Tag Archives: Alan Judge

As Bees prepare to go to Hull, will Championship form prevail or could ‘that stat’ take hold ?

7 Dec

Another weekend approaches. For some, the stress of Christmas shopping. For others, the chance for some time out from the relentlessness of the Festive build up and the excitement of football. Personally, my focus will be all about Kingston-upon-Hull rather than Kingston shopping centre. The current UK City of Culture being the destination this Saturday for a Brentford team looking to pick up where we left off against Fulham last weekend. That wonderful 3-1 win a perfect return to winning ways for Dean Smith’s team. Likewise, there’s still an interest at the bottom of the table where #tentimesbetter Birmingham City slithered back into the relegation zone following another defeat on Monday night.

Ollie v Fulham

Another afternoon, another win. This time Fulham were the team to be steam-rollered

First up, Brentford and our trip to Hull City. Spirits should be high in Dean Smith’s camp. Last weekend’s obliteration of Fulham (where only David Button kept it respectable) saw the Bees rise up the table to within a win of eighth placed Leeds United. Those ‘difficult’ first few months – both in terms of results and the deadline day firesale to Birmingham City – all seem a long way off now. True, we’ve still had some iffy moments (such as the finish up the road last Monday, the first half with Sunderland or the entire game with Burton Albion) but the team seems a lot more settled.

A feat all the more impressive given how patched together we are at present. At least, on the surface. Two fullbacks playing out side of their traditional positions and Romaine Sawyers having to spend most of Saturday operating as frontman / false 9 (delete as applicable). Yet Josh Clarke and Yoann Barbet have more than settled in to moving around the pitch whilst you can’t deny the impact Romaine had against Fulham. Certainly he was my man of the match, for whatever that’s worth, although one would suspect his position there won’t be a permanent one !

It’s funny, because with the transfer window opening next month all the talk is likely to be about Ryan Woods. A player very much in form, with a huge reputation, incredible ability and now well into his third season at Griffin Park he is ‘classic’ transfer target material. Yet, for me, Josh Clarke would be an equal worry – certainly in terms of players who might end up coming under the spotlight. His talent is without question; his versatility a real strength. At a time when we’ve had to move things around he’s played at left back, right back and in his traditional mid-filed berth. He overlaps on the break and has even weighed in with the odd goal. If ever there was an unsung hero for this season then, for me, it’s Josh.

All being well, we won’t need / choose to sell anybody in January. All being well, players will look further ahead and realise the benefits of staying at Griffin Park. Certainly, it hasn’t worked out too well for the Birmingham City three. Rather than striding towards the Premier League, they find themselves doing their best to pay a visit to League One with only Sunderland and Burton Albion below The Blues in the table.

Desperately unlucky Maxime Colin finds himself injured whilst Jota has hardly settled into the side. His starring role has been reduced to one of advertising the club’s Christmas range.

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Sad times – all round

As for poor old Harlee Dean, where do you start? He certainly made a rod for his own back. As if his infamous ‘Ten Times Better’ quote about the Bees (a clear contender for the 2017/18 Russell Slade celebrated like the FA Cup award ) wasn’t bad enough, he now misses the Blues trip to Fulham on Saturday after getting sent off against Wolves on Monday night.

In case we needed any reminding of that one (the soundbite rather than the red card) then here you go. Some things deserve to be repeated:  “We’ve got quality in that squad. I’ve been in teams where we’ve finished fifth in this league and missed out on promotion by play offs. And this squad is ten times better than that. Its just about getting the balance right.

Look. I didn’t want to overly talk about Birmingham City today. It’s kind of just happened as the words have fallen out. But they’re not setting the world on fire and having blown all that cash back at the end of August (thank you very much) I can’t see them being allowed to do a repeat in January. That’s their issue though. Work with what they’ve got left, just like we’ve had to do after selling them some prize assets. And Harlee.

Personally, I wrote some pretty emotive stuff about them and us at the time. Especially the morning after deadline day. I stand by that in terms of how I felt. It was raw, it was a shock and on the surface it seemed like footballing suicide for a team that were, back then, struggling to play their way out of a paperbag. Form that continued in the immediate aftermath. Indeed, there’s a part of me that still aches to think of Jota in the doldrums when he was so adored, and so elegant, at Griffin Park. Football is a passionate game and that triple sale, as much in the timing and the destination, came like a bolt from the blue. Quite literally.

Yet, and has been said many times, I’m just the numpty on the terrace. I know nothing of any real insight. I’ve never denied it. Things have worked out. And how! Meanwhile, Birmingham City are in their own mess. That’s their board’s problem. So long and thanks for all the cash.

Brentford continue their inxeroable ascent of the Championship table with the prospect of free scoring Emiliano Marcondes to come in January and Alan Judge putting in 45 minutes for the B-team. His goalscoring appearance against Barnet on Tuesday probably getting the biggest cheer of the week in our house (see also: return of Lewis Macleod v Fulham). Moreso, his declaration that he feels “normal-ish” .

You can get that story in full on ‘official’.

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Official have all the news on this one !

And so with confidence high, we head North on Saturday. The starting XI seems a lot more settled and we have form on our side. The Bees have only lost once in the last thirteen league games (Cardiff City away) and now have the top third of the table is in our sights. Facing us, a Hull City side sitting just outside the relegation spots and featuring former Bee Jon Toral.

On paper you’d call this one as ‘away’ win . If you were a neutral. Nothing is that cut and dried when you are a fan though. The jinx conscious amongst us might point to their sacking manager Leonid Slutsky during the week.

The reverse effect to winning manager of the month (an award that may aswell come with ‘L’ tagged on), the appointment of a caretaker comes with that almost inevitable fillip of a team in decline winning their next game.

Then there’s the ‘B’ team thing. Hull City have only recorded four league wins all season. All four have come against teams whose name start with the letter B.
4-1 v Burton (h);
4-0 v Bolton (h)
6-1 v Birmingham City (h) . Stop. Sniggering…
1-0 v Barnsley (a)

Granted, that’s not in the Luis Melville category of statistical genius, but much has been made of it in the media and it makes semi-interesting review. Until you hit the stumbling block of their game with Bristol City last month. That one ended in a 3-2 defeat to The Robins .

Jinx over. The road is clear for the Bees to do their thing. Moreso given I’ve not, to date, read of a caretaker being appointed. Instead, it looks as though they are going to jump straight to Nigel Adkins. Certainly, if the local press is to be believed.

As for the thing that will really impact us, on field performance, I’d suggest the BBC or Beesotted are your best bets. Honestly, I haven’t seen enough this season to form a significant opinion about how reflective of ability Hull City’s current position genuinely is. However, as somebody far wiser than me once said: “The table doesn’t lie”. Nor do the bookmakers, who have Brentford as 6/5 favourites to win this one.

Then again. They can’t call it and all three results are at a generous price. Roll on Saturday when we find out if form will prevail.

Nick Bruzon

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Rampant Brentford exorcise the memory of QPR and render Fulham pointless.

3 Dec

Where do you start with that one? A 3-1 demolition of Fulham at Griffin Park on Saturday saw Brentford make it 4 points out of 6 from back-to-back West London derbies. With it, the Bees moved into the top half of the Championship table and above both our near neighbours. It was the perfect tonic following the disappointment of the final few moments at QPR earlier this week and a performance that shows just what Dean Smith’s team can do when they put their minds to it.

Ollie v Fulham

Another afternoon, another win

Mind you it was a case of very much adjusting to the game and, subsequently, each other. A hamstring Injury to Lasse Vibe early on (and no recognised striker on the bench) saw Romaine Sawyers coming on to sit up top. A so called ‘False 9’ as Dean would later refer to him. Whilst we’ve tried this one before, at QPR two seasons ago – the only time they’ve beaten us in the last 7(seven) encounters – this time things were different for Brentford. So very different.

For a moment it looked shaky. The Bees went a goal down after Fulham were given the freedom of the Griffin Park back four. The visitors were lining up to slide home one time Bee Ryan Fredericks’ cross. In the end it was Neeskens Kebano who did the needful at the back post. Daniel Bentley then kept us in it with a wonder save but from that point on it was one way traffic.

Ollie Watkins set off on a quite wonderful run through the middle of the park, covering close to 50 yards before releasing Sergi Canos to leave David Button no chance. Canos (and the Fulham defence) take the glory but full kudos to Ollie for a lungbusting run.

1-1 at half time and the Bees came out to pick up where they left off. The half had barely begun when Romaine Sawyers made it 2-1. The player may feel he was in the right place at the right time although the goal had as much to do with the omens in the stand and on the terrace. Got to love a lucky shirt, lucky fleece (amazing where you get the inspiration from) and a Trevor Extra Strong Mint. Many thanks John – the real hero of the afternoon as man in the right place at the right time with the lucky confectionary.

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Lucky shirt. Lucky fleece. Lucky sweets. Nothing lucky about the win

With Fulham reduced to ten men, following the customary red card from referee Bobby Madley it really was game over. A detail confirmed with just five minutes to go as Romaine Sawyers set up Ollie Watkins to close things out. Two goals up against West London neighbours with just moments left on the clock. What could go wrong? Five minutes of injury time, that’s what!

But whereas Monday saw Brentford hit the self-destruct at QPR,  this time around there was to be no such repeat. Ball retention was the key as we passed it around, backwards and even had the odd probe to see down the clock.

3-1 it finished. What a result. What a performance. What an afternoon. There were tears from Fulham official. What a shame they didn’t get the chance to use their shiny new GIF. Please, stop sniggering.  There was even a gif in return as the ghost of the Obama meme threatened to raise its head once more. It was beautiful ! Well played the Brentford media team on hitting the perfect balance, this time.

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A word or two, also, about Mr. Madley. We all know him of old, especially ‘that’ game at Leyton Orient. Officious, pernickety, trigger happy and more cards than a Clintons sale. Yet I thought he had a great game yesterday.

True, there were a few moments where he couldn’t help but be his over-officious self but he called the cards right – including the yellow for Sergi who had seemed to go in dangerously, albeit not connecting. But given the lack of protection we’ve had at times this season, the four yellows (including a second for Fulham’s Odoi) were spot on. As were the proliferation of dead balls awarded in an otherwise open game that was, generally, allowed to flow.

Sergi v Fulham

View from the terrace : When Sergi met Bobby

Sergi Canos was understandably named man of the match. I love watching him in action. The skill, the speed, the enthusiasm. Yet, for me I think Romaine probably just deserved it. A goal, an assist and a player very much a fish out of water in terms of the role he was asked to play. As Dean would later note on ‘official’, “I know, at times, he isn’t everyone’s favourite but I thought his performance today was excellent.

Dean, I couldn’t agree more.

As ever, the video highlights are up on Sky. Probably worth a watch before we get treated to Mark Burridge’s version. If his commentary is anywhere near as good as his post match Twitter then they’re going to be compulsory viewing when these go live after mid-day.

What a finish. What a way to celebrate rainbow laces day. Top half of the table, current kings of West London and a fine, fine performance from Dean Smiths’ injury hit team. But perhaps the biggest cheer of the afternoon was that for somebody returning from injury, Lewid Macleod. How good was it so see him back on the Griffin Park pitch? It seems an eternity since he was stretchered off at Loftus Road last season.

The road to return has certainly been a long one but, again, as impressive a display from the club in looking after our long term sick as the player in putting in all those hard yards. Nice one, Lewis.

Next up, a certain Mr. Judge? Here’s hoping….

The sun is past the yard arm so the video censors let Mark do his thing

All that’s to come, though. For now let’s just enjoy the moment and savour a fine win. Matthew Benham, back in his customary place at the front of the director’s box after a surprise ‘substitution’ against Burton, seemed ecstatic as the second half goals flew in. Certainly, those in the paddock and around the ground were. Except, perhaps, in the away end. If only they’d had a nice, new GIF.

It’s our fourth season in the Championship and, it would be fair to say, that derby day form has certainly been with the Bees. Jota in the last minute at Griffin Park, Sam Saunders with that fifth minute beauty and Stuart Dallas doing ‘that thing’ at the Cottage during our 4-1 steamrollering are amongst the many highs.

This one felt as good as any of them. What an afternoon. What a result !!

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Who needs Pointless or Strictly Dancing for Saturday entertainment ?

Nick Bruzon

As Blades go top, will Brentford enjoy more success at Preston?

28 Oct

There’s been a lot going on this week and that’s before a ball has even been kicked : all fine at Loftus road whilst Harlee seems to have forgotten his history and manners in Birmingham. But relax. The latest round of Championship action can now take place, having kicked off last night with Sheffield United winning at Leeds to go to the top of the table. It was a largely one way performance and a deserved win for the Blades. Yet whilst we’ll look a bit further at that shortly, our main focus has to be, as ever, on Brentford and our trip to Preston North End.

It would be fair to say that, after a somewhat rocky start Dean Smith’s Bees are beginning to find their feet. The squad has settled down after a frenetic summer of activity which culminated in that last minute triple cash in to Harry Redknapp (a man currently residing in the ‘where are they now?’ files). Yet with the uncertainty done, spleens vented and players returning from injury things are starting to get back to normal.

Brentford are six unbeaten and have even started to have some of that ‘luck’ whose absence had been frustrating our Head Coach. We’ve 10 points out of the last 18 and will be looking to take the current run of form to 7(seven) games when we play Preston on Saturday afternoon.

There’s more good news for Dean Smith. Specifically, no new injuries. Might he be able to name an unchanged starting XI (following last Saturday’s 3-3 with Sunderland) for the first time this season? Or will Sergi Canos be pushed back into the first team after his substitute’s appearance against the Black Cats?

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A sight for sore eyes last weekend

Having played and scored in the B-team’s 3-1 win over Inter Milan during the week (and count the things right in that sentence) might a first team start be a step too far at present? Moreso with games to come against Birmingham City on Wednesday and then Leeds United next Saturday. We’re all desperate to see Sergi back in action but having already been spannered by injury the last time, up at Aston Villa, caution will surely be the order of the day as he rebuild s match fitness.

With Lewis Macleod also getting B-team minutes under his belt after that long, long recuperation there’s more good news on the horizon for Dean. I’d imagine that Preston will be a trip too far for Lewis, at least now, but the midfield options available in a few weeks time could cause some real selection posers.

Still, all that is then. This is now. Let’s focus on the present. With many Brentford fans already licking their lips at the prospect of our midweek trip to Birmingham following Harlee’s comments on Thursday, keeping our focus today will be imperative. Preston are no slouches and know that a win will take them into the play off zone, potentially as high as fourth place following that defeat for Leeds United last night. This, after finishing just below our own top ten Bees in a more than impressive 11th place last season.

Whilst we’ve had plenty of joy against Preston in recent seasons (including that penalty – for Alan Judge, in League One) past performance is not indicative of current form. “It will be a tough ask for us” said Dean in Thursday’s press conference and he’s not wrong. But he has the options at his disposal to answer that ask. As long as he locks it up at the back.

Some people are on the pitch - Juge's penalty v Preston saw a wonderful denouement

Happier times at the denouement of out promotion campaign

Yoann Barbet and Chris Mepham can both count themselves very unlucky to have lost out in recent weeks. With three first half goals shipped against Sunderland last Saturday, could this be today’s ‘change’? Or has Dean nailed his selection colours to the mast and this is it? At 3pm, we find out.

We couldn’t end today’s column without a brief nod to the Sheffield United connection . Not so much Jack O’Connell and the magnificent Clayton Donaldson (who I STILL miss) or Keith Stroud (who I don’t) but more their form. Like Brentford three seasons ago, The Blades have come up from League One and taken the division by storm. But whereas we missed our chance to go top in the Boxing Day game with Ipswich Town (move along, nothing to see there) there was no fluffing of the lines for United last night.

Their performance against Leeds was fully deserving of their position and whilst things may have shifted around come 5pm, nobody can deny who is currently top of the table. Yet for me (Clive) the telling stat is in that L column. United have lost four games. Brentford have lost 4 games. The difference being the ability to turn draws into victory. The Blades have proved to have the cutting edge in the box, winning their other 10. If we can get that bit right then who know how high we can go?

The draw at Middlesbrough last time we travelled showed just what this side can do. Here’s to more of that spirit this afternoon. Moreso, given Deepdale has been a relatively happy hunting ground for us in recent seasons whilst, for personal reasons, Preston are always a club I’ve followed with particular interest.

Preston letter

Keith never did write back. Or did he…?

To date, my first and only foray into the world of professional football club management. It was an application that would eventually prove fruitless. I never heard back with an interview date and can only assume that, in those pre-internet days the follow up letter got lost somewhere in the Royal Mail. Had the postal service done their job properly, who knows how things might have turned out had  a then struggling North End taken that gamble?

Not well, being my guess.

Nick Bruzon

 

Has Harlee scored a huge own goal (or is he just talking b*llocks)? As for that cup draw….

27 Oct

It says something when the Haribo cup draw was only the second most nonsensical thing in the football world on Thursday. Harlee Dean, perhaps sore at missing out on this season’s Brentford captaincy to Nico Yennaris, has done some silly things in his time. Namely the ogs, suicidal back passes, red cards, woeful positioning and ‘going again’. But his motivational speech for Birmingham City prior to their forthcoming derby with Aston Villa has potentially topped the lot.

I’m not going to sit here and overly slag him off. His words generate their own, natural, reaction. Besides, despite the errors from somebody learning the game Harlee more than had his positive moments over six years at Griffin Park. Very much the unsung hero, he was one of my son’s favourite players (after Sam and Jota ). He is  also one of a very elite group – a Brentford player to score at Wembley – and, of course, would later help us to promotion. Let’s not forget our former captain is the current Bees player of the year. And now he is at Birmingham City.

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Harlee – heart on his sleeve.

Perhaps it is having to be content with a place on the bench that has triggered him to show some ‘passion’. To try and endear himself to a home side whose supporters must be frustrated at their current anti-form. Moreso, having spent huge amounts in the summer transfer window. To try and build some positivity at St. Andrews ahead of the Aston Villa game on Sunday lunchtime.

Anyway, there’s already enough flak out there for the player without me adding to it. This, after his claim that the current Birmingham City squad  – who still sit below the Bees in the table – is 10 (ten) times better than that which he himself was a part of when we finished fifth in the Championship under Mark Warburton.

His interview, which you can see below (and skip to about 1.20 to bypass the rest of the nonsense) , contains the gem:

“We’ve got quality in that squad. I’ve been in teams where we’ve finished fifth in this league and missed out on promotion by play offs. and this squad is ten times better than that. Its just about getting the balance right”.

On the one hand, a Brentford squad containing the likes of: David Button, Jake Bidwell, Number 26, Nico Yennaris, Sam Saunders, Moses Odubajo, Stuart Dallas, Alan Judge, Jon Toral, Jota, Alex Pritchard, Andre Gray, Scott Hogan. That’s before you add the experience provided by the likes of Dougie, Macca, King Kev and Toumani.

On the other, a Birmingham City squad whose record in the league since Harlee joined has been: LLLDWLWL. Five defeats out of eight. Including the 6-1 humping at Hull City and most recently a 2-0 loss at Millwall (although he was only part of the squad that day). Even we’ve beaten them this season !

Deluded? Desperate? Or just panicked? Looking like a rabbit caught in the headlights, the famous 1000 yard stare coming to the fore, was this simply a case of opening his mouth then engaging brain in order to fill dead air? Or just some misguided attempt to win over the fans before a game which will finish 1-1 (standard Aston Villa result).

One expects a player to back his new team. I’m not that naive. Yet this came over as a cheap dig and crass stupidity. Forgetful of his own past where, but for some of our own defensive errors at a time when Tony Craig was bizzarely kept out of the team, a squad that could well have reached the Premier League.

With Brentford travelling to Birmingham on Wednesday night, all he has done is further galvanise the already vocal Bees support ahead of that one. Dean Smith must be sitting back and chuckling at his own team talk having been delivered already. Don’t be surprised to see Nico given the captain’s armband in that one.

Nice one, Harlee. And thank you. For once I’m hoping you really have scored another own goal.

Bees 1-0 v Watford Warburton

Warbs’ squad. Apparently, a tenth of the talent as that now at Birmingham City

Back in the world of real football, the draw for the fifth round of the Haribo sponsored EFL cup look place yesterday. Eventually. In yet another publicity stunt masquerading as an ‘error’, the draw was massively delayed due to what was described as a twitter glitch. This, a competition, where previous draws have seen the live Facebook feed from Thailand (count the things already wrong with that sentence) mysteriously drop as Charlton were seemingly drawn against both Exeter AND Cheltenham. The confusion of round two with the three ball system.The third round taking place at 4.30am, from China. But not televised.

All of which has, coincidentally, got the drinks company name trending on social media. Something which once again happened yesterday before the draw would eventually take place over an hour after it was due to start. Who’d have thought it?

Yawn. Boycott.  I’m certainly not going to start buying their product now. Out of principal. And taste. If nothing else, they sponsor Reading.

Although perhaps, in retrospect, this is all Harlee is guilty of. Talking something up to get us publicising it. Let’s be honest, Birmingham City on a Wednesday night probably wouldn’t have been top of the list a month ago.

Now though… Things have just got very tasty. Unlike a certain soft drink.

Buzzette REd Bull

No C****** for this Bees fan. It’s Red Bull all the way

Nick Bruzon

Jota. I love you. But please don’t join Fulham.

29 Aug

Jota – probably the most talented player to pull on the red and white of Brentford in recent times and now we’re all sweating on whether we’ve seen him play for the last time. Whilst the West Ham rumours have gone deathly quiet, the stories of bids from Middlesbrough hang around like a bad smell whilst Fulham of all clubs have now entered the mix. Yes, Fulham.

Oh, and there’s also one now doing the rounds about Harry Redknapp looking to take Harlee Dean to Birmingham City. Yes, we’re now well into international break and whilst on pitch most people are concentrating on the World Cup qualifiers between Belgium – Gibraltar and Malta – England, back in TW8 that accursed window can’t ‘slam shut’(tm) quickly enough.

Jota team Rotherham

We feel the same way too

Dean Holdsworth, Gary Blissett, Andy Sinton, DJ Cambell, Nicky Forster, Adam Forshaw, Andre Gray, Moses Adubajo, Sam Saunders to name but a few. The amount of players that we just ‘couldn’t sell’ who we have then sold is legion. It is part of life supporting Brentford.

We know the club’s direction is sustainable football within FFP regulations. Pretty much the rest of the Championship can pay silly money for players. We can’t and won’t. That’s not me crying; its just a fact of life. The club have made no secret of trying to build a team in a certain style and to move players on should those big value offers come in. To date, we’ve had three top ten Championship finishes doing this.

And now our resolve is being tested once more with Jota and long serving former captain Harlee Dean both coming under intense scrutiny. Both players could walk out of Griffin Park on a free transfer at the end of the season. We could sell them now for a combined total of over £10million if rumoured valuations are met. Can we afford to turn that down, even it it does mean joining the likes of Jake Bidwell and David ‘agent’ Button in moving down the road to near neighbours?

Being realistic, of all three names Fulham look the most likely. On paper. West Ham are soon to be a Championship club so why move now to join a sinking ship, only to end up back where you started? The obvious money factor aside. But even then, how much action would he see in a squad that already has 9 midfielders registered with the Premier League?

Middlesbrough can go spin if their offers are to be believed. Manager Dean Smith has already gone on record as noting “There are people courting Jota and we’ve had two bids that haven’t met the valuation of the football club and, until they do, he remains a Brentford footballer.” This, after stories of a £4.5 million bid for the player came in from Boro’. Add another three and then I’d imagine the club would be prepared to talk.

Which leaves Fulham. Well, the good news being that so far nothing has happened. It’s just a story. Indeed, I’d go so far as to suggest a story put out there just to drive up bids from potential suitors. Although, at the end of the day (Clive) I know nothing and have no knowledge – inside or otherwise. This is merely wishful thinking based on the desire to not see our prize asset end up at the Cottage.

Could I be uber-cynical as to suggest this may even be a spoonful of sugar to help soften the blow of any eventual sale? “Hey, he’s gone folks. But at least it’s not to Fulham”. Would that even happen? Are the media that clever? Again, I don’t know. But the reaction to the Fulham story has got several fans up in arms with vows to throw away their season tickets and never come to Griffin Park again being widely published.

One tweet from the team behind fan group ‘Thorne In The Side’ shows the feeling about this potential move. Extreme? Or showing the depth of emotion amongst supporters? It notes: I’d rather Jota join ISIS than Fulham. @BrentfordFC board must NOT let this happen. There are certain lines that our club must NOT cross.

Jota tweets

This is the battle the club are up against. And it is one that can’t end with all parties happy. IF it came to it, would they let this level off feeling affect their judgement? Unlikely. Money talks and we’ve sold plenty of big names in the past. We’ve sold to our ‘nearest and dearest’ in the past (just look back all the way to Jim Towers and George Francis).

Equally, we just have no choice in the matter IF the player had decided his future is now elsewhere. If his head has been turned by mega bucks. When the alternate is to hang on to a footballer whose heart may not be in it before ultimately losing out on what would be 10% of the price of a new stadium. I’d hate to work that out in ‘premium seats’.

Again, IF it comes to it would we see this mass exodus of supporters ? No, in a word. There’d be a whole heap of frustration (and that’s me being polite). There’d be a lot of upset kids, devastated at the prospect of losing their hero. But we’ll all still come back.

Personally, I’m not looking forward to telling a four year old that Jota has joined the naughty team. Let alone if Harlee also goes. Along with Sam Saunders, the three of them have been the building blocks of his footballing education. And that’s before we even get to personal feelings about his impact and place on both the team and in our hearts. Truly, he is that unique player who seems to be universally loved.

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This could be a tricky conversation on Friday….

This would be the Championship equivalent of Michael Laudrup or Luis Figo making the switch from Barcelona to Real Madrid. Although at our level it would probably be less a pig’s head and more a Chomp bar that was flung onto the pitch by an irate supporter.

It would be frustration compounded by us not being back at Griffin Park until September 16th. Prior to that, away games at Aston Villa and Sheffield Wednesday will see the board sheltered up in the bosom of the gods. Shielded from the fans. Those famous old stadia being unlike Griffin Park where nothing more than a flimsy bit of chicken wire separates our masters from the Season Ticket holders threatening to walk. Little more than 10 yards separates them from the heart of the on pitch action.

Equally, and being cold, I can imagine the pragmatic view of the board is that he is one more player in a long line of talent we’ve ultimately profited from. If he has decided his future is elsewhere then let him go. Let him go. If we can cash in on a player who wants to leave then why cut off our noses? He could sign a one year extension today if he wanted. He could help us continue that push upwards and then leave in the summer. But that’s not how football works.

The club will look at the player’s desire. They will look at the money. They will look at alternatives on the right in Josh Clarke, Flo Jo and the possible return of Alan Judge. They will look at the fact that this is out of their hands and how do we make the best of a situation?

I’m desperate for him to stay. Desperate. I’d love the above to be scaremongering nonsense. I’ll be the first to hold up my hands if so. However, I’m also realistic and now fear the worst. Now fear that the last minute goal, all those last minute goals, Mark Burridge losing it at Blackburn and Jake Bidwell being made a mockery of will be consigned to the history books.

I’ll be devastated if it came to Jota swapping Griffin Park for the Cottage. But I also believe, in my heart of hearts, that specific move won’t happen.

Anything else though, who knows? Thursday night can’t come come soon enough. Please, put us out of our misery one way or another.

Jota Fulham last minute

This.

Nick Bruzon

More domination. More defeat. Thoughts after Town sting Bees.

19 Aug

Brentford fans, fire up the ‘copy/paste’. Wonderful attacking play (the first half especially). One way traffic. The proverbial kitchen sink chucked at the opposition. 65% possession and twenty-one attempts at goal compared to Ipswich Town’s four. Yet it was the Tractor Boys who took the points and kept a clean sheet with a 2-0 win that left the Bees bottom of the pile in the Championship after four games.

Ipswich aced the one stat that counts, goals scored. They played us like a fiddle. Martyn Waghorn’s 35th minute opener was so far against the run of play Mick McCarthy must have been almost embarrassed to take it. But we know better than to expect embarrassment from Mick. Who could forget his shameless comments about Luke Hyam’s assault on Alan Judge two seasons ago? And we know just what to expect from his Ipswich teams.

Solid at the back, we just couldn’t break them down in that final third. Cynical in the challenge, with minimal protection offered by referee Oliver Langford. The man in the middle seemed set to ‘press and guess’ mode. Forget Oliver, Bonnie would have done a better job.

But let’s not gripe. With no Jota (dodgy lower back. Apparently) no Josh and no Rico once more it meant further changes were required. Maxime had to continue at left back with Dalsgaard at right. Flo Jo ahead of him with Ollie Watkins pushed out left. Despite all the pressing, nothing came. The Bees couldn’t find a way through despite Nico rattling the bar, Kamo coming close and Jozefzoon somehow conspiring to head straight down the keeper’s throat when unmarked in front of the goal.

We had chances; we couldn’t take them. Ipswich got their game together. Got their defence organised. Brentford couldn’t adapt. Too static. Too many players out of position. Even Lasse Vibe suffering an injury related ‘sub subbed’ that saw a debut for Theo Archibald.

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There was little return in the second half

By this point we were two down. Rather than come flying out of the traps to pick up where we’d left off, Brentford were bogged down. Joe Garner headed home a corner on 51 and that was it. Mr. Langford’s assistant confirming the validity of his effort via the medium of goal line technology and with it, consigning us to another nil points.

Try as we might, nothing came. Ipswich had it on lockdown. A fourth Championship win on the spin that sees them second only to Cardiff City in the fledgling table. Coming out of the stadium, there was nothing but plaudits from the home fans for our play. Acknowledgement that they’d ridden their luck early on.

All nice to hear but it doesn’t gloss over the fact that we haven’t scored and we’ve gone home empty handed with nothing but memories of good pies and what I saw BBC Billy Reeves declare as the “Best football font.” All very frustrating but take nothing away from Town.

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Nice font. Shame about the score

So what next? Even allowing for the absences, Dean has enough talent in his squad to fashion a wonderful team. Kamo, Romaine and Nico all looked a cut above. The first half especially. The second was typified by our inability to get in behind a progressively deeper and deeper Ipswich defence. By the lack of any real runners.

Bur he needs to get the tactics right. To get the selection right. Perhaps just get that run of luck – with injuries and even refereeing.

Am I worried? No. Look, I’m not a (complete) idiot. One point and bottom of the table isn’t anyone’s preferred position. Certainly not mine. But the first half was one of quite breathtaking forward play where we did everything but score. As with Forest, we conceded well into the first half and early into the second. Neither were particularly good goals to look back on and I’m sure Dean will have words. I hope he does.

The questions being, what does he learn and what does he do next? Can he eradicate these sloppy moments?

Equally, how is Jota’s back? Will it be a similar injury to Scott Hogan’s buttocks? Could Sergi return? Will we keep a clean sheet?

Talk to Brentford fans at the moment and the subject on everyone’s mind is, of course, Lionel Road. It would be great if we were discussing three points.

Roll on next weekend and Wolves when we get the chance.

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The first half, at least

Nick Bruzon

Is it all smoke and mirrors? Or have we been here before? Jota missing again.

16 Jul

Well that’s been an interesting few days for Brentford fans. Le tour de France is now over. We’ve seen another new signing with striker Neal Maupay joining from AS Saint-Étienne (he’s on the phone, presumably being the cry from the Griffin Park media suite as the deal was being confirmed). The friendly with Swiss side Lausanne-Sport ended in a 1-1 draw whilst we’ve now got less than three weeks until the season opener up at Sheffield United. Yet, for all that, there’s one word on supporter’s lips – Jota. Just what is going on?

Despite a wonderful looking line up in France for Saturday’s game with Lausanne, there were two notable absentees. Maxime Colin and, of course, the talismanic Spaniard – King Jota. Whilst Max was labelled an injury precaution, things were less clear on the subject of Jota. One could also argue that Lewis Macleod and Alan Judge were the other big names to miss out but given their lengthy injuries and recuperation there was never a chance of either player featuring.

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Injuries and absence aside, the team was a very strong one

BBC Billy Reeves had already probed Dean Smith last Friday on that subject. Likewise, I’ve already given my own thoughts (all that is here) but since then we’ve had radio silence. The ‘imminent’ big bid from a Premier League side has yet to materialise or, if it has, nobody is saying anything. The local press have no more clue than myself (at least, in public) whilst usually reliable sources on the rumour front such as Beesotted have remained very much under the radar.

It’s a shame the likes of Billy (Reeves – BBC and Grant – Beesotted) were missing yesterday. I’d love to have heard their thoughts and questions on a team line up that already looks incredibly strong for the forthcoming season. Stick Jota, Maupay and Colin in there too and Sheffield United could have a Championship baptism of fire. Not to mention the rest of the league .

Instead, it was left to ‘official’ where the match report had no managerial comment although Twitter did at least give us some update.

Screen Shot 2017-07-16 at 07.38.18So there you have it. Despite all the noise this just seems to be smoke and mirrors at the moment. Indeed, it all very much smacks of West Ham and Scott Hogan once more. All talk, all rumour, all unsettling but no action.

It reminds me in a way of the Simon Moore transfer. His sale had been talked up for most of the 2013/14 pre-season before he eventually ended up at Cardiff City. Prior to that though, he’d featured in a two minute pre-season cameo before being substituted with an ‘injury’. This, was immediately followed by his sale to a Cardiff City team we’d then play in a friendly after the infamous explanation for another absence as ‘visiting the beach’.

That game, for the record, being one we emerged from with a fantastic 3-2 win after going 2-0 down early on. Although Paul Hayes in the last minute doesn’t quite have the same ring.

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Simon Moore. Once went to Cardiff beach, according to Uwe

Is Jota being viewed as a big part of our plans for 2017/18 (one can only hope) or is the writing already on the wall? Without a doubt the club know more than they are saying in public – nobody expects them to reveal transfer dealings negotiations ahead of any deal being signed or rejected. But a second absence in eight days speaks huge volumes. If the player does feature against Oxford United on Wednesday, it will be very interesting to see for how long. A full 90 minutes or a token run out at the death? There’s going to be a lot of squeaky bums over the next three days, let alone the next three weeks.

On the positive side, the signing of Neal Maupay presents another exciting opportunity for Brentford. Nobody can deny that whatever the initial scepticism around our transfer strategy, we’ve unearthed some gems from the continent over the last few seasons.

Of course there’s Jota but you could add Yoann Barbet, Maxime Colin, Lasse Vibe, Andreas Bjelland and, in my mind, the criminally under used Konstantin Kerschbaumer to that list for starters. We’ll draw a discreet veil over Big Nick although he did join us from the English league so doesn’t really count in that bracket. That said, for the record, this Wednesday will mark the five year anniversary since Hull City paid SC Paderborn £2.6 million for his services. How times change.

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Neal Maupay – as seen on official

As a final thought for today, since the previous column about Peter Gilham it has been wonderful to see the outpouring of love and best wishes for Mr Brentford. Without a doubt he is one man to unite this club, having talked the Bees family through thick and (a lot of ) thin. So to read his own message was intensely heart warming for all of us but, as importantly, the fact that he has just carried on with his pre-season duties as though it was BAU.

His tour blogs have kept us updated as to those behind the scenes details of what goes on when the Bees are abroad. Here’s hoping he’s back with the mic on his hand for August 12th and our first home game.

Peter, we’re still thinking of you. Get well soon.

Nick Bruzon

Can anything beat last season’s unicorn? The top ten moments of the campaign.

13 May

The season is over. Almost. There’s still the small matter of the play-offs to come but for us Brentford fans, at least, its time to put our feet up and relax. Leave that stress to the likes of Fulham and Reading (who’ll both be back in the Championship next season) and, instead, look back at the campaign just gone by means of a top ten. But not a conventional top ten. There’s no on pitch action.

As such, we’ve no room for discussion about Jota’s sublime goals against Derby County or QPR. Indeed, talking of the not so super hoops, this is a hit parade that has no space for discourse on our double over these near neighbours or the eventual 11 point gap that saw them end he season trailing well in our wake.

Instead, it is a top ten of the different. The unusual. The in-jokes. A top ten where the yardstick was set last season with ‘that unicorn picture’ . But what, if anything, can surpass Antonio Bergasse’s wonderful creation……

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Any excuse to crowbar this one in – love that unicorn

10: Ian Holloway. We can only start with the QPR boss. Specifically the pre-season prediction that he would subsequently go on to deny making. Brentford were regressing. Brentford would be relegated Brentford couldn’t cope without the likes of Andre Gray and Alan Judge. Didn’t we prove the (then) Sky pundit wrong. Instead, it was his own side those words would have been better applied to.

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Pundit Ian Holloway’s words have come back to haunt him

9 Brian Guest. Forgive me one moment of personal indulgence. Or, should I say, forgive my never before seen identical twin brother Brian. A prank that went too far saw the Fulham programme publish, amongst other things: References to the 4-0 defeat at Brentford. Mention of that 4-1 home hammering administered by Stuart Dallas, Alan Judge, Jota et al. The wonderful Michael Jackson statue. The Pizza Hut shirt – a perfect symmetry between sponsor and supporter. Even the Richard Osman / Pointless ’joke’ made it in – along with a picture of Brian wearing the Spall ’87 away shirt.

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8 Josh McEachran. The first of two entries for Josh is one that caused more questions than answers. How many phones does he have? Why does he need so many phone cases? Well, two questions but no answers. Josh, if you are reading (you aren’t) could you shed some light?
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7 Jugde . Just what happened here? Do we have a fan with an almost identical surname to last season’s player of the year? Was it a typo in the club shop that nobody noticed? A bet that went wrong? Jugde was spotted at several away games over the season, wearing his colours with pride. With GetWestLondon getting themselves all excited after Cardiff City away with the revelation that : Brentford fan wears Bees shirt with BREXIT 16 on the back, perhaps their energies would have been better focussed getting to the bottom of this one.

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There are just too many questions

6 Peter Gilham. What can you say about Mr.Brentford? Football’s longest running man-with-the-mic turned an incredible 70 this year. 70?!!  How is that possible? Yet, like a fine wine, he continues to improve with age. And nowhere is this better seen than in his goal announcements which, of course, are sponsored by “A little Italian restaurant. At Brentford lock”.  The more goals Brentford score, the more enthused he becomes. Yet what should be the most cringeworthy and toe curling of sponsorship announcements is already becoming part of club folklore with Peter losing his composure (in the best way) should we score more than one goal in a game.

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Peter, Buzz and Buzzette. The epitome of cool

5 Sergio Canos. The Burton away game, with Brentford turning a round a 3-1 half-time deficit to end it as 5-3 winners, is already the stuff of legend. The archetypal example of football being a game of two halves that saw our hosts snatch defeat from the jaws of victory (to borrow a well used phrase). But just when the afternoon couldn’t get any crazier, none other than man of the moment Sergi Canos popped up at the station alongside the Brentford fans making their way home. As you do. Cue mayhem, chaos and photos galore as he posed with each and every supporter that asked for a snap before embarking on his own train journey.

Sergio does it again. And again. What a man.

4 Big Bob Giveaway (and his April fool). If Peter Gilham is Mr. Brentford, Kitman Bob Oteng is fast carving his own niche into club folklore. An all round ‘good guy’, his BBGiveaway (which sees supporters given the chance to win a player shirt, boots or some other ‘money can’t buy’ prize) is a huge part of our match day ritual. But, with everybody looking out for stories of Jota being sold to Fulham or the Bees wearing blue and white hoops next season, he snuck one under the radar on April 1st this year. 270 fans fell for his gag about the none existent black goalkeeper’s jersey.

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3 Aston Villa. In particular, uber-fan Simon Hateley. He typified the attitude of many on social media, unable to adjust to his club’s fall from Premier League grace. Whereas Newcastle United were dignified off field and as strong as expected on it, Villa seemed to have some trouble adjusting. Hateley summed it up with an ongoing series of bizarre and boastful tweets, reminiscent of Leeds United when Brentford stormed into the Championship. The biggest sense of self-entitlement this side of Arsenal TV was met with as much success as the Gunners have in the top flight.

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2 Sam Saunders – that tweet. Sam’s departure in January was one we’d braced ourselves for but, at the same time, was still a sad moment when the inevitable happened. Like Peter and Bob, he is somebody who lives and breathes Brentford. That suntan, the rubber glove car wash and Saunders territory are just some of the many ways he built up a relationship with the supporters that few other players have matched. But top of the list is THE song, to the tune of ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’:

Oh Sammy Saunders. You are the love of my life.
Oh Sammy Saunders. I’d let you shag my wife.
Oh Sammy Saunders. I want fake tan like you.

So when one supporter had a special request on the occasion of his best friend’s wedding, the repose was one which summed up Sam in a nutshell.

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1 Josh McEachran – dressed for mini golf. No words required. The tweet says it all :

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Better than the unicorn? Quite possibly ! Thanks everybody for a great season. Here’s to next year.

Nick Bruzon

Brilliant Bentley, play-offs, clappers and a special guest in the programme. What an afternoon.

30 Apr

Well, that was some afternoon. Brentford travelled to Fulham where a point was probably a fair result in a game we were lucky not to have gone in three or four down at half time but which ultimately ended 1-1. That they didn’t win will be the least concern for our hosts . With Leeds United going three down at home to Norwich City before eventually managing a point, those results mean that barring a staggering swing in goal difference, Fulham have reached the play-offs and we’ve another trip to Elland Road. And off field, did anybody pick up a copy of the match day programme…..?

First up though, congratulations to Fulham. Yes. It has to be said. A full house at Craven Cottage saw a cracking game of football as the hosts set out to ensure Leeds couldn’t catch them. What happened was as afternoon that will go down as on of those ‘I was  there’ days – for both sides.

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A full house saw a great game in a wonderful atmosphere

Easily one of the best teams to visit Brentford this season (Fulham, not Leeds), Saturday saw them come flying out of the blocks as they looked to get the win they needed to secure a play off spot. With Brentford on the back foot and being carved open for fun, it was only a matter of time before the first goal. Tom Cairney grabbed it after eight minutes and that was, surely, the cue for the floodgates to open?

With the Bees rocking, chance after chance came. Floyd Aite in particular firing so very high and so very wide when clean through. A second goal would have probably been fair on the balance of play but possession, stats and chances count for jack if you can’t put them away.

And sure enough, goal of the season contender Nico Yennaris stepped up. An interchange of passes with Konstantin Kerschbaumer saw the sweetest of finishes into the far corner on the diagonal from just inside the box.
1-1 and the Bees took the noise up another few decibels.

And a good thing too. The goal, obviously, but the even louder support for an already vociferous away following. Anything to drown out those infernal clackers/clappers. Those things that, if you check out the video highlights (and Sky Sports have their version up now), sound like hundreds of charity buckets being rattled.

But with Brentford having hauled themselves back in to it, charitable donations seemed to be the order of the day. How goalscorer Cairney didn’t restore Fulham’s lead I still have no idea. He was left totally unmarked, and I mean totally, 8 yards out but could only guide the inch perfect cross well wide of the goal. Daniel Bentley wasn’t even forced into a save.

Moments later, another chance. Referee Darren Bond awarding what seemed, at the time, a totally innocuous penalty against the Bees. The ball had been crossed in and was pinging around the middle, going nowhere, when he pointed to the spot.

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View from the stand. Penalty – obv

Even watching it afterwards, Yoann Barbet does make contact with Stephan Johansen but only as the ball had been delivered into the heart of the crowded penalty box.  Generous would seem very much the verdict on this one.

Step up Tom Cairney with another chance to let Fulham retake the lead. Step up Daniel Bentley to do his thing quite magnificently and show just why he is up there as a serious, serious contender for player of the season. Diving low to his left he not only pushed the ball clear but then made the bravest of second saves as he threw himself amongst the onrushing boots and onto the ball.

Yessss!  The away fans erupted. Again. The clackers were drowned out. Again. Fulham had seen another gilt edged chance spurned. Again. Daniel Bentley, you beauty.

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View from the stand – Brilliant Bentley does his thing

And with that, half time. Checking the scores saw Leeds United 3-1 down and as good as out. Despite our best efforts in the second period, both teams had really given their all and it couldn’t match the pace of the first. The highlight being a debut for Zain Westbrooke who, along side full backs Tom Field and Josh Clarke really marked a positive embrace of those who have come up from the youth set up and B team.

Sure enough, with the 90 played out and Leeds United all but shooting themselves in the foot, the hosts were happy enough to stroke it around their defence and settle for a point. Brentford fans stayed to applaud the players off (Lasse Vibe, Yoan Barbet and KK amongst those handing over their shirts and really taking in the moment – do we need to read anything into this?) before going off to settle for a pint. The fans, not the players.

Off the field, two moments of real note. Firstly, Matthew Benham taking to Twitter. Always a good thing when this happens, he put the kibosh on any prospect of Lionel Road Clackers.

Like Goal Music, another thing that will have to reside in the drawer labelled : Do not open. Ever.

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And secondly, forgive a bit of self-indulgence.

Back in January, my hitherto unseen identical twin brother Brian Guest saw a tweet from Fulham, looking for home supporters to participate in the ‘Your Club’ section of the matchday programme. This could be amusing (he told me) and applied. One thing led to another and along with a photo of Brian sporting the Spall ’87 Brentford away shirt, a series of tongue-in-cheek answers were submitted. Surely this would never get past the editor?

But it did. Brian’s selection was swiftly confirmed, “A while off but appropriately enough, for the Brentford game”.

Seriously? Had they actually read the answers?

A reminder of the 4-0 defeat at Brentford.  Mention of the recent 4-1 home hammering administered by Stuart Dallas, Alan Judge, Jota et al. The Intertoto Cup – prestige and honour.

It went on. The wonderful Michael Jackson statue appeared. The Pizza Hut shirt. The Richard Osman / Pointless ’joke’ –  something that should contractually be met with tumbleweed these days.

Surely somebody would then look at this and rumble it? Surely?

But no. Before even reaching the Cottage, one Braemar Road observer (and fellow fan of the World Polo finals – thanks!) had already been in touch. It had got through. Commentator par-excellence Mark Burridge then took to Twitter advising likewise. And on reaching the Cottage, there it was (part of which you can see below).

Big thanks Fulham. Seriously. The game may have ended 1-1 but all three points to the Bees off the field.

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Nick Bruzon

Get a plate, a knife and a fork. Add some words. Start eating.

19 Apr

Sometimes it’s just too easy. The inevitable ‘shooting fish in a barrel’ of blog columns arrives as Brentford gear up for Saturday’s home derby with QPR. Whilst Fulham may have finished above us for the first time in three seasons (although there’s still much more to come on that front), once again the Bees will finish the Championship campaign clear of the not so super hoops. With just three games to go we’re 10 points ahead – Brentford on 60 to our neighbours’ 50.

Poor Ian Holloway. Whilst it looked at one stage as though he might turnaround what had become very much a damp squib of a season, normal form has now returned. Rangers’ current record in the league reads: LLLLL and , mathematically, they still aren’t safe. Only six points separate them from third bottom Blackburn Rovers. Themselves, a team who will no doubt be going hammer and tongs for a victory when they visit Griffin Park on the final game of the season. What an awkward one that could end up being.

But if the chance to go 13 points clear of the Loftus Road outfit and push them ever closer to the trapdoor wasn’t enough inspiration for Brentford this Saturday, there’s more. Much more. Whilst one can only have huge respect for all Jake Bidwell did at Griffin Park, moreso in a week that marked the three year anniversary since our ascension from League One, how good to show him he made the wrong call? If only for that #Jakejoins hashtag.

Indeed from out of that move we’ve not only seen the true emergence of Tom Field but, as excitingly, Rico Henry recover from injury and show just how the statistical model helped pick another former Dean Smith player. To have two such comfortable looking left side players really is a rare luxury and one that has provoked intriguing discussion as to just who should start in the full back berth.

Then, of course, we’ve got the chance to do the double over the neighbours. A 2-0 win for Brentford at QPR back in October was one that saw Romaine Sawyers hit an absolute screamer to double our lead. Writing about that one at the time, it was noted on these pages that : “”Sure, the QPR defence looked holier than the Pope (and were about as benevolent) but you still need the technique to put it away. What. A. Finish.

“The look on his face before he hit it”, opined one terrace wag to me, “you just knew what was going to happen”. And sure enough, it did.””

More of the same would be just wonderful.

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View from the terrace – the net starts to bulge from Romaine’s rocket

But, of course, the biggest incentive of them all is ‘that column’, written by Ian Holloway in his pre-season guise as a pundit for Sky Sports. In it, he tipped Brentford to be relegated, saying we’d finish 23rd and incorrectly claiming we’d punched above our weight under Warbs.

“ Brentford are regressing. Mark Warburton got them punching above their weight. They still haven’t replaced Andre Gray and Alan Judge will be missing for the start of the season. They could be in trouble.”

Sorry, Ian. Punching above our weight? Regressing? The table doesn’t lie. It didn’t then. It didn’t under Dean Smith last year when we finished above both Fulham and QPR in the table (despite the early sale of Gray and the injury enforced absence of the Judge). It certainly doesn’t now. Brentford sit in 11th place. QPR are down down in 17th and still looking down the barrel of relegation.

I’m not Dean Smith. I’m just the numpty on the terrace. But even I can predict what his pre-match team talk might be on Saturday afternoon . Something Twitter correspondent Luis Adriano also noted might be making an appearance.

I can’t wait for Saturday. A West London derby is always a great thing but to have two of them back to back (of course, the trip to play off chasing Fulham is the following week) is a rare treat.

Here’s to a repeat of October. For more than one reason….

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I’m sure this was full earlier? Still eight minutes to go

Nick Bruzon