Tag Archives: Blades

Plenty of great news and action despite the P-P. Have they fallen apart yet…?

28 Apr

I love the business end of the season. Saturday afternoon saw all sorts of promotion and relegation issues coming to conclusion with more to follow today. Despite Brentford and Bolton seeing their game called off by the EFL for those well documented reasons, there was still plenty for Bees’ fans to keep an eye on. Norwich City are promoted from the Championship. Sheffield United all but there. Leeds United now in need of beating Aston Villa by, at least, brackets today in an attempt to keep their mathematical ‘automatic’ hopes alive. Further down the league pyramid there was joy for Leyton Orient and tears for Yeovil Town. And what of Doncaster Rovers, whom we mentioned yesterday…..?

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It’s all over barring goal difference

First up, the fall out from the Bolton – Brentford P-P. The EFL have ordered that the game still be played, regardless of who the home side put in the line up. It’s a farcical scenario for all concerned with the real prospect of a men against boys match taking place, should it actually happen. Which I still can’t see being the case. Although if it did come down to the home side fielding youths / reserves then what an opportunity to give our B-team some genuine league experience. If nothing else, a sporting gesture that would see, at least, the game played on a level playing field.

With the whole footballing community firmly behind Bolton, there’s no real resentment here. More, frustration. Especially for the Bees’ fans who have shelled out on weekend travel. The plus side here being chief executive Jon Varney’s message that the club are now investigating ways of helping those supporters who had travelled.

He told Brentford ‘Official’ that, “I will be working over the coming days to find ways to compensate those who have had their day spoilt by the game being called off, particularly as it will, I’m sure, be difficult for some to get back up to a rearranged fixture at short notice.

At the top end of the Championship, Norwich City were promoted after a 2-1 home win over Blackburn Rovers. Sheffield United are as good as there following their own defeat of Ipswich Town.

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Congratulations (and happy birthday??) to my good friend Delia

The only team who can catch up are Leeds United, whose only chance of taking second place is to win both games, hope the Blades lose their final match but also overturn a goal difference that currently favours the Bramall Lane outfit by 13. Effectively, a double bracketing in each game will be needed. Whilst a 7(seven) goal margin at Ipswich Town next week is vaguely feasible, to do it against Aston Villa is a nigh on impossible task. You’ve more chance of Keith Stroud keeping his cards in his pockets for 90 minutes.

It is an incredible situation that United find themselves in, after such a strong start to the campaign. They were looking an absolute shoe in for promotion to the Premier League and, you know what, they still might do it via the medium of the play-offs. Yet as in seasons gone by, and to coin a phrase, “Leeds. Leeds are falling apart. Again.”.

The Easter weekend, especially the game at Griffin Park, was proof of this. Brentford were magnificent against a team who were second to everything. Yes. There may have been a penalty. To us aswell, after Ollie Watkins was impeded. Regardless of Mr. Stroud’s decision making, the net result was Thomas Frank playing Leeds like a cheap fiddle. I fully expect Dean Smith to do the same today as he looks to get a psychological advantage over his opponents going into that end of season promotion shoot out.

There’s simply no way Sheffield United can miss out from here. Indeed, there was a keen Brentford interest in yesterday’s game where the goals came from Scott Hogan and Jack O’Connell. More proof, if any were needed, of our consistent ability to find players who can then go on and do it elsewhere. It’ll be interesting to see how they fare when plying their trade in the top flight next season. 

In League Two, Yeovil Town saw their run come to an end with relegation to the National League (conference). There were few tears shed by the Griffin Park fans as the results came through. Six years ago, after Doncaster did that thing, Brentford faced Yeovil in the League One play off final at the W place. Whilst we did what we always do there, Gary Johnson made himself public enemy number one in TW8 doing what he did as his side edged past us and into the Championship. 

Coming up to League Two are National League champions Leyton Orient. No doubt they’ll have spent the night celebrating like they’ve won the FA Cup. And rightly so. If Bolton are suffering from shonky ownership at present, nobody needs any reminder of how things have played out in East London over the last few seasons. 

But for Marcello Trotta in that magnificent 0-1 (possibly one of the greatest Brentford performances ever) as we went up to the Championship, it could have been The O’s who took our place. Who knows how things may have turned out for both teams had it been then rather than us who claimed second place. For that, I am eternally grateful and moreso seeing the respective fates of Orient, Yeovil and Doncaster in the years since.

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What a game. What consequences

And talking of Doncaster Rovers….. Their draw and defeat for Peterborough saw them secure a League One play-off place. It’s going to happen. I’m calling it now. Final game at Griffin Park next season…….

Nick Bruzon

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Can Brentford scupper promotion race as Championship chokepoint approaches?

22 Apr

Here we go again. The Easter Bank Holiday began with the 1-1 at Millwall (take a bow, Josh Dasilva – what a strike !) and now it ends with Brentford facing the prospect of a visit from Leeds United. With the Sky TV cameras pushing this one back to a 5.15 kick-off, one of the two automatic promotion could already have gone by the time Mr. Stroud waves his first card. Norwich City, already five points clear of Leeds in third, travel to Stoke earlier in the afternoon where a win will see them promoted and a draw as good as there (barring a monumental goal difference swing). Indeed, the Canaries could even finish the day as Champions should results – including a favour from the Bees and a slip by Sheffield United – fall their way.

So no pressure on Leeds United then. Although it is a situation that is as much of their own making after the quite incredible 2-1 home defeat administered by 10 man Wigan Athletic on what was a very Good Friday for Norwich and Sheffield United. That game saw the hosts miss a penalty before taking the lead but then conspiring to press the self-destruct button. It was the ultimate ‘deserved to win’ performance where the only reward available was ‘nil points’. 77% possession and 36 shots count for naff all if you can’t put the ball in the back of the net as, somehow, Paul Cook’s team did. Twice.   

The situation at the top of the Championship is now a quite intriguing one. Being realistic, Norwich City are home and clear. However, with Sheffield United and Leeds both locked on 82 points, it really will come down to two factors. Firstly, who can hold their nerve and pick up all 9 points? Second up, who can increase their goal difference over the course of those three games? With the Blades +6 ahead, as long as they win their final three then Leeds are consigned to the play-offs. Unless, of course, they have the ability to administer a 7(seven) goal bracketing at some point in the final few games.

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Things are tight a the top this morning

Football’s never that simple, of course. Look at our first season in the Championship where quite phenomenal results at Derby County (I’m still not quite sure who hapless Reading so comprehensively outplayed them) or Blackburn Rovers (where Ipswich slipped up) allowed Brentford to overtake both teams, and edge back into the  play-off zone on the final game of the season. I’m sure this race still has more twists to come. Pressure and expectation can do incredible things and it won’t be anywhere near as simple as either United just turning up to get their three wins.

If nothing else, there’s the small matter of Brentford. Naturally, the focus is on the visitors today yet we’ve more than enough points to try and prove. The fixture at Elland Road in October was one which had it all. THAT Neal Maupay celebration, a wonderful performance from Luke Daniels in goal and then the pain of an 88th minute equaliser from Pontus Jansson. His own post match reaction was one which then saw the player charged by the FA  (as were the club for fans throwing objects at Neal Maupay) after accusing the referee of ‘robbery’ and saying on live TV that the result felt a bit ‘shit’.  There was talk of conspiracy, too, as United’s seemingly unstoppable start to the season had begun to hit the buffers.

I saw an intriguing tweet from Beesotted yesterday, which is repeated below.

Draw your own conclusions from this and know that if weren’t already up for it, we’ll be even more so now. This one is already a game that is sure to be played out in a powder keg atmosphere. Leeds know they HAVE to win. We’d absolutely love nothing more than to see them scuppered by our ‘tinpot’ pub side. They’ve not beaten us at Griffin Park since 1950 whilst the last few seasons have seen United comprehensively played off the field.

Of course, past performance is no guarantee of current form. If anybody has the ability to motivate it’ll be Marcelo Bielsa. What a man Leeds have in the managerial hot seat and, realistically, the main reason they haven’t choked it from a promising position as has been seen so many times before. Instead, they’re up there on merit and will be gunning for goals against a Brentford side who, let’s be honest, are looking a tad ‘patched up’ at present.

Yet the inspiration of history, our own desire to still end the season ‘top ten’ aswell as the chance to get one over Leeds should be all the motivation we need. Will it be enough? Could Leeds wilt under the pressure? Who knows, but I can’t wait to find out

Quite frankly, in a game where Keith Stroud is in charge for the ref to barely warrant a mention then you know that the on [itch action is promising to be something special. And I can’t wait.

See you there.

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More of the same would be very nice

Nick Bruzon

Bees blunted by Blades as goals fly in elsewhere but the dream remains alive.

13 Mar

On a night where most of the headlines were grabbed by Manchester City hitting brackets as they beat Schalke 7(seven)-0 in the Champions League, there was as telling an encounter playing out at Bramall Lane where Brentford succumbed 2-0 to hosts Sheffield United. With Leeds United winning on the road and reclaiming top spot in the Championship, there was as much pressure on The Blades to secure their own victory and keep pace with those teams in ‘automatic’ as there was on The Bees to close in on a play-off spot that had seemed totally improbable going in to Christmas. Yet our performances since then have propelled us to the position where last night had more than just the chance to get one over our old boys riding on it. Alas, it was not to be. 

First off, credit to Sheffield United. They took their chances and defended like Titans. For all that Brentford dominated the latter stages of the first half and most of the second, there was no way through. When there was, Dean Henderson was quite magnificent in goal for the hosts. Two wonder saves from Neal Maupay were equalled by one from himself as he skied a clearance high into the air and back over his head towards the unguarded goal. With the question of ‘backpass’ (can you even be penalised for doing one to yourself?) clearly going through his head, it was almost the most comedic of equalisers. And when he was beaten by Mokotjo, the post was there to preserve his own impregnability.

We’ve likely all seen this one. The already flimsy match reviews normally found on these pages are probably best sourced from the usual sources if you somehow haven’t – the BBC, Beesotted or  Brentford ‘official’. Alternatively, the highlights and goals are up here. Those hardy souls present deserve the maximum of respect. Making that long trek to Yorkshire on a Tuesday evening, when the last train home would have been missed by anybody wanting to stay until full time, is a big ask. Moreso, off the back of Saturday’s trip to Middlesbrough and the fact it was available on the Sky red button.

Mind you, not that there was great service provided by the broadcaster on this occasion. The red card awarded to Gary Madine just after the half hour was totally missed by our commentator, who called it as a yellow before making an astonished outburst two minutes after the event. At least he had the good grace to acknowledge that later on but the first most of us realised were via the updates coming through on social media. Personally, I’d thought there was trouble with my eyes / TV contrast button as I could have sworn it was an immediate red that had been waved in the air for the lunge on Konsa. Sure enough, it was.

It DID happen, Sky.

Prior to this, Oliver Norwood had opened the scoring from the spot following a clumsy, at best, challenge from Yoann Barbet – or Benrahma, as Sky called him. It had seemed innocuous at best watching first time and even the referee turned away before being advised of the alleged indiscretion by his linesman. Penalty it was and Luke Daniels, deputising for Daniel Bentley, was beaten by Norwood’s firmly driven penalty. 1-0 Sheffield United.

The timing of that one was pivotal. After being dominated for the opening twenty minutes, Brentford had begun to find a way through. It was a theme that continued after the goal and well in to the second half. Indeed, The Bees managed an impressive 29 shots and 69% ball control but could find no way through a rock solid and disciplined defence. When they did, Henderson or the woodwork were on hand to thwart Thomas Frank’s plans. Despite his most attacking substitutions yet (Canós and Marcondes on for Odubajo and Konsa), there was no way through. Lots of puff, huff, oohs and aahs but United held firm and with the clock running down, a rare sortie upfield saw them secure the points. 

A mix up between Jeanvier and Daniels ended with a potentially simple clearance being headed past the onrushing ‘keeper for a corner. From it, David McGoldrick made no mistake with his head from close in and that was it. Game over bar the shouting and all three points to the hosts. With Leeds United recording a 3-0 win at Reading, the relief was palpable albeit the win was throughly deserved. When opportunity came knocking, United were able to convert the chances. Brentford, for all we played well, for once didn’t have that cutting edge. Our normally prolific frontline blunted by the resilient Blades.

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‘Official’ also kept us appraised on Twitter, but it wasn’t to be. This time.

There are no complaints from here. This was always going to be a huge ask yet one we almost pulled off. On another night we might have done it. Had we found the equaliser I have no doubt that screw would have been turned and all three points secured. But it wasn’t to be. Compare this to Manchester City who I couldn’t help but admire upon seeing how their game ended up.

It was the third time they’ve hit 7(seven) or more goals this calendar year whilst they have a fair few sixes under the belt since the season began. Oh, to have that sort of consistency in front of goal. That’s not to knock our boys who have seen them flying in from all angles. Indeed, our goal difference is bettered by only six teams in the Championship and so there are few complaints from yours truly. It’s more a case of awe for a team that, no matter how much they have cost, can dismantle their opponents so consistently and emphatically.

Money doesn’t buy automatic success but, as Brentford know so well, it is more how you spend it and how you earn it. There was one moment last night where the commentary team made the most incredible statement when decrying our own transfer protocol  when nothing that “Yennaris went for five and a half million to China.” Seemingly, this wasn’t another mistake but more the most incredible bit of business I think we’ve pulled off in the last few years. I liked Nico, a lot, but £5.5m is just staggering. That must have been one hell of a show reel (and rewind to Birmingham City….).

Whilst we may not have riches of the sort Manchester City enjoy, with the gap still six points and ten games to play, that GD figure could be worth more than its weight in gold when the final table is declared. If there is to be any hope of continuing an unlikely resurgence towards the upper reaches of the table, then Saturday’s visit of managerless West Brom now has even more riding on it. Leeds United, Norwich City and Sheffield United are all duking it out over the top two positions. That’s their battle, sadly, although sixth place is still within grasp.

It is something I just couldn’t see coming two months ago – even allowing for optimism, the maths seemed against us. I’m the first to admit that, despite the regular admonishment on this fact from correspondent David Carney. Hats off for your faith, sir. Win after win has now seen us given a fighting chance. All of a sudden we’ve started reeling them in and the gap to sixth place has got smaller. Whilst last night may have seen us stumble, we’re by no means down and out. I can’t wait to see how it all plays out.

Roll on Saturday. See you there.

Nick Bruzon

Tough questions to ask, and answer, after an insipid performance under the lights.

28 Nov

Well that was awful yesterday. And not the news that Mrs. Brown’s Boys leads the BBC Christmas schedule with two episodes of the alleged ‘favourite’ having been commissioned for the festive period.  Of course we mean football where, being honest, even after sleeping on this one I’m struggling to be positive this morning. That Sheffield United made it 6 defeats out of 7(seven) for Brentford since Dean Smith left is almost secondary. The 3-2 loss contained so many problems that even had we grabbed a last gasp equaliser, it would actually have masked the deficiencies as I’ve no doubt we’d be told how this team never gives up and keeps fighting until the end. Yet the simple fact is this game should have been well out of sight by half-time. How the visitors only led by a single goal as we went in for our bovril I’m still not sure. With a televised trip to West Bromwich Albion next up on Monday night, it’s not going to get any easier for Thomas Frank’s Bees.

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Incredibly…. You HAVE been warned.

It had all started off so brightly. Despite the sparce crowd, Buzz and Buzzette did their level best to get things going before kick-off. The team came out of the traps flying and it wasn’t long before we’d raced into the lead. With just 6 minutes gone, Romaine Sawyers played Neal Maupay through and there was no mistake as the Championship’s top scorer grabbed his 13thof the campaign. What a start. But what a response was to follow.

Straight from the kick-off, the Blades poured forward in a move which culminated with Daniel Bentley’s crossbar left quivering after John Lundstrum blasted it from ten yards out. By all rights he should have scored given the space and position in which he found himself in front of the goal. It was a massive let off for Brentford and alarm bells should have been ringing. If so, nobody was listening.

Just a few minutes later Sheffield United were level as Ezri Konsa turned a corner into his own net for 1-1. And then it was 2. Oliver Norwood giving the visitors the lead with just a quarter hour gone after hitting a beauty from outside the box. Catching it first time the ball rose, curled and then dipped past Bentley high into the back of the net. It was a magnificent strike but saw yet another game where we’d conceded a batch of goals in short space of time to throw things away.

It could, probably should, have been worse after Daniel Bentley made a wonderful save at close range half way through the opening period after denying United from close range with a huge stop.

Yet in return, we offered nothing. The goal aside Brentford were lacklustre. Abject. Masters of our own self-destruction. Sideways and backwards passing saw us unable to make inroads once the visitors had settled. The midfield lacked bite and a leader. Lewis Macleod lightweight. Alan Judge making the effort but getting drawn out of position time and again. Josh McEachran uncharacteristically tetchy. Lucky to escape a booking for a quite blatant push in front of the ref that gave away a free-kick in the heart of Saunders territory. Captain Romaine Sawyers conspicuous by his silence. Where was the desire? Where was the will to win? If it was there then I didn’t see it. And that’s the most disappointing aspect of the night.

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United were head and shoulders above Brentford in the first half.

Yet. Yet. Half-time came and it was only 2-1. Despite it all, we were still very much alive. Whilst United started brightly once more, Brentford soon stepped it up. This was more like it. The pressure built. The ball started to move forward. The crowd started to lift and just after the hour Romaine Sawyers saw his cross-come-shot turned in by John Fleck for the game’s second o.g. as parity was restored. That was better and there was only one team in it from here? Wasn’t there.

Err, yes. Sheffield United.

Instead of pushing on, Brentford allowed the frailties of the first half to return. Sheffield United were given the freedom of Griffin Park as our defence once more turned into vampires. Scared of crosses. If the first goal had seen us concede from a position where we’d have expected Mepham (who missed it) or Konsa (who gifted the goal) the opportunity to clear, Leon Clarke’s winner was even worse. I’ve seen caravans that were less static. Like Middlesbrough at the weekend, a well delivered ball into the box was our undoing.

Clarke may have been embarrassed by the copious space he was left in but he made no mistake. His shot was hard and low past the diving Bentley for 3-2. And that’s how it stayed. The subsequent substitutions making no difference to a Brentford team that limped towards the final whistle.

But for me, the most telling sign was at the death. With the Bees awarded a late free-kick, Thomas Frank was clearly telling Chris Mepham to push up into the box. There followed a quite bizarre looking argument of shrugging, arms open in the ‘what’s going on?’ position and the player refusing to move up. Eventually, he would but it did beg the question what all that was about?

Lack of respect? Frustration? Or just a general confusion about what we should be doing in a dead ball situation? Why isn’t this sort of stuff clarified on the training ground rather than in the public eye? If nothing else, football 101 says that when a team is goal down and awarded a dangerous spot kick at the death, everybody piles up. Sometimes even the ‘keeper. What you don’t do is argue with the boss and keep two defenders back.

I’m not a coach. I’m not a manager. I’m just the numpty on the terrace and you may think I’ve called this all wrong. Fair enough if so. It should have been a quite fantastic night under the floodlights. I take no pleasure from moaning about the team and have looked to remain upbeat this campaign. Yet that was painful last night and don’t let the closeness of the result fool anyone. Brentford were second in every respect. Goals scored. Cohesiveness. Attitude.

We don’t have a divine right to be any good. I’ve said this many times and it’s true. Yet to see players who we know are more than capable looking so out of sorts is just wrong. To see a team looking so bereft of ideas when we’ve torn rivals apart at times is a worry. And whilst Thomas may be on the business end of the bad run, let’s not forget that despite all the ‘deserving’, the culmination of Dean’s time in charge saw only 1 win out of 6. Even Marinus had a better track record at this stage of ‘games played’ into his own start – and that’s a scary thing to acknowledge.

We do have injuries, of course. Who wouldn’t miss the likes of Ollie Watkins or Saïd Benrahma? Rico Henry and Emiliano Marcondes are only just returning to action.  The ability is there amongst those who are fit.

The real question now is not the position of the head coach, which many fans are already questioning, but more what he does to unlock the talent and inspire his team.

Roll on West Brom when we find out.

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The floodlights providing a rare bright moment

Nick Bruzon

Bees blunted by Blades and random ref but what a celebration.

31 Mar

It’s a point closer to the play offs for both teams as a day that saw two controversial dismissals ended with Brentford and Sheffield United drawing 1-1. It was a day that ended with Daniel Bentley winning his personal battle with former Bee Clayton Donaldson as two great stops late on kept us alive. Bristol City, whose own last gasp equaliser at Barnsley gave hope to Birmingham City, are next up in what promises to be a real six-pointer at the right end of the table. With just 7(seven) games to go and the gap to the play-offs 7(seven) points, the chance of a spectacular climax to the season is still there. Just.

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Brentford entertained Harchester United at Griffin Park on Saturday

What can you say about events at Griffin Park where there was a very real danger of having to call out the Coastguard? Well, if the Middlesbrough game was made uncomfortable for the supporters thanks to the snow, this time around it was Biblical levels of rain. Somewhat appropriate for the Easter Weekend and what was still, mostly, a very Good Friday.

Those who took one look at the torrents heading their way and bailed out of coming to this one did, at least, have the consolation of staying dry behind their computers or in front of the TV as it lashed down from the warm up to the post-match handshakes. The water was already spraying up off the surface as Yoann Barbet stroked home dead ball after dead ball in his pre-kick off routine. Conditions didn’t get any better.

By the time we got down to proper business, you could have launched a flotilla down by the Braemar Road touchline. Flo Jo in particular, perhaps ruing one second half challenge that left him soaked through in the quagmire. But if you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen. Pack it up and go home. Not that there was anything particularly hot about yesterday, the first half especially.

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View from the Braemar – Flo ended this one soaked through

That opening period being a somewhat tepid affair that saw even ‘angry dad’, my most favourite amongst those fans who sit around us in the Braemar Paddock (what genuine passion and enthusiasm that always stays the right side of ‘family’) remain silent for the vast majority of that opening period. The linesman on the near side saved the usual telling off that his performance so often warrants.

How things changed when the teams came back out after half time. There was vigour. There was gusto. There was the late arrival of Mrs Bruzon, delayed due to transport debacle. And as such, there was the customary goal for the opposition that her presence so often heralds.

If lucky pants, shirt and not shaving on a winning run work for some supporters, she’s almost the opposite. There have been several moments of what we shall simply call ‘unfortunate timing’ over the years. Within minutes of taking her seat, Sheffield United had taken the lead. A deflected effort from Chris Basham beating Daniel Bentley to make it 1-0. It spurred Brentford into life.

Yet, if Mrs B is somewhat of an albatross at times (in a footballing perspective), young Harry is the opposite. “Daddy. If we score a goal, will you lift me up?” he asked as play resumed.  Little more than ten minutes later, he was being raised aloft as Welsh international Chris Mepham (how good does that sound?) made it all square. His left footed drive from 12 yards out was followed up with the most incredible knee slide across the sodden surface.

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Chris Mepham leads the celebratory charge

Talk about enjoying the moment of his first goal in league football. Yet who could blame him? What a wonderful season it has been for a player plucked from the B-team to the Bees first team. And from there to his national side.

It’s no wonder he celebrated as he did. For once, the horrific conditions aiding the cause There are plenty of tweets doing the rounds of this one. Take your pick. They’re all brilliant.

Yet if the goal was a moment of ecstasy, we were bought crashing back down to earth with a sickening bump moments later. With most supporters watching the celebration, over in the goal mouth referee Jeremy Simpson had taken umbrage with visiting goalkeeper Jamal Blackman lashing out at Ryan Woods. He was red carded yet, likewise, so was our own ginger Pirlo.

Having seen one version of the footage, I’m at a genuine loss as to why we’ve been penalised. Perhaps something was said to the ref or perhaps he had a better view. Perhaps he simply made the mistake that Woody’s subsequent reaction suggested. Who knows? Dean Smith told the waiting media after the game that he hadn’t seen the incident as yet. Perhaps on review he’ll then appeal.

It was a game changing moment. From Brentford pushing, it was United who once more gained the ascendency. Simon Moore was brought on between the sticks to join Clayton and Jack O’Connell as three ex Bees playing for the visitors. Yet it was Daniel Bentley who proved to be busiest from that moment on. He was the man responsible for us gaining the point which has kept faint play-off hopes still alive.

As Dean Smith would note in his press conference, “Nothing has changed. It is still must-win. The less games you have left then the less likely you are to make the Play-Offs if you don’t win games. We have gone four without a win now. We have played very well in two of those games and should have got something. We have to turn that around very quickly now on Monday.

So where do we go from here? Will the Bees appeal? Do we have any hope of the play-offs? A win at Bristol City is a must if that is to happen. Should we be content with aiming for a fourth successive top ten finish? Something that would, in itself, be an incredible achievement for a club with our history and budgetary challenges relative to our rivals.

When you have the likes of Sunderland (whose incredible 4-1 humbling of Derby County was THE result of the day) and Birmingham City tripping each other up at the bottom, it shows yet again that size, reputation and spending prowess count for nothing if you can’t do it when the ref blows his whistle.

Brentford couldn’t quite get the win yesterday. But given all that was going on, I’m well happy with a point.

Roll on Monday.

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Where’s Karl Fletcher?

Nick Bruzon

On pitch, we’ve Bees v Blades. Off it, we’ve reached the end of an era.

30 Mar

This could be a very Good Friday indeed. Brentford start the four day weekend with a game at home to a Sheffield United team who at one point were looking like the surprise package for automatic promotion and even now are just a couple of points outside the play-off zone. A Sheffield United team who have as many ex-Bees in their squad as Birmingham City (the difference being that the Blades have picked up the baton and run). Jack O’Connell, the always awesome Simon Moore and that demi-God amongst men, Clayton Donaldson, being the terrific trio.

Yet it’s more than simply the big game we need to look at. Away from the action, it seems that we’ll be saying goodbye in some form to a pair of long standing supporters who are both quite unique club ambassadors.  

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Baby Clayton. A star struck fan. And my son

I love Easter weekend. None of the random days off you get at Christmas. For those of us lucky enough to have regular jobs, there’s the regular going to work on a Monday and Tuesday, have Wednesday and Thursday off, then a shlepp back in for one, tedious day after the Festive break. That’s just a tease. Not a holiday.

But this is different.  We’ve got two shortened weeks with a full fat four day break in the middle. And within that, a footballing double header. The trip to Bristol City takes place on Monday but first up, Sheffield United at Griffin Park.

It’s not just the prospect of some down time but more the chance for a return to footballing action after the interminable International break. At least this time around our lack of league football was tempered by the pleasure of watching various past and present Bees in action – of which the appearances for Chris Mepham and Alan Judge were the clear highlights for well documented reasons. That, and a first ever win for Gibraltar as a FIFA member. Yes, I know we spoke about this last time out but some things are worth trumpeting. Liam Walker, you beauty.  Besides, the alternative is to bang on about England fans in Holland or number 26 earning us a cool half million. And nobody needs that.

So this one is all lined up, at least in my head, for that perfect storm of brilliance. The Easter break beginning with the return of Championship action after a few weeks out and and some old friends in tow. My own son doesn’t know how close he was to being called Clayton rather than Harry. Had the big man got the winning goal in the promotion shoot out with a Doncaster Rovers team currently residing in the ‘where are they now’ files, there was a very public agreement that would have resulted in a somewhat different name on his birth certificate.

Can we get the win, though? Absolutely. Play even half as well as we did at times against Middlesbrough last time out (remember that one? A blizzard going on around us and Romaine Sawyers sent off for two of the softest yellow cards you’ll ever see) and the win will surely come. Certainly, I’m expecting this one to be an entertaining goal-fest. Although going purely on my tipping skills, don’t discount the 0-0 at 23/2.

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Last time out v Middlesbrough. Sergi was denied a goal and an orange ball

That’s to look forward to. Off field, supporters were left in shock at the news that came through on social media at the back end of the week. Namely, that two of the most iconic faces linked to Brentford are moving on.

I have to be honest, I had to choke back the surprise and genuine upset at the story in The Times yesterday which said that Natalie Sawyer, THE face of Sky Sports News, has presented her final show without even a word from her employers to the viewers. No fanfare. No mention. No goodbye. That’s it.  I hope this isn’t true but it would certainly seem to be the case and has been picked up by plenty of other sites, too.

We all know what Natalie has done for our club. How much a public face of Brentford FC she is. How much time and effort she puts in to backing the Bees. Ever popular and always taking the time to talk to the fans. An ardent supporter of the BFCCST and even appearing as a regular on BeesPlayer (THAT Keith Stroud game up at Sheffield United) and hosting our end of season Player of The year awards. Amongst other things.

No doubt all of this will continue but, at the same time, it really is the end of an era if Natalie has presented her final bulletin. Truly an inspirational figure, I can’t help but think Sky will fully appreciate just who they have lost until it is too late. Here’s to bigger things.

Mark Burridge and Natalie Sawyer

The king and queen of Griffin Park commentary

But it’s not just Natalie. King of Stats and Futsal guru Luis Melville has this week worked his final office day at The Brentford FC Community Sports Trust.

We all know what incredible work the Trust does and what a KEY individual Luis has been here. Whilst perhaps a little less high profile in the wider public eye, have no doubt that his leaving will as ground shaking as Natalie’s departure. The good news being I’ve seen a tweet from Luis in which he notes that he’ll still be part of the furniture at Griffin Park (good news indeed – and hopefully on comms, too) but perhaps this tweet best sums up the regards in which he is held….

Nick Bruzon

As Blades go top, will Brentford enjoy more success at Preston?

28 Oct

There’s been a lot going on this week and that’s before a ball has even been kicked : all fine at Loftus road whilst Harlee seems to have forgotten his history and manners in Birmingham. But relax. The latest round of Championship action can now take place, having kicked off last night with Sheffield United winning at Leeds to go to the top of the table. It was a largely one way performance and a deserved win for the Blades. Yet whilst we’ll look a bit further at that shortly, our main focus has to be, as ever, on Brentford and our trip to Preston North End.

It would be fair to say that, after a somewhat rocky start Dean Smith’s Bees are beginning to find their feet. The squad has settled down after a frenetic summer of activity which culminated in that last minute triple cash in to Harry Redknapp (a man currently residing in the ‘where are they now?’ files). Yet with the uncertainty done, spleens vented and players returning from injury things are starting to get back to normal.

Brentford are six unbeaten and have even started to have some of that ‘luck’ whose absence had been frustrating our Head Coach. We’ve 10 points out of the last 18 and will be looking to take the current run of form to 7(seven) games when we play Preston on Saturday afternoon.

There’s more good news for Dean Smith. Specifically, no new injuries. Might he be able to name an unchanged starting XI (following last Saturday’s 3-3 with Sunderland) for the first time this season? Or will Sergi Canos be pushed back into the first team after his substitute’s appearance against the Black Cats?

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A sight for sore eyes last weekend

Having played and scored in the B-team’s 3-1 win over Inter Milan during the week (and count the things right in that sentence) might a first team start be a step too far at present? Moreso with games to come against Birmingham City on Wednesday and then Leeds United next Saturday. We’re all desperate to see Sergi back in action but having already been spannered by injury the last time, up at Aston Villa, caution will surely be the order of the day as he rebuild s match fitness.

With Lewis Macleod also getting B-team minutes under his belt after that long, long recuperation there’s more good news on the horizon for Dean. I’d imagine that Preston will be a trip too far for Lewis, at least now, but the midfield options available in a few weeks time could cause some real selection posers.

Still, all that is then. This is now. Let’s focus on the present. With many Brentford fans already licking their lips at the prospect of our midweek trip to Birmingham following Harlee’s comments on Thursday, keeping our focus today will be imperative. Preston are no slouches and know that a win will take them into the play off zone, potentially as high as fourth place following that defeat for Leeds United last night. This, after finishing just below our own top ten Bees in a more than impressive 11th place last season.

Whilst we’ve had plenty of joy against Preston in recent seasons (including that penalty – for Alan Judge, in League One) past performance is not indicative of current form. “It will be a tough ask for us” said Dean in Thursday’s press conference and he’s not wrong. But he has the options at his disposal to answer that ask. As long as he locks it up at the back.

Some people are on the pitch - Juge's penalty v Preston saw a wonderful denouement

Happier times at the denouement of out promotion campaign

Yoann Barbet and Chris Mepham can both count themselves very unlucky to have lost out in recent weeks. With three first half goals shipped against Sunderland last Saturday, could this be today’s ‘change’? Or has Dean nailed his selection colours to the mast and this is it? At 3pm, we find out.

We couldn’t end today’s column without a brief nod to the Sheffield United connection . Not so much Jack O’Connell and the magnificent Clayton Donaldson (who I STILL miss) or Keith Stroud (who I don’t) but more their form. Like Brentford three seasons ago, The Blades have come up from League One and taken the division by storm. But whereas we missed our chance to go top in the Boxing Day game with Ipswich Town (move along, nothing to see there) there was no fluffing of the lines for United last night.

Their performance against Leeds was fully deserving of their position and whilst things may have shifted around come 5pm, nobody can deny who is currently top of the table. Yet for me (Clive) the telling stat is in that L column. United have lost four games. Brentford have lost 4 games. The difference being the ability to turn draws into victory. The Blades have proved to have the cutting edge in the box, winning their other 10. If we can get that bit right then who know how high we can go?

The draw at Middlesbrough last time we travelled showed just what this side can do. Here’s to more of that spirit this afternoon. Moreso, given Deepdale has been a relatively happy hunting ground for us in recent seasons whilst, for personal reasons, Preston are always a club I’ve followed with particular interest.

Preston letter

Keith never did write back. Or did he…?

To date, my first and only foray into the world of professional football club management. It was an application that would eventually prove fruitless. I never heard back with an interview date and can only assume that, in those pre-internet days the follow up letter got lost somewhere in the Royal Mail. Had the postal service done their job properly, who knows how things might have turned out had  a then struggling North End taken that gamble?

Not well, being my guess.

Nick Bruzon

 

Football is back as Blades set the standard and Bees miss out.

6 Aug

Another season begins, another round of opening day disappointment for Brentford. The Bees left Sheffield United on the wrong end of a 1-0 defeat which could have been more – the second of the hosts two disallowed goals subsequently being deemed very unlucky to be chalked off. Yet on a day dominated by home teams where only three away goals were scored in the Championship, including one for Hull City in their 1-1 at Aston Villa (as predicted yesterday – I’m still in shock), Bees fans should remain upbeat.

And if you’d like to read more whilst helping the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust …. the rest of this article can now be found in the Kindle e-book Ten Times Better. Brentford FC Season review: 2017/18. Inspired by ‘that’ interview it contains the least bad of these columns in one, handy volume as it looks at our own campaign as well as wider divisional life and the promotion / relegation races.

As a bonus there’s a whole host of new material. New that is, for my pages. Specifically, all the programme articles submitted (both home and away where, if nothing else, you can get the original versions of both Birmingham City and Millwall).

In addition, There Is No Plan B. Brentford FC Season reviews: 2013/14 – 2017/18 takes us all the way back to the start of this latest leg in the journey. That penalty. League One. Harlee Dean was a hero. Jota was something we thought happened to the temperature for one week in July. Alan Judge had joined on loan whilst the Marinus Experiment was something nobody had contemplated. Bringing things bang up to date by the inclusion of this year’s volume alongside the four previously published campaign round ups, it has five seasons in one weighty tome. As weighty as a download can be, that is.

Relive the memories. See how often the same material gets regurgitated. Remind yourself about the likes of Betinho, Martin Fillo, Javi Venta and Marcos Tebar. Certainly, if there’s no Marcos Tea Bar at Lionel Road it will be an opportunity missed.

All proceeds from any sales will go to the Community Sports Trust. For less than the cost of a half / pint respectively, they may help while away some time on the commute. By the pool on holiday. In the bathroom. Who knows? It will certainly do some good for the Trust, whose work has been well documented at Griffin Park but you can read all about it on their site.

And if that wasn’t enough, I’ve been given something very special. A 2017/18 third team shirt with Lewis Macleod’s squad number on the reverse in the EFL typeface. Anyone with half an interest in Bees kits will know that these were never made available in the club shop.  Anyone who has read any of this before will know what a kit nerd yours truly is so when I say this is rare, take that in good faith!

To be in with a chance of owning it, download a copy of either before the end of June 2018 and you’ll go into a draw to win this. Just DM/tweet me (@NickBruzon) a copy of your purchase confirmation mail and I’ll add your name to the list before selecting a random Bees fan to win this on July 1st.

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Nick Bruzon

Ricky Shakes Bees as Jack joins Blades

9 Jul

The rumour mill has done it again, in part, as Jack O’Connell’s move from Brentford to Sheffield United was confirmed yesterday. With the other subject for discussion, Alan McCormack, taking part in our 2-1 defeat to Boreham Wood despite being reported to have held talks with Southend United the future is less clear there.

First up, Jack O’Connell . He leaves Griffin Park for Bramall Lane, having spent 18 months and featured 18 times for Brentford. The signing of John Egan made it 5 centre backs on the books and so it was perhaps inevitable that there would be some outward movement in that position. With Yoann Barbet more than demonstrating his ability last season, full Danish international Andreas Bjelland back from that horrendous injury and Harlee Dean (who it is hard to believe is still only 24) well established perhaps Jack has just found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Jack O'Connell signs

Jack has swapped Bees for Blades

It’s a real shame on an individual level. I really thought he had the making of a great player. Correction, I think Jack has the makings of a great player.  It just won’t be with the Bees.

Jack looked like he might be forging a partnership with James Tarkowski at one point around Christmas time. He had , of course, stepped in to replace Harlee after a three game ban for seeing red against Nottingham Forest (granted, a moment that saw the visitors’ Jonathan Williams collapse like a sack of spuds before a Lazarus style recovery). It was a period that saw us earn 5 points out of 9 and one which culminated in his equaliser in the 2-2 draw at Fulham.

The fans went delirious and, but for a rogue linesman, the Bees would conceivably have gone on to pick up all three points that afternoon. Jack’s reward, keeping his place for the next game at Cardiff City despite Harlee’s ban having been served. Sadly, it wasn’t to be and a 3-2 defeat saw him consigned once more to the bench.

Like Alfie Mawson and Will Grigg last season, players have shown they can leave  Griffin Park for League 1 and earn a return to the Championship. Sheffield United have ‘been there and done it’ many times before. I have no doubt in the potential of Jack to help them do it again. Good luck !

The other transfer story doing the rounds surrounded Alan McCormack , supposedly holding talks with Southend United. Those who made the trip to Boreham Wood or tuned in to hear Mark Burridge and Charlie MacDonald describe the action on Bees Player HD would have been well aware that last night he was lining up for the Bees.

What can you say about that game? Not much, beyond well done to a Boreham Wood side who were missing Yakubu. (Yes. That one) but featured former Bees cult hero Ricky Shakes.

It was a pre-season loosener after we’ve been back in training for about five minutes and they won. Nicely done, Boreham. Dean Smith certainly made his feelings clear in the post match interview that talked of a great exercise in which he got exactly what he wanted. You can read more of that one on the official site.

For the Bees, of course a victory by any margin would have been nice but what would it have told us? Not much. Traditionally, these games see multiple players used and this was once more the case. Dean Smith picking two almost entirely different line ups with Lasse Vibe, Romaine Sawyers, Dan Bentley, Josh McEachran, Alan Judge and Sam Saunders amongst the notable absentees.

On the plus side, Lewis Macleod is fit. And scored. This is huge. Like Scott Hogan, a player with huge potential but one who has faced the best part of 18 months out of action. Here’s hoping that like Scott, all the pain and effort reaps a just reward.

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The Bees, in sponsor free kit, lost out by the odd goal in three

Then again, this does give head coach Dean Smith even more of a challenge as to whom he picks from an already voluminous set of midfield options.  Romaine Sawyers is in whilst Lewis is, cliché alert, ‘like a new signing‘. With John Swift back at Chelsea, Sergi Canos at Liverpool / ?  and Jota on loan (surely that will just be a matter of time before, sadly, formalities are completed) what next ?

Alan Judge continues his return from injury although the pessimist in me suspects that once fit, he’ll be the subject of renewed interest from a whole host of suitors. But it is the question of Macca that really intrigues. The iron fist within our velvet glove of a midfield, is a player of his style a thing of the past or do we still need that tough tackling and experience?

For me Clive, it’s the later. This is the Championship, not a nursery. Will he start every game? Unlikely. Do we have an alternative with his steel when needed? I can’t see one at the moment.

And that’s not meant as any disrespect to any of the wonderful individuals we are assembling in a truly impressive squad. But a bit of variety can only be a good thing and, personally, I’d love to see a player with his very particular set of skills, skills acquired over a long career, retained on the Griffin Park playing staff. They are skills that make him a nightmare for opponents but will Dean and the team decide they are still needed?

Here’s hoping the right decision is taken.

Nick Bruzon 

And finally…. :   The Last Word ‘season review’ : Ready. Steady. Go Again and the three year anthology : The Bees are going up remain available for download. For all the info, the highs, the lows, more highs then  you can do so now.

Its been a wonderful three years. Here’s to more of the same over 2016/17. Thanks, as ever, for reading.

 

Saucer of milk for table two? Rotherham open door for Brentford and Wolves.

12 Apr

Rotherham United manager Steve Evans cut a bitter figure as Brentford and Wolves saw their promotion chances increase significantly following his team’s stalemate with Bradford City on Friday night. Six more points will do it for Brentford whilst Wolves need a solitary victory.

Evans clearly wasn’t a happy man after a game played out in front of Sky TV and which featured our very own Natalie Sawyer in the punditry hot seat. He stropped off straight down the tunnel at full time before re-emerging to moan at the cameras in the obligatory post-match interview.

To read the rest of this article, season 2013/14 is now available to download onto Kindle, in full. Containing previously unseen content, you can do so here for less than the cost of one matchday programme.

 Thanks for reading over the course of the campaign. For now I need to make space on this page for any follow up.  The ‘close season’ / World Cup columns continue in full, further on in this site.