Tag Archives: Athletic

We are now in virgin territory. Have all jinxes been reset?

11 Jul

Nooooooo. With Brentford sitting pretty in the Championship, disaster has struck. I don’t give a monkey about Leeds United beating Stoke City 5-0 on Thursday night. Well done. Seriously. You’re going to make it up now and won’t throw it from here. West Bromwich Albion are the team to go for. Nor do I particularly care that Fulham won last night, taking them third on the basis of having played their game earlier than the rest. If we are to have any realistic hope of that automatic place then we need to win today. Something that will also see us climb back above the Cottagers. Those are the facts of the situation yet none are anything compared to the curveball delivered on Friday  morning. Ahead of our trip to Wayne Rooney’s Derby County, Thomas Frank has only been declared the winner of June’s ‘Manager Of The Month’ award. 

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Congratulations, Thomas

Nooooooo. We all know what this means. The ‘jinx’ of Manager of the Month is now in play. A piece of footballing folklore even older than ‘the curse of Clem’ is now lurking in the wings. That one, seeing a visit from everyone’s favourite roving reporter for a Football League Show / Football Focus feature normally followed by a defeat or draw. Something statistically demonstrated on these pages during our Clemwatch feature over season 2014-15 and which, equally, does no harm to remind ourselves of. If only for what came next.

Starting with short term Leeds United manager David Hockaday (who saw his new team lose 2-0 at Millwall) and finished with the consummate example of the Clem effect as Bournemouth scooped the Championship title at the expense of promotion rivals rival Watford. The Hornets lead with all other results going their way, the title was in their grasp. With the BBC showing 90 minutes, Sheffield Wednesday proved themselves the ultimate party poopers as Atdhe Nuhiu levelled things up for the Owls in stoppage time. And there it finished at 1-1. The title lost, with the final goal. All under Clem’s watchful eye. In 30 features, the Clem ‘team’ only won 7(seven) times.

Clem table rd 11 ipswich

Behind bars but no escape from ‘the curse’

Yet that worm has then turned and how. No sooner had The Football League show run it’s course than things changed for the better. A complete 180 was performed and these days a visit from Clem comes with victory as good as assured. He has gone from albatross to some form of footballing St.Bernard. A rescue dog – bringing three points rather than a barrel of brandy slung around his neck. Something that has been proven time and again in recent campaigns. Most notably just a week ago after we thumped Wigan Athletic 3-0.

And if Clem proves that things can change, then how about Manager of the Month? My word, if anyone has the confidence and the talent to do this then it is Thomas Frank. The togetherness he has inspired was demonstrated in the award photo which , rather than the typical pose of manager holding trophy, was a shot of the set up at Jersey Road. Head coach and Club staff as one.  

Then chuck in to the mix the fact that winning the award in June is surely a first? Ordinarily, May sees the final Manager Of The Month prize handed out. The extension of the season has meant that we are now in virgin territory. Have all omens been reset? Could this be a chance for this most feared of prizes to rebrand itself it in the public eye?

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Thomas and Clem prove that positivity can triumph. Things can change for the better

 Whatever else, scooping this one shows just what we have achieved. How solid a unit we have been to date. The performance against Charlton on Tuesday night proved that. The Addicks were unbreakable for huge swathes of the game yet Brentford kept going and going.

Patient. Calm. Never panicking. Thomas galvanising his troops and showing them his whiteboard. Benrahma coming ever closer until finally we were level. Then we were ahead.

The last few minutes of that one were played out with a level of calm which was far too at odds with the pressure of the situation. That’s Thomas Frank, though. He inspires. He exudes confidence. Positivity emanating from every pore. And it is infectious.

Whilst probably not the word of choice at present, it is the most apt I can think of to describe his Thomas Frank effect. We’re going to win today. We’re going to take Brentford back up to third place. And whilst I’d expect West Bromwich Albion to triumph at Blackburn Rovers, if the Ewood Park outfit are to have any hope of reaching the play-offs then their own victory today is essential.

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Thomas does his thing

Thomas may not be a man for permutations. He has made it quite clear he only cares what his team do. The table gets nothing more than a cursory glance. Us fans are anything but. We know what other results can do. We have a permanent eye on them. For crying out loud, I even sat through Leeds United v Stoke during the week. That’s two hours I’ll never get back. There were only two teams in that game – Leeds and United. 

Will they improve enough to stop Brentford? Can Thomas Frank inspire his team to even bigger and better things. Will Phillip Cocu have delivered the mother of all team talks to fire his boys up? If nothing else, they are only three points off the play-off zone and so have more than enough incentive, despite recent results.

Oh, I wish I could be at this one. Instead, its a TV game for us. For everyone. Although a game made all the more challenging in our house by the fact that we have longstanding plans with friends and so can’t even watch it live. The bringing forward of the game to lunchtime a final straw in the coffin of being able to watch it. Instead, it’ll be a case of ‘phones off’, hitting ‘record’ and thing going into ‘Likely Lads’ mode. Then hoping we don’t stumble across it somehow.     

Hmmmm.

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Togetherness – my abiding image of the season to date

Nick Bruzon

Thomas and Trevor play the opposition like a fiddle. No pressure, Leeds….

9 Jul

What else can we say? The shockwaves from a quite magnificent win for Brentford over Charlton Athletic on Tuesday are still rumbling. Not so much about the strength of character and barrel load of guts shown by the team but more due to the predictable yet always brilliant reaction from Leeds United supporters. This time, in regards to Thomas Frank and his whiteboard. And if they were feeling the pressure after that, I daren’t even look at social media following yesterday’s win for West Bromwich Albion against Wayne Rooney’s Derby County. The stress levels in Yorkshire when Stoke City visit tonight could be immense.

There was no column yesterday. A relief for many, no doubt. This was for no more a reason than needing to catch up on some sleep after what had been a brutal yet ultimately exciting evening in front of the telly. Charlton got the early goal – our first conceded sine Joe Ralls found the net for Cardiff City in February (and just pause to think how far back that was)  –  then put down the shutters. The game managed beautifully by The Addicks and Brentford seeing all attempts at creativity stifled. Half time coming and going before we knew what had happened. The clock moving ever onward and the mood in the Midlands getting lighter by the second. And then came the moment which hanged the game. THAT hydration break…..

With games now interrupted for players to take on water at the midway point, Thomas Frank seized his moment. Along with the water bottles, out came his whiteboard and magnets. With the players taking on fluids, an impromptu review of tactics played out in front of our eyes. I say tactics, it could just as easily been an attempt to figure out the seating plan for the coach trip to Derby or decide who was going to take Ian Moose his full time snacks. Who knows what was said… 😉

 

And it was this that sent the Leeds United fans off the deep end. Twitter was awash with salty tears, cries of foul play, shouts of tin-pottery and a swathe of accusations that our head coach was somehow cheating. Hello Mr Kettle. Is somebody feeling the stress? With Brentford sitting just three points behind the Elland Road outfit and four to play, their game at home to relegation threatened Stoke City this evening will be absolutely huge.

The GPG have since released what they believe to be a transcript of the conversation that played out. If you haven’t seen it (surely everyone has) then it is below. And if you have, then watch it again. Quite magnificent. Great work Trevor and symptomatic of how much we are enjoying the wave of pressure that others seems to be struggling with at the business end of the table.

Yet whatever it was that Thomas did say had the desired effect. Man of the match (I presume) Josh Dasilva  creating mayhem down the right. Benrahma coming closer and closer with each attempt on goal before he was eventually felled in the box, picked himself up and made it 1-1 with a quarter hour to go. From that point on there was only one winner. Josh Dasilva saw a shot from distance bounce clear off the top corner as the Bees pushed on. Eventually, Ethan Pinnock grabbing the decisive goal with five minutes to go. A corner taken short (not a typo) was whipped in and rather than provide his customary assist, he went one better and steer it past the ‘keeper with a fine header. Oh. My.

It was a victory achieved in the toughest of circumstances abasing opponents who played a first class game and cause so close to themselves securing at least one point. Charlton gave it their best and will presumably remain safe. A win for Stoke City this evening probably the last thing they’ll be hoping for. 

In the end Derby County were unable to do us, or themselves, any favours last night. West Bromwich Albion swept them aside with all the ease of Ian Moose reaching for a slice of cake at half-time. The Rams at least offering hope ahead of our own visit to Pride Park on Saturday in their looking totally inept .

That, a game I’m dreading for no more reason than Thomas Frank has this morning been nominated for June’s manager of the month award. With Brentford boasting that 100% win record   and cleaner sheets than Danny Baker doing his doorstep challenge, he’ll be doing well to miss out on this one. And we all know what happens next time out should a manager scoop the award.

Then again, we beat the curse of Clem against Wigan Athletic. What’s to say that, should he triumph, we can’t beat this one either? The way Brentford are playing at the moment, nothing would surprise me.

The one thing we can be sure of is that Derby can’t possibly be as anonymous as they were last night. With the play-offs still in their sights, this is going to take everything we’ve got. And I can’t wait. Bring it on.

See you on the couch this Saturday.

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Trevor (and Thomas) play Leeds’ fans like a fiddle

Nick Bruzon

Different day. Same hope. All to play for with just five games left.

7 Jul

Tuesday, I think. If the days had been merging in to one when lockdown started, football is now following suit with the games coming thick and fast. Brentford host Charlton Athletic this evening with another chance to further close the gap on West Bromwich Albion and Leeds United at the top. Behind us, something has to give as Fulham visit Nottingham Forest in the 5pm kick off. Strap yourselves in – we go again. Again.

Anybody who has been watching this team know just how well Brentford are playing at present. Five successive wins have been earned alongside an equal number of clean sheets. It was three against Wigan and could have been double that. See also : Reading away. We’ve beaten the teams at the top and played with a spring in the step. Peter Gilham mounting a furious one-man campaign to simulate the entire crowd.

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Peter does his thing against Wigan

We know all this, of course, but it doesn’t make it any less impressive. At the same time, it is a run that needs to be kept going if there is any genuine aspiration of catching up with the top two. The gap is five points with five to play. That’s on West Bromwich Albion. Perennial chokers Leeds United are six ahead – surely not even they can throw it this time. Can they….?

With the Baggies next two home games against play-off chasing Wayne Rooney’s Derby County and Fulham, sandwiching a trip to Blackburn, there are no immediate ‘gimmes’ on their fixture card. Just look at what the Rams did to Nottingham Forest on Saturday in their own pursuit of the top six. Thanks, Wayne.

Then again, look what the Kaiser Chiefs did to the NHS in between that game and ours –  Ricky Wilson and co popping up on I-follow for a quite unexpected rendition of ‘Happy birthday’. Sometimes, even the best intentions (and you can’t end the wonderful work the NHS do or any of the praise they receive) can turn into the bizarre.

On the plus side, at least it provided a break from Snoop Dogg promoting a food delivery service. Does he really need the money?

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Unexpected

West Brom play the day after us once more and so we all know the price of victory and the potential state of the table at 8.15pm this evening. But nobody is taking anything for granted, that’s for sure.

Charlton Athletic may have released top scorer Lyle Taylor (who had refused to play for fear of putting a ‘life-changing’ move at risk) but they are still very dangerous opponents. Relegation had been beckoning for a team who, prior to last minute defeat against Millwall, picked up 7(seven) points out of a possible 9 from their own restart. They are now clear of the bottom three but will be looking to make that secure. Moreso given as Wigan are not guaranteed to go down, despite the 12 point fine waiting in the wings should they survive naturally. 

You can absolutely bet they will be caged tigers rather than tame pussycats rolling over to have their tummies tickled. We have the quality, of course, but going in to this one with anything less than sheer belief and realisation that there is a huge job to do will be fatal.

Thankfully, we have Thomas Frank at the helm. A man full of confidence but with his feet firmly on the ground. An absolute awareness of what needs to be done on our side combined with a realisation of just how futile it is to stare at the table. Permutations count for nothing. Other results are out of our hands. He’ll focus on nothing more than the immediate. Leave the analysis to the supporters. That’s how it should be.

At the same time, Thomas knows the wealth of talent at his disposal. Just how well his side are playing. That the goals can come from anywhere. The last few games have seen Marcondes, Mbeumo, DaSilva and Valencia get on the list along with Championship top scorer Ollie Watkins and the mercurial Saïd Benrahma. The Algerian’s own hat-trick against Wigan saw his quite magnificent second goal astound even his most ardent admirers. Did he mean it? Was it a misdirected cross? Frankly, who cares ? It was a goal we’ll never forget and will no doubt see him with even more of a spring in his step when things start in earnest once more this evening.

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Saïd (in pre-lockdown mode)

There’s not much else to say beyond enjoy the game. It will be about as exciting as they come. A top v bottom clash where empty stadia are, normally, a great leveller. Where form goes out the window. Where every point is vital. Form may lean towards a home banker but I’ve got a feeling Charlton are going to make this much harder than the table suggests. At the same time, I can’t wait to see how we go.

Roll on 6pm. With the spirit in the camp sky high, this one could be an absolute cracker !

Nick Bruzon

Is this his best goal ever? And a sneak peak inside the ground on matchday.

5 Jul

Magnificent . Wonderful. Incredible. One starts to run out of superlatives after a while. A Said Benrahma hat trick was the icing on the cake of another dominant performance for Brentford. Five in a row and none conceded as a 3-0 defeat of Wigan Athletic on Saturday afternoon kept up the pressure on the top two. With West Bromwich Albion just a couple of points ahead and due to face relegation threatened Hull City this afternoon for their ‘game in hand’, the season really is building to a ‘who blinks first’ crescendo. Leeds United can breath a little easier after their own three points yesterday but it was at Wayne Rooney’s Derby County, of all places, where the day got off to a quite wonderful start. Their 95th minute equaliser against Nottingham Forest saw the Bees staying in third without even having to kick a ball. Instead, we kicked on in just about the best style possible.

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Celebrating with the ‘fans’ at full time……?

Wigan weren’t even at the races. No surprise given the situation playing out at the DW where we can have nothing but the utmost sympathy for their players, staff and supporters. Yet to overlook the performance from Brentford would be to offer the hugest level of disrespect to Thomas Frank and his team. The Bees were at their scintillating best. Tearing it up down the flanks , cutting through the middle and only last gasp defence denying Ollie Watkins the opportunity to add to his haul. 

But if one of the division’s form teams (Wigan were unbeaten in 9 and had won 6 of their last 7(seven) games) looked like they might hold tight, that man Benrahma popped up with just shy of 20 minutes on the clock. Marcondes headed the ball towards towards him, the Algerian turned, spun and volleyed it low in to the bottom corner. 1-0 and game on ! 

And whilst the score remained the same until half time, things changed in the most dramatic style shortly in to the second period. Benrahma picking up the ball close to the corner flag by the New Road and hitting it goalwards on the tightest of angles. It floated across the defence before taking a handbrake turn into the top corner. The ultimate example of the cross-cum-shot and one that had no right to go in but, somehow, it did. The smile on his face said it all. As did the tweet from Brentford official, which declared: IF HE’S MEANT THAT, THAT IS RIDICULOUS..

Did he mean it, they would go on to ask this morning? The goal is below and, my word, needs to be seen to be believed.

And then minutes later it was three. Benrahma claiming the match ball with another shot pinged in from the eye of the box. Josh Dasilva and then Christian Norgaard combining to set him up for a beautifully struck shot. How does he make it look so easy? 

There was more but I don’t really have the words today. Watch the video. It was a long, emotional afternoon. Beers were drunk before, during and after. Points were cheered and smiles were broad. Sitting in the shadow of Griffin Park as the sun set, it was another chance to count our blessings. With chaos reigning all around, the good ship Brentford seems as calm and stable as ever.

Thomas Frank hinted at it in his prematch interview with Clem that went out on Football Focus. The link to that one is here – it’s on I-player for a week – and is well worth a watch. He exudes calm. Confidence. Common sense. His manner is nothing but inspiring and his approach philosophical. Why look at the table for more than a second? You can’t change anything. Influence anything. Concentrate on your own next training session. Your own next game. It is an approach that clearly worked yesterday.

By all logic, this should be awful. Shut out of our own ground. Denied the chance to watch this most special of teams in the flesh. To see if our last minute surge to the top of the table may have sufficient legs to see us surge past West Bromwich Albion or Leeds United on the line. Yet the communal feeling that is still so apparently there – on social media, whatsapp groups and in our little bubbles – is nothing but intoxicating. We really are in this together. Even if it is from the safety of our front rooms. 

Hearing Peter Gilham roaring the team on (via the video links) still sends shivers up the spine. Seeing him celebrate the goals and, along with the other officials, take the applause at full time even better. I was sent these pictures last night of what it looks like from that perch on high. I’d love to be there but, you know what, being with friends and family feels like the right way to do this. 

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Peter celebrates

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….the other side of that post game celebration

Yet perhaps the last word today should got to Thomas Frank, from the aforementioned BBC piece. Asked by Clem for a single word to describe the achievement if Brentford were to reach the Premier league, he answered in characteristic style:  “I will give you that word. If and when we achieve it. I promise you that.” 

I can’t wait to hear what that is…

Nick Bruzon

Ifs. Buts. Maybes. Possibilities. Permutations.

4 Jul

Brentford v Wigan Athletic. Blackburn v Leeds United. West Bromwich Albion v Hull City. Those are the big three games, on paper, as we head into the latest round of Championship fixtures. With just six to play, victory at Griffin Park this afternoon will take us within just a couple of points of West Brom (who don’t play until tomorrow). Their own return to winning ways at Hillsborough during the week keeping them safe in ‘automatic’. For now. Yet although the Bees are the ones in form, let’s not forget about the team directly behind us. There’s also the small matter of Nottingham Forest who travel to Frank Lampard’s former club, Wayne Rooney’s Derby County, at lunchtime for a game where their own victory would see the Tricky Trees leapfrog the Bees. Even if just for a few hours.

Rooney caravan

Wayne Rooney – Lockdown has been tough on all of us

It would be fair to say that phase II of the Championship has been quite bizarre. A behind closed doors campaign played out in front of flags, banners and cardboard cutouts rather than fans. Games streamed back to back on TV and I-follow as everybody rushes to complete the season in as ‘normal’ as possible a style. That’s before we even get to the quite depressing situation playing out at Wigan where, if the current stories on social media about their ownership, betting irregularities and the subsequent administration are true (the thread is here), could and should lead to some extremely tough questions for Rick Parry and the EFL. Most of which will, no doubt, be swerved. One has to feel for their supporters for whom missing out on a trip to Griffin Park is probably the least of their worries.

Yet other things have remained the same. Leeds United falling apart. Again. Fulham playing in an empty and soulless stadium. Brentford on fire as our record reads: Played three. Won three. Goals for: six. Goals Against: NONE. We’ve beaten the (then) third placed team and table toppers in our opening fixtures, with the team looking stronger than ever. 

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Ollie leaves the scoreboard hanging as he silences the away ‘fans’ last week

That’s not to rest on any laurels, of course. Cliché alert. Cliché alert. Cliché aler…. You’re only as good as your last result whilst Thomas Frank has been very much advocating a policy of taking each game as it comes. Making it very public that he is only concentrating on the next training session or the next game. Which is exactly the right thing to say and do. Even if for us supporters it is very much different….

Our own fixture list and those of our rivals have been sliced, diced and analysed. Where might Leeds United drop points? (everywhere, presumably). Might we be grateful to Fulham taking points at Nottingham Forest or West Bromwich Albion in the coming weeks? What would Peter Gilham say or do if a win for the Loftus Road team at The Hawthorns in the final game of the season were to do us the ultimate favour?

Ifs. Buts. Maybes. Possibilities. Permutations. These are all part of football’s rich tapestry. The pre and post match debate that simply adds even more to it’s allure. That makes it so compelling. Of which going to the game is only one, albeit significant, part.

I love the live action. Of being part of the sellout crowds we’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy. But I love as much the interaction with my fellow fans in the build up to the games. The travel together. The drowning our sorrows or celebrations afterwards. The point we start to look ahead or when, as I believe Harlee Dean calls it,  We go again.” Although, to be fair, that phrase is usually preceded by some combination of: “Supporters deserved more. Apologies to the fans. Not good enough today.”

Harlee Birmingham tweet

Come on. He did say it a lot.

So whilst we may all indulge in fantasy or thoughts of what may come, Thomas Frank has his troops grounded. And that’s just the way to be at present. Don’t get distracted by the noise, the furore or the stress. Leave that to supporters to enjoy/endure (delete as applicable) all of that. Which given the sad state of affairs at Wigan Athletic is the perfect approach. 

If football was tough enough to predict at the best of times, their going into administration – something being linked to stories of bets on them being relegated placed by sources close to the current owners – is about as wild a psychological card as one could ever play. Will their players be demoralised? Devastated? Dead in the water? 

Or will they come out all guns blazing? Points to prove? Supporter morale to uphold? Relegation now staring them down the barrel with the 12 point deduction only to be applied once their final place in the table has been declared. Go down and it takes hold next season. Stay up and it comes into effect now, to see what then happens to the table.

I take no pleasure from any of this. I’m certainly not close enough to comment on any more than I read but, at face value, it all sounds about as shonky as things come. Moreso, with ‘that’ Rick Parry video now doing the rounds. Their fans are furious and it’s easy to understand why. What effect this has on their players remains to be seen but we find out at 3pm today.

Stay safe and crank up the I-Follow. All being well, Mark Burridge has been able to get his hands on some new tech after the mid-week meltdown at Reading. I’m still not sure how he held it together but top marks for effort and reaction to impending disaster just twenty minutes before kick-off. Here’s hoping he has a quieter afternoon, off pitch. Here’s hoping he has an even noisier one on it !

ENJOY.. LET’S DO THIS !!! 

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Goal sweets at the ready….

Nick Bruzon

When you phone in a performance, look what happens…

1 Jul

Brutal. Brilliant. Together. Brentford blitzed Reading 3-0 where, but for the last line of defence, it could easily have been more. The hosts not getting a look in as the gap to ‘automatic’ closed further. West Bromwich Albion sit a mere two points ahead of us heading into their own game at Sheffield Wednesday tonight whilst Leeds United limped to a 1-1 draw with Luton Town. Most generous hosts. 

With the stress over getting the I-Follow on the TV dissipating ten minutes in (it worked, far too easily, when I’d tried previously so was obviously going to fail when it came to a ‘live’ game) there was nothing more to do than sit back, pop a beer and ready the ‘goal sweets’. It wasn’t long before that bag of Haribo ‘Starmix’ saw a Tuesday evening debut. The Reading defence breached by Bryan Mbeumo after the Bees had been banging on the door all game.

With the BMW finally starting a game together for the first time since lockdown, it was Ethan Pinnock who provided the assist. A corner being headed back for the wide man to steer home. Get in. It felt as though it had been coming but pressure, possession and stats count for naff all if you can’t take the chances when you create them. All the shots on goal are deemed meaningless if you can’t keep it tight at the other end. A lesson so ably demonstrated by Leeds United later in the evening as their 75% ball retention and 23 shots to their opponents’ 3 could only result in a 1-1 with bottom club Luton Town.

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Football on the big screen. Goal sweets in hand

Half time came and went. A first foray into I-Follow deemed what could well be described as a successful one after those initial teething troubles. Whether we could say the same for Mark Burridge and Mick Cabbie in the commentary box is a matter of debate. And that’s not meant as a critique of their skills.

Rather, that they did quite wonderfully holding it all together after a tech failure just prior to kick off meant the dynamic duo were obliged to commentate via mobile phone. It was like taking a step back in time an early 80s UEFA Cup match coming at you from close to the Iron Curtain, with commentary being delivered ‘down the line’.  

Bonus points to Mark for his use of the early evening ‘For those of you just coming in late or from work’. With the unique sound that can only come from phone commentary, shut your eyes and it could have been World Cup Argentina ’78. As @the_mattfinish on Twitter would also compare : Motson’s commentary of the Platini goal had this same crackly greatness.

But whilst Thomas Frank’s boys may be playing with the same confidence as World Champions, 1-0 at half time was still only 1-0. As we saw against West Bromwich Albion on Friday night, we rarely have things our own way all game and, sure enough, Reading matched the Baggies by coming for us in the second period.

However, the Bees were also able to ensure a repeat with another clean sheet being earned. Pontus Jansson with the one notable clearance to keep on lockdown at the back whilst the attackers did their thing at the other end.

First, Josh Dasilva. The midfielder following up his own shot to beat the home defence to the ball and double our lead just after the hour. What a man and what a performance. With Christian Norgaard equally strong, and named man of the match at full time, the Bees looked solid throughout. More importantly, 2-0 and any pressure off. For the supporters if nothing else. Brentford back in in the driving seat. Reading nothing more than passengers. Shares in Haribo going through the roof. 

With Thomas Frank taking full advantage of his expanded substitution allowance, changes were made. They allowed the team to push up (Brentford) and yet another late goal for the Bees rounded things off in style. This time, Joel Valencia the man as he lashed home an absolute beauty from distance with the clock entering Jota time. 3-0. Game over, man. Game over. Brentford clear in third. West Brom within touching distance. 

A further bonus then delivered later in the evening as the scoreline from Elland Road came in. It was a result that barely anyone saw coming. Yours truly especially. All gifts gratefully accepted though and whilst one would suspect that Leeds United are all but up (not even they’ll choke this) there’s always the morale boost of watching them wobble. Of being able to sing that Joy Division song.

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Fail to take the chance ; pay the price… The BBC stats tell a sorry tale for Leeds

Fulham finally got back to winning ways but still sit behind us. Nottingham Forest play tonight so have the chance to overtake them with a win at home to Bristol City. Things really are that tight now. Every win counts. Every notch on the goal difference chart could prove vital. Brentford have the momentum but we have to keep it going. Of course the supporters are going to look ahead to what ifs and those permutations when ‘x’ beats ‘y’.

That’s part of being a football fan. Thomas Frank seems to be taking a much more grounded approach and is focussing on nothing more than the next training session and the next game. Acknowledging at full time that whatever is coming next is always the biggest one. It is not about yesterday or tomorrow but ‘now’.

And that is home to Wigan Athletic. Like the Royals, they are currently languishing mid-table. Does the fact they have nothing to play for beyond pride bode well or is a side under no pressure perhaps the most dangerous of all? Roll on Saturday when we can find out. 

That’s for then. For now, we can reflect on a job very well done. It wasn’t so much that Reading were awful but Brentford were, quite simply, awesome.  We’ve put ourselves into a position where defeat or a draw for the Baggies tonight will see the Bees go second should we manage to pick up maximum points against Wigan.  

Perhaps even Thomas Frank may have half an ear on proceedings at Hillsborough this evening. I know I will…

 

Nick Bruzon

Live action, team news and transfer talk. Phil and Trevor’s Saturday afternoon takeaway had it all.

5 Apr

Saturday, 3pm. The most action packed afternoon in Brentford since we put five goals past Sheffield Wednesday. That, the last time there was any meaningful football related action in the vicinity of Griffin Park before the full Coronavirus lockdown began cranking up to the point we are now in. Sitting at home (or taking allowed exercise a safe distance from each other) and dreaming of the day that the beautiful game may return. Wondering how many we’d have won by at Fulham had that game not been called off hours before kick-off. Hoping we get a chance to play out the remainder of a campaign that has been one of the most thrilling on record. From Leeds United starting like a train, falling apart (again) before re-establishing themselves through to our own philosophy of goals, goals, goals that had taken us to the very fringe of the ‘automatic’ places. Then everything just stopped.

My word. Hasn’t life changed? Days merging into days. Social isolation very much the way of modern existence. Not even living, in the traditional sense, but more existing from one day to the next. That’s how it feels at times and is a small price to pay for not dying, I suppose. Let’s never forget those key workers battling on the metaphorical frontline or keeping those services we so often take for granted up and running. It’s not so much the staying indoors as the not knowing when it will all end. When life will return to normal. If, indeed, it ever can to the same extent as what we’ve enjoyed prior to all of this. 

That’s the gloom out of the way. Yesterday was fun. Yesterday had football. Yesterday had Brentford doing what we do best – interacting with supporters on a face-to-face basis. Rather than kicking off against Wigan (“I think we’d have won that, Dad” – HB’s considered verdict), 3pm saw the live webcast with Director of football Phil Giles facing off to 200+ Bees fans aswell as a couple of what we’ll politely call ‘randoms’ – think a humour level that would make Mrs. Brown’s Boys seem like Morecambe and Wise.

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Phil faces off to fans

 Hats off to Trevor Inns and the GPG for setting this up. Nobody seemed quite sure how it would work but after the opening few minutes had seen interlopers, barking dogs and racists ejected we were all well into the flow. Phil taking questions on anything and everything Brentford related from a video wall resembling a giant version of the Celebrity Squares game board. No limits being placed on what could be asked and no punches pulled in the answers being given.

There was talk of the relationship between Pontus and Rasmus that had seen the players make the decision to defer wages after our Captain had heard about what was happening at Leeds United. Likewise, how his move from Elland Road had been the easiest bit of transfer business we’d ever completed.

Phil telling us that his preference would unquestionably for the season to be played out, whenever that may be. Even though contract situations may then cause complications with, legally, any club surely having their hands tied in retaining players.

That the continuation of the season would ideally not be behind closed doors – the difference between playing that way and in front of supporters described in unequivocal detail. 

Phil explained how the players were staying fit and engaged. How Thomas was in constant contact with them. How some of the B team – youngsters away from their families – had returned home.

He talked about  his own role, about Matthew Benham, about finances and about the new stadium. There was hope for those wanting to see a return to Griffin Park as it was discussed how we were obliged , by league rules, to finish the campaign in the same stadium as we had started it. Albeit noting that Tottenham seem to have circumnavigated that regulation.

There was even team news with the confirmation that Pontus was definitely fit for Fulham, Phil understanding that he would have started that one.  

This doesn’t even scratch the surface of what was discussed. A close to two hour chat seeing everybody being give the chance to ask what they wanted. A session that as supporter Paul Reddick noted on Twitter afterwards, meant :  “I actually forgot about COVID-19 for a couple of hours so well done for that”.  Hear! Hear!

For me there was the additional aspect of a peek behind the curtains. A look into the front rooms (and back gardens) of those who switched on their webcams. Who was that making Malteser cakes? Dave Lane enjoying a quite delicious looking beer. It was all happening in Greville Waterman’s kitchen at one point whilst others just kicked back with a cup of tea waiting their chance to ask a question or simply take in all the information. And was Adam Hobbs really in the pub or was it a case of digital trickery as he phased in and out of existence in the foreground?

In all seriousness, it was just so nice to see those familiar faces once more. Many of whom we knew. Others, recognisable by sight from a Saturday afternoon. For this reason alone, it felt even more engaging. 

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If you are going to take part, why not make the most of it?

All being well the technology exists to play this back out. Certainly, there was a ‘recording’ light in the top corner. Otherwise, Billy Reeves kept his journalistic skills well honed, transcribing the chat to Twitter. You can pick up his thread here. Being honest, and I apologise now if I have misquoted Phil from memory, it’ll be more accurate than these fuzzy recollections.

It simply remains to say huge thanks to Phil, the club, Trevor and his team in bringing this to the fans. To making a Saturday afternoon feel as ‘normal’ as it possibly could in the circumstances. Of giving us all a chance to do what we do so well as a club – talking to fans. Of allowing the supporters an opportunity to come together.

Here’s to the next one where I understand a certain Mad Dog will be in attendance……..  

Nick Bruzon

A morning with Matt, afternoon with Phil and evening with wine. Plus ‘teaching’ on the fly.

4 Apr

It’s been a bit of an up and down week this time around. And we’re the lucky ones – I’m well, well aware of that. We’ve a park across the road from the house and I’ve been able to get out to both do running solo and exercise (football) with Harry. He’s now decided that he’s David Raya whilst I’m anything but Sam Saunders. “Sam Stupid more like, dad”, as another precision free kick is expertly stopped by the young Spanish wannabe or, more usually, sliced dangerously close to those invisible two metre exclusion zones orbiting others who are out and about. We should be preparing for Brentford v Wigan. Instead, we’re reduced to channeling our inner heroes as the floodlights loom over us from  the other side of St. Paul’s Park. Offering up a teasing reminder that football is so close yet so far. The nearest I got to that was doubling up with Nottingham Forest fan Matt Dyson on Absolute Radio this week, for the best possible reasons…

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‘Raya’ models his 2021/22 shirt during designated ‘exercise’ time as ‘Stupid’ spoons one wide.

Things could be a lot, lot worse. Reading stories in the press about people trapped in cramped hostel accommodation or even just looking out of the front room window to the tower blocks on the horizon, one can’t even begin to imagine how tough it is out there. Likewise, abroad where conditions everywhere from Italy to India make our situation seem like a stroll in the park. No pun intended.

Instead, my challenge is that of trying to combine being a teacher, good husband, quiz master, motivator (H is taking all of this really hard – especially the not being able to mix with other kids part ) with that of working ten hour days online and trying to maintain some form of normality. Whether that be in terms of routine or cooking. The later something I normally love and now has an added element of ‘challenge’ given the supply situation and no longer being able to “Just nip down to the shops” for those essential items that we’re always short of. Cripes, let’s add menu planning and preparation to the list of first world problems.

Then again, necessity is the mother of invention. The bread machine that has sat on the side for the last few years has suddenly sprung back in to life. Thanks only to an ongoing commitment, and failure, to use the thing so we’ve had a permanent supply of flour and yeast in the house which has gone untouched. All of a sudden it’s worth it’s weight in unintentional gold.  Sadly, those supplies seem very finite with no chance of being replaced although at least we have some form of toast and sandwiches. Of all the luxuries I’d miss it is alcohol, peanut butter and fresh bread which are very much at the top of the list.

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History lessons

But we digress. Food and booze. It’s where my mind is at the moment. I have both at the moment. I have exercise. I have a family around me . Albeit one who are finding this tough. Harry is carrying the monkey he’s had since birth around with him all the time, even to class. We’re really winging it as teachers. Some of which is fun and some of which is hard work. History lessons very much becoming case of fact mixed with fiction. Of being told that my original iPod “looks so old fashioned dad” . Art lessons are loaded on to YouTube by my brother. Inspiration for creative writing coming from author Lisa Thompson every Monday morning at 9.30am on Instagram live. 

People keep banging on about Joe Wicks. It’s good to see him branching out since that stint on TV’s Eastenders but not for me. Or Harry – and he has tried but told me that he got tired after a minute. Hmm. This is the same Harry who complains when the hour in the park is over or who is launching himself into Mrs. Bruzon’s DIY bootcamp sessions in the back yard? But stick Lisa in front of him and he’s engaged. Asking questions online and writing stories all week. You can find her page, here.

So we’re winging it. We’re lucky, all things considered. But this is still nowhere near ‘normal’ life. When home doubles up as both the office and the classroom it’s hard to separate the day as the various aspects of modern life all bleed in to each other. When do work or education end and fun begin? How on earth do you play or socialise when trapped between four walls? Especially trapped with me  – I do feel for Mrs B at times. 

Well, like most of life these days a lot of it is happening online. Zoom and house party video conferencing is very much the way forward. Harry is on with various groups of friends every afternoon – mixed results there. Sometimes you can’t shut them up. At others, it’s like watching a bunch of Star Trek fans trying to make small talk with the opposite sex. Although at least they have the social distancing part bang on. 

For the grown ups, there’s wine (presumably, we’re all drinking more at the moment and it’s not just us?) and chat in the evenings. Something which is nowhere near as cringe as I first thought it would be. Quite the opposite. There’s only so much we can talk about at home given the lack of external stimulus and so still being able to catch up with friends and family is really helping to keep us sane.

This afternoon, Saturday, we’ve got the big Brentford Zoom chat. The GPG have arranged the online session with Phil Giles. We should be playing Wigan. Instead, we at least have the opportunity to quiz our director of football on all things Griffin Park. This, something we’ve always done well and is probably even more crucial now. At least, in keeping fans informed and morale up. All the details on this one are below.

Then there was the letter from Jon Varney, Cliff Crown and the board yesterday. And the posts on Twitter. With the EFL declaring that the season has been suspended indefinitely, it really was informative and open stuff from the club. I’m presuming we’ve all read it but if not, the link is here. Please do take the time out to read it. Great work all round. I’d give anything for life to be back to normal and us all meeting up at Griffin Park once more. Until that can happen, I take huge consolation from what we are doing.

The weekend is here and, on a personal note, it feels like any other morning. At present. An early start with coffee. Sat in front of a keyboard but at least no school or work to prepare for. The radio is on, as ever, and with a bit of focus, it can feel like a ‘regular’ day at this time. Top tunes are playing, I’m sat here in pants/dressing gown combo and there’s the chance to throw some nonsense out on to the internet. It’s just like any other 6am. 

On that subject, I’d love to offer huge thanks to Absolute Radio for allowing yours truly onto Dave Berry’s breakfast show on Tuesday. We said at the top end of the article about it being an up and down week. This bit was very much in the ‘up’ part. Doubling up with Nottingham Forest fan Matt Dyson to try and win five grand. In theory for me but money that would have gone elsewhere. Our quite wonderful NHS who, and I apologise if anybody heard it, I think I may have gone in to one about. In a positive sense. It’s here, otherwise, and is worth it alone for Elton John doing Only Fools and Horses.

What the station does is just magnificent at the best of times, let alone now. Mental health has been a topic high on their agenda over the last year and is something they continue to promote. To remind people that we will get through this and it is ok to be anxious about everything that is unfolding around us. I’m not too proud to admit that radio is really helping to keep me going at present. Even moreso than ever. With DJs all broadcasting from home, the technology to keep the service and quality is quite incredible.

Whomever you listen to, keep it on. Keep that external input into your lives going and don’t underestimate how valuable a service is being provided at present. I do miss working next to people but one ‘positive’ is that at least I can do my job alongside that voice at the other end of the wireless and anybody from The Bluetones to Ash ; The Charlatans to Supergrass. But definitely no Mick Hucknall. Under any circumstances.

And it is another voice at the end of said medium that I need to offer up huge thanks to this Saturday morning. Not Absolute but the BBC and, of course, the quite wonderful Billy Reeves.

Aside from afternoon chat with Phil, the other Zoom activity in our house is an online quiz being hosted this evening. And, as ever, things have been left ‘last minute’. A tweet out to our man asking for a question has been met with not just one brainteaser but an entire section – the mother of all fiendish music rounds. With other Brentford fans also picking in off the back of this with questions, Cinderella will goto the virtual ball. Or, at least, the spangly jacket can come out of the wardrobe later.

But enough  about the chat with Phil.

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BBC Billy doing his thing in happier times

Stay safe everybody. I hope you are all bearing up. DMs are open if anybody wants to chat about anything. Football related or otherwise. Not that I’m really much good at this – I’m just a Brentford fan with limited knowledge about life who uses Twitter far too much –  but, as Bob Hoskins used to say. “It’s good to talk”.

Whatever gets you through this. Now go turn on the radio. Oh, and please send a quiz question via Twitter if you are bored: @NickBruzon.  Hey, I might even host one next week if anybody wants to play?

Just a thought….

Nick Bruzon

Missing football? Go ‘Business on the top, party on the bottom’.

26 Mar

Urghh. Coronavirus and Covid 19. Brutal words to rank alongside: Mrs Browns Boys, Simply Red, Rail Replacement Bus Service and Team GB (It’s Great Britain and Northern Ireland) in delivering a sickening punch to the gut every time they are mentioned. The cessation of football being the least of our immediate concerns at present yet a huge impact for many. The morale boost of watching Brentford denied to us for an indefinite time period as we are all confined to quarters. 2000 fans having to get that live action ‘hit’ from watching Lewis Frampton representing the Bees in the #UltimateQuaranTeam Cup. Yet there are a couple of other ways to keep your team in mind – one which yours truly will be undertaking and one thanks to Charlton Athletic fan and Absolute Radio breakfast show DJ Dave Berry . And its all down to the fact that so many of us are now having to work from home.

First up, Dave.  With video chat currently one of the ways we are all communicating, why not combine professionalism with support for your team ? Namely via an idea suggested by his own breakfast show team this week : Business on the top, party on the bottom. 

Put simply, keep the upper (visible) part of your attire as professional as possible. Yet below the desk, why not slip into something more sporting, more comfortable, more Hummel or Umbro? Why not wear a pair of football shorts off camera ?

By all accounts, Sir Trevor McDonald was a huge fan of the shirt/shorts combo when presenting the News at Ten. I’m not sure if this has ever been proven but it is a wonderful bit of imagery for the mind’s eye. Regardless, and much to Mrs. Bruzon’s chagrin, I did sip into the 92/93 ‘away’ shorts yesterday. Just to try it out.

Fashion and comfort were very much the winners. Good taste, perhaps, going out of the window. Yet the beauty being that nobody else knew. Until now. Like yours truly, Dave has also gone for the Hummel, albeit a more modern pair of Charlton Athletic shorts – as shared on Twitter.

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Why not get involved? And share them. Come on, we could all do with a laugh. And showing the support for our team. #Businessonthetoppartyonthebottom. Or something.

Perhaps the more discreet way of doing this is just to wear your favourite colours. Don’t hide them away under whatever you are using as a makeshift office table (for me, a 6 years old’s school desk in the spare room) . Why not wear your shirt for all to see? Why not do a Football shirt Friday ? 

We’re all on video chat with colleagues so, whilst keeping it professional (if the boss is reading) how about wearing your favourite colours. Rather than chat about Corona in the small talk part, let’s chat about our teams. Let’s share them on Twitter. Even though our teams aren’t playing at present, let’s get the back out there. Here’s an easier hashtag: #FootballshirtFriday   

No idea which one to go for but that’s a problem for tomorrow morning. For once, a nice problem. I’ve done the shorts – they weren’t as good on me as they will be on others (as you can see) . 

The shirt thing may be different though. Nothing says style like CHAD. Like the black and silver. Like brown/orange. I’ll be sure to share a picture of the workplace attire – it would be great to see yours too. Come on, let’s get involved. 

The one piece of football news that has emerged overnight was another victory for Lewis Frampton in the FIFA 20 #UltimateQuaranteam Cup organised by Leyton Orient. A 3-1 victory over Finn Harps means he is now through to the last 32 where he’ll face the winners of Thursday night’s clash between Blackburn Rovers and Forest Green. Well played Lewis. Bring on the third round. Or the round of 32 as we are contractually obliged to call these things .

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Well played Lewis

For now, there’s not much else to say. Get your favourite shirt on tomorrow and share a picture. It would be amazing t see what our fan favourites are.

Likewise, why not wear your shorts today? It looks like it might be a sunny day so there’s no excuse.

Besides, they can’t look any worse than mine…

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Nick Bruzon

A generous slice of good fortune keeps things tight at the top.

12 Feb

I’ll take that and party. Leeds United, arguably the stronger team on the night, were held by Brentford at Griffin Park. We were second to most things but stats, possession and performance count for naff all when the man comes around. The only thing that will be remembered  is in the ‘goals scored’ column and for that we must be truly grateful things finished one each. Benrahma’s early opener, gifted him courtesy of a horror moment for visiting ‘keeper Kiko Casilla, was matched just before half-time by opposition skipper Liam Cooper. Yet with Charlton Athletic doing both teams the biggest of favours after their stunning 0-1 win at Nottingham Forest, the Bees move up to fourth. Still two points off Leeds and five behind West Bromwich Albion at the summit.

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View from the Braemar – Brentford, erm, push up

So, in short…. Leeds United dominated. Leeds United pressed, pushed and took the game to Brentford. Should have wrapped it up in the second half and will no doubt consider this one that they ‘deserved’ to win. The Bees very much on the back foot but, equally, given the temporary moment of sitting second in the table after Casilla’s nightmare. Somehow, a soft backpass from Cooper evaded him and as he desperately stretched to recover, Said was there to hoover up the most generous of gifts. Boom. 1-0. Game on and Leeds set to fall apart. Again.

But no. This was a different United. A team of mental and physical strength. One that didn’t crumble but came straight back at us and cranked up the pressure until Cooper was there to pounce at the other end just before half-time. And that’s how things stayed. The second period being one noticeable by our absence from proceedings. Or rather, our attacking prowess. 

The defence still missing Pontus Jansson coped admirably, by and large, completing the first task of keeping the gap to second place close. With Charlton doing the business in Nottingham, one hopes that on reflection we’ll all be waking up today and consider this one with all the positivity that the situation warrants.

Of course I wanted to win. Of course I was desperate to deliver a knockout blow to Leeds United’s fragile nerves. But you have to respect the fact that they are second for a reason and played the almost perfect game last night. Yet still they failed to beat us. Still Patrick Bamford looked a luxury item in front of goal. Costa profligate. Still Leeds haven’t won at Griffin Park since the days of black and white telly.

We can’t win every game but the plus factor being we’ve still made ground on the top of the table. Put simply, we’re now back in front of Nottingham Forest on level games. Huge thanks to Charlton for that one.

There’s not much else to say about our on pitch performance. We got the point. Might have had three but, in the end, given the chances they had Leeds will undoubtedly feel they should have won. We’ll thank that huge slice of good fortune for our goal and our visitors’ lack of potency who opportunity knocked. Will that be enough to keep the demons pecking at the back of their mind? A home game with promotion chasing Bristol City on Saturday won’t be the easiest of challenges. For us, a trip to Birmingham City. That’ll be an interesting one with Scott Hogan doing the business for Blues again last night but it’s also a topic for later in the week.

Another night under lights. Another game at Griffin Park done. The board now reading 7 to go (no brackets, though) . It was a night where two moments really made me appreciate how much we’ll miss this place.

Firstly, ducking out to the ablutions block in the second half I spotted something you’d struggle to find anywhere else and which could only take place given our close confines. A chap leaning over his garden wall to watch the game  ‘live’  – via the stadium TV channel. The things you do to get past a sellout crowd.

stadium TV Griffin Park Brentford

Secondly, former Bee Stuart Dallas. It’s not often you get the chance to reminisce about the single best ever goal scored in a Brentford shirt with the man who scored it (My word – ‘that’ strike at Fulham still sends shivers up the spine) so grab those moments whilst you can. Even if it’s in the middle of a football match.

He even posed for a picture. Only a stadium as bijou as Griffin Park would allow this.

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Of course I’m looking forward to Lionel Road but, once again, it was a case of very much enjoying what is a rapidly dwindling number of chances to experience that which makes out current home so unique. So special. With Blackburn Rovers next to visit, let’s hope we can use it our advantage.

Until then, snaffle up those last few tickets for Birmingham City and see you there.  

Nick Bruzon