Tag Archives: Birmingham

Here’s hoping a change in garb sees a change in form.

19 Oct

Phew. We’re back. International break has been and gone in a cloud of mixed results (England going down to Czech Republic and Gibraltar almost pulling off the mother of all come backs against Georgia) aswell as those awful ‘off-field’ scenes in Bulgaria. Domestically, Brentford have officially launched the special shirt that will be worn today at home to Millwall whilst Leeds United have followed suit with their centenary effort for the visit of Birmingham City. Something that is as stylish as it is impressive – mainly because it sees them kicking off at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon rather than at a time dictated by their Sky Sports overlords.

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Today is the day

First up, Griffin Park. Obviously. It seems an eternity since the 1-0 loss at Nottingham Forest. Thank goodness. Primarily because it was about as turgid a performance as it is possible to see. From both sides. The teams were set up to cancel each other out and boy did they do that. A defensive glitch seeing the hosts take their chance when it came in an encounter that really put the stale into stalemate. 

The only lasting memory to take from that one being the long-term knee injury suffered by Sergi Canos. Boooo. That’ll happen though when the man-in-the-middle offers no protection to anybody and leaves his cards back in the Forest changing room. Urghh. Referees. Still, at least with Stuart Attwell at the helm today, we can be sure of quality decision making and consistency from the man in black. 

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Man in black, assuming he runs out in the traditional grab of course. Who could forget that it is Brentford rather than Millwall who are the ones who will be in blue today? The reason for that being to mark our first-ever victory at Griffin Park, back in October 1904. The 2-0 win agasit Millwall Athletic being the first time the Bees had genuinely deserved to win a home game and the shirt being worn today is designed to pay homage to that occassion. Let’s hope its not the last time we win a home game prior to leaving for Lionel Road at the end of the season.

Whatever your thoughts on this one (and I DO love it), it seems to have made rapid progress off the shelves. The limited edition boxes that came with the initial orders have already cleared out as fans pick up this uber-smart, and sponsor free, variant on our home colours.

For those baulking at the price (£60 for an adult shirt) look positive – at least it isn’t the £149 that Leeds United have charged supporters for their own centenary effort to be worn in today’s game against Birmingham City. My word, it IS lovely but that’s a sum of money even yours truly would have had to say no to. HOW can they justify it? How can fans afford it? I couldn’t. You could buy three or four away tickets at Elland Road for that price. Yet, the limited run of 1919 sold out in minutes and is now retailing on eBay for anything between £400-£2000. Not that they have any bids but at some point somebody will crack. Possibly.  

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Good luck with that…

Still, we digress. Back in West London, we’ll be facing a Millwall side who no longer have Neil Harris in charge following the manager’s shock resignation at the beginning of the month. He is a man as linked with the Lions as Harchester United and that toe-curling ‘run out’ song / goal music about jellied eels i.e. intrinsically. 

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Harchester United – did ‘The Den’ proud.

As such, his departure was news that caught everybody cold. The club moved quickly to put Adam Barrett, who had initially joined as a first team development coach, into the caretaker’s hot seat.

True to form in such situations, he immediately recorded a win – against Leeds United of all teams. Yet with the ‘caretaker first game victory’ out of the way (a result as predictable as Brentford in the play-offs or the curse of  ‘manager-of-the-month) , does this now open things up for us?

Whilst we are missing our talismanic Spaniard, the Lions have their own headaches. The first of which being the absence of goalkeeper Frank Fielding, injured in the aforementioned game with Leeds. As a Bees fan, I’m shedding no tears here – he’s quality. Except, perhaps, in that it means we’ve one less chance to pull the Big Book of Middlesex Chronicle 80’s alliteration from the shelf. Fielding foiling us from a free kick being one  line that can’t be used today.

The big question being who is going to be pulling the trigger today? If not from dead balls then certainly open play? 7(seven) goal Ollie Watkins, pressed into a role as emergency front man but filling his boots in the Championship goal scorer charts? Or more traditional striker Nikos Karelis? Nick the Greek yet to start a game since joining the Bees but now starting to put in the appearances from the bench as he picks up fitness. 

We love Ollie in our house. Almost as much as Sergi and Pontus. Personally speaking, I’m well happy if he continues in this position and I fully expect he will. However, it is genuinely intriguing to see what Nikos might do when given a bit more than a fifteen minute cameo to chase a game. Is he the next Neal Maupay? Might he be another Nick Proschwitz ? (yes, that DID happen). Or is he just emergency cover until Halil Dervisoglu rocks up in January? Whichever way he goes, there’s only one way to find out and that’s not by getting splinters in your arse. Roll on that moment of returning to full fitness so he can have a decent stab at seeing which way this one will transpire.

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Here’s to a few more of these later today

Elsewhere, the time away from these pages has seen Euro 2020 qualifiers dominate the headlines. England went down in the Czech Republic but put matters right against Bulgaria a few days later, coming one short of administering the brackets that go with a 7(seven) goal scoreline. As we are all well aware however, the result is the last thing anybody will remember from this game. The stomach turning sight and sounds of fascism and racism from the home support being images that are indelibly engrained on the memory.

Nobody needs a lecture from me on this – and you aren’t going to get one. We ALL know how vile this is whilst the way English conducted themselves does need to be applauded. Next stop, UEFA. And FIFA. Will the authorities have the balls to actually do something credible for once? Or will it be yet another pointless slap on the wrist? I pray for the former and fear the latter. Let’s see what happens…

On a more positive finish, Gibraltar lost in their qualifying group. Again. However, much as in the narrow 1-0 defeat to Republic of Ireland, it was a game that saw them playing out of their skin to come ‘oh so close’ against higher ranked opponents. This time, the visitors were Georgia who despite racing in to a 2-0 first half lead, saw parity restored before snatching a late, late winner at the Runway end of the Victoria Stadium. 

Yet rather than heartbreak for the boys for The Rock, it was a performance that should be viewed with immense positivity. Primarily because it was one of the most attacking displays I’ve seen them put in . Rather than ten men behind the ball and a series of stat building sideways/backwards passes, they pushed forward. With intent. The second period in particular seeing them put in a shift that caused even Mrs. Bruzon to note ‘They’re faster than Brentford’. I’m taking that as a compliment . Even at 3-2 down, they kept going and almost rescued a Euro 2020 Group D qualifying point.

It wasn’t to be, this time. It’s coming though. From small acorns…..

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Two Chipolinas. There’s only two Chipolinas. (and two Casciaros, two Hernandez’…)

Nick Bruzon

Bees hit Barn door with abandon. Three goals and three points on a very Super Sunday

30 Sep

Well there you go. How about THAT for a Sunday lunchtime treat ? Brentford blew Barnsley away in a game that was as much dominated by Ollie Watkins head as it was the weather. Horrific conditions at Oakwell were no barrier to a Bees team that despite conceding the first goal before most of us had even sat down, ended up disappointed to have ‘only’ scored three times. There was to be no curse of the cameras and none of the way day blues that we suffered last season. Two wins on the road under the belt already and we’re still in September. All of which means that with the table one game away from being full formed (Wednesday night at home to Bristol City sees that mark being attained), we’re up to 14th in the Championship. One place behind Birmingham City and six points away from the play-off zone. For the record.

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We’ve had worse afternoons… Brentford ‘official’ put this one up on Twitter at FT

It was a stonker of a game. The hosts held all the cards for the opening quarter hour and opened the scoring with the clock having barely registered a minute gone. Cauley Woodrow curling one in from distance with the defenders, perhaps guilty of standing off, but still the player with no real right to score from there. Yet he did.

What an effort. Credit where it is due, he hit it well. Very well. David Raya on the six-yard line had no chance and the net rippled to the sound of groans all round the pub. The pub, given as there was no pretence at being even close to making this one. At least we had a nice lunch to console ourselves with. And Guinness. And warmth. 

One nil down and it could have been two. Barnsley started off at 100mph. Brentford getting used to their new look 4-3-3 formation. It was a formation we’d hinted at yesterday, suggesting that Kamo would be back and noting “Any line up change will likely be in midfield with the rest of the team pretty much picking itself. Is there room for Nørgaard, Jensen and Mokotjo in the centre?

Hey. Make enough guesses and sometimes you get things right. Although, to be fair, it’s been crying out for this sort of change. And sure enough the Bees began to find both their way and their feet in the slippery conditions.

Just after half an hour gone and it was 1-1. Ollie Watkins, with his head, from a Jensen cross. It should have been two at half time with the post, then the crossbar denying our goalscorer twice in as many seconds before Benrahma somehow steered it wide from ten yards out.

Ooooh, Oooohh, Nooooooooo went the collective groan around the pub. Even Sky chalked it up as a goal, momentarily, before resetting their graphic. So close yet so far. What can you do? Instead, the half ended with scores level and Brentford having weathered the early storm. No irony lost on that one given the Biblical deluge (is there any other sort?) unfolding over the stadium. 

Whatever is is about the away end at Barnsley, it must be infectious. If the hosts had come out the traps flying to open the scoring in the first half, the Bees were even quicker in the second. Sergi, electric down the right and playing a much higher line than in recent weeks, delivering an inch perfect cross to Ollie. He made no mistake with his head from close in and that was it. 2-1!! The Bees in the lead and one which they showed no signs of surrendering.  

On we pushed. The home side being out passed and out manoeuvred. Sergi breaking with abandon. Balls being delivered from midfield with all the finesse of Paul Daniels pulling the lovely Debbie McGee (TM) from a seemingly empty cabinet. A third goal was inevitable and when it came, it was an almost carbon copy of the second. Sergil delivering from the right ; Ollie close in with his head. Back of the net !! Liquid football (although that could has been as much due to the rain). 3-1 Bees. Get in there you beauties!! What a moment. What a finish. What a hat-trick. 

What a goal, daddy. What. A. Goal.” You can thank HB for that one. The intonation in his voice a thing of beauty. But he’s right. A wise head on six year old shoulders and if for no other reason than it saw Ollie rise to the top of the Championship goal scorer’s chart. No player has more than the man thrust into a makeshift role yet looking more and more comfortable with each passing game . As Thomas Frank would note at full time, “We’ve been working very hard with him to arrive in the box in the right positions and he definitely did that three times today…..I think he has all the qualities needed to play higher. That’s why we’re very pleased that he signed a four-year contract with us a month ago. Very clever! 

Sam Saunders on pundit duties was equally effusive but it was one of those performances, as always seems to be the case when we get ‘good’ Brentford, where overly singling anybody out would seem trite. Sergi and Ollie will, understandably, grab all the headlines but this one is as much down to the formation and the team’s ability to keep their heads held high in awful conditions after that horrific opener. Collectively, about as positive a performance as one could hope to see and what a reward to all those supporters who had made the effort to travel for this one.

Three points are in the bag. The Bees are back in West London. Next up sees the visit of Daniel Bentley and Bristol City on Wednesday evening. With The Robins flying at present, can Thomas clip their wings and see Brentford hit the top half of the table?

See you there when we find out ! 

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Thomas and Sam do their thing in the rain at full time

Nick Bruzon

Ten Signs Better? Shock move precedes weekend fixtures.

28 Sep

Well that was a day to catch us all cold ahead of the trip to Barnsley for Sunday’s TV game. Former Brentford number 10 and Chelsea midfielder Josh McEachran has pushed the number of ex-Bees at Birmingham City back up to three following the departure of Jota to Aston Villa over the summer. There are no words beyond….’wow’. Possibly with a ‘drink being spat out of mouth’ gif/meme to accompany it but let’s not go there. Elsewhere, Nottingham Forest have gone to the top of the league following last night’s 3-2 defeat of abject (we would also accept ‘lowly’) Stoke City. Played 9 Won 0. Points 2. Cripes, that’s a worse record than Madonna’s version of American Pie. It is a result which sees Leeds United displaced from the penthouse suite of the Championship table hotel, heading into the weekend fixtures.

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We went there. But come on… ‘Allo ‘Allo! beats the usual ‘Downfall’ analogy.

First up, Brentford v Barnsley. Are you going ? Hats off if so. A Sunday lunchtime trek to Yorkshire when the comfort factor of TV presents an obvious alternative is a strange one. Not so much for Brentford fans who always travel in numbers but more that it would have been an easy one to swerve. An early, early start after a Saturday night out when the pub or bed beckon would be deemed acceptable reasons to catch up via alternate sources.

Personally, and there is no pretence here, I’m saving my beer tokens and green cards for those Saturday 3pms on the road. That’s nothing to do with the opposition but simply the fact that both are finite commodities which need to be played at the right time. The Barnsley game is on TV and that’s the option I have to take this time out. I’d love to be there, of course, but with a family and a dwindling bank account to juggle, sometimes one does have to take the a different option.

Being blunt, I’m still not sure why Sky have picked it. And I’m a Brentford fan!  If for no other reason, and with respect to both the Tykes and The Bees, it is hardly a game which screams of interest to anybody outside of Oakwell or Griffin Park. There is no real rivalry (mascot races aside – and do pick up the match day programme if you get a chance….).

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But what happened next….?

Still, there are only so many times that they can show Leeds United. Or should that say, presumably there are only so many times they can show Leeds United? However, Bielsa’s boys do seem be starting at 3pm today – away to Charlton Athletic – so there you go. They do, sometimes, play in the traditional timeslot. Can they retake top spot from Forest or is their now annual ‘falling apart’ about to start once more?

The Griffin have their Sky TV lined up once more and will be showing this one. Certainly that’s where I’m hoping to take the family.  For Sunday lunch. Still, all that’s for tomorrow.  Right now, I’m still spitting my drink out over the Josh McEachran story.

Not so much that the player, released by Brentford when his contract expired, has joined Birmingham City but more the point at which it has happened. Nobody in TW8 saw this one coming with most clubs having long since wrapped up business following the early transfer window. Especially from a player who, if we’re being honest, never really lived up to the potential that the former Chelsea man brought with him to Griffin Park. Instead, we parted ways after four seasons, 102 games and a solitary goal. Against Birmingham. 

It just never clicked for/with him and when a player is best known for his services to mobile phone cases or mini-golf then perhaps it’s best to admit that despite everyone’s best efforts, sometimes things just don’t work out. Sadly.

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Whatever else happens, we’ll always have this

It was a shame and for no other reason than he did start last season so brightly. There was talk of an England call up (from the player) and it looked as though we were finally going to see the McEachran that his reputation suggested. It didn’t happen.

Pep Clotet is not quoted on the Blues website although the club’s editorial describes him as, “A composed player happy to receive the ball in tight areas, McEachran’s vision, positioning and clever passing was apparent in the Under-23s matches when he was influential in helping to dictate proceedings.

So there you go. 

Could Blues have vision that Bees lacked ? Or is the player simply better suited to a more industrial style of football than the fast flowing movement of a Brentford team who have, let’s not forget, finished above Birmingham for the last five seasons?

Instead, Josh now has the chance to ‘go again’. Birmingham travel to Derby County this afternoon, with the Rams looking to put their car-crash start to the season well behind them. Will he get the chance to dominate the ten yards around the centre-circle ? Or is it one to start from the bench ? Either way, I’m intrigued to see how this all plays out…..

Nick Bruzon

One shot. One goal. No excuses. No sales.

4 Aug

Every good run comes to an end. Birmingham City enjoyed that rarest of experiences on Saturday afternoon, victory over Brentford, after coming away from Griffin Park with all three points for the first time since 2016. It was our first home defeat on the opening game of a season since 1992 – that, a 2-0 loss to Wolves which ushered in the start of the post Dean Holdsworth era and saw talismanic Terry Evans crocked for the vast majority of the campaign. It almost felt like that with Neal Maupay missing amid the stories linking him with Brighton, Aston Villa et al not going away. Yet there was plenty to be encouraged by  from what was, ultimately, a frustrating afternoon. One not helped by referee Gave Ward doing his very best to lose control of the game in the second half.

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Deano and Terry  – their last game together as Bees

With transfer speculation hanging heavy in the air, there was an audible gasp when the team was announced 59 minutes before kick off. Or was that just my asthma? No Neal Maupay in the 18. A bench where Josh Clarke was the most experienced of those named by Thomas Frank. Kamo and Benrahma both absent (although that had been expected, given fitness reasons as much as anything else).

Despite those missing, Ollie Watkins (whose name has been linked with Crystal Palace on the clickbait sites all week) did start and hit the ground running. As did my man of the match, Sergi Canos. With Pontus Jansson named as captain at the heart of a three man central defence the new look Brentford  team still had a solid feel to it. And it WAS new look, with only three of those who started the equivalent game last season, the 5-1 pasting of Rotherham, beginning this one. Sergi, Ollie and Henrik – for the record.  

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View from the Braemar – Captain Jansson impressed.

But with Peter Gilham getting the crowd going, his task aided by the presence of Harlee Dean (C) in the blue of Birmingham City, Thomas Frank’s boys wasted no time in pouring forward. Surely it was only a matter of time. Boom – the crossbar hit not once but twice in close succession as the goal threatend. A clutch of great saves from Lee Camp. Another onto the post. Shots fizzing just wide. A goal was coming….wasn’t it?

We’re in danger doing a Brentford here”, I quipped to one Braemar Road observer sitting alongside after the second shot onto the bar. That, from Marcondes who may be disappointed not to have found the net in retrospect.  Within 30 seconds Kristian Pedersen had headed the visitors into the lead. A quickly taken free kick where I’m not sure if Mr. Ward had even blown was met deep. Nobody picked up Pedersen’s short run and his precision header looped over and in from distance. One effort. One goal. One nil to the visitors. 

Much like Shakira’s hips, the stats don’t lie. At least, the one that says ‘goals scored’.  Despite that being they solitary time Birmingham threatened, and our own first half dominance which saw the game end on 76% possession to Brentford, the only piece of data that really counts is balls in the back of the net. And Birmingham City edged that. Somehow. Yet goals win games and, as such, one can’t try to deny them the points.

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Brentford 0 Birmingham City 1

Looking across social media and match reports, the ‘d’ word is being floated around by all manner of observers. Deserved, not Dean. Yes, we looked fantastic at times. Yes, we DID play well in the first half. Very.  But NO, we didn’t deserve to win because we couldn’t score a goal. We slowed down noticeably in the second half and looked laborious in the build up where the cut and thrust of the wide men and wing backs had diminished noticeably. No matter how leaden, physical and solid Birmingham City looked, they did manage to score and then succeeded in closing us out. On the plus side, I take heart from the clear and almost universal recognition of the way played for a significant chunk of this game.

I liked the look of Mathias Jensen in the centre of the park when he was able to push forward although Romaine and Kamo were clearly conspicuous by their absence. Josh Dasilva struggled whilst one free kick that he took from the heart of Saunders territory ended up in the heart of Tarkowski territory as it cleared the Ealing Road stand.

Romaine’s not coming back – we’ll just have to get over it – but Kamo’s presence around the ground did put a smile on the face at full time. As did a chance encounter with Sam Saunders who was as amiable as ever when discussing the game with an enthralled HB. Something all the more special given that the uttering of standard line: “And this is Saunders territory…” when the aforementioned free kick was awarded was met with the response “Daddy? What IS Saunders territory?” Where do you even start? Just not with the wife….

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Ian Moose was loitering. Amazingly, a look at his Twitter feed this morning shows there’s no criticism of Neal Maupay’s performance. Despite the player’s absence it is a mode that seems so hard-wired into the Talk Sport shock jock that I half expected to see some form of negativity towards Neal. Perhaps the pillars were in his way.

For now though, there’s nothing more to do beyond clenching the buttocks ahead of our trip to Middlesbrough on Saturday.  We’ve another painful wait until the transfer window finally slams shut at 5pm on Thursday afternoon. Will Neal still be here or might Brighton make an offer we can’t refuse? Has Said’s absence made him invisible to big spending Aston Villa? Indeed, has Dean Smith run out of money after his latest acquisitions this week in Tom Heaton and Marvelous Nakamba ? Might the Griffin Park ‘in’ door swing further ? 

All or none of the above happening wouldn’t surprise me. The one thing to expect these days is the unexpected. Let’s not forget that despite all the rumours and whispers, nothing has actually happened as it stands. None of the names in the frame have left the club. All we can do is sit tight and wait to see who Thomas has available when the team sheet is handed in at the Riverside.

Enjoy.

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The look from Thomas says it all….

Nick Bruzon

Strap yourselves in. Here we go…..

3 Aug

Dear Gary Lineker and the Match Of The Day team. The football season has started. Whilst you’ll likely be telling us next weekend that the beautiful game is back when the top flight kicks off in anger, things are already underway in some style. Last night saw the goalkeeping calamity that was the 3-3 between Luton Town and Middlesbrough then this afternoon we have the small matter of Brentford v Birmingham City at Griffin Park as the Championship opens in style. Fulham travel to Barnsley and QPR are at Stoke as we once more enjoy the side-battle of seeing who is the best team in West London at this level. There’s the obligatory Leeds United TV game on Sunday before we round things off with the visit of Frank Lampard’s former club Frank Lampard’s Derby County ™ to Huddersfield Town. As importantly, North of the border there’s a cry for help from my pal Kinglsey at Partick Thistle as he takes on Gunnersaurus (Arsenal) in the final of the Mascot World Cup. 

Oh, wow. This is it. We’re here. Season Ticket has arrived. Programme column has been submitted. Plans to meet up for pre-match beers locked in. Early morning stroll around Griffin Park taken.

I had to. One last chance to breathe in the start of a new campaign before the big move up the road. To enjoy the clam before the oncoming storm. It’s a glorious morning in Brentford with clear skies and the sun up just after 6am. Pack the factor 50. And that’s just for the action on pitch where the occasion of a visit from Birmingham City is always a special once. Even better, when it kicks off our season.

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Early morning, Griffin Park. Welcome home…

This one is sure to be sizzling. The game is close to a sell out and Birmingham will be on raucous form. If nothing else, it’s not very often they can say they are unbeaten in a Championship campaign yet that is, technically, what their record shows at present with Luton Town toping the fledgling table. So spirits will be high. At least, hopefully, until things kick off. Brentford are strengthened by the fact that, to date, only Romaine Sawyers and Ezri Konsa (£££ ker-chingg) have been sold whilst we welcome a host of summer signings of whom Pontus Jansson from Leeds United is the obvious high profile name.

I’m genuinely excited by seeing him in action. We all know Pontus of old. He’s one of those players who has always been a thorn under the saddle. A player who wears his heart on his sleeve. Who has broken ours in the past. Last season at Elland Road in particular. Who has captained his national side and played in the finals for the World Cup. See also: Brentford’s Henrik Dalsgaard of Brentford.

And now Pontus is a Bee  – signed over the summer at short notice and on a (relative) cut price fee compared to the £10m valuation that was floating around last season. This is bonkers. But brilliant. Something special is happening at Griffin Park and if we can survive the next few days with the squad unscathed then it could be a very special campaign indeed.

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I can’t wait for that first goal celebration….

Thomas Frank and the team ended on a real high last time. The second half of the season, trips to Swansea aside, saw us in buoyant form. The team were really firing with Said and Neal, in particular, on scintillating form. There will be no Benrahma today (fitness) but Thomas has already confirmed that both Ollie Watkins and the free-scoring French frontman – (c)  The Middlesex Chronicle big book of Brentford alliteration – are available. Whether they start remains to be seen but common sense dictates that it will be the bench, at best, simply given a lack of pre-season match prep. Then again, this is Brentford. Who knows? We do love a surprise or two.   

As for Birmingham City, there’s not much else to say. There’s an element of their fanbase who seem obsessed with Brentford, going by social media, but as much as anything else for me they are always a great yardstick of our own progress. As we’ve said before, the 90s were a period where our paths seemed permanently inter-twined and, sadly, it was Blues who came out on top more often than not. Albeit that last weekend at Peterborough was about as special as they get. Then they went up during the 94-95 single team promotion season. We came second after going neck and neck (including defeat at St.Andrews three games out from the end) so it was the play-offs. Hmmmm.

If those newer fans think ‘that penalty’ hurt (and it did) the prolonged agony of that campaign concluding and Bees just missing out as what would have been the toughest of promotions came tantalisingly close was another level of pain. Especially given our fate was then confirmed by Play-off semi-final defeat, on penalties, to Huddersfield Town. It was about as gut wrenching as it gets. Nobody needs any more reminder of that or the hero that is Bob Taylor somehow missing that unmissable open goal at the McAlpine in the first leg.

And that was it.  Until recently. We’ve been together for what is now a sixth season, despite Birmingham doing their level best to get relegated on more than one occasion. Yes. Harlee Dean did something stupid. Plus ça change. That’s something he’ll have to live with and which Brentford fans will never let him forget.

Harlee

How IS that working out?

That’s not obsession but more part of what makes football so magnificent. Those ad-hoc moments that turn into club folklore. Martin Rowlands kissing the badge. Saint & Greavsie prematurely awarding Birmingham City the 91-92 Third Division title before Gary Blissett did his thing at Peterbrough. Russell Slade whining about our celebrating like we’d won the FA Cup. Pontus Jansson’s half-chewed biro. And, of course, the Bees responding to his Birmingham City ‘ten times better’ claim by finishing above Blues for a fourth, and then last season fifth, successive Championship campaign.

No doubt #BeeThDJ will be filled with requests for Daydream Believer today. No doubt the club will ignore them. Been there. Done that. Got the t-shirt. It WAS brilliant fun for the fans when it happened but let’s never go back. Instead, it should remain as another of those folklore moments those of us fortunate to experience will never forget. 

He said it. Not me.

History is great. It should be a means of measuring progress. A means of inspiring. That’s what Birmingham City are for me as much as anything else. Inspiration. Now the chance to write another page in our history begins today. Of course, it is the final season at Griffin Park. We’re going to see and hear loads about that this campaign. Take it all in. Enjoy every second. Once it’s gone, it IS gone. But at the same time, let’s not use it as a distraction. This is a unique opportunity to combine the inspiration with the history.  And I cannot wait for things to get going. Roll on 3pm. See you there.

And if you need something to do prior to kick off, this week has seen the World Cup of Football Mascots unfolding on Twitter. Whilst Buzzette was not selected for the group stage (are they mad?)  that perennial favourite of these pages, Kingsley, was.

The Partick Thistle legend is now in the final against Gunnersaurus of Arsenal and needs your help. Please. At the time of writing, the North London club’s dinosaur (their mascot, not Piers Morgan) is just ahead in the poll but there is still time to turn things around. You can vote below. As long as it’s for Kingsley.

I caught up with my good friend last night (with apologies for going Ian Moose there) and he has promised to visit Griffin Park this season should he end up lifting the trophy. So please, get involved. Imagine the union that would be a coming together of him and Buzzette. If nothing else, its nice to enjoy a ‘World Cup of…’ that’s NOT being promoted by Richard Osman. Much as I enjoy his Pointless show, and I do, the link to his team is always a disturbing one.

We all know Buzzette is awesome. I defy anyone to name a better mascot in the top four divisions. Nice try, Wigan Athletic, but no cigar. Yet things are pretty special at Partick Thistle, too. So please – a vote for Kingsley is a vote for mascot magnificence. Who else could get away with this?  

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Nick Bruzon

Ten times better than we could have hoped for – although perhaps not the shirt. Final Griffin Park game revealed.

21 Jun

Well that’s been an interesting few days. Hot on the heels of Yoann Barbet and Garry Monk, the Championship news keeps on coming thick and fast. Brentford fans can now start planning their away days – in theory – after the league fixtures were revealed yesterday. The computer has been very kind to us, even allowing for  early trips to Leeds United and Middlesbrough. Things kick off with a visit from Birmingham City and finish with a final game at home to Barnsley. Elsewhere, we have a new goalkeeper shirt (as Ibuprofen sales go through the roof to cope with the impending migraine) whilst yesterday’s League Cup draw, from a supermarket (as you do) sees us gifted a 24th chance to experience Griffin Park one more time as Cambridge United are the visitors.

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We have a new GK shirt – sunglasses not included.

The excitement levels ahead of the 2019/20 campaign cranked up a few notches now we know when we’ll be playing who. It’s fair to say that the fate handed out to us by the legendary ‘fixture computer’ is ten times better than anybody could have asked for. A visit from troubled Birmingham City, now bereft of both Jota and Garry Monk, kicks things off on August 3rd. Regardless of any discontent currently being experienced at St. Andrews, I am sure that Blues will have got their house in order by that point. Thus leaving us with as compelling an encounter as one could hope for at any point in the campaign, let alone to get things underway in the late summer sunshine.

Whilst we always trot out the line about waiting ten games until the table has truly been deemed to have ‘taken shape’, August offers a stern test of our credentials that could well give a firm indication of how we are set. Aswell as hosting Birmingham we’ve got away trips to Middlesbrough and Leeds United (sure to be moved for TV, given there’s a ‘Y’ in the day) along with visits from Hull City and Derby County, technically still Frank Lampard’s Derby County, although those Chelsea stories just won’t go away. Plus there’s my favourite of all ‘away days’, the trip to newly promoted Charlton Athletic.

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That first month of league fixtures in full

There’s a return to Griffin Park for another fixture favourite – the Boxing Day game. Swansea City are the visitors on December 26th. I can’t see it being one to trouble Sky and run the risk of being shifted. If for no other reason, Leeds United aren’t involved. QPR away is October 26th and they visit on January 11th. Fulham come to Griffin Park on December 14th whilst we get the chance to pack out the away end and neutral stands on March 14th.

Rounding it all off is the visit from Barnsley. May 2nd is the final game at Griffin Park. Thankfully it is one which doesn’t have the additional significance of a local derby or a traditional rivalry – unless, of course, Toby Tyke fancies donning his spikes for a rematch of that infamous mascot race against Buzz Bee. Things are going to be emotional enough on that day without adding to the pressure by chucking in the likes of a Fulham or QPR. Albeit, knowing Brentford we’ll probably make the play-offs this time around, just to give us an additional final game and throw all carefully laid plans for saying goodbye into disarray.

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Did he, though?

Next up, the goalkeeper shirt. Cherry Tomato red? Lurid Orange? Definitely electric blue. Definitely ‘different’. Quite how it falls into the ‘retro’ category that the club have been touting, I’m not sure, unless we are talking about a throwback to the garish days of David Button and Graham Benstead?

I have to be honest that my gut reaction was one of abhorrence. It’s not going to fly off the shelves and I’m not going to be rushing out to buy one (except, perhaps, as a Christmas present for Mrs. Bruzon who thinks it’s gorgeous). But having given it a bit more consideration after the knee had jerked, I think this is a smart move from Brentford. And by smart, I mean intelligent rather than stylish.

Screen Shot 2019-06-21 at 07.07.50Goalkeeper’s shirts aren’t traditionally designed to be mass selling items. As long as there’s no clash with the home shirt then bring it on. It has drawn our eye and perhaps the logic here is that it may do the same to opponents. If the colour scheme gives even a fractional advantage then go for it. Who am I to knock kitman Bob’s methodology? I ’m sure he and the club know exactly what they are doing with this one – even if things didn’t work out quite so well for us when ‘that’ Hummel shirt was in use….   

Next, up the draw for the league cup took place yesterday. The tournament sponsors continuing their trend of ‘unusual’ locations/times for the draw and hosting it in a supermarket. Presumably, this is to get people talking about it and mentioning their names so, out of principal, I won’t. Moreso, given that in Brentford at least, the aforementioned supermarket survives only by reason of having no competition rather than customers going there through choice. If their usual empty shelves and ‘borderline’ use by dates was anything to go by, you’d have been forgiven for expecting several of the balls to be missing or the likes of Bradford Park Avenue or Middlesbrough Ironopolis to be included.

Anyway, nonsense aside, we’ve been given a home tie. Cambridge United. In a draw which I’m amazed isn’t rigged – given the number of big-name ties that seem to come out every time the balls are pulled – the first round also sees Wimbledon play MK Dons and the ‘media love-in’ derby between Salford City and Leeds United. One can only assume those two will be picked for TV coverage. Leeds on the box – who’d have thought it?

And finally, as unsubtle as ever, if you’d like to read more (to coin a phrase)….. please do download a copy of the Last Word season season review – containing the least bad of these columns from the World Cup to Aston Villa deserving to win the play offs. It also includes the World Cup aswell as all the ‘Park Life’ articles submitted for the matchday programme and so not previously available on these pages.  

ALL proceeds received are being donated to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust so what better way to remind yourself how brilliant 2018/19 was? To kill a bit of time on the commute to work / on your summer holidays / on the toilet etc You can download it , now, for your kindle , iPod telephone or other electronic reading device here.

At £1.99 it’s cheaper than half a pint so what’s to lose? Apart from £1.99 – which then goes to a great cause anyway. Many thanks again. And enjoy.

511568510

Nick Bruzon

 

Free agent joins new team. Club sack manager (again).

19 Jun

What’s there to say after Tuesday’s double whammy of Championship news? Yoann Barbet was the name in the frame for Brentford fans once it was announced that he had signed for QPR. There was always a fair chance our paths were going to cross again but Loftus Road was the last place anybody expected him to pop up, with Leeds United being the name that has appeared on more than a few occasions. I guess it just goes to show, once more, that the clickbait is nothing more than that. Elsewhere, Birmingham City will no doubt have somebody ten times better lined up for their own hot seat after sacking Garry Monk. I hear Gary Rowett is available.

So, Yoann Barbet. Emotions were mixed on social media after the news was revealed via the medium of cringey hashtag. #BonjourBarbet being the offending article this time around. You have to feel for Yoann. Whatever snake emojis were offered in his general direction (and there were a few) nobody deserves that. It put one in mind of the #JakeJoins they used when Jake Bidwell moved to Loftus Road.

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Urghh – hashtags

Personally, I’m not in the snake camp. If anything it’s an attitude of general ambivalence. He was a hero to us at Brentford and provided plenty of good times. Enthused team spirit. Was nothing but welcoming and friendly when approached by supporters – young and old. He could even smile at himself (if you recall the reaction to his goal at Bolton following ‘that’ league cup penalty v Norwich City’) . We had the chance to retain him if it was one we had both wanted to take but, for whatever reason, Yoann’s contract was allowed to run out and he became a free agent.

From there, he has taken the decision to join Mark Warburton at Loftus Road. A place where he will no doubt find himself having to do Plan A better. A lot. There’s no ill will pointed towards him – just surprise at the destination and a lot of good luck offered. He’ll need it. If nothing else, it’ll make the 237 derbies even more interesting than they had already become following the news about their new manager.

That’s the thing. Of all the clubs there had to be a better option. Surely? Leeds were rumoured. There was talk of Aston Villa looking to take him up a level. Then again, who hasn’t Dean Smith been linked with? Or Mark Warburton, for that matter. I’ve also heard Alan Judge’s name in the frame to reunite with his former manager. It’s an inevitable part of the transfer window as lazy journalists look for stories where none are even close to existing. Perhaps Yoann’s link to those clubs was nothing more than ‘fake news’. Urghhh.

At the end of the day (Clive), the player has made his choice. Whatever the motivation – be it money, staying local or maybe there were just no other offers. Who knows? Yoann will be well aware of the history between our clubs but as long as he doesn’t do anything along the lines of Martin Rowlands or Harlee Dean (surely nobody could be that stupid) then presumably we’ll all move on. Albeit, If Said wants to recreate Jota v Jake Bidwell then that would be nice.

 

Instead, it is left to Bernard Quackenbush on Twitter to sum up what many of us are thinking: Feel somewhat deflated by this. I wanted to give the guy a warm welcome if he ever returned with an opposing team. But just cannot applaud anyone wearing those hoops.

No meltdown – more an opportunity lost.

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Better times

As for Birmingham City…wow!!  The tailspin they’ve been in since relieving Gary Rowett of his duties in December 2016 has been well documented. From a Premier league chasing position, they’ve gone on to flirt with relegation a couple of times, over spent, seen points deducted and consistently finished below Brentford (that’s five seasons in a row, now).

With Garry Monk, it looked as though he might arrest that decline. Instead, the sale of Jota to Aston Villa has been seen as the catalyst for a bizarre parting of the ways with the club formally announcing that: “The board of directors are hopeful that over time the team can adopt a fresh and modern footballing philosophy,“. Hmmmm – read as much between the lines on that as you can.

You couldn’t make it up after the Rowett affair but instead, another promising manger has gone.  No tears here – any rival choosing to weaken themselves through sackings and sales is only a good thing for us. The BBC report tells us how owners Trillion Trophy Asia are calling for a change in “footballing philosophy”. Good luck with that. It could be a long and painful season ahead at St. Andrews.

And finally, with a sledgehammer like unsubtle change of direction, huge thanks to all those who have downloaded a copy of the Last Word season season review – containing the least bad of these columns from the World Cup to Aston Villa deserving to win the play offs. It also includes the World Cup aswell as all the ‘Park Life’ articles submitted for the matchday programme and so not previously available on these pages.  

ALL proceeds received are being donated to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust so what better way to remind yourself how brilliant 2018/19 was? To kill a bit of time on the commute to work / on your summer holidays / on the toilet etc You can download it , now, for your kindle , iPod telephone or other electronic reading device here.

At £1.99 it’s cheaper than half a pint so what’s to lose? Apart from £1.99 – which then goes to a great cause anyway. Many thanks again. And enjoy.

511568510

Nick Bruzon

To cap it all, they had a drum. A f***ing drum.

31 Mar

It really was that bad. Brentford and Wigan Athletic played out as insipid a 0-0 draw as one could imagine when Championship football returned on Saturday afternoon following the International break. The scintillating football which has been a trademark of Thomas Frank’s team in 2019 nothing but a distant memory in a game that was as awful as the smell wafting over the DW stadium. For the record, chicken manure from a local farmer – no manners, but what a critic. To borrow a phrase. Instead, it is nothing more than a case of scratching around for positives as the Bees are left chasing a fifth, successive top ten finish and a midweek trip to Swansea City. This before Frank Lampard’s Derby County ™ are next up at Griffin Park.

I’ve watched the highlights. If anything, the 1minute 47 seconds offered up by Sky are overly generous. The other 88 mins 13 were as turgid as it comes. Wigan were determined to strangle any life out of the game. Brentford, unable to find a way through as any attacking intent was choked out of the game. Paul Cook’s team administering a vice like grip around the throat of the Bees. Whenever Neal Maupay got in the box there were three men on him. Saïd was closed down every time he got on the ball. Several players seemed off the pace (first half Henrik and Ollie in particular – sorry, but..) whilst the team were desperately crying out for the fluidity of Romaine Sawyers to guide the ball through the midfield and open up play. And, Wigan had a drum. A f**king drum. At home. That was worse than anything we saw on pitch or smelled off it. At least we had Harry Potter up our sleeve to counter the moribund banging. Nice work, Simon.

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A lone drummer is no substitute for a home atmosphere

Instead, we ended the game with a solitary shot on target. According to the stats. I was struggling to remember even that although the highlights have duly offered it up. Our hosts had three, with Brentford very much grateful to Luke Daniels for keeping us in the match. Three times he retained parity including one effort from distance in the first half that looked as though it might catch him unawares and drift in to the top corner. Instead, it was guided to safety as our virgin goal remained unblemished.

Thomas was bang on the money at full time when he noted “It was a game of very few chances and I think it was a fair result.…. Our normal fluent play between the lines just wasn’t there and we weren’t good enough to play around them”. Not ideal reading but it was exactly what happened and infinitely better to have a head coach who acknowledges what we could all see rather than trotting out the usual “We deserved to win this”.

Look, it wasn’t great. There’s no real action of note to talk about and to compound matters, we lost Yoann Barbet just a few minutes into the second period. He’d needed treatment late on in the first after a nasty looking fall and was clearly limping as he emerged after his half time cuppa. The boos from the home supporters whilst he was being treated both unfair and uncalled for. Something that was consistent with any of our players going down after a lot of rough treatment.

There was little protection offered from the man in neon yellow, referee Andy Woolmer in a game that ended with him blowing up for fouls on 33 occasions. Just to put that into context, there were only 20 awarded as Birmingham City L went down at West Brom on Friday night and 21 as Frank Lampard’s Derby County came one short of hitting 7(seven) goal brackets against Rotherham.   

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View from the away end – about as close as it got

So Wigan stifled it. Brentford were off the pace. But can we take anything positive from this one? Well, the fact that Wigan played with such a negative style and formation shows the threat presented by normally free-scoring Bees. Indeed, as the clock moved on it felt like the sort of game that so many times in the past we’ve seen the team lose 1-0. At least this time around, Luke kept us in it with a number of saves that were as smart as the all red goalkeeper’s kit he was sporting. 

There was a return to match action for Lewis Macleod, too. His appearance as a late substitute for Josh Da Silva being the latest attempt to relaunch what should be such a promising career but one which has, sadly, been blighted by injury after injury. How unlucky has Lewis been? Here’s hoping he can put a few games under his belt and then hit the ground running next season. Indeed, even Josh starting this one and a very accomplished performance from Mads Bech Sörensen off the bench being further testament to a B-team system that is seeing players segue through to the match day squad.

What else. It was another game unbeaten in orange / brown (what jinx?) whilst the pub before and after the game was quiet magnificent – despite the bizarre formation of a canteen style queue to order the drinks. This a phenomena I’ve now witnessed twice in less than a week after having never experienced this previously. How has this been allowed to happen? Why? Did I miss a memo ? It’s quite bizarre.

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Wigan – great beer, despite the queue

The lack of social element aside,  how do you see the full contents on offer across the whole bar front when approaching a fixed point in the corner. Moreso, when you are staring at the back of the prior punter? Why can’t the staff work out who is next up without looking ? Even then, service was still granted by answering the question “Who’s next?”.  Err, me. I’m at the top of the queue. All that was needed was a plastic tray for the full school dining hall experience . Still, as an away fan it made an alternative to being greeted with the words ‘Ow Much..?’ from the previous transaction ringing in the ears.

We digress, as ever and that’s a rant for another day. For now, we’ll file it alongside waiters describing coffee as Expresso and made up coffee words (what the hell is a ventissimo?). Team GB. The faux-verb “To medal”. Mrs. Brown’s Boys. People who think Roger Moore shouldn’t top a ‘Best Bond’ list. Star Wars Day  – that’s the one after May the third.  Ian Moose. iPod headphones. The England Supporters band. Indeed, any form of musical interlude at football. See also: goal music, drums, Mr. Portsmouth and his bell. John Bishop (he’s from Liverpool, apparently. If only he’d mentioned it in his routine). Use of the words Derby County preceded by Frank Lampard’s….

And relax. All of a sudden, a 0-0 at Wigan doesn’t seem so bad. Despite the drum.

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Thomas salutes the fans at full time

Nick Bruzon  

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

17 Mar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Not exactly TW8….

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nick Bruzon

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

16 Mar

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

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

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Thomas celebrates at home. Again

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

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

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

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Saïd, Neal and the team are providing goals and smiles

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

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

All is forgiven, Marcello…

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

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

Roll on 3pm. See you there.

Nick Bruzon