Tag Archives: Birmingham

A historical hat-trick awaits in the League Cup. But which way?

19 Sep

We’ve a return to league cup action tonight with Brentford looking to put what management see as the bad luck but wonderful performances in the Championship behind us and reach the fourth round of this tournament.  If so it would, incredibly, be just the third time ever. Standing between us and, even more incredibly, a draw that will take place at a normal time on a normal channel (Sky Sports news , following the Manchester United v Burton tie) are Norwich City. But can we get past the Canaries to reach a place we’ve been to only twice before ? For the record, 1982-83 and 2010-11 : losing at Nottingham Forest and Birmingham City respectively.

Well, if ever there was incentive to go for it then it has to be tonight. Putting aside our previous form in this tournament, victory would see us into the last 16 of a trophy where the unfancied teams have, historically, had a little bit more success than in the FA cup. Who could forget Bradford City (of league 2) getting all the way to the final in 2012/13 after beating Arsenal en route, Swindon lifting the silverware in 1969 (agasint Arsenal) , Luton doing the same in 1988 (also: Arsenal) whilst the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool have lost to lower league opposition on more than regular basis.

Yet for Brentford to find themselves in Wednesday night’s draw with a chance to do the same, first there is the small matter of Norwich City. It would be fair to say that last season’s Championship fixtures were amongst the most disappointing of all those games we played. Coming amidst a woeful run for both teams, the Bees didn’t even attempt to dial in performance as we were thrashed 5-0 at Carrow Road in early December. It was the proverbial game where we lucky to get nil and, it would be fair to say from anyone who had the misfortune to sit through it, that this really was one of the low points in an otherwise exciting season.

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So bad at Carrow Road last season that 1 on 3 outside the box became a penalty and 2-0

It was a performance only matched in the return fixture at Griffin Park on New Year’s Eve. That one finished 0-0 in a game where both teams were lucky to get nil. Even the prospect of sneaking out early to watch Mrs Browns Boys and Jools Holland bringing Roland Rivron out of cold storage for the annual ‘hootenanny’ seemed tempting at one point. Well, it didn’t. Nothing is that bad but this game did run it awfully close.

Yet from that point the Bees exploded into form. Despite rumours of Scott Hogan’s departure we started to get the wins and the performances in. The FA Cup against Chelsea aside. That one was less Mrs. Brown’s Boys and more Len Goodman’s Partners in Rhyme (and if you haven’t seen that one yet then please, don’t. Bad doesn’t even begin to describe it. Think budget level Catchphrase on acid with Len channeling the worst of a bad dad wedding speech).

Hogan even managed a goal against Birmingham City before injury his buttocks, apparently, and finally moving to Aston Villa.

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Mrs Brown. If December was bad, NYE wasn’t much better

Could we emulate the same tonight? Could the cup help motivate a Championship campaign where despite the efforts of the team and the self-belief of our head coach, results are not going as one would hope. Could this be the perfect fillip going in to Saturday’s bottom two clash with Bolton Wanderers? Reaching the fourth round, let alone a tie with likes of Manchester united, Arsenal or even Birmingham City – that latter one for more reasons than you could shake a stick at – would produce a fantastic buzz around Griffin Park at a time when perhaps it may come in handy.

Personally, I’ll be happy just being able to watch a fourth round draw without the need for an intravenous drip of double espresso (with an s, there’s no x . Restaturants, try using a dictionary) to help me through the night.

But for that to happen then we need to win tonight. Given we’ve only done this twice before in our entire history then let’s not take anything for granted. Indeed, I saw a stat yesterday (thanks to Jonathan Burchill on twitter) that said we’ve only even reached the third round three times. Burnley (1960) and then who else but Norwich City (19968 and 1991) as the teams to halt our progress.

Either way there’s going to be a historical hat-trick tonight. Will it be our third trip to the fourth round or a trio of Canary infused defeats at this stage?

At 7.45pm, we find out. See you there.

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Espresso for the draw? Give me expressb. Or preferably just Sky

Nick Bruzon

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Bees have to settle for another point as Birmingham lose (but win the sack race).

17 Sep

Brentford 1 Reading 1. Eight league games down and the Bees still to register a win. Yet a point was, at the least, sufficient to take us above a Birmingham City side who lost their sixth successive game and consequently sacked manager Harry Redknapp. Oh please, stop sniggering. And with basement club Bolton Wanderers losing again, it puts even more significance on our own trip to the Macron this Saturday.

What can you say about our own performance at Griffin Park? Well, the first half was as good as the second was poor whilst referee Tony Harrington had a stinker. It’s a shame that the highlights now available on Sky don’t show either of the two seemingly nailed on penalties denied the Bees – Romaine Sayers in the first half and Neal Maupay in the second. Gut reaction to both was that a spot kick should have been awarded but, instead, he ruled in favour of Reading.

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Reading were the latest visitors to Griffin Park

As for their penalty to equalise Josh Clarke’s sublime opener, it was about as soft as they come. Rico Henry alleged to have shoved Tyler Blackett as a free kick drifted past and into touch. The Reading man pulling off a Norman Wisdom pratt fall to fool the ref and present his team the chance to level things up. It was a chance that was gratefully accepted.

But again, we’re hanging on arbitrary moments of refereeing indecision. The game should have been put to bed long before that. The Bess dominated and the goal from man of the match Josh no more than our pressure and play deserved. An exchange of passes with Neal Maupay in the box saw him fire home from a tight angle with defenders bearing down.

At the risk of cracking out the ‘déjà vu’ line once more, this is exactly what we got. Tons of possession. Tons of pressure and despite a first half lead (Reading still remain the only Championship club not to get a goal in the opening 45) there was a sense of the inevitable about what came next.

Whilst Jaap Stam read his team the riot act, Dean Smith seemed to have read his a bedtime story. Talk about the game of two halves. The pressure game disappeared and instead we seemed content to try and contain. To be fair, this was working ok until the ref intervened. And at that point you then pay the price for not killing it off.

Dean would later lambast Mr Harrington and his officials to the BBC, telling them that: ”Two of our boys have been tackled from behind and we get nothing”. “Three of their players were already on bookings and some of the tackles were just allowed to go on. All we are asking for is consistency. I didn’t think the referee was very good today”. “We are talking about five big decisions and only one has been given and that can’t be right at this level with professional officials”.

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The Bees had to rely on themselves rather than the officials

Fair enough and true enough. But it goes back to the same old adage about taking chances when they present themselves. Yet again there seemed this endless desire to pass it across the face of the box and walk it into the net when just shooting would have been the order of the day.

Here are three more quotes for you.

7(seven) year old supporter Felix Watts summarising at full time : “The only thing we had to do today was shoot. Really quickly. When they were in the penalty box at Griffin Park all we had to do was shoot but we kept passing it.

Fulham manger Slavisa Jokanovic after his team’s midweek 2-1 win over Hull City: “You cannot create 100 chances before scoring. You must be clinical and show more quality…..This is a similar story (to other games this season), we are dominating. I was worried and it was not a healthy game for us and our supporters.

Dean Smith (in an article you can read in full on ‘official’) : “We are eight games in and I haven’t seen a team that is better than us so far. I feel we were on a par with Wolverhampton Wanderers, who are a really good team, but we are still waiting for our first win.”

I’ll leave it to you as to who is talking most sense at this point.

Genuinely, I feel for Dean. His team aren’t getting the breaks. Reading had only two chances of note and took one. His team WAS denied by a referee set to ‘random’. At least he has said his piece on that, no matter what retribution may follow.  Watching from the stands, it was infuriating how many decisions seemed to go the wrong way. Having now seen the full highlights (below) with the mid-day curfew having been met, the non-penalties look even worse. The foul on Romaine especially whilst the decision to penalise Mauapy at the end one I’m still struggling with.

One can symapthise with Dean over the refereeing performance

But at the same time the malaise and self-pity now seems infectious. The second half performance was just phoned in with little attempt to change formation or tactics and we paid the ultimate price.

Did the Bees deserve to win? Probably. Dean can count himself very hard done by. Yet by the same virtue results have to be earned. Stats, possession and percentages count for naff all compared to balls in the net. We are only eight games in but if we are talking stats then an average of 0.5 points per game is not the mark of a team better than the third of the division we’ve already played.

Still, let’s look positive. We’ve received £12million from Birmingham City (going on the figures quoted in Ben Burgess’ programme column) for three players who are yet to pick up a point. The Blues lost again – that’s all three since they concluded their transfer business – and Harry has now been shown the door at St. Andrews following his team’s 1-3 home defeat to Preston. Hey, at least they got their first goal since the window slammed shut.

“Another rebuild. More turmoil after bringing in all those players. No time to gel. #Crazy. #JustCrazy”. Not my words but those of BBC roving reporter Clem on Twitter as the news broke of this and two other sackings yesterday as Chesterfield and Port Vale also pulled the plug.

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Clem’s gut reaction says it all

This, some something he would later change to: Horrible run. But is this chopping & Changing really workable? 

Sadly, I fear it is . In this instance.

Birmingham City have now slid beneath The Bees with only Bolton Wanderers keeping the pair of us off the bottom. The same Bolton Wanderers we travel to on Saturday. However, the Blues moved quickly  with Lee Carsley taking temporary charge at St.Andrews. We all know what he can do and you can bet your bottom dollar that he’ll get them firing quicker than you can say ‘transfer window.’

Lee more than steadied the ship at Griffin Park after the woeful Marinus experiment came to an end, even scooping the October 2015 manager of the month award. There were many who hoped he would stay on full time although that was something never in his scope, a point that was made clear from the off. But now Birmingham have the opportunity to benefit from a similar stint – presumably until Steve Bruce becomes available soon.

Lee will no doubt re-inject some vitality and confidence into Birmingham City. The big question is whether Dean can do the same to his ‘unlucky’ Bees before the chance to nail Bolton to the bottom presents itself on Saturday.

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A point sees the Bees rise above big spending Birmingham

Nick Bruzon

7(seven) and 0. But is it as bad as it looks or is the table lying?

13 Sep

7(seven) games in and Brentford remain locked on three points, sit second bottom in the Championship table and have still failed to record a league win. Our latest attempt saw a 2-1 defeat to Sheffield Wednesday where despite taking an early lead via Nico Yennaris, normal 2017/18 service soon resumed. The only consolation of the night was another blank and another defeat for a Birmingham City side who now join us in the bottom three.

But first, matters closer to home. Another game, another defeat for Dean Smith and his new look Bees. A trip to Sheffield Wednesday was never going to be an easy one but we were given a gift wrapped start after Nico gave us a 9th minute lead from outside the box. It was less a piledriver and more a bobbling grass cutter but, somehow, Owls ‘keeper Kieren Westwood conspired to let it squirm under his body.

Do check out the Sky highlights package (at least, until ‘official’ are allowed to do their thing) to see just how much of a gift this was. Still, who’s complaining? Not me. After all the patches of brilliance and bad luck we’ve seen to date then perhaps this was it. Something had gone our way. The dam had been breached and surely normal service would resume. Alas not.

The longer it stayed 1-0 the louder the inevitable equaliser began knocking on the door. And then, with first half injury time being played, we welcomed it in. Despite Wednesday charging through, John Egan was still able to clear Gary Hooper’s goal bound effort off the line. Sadly, it was only cleared as far as the near post where it bounced back to the grateful player who bundled it home for the equaliser.

Screen Shot 2017-09-13 at 07.12.44Ph-eep. (I would also accept: Ph-hew). Half time. 1-1 The proverbial stuffing knocked out of the Bees and a psychological mountain to climb. K2? Or should that be Wednesday 2 ? Ross Wallace capitalised on our ongoing inability to clear a ball played into the box as he stabbed home a corner with 20 minutes left. Despite Brentford’s best efforts, that was it. 2-1 Sheffield and Dean Smith looking to rationalise more dropped points.

Speaking to the press afterwards (and you can read his thoughts in full on ‘official’) there was more talk of us creating chances but just needing to take them. Of being unlucky. Of our play deserving more than it has achieved in terms of results : “We didn’t take our chances and then gave away a soft goal. ….. Not concentrating from a corner lost us the game. We were then the better team again after they went in front and deserved to score another goal, but it wasn’t to be”.

Sorry, Dean. But let’s have a bit of context here. We don’t deserve to win every game. Sometimes we’ll play well and lose. Others, we’ll play badly and win. But this season we’re making basic mistakes and we’re not winning in the league. And even just acknowledging this would be a start. Surely? Instead, it feels as though we are wallowing in self pity.

Let’s have a bit more context. At the same stage of the 2015/16 season, 7(seven) games in, Marinus Dijkhuizen had taken the Bees to 8 points and 2 wins. It was horrific to watch at times and, whilst nobody wants to see a manager lose his job, it couldn’t end soon enough. Likewise, I’m not for one second calling for his return or hoping Dean suffers a similar fate.

Far from it. We are still three games short of the magical ‘played 10’ marker. That position where the league table is finally deemed to have taken shape. A time where bad luck has had a chance to iron itself out. Where updated squads have had an opportunity to gel.

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Dean v Marinus. If we are looking at stats

I’m sorry. I don’t believe our squad is stronger. I believe our squad is potentially stronger although, to date, this is yet to be demonstrated. How can we dominate, always be told we deserved to win but so far fail to accomplish this? Being honest, the team that ended last season would wipe the floor with this one. At present.

Yet equally we know why departures happened. Money talks; players walk. The rest of the squad are still adjusting. As much to those exits as to each other and the lack of any settled team. This was the ninth line up change in nine games since 2017/18 began. It is only natural that it will take time for things to come together.

At the end of the day (Clive), let’s have one final piece of context. It’s only early September. Trips to Aston Villa and Sheffield Wednesday, immediately after the transfer window, were never going to be easy. More importantly, we’ve a home game with Reading followed by a trip to basement club Bolton. Surely if we follow Dean’s beliefs about bad luck, great play and keeping on doing what we are doing these will be the games to put that into practice? Boom. We’ll be off the mark, up and running.

Besides, it could be worse. We could be Birmingham City. Harry Redknapp’s expensively put together new look team lost. Again. This time to Leeds United. His team failed to score. Again. Clayton who now? His defence were as generous as he is with the club’s chequebook as they continued to leak.

The Birmingham boss was in fighting form afterwards, reading from the big book of Smith as he told the press: “We completely dominated the second half. It was one-way traffic, wasn’t it?

As for our former captain, he must have been itching to ‘go again’. Instead, we got another of the twitter ‘faves’. See also: “It wasn’t good enough” for a full house in post defeat bingo

Sound familiar?

Harlee Birmingham tweet

Nick Bruzon

What a wonderful gesture for fans. There’s still time to get involved.

7 Sep

With the Brentford Fan Forum tonight and the return to Championship action approaching with the trip to Aston Villa on Saturday there’s going to be more than enough to talk about over the next few days. So we’ll keep this relatively brief and acknowledge our near neighbours QPR. Specifically the fact that this Saturday sees them celebrate the 100th anniversary of their first fixture at Loftus Road when Ipswich Town visit. For the stat lovers amongst us, 8th September 1917 saw QPR take on West Ham for the stadium’s opening game and now they are looking to celebrate a centenary.

It wouldn’t be a ‘new stadium’ story without West Ham muscling in on the act. Apparently, and you may have missed it, they moved recently. Albeit these days the buzz is less about their own Olympic Park and more their owners. But that’s another story.

This time around, QPR are the team in the limelight. And to help mark this occasion they’ve been asking fans to use the hashtag #LoftusRoad100 to post pictures on Twitter. The best of these will then feature on the programme for the Ipswich game.

What a lovely gesture. And how great to see the reaction of supporters. Not just from QPR but other clubs, too. Not least Brentford where several of our fans have got involved in the action to help our neighbours mark the date. Photos of the stadium exterior, players scoring goal after goal, Romaine Saywers and even the technicolour marvel that is the scoreboard are all featured.

So do take a quick look. #LoftusRoad100. And for anybody wishing to get involved, the closing date for entries is 10am today.

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100 years of Loftus Road. Can you help them celebrate?

As for Aston Villa, I can’t wait to get back to action on Saturday. What with several of our heroes moving on, the Stadium news and Gibraltar shipping 9 in Belgium it’s been a turbulent week or so for yours truly. But all that’s behind us and its time to look forwards.

And what better way to do so than with the major positive being Sergi Canos. The Spanish wing wizard featuring in the B-team fixture at Griffin Park, against QPR of all teams, earlier in the week.

Whilst I missed the final score, I do know that he made it through 66 minutes of the game and seems as excited as ever about playing at Griffin Park. Certainly if his own Twitter feed is to be believed.

We all know how good Sergi is and what he can do. At a time when some of us might need a shot in the arm, to have him back will be a wonderful thing. Aston Villa haven’t had the best of starts and will no doubt be there for the taking, albeit I’m going for my standard Villa bet of 1-1 in this one (for research purposes, that’s currently available at 23/4).

The Villans sit just above Brentford in 18th place and, it would be fair to say, so far haven’t set the world alight this season. See also: last season. Moreso, for a team inexplicably tipped as title favourites when the campaign began.

That said, our own record isn’t as good as some of our play suggests. However, and quality though they were, with both Harlee and Max departing for Birmingham at least the plethora of defensive combination should be whittled down somewhat. There was a double pair of Danish clean sheets for Andreas Bjelland and Henrik Dalsgaard during the break, which will only have the defensive duo in high spirits. Chuck Sergi into the mix and who knows what could happen?

Whilst I’ve called it 1-1, Villa failing to score is an equal possibility. Certainly if our old friend SimonHateley on twitter is to be believed. He’s recently posted a wonderful graphic showing just how Villa Park really is THE place where goalscoring form goes to die.

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Villa Park. Where form goes to die. Apparently

That’s all to come though. First up we have the Fan’s forum. Don’t forget that one starts at 7.00ppm tonight in The Hive and so do get along if you can. I can’t imagine many other clubs doing this on such a regular basis and what a great chance to put anything you may wish to ask to our top brass.

Enjoy.

Nick Bruzon

Dear Phil, Cliff, Rasmus, Mark, Dean and BIAS…..

6 Sep

Wednesday morning. The internationals are done. The dust has settled on a transfer window that saw Brentford lose several B team players aswell as selling three of our crown jewels to Birmingham City. Likewise, picking up the likes of Neal Maupay, Kamo, Ollie Watkins and Henrik Dalsgaard (amongst others) earlier in the summer. We are all now well acclimatised to the fact that Lionel Road plans have been changed. Having had time to consider it all, are you happy with it all? Are Brentford well placed for the future? Is there anything you’d like to know ?

Well, as is now traditional, the club have announced a fan forum will take place this Thursday in The Hive from 7.00pm – 8.30pm. This is your chance to put any questions to a panel consisting of : Chairman Cliff Crown, Co-Directors of Football Phil Giles and Rasmus Ankersen, Chief Executive Mark Devlin and Head Coach Dean Smith.

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The forum has always had a strong panel

However much one can question some of the short term communication methods of the club (and I have previously), there’s no denial that the willingness to subsequently talk to supporters is something that the club embrace. This event has been called at fairly short notice but given the recent flurry of news then no bad thing. As anybody who attended the recent Lionel Road meeting would testify, you may not like everything you hear but you will be given a frank and open assessment of where we are. More importantly to many (myself included), some rationale as to why the club is making the decisions it does.

Personally, I’ve written two quite emotional columns in the last week. The first, in the direct aftermath of the transfer window closing. The second, a few days later once the video from Phil Giles had been released. Between them, they generated over 80 responses on the Last Word blog site alone. There were many more on Twitter and Facebook. That’s probably more in the last five days than the total received in the last five months.

This isn’t me blowing my own trumpet. Far from it. At the end of the day (Clive) I’m just the numpty on the terrace who shouts my mouth off every now and then. Many could relate to what I was saying. Some were scornful. Others read what they wanted to see rather than what had actually been written. All that is fine and fair. Opinion is a wonderful thing.

However, what it does show is how much Brentford fans care when something does happen that impacts us. That we all love this club – whether we feel it is being unjustly criticised or making decisions that, on the surface, seem contrary to what we have been told before or our own footballing progression.

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Jota. It really happened – and fans have been quick to debate

I’ll stick in the usual caveats at this point. That we should never, ever forget rattling buckets. That Matthew Benham has made huge and unprecedented investment in this club. That we all chose to surrender our BU shares in the face of financial oblivion and without that we’d likely have folded.  That we can’t compete financially with the vast majority of our Championship rivals. That it has been made clear Brentford are a selling club and this is our model.

Yet that doesn’t deny anybody the right to ask questions. To look at understanding things which, on the surface, seem at odds with how we see other clubs operate. To seek clarification from our club hierarchy as to things they may have previously said.

And the fact the people closest to Matthew are prepared to put themselves in the firing line is something we should only applaud. The forum has always been a great event although, sadly, one I’m unable to attend this time around due to a longstanding prior commitment that I’ve been unable to weasel out of at this late stage.

Fortunately, the option to position questions in advance is there. If not through official channels (currently, although they do always open this up on the night)  then BIAS are certainly collating these in advance on behalf of fans. As such, if anyone from the club or BIAS is reading then here are a few from myself. If any could be answered that would be hugely appreciated.

1:Norwich City are 4/5 on to beat Birmingham City this weekend (price supplied by club sponsor LeoVegas). Will any of the panel be placing a bet?

2: It is not an option to not be in the Premier League. It has to happen in the next three years…. At the moment there is no Plan B. We’ll be in the Premier League in three years.

Not my words but those of Rasmus Ankersen at the September 2015 forum. That time comes to an end this season. Is it a position the panel stand by or one that perhaps, with the benefit of hindsight, we may wish to reconsider?

3: Is there now a Plan B ?

4: “The goal is to get stronger after each transfer window.

Not my words but those of Rasmus Ankersen at the September 2015 forum. Whilst we have undoubtedly invested in potential the new signings are all that – new.  To lose three such influential and settled players would be a huge blow . Do we honestly feel that the squad is currently stronger ?

5: How is the money spent? The fees for Jota, Hogan, Andre, Maxime and Harlee are believed to be well over £33m. How is this split between the future of the club, paying back Matthew the vast amounts he has invested and ongoing costs?

6: Why don’t the club disclose fees? Instead fans are left (in Phil’s words) ‘deflated’ whilst we have to rely on rumour, gossip and potentially incorrect data. If nothing else, it might give fans a clearer idea of how well we are doing in terms of transfer activity

7: ”Strategically it’s the ideal way to do it. Sell them late and buy them early.”  Not my words but those of Phil Giles. That’s a massive gamble if the appropriate offers don’t come in at the 11th hour. Are we only selling at the end of the window on purpose? Did realistic offers for Max, Harlee, Jota and Scott Hogan come in earlier?

8: Are the panel fans of the current transfer window system?

9: Selling three of our best players to one Championship rival. Was that a strategic decision? Or did leaving things late leave us no choice?

10: Back in September 2015 you sat here and poured forth about how wonderful Marinus was. A head coach who had picked up five points from his first five games. Just a few days later he was gone. Dean’s team currently have two points from our first five games. How do you compare the respective starts and is there any danger of another change ? (for the record, I hope not).

Here’s to this Thursday. For those of you who can make it then enjoy. And for those who can’t, please don’t forget to tweet BIAS should there be anything you wish to ask.

Cliff, Mark, Rasmus, Phil and Dean. Thank you.

Nick Bruzon

If you promise the earth, then you’d better be able to deliver.

3 Sep

The morning after the morning after the night before. Jota, Harlee and Maxime Colin are still at Birmingham City and have left Brentford. It wasn’t a bad dream. It really happened. There’ll be more than a few eyes on the Championship’s 20th placed team when they visit Norwich City on Saturday. As there will be on the Bees for our own trip to Aston Villa.

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It really happened

So what to make of it having had 48 hours to take it all in? What do we think after Phil Giles has undergone a very gentle probing from Ciaran Brett? That, on a YouTube video that we’re probably all seen already but is further below.

Well, initial feelings from yours truly were of understanding our ‘model’ yet also a feeling of utter deflation at the way it has been implemented this time around. So close to the line of looking like we’d have an incredible squad, this has happened. Feelings of confusion as to how this tallys up to those previously quoted statements that included the proclamation from Rasmus that the goal is to get stronger each transfer window. Feelings that, whilst obvious, it really is just all about the money. I wrote a column about it – you can find it here – which has generated a lot of reaction. It was angry. It was passionate. It was what being a football supporter is all about.

It was packed full of typos. I apologise. Try writing on an iPhone in a Belgian hotel room. But sometimes, thoughts need to be documented. Moments need to be captured and that’s how I was feeling about what happened between Brentford and Birmingham City at that point. I’m certainly not going to apologise for giving a damn about a team I’ve supported since 1979. I know Matthew Benham can’t keep pumping money into the club to prop it up and revenue needs to come from elsewhere. Yet the whole thing felt so cold, so calculated, so businesslike and it hurt. That’s as much from the players.

Reading Jota’s subsequent letter he may aswell have just published a tweet saying ‘Kerchinggg’. “The football industry is a volatile one and I think my departure was the best move for all concerned” he told us in his latest farewell.

Really Jota? Really? I’d rather you hadn’t bothered. You’re just hurting us now. We know how passionate you can be and how much love you have. This is agent speak.  It was as opposite to “This isn’t ‘goodbye’ but more of a ‘see you later’ or ‘hasta luego’ as we say in Spain because I have just extended my contract for an extra year.” as one could imagine.

In time I’ll remember all those wonderful memories. Right now it still all feels too raw. Birmingham City can afford to pay him a reported £40k a week, We can’t. Simple economics and you can’t blame him for taking it. Yet after all the love for the club. All the support offered when we’d supported his loan return to Eibar, something which in his own words at the time, was “based solely on personal circumstances” , there was a thought that perhaps he might sign another year’s extension. Pay back that love and loyalty or even give the Premier League a shot with Brentford.

Yeah, I know. Cloud cuckoo land. I’m a supporter. I care. There’s the obvious mistake. It is based on fantasy rather than the balance sheet. That’s not how football works in the real world. This week has shown us that in spades. Without passion and heart it is nothing more than a money making machine. We emotionally invest in these players, we get their names on our shirts and then they chip off for the next big pay day. That’s football. It happens. It hurts.

But taking 48 hours away from the last column, it has given the club a chance to say a few more things. The video with Phil Giles has been published in which he explains how the reasoning for the sales was to keep the money coming in before contracts expired. That it had always been the plan to buy over the summer and sell just prior to the window closing. “Strategically it’s the ideal way to do it. Sell them late and buy them early.

As noted in that previous column, I know this is how football, especially at Brentford, works. I know we’re all about ’sustainable’. I understand a lot of what Phil, who acknowledged that fans will be deflated by the moves, was trying to say.

But what was as telling as anything else was what the video didn’t say. Whether because Phil wasn’t asked or couldn’t answer.

Fairplay to Ciaran for asking if we were stronger after this window. After a pause, the answer was a less than convincing one. “Well we retain a squad of young players. I don’t see weaknesses in our squad. I don’t see finished players. I see a strong set of B-team players ready to come through. So from that point of view it provides a really good platform. Not just on the pitch but for the sustainability of the club in the future. It’s not an old squad who’s depreciating in value

By which I read it as : No. But hopefully down the line we will be.

Phil spoke about how Harlee had stepped up when number 26 was sold to Burnley. How we’d survived the Scott Hogan sale to Aston Villa. Indeed, we’d immediately gone out and thrashed them.

I’d love to have found out why we chose to sell three players to Birmingham City. What the strategic thinking in strengthening a team that sit just above us in the table was? Or were these simply the best/only offers for the players?

Phil says his piece. Very much like the Curate’s Egg

Reading Maxime Colin’s article in The Birmingham Mail he claimed that there had been offers from France that the club turned down. And he’d been unaware of the wider wheels in motion: “It wasn’t a plan or something prepared in advance….
“It wasn’t something prepared in advance and I wasn’t told about them, especially Jota which I didn’t know until the end”.

You know what? It feels somewhat redundant asking about it now. Phil’s video is quite clear about how we operate. Bring them through, sell them on and pay the wages at the club. That the definition of a post window squad is somewhat of a fluid one, open to interpretation. This is how Brentford FC works.

However, it would be nice to know what our aspirations are. Is Championship survival the way forward? At least until the stadium at Lionel Road is built? If that prediction from Rasmus of being in the Premier League by the end of this campaign is to come true, then selling established, settled players aren’t the actions of a club looking to make that step up. At least in the immediate short term.

I feel for Rasmus. He’s come out with some key mission statements that Brentford fans will not forget. If you promise the earth, then you’d better be able to deliver. Yet there has been no attempt to realign those aspirations. Short of the phrase #bignewambitions being airbrushed from history (and that’s no bad thing in anybody’s eyes). Why not just come out and talk to us? Speak to us openly. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. And again. And again.

rasmus-goal-stronger

So here we are. The squad is what the squad is. No amount of wailing or gnashing of teeth will change that. I for one will be 110% behind the players when they run out. As noted on Friday, we have newcomers Kamo, Neal Maupay and Ollie Watkins already doing great things. We’ve got Ryan back in the team, the centre back situation is clearer and Romaine Sawyers has come out the blocks flying. The option of Flo Jo and Sergi out wide is a delicious one. Start to get the wins under the belt against Aston Villa, Sheffield Wednesday and Reading then this will all be a storm in teacup. Move along, the model works.

Let’s just hope the model doesn’t break….

Oh , and if Norwich City are reading (they aren’t ) you’ve no idea what a boost it would be at Griffin Park if you could please pick up three points next Saturday.

Nick Bruzon

Would the last person to leave turn out the lights. Not even Chelsea have these headaches as Brentford up sticks to Birmingham.

1 Sep

“Most of the big moves expected on transfer deadline day didn’t happen”. Not my words but those of Matt Dyson on the Absolute Radio sportsdesk as he cited the failure of Manchester City to sign Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal and Ross Barkley walking off the treadmill and out of his medical at Chelsea after personal terms and a fee had been agreed. How we laughed. Although not at Brentford where a fire sale has seen Harry Redknapp feasting at the all you can buy buffet. Not one, not two but three of our best players have all been sold to Birmingham City before the transfer window closed last night.

Harlee Dean – sold. To Birmingham City.
Jota – sold. To Birmingham City.
Maxime Colin – sold. To Birmingham City.

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Hola, Harry

With the B-team also stripped back and bids also coming in from the two Sheffield clubs – John Egan, United and Ryan Woods, Wednesday – those players who didn’t receive an offer must be waking up with somewhat of a complex .

With Harry Redknapp charming the pants off this side of West London, I wonder if he didn’t put in a cheeky call to Stamford Bridge. Wantaway star Diego Costa remains a Chelsea player this morning although that remains somewhat of a different problem to that faced in TW8.

And it is a problem. Fans are devastated. We’ve sold big names in the past but never like this. Never en-masse. Never to a divisional rival. A rival who we have finished above the last three seasons. Just look at he respective placings of Birmingham and Brentford before reading all the gumph about the size of the club. Their ambition. Their Premier League potential. Hmmm. Hasn’t worked out too well for Leeds United. As we’ve said many times before, nobody has a divine right to be any good. These are all pure and simple moves for financial gain. Football a secondary consideration. For both clubs and players.

Obvious. I realise. “It’s business” will no doubt be thrown at me. There’ll be talk of ‘sustainable football’ (which seems to be the bingo phrase of choice at present). Talk of this being our model and never standing in the way of a player. Perhaps even talk of further de-risking the Lionel Road project. Only last Saturday Nity Raj went on record at the fan forum as saying:”What we are talking about is a bet on football. It happens to be with Matthew’s money. He’s pretty good at bets on football and in his opinion we have reduced the risk by following this path.”

I’ll also refer you to previous statements to come out of Griffin Park.
Rasmus Ankersen: “the goal is to get stronger after each transfer window.

The same Rasmus who also told supporters in 2015 : “It is not an option to not be in the Premier League. It has to happen in the next three years…. At the moment there is no Plan B. we’ll be in the Premier League in three years.

Chuck #BigNewAmbitions into the mix and I’m struggling to see how all his marries up.

Yes, we’ve bought in advance. The likes of Ollie Watkins and Neal Maupay ooze potential whilst Kamo has won over supporters in his first few games. Yes, we have proven time again that we have a knack for unearthing gems, sometimes even leaving them to fester (see: KK).

Yet these are players who have taken time to bed in. Romaine Sawyers came in for buckets of stick last season. Andreas Bjelland is yet to set the world on fire. Maxime Colin and Yoann Barbet took time to find their feet before becoming nailed on choices. Is it fair to expect the latest raft of new players to hit the ground running?

I know we have financial challenges . I know we are up against it. I know we are a small club, historically. So are the likes of Burnley, Watford and Bournemouth. I know we should never, ever , ever forget rattling buckets. That without Matthew’s money we’d likely be playing Rymans Premier League football. At best. That we’ve always been a selling club and this is our model.

Yet this time it feels so, so different. It feels as though we are a cheap Vegas hooker and Harry Redknapp, some doddery kneed tourist, has gone on holiday with the company credit card. And boy has he filled his boots with no fear of personal liability as he can claim it back on expenses later. (That’s an analogy; I’m not suggesting in any way Harry would act in an untoward manner.)

I really thought this was it. Such a positive summer of acquisition and pre-season form. Finally, the fans had bought into the club model and could see what we were looking to do. We were slowly building a top class squad. One that would finally ally to Rasmus’s Premier League talk. Justify his much mocked quote about getting stronger each window. Prove we really do have big new ambitions.

Boom. Back to square one. We’ve been given these wonderful toys to play with and then had them snatched away. Sorry Nick, Harry Redknapp wants to play with your Star Wars figures. You can have this pile of Lego bricks – see what you can build.

Yet, as ever, we’re struggling to understand the sound bites coming out of Griffin Park. The Rasmus remains in the shadows, Dean Smith has expressed his disappointment whilst Phil Giles has said his piece on ‘official’.

Phil on Jota : “When it becomes clear that a player has outgrown the financial constraints of the Club then it is usually best that they move on for a better contract and for a transfer fee that helps to keep us financially viable in this division.”

Phil on Maxime: “We were aware that Maxime could be a target for other clubs this summer. This is why we made a pro-active decision to bring another right back in earlier in the summer“.

Cold? Realistic? Ok, now to catch breath and attempt a bit of perspective.

Harlee Dean. I’m m’eh about our decision to sell. A great servant and I stand by what I said yesterday. He’s been through it with all of us and was very, very capable at this level. But we have been overloaded at centre back , especially once Andreas returned from injury. Even without a sale, Egan and Barbet would be my absolute nailed on choice for those starting positions. Dean tried to crowbar 3 of his 4 into a starting XI last time out. Hmmm..

Jota. Tears are flowing. And that’s just from reading Sergi’s tweet. All that talk of going to the Premier League. All that talk of the clubs loyalty when he returned to Eibar on loan. A second coming that was bigger than The Stone Roses. And now it is all over. At Birmingham.

Sorry. Birmingham City??!! Historically big club but hardly Premier League. That love letter he wrote fans has been scrunched up and thrown in the bin. No new contract signed and the club cashing in while they still could. Before he walked on a free.

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Nooooo

And in that, it tells you all you need to know about our Premier League ambitions this season. Jota is, sorry was, the most talented of all our players. Probably in the last 70 years. Rather than see if he can help push us up, we’ve sold him on. One football bet the club haven’t been willing to take?

Maxime Colin. This for me being the biggest of all kicks. Why? Why? Why? Contract clause triggered, presumably? A sack of money offered? The untested Dalsgaard already bought in as cover. Phil’s words smacked of a dispassionate approach. Something I hope isn’t the case.

Which brings me onto the same old story. Talk to us. Just talk to us. Cut the sound bites. Cut the crap. Cut the buzzword bingo. Explain your choices. How about, and call me controversial, disclose some transfer fees….

Make us realise why the departure of our heroes makes such sense. Show us the huge profits we have made. Explain how the new look squad will immediately gel and attain those Premier League aspirations. If, indeed, those are our aspirations today.

Sorry. I love this club. Fan since 1979. I know we’ve been poor in the past. I know we’ve been broke. I know we have a remodelled stadium on the horizon. But waking up this morning I feel devastated. I’ve no desire to think about taking my daily walk past Griffin Park.

I can’t, anyway, but that’s not the point. I’m in Belgium, having watched Gibraltar go down 9-0 last night in a game where, but for goalkeeper Ibrahim, it could have been double that. There you go Rasmus, perhaps you could sign him for Daniel Bentley? Have that one on me.

My team got a dicking yesterday. But it wasn’t at the hands of Romelu Lukaku. It was at the hands of Harry Redknapp.

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Lukaku makes it 9 . 4 less than Harry signed

Nick Bruzon

 

Farewell, Harlee Dean. Will it be adios Jota next?

31 Aug

Sad times for Brentford fans.  As anticipated these last few days, Harlee Dean has joined Birmingham City for an undisclosed transfer fee thought to be £2million. He joins Sam Saunders in breaking my four year old’s heart as two of his three favourite players departed Griffin Park to join what is known as ‘The naughty team’ (i.e. anybody who isn’t Brentford). That was a ‘fun’ conversation last night. Good luck and everything Harlee, genuinely, but the fallout from your move has been catastrophic in our house.  I’m only hoping that Jota doesn’t make it a full house today. Where, on the positive side, after yesterday’s early morning stories there has been tumbleweed out of Fulham.

With the transfer window due to slam shut(tm)  today, have Cottager’s fans been getting themselves excited a bit too early? Could the talismanic Spaniard be heading elsewhere? Or might, just might, there be a chance of him defying all expectation and staying at Griffin Park? Still, that’s to come. First up, Harlee.

I can only wish Harlee Dean the very biggest of thanks and the best wishes for the future. With the obvious exception of when he plays against us. I get the feeling already that he is going to be one of those players applauded back onto the Griffin Park pitch in the warm up when Birmingham come to visit in February, such has been the outpouring of love from the vast majority of supporters on social media. Although what happens once the real action kicks off, who knows?

The love for Harlee is obvious. What hasn’t he done at Griffin Park? There are those obvious staples of a Brentford centre back – the red cards, the own goals, the air kicks. But those were the thin end of the wedge. And besides, if he was the finished article from day one he wouldn’t be at Brentford or Birmingham City but Barcelona or Bayern.

Yet what we got day in, day out was passion. Was commitment. Was guts. Was a man who wore his heart on his sleeve when wearing the red and white. Was a man whose game improved so much that it culminated in him being named player of the year. How wonderful to see him develop as a player over those six years.

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Harlee Dean – never backward in coming forward.

A man who has been through it all with us. ‘That penalty’. Play-off heartbreak. Yet, at the same time, along with Robbie Cooke becoming only the second Brentford player to score a goal at Wembley in a competitve fixture. That being the ill-fated game agasint Yeovil Town (how is that working out for you, Glovers?).

He was there for the resurgence at Leyton Orient when we celebrated like we’d won the FA cup. Coming off the bench to shore up our ten man team in a backs to the wall siege following a red card for number 26.  There to see us gain promotion to League One. There when we humped Fulham time and again. There to see us finish above Birmingham City in the Championship these last three seasons.

Six long seasons. Six wonderful seasons. A man who won an ‘unsung hero’ award for his actions after a young supporter was hit by a car. A man who, himself, was hit in the face with a fish by Will Grigg on one pre-season tour (below). A man who would always take time out for fans and, as noted, was a hero to my son when we went to watch the Bees.

Birmingham fans wondering what sort of player they are going to get, Harlee is certainly one of a kind. In these days of identikit and bland footballers simply in it for the money and the next big move, you’ve got a wonderful addition to the dressing room and a player with the potential to make your armband his own, just as he did ours.

Great days fishing after training… Finished off with a fish slapping contest… @willgrigg9

A post shared by Harlee Dean (@harleedean6) on

I could talk about Harlee’s positives for hours. But, frankly, you’d get bored. Players come and go. That’s football. I get that. But, like Sam, he was one of our few remaining links to the past. To the League One days. To the times we were building a team and a squad to try and escape the lower leagues. All that is gone as he has now joined Birmingham. A team he would yesterday describe as, “A massive club, obviously the biggest one in Birmingham.”

Still, time to put all that behind us. Instead, we’ve a deadline day to sweat through. Although, perhaps, if there is one image that sums up Harlee. One that shows off his cheeky side. Reminds us of the odd gaping hole (sorry), it was the time he decided to join club captain Kevin O’Connor in an interview with Chris Wickham. Except King Kev wasn’t aware he had company…

Kev coach

Farewell, Harlee Dean

Nice one Harlee. Good luck, so long and thanks for all the memories.

But wait, there’s more. Or there could be. Whilst we may have been denied the opportunity to see Harry Redknapp leaning out of a car window on Wednesday, there’s always today. Transfer deadline day. And for Brentford and Fulham fans, the word on everybody’s lips remains: Jota.

Will he go? Will he stay? Where might he end up? Is there any hope he’ll be running out against Aston Villa next Saturday? And if he does, will it be his choice or simply down to a lack of acceptable offers?

Yesterday was bad. The tension, the pressure, the scares coming across my twitter timeline. The constant observations of Ian Moose being retweeted over my social media feed. His presence about as welcome as a visit from Mrs. Brown. With or without ‘her’ ‘boys’. The only positive there being he wasn’t talking about pies or wishing a happy birthday to ‘his good friend’. But there were still the obligatory photographs of him with just about anybody who was the subject of a rumour.

Well if there’s one straw we can grasp at, then looking through Twitter I can’t find a picture of the Talksport shockjock posing alongside ‘The King’ for an obligatory photo. Should the sale happen, then at least we won’t have Moose rubbing our face in it with pictorial evidence.

Then again, that could just be my terrible ‘search’ skills.

Today promises to be long. It promises to be angsty. It is crying out for a cryptic tweet from Matthew Benham. A reassuring word from Jota. IF the Fulham story has any truth, then it promises to unleash cyber civil war across TW8.

So instead, let’s just share this beauty from iFollow’s own Mark Burridge. If anyone knows a thing or two about Jota it’s him..

  Nick Bruzon

 

 

 

Harlee to Birmingham? Jota to Fulham? Brace yourselves after overnight update

30 Aug

The talk on everybody’s lips these last few days has been the prospect of Jota leaving Brentford for, of all places, Fulham. Unthinkable in the eyes of many. The ultimate smack in the face to others. Or just good business for a player whose contract is fast expiring? Then, yesterday, radio silence. Indeed, all the talk was about Harlee Dean. His apparent medical at Birmingham City with a £2million fee having been agreed. So what to believe as the transfer window creaks closer to that ‘slam shut’ ™ ?

Jota Fulham last minute

This is our sort of Jota / Fulham story

Centre back is, of course a position we are well catered for whilst somewhere we’ve struggled to lock down in recent weeks. Harlee is (or was ) club captain and is player of the year. Rightly so based on last season although, equally, it was a campaign that saw him massively raise his game from those moments of ‘random error’ we’d seen in the past.

That’s part of learning your trade. Learning the game. He is still only 26 and it seemed as though we finally had the player we had all hoped he could be. Consistent. Strong. Mature. But with contract running out it has put Dean in a hole. And it is hole that Harry Redknapp and Birmingham City would seem happy to start shovelling cash into.

Funnily enough, looking around cyberspace there isn’t the doom and gloom one might expect. Certainly not compared to the Jota / Fulham story. There is a resigned expectation to this one, with suggestions that the player is being offered substantial wages at Birmingham City whilst the new contract on offer from Brentford was still below the top earners at Griffin Park.

From many respects, the emotional attachment to losing our longest serving player (and one only on an upward trajectory) is balanced out by the thought that at least he can better himself financially – if not in terms of destination. That at least it gives us no choice but to stick with Yoann Barbet and John Egan as our regular, first choice centre-back pairing.

It might makes Dean’s job that bit easier and, whilst maybe not the centre back that many would prefer to see go, given the player’s contract situation then perhaps this is the best way to close out an awkward situation. Whilst, of course, giving Harlee a new challenge and the financial rewards he may well feel he is due.

And if not, at least then we can focus on a first choice pairing by the time the Villa game comes around. Leaving two players to keep the B-team warm. Regardless of any sale, Dean Smith needs to stick and stop twisting.

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Harlee – heart on his sleeve. As ever

As for Jota, well this now gets interesting. And not in a good way. Specifically on account of a long conversation I’ve had in the small hours with the team at Beesotted who have been advised by a source in SW6 that the move is looking as though it will be on. Yes, you read that correctly.

Ordinarily we don’t do transfer speculation on these pages. Yet this one is well beyond the norm. And in trying to corroborate this story – basically, is it true or is it bullshit? – it seems as though there may be some substance. Their sources at other clubs are well known to be very accurate, as are their stories in general.

And in this instance their SW6 contact suggest that some sort of movement may be imminent. That an offer is about to be submitted. From a club who have just coined in £6.5million from selling Sone Aluko to Reading. Although, of course, even if it is then would it be sufficient to force Matthew Benham’s hand?

Middlesbrough have already been knocked back. As was also proven with Scott Hogan to Villa Park, we leave things late and we don’t give away our prize assets for small change.

IF he goes anywhere – Fulham, Boro’, other, then the one thing you can say is that it won’t be for nothing. Other than that, we’ll just wait for Dave, Billy and team to bring us the big facts as they learn more.They know I’m writing this. I’m not stealing any thunder here.

It may still prove to be a massive wind up. Our respective sources do all have form at this sort of thing. The name Brian Guest springs to mind. But, equally, if it is going to happen then let’s just brace ourselves.

Today could be a long one. Do check the Beesotted website where their update is now live. No doubt they’ll be updating their own story further with what they know and, of course, if/as either story develops.

In the meantime, strap yourselves in…..

Jota v Forest

Jota. Look away Brentford fans. It might get ugly

Nick Bruzon

Will we slip on another potato skin or dodge that lower league bullet ?

8 Aug

It seems like only five minutes ago that Brentford performed those League cup heroics against Hull City and Everton, before narrowly missing out on Round 5 via a last minute equaliser and penalties against Birmingham City at St. Andrews. Infact, it was 2010 and The Bees first XI included the likes of Mickey Spillane, Craig Woodman and Pim Balkestein. Whilst the squad has evolved from that small League One group it would be fair to say that our record in the competition hasn’t been a great one since then. Could Tuesday night’s game in Kingston against AFC Wimbledon see us get back to winning ways?

The wins over higher division Hull and Everton were wonderful occasions, no question. The latter in particular seeing a practically full strength Premier League team beaten by a never say die Brentford XI. Gary Alexander scored the equaliser and Charlie MacDonald even had the luxury of seeing a penalty saved before the eventual spot kick triumph. Richard Lee the man on form then.

Gary Alexander does his thing against Everton. 1-1

Now, we are the team to be shot down. A high performing Championship club travelling to an AFC Wimbledon side whose own ascension through the divisions and struggle to find a home has been a story in itself. Yet the game presents a huge potato skin for a Brentford side that is sure to be changed one from that which lost out to Sheffield United on Saturday.

The last time we won a League Cup tie Montell Moore and Nick Proschwitz (not a typo) were amongst the scorers in that defence shredding 6-6 at Dagenham and Redbridge. Kevin O’Conor played what was, if I am correct, his last ever game for the Bees – scoring what proved to be the decisive spot kick in the subsequent shoot out.

Since then the wheels have come off somewhat. We lost at Griffin Park to Fulham. At the time, something of a rarity for the Cottagers whom we would go on to take 10 points out of 12 from over the course of the following four league games. Didn’t Jota do something in the last minute, too?

Then there was the humiliation handed out by Oxford United at home as the Marinus experiment came crashing down to earth with a bump. Regular readers may be aware this gets mentioned a lot but it is important to never forget how bad that was. The team he selected was one which, long term, had a few players who are now regular (Nico, Lasse, Andreas) but at the time was an untested mixture of youth and new faces. 3-0 down in 12 minutes, that we only lost 4-0 was the main miracle of the night.

It was the consummate example of the flawed logic in both wholesale, untested change and woeful man management. Never forget.

Marinus Oxford touchline

The Oxford United fiasco  / Marinus experiment (neither being prog rock bands)

Then last season it was the turn of Exeter City to dump us out in the first round. Despite Harlee Dean, John Egan, Josh Clarke and Sam Saunders amongst those picked, Brentford struggled to a 0-0 before Ryan Hartley got an extra time winner for the Grecians.

And now is the time to go again. I can only expect more change tonight but this time I fear for Wimbledon. Harlee is available after suspension.Yoann Barbet was benched on Saturday. Likewise Maxime Colin. Expect the pace of Josh Clarke down the flank and surely starts for Neal Maupay and Ollie Watkins. I’d imagine Flo Jo will begin on the left with with a very strong bench, just in case.

As the higher placed team we’re there to be shot down, just as Everton and Hull were all those years ago. That’s one of the privileges of being a Championship side and, sadly, a bullet we’ve taken more than once in recent years.

Will this time around be any different? A full house of Bees fans will be there to roar us on with only 200 tickets remaining on the gate. Watch out for the traffic delays though and get there early.

See you there. Until then, here’s one of the highlights from the Everton game. When our mascot was told to keep holding the hand of his young counterpart, he took that instruction quite literally.

 

Nothing puts Peter Gilham off his stride

Nick Bruzon