Tag Archives: 3-2

Stock up on the popcorn. Wiggle into that butt-groove.

18 May

This Thursday is one of those special dates in our house. Very much a case of family time and one spent together, the fixture list has now thrown a potato skin into the works. With Brentford hosting Leeds United on Sunday, the requirements in that game will be dictated by what plays out tomorrow night. Everton look to secure their safety against Palace, 9th placed Leicester City (still in our sights) visit Chelsea and of course there’s the big one. Aston Villa v Burnley. One or more points for the Clarets will see them up to 17th and Leeds pushed back into the relegation zone with just one game to play. That game. Persuading Mrs. B. that the evening is best spent together on the sofa watching Burnley is going to be a big ask. 

I guess there’s the Fantasy Football card. At the last look I’m fairly certain she had Ollie Watkins in her team. Could the former Brentford man come back to haunt us and scupper the dream? Victory for Villa will see them overtake the Bees in our pursuit of the top ten although, for what its worth, Burnley were desperately unlucky on Sunday. The penalty awarded against them in the 1-0 defeat at Tottenham as ambiguous as they come. Their own fightback not quite enough. Then, Leeds United taking until the 92nd minute to finally level the scores delivered an even bigger kick to the unmentionables.

That was then, this is now. It’s been. It’s gone. It’s over. The table is what it is and Burnley are the ones who still have the upper hand. Burnley the ones with the ability to turn the screw and heap the pressure on Leeds. And Everton for that matter, given they’re still not safe after Brentford put in that fine, fine performance at the weekend.

An amazing game at Everton

So we’ve got big questions to ask going forward. Namely, “Do you fancy watching Villa-Burnley this evening?”   One would hope that the potential state it could leave the table in as we head towards Sunday’s season finale will be a sufficient draw to tempt even the most neutral of observers. The prospect of what may be on offer. What could occur. Which team may have the final stay in who goes and who stays simply too big to comprehend. Too tantalising a lure not to have an interest in what happens tomorrow night. A season which has gone all the way at the top (where Liverpool could still, theoretically, win the title), in the middle (with Brentford aiming for 9th) and in the relegation battle will finally deliver some answers. 

It has been amongst the most exciting on record and having the Bees playing our part has been the cherry on the icing on the cake. We’ll look back at some of our own highlights in Sunday’s programme column – whittling them down to a final ten was about as tough as it gets. Especially given number ten might even play out in front of our eyes there and then. Albeit we need Burnley to play their part. For what it’s worth Clive, I think they will. Thursday is going to be huge and I can’t wait to see how it leaves things. Hey – we may even get to watch it.

Prior to then, tonight sees the Brentford Player Of The Year awards. The ‘live show’ starting at 7pm and includes the supporter votes for both player of the year and goal of the season. For the record, mine went to David Raya and Yoanne Wissa (at West Ham) respectively. The former has been the key difference to us this season. Brentford with him and Brentford without him as discernible as night and day. 

What a moment at West Ham as Wissa leaves it late

Christian Norgaard and Rico Henry seem to be the favourites, going by what I read on social media, but whomever wins it will be thoroughly deserving. Rico, incidentally, going top of our season long game-by-game review following his own starman performance at Everton on Sunday. Christian, now uncatchable in having the most top five appearances. You can find that here.

Stock up on the popcorn.

Wiggle into that butt-groove.

There could be a lot of time spent on the sofa over the next few nights. Maybe in our house, too…..

Christian is well in the running for POTY

Nick Bruzon

The dream is on.

16 May

What a Sunday. Brentford were magnificent, simply magnificent, in a 3-2 defeat of 9 man Everton. Burnley robbed by the most dubious of penalties at Spurs. Leeds United leaving it to 90+2 to salvage a draw that keeps them one point above The Clarets, albeit with a game more played. Next weekend is going to be huge. The Bees still with a very realistic chance of a top ten finish. As interestingly, that final relegation spot is going to go to the wire. The dream really is on. Should Burnley pick up a point in either of their final two games, then Brentford will have the final say in who goes down. Could it be Leeds? Could it….?

What an afternoon

Let’s start at Goodison Park though. We’ve likely all caught up with it by now. Either live at the ground, on Sky as events unfolded or perhaps later on MOTD2. The tale of the tape being goals for Wissa, Rico and an o.g. to give Brentford the points. 

Everton ending the game with 9 men after straight reds for both Jarrad Branthwaite and Salomon Rondon. The master outsmarting the apprentice on the other bench as Thomas Frank played his substitution cards with all the insight of a man reading the game as a scholar would the Encyclopædia Britannica. Lampard, meanwhile, was stuck on Page 2 of Topsy and Tim Play Football with no clue which way to turn. 

Even the undoubted king of shithousery Richarlison, a man who makes Neal Maupay look like Mother Theresa, unable to salvage the game for the Toffees.

Required reading

The post-match debrief is up here with all the info on who did what. For now, we need to reflect on the bigger picture. On the fact that Brentford are not only closing in on the top ten but we played a ferocious atmosphere and shut it down. We survived the desperation of a 3.30am firework laden wake up call to deliver a few rockets of our own. Our supporters immense. Our players, equally so. Thomas shuffling his pack before the decision was taken out of his hands on an afternoon when you were never quite sure what colour card would come next.

Most of all though, it means that Sunday is going to be massive. Regardless of the midweek results when Burnley and Everton play their games in hand, that final relegation spot will be open. Leeds United still have matters outside their own control – my word, Thursday night at Villa Park is going to be some game  – and Brentford are the ones now in position to potentially send them back to the Championship.

Of course, we’ll be playing for league position. A win absolutely vital for Brentford if the dream of top ten in the Premier League is to become a reality. Anything else that may transpire off the back of that, nothing more than a consequence of our actions and our ambition. Not to mention our opponents’s season long bad form with only five clean sheets and their breaking the all time Premier League record for yellow cards in a campaign.

That said, the one thing you can bank on is that Bees’ fans would, universally, love that scenario to play out. Any Everton supporters worried about being overtaken should they somehow fail to pick up another point can rest assured that the Bees will be going for it.

Which sticks in the craw somewhat given the racial abuse dished out on social media and to the families of both Rico Henry and Ivan Toney by some of the home fans. It has all been reported to the Police but the fact this is still happening is utterly sickening. Utterly baffling. Let’s see what the club do in relation to this. It’s 2022 for crying out loud. Not the 70s. 

For that alone I’d love not doing them any sort of favour but, sadly, needs must and the bigger picture potential of the Bees recording our own victory is just too huge to contemplate.  With 7(seven) wins from the last 10 games and the only real negative being the off-key evening at Old Trafford, Brentford are on fire. Oh to make it an eighth on Sunday.

Rest assured, if Leeds United think that Brentford are going to be on their summer holidays nothing could be further from the truth.  I tell you this now. I’d love it if we can get the win. Absolutely love it. Leeds United went down in my estimation when they published that video, despite subsequently removing it. I’ve got a feeling that despite his diplomatic persona, Thomas Frank is thinking much the same.

Mind the gap…

Nick Bruzon

Can we pick up the baton and run after last time?

2 Jan

Here we go again. The first fixture of 2022 is upon us with Brentford hosting Aston Villa at Lionel Road on (checks calendar) Sunday afternoon. 2pm is the kick off time for a game going out live on Sky Sports Premier League. For the Bees, yesterday’s positive news (predominantly around Kris Ajer and Vitaly Janelt) was given a further boost by the man very much one of our top( top) performers this season, Christian Nørgaard. There was wonderful news out of ‘official’ surrounding his new deal but the ultimate question to be asked is whether we can harness the positivity from last week’s narrow defeat to Manchester City to get back to winning ways? 

Fantastic news, yesterday

The pundits would seem to be looking towards Aston Villa as the winners of this one. As are the bookies, who have Brentford priced at 2/1 to win. Fair enough. The form under new manager Steven Gerrard being seen as key. Likewise, the covid related break they’ve had. However, with captain Tyrone Mings absent as a result of a fifth yellow card could we have an added glimmer of hope? Might Ollie Watkins have an off day? What of, with apologies for going all FLW / Chronicle, much touted ‘starlet’ Jacob Ramsey? Indeed, at what point does the cut off between starlet and fully fledged stellar  / ‘out of this world’ performer occur? 

Frankly, who cares. This is all about us. This is all about how Brentford pick up the baton from our performance against Manchester City and run with it. I can only imagine we’ll have Christian Nørgaard back in the team, despite the heroics of those selected last time out. It’ll be harsh but why leave your best players on the bench if they are available? 

If nothing else, the announcement made yesterday regarding his contract extension will only serve to put an additional spring in the step of both the midfielder and the fans. It was confirmed yesterday that he has extended his time at Lionel Road until the end of the 2024/25 season, with the three and a half year deal having the option for a further year’s extension. Only somebody who had been living under a/the rock would fail to appreciate the significance of this. It’s just huge for Brentford.

Thomas Frank was effusive in his praise, telling ‘official’ that, “Christian shows great leadership qualities in training every day and he helps build our culture. That is very important to us. He has an unbelievably important role in this team, and it is great that he will be part of our future.

For me, Clive, it is magnificent news. Christian is going neck and neck with Ivan and Rico in the race to find our top performer over the season (you can read the latest instalment of that one – the post Manchester City piece – here). Anything that ties him to our future and our club can only be a good thing. Happy days indeed.

As for the game, well victory would see us overtake Aston Villa and up as far as  11th placed Crystal Palace. With the groundswell of Covid related cancellations still causing mayhem, getting a proper read on the table is till a bit tricky. Palace have played two more than us, table toppers Manchester City three more whilst Burnley in 18th have gone two less. All we can do is focus on the task in hand and remember that s Eason is 46 38 games long. The only position that matters is the one occupied after that final fixture has played out. Albeit, let’s not pretend that topping the Premier League after beating Arsenal wasn’t the most amazing / hilarious thing going. Sergi Canos and, of course, Christian helping make that possible.

For what its worth, I’m going for a Brentford win today. With goals in it. 3-2 for the record. Confidence in our boys combined with the attempt at jinxing Ollie through the medium of Fantasy Football (see yesterday) will hopefully suffice. Not to mention the small matter of Thomas’ tactics and a strange omen (which I’ll elaborate on tomorrow should it somehow come off). A wonderful opportunity awaits this afternoon and I cannot wait to see how it plays out. Even just the slightly novel concept of getting back in to regular football is a nice one. Long may that continue.

On a side note, don’t forget to pick up the matchday programme. I would’t normally plug this (as much due to my own four pages of nonsense – albeit hoping the Villa kit pics have come out well). However, the prospect of Greville Waterman effusing over Ollie Watkins and a catch up with Kevin O’Connor are never to be missed. Hey, if nothing else there’s that wonderful cover art from the amazing Dave Flanagan. Somebody I am led to believe is a goat. Whatever that means. Keep those cultural references coming.

That’s it. See you there. Here’s to 2pm……

Nick Bruzon

What a performance. None moreso than from this man!

4 Feb

Second in the Championship. Unbeaten in 19 league games. Perhaps, most important, an opportunity taken when it was presented. Brentford beat Bristol City 3-2 last night to move within four points of Norwich City at the top of the table. Still with a game in hand. It was a game that, aside from a few minutes at the start and the end, always looked in complete control. The early and late goals for the visitors causing a few anxious moments but ultimately the strikes from Sergi Canos, Ivan Toney and Samman Ghoddos proved sufficient. Now we can look forward to Friday night and seeing which favour is done when Swansea City host Norwich. All that, prior to our our game at Middlesbrough on Saturday. 

No words needed

Let’s not underestimate the scale and importance of this victory. With everything going our way in the build up (Norwich held, Watford and Bournemouth losing, our own domination of the physical Swans) there was always that nagging doubt that it might go a bit Pete Wrong. Perhaps scarred by the memories of Stoke and Barnsley at the denouement of the previous campaign where West Brom’s falling apart was only matched by our own LL after looking untouchable for the entirety of the post lockdown run-in. It was a feeling only perpetuated after the Robins took an early lead, Zak Vyner guiding home a free kick at the back post. A free kick that probably shouldn’t even have been awarded but, alas, it was. It was punished with clinical precision and Bristol City were away. 

Except, they weren’t. Boom, Brentford came flying out the traps from the restart and turned up the pressure. Sergi and Tariqe pulling the strings down the flanks. Ivan Toney getting involved everywhere. Josh Dasilva missing but replaced by unsung hero Vitaly Janelt. Ethan close. Sergi closer. Noooo. Almost. “It feels like its going to be one of those,” I said to Mrs. B. with almost half an hour gone. Oh me of little faith. Superb work down the right from Ivan saw the ball played into the box. Fosu took first bite at the cherry before who else but Sergi was there to add another goal to his haul. Daniel Bentley’s parry out falling perfectly for the Spaniard who made no mistake. One each, Brentford dominant and pushing on.

Half time came with the scores level but if it felt like welcome relief for the visitors, the moment was short lived. As with Wycombe on Saturday, Brentford came back out at 100mph. Bristol City nowhere close to being prepared for what came next. Tariqe Fosu’s cross from the right was about as perfect as they come. A tracer bullet of a delivery that tore through the heart of the Robins to be met withI the brilliance of Ivan Toney. The timing and execution as he steered it home about as beautiful as one could hope to see. His twentieth goal of the season as wonderful as any that have come before and one which owed a huge debt of gratitude to Tarique. Lovely stuff.

The Bees pushed on, dominating possession. City shell shocked and although trying to get back in to it, offering as much resistance as a chocolate lime left in the blazing sunshine. There was no way through and instead it was Brentford who controlled the pace. It felt like the next one was inevitable and sure enough, as the Spice Girls almost once sang, tonight is the night that two become three. This time it was Samman who got on the scoresheet. Again, Fosu was the architect with his run and ball being picked up by Ghoddos. His first effort saw Bentley beaten all ends up but came back off the bar. Alfie Mawson’s clearance wasn’t but Ghoddos still had to stretch before connecting with the other foot to blast it straight back past the ‘keeper and into the back of the net for 3-1 with not much more than an hour played. Game over, surely? 

Well, yes. The game was contained and the final quarter-hour saw a flurry of substitutions. Understandable given this was the first of 8 league games over just 24 days in February. The trip to Middlesbrough at the weekend no doubt playing on Thomas Frank’s mind. Freshness will be key and a two goal lead was enough to preserve. Errrr. Well, yes it was at the end although let’s not pretend there wasn’t a bit of squeaky bum time with the plethora of defensive changes leaving us feeling a tad lopsided. Certainly, to the usual observer. Ultimately though the record books and table don’t lie. They show Brentford second and with a 3-2 win. They don’t show how the late consolation from Nahki Wells was offside. At least, by the rudimentary calculations offered up by the GPG. Who needs computer graphics when things appear this blatant?

We won. We’re happy. Very happy. It was a game that, as Thomas was quick to remind viewers, was played without four players who would likely be considered part of his starting XI : Pontus, Josh, Christian and Bryan. He was also quick to praise the roles played by those who have stepped in and stepped up. The way Tariqe has grown from being in Benrahma’s shadow. The way Sergi has flourished – wonderful to hear although anybody following the games could see that. Yet let’s not forget, either, that at least two of those four have missed most of this season. The ‘stand ins’ have already well stood up and taken their chance. Vitaly Janelt has been immense. Bryan Mbeumo must be wondering how and when he gets back in. I’d love the options provided by a fit Pontus but even he was there roaring the team on from the sidelines. Besides, you can’t have everything and to be where we are  at this juncture, with this squad, is quite fantastic.

Whilst an all round team performance, Fosu deserves special singling out. Sergi and Ivan were immense and could rightly consider themselves hard done by in not scooping the MOTM award. Yet to have given it to anyone beyond Tariqe would have been criminal. He’s been growing into the team and offering up more and more of his brilliance. Cripes, last night (and also Saturday v Wycombe) see him as undroppable. He was incredible. Thomas Frank mutt be smiling to himself at the perfect timing of this talent explosion.

Tarique swept the board when the votes were counted

February is going to be huge. It is going to be exhausting. Yet get through it with any sort of form and the finish will be in sight. There’ll be just 12 games left to play and the position at the top will, one hopes, be clearer. That’s not to get too far ahead of ourselves though. That’s not to enjoy the moment of another fine win. Like all of us I’d have loved to be there. Alas, it wasn’t to be but at least we had the pleasure of seeing another win. Of seeing Ivan go three clear at the top of the Championship goal scorers charts. Of seeing Tarique play a quite wonderful game of football. My word he was immense. 

There’s plenty of fun, stress, excitement and expectation to come. For now, let’s catch our breath and say ‘Well done’ after another stonking win. Bristol City may have been generous in their own pre-match donations to a local food bank (well played, well played) but once things kicked off there was no gifts being offered. The Bees had to scrap for everything but what a way to do it. Class on a plate. Here’s to the hope of more being served up at Middlesbrough on Saturday.

Nick Bruzon   

Some humble pie for our Christmas puddings. What a way to show them three fingers.

27 Dec

It’s one thing doing it in front if your fans at Brentford against Blackburn Rovers (yes, we did have supporters allowed in for that brief moment!) but can you do it in Cardiff on a wet and windy Boxing Day afternoon with no support? The answer was an emphatic YES. Not once, not twice but three times as Sergi Canos fired home a sensational second-half hat-trick to secure the points for the Bees. Each goal was class. Each goal knocking a further nail in the coffin of the social media haters who’ve spent the last few months talking sh8t about, and to, a player who had been feeling his way back from that horrific injury picked up at Forest last season. With Bournemouth next up (one of the few teams still above us) the excitement can only continue.

Sticking three fingers up to the critics? Official shared this one at full-time

Brentford are now 15 unbeaten in all competitions. One point off second placed Swansea City. A squad carefully negotiating their way through December’s fixture pile up that has also seen us reach the semi-finals of the league cup. We’re five points better off than this time last season (a game also marked by a defeat of Cardiff City) and have the Championship’s leading goal scorer. It all makes somewhat of a mockery of the Frank Out nonsense  – something which, like the Sergi bile – had been emanating from the same sources and had gone equally quiet yesterday. Even if the picking of Marcondes and non-selection of Tarique Fosu and Josh Dasilva caused certain supporters’ little brains to fuse. My word, its almost as if having to play two games a week for 7 (seven) weeks might cause individuals to need a rest.

It could have been different, of course. A first half which was as brutal as the weather ended in a storm of angst. With no shots having been recorded on target, Will Vaulks changed that from inside his own half. A hoof up pitch – caught perfectly, to be fair – turned from speculation to part Nayim, part Paul Evans with a dash of David Beckham thrown in for good measure. David Raya could only back pedal but, alas, not furiously enough (is there any other way to back pedal?)  as the ball sailed over his head and into the back of the net. Urghhh. Groan. Your exclamation of despair may vary.

He caught it well

As the players trooped off and supporters hit the fridge for refreshment, the feeling of a dire second-half to come was overwhelming. We’re talking about a Neil Harris team. A side sure to set out their stall and carry on grinding it out as they had in the first. What we got , instead, was the Canos show.

His first came just minutes in and was about as incredible as they come. If Vaulks was all about the length, Sergi’s proved that technique and placement is just as important when summoning up the spectacular. With his initial shot bouncing back into play he caught it once more as the ball fell out of the sky , almost on top of him. Yet, somehow, the Spaniard was able to angle his body to catch it first time and return straight back from where it came with interest. A rising, then dipping volley that cleared the defence and the goalkeeper to level the scores. This sweetest of strikes, from outside the box, with a trajectory to send Vaulk’s earlier effort into the back of next week.

eye on the ball.. eye on the ball.. eye on the b… BOOM

It got better, though. Little over an hour gone and we were ahead. The Spaniard picking up the ball ion the left and waltzing through the Cardiff backline. Beating defenders with abandon and waiting to pick his moment before firing low into the bottom corner. 2-1 Brentford. Different technique, same class. Something Thomas Frank would describe at full time as, “Another wonder goal, while the third one was maybe a cross but don’t tell anyone”.

Yes, the third. Well it looked pretty good to me. If that was meant as a cross then all well and good. Perhaps. But it ended up in the back of the net and they all count. Due reward for a player who had been on fire. Not just these three but several other efforts that could easily have seen Sergi surpassing ‘that’ Mike Grella performance against BournemouthInstead, he’ll need to be content with the ‘praise’ from those who had previously been slating him. Destroying him. Abusing him. What a response to those pudding brained fools. Again!

For Canos, a half-hour hat-trick earned in the toughest of conditions. Not just the weather but the brutal approach of Cardiff who resorted to predicted type. Vitaly Janelt in particular being targeted for cynical assault. IF you can’t win fair, win foul being the mantra. Yet not even that worked, despite a late consolation goal via a wicked deflection that left things close for the final fifteen. Yet there was to be no collapse. No throwing away of points. A steely defence, bolstered by the return of Pontus Jansson, doing their thing in style to close out the game. The clock further run down with late, late substitutions . Marcus Forss and Josh stretching their legs. Both sure to be used for longer when Bournemouth visit on Wednesday.

All that’s to come. For today, Sunday morning, one can only admire the drive and determination from not just serge but the entire team. This was a hard fought win, no question.  You could see from the smiles at full time and the celebrations in the dressing room just what this one meant. My word, its almost like Thomas actually knows what he’s doing. Like having a strong squad to pick from and showing faith in his players is a sound tactic. Who’d have thought it? Thank goodness he, not social media, are the ones picking the team and the tactics. Fifteen unbeaten a spectacular run that will see one of its toughest tests on Wednesday. A real six-pointer in the ongoing pursuit of a place at the top of the table. Brentford are flying and I can’t wait for this one.

Until then, though, perhaps let’s just watch those goals once more…….

Nick Bruzon

Time for a bit of Frank talking with each other.

25 Oct

How are we all doing in Brentford this morning? Presumably still smarting over yesterday’s defeat at Stoke City or looking onwards and upwards? To the visit of Norwich City and then a trip to Luton Town. For what it’s worth (not much, apparently), I’m past it already. All the pontification about the formation won’t change anything. It’s how we react to it collectively that matters now. This was one game and there was enough there in the second half to suggest that, actually, change can be a good thing. I’ve also now seen the interview with Thomas Frank – at least, the 2 minutes 53 seconds put out by the club. That’s below… 

Say what you want about Thomas’s answers but he can only react to the softball questions casually tossed to him. These are the times when the fans are desperate to hear his thoughts on what went wrong but it felt as vanilla a Q&A as could be delivered. Of course,’official’ aren’t going to spill the tactical beans, overly show our hand or hang the coach out to dry but a bit of pressure would have been nice.

Oh, for BBC Billy Reeves and some of his characteristic gentle probing. The killer question delivered with all the charm of Leslie Phillips apologetically wielding a sledgehammer.  

Billy Reeves (kind of) – a portrait of charm and that sledgehammer blow

For me, Clive, the key point to take from this one was in regards to our formation. Was it tactical? Done due to personnel reasons? Or a bit of both?  Thomas’ answer confirming the combination approach but giving some reasoning and future notice that things are likely to be similar when Norwich City are in town. 

We are struggling a little bit with injuries, especially in the middle of the park with midfielders. For the second game in a row we only had three midfielders available from the squad and we know its most likely to be the same on Tuesday.” Going on to add that, “It’s a long season. We’re playing a lot of games. We are fit, we are strong but its also about keeping that freshness.”

Read in to that what you will. More of the same to follow, presumably, but which same? Five at the back or Ivan and Marcus back together again? The difference between the two formations was obvious to all. Going for broke and opting for the later one which puts all our attacking eggs in one basket from the off but I’m sure something which would shut the moaners up. And I don’t mean about yesterday’s performance – which was rancid – but in general.

That, and dropping Sergi who seems to have become the social media target of choice. He didn’t have a good one yesterday but you could say that about the vast majority. Henrik had a stinker. All three centre backs were stretched and caught out of line time and again. There was no service at all to Ivan. Yet the enthusiastic Spaniard is one kopping it from all angles and seemingly the reason we don’t have a record of WWWWWWW. Hmmm. 

Nobody came out of the opening hour with any credit. But if we learn form it then perhaps no bad thing in the longer scheme. Stoke City absolutely deserved their win, regardless of our own shortcomings. The season is a long one and there are going to be more decisions made which we don’t agree with. Decisions made based on fitness, tactics and a myriad of injury related factors we’re just not privy to. Sometimes it will work. At others, like yesterday, it won’t.

As Thomas himself acknowledged, “In the end it wasn’t good enough ……It was not spot on in the first half for various reasons but to be fair we could have played 3-4-3, 4-3-3, 4-4-2, 7-9-13 and I don’t think that would have helped first half.

The one obvious positive has to be the role played by Marcus Forss. He can hit a ball but he can also read the game. Ice running through his veins, judging by the finish for his second. What composure. What calmness. It gave brief hope we could still pull something out of the fire and whilst it wasn’t to be, talk about impressive. Another one storming up the blindside to emerge into the light, a fully fledged Championship and international player. 

One from the official Twitter feed – the real shining light on an otherwise dark day

For all that Thomas has injury problems to contend with, what a nice challenge at the other end of the spectrum with both Marcus and Ivan banging them in for fun. Get the supply lines and formation right ongoing and the Stoke game could well be seen as a turning point in our fortunes, much like Stevenage away all those years ago.

Not that we’re in any form of crisis, btw. One shit hour doesn’t define a season. The key point to come is what we learn from it. In how we react over the next few games. I’m not joining those getting on Thomas’ back. Quite the opposite.  Of course people have opinions and every right to express them. Context is always nice. And justification , of course. 

For me, he knows this squad. He has a wonderful way of motivating players. Look at how last season went as we hit that wonderful run after the clocks went back. The players, head coach and fans in unison.

We’ve lost that, now. There is no physical support. No closeness. The bond broken thanks to Corona. Of course, every team has the same to contend with yet for for us at Brentford it was always a huge factor. That tight stadium and proximity of fans to the action was massive. Those post-match walkabouts seeing the symbiotic relationship between those on pitch and those in the stands growing ever closer. Geeing each other up to the point where we hadn’t even left Griffin Park and already couldn’t wait for the next game.

It is a massive advantage that has been removed from our armoury and with game following game following game, needs to be considered by those wondering why we’re not winning everything 5-0. Support and motivation from the stands are a massive thing for players. Everybody acknowledges that football without fans isn’t the same. Injuries bite and necessitate change. Tired legs are already obvious to see.

Thomas and the crowd have always fed off each other’s energy

It’s how we react to these factors that is going to be so crucial to our fortunes over the next month or so. Look at he bigger picture and we’re well, well set. This is a marathon, not a sprint. We have a fantastic squad and a passionate head Coach who, for the record, better not be going anywhere. That’s my opinion and you may feel it is wrong. Fair enough but as one fan to another, explain why. Explain what you would do. How you would cope with a relentless series of games that would test the fittest of players. How you would motivate players rattling around empty stadia.

Those, for me, are the challenges faced by not just Brentford but every club in this division. This Championship campaign is going to be one of the most open on record. Careful management of the squad will be key to success. This is what we are trying.

Life’s too short and too hard at present to lose it on negativity. That’s not me wearing a club hat (they don’t employ me and I have no obligation to kiss anybody’s butt). It’s me fed up with the constant moaning about a team who have a progressive set up, a passionate head coach and are only four points off second place.

That said, please let’s never play three centre backs again.

Nick Bruzon  

Mrs. Brown, Nick Knowles, Mick Hucknall – irrelevant. Bigger things are afoot.

29 Dec

Brentford go to Millwall today. Nothing else matters. Nothing else is relevant. Not even Leeds United at Birmingham City or West Bromwich Albion hosting Middlesbrough. It would be nice if one of those slipped up but, in the grand scheme, the absolute priority has to be The Bees picking up the points against The Lions. Everything else going on around us is second fiddle. Unnecessary white noise.

Moaning about VAR (although it is shite) – irrelevant

Mick Hucknall – irrelevant.

Getting upset about Mrs. Browns Boys  – irrelevant (for one day only).

Mrs Brown

Mrs. Brown – irrelevant

Nick Knowles advertising the Euronics Centre on the radio – odd. And irrelevant.

Gavin and Stacey – irrelevant.

The sales – irrelevant. Just do it online as you travel. Or better still, don’t.

Fantasy Football – irrelevant (and that’s nothing to do with yesterday’s latest car crash).

Thoughts of ‘Dry January’ – irrelevant. It’s December.

Work tomorrow – irrelevant. Ring in sick. Or book it off.

The in-laws are here / we’re going to see the relatives – irrelevant. Bring them with you.

I can’t get a ticket – irrelevant. You can.  Supporters will be able to pay by cash or card at the North Stand Ticket Office situated next to the away turnstiles on Sunday” –  Not my words, the words of Brentford official on their match preview) .

Even better, Millwall offer wheelchair users an entire £1 discount off the £29 admission price.

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Here you go

£29 seems a lot to go to Millwall – irrelevant. It’s still not Leeds United levels of ouch, you save money on travel and there is the added bonus that these days The Lions play in the former home of Harchester United. What greater cathedral of football is there? Griffin Park aside.

I‘m half-way through the Lego Millennium Falcon I got for Christmas  – irrelevant. Grow up.

Channel 4 have a double-bill of Ang Lee’s The Hulk followed by The Core – i,i,irrr,irrel…does anybody want my ticket?

In all seriousness, of course I’ll be there. That’s what video-plus is for.  Besides, this one could be something very, very special. A moment akin to Danny Shittu’s own goal giving us that incredible 3-2 victory back in 2014. The celebrations that took place in the post-match prison yard kettling made all the sweeter by being able to celebrate in a torrential downpour. 

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It’s always welcoming at Millwall

The chance to complete the double following this season’s quite wonderful turnaround at Griffin Park yet another incentive. Ollie and Bryan’s late, late showing to turn things around in Jota time, the stuff that dreams are made of. Moreso given the earlier penalty miss. It wouldn’t be Brentford any other way 

Even watching the replay of Josh Dasilva’s goal at The Den last season sent further shivers of anticipation up the spine about what could happen. Brentford are currently third in The Championship and are now starting to reel in Leeds United. Progress on that front will be slow and , let’s be honest, unlikely. I mean, there’s no way they’ll choke what is now down to an eight point gap with half the season to go. It’s not as though Leeds have any history of falling apart or hitting self-destruct.

But whatever Birmingham City might do  – and let’s not forget that they are a club with a worse current record than Nick Knowles ‘Every Kind Of People’  – things are still down to us. Points in the bag being better than anything else – games in hand, favours or other results. 

And the quest for more continues today. I can’t wait for this one. See you there.

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Another ending like this would do very nicely, thank you.

Nick Bruzon

It’s much more fun to win this way.

20 Oct

The greatest come back since Lazarus? Burton Albion away? Liverpool in the Champion’s League (take your pick of those – you may have heard mention of their particular ‘miracles’). The intensity of the turnaround at Griffin Park yesterday probably tops the lot. Whilst not a European trophy lifting moment or matching the relentlessness of our comeback against The Brewers, for Brentford to turn around a 2-0 deficit with 6 minutes left on the clock but end the game as 3-2 victors over Millwall was pretty, pretty good. Thomas Frank, unable to curb his own enthusiasm at full time, was quick to note that “It’s much more fun to win this way”. The boys in blue arresting a run in form that had only seen us win once since late August.

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Brentford – unbeaten in anniversary blue

And he’s right. They were words uttered on a full time touchline stroll as fans gave the head coach and his team a standing ovation. There were hugs from Saïd. Even handshakes from Matthew Benham as everybody came together once more to enjoy one of those moments that makes Griffin Park SO, SO special. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Imagine turning your back on all of this because it isn’t the set up of previous decades. Imagine not wanting to be part of this last hurrah. Imagine booing the head coach and demanding his head week in, week out. 

We aren’t Liverpool. We aren’t going to win every game every week. Sometimes we are a bit rubbish (Forest away last time out was tough viewing). Sometimes we are awful. That’s football. Yet when it all comes together there’s no place on earth I’d rather be. With my family . With my friends. With my team. A place where despite the many changes we’ve seen in recent years, on and off field, the heart of this football club is still there. Still beating strong. Still pulling us all together in a communal outpouring of joy the likes of which is still sending shivers running up the spine over 12 hours later.   Instead of joyless negativity then, personally speaking, my own preference is to focus on the positive and yesterday was about as positive as it gets.

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A belated and very happy birthday to my good friend at full time

What a game. What a start. What pressure. Ollie was returned to the right side of the pitch as Niko Karelis got that first start which had been suggested in yesterday’s article might be coming. Every now and again we call one right – it can happen. The set up looked much more balanced than at the City Ground. Surely it was only a matter of time before the goal came. Pressure built as The Bees turned the screw. Millwall not getting a look in. Karelis hit the post early on before referee Stuart Attwell then pointed to the spot for what seems an innocuous incident at best  – at least on first viewing – but let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth. 

Urgh. We did. This is Brentford, innit. Ollie Watkins seeing his penalty well saved by visiting ‘keeper Bartosz Bialkowski. There was worse to come. Just before the half ended, Karelis went down with what looked like a sickening injury and was eventually stretchered off. The visiting fans showing their class, waving him off and singing cheerio as the rest of the ground gave the customary respectful applause reserved for such incidents – regardless of the team. 

And as the team readjusted, the Lions pounced. They’d not been in the hunt yet a rare foray into the Brentford box saw Raya unable to fully clear Molumby’s effort and Tom Bradshaw stabbed home from close in to leave the half time cuppas with a very bitter after taste. Typical Brentford. Dominate. Come close. So close. Slip up in a rare moment of defensive absenteeism. Stats and possession count for nothing if you can’t finish. Millwall giving the consummate demonstration as they took their one chance with aplomb. And their second. 

Mr. Attwell pointing to the spot once more after the teams had emerged. This time, Ollie Watkins adjudged to have wrestled his man to the ground. Raya unable to equal the save pulled off by his counterpart between the sticks and Jed Wallce doubled the visitor’s lead.  Painful stuff. Familiar stuff. Brentford dominant but somehow on the wrong end of the scoreline. “Where’s the midfield?“, shouted one supporter. “Up there with Natalie” replied another.

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Dougie was back for this one

Just as goals scored rather than possession and stats being the only true indicator of whether a team deserve to win is one mantra I live by, so is staying and playing until the end. So often we’ve ‘done a Brentford’ and spannered ourselves late on. See: Bristol City just last time out. Even more often we’ve taken it to the wire and pushed on. See: just about any goal Jota ever scored or Thomas and his own brand of attacking substitutions – last season in particular seeing him opt to go big rather than bringing on defensive subs in order to close out a match. And what a way to do it.

First up, Josh Dasilva. The midfielder coming off the bench to fire home from just outside the box with 84 minutes on the clock. It was a strike of precision – just as he had done against Bristol City – and gave hope for a barnstorming finish as we looked to pick up a point. Four minutes later, it was all level. Bryan Mbueno the man as his beautifully place shot from Dasilva territory seemed to drift over the defence, past Bialkowski and in to the far corner of the net. 

It all felt very slo-mo ; all very surreal. A split second wait for the random officials to wave a flag – it had happened early on in the half with Ollie called ‘offside’ as he found the net – but no. Nothing. Except an eruption of joy from fans and players alike. Get!! In!! We’d done it. Saïd Benrahma with the assist, along with an apparent deflection too, and a point all but assured. 2-2 from the unlikeliest of situations. Just please don’t cock it up from here. Please don’t ‘do a Brentford’. 

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Fans and players celebrate

You could see from the looks on the player’s faces what this one meant. How hard a level that they, and we, knew this battle had been fought at. But wait, like a  4am infomercial for the greatest hits of Country or a butcher’s knife kit, there was more. If Josh and Bryan had provided the ten CD set, it was none other than leading scorer Ollie Watkins who weighed in with the bonus extra. And what an extra. So much better than a 12 track disc of County duets.

With four additional minutes shown on the board, there WAS still time. Time for huge handbags in front of the Millwall fans as Attwell once more lost control. Time for passions to rise to even more intense levels than had already been seen. And when it came, with Ollie guiding home in the last of those additional minutes, Griffin Park exploded. The noise incredible. The relief, palpable. The joy unconfined. The noise intense. The smiles broad. The Lions silenced. The perfect payback for Karelis. The perfect reward for Thomas Frank who has come in for all levels of dog’s abuse so early in to a season in which his new squad is taking shape. Is readjusting to life without Maupay. The reaction from captain Pontus said it all. The grins from Ollie and Saïd, beautiful. Brentford up to 13th and now six points off the play-off zone. 

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Yesssssss. 3-2. 

With little over a quarter of the season gone, both ends of the table are still a long way off. We’ll play well and lose. We’ll pick up some jammy points along the way. I’m still not sure which way this campaign is going to go but it’s going to be fun getting there. As has been seen this season with the likes of Derby County, Barnsley and Middlesbrough, when we get it right we are simply wonderful. To that list you can now add Millwall. 

What a performance. What a result. What a moment. What a game that, you know what, we deserved to win.

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Nick Bruzon     

Is something rotten in the state of Brentford?

9 Dec

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

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

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No minutes on the clock and already a goal down. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Neil Shipperley. Never forget

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

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

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

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

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Raining (goals) at Griffin Park v Swansea

Nick Bruzon

Tough questions to ask, and answer, after an insipid performance under the lights.

28 Nov

Well that was awful yesterday. And not the news that Mrs. Brown’s Boys leads the BBC Christmas schedule with two episodes of the alleged ‘favourite’ having been commissioned for the festive period.  Of course we mean football where, being honest, even after sleeping on this one I’m struggling to be positive this morning. That Sheffield United made it 6 defeats out of 7(seven) for Brentford since Dean Smith left is almost secondary. The 3-2 loss contained so many problems that even had we grabbed a last gasp equaliser, it would actually have masked the deficiencies as I’ve no doubt we’d be told how this team never gives up and keeps fighting until the end. Yet the simple fact is this game should have been well out of sight by half-time. How the visitors only led by a single goal as we went in for our bovril I’m still not sure. With a televised trip to West Bromwich Albion next up on Monday night, it’s not going to get any easier for Thomas Frank’s Bees.

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Incredibly…. You HAVE been warned.

It had all started off so brightly. Despite the sparce crowd, Buzz and Buzzette did their level best to get things going before kick-off. The team came out of the traps flying and it wasn’t long before we’d raced into the lead. With just 6 minutes gone, Romaine Sawyers played Neal Maupay through and there was no mistake as the Championship’s top scorer grabbed his 13thof the campaign. What a start. But what a response was to follow.

Straight from the kick-off, the Blades poured forward in a move which culminated with Daniel Bentley’s crossbar left quivering after John Lundstrum blasted it from ten yards out. By all rights he should have scored given the space and position in which he found himself in front of the goal. It was a massive let off for Brentford and alarm bells should have been ringing. If so, nobody was listening.

Just a few minutes later Sheffield United were level as Ezri Konsa turned a corner into his own net for 1-1. And then it was 2. Oliver Norwood giving the visitors the lead with just a quarter hour gone after hitting a beauty from outside the box. Catching it first time the ball rose, curled and then dipped past Bentley high into the back of the net. It was a magnificent strike but saw yet another game where we’d conceded a batch of goals in short space of time to throw things away.

It could, probably should, have been worse after Daniel Bentley made a wonderful save at close range half way through the opening period after denying United from close range with a huge stop.

Yet in return, we offered nothing. The goal aside Brentford were lacklustre. Abject. Masters of our own self-destruction. Sideways and backwards passing saw us unable to make inroads once the visitors had settled. The midfield lacked bite and a leader. Lewis Macleod lightweight. Alan Judge making the effort but getting drawn out of position time and again. Josh McEachran uncharacteristically tetchy. Lucky to escape a booking for a quite blatant push in front of the ref that gave away a free-kick in the heart of Saunders territory. Captain Romaine Sawyers conspicuous by his silence. Where was the desire? Where was the will to win? If it was there then I didn’t see it. And that’s the most disappointing aspect of the night.

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United were head and shoulders above Brentford in the first half.

Yet. Yet. Half-time came and it was only 2-1. Despite it all, we were still very much alive. Whilst United started brightly once more, Brentford soon stepped it up. This was more like it. The pressure built. The ball started to move forward. The crowd started to lift and just after the hour Romaine Sawyers saw his cross-come-shot turned in by John Fleck for the game’s second o.g. as parity was restored. That was better and there was only one team in it from here? Wasn’t there.

Err, yes. Sheffield United.

Instead of pushing on, Brentford allowed the frailties of the first half to return. Sheffield United were given the freedom of Griffin Park as our defence once more turned into vampires. Scared of crosses. If the first goal had seen us concede from a position where we’d have expected Mepham (who missed it) or Konsa (who gifted the goal) the opportunity to clear, Leon Clarke’s winner was even worse. I’ve seen caravans that were less static. Like Middlesbrough at the weekend, a well delivered ball into the box was our undoing.

Clarke may have been embarrassed by the copious space he was left in but he made no mistake. His shot was hard and low past the diving Bentley for 3-2. And that’s how it stayed. The subsequent substitutions making no difference to a Brentford team that limped towards the final whistle.

But for me, the most telling sign was at the death. With the Bees awarded a late free-kick, Thomas Frank was clearly telling Chris Mepham to push up into the box. There followed a quite bizarre looking argument of shrugging, arms open in the ‘what’s going on?’ position and the player refusing to move up. Eventually, he would but it did beg the question what all that was about?

Lack of respect? Frustration? Or just a general confusion about what we should be doing in a dead ball situation? Why isn’t this sort of stuff clarified on the training ground rather than in the public eye? If nothing else, football 101 says that when a team is goal down and awarded a dangerous spot kick at the death, everybody piles up. Sometimes even the ‘keeper. What you don’t do is argue with the boss and keep two defenders back.

I’m not a coach. I’m not a manager. I’m just the numpty on the terrace and you may think I’ve called this all wrong. Fair enough if so. It should have been a quite fantastic night under the floodlights. I take no pleasure from moaning about the team and have looked to remain upbeat this campaign. Yet that was painful last night and don’t let the closeness of the result fool anyone. Brentford were second in every respect. Goals scored. Cohesiveness. Attitude.

We don’t have a divine right to be any good. I’ve said this many times and it’s true. Yet to see players who we know are more than capable looking so out of sorts is just wrong. To see a team looking so bereft of ideas when we’ve torn rivals apart at times is a worry. And whilst Thomas may be on the business end of the bad run, let’s not forget that despite all the ‘deserving’, the culmination of Dean’s time in charge saw only 1 win out of 6. Even Marinus had a better track record at this stage of ‘games played’ into his own start – and that’s a scary thing to acknowledge.

We do have injuries, of course. Who wouldn’t miss the likes of Ollie Watkins or Saïd Benrahma? Rico Henry and Emiliano Marcondes are only just returning to action.  The ability is there amongst those who are fit.

The real question now is not the position of the head coach, which many fans are already questioning, but more what he does to unlock the talent and inspire his team.

Roll on West Brom when we find out.

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The floodlights providing a rare bright moment

Nick Bruzon