Tag Archives: Birmingham

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

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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.

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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.

bonjour Barbet

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.

Yoann barbet post Forest

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 

The return of ‘the ex’ presents a wonderful opportunity to show how we’ve moved on.

13 Feb

Like the return of Harlee Dean et al with Birmingham City last season, tonight’s game certainly has an extra level of spice. Brentford entertain Aston Villa and, of course, former head coach Dean Smith in front of the Sky cameras in a clash that has the imagination running into over drive. What a wonderful opportunity awaits Thomas Frank and his Bees team to show just how we’ve progressed. Just how much Dean left behind. 

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Dean Smith – friends with just about everyone

Dean Smith brings his Villa team to Griffin Park, having only tasted victory once this year. That, a 2-1 triumph over basement boys Ipswich Town. Indeed since our paths crossed in the Championship, the Villans are yet to earn all three points against Brentford. Three draws on the road and two home victories – including the 3-0 hammering administered on the day Scott Hogan left TW8 for Villa Park – sees recent form between the two sides very much in our favour. Not bad for a pub team !

Indeed, that 3-0 at the end of January 2017 was one of the finest displays that we’ve produced since our ascendency to this level of football. It’s amazing what a bit of inspiration or the desire to prove a point can do.

And if those are your motivating factors then they don’t come any bigger than chucking in the return of a manager who left us for another. We all know his reasons for leaving Brentford. Turning down the opportunity to take the reins at the club you supported as a boy (and beyond) would have been an incredible decision. Those sort of chances don’t come around every day and so one can sympathise with Dean in making that leap to what is one of the most famous names in club football.

Villa Park is a wonderful stadium with a huge fanbase and a club with genuine aspirations to return to the Premier league. Apparently they won the European cup once – if only somebody had mentioned. Who could forget the moment assistant coach John Terry lifted that famous trophy high into the Rotterdam night sky?

We’ve been consistently strong - especially against Villa, despite the torrential downpour

Rain or shine, we’ve had plenty of recent highlights against Villa

Yet as was noted in the previous column, all this doesn’t doesn’t change the fact that Dean left a wonderful young squad at a progressive club. He’d taken Brentford to a position where, quite fantastically, we’d been named as Championship favourites when Villa came calling earlier this season. He’d got the team playing some quite wonderful football, albeit we’d started to wobble as he left.

Now Thomas Frank has the hot seat. The team have been scoring goals for fun in a scintillating hot streak and face an FA Cup fifth round tie this Sunday. We’d gone ten unbeaten prior to the weekend’s trip to Nottingham Forest. Even that 2-1 slip up saw enough chances created (along with a couple of goals conceded that the coaches have no doubt been reviewing at the training round) in a performance that on another day would have seen us come away with at least a draw. 

Aston Villa on the other hand only have the aforementioned 2-1 home win over Ipswich and have to look back as far as Boxing Day (Swansea) since the previous time Dean was able to taste victory. No doubt I’m sure they’ll feel that they should have claimed a few more since then but the proof is in the ‘W’ column. ‘D’ counts for draw, not ‘deserved to win’. Their last run out, the 3-3 draw at home to Sheffield United, saw them at their best. And worst. Racing into a 3 goal deficit they somehow clawed things back to earn a point with goals on 82, 86 and then deep into injury time. 

Indeed, our own game at Villa Park this season ended in similar circumstances. Jonathan Kodjia popping up deep, deep into injury time to snatch a point after Neal Maupay had stamped his authority all over the game with another brace to give us a late lead. We all know what happened after that one when a retrospective red card was issued to the French man. I’ve no doubt he’ll be the subject of pantomime booing and niggly challenges tonight. That’s football. There’s nothing finer than trying to wind up one of the opposition – moreso when you have a point to make. Just ask Harlee and Birmingham City (5-0, wasn’t it…?).

On paper, this one has home win all over it. Current league form and recent performances against Aston Villa both see Brentford in the driving seat. Yet we all know that’s not how football works. Anything but. I can only imagine this one being tense. It’ll have goals but try to pick how many for each team and you may aswell stick your hand in the barrel marked lucky dip. The one thing you can be sure of is that there won’t be a repeat of  The Monkees. 

Will there…..?

 

Nick Bruzon

Quietest window in years still sees plenty of action – mostly off pitch with ‘that’ video.

1 Feb

It was less a case of the transfer window slamming shut (TM) and more one of it sliding gently to an imperceptible close. With Brentford concluding first team business once Chris Mepham had departed for Bournemouth last week, there was only the addition of B team striker Gustav Mogensen  from AGF Aarhus as the quietest deadline day since record began – probably – passed by with barely a flutter at Griffin Park. Albeit Nico Yennaris is as done a done deal as an unpublished deal can be – certainly going by Twitter rather than ‘official’. Dean Smith kept the Aston Villa cheque book under wraps as there was no last minute sortie for Neal, Romaine et al. And the video of the year has already been published – a quite wonderful riposte to those Birmingham City and Leeds United fans still moaning at the Bees. Yes. It WAS a penalty. And yes – it was an even ballsier reaction from Neal Maupay.

Embed from Getty Images

 

First up, deadline day. The squad remains largely intact. Great news for a team with the opportunity to embark on a quite wonderful FA Cup run and push for a fifth successive top ten finish in the Championship. Or beyond? What it means for the summer window  is another question of course but with our last full season at Griffin Park approaching, a push for the top ahead of the move to Lionel Road must be in the thinking.

The only real headlines about the in-door swinging, Gustav aside, were made with the announcement of our new chief executive Jon Varney. As one Braemar Road observer noted, “At least they didn’t troll us with an ‘incoming‘ message on Twitter. You can get the full facts on Jon, here.

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Our new CEO

For now though, we know who will be on pitch at Brentford. There was no late swoop from Aston Villa or, if there had been, it was repelled with barely a whisper. Fan favourite Neal Maupay remains a Bee which is wonderful news. The progression he has shown this season has been quite magnificent. There are the goals, of course, but also the passion and the balls. Finally, a penalty taker who doesn’t choke when looking into the eyes of the goalkeeper.

But then his reaction after scoring at Leeds United shows you all you need to know about his mentality and his guts. Sure, perhaps things can spill over at times but this young man is still only 22 years old. More games and more experience will help control that. Possibly. Although at the end of the day, Clive, who wants a neutered lion?

The one thing you can be sure of is that at one point Neal will move on. That’s football. That’s the Brentford model. If nothing else, the ‘one club player’ is about as rare as unicorn poo these days. Hopefully his eventual departure will be later rather than sooner, with The Bees firmly ensconced in the top flight and our name inscribed on the FA Cup.

Could his long term replacement have already arrived? Brentford official describe 17 year old Gustav as “An impressively tall and imposing front man for a player of his age, Gustav is a member of the Denmark Under-18 national team, following in the footsteps of fellow B Team players Nikolaj Kirk, Mads Bech Sorensen and Luka Racic.” He has an impressive tally of U-16 and U-19 appearances already notched into his metaphorical bedpost. You can read that one in full on ‘official’ .

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Unicorn poop – rare

The list of those who did exit was published last night and contained five names: Alan Judge (Ipswich), Chris Mepham (Bournemouth), Ryan Woods (Stoke City), Josh Clarke (Burton Albion – loan) and Reece Cole (Macclesfield Town – loan). Missing from that group was Nico Yennaris, who published his own farewell message on social media aswell as updating his own profile picture to show him now signed for Chinese super league club Beijing Guoan.

He told supporters: “I would like to say a big thank you to @BrentfordFC and all the staff for the last 5 years. It’s a special club with amazing fans and I’ve enjoyed every minute. So many great memories with the Club which will stay with me forever. Good luck for the rest of the season” .

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As Matthew Benham responded with a simple “Best of luck Nico, thanks for everything” rather than any comment about him still being signed at Griffin Park, this one would seem to merely be waiting for ‘official’ to swing into action. Quite probably with a showreel of blockbuster goals. Fingers crossed that comes soon. If nothing else the piledriver at Birmingham City can’t be seen enough times.

And finally, ‘that’ video. The Barnet game seems to have stirred up our divisional rivals a tad. With Leeds United fans still moaning about our penalty  and performance back in October,  supporter Tom Ritchie has put this incredible compilation together. It really is a work of art.

Whilst the Bees are still better placed than holier-than-thou Leeds United and Birmingham City in the divisional fairplay table, who doesn’t love it when we get our claws out. Rules are there to be broken every now and then. Aren’t they…?

Nick Bruzon

In the end the lure of the beach was too much.

23 Jan

What can you say? Congratulations Chris Mepham on finally securing his dream move to the Premier League. The Welsh centre-back completed one of the most expected moves of the season yesterday when he finally left Brentford for AFC Bournemouth with the fee reported at £12million plus the usual, copious add-ons. It was no surprise given Eddie Howe’s previous bids in the last two windows along with the player’s own omission from the squad that beat Rotherham United 4-2 on Saturday. This, following injury absence that had coincided with Thomas Frank rejigging his defensive line up and seeing his Bees finally return to unbeaten ways. Yet the gain here is all for Bournemouth as, despite a suggested higher offer from Dean Smith (something c/o my good friends at Beesotted, who are always on the money), the young Welsh International has declined a move to Aston Villa and chosen to take a trip to the beach. So to speak. 

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We can take consolation in great memories, lots of money and no hashtag

For Brentford, it means further shrewd transfer business as another player who we have picked up for minimal outlay (Chris joined as an under-16 back in 2014) has departed for the sort of money we could only dream about a few years ago. The club has made no secret of saying it will sell if the valuation and deal is correct and here we would seem to have another example. Bournemouth have made no secret of their intent to acquire a player whose rise has been, frankly, stratospheric. He hit the ground running last season and regular Welsh call ups were soon to follow. 43 games and one goal (oh, that knee slide against Sheffield United…) after his Griffin Park debut he has now reached the top flight with Bournemouth.

Eddie Howe must be purring like the metaphorical cat who got the cream. In one respect it is a gamble given Chris has played so few games but my word, what performances he has put in over that time. Last season, especially, where nobody could quite believe the confidence, precision and calmness of a player thrust into the squad and then the first team following the departure of Harlee Dean to Birmingham City. 

Things continued a pace this time around with Chris a regular call for ‘first name on the team sheet’ although, it would be fair to say, things did go somewhat amiss from mid-October. For the whole team. Thomas Frank’s first game in charge, a 1-0 defeat at home to Bristol City, saw Meps shown red for two bookings (the second somewhat innocuous) but from that point a malaise came over the Bees defence and midfield. It has something that has only been over remedied with the restructure of our our line up and with Chris having missed the resurgence through injury, perhaps the thinking is that with the fee on offer we have sufficient cover now in place to continue the upwards surge.

Whatever the reason, nobody can deny the talent that Bournemouth now have at their disposal. Chris has the potential to go all the way to the very top. On a personal note I’m obviously sad to see him go but it’ll be intriguing to see how quickly he adapts to life in the top flight. One can only assume he’ll take to things like a duck to water and despite the apparent ‘better terms’ offered by Aston Villa, taking the direct route to follow your dream is very much the way to go. As the ever eloquent Bernard Quackenbush put it on Twitter last night:

“As someone who has lived in Bournemouth for 38 years, with its miles of sandy beaches, warmer climate and with Sandbanks, The New Forest & the Dorset countryside on your doorstep.

Why the f@ck would you choose to live in Birmingham over Bournemouth. It was the only sane choice“.

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‘That’ knee slide

Elsewhere, we’ve had some downtime on these pages recently and so didn’t comment on the 4-2 win at Rotherham on Saturday. It was a result that saw our first win in the quite wonderful brown/orange kit as the unbeaten run continued to 7(seven) games. Those hardy souls who made the long trip to Yorkshire were treated to goals of the highest quality. Kamo’s second (our third) has to be the pick of the bunch  – a quite wonderful pass and move display direct form kick-off after being pegged back to 2-2. That Rotherham didn’t get a touch until fishing the ball out of the net tells you all you need to know about this one.  With an FA Cup fourth round trip to Barnet next up, what a time to find your form on the road. Wha ta time for the Jaffa cake shirt to finally come to the fore.

Albeit, the word on the street is that Thomas Frank has never tasted Jaffa cakes before. The training ground address is 100 Jersey Road, Osterley, TW5 0TP…..

Mmmm. Jaffa Cakes

Nick Bruzon