Tag Archives: Aston Villa

Time to do another Arsenal? Or will a returning hero ruin the party?

11 Sep

Saturday and the Premier League is back. Brentford host Brighton in our second top flight fixture at Lionel Road following the game with Arsenal. As if anybody needed any further reminder about that one. A 2-0 home win that saw us hit the dizzy heights of first place and sent Mikel Arteta’s team to the bottom of the table. A place they still occupy with a total of no points and no goals. For the Bees, unbeaten and a record of WDD is a wonderful start with the opportunity to try and kick on again today. With Wolves (a) and then Liverpool (h) next up For Brentford in the league, nobody could deny the intensity of games or ongoing calibre of opposition at this level. Even Arsenal. Still, that was then and this is now. Brighton are coming and with them, of course, one particular name. One particular man. One Neal Maupay.

Maupay – a work of art

Shithousery. That’s the word (I’m assuming the editor has resisted the temptation to include it in the ‘family-friendly’ programme article today – although if you want to find out its available around the ground for the price of £4) . The undisputed master of this dark art. And we loved him for it. Absolutely loved him. The goalscoring wasn’t bad either. Ruining Fulham’s promotion push at the last minute or just ruining Leeds United. The pint sized magician was as skilled with the ball at his feet as he was with his studs on the opposition. He swore he’d stay. We were distraught when he left. We’ve all moved on. Now, we have a chance to offer a welcome back and then see how both he, and Brighton, have progressed.

Leeds United. Ruined. Many, many times

I have to say I’m excited going in to this one. Plus ça change. Table wise, Brighton have finished bottom quarter in the four seasons since we parted ways in the Championship and they hit the top flight. Don’t let that fool you into thinking that makes them (relatively) ‘easier’ opposition. Just to maintain this level is a feat in itself whilst, as the preview on ‘official’ notes in 2020/21 “Graham Potter’s side played far better than their results suggested last term. On expected goals, Albion finished fifth, with 20 points more than they actually earned, and with the third meanest defence in the division”.

Whilst the table doesn’t lie, performance needs to be noted. If nothing else, they currently sit above the Bees having already picked up six points. The one blot on the copy book coming at home to Everton last time out.    

For Brentford, everybody is fit barring long term injuries Mads Bech and Josh Dasilva. Our squad has been bolstered by the signing of Danish International Mathias Jørgensen, aka ‘Zanka’. He’ll be filling the Winston Reid role of emergency centre back and comes in as cover for Mads on a one year contract. With a wealth (is there any other sort? Gamut, perhaps) of experience, including Euro 2020 and World Cup 2018 he sounds like a shrewd acquisition. One can only presume bench, at best, today. The key question being whether Frank Onyekareturns in midfield or will be left…waiting for Ghoddos to lose his place. Sorry. Apologies. I’ve finally done it. But given Saman has been with us since September 2020, that’s not bad going.  

With that Portuguese chap set to debut for Manchester United today, it’s a safe bet we won’t be first up on Match Of The Day this evening. To be fair, the only thing stoping us being ninth in the running order is the fact there are only eight games taking place this afternoon. Fair enough. Reputations need to be earned. Praise not just handed out for the sake of it. With ghoulish fascination about the fate of Arsenal aswell as Spurs being handed the opportunity to stride further clear at the top, it doesn’t take a genius to pick the setlist. That’s football. 

Yet this afternoon’s game has all the hallmarks of a really close fought battle. A hotly contested encounter which will be played out in front of a full house. The raucous crowd sure to lift the players as they have done in the previous three games.  Hey, get it right and Gary Lineker may even have us on his couch before Watford – Wolves. 

I can’t wait. For the game (I’ll be asleep by the time MOTD comes around). Roll on 3pm.

See you there. And don’t forget your Covid pass…..

Full time against Arsenal – more of the same would be incredible….l

Nick Bruzon

Will this be the best deal on deadline day? Are we safe?

31 Aug

Deadline day is here. For unbeaten Brentford (the 1-1 at Aston Villa on Saturday making it WDD from our August Premier league fixtures) there is an unusual lack of speculation. This time of year should be sponsored by Anusol, such is the amount of itchy bum time felt at Lionel Road. There’s normally at least one of our top names linked with a move outside the club. Yet even Ivan Toney’s name has barely been mentioned this time around, despite our main man getting off the mark on Saturday at Villa Park. Instead, all the talk as the window prepares to ‘slam shut’ (TM)  has been around Manchester City, Manchester United – something, something, something Cristiano Ronaldo –  and the possibility of Daniel James leaving them for Leeds United (one of ten clubs currently below Brentford in the top flight). 

Celebrations after taking the lead at Villa. Another top-flight point the eventual reward

I don’t like it. The quiet, I mean. By now we should have complete faith in our directors of football. And, to be fair, I do. Yet that doesn’t make it any easier. Certainly, as an outsider looking in. Old habits die hard and having seen our loyalty tested so many times over the years, despite the fact that in recent times things have always gotten better as the replacements bed in, it doesn’t do anything to dispel those lingering doubts that somebody could rock up with a nuclear sized bid that it would be impossible to ignore. Such is the amount of cash currently sloshing around English, and European, football.

The Dean Holdsworth / Murray Jones ‘deal’ the one which we go back to time and again. Yet something that stands out as the the bit of business, if one can call it that, to show how hard it has been for Brentford to retain / attract talent over the years. Of course things are different now but that doesn’t stop the little devil from tapping on the shoulder. In football just about anything is possible when a dumper truck full of money turns up at the front door. Even as recently as the Birmingham City firesale in 2017, late exits have still delivered the mother load of unexpected shocks. Maxime Colin – gone. Jota – gone. Harlee Dean – gone. Insert ten times better comment.   

Time is a great healer

Honestly, it feels too late for anything to happen now. We’ve no intent, need or desire to sell. The start to Premier League life has been a more than positive one. Unbeaten and only one goal against. That, in Saturday’s draw with Aston Villa. It was a game yours truly missed due to a long overdue few days holiday and, instead, Match Of The Day was the place for source material on that one. It was another point and could have been three. Oh, Vitaly Janelt. Ingenuity and optimism that, despite the rules, was worth a punt in the spur of the moment. David Raya at the other end seeming to keep us in it on more than one occasion. 

Yet despite all the positivity on pitch, and inward movement being lined up off it, old habits die hard. Over an hour watching Sky Sports News last night (prior to changing channels for a fascinating ‘fly-on-the’wall’ documentary about weddings) revealed nothing beyond the fact that we are looking to move Joel Valencia out on loan. That was it for the Bees. No mention of Ivan Toney. Nothing. Not even a whisper. 

Instead, it was all Manchester City discussion now Harry Kane has confirmed he is staying put in the short term and Manchester United. The Ronaldo story about as exciting as they come but, in fact, the outward movement of Daniel James to Leeds United could be one of the shrewdest bits of business over the summer. 

£30m the price for a 23 year old who destroyed the Championship at Swansea City, has already got 74 appearances for the Red Devils under his belt and has been long coveted by Marcelo Bielsa. His powerpoint on the Welsh International must be one bursting with positive feedback and he could be a game changer at Elland Road. Certainly, a signing I’m watching with envious eyes in terms of a divisional rival picking up a player who could slot into any team with the potential to be devastating from the off. Cripes, our Harry is still traumatised by his game-changing wonder goal in the FA Cup fifth round a few seasons back….

The Daniel James impact. Brutal

We know our model. Honestly, how many supporters could say they knew much about Frank Onyeka or Yoanne Wissa prior to them joining the Bees? See also: Jota, Benrahma, Mbeumo et al. Ronaldo and Daniel James are oven ready household names. The sort of players that come with a huge cost, huger expectation and the ability to be immediate game changers. With the exception of Pontus Jansson, and perhaps Kris Ajer, we remain masters of tapping into the unknown. Those players tracked well in advance. Players who can do the business despite remaining largely off the broader radar. Shrewd acquisitions rather than five star names. 

Aston Villa have done similar. Their own business over the window lined up early to replace Manchester City bound Jack Grealish. For me, Clive, they are the ones to have come out of the latest round of wheeler-dealing ahead of the rest. So far. Emi Buendia in particular. We’re well familiar with what he can do from last season. There was more of the same on Saturday. As long as we can resist any 11th hour offers then Brentford could well be saying similar. Although if anybody at Lionel Road wants to do a bit more shopping then nobody would complain. 

Just as long as that ‘out door’ stays firmly shut. Just 16 hours to go. And counting……

Pontus – our most high profile signing in years and still a Bee

Nick Bruzon

Safe passage and a tasty warm up for Saturday.

25 Aug

Brentford safely through to the third round of the League Cup after coming from behind to defeat Forest Green Rovers 3-1 on a night that also saw six goals for Aston Villa. Amongst others. Saturday’s opponents falling one short of the magical 7(seven) that would have seen the brackets brought out of cold storage. For the Bees, a much changed line up did the needful with goals from Yoane Wissa, Bryan Mbeumo and Marcus Forss sufficient to see us into the next draw. That one takes place at around 9.45pm(ish) tonight, following the conclusion of the game between Arsenal and West Brom. Perhaps the Gunners will even manage to score. With Manchester City next up in the Prem, failure to do so could leave them scratching around the archives for entries to August’s goal of the month competition.

For a while it looked a bit iffy

For Brentford, relatively safe passage was as much as could be hoped for. We’re in the third round and, all being well, will be able to select our normal seats for that one. Should the reward for last night’s win be a home tie. Confusion and frustration the order of the day with fans displaced following a free for all on seat selection. How hard is it to get this sort of thing right? We go where we do for a reason. Whether dodgy knees requiring seats these days or simply a case of preferring to put the stand into the West Stand singing section as the action hots up. Nobody can deny the atmosphere that generates – come on already the ‘rails seats’ if that’s what it takes.

Still, we’re through. Forest Green making it tough and having the temerity to take the lead. Bravo and well played. Only Ethan Pinnock and Vitaly Janelt surviving from those who started the Premier league game with Crystal Palace. It was still a strong enough team and one further reinforced by the additions of Ajer, Canos, Mbeumo and Frank the Tank as events unfolded. Yet with the team playing catch up eventually strength told as the Bees cranked up the pressure. Yoanne Wissa on the hour, followed by Bryan and then, with opponents down to ten, Marcus Forss rounding things off. 

Loved this image from ‘official’ and their Twitter feed

Thomas Frank magnanimous enough to note both his opponents aswell his own tactical decisions at full time, telling the BBC that, ”I need to praise Forest Green Rovers, Rob Edwards and his staff, I think they did a top job and I think they were the better side in the first half” whilst his own tinkering with the formation, “maybe that didn’t help, maybe I didn’t help the boys as much as I should have done.”

Still, we’re through. We’ve Aston Villa in the league at the weekend. They warmed up for that one with their own win. A 6-0 away win at Barrow. With a quarter hour remaining when they hit the sixth it really was looking like brackets but, alas not. Still, they’ll be buzzing for that game and the Dean Smith reunion. I can already hear him telling the press corps that his team will have deserved to win. Regardless of whatever result transpires. With Ollie Watkins sitting out the season so far, not facing our old boy will be an advantage (of sorts) although the Villans looked imperious at the weekend. Newcastle United put to the sword in some style. Jack who now? 

Prior to all that is this evening’s draw. You can follow it on Sky, amongst other sources, although as it stands (8am) the ball numbers remain a mystery. Seemingly. Nobody has them up on club or news sites as yet. Not even on the Carabao Cup home page. With nothing more than click bait at present (stories titled along the lines of : get all your third round draw details, here, seeminlgy nothing more than a chance to list the 18 highest placed teams in the Premier league, and then Arsenal, it can’t be long until we find out our numerical fate. 

Whatever number we are bequeathed is not going to change too much. The most important thing being that we are through. If we are given a home tie then all the better. After missing out on our entire run to the semi-finals last season, the chance to watch live football and progress further is one that has us all chomping at the bit. How often would we say that about the League Cup in recent years?

Nick Bruzon

A poor man’s Hans Gruber and a drum. Trip to the Palace reminds us what we’ve missed.

22 Aug

Brentford ahead of Manchester City. Not my words, Carol. Those of crisps star Gary Lineker on TV’s Match Of The Day last night (definitely not this morning on ‘catch up’ after falling asleep on the sofa). This, following a 0-0 draw at Crystal Palace. As eventful a game as one could imagine from the scoreline with both teams feeling aggrieved not to have taken all three points by the time referee Martin Atkinson called a halt to proceedings. Thomas Frank would take the applause from the travelling support as his, our, team, remain unbeaten in the Premier League. The current table seeing us sitting in fourth place with only Liverpool, Brighton and Everton ahead. Today’s fixtures will, no doubt, alter the balance of this fledgling ladder but, as it stands, there can be no complaints. Two games. Four points. None conceded. Champions League spot occupied. Don’t @ me. The stats don’t lie. As Shakira almost once sang.

Full Time. Thomas takes the applause and praises the fans

Where to start? Support levels were stonking. From both teams. Brentford loud, louder and ending it loudest. Palace, with a frenzied welcome of flag waving that transformed into huge vocals which the silent Arsenal visitors we had last week could only dream of.

All this, before resorting to that most heinous of football crimes. A drum. Oh for crying out loud, a f*&king drum. Still, as one observer put things, it was the only thing they could beat.

A drum. Pass the bucket

On pitch, Palace started at 100mph. The team looking to make up for lost time after last weekend and almost getting off the mark within minutes – only the frame of the goal keeping David Raya’s sheets clean when, by all rights, they should have been left aswell and truly blemished from close in. Conor Gallagher the man coming close but, in truth, it was the best opportunity they had and symptomatic of their game. No cutting edge when fast paced attack reached the final third. Benteke also with a good chance whilst Sergi played  Wilfried Zaha like a second hand fiddle.  The Ivorian resorting to a second half hissy fit that left him well and truly rattled. He wasn’t alone though. 

See also:  the chap in the supermarket end sporting the turtle neck jumper, blazer and slacks. He looked like the murderer in an episode of Midsomer Murders. It was the librarian wot did it. Or, perhaps, the classic Hollywood ‘late 80s’ English criminal. A poor man’s Hans Gruber who seemed somewhat perturbed by the fact that the Brentford fans were making noise. It all ended with him being invited to leave early into the second half before an eventual, calmer, return.  

Ahh, McClane…

As for Brentford, Bryan Mbeumo came closest. Hitting the Crystal Palace bar from a first half free kick whilst Ivan Toney and Frank Onyeka also had chances. Good chances. Sergi and Bryan linking up wonderfully down the right all game. Frank the Tank bossing midfield. Ajer travelling out of defence with all the comfort of a man who the ball tied ti his foot. Rock solid along side Ethan and Pontus when called upon. And when they were beaten, David Raya was there. If he’d been a virtual passenger against Arsenal, this time round he was well and truly needed. A fingertip save from James McArthur the other real moment of danger from the home side but our man was equal to it.

In the end though, we’ve left feeling almost disappointed. It was a game Brentford could have won. Perhaps should have. Yet credit to our opponents. The pace at this level is relentless. Lightning fast. Reflexes need to be that bit quicker and the fact we are, to date, holding our own is nothing to be sniffed at. This team has been prepared to compete over the last few seasons ans now we are here. Now we are doing it. So far. 

Special note for referee Martin Atkinson. It was as hard fought and physical a game as we’ve had in a while. Challenges flying in and he did everything possible to let the game flow. Even to the detriment of the players with the trainers coming onto the field a number of times. This was something Jurgen Klopp would talk about after Liverpool beat Burnley at lunchtime, saying that “it’s like we’re going 10 to 15 years backwards.” with officials now encouraged not to penalise ‘trivial’ things in order to let games flow. 

I’m all for an open game but there were a number of decisions and fouls, for both teams, where the decision making process seemed to be one where the ref simply chose not to see. Balance needs to be struck. Nobody wants the stop-start cardathons of Keith Stroud on a bad day, but there is also a level of physicality which if let unchecked will end up seeing somebody hurt. Perhaps its as much frustration after seeing a number of calls that, obviously, should have gone our way either not given or awarded to the hosts. At least we’ve not had VAR getting in the way. Yet. Time will tell how things play out on those fronts. 

Next up in the league for Brentford, a trip to Aston Villa. A chance to reunite with Dean Smith, Ezri Konsa and perhaps Ollie Watkins. We’ve sold 2,400 for that one. So far. If it was noisy at the Palace, there’s sure to be a party in the Park. Confidence is high and excitement levels even higher. Perhaps we might even make it out of ‘last spot’ in the Match of the Day running order. With Manchester City kicking off before us and playing Arsenal, we’ll need to win to retain our place ahead of them. Hey, one can fantasise. Only 36 games to go….. 

Until then, we’ve a chance to reflect on just how good it was being able to travel. Going on the road once more. Being part of the massed ranks of travelling fans. A moment that has, for so long, felt a million miles away from being possible. A chance to travel with friend and family. To see familiar faces and jumpers. Yet it has happened . And it was amazing. H getting into the atmosphere like a duck to water.

Now bring on the Villa so we can do it all again.

Nick Bruzon

A fine win despite key absences and is that an incoming player?

8 Aug

Brentford completed pre-season with a 2-1 defeat of Valencia which saw the Bees go from strength to strength as the game progressed. Despite no Ivan Toney in the squad (conspiracy theories ranging from injury to sale – Tottenham, Aston Villa, anyone? doing the rounds), the arrival of Frank Onyeka from the bench and, seemingly, Yoane Wissa from L’Orient left us with the prospect of even better to come. A day which started so sadly, with news of Bees legend Robbie Cooke passing away at the age of just 64, ended with spirits high and Arsenal next up. You know, in the Premier League.

A winning goal celebrated at Lionel Road

Where to start? A crowd of over 10,000 (not bad for a warm up match) saw Brentford grow in stature over the course of a game in which VAR once again got in the way of proceedings. A goal for Marcus Forss was chalked off within five minutes after we’d all celebrated, prompting much frustration from both the crowd and Peter Gilham on the p.a.

VAR 1 Players 0’ he announced at one point, amongst other choice first half utterings. That tangle with the green screen doing nothing to affect his own skills as he would later reel off a list of substitutions for Valencia, concluding with ,”and one other, I think.”

If you’ve got it, use it…..

Instead, it was the Spaniards who took the lead midway through the opening period. Yours truly missing that one after ‘doing a JJ‘. Urgh. The summary from H and Mrs B being that “they pretty much walked it in”. Yet a goal down at half time soon turned into a rejuvenated Bees XI in the second period. Thanks largely, to that man Onyeka. My word, he looks immense. Dominating the midfield in place of Samman Ghoddos and from that moment on there was only going to be one winner. 

VAR getting in the way to deny what appeared, from where we sat, a clear penalty. Two incidents today and, of course, the Ivan Toney ‘equaliser’ in the League cup semi-final at Tottenham have meant our introduction to the much maligned system has been a less than happy one. Here’s hoping we’ve got the harsh calls out of the way early. Thankfully, in the end, it all proved irrelevant.

Biblical torrents in the second half doing nothing to stop the Bees . Instead, we weathered the storm and took the game to our opponents in some style. Ethan Pinnock got the first, heading home a corner from Sergi Canos. The Valencia ‘keeper given no hope as the big man did his dead ball thing once again. Perfect delivery. Perfect timing. Perfect finish. 1-1 and game on.

Within a few minutes we had the lead. Frank Onyeka with a low finish from the edge of the box to give us the lead after Rico’s cross had caused panic in the box. It was a beautiful finish which, combined with his overall performance (see also: West Ham) suggests the Brentford DOFs have done it again.

Celebrate good times, come on !!!! (‘official’ capturing the mood on Twitter)

It finished 2-1 and could have been more. Whilst friendlies don’t count for huge amounts, I’d rather be winning them and playing well than going home on the wrong end of a reverse. Brentford very much did the former. Onyeka aside, Rico looked strong as did Kris Ajer as part of a three man central defence. His ball carrying skills in particular giving the Bees another route forward. 

There was as much talk about those not selected though. Aswell as Tariqe Fosu and Shandon Baptiste, the absence of Ivan Toney had tongues wagging. Injured? Signing for Spurs to replace the outward bound Harry Kane? Resting? Presumably nothing more than the later with the talismanic front man the absolute first name on the team sheet for Arsenal on Friday. Thomas Frank taking the opportunity for one, last look at alternative systems and players as well as, perhaps, playing a few mind games. “A very minor injury” according to the BT Sport commentary team, apparently.

The other notable absentees being Buzz and Buzzette. That’s it. Pre-season done and no sighting of our iconic mascots. What’s the story, ‘official’? Where are they? Corona can’t be an excuse with those furry suits being about as self-isolating as it is possible to be, a deep sea diver’s get up aside. There’s going to be outrage on Friday night if they remain missing. 

One unexpected sighting was that of Yoane Wissa, if the pictures are to be believed. The player seemingly having signed for the Bees if you believe the GPG. As reliable a source as one could find these days with Jackson Grout on Twitter having the right seat at the right time to snap this one.

Yet on a day which saw a parade of legends prior to kick off, there was one notable absence. That of Robbie Cooke whose passing had been announced earlier in the day. The player, an absolute hero in his time at Brentford with the goal at Wembley in the 1985 Freight Rover Trophy being up there amongst his most fondly remembered moments. 64 is way, way too early and a really sad way to start the day for so many Bees fans, for whom it seems like only five minutes ago Robbie was doing his thing at Griffin Park.   

Instead, there were fond memories and dignified announcements from Peter, a man who has been such a longstanding part of the club and seen all our modern day heroes. Not to mention a few more. With Arsenal here in a few days time, now is the time to dream about who can add themselves to that list. I can’t wait to find out.

Roll on Friday. See you there.

Nick Bruzon

Sheer bliss with fixture list ‘reveal’. And who is Thomas shopping for?

17 Jun

Brentford v Arsenal. Norwich City v Liverpool. Manchester City v Spurs. That concludes the draw for the third round of the FA Cup. Except, of course, it doesn’t. That actually concludes the headlines from the opening round of Premier League fixtures. Games to be played at 3pm on Saturday 14th August, subject to television coverage. It is about as perfect an opening game as the Bees could have asked for. A home start. The chairman’s boyhood club. A chance to hit the ground running before away trips to Crystal Palace and then Aston Villa. Oh, Dean Smith. The ‘deserved to win’ derby is back and I can’t wait for it. Can’t wait for any of it.

At an (ambassadorial ?) dinner with friends last night, the excitement was palpable. The hope of being able to play in front of a full house following the additional month’s extension of Corona restrictions from June 21st an obvious topic of conversation. Those of us lucky enough to attend the play-off semi against Bournemouth where 4,200 ripped the roof off Lionel Road know just what a huge difference having fans present makes. Of course, we need no reminder of that but at the same time, the effect it had on the Cherries was beyond anything I had seen before.

A team visibly crumbling in front of us. The self-destruct button hit as Brentford played them off the park on it and destroyed their mindset off it. Sell the place out and Arsenal won’t know what to expect for that first game. From their own library  (pre/during corona) to a cauldron of noise. It’ll be immense. And that’s just game one.

What an afternoon that was at Lionel Road

We’ve all got the ones we are looking forward to. Seeing the likes of Manchester City and Spurs on our fixture card still takes some belief. As much because of the huge journey taken to get here. But, we have done it. We are there. We are going to be playing shoulder to shoulder as league rivals rather than ad-hoc cup opponents. The BBC have updated their graphic. Newsnow have shifted us into their ‘Premier League’ category. Our transfer from the Championship is completed. Believe it. It’s happening. Enjoy the build up but bring on the real thing.

Manchester City will now be league rivals rather than ad-hoc cup opponents. Sheer Bliss For Brentford in 1989

Thomas Frank spoke to Sky Sports Premier League yesterday. You can see that one below. Even he acknowledging that it has finally sunk in. His own thoughts on the Arsenal game being that, “To be honest, I don’t really care who we are facing in the first game… if there was one wish then it was that the first game was at home”. There was plenty more said in between so do take a look. If only for the transfer exclusive…

Like the rest of us, Thomas is hoping for a full house at Lionel Road. With Wimbledon tennis finals and business end of the Euros seeing more and more able to attend, one has to remain optimistic. No pressure, Boris. Johnson. Not Becker. I darnel even think of the meltdown should supporters not be able to attend. Whether we’ll be able to travel en-masse fo r ‘away’ games another consideration but, for now, everybody is going to be sweating on that July update. 

That’s for then. This is now. A moment to start memorising dates. Planning the Christmas schedule. Looking forward to another season. The difference being that this time, rather than finishing the campaign against Portsmouth and Doncaster (something something something penalty) it’ll be games with Southampton and Leeds United. This fixture card I found at he back of the draw during the week really emphasising the progress made over the last ten years. Now, to see where we go from here. 

I can’t wait. See you there  

That was then

Nick Bruzon

Amazingly, this stat seems true – and I don’t like it.

19 Mar

Brentford host Nottingham Forest on Saturday lunchtime. The game live on Sky with a 12.30 kick off. The Bees looking to bounce back from the 2-2 draw with Wayne Rooney’s Derby County on Tuesday night. A game we could, maybe should, have been out of sight in by half time. Instead, our PMA got on the coach early and a second half no show saw us hanging on for 45 minutes before succumbing to the inevitable equaliser. Frustrating doesn’t even begin to describe it but there’s nothing we can do now except kick on and go ag, ag, ag, once more. Elsewhere, there was amazing news on the international front with nothing but plaudits for Ethan Pinnock and Ollie Watkins (Aston Villa but still a Bee in our hearts) earning call ups for Jamaica and England respectively.

First World problems, eh? The sort most teams would love. Automatic is still well within our control, should we find our mojo. It seemed to be well back after the game at Blackburn and the opening period against Derby. Then, inconsistency struck. For Thomas Frank, selection headaches, of the nicest sort at centre-back. Pontus, Winston and Ethan Pinnock are all fit. 2 out of 3 ain’t bad, as popular music’s Meatloaf once sung. So will we dispense with full backs and go for the lot? Then there’s the perennial question of Fosu v Canos. The former at least attempted to inject some of the zest that had so sadly gone awol from the rest of the team when he came on. Sergi had already added to his goal haul. 

Yet perhaps the biggest conundrum is how Bryan Mbeumo rediscovers his spark? There, perhaps, the greatest enigma of all. He seems to be either amazing our anonymous. Like Sergi, Thomas Frank has persisted, perhaps in the hope that he will also return to last season’s consistent brilliance. With one game to go before the break I am sure we will see more of the same.

Flying Bryan is a joy to behold

That’s me. Flying Bryan was an integral part of the BMW that got us so close last time out. We’ve readjusted to life without Ollie Watkins just wonderfully, Ivan Toney scoring at an even more prodigious rate than the now Aston Villa man, but our approach play has felt, if not laboured, then certainly off the pace at times compared to last season. Then again, we’re a different team. The emergence of Vitaly Janelt in the middle a joy to behold. With Christian Norgaard fit again, those two have immediately formed a quite wonderful partnership. Questions as to whether they can play together well answered. When Josh Dasilva is fit once more we could have quite the line. Regardless of individuals, that return from injury can’t come soon enough. Whomever else is picked, a fit Josh is a guaranteed starter.

As for Nottingham Forest, well…. I heard a stat on this week’s Prutton’s Predictions podcast for Sky Sports claiming that ‘own goals’ was their leading scorer. Surely not? Well, a check of the stats sees 29 scored in the league, 25 named players getting them and Lyle Taylor leading the pack on 4. Meaning that, at the least, o.g.s would seem to be joint top. 

Urghh. I hate these sort of nuggets. Much like Derby not scoring in four games before we played them, the sort of thing that can only come back to haunt you. Either Grabban or Taylor (and talk about the DoFs making the right transfer selection there) to get a hatful or one to go in off Henrik’s backside and further strengthen o.g’s claim for the Forest golden boot.  Please note: by Henrik, substitute ‘anyone’. For once, a jinx free game of regular football would be just wonderful. It’s Brentfoird, innit? A moniker I’d love if we could dispense with as we enter this final run of fixtures.

Cripes,  I can’t call this. Even though I have on the aforementioned podcast. Let’s just wait to see what plays out. One last push before International break. The dream of three points at the forefront of the mind and then, once more, hoping Watford and Swansea care to fall over in their games at home to Birmingham City and Cardiff respectively. If ever there was a time to prove you are ten times better…

Come for the podcast, stay for the stats (and dodgy predictions)

Nick Bruzon

Maupay does it again. What a way to celebrate. Again.

17 Jan

Life isn’t great at the moment. Not compared to normal. The relentless grind of Lockdown and ‘that’ virus. Games played out in empty stadia. Brentford not even able to take the field at the moment due to our own training ground being closed – albeit results have gone largely in our favour whilst we’ve been away – thanks, Luton.) Yet sitting at home yesterday afternoon there was a moment to put a smile on the face once more. Delivered in the game between Leeds United and Brighton c/o that king of shithousery, Neal Maupay. A cult hero at Griffin Park to rank alongside the best of them. 

We all loved Neal. No question. That goal and celebration at Fulham. The absolute dirt that went alongside his game. Cheeky digs. Sly tugs. A side to a Brentford player we’d not seen in a long, long time. Somebody you wouldn’t want to get close to, yet had that wonderful combination of mercurial talent combined with unpredictable volatilty. Err, what Aston Villa game? He was, rightly, lauded at Griffin Park. We’d have loved him to stay but we’ve all moved on. Our loss, Brighton’s gain. Had he stayed there’d have been no Ollie Watkins up front. Win-win.

The classic Neal image? Perhaps….

Yet, as we all know, his ultimate moment was up at Elland Road. Back in October 2018, with the scores locked at 0-0 in an early season Championship pacesetter, Ollie was brutally fouled (errr) by Leeds ‘keeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell. Up stepped Neal to not only score from the spot but then celebrate in that quite wonderful style. Only he would have had the balls to take on the home contingent, arms aloft and fronting them out in the face of all manner of , understandable, abuse flying back. Cripes, had the boot been on the other foot we’d have been spewing. It was bad enough that the spot kick had been deemed questionable but this was then the ultimate indignity for the home support. A celebration to rank with the best of them and an iconic moment. 

It was a moment only bettered in the return fixture at Brentford when Neal scored again. Right in front of the away fans. He celebrated, again. Right in front of the away fans. Same pose, same stare, same abuse. Talk about king of wind up. The man has balls of steel. If anybody was looking to endear themselves to the home support then here it was. Griffin Park erupted. If it wasn’t possible to love him anymore, then here was the opportunity to do so. 

Then, Brighton came knocking and we went our separate ways. That’s football. Neal is still a fixture in my life – even if just through the medium of Fantasy Football. Then, yesterday, at Leeds United, it all came flooding back. He scored for Brighton. The Seagulls 1-0 up. The only thing missing being supporters to see the goal live. 

No matter. This is Maupay. This was Leeds. This is the man who lives for the moment. And sure enough, he did. He celebrated in the only way he knew how. Despite the fact there was nobody there to wind up. Oh, we all knew how much this meant. And it was brilliant. Never have I enjoyed a goal in a different division for a club I don’t even support so much. This one was all about the man, the moment and the place. What a way to liven up an otherwise desperate Saturday.

Thank you, Neal. Thank you for doing this.

Time to say, “Enough is enough.”

13 Jan

Get well soon, everyone. Is it time to call a halt to football for a while? Brentford were the latest in a growing list of clubs to see games cancelled yesterday due to the ongoing Corona Virus outbreak. Cripes, words that have actually surpassed ‘Rail replacement Bus’ , ‘Mrs Browns Boys and ‘England Supporters Band’ as the three most soul-destroying in the English language. Following Monday’s latest testing, the Bees have reported further positive results to the EFL and, as such, been asked to close our Training Ground aswell as carry out additional tests. The immediate consequence of this being our own confirmation that we are now unable to complete the games with Bristol City (tonight) and at Reading on Saturday. As is the way,  these games will now have to be rearranged. Somewhere. Likewise the trip to Swansea City on 23rd January, although that’s as much due to both clubs involvement in the FA Cup – us with Leicester City and the Swans against Nottingham Forest.

This is getting ridiculous now. At the very least an extension to the season is needed. Realistically, we need to call a halt for a few weeks. This is no longer isolated and ad-hoc. Where does health and safety take a priority? Not just of players but all those still involved behind the scenes on a match day. With the rest of the country being forced into stricter and stricter controls for our own benefit, why are the clubs still being put into a situation which seems to be spiralling out of control at present?

Sick (ill) Bees – and we aren’t alone

I love football. I’m desperate for it to go ahead. To have some feeling of normality and light at the end of the tunnel. But this is no longer normal. This is no longer isolated amongst a small element of the football community. Bristol City have already pulled their game with us due to players feeling unwell. Like other clubs, we’ve actually pulled them now due to genuine cases. No irony lost there and I don’t retrospectively change my opinions or what was said at the time on the circumstances surrounding what happened at Ashton Gate. At least they are healthy. However, its not the time for point scoring or ploughing on with an ever growing fixture list. Some clubs left trailing with even more games to somehow cram in to an ever decreasing list of dates.

If we’re talking irony, look at how this happened over November and December. Game followed game followed game. Now we’re left in a situation in January where we kick our heels as the club hope players, staff (and head coach Thomas Frank) recover as quickly and as healthily as possible. If nothing else, let’s not pretend Bryan Mbeumo hit the ground running upon his return from a positive test last season. We all have eyes and we  all saw how his own from dropped away. 

As it stands, the only other games this month will be Luton on January 20th, Leicester City in the cup and then home to Wycombe on January 30th. Assuming, of course, the authorities don’t call a temporary halt to proceedings.

The rising infection rate requires action. Now”. Not my words, but those of the government propaganda advert playing out across the radio on an hourly basis. It’s come on just now (6am). Sitting here doing my day job from the kitchen table, it’ll no doubt be washed down another half-dozen times over the course of the day. At least. The news is telling us it’s likely we’re not even going to be allowed to exercise in public with one other person for much longer – the current extent to our freedoms – yet football carries on regardless. Why is nobody thinking of their health and well being? Marcus Rashford is effectively doubling up as the leader of the opposition, yet football carries on regardless.

Perhaps I need to turn the radio off. It’s not been a good start to the day. It’s only going to get worse when I have to find three hours from nowhere to do home schooling. Sorry to whinge. First world problems – at least I have a job and some food on the table. I’m fully aware others have different challenges oaf their own. As much as anything else how to occupy spare time. That’s not to pretend things are easy for anyone at the moment.

Yet mentioned because as much as anything else, it is the strange normality of crowd free football that helps us keep us going. Gives something to look forward to at the weekend or the end of the day. I’d love more of it, being quite selfish. But, perhaps, now somebody has to have the balls to stand up and say ‘enough is enough’. Even if its just for a couple of weeks.  

Get back to me on that one. 

Perhaps time to turn the radio off

Nick Bruzon

Tin foil? Check. Sofa? Check. Corona Virus? Check.

9 Jan

The FA Cup third round is here. It began last night at Aston Villa (we’ll get to Dean Smith in a bit) and now Brentford host Middlesbrough this evening. Another run at the stadium in North London near Ikea awaits. Memories of the epic afternoons against Manchester City and Sunderland flooding to the fore every time this competition is mentioned. Even last season’s game with Leicester City at Griffin Park is up there – if only for the fact it was one of the last occasions we were all together. Now, we begin another journey although one I get the feeling is going to see a lot of less familiar faces helping us along the way. A side much more akin to the one that started the early rounds of the League Cup likely to be the direction chosen by Thomas Frank. Albeit, he won’t be there to put an arm around the shoulder or impart some top, top words of advice. Yesterday’s news certainly put paid to that. Award winner in the morning followed by the confirmation he has tested positive for Covid 19. Ten days self-isolation now follow and, of course, everybody wishes him nothing but the best. Talk about the ‘curse’ of manager of the month ! For once, it really is a case of ‘Frank out’. In all seriousness though, one can only hope our inspirational head coach is back amongst us as soon as possible and not suffering any ill effects.

The quintessential Brentford FA Cup image

Yet whomever is picked for Brentford – and even Charlie Goode has noted in his programme interview that “I am sure the squads will be very different today” (from ‘that’ 0-0 with Middlesbrough – the game that dare not speak its name) it is still the FA Cup. It is the third round. It is the single most exciting weekend in the football calendar. The chance for the mighty to fall. For heroes to be made. For the armchair fan to sit back and gorge on all that the cup has to offer. Every game will be available to sofa dwellers and, with nothing else to do, why not. A cup tie is the one occasion where you can dip into a random game and pick a side. The desire to see an ‘upset’ is almost instinctive.

 For example, next weekend sees Sheffield United host Newcastle United in the Premier league. Honestly, is anyone outside of their own fans going to think that looks like an attractive means to spend two hours? Cripes, talk about boredom on a plate and I wouldn’t go near it with a barge pole. Personally speaking. I’ve suffered enough already this season when Middlesbrough came to visit in the league  – and that was my own team dragging themselves through 90 minutes – so have no desire to inflict similar on myself. Yet offer up the prospect of this afternoon’s encounter between Bristol Rovers and Sheffield United, then all of a sudden the chance to watch the Blades limp through a game takes on a whole new level of intrigue. And with our own kicking off at 6pm, it means both can be watched. If you want.

We won’t be there in person. Nobody will. One has to feel for the fans of Marine in particular. Hosting cup kings Spurs yet forced to watch it from the safety of home. There’s an entirely different question out there as to whether football should even go on hold for a while, as it did last season, with more and more clubs returning positive tests. Or, in the case of Bristol City, sore throats. Yet until, or if, that happens, we’ve got this. Watching on from home and hoping to progress. Hoping to get through without injury or suspension that has already robbed us of Josh Dasilva.

I’d still love to be there and would have gone like a shot had we been able. The chance to see Brentford, against anyone, always a pleasure. The opportunity to wield that tin foil trophy – something our Harry has done every season – one that is always grabbed with relish. The creation of the trophy a  Saturday morning ritual of gluing and cutting that we’ve always enjoyed but, alas, not this year. Or maybe we will anyway. Just because.  

Win or lose, we’ve had our moments. Hosting Marcus Gayle and Staines Town. The aforementioned game with Leicester City. Even being dumped out by Walsall. As much because of their own reaction to recently departed boss and ‘Ginger Judas’ Dean Smith who had joined us at Griffin Park. A quite remarkable reaction, a cracking afternoon of cup football and one it would be fair to say that the Saddlers ‘deserved to win’. 

Dean certainly upset the Walsall fans

The league cup run has certainly lifted spirits, that’s for sure. Coming so close to a Wembley final with Manchester City one that, whilst everyone is rightly still looking at with pride, would have been a quite incredible experience had we managed to pull it off. Now, we must go again.

I’m not an idiot. The absolute 110% priority is the league. We’ll never have a better chance to reach the hallowed ground of the top flight and I have no doubt Thomas will juggle resources accordingly. Yet, at the same time, that’s not to say I won’t be investing any less in the FA Cup. Our squad have shown what they can do already and I‘m sure they’ll be out to do the same again this afternoon. Bring it on !!

Now, where are the scissors…?

Another FA Cup journey on the road to Wembley begins.

Nick Bruzon