Tag Archives: Birmingham City

The morning after the night before. And it STILL feels magnificent.

21 Feb

Brentford 5 Birmingham City 0. It was a night which began with such promise – the words of our former captain still ringing loud and clear. It was a night which ended with a scoreline that was beyond even our wildest dreams. I had an ecstatic Aston Villa supporting friend text me from his holiday at 4.30am. It woke me up. I didn’t care !

At one point during the game, I even saw one of the Braemar Road regulars having to explain to his son what brackets and the videprinter were. “Well, imagine a TV camera pointing at a really old TV screen….”, he began.

Harlee

How IS that working out for you?

Ordinarily I’d sleep on things before writing the post match article. Yet sometimes you have to go with the gut and so I did it last night upon returning home. You can find it it here. Now, having managed to grab a few hour’s sleep, this should be the time for a more considered view. A more mature piece. A lengthier column. But. But….

I make no apologies for the fact I still have a huge grin on my face. Besides, it’s not always about length. And when even Brentford official got in on the act at full time (quite beautifully), perhaps here was the ultimate lesson in why:

One: It never pays to open your mouth before engaging your brain.

Two: Football fans NEVER forget.

There’s not much else to say beyond, thanks for the motivation. And the cash…

Yes. We really did ditch Kool and The Gang

Nick Bruzon

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Three points, five goals and ten times better. Magnificent Bees have a night to remember.

20 Feb

What can you say? What? Can? You? Say? For once, I’m lost for words after one of the most exciting and passionate games ever seen under lights at Griffin Park. After all the talk, all the build up, all the back story and all the blag it was Brentford who ended it three points, five goals and ten times better than an utterly abject Birmingham City team. The only real question of the night being how The Bees missed out on brackets. A 5-0 demolition of our old boys being the very least warranted by as one sided a performance as you could ever hope to see. Indeed, but for a 30 second period immediately after the second half began there was only ever one team in this.

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Alan Judge doing his thing once more

We don’t do match reports on these pages. Never have done. At least, not in any detail. I’m lazy. I’m not a journalist and, quite frankly, it’s ‘the other stuff’ that goes into a game which is what captivates. And my, wasn’t this the consummate example?

We all know what happened in the summer. Our idol, Jota, left Brentford for Birmingham City. Le magnifique Maxime Colin left Brentford. For Birmingham City. Harlee Dean, having already had the captaincy taken away from him, left Brentford. For Birmingham City. He, of all players, hurt the most. Not so much his sale but the method of departure and those subsequent comments about his new squad being ten times better than the one he had left behind.

Football fans don’t forget. Ever. Just ask Martin Rowlands. And sure enough those words came back to haunt Harlee tonight. You knew something special was in the air when, on walking into the ground, the first song heard from #BeeTheDJ was Jessie J – Price Tag . “Money money money” blasted out over the speakers as Big Bee Radio demonstrated a wonderful sense of humour you can only get at a club like ours. At a place where everybody knows everyone. Where the bond between players and fans is like no other. Where our heroes still walk the same streets we do on their way in and out of Griffin Park.

And then the game began. David Stockdale in the Birmingham goal culpable for the first as he could only help an Ollie Watkins shot from distance into the net for 1-0. Flo Jo doubled the lead before half time as chants of “Harlee, what’s the score? Harlee, Harlee what’s the score?” began to ring around Griffin Park. Neal Maupay, who must have run Ollie close for man of the match, made it 3-0 and then 4-0 with less than an hour on the clock. His second courtesy of another howler from Stockdale who had an evening to forget.

It was only the goalkeeper’s decision to start playing at this point that stopped it getting even worse for The Blues. Pulling off a couple of magnificent saves, combined with our own profligacy as the game threatened to enter testimonial levels of showboating, the scoring stopped for almost half an hour.

There were contrasting faces in the Director’s Box. Sour from the visitors. Ecstatic from our own board and guests. Louder and louder songs directed towards Harlee. Daniel Bentley amongst those unable to suppress schoolboy levels of smirking every time the chants rang out. This couldn’t go on, surely? It couldn’t get any better, could it?

Jota’s arrival had barely registered. He picked up the odd pantomime boo but it was nothing compared to the unhappiest of returns for Harlee. Still, at least he could take consolation in it only being four. Until Ollie popped up to make it five. And that’s how it ended. Stunning. Just stunning.

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

Yet just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, there was Brentford Official to change the ‘win music’. Kool and The Gang /Celebrate demoted. Instead, the ultimate of trolling. Daydream Believer. The chants of ‘Cheer up Harlee Dean’ which had being doing the round most of the game, cranked up to the loudest yet. Simply beautiful and, whilst I’ve seen comments suggesting we’re better than this, it captured the mood of the supporters quite magnificently.

I’ve never seen the place stay full for so long at full time. The crowd staying behind to cheer the players on a thoroughly deserved lap of honour. Birmingham City slinking back into the dressing room, unobserved.

Brentford were, to a man, magnificent. Dalsgaard’s cross for the third goal a thing of beauty. Maupay’s build up play delicious and he was thoroughly deserving of his brace. Even Daniel Bentley pulled off a quite wonderful save late on to preserve his goal’s virginity. Emiliano Marcondes delighting the crowd with a short, but very sweet, cameo role late on.

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Emiliano impressed late on

It was a strange night. It was always going to be. No moreso than Peter Gilham finally getting Jota’s name right. After three season’s worth of Hoe-ta, he picked his moment to call him correctly.

That was just brilliant. Brentford are now a mere 3 points outside the play offs. We’re 20 points better off than a Birmingham City team who sit worryingly close to the League One drop zone. Harlee Dean may have joined The Blues to leave The Championship.

He just probably didn’t expect to do it in this direction.

All together now – Brentford official seize the moment. Beautifully

Nick Bruzon

Bring it on. West London’s biggest game in years has more than just a result to play for.

19 Feb

Tuesday night in West London and there’s one of the biggest football showdowns to have been seen in years. Whilst the casual observer might think its all about Chelsea v Barcelona in the Champion’s League, they’d be wrong. Of Course. Instead, we’ve the quite delicious treat of Brentford v Birmingham City. More importantly, the return of not just Maxime Colin, not just Jota (the real one rather than the Wolves version) but also former skipper Harlee Dean. Forget Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi visiting Stamford Bridge. The emotional significance of this trio returning, along with the circumstances of their deadline day departure, have been lost on nobody.

Jota team Rotherham

We felt the same way too

“The football industry is a volatile one and I think my departure was the best move for all concerned” Not my words but those of Jota upon his £6.8million (allegedly) sale to the St. Andrews outfit.

“We’ve got quality in that squad. I’ve been in teams where we’ve finished fifth in this league and missed out on promotion by play offs. And this squad is ten times better than that. Its just about getting the balance right.” Not my words but those of Harlee Dean after a Birmingham supporter’s ‘Blues Cruise’ back in late October.

We all know the scoop. On the one hand, a Brentford squad containing the likes of: David Button, Jake Bidwell, Number 26, Nico Yennaris, Sam Saunders, Moses Odubajo, Stuart Dallas, Alan Judge, Jon Toral, Jota, Alex Pritchard, Andre Gray, Scott Hogan. That’s before you add the experience provided by the likes of Dougie, Macca, King Kev and Toumani.

On the other, a Birmingham City squad who are now just 2 points outside the relegation zone and 17 (seventeen, why not) behind Brentford. A win for the Bees will put us 20 clear. That’s twice ten times better. What better incentive could there be for us to really go for it?

Whatever happened back in the summer has happened. I can’t deny any less how I felt back then although how great to see how the Bees have gone on to bigger and better things. The squad has come together in the most wonderful way to stick a metaphorical two fingers up to the Midlanders. Yet at the same time, I can’t forget the wonder of Jota at his very best.

Those goals against Derby. Against QPR. Leaving Jake Bidwell flat on his backside. The infamous Burridgegasm at Blackburn. Even if those memories do still feel slightly tarnished for now, you can’t deny how, on his day, Jota was just about the most skillful and exciting player many of us ever had the privilege of watching.  Name me somebody who wouldn’t want him or Maxime in the squad and I’ll show you a liar.

Mark Burridge and Jota’s infamous moment

As for Harlee, I feel for him. Genuinely. What a way to shoot yourself in the foot with that ill-fated quote. What a way to make Dean Smith’s team talk the simplest he’ll ever need to give. What a way to wind up the crowd.

Despite the red cards, ad-hoc positional awareness and own goals, you can’t deny Harlee was Brentford through and through. He gave his all. Not just on the pitch but off it, too, where he was so famously an unsung hero after a car accident outside Griffin Park. Where he was a total hero to my son and always made time to chat with the young fans. Try explaining to a four year old why his idol has left to join ‘the naughty team’.

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The smile says its all (apologies again for the sticky fingers)

He was there as we held the Champions of Europe, Chelsea, in the FA Cup. It was Harlee who scored at Wembley in the play-off final against Yeovil following ‘that penalty’. He was the man to help shore up the ten man Bees at Leyton Orient the day we celebrated like we’d won the FA Cup. He was a Championship regular – almost pulling off an unlikely ascension to the Premier League and eventually showed his true potential ending last season as our Player of the Year.

Then he opened his mouth and, with it, undid all the positivity with a moment as significant in our history as Martin Rowlands ‘kissing the badge’.

No doubt, he’ll have a point to prove. No doubt, so will we. Expect it to be lively. Very. Expect the songs to be loud. Expect the Terrace wags to have their fill on #BeeTheDJ before kick off. And not just for Harlee.  From my perspective, any of the following would be good :

Pink Floyd – Money

The Doors  – Love Me Two Times (although that may need five plays)

Oasis – Don’t Look Back In Anger

Aerosmith – Big Ten Inch Record

Dusty Springfield – I Close My Eyes And Count To Ten

Herb Alpert  – Spanish Flea

Blake Shelton – Ten Times Crazier

The flipside is that Birmingham City will be as up for it as we are. Their season has reached a place where, with two thirds gone, they are in very real danger of slithering into League One. Of demonstrating that throwing money at a problem doesn’t necessarily make it go away.

Every point will be vital and they’ll be doing everything possible to get at least one. Picking up all three will necessitate being able to shoot at goal, something they’ve struggled with this campaign. Saturday’s home defeat to Millwall saw them manage just one shot on target whilst, with a mere 22 netbusters, they are the division’s most goal shy team.

So if you haven’t got a ticket yet, what are you waiting for? Sure, Chelsea – Barcelona , in the armchair, might be the comfortable option. It might have some of the World’s biggest names.It might have huge global viewing figures. But it won’t have the passion that this one does and it certainly hasn’t got the sub-plot.

I’ve had this date in the diary for a long, long time. And I can’t wait.

See you there.

Harlee

Nick Bruzon

Black Cats roll over to have their tummies tickled. Birmingham City are on the way down (to Brentford). Plus FA Cup oddity.

18 Feb

Is everybody back from Sunderland yet? A 2-0 win for Brentford at the Stadium of Light on Saturday was the perfect way to bounce back from a mini blip that had seen The Bees pick up 1 point from the previous three games (although fully deserving of all 9, if Dean Smith’s post-match press conferences were to be believed). Yet this time it was Chris Coleman using his time with the media to put the black cat amongst the pigeons. The former Fulham man opining about the Bees that: “I don’t think they’ll ever get promoted, I could be wrong, because they don’t have the finances but, if they keep doing what they do, they won’t be relegated either. Elsewhere, I woke to news of Manchester United drawing Brighton in the FA Cup. Somehow….

First up, the Sunderland manager. West London’s Premier Journalist Tom Moore ran a story last night that included Coleman’s claim – a statement worthy of Steve Evans at his finest. We’ve all been here and done this so many times yet it never fails to amuse. The suggestion that playing your way to the top isn’t possible without gargantuan levels of spending. Little Brentford. Teams like Brentford. Even Sky Sports haven’t bothered to update our crest on their graphics package – and we’re two thirds of the way through the campaign. The awful ‘cluttered clipart’ crest still hanging around like a bad smell. Every time you think it’s gone, it comes back. Had it been around 65 million years ago, one can only suspect it would have survived the asteroid .

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Curse that clipart graphic.

But enough of dinosaurs. Instead, Chris Coleman. Whatever his thoughts, we are seeing more and more that you can’t put a price on shrewd and innovative acquisition. On bringing the right people into the right set up. Look at how the Bees have continued to flourish season on season. Look at Birmingham City for the closest possible parallel to what happens when you just lump cash at it.

We’ve all had our doubts about the Brentford model over the years. Myself included. This summer in particular felt like a particular low point. Yet we’ve picked ourselves up and gone again.

Neal Maupay, now pretty much guaranteed a long run with the departure of Lasse Vibe, scored his eighth goal of the season with the cheekiest of back heeled efforts to go top of our scoring charts. This, after Kamo had opened the scoring with less than a quarter hour gone. Firing home hard and low from outside the box, he broke his Brentford duck and has given Dean Smith a real selection poser from the visit of Birmingham on Tuesday.  Brentford sit 10th in the Championship for the fourth successive season and with 42 points still available, there’s still a chance at the play-offs.

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Neal celebrates another goal.

Tom’s story also sparked the clickbait-gate debate on Social media once more. You can read that one here – the story rather than the clickbait chat. Personally, I’ve said my piece on that in these pages previously. The likes of Here Is The City and Football League World don’t even warrant a read these days, such is the eventual anti-climax that follows upon selecting one of their ‘stories’.

These publications so often tempt the reader with what transpires to be worse transfer news than the demise of the Letraset ‘action’ range.  News Now is littered with headlines which lead to nothing more than the regurgitation of the same footballer’s twitter feed we all have access to. Is the need for ‘hits’ and internet traffic THAT desperate?

On a totally unrelated note, I did enjoy Alan Judge’s retort to Coleman on the Social media platform last night. A simple but deliciously sweet: Yeah but we won’t be goin down. Certainly it makes a wonderful difference to the usual ‘we go again’.

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Letraset Action Transfers – a sadly missed treat from the 70s

That said, even Brentford official have been guilty of it in the past. I’ll never forget the moment back in November 1991 when the club proudly announced that we’d be signing a Division One (now Premier League) player. The excitement. The calls to 0898 121108 (at 33p a minute). The tension. Who would it be? Gary Lineker? Lee Chapman? Gazza? Gary McAllister? With the greatest respect to the legend that he is, the return of Bob Booker was hardly one to have supporters dancing in the streets of Raith when he was revealed.

Getting back to events at Sunderland, you have to feel for a team who were in the Premier League last season and are now on a fast track to League One along with Burton and Birmingham City. Talking this morning to one Bees insider (a man with his finger very much on the pulse of relevance) his considered opinion was that Black Cats are doomed, describing them as a shadow of the team that played at Griffin Park for the 3-3 back in October. Something that is desperate to see, especially given they’ve such great fans too.

Yet as we’ve seen with the likes of Wolves and Southampton (who played alongside us in League One) or Newcastle and Leeds United, former glories count for nothing. Having a huge stadium and great fans mean naff all if you can’t get the spending right, keep the team motivated or perform on the pitch.

With the greatest respect, that’s their issue. Not ours. Brentford are safe and looking upwards. Barring a remarkable reversal of fortune, Sunderland can start programming Birmingham, Accrington Stanley and Luton into the Satnav for 2018/19.

Who are they? Sunderland might be about to find out.

This weekend has also seen the FA Cup fifth round ties taking place. It really has been a TV overload with Sheffield Wednesday – Swansea providing a low key start before things kicked off on Saturday. Manchester United got past Huddersfield despite some dubious use of VAR. One does have to wonder how hard it is to get watching a TV replay wrong. Yet here we went. Again.

If VAR was confusing, it was nothing compared to waking up on Sunday to news that the draw for the sixth round had already taken place. This, despite a quarter of the ties yet to have taken place. Is nothing sacred anymore? Like semi-finals at Wembley and virtual reserve teams taking the field of play (although that didn’t work out too well for Tottenham at Rochdale on Sunday evening), it’s yet another subtle erosion of the gilt from this famous old trophy. We still love it, of course, yet I can’t help feel the FA are allowing their tournament to become tarnished. Even if squad selection isn’t in their hands, other factors most certainly are.

Still, for me its all about looking forward. About getting ready for that Birmingham City game. This is one we’ve all had in the diary since the transfer window slammed shut. If ever there was time to avoid the whiff of slippage then it is now.  #BeeTheDJ selections are being lined up and the vocal chords loosened. Victory for Brentford will take us to the 50 point mark, 20 better than our old boys at St. Andrews. That’ll be twice ten times better.

See you on Tuesday, Harlee. Forget Chelsea v Barcelona in the Champion’s League. Griffin Park is very much going to be the place for a blood and thunder encounter. It’s going to be a lively one, that’s for sure, and I can’t wait. Bring it on.

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Nick Bruzon

Bees get the point as Changchun Yatai get that Vibe. What next as Sunderland await?

11 Feb

Brentford 1 Preston North End 1. After that mini run of double defeats, here was a chance to get back to winning ways before the double header against two teams up to their hips and necks in the relegation quagmire – Birmingham City and Sunderland. Yet on a day which saw the long anticipated transfer of Lasse Vibe to Chinese Super League side Changchun Yatai for a fee rumoured to be £2m and a much changed Bees team lining up against promotion chasing Preston, in retrospect was it as disappointing as it felt at full time?

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Any votes for ‘China in your hand’ on #BeeTheDJ ? Farewell, Lasse

No. In a word. As a fan, I’m always desperate to win no matter whom we are up against and whichever players are staring. Yet a first XI which, had it been picked during the transfer window would have had supporters screaming ‘conspiracy theory‘, more than held their own and arguably had enough chances and possession to have wrapped this one up. There was no Sergi Canos – suspended. Ryan Woods had to be content with wandering up and down the Braemar Road paddock, chatting to supporters and confirming he should be fit for the Sunderland game. Yoann Barbet was dropped to the bench whilst wunderkind Chris Mepham was awol.

Yet this was still a strong team with Josh McEachran having a very positive start before returning to the frustrating enigma that his performances so often are. When he’s on form he really is a talent and his forward passing is a joy to behold. Equally, there’s more sideways and backwards passing than down the road at Twickenham. Watching the England-Wales rugby after this one, I was half expecting our number 10 to put in an appearance. No irony lost, given one challenge he put in on Callum Robinson. Move along, nothing to see here. It’s a tough call for Dean how he crams that central midfield, who makes way and how he can get the very best from his available resources. Certainly, the arrivals of Lewis Macleod and Alan Judge were very welcome.

It was a game played out in front of a sparse crowd under drizzle soaked skies. It was a game that saw Brentford give away a goal out of nowhere. Tom Barkhuizen putting Preston ahead before Florian Jozefzoon levelled things up just eight minutes later with a goal described by Sky Sports (and you can get edited the highlights here) as a superb strike. I say this given I missed it, in circumstances described in the trade as ‘doing a JJ’. Still, anything for the cause. From then on, it was one-way traffic and I can’t wait to hear how the ever wonderful Mark Burridge described all this when the full fat package is available later *.

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View from the Braemar: Andreas Bjelland v Preston – a Dane in the rain

With Greg Cunningham’s second yellow seeing the visitors reduced to ten men with fifteen minutes remaining, it was backs to the wall stuff. Ollie Watkins blazed just wide whilst Alan Judge came oh so close with a curling free kick in the dying seconds. Emiliano Marcondes added further threat from the bench and it is no surprise Dean came out with post-match comments that included his observation that, “We should have got three points today as our performance was good”.

Second half, it was good. Very. Although, equally, we can count our blessings The Bees didn’t go behind in the opening period. Tommy Spurr adjudged to have been marginally offside as he headed home for 1-0. But no. Instead it was that sweetest of football feelings – opposition cheers being snuffed out by the wave of a linesman’s flag. 0-0 it stayed, until Barkhuizen did the needful.

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It’s an early shower for you, number 3. Cunningham walks.

As for Brentford, up front remains a tough one for Dean. Neal Maupay had one, clear chance when put through one on one with Preston goalkeeper Declan Rudd. The man in black (Rudd, not the ref – if Kitman Bob is reading, what ARE the rules on that?) quick off his line to smoother the striker’s shot from eight yards. Other than that though, there were slim pickings in what you’d deem a typical striker’s chance. One thing’s for sure, with Justin Shaibu on loan and Lasse sold without being replaced, Neal is in for the long haul. That’s no bad thing either. We saw early on in the season what an impact he had off the bench. Here’s hoping that given a prolonged run of starts he’ll push on and find the back of the net on a regular basis.

My other thought is in regards to Dean Smith’s post-match observations. Both in this one and the previous two games. The 3-0 Loss v Derby saw him note that, “We had the better chances… the score-line wasn’t a reflection of what I thought was two-evenly matched teams”.

The game prior, our 1-0 Loss at home to Norwich, saw him opine how: I feel that the better team got beaten” going on to add later that, “I think Norwich will feel fortunate that they have gone away with all three points”.

Yesterday, it was that we should have won. Personally, my take on it is that we could have won. What a difference a letter or two makes. At least Dean recognises the chances we are creating but as has been said a gazillion times on these pages, they count for nothing if you can’t put them away.

As has also been said, who’d be a manager? Very much a case of damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Overall, He and his team are doing just about most things right. Certainly, there are no huge complaints from where I am sitting. Quite the opposite. We’re pushing it against the best in a phenomally tough division and more than holding our own.

Actually, there’s nothing wrong with not winning a game. We all want to. Myself included. I remember league two days. No money etc. etc. etc. I saw a reference on Twitter the other day to the Eddie May/ Micky Adams relegation season. Grim stuff. We’re more spoilt now than we’ve ever been. Moreso with the new stadium plans really gathering pace. But the football fan is never happy. We always want more. We live in hope of what might be. We all have a dream. We always want better.

I understand Dean’s passion and desire but I also know what I see when I’m watching the same game he is. Too much of the ‘we deserved to win/ should have won’ starts to lose impact after a while.

Hey, it’s a small gripe. At least he’s got faith in his team and is constantly reinforcing that positive message. If it’s the worst thing Dean does then we’re in good hands. He has tough decisions ahead, that’s for sure, and I don’t envy him picking the team to start against Sunderland. Likewise, his substitutions, whenever they happen….

But these are nice decisions to have to make. There is competition for the starting berth in just about every position. Yoann Barbet, in particular, must count himself very unlucky to have missed out this time around (albeit I love seeing Josh Clarke out there). No doubt he’ll be amongst those hammering down Dean’s door this week. Metaphorically speaking.

I’ve no clue who Dean will start on Saturday at Sunderland. Could this be Alan Judge’s time? I can’t wait to find out though. Given their own late comeback from 3-0 down to earn a point at Bristol City on Saturday, it’s not going to be as easy as the table suggests. That’s for sure.

There’s nothing more dangerous than a black cat backed into a corner and desperately fighting for survival. Bring it on.

As for Lasse Vibe, there’s not much more that can really be said. We all knew his contract was up. We all know what he has done for us over the last few years. How open and friendly he is. How enthusiastic and dedicated to the cause whilst at Griffin Park. Talking to supporters yesterday and reading through social media, I can’t see anybody wishing him everything but the best.

I can’t think of any other club or any other player where losing your main goal threat has been treated with nothing but universal good vibes. Yet that’s Lasse.

THANK YOU. Here’s to the World Cup..

* until then, here’s the post lunchtime update with the ‘official highlights’. Great job on the comms, too…

 

Nick Bruzon

 

As unexpected shocks go, this is up with the best of them. What next, though?

1 Feb

Can we look yet? 5.30am and the alarm has just gone off but, it seems, Brentford are in the clear. At least for now. The domestic transfer window has formally slammed shut and we have survived. Whilst outside of TW8, the biggest Bournemouth related shock of yesterday was their beating Chelsea 3-0 at Stamford Bridge, at Griffin Park we had our own cause to be wary of Eddie Howe. The Bournemouth manager reported by Sky Sports to have bid a staggering £5.5 million for Chris Mepham. Something that other sources later claimed had been upped to £7(seven) million pounds.

Chris is a huge talent and has done nothing but impress in the handful of appearances since making his Championship debut but a bid of that size is one that nobody expected. With all the talk of Lasse Vibe heading off to China or Ryan Woods to Sunderland, nobody had considered the thought that our new star could be on his way to the seaside. Thankfully, he isn’t. For now.

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Chris Mepham won’t be turning his back on the Bees

Once again, it shows how much guess work and clickbait goes into those January rumours. Nobody saw this one coming and it will be very interesting to hear the official verdict on our January business. After the carnage in the summer when Harry Redknapp started to splash the cash at the 11th hour, you could have been forgiven for fearing the worst.

Instead it has been a case of tumbleweed at Griffin Park. Chris Mepham is still at Brentford and that can only be a good thing for all concerned. He has shown so much ability and maturity in such a short time that there is no doubt he can play at the highest level. Yet, for now, he continues his footballing education with Brentford and that’s fantastic news.

Instead, it is the ‘in door’ which has swung this time around with the signing of 20 year old Chiedozie Ogbene confirmed from Limerick earlier in the week. Another free scoring attacker (10 goals in 37 appearances last season) he is a player with huge potential. With Alan Judge staying at Griffin Park and Emiliano Marcondes taking those initial steps in the first team, competition is set to be even fiercer than ever before.

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#WelcomeOgbene

In other ‘non’ news, number 26 is still at Burnley  – so no sell on clause for us. Although given his family ties, there was no way he was ever going to join the likes of Arsenal or any other Southern club. Manchester City would have been the only viable option out of all those clubs being linked with the strike happy centre-back.

That said, Justin Shaibu has gone out  – albeit on loan to Walsall. I really thought he may have been given a bit more of a try out in the first team – especially when Lasse has not been available. One does wonder what will happen should the Great Dane decide his career lies abroad. The transfer window in China remains open until February 28th so I don’t think we are quite out of the woods there. Still, all that is pure conjecture. We know from Dean Smith and other club sources that he has been in conversation with another club but, to date, no agreement has been met. Fingers crossed that Lasse sticks with the rest of his team mates to see where this season might take us.

I’m a very happy man this morning. Whilst it has got to the point that nothing would surprise us anymore (and almost did), when the worst that happened on deadline day was my triple Chelsea defence taking a fantasy football hammering – thanks, Eddie – then things have gone very, very well.

Yet had we sold anyone then I think it fair to say that whenever this has happened we’ve bounced back. This summer’s window has seen the quintessential example of this, with it taking Birmingham City the best part of four months to finally limp out of the bottom three. Even then, it took a win over fellow relegation strugglers Sunderland. Brentford, meanwhile, have picked ourselves up since losing Maxime et al to become the divisional form team as we’ve climbed from bottom of the table to the fringes of the play-off race.

But we digress. I don’t want to get caught up on the woes and travails at St. Andrew (albeit February 20th could be a very tasty encounter). Like it or not we are set up to grow, develop and sell players at present. Everybody has their price although clearly Chris Mepham’s is expected to be a lot more than has already been dangled under our noses.

We didn’t sell this time around. It’s brilliant. Moreso, it poses a very interesting question now about what happens should the Bees really kick on from that wonderful recent form. Espcially if Lasse stays put.

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Nick Bruzon

Do Brentford have the scent of Royal blood at Reading? Could ‘other results’ actually happen?

20 Jan

Here we, erm, go again. Brentford travel to Reading on Saturday afternoon knowing a win, along with defeats (and definitely not victories as was originally noted)  for the five teams above us, will see the Bees end the day level on points with the play-off teams. Goal difference could even put us into that top six pack. True, this relies on things as improbable and distasteful as QPR and Birmingham City (amongst others) doing the needful but stranger things have happened before. Who could forget that wonderful denouement to 2014/15 when wins for Reading at all-but-there Derby County and Blackburn at home to Ipswich, combined with our own defeat of Wigan, saw the Bees slip through into fifth place?

Indeed it was the penultimate week of that season which saw a Brentford win on the road, at the Madjeski, to keep our hopes alive. Alan Judge and number 26 getting the goals as the Bees ended the day in seventh, two points and vastly inferior goal difference behind Derby.

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Andre Gray for 3-0 v Wigan (and other results) secure a 2015 play-off spot

We all know how that play-off campaign ended. It was the play-offs, after all. Although at least we got there, unlike Derby.  Instead the point is made to illustrate what can happen when you least expect it. Sometimes, other results can go our way despite form. Thankfully the end of the season is a lot further away this time and so to desperation for the not so super hoops or Birmingham to win doesn’t have the same frisson, that’s for sure.

Whilst that unholy alliance is not one Brentford need to make today, it is still a nice position to be in. For now, though, let’s just focus on ourselves. Other results will do whatever they do. With games to come against all the chasing pack we still have matters well in our hands. Besides, it seems a bit premature to be talking play-offs and potential promotion at this juncture.

Yet, the table doesn’t lie. The gap to Sheffield United in sixth place IS three points. I’d be a liar if I was to say to you that I wasn’t absolutely excited by this prospect, no matter how slim and tenuous it is. Being realistic, Birmingham haven’t a prayer at Preston. Leeds, despite their own recent poor form, now have Adam Forshaw added to their ranks and are surely good for at least a point at home to Millwall ? Middlesbrough WILL hump QPR.

Can we do it though? Well, there’s no doubting Dean Smith’s team are on form at present. Last weekend’s defeat of Bolton followed a wonderful Christmas period in the league. Perhaps its best we forget about the hiccup in the FA Cup now. Move along, nothing to see there. Indeed, the Bolton game didn’t even require the mercurial Sergi Canos to start that one, although his presence at the end of the game was a most welcome one as the wide man set up Neal Maupay for 2-0 late on.

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Bolton were left looking dazed and confused by the end

I’m still not convinced we know Dean’s best / preferred starting XI. When this squad is on form and the players are at the top of their game, it really is a case of Buridan’s Ass. Which of the available options does he pick? 14 into 11 just won’t go. It’s one of those lovely problems to have, that’s for sure, with Chris Mepham’s form and the return of Alan Judge adding to his quandaries.

Reading, on the other hand, are missing John Swift whilst centre back Paul McShane is also reported as out. The Royals are very much off their A-game, form wise, although at least they have made it through to the fourth round of the FA Cup. In another battle of Championship v League 2, they made it through (unlike the Bees) and their reward is a trip to Sheffield Wednesday on Friday night.

With that to come and their own progress requiring Tuesday evening’s replay against Stevenage, could players be rested? Might if be a case of that old cliche being turned on its head and the Royals concentrating on the cup, now they are effectively out of the league?

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John Swift. The former Bee is missing in action today

One can dream. I’m still expecting a tough one today. The trapdoor to League One isn’t actually that far off for Reading. They’ll be as keen to secure those points as we are. Yet along with form, Brentford will have massive support on our side. Close to 3,000 tickets have been sold to the visiting support . With less than 15,000 turning up for their last league game at the Madjeski, a defeat at the hands of Birmingham City (clearly ten times better than the Royals), the 24,000+ capacity ground could feel a very empty place for the home team.

Certainly, it’s a stadium that has been a happy hunting ground for the Bees. Along with the aforementioned 2-0 win, let’s not forget the following season. Dean Smith’s first in charge saw that wonderful 2-1 victory. It was a win that was lit up by Ryan Woods and Sergi Canos. Goals that fall very much into the category of ‘best we’ve seen in recent years’ (see also: Stuart Dallas at Fulham and Nico Yennaris at Birmingham).

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Sergi. Great goal, great shirt, great hair (then)

That’s all in the past though. If it meant more points, I’d happily settle for 1-0 and a deflection off Josh McEachran’s backside. Scrappy finish or 25 yard piledriver, they all count the same.

Roll on 3pm when we find out which it will be. Roll on 5pm when we see just how those ‘other results’ have gone. Could Brentford continue to climb up the table? Might we be saying a small word of thanks to our rivals?

I can’t wait to see how this all plays out.

Nick Bruzon

Ryan’s wonder goal set a very high bar. That Sergi then cleared.

 

Success for Gibraltar in FA Cup. Defeat for Brentford at home to Notts County.

7 Jan

Brentford 0 Notts County 1. A result that it sure to cause a few rumblings on the Richter scale of FA Cup shocks. None moreso than because it means Gibraltar, currently placed 205th in the FIFA World Rankings, have representation in the fourth round. Size and reputation counted for nothing with talismanic Gibraltarian International Liam Walker proving key to the Magpies’ cause. He came on at the death to ensure County broke Brentford hearts and condemn the Bees to defeat despite throwing the proverbial kitchen sink at the visitors. A shame it hadn’t happened 90 minutes earlier.

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There had been so much optimism before kick off

I’ve seen Liam in action twice this season and neither appearance has been a happy time for the Brentford. The first being the occasion of a World Cup qualifier at the end of August. Despite his best efforts – very much the star performer for Gibraltar in that one – Belgium finished it by taking their visitors beyond brackets and close to double figures with a 9-0 win in Liège.

It was the same day Maxime Colin and Jota joined Harlee Dean in the triple transfer to Birmingham City. Fortunately, things would eventually settle down for the Bees on that front and form would return, quite spectacularly. Not so much for the Blues. Equally spectacularly.

On Saturday, the boot was on the other foot. It was the away team, again inspired by Walker, who came away with a result that the bookmakers had failed to anticipate. It was the home team – picked by Dean Smith – with a performance that was dialed in against one of spirit, fight and a desire to win that the Bees had failed to anticipate. They’ll have been dancing in the streets of Gibraltar last night.

That, or Sax II.

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Yet it proves, yet again, what happens when you underestimate the opposition. See also: Walsall at home in the third round two seasons ago. As expected, changes were made but there was enough first team experience in the starting XI and on the bench to have done better. Much better. It was an opportunity for players to step up, seize the opportunity and shine. Sadly, the only ones to do that were Notts County.

All the talk in the media would be of Jon Stead’s goal. True, it was very special. Yet it should have been as much about Notts County putting in a complete and consistent team performance. From the moment of kick off to the Walker inspired denouement. The Magpies showed it in spades. The Bees looked second best.

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All over at full time – Walker the winner.

Dean Smith would use his post match interviews to declare, “It was probably not what we deserved”, adding “I thought we had the lion’s share of possession and bossed the game for large periods. I certainly didn’t think we deserved to lose.”

As has been said oh so many times, that’s just not how football works. I’ve got huge respect for Dean but he’s wrong on this one. Chances count for nothing. Neither do possession stats. Balls in the back of the net are the only thing that matters as a means of measuring progress to the fourth round on paper.

For the record, the game ended with possession of 53%- 47% in our favour. Less a Lion’s share and more a narrow margin. The goal charts ended 1-0 in Notts’ favour. Equally narrow but that’s all they needed.

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At least Buzz and Buzzette got their hands on the cup

I suppose we can concentrate on the league. And that IS a good thing from some respects. IF we are going to go for it. The gap to the bottom three surely already too huge whilst the play-offs are just six points away. A concerted surge towards the top and this will be nothing more than a statistic in the record books. At least, for our top brass.

Yet for the fans, the FA Cup is still huge. And the chance for a run in this oldest of tournaments is always something to get supporters salivating. Tin foil trophies had been made in the morning. Some long journies undertaken to get to Griffin Park.

We had the ability to win it but too often the Bees looked out of shape. Captain Josh McEachran unable to lift his team. With Lasse Vibe and Andreas Bjelland missing (in the the club shop), Ryan Woods missing (in the pub, but on the soft drinks) and Nico Yennaris just missing, we lacked our solid spine. Players had the chance to make a name for themselves. They didn’t take it.

On the flip side, Emiliano Marcondes, making his debut, showed those first flashes of the potential we have all read so much about. Indeed, but for that Walker inspired backs-to-the-wall performance in the final few moments, things could have been different when the Dane’s header came back off the post.

But with County looking solid as The Rock, not even the wonderful Alan Judge could make a difference. He looked sharp, fit and fast as he made a long overdue and thrilling return to the side. There was no challenge shirked and one moment of genius to free fellow substitute Ollie Watkins that had the crowd on their feet, anticipating a goal. Sadly, it wasn’t to be.

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Alan Judge in full flow – very much a sight for sore eyes

We’ve lost in the Cup before. We’ll do it again. The saddest thing about Saturday was that lessons of the past should have been learned. Yet when the club hadn’t even put FA patches on the first team shirts, perhaps our longevity in this tournament was pre-ordained.

At home, our own third round ritual of making the tinfoil trophy ended with it the replica cup being consigned to, then retrieved from, the dustbin. “Daddy. Do we have to throw it away? Can’t we keep it for next year?” asked HB. Not even I’m that mean and so it was duly salvaged. With optimism like that, it’s tough to be overly despondent this morning. It’s just a shame we’ll have to wait 365 days to feel it once again.

All that remains to be said is congratulations to Notts County, Liam Walker and Gibraltar. The FA Cup loves to throw up a story and with the Magpies in wonderful league form too, could this be the year they are the underdogs to make a run towards Wembley?  The year that Gibraltar, whose previous international ‘highlights’ include conceeding the faster ever International goal (Christian Benteke in 8.1 seconds in the opposite fixture with Belgium) and equalising against minnows Scotland in a Euro 2016 qualifier at Hampden Park, make that next step up on the World stage?

That’s my one consolation from this one. And I’m clinging to it.

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A solitary Gibraltarian flag held aloft at Griffin Park

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Another Brentford cup run consigned to the wastebin of Griffin Park history

Nick Bruzon

Wolves prove a game too far but who was talking the most sense afterwards?

3 Jan

In the end it was a game too far. Wolves, by all accounts, romped to a 3-0 home win over a Brentford side who had picked up all 9 festive points prior to this one and had genuine hopes of coming back from Molineux with something. Alas, it was not too be. On a night that saw the most disappointing combination of results possible (a win for Birmingham City at Reading aswell as Fulham breezing past Ipswich Town) The Bees return home having slipped a place to 11th in the table.

Wolves, meanwhile, are now 12 points clear of the chasing pack and, perhaps more importantly for them, a further 2 ahead of third placed Cardiff City. That’s before you even look at their incredible goal difference of +30

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View from the opposition – somebody may need to update their graphics…

I wasn’t there. I wouldn’t profess to be. This was never on and even the radio proved to be one step too many in the end. Instead, it was the sofa and Sky Sports news. 0-0 at half time and Brentford under the cosh but hanging in there. Could we perform a second half smash and grab? Then the last few days took hold and the next thing I knew Mrs Bruzon was rousing me from my slumbers. Up and down the country, full time had been called. Through bleary eyes, the score was all too clear. Well done Wolves. Hard luck Brentford.

So I’m not best placed to give any manner of significant opinion on this one. Instead, I’ll leave it to social media and other sources to pick the meat off the bones of this one.

Dean Smith summed things up in his post match interview when speaking to the BBC. Their match report notes his comments that: “They pulled Costa off and then could put Cavaleiro on. That’s what you can do when you have £40m to spend. They should make a difference….Dan Bentley’s pulled off some very good saves to keep it at 0-0 and I was almost surprised to see the free-kick go in as he very rarely gets beaten from that distance….They showed their class in the way they finished. But, in the end, it was the manner of the way we conceded that disappointed me.”

Whilst pulling off Costa or bringing on Cavaleiro is not an option available to him, at least Dean can take solace that Emiliano Marcondes is now officially a Brentford player. The much touted Dane was on the bench for this one and whilst he didn’t put in an appearance, I’m sure we’ll get our first glimpse of him in action on Saturday. Expect him to be one of several changes as tired legs get a bit of a break.

Twitter was the usual wealth of opinion with a most respected of opinions, that of commentator par excellence Mark Burridge, top of my list. If anyone knows a thing or two about watching the Bees it is him.

For Mark to draw this conclusion tells you all you need to know about the quality of our opponents. The fans were quick to opine aswell.

As for the players, ‘That phrase’, is appearing once more in various guises.

Whilst video whizzkid Sean Ridley is clearly enjoying his post-Brentford career with a change in direction. Sean, I hear you.

Even waking this morning, Wolves are everywhere. The quite wonderful Miles McClagan sharing this one c/o his account @TheSkyStrikers (which is well, well worth a follow for lovers of all things programme / odd / both).

So Brentford lost. Wolves are rampaging at the top of the table. Fair play to them. Here’s hoping we get a chance to play them next season . If for no other reason it will mean The Bees have made it into the Premier League.

Until then, there are still two interim positives. First up, the FA Cup third roiund on Saturday. Perhaps a chance to see the aforementioned Marcondes in action. Not to mention a certain Alan Judge.

And there’s always the bottom of the table. Tentimesbetter Birmingham City are still deep in it.

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Nick Bruzon

Can Brentford take away all three points from the Golden Palace?

2 Jan

Back to work. Tuesday morning and doing the zombie shuffle around the kitchen. Granted, my progress not helped by forgetting to switch off the regular weekly alarm and so New Year’s day saw the klaxon going off at 5.15am, having gone to sleep just a few hours earlier. It’s not good. I say Tuesday. The only reason I can tell for sure is the mention of Brentford on national radio this morning in the sports headlines. Absolute Radio bigging up this evening’s game with Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux.

However, it is less about us with The Bees being served up as a sacrificial lamb to the slaughter. Wolves are able to use this game to go 12 points clear in the Championship (effectively 13 when you factor goal difference into the equation) should they win again tonight. Monday’s results, with Bristol City losing and Derby County drawing 1-1 with Sheffield United, have certainly seen the closest challengers doing all possible to help the cause at the, so called, Golden Palace.

This is my sort of Golden Palace

Can the Bees take away all three points tonight?

So I know it IS Tuesday. But only because the fixture list is there to remind us that our New Year’s day game was one of three held over to tonight. It’s another break with scheduling tradition and one which means that, with no pay on the door available, we’ll have approximately 400 fans present. Hats doffed there. The only positive being an extra night for legs to have recovered after the festive exertions. Like the most of us, I’ll be on commentary tonight – listening, rather than performing. Mark Burridge, Ciaran Brett and half time guest Tom Moore amongst those doing the needful later today.

Despite our own fine form and three wins from three over Christmas, all the talks is of relentless Wolves. Their last game saw a 2-1 win at challengers Bristol City. Even with the loss of captain Danny Batth on a red card (missing tonight – small mercies), a goal in the fourth minute of injury time secured all three points to leave that monumental gap at the top. Even the bookies have Brentford as 4-1 to win tonight – there really is just one team in this. Certainly, for the outsider looking in.

Can the Bees spring a ‘shock’? We’ve our own huge incentive to go for it, of course. Victory would put us up to 9th in the table, a mere three points outside the play-off zone. Such a thing wouldn’t have seemed anywhere near possible a few months ago where we were rock bottom with just 4 points from 8 games. Now it is hapless Birmingham City who prop the rest of us up and the Bees who continue to defy the expectations. To beat the likes of Sheffield Wednesday, Aston Villa and Norwich City over the space of just 8 days warrants special mention. Then again, could those exertions come back to haunt us tonight or will Dean be able to rally his troops for one final burst of energy?

There is a glimmer of hope in the form table, too. Just a few weeks ago, Wolves were held at home by Sunderland whilst drew with Millwall on Boxing Day. That, a game where they let the lead slip. And they have lost this season – even if it was Queens Park R@ngers who last inflicted a reverse on them. Back in October.

But, you know what? This is how I like it. ‘Teams Like Brentford’ syndrome. Nobody giving us a hope. To be fair to their fans, there hasn’t been any talking down from the Wolves faithful. Certainly not like we’ve had from the likes of Birmingham, Leeds or Villa. If anything, this is a no pressure game – at least, looking in. I have no doubt Dean Smith will be desperate to come away from Molineux with at least one point. The prize on offer is just too great and his players will be as keen as he is to show what they can do against the best in the division.

This one promises to be huge tonight. I wish I could be there. Sadly, it’s the wireless for me. I’m already tuned in.

Will who now? Sergi was on fire agasint Villa, despite the torrential downpour

It has been raining points for Brentford in recent weeks

Nick Bruzon