road. A small act of digging but a monumental stake in the ground about our ongoing intent.

There’s not huge amounts to be said about this without turning over old ground that has well been covered before. The BBC have a report whilst Bees United have shot a three minute video you can see below – probably an infinitely better means of summarising events than these ramblings.

Instead, I’ll simply offer a huge thanks to everybody involved for all their efforts to get us this far. It’s been a long and rocky road, have no doubt. October 2019 is a very aggressive target but one I am sure will be met.

Here’s to seeing that next phase of hard work begin and running out at our new home next year.

Bees United’s own film

Nick Bruzon    

The weather outside was frightful, but Lewis was so delightful.

18 Mar

Oh my. How good to be back in the warmth after that one. Brentford and Middlesbrough played out a 1-1 draw in blizzard like conditions at a freezing Griffin Park on Saturday. That much snow was falling all around, I half expected Shakin’ Stevens to put in an appearance at half time (best. song. ever) . It was a draw which, after the blips against Millwall and Cardiff City, has all but mathematically ended our play-off hopes. Come on Bees, prove me wrong – again.

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A snowy Griffin Park

For those who missed it, Sky Sports have the video highlights on line already. Anyone who was there would have seen that despite dominating the possession, we couldn’t quite turn opportunities into goals. Yet against a side that have long been seen as a bogey team for the Bees, it was a more than creditable performance with man of the match Lewis Macleod and Ryan Woods pulling the strings in the middle whilst referee Simon Hooper pulled our legs erm, in the middle.

His sending off of substitute Romaine Sawyers for two yellow cards, the second of which was softer than than the avalanche of snowflakes that filled the air, rounded off a poor afternoon for the man in black. The visiting players surrounding a referee who should have been stronger after what was, at best, an accidental coming together. Yet his missing the opportunity to insist on an orange ball (one day, it will come back) should have perhaps warned us what to expect.

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Sky highlights show Romaine see red. The ref in no way allowing himself to be influenced.

For Middlesbrough, a first half lead came with an impressive strike from the commanding Adama Traoré after twenty minutes. Running across the edge of the box, he found the gap to fire a powerful drive past Daniel Bentley. It was a lead that came at a time when the game had been delicately balanced. Both teams having already seen a handful of efforts. It was a lead that didn’t last for long as Lewis Macleod, who had earlier seen a shot from just outside the area tipped over by Darren Randolph, fired home low and hard from the edge of the box to equalise.

One all and with over an hour to go, surely there would be more to come? Sadly not. That’s how it stayed despite the best efforts of Macleod and his colleagues as Brentford really began to turn the screw.

Even the appearance of Sergi Canos from the bench, for once the gloves understandable in absolutely bitter conditions, wouldn’t tip the balance. Brentford had the lion’s share of the possesion and chances but Middlesbrough were resolute and, for their defence alone, justified with the point that keeps them in the final play-off place.

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Sergi with his snow, ball. It should have been orange

But for sharper finishing or what the BBC match report describes as Brentford “guilty at times of overplaying in dangerous areas” it could have been all three points for The Bees. Instead, the late intervention of Mr. Hooper meant an early bath for Romaine and a draw being played out in those final few minutes as Boro’ finally pressed once more.  

Massive kudos to Lewis Macleod. We all know the injury hell he has been through over the last few years but how that seemed a thing of the past. With clear direction to shoot from the edge of the box, a single goal was the least his play, opening up the Boro’ midfield as easily as a can of tuna, deserved.

They were awful conditions to watch a game of football in with a howling, icy wind cutting through supporters as the snow fell. It can’t have been much fun playing in it and perhaps the desire to keep warm lifted both teams to really run at each other from the off. It was hardly the kick and rush game one would expect from a Tony Pulis outfit, even if that physical aspect was still there as they let the Bees push on.

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Lewis was head and shoulders above Middlesbrough

Instead, we were offered an entertaining spectacle with Brentford keen to underline the play-off credentials. Sadly, it was Middlesbrough who got the point that keeps them in but with Brentford 8 off with 8 to play, we’re now in the territory of really needing to pull in a few favours. Stranger things have happened of course and at least we’ve now got an international break in which to take stock.

On a personal note, a huge word of thanks to everybody at the club – players and staff – for all their efforts yesterday. Harry was lucky enough to be one of the mascots and had an absolutely fantastic time from start to finish. Talk about being made to feel welcome and a proper part of things. Even in so much as being allowed to kick the ball on the centre spot when the teams came out and leading the line in the handshake.

“Daddy. When I was shaking the hands of all the naughty team I felt like a real footballer.” They’re not my words but those of a four year old fan who had the time of his life when he could have been forgiven for asking to give this one a swerve and staying at home with a hot chocolate.

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Feeling like ‘a real footballer’

Nick Bruzon

Goals mean wins see. No matter how they come.

14 Mar

There’s not much you can say after that. Cardiff City beat Brentford 3-1 in a game that was as much a victory for the much derided tactics of manager Neil Warnock as it was for his players’ ability to find the back of the net. With Aston Villa being thumped at home by QPR (how?) and Wolves finally getting back to winning ways, the top two are going to require a horrific stumble to be caught. But at least there was something for us to smile about at the bottom end of the table. A point for Barnsley in their ‘game in hand’ along with victory for Hull City has increased the pressure on this month’s Birmingham City manager Garry Monk and his team.

We can only start with Brentford where there’s not much more to be said. If you weren’t there then you’ll have likely caught it on TV (unless you were busy swooning over Sam Saunders in the pundit’s chair). The Bees came flying out of the blocks at 100mph. Neal Maupay with a wonderful chance to have opened the scoring whilst most people were still taking their seats before finding the back of the net for 1-0 with little more than five minutes on the clock. Cardiff a goal down and on the ropes. Brentford continuing to spread the ball amongst them as they couldn’t cope with our free flowing football. Surely a second goal was only a matter of moments away?

And on twenty-five minutes it came. To the visitors.  Sol Bamba with a quite wonderfully taken turn and volley that left man of the match Dan Bentley beaten all ends up. It was a finish one can only doff the hat to, no matter how begrudgingly that feels, yet it was one that  let the visitors back into the game. From that point on, they started to really make their presence felt.

Hooooofffff” went the crowd as every ball was humped forward out of the back. “Crunnccch” went the challenge as Warnock’s team made themselves known in the most agricultural of styles. There was no real help from a referee and his assistants who seemed set to random mode. I don’t envy them their role but they need to do it properly if they step up to the challenge. Dean Smith seemed incensed by some of the decision making and inconsistency at full time. As were the crowd throughout a second half that saw Sergi quite perplexed (that’s the polite word) with the officials on more than on occasion.

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Sergi saying what we were all thinking

But for all that the men in the middle didn’t help, a goal on the stroke of half time gave the visitors a lead which they would never surrender, whatever the cost. Football very much coming second to the three points. They fought us in the penalty box. The fought us in the middle. They fought with growing confidence and growing strength in the air. A style of football that ended up being little more than scraping and spoiling. Despite our own 67% of possession, they mopped up everything and made sure there was no way through. With a third goal sealing the deal just shy of the hour, there was no way back for the Bees. The clock was carefully run down and it ended 3-1 to the visitors

It was a triumph for Warnock and his team. You can’t deny them their current run or the win that their methodology presented. 7(seven) points clear of third placed Aston Villa suggest they are doing something very much right in terms of getting the results. At the same time, for all Dean was rightly frustrated at full-time, perhaps this was a beneficial lesson in the long term. Our ability to play against the more ‘robust’ teams in the division has been questioned before. The first twenty minutes, with the Bees at full flow against a team we dictated the pattern of the game to, were quite beautiful to watch. The final seventy had a painful inevitability.

Next up for the Bees, the visit of Middlesbrough. Whilst they are looking to consolidate their sixth place, if Brentford are to have any chance of reeling in that 8 point gap then Dean was quite clear about how it needs to be done. Every game is going to be a cup final for us,” he said at full time. “If we want to hang onto the coat-tails of those above us we have to make sure we win games, starting on Saturday”. It’ll be a tough one that’s for sure and if for no other reason than our failure to beat Boro’ since paths crossed in the Championship. Six defeats (including two play-off semis) and a draw are the best we have to show. But what a time to break that record Saturday is. What a chance to show that although we struggled against a Warnock team, we’ve learned from this and can do it against a Tony Pulis side.

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View from the Braemar – the Bees were outmuscled last night

I’ve woken up this morning feeling disappointed and frustrated more than anything else. I’m still immensely proud of what our team have achieved and one has to remember that Cardiff City are where they are for a reason. At the end of the day (Clive), and as one visiting supporter noted last night on Twitter: “Goals mean wins see“. I can’t argue with that.

Besides, looking to the lower end of the table a gap really is starting to form in the relegation zone. Barnsley’s draw with Norwich City last night sees them open up a three-point lead over Birmingham City. When you factor in the Blues’ inability to score and wonderful propensity to concede, the goal difference is so significant as to effectively make that difference four.

They entertain (sorry, that’s surely a breach of trades descriptions) they host Hull City on Saturday. With the Tigers running out 3-0 victors at Ipswich Town last night, they are surely safe. Three more points would all but secure this and what a time to get them.

I can’t wait for the weekend. The atmosphere is going to be huge at Griffin Park where it really is a case of win or bust in the race for the play offs.

See you there.

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The gap is starting to grow

Nick Bruzon

 

A season defining game and the chance to correct football’s biggest jinx await.

13 Mar

Well this really is an evening with everything to play for. Whilst most neutral observers may well be focussed on Manchester United and the Champions League, it is the Championship where there’s a story of genuine excitement and intrigue building. Brentford host a Cardiff City team looking to make it 7(seven) successive league wins. Victory will see them afforded a chance to draw level with a Wolves team whose seemingly unassailable lead at New Year has melted away quicker than the snow that caused this fixture to be postponed ten days ago. A gap of 12 points after they beat us in early January has now become just 3. Is it conceivable Cardiff could actually catch up with them tonight?

Let’s just cut that one stone dead in it’s tracks. Whilst something that is technically possible, I can’t see it happening. For one thing, Wolves are also in action. They host a Reading team who have offered little this season and are flirting with the relegation zone a touch too much for their liking. Thankfully for the Royals, the ongoing ineptitude of Birmingham City, Sunderland and Burton should see them home, even if their safety is acquired by accident rather than design.

More importantly, we’re also involved. Brentford thumped Millwall on Saturday in everything but goals scored. It was an extremely frustrating end to an afternoon where we did everything but score. Instead, George Saville did the needful for our genial hosts as Andreas Bjelland was left dead in the water after aggravating an Achilles problem he’d felt in the warm up.

There’s no complaints from me. We’ve been saying all season that goals, rather than possession and opportunity, are what win games. Millwall did what they needed to and then more than rode their luck. Equally though, I’m expecting Brentford to come out of the blocks flying tonight. There’s still a hope of the play offs although an eight point gap is going to need reeling in and with games running out, what better time to start than this evening?

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Functional breeze blocks. Millwall on Saturday

I also fancy Neal Maupay to prove a point tonight. I’ve no doubt that with Dean juggling his squad, the enigmatic striker will be back in the starting XI. If nothing else, he’ll have a point to prove to professional loud mouth and moron, Ian Moose. We all know what the imbecilic Talk Sport shock jock said after our sides met at the Cardiff City stadium back in November (and it wasn’t, “Happy Birthday, my good friend….”). I’m backing Neal to make him eat his own words, something that would be quite ironic given it’s normally the half-time catering that Mr. Moose has a morbid fixation with ingesting.

Expect Neal to start whilst Chris Mepham for Andreas is an absolute given. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sergi given a rest, especially knowing Cardiff’s propensity to concede second half goals. Ten of the last eleven they’ve let in have been after the sides have come back out (and I’ll thank the BBC for that one!). Likewise, could this be the time for Josh McEachran to shine? Back from injury, he’ll no doubt be knocking down Dean’s door with a point to prove.

Sky TV are in attendance tonight. I’m not surprised given what is at stake and the results have fallen wonderfully for them. Whilst Manchester United v Sevilla in the Champions League on BT is the obvious draw to the neutral, this one has got it all to play for. It has so many more sub-plots and possibilities at stake than simply whether Jose Mourinho can grind his team through to their own next round.

Even better, why not get yourself down to Griffin Park? Tickets are still available for what promises to be a potentially season defining game. For both teams. Neil Warnock is the current manager of the month and even managed to dodge ‘the jinx’ after receiving his award on Friday. Win the prize; lose your next game.

Then again, the match immediately after that was against Birmingham City. The Blues are displaying such wonderful anti-form at present they couldn’t organise a banjo in a brewery with a barn door. As such, no surprises Cardiff managed to anger the footballing gods and avoid the traditional post-award slip up.

Instead, it’s up to Brentford to right that wrong. Can The Bees do it? I can’t wait for 7.45 when we find out. See you there.

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Fully dseserved for Neil Warnock. But can The Bees correct the jinx?

Nick Bruzon

A game of two ‘best’ teams sees the ultimate in smash and grabs.

11 Mar

Millwall 1 Brentford 0. That’s what the record books will say and we’ll have to respect that. Yet if ever there was to be a lesson in taking your chance then here it was . Millwall had one notable effort on goal, former Bee Gerorge Saville sliding it under Daniel Bentley with less than a minute on the clock, and that was it in terms of noteable opportunities. The ultimate smash and grab. It was a goal that saw Andreas Bjelland pick up an injury in the build up that left him prostrate on the ground as Saville broke clear. It was his last meaningful action as the great Dane was then replaced by wunderkind Chris Mepham.

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The red shorted Bees prepare to start. Less than a minute later…..

It had the feel of being one of those days. The Bees, for reasons unknown, turning out in red shorts (here’s hoping we see them again) looked magnificent but couldn’t quite convert pressure and chances into goals. Yoann Barbet had an almost immediate reply chalked off for off-side after an interminable wait for the linesman to do his thing. With the combination of Stuart Attwell in the middle and Keith Stroud on fourth official duties it was always going to be a big ask getting something from the men in the middle. Bees fans were left frustrated after seeing this seemingly legitimate effort ruled out. A subsequent viewing on the sky highlights has confirmed that, to be fair, it seemed the correct call despite the interminable wait for the linesman to do his thing. Then again, the angle is not directly in line so who knows? Where’s the wonky ruler and VAR when you need it?

The second period saw Sergi Canos hit the post from distance with goalkeeper Archer left rooted to the spot aswell as  blazing over when a pass might have been the better option. John Egan came oh so close after being left totally unmarked in acres of space. His powerful header bounced back off the crossbar with goalkeeper Archer left rooted to the spot. As for Henrik Dalsgaard, pushing high up on the right his reward for a strong performance (in my opinion) was to see a goal bound shot cleared off the line with goalkeeper Archer not so much left rooted to the spot as scrabbling around in the mud.

Millwall – they got away with it. That’s for sure. They were, at best, workmanlike. Goals are what win games and so you can’t deny them their three points. They deserved them on that basis whilst Brentford didn’t quite have the run of the green. At times we looked too flat whilst the build-up play was laboured. When the chances came, that lack of clinical finish cost us dearly. However, any talk of the play-offs on the Lions’ side is something which will only conclude with an unhappy ending.

Millwall manager Neil Harris was in cagey form at full time. Noting that, “The best side won the game 1-0, the best side always wins the game – that’s the result“. Dean Smith, on the other hand, thought that, “The better team got beat today” also adding that “but for the woodwork and the people on the line we would have won“.

So who was the best team? Well, clearly anybody with a pair of eyes in their head would have seen that was Brentford, based on the day’s performance. But, and Harris is right on this one, it’s goals that count. So often Dean has said that we have deserved to win games that we lost or drew, but didn’t quite reach for that line yesterday. Based on what I saw play out in front of me, he’d have been justified to use it on this occasion.

As a side note, what was with the red shorts that the Bees wore.? Certainly, kit clash shouldn’t have been an issue with the Lions turning out in white. If anything, Dan Bentley’s all black against their very dark blue shirts might have presented more of a problem. Although purely on the balance of play, there wasn’t really any chance of a blue shirt being seen near his kit.

Reaction on social media seemed to be mixed, at best. Personally, I think this heavier red bias is a great look and certainly wouldn’t be upset to see this back again. What’s wrong with a bit of change every now and again?

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Man of the match Ryan Woods showing off that ‘red’ in full

Black, red or white – it would have made no difference to the end result. Sadly, it looks like we’ll be heading back to The ‘New’ Den next season. An awful breeze block stadium that is as functional as the football team who fill it. Say what you like about Millwall and Cold Blow Lane but at least that place had some atmosphere. Bloody terrifying most of the time. These days the Lion’s den is nothing more than a toothless shell of their former home. A faded, concrete carbuncle of a lair. If ever there was a lesson needed in how not to build Lionel Road then here it is.

Instead, it looks like we’ll be back to more of that pre-kick off song about jellied eels, glasses of beer and coming down to the Den (Let ‘Em Come by Roy Green, for the record). I was half–expecting Dick van Dyke to start his step in time routine as the players came out for kick-off . Having missed out on this last season I’d forgotten just how cringey this gumph is.

If the club needed any incentive in reaching for the Premier League then it shouldn’t be the lure of switching places with the likes of West Ham or Crystal Palace but simply the chance to avoid that awful, awful song.

Roll on Tuesday night and the visit of Cardiff City to see if there’s any chance of this happening….

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Functional breeze blocks. Millwall & The (new) Den.

Nick Bruzon

“Professional without being scintilating”. And?

7 Mar

It wasn’t the greatest by all accounts – pitch or game – but Brentford have another win under the belt. A 2-0 victory on the road at Burton Albion sees us keeping touch with that play-off pack. The gap to Middlesbrough in sixth place now down to five points with, as importantly, a game in hand. The Smoggies’ own victory, 1-0 at Birmingham City, enough to see them leapfrog Bristol City into that final promotion slot.

There’s not much to be said about the game. Mainly because I wasn’t there. With everybody from Mark Devlin to Billy Reeves (amongst many others) using Social Media to make comment s about the ‘difficult surface’ then you have to consider this a job well done in tricky circumstances. One for the purists. Dean Smith would talk at full time about how we were “Professional without being scintilating” in “a hard-earned win.”, Although also noting that, not unusually, he felt it was “thoroughly deserved.”. Yet with Burton registering zero efforts at goal all night and Brentford going 2-0 up via Ollie Watkins, with our first shot on target, it probably says it all about this one as a spectacle.

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Dean lays it out

Hey. Who cares. As we’ve said so many times, the stats count for nothing relative to balls in the back of the net. If it took a Kyle McFadzean o.g. to give us a second-half lead then c’est la vie. They all count and that’s football. Just enjoy that slice of luck when it comes along.

We spoke yesterday about the 4 game mini-run coming up in a 12 day period. This may not have been a classic to match last season’s 5-3 but it was that all important three points. It was a seemingly injury free outcome with a solitary yellow card awarded to The Bees – Neal Maupay being the recipient of that one and pulled off shortly afterwards.

One down and three to go. Next up Millwall at The Den on Saturday. They also won last night and sit just a single point behind us. It promises to be as pivotal a game as any, with the Lions no doubt having similar play-off aspirations to ourselves. If you haven’t got a ticket yet then beg, borrow or buy one. This could be huge. It really is a cliché but now is the moment to take one game at a time. Focus on the present and don’t worry about what is going on around us. Destiny is still in our own hands. Moreso with the visits of Cardiff City and Middlesbrough on the agenda for next week.

At the other end of the table there was no change. Of course, it would be easy to take a cheap shot at Birmingham City. The Garry Monk era starting where the Steve Cotterill one ended – with a defeat. The Blues’ current form reading: Played: 6 Lost: 6 Goals For: 1 Goals against: 13. You can’t buy that sort of anti-form. But at least they’re consistent. The one down side to all this being it handed Middlesbrough the keys to the play-off zone. For now.

But we’re bigger than that. Let’s just concentrate on Brentford and, of course, the weekend’s trip to Millwall. With just 11 left to play, we’re in a wonderful position. The next few games are going to be huge. Well, they all are but let’s crack out the clichés once more and take every game as it comes.

Bring it on and see you there.

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The Den – our next destination

Nick Bruzon

Will the Burton (wagon) wheels finally come off as Brentford visit? Can Monk save Birmingham?

6 Mar

This is getting exciting. Brentford travel to Burton Albion tonight for a game where victory could propel us back to the fringes of the play-off race. With 9th placed Preston entertaining Bristol City in 6th , Fulham hosting Sheffield United and Middlesbrough (7th) travelling to Birmingham City, something has to give from the teams above us. Even if it would take that most unlikely of events, a victory for the Blues, to help our cause. To be fair, on current form even a goal for Birmingham would be a major achievement. But with Garry Monk officially at the helm (more on that later) who knows what might happen?

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Monk surveys his new domain. The goalmouth, devoid of action (plus ca change)

Still, this is all pointless conjecture if we can’t fulfil out part of that bargain. The gap between Brentford and Bristol City is 7(seven) points although we do have tonight’s game in hand. But with the Cardiff City game having been rearranged for next Tuesday and the Sky cameras, the trip to Burton marks a run of four matches in 12 days . Twelve days that by the end will determine if the play-offs are nothing more than a pipe dream or, alternatively, whether the famous words of Rasmus Ankersen might come true.

Back in September 2015 he told the Brentford fans’ forum : “ It is not an option to not be in the Premier League. It has to happen in the next three years…. At the moment there is no Plan B. we’ll be in the Premier League in three years.”

Well, that opportunity comes to an end at the denouement of the current campaign and they are words I’ve never forgotten. They are words that often get quoted on these pages but still remain fresh in the mind (and not just because they’ll be in the Millwall programme on Saturday – although through legitimate reasons rather than any ‘Brian Guest’ style interloping). Quite simply – it was as bold a claim as we’ve ever heard.

Being quite honest, there have been times over the last few campaigns when there’s been more chance of laughing at an episode of Mrs. Brown’s Boys or Len Goodman’s Partners In Ryme than Brentford reaching the Premier League.

That same fans forum featured Marinus Dijkhuizen sitting alongside our top brass (move along, nothing to see here) whilst Dean Smith has seen his own tenure have a couple of wobbles along the way. March 2016 (and the admission we were in a relegation battle) and the start of this campaign (four points from the first eight games) being just a few of those moments when it has been much easier to fear the worst than to show some blind faith.

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Mrs Brown. Never. Forget.

That’s football. So often the glass half empty. Even when it is Dom Perignon being quaffed compared to the lukewarm Fosters we’ve been more accustomed to drinking over the years (Terry Butcher, anyone?). Yet this run of games (Burton and Millwall away, followed by Middlesbrough and Cardiff City at Griffin Park) could see our co-director starting to earn himself a place in Brentford folklore if his prediction comes true. Nostra-rasmus?

There are more Bees going to Burton tonight than went to Leeds United recently. That’s great. They’ll be sure to make some noise in the compact confines of the Pirelli stadium. The mini run starts here and with a good run of results going our way over the next 12 days, along with a few favours tonight, who knows what might happen when we emerge on the other side? One things for sure, I can’t wait to find out.

Elsewhere, Birmingham City have appointed Garry Monk ahead of their game with Middlesbrough tonight. Twitter was awash with photographs yesterday, as Monk was officially ‘unveiled’ (if only they’d had the balls to remove a drape, museum style) to the watching media. Yet there he was, along with Pep Clotet, pulling out all his best poses. Man at C&A, wistful stare into the middle distance, cheesy smile and the obligatory shirt picture all put in an appearance as @BCFC came awfully close to jumping the Twitter shark.

Their proclamation that : It’s just another manic Monkday... was only a hashtag away from joining the Twitter hall of infamy that will be forever topped by our own #trophyfriends (or #bignewambitions, or…).

Just one of the many posts as @BCFC went into Monk overload. Steve who now?

Can he turn things around? Will he arrest a slide towards League One which, given the club’s reported wage bill alone, would be disastrous for a club of this historical stature? It’s not going to be an easy start with promotion chasing Middlesbrough the vistors and with 11 games left, time really is running out.

If our own mini run over the next twelve days is huge then theirs, with a trip to Cardiff City and a relegation six pointer with Hull, could be of equal importance. Get that wrong and the chance of league games against Accrington Stanley and Mansfield next season will be one step closer to reality.

Still, that’s their problem. For Brentford, it’s all about Burton Albion and a game agasint a team who will be fighting for their very Championship survival. This might not be pretty, even if memories of that incredible 5-3 win on the road are still more than vivid. Personally, I’d settle for a gritty 1-0, a clean bill of health and no bookings. If only football was that easy to predict.

Then again, if Rasmus can do it…

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What an afternoon that was…

Nick Bruzon

Snow day for Brentford still sees carnage at Birmingham City. Again.

4 Mar

So Brentford need to ‘go again’ with Cardiff City. The wintry conditions in the preceding few days putting paid to any chance of the game going ahead. And whilst hindsight may be a wonderful thing as things thawed rapidly on Saturday, making the call early was the correct decision. Moreso given the icy blast that was still blowing through TW8 at the weekend. Yet, with two away trips to come this week (Burton Albion on Tuesday and Millwall, Saturday) perhaps a day off was a blessing in disguise. Even without our game there was still plenty to keep us entertained in the Championship – starting and ending with Birmingham City who went down at Nottingham Forest.

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Griffin Park was among the places caught in the snowy conditions this week.

Positives for the Blues were that they scored their first goal in five games. Unfortunately, their opponents managed it twice, consigning the division’s lowest scorers to another defeat. Five in a row. Anti-manager of the month form for Steve Cotterill who despite embarking on a post-match Kevin Keegan style ‘I’d love it’ rant on BBC Radio, was consequently sacked. It is a decision which leaves Birmingham City looking for their fourth manager of the season and the club firmly locked in the bottom three. With a visit from Middlesbrough next up, it certainly won’t get any easier for whomever comes in next.

Garry Monk is hot favourite. His name being added to the mix over the last few days was something which proved the catalyst for Cotterill’s frustration. “If that’s been going on behind my back, it’s best for them to get on with it”, he told BBC WM 95.6FM. Gordon Strachan and Mark Warburton are names that have also been bandied about.

The latter’s selection, if it somehow happened, would certainly make things interesting for ‘BeeTheDJ’ (or at least, at full time)  – assuming our club paths crossed next season. The respective directions that Birmingham and Brentford are currently heading, could conceivably see a two division gap between us for 2018/19.

It finished 5-0. It finished loud…

Then again, the knee jerk actions of a board whose hiring and firing policy could be written on the back of a fag packet mean nobody is safe for any amount of time. Even if the Bees and the Blues are both in the Championship next time around, there’s no guarantee that whomever inherits the manager’s office will still be there when we play each other once more.

Since the incredible decision to jettison Gary Rowett with the team on the fringe of the play-off race back in December 2016, they’ve been through more incompetent henchmen than a Bond Villain. Think Max Zorin in his zeppelin, finger poised over the ‘eject’ button.  There was the disastrous Gianfranco Zola period, Harry Redknapp (but only after he’d splurged the the transfer budget and wage bill – mostly towards us), three games for Lee Carsley and then Cotterill’s ill-fated period at the helm. Talk about self-inflicted suicide.

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Max Zorin – any excuse

Our own model – in terms of management and spending – proving to be the infinitely stronger tactic. A fourth, successive Championship top ten finish, with the possibility of a second play-off challenge, is more than on the cards. Contrast this to a team who despite their huge reputation and even bigger spending, have finished below us every year since our paths re-crossed at this level

Brentford fans had been quick to request the likes of ‘Price Tag’, Money’ and ‘I need a dollar’ as pre-kick off song selection for our recent game with The Blues. What had happened over the summer still so very fresh in our minds. As such, there was no irony lost yesterday in Joe Lolley and Matty Cash getting the Nottingham Forest goals that would ultimately prove the final nail in the Birmingham coffin. Certainly, this this latest incarnation.

Can they pull themselves out of this downward spiral? Barnsley above them have a game in hand, are already two points better off and have infinitely better goal difference. Likewise, Hull City (who entertain Millwall on Tuesday) are starting to see a bit of clear air. Burton, one point below them, also have a game in hand but are the bookies favourites, along with seemingly doomed Sunderland and the Blues.

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The current relegation prices. For research purposes.

Still, that’s their problem. The only downside out of all this for the Bees being our own trip to Burton on Tuesday. Whilst the table suggests this will be a formality, a team with their backs to the wall and staring into the abyss always have that potential to come out all guns blazing. They really are entering ‘do or die’ territory now as games start to run out. Whether the target is one of still harbouring play-off aspirations or consolidating another top ten finish, then these are the sort of games that need to be won.

To even be talking like this is, I still think, incredible. And as much in the show of faith invested by the club in our players and staff. We all know the horror start that the Bees had. Four points and in the bottom three after eight games. A wealth of experience and talent sold. Yet we’ve put out heads down, not panicked and built on the base of shrewd acquisition, experience and belief in our own process. The evidence has been tangible.

I’m gutted that yesterday’s game was cancelled. I’d love to have seen how we went against Cardiff City. Yet, perhaps it has also given us a chance to take stock. Both on and off the pitch. To look at what is happening around us. With the first shovel due to be planted at Lionel Road on March 19th, it’s fair to say things are looking positive!

Moreso, compared to some of our divisional rivals.

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Until next time, Cardiff….

Nick Bruzon