Tag Archives: Baggies

How the week could play out. Who gets the elbow and who gets clear air?

29 Jun

Here we go. Brentford travel to Reading on Tuesday night, knowing a win will take us to within touching distance of second place West Bromwich Albion. With Fulham the ones falling apart at Elland Road on Saturday afternoon, a 3-0 win for Leeds United saw the gap to the third place Bees stretched out to 8 points. Surely not even they can blow that with 7 (seven) games to play? Funnier things have happened but perhaps the current shape of the table means it is the Baggies game at Sheffield Wednesday, on Wednesday, where we need that additional level of external interest.

Any decision about whether Brentford fans should be cheering Fulham or hoping for the draw was  taken out of our hands almost immediately. Aleksander Mitrovic was lucky to avoid straight red just minutes in to the game (and will surely be summoned by the FA to explain his use of the elbow today) and it went downhill from there. Goal followed goal with the Cottagers left floundering and Leeds looking strong as, to be fair. The only pleasure to be taken was seeing who had replaced Osama Bin Laden in their sea of cardboard cutout supporters – Joe Exotic, amongst others. 

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An ‘accident’ or deliberate brutality? Either way, the ref missed it

But with Fulham in a slump and their goal threat looking like he’ll be snuffed out, Brentford have an excellent chance to keep up the momentum that saw us head up to third place after Friday night’s fine win over West Bromwich Albion. Put simply, a win at Reading on Tuesday night will see us move just two points behind the second placed team. They then travel to Hillsborough the following night for a game that will be as significant as ours.

A trip to Reading won’t be easy. Let’s not rest on any laurels that come with those two fine wins that have kickstarted our return to Championship action in fine style. Sure, Brentford have played some wonderful football and looked solid at the back but this one has all the potential to be a giant potato skin. The unknowns of a team resting safely mid-table and under no pressure to stay alive or win are well documented.

Thankfully, we have Thomas Frank at the helm. A man who oozes confidence and common sense in equal measure. He’ll have his boys grounded and the possibility of an extra boost that may even see Bryan Mbeumo starting a game once more. Emiliano Marcondes is currently bursting with self-belief whilst David Raya and his back four have looked solid as a rock.

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David Raya – rock solid

As for West Brom, might Sheffield Wednesday be an even tougher challenge for them than Reading are for us? The Owls put a massive dent in Bristol City’s promotion aspirations yesterday and might even fancy themselves for a late surge towards the top six.

Poor Lee Johnson. His hopes of using the play-offs to kick lumps out of Said Benrahma now becoming nothing more than something he’ll need to use FIFA 20 to accomplish. All being well the beleaguered Bristol City boss will see the opportunity taken out of his hands by our own achieving of ‘automatic’.

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The full time score at Ashton Gate, c/o Quest TV.

Cripes. This is getting exciting. With Fulham on the slide and West Brom on the ropes, could we see things move even further in our favour? This week is full of ifs, buts and maybes. Focus has to be on our own game with anything else a bonus. The trip to the Madjeski is always a horrible one – so near yet so far, taking as long to reach the out of town car park from the station as it does to get to Reading from West London.

I’d still love to be given the opportunity to make the shlep down there but, sadly, social distancing laws mean it is a case of having to watch the EFL streaming service. Hands tied and voices gagged – metaphorically speaking – rather than screaming on the players in person.

Instead, it’ll be our TV that takes the abuse and the frustration. But enough about trying to make I-follow work.

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Reading – have previously beaten us. In the game of embarrassing hashtags

The other result that may have gone unnoticed at the weekend and, perhaps, offers further hope was Luton Town staying alive with an incredible 1-0 win at Swansea City. Incredible, given the Hatters’ struggles with relegation and their hosts proximity to the top six. Yet as we discovered at Kenilworth Road, underestimate anybody at your peril. Our own 7(seven) – 0 win earlier in the season counted for nothing when we were outmuscled 2-1 in a horrible game just prior to Lockdown. 

Whilst nobody really expects Leeds Untied to drop points tomorrow, perhaps we may have half an eye on what plays out at Elland Road. Just in case. I mean, it’s not as though they have any reputation for falling apart at the critical moment……. 

Nick Bruzon

Busting every sinew to make the abnormal seem normal

27 Jun

No pressure Fulham and Leeds United. Brilliant Brentford battered Bilic’s Baggies – (c) The Middlesex Chronicle big book of 80’s aliteration – at a packed (sounding) Griffin Park last night to move within five points of table topping West Bromwich Albion. With the second and fourth placed teams due to play this lunchtime, something has to give in our way as the Bees continue this dogged pursuit of promotion. At a time that others are starting to fall apart around us, Thomas Frank saw his team make it three wins on the spin, unbeaten since March and 8 goals for whilst none conceded over that period. Ethan Pinnock was a colossus at the back. Ollie Watkins proving he still has the golden touch up front. Peter Gilham giving it his all on the tannoy – his dulcet tones reverberating all around TW8. Screams of Brreeennttfffoooorrdddddd drifting over the neighbourhood. His one man mission to make Griffin Park sound as loud as ever leaving our man-with-the-mic hoarse at full-time.

If it wasn’t the same match day experience for those of us mere mortals usually allowed inside the stadium, the club did the very best to make it feel as normal as possible in the circumstances. The compact nature of our home allowing us to fill the ground with supporter banners and flags to quite wonderful effect. A sea of faces filling the paddock as the 3D effect of the banners gave the look of a large crowd to those of us watching on TV i.e. everybody except those few whose names had appeared on a guest list of journalistic credentials that was nigh on impossible to gain access to. And I did try. Ian Moose would have had more luck walking in to a McDonalds to buy a Big Mac at the moment than Joe Public did of busting in to Griffin Park.   

But with Sky getting better and better at the ‘fake crowd’ noise, to the point of club specific chants, appropriate cheers and the usual boos for Keith Stroud  ( perhaps I made that last one up  – our man in the middle once again belying his reputation) it wasn’t as odd watching it on TV as it should have been. Moreso when we were lucky enough to spend the evening camped out with friends in their back garden that nestles in the shadow of the ‘away end’. Whilst the West Brom supporters may have been so loud they sounded like Aldershot, PG more than made up for it on the home side.

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You’re so loud you sound like Aldershot…

If anything, his bellowing was even more ferocious than usual. There was no breaking his stride. No deviation from the norm. He gave it everything with all the regular stylings. The prematch music remained the same. Likewise at full time with another three points in the bag, thanks to our 1-0 win. Even down to his “Have a safe journey home tonight”. There’s no one there and he don’t care. He could have been the last man on earth and I get the feeling he’d have carried on as though there was nothing untoward.

Honestly, it was life affirming. If ever you wanted to describe to somebody what it feels like to support Brentford. To show them true passion and utter devotion to a team.  If ever there was a living embodiment of a club, our club, then it is Peter. And last night it was demonstrated more than ever. 

As it happens, H and I popped out for some fresh air some time after the game had finished. Who should we bump in to but PG himself. From a safe distance, of course. My word the grin and the croakiness said it all. The enjoyment in what had played out before clear. We’d heard every scream from the garden – including the goal announcement 30 seconds before seeing Ollie guide the winner home on TV with little more than a quarter hour gone. We’d felt every moment. Now we had the quite perfect denouement to a quite wonderful evening. 

Honestly, being trapped outside a locked stadium is not the way to watch a game. We were lucky enough to be sitting within a few yards of the goal. Just the slight problem of a twenty foot fence separating us from seeing the action. The TV coverage is definitely improving and, all being well, it won’t be long until we are allowed back in to the ground. The players are, I am sure, as keen as the fans to have full houses. The full time celebrations showed what it meant to them. Imagine doing that with our usual sell out crowd roaring them on? 

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Close but no cigar. Never has a few yards felt more like a few miles

For now, it remains a case of locked doors. Of wall to wall TV coverage. Of having crept to within touching distance of Leeds Untied and West Brom.

Dare I say it, but could a win for Fulham be the best outcome today? Or a draw? Leeds are five points ahead. We’d need two wins to overtake them, obv. Should the gap become six then it would still be the same, given the huge goal difference in our favour over everybody else in the division. Perhaps it is best just to focus on ourselves. We can’t influence that game and have our own trip to mid-table Reading on Tuesday night. With the games coming thick and fast, perhaps we’ll see a few changes coming on that front. Could Bryan Mbeumo start? His own recovery from the positive Corona virus test confirmed by his place on the bench last night.

Still, all that’s to come. We were immense last night. It was weird to watch but magnificent at the same time. Our club is incredible. Busting every sinew to make the abnormal seem normal. We’re beating our rivals on the pitch. Looks like we’re doing the same off it. Just 7(seven) games to go. Can we close the gap? Roll on Tuesday when we find out ….

And if Leeds could fall apart, again, that would also be appreciated.

Nick Bruzon

The Brentford BMW has a new M as Fulham are flayed. Again.

21 Jun

Well that was just magnificent. It wasn’t the same as being there, let’s not pretend otherwise, but Brentford were nothing short of incredible as they destroyed Fulham at a more atmospheric than usual Craven Cottage on Saturday lunchtime. Benrahma and Marcondes doing their thing in Jota time to send the TV audience wild and silence the home team’s tannoy. Scott Parker was left looking as though he’d caught Alexsander Mitrovic red-handed going through his fridge whilst one can only imagine the scenes that would have played out had we been in the away end for this most incredible of denouements. I believe what the kids would call ‘limbs’. Even Pontus was smiling at full time. Not a typo. His former club, Leeds United, have already been displaced at the top of the table and the gap to our next opponents, West Bromwich Albion, reeled in by two points.

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The smile says it all

Imagine choosing not to watch that. What else were you going to do on a Coronavirus Saturday lunchtime? Online shopping? Cleaning the house? Or sit in your social bubbles with a few drinks to see if the impossible might become possible. Could Brentford pick up where we left off in March and keep up the push for ‘automatic’?

Well, a 2-0 win for the Bees means we are now eight points off West Brom and Leeds (albeit Bielsa’s boys have a a game in hand at Cardiff today) with the Baggies due to visit Griffin Park on Friday night under the lights. That one’s going to be huge but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There’s the small matter of destroying Fulham to talk about first.

Brentford took the game to our hosts from the off. This, despite Thomas Frank confirming that Bryan Mbeumo would be missing out as the individual who had tested positive for Coronavirus. The player has shown no symptoms but is self-isolating at present whilst the rest of the squad had all come back negative on their subsequent tests. Take care Bryan and see you soon. But if his absence might have felt like a blow, it wasn’t impacting the team. Tarique Fosu stepped in and the hairy Bees (Benrahma’s bouff, Dasilva’s beard and Jensen’s top knot – oh dear) went for it.

Both keepers were in good form as the hosts, in the unusual situation of being  roared on…by their p.a. system…. found a way back in to the game. Being honest, David Raya kept us well in it at times whilst they probably had the better of the first half chances. Despite our possession, drive and one close effort from Josh, it was Decordova-Reid who hit the bar whilst Knockaert and Mitrovic both came close. The later even found the back of the net in the second half although was correctly adjudged to have been well offside. The linesman’s flag being lowered with almost slow-motion accuracy to chalk off the rotund striker’s effort.  

And with it, their chance was gone. The arrival of Shandon Baptiste and Emiliano Marcondes breathing new life into Brentford as we kept on pushing. Break followed break until, with the game well into the clock 88th minute, Emiliano played a ball across the box which Benrahma guided home from close in. Yessssss!!! The scream from our house probably loud enough to wake the dead. It was a noise replicated across this part of West London as the Bees moved into a (surely) unassailable position.

No word of a lie, there was calm in our house. This is not the Brentford of old. The Brentford that cock it up late to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Thomas Frank’s brand of football is part Kevin Keegan (minus the meltdown), part confidence and a huge dollop of faith in his players. We kept going. If the ball is up the other end then the opposition can’t score. And sure enough, they couldn’t. Fulham left very much in second place as Marcondes wrapped up the points, and his own man-of-the-match award, late into stoppage time with a cool finish. Not bad for twenty minutes work.

Fulham were broken. Battered. Down and very much out. They retain third place, for now, although have the Bees breathing right down their neck and a trip to Leeds United next up. Either way, something has to give there. With the visit of West Bromwich Albion to Griffin Park taking place the night before, that Elland Road game could turn out to have even more significance than already. Especially if Cardiff City can pull a favour out of the bag today when Bielsa and co resume their own campaign.

I didn’t expect West Brom to drop points yesterday. I mean, Birmingham City? But it happened and that’s a dirty favour we’ll gratefully accept. These early games are going to be critical as teams rediscover there form and fitness. Accept the gifts whilst you can and enjoy our own moment. Beating a team above us in the table, whoever they are, is no small feat. Don’t let the derby nature of the game take away what we achieved. Likewise, Blues at the Hawthorns. No matter how it may feel.

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…Our squad is ten times better than yours ever was…

Yet for now it would be trite not to focus on our own performance. A never give up reminder that football is a 90 minute game. Football is a squad game and if you keep going to the very end, rewards can come.

I’d love to have been there. No question. It was a quite amazing finish to a fixture that always brings out the best in Brentford. Everybody from Jota and Stuart Dallas to Neal Maupay and even Brian Guest have written their own particular chapter in the Brentford- Fulham story. To that you can now add Emiliano Marcondes. The BMW found a new M when it mattered.

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We can’t celebrate in person but this was the next best thing

I’m desperate to attend on Friday but it’s not going to happen. Sadly. I’m not alone. Instead, it’s another shift in front of the TV and the genuine belief that the Bees will pick up where we left off. Yesterday was such a huge morale boost. Something that was quite evident in our own post-match Zoom chat aswell as from dipping in and out of social media. Wherever you went, there we were celebrating. And why not?

Roll on Friday night. Football Is back. It is very different and it is very echoy. But it also has Brentford winning and foe me, Clive, that alone is cause for celebration. Four derbies this season and four wins. Kings of West London. I’ll take that.

See you Friday. In spirit. 

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Nick Bruzon   

Owls become pussycats as Bees run riot.

8 Mar

Now that’s how to return to winning ways. Brentford trashed Sheffield Wednesday 5-0 in a game that was every bit as one sided as the scoreline suggests. The Bees climb to fourth, tucked in behind a Fulham side who of course we visit on Friday evening. We’re now five points clear of seventh (effectively six given the quite incredible goal difference of +31) and ten off second placed West Bromwich Albion. With The Baggies next up at Griffin Park and nine games to go, destiny remains very much in our hands.

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Brentford attacked from the off

What an afternoon. It was one of those where another bracketing looked on the cards and could easily have played out. Brentford came out of the traps flying and peppered the Wednesday goal, including one effort from Watkins that flew off the crossbar. Josh Dasilva opened the scoring when a shot was only parried. It fell kindly to him tin the box and there was no mistake with his left foot. Emiliano Marcondes doubled things soon after with an absolute beauty from what must have been a good twenty-five yards. It was a thing of beauty and worth the admission price alone as it flew through the air and into the far corner of the net. Less than twenty minutes gone and two up.

Brentford continued to press and Bryan Mbeumo made it three. He worked an opening and hit a low shot through the box that curled off the base of the post. The Bees in total control. Sheffield so far off the pace that forget about Wednesday, they were still on Monday. It was domination that continued in the second period although the goals took a back seat until late strikes form DaSilva and Fosu gave the scoreline the margin our performance warranted. The Bees had been rampant. The Owls outclassed and outplayed. Wednesday boss Garry Monk would use phrases such as ‘inexcusable’, ‘embarrassed‘ and ‘lost for words’. Thomas Frank would call us ‘scarily good’.

We don’t do full fat match reports on these pages. Never have done. If you want detail then official or the BBC are you best places. Or the highlights are below.

Goals, goals, goals….

Suffice to say though that this was about as completes a performance as they come. Thomas Frank would talk afterwards about our desire to defend. We were rock solid at the back despite the ongoing absence of Pontus Jansson. Anything that was hit on target, comfortably saved by David Raya.

Marcondes and Dasilva will get the goalscoring headlines but don’t rule out their overall contributions either. Emiliano was named man of the match whilst Josh had one of those games where the ball seemed tied to his foot with a piece of string. Said Benrahma did everything but score but must, instead, be content with a clutch of assists. 

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Taking deserved applause at full time

Next up is the televised game at Fulham on Friday night. With The Cottagers needing a late equaliser at Bristol City, the chance is there to really stick a late season mark on our rivals. Victory in Hammersmith would take us to within a point of third place. The satisfaction of doing them infinitely more preferable though. It won’t be easy. It never is. But it will be fun and I can’t wait. With another midweek break there’s more chance to recharge legs and do the same as we did yesterday.

There’s not much else to say, really.  Referee Keith Stroud had a great game, letting the football flow and keeping himself out of the limelight. It felt comfortable all afternoon and, honestly, never in doubt from the moment the game began.There will no doubt be tougher tests ahead but you can only play who you are up against. Beyond that, simply a case of keeping heads down until Friday night and then we see what happens down the road.

I can’t wait….

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Mr. Stroud was in good form – even giving a wave

Nick Bruzon   

With the terrace talk about Terrace Talk, it’s another point in awful conditions.

23 Feb

Another game unbeaten. Another game that Brentford fans may feel we should have won but, in the end, will be happy to have taken a point against a Blackburn Rovers team with their own promotion aspirations. A 2-2 draw played out in gale force conditions, alongside Fulham’s Friday night draw and a 0-0 for Nottingham Forest means we stay fourth. Leeds United won – fair play to them – as that once colossal gap to second place is still a very catchable six points. With the Bees next up before the teams directly above us play again (we’ve a visit to Luton Town on Tuesday before Fulham host Swansea and Leeds travel to Middlesbrough on Wednesday), the chance to apply further immediate pressure lies very much in our own hands.

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It’s up there, somewhere. Conditions were tough at gusty Griffin Park.

It was an absolute corker of a Griffin Park. Despite Blackburn playing with that howling wind at their backs in the first half, Brentford were the ones applying the early pressure. Right up until the exact moment that Rovers’ goalkeeper Christian Walton played a long, long ball up pitch and as it caught the breeze, Ethan Pinnock lost it in the air. There was Adam Armstrong to drift it over David Raya with a perfectly placed lob. The ball seemed to float over him in almost slow-motion with nothing the Spaniard, or anybody watching, could do to stop it hitting the back of the net.

Noooooooooooooooooo. 0-1 and Blackburn most definitely not reading the script. With the wind now behind the visitors and very much taken out of our sails, the rest of the first-half meandered way into nothingness. I’m struggling to recall much more in terms of incident. Still, there was always the second period to come…..

Urghh. 0-2 Rovers. With less than an hour gone, referee Tim Robinson pointed to the spot after Raya won the ball but continued his movement into somebody. Gut feeling at the time was that it was soft but legitimate. We’ve all seen them given etc. That man Armstrong made no mistake and Blackburn were home. The play-offs beckoning.

Except, they weren’t. Just minutes later Ollie Watkins had halved the deficit with an absolute howitzer of a shot. This time it was Dalsgaard who used the conditions to our advantage as his own pass through the eye of the storm was perfectly judged by the free scoring front man. Playing the offside trap to perfection, he brought it down and then leathered one from distance that swerved into the top corner and sent the home fans wild. My word, what a strike. It was as much about the timing, control and preparation as it was the finish. Hats off, Ollie. 

The crowd buoyant and Brentford inspired, we kicked on. Shandon Baptise and Mads Roerslev having come on from the bench both impressed. Should Mathias Jensen still be missing for the Luton game, I can only imagine it will be the new signing from Oxford who starts that one rather than Emiliano Marcondes. Yet it was Roerslev who was the real revelation down the right, as the Brentford player machine looks like it has spat out another winner from the B-team.

Boom. Felled in the box (apparently – move along, nothing to see here) it presented the opportunity for Benrahma to level things. There was no mistake from the spot and with 20 minutes left, there was only one team in it. 

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Saaaiiiiiiddddd!! 2-2 from the spot

Brentford pushed, poked, and tried. Benrahma’s legs a blur and Mbeumo coming close to making it another afternoon of the BMW doing their thing. At the other end David Raya keeping Arsmtrong at bay with a quite wonderful save after Dalsgaard’s back pass had dropped woefully short. It was the only realistic chance that Blackburn had between the equaliser and full time. How crucial could it prove? 

Alas, it wasn’t to be for either team. Promotion hopes hit with the lightest of pauses rather than being derailed or ground made. For either team. With West Bromwich Albion also winning, and so themselves now four points clear of Leeds United, anybody hoping for ‘automatic’ is fighting out for one place. I can’t see the Baggies surrendering another double point lead having once more found their form. Albeit their visit to Griffin Park next month could be interesting…..  

Instead, it looks like a straight shoot out between Brentford, Fulham, Leeds United, Preston and Nottingham Forest for second place. Statistically, Leeds have to be favourites. They’re the ones currently occupying that slot and with the lead over third place. Yet pressure does strong things and one thing’s for sure, nobody is going to give up on the chase. With Brentford missing Mathias Jensen, Pontus Jansson and Sergi Canos we’ve still got strength in depth to return. 

So, it wasn’t to be this time. The race for the Premier League is still alive and kicking. The players doing their thing, even at full time, where they and Thomas once more put the family feel into our wonderful club.

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Advice being given at full time….

We’ve a trip to Luton Town up next and then it’s off to Cardiff City on Saturday. The games are coming thick and fast as the excitement shows no sign of abating.

And finally, the (possible) return of the ever popular Terrace Talk video feature. Could it happen? It was a subject that was touched upon in yesterday’s programme feature and has already been picked up on by former host Sean Ridley.

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As seen in the programme….

Going by yesterday’s Twitter talk, Sean’s willing to give it a go for one last hurrah – assuming, of course, that ‘official’ are.

Just tweet @BrentfordFC and use the hashtag #TerraceTalk if you’d like to see it back just once more. Hey, the club may even agree.  And if you need a reminder of the feature’s brilliance, then here you go (from the 2016/17 visit of Nottingham Forest)…..

 

Nick Bruzon

100% VAR gets it right. 100%. But who will blink first?

13 Feb

With the midweek fixtures all played out, Brentford find themselves two points off ‘automatic’ and Leeds United still in second place. Just. For a while, it looked as though things may get even better with West Bromwich Albion behind and Fulham crying out for VAR (looked onside to me !) at Millwall. In the end, the Baggies got their win although the Cottagers ended things level. With Preston taking sixth and Bristol City warming up for Saturday’s trip to Elland Road after edging past Wayne Rooney by the odd goal in five, things remain as unclear and open as ever. Only West Brom starting to make a bit of clear air but, as we’ve seen all season, that can change in a heartbeat. Our own game at Birmingham City this weekend couldn’t be any bigger.

Before we go any further, I’ll likely mention Birmingham City a few times in the next couple of days. We’re due to play them  – why wouldn’t anyone do so in that situation? So to try, but no doubt fail, and avoid the usual nonsense about this tinpot team’s apparent obsession with their enormous club, the Griffin Park perspective on why I’ve absolutely relished our teams crossing paths in the Championship is noted further below. Why such pleasure is taken every time Brentford finish above Blues – which has been every season since our return to this level.

Sure… the financial misconduct, the managerial mayhem, that ten times better nonsense or the triple transfer swoop were factors – the sort of nonsense that makes football great in retrospect –  but nothing compared to what had gone before.

Anyway, getting back to the present, one almost had to feel sorry for Fulham last night. Almost. The brief window of opportunity I was afforded to watch that game before Kirsty and Phil started doing battle over Woodford Green property renovation (ah, the Wednesday night price of a green card for the trip to St. Andrews on Saturday is a huge one) saw two early goals and a huge controversy. Aleksander Miitrovic continuing to trade metaphorical punches with Ollie Watkins at the top of the Championship leading goalscorer charts before the Lions equalised with a goal so far offside even I spotted it first time out. Fulham were rightly incensed but, as we struggled to contain the laughs on our couch, the officials allowed it stand. 

100% VAR gets it right. 100%. But there was no VAR. No second chance. No reprieve and things were level. Millwall even had the temerity to miss a penalty and that’s how things stayed. Apparently. What would I know? The things you do for the long term footballing pleasure.  With that result, Fulham go level on points with Leeds United whilst Brentford remain two points off the pair of them. The Cottagers may aswell chalk up the three points now with a home game against Barnsley this weekend but Leeds – Bristol City promises to be another massive one. 

The Robins are just outside the play off zone. Only goal difference keeping them away from a top six that once again plays host to Preston. It really is a case of seeing who can hold their nerve. Who blinks first. Whatever else, something has to give with West Brom hosting Nottingham Forest. I’m beyond trying to figure out who I want to win in these games though. Let’s concentrate on ourselves and hope those favours continue to come.

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As it stands…

That said, we are now at the point of experiencing that additional factor of a promotion shootout. That moment where the run-in starts and every result of every club around us seems critical. Phones are refreshed mid-game as goals conceded and points dropped here, there and everywhere are celebrated with abandon. Where even a win for the Loftus Road team is to be celebrated if it comes against one of the teams in close proximity. Where shifts in the table are tracked, even ‘as it stands’, and all favours are grateful accepted. We’ve had it by the bucketload during this week’s fixtures with Brentford even sitting in second place until Leeds equalised. Walking past Griffin Park on the school run with Harry, we’ve been going through permutations of results and possibilities – it’s amazing how much that can help with arithmetic. So, If Leeds lose, how many points will they have? Where will Fulham be if they beat Millwall?

There are, of course, a lot of games to go. Almost a third of the season still. But with nobody really striking out on their own, albeit West Bromwich Albion have a few points’ breathing space (at present) one can’t help but get drawn in by the situation unfolding around us. Which, as much as anything else, is why Birmingham City is a massive one for us Brentford fans. Regardless of the history. The obsession. 

I’ll absolutely love it if we pick up the points. Might even sing a song at full time. Roll on Saturday – see you there.   

 

Until then, here’s my take on it. Birmingham City – the ‘obsession’

For me the fascination – and it is one – with Birmingham City goes back to the late 80s / early 90s. I’ve written about this before and so apologies in advance but some things feel as though they bear repeating. No matter how forlorn it may be. Yet it is as crucial now as a means of seeing how far we’ve come compared to how things were before. Those of us a bit longer in the tooth will be well aware how our paths crossed over and over back in the day. 

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

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

Deano and Bliss

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

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

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

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

So, yes. Whilst I DO focus on Birmingham City (a lot) it is as much about the history. About showing how far we have evolved. Rising up out of the primordial swamp and leaving the dinosaurs behind us – in more than one case . Shrewd ownership has proven that you don’t need to spend big to spend clever. Can we take it to the next level? Perhaps Saturday will give a bit more of a clue, but I wouldn’t bet against this race going to the very last weekend of the season. 

Nick Bruzon

So close to another mulled win on a day of celebration.

22 Dec

The morning after the night before. Head foggy. Eyes sore. Mouth tasting like Fullers has curled up, fallen asleep in there and then passed away at about 3am. Espresso now on rewind. Yesterday was fun. A lot of fun. We had a kids / grown ups party at ours, meaning a trip to The Hawthorns was out of the running. Yet the seasonal celebrations continued long after the final guests had left with the knowledge that Brentford will be in the play-off zone at Christmas. This, following a 1-1 draw at West Bromwich Albion where, if we’re being honest, perhaps some are feeling miffed about not taking all three points from the league leaders. Certainly, going by the reports of one way traffic and chances created in the first half. There was a further present as second placed Leeds United dropped more points – albeit at the Cottage as they lost 2-1 to Fulham. Despite their losing a 3-0 lead at home to Cardiff last time out, surely not even the Elland Road outfit can throw away what is now a ten point lead from their second place to third. Surely? It’s not as though they have any form of reputation for falling apart or stuff like that.

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Loved this from ‘official’

Still, the tribulations of Leeds United and Fulham (recording a first win since I don’t know when – it wasn’t last weekend, that’s for sure) a mere dollop of cream on top of the Festive treat served up at West Brom. With my usual group displaced by holiday prep, the aforementioned party, transatlantic travel and shopping it was a case of communication via Whatsapp. The screen shot showing that Brentford were dominating our hosts with 57% possession, 7(seven) shots with 2 on target – compared to nil from The Baggies – was followed with the not unusual comment that “We all know what happens next” becasue, of course, stats don’t win matches. Goals do.

Sure enough, thirty seconds later it did. But not as expected….

A scream from the front room was followed by Harry running through to the kitchen where the dads were hiding out by the vat of mulled wine, talking sh..op and steering clear of the mayhem. He was closely followed by his friends Felix and Darius who stand on the Ealing Road with their dad JJ (he of the goal inducing pea-sized bladder with which regular readers may be familiar – not literally). It was less a run and more a charge. Guests scattering and voices raised. “Daaaad. Daaaaad. We’ve scored!! We’re beating West Bromwich Albion.” Oh. Wow. Sure enough we had. Just before half-time and confirmation followed from Felix that it was the World Cup’s Denmark international Henrik Dalsgaard of Brentford who got the all important strike. Oh my. Get in !! Another mulled wine? Don’t mind if I do.

This was weird. Really weird. And if for no more reason than JJ had been with us when the goal went in rather than taking a comfort break.

Sadly though, the request for Harry to retrieve the deeds to the house and lump them on the Bees going up was retracted as quickly as it had been issued. Despite a penalty being denied us in between (“a clear, clear handball”, per Thomas Frank), Dalsgaard’s 43rd minute flick on from a corner was followed up by an almost identikit goal from the hosts. Fellow full back Darnell Furlong levelling things up deep into first half stoppage time. Oh well. Parity restored. A kick to the psychological nuts but a scoreline we’d all have taken prior to kick off, I’m sure. The important thing now was to not ‘do a Leeds United’ and, erm, fall apart. Keep that concentration going. Keep on pushing in what was sounding and reading like one way traffic (something the subsequent video highlights bear out altough our little group didn’t know this at the time).

The kids were sent back to the front room to ignore the rest of their guests and watch Jeff Stelling on mute, then keep us appraised of any second-half goal update. Nooooo. 2-1 Brom. Disaster. Charlie Austin.

Yessssssss 1-1. The lino had his flag up. Offside. “It was definitely offside, dad”, confirmed Harry. Not quite sure how he knew but his word was good enough for me. It was, on later review, the correct call and was the last action of any meaning in the afternoon. The game finishing 1-1 and the gap to Leeds in second being cut by another point. The Bees in the play-off zone and set for the visit of Swansea City on Boxing Day. Relentless West Bromwich Albion striding clear at the summit.

I’d love to have been there. The visiting contingent looked huge. The Hawthorns a magnificent stadium. Instead, yesterday’s ‘live action’ was confined to standing in a deluge and watching Harry at his Spartans FC training. Any excuse for a shot of that blue shirt in action.

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Watching one ‘Bee’ in the rain

Instead, it’ll be a case of the trip to Millwall next Sunday for that next ‘away’ hit. But that’s one for the future. For now it’s a case of enjoying the moment. Of seeing how far we have come . We’ve only been in the Championship play off-zone at Christmas once before – the season Mark Warburton had the reins, dear (reader). Back then we hung on and scraped into the top six on that incredible final day after Derby did a Leeds at home to Reading. It was a position we’d got into of our own making through an over reliance on out of form Harlee Dean (Tony Craig being confined to the bench a tactical decision I still cannot align myself with) . 

Yet Thomas Frank shows none of that ‘loyalty to favourites’. Form is recognised and Ethan Pinnock has retained his place on merit following Julian Jeanvier’s suspension. It was a decision that has now been rewarded. The absence of Pontus Jansson with a ‘minor injury’ one which might have caused trepidation prior to kick off. Yet any worries proved futile and now I’d be intrigued to see who the choice centre-back pairing will be when Swansea visit on Thursday. What a lovely problem to have !

Perhaps if anyone can sum things up it is none other than Romaine Sawyers. How nice to read his words on Twitter at full time, where he opined: “Everyone knows I’ll always hold @BrentfordFC in high regard! You guys should be proud of the team this season and keep pushing them on to the finish line! Thank you for the reception at the end of the game appreciate it!! So glad to see all my brothers today and you fans”

Thank you Romaine. Here’s to playing you next season. In the top flight….

 

Nick Bruzon

Peter living the dream for all of us. Let’s do this!!

21 Dec

Wasn’t that the week just gone? This little bus stop in Hounslow celebrating the moment we won ‘our cup final’ on Saturday. Or, put in correct terms, tearing apart a Fulham side who only had the woodwork to thank them for not having anything more humiliating than a 1-0 defeat to take back up the road with them. It was a victory that saw the Bees jump above our neighbours and up to fourth place in the Championship after as comprehensive a performance as one could ever enjoy. Today promises to continue the excitement with a chance to make ground on the top three. Our own trip to leaders West Bromwich Albion the above shining star at the top of the Championship festive tree. Of equal interest though, as much for the comedy value of who will hit the self-destruct button, is the visit of second placed Leeds United to The Cottage. Whatever happens there, something will give in our favour.

Fulham was magnificent. A non stop, barnstorming performance from Brentford which, a brief open flurry aside, never saw the visitors even close to coming second. Peter Gilham would write during the week about the energy levels expended in that one and the quite staggering High Metabolic Load Distance figures achieved by the team. I had visions of him in a lab coat, examine test tubes as he talked about record levels of decelerations,  accelerations  and high speeds. It was all very Doctor Science and gave me more admiration than ever for Peter’s versatility. Albeit the subsequent reference that “For Players: HMLD = High Metallic Load Distance” had me yearning for some Metabollica on #BeeTheDJ when Swansea visit on Boxing Day. Blame the spellcheck, Peter – it’s my standard excuse!!

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Peter checks those HMLD results

 

In all seriousness though, I think in layman’s terms all this – and you should read what is a quite fascinating piece on official – means that the players put a bloody shift in. Something that was quite apparent to all watching. The science aside, it really was an article written form the heart of a man who is the living embodiment of the club. He talked about his own upbringing and, crucially, the importance of the fans. About raising the decibels even further. About making the second half of this season one to really remember.

Sitting where I do in The Braemar, I’m fortunate enough to be able to grab a word with Peter most games. He’s never too busy to say hello and is, ultimately, a fan. A fan with more knowledge and more years of support under the belt than most of us. The decibel factor is something he never fails to mention when you talk in person. The absolutely HUGE lift it gives the players. The way they respond to it. Fulham was the perfect example and what a way to finish that one. Please do take a look at his message on the club site and don’t take those words lightly.  

That was then. This is now. A trip to West Bromwich Albion just about the toughest challenge a team in this division is going to face. The Baggies pushing for a return to the top flight and relentless in their pursuit of top spot. Brentford, without a victory abasing this particular opposite since 1948. One could argue there’s a case for a ‘nothing to lose’ mentality but that’s the wrong one. Think like that and you think defeated. We’ve a first XI who are on fire at present. Who attack with pace from just about every angle. Who are rock solid at the back, having conceded less Championship goals than anyone else barring Leeds United this season. Who have a GD that is only bettered than Albion and , again, Leeds. Credit where it is due. 

The point being, we’re not a little/tinpot/pub team of underdogs. We’re absolutely up here on merit and, with that early season wobble done, Thomas Frank is a hero to all. His players busting every sinew to bring home the points. Genuinely, I’ll be disappointed if we come back to Griffin Park empty handed today.

West Brom are awesome, no doubt. So are we. Romaine Sawyers may be in the form of his life (and that’s saying something by his already impressive standards) but so are Benrahma. Dasilva, Watkins. Bryan Mbeumo is improving game on game on game. It’s hard to think he is so young, such is the way he has set this division alight in the last few months.

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Bryan impressed early season and has just accelerated further

Today will be tough. No doubt. But today could be season defining. Win this and it’s going to make people really sit up and take notice. If they aren’t already. Flying under the radar is brilliant but you have to emerge at some point. Will it be this afternoon ? I’d love to be there to find out in person but, sadly, Christmas build up means it’s a case of prior engagements. Hats off to those who have persuaded the other half to give them the afternoon off or, better, go together to the Hawthorns.

Instead, my Bees last fix remains the one at the annual Junior Bees Christmas party on Monday. It was, as ever, the most wonderful event. The team spirit must be high – if only for Pontus getting away with wearing that seasonal jumper of his. Good man.

Peter Gilham was in his usual top form, going full ‘accidental Partridge’ at one point as he announced “And in The Hive, it’s scalectrix with Bryan Mbeumo and Julian Jeanvier”. Thomas Frank was talking to all comers on the forecourt whilst the rest of the squad were scattered around the various stalls and kids games. With the choir in fine voice, it really was the consummate example of why everyone involved in our club continue to make it the most incredible family to be a part of.

Thanks Peter. Thanks Matthew. Thanks everyone. Now lets go beat some Baggies…..

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Pontus gets in the Christmas spirit on Monday

Nick Bruzon

Uncanny parallels on a day of Gayle v gale as the run comes to an end.

17 Mar

And with that, the home streak was over. After 7 (seven) straight wins at Griffin Park, Brentford went down to West Bromwich Albion 1-0 in a game dominated by two goalkeepers and awful conditions. On a day windier than a naughty puppy at Christmas after snafflling an entire family size tub of Roses, it was West Brom who played both the conditions and the ref to win the game with their one moment of true quality – Kyle Edwards embarking on mazy run through the midfield and the Brentford defence to steer it past Luke Daniels six minutes into the second half. Elsewhere, there was more than a passing interest in how our own FA Cup conquerors, Swansea City, would fare in the next round at home to Manchester City. It would be fair to say there was no irony lost in how that one turned out. But we can only start with matters at Griffin Park.

The writing was on the wall before the game even kicked off in anger, if we’re being honest. And not just the appointment of Andy Madley as our ‘referee’. There was that lowest of low tricks at the toss – changing ends. I’m not a fan of having to kick ‘the wrong way’ in the first half. It doesn’t feel right and gets everybody’s back up. Especially given it meant we’d spend the second period kicking into the wind. And it was strong, very strong. The trees behind the away end were bending double whilst three balls were lost over the stadium roof after being hoofed high into the gusty stratosphere.

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View from the Braemar – West Brom had it when to counted. Sadly.

It was a bad start to the game but entirely understandable given the circumstances. Despite pressure and chances, the Bees were unable to find a way past Sam Johnstone in goal for the opposition in that opening period. It was another game where we went for it from the off.

Yet where previously we’ve had the ability to step it up in the second period, this time there was no way through. The elements providing a massive help to a team who defended with strength whilst cynically running down the clock at every opportunity. The ball was kicked away whenever possible, the ref allowed The Baggies to get in his ear and under his skin, throw ins were delayed and dives that would have had Tom Daley smiling were common place.

Much as against Sheffield United midweek, Brentford were locked out by well drilled opponents. When the chances came, the ball didn’t quite fall right or Johnstone was on hand to pull off top drawer saves. One in particular, from a Yoann Barbet free kick, had the fans out of their seats for 1-0 Brentford before the diving’ keeper’s outstretched palm managed to guide it to safety at the explosion of the ‘goal’ celebration. Canos and Maupay also came close but it wasn’t to be. 

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View from the Braemar – Yoann comes close. So close.

When West Brom had their own opportunity, Edwards took it with style. There can be no complaints about the way he started and finished the move. Even if there were plenty afterwards as the clock headed towards it’s inexorable denouement with all the pressure and tension of a losing Countdown contestant trying to make a last round word out of JKXDZBEIO.

More so, when referee Madley followed a strong first hour with a final thirty minutes which suggested his focus was anywhere but on ensuring the game could flow. His own performance very much going to the dogs as Brentford battled against Dwight Gayle, a roaring gale and a rogue ref.

So after the play-off dream had briefly raised its head in recent weeks, we’re now nine points off the top six with nine games to go. Given the way this team can play, I’m not going to say it’s over until it’s over. But being realistic, things are going to need a remarkable swing.

On the plus side, we’ve got international break to all catch our breath and recuperate before that final push begins at the end of the month with two away games – Wigan Athletic and then a midweek trip to Swansea City. At the very least, another top ten finish is more than attainable. Another finish over the likes of Birmingham City and QPR well within our grasp.

Yesterday was frustrating and notably so, given the conditions we had to watch the game in. Whilst I’d never trade being at Griffin Park for TV, there was a pang of jealousy about the comfort of those watching ‘on screen’ from sunnier climes.

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Not exactly TW8….

Still, if it was all about the comfort then you may aswell stay at home. Something a group of West Brom fans must have been wishing after putting on the worst pre-match display for TV’s Soccer AM since, well, that day we don’t talk about against Doncaster Rovers.

With football done, it was back home to catch up on the FA Cup action. In particular, the game between Swansea City and Manchester City. That one being of particular interest to Bees fans after we’d seen a 1-0 half time lead at the Liberty Stadium in the previous round turn into a 4-1 fifth round exit at full time. The catalyst for that one being turned around was, of course, the unfortunate equaliser where a free kick had beaten Luke Daniels, hit the post, struck the back of the still diving goalkeeper on its return and deflected straight back into the net for 1-1.

So there was no irony lost as Swansea saw a 2-1 second half lead at the Liberty Stadium turn into a 3-2 sixth round exit at full time. The catalyst for that one being turned around was, of course, the unfortunate equaliser where Sergio Aguero’s penalty had beaten Kristoffer Nordfeldt, hit the post, struck the back of the still diving goalkeeper on its return and deflected straight back into the net for 2-2.

That the penalty decision, like Aguero’s late winner, had probably been made the wrong way can only have added to the sense of frustration felt by the home fans. Tell me about it. Yet another two fingers up delivered from VAR or, more the case, the lack of VAR. The FA Cup only allowing the system to be used in games players at Premier league grounds. Nothing like keeping the competition consistent, eh? 

For Manchester City, an incredible opportunity to scoop a quadruple still awaits. For Brentford and Swansea City, we’re back to the drawing board. The Championship play-offs remain a mathematical possibility but are going to take an incredible combination of wins and favours from other teams.

 With Leeds United and Frank Lampard’s Derby county still to visit, who knows what might sill happen…..

Nick Bruzon

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

16 Mar

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

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

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Thomas celebrates at home. Again

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

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

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

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Saïd, Neal and the team are providing goals and smiles

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

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

All is forgiven, Marcello…

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

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

Roll on 3pm. See you there.

Nick Bruzon