Tag Archives: Alan Judge

The lunchtime after the night before. Arsenal through despite storming second half from Bees.

27 Sep

If only….. So close….. Why didn’t he go for it from kick off?…. Why can’t we just enjoy a big game just even one fuc&ing time?…. I enjoyed half a big game – should have been a whole one but for team selection.” These, just some of the things I saw / heard after Arsenal beat Brentford 3-1 in Wednesday night’s Carabao Cup third round. It’s the obvious reaction to a game that, once The Bees stepped up in the second half, was about as exciting as they come. Likewise, and I’m not going to pretend I wasn’t disappointed on seeing that our usual starting XI weren’t in the frame for the opening period, it really has the feeling of an opportunity missed. In the immediate short term.

I don’t subscribe to any ‘big day out’ nonsense. This was a cup tie in an arena that was about as sanitised and sterile as they come and hardly the place where, but for a ball pulled from the hat, one would come to voluntarily. Giant ‘goal flags’, players giving out counter terrorism advice on the big screens and even mid-match graphics exhorting the home fans to ‘Come On You Reds.’ At one point I had to double check that the flag saying Arsenal Library actually said Arsenal Liberia. For me, this was all about the chance to progress against a club still labouring to escape the grisly shadow of, by their esteemed standards, recent mediocrity. A team sure to have been playing several reserves. They duly obliged.

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Arsenal library

Let’s be honest here, the first half was hard work. We weren’t even close to coming second as the hosts, helped by a very early goal, slipped effortlessly into cruise control. Reserves or otherwise. The Bees looked lethargic; the crowd subdued. That we were only two down at half time was as much thanks to Arsenal failing to put this one to bed. Halftime couldn’t come soon enough but, with it, Dean Smith seemingly delivered the mother of all team talks.

Sergi and, in particular, Alan Judge burst into life. Kamo mopping up the midfield. Dean’s initial selection more than justified as The Bees woke up. A goal threatened and came via a quite wonderful free kick from Judgey on the hour. Situated deep in the heart of Saunders territory, he was the last person anyone expected to hit it from the clutch of players gathered over the ball. But boy, what a sweet strike up, over and around the wall that left Jay Leno in the Arsenal goal with no chance. Sumptuous.

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Over the wall and en-route to goal

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Yesssssss !!!!!

An immense knee slide followed as the Brentford fans exploded. Not literally. Although that earlier advice might at least have come in handy. Could we haul ourselves back into this? The addition of Henrik Dalsgaard adding further strength. Likewise Maupay and Benrahma. It wasn’t for a want of trying, that’s for sure.

Sadly though, it wasn’t to be. The prolific Lacazette putting it out of sight deep into stoppage time to give the game that final 3-1 score. No complaints from me with the end result but a lot to think about on the way home and a lot of time to do it thanks to the tube strike.

Dean’s team selection…. Absolutely I was gutted to see the likes of Said Benrahma, Neal Maupay and Daniel Bentley on the bench when the teams were announced. After all the hype, build up and ‘that’ Chelsea cup tie I really thought we’d hold firm. We didn’t. I understand why. These were still more than recognised players who came in at a point where the team are in the midst of a 7(seven) game run over 22 days.

Fitness and rotation are the obvious factors at play here whilst the second half proved that, actually, Dean called it right. He picked a side that had the ability to do a job. To a man they came out and put a stunning shift in after half-time with the performance further bolstered by later substitutions. It was the first half ‘no show’ that left us on the backfoot and with a mountain to climb. Rabbits in the headlights of slick, but comfortable opponents who play at that level for a reason.

We could have won. We maybe should have won. I’m still not sure why we took so long to start firing given how we came flying out of the traps in the second period. Would the team that lost at Frank Lampard’s Derby County on Saturday have fared any better? Alan Judge scored a wonder goal but that’s all I can take away from this in the direct aftermath. So close counts for nothing. That’s not to overlook the fact that, personally, I’m immensely cheered and proud by how we grew into this one.

As ever, some perspective. And as much to me. Whilst this was from many respects a chance to really make a name for ourselves, at the end of the day (Clive) we’re moaning about not beating Arsenal. Despite a moribund first half we were alive and in it until the final minute.

That’s no bad yardstick of progress in my eyes. We’ve got two more league games to come in less than a week. Thankfully, both at home. Get six points against Reading and Birmingham then we’ll be looking at last night less as an opportunity missed, less as us ‘not enjoying a big game’ as was earlier noted and more a stepping stone en route to bigger and better things.

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The moment- 2-1 and game on!!!

Nick Bruzon

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Dean’s Forss-Field keeps Cheltenham out as Forest await. Lionel Road delay sees extended life at Griffin Park.

29 Aug

Brentford ensured progression to the third round of the league cup on Tuesday night after victory over Cheltenham Town by the the odd goal in one, i.e. 1-0. It was as comprehensive a performance of build-up play as they come despite the solitary mark on the scoresheet. Only over complication in front of goal and a solid display from fan favourite Scott Flinders (who would have stopped just about anything coming at him, even a small child) kept the visitors in it until the final whistle. Yet with Nottingham Forest to come next in the league, perhaps the main thing was putting Saturday’s first Championship defeat (1-0 at Blackburn Rovers) behind us and marking a return to winning ways.

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Griffin Park always looking great under lights

Dean Smith was taking no chances on this one. The last thing we needed with a potato skin like this was his going ‘full Marinus’. Instead, the bench was chock full of first teamers whilst the likes of Chris Mepham, Nico Yennaris, Lewis Macleod and Said Benrahma all started alongside familiar faces Alan Judge, Josh Clarke, Tom Field and newboy Julian Jeanvier.  With Neal Maupay serving the second game of his three match stint out, Marcus Forss returned once more following his debut at Blackburn.

Indeed, it was French central defender Jeanvier who grabbed the game’s only goal, providing the final touch to a goalmouth melee just prior to half time. It was a strike that our performance had suggested was coming. Benrahma in particular enjoying the freedom of Griffin Park as the visitors sat deep and invited Brentford to come at them. Wave after wave of attack was repelled as our own pretty football was rewarded with everything but the finishing touch. Sometimes we don’t need to walk it in!

That said, final stats of 13 shots on target compared to none for Cheltenham tell their own story although it didn’t feel like that sort of game. Comfortable, yes. But without that second goal there was always the danger of being caught by the sucker punch equaliser. Had the visitors perhaps thrown the kitchen sink at it ten minutes earlier than the last knockings of a game they were always in,  there would have been a very real chance of taking it to those immediate penalties (no extra time here). But with a Brentford team including the combination of Forss-Field in the starting XI, perhaps there was never any danger of Luke Daniels’ goal being breached.

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Rare Cheltenham attacks were snuffed out

Still, we’re through and that’s the main thing. The draw for Round 3 is on Thursday evening at 7pm which is when all the Premier league’s top clubs, and also Arsenal, join in the fun. No doubt everybody will be hoping for a trip to an Old Trafford or Anfield. Perhaps a visit from Chelsea, Fulham or Manchester City. Instead, it’ll probably be Middlesbrough away.

Of more immediate interest is what Dean Smith learned about his side ahead of the visit from Nottingham Forest on Saturday. They are one of just three unbeaten Championship sides (see also: Leeds united and Middlesbrough) and now find themselves a point behind the eighth placed Bees as the table starts to slowly settle down. So who will Dean go with? The same XI as at Blackburn? A different option up top? Could he be tempted to entertain the return of Josh McEachran to his Championship team? How about Sergi Canos who must be chomping at the bit to get a run out in what will be the last game before international break? Whomever Dean picks, the Bees are likely to be facing infinitely more testing opponents. On paper.

Then again, on paper last night should have been a cake walk but Cheltenham contained us and almost nicked an equaliser late on. Don’t let paper or reputation fool you for a second. Goals are all what counts when it comes to winning games. Banging them in and keeping them out. A simple enough philosophy but all the pretty play in the world means naff all if you do get caught with your pants down at one-nil up. But we didn’t. We’re through and that’s the important thing. It was really nice also to see several familiar fan faces out and about in the second half – you know who you are if you are reading (unlikely, but..). It’s great that people retain that love for the Bees and always a mark of what the current regime are currently doing that they continue to inspire such passion amongst the fans.

These are exciting times at Griffin Park. We’ve had an impressive start in the league and are 90 minutes away from equalling our furthest ever league cup run (round four). We have a new home on the horizon, even if if our moving in date has been put back to the start of the 2020/21 campaign as was announced yesterday.  This is no surprise to anyone who has seen the, albeit impressive, work to date. Whilst the Lionel Road site is being developed at a rate of knots, we need to be realistic. Just look at the problems Tottenham now face as a result of trying to rush into their new home. You can read the full statement on Brentford official. No doubt more to come on this over the next day or so.

So one more full season at Griffin Park awaits once the current campaign comes to a close. Could it see top flight football? Who knows. Bring on Nottingham Forest this Saturday when we take the next step to discovering our football fate.

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Mark Fuller and Yoann Barbet do their respective things at full time

Nick Bruzon

Will Stoke get Woods? Does it have a beach? Can Bees push on at Blackburn?

25 Aug

Strap yourselves in folks, this could be some day. Brentford travel to Blackburn Rovers looking to continue that unbeaten run of early season form which currently sees us sitting fourth in the pack of twenty-four teams. Yet the big question is whether Ryan Woods will be travelling with The Bees as news of the rumoured interest from Stoke City cranked up a few notches yesterday when the Potters as good as let the cat out of the bag. If you believe them. Yet if this comes to pass, it will end one of the most protracted moves of the summer following the initial stories and bid from Swansea City. At the same time making somewhat of a mockery of a transfer window which contains the biggest hole this side of the QPR defence (nil points. P4 L4).

The trip to Blackburn represents the mid-point of an intense two-week period that has already seen us beat Wednesday on Sunday and then have victory at Aston Villa cruelly slip from our grasp deep into the 95thminute out of 95 on, erm, Wednesday. That was a game which will as much as anything else be remembered for the goals from Neal Maupay which took him to the top of the Championship scoring table. Likewise, his retrospective red card which means he is missing from today’s game aswell as the League Cup on Tuesday and then the visit from Nottingham Forest next weekend.

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The Villa game ended 2-2 (and with a retrospective ban for Neal)

So what does Dean do to compensate? Personally, I think he’ll push Ollie up top and mix the wingers up. Said Benrahma and Sergi Canos have been doing quite magnificent battle over that right hand berth but can they be accommodated at the same time? Will Alan Judge make a start (although hopefully not as a false 9 – see yesterday) ? Does Marcus Forss then come off the bench and Ollie go back to our traditional shape if we need to change things up? Or, indeed, might Dean start like that anyway?

Who knows? I’m just the numpty on the terrace rather than anybody with any real knowledge – whether behind the scenes or just of football in general. Whilst on the one hand it may expose our lack of an alternative out and out second striker, based on what we’ve seen to date, the one thing Brentford have always done is play as a team. Score (and show) goals from every angle. From every positon bar goalkeeper. And with the length he gets these days, one wouldn’t be totally surprised if Daniel Bentley was to find the back of the net.

The other change I would think may also come is in central midfield. Both Nico Yennaris and Kamo have been superb when they have come off the bench for Lewis and Josh. The step up in play at both Stoke and Aston Villa was demonstrable by their entrance to the field of play. Dean has a wonderful bench available and is yet to change his starting XI in four league games. Yet with the matches coming thick and fast, and one enforced move in Maupay already thrust upon him, don’t be surprised if Dean twists further when the teams are announced at around 2pm.

One player that even I’m not so naïve as to think will be starting is Ryan Woods. Sadly. As noted in the introduction, Stoke City seems to be edging ever closer to getting their man. BBC Radio Stoke were bigging it up on Wednesday evening (be glad you can’t get it down here, given the Bees observer they had to drag in to opine on that one) and then yesterday it was the turn of current Stoke manager Gary Rowett. He announced that Woodsy, who was of course an unused substitute for that Aston Villa game, has already had a medical. He went on to claim that, “We are quite close to concluding a deal but we are not there just yet.

Brentford official are, of course, saying nothing. The club never comment on rumours and whilst history teaches us that you’ll never learn anything from fanzines, this all has a somewhat familiar ring to it. I think back to July 2013 when Simon Moore was being linked with Cardiff City, Back then their manager Malky Mackay (who, for the record, is currently the performance director of the Scottish Football Association – good luck with that one) told the media two days prior to signing the player that, “It’ll be paperwork first thing Monday morning, that’s the only thing holding that one up.”

An odd statement to make when infact we all knew Simon was simply on holiday. At the beach. In Cardiff.

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Cardiff beach. Simon Moore once holidayed there. According to Uwe.

Unless Stoke does have a beach then it kind of suggests this one is all but nailed on. The fee reckoned to be £6.5-£7(seven) million depending on which which source you read. Presumably with the usual clauses that Brentford have the shrewdness to insert. Who’d have thought we’d get money from Alfie Mawson’s sale to Fulham after all this time?  

Do I want him to go? No. In a word. That’s me being an emotional, selfish fan. Will we miss Ryan? Absolutely. The tussle that has gone on for his services (and those of us looking in only know of Swansea and Stoke’s interest to date) show the regard with which he is held in this division. Would we cope? Well, here’s the thing. I don’t want to tempt fate overly but look at what we’ve already done this season and Woodsy hasn’t got close to the pitch. The first XI and oncoming substitutes have performed quite wonderfully. It has been our best start to a campaign since 2013/14 and we we ended that one with promotion to the Championship. The squad would be stronger with him, no question, but it has still had a stunning start without.

This club has made no secret of transfer strategy. That we won’t stand in the way of players who want to leave if the price is on our terms. That we have got the player replacement technique pretty much nailed on now. Don’t get me wrong, I want him to stay. But I also trust what we’ve seen before. Adam Forshaw, Simon Moore, Moses (welcome back), number 26, Andre Gray. The Birmingham three – Jota, Maxime and Harlee. Aww, I do miss those defensive wobbles. They’ve all gone. We’ve survived. If Ryan decides his time has come then good luck to him. And huge thanks. He’s a hero and an inspiration at Griffin Park.

Yet now it seems that chapter is coming to a close, should the announcement indeed be confirmed today. Stoke City need a player of his ability, that’s for sure. Despite the wealth of talent they already seem to have their midfield was conspicuous by its absence when we traveled up there the other week. Supporters disappointment at ‘only’ getting a draw, further exacerbated by then seeing Wigan hump them 3-0. Even Will Grigg scored a penalty. The reward for that a (surely temporary) place in the relegation zone.

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Stoke have bite. But not much more…at present

The one other thing this has exposed is just the vagary of a transfer window that shut weeks ago yet still sees players able to move between Championship clubs on loan or, as would seem to be happening here, ‘loan with a permanent contract in January’ deals. It does seem to defeat the purpose somewhat and one can only feel for managers trying to put their squads together when they now have not one but effectively two windows to cope with.

QPR themselves have signed strikers Tomer Hemed from Brighton and Burnley’s £5m man Nahki Wells on loan for the duration of this campaign. Not quite sure how that all works but it seems to be legal – an unusual strategy for them given the £42m fine and transfer ban they finally agreed to in July following the breach of FFP rules.

Still, that’s their issue. I’m focussed on Blackburn and Brentford. Regardless of whether Ryan Woods is in the squad or sitting in the bottom three with Stoke. That a position I can’t imagine that they’ll occupy for very long should the move go through.

As for us, I’m calling this one as an away win. Complete confidence for the boys in brown and orange. Maupay may be missing but this squad is just too good at present. Enjoy the game!

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The current table. Come on Ryan. If you go, at least leap frog 20th….

Nick Bruzon

Maupay banned. Funeral Directors appointed.

24 Aug

Brentford head to Blackburn Rovers on Saturday knowing we’ll be missing the services of the Championship’s leading goal scorer, Neal Maupay. A three game ban (which also takes in the Carabao cup tie at home to Cheltenham Town and then the visit from Nottingham Forest in the league) being the result of his accepting a violent conduct charge following the stamp on John McGinn at Aston Villa on Wednesday. In happier news, kind of, the club have announced G Saville and son as their latest commercial partners – the Official Funeral Directors of Brentford Football Club. Just for clarity, that’s Graham and not George. His career hasn’t died yet.

First up though, Neal Maupay and the incident at Aston Villa. The retrospective video review was no surprise to just about anybody who saw it on TV. Whilst referee Jon Moss missed this at the time, the subsequent going over and over in super slo-mo on Sky meant that there was only ever going to be one outcome. And understandably so on seeing the footage. It didn’t look good at all. There is a brief statement on Brentford official (you can read that in full here) although the jist of it confirms the games which will be missed, accompanied by an update from Dean in which he said that Neal understands the severity of his action and that he will be suspended for three games.

I reviewed the incident with Neal and spoke to him this morning. He understands the severity of his action and that he will be suspended for three games. We did not want to prolong the process so have accepted the charge immediately”, said Dean.

Nobody needs me labouring the point about what was an ugly incident which, despite the provocation, can’t be justified. The FA have delivered their verdict and so there’s nothing more to add on that aspect.

It’s a real shame for the team and a player who is the league’s top scorer (5) and also provider of assists (4). Instead, the conversation turns to how we replace Neal in terms of that centre forward role. In at the deep end for Marcus Forss or pull Ollie Watkins in from the left? It seems a shame to break up an otherwise winning formation but I suspect that’s the way Dean will go. Personally, I’d love to see Marcus given a chance in an otherwise retained shape. There’s also the option to stick Sergi up top although then we might be starting to stray into old ground….

Who could ever forget the the ‘false 9’ experiment? Few who remember ‘that game’ at QPR back in March 2016, in which Alan Judge was pressed into an advanced midfielder role (what was actually described as the aforementioned ‘false 9’) would be looking for a repeat. It was a nightmare afternoon where a striker free team were abysmal and, whatever the perceived logic from Dean, his gamble brought about inevitable consequences. Let’s please never, ever do that again.

That said, and we digress slightly, that afternoon sticks long in the mind for two other reasons. Both of which have been mentioned before and will no doubt again. But some things bear repeating.

Firstly, the magnificent Billy Reeves doing his zero-to-catwalk in three seconds shimmy along the touchline at half time. It was a move that was equal parts Zoolander and Moonwalk. Not even Ian Moose’s movement when the half-time pies appear could match this for impressiveness. Any excuse to drag out that picture once more.

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BBC Billy had provided the one moment of joy the last time we tried a ‘false 9’

Secondly, being ‘fly on the wall’ to a conversation taking place in the row directly behind me. There, the emotion had clearly got to another fan who had been giving a running commentary down the phone to his, presumably, better half during the second half. As the Bees collapsed his call, which had been getting more and more aggravated, reached a sad denouement with the line, “Yes. I love you my darling. But we’re sh*t. Now please f**k off”.

Whomever Dean starts with at Blackburn, it can’t be that bad. Instead, with our head coach now facing his first mandatory test of personnel, it will be very interesting to see which way he jumps. More importantly, how the team cope. Bring it on…

The other news of note was the announcement of the club’s official funeral partners. Whilst I’ve no doubt there will be some who think it is a commercial opportunity too far and indicative that the game’s gone, others will welcome it. Certainly I do, if only for the pun potential it now offers. It was something the club themselves have recognised, leading with the headline.: Brentford ‘til I die. Cue immediate references to dead ball specialists and experts in the box, although perhaps Will Grigg may not want to think about being on fire just yet. Urghh. Is that still a thing?

There have been the usual knockers but, frankly, who cares? It’s going to happen to us all one day so why not have a name ready for when that sad moment comes? Why shouldn’t the club explore unique and innovative opportunities that get people talking about both us and our partners?

Keen eyed observers had already seen the adverts at the Sheffield Wednesday game on Sunday. I was sent this picture, wondering whether George was currently lying low at the Holiday Inn ahead of the announcement of a controversial career change and forthcoming return to West London.

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Not George

Whilst it will be a blow to many, such flights of fancy are yet to transpire. Instead, the true meaning was revealed in yesterday’s announcement. And you can read that one in full on ‘official’.

Otherwise, there’s not really much else to say. Safe travels to Blackburn and roll on 2pm tomorrow when Dean announces his team.

Nick Bruzon     

What a way to nail our colours to the mast – on and off the pitch.

15 Aug

Oh my. With the paint still drying on Saturday’s draw at Stoke City, it’s been all go at Brentford. On pitch, we picked up where we left off in The Potteries with as comprehensive a win as they come against Southend United in the League Cup. Off field, Chief Executive Mark Devlin used the brief window between games to make about as powerful a statement as they come in recognition of the ‘Kick It Out’ campaign’s 25thanniversary.

First up, the last knockings of the Stoke game. Whilst those present were, quite rightly, salivating over our performance and perhaps disappointed to have ‘only’ picked up a point, it seems that those outside TW8 are now jumping on the Griffin Park bandwagon. And rightly so. Long has we sung about being the Barcelona of the Lower leagues and now it has been recognised, albeit the Bees are playing at a higher level these days. This one has been doing the rounds in the last 24 hours. If ever you wanted proof of how Brentford are set up to play and how it is all coming together, then here it is….

Then last night we travelled to Southend United for a first round league cup tie at Roots Hall. Whilst the home side hadn’t won a tie in this competition since 2010, it was the sort of game that always has the look of potential potato skin. Moreso, with head coach Dean Smith making 11 changes to the Brentford starting XI . His reward was progression via a 4-2 win for a team that included starts for Alan Judge and Ryan Woods (yes, cup tied !), amongst others regulars. Likewise, full debuts for Said Benrahma and Julian Jeanvier.

Said’s performance from the bench at Stoke had us purring. By all accounts, he played a blinder last night. Impressing from the off, scoring a stonker that sent ‘official’ twitter into meltdown and receiving a standing ovation from the visiting fans prior to his late substitution with Sergi.

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Ewww. A GIF. But my word, what a goal !!

Who’d be a head coach? Good luck to Dean trying to fit those two in to the team on Sunday for the visit of Sheffield Wednesday. Talk about a nice problem to have in naming that side.

Once official had towelled itself clean from the celebration, it would excitedly go on to describe Said’s strike: Another debutant goal and a star has been born tonight!! Benrahma with an incredible bit of skill and run, he plays a one-two with Mokotjo and then fires home. @Benrahma2 has been unplayable at times tonight!

The star may have been born on Tuesday night, but the waters broke against Rotherham and the ambulance was definitely rushing to the hospital on Saturday. Those brief tasters of skill we had already been teased with suggested there was something special about the Algerian international. Sunday could be very interesting indeed.   

For those not able to get to this one, our own commentator par-excellnce Mark Burridge has hit the nail on the head in one tweet. Who needs a match report when you have social media use of this concise quality?

The other impressive Brentford performance was off field where a story with the rather vague headline of FROM THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE’S OFFICE transpired to be an all guns blazing message from Mark Devlin. Specifically, in praise of 25 years of ‘Kick It Out’ whilst also waxing lyrical about Brentford’s approach to diversity and our place as one of the most welcoming clubs in the country.

I couldn’t agree more. Yet for me, the key point was his no holds barred declaration that: 

For those that don’t share these views, we will not compromise on our values: We don’t want you at Brentford if you can’t accept that or if you behave in a manner which is incompatible with these values. 

Wow. Talk about nailing your colours to the mast. About saying there is no place at our club for discrimination or bigotry. Whilst this is not the sort of behaviour anybody wants to see on the terraces, social media or around the ground (and thankfully it is rare at best) talk about making it absolutely clear to anybody who may indulge in that sort of hate speak what the consequences might be. 

Impressive stuff. Great job, Mark. If you haven’t read the full story then you can do so, here.

And I can’t say anything more after that. Have a great day and bring on the weekend.

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Buzzette does her thing for ‘Kick It Out’ last season

Nick Bruzon  

A hot date for Brentford. In Stoke. Happy with the fixtures? And the World Cup sees tears.

22 Jun

The 2018/19 fixtures are out and Brentford fans are now planning whilst Stoke City have been afforded a rare privilege. Argentina are on the verge of going out (of the World Cup, that is) after being thumped 3-0 by Croatia last night. Henrik Dalsgaard and his Denmark team have a great chance to stay out in Russia for a while longer. A 1-1 draw with Australia sees them three points clear of the third placed Socceroos (that’s really the best nickname they could come up with?) and just one group game to go for both teams.

First up, the Bees. Are you happy with the fixture list? Yesterday saw those all important dates locked in. A chance to start planning those trips away. To see if we’d need an excuse to weasel out of a visit to the in-laws on Boxing Day. Figure out when to loosen the vocal cords to offer Harlee Dean et al a welcome return to Griffin Park. And, I have to be honest, for yours truly things have fallen very kindly – even if the contractual obligation of having to play some evening games on a Wednesday is one we are going to have to get used to.

Remember how it ended last time?

You can’t ask for more than a home start. A visit from promoted Rotherham United isn’t one to get the pulse racing in terms of glamour but you’d have to think the bookmakers will have The Bees as favourites. Even if we know that they will be well, well up for spoiling (or is that soiling?) the party on their return to the Championship.

Next on the fixture list is Stoke City (a). The Potters are the beneficiaries of our first away trip and I’m thrilled to get this one out of the way early. Before the former Premier league outfit have had a chance to adjust to Championship life whilst, at the same time, it means us making a trip to their ‘Bet365’ stadium (no longer the Britannia, apparently) in the late summer. Whilst not quite Oldham Athletic in terms of being Ice Station Zebra, I’ve seen Stoke play up there in the winter and it can be ‘brisk’.

For the home team, a rare treat. With Stoke playing in red and white it can only mean a first official outing for our magnificent new away shirt. You can be sure Brentford well travel well and turn the away end into a wall of brown and orange. I really can’t wait for this one!

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Christmas is ruined with the Bees playing away on Boxing Day. Bristol City is a long way to go for this one whilst I’m already fearing déjà vu for New Year’s Eve. A January 1st visit from Norwich City being one with the potential to come forward to the preceding evening. Not that we’ve ever had to do anything like that before to help out TV. Errr, move along – nothing to see here. QPR (a) is November 10 with the return on March 2nd. Things conclude with a home game – Preston North End on May 5th.

Imagine. Alan Judge to secure another Bees promotion at Griffin Park,  against the Lilywhites??? If ever there was an omen in the fixture list then here it is.

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

Alan Judge’s winner against Preston saw us going up

Other key dates include Birmingham City at home on Tuesday October 2nd – something that almost caused yours truly a catastrophic diary clash – popular music’s The Bluetones playing their London show the very next evening. And relax. Here’s hoping it will be a very slight return for Harlee and co.

The only other disappointment in the calendar  (the festive period aside) is, like QPR, our visit from Derby County comes late on in the campaign. April 6th. Surely, neither of their high profile but somewhat random managerial appointments – Shteve McClaren and Frank Lampard – will be in charge by then? A chance to see their likes run the gauntlet of the New Road crowd always an enjoyable one.

Still, whoever we have and whenever it is, the next 10 months can now be mapped out. Negotiations with the other half can begin. The domestic campaign can really start to take shape. Until then, we still have the World Cup and yesterday was brilliant. Specifically, seeing the tears from that short, fat kid in the crowd. Or Diego Maradona as he is better known. England fans were dominating Twitter with tales of payback for the ‘hand of God’ in ’86. Victory for Iceland over Nigeria today will see them in real trouble after a spineless display against a Croatia outfit who were more than up for it.

It’ll be just England’s luck that they somehow sneak through before paths eventually cross. But I can’t see it happening unless they seriously, seriously up their game. The mid-game theatrics and gesticulations of Maradona said it all whilst take your pick from photos of his sad face. Aaahh.

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Don’t cry for me, Agrentina – (c) the ENTIRE internet

Elsewhere, a critically acclaimed performance from Henrik Dalsgaard has put Denmark on the verge of qualification for the knockout stages. A draw with France in their final game will see both sides through. Not that, I am sure, either team will be going for anything less than a win.

Apparently, Henrik plays for Brentford. If only somebody had said. Like eighteen year old Ryan Sessegnons’s age (18, seemingly) and West Ham having moved from Upton Park into the Olympic Stadium, something that commentators, pundits, journos etc etc etc can’t seem to stop mentioning. Oh well. Their repetition is our gain and more egg in the face of those previously pouring scorn on the Griffin Park recruitment model.

Great job. All round. See you next season .

Finally, please don’t forget that I’d like to give one supporter this ultra-rare 2017/18 ‘third shirt’ with Lewis Macleod’s squad number on the reverse in EFL font. Anyone with half an interest in Bees kits will know that these were never made available in the club shop. Indeed, this has been given to me by a source close to the club.   

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Help the BFC CST to be in with a chance of winning this

All you need to do is download one of the Last Word season reviews. This isn’t a get rich slow scheme for yours truly. All proceeds from any sales will go to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust. For less than the cost of a half / pint respectively, they may help while away some time on the commute. By the pool on holiday. In the bathroom. Who knows? It will certainly do some good for the Trust, whose work has been well documented at Griffin Park but you can read all about it on their site.

To be in with a chance of owning the shirt, download a copy of either before the end of June 2018 – details below – and you’ll go into a draw to win this. Just PLEASE DM/tweet me (@NickBruzon) a copy of your purchase confirmation mail and I’ll add your name to the list before an independent adjudicator will select a random Bees fan to win this on July 1st.

The Kindle e-book Ten Times Better. Brentford FC Season review: 2017/18. Inspired by ‘that’ interview it contains the least bad of these columns in one, handy volume as it looks at our own campaign as well as wider divisional life and the promotion / relegation races.As a bonus there’s a whole host of new material. New that is, for my pages. Specifically, all the programme articles submitted (both home and away where, if nothing else, you can get the original versions of both Birmingham City and Millwall).

In addition, There Is No Plan B. Brentford FC Season reviews: 2013/14 – 2017/18 takes us all the way back to the start of this latest leg in the journey. That penalty. League One. Harlee Dean was a hero. Jota was something we thought happened to the temperature for one week in July. Alan Judge had joined on loan whilst the Marinus Experiment was something nobody had contemplated. Bringing things bang up to date by the inclusion of this year’s volume alongside the four previously published campaign round ups, it has five seasons in one weighty tome. As weighty as a download can be, that is.

Relive the memories. See how often the same material gets regurgitated. Remind yourself about the likes of Betinho, Martin Fillo, Javi Venta and Marcos Tebar. 

THANK YOU. And enjoy…

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Available now to download for your kindle / e-reader

Nick Bruzon

Win a rare Bees shirt in the Last Word season review competition.

4 Jun

Welcome back, Brentford fans. With the World Cup approaching its time to start slowly dipping the toes back into the murky water of these pages. Just ad-hoc, for now. But looking around the world of football yesterday it felt like things were starting to happen once more. I know, I know. It was only five minutes ago that the Bees secured a fourth top ten finish, Wolves were winning the title, Fulham took their clappers into the Premier League and Birmingham City dodged relegation by the skin of their teeth.  Yet, and it may just be me, this feels like an eternity already. The interminable wait to ‘go again’ with nothing but anticipation for Russia 2018 and completing the Panini sticker book / bankrupting myself (as symbiotic as relationships come, that one) to fill the Championship void. That, and of course the now annual exercise, of completing the season review.

Yes – it’s Kindle e-book time and this one’s a potential download double-header. I’ve got to be honest, I wasn’t going to bother this season. Indeed, this may well be the last. Yet equally, last year’s effort raised a nice sum for the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust and do we’ve decided to do the same again. Should anybody want to download a copy of either publication from the Amazon store (whilst one Bees fan will win a very rare shirt….) then once again all proceeds received will be going to the Trust.

Starting things off is Ten Times Better. Brentford FC Season review: 2017/18. Inspired by ‘that’ interview it contains the least bad of these columns in one, handy volume as it looks at our own campaign as well as wider divisional life and the promotion / relegation races. In addition there’s a whole host of new material. New that is, for my pages. Specifically, all the programme articles submitted (both home and away where, if nothing else, you can get the original versions of both Birmingham City and Millwall). You can get that one here for your kindle / app.

In addition, There Is No Plan B. Brentford FC Season reviews: 2013/14 – 2017/18 takes us all the way back to the start of this latest leg in the journey. That penalty. League One. Harlee Dean was a hero. Jota was something we thought happened to the temperature for one week in July. Alan Judge had joined on loan whilst the Marinus Experiment was something nobody had contemplated. Bringing things bang up to date by the inclusion of this year’s volume alongside the four previously published campaign round ups, it has five seasons in one weighty tome.As weighty as a download can be, that is.

Relive the memories. See how often the same material gets regurgitated. Remind yourself about the likes of Betinho, Martin Fillo, Javi Venta and Marcos Tebar. Certainly, if there’s no Marcos Tea Bar at Lionel Road it will be an opportunity missed.

And you can pick this one up here.

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Available now to download for your kindle / e-reader

Most of all, this is all for charity. All proceeds from any sales will go to the Sports Trust. For less than the cost of a half / pint respectively, they may help while away some time on the commute. By the pool on holiday. In the bathroom. Who knows? It will certainly do some good for the Trust, whose work has been well documented at Griffin Park but you can read all about it on their site.

And if that wasn’t enough, I’ve been given something very special. A 2017/18 third team shirt with Lewis Macleod’s squad number on the reverse in the EFL typeface. Anyone with half an interest in Bees kits will know that these were never made available in the club shop.  Anyone who has read any of this before will know what a kit nerd yours truly is so when I say this is rare, take that in good faith!

To be in with a chance of owning it, download a copy of either before the end of June and you’ll go into a draw to win this. Just DM/tweet me (@NickBruzon) a copy of your purchase confirmation mail and I’ll add your name to the list before selecting a random Bees fan to win this on July 1st.

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Download either volume, help the BFC CST and maybe win this

Thanks for your time. Now back to the football. Sunday was dominated by two tweets. At least, in Brentford circles. The selection of Denmark’s final 23 man squad for the upcoming World Cup and, of course, the quite wonderful news about Alan Judge, who bagged a 90th minute winner for Republic of Ireland.

First up, Denmark. The Danes have named their final World Cup squad and it’s a case of congratulations to Henrik Dalsgaard on his selection. This is wonderful news for the player and, perhaps also, another string in the bow of our recruitment team as Brentford will have representation in Russia. The flipside to this is heartbreak for Andreas Bjelland. Despite already appearing in the Panini sticker book for the tournament, he has missed out on the plane to Moscow. One has to feel for our man although I’ve no doubt he’ll be wishing his club mate and compatriots nothing but the best.

Yet there was one story that kept popping up time and again on my social media timeline. Just to be clear, we’re not talking about Sergi Canos and his missing luggage. Instead, the news about Alan Judge was everywhere. And rightly so!!

We all know what happened to Alan two years ago. We all know the long road to recovery which he has travelled down since that point. We all remember how wonderful it was to see him make a very welcome return for The Bees in that FA Cup match against Notts County back in January. So there aren’t really anymore words needed to sum up what was quite the fairy tale ending against the USA at the weekend…..

See you all again as the World Cup prepares to kick off. Or Brentford launch their kit.

In the meantime, if you’d like to read more……..

Nick Bruzon

Barnsley deliver a hammer blow as relegation trapdoor still beckons for the other B’s…

29 Apr

Sunday morning and it all feels a bit ‘after the Lord Mayor’s show.’ Not in the same crushing style as the punch to the gut that is an actual play-off defeat or a penalty hitting a crossbar (apparently it happened once, five years ago, but nobody ever mentions that). Yet at the same time, Brentford offered a tantalising glimpse of what might have been before going down 2-0 to a Barnsley team who benefited from what head coach Dean Smith would describe as ‘A spawny goal’ to open proceedings. With Aston Villa and Derby County drawing one apiece, had we been able to turn this one into a victory then The Bees would still been alongside them in the promotion race heading into the final round of Championship matches. Alas, it was not to be and instead we’ll have to content ourselves with aiming for what would still be a staggering 7(seven)th placed finish and the choke off to see who drops into League One – Birmingham City, Burton, Barnsley or Bolton.

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Spawny? Or did he really mean to sneak inside the back stick from there ?

That’s not to be downbeat. Genuinely. That the team had even hauled themselves into this position following a ‘mixed’ start to the campaign is something that should be celebrated. Four points from eight games saw us not so much flirting with relegation as taking her out on a first date although fortunately she would go on to spurn our advances. The triple transfer departure, and moreso the last day style in which it happened, was hardly great for morale either. I’m the first to hold my hands up on that one. Yet soon after, magic started to happen.

The win at Bolton in late September was followed by a run that saw us fail to pick up points in only one more game over the rest of the calendar year. That being the defeat at Cardiff City which led to Ian Moose demonstrating how to make friends and influence people at Griffin Park. Despite the odd hiccup / low par performance along the way, Dean Smith and his team have kept themselves going to make this one of the most exciting seasons on record. Three points yesterday would have kept it alive for another 90 minutes (at least). Yet to come even this close is something we should be applauding. I’m sure over time we all will.

The trick now is, as with every season, how we build on this. Can we keep the squad together? Will new contracts be signed or will the likes of Ollie Watkins, Ryan Woods, Alan Judge, Chris Mepham and Daniel Bentley be on the shopping lists of those fat cats in the Premier League? Or even the Championship. Without a doubt money talks but sometimes, sitting tight can be better for your career. Just look at the Birmingham City three. Ten times better – at going down. The talk about Woodsy joining Sunderland seems almost laughable now when you see how they have fared, too.

Who’d be a club owner? Moreso with a new stadium now well under construction. No doubt there’ll be decision made which surprise us. Decisions made which shock us. That’s all to come though. For now, we’ve still one more game with the visit of Hull City next Sunday. Still one more round of Championship fixtures to see if Harlee Dean’s decision making off the pitch is proven to be as suspect as some of those choices he made on it this time around. After that much trumpeted move, there is a very real chance of the Blues actually going down. Albeit my head says they are safe, despite what the heart thinks.

Their relegation rivals have equally tough games. On paper. Burton are at Preston. Barnsley go to Derby (although we do know how County love a final day choke) whilst Bolton entertain Nottingham Forest. At least The Trotters have home advantage but they are also reliant on having to increase their goal difference.

As we saw yesterday (and the highlights are now available on Sky’s internet site), the biggest of requirements can lead to the most spirited of performances. Hats off to Barnsley. We wanted it. We needed it. But so did they. And perhaps ten times as much. Brentford were fighting for an unexpected bonus. Let’s not forget that we haven’t actually been in the play-off zone at any point this campaign. Brentford were fighting amongst themselves, going by Dan Bentley’s reaction after the second goal went in – understandable having watched this on the highlights. But The Tykes were fighting for their lives. This really was a case of do or die. Whilst it may not have been the prettiest, the hosts did what they had to. And that takes guts.

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Dan and Henrik discuss the second goal

With Burton making it three wins in a row, next Sunday may not be as cut and dried as people think. Of course I’ll be at Brentford v Hull City. Of course I’ll be desperate for three more points to lock in a fourth, successive top ten finish at this level. But I’d be a liar if I was to pretend that there won’t also be an ear on my terrace trannie. Keeping abreast of other results and just what they’ll mean at about twenty past two next Sunday

See you there.

Nick Bruzon

One down. Five to go. We’re still in this.

8 Apr

One down, five to go. Brentford made it back to back wins as Neal Maupay’s penalty and Daniel Bentley’s record (at this level for a Bees ‘keeper) 14th clean sheet of the campaign proved to be the difference over an Ipswich Town side that began the game with Luke Hyam in the team and ended it with 10 players after running out of substitutes. Whilst, as ever, the likes of Beesotted and ‘official’ are usually the places to go for your match reports, in this case they really are. For reasons out of my control I had to miss this one. Instead of sitting at Griffin Park, I found myself holed up in a random pub with some random Barnsley fans (amongst others), watching the Merseyside derby and getting somewhat over excited by the Tykes comeback against Sheffield United. This before Birmingham City managed an 87th minute equaliser against fellow relegation candidates Burton Albion that brought everybody present back down to earth with a bump.

By that point though, it was too late to be overly concerned. Much as I’d love to see ‘ten times better’ Birmingham slip through the relegation trapdoor, primary focus has to be on Brentford. We’d absolutely done the needful despite a butt clenching final few minutes of time added on that had been spent waiting for the scores to refresh and confirm our 1-0 victory.

To be honest, I had considered spending the afternoon with Mark Burridge sneaking into my ear via a discreetly placed headphone. However, despite the wise words normally spoken by our commentator par excellence the lure of another beer in the afternoon sunshine and the somewhat less appealing prospect of Stoke City v Spurs on TV won out.

In a way, I’m glad. Not so much the sitting through the Stoke game (if ever there was any added incentive needed to go for the play-offs then just the prospect of bypassing them in the divisions should be sufficient) but more missing out on a match that sounded hard work. With Mick McCarthy setting his Ipswich team up on us man for man, it was always going to be a tough one for the fans. If you had to miss a game then in retrospect, and from a footballing perspective, this one sounds like it was up there.

Flicking through social media at full time, Chief Executive Mark Devlin seems to have summarised the feelings of most fans when he noted : “Thanks for your support and well done to the team. It was by no means a classic but the players got the job done.”

Likewise, Bees boss Dean Smith was quick to pay tribute to both his counterpart and the opposition. His post match interview (which you can catch up on in full over on ‘official’) includes the observation that Ipswich “Made it very difficult for us to get our free-flowing football going. We found chances hard to come by. We were due a penalty like that; it was soft and I would be slightly annoyed if it was given against us.

Hey, sometimes you just have to take the chances when they are offered. At this stage in the game, a win is a win. Whether scrappy, deserved, fortunate or other. That gap to the playoffs remains five points with five games to go. It’s all about getting the result and that’s what Brentford did. Whilst it may not have sounded like the most aesthetically pleasing performance, you get a feeling of what this one meant to all concerned. MrJamie88 summarising it quite beautifully on Twitter, with a bit of help from Sergi Canos.

Next up, the trip to Nottingham Forest awaits on Tuesday. There are five games to go. Five mini cup finals. Keep picking up the wins and I’ve no doubt we’ll be celebrating like a certain Russell Slade once so famously opined. Cliche alert but…..it really is about taking one game at a time whilst, perhaps, hoping for a favour along the way. It happened in 91/92; it could happen again.

Yet without wanting to get too far ahead of ourselves, at the bottom end of the table I’ve got half an eye on Barnsley. Yesterday showed yet again why I’d love them to stay up. Great fans and great camaraderie. There’s the added incentive that their safety would put even more pressure on Garry Monk’s Birmingham City team. With our final away game of the campaign being a trip to Oakwell, how big could that one turn out to be? Hopefully their fate will be well sealed by that point – in a positive way. Hopefully we’ll have carried on picking up the points that will make that game of quintessential relevance.

Before that, though, we’ve the Forest game and then a West London derby double header . First the trip to Fulham and then the home game with QPR. With just that handful of games to go, the season has got a ridiculous amount of fun left in it still and I can’t wait.

As one final word of note, how great to have Alan Judge back in a Griffin Park starting XI. Moreso given the opposition and their own line up. I won’t deny I felt a genuine pang of excitement when the team sheet was published at 2pm. What a journey back from the depths. What a team to do it against.

Nice one, Alan.

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The view from Griffin Park

Nick Bruzon

 

Six of the best and who knows what could happen…

7 Apr

Match day. Saturday. Apparently. With the games coming thick and fast for Brentford after a hectic Easter weekend it’s hard to tell where we are at times. Yet following that four day flurry which saw the draw with Sheffield United followed by our wonderful win on the road at Bristol City, today Ipswich Town are the visitors to Griffin Park. Could we take inspiration from Liverpool to make the seemingly impossible, possible?

Ipswich Town. A club who have a deserved place in the footballing record books. A club with whom even just for Brentford, there seems to have been more than a crossing of paths in recent seasons. Of course, ‘official’ have picked the 2-2 that welcomed in the mercifully brief Marinus era for their ‘moment in time’ on the club website today.

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Bru celebrated (too soon) as Ipswich opened the Marinus era.

That one being a game which featured the return of a club legend in the eyes of many supporters, Jonathan Douglas. His only meaningful contribution being to break Jota as late goals from Andre Gray and number 26 salvaged a situation that seemed well beyond redemption with the score line reading 2-0 to the visitors and just moments on the clock. The post match handbags between the players masking the true extent of the Spaniard’s injury.

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Bees Player viewers saw Dougie appear to give Jota a ‘flamboyant slap’ at FT

You could also cite the game at Portman Road the previous season. Not so much the 1-1 score line, in which Dougie proved hero rather than villain this time around, but more for Daryl Murphy missing an open goal that even Ian Moose would have fancied himself to score. BBC Radio Suffolk matchday pundit Mick Mills would later describe it as: “Breathtaking. It will go into the top ten all time misses. If you can find ten worse ones I’d like to see them.”

Hey. Everybody’s a critic. We’re all master tacticians and 40 goal a season strikers when watching from the comfort of the terrace, tv or gantry. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time a commentator got something wrong and you can’t knock Murphy’s fine, fine record at Ipswich. That said, I’m still amazed at how he failed to find the back of the net.

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And Murphy must score. Erm….

Yet for me (Clive), the quintessential coming together took place on Boxing Day of 2014. With Mark Warburton’s Brentford team riding the crest of the #NovemberKings wave (it doesn’t get any easier typing those words), Ipswich visited Griffin Park for a battle between the teams placed 2nd and 3rd in the Championship. With our game kicking off at lunchtime, whoever won would be guaranteed to top the table, even if just for a few hours.

The prospect of Brentford reaching these dizzy heights was one which was not lost on us. The December 26th game is always a special one anyway. The chance to shake off any excesses of the day before, escape the in-laws for a few hours whilst catching up with your friends and football family. The thought of what three points might bring made this one even more tantalising.

Nineteen seconds after kick off, that man Murphy took the wind out of our sails with an opening goal that was made all the more incredible by Brentford having actually had the ball to start the game. Not only was it under our control but we conspired to give it away and gift our visitors a belated Christmas present that was gratefully accepted.

Things got worse. With less than half an hour on the clock we’d had our fourth attempt to perfect that kick-off routine as the score leapt to 0-3. Despite a late brace from Sam Saunders we were never in this one and his pair only served to dress up a 4-2 scoreline in what was as one sided a game as I’ve seen in a while.

That was then. This is now. Brentford have six games to go to reel in a five point gap on the play off places. It’s a huge ask, for sure, but with the finish line in sight then what better time to line ourselves up for one final push. I’ll be honest, for huge parts of this season it is a push that I wouldn’t have bet on us being in a position to make. Yet, somehow, Dean Smith and his boys have kept at it. The results have kept coming and some have even worked in our favour.

Monday’s defeat of Bristol City was as dominant as they come, with Neal Maupay’s goal sealing the points that our domination had warranted. It was a performance that brings us bang up to date and in with a shout if the Bees can hold their nerve. Moreso, it was a game that marked Alan Judge’s first start for The Bees since the horrific leg break he suffered as a result of the assault by Luke Hyam at Portman Road back in April 2016. To go from the verge of the Euros to that long recovery must have been incredibly hard to take.

Full kudos to Alan and the Brentford back room team. Whether he starts this one remains to be seen but a Brentford team with Alan Judge in the side are a stronger outfit than one without him.

I really can’t wait to see how it plays out. Anybody watching the Liverpool – Manchester City game in the Champions League during the week will have seen what a difference it makes playing in a passionate arena. What an impact it can have on opposition who are streets ahead in terms of financial clout and league position. That’s not so much to compare Ipswich to Manchester City but more to show the impact a united crowd can have. It was something truly special to witness. For all the awfulness of having to play ‘Liverpool Glory, Glory Anfield European nights’ bingo, the Kop really were like a 12th man (house!).

The Ealing Road stand may not have the same depth as that most iconic seat of football Valhalla. However, size isn’t everything and what we lack in stature we can more than make up for in noise. Here’s hoping that come 3pm, our fans come together to raise the roof. With ‘other results’ going our way and the players doing their thing, imagine what it will be like should that five point gap shrink any further?

Bring it on…..

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Last time, at Griffin Park

Nick Bruzon