Tag Archives: Beesotted

Is something rotten in the state of Brentford?

9 Dec

We’ve not really touched these pages in the last week or two. Matters outside of Griffin Park (namely, a social life rearing it’s head once more like some long forgotten relic of pre-parental life) have meant the column takes a back seat. To be honest, it’s probably no bad thing given the recent run in form that for Brentford finally looked like it may be coming to a halt with that 1-1 draw at West Bromwich Albion on Monday night. We all know what happened there, with the Bees doing to ‘deserving’ opponents what our own head coaches have felt hard done by so many times over the last few seasons. An injury time equaliser from Lewis Macleod rescuing a point after the hosts had conspired to miss all manner of seemingly unmissable chances earlier on. Good news, we thought. We have stopped the bleeding (not my words but those of Thomas Frank). Then Swansea City happened and a 3-2 defeat that was about as shambolic as it has been in recent months.

The Bees were a goal down with less than 30 seconds on the clock. The Griffin Park scoreboard hadn’t even sprung into life by the time Wayne Routledge had tapped home the opener after the defence had failed spectacularly to clear the most innocuous of pass backs and straight crosses. It was 2-0 Swansea soon after as Chris Mepham turned into his own net to gift the visitors a second. That the clock was registering 27 by the time Swansea made it three was only due to the injury suffered by Martin Olsson. One can only hope that the lengthy treatment before play resumed (there were 8 minutes added on at the end of the first half) was precautionary but it didn’t look good from where we sat on the far side.

IMG_E9753

No minutes on the clock and already a goal down. 

That third goal was everything that was wrong with the team at present. A listless ball across midfield that was picked up by nobody. A needless free kick awarded on the right hand side. A ball delivered in that wasn’t cleared far enough before spaces were left for the return that would have embarrassed my son’s U-6 team. Kudos to Ollie McBurnie for attempting the overhead kick that lead to their goal but that he was even afforded that much room was a crime in itself. Leroy Fer made no mistake as the Brentford defence were unable to mop up the resulting detritus. I’ve seen better markers in a packet of Sharpies. 3-0 down and 27 minutes gone, 8 of which had seen the clock stopped for Olsson’s injury.

Frustratingly for Brentford, that unfortunate break in play should have allowed the team time to regroup. To have a chat about what next to avoid the inevitable third and actually find a way back into the game. But there had been nothing and the inevitable happened.

That’s it. If you want to read about inspired comebacks. About almost snatching a point. About hitting the bar two or three times then be my guest. Here’s the BBC website. Here’s Brentford official. Here’s Sky Sports where the report is about as lightweight as our midfield was for that opening period but they do have the goal highlights. I’d suggest you watch them just to see how not to play football.

Don’t let a fight back fool you or mask over another dreadful start. I’d hope Thomas has been up all night figuring out how to repair the gaping holes in the team, in their confidence and in supporter morale. The boos on the third goal and half time suggest that the crowd as finally been lost.

IMG_9758

View from the Braemar. The perimeter boards really rubbing it in during the first half.

It was yet another game where quite wonderful individuals have been that. Individual. Where the team spirit has seemingly gone out the window. Where the inability to kick a ball forward instead of faff has cost us. Where the result of being unable to put in a challenge has been a glut of goals conceded in a short space of time. See also Preston. QPR. Middlesbrough. Sheffield United. I honestly thought the game with the Blades had seen us as off the pace as we could possibly be but this one really trumped it.

That first half was on a par with, if not worse than, Oxford United in the league cup a few years back. At least in that one (and we’re clutching at straws) Marinus could blame his relative short time in the job, the sandpit of a pitch and his own tactical naivety in picking eleven players with barely a handful of first team appearances between them. But Thomas has been part of the set up for two years. He knows the players. They know him. This was a good line up – on paper – but instead it did what it has done time and again in recent weeks. Defensive hesitancy. Midfield absence. Full backs brutally exposed. Passing the ball sideways and backwards instead of forward. Inability to make a challenge, close down or simply mark an opponent. Just not kicking it away when it was near the goal. The ‘discussion’ amongst the team after the third went in was there for all to see.

To be fair, it changed after. As the heavens opened, the Bees came alive. Albeit Brentford very much had Daniel Bentley to thank for even keeping us alive at 3-1 down. This after Ollie Watkins had pulled one back in the first half and before Said Benhrahma gave us hope with a wonderful freekick midway through the second. But it was all too late. You can’t keep on giving away 2 or 3 quick fire goals – bang, bang, bang – and expect to take anything from a game.

From the point where we were named as joint favourites for the league title with Leeds United, Brentford have not so much hit the skids as gone through the crash barrier and plummeted down the mountain side. We’ve got games coming up at Hull City and then home to Bolton Wanderers. Both sides in the rapidly diminishing clutch of teams currently below the Bees. Failure to pick up at least 4 points out of 6 in those will see us getting sucked into that relegation vortex.

It’ll be a big ask given Thomas has only picked up 4 points from his opening 9 games. Even Marinus had managed 8 from the same period. What we’d give for that sort of form at the moment although please note the Dijkuizen experiment is not one I’m calling for a return of. Ever.

Marinus Oxford touchline

Marinus and the Oxford United fiasco (not a prog rock band). Never forget

What’s really troubling me is why this isn’t working at the moment. We’ve had many poor teams and poor runs over the years at whatever level we’ve played. But the squad is currently packed full of internationals. It is the same squad Dean Smith had. We have the Championship’s second top scorer (Neal Maupay currently one behind Lewis Grabban). Top flight clubs covet the likes of Ollie Watkins, Chris Mepham, Daniel Bentley and Ezri Konsa. Josh McEachran (up there for player of the season so far) has pretentions of playing for England.

We’re not talking about times where the set up has been so thin that we’ve had to beg a favour off Neil Shipperly. These are good players. Great players. Players who hit the ground running and propelled Brentford to the very top end of the table back in August and September. Now, they’ve got all the confidence of a studio audience going in to a recording of Mrs. Brown’s Boys.

Neil Shipperly

Neil Shipperley. Never forget

Is it simply bad luck? Injuries limiting selection? Or is there something going on behind the scenes. Something as simple as an arm around the shoulders that is missing? Or something more in tune with a change in tactical set up? This should have been a seamless transition but for whatever reason it’s just not working out at the moment.

Let’s not pretend that the end of Dean Smith’s time here didn’t see us in a mini-blip relative to what he’d done prior with just 1 win out of 6. Yet what was intrinsically different then was that he had the winning form that made nobody in any doubt it would be back again soon. Even when we weren’t taking all three points, there was none of this constant shipping of goals over a short space of time.

Nobody has a divine right to be any good. We can’t just rock up and expect to win. Equally though, you still need to rock up in the first place. You can’t keep on giving the opposition two or three goal leads and expect to come away with anything.

Thomas has got a huge, huge challenge ahead of him. Both tactically and psychologically. I hope he has thick skin and a plan B. Or C. The way the crowd reacted yesterday after a frankly awful opening period suggest that if he can’t turn things around fast, things could get very ugly. For everyone.

img_9781.jpg

Raining (goals) at Griffin Park v Swansea

Nick Bruzon

Advertisements

Tough questions to ask, and answer, after an insipid performance under the lights.

28 Nov

Well that was awful yesterday. And not the news that Mrs. Brown’s Boys leads the BBC Christmas schedule with two episodes of the alleged ‘favourite’ having been commissioned for the festive period.  Of course we mean football where, being honest, even after sleeping on this one I’m struggling to be positive this morning. That Sheffield United made it 6 defeats out of 7(seven) for Brentford since Dean Smith left is almost secondary. The 3-2 loss contained so many problems that even had we grabbed a last gasp equaliser, it would actually have masked the deficiencies as I’ve no doubt we’d be told how this team never gives up and keeps fighting until the end. Yet the simple fact is this game should have been well out of sight by half-time. How the visitors only led by a single goal as we went in for our bovril I’m still not sure. With a televised trip to West Bromwich Albion next up on Monday night, it’s not going to get any easier for Thomas Frank’s Bees.

Screen Shot 2018-11-28 at 06.33.53

Incredibly…. You HAVE been warned.

It had all started off so brightly. Despite the sparce crowd, Buzz and Buzzette did their level best to get things going before kick-off. The team came out of the traps flying and it wasn’t long before we’d raced into the lead. With just 6 minutes gone, Romaine Sawyers played Neal Maupay through and there was no mistake as the Championship’s top scorer grabbed his 13thof the campaign. What a start. But what a response was to follow.

Straight from the kick-off, the Blades poured forward in a move which culminated with Daniel Bentley’s crossbar left quivering after John Lundstrum blasted it from ten yards out. By all rights he should have scored given the space and position in which he found himself in front of the goal. It was a massive let off for Brentford and alarm bells should have been ringing. If so, nobody was listening.

Just a few minutes later Sheffield United were level as Ezri Konsa turned a corner into his own net for 1-1. And then it was 2. Oliver Norwood giving the visitors the lead with just a quarter hour gone after hitting a beauty from outside the box. Catching it first time the ball rose, curled and then dipped past Bentley high into the back of the net. It was a magnificent strike but saw yet another game where we’d conceded a batch of goals in short space of time to throw things away.

It could, probably should, have been worse after Daniel Bentley made a wonderful save at close range half way through the opening period after denying United from close range with a huge stop.

Yet in return, we offered nothing. The goal aside Brentford were lacklustre. Abject. Masters of our own self-destruction. Sideways and backwards passing saw us unable to make inroads once the visitors had settled. The midfield lacked bite and a leader. Lewis Macleod lightweight. Alan Judge making the effort but getting drawn out of position time and again. Josh McEachran uncharacteristically tetchy. Lucky to escape a booking for a quite blatant push in front of the ref that gave away a free-kick in the heart of Saunders territory. Captain Romaine Sawyers conspicuous by his silence. Where was the desire? Where was the will to win? If it was there then I didn’t see it. And that’s the most disappointing aspect of the night.

IMG_9474

United were head and shoulders above Brentford in the first half.

Yet. Yet. Half-time came and it was only 2-1. Despite it all, we were still very much alive. Whilst United started brightly once more, Brentford soon stepped it up. This was more like it. The pressure built. The ball started to move forward. The crowd started to lift and just after the hour Romaine Sawyers saw his cross-come-shot turned in by John Fleck for the game’s second o.g. as parity was restored. That was better and there was only one team in it from here? Wasn’t there.

Err, yes. Sheffield United.

Instead of pushing on, Brentford allowed the frailties of the first half to return. Sheffield United were given the freedom of Griffin Park as our defence once more turned into vampires. Scared of crosses. If the first goal had seen us concede from a position where we’d have expected Mepham (who missed it) or Konsa (who gifted the goal) the opportunity to clear, Leon Clarke’s winner was even worse. I’ve seen caravans that were less static. Like Middlesbrough at the weekend, a well delivered ball into the box was our undoing.

Clarke may have been embarrassed by the copious space he was left in but he made no mistake. His shot was hard and low past the diving Bentley for 3-2. And that’s how it stayed. The subsequent substitutions making no difference to a Brentford team that limped towards the final whistle.

But for me, the most telling sign was at the death. With the Bees awarded a late free-kick, Thomas Frank was clearly telling Chris Mepham to push up into the box. There followed a quite bizarre looking argument of shrugging, arms open in the ‘what’s going on?’ position and the player refusing to move up. Eventually, he would but it did beg the question what all that was about?

Lack of respect? Frustration? Or just a general confusion about what we should be doing in a dead ball situation? Why isn’t this sort of stuff clarified on the training ground rather than in the public eye? If nothing else, football 101 says that when a team is goal down and awarded a dangerous spot kick at the death, everybody piles up. Sometimes even the ‘keeper. What you don’t do is argue with the boss and keep two defenders back.

I’m not a coach. I’m not a manager. I’m just the numpty on the terrace and you may think I’ve called this all wrong. Fair enough if so. It should have been a quite fantastic night under the floodlights. I take no pleasure from moaning about the team and have looked to remain upbeat this campaign. Yet that was painful last night and don’t let the closeness of the result fool anyone. Brentford were second in every respect. Goals scored. Cohesiveness. Attitude.

We don’t have a divine right to be any good. I’ve said this many times and it’s true. Yet to see players who we know are more than capable looking so out of sorts is just wrong. To see a team looking so bereft of ideas when we’ve torn rivals apart at times is a worry. And whilst Thomas may be on the business end of the bad run, let’s not forget that despite all the ‘deserving’, the culmination of Dean’s time in charge saw only 1 win out of 6. Even Marinus had a better track record at this stage of ‘games played’ into his own start – and that’s a scary thing to acknowledge.

We do have injuries, of course. Who wouldn’t miss the likes of Ollie Watkins or Saïd Benrahma? Rico Henry and Emiliano Marcondes are only just returning to action.  The ability is there amongst those who are fit.

The real question now is not the position of the head coach, which many fans are already questioning, but more what he does to unlock the talent and inspire his team.

Roll on West Brom when we find out.

IMG_9462

The floodlights providing a rare bright moment

Nick Bruzon

Visitors inflict more pain as the record continues.

25 Nov

Brentford 1 Middlesbrough 2. What can you say? Bogey team? Curse of the cameras? That there was never any hope against a side we’ve not beaten in the league since a 2-1 win at Griffin Park back in December 1938? Or just an awkward game where, once more, a flurry of goals conceded in a short space of time (two in five, second-half, minutes) saw the result put beyond reach and the post Dean Smith era now see us with a record of P6 L5. With play-off chasing Sheffield United to visit on Tuesday, it is a record that is only going to come under further scrutiny.

DSC03686

View from the Braemar – Henrik attacks

It had all started so promisingly. Even before kick-off, five-year old Harry had put possibly the biggest football-related smile on my face that’s been there in a while when he turned to Mrs. Bruzon over lunch and said, “Mummy. The best thing you can do this afternoon is watch it on TV. Because when you come to the ground, we lost”. It was a point he reiterated outside the clubshop at 5pm – both times, totally unprompted. He’s brave, I’ll give him that. Mrs. B (whose record isn’t, quite, that bad) duly stayed away. Sadly, it made no difference.

The first half was as cagey as a caged tiger watching the collected works of Nicolas Cage on video. Frankly, something that would have been infinitely more entertaining than a frustrating opening period where Moses Odubajo running for an impromptu toilet break was the highlight for many. Certainly, the subsequent song that broke out from the Ealing Road. He whatswhere he wants?  Yet aside from the relieved number 2 taking aim from distance with an effort that Middlesbrough goalkeeper Darren Randolph had to push over, I don’t recall much else from the first half. It was just that low key an opening period with the visitors coming close-ish a couple of times but never, truly, leaving us with fear of the net bulging.

Instead, with the referee offering little protection, it was a case of trying to out-play the wall of muscle in front of us. With the stats all heavily weighted in our favour, it was an attempt that would prove futile in the one that truly counts – goals scored – as the teams went in for their half tea and a wee with the game goalless.

And then it began. 55 minutes gone, 0-0. 61 minutes gone, 0-2. The first goal given away down the left where despite questions about offside being asked, the Bees were sliced open with a combination of passes that allowed Jordan Hugill a tap in that even Ian Moose might have finished off. Scored rather than eaten, for the record. Five minutes later the lead was doubled when the Brentford defence allowed Marcus Tavernier all the time and space needed to direct his downward header past a diving Daniel Bentley. Game over, man. Game over.

To be fair, it was the kick up the backside we needed. The Bees pushed and pressed. Thomas Frank changed his team around. The momentum built. This was more like it. This was the Brentford we know and love. Alan Judge, who had a great game, pulled one back with a quarter of an hour remaining.  His goal a beauty as he drilled a low diagonal shot through a crowd and past goalkeeper Randolph. From a short corner. A short. Corner. This is not a drill. This is not a typo.

The words “Don’t take it short, it never blinkin’ works” hadn’t even emerged fully formed from my mouth before the usual exhortation was changed quite miraculously into a lungbusting scream of GOOOOAAALLLLL!!

Oh. My. Word. We’d seen one. It actually happened. This most maligned of set-pieces had actually worked. Moreso, the first goal Tony Pulis’s team have let in from a corner this season by all accounts.  Could it be? Was this THE sign that the Middlesbrough hoodoo was about to be lifted?

With the reinvigorated Bees chasing a point, former player George Saville put in an appearance for Middlesbrough. His presence was barely felt. Frankly, he could have dropped his trousers and he’d have made more of an impression. Instead, Brentford continued. Sergi Canos came close. Breaking through a crowded defence he perhaps snatched at it before the referee could blow his whistle. But Mr. Brooks wasn’t giving anything, to either team and perhaps, with the obvious benefit of hindsight, there was an extra touch available to be taken.  

Likewise Josh Da Silva came close. His own shot from distance forcing Randolph into a full length save. It was a moment that had the crowd gasping but was about as close as we would get. Instead, Middlesbrough had the wherewithal to close this one out and secure all three points. Points that, on the evidence of what played out, only the most churlish could have denied them. And it hurts to say it but their finishing when presented the space in that five-minute period was, ultimately, what decided the game. From that moment on Brentford were playing catch up and it was a race too far.

No sour grapes from yours truly. No whinging. We’re off the boil at present, that’s for sure, although I’m not sure I can put my finger on just why.  I have no doubt it WILL come good again whilst I’d also point to the performance of Alan Judge alongside josh and Emilian Marcondes from the bench as highlights. Chris Mepham had a bizarre rush of blood to the head just towards the end which earned him a yellow and, with a more Stroud-esque referee, could have been worse.

Sheffield United are next up. It’ll be interesting to see it Thomas restores captain Romaine Sawyers. Whether Josh Da Silva has done enough to earn himself a first start. How he toughens up the defence. Just how we fair against a side containing a pair of centre-backs and a reserve goalkeeper we know very well indeed.

No doubt Jack O’Connell, John Egan and Simon Moore will have a point to prove. Then again, I’ve no doubt Thomas Frank will aswell.

IMG_9356

Our visitors made themselves comfortable both before kick-off and early into the second half

Nick Bruzon

If there’s one thing you do today…

24 Nov

Brentford entertain Middlesbrough this evening after the long lay-off for International break. It is a game that will be played in the huge shadow that was the loss of our technical director Robert Rowan early last week.

I’ve not picked up a keyboard in the last two weeks. There really hasn’t been the appetite. Being honest, I’ve not even known where to try and start. There are no words to truly try and empathise or contextualise what happened. One can’t even begin to imagine what Rob’s family have been going through. No words to truly explain the feeling after the club, the entire Brentford family, have lost such a universally loved individual at such an early age. Tragic. Awful. Horrific. Heart-breaking. Well, yes. All these. But so much and more that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the pain being felt.

We very rarely crossover between the usual hurried notes on these pages and the official output from Brentford FC themselves, save for a hyper link to a match report or copy/pasted YouTube clip. Yet today is different. It’s all about the matchday programme. About Rob. About what Sam Marshall and his team have put together in honour of this much loved man. From the cover art itself, through articles with those that knew him aswell as a few from Rob himself. Like the game and the atmosphere at Griffin Park today, I get the feeling this is going to be an emotional but also uplifting one as we celebrate the life of this quite unique and much missed individual.

You can read all about what’s in this special edition here. Regardless of the Middlesbrough game and how that goes, if there’s one thing you do today please pick up a copy.

Large

Nick Bruzon

The many reasons we must win. The one reason we will.

10 Nov

Saturday morning and the 237 derby awaits. West London’s finest, and also QPR, prepare to do battle. With tier-gate resolved and the away-end sold out (barring a few £37 ‘restricted view’ seats), Brentford can prepare for the trip to Loftus Road in high spirits. Last weekend’s dominant performance saw The Bees back to winning ways and assuredly looking to pick up where we left off against Millwall. That one finished 2-0 and could easily have been double, but for the woodwork. Yet in a build-up that has been dominated by Friday’s news of Chief Executive Mark Devlin announcing his own departure from Griffin Park after 7 (seven) years, are we all missing out on the key factor that may decide this one?

QPR Loftus Road

Off to Loftus Road again

First up, Mark Devlin. We’ve by now all heard the news of his own forthcoming departure which was shared yesterday morning. We’ve all read the praise being lavished upon Mark by everyone from Bees United to Matthew Benham and beyond. Understandably. The strides that Brentford have made in the last 7 (seven) years have been quite incredible. In no small part helped by his enthusiasm and dedication. His time taken to talk to anyone about everything – a spirit which continues to run through the club.

I’ve often maintained that if you want to know something at Brentford, just ask. Mark typifies this approach – where confidentiality allows, of course – whilst few could deny his openness with the fans at the forums, responding to email, on social media or in person. He’s a regular on the forecourt when there’s a game and will always stop for a chat. How many other clubs are fortunate enough to have this level of approachability from one of the men at the very top? There’s nobody doubting how much he’ll be missed whilst, personally, I’ll now need to find somebody else to harangue about the new kit. Good luck Mark. And thank you. Our loss is very much somebody else’s gain – even if it is Twitter spambots…

Mark Devlin weight loss

Open comms. On any subject !!

Before he goes, Mark has one last QPR match to sit through. Which of his teams (wink emoji) will emerge with the points today? Brentford, obviously. Aside from our own strength and goal scoring potential, Nico Yennaris used his own appearance at the press conference to reveal how the team were fully aware of what this one means to the fans.

He explained how, “We know the importance of the game. Peter Gilham reiterates that every time we play QPR ; how important it is …the likes of myself, we’ve heard it enough from Pete but it’s the new guys coming in. The one’s that haven’t really been involved in a QPR – Brentford game. He lets them know aswell…”   

If anyone knows the history between the two clubs then it’s Peter. The story of the failed takeover can’t be told enough. It’s over fifty years on from that now yet still things remain fresh. In part helped by QPR’s own ‘accidental’ celebration of this event on their own programme cover last year. Something that their own head of media would subsequently explain, “Isn’t about inciting anyone – just charting our history at LR in chronological order”. This, before going on share how the dog had just eaten his homework and he’d left his P.E. kit on the bus. Probably.

QPR programme Holloway

Old news on the programme cover. And the failed takeover

But then its all about the excuses with them. Who could forget the time they accidentally breached FFP rules after running up a deficit of £9.8 m aswell as owner Tony Fernandes and other shareholders writing off a £60m loan? October 2017 saw the £58m fine deemed not disproportionate and upheld. This, despite Fernandes’ earlier assertion that “My view has been consistent, that it is very unfair for a club that has been relegated as the wage difference between the Premier League and Championship is impossible. There should be a time period for clubs to rectify their salaries.

 “If we were in the Championship in two years with that wage bill it wouldn’t be right. I’m in favour of FFP but it is unfair for a club coming down.”

Ahhh. Poor QPR. If you can’t beat ‘em, cheat ‘em. In the end, the club and football league settled on a ‘mere’ £42m which included a £17m fine, amongst other measures. Perhaps a somewhat fortunate escape for a club who employed Harry Redknapp.

Whilst we all know this of course, there’s no harm reminding ourselves of the context. Moreso given our own efforts to comply with the financial regulations imposed on EFL clubs have often resulted in our own stars being sold to ensure compliance and fair play.

Recent form is very much with Brentford going in to today’s big game. Of the last 8 league and cup encounters, the record read W5 D2 L1 in favour of Brentford. The solitary blip in that run being Dean’s Smiths attempt to play Alan Judge as a false 9 in a 4-6-0 formation whilst the highlight being our April 2017 destruction of Rangers at Griffin Park. With Jota in inspired form that day, a 3-1 win was about as generous a scoreline to the visitors as they come.

Screen Shot 2017-04-25 at 06.07.16

I wouldn’t disagree

I predict more of the same this afternoon. Forget form. Forget rivalry. Forget everything. There’s one fact more telling than any motivational speech Peter Gilham may give. More important than whether Thomas Frank starts with Yoann or Moses, Luke or Dan, Sergi or Said.

Put simply, Steve McClaren has just been named manager of the month for October.

What magnificent timing for yesterday’s announcement! Could it have been any better? We all know how this one works. Scoop the prize, fail to lose your next game. It’s a jjnx as long established as not shaving on a winning run, wearing the magic shirt, pulling on the lucky pants or whatever your own particular match day-ritual is. Yet none come bigger than having to make the awkward pose with the trophy, safe in the knowledge that the next points are sliding down the drain.

I’m pretty sure it’s a scientific fact. But don’t quote me on that. What you can quote me on is that this will be another three points for Brentford. I don’t want to rain on Steve McClaren’s parade but back-to-back wins are heading our way. Roll on 3pm when it all starts again.

Sky Bet Championship MOTM October 061118

Incredible but true. It really has happened

Nick Bruzon 

Spending big is not necessarily spending clever.

6 Nov

Good morning Brentford fans. And it is a very good morning. A quick look at the Premier league table following last night’s results shows Fulham firmly anchored to the bottom. Their 1-0 loss at a Huddersfield Town side (who themselves scored their first home goal since mid-April) sees our West London neighbours propping up the rest of the league. Statistically speaking, that’s 24 points behind leaders Manchester City after just eight games and with a trip to Liverpool next up.

Screen Shot 2018-11-06 at 05.41.26

Happy Tuesday in the Premier League

The current predicament seems even more horrific when you look at the outlay from Fulham over the summer. It’s been widely documented that the £100.3m they spent has  been matched by a mere £4m coming in. They’ve kept their squad together and built on it. Hugely. A net outlay of £96.3m is only beaten by Liverpool who top the big spenders on £131m (161m out ; 30m in).  

And what is the result of this? A top flight record of ‘goals against’ for a Premier League start (29 conceded already), the worst goal difference in the division, a form record of LLLLL and a confidence level that saw the BBC match report subsequently describe them as: ”A fragile Fulham side, stripped of confidence and there for the taking.”  

It’s easy to laugh. Let’s be honest. Equally, let’s not make out we wouldn’t like to be feasting at a higher table. Yet that is something which I have no doubt will come. And, when it does, we’ll be competing rather than unable to scrap for the crumbs discarded by others. We’ve talked so often on these pages over the last couple of seasons about how Brentford are doing things. How we are spending cleverly, within means, and using our unique methods in order to stay afloat, comply with FFP but also build for the future at Lionel Road. It becomes a bit of a cracked record at times yet when you see the talent that has been uncovered, aswell as being sold for vast profit down the line as the team continue to step up, one has to step back and take notice.

Likewise, I’m not going to pretend I wouldn’t love to have seen some of those heroes stay on. It still hurts so much to see Jota in the blue of Birmingham City although nobody could deny the form of our current widemen. Having the likes of Ollie Watkins, Sergi Canos and Said Benrahma as regular starters / first choice substitutes a luxury not many managers in this division have the benefit of. That, a situation which has arisen because of our ‘buy low and sell high’ policy. The departure of Harlee Dean (as much due to the the emergence of Chris Mepham) helped facilitate the return of Moses Odubajo and what already seems a huge bargain in picking up Ezri Konsa to further enhance the current squad. Then there’s Neal Maupay…

He’s the Championship’s leading scorer. He’s the Championship’s leading provider of assists. He’s the player who endured such a torrid start to his Brentford career last season – and that was just from Ian Moose. He’s the player who found his feet and perhaps, if anyone, illustrated just how fragile Fulham are when he bagged that late, late equaliser back in April  – ironically, the same day Huddersfield scored their previous home goal. It was a goal that deflated Fulham as easily as somebody letting the air out of a clacker or blow up hand and should have been seen as a warning sign.

6F4460FC-5DC2-4259-9467-864C4A9FFE16

Mark Fuller’s picture captured THE moment at Fulham

Spending big is not necessarily spending clever. That’s for sure. Yet by the same virtue, look at Manchester City. Compared to previous ‘windows’ they’ve barely troubled the scorers over the summer. This, something very much in isolation for them. At the same time, I read a piece yesterday by Miguel Delaney of The Independent. It was an article described by the author himself on Twitter as an “Upbeat piece on football’s impending death”.

Click bait theatrics or genuine cause for alarm? The collapse at The Cottage is great value. For us, at least. The longer term prognosis in the top flight is, if you share Miguel’s opinion, a somewhat more concerning one. If you read one article today, make it his. You can do so here. Whatever your view on City’s approach, it’s well worth a look –  enjoy.

Nick Bruzon

Toothless Lions tamed with strike of Sergi-cal precision.

4 Nov

My word. What an afternoon. What a way to return to form. What a time to do it with the trip to QPR next up. Brentford beat Millwall 2-0 in a game that, as it progressed, could easily have seen that score doubled. It was a magnificent team performance exemplified by solid defence, rapid counter attack football and a forward drive that had been so desperately missing last weekend at Norwich. Sergi Canos and Ollie Watkins took their chances brilliantly to give us the goals, each player clean through to tuck it home, but don’t underestimate the way the whole team played here. Said Benrahma must be wondering how his delicious first half curler from the outskirts of the penalty box stayed out (curse that far upright) whilst Said Maupay also touched wood in the second period. Even Daniel Bentley had to stay alert to make one smart save with the scores locked at 0-0. That’s not to overly lavish praise on one over another here. It was about as ‘team’ as it comes yesterday. You could see what this one meant to Thomas Frank at full-time, clapping all the home fans and acknowledging anyone who looked to single him out, as our new head coach got his first points on the board.

DSC03602

View from the Braemar – Said had a cracking game

That’s the game in a paragraph. As you know, we don’t do the full-fat match reports here. Go to the always wonderful Beesotted, the BBC or, of course, Brentford ‘official’ for that. Sky TV have the highlights here but I’m equally looking forward to seeing if we get a chance to hear what Mark Burridge and Greville Waterman made of this one when the 12pm ‘official’ coverage gets released into the wild. No doubt voluminous praise and excitement of ‘Jota at Blackburn’ levels will be the order of the day. It really was that sort of afternoon as the team returned to a style of play and clinical finishing that we’d become somewhat spoiled with over the early part of the season. Pity QPR on Saturday if we can keep this up. Millwall weren’t even given a chance to come second in this one as Brentford defended about as solidly as I’ve seen us do (some first half faffing across the box in search of the perfect distribution aside – sometimes, it’s not wrong to lump it up if there’s a defender closing in).

What else can we take away from this? Well, first up the celebration from Sergi was just a thing of beauty. With the net still rippling he tore over to the Braemar Road touchline, leaping high in the air as his teammates joined him. This was followed by a double fist pump and exuberant salute – the smile on his face broad. This one meant one hell of a lot. It was a moment of joy only matched by an equally emphatic routine from Ollie Watkins as he made the points safe late on.

Kudos, too, for Neal Maupay’s wonderful interplay in providing the assists for both our goals. He’s the Championship’s leading scorer and provider now. The adoration of fans in marked contrast to 12 months ago as a new signing beginning to find his feet in this division, the likes of Ian Moose pouring scorn and dripping poison.  

DSC03578

View from the Braemar  – Sergi salutes the fans

Romaine Sawyers was named captain, again. His third time in four games. Thomas Frank would later confirm that he has dispensed of our rotational captain system. Something that Dean Smith had specifically introduced but has now gone with him to Aston Villa. Instead, the pool of leaders has been whittled down to just two – Romaine and Henrik Dalsgaard (of Brentford). Romaine had a great game yesterday after what, it would be fair to say, had been a dip in the form of last season’s ‘players’ player of the year’. Long may this continue!

I thought Josh Dasilva really impressed on his debut, coming on late for Josh McEachran. He drove forward as he added fresh legs and further goalscoring potential with the Bees looking to close this out rather than sit back and allow Millwall to press. Interestingly, I’ve this morning had a message from a Lincoln City fan I work with, noting: “Young lad you have out on loan at Forest Green, Archibald, he can play the game! We won 2-1. Absolute smash and grab though as we were outplayed. He is a very good player, great balance and change of direction. Some would say a ‘typical Brentford player’. We couldn’t deal with him tbh.”

With Josh stepping up and Theo showing his own potential for Forest Green, it’s great to see the B-team system continuing to flourish.

I had fun yesterday. A lot of fun. It was just that sort of celebratory occasion. Moreso, coming after a rightfully sombre start with Peter Gilham leading a minute’s silence to recognise both Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and, especially, the 100 years since the end of WW1 as part of the Remembrance Sunday observations. It was impeccably observed by both sets of fans whilst due praise to Sam Marshall and his programme team in recognising this hugely significant event. The production that he – ably assisted by Paul Briers and Dave Lane – put together to recognise this was a quite wonderful piece of work and compulsive reading.  

IMG_E8835

Get one if you still can

The Millwall fans continued their respectful silence throughout the game. Aside from the odd chant of “No-one likes us, we don’t care” (really – then why do you persist in telling us so often?) they were largely as impotent as their team. Toothless Lions on and off the pitch, easily tamed by ringmaster Thomas Frank. Brentford, on the other hand, coming in for rightful recognition in his full time press conference.

There’s not much more to add after this one. On a personal note, Harry’s reaction to the game told me all I needed to know about how exciting it had been. He grabbed my phone, asking if he could call Uncle Tim to give him a full time update, then broadcast this to the Braemar Road forecourt (including one senior club figure whom I can only thank for his own subsequent observations and chat with an uber-excited five year old). He next proceeded to remove his coat to show the world his Ollie Watkins shirt and sung all the way home. Harry, that is.

Yet it was at Harry’s bedtime that I was given the sign that the Thomas Frank era is truly now underway. “Daddy” he entreated. ”As a special treat can I wear my Watkins shirt in bed instead of pyjamas?”

Yeah, he’s hooked. Thank you Sergi. Thank you Ollie. Thank you Thomas. Roll on Saturday and QPR.  

IMG_8821

Unconventional pjs but it would have been churlish to deny him

Nick Bruzon

Now really is the time to go again.

3 Nov

That’s been a long week. Brentford fans awaiting the visit of Millwall have had a lot to think about after last Saturday’s away defeat to Norwich City. However, it all seemed somewhat secondary to the one thought that the broader footballing community has had on its mind – the tragic events at Leicester City later that evening. I have to be honest that, after penning an initial column about both on Sunday morning, subsequent news saw the appetite for talking football dissipate as the story unfolded. The only solace, if there can be any, to be taken from this quite devastating situation has been in hearing all the wonderful stories about Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha. A man with a genuine love for his players, his team and the city. Whilst this was already well known in Leicester, as an outsider looking in to only now understand the full extent of the love and respect in which he is held shows just what a terrible loss this was. I’ve no doubt it’s going to be both an emotional and celebratory one at Cardiff City this afternoon when football begins again for Leicester City.

 

As for Brentford, Thomas Frank welcomes a Millwall side who sit one place below us in 18th. It seems only five minutes ago we were knocking on the door of the play-offs. That 1-1 draw with Leeds United keeping the Bees in sixth place following what would later turn out to be Dean Smith’s last match as Brentford head coach. Three games later, played out over the space of a frenetic eight days, his successor has seen a record of LLL which included going 3 down to Preston in the space of 23 minutes. The Bees slipped another place last night and are now down to 17thafter Aston Villa managed a win rather than their customary 1-1 draw.

Yet, importantly, the table remains as tight as it has all season. We’re 7(seven) points away from the play-off places. We’re 6 away from the relegation trapdoor. That’s neither to over inflate our position (the table doesn’t lie) but nor is it to be the harbinger of doom. I’m not. There’s a hell of a long way to go and, as we’ve both said and seen, the squad has undeniable talent. Instead, the visit of Millwall should be seen as a massive opportunity for Thomas to harness that.

He’s now had a clear week with his squad to run at this. To work at things in training. To get his players firing and be clear just what is his preferred starting XI is (specifically given the injury suffered by Kamo). To try and stop opposition that have, typically for us, started to find form with 3 wins out of the last 4 coming after their own woeful start to this campaign. But which is the team suffering from a brief reversal of form? Who will pick up the points?

Look. Whatever happens it can’t be any more frustrating than Norwich last week. A game played out in awful conditions. Whilst acknowledging the hosts’ lofty position in the league and their clear ability, Brentford looked sluggish. We struggled as the team failing to show their own class. Albeit I thought Ezri Konsa had a stunning game. The atrocious weather – a deluge of diluvian levels descending on us in the first half – can’t have made things easier but it was the same for both sides.

Instead, we seemed guilty of over-elaborating yet remained unable to forge clear opportunities, that anguished triple chance in the second half aside.  As for the goal conceded, sitting in the stand it looked proper amateur hour. There’s nothing more to say. Move on. Fast. I did have to wonder if the Carrow Road scoreboard was sledging us as we went in one down at half-time with only Daniel Bentley’s spot kick save keeping us in it.

IMG_E8634

Or , it could have been a dig at their own penalty skills

And relax. That was then. This is now. It’s a clean slate and time to go for it once more in the first of two back to back London derbies. The visit of Millwall is followed closely by the trip to QPR (for those of you who have been able to access the lower tier). Personally, I’m gutted that having started the season at 100mph, things have hit the skids somewhat. Yet equally, it is perhaps time to show some of that faith that the management had in the squad last season.

Who could forget our somewhat crumby start to that campaign? Hmm. Move along, nothing to see here. It was a period dominated by scrappy goals given away, painful defeats but Dean (supported by Thomas) telling everybody that this team were playing well and usually deserved to win. Yet once it clicked, Brentford were virtually unstoppable. I’ve got a feeling that today we’re going to see similar bouncebackability.

I was fortunate enough to meet Thomas last week, by virtue of Harry being mascot at Norwich. We had a very positive chat about the team, the players and the change in coaching staff. What I took away from that conversation was nothing but a sense of his drive, ambition for Brentford and self-belief in what we are doing as a club. For all it has been joked about in passing on social media, this is no Marinus situation. Quite the opposite. Three points are coming today. And you can quote me on that.  

IMG_8487

When Harry met Thomas

Tidying up the rest of the week’s news. Firstly, have you seen the survey which the GPG have put up on Twitter in regards to the ticketing website? The link is here if not.

It only takes a few minutes to complete and is your chance to share any thoughts – positive or otherwise – in regards to a system which has seen a few challenges in the initial inception. The likes of Beesotted, Bees United and BIAS have shared this one on social media and so I’ve no doubt it has already reached a wide audience. However, if our reader has somehow missed this then here you go….

Secondly. Stadium love. I took my first walk past Lionel Road in a few weeks yesterday. Oh, my. To say this has grown is somewhat of an understatement. Whilst the BFC Drone continues to amaze with those aerial flybys, it’s always great to see our new home from the ground up. Or other angles…  

This picture, taken from the SEGA building, dropped in to the Last Word postbox earlier in the week. It’s incredible how quickly the construction work is moving ahead when you consider it was only in late March that we had the ‘breaking ground’ ceremony. 

39K9NPd-.jpg-large

To be this good doesn’t, necessarily, take ages

As such inspired, and with the school run back on after half term, I took a stroll on Friday. Below is my own effort, although you may want to refer to the version on Twitter which you can fully expand to see it in all its glory.

Likewise, not forgetting we still have a home at Griffin Park until 2020. A home which, whilst a little rough around the edges compared to our more illustrious friends, still never fails to take the breath away. As the same school run also demonstrated.

See you there at 3pm.

Lionel wide

Lionel Road in the morning

IMG_E8718 (1)

Griffin Park by evening

Nick Bruzon

What can you say? Where do you start?

28 Oct

Where to begin today? In the normal course of events, we’d start by talking about Norwich City v Brentford. Yet having gone to bed and then woken up with nothing but the horrific story from Leicester City at the forefront of the football news, I’m just in shock. As, it seems, is the entire football community. With no official word as yet, we’re still hoping for a miracle yet fearing the worst following the crash of club owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha’s helicopter outside their King Power stadium following the Foxes 1-1 home draw with West Ham.

There are no words to describe what has happened. Moreso given how visible this was. We’ve all seen the images of the aftermath and they are terrifying. One can only feel for the families, the fans and all involved at a club who have done nothing but win friends over the last few years.

Who amongst us didn’t cheer when Leicester City defied those 5,000-1 odds to win the Premier league. Beat the top flight far cats time and again to keep up the pace, defy the pundits and win the league. What a refreshing breath of fresh air to those of us who don’t support the likes of Chelsea or Manchester City/United with their logic defying budgets and wealth of world stars at their disposal. What an inspiration to those of us supporting the likes of Brentford.

With the right stewardship, unfancied teams can triumph. They can beat the ‘bad guys’. They can make the dream a reality.

We went to Norwich City yesterday. We lost. 1-0. It wasn’t a great game in the grand scheme and it wasn’t a particularly classy goal to concede. Daniel Bentley’s penalty save from ex-Bee Jordan Rhodes one of the few highlights from a Brentford perspective. Neal Maupay somehow not equalising when most of us were already celebrating.

9553F95A-BD01-41DE-80C1-A8D5D818F050

Brentford press in the first half.

Despite this, it was what happened off-pitch at Carrow Road that showed me, yet again, how wonderful football can be. What an incredible family there is involved. From both sides.

It’s not even called into question that there will be no quarter given when the whistle blows. Nothing but backing the team, barracking the officials (in the unlikely event that they make a decision we can clearly see was incorrect) and enjoying the misfortunes that befall our opponents on the day.

Yet with HB fortunate enough to be one of two ‘away’ mascots on the day, there was only generosity and magnificence shown to him from start to finish on the occasion of his first Brentford road trip. Norwich were fantastic – let’s get that out there immediately. Staff, fans and players. Even manager Daniel Farke stopped by for a chat with HB, fellow mascot Harvey and Thomas Frank when the players arrived.

Nonetheless, it was Brentford who really raised the bar. The players all stopping for a photo and an autograph with a five year old who is fast shedding that customary shyness in their presence. A quick chance to stick our heads around the door of that infamous pink ‘away’ dressing room. A chance encounter with the ever friendly Chairman Cliff Crown (“Who’s that, daddy?” – sorry, Cliff). Kitman Bob being the legend that he always is and Peter Gilham clearing the scrum around the dugouts as the players warmed up, in order that Harry could get his picture with Thomas.

453F4935-DA12-4BC2-B87E-29F697D31770

Peter can now add ‘Minder’ to his many duties at Griffin Park

Big up to Harvey, too. The two lads were given the choice of who would get to lead out the team. He didn’t even question it but immediately offered the role to his younger counterpart. I can’t thank him enough but, equally, think this shows (once again) the attitude that runs throughout this club. Through so much of football. Yet which is so rarely seen in the wider world. Which needs to be talked about. That, actually, it’s not all those things the press love to highlight such as morons singing awful songs, chanting racist abuse and fighting. There’s a ton of great stuff happening too.

Which is as much as anything why, as an outsider looking in, we could all get behind what happened at Leicester City. They were an unfancied club but one doing things the right way. Doing it with the fans. And what a reward for doing so. Winning the Premier League. A Champions League run. Players now picked for England, and beyond, on a regular basis. And now this.

One can’t even begin to quantify the sheer awfulness of what we’ve seen unfolding. Of what may be announced over the next few hours or days. One thing’s clear though, the footballing world is united and sending nothing but love to Leicester City.

Nick Bruzon

We’d have gotten away with it if it hadn’t been for that meddling defence.

25 Oct

Hmm. Move along, nothing to see here. Quite literally, thanks to the machinations of I-follow. Brentford went down 4-3 at Preston in a game which, by all accounts was nowhere near as close as the scoreline suggests. Then again, going three goals down in the opening twenty minutes will do that to you. Instead we are left with a second successive defeat for Thomas Frank. One which is now followed by Saturday’s trip to play-off chasing Norwich City – themselves midweek victors over Dean Smith and Aston Villa. One which in the heat of being beaten, produced the greatest bit of photoshop since Marinus and the unicorn.

15E894A6-1457-4BD9-AE4D-DADBDCFCA621

Marinus and the unicorn. Has it now been bettered?

I can’t say too much about the performance. If indeed it was one. Prior commitments meant a midweek trip to Preston was never on the cards. Lack of access to Sky TV meant the ‘red button’ option couldn’t be brought in to play. Instead, it was the iFollow route which was taken. Albeit despite prior confirmation and subsequent purchase, then declared ‘Video blocked in your country’. Hmm, that’ll be the same country and device I was able to subscribe from/on? Go figure. Perhaps it was just driver error but the net result was no action on show. But enough about the Brentford defence.

CACEFCED-A07D-45F3-A837-289920110000

Small mercies?

Crisis? Meltdown? Missing Ryan Woods? Or simply a better than expected start to the season now seeing the balance redressed? Whatever the answer, 7(seven) games without a win isn’t the best form yet, equally, is the sort of blip we saw at least twice in the Dean Smith era. That this straddles two head coaches and comes immediately after such a magnificent start is probably bringing things even more into focus. Yet, and this has been said on these pages many times already over 2018/19, the talent in this squad is vast. Channeling it and getting them firing at the same time is the challenge Thomas faces in the immediate short-term.

I’m not panicked. I’m not throwing the toys. I truly believe this team will make the play-offs. Albeit a return to winning ways would be nice.

Yet at the same time, I’m not hypocritical enough to pretend that Ryan Gaffney’s effort on Twitter at half-time didn’t have me smiling. A lot. The greatest use of social media since Ross from Friends went shopping for beer. Regardless of whether views are shared, one can’t help but admire magnificent use of photoshop. Ryan’s hit all the right social media buttons, that’s for sure. If ‘Jim’ll Paint It’ did football….

We’d have gotten away with it if it hadn’t been for that meddling defence…..

BA4379BF-2C96-4BB4-BF0C-12A36EDD83D9

Harsh from Ryan? Or spot on satire?

There’s not much more really to say here. Neal Maupay got another goal whilst Sergi had hit a first half stunner to give faint hope. Yet chasing a game from 3-0 down is a Herculean task beyond just about any team. And last night was no exception despite a final five minutes of hope after the division’s leading scorer had added to his haul. Sadly, there was to be no repeat of the miracle at Burton this time.

Norwich City are next up in a few days time. Our trip to Carrow Road at least having the recognition of being too tough to call. Certainly, if you follow the bookmakers where there’s no huge favourite – for any result. That, if anything, as much an indication of the potential and ability in this team.

How Thomas can unlock that and return both confidence and winning ways to his boys will be compelling stuff to watch. Preferably, after last night’s attempts, at the game itself. Does he stick with the captain’s musical chairs or hand duties back to the clear leader, Yoann Barbet, aided and abetted by a core sub-group?

Bring on Saturday for an idea of how he starts. See you there.

656CB102-3550-44E8-AA53-9DE1A4FE02D6

The bookies can’t call Saturday

Nick Bruzon