Tag Archives: Birmingham City

All to play for on Saturday after a gritty night and controversy at Griffin Park.

3 Oct

Brentford climb the table after a 1-1 draw with Birmingham City at Griffin Park but it was very much a case of Cheer up, Garry Monk. Or however it is the song goes. Blues manager Monk was left fuming after a red card for Maikel Kieftenbeld, following a clash with Neal Maupay, saw his side reduced to ten men. And his own subsequent dismissal from the touchline. Yet if it was a soft decision, and both managers’ words at full time were telling, The Bees were due something back after Saturday’s quite awful officiating in the 2-2 with Reading. As Leeds United returned to the top of the Championship, themselves 1-0 winners at Hull, Dean Smith has a lot to think about ahead of our trip to Elland Road on Saturday.

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View from one New Road observer.. fight,fight, fight….

If we were due a refereeing kick back (and in true Arsene Wenger style, I didn’t see the incident whilst even Sky Sports Leeds were somewhat selective with their post-match highlights package) then perhaps we were also due one on pitch. Dean Smith very much shuffled his after replacing Daniel Bentley with Luke Daniels. This, following Saturday’s double fumble. So there was no irony lost in Birmingham goalkeeper Lee Camp – a man who has had more clubs than Harlee Dean has had red cards – allowed Josh McEachran’s first half free-kick through his hands and into the back of the net for 1-1. It WAS a wonderfully hit effort from the New Road side but, being honest, should never have allowed a first goal in 188 appearances for a player who would rightly go on to scoop ‘Man of the match’ honours.

Prior to this, Michael Morrison had given the visitors the lead, heading home from a Jota cross. Or Hoe-ta, as Peter Gilham still insists on calling him. How I’ve missed that wonderful pronunciation from our redoubtable man-with-the-mic . Yet it was just about all the mercurial Spaniard did in the hour and a half he was on pitch. Yoann Barbet had him in the back pocket whilst Josh whipped the ball of his toes a number of times.

Daniels wasn’t the only change for the Bees. Out wide, we were missing both Saïd Benrahma and Ollie Watkins (suspended and injured respectively). Whilst Alan Judge and Sergi Canos are both wonderful, it deprived Dean Smith his normal option to mix it up in the second half. And with Birmingham City packing 11 behind the ball, there was no third gear to accelerate into as the game progressed. Indeed, and you have to give credit to Monk, his stifling of the game meant our short sharp passing game had no way through. Our 74% possession unable to be turned into real chances. Only Henrik Dalsgaard, pushed forward towards the end with Maupay having little joy against the lumbering Birmingham defence,  came close to sending The Bees faithful home happy. Camp making amends for his earlier butter fingers to pull off a point blank save with the clock deep in injury time.

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Brentford ‘Official’ capture the goal on Twitter

It was very much a case of parking the proverbial bus with the Bees unable to get past. That’s a tactic I suppose. Whatever you think, it worked. The only exception being with the goal where rather than parking the bus, Harlee and crew may aswell have parked a small car, slapped a bow on the front and left the keys in the ignition with the engine running. It was all the more silly given they’d had time to line themselves up and so, perhaps, as much credit needs to be given to Josh for pulling off something that nobody expected. Either way, in a scrappy match let’s be grateful for the opportunity.

One apiece at full time. The Ealing Road reminding Harlee Dean that “You can’t”. At least, I think that’s what they were singing. Another point gained and another place climbed in the table. We’re now up to fifth after other results went the way of The Bees. Yet, at the same time, Leeds and Middlesbrough have opened up a five-point gap on us in the top two slots whilst only two points separate The Bees from Bolton in fifteenth. The table really is that tight at present.

Dean Smith would use his own post-match interview to give credit to Birmingham for their game play which saw our own bright start snubbed out in a game that very much felt “Like one that got away again.” As for the sending off his opinion was that, “The lad raised his hands…so he goes down. Have a go at the fourth official”.

Dean talks to ‘official’ at full time.

For Birmingham City, Garry Monk had his own thoughts on the red card. He told reporters that “I thought the opposition player would be booked for feigning injury so to see a red card was a complete shock…After 23 years in football I know something when I see it.” Certainly, his reaction was one of fury as he was sent to join Kieftenbeld for an early bath. Or wherever it is red carded managers go to. I’ve no doubt the player’s ban will be appealed going by his own touchline explosion

As for Saturday, let’s hope Ollie is fit and able to rejoin Saïd in the matchday squad. Dean would tell ‘official’ how he had an injection in an ‘angry toe’ at the Reading game. By his own admission, the absences limited our own attacking options but, and it needs to be noted again, Birmingham City did a job on us. They were deserving of a point that makes it an incredible 8 draws out of 11 games for them. That record, I fear, something that is going to be trotted out as much as West Ham’s moving stadium West Ham’s winning the World Cup in 1966, Trevor brooking’s header in the cup final or The World Cup’s Henrik Dalsgaard being a Brentford player. If only somebody had said.

There’s not much more to say. We didn’t win. We have a tough trip to Leeds United coming up. But nobody said it would be easy. More importantly, we’ve jumped another place in the league. I’m not quite sure how that has happened but the table doesn’t lie.

And that’ll do me.

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Garry goes for a bath – c/o Matt Davis

Nick Bruzon

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Time for Brentford to let the football, not the music, do the talking.

1 Oct

Brentford host Birmingham City on Tuesday night, knowing the significance of a return to winning ways. The Bees are just four points off the top of the table, chasing new leaders West Bromwich Albion. Blues, five points off the bottom and looking to improve a record that has seen 7(seven) draws from their ten games played. But what can we expect, aside from the Griffin Park Oktoberfest Lederhosen? Surely there’s no way we’ll get a repeat of last season?

Let’s get one thing clear. The Monkees are old news. Fun though it was (and it was) let’s not get distracted by any of that stuff this time around. Too much. The last thing we need is Harlee Dean fired up, feeling hard done by and with a point to prove before the game has even kicked off. That’s when mistakes happen. I’m all for letting our football lead the way rather than #BeeTheDJ, which opened on Monday evening. Albeit there are some quite wonderful suggestions going up already. Aswell as the obvious.  Yet one would hope that the memory of our 5-0 victory at Griffin Park in February should be all the incentive needed to go again.

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The Bees celebrate the fourth last season. Or was it the fifth?

Besides, our old boys have been talking to the press once more. This time in an article that appeared in The Birmingham Mail on Monday. Whilst in no way anywhere near last season’s quite wonderful soundbite, there’s still enough in there for anyone looking to find a fuse for this particular powder keg of a game.  

We can only start with former captain Harlee, who tells the Mail that “The comments I made before the home game against Brentford were blown out of proportion, but that’s football.”

For me (Clive), that’s less football and more a matter of conjecture. One man’s proportion is another’s petrol poured on a chip pan. Thankfully, we did our talking on the pitch (and singing off it, at full time) with that epic 5-0 win last time out.  

It’s Jota who gives the numerical assessment of the current side this time around, saying that, ”It is 100 per cent a better Birmingham team going there on Tuesday than the one that lost last year.” Fair enough. Although does that then make them twenty times better than the Brentford team that finished fifth in the Championship, reaching the play-off semi-finals?

Oh Jota. What a hero he was back then. I still have his shirt and struggle to imagine him in anything but the red and white. Skinning Jake Bidwell. Causing Mark Burridge to lose himself in the Ewood Park commentary box. Writing that love letter to the Brentford fans when he left us the first time. The less said about his second one the better. He remains, from what I’ve seen of them this season, the most potent weapon in Garry Monk’s arsenal. A hero to many Bees and now, presumably, beloved by the St. Andrew faithful. Yoann Barbet’s ability to read that step inside will be key to stopping the visitors.

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Faster than a speeding bullet – the Spanish superman was a hero at Griffin Park.

Brentford, of course, are without our latest wing wizard. Said Benrahma misses out this time after running the gauntlet of Eltringham’s confetti card dispersement system on Saturday. Presumably Sergi Canos will step directly into the team in his place, looking to keep up the supply to the division’s top scorer Neal Maupay. With Ollie Watkins on the other side, we still have more than enough to give any defence in the league a run for their money. As long as we can stay fit and the referee can offer some protection. The likes of Aitor Karanka, Gary Rowett and Paul Clement have already set their teams to ‘hack’ mode in a bid to combat Dean Smith’s free flowing Bees. Cards have followed.

Yet, and this is nothing to do with our former players or what happened last campaign, I’m struggling to see anything beyond a return to winning ways at Griffin Park. This team has so much talent available when on song as we’ve seen numerous times already. Had the officals not got in the way on Saturday we’d more than likely have 15 points from 15 at home rather than a ‘mere’ 13. By the same virtue, Birmingham City are undoubtedly a tough nut to crack. Like our Bees, they’ve only lost twice this season. The key difference being we’ve scored double the amount of goals they have. And what do goals make….?

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Yoann Barbet is our latest goal scorer

Forget any monkeying around. It’s time to focus. To let the football, rather than the music, do the talking. Genuinely, I want a good game. I want to win, of course, but it would be great to do it on our terms. To beat a team going for it and playing football rather than a bunch of backs-to-the-wall hackers of the sort we’ve come up against several times already this campaign. Surely Monk’s revitalised Birmingham are better than that?

How many times, better I’m not sure. Roll on 7.45pm, Tuesday, when we can all find out.

Nick Bruzon

PS. That said, if anybody feels the need to sing then who am I to stop you….

2-2 to the referee but the table shows all to play for on Tuesday.

30 Sep

Brentford 2 Reading 2 . Ten games played, the table having now ‘taken shape’ and the Bees sitting in the play-off zone. Just four points off leaders West Bromwich Albion. We’ve another home game to come on Tuesday night, the always welcome return of Birmingham City, and have just run Arsenal super close in the cup. We should be ecstatic. And I am yet equally can’t help still feeling somewhat subdued having woken up off the back of a quite awful display of spoiling tactics and atrocious officiating. It was one that has surely denied the Bees all three points and the fans any semblance of a quality game.  Geoff Eltringham and team, we’re looking at you.

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Thanks. Ref.

We’ve crossed swords with Mr. Eltringham before. And I don’t mean last season’s oversight of the 5-0 hammering inflicted on Birmingham City. His performance that night being ten times better than anything seen since. Or previously. The straight red card administered to number 26 in the home game with Sheffield Wednesday a few seasons back, after he’d allowed himself to be harangued by opposition players, being an additional slap to the face in a game that saw Marinus Dijkuizen ‘in charge’ for the last time. It should have been a warning that we were looking at an acolyte of Stroud. Alas, he struck again.

Saïd Benrahma was shown red for two bookings in a second half that saw the man in the middle wave the yellow 7(seven) times. It was a period that saw a crazy ten minutes of additional time added on in about as frustrating a half as we’ve had to endure. There were close to five of those alone, just for faffing around at a free kick awarded to the Bees from which he promptly failed to control or organise an opposition team who, understandably, were pushing the man as much as they could get away with. Which was lots. It was like watching a nervous supply teacher having to cover a bunch of rowdy fifteen year olds. And he couldn’t cope.

That there were ‘only’ ten minutes added on for a game where nobody was seriously hurt tells you all you need to know. Frankly, it could have been closer to fifteen. Dean Smith was his diplomatic best at full time, telling Brentford ‘official’ how, “The second half exploded into something that probably only the referee can explain” whilst from the aforementioned deadball situation he noted that “I don’t know what’s happened but we’ve ended up with six cautions and they’ve ended up with one. And that was the wrong person.

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View from The Braemar – This ‘no throw’ decision another to incense the crowd

That’s not to deny Reading their two goals. Both came as a result of what we’ll call defensive ‘fumble’. They were presented their chances and took them. That’s how football works. If you‘ve seen them then you know. And if you haven’t then Sky have their highlights up at present. This isn’t the day for castigating individual mishaps when, frankly, even with ten men Brentford would ordinarily have still walked this one – based on current form. Yet such was the stop-start nature of the game, the physical approach of Paul Clement’s Reading side and the roulette wheel nature to Eltringham’s decision making that any attempt at proper football was nothing more than a pipe dream. The visitors came to do a job on us and succeeded – they got their point. Well done Reading. Well done Geoff.

Prior to all that Neal Maupay had given the Bees an early lead, slotting home from close range to bag his 9th Championship goal of the season. Not a bad return prior to October for a player who has appeared just eight times. We should maybe have turned the screw from there but the opposition gameplan and an attempt to restrict our passing game meant Reading were able to contain the situation. This, before taking their own two chances twenty minutes either side of half-time.

Yet it was in that gargantuan period of stoppage time that Brentford hauled themselves back into it. The incredible Yoann Barbet heading home to send the Griffin Park faithful delirious. His constant enthusiasm and seeming love for the club is nothing but infectious. So to see him of all players pop up to ensure summary justice was executed generated the natural response. Yessssssssss!!!!!!!!!!!! You beauty.

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Yoann. Involved in everything fr0m ballet to goal scoring

2-2 and that was how it remained. The Bees kept pushing but were unable to turn one point into three. 10 men against 12 is always an uphill battle but it certainly wasn’t for want of trying. Instead, we’ll need to reflect on a table that sees us very much at the business end as we approach the quarter point of the season. As we await the visit of Birmingham City on Tuesday night. The Blues also earning themselves a point in their 7th(seventh) draw from 10 games after going two goals behind at home to Ipswich Town yesterday. That sort of fighting spirit something we’ll need to be accutely aware of if last season’s results are to be emulated. Moreso given we’ll be missing the mercurial Benrahma. But with Sergi Canos no doubt chomping at the bit to regain his place in the starting XI, things aren’t all bad on that front.  

There’s not much more to say from here. The officials had a stinker. Reading were industrial. Brentford earned a point and are sixth after ten games. I’d have absolutely taken that positon all day long if offered it when proceedings began at home to Rotherham last month.

The question being how we push on from here.

Roll on Tuesday night when we find out.

Geoff Eltringham said Reading guide dog

Saïd can’t believe he’s been sent off.

Nick Bruzon

 

Back to league action. And ‘thanks’, Michael Palin. Way to try and ruin a great thing.

29 Sep

The cup runneth over. Kind of. With Arsenal out of the way (not the right way) it’s back to League action today as Brentford host Reading. The first of a double bill at Griffin Park over the next few days sees this one closely followed by Birmingham City on Tuesday. With Leeds United making it just one win from five last night, a great opportunity is opening up whilst Twitter has delivered not once, but twice, in quite wonderful fashion.

First up, the Reading game. This one has everything to play for and promises to be a stunner. In theory. Reading have started to win games after their abject start and have now escaped the bottom three. 6 points out of the last 9 sees them finding form and reaching the dizzy heights of 20th. Brentford will, of course, be hugely cheered by that fight back at Arsenal during the week. It was one-way traffic as we came that close to hauling ourselves into the fourth round after a blitzkrieg second half. The only downside being the first half! Oh well, that’s football. We go ag, ag, agai.. once more. The obvious question being one of whether Dean sticks or twists ?

Such was the fight shown in the second period, I do wonder if he’ll continue with any of his normal bench players? Whilst, surely, one would expect Neal Maupay, Henrik Dalsgaard and Daniel Bentley to return to the starting XI is that as far as it goes? I thought Kamo was superb whilst Sergi ran them ragged once the team got going. Mind you, so did Saïd Benrahma when he came on. Who’d be a head coach?

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Yesssssss !!!!! Alan Judge’s free-kick sent the away end ballistic

Whomever starts, Brentford have even more incentive to go for it. Table toppers Leeds United being held at Sheffield Wednesday, Friday, means a win could take us to within a point of first place. Naturally, subject to other results. But the league is so tight at the moment that as far down as 14th, Swansea are only 6 behind Leeds. With Birmingham the same gap behind us, effectively 7(seven) when you factor in the draw specialists woeful goal difference, every game is crucial. Every point critical. Already. And its not even October. I love this division!!  

The cup was a lovely diversion and visiting Arsenal taught us a lot of things, as much off-field (see last column) as on, but it’s great to be feasting at the main table once more. Let’s hope Dean serves up a five-star banquet rather than skin and bone.

One of those Arsenal ‘things’ was giant flags at the home end. We’d seen similar before at Chelsea. Tucked behind the hoardings but then waved high to welcome the teams out or celebrate a goal to the home team. I’m not sure exactly what the benefit is or why they are needed – if you need a flag waver to generate an atmosphere (see also: the Mexican wave, England Supporter’s band,  goal music) then we’re already in trouble.

Thankfully, Matthew Benham is in agreement. The joy of Twitter where a casually asked question on Friday morning to the club owner brings about a response within minutes:    

@NickBruzon : Hi Matthew. You’ve often been quoted as (thankfully) saying there will never, ever be ‘goal music’ at Lionel Road. Is it safe to say the same will apply to Arsenal style ‘goal flags’ ?

@matthew_benham : Absolutely!

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Another Lionel Road crisis averted

Result! No flags and no goal music ! With Lionel Road looking bigger and better with each passing day, it’s great that he’s also on point about those matters that really count ! Here’s hoping the previously backed hot seat idea also comes to fruition. Even if Cameron Diaz won’t be the one filling it. That said, perhaps the sausage train remains a leap too far.

So that was yours truly feeling pretty pleased with the day’s social media activity. Easy come, easy go. As ever. No sooner had that gone up than it’s been blown out of the water first thing Saturday morning with a quite incredible spot on the social media platform from @HongKongBee , aka Andrew Cooper, after watching the Michael Palin In North Korea documentary from the BBC.  

Wow. There’s not much you can say here. Beyond a bit of photoshoppery just to really take a look at this in depth.

Whilst the North Korean regime of secrecy and oppression is totally abhorrent and about as far flung as you could get from all-embracing Griffin Park, that’s an eerie sartorial spot. Great observational skills, Andrew. It is incredible how something so wonderful in one format (our away kit) can look so awful in another. Thankfully, quality shines through and it will be the football kit that people remember long into the future rather than any quirky uniforms.

All being well Brentford official will be reporting a 7(seven) – 0 win for The Bees today for legitimate reasons rather than propaganda based ones.

North Korea Brentford away

Kit wrong-un

Finally, please don’t forget #BeeTheDJ today…..

Given the sad passing of Chas Hodges last weekend, what better way for fans to remember him than by bombarding the Griffin Park tannoy (other brands of p.a. system are also available) with the likes of Gertcha, Rabbit, Margate, Ain’t No Pleasing You, The Sideboard Song, London girls etc etc etc.

You can get choosing here. What better way to get the crowd buzzing prior to kick off whilst, more importantly, remembering the great man.

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How do you even try and whittle this down to one choice?

Nick Bruzon

Rams sting Bees and Leeds slip up as table has almost ‘taken shape’.

23 Sep

Presumably this is why it takes ten games for the table to have formally ‘taken shape’. On Tuesday Brentford were, briefly, top of the Championship and ended the evening in second place behind Leeds United. Fast forward to the next round of games and a 3-1 defeat to Frank Lampard’s Derby County on Saturday saw The Rams overtake a Bees team who slip to 7th(seventh). Game 9 of 2018/19 saw a performance, if that is the word based on feedback from those present, which was somewhat out of character by all accounts. One that when matched with a devastating 15-minute patch from our hosts, put this game well out of sight by half-time with no prospect of a Burton-esque comeback. Yet with perhaps half an eye on our mid-week trip to Arsenal, Birmingham City recording a win (not a typo) at Leeds United means the gap between ourselves and the Elland Road side remains just three points.

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One game away from fully ‘taking shape’, The Bees are a win off the top.

What’s to say? I wasn’t there for this one. Taking HB to football club in the morning was about as close to the action as it was possible to get this weekend. Seeing his elation at going 7-0 up, scant consolation for what followed at Pride Park. Moreso, given that in the excitement of his own celebration his forgot to reference the brackets. Where have I gone wrong? As ever, the likes of Brentford official, the BBC or Beesotted are your place for quality review whilst the highlights are up on Sky, too. You can catch them here.

They don’t show much more beyond the four goals, including Henrik Dalsgaard’s opener with less than a minute on the clock. How different the afternoon looked as though it may turn out at that point. Sadly, Frank Lampard’s Derby County had other ideas and started banging them in for fun. There’s no evidence of what Dean Smith would later describe as “A pathetic decision if I’m honest” that led to the free kick for their third on the half hour. Likewise, you can’t see that their second came from a Brentford corner.

That’s not to say we didn’t get what was coming. When ‘official’ use the terms ‘fully deserved’ and ‘worthy winners’ (something Dean would also agree with) then perhaps one simply has to doff the hat to the opponents. This time. Controlling second half possession, something Dean would also pick up on in the interview you can see below, is all well and good but as official would also note in their match report, ‘The game was won by then’.

As for Dean, he seemed a somewhat dejected character in this interview. Lost for words, almost. That’s not to criticise him. More to note that he is normally so upbeat post-match. Perhaps the stunning start to the campaign has now hit a bit of a bump after two tough performances on the road. The second half at Ipswich midweek immediately followed by a first half at Frank Lampard’s Derby Cou….etc. that has been at odds with how we’ve performed previously. That perhaps, as some were saying last night, Ryan Woods isn’t as easy to replace as we’d all hoped.

Dean seems a bit out of sorts , despite acknowledging deserved winners.

But if it is a bump, then we’ve every chance to get back to winning ways. Two home games follow in the league and I still maintain we’ve played some quite scintilating football this season. Next up in the Championship are Reading at home on Saturday. That’s the all-important ‘game ten’ when, conceivably, we could be at the top of the table once more should results all go our way. Game 11 sees the visit of Birmingham City the following Tuesday. No other words are needed about that one. For now.

Prior to all of that is the trip to Arsenal in the cup on Wednesday. Whomever Dean starts with and regardless of their team selection, rest assured that the Jaffa Cake army will be there in force. The full 8,000 plus have been sold for this one with plenty more still looking for tickets. No doubt we’ll be up for proving ourselves against one of the most famous clubs in the land in a game that is sure to be one typified by attacking football. Although should Nico not win the team vote for Captain there’ll be something seriously rotten in the state of Denmark.

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Here’s hoping Mark Devlin and his crack team have got McVities locked in for this one

Still, all that’s to come. For now we’ve been beaten. Well beaten, seemingly. With Dean admitting that Frank Lampard’s Derby County deserved to win this one, it’s three points dropped in both the real table and the justice league.  

How we go from here over the next ten days is going to be crucial. I know the Arsenal game is the obvious highlight on the calendar that it has been for the last few weeks. Whilst I can only concur with the exuberance and potential that goes with that one, the league is (cliché alert…..) the bread and butter. Personally, I’ve as much riding on that Reading match whilst the subsequent return of Jota, Maxime and Harlee promises to be an occasion that could even be ten times better than mid-week at the Emirates.

One things for sure. These are exciting times to be a Brentford fan. We may have lost yesterday. We may have been beaten by a side who nobody is denying deserved it. We may have dipped below the dizzy heights of our other performances this campaign. And?  We’re three points off the top of the Championship table. Read that last line again. Three points off the top.

Nobody said it would be easy. Not every result is going to go to form or go our way. Just ask Leeds United. Reading the interview with their manager Marcelo Bielsa this morning, he’s the first to admit to tactical errors and has told the media that, “The proposal I chose for this game at the beginning was not the right one,”

That’s football. It happens. What is important is how a team picks itself up off the back of that. Whilst also acknowledging that, sometimes, the opponents are better than you. Nobody has a divine right to be any good, every time.

Brentford have three huge games coming up. I can’t wait to see how we go. Again.

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Next up…..

Nick Bruzon

Lucky pants? Tick. Magic hat? Tick. Clem? Tick. The omens are good.

20 Sep

Easy come. Easy go. Brentford saw that brief flirtation with the ‘automatic’ places in the fledgling Championship table come to a (presumably temporary) end as Middlesbrough beat Bolton 2-0 last night. It was an evening that saw Birmingham City became one of only two teams – see also Ipswich Town – who are yet to win a league game. Hey, I guess at least they’re ten times better at getting draws. Nobody in the division has more than their 6. And back at Griffin Park, today sees a potentially secret weapon heading our way. From, of all teams..…

Middlesbrough may have overtaken us in the table ‪on Wednesday evening‬ c/o George Saville and a late strike from Britt Assombalonga but they are, at least, sending us a gift this morning. A journalistic gift as, it seems, Neal Maupay is to be the subject of an interview from one of our favourite reporters. So not Ian Moose.

Per his Twitter feed during the week, it seems that none other than ever popular Boro’ fan and BBC man Mark Clemmit (Clem, to us) will be at the training ground today. Primarily to catch up with the Championship’s leading scorer ahead of Football Focus but who knows where this one may go?

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Clem lines up a visit to Neal (or Ian Moose)

Long suffering readers may well recall our season long analysis of Clem during his time on the much missed Football League Show back in 2014/15. Specifically the anti-form that seemed to follow him around as part of his roving reporter duties for Manish and team.

Quite simply, there was a theory that whichever club he featured for that weekend’s show would subsequently fail to win. A visit from the popular reporter being the death knell for their team that many supporters believed it to be.

Nobody does superstition like football fans and there was no bigger jinx at the time than Clem. If you could distill the essence of lucky pants, magic hat, prolonged bouts of not shaving and favourite shirt (all much more efficient barometers of potential success than coaching, opposition or fitness) into one potent brew then promptly throw them down the sink, that was Clem. Seemingly.

But was it? Well, we undertook a Clemwatch survey on these pages to see if the ever popular man-with-the-mic was being unfairly maligned or, infact, was a footballing albatross best avoided. A season long analysis followed which saw only 7(seven) victories for teams he featured on that evening’s show. Out of 30 reports.

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

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Clem finished his season at Watford – who lost the title in the 90th minute

Then, suddenly, things changed. The Football League show was sadly lost to us and Clem took a back seat. Those quite wonderful reports, finished. Until Football Focus duties reared their head and he picked up the roving reporter’s baton once more. With a difference. This time, his teams started winning. It’s true.

It began the day Brentford won 5-3 at Burton when perhaps something special was in the air. Some sort of football magic that saw The Bees come back from 3-1 down whist elsewhere Clem broke his bad ‘form’. From being the man avoided like the plague (think: trapped in a lift with Ian Moose and only one pie available) his team that day – Bournemouth – won. Now he is being welcomed with open arms. A visit from Clem coincides with a win for your team.

With his presence at Brentford today, I’m betting the mortgage (metaphorically speaking) on The Bees to beat Derby County on Saturday. Moreso, given we’re sure to be in that quite wonderful brown/orange away kit.

Here’s to 3pm when we find out. And perhaps Football Focus at lunchtime….

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Neal is doing it game after game.

Nick Bruzon

Prophetic Peter calls it and Matthew goes full Partridge as Neal and Josh do the business. Again.

16 Sep

7(seven) games down and Brentford are up to second in the embryonic Championship table after a fifth, successive, home win. This time, over Wigan Athletic. In a display of quite delicious passing football, Neal Maupay grabbed both goals to take his individual total to 7(seven) for the season and move clear in the Championship goalscoring charts. This, despite his missing two league games following the Villa Park affair. Just to put that into context, Neal already has two more than the entire Birmingham City and Ipswich Town teams have scored all season. Then again, with four league wins under the belt that’s already four more than both the entire Birmingham City and Ipswich Town teams have earned all season.

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View from the Braemer – Brentford strolled past Wigan on Saturday

The visit of Wigan was never going to be easy. On paper. Paul Cook’s team were only a point behind the Bees before kick-off whilst the visitors had ex-Bee Will Grigg in their squad. The inevitability of a former player doing the business is never a particularly enjoyable moment for home fans of any club. Even moreso in the case of Will when no doubt ‘that song’ would have been given a rendition.

Yet there was a comfort about this one, especially once the second goal had gone in, that is true testament to the confidence flowing through both Dean Smith’s squad and the home support. Maupay scooped man of the match honours but I thought Lewis Macleod and, in particular, Josh McEachran were quite wonderful. The latter starting the move for the opening goal with a cheeky nutmeg followed by a delightful crossfield ball forward to Said Benrahma. If only the sky cameras had captured the moment for their post-match highlights. Here’s hoping those on ‘official’ catch the full move when they appear at lunchtime. (12pm update: Yes! They did. Enjoy…..

 

Credit to Josh. If any player has taken his time to start winning over the critics it is him. Yet he has plugged away and the management have shown faith. With Ryan Woods having moved on the chance has been seized after what were, if we are being honest, a patchy couple of seasons. And how. We’ve already noted his increased presence this season on these pages a few times. The killer pass and/or move forward being a key change in his dynamic.

Indeed whilst being gently probed by Natalie Sawyer during this week’s TalkSport interview, Dean Smith was full of praise for a player who has admitted to still having England aspirations. Consistency will be key, of course, but for now one can only applaud a quite wonderful start to the campaign.

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Neal was MOTM but Josh played blinder, too

That Maupay goal came half-way through an opening period that Brentford dominated. Whilst it had felt as though the flood gates would open within seconds when the Bees swarmed forward from the kick-off, Christian Walton in the Wigan goal held back the tide. Something which proved to be the theme of a game in which, a brief first-half flurry aside, was about as one way as they come.

The threat of Grigg never materialised. He wasn’t so much on fire as on the bench. A place he never left, save for the warm ups. But then as Our Graham (a Huddersfield fan making one of his semi-regular but always welcome visits to Griffin Park) noted, perhaps the judgement here being that the ball needed to be near the Brentford goal in order for him to put it in it, and it was seldom in that vicinity.

One up at half-time became two just after the hour. That man Maupay with his second, this time against ten men rather than eleven. Sam Morsy having been sent off five minutes earlier for poleaxing Yoann Barbet with a head butt that had referee Darren England instantaneously calling for the medics before subsequently brandishing the red card. And from that point on it really was game over. Two clear and coasting. Despite Walton mountin’ a one-man resistance, in the end it was a case of goodnight Wigan Athletic. With other results falling kindly the Bees move up to second, just a point behind Leeds United.

What a time to be alive. What a time to be a Brentford fan. What a reward for all those who’ve been with us through thick and thin. Now able to enjoy what Matthew Benham would later describe on Twitter as “Liquid football” .

Back of the net, indeed ! There is no finer moment in life than anybody embracing their inner Alan Partridge. Accidentally or otherwise. All the while of course, just up the road our new home continues to grow. On current form I can only imagine Mr. Benham naming that one ‘Jurassic Park’.

Credit to Matthew and the current regime for allowing this to happen. There can’t be a fan amongst us who isn’t appreciative of what is being built here and how it has happened. Yes, there have been some tears and frustration along the way – this is football, we are passionate supporters who often think with our hearts in the heat of the moment rather than our heads  – yet only a fool would jump off this train now.

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The site at Lionel Road, (very) early on Saturday morning

Next up, Ipswich Town on Tuesday night. Whilst their record was mentioned in the introduction by way of comparison to Neal’s form, they also need to be recognised for the genuine threat they present to Brentford’s own aspirations. And as much, a mark of our own progress. True, they are bottom of the table but they are only two wins away from the top half. They may have lost to Hull City yesterday but the season is still young. They aren’t, surely, a bottom three side? If nothing else, we’ve the likes of Preston, QPR, Reading and Birmingham City for that particular task.

Last season saw Brentford take nine games before we got our first three pointer. It was a run which was typified by performances that Dean Smith swore by, maintaining we were deserving of victories. Eventually they came.

Yet the game at Portman Road was one of those from that early, ill-fated patch. It was a perfromance noted at the time on these pages as, “Wonderful attacking play (the first half especially). One-way traffic. The proverbial kitchen sink chucked at the opposition. 65% possession and twenty-one attempts at goal compared to Ipswich Town’s four. Yet it was the Tractor Boys who took the points and kept a clean sheet with a 2-0 win that left the Bees bottom of the pile in the Championship after four games

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Portman Road (and what Billy Reeves calls the best font in football) is next.

That was then. This is now. Nottingham Forest two weeks ago saw us win the sort of game that, last season, we’d have lost. Refusing to be outmuscled as the team converted chances into goals and, eventually, all three points. Could Tuesday night promise more of the same? It won’t be easy, that’s for sure. Yet on this sort of form I wouldn’t bet against Dean’s team.

As a final note of the day, could we see a new partnership forming at Griffin Park? Not so much the Ollie Watkins / Neal Maupay combo but that of Peter Gilham and Stuart Wakeford? Our own ‘man with the mic’ joining in during the #BeesLive segment prior to kick off where I walked in on his line: “I don’t know what the question was but the answer was Josh McEachran”.

How prophetic. On yesterday’s performance at Griffin Park the answer was very much Josh McEachran. With perhaps, a soupçon of Neal Maupay.

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Stu does his thing on #BEESLIVE – but what WAS the question?

Nick Bruzon

Who’s on fire when league action returns this weekend?

14 Sep

Finally. Championship action returns this weekend with Brentford hosting Wigan Athletic, straight off the back of the news that out allocation of 7,700 tickets for the league cup game at Arsenal has already set out. For the masochistic amongst us, winless Birmingham City tonight entertain (if that is possible) a West Bromwich Albion side who know that victory will take them up to third place in a still coagulating table. Yet one which is almost at that magical ‘ten game mark’.

First up, Brentford. Obviously. Two weeks of inaction with nothing but the evolving site at Lionel Road have been a tough void to fill. Moreso given how frustrating it has been having to slam the brakes on what has been a quite wonderful start to the campaign for the Bees.

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Lionel Road ; Thursday morning

Our current fifth place has been achieved through three wins out of three at home and only one defeat on the road. That at Blackburn where we were missing Neal Maupay following that thing at Villa Park. Yet the team have been scoring goals for fun, with the aforementioned Frenchman the division’s top marksman on 5 and Ollie Watkins right behind him on 4. Chuck in a further four assists between them aswell as no other Championship player having more touches in the box than Ollie’s 44 (although I’m sure Ian Moose would probably just call that dilly-dallying) and you can see how well they are going together.

Indeed, only West Bromwich Albion (15) and Leeds United (14) have managed more than the Bees 12 goals to date. Even then, the West Brom total includes the, albeit magnificent, bracketing of hapless QPR when the not so super hoops conceded 7(seven) in a single game.

Brentford’s football has been a joy to watch. Positivity that was shared by our own Dean Smith, talking to Natalie Sawyer on Talksport Radio last night. Some things are worth breaking my own, self-enforced, ban on all things Ian Moose for and with the catering obsessed narcissus nowhere near the studio I tuned in.

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Thankfully, there was no Ian Moose last night

There were big ups for Josh McEachran. Talk of expansive football. Discussion about the Arsenal game, where with the squad having been thinned out by the loans of Chiedozie Ogbene to Exter City, Tom Field to Cheltenham Town and Ryan Woods (albeit the cat was initially let out of the bag before Dean corrected his own use of the word ‘sold’) to Stoke the implication was that we would go with a strong team. And rightly so. Who would want to miss out on that one?

Yet what was clear through all the twenty minute probing Natalie administered to Dean was his ongoing self-belief and enthusiasm. For the squad, the style of football which the benevolence of our current regime has enabled him to play and his immediate focus being on Wigan Athletic rather than anybody beyond. In his eyes its all about Saturday. Talk of Arsenal was tempered with the fact that there are another two games after Wigan (as part of another intense 22 day run) before we get to the League Cup.

If you missed this one you definitely missed out. Anyone who has had the pleasure of listening to Natalie’s podcasts for The Times know she is a most engaging presenter. Frankly, she could make any subject from Tom Moore’s socks to Josh McEachran’s phone case collection (both hypothetically) sound interesting. So when you have a guest who was as on fire as Dean, then it was radio gold.

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Captain Barbet sums up the spirit in the Bees camp , last time out

Certainly, if I was up for the weekend fixture beforehand then it’s even more so the case now. With our 7,700 tickets sold out for Arsenal (and a further 700 being made available) presumably we can only expect a close to sell-out crowd for this one? No doubt all those heading to the Emirates will be at Griffin Park (and beyond) in the build-up to that one? If nothing else, seeing the alleged conflagration that is Will Grigg being extinguished will put a lot of smiles on faces. For no more reason than silencing ‘that song’ – something akin to the England Supporters ‘band’, the Portsmouth bell, vuvuzelas and goal songs as musical interruptions that should be consigned to video games rather than football stadia.

Still, we’ve been there and done this before. Let’s not get distracted by the England band. There’ll be enough to keep us busy this weekend. Moreso, given we have the TV treat (errr) of Birmingham v West Brom tonight. Can the Blues get their first win of the campaign at the 7th(seventh) time of asking? Will the visitors keep on banging in the goals that have propelled them towards touching distance of the play-off zone already? Will ‘you know who’ need to trot out his usual combination of post-match tweets – we go again / fans deserved more / apologies / KRO (whatever that means)? Or could the St. Andrews team finally start to fulfil the promise that a club of their former glory and current size would no doubt expect?

Besides. It’s that or Coronation Street so I’ll certainly be watching the game. Whilst Mrs. Bruzon may prefer the cobbles of Weatherfield, there’s not quite a KRO-bar in our house. Yet.   

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Taxi for Grigg? Here’s hoping on Saturday

Nick Bruzon

The tickets are flying and ‘that song’ approaches as something incredible is found in the office.

11 Sep

Fast work Brentford fans. Looks like tickets for the trip to Arsenal in the League Cup on Wednesday 26th are flying out of the door. In league action, where has the ref gone? With apologies in advance, but the second week of international break really bites hard. Indeed, things have got to the point where the semi-imminent visit from Wigan Athletic and Will Grigg is now a major highlight on the calendar.  Even if it does mean ‘that’ song will be doing the rounds. Assuming ‘that song’ is even a thing still. Best of all, a chance encounter in the office has led to the discovery of 2018’s ‘must have’ accessory. 

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Will Grigg missed out on a home debut hat trick. Form went south from there

First, the Arsenal game. After all the discussion over 5,000 or 9,000 tickets for Brentford fans, we received the latter. And they’ve been flying off the shelves. Or rather, the internet. I saw a post last night suggesting we are close to half-way selling out that allocation on day 1. Just to season ticket holders. Most impressive for a game that, ultimately, could be against the Arsenal B-team – certainly, if the club go to Wenger based form. Could a new manger see a new approach to a trophy his side have taken lightly over the years (at least, in the early rounds) and haven’t won since 1993?   

Regardless, we’ll be there en-masse and looking to equal a best ever run in a tournament that hasn’t treated us too kindly since inception. The fourth round defeats to Nottingham Forest and, erm, Birmingham City (urghh – that one really hurt) being about as good as it’s got. As an interesting aside, 80% of those early tickets sales were made online and, even if the confirmation mail looked forward to seeing us at Griffin Park (erm, we have got this one right?) it would seem to speak volumes about the ease of the system. As ever, big up to Mads and her team who would have still undertaken 800+ Arsenal sales in person (something that could also have been the title of Arsene Wenger’s autobiography).

Next up, Wigan Athletic. They visit Griffin Park on Saturday for a championship game where a win could see the Bees reach the ‘automatic’ positions, subject to other results. That’s by no means guaranteed, of course, and it won’t just be a case of turning up with the expectation of three points. Moreso, given the visitors are sure to have ex-Bee Will Grigg in their side. How things could have turned out differently for him. They didn’t, despite the bright start, and with the greatest respect there were few tears shed when news of his departure was announced.

Of course, he’s performed really well since dropping back in to League One since aswell as flourishing for Northern Ireland on the international stage. Despite not appearing for them at Euro 2016, ‘that song’ still follows him around like a bad smell. Yet with the highly rated Daniel Bentley in goal, Yoann Barbet (a magnificent captain last time out) at left back as well as Ezri Konsa (England U-21), Chris Mepham (Wales) and Henrik Dalsgaard (something, something, something, World Cup) its fair to say our defence will probably be less terrified and more simply aware of a striker who will no doubt have a point to prove.

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Captain Barbet played a blinder last time out.

For now, we’ve no idea who the man in the middle will be for that one. A quick check on the EFL website reveals that the referees are yet to be announced for the forthcoming fixtures. An unusual occurrence given these normally go up faster than Keith Stroud raising a yellow card.

Instead, there is simply the realisation that the EFL seem to opt for a certain style of photograph when leading the stories about who will be ‘in charge’ for future games. A term that was certainly at it’s loosest the last time we were all together, for the 2-1 victory over Nottingham Forest. That was the one where Mr. Bankes led the mayhem. Even if ultimately it was us and fouling Forest who were deemed not have controlled the players.

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The long arm of the law

And finally, something quite amazing happened at work yesterday. Please note – your definition of ‘quite amazing’ may vary. However, I’ve got first dibs on this. It seems that it’s not just the Bees who have incredible taste when they are on the road. As if the brown/orange change shirt couldn’t deliver anymore, I was on a different floor in the office on Monday when I spotted something quite wonderful.

A good omen for the games at Ipswich (next league – a, and Arsenal)? Or simply the ideal accompaniment for when it’s… raining goals?

I’ll get my coat on the way out.

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Where can we get them?

Nick Bruzon

Will it be third time lucky on the road?

22 Aug

Here we go again. Brentford travel to Aston Villa tonight for a trial by TV, knowing that three points (for either side) will take them joint top of the Championship, at the least. Leeds United are currently top of the pile after their own televised draw with Swansea City last night. 2-2 this time around. Then again, things are so close at the business end of the table that even Bolton Wanderers could achieve similar should they beat Birmingham City. And there was transfer news at Griffin Park as former Arsenal midfielder (cripes, another one….) and England youth international Josh Dasilva joined the Bees rather than take up the contract he had been offered at The Emirates.

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Our destination this evening

First up can only be Aston Villa v Brentford. Despite the Villans’ chance to return to the Premier League last time out, they fell at the final hurdle to 18 year old Ryan Sessegnon’s Fulham side in the play-off final. The summer has been one of worry and rumour yet despite the best predictions of tabloid hacks everywhere, neither Jack Grealish or Steve Bruce have departed the club. Instead, they’ve ignored the noise, hung on to their icon (and also Bruce) , picked themselves up after the bitter blow of Wembley defeat and carried on churning out the results.

Whilst not the most testing run, on paper, you can only beat the teams you are up against. A haul of 7(seven) points earned against Ipswich, Wigan and Hull City sees them level with the Bees and just one behind us in terms of goal difference.

I love games with Villa, that’s for sure. Formwise, Brentford have picked up eight points from our four Championship encounters since paths crossed at this level. Those two games at Griffin Park were as as complete performances as one could have hoped for. The 3-0 in January 2017, the same day Scott Hogan moved from West London to Villa Park, was about as as sweet as it got. Yet even on the road, we’ve performed admirably and earned two successive draws with the Villans.

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Villa Park – two recent trips have seen two draws

The heart is screaming at me that tonight we can go one better and earn our first notch on the Villa Park bedpost. Such has been the explosive start of positive, attacking football from Dean Smith’s side that I only think we’ll show more of the same. The trip to Stoke City showed how little we fear a big name/proper club/fallen giant etc with zero regard being given to their past positon and, instead the midfield pulling the strings once more to open up the opposition as easily as a can of tuna. With a ring pull.

The head says not to under estimate a team that are now firmly established in the Championship. They could have made it last time out. They probably should have, if we’re being honest. Checking the bookies (for research purposes), the home team are 11/8 favourites with the Bees at 2-1 in places. Easy money for backing our boys? Or spot on? Personally, I’d be going for the standard Aston Villa prediction of 1-1 (27/5, for the record).

The truth is, this one’s impossible to call. Brentford are on form. So are Aston Villa. And this isn’t an easy place to go by any stretch of the imagination. Then there’s the TV factor to add to the mix although, to be fair, ‘the curse of the cameras’ isn’t the albatross around our necks it once was. At least, not to the same extent. I’d love a win but would be more than happy with a draw and no injuries. Given there’s Blackburn (away) on Saturday followed by Carabao cup action and then a visit from Nottingham Forest, things are coming thick and fast now.

Elsewhere, Brentford have taken advantage of the transfer window rules to pick up former Arsenal midfielder Josh Dasilva. The full details are on Brentford ‘official, which you can read here. Certainly, he sounds an intriguing prospect although what this means for the long term state of our midfield, who knows? Rumours of Ryan Woods to Stoke City were doing the rounds yesterday, with one report suggesting the club have reached the £6.5m asking price that Swansea baulked at. Although, equally, going by what we saw the other week one would have to ask why Stoke even contemplate investing in their midfield, given they bypass it most of the time. Hoooof.

Josh was pictured at Griffin Park yesterday and clearly has a love for Arsenal, judging by the shirt he was pictured with. Oh sorry, that’s ours. Well thanks a bunch, Adidas.

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Whose shirt IS that? Josh joins

He’s very much one for the future though. For now, let’s concentrate on Villa tonight. I’d love the win to take us top. Absolutely love it.  I’ll be well happy should we draw. Even if it does mean Bolton would overtake us if they do the needful against Birmingham. If nothing else, it means we’ll be keeping up the level of form that people who actually know what they are talking about say that teams should aspire to. Win at home, draw away – 4 points from every 6 and a final total of 92 points tell.

I’m not even contemplating the other result.

Nick Bruzon