Tag Archives: Aston Villa

Deploy the fishing rod emoji and brace for impact after points deduction

22 Mar

Poor old Birmingham City (yeah, yeah, yawn – I’’m “obsessed”). With Brentford having caught right up with our Championship rivals, to the extent of being a single point behind them with a game in hand as we head into international break, that gap has suddenly leapt to a whopping 8 in our favour. This after Sky and BBC WM (amongst others) today reported the point deduction awarded to the St. Andrews outfit for breaching profitability and sustainability regulations. It is a sanction meted out as a result of the club losing  £37.5m in the 12 months up until June 2018 after Harry Redknapp had gone shopping the previous summer. That, of course, a spending spree which saw Jota, Maxime Colin and Harlee Dean added to a wage bill that may have been ten times better for the players but has proven anything but for the club. With any punishment for the fan led assault on Jack Grealish in the Aston Villa game still lurking in the wings, who knows if there could be more to follow?

Yeah, yeah. I’m obsessed. Apparently. I love it though and don’t deny focussing on Blues. A lot. If for no other reason than they are a great yardstick as to our own progress. Can a team who plays fair and invests wisely, yet frugally, out play a free spending outfit with Premier League experience and a big stadium? A team who once had their moment in the sun but are now very much in the top flight shadows. See also: Leeds united, Aston Villa, Middlesbrough.  

Having finished above Birmingham for the previous four seasons in the Championship we’re now in serious danger of making that five out of five since promotion from League One. And it is magnificent.

Of course there’s the arrogance of so many fans on social media. Of course there are the cracks about being ‘tinpot’. About ‘little’ ‘teams like Brentford. But they are an irrelevance to me and to most Bees. Bring it on. All day long. We eat that crap for breakfast. It keeps us going. Inspires us. See also: Leeds United, Aston Villa, Middlesbrough. Size counts for nothing. Quite frankly,  the bigger you think you are the harder you fall. As is now being proven. The Twitter tears today are a quite magnificent thing to behold.

Of course there was big mouth Harlee Dean and his infamous ‘ten times better’ quote. As diplomacy goes, it was up there with Martin Rowlands and Russell Slade in the cult hero stupidity stakes (typo). Henry Kissinger, he ain’t. But we more than made our point about that in the two games which followed as Brentford scored 7(seven) without reply to secure another win double for the season. The post match lap of honour and singalong, as Big Bee Radio went rogue, the stuff of legend.

Yet for me the fascination – and it is one – with Birmingham City goes back to the late 80s / early 90s. I’ve written about this before and so apologies in advance but some things bear repeating. Those of us a bit longer in the tooth will be well aware how our paths crossed over and over back in the day.

1990-91 saw us go head-to-head in an epic Leyland DAF Southern zone semi with the Blues. Having already disposed of them in the FA Cup second round, Brentford could have fancied themselves as knock out football favourites. But with Wembley beckoning ,  there are no prizes for working out who eventually won both legs to record a  3-1 aggregate win.

Deano and Bliss

The 91-92 Third Division title race famously saw things go our way in the final game of the season as Huddersfield Town and Gary Blissett ‘did the needful’ at Peterborough. A moment made all the sweeter by Saint & Greavsie having already used their Saturday morning show to congratulate Birmingham on being champions.

Things weren’t so sweet the following season as  Birmingham edged past us in the battle to be named the least bad of our respective sides. Both teams fought a desperate, and in our case doomed, battle against relegation from Division One (now the Championship) with that final game humbling at Bristol City being enough to sink the Bees and save the Blues.

However, the coup de grâce was delivered in 1994-95 where, thanks to the joys of Premiership restructuring, there was only one automatic promotion place to the Championship available. With both teams neck and neck at the top, one game stood out like a sore thumb on the fixture list. For months in advance the trip to St. Andrews, only three games before the denouement of the campaign, was the one we all thought would be the crunch match.

Sure enough, it was. In the pressure cooker atmosphere of a packed stadium, where a win for Brentford would have made it all but mathematically impossible for even us to stuff things up, it was Blues who came out on top with a 2-0 win. To this day, I’ve been unable to watch half-time guest of honour Jasper Carrott. I’d love to blame psychological scarring from that result but, in fact, it’s more just his material. Ahhh, insurance claims.(kids, ask your dads).

Oh well, despite defeat at least we were still in the play-offs…..

And now, bringing things bang up to date, the nine point deduction sees us overtake Birmingham City once more. It is as familiar a tale as Brentford cocking up a play-off campaign. I’m not going to deny a smile upon hearing the news yet equally, I’m now desperate to make sure we finish the campaign ten times better off then them. Points wise. Let’s make sure that we’d have made it five successive finishes above Birmingham on playing ability alone, regardless of any punishment. 

So, yes. I DO focus on Birmingham City. A lot. But it is as much about the history. About showing how far we have evolved. Rising up out of the primordial swamp and leaving the dinosaurs behind us – in more than one case . Shrewd ownership has proven that you don’t need to spend big to spend clever. The current rumours about Saïd Benrahma are proof alone of that.

DSC04553

Just how much is he worth now?

Ultimately, a nine point deduction will make no immediate difference. City won’t go down whilst they were never in any real danger of assaulting the play-offs. Current form alone (LLLL) was conspiring against them. Yet this does, at least, look to mitigate against those trying to buy their way to success without having the resource to do it. Trying to consistently spend beyond their means, whatever the consequence . However fairly the others are doing it. Aka – cheating.

Big spenders, beware. And also owners looking to hire Harry.

Screenshot 2019-03-22 at 13.59.52

Not my words but those of the BBC

Nick Bruzon

Advertisements

Bees hoping for more, more, more as West Brom visit this afternoon

16 Mar

What a run it has been for Brentford. 7(seven) wins in succession at Griffin Park. The crowd behind the team. The team playing for fun. Those full time celebrations and walks around the paddock now becoming a very welcome, and regular, feature. Most of all, it’s fun. The smiles are broad and the goals are flying in. I love it and can’t wait for the next game to come around. However, promotion chasing West Bromwich Albion are in town today and will be the latest team looking to put a spoke in the wheel of Thomas Frank’s runaway home form. Everybody needs to be on red alert for this one. Despite relieving manager Darren Moore of his duties last week, they got back to winning ways on Wednesday night against Swansea City. It was a game which featured what must surely be a contender for worst. penalty. ever as the Swans missed out on the opportunity to equalise in quite spectacular style. When you have that level of fortune smiling on you, it’ll be no surprise if The Baggies come in to this one with their tails up. Yet with the table still tight and The Bees 7(seven) points off 6th with a game in hand, despite our own midweek slip up at Sheffield United, there’ll be no excuses for not going at this one full tilt.

And full tilt is what Thomas Frank specialises in. Our home record speaks for itself whilst last month saw Brentford hit five goals at Griffin Park on two separate occassions. Hull City and Blackburn Rovers being the teams to take that pummelling at the back. QPR were put to the sword with what looked like consummate ease last time we were all here. Then, of course, there was the win on the road at Middlesbrough. Finally, it happened. What a reward for all the hard work, effort and self-belief.

D0rRvLOWoAEuINc.jpg-large

Thomas celebrates at home. Again

Even our substitutions are positive. There’s no looking to run down the clock or grind it out in the last few minutes with additional defenders or holding midfielders. Instead, Thomas is swapping one attacking player for another. It worked a treat in that QPR game whilst was a tactic deployed very early up at Sheffield United. It was a tactic that almost paid off against a side whose own defence is tighter than a pair of 80’s football shorts.   

As for the team, Saïd Benrahma has been on fire and this week captured the Championship goal of the month award for February aswell as also being earlier nominated in the ‘player’ category. Neal Maupay is becoming a cult hero to rival the best of those we’ve seen over the years as he mixes fighting spirit with goals. His 20 in the league, to date, is a figure beaten only by a small clutch of players and the crowd love him. Sergi is once more playing like the Sergi of old. Romaine is the absolute unsung hero of the side. The choice of wing backs and three centre backs is giving both added protection in along with another option of being able to turn defence into attack. 

The squad is about as full strength as one could hope for at this point in the season. Rico Henry remains absent whilst, of course, Daniel Bentley is a casualty of that game at Middlesbrough. Luke Daniels came in for the Sheffield United game and Thomas has already confirmed he’ll be starting again today. We’ve all see what Luke can do over the last couple of seasons and he can, perhaps, count himself unlucky not to have been given a chance earlier on this tie around. The life of a goalkeeper must be a frustrating one at times.

DzUgxbOX0AED83K

Saïd, Neal and the team are providing goals and smiles

So it all sounds very promising for The Bees but let’s not forget the small matter of our visitors. West Brom almost pulled off an 11th hour stay of execution from Premier League relegation last time out and they’ve picked up where they left off. At least, in terms of position. The play off zone has been an almost constant feature this time out, something that their illustrious neighbours (please note, your definition of illustrious may vary) have really struggled with in recent seasons following their own demotions from the top flight. Aston Villa and Birmingham City, I’m looking at you. 

Dwight Gayle is still banging them in, sitting just behind Neal in the Championship goal scorers table. He has managed 3 from his last 2 games against The Bees and will no doubt be looking to improve on that today. The run of results that saw Darren Moore pushed out was immediately reversed with that 3-0 defeat of Swansea City. If nothing else, could the change of manager (given what many fans were describing as confusing tactics) and the huge slice of luck in ‘that penalty’ prove pivotal in lifting them back to a position of being promotion favourites ?

All is forgiven, Marcello…

My heart says ‘home win’ today. Brentford have been on fire, especially at Griffin Park, whilst West Bromwich Albion are still dusting themselves down after the upheaval and wayward performances of the last few weeks. Yet with the visitors looking to lock down their play-off position and the Bees still with hopes of ghosting up the table to sixth, could pressure and expectation be the biggest factors here? Will the winning team be the one the handles this the best? Or will Thomas Frank have more of those wonderful motivational cards up his sleeve to inspire the team and the fans to another home win?

I’m just the numpty on the terrace and have no means of being able to answer that with any form of accuracy. But I tell you what, I can’t wait for kick off to find out how this one is going to go. It promises to be as exciting a game as any we’ve had to date.

Roll on 3pm. See you there.

Nick Bruzon 

QPR visit is time to get the arousal level up (although hopefully not the ref).

2 Mar

Let’s draw a discreet veil about what happened midweek. Brentford went down 2-0 at Sheffield Wednesday after what has been reported all round as somewhat of a horror show of a performance. Our neighbours, on the other hand, arrested a run of form that had seen them lose 7(seven) league games on the bounce after getting one over Leeds United at Loftus Road. Well done there. That recent set of results has now been tweaked to read: LLLLLLLW . 

And we can now chuck all of that out of the window. It’s derby day. West London, as opposed to Frank Lampard’s County (TM) . Queens Park Rangers visit Griffin Park in a game that is a must win. Not so much for the chance to put further clean air between us and the not so super hoops as the opportunity to continue a fine home record against our neighbours from the other end of the the 237 bus route.

Last season saw us triumph 2-1 thanks to Sergi and Flo Jo. The year before it was 3-1 as Jota ran riot. 2015/16 saw us take the honours 1-0 in front of the Sky cameras courtesy of Marco Djuricin. The big question now being if Brentford can make to four on the bounce whilst, at the same time, wiping the memory of the return encounter earlier in the season where that ten minute blip just after half-time meant a less than happy afternoon spent in the environs of White City.

SWIFT Brentford QPR

Results at home to QPR have been stunning in recent seasons

The short answer to that one is ‘Yes.’ Being blunt. Even allowing for the reversal of league fortune suffered by both teams during the week, I’m still going into this one buoyant. Leeds United were clearly suffering from an ‘off day’, as was evidenced last night when West Brom took an absolute hammering. 4-0 that one finished and I’ve no doubt Thomas Frank will have Brentford producing a similar reaction.

Our home form has been blistering in recent weeks. The performance against Aston Villa was magnificent whilst to put five goals past both Hull City and blackburn Rovers has made it a quite incredible February.  The form of Saïd Benrahma has been electrifying whilst Neal Maupay was named as EFL player of the year the other night at the London football awards.

Besides, if you can’t get yourself up for this match then what’s the point?  There’s a great quote from Thomas on the BBC website in their match preview, where he notes that: “We know it is a massive game for the fans and the club. Griffin Park will be bang on it…..it is one of these games where I feel the same tension as the Brondby-Copenhagen derbies in Denmark, where you don’t have to say much to the players as the arousal level is up there.”

D0huBVyXQAIDwY5

Wonderful news for Neal, midweek

The arousal level is certainly up there at home. I love this game. I sit next to a Rangers’ fan at work whilst HB has been telling everyone from his school friends to Chairman Cliff Crown (after a chance encounter yesterday)  about the forthcoming visit from Quarter Pound of Rubbish. No idea where he picked up that from – the things they must say at football club or in the schoolyard. 

It promises to be a fierce encounter. One to set the pulse racing and the blood pumping. One where fans from both sides will be doing all they can to push their team on and remind the officials about the rules of the game (I’m looking at you, Braemar Road linesman). One where tempers could threaten to boil over in the heat of the moment and the passion of the occasion . So the great news is that the EFL have named Keith Stroud as our man in the middle….

We all know Keith of old. The battle of Bramall Lane can never be forgotten. The soul destroying flourish of a red card with all the authority of a picked upon school kid granted immunity from the bully by virtue of his prefect badge. The infamous penalty incident  at Newcastle United where he disallowed a goal for the Magpies and awarded an indirect free kick to Burton rather than allow it to be retaken after encroachment.

That one seemed to be the death knell of his career but he’s been back this season – officiating 20 games where, stat check, Keith has only shown two red cards and averaged 3.5 yellows. Somewhat restrained compared to his former reputation. Could we see a mellower version in action this afternoon? Or will he be performing his one man Clintons’ tribute show?

Roll on 3pm when we find out. See you there.

Keith Stroud montage

Which Keith will we get today?

Nick Bruzon

Let’s be Frank. Hats off to Thomas ahead of Wednesday on Tuesday.

26 Feb

Here we go again. To coin a phrase. No sooner has the dust settled on yet another five goal spree for Brentford (Saturday’s tonking of Hull City still fresh in the memory) than we’re back on the road. A trip to Sheffield Wednesday, Tuesday, now awaits Thomas Frank and his free scoring Bees. The big question tonight being whether our home form can be translated into that on the road. And before we go any further, let’s not start blaming the brown shirt. I love it. You probably don’t. However, the only crime it can be blamed for is, possibly, one against sartorial elegance. Or stealing my heart. I guess it all depends on your point of view.

DSC04553

Saturday was fun….

But we digress. As ever. We all know our record on the road isn’t the best this season. Likewise, recent trips to Hillsborough haven’t seen it the happiest of hunting grounds. As a general rule. Yet with our tails up, is this the time for the form book to go out of the window? Who knows? I’m just the numpty on the terrace and any perceived expertise could be consigned to the back of an envelope. (I would also accept: postage stamp / matchbox).  

Yet what we also know is that Thomas Frank has pulled Brentford out the slump that Dean Smith’s side began nosediving into during the last few games of his own tenure. His enthusiasm is absolutely palpable. You can see what every game, every goal, means to him. Those full time sorties around the pitch at Griffin Park seeing him lauded as a hero. His desire to win clearly translating to the players where broad grins are as de rigueur a fashion item as our away kit (sorry). How distant the negativity from so many angles back in November and early December must now seem. How much egg has been wiped off faces and hands since held high in acknowledgement? 

One thing that has remained constant on these pages over the last few years has been faith in our model. Faith in the management and the team behind the team. Trust in what we are doing as a club. Whilst I’m the first to acknowledge my own personal views were somewhat tested (that’s the polite term) after the Birmingham City triple transfer swoop of summer 2017, it would be absolutely fair to say we’ve kicked on since then. And how!! 

Hats off to the current regime but, more importantly, no surprise that when Thomas was coming in for dog’s abuse from all angles, with more calls for his head than Henry the Eighth in the mood for a wedding, the top brass didn’t even flinch. Not even a vote of confidence. Instead, he was allowed to go about his business as sanity prevailed and the points began pouring in.

Now, we’re flying. This is in part down to the players (of course) but as much to Thomas and his staff looking at who we had. Looking at how we were playing. Rebuilding the system. Even the enforced placement of Sergi Canos as emergency wing back has proved a masterstroke. Albeit, we’ll draw a discreet veil over the second half of the FA Cup – en masse (in case you are reading, Sergi. You aren’t, obv).

I cite two personal examples. First up, the away game at Norwich City back in October. With HB fortunate enough to be mascot for that one, we were afforded a unique view behind the scenes. We’ve mentioned this before but it bears repeating. Thomas was nothing but the consummate host in the early stages of the build up. Welcoming, cordial and talking with enthusiasm about the job in hand after taking over from Dean. Even in those early stages, his desire to progress and knowledge of the task ahead was apparent to even a numpty such as yours truly. 

IMG_8487

When Harry met Thomas

Secondly, the Junior Bees Christmas party in December. It would be fair to say that moment in time was probably about the low point, results wise, for Thomas and his team. Yet there was no hiding behind the safety of an autograph table or a sanitised photo op with officials on hand. Instead he stood slap back in the middle of the forecourt, willing to talk with anybody who approached. Others may have hidden away or ducked questions. Not Thomas. And let’s not pretend there weren’t as many adults as children there – obviously, in the guise of guardianship! 

Since that moment, the points have come thick and fast. The morale has soared. The smiles have returned. Even at Swansea City last Sunday, his arrival was greeted with applause. The first thing he did upon exiting the team bus was to head across to the waiting supporters for autographs and photos – especially with the tinfoil FA Cup that proudly bore his image.

Let’s make no mistake. Sheffield Wednesday away is about as tough as it comes. Moreso for a midweek fixture where travel is a gargantuan challenge for supporters. To compound our watching woes, it’s not on either the ‘red button’ or the Ifollow streaming service. Whilst there may (apparently) be other ways of following the action, I’d suggest it’ll be e a significant audience share for Mark Burridge and his commentary team.

However this one ends, it won’t be season defining. Yet with the table very much locking up towards the top ten, it presents a quite wonderful opportunity to really close in our rivals. I can’t wait to see how it turns out (plus ca change) and whilst am unable to say “See you there” this time, will instead sign off with another thought – stolen directly from the BBC Match preview (let’s not take any credit for picking up on this otherwise).

Since last season, this is our fourth successive game against Sheffield Wednesday in the Championship with their having a different manager at the helm. Carlos Carvalhal, Lee Bullen, Joe Luhukay have all held the reins prior to the current incumbent, Steve Bruce. Compare that to the solidity of the Brentford model to see who is taking very much that long term, sustainable, approach.

Here’s to seeing how it can be rewarded this evening.

DSC04546

Thomas celebrated with the fans at full time on Saturday

Nick Bruzon

Tigers mauled by the Bees as Saïd inspires mayhem.

24 Feb

It really doesn’t get much more enjoyable than that. If Aston Villa had been fun, this was next level excitement. The memory of Swansea City in the FA Cup well and truly exorcised by a rampant Brentford side, inspired by Saïd Benrahma. Three wonder goals and one assist for the Algerian put a huge dent in the scoreline that saw Hull City heading towards brackets and lucky to leave with just a 5-1 reverse to their name. Brentford were scintillating. Magnificent. Insatiable. Choose any positive adjective and it applies to this.  A second five goal haul in less than a month at Griffin Park (and our third this season) were the very least Thomas Frank and his team deserved after a performance that was very much men against boys.

DSC04553

Saïd definitely enjoyed this one

Where do you even start with this? Benrahma will understandably grab the headlines. His goals and approach play dictate that. Peter Gilham losing himself on the public address system, prefacing the announcement for our second goal and Saïd’s first with a shocked “Wow!!”.

But it was stunning. Waltzing through a crowded penalty box. Dancing around the Hull City defence until the smallest of gaps opened up, he pinged it into the top corner.

It took the breath away. The crowd erupted. The Bees turned the screw.

Saïd had already set up our equaliser, opening up the Hull defence to free the General. Kamo made no mistake as he virtually passed it in from distance. Parity restored after the visitors had, to be fair, controlled the lion’s share in the early stages. Their goal had threatened and eventually came via the head of Fraizer Campbell as a rare slip from Yoann Barbet gave the Hull man all the room he needed and left Daniel Bentley with no chance. Yet from that moment it was game over. Albeit the Tigers has no idea what was about to be unleashed.

The third came just before half time. That man Benrahma firing home as 0-1 down after 25 minutes became a 3-1 lead when the players headed in for their half time cuppa. There was a serious danger of the supporters running out of ‘goal sweets’ at this rate (one Haribo Supermix every time the net ripples, being the tradition in our block). There was a serious danger that the brackets would need to be defrosted.

Moreso when Maupay made if four just after the break, guiding home from close range after top work from Ollie Watkins. Watching the build up on the highlights (available now via Sky’s match report), the work Neal does to even get in position is great. He delivers the pass that sets the move in motion before breaking up field through the middle to get on the end of the eventual finish. The finish may have been (relatively) simple but it was all about the approach play

Peter Gilham was practically self-combusting at this rate. Freestyling on the mic with all the panache of a man who knew how exquisite this performance was turning out to be. How wonderful the interplay across the team was. Sergi roasting his man time and again. Romaine having one of those beautiful games where the passes flowed as sweetly as honey off the back of a spoon. Liquid football. Ollie and Neal linking up the play as Moses continued to push up on the other side. 

DSC04421

The high-flying Bees were rampant

We said after the Aston Villa game how good this team can be when they get going. That time, they were only rewarded with one goal. This time out, it was carnage. The fifth and, ultimately, final strike being on a par with everything that had come before. Whilst the second took the breath away at the time, the hat-trick strike was just beautiful.

Romaine’s pass through was stopped dead, Saïd spun and curled it from the edge of the box into the top corner. One touch. Barely looking up as he hit it. Pure instinct and what a finish. What a celebration as he ran full tilt towards the dugouts to celebrate with Thomas.

You could see what this one meant to them both. Likewise at full time where the players did the lap of Griffin Park to rapturous applause. Every one of them enjoying the moment, talking to the fans and enjoying very well deserved acclaim. It really was a devastating afternoon and one had to feel for the visitors, now facing a long shlepp home.

DSC04546

Thomas celebrates with the fans at full time

Brentford remain 16th, with the prospect of a trip to Sheffield, Tuesday, and then the visit of “The team from West London” (as PG called them) next weekend. The table above us is really getting congested now with the gap to the top ten now just four points away and, for the dreamers amongst us, 10 points to Bristol City in sixth.

Whatever happens, if the Bees carry on playing like this there’s going to be a lot of fun between now and May. For all that the Hull fans like to sing about “Getting mauled by the Tigers“, this time around they were made to look as dangerous as a restaurant cat. Claws very much clipped as Brentford ran riot.

Tuesday is about as a huge an ask as they come but what momentum to go into the game with. And then there’s the small matter of Saturday. See you there. 

Now, let’s go and watch those highlights once more…

 

Bees cat mauled tiger

The only mauling on Saturday came from the Bees

Nick Bruzon 

There are games of two halves and then there was that. Bees baked in Wales.

18 Feb

A day that started with such promise. An afternoon that saw us forty-five minutes away from an FA Cup quarter final. An evening that ended with a press of the self-destruct button the likes of which Brentford haven’t seen since, well, the trip to Hull or more pertinently, the opening twenty minutes of the home game with (erm) Swansea City. And it was the Swans who once more provided the catalyst to our undoing as Ollie Watkin’s magnificent opener was rendered meaningless by three second half goals and a red card for Ezri Konsa in little over a quarter hour phase. It ended 4-1 to Swansea. It could have been five but for a very delayed call from the linesman. What can you say? Beyond me having to console five year old HB after his own pre-match prediction of 3-4 was thrown back into his face in as dramatic a style as one could ever see.

It’s a fair bet we’ve all caught the game by now. The free to air broadcast on BBC Wales meaning that anybody who wasn’t able to travel on the resultant free coaches would have had ample opportunity to watch it live. It was the consummate example of that old cliche about football being a game of two halves. With the opening salvo from Swansea snuffed out at little more cost than a yellow card for Yoann Barbet, the Bees got going. In style.

DSC04158

Swansea had come forward early but made little progress

With the exception of Luke Daniels retaining his FA Cup place, Thomas Frank named the same team that tore Aston Villa apart for fun on Wednesday evening. It was a decision that was proven correct as we went for it. Swansea City barely had a look in as slick passing and wonderful interplay from the attacking quartet of Said, Sergi, Neal and Ollie suggested a goal was inevitable. When it came, on the half hour, it was beautiful. Benrahma breaking forward at pace, feeding the ball forward to Maupay on his right. The Frenchman then provided the same to the overlapping Watkins who burst into the box and fired it across the face of goal high into the far side of the net.

Yesssss !!! 1-0. We’re on our way. The fans erupted. Tinfoil trophies (of which there were plenty in evidence) thrust high into the sky. Strangers hugging strangers and the dream was on. Swansea looked dead on their feet. Impotent. A flaccid reminder of the team who had obliterated us in that opening twenty minute spell at Griffin Park back in December when they’d raced into a three goal lead without reply. Half time came with optimism high, the fans in wonderful voice and a chorus of boos rising around The Liberty stadium from the home contingent. Surely this was it? Surely….?

DSC04182

Yesss!!! 1-0. Ollie Watkins you beauty.

What happened at half-time will, forever, remain as unfathomable a mystery as Stonhenge, the Pyramids and Ian Moose’s narcissism. Brentford gave the appearance of a team who had forgotten how to play football. Graham Potter in the home dressing room, presumably, delivering the mother of all team talks. Either way, it was a different Swansea City who emerged.

They were level within five minutes from a free-kick awarded in the most dangerous part of Saunders territory. Daniels unable to reach the ball as it fizzed past him, hit the post but rather than bounce clear hit the back of his head as he was still diving and pinged back into the goal for 1-1. It was a hammer blow. It should have been a warning that we were now very much in a game. Alas, it got worse.

An immediate goalmouth scramble aside, there was little further response from, or respite for, Brentford. Daniel James gave the home side a 2-1 lead shortly after with a quite remarkable effort. Picking up the ball just outside our box, he ran full length and full tilt up field. The acceleration was incredible, even running wide at one point with three players left trailing in his wake, before turning back inside and leaving Luke Daniels, caught in no mans land, for dead. Hats doffed to James for pulling this one off. It was brutal. With it, any remaining psychological stuffing that had been left after the unfortunate o.g. was truly knocked out of us.

Minutes later that man James broke clear once more. This time, he was stopped. But at the expense of a red card for Ezri Konsa as the defender took the last desperate measure available to him in order to try and preserve the narrow deficit. Referee Stuart Atwell has no choice but to show the red card. It was a challenge that, at least, succeeded in the aim of keeping our opponents at bay. For five minutes.  Sergi Canos, again filling in at wing back, was played twice by Bersant Celina who also danced past Julian Jeanvier before slotting home for 3-1. Urghh.

DSC04233

Even the scoreboard was trolling us

With the attacking threat of Benrahma and Canos removed just moments later as the substitutes came on, the game was effectively dead. If it hadn’t been already. If Thomas had gone almost full strength with his starting XI, the bench offered little in big game experience or match saving nous. Whilst most of these young players will have their time, throwing them in to a game that was only being kept alive on life-support was never going to change anything. And , sadly, it didn’t. 3-1 became 4-1 became 3-1 as the linesman eventually intervened. It made little difference with Swansea grabbing the fourth goal that their second half domination suggested would come as the game limped towards full time.

Even then, Neal Maupay had a chance to restore some pride. His decision to chip the ‘keeper when put through, not quite coming off as the beaten Bees saw it loop over the bar. He made a call. He tried his luck. It didn’t happen. Boo-hoo. The subsequent highlighting of this by the BBC in a standalone video clip entitled , “How did he miss this? Watch Maupay’s terrible effort for Brentford” as cheap, unnecessary and out of context a feature as Ian Moose talking about that Cardiff game last season. No recognition of his quite incredible form this campaign or when it actually happened, with the players physically and emotionally drained after an absolute pummelling. 

Likewise, no mention of what he was clearly feeling as he ran to the Brentford fans at full time to hand over his FA Cup shirt to one lucky supporter. Poor show, BBC. Keep up the wonderful work, Neal.

It was an awful experience to be part of. The second half, I mean. I had tears to cope with at full time from a distraught HB who managed to compose himself and eventually clap his heroes off, despite the clear upset he felt. Looking around, he wasn’t alone. The club’s magnanimous gesture of laying on the coaches and cheap tickets felt very much secondary at that juncture.

I’m gutted this morning. Even now after trying to sleep on it. Swansea ran the second half show ; we handed them the tickets. The dream of the cup quarter-finals disappearing as quickly as it came. HB’s tin foil trophy stuffed into a dustbin on the way home.

Talking to supporters after the game, there seemed to be very much an expectation that this column was going to be used to ‘put the boot in’ today. But I just can’t do it. To coin that well worn of parental phrases, it not so much that I’m angry as disappointed in you. The chance was there and we couldn’t take it. Instead, to collapse in a combination of errors, bad luck, subsequent no-show and of course, the pace of Daniel James has left me feeling broken. A numb feeling in the pit of the stomach that will pass with time but at the moment feels far, far too raw.

I’m just hoping HB uses his half-term break to sleep in. About a week should do it….

Nick Bruzon 

Are we all set for a jolly boys (and girls) outing? The quarters are beckoning….

16 Feb

Oh my. The FA Cup fifth round is here. Opportunity is very much knocking. Watford are already through to the quarters after winning 1-0 at Loftus Road last night. Now we’re getting ready for our shot as Brentford fans begin to countdown for Sunday’s trip to Swansea City. There’s plenty to whet the appetite for that one today with Newport County hosting Manchester City and the visit of Millwall to AFC Wimbledon. That’s before you even get to the likes of Doncaster v Crystal Palace or Monday’s final game denouement that had TV producers reaching for the ‘coverage selection’ button the second Chelsea v Manchester United came out of the hat.

We can only start at the Liberty Stadium. On paper, there isn’t much to grab the neutral about the prospect of Swansea City v Brentford. Whilst both clubs and their fans will be viewing it as a wonderful chance to progress, it hardly has the upset potential of Manchester City at Newport County. The follow up story to Wimbledon’s wonderful humiliation of West Ham (winners of the trophy in 1980 and World Cup in 1966) from the previous round. Don’t let that fool you for a second. This one is huge and I can’t wait.

You could hear the collective groan echoing around TW8 and the GPG as the decision was made to move this to a Sunday afternoon, 4pm kick off for the benefit of BBC Wales. I’ve said my piece on that decision already and we just have to move on now.

With the prospect of a rail engineering works ruining it for everyone, the club sprang into action quicker than Neal Maupay running though on goal with the announcement of free coach travel to the game. Along with the reduced ticket prices , it was about as supporter-friendly a gesture as one could get. Consequently, myself and Harry are the ones now re-upholstering the tinfoil trophy that has seen us through the previous rounds. An £11 return trip for two of us, including entrance to the game, a bargain in anybody’s book and the reason The Bees will be there en-masse as the coaches filled up in nano-seconds.

Jolly-Boys-episode

Who doesn’t love a coach trip ?

It’s not going be easy, that’s for sure. For either team. Only four points separate Brentford and Swansea City in the Championship table. Advantage traditionally favouring the home side as we’ll be running out in that glorious brown and orange. Here’s hoping for a repeat of the performance at Rotherham in that one, rather than a repeat of the performance just about anywhere else on the road whilst wearing this most stylish of shirts.

The good news for those deeming this to be some sort of jinx (honestly, I’ve never heard such nonsense, now where are my lucky pants?) being that we’ll have a new goalkeeper’s shirt making its debut. If what a source close to the club told us plays out, this one promises to have us kit nerds salivating.

The other factor to play more into the hands of Sunday’s eventual result is, of course, our recent form. We’ve only lost once in the last 12 whilst the midweek victory over Aston Villa was just about as comprehensive and stylish a performance as one could ever hope to see. Truly, Brentford were magnificent. Dean Smith left shell-shocked at full time and chuntering all sorts of nonsense about his team ‘deserving it’ (change the record) after Neal Maupay sent the hone fans wild in the 91st minute. Even now, Saturday morning as this is being written, I have a huge grin on my face thinking about that moment.

DzUgxbOX0AED83K

This one from Brentford official said it all about Wednesday

Prior to that and, excusing the Forest game, it has been a case of scoring at least three goals a game in the previous five. A streak that coincided with Brentford playing stylish football with confidence and swagger. The ball being moved around the team for fun as we took the old mantra of “Push up, Brentford” to heart. It was a self-belief that was in evidence once more on Wednesday night. Here’s hoping Swansea City get to experience it themselves on Sunday afternoon. 

For sure they’ll be feeling as upbeat as we are. A home draw is the first thing any club hoping to progress would ask for in the later rounds of the FA Cup. Swansea have had that prayer answered  whilst on pitch have had a fairly strong start to 2019, winning five out of their nine games played so far in all competitions. They’ll no doubt fancy this in their own back yard whilst also have the benefit of ‘Mark’ Lawro Lawrenson using his BBC prediction column to back the Bees. Trevor Nelson and DJ Big Zuu (literally no idea – parents, ask a kid) going for the home side.

My main concern with this is Lawro’s assertion that, “I am backing Brentford to stay unbeaten, and get through on penalties.” We all know the nonsense he spouts these days and his presence as a pundit or co-commentator is generally greeted with the same fear felt by a pre-match press room buffet as Ian Moose approaches. But penalties? Seriously? You’ve got to think our name is on the cup if that’s going to happen. Here’s hoping he’s right. You can read that one in full, here.

Otherwise, its going to be a case of trying to make today feel as much like a normal Saturday as possible. I make no apologies for being excited or loving the FA Cup. Perhaps it’s an age thing but this tournament remains, for the supporters, about as exciting as it gets. The nostalgia, the romance, the potential, the shot at glory and even the cliches. 

I saw a quite wonderful tweet from @DeanCornish1966 yesterday about the Newport – Manchester City game, noting that:

ITV news preview on Newport v Man City just included:

2 x ‘The whole town is buzzing’

1 x ‘biggest match in history’

1 x ‘David v Goliath’

3 x ‘unbelievable’

1 x ‘dare to dream’

1 x ‘Gulf in class’

2 x ‘dreams are made of’

1 x ‘stacking shelves’

If ever there was close to a full house in cup upset bingo then here it was. But it’s what makes this trophy so special. Even now. It’s why I’m taking a five year old boy on a marathon coach trip to see if we can equal our furthest ever progression. Or perhaps even go beyond.

I’ve no doubt that when me and H are sitting down this evening to see if Newport can throw a potato skin under the feet of Manchester City (that’s one which ITV missed), the talk will be all about what awaits on Sunday afternoon. 

That, and maybe seeing if we need to add another layer of tinfoil to our replica trophy. 

IMG_0569

We’re all up for the cup

Nick Bruzon

Prince William. Tom Hanks. David Cameron. Simon Hateley. Your boys took one hell of a beating. Again

13 Feb

Come on, Aston Villa. Perhaps one day you’ll give Brentford a game. One can’t even begin to describe the performance and dominance tonight as Thomas Frank’s Bees made it three on the spin at home to the Villans. Chuck in three away draws and that’s a mighty impressive record against the one time European Champions (1982 in Rotterdam, in case you hadn’t heard it mentioned before). Dean Smith’s return to Griffin Park was anything but a happy one as we warmed up for Sunday’s FA Cup fifth round tie at Swansea City in mightily impressive form. 

DSC04043

Romaine brings the ball out of the back

It was another case of true domination against Villa. We’ve all been used to it over the last few seasons but this was about as one sided as it came. The visitor’s midfield was non-existent. Only a mass of bodies at the back, and the vagaries of our ‘referee’ Gavin Ward, keeping Brentford out. Yet the fact that it took injury time before Neal Maupay finally found the net made the eventual result all the sweeter.

It had never seemed in doubt from the first few minutes as Aston Vila were put on the immediate backfoot. It was a position from which they struggled to make any inroads but, and as we’ve said many times is the thing that actually counts in football, Brentford were unable to make the possession count. Brentford were unable to find the back of the net. Brentford looked like they may finally drop two points at home to Villa. Then that man Maupay stepped up and did his thing.

Oh my word, what a goal. What an explosion of ecstasy and relief from the crowd. What a finish as Maupay burst clear into the box before curling it high into the top corner. Visiting goalkeeper Lovre Kalinic left rooted to the spot as ball flew past him. Unable to do anything more beyond turning to watch the ball make the net ripple from the sweetest of strikes.

I’m struggling to remember specifics at present. The brain is a blur of excitement and relief. Despite outplaying our illustrious opponents for huge swathes of the game, we’d been unable to find a way though. The impressive Sergi Canos forcing a fine early save from Kalinic in the first half to set the tone for what followed in all aspects beyond the actual scoring of a goal. Here’s hoping he’s fit for Sunday and the injury related substitution was nothing more than a precaution. 

Even the most ardent of Brentford supporters were perhaps beginning to feel that this one may have to go down as an opportunity missed. Neal Maupay thought otherwise. It was one of those where you HAD to be there. I’m sure it was great on TV but the communal outpouring of celebration as the goal went in was one of THE moments of a season that is rapidly building pace to a frenzied denouement. Whilst one has to appreciate there were those who missed this game through their own personal circumstances, those choosing to deliberately stay away are missing out on something quite wonderful. 

Of course Warbs, Dean and Thomas have all played their parts in quite magnificent style but you have to doff your cap to Matthew Benham and the current regime at the helm of the club. Their vision and guidance has brought through the likes of Said Benrahma, Sergi Canos and Neal Maupay. Ezri and Julian continue to impress at the back. Long term Bee Yoann Barbet continues to exude enthusiasm from every pore. The last player to come in from the warm up and one of the last to leave the field of play at full time.It really is a special time to support Brentford.

That said, Thomas named a side without a traditional right back that instead chose to take the game to their illustrious opponents. Perhaps here was the answer to how you fit Watkins, Benrahma and wing back Sergi Canos (not a typo) into the same team. Moses Odubajo on the other side pushing an extremely high line as Villa struggled to get out of their own half. It was delightful to watch.   

Full time came with a traditional response from Dean Smith. Catching up with the replay upon the return home, he opined to Sky how it was, “On the scale of chances, not what we deserve”. Come on Dean, next you’ll be telling us that Villa won the European Cup. For once, don’t do press by rote. Just try and tell it like it was. This was as one sided a game as I’ve seen since the last time Villa visited this part of West London. Prince William. Tom Hanks. David Cameron. Simon Hateley  – your boys took one hell of a beating. Again. 

Where I would agree with Dean is his commentary about the referee. He’s always been one to say it like it is when it comes to the man in the middle and here he was spot on as he observed, “I’ve said this season the refereeing has been pathetic at times.” Truly, Gavin Ward was a nightmare. A Keith Stroud in Bobby Madley’s clothing. Penalties denied. Advantages pulled back. Decisions made with all the authority of a roulette ball trying to find an eventual resting place. How lovely would it be to have a referee and linos who get on with the game rather than instil a pre-match level of dread which is then fulfilled as proceedings get underway.  

The flip side to all this being that we won. Nobody will care that Gavin did once more what Gavin does so often. All that counts are the three points. 

Now bring on Swansea City and the FA Cup.

DSC04114

Said takes the plaudits at full time

Nick Bruzon

The return of ‘the ex’ presents a wonderful opportunity to show how we’ve moved on.

13 Feb

Like the return of Harlee Dean et al with Birmingham City last season, tonight’s game certainly has an extra level of spice. Brentford entertain Aston Villa and, of course, former head coach Dean Smith in front of the Sky cameras in a clash that has the imagination running into over drive. What a wonderful opportunity awaits Thomas Frank and his Bees team to show just how we’ve progressed. Just how much Dean left behind. 

Dean SMith and Mick

Dean Smith – friends with just about everyone

Dean Smith brings his Villa team to Griffin Park, having only tasted victory once this year. That, a 2-1 triumph over basement boys Ipswich Town. Indeed since our paths crossed in the Championship, the Villans are yet to earn all three points against Brentford. Three draws on the road and two home victories – including the 3-0 hammering administered on the day Scott Hogan left TW8 for Villa Park – sees recent form between the two sides very much in our favour. Not bad for a pub team !

Indeed, that 3-0 at the end of January 2017 was one of the finest displays that we’ve produced since our ascendency to this level of football. It’s amazing what a bit of inspiration or the desire to prove a point can do.

And if those are your motivating factors then they don’t come any bigger than chucking in the return of a manager who left us for another. We all know his reasons for leaving Brentford. Turning down the opportunity to take the reins at the club you supported as a boy (and beyond) would have been an incredible decision. Those sort of chances don’t come around every day and so one can sympathise with Dean in making that leap to what is one of the most famous names in club football.

Villa Park is a wonderful stadium with a huge fanbase and a club with genuine aspirations to return to the Premier league. Apparently they won the European cup once – if only somebody had mentioned. Who could forget the moment assistant coach John Terry lifted that famous trophy high into the Rotterdam night sky?

We’ve been consistently strong - especially against Villa, despite the torrential downpour

Rain or shine, we’ve had plenty of recent highlights against Villa

Yet as was noted in the previous column, all this doesn’t doesn’t change the fact that Dean left a wonderful young squad at a progressive club. He’d taken Brentford to a position where, quite fantastically, we’d been named as Championship favourites when Villa came calling earlier this season. He’d got the team playing some quite wonderful football, albeit we’d started to wobble as he left.

Now Thomas Frank has the hot seat. The team have been scoring goals for fun in a scintillating hot streak and face an FA Cup fifth round tie this Sunday. We’d gone ten unbeaten prior to the weekend’s trip to Nottingham Forest. Even that 2-1 slip up saw enough chances created (along with a couple of goals conceded that the coaches have no doubt been reviewing at the training round) in a performance that on another day would have seen us come away with at least a draw. 

Aston Villa on the other hand only have the aforementioned 2-1 home win over Ipswich and have to look back as far as Boxing Day (Swansea) since the previous time Dean was able to taste victory. No doubt I’m sure they’ll feel that they should have claimed a few more since then but the proof is in the ‘W’ column. ‘D’ counts for draw, not ‘deserved to win’. Their last run out, the 3-3 draw at home to Sheffield United, saw them at their best. And worst. Racing into a 3 goal deficit they somehow clawed things back to earn a point with goals on 82, 86 and then deep into injury time. 

Indeed, our own game at Villa Park this season ended in similar circumstances. Jonathan Kodjia popping up deep, deep into injury time to snatch a point after Neal Maupay had stamped his authority all over the game with another brace to give us a late lead. We all know what happened after that one when a retrospective red card was issued to the French man. I’ve no doubt he’ll be the subject of pantomime booing and niggly challenges tonight. That’s football. There’s nothing finer than trying to wind up one of the opposition – moreso when you have a point to make. Just ask Harlee and Birmingham City (5-0, wasn’t it…?).

On paper, this one has home win all over it. Current league form and recent performances against Aston Villa both see Brentford in the driving seat. Yet we all know that’s not how football works. Anything but. I can only imagine this one being tense. It’ll have goals but try to pick how many for each team and you may aswell stick your hand in the barrel marked lucky dip. The one thing you can be sure of is that there won’t be a repeat of  The Monkees. 

Will there…..?

 

Nick Bruzon

All good things come to an end. Now is the time to go ag, ag, ag.. once more.

10 Feb

So it wasn’t to be 11 unbeaten. It wasn’t to be another victory on the road in the incredible orange and brown. A 2-1 win for Nottingham Forest saw Brentford defeated for the first time since that mid-December trip to Hull (and back?) . With back to back TV clashes at home to Aston Villa and then up at Swansea City in the FA Cup to come, January’s manager-of-the-month nominee Thomas Frank is now tasked with the challenge of getting the momentum going once more.

Dy_YvKgX0AAU0dA

Thomas will need to go ag.. once more

Brentford official would describe this one as ‘Frustrating’ on the club Twitter feed at full time. The stats would certainly bear this out with the game ending on 70% possession and 21 shots for The Bees.  Ollie Watkins had a goal disallowed, the woodwork was hit twice and Daniel Bentley pulled off a magnificent double penalty save. Sergi Canos provided hope late on with his fourth in four games. Yet we all know that ‘deserving’ and ‘stats’ count for nothing if you can’t take your chances or if you give away sloppy goals.

Certainly, Nottingham Forest will be well pleased with their win and made no mistake when opportunity knocked. The highlights are up on Sky’s website already and are very much a case of – move along quickly, nothing to see here. At least, at the back.

The defensive coaches will no doubt be having words on Monday morning about what were two very soft efforts to concede. In the cold light of day we can’t be pleased about either but, at the same time, let’s not deny Lewis Grabban or Molla Wague any kudos here. They worked their chances, were perhaps given a helping hand but still had to put them away.

Dy-2pq2XQAAKle6

Another penalty save counted for nothing in the end

On another day we might have won this one. The positive news being that there were chances to take. The run of goals, goals, goals had to end at some point. We’ll bounce back. The visit of Aston Villa on Wednesday night couldn’t have come at a better time. If we can’t get ourselves up for this one then what’s the point of bothering? Who doesn’t want to prove a point to Dean Smith? Player or fan?

We all acknowledge why he took the ‘dream job’ and I can’t imagine there’ll be any ‘ill will’  but that doesn’t change the fact he left a wonderful young squad at a progressive club. He’d taken Brentford to a position where we’d been named as Championship favourites when Villa came calling and that mantle was passed to Thomas Frank. Now he returns with a team who are scoring goals, and shipping them, for fun. It could be a scintillating encounter.

Then there’s Swansea City in the FA Cup. What an incredible opportunity awaits in that game. A fleet of free coaches heading up the M4 in the hope of reaching the quarter finals in a winner takes all clash. there’s no chance of a replay now. It has to be sorted on the day, via the mediums of extra time and penalties if needed. No prizes for guessing which direction that one could end up heading. This is Brentford after all….

I’d love to have beaten Nottingham Forest. If only to extend a fine winning run in recent seasons agasint the Tricky Trees at the City Ground. There’s the personal reasons of wanting to get one over a few of their supporters whilst who doesn’t love extending an unbeaten run? Instead, It was former Bee Lewis Grabban who swung the axe to chop us down for the first time in five home games.

Now, we have to prove this was the blip that I am sure it will be after a fine run of form. Forest are pushing at the play-offs. Brentford looking at a cup run. As Harry said to me at full time, “Daddy. Was that a league game? … Thank goodness, so we’re still in the FA Cup then!

I can’t account for the naivety of youth and I’m certainly not going to dent his enthusiasm. Wednesday will be huge but Sunday could be epic.

Nick Bruzon