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As cup draw shows what might have been, where do you stand ?

21 Sep

As one last piece of fall out from the EFL cup defeat, Brentford fans now know who we would have been drawn against had we beaten Norwich City. With the Canaries having been handed the seemingly plum tie of a trip to Arsenal, I’ve seen several supporters bemoaning our own missing out on a trip to The Emirates stadium.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t even watch the draw this time around. The overly convoluted methodology used for rounds 1-3 had long since sapped any interest I may had had. That, and nothing to do with our capitulation against Norwich, were the reasons that an early night seemed an infinitely more palatable option. As such, it was a case of waking up to Arsenal this, draw that on my Twitter timeline this morning.

Yet at the case of formally labelling myself as the most boring man on the planet, rather than a visit to Arsenal the reward for a Brentford victory would (by my rough calculations) have been a home tie with Bristol City. And that’s assuming the balls had then been pulled in the same order.

The numerical sequencing (with Tuesday winners numbered 1-11) would have seen the Bees slot in at number 2 instead of Bristol City. They’d have taken the place of ball 3, Crystal Palace, and the tie that now sees the Robins host the Eagles would actually have seen them heading to Griffin Park for the chance to earn a quarter final slot.

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A fourth round with Arsenal, Bristol City and Norwich. But no Brentford

It’s all conjecture. Free to concentrate in the league until January, our own immediate future sees the trip to bottom club Bolton Wanderers on Saturday, followed by Tuesday night’s game with Derby County. It’s a shame from many respects as a fourth round tie at home to a fellow Championship club would have presented a wonderful chance of progress. Mind you, we’d have said the same prior to Norwich City visiting and look how that ended up. A 3-1 defeat and one of the worst penalties ever seen.

Head Coach Dean Smith has already said his piece on how the third round ended up, telling BBC Radio London: “It’s not relevant (in terms of morale) at all compared to Saturday.”

Whether he would be saying the same thing now, having seen how the draw has panned out I do wonder. Likewise, I’m surprised he doesn’t think a win would have been good for the buzz around Griffin Park. I guess that’s why I’m the numpty on the terrace and he’s the head coach.

Still, there’s no point crying over a split milk (cup). Norwich deserved it. We didn’t. Here’s to a morale boosting win on Saturday instead. Three points at The Macron now very much the order of the day and, as Dean also noted in that BBC piece, “Bolton is very important to us and we’ll have a lot of fresh players come back for that.”

I’m not going to avoid the elephant in the room here. As is typical in this situation, I’ve seen some supporters calling for a change. That Thomas Frank or King Kev should be parachuted into the head coach role. For the record, my own thoughts are anything but at present. Putting aside the constant references to bad luck, refereeing and our own ‘wonderful’ performances, this is not the time or the place.

With a set up that includes two directors of football and multiple coaches, we win or lose together. We’ve even had a specialist in the provision of strategy, leadership, cultural engagement and performance management solutions and skills join the board with the announcement yesterday that Monique Choudhuri has been named as a club director.

With our current football philosophy, one man should not be made the solitary scapegoat for current results. Nor should he take all the plaudits when things go well.

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#WelcomeMonique ?

Let’s not forget that over the summer we were told how wonderful the scouting set up had been in helping bring in all these wonderful new players. And we have undoubtedly picked up some real gems over the last few seasons. Albeit it’s quite understandable that Dean is the focal point for how things go on the pitch. That his role is to pick the best team for the job. To have a consistent side. To motivate them. A side selected from the players he has had made available to him by our set up. And in my opinion, on Tuesday he got that all wrong.

Equally, his role is to get the best out of what he has. To say the right things when results don’t quite go to plan. I don’t get the ‘self-pity’ excuse thing. I don’t agree that we are yet to play a team better than us in the league. Four draws and four defeats tell you everything you need to know on that front. But I do think he is coming under an undue amount of flak at present. He is a head coach that has guided us to top ten Championship finishes over his two seasons in charge. For a club that has made no secret of the need to sell to survive.

If Dean can settle on his best XI, and pick it. If Dean can find a Plan B rather than subs by number or giving those like for like entrants to the field of play just a few minutes when the game is all but lost. If he can get some luck on the fitness side where the returns of Sergi Canos and Lasse Vibe alone would be huge, then expect things to change.

Roll on this week’s press conferences. I’m not a journalist but, if I was , my first question to Dean would be – who is your starting XI if everybody is fit? Followed closely by, when are we going to get a win?

Here’s to the weekend when hopefully we can find out.

Barbet pen Norwich

Tuesday happened. Move along

Nick Bruzon

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Out of the cup but where next?

20 Sep

Brentford 1 Norwich City 3. We’re out of the EFL Cup after a night in which we were never even close to being in it. Hey, let’s be positive though. At least Bolton Wanderers lost ahead of Saturday after their long trip to West Ham.

Dean Smith would later describe the second half performance as being “insipid” but I’d also question if he watched the opening period.  It was a 45 minutes punctuated by strange refereeing decisions and a Bees team who were second to just about everything. Even spot kicks as, when presented with the ultimate lifeline and a chance to haul ourselves back into it at 1-0 down, Yoann Barbet blasted his penalty so far over the top that it’s now in low earth orbit.

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Barbet’s pen. (Inset: now)

But then we’ve a tradition of centre backs hoofing dead balls over the bar. See also that ill-fated period of giving spot kick duties to number 26 ( a player who, ironically, missed one for Burnley last night as they lost out against Leeds). Likewise Miguel Llera and his attempts to channel Sam Saunders but which were more akin to Jonny Wilkinson. Why not just give it to a striker? A player whose job it it to strike the ball. To find the back of the net. Subsequent free kicks would suggest the Frenchman’s radar was somewhat ‘off’.

Yet let’s not hide behind one missed penalty. Even before then the writing felt on the wall where, with three B-team players making their first starts, those experienced heads picked by Dean needed to stand up and be counted. To guide the debutants. Instead, they went awol. Instead, the head coach was unable to do anything beyond take tips from Thomas Frank and occasionally lift his arms in frustration.

If Yoann was impersonating Jonny then this was almost like watching the ghost of Marinus past. And in places it was almost like reliving that ill-fated Oxford United tie from a few seasons back.

At a time when we should have come out all guns blazing in the second half, we fell even further behind. Just six minutes were on the clock after the restart when Mario Vrancic doubled the Canaries lead with a free kick curled over the wall and under Luke Daniels. His first had come just ten minutes into the opening period following a very soft penalty decision awarded to Norwich. But they took advantage of their opportunity; you can’t knock them for that. We wasted ours to the extent that even the Met Police were sledging us.

And at 2-0 down, the game was up. Brentford, who had been second best for most of the first half, didn’t even bother. Only Justin Shaibu, on for the totally ineffectual Neal Maupay, coming close with a curler that bounced back off the inside of the post. At least, until Josh Clarke popped up with our consolation goal in stoppage time. But by that point Josh Murphy had already made it 3 for the visitors.

As a means of psyching ourselves up for Saturday and the trip to Bolton, this was less a shot in the arm as us shooting ourselves in the foot. Unless, of course, it was an attempt to deliberately mislead any watching scouts. Truly, this was a soul destroying experience. Akin to what I can only imagine it would feel being force-fed Mrs Browns Boys for 90 minutes.

I could sit here and pick this apart but what’s the point? If you were there, you saw it. If you weren’t, then know that Norwich City were totally up for it and deserved their win. Likewise, know that should we pull our socks up and pull a result out of the bag on Saturday then I have no doubt this one will be forgotten about as quickly as it happened.

We’ve strength to come back off the bench, for sure. That’s the advantage of having a squad which gets stronger each transfer window. Just who plays? Whilst injuries haven’t helped his cause, Dean seems no closer to knowing his first team and this is going to be our 9th game in the Championship. There’s only so long you can experiment for.

Get it right and he’ll be a hero. Get it wrong and the few boos we heard at full time last night could well become a crescendo.

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Dean Smith – nice trainers ; tough challenge

Nick Bruzon

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

19 Sep

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nick Bruzon

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

17 Sep

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

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

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Reading were the latest visitors to Griffin Park

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

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

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

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

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

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The Bees had to rely on themselves rather than the officials

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

Here are three more quotes for you.

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

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

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

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

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

One can symapthise with Dean over the refereeing performance

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

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

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

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

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Clem’s gut reaction says it all

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

Sadly, I fear it is . In this instance.

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

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

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

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A point sees the Bees rise above big spending Birmingham

Nick Bruzon

As Bees prepare for a Royal visit, Dean remains confident. But can we win?

16 Sep

Tuesday 27 September 2016. It finished Brentford 4 Reading 1. It was a score that came just weeks after a draw at Aston Villa and a previous home game that had seen us thump Preston 5-0 at Griffin Park. Yet it was the game against the Royals which produced what these pages described as one of the great performances as Josh Clarke ran riot, noting “How it was only four I still don’t know. Hats off to Dean Smith and his team for a display of simply scintillating football.”

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Last time out Reading’s lurid kit was about as awkward as it got for Brentford

Needless to say that 12 months on we’d love those sorts of results. The W column is fast becoming a somewhat awkward monkey on the back with only Bolton Wanderers, who we play next Saturday, able to match the Bees in so far failing to pick up three points. Yet victory today would put the Bees to within a point of a Reading team that, it would be fair to say, are yet to match the heights of last season where the third placed side got all the way to the play-off final before going down to Huddersfield on penalties. There is no crueller way to be denied, that’s for sure.

Still, there’s no time for tears. That’s Reading’s issue and if they are failing to adjust then surely something to try and take advantage of. We’ve all heard the talk of how well Brentford are playing, how unlucky we are being and that there is nothing to worry about. It was a point that Dean Smith made in his Thursday press conference where he noted: ”We are all disappointed with the results but we are not disappointed with the performances. We concentrate on getting the performances because usually the results follow but it hasn’t been the case. I’ve been at clubs when they have been in trouble and we certainly aren’t”, albeit he would later acknowledge that, “the longer you wait for that first win then the more pressure can build in the supporters’ eyes.”

The question is, can we do it? Although Dean would go on to say that “Whoever plays the best will win” (and you can read his piece in full on ‘official’) that’s not necessarily the case. Just look at the Ipswich game. Indeed, it seems contradictory to what has been said before. We’ve been told how well we’ve been playing this season and how we are bettering opponents such as Aston Villa and Sheffield Wednesday yet we are still to break the duck.

Something has to give soon and one can only dream of a report performance from that of 12 months ago. It was a game where 10 of the current squad played a part in producing some quite wonderful football. Should Dean get it right today and the pieces click then we are more than capable of doing the same again. Personally, I’d be well happy with a scrappy 1-0 and an 89th minute winner off of Nico’s backside. Please note: any backside will do.

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View from the terrace – Brentford were on fire at both ends last time we had a Royal visit

I’m not overly happy about being bottom three. Who would be? Yet the fact remains that this is only mid September. We are only 7(seven) games in. We’ve been told how strong the squad is. A few wins and it all changes around. The gap to 5th place is only 9points. Just when do those wins come? And how?

The BBC preview, which you can read here, certainly favours the Bees. Amongst other things, they have a whole series of stats including the facts that Reading are the only Championship side yet to score a first-half goal this season whilst 1972, 22 games ago, was the last time they kept a clean sheet at Griffin Park.

I’ve got a feeling that today we’ll be making that stat 23 and going home with all three points in our pocket. Bring on 3pm when we find out.

See you there.

Nick Bruzon

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

13 Sep

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dean v Marinus. If we are looking at stats

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sound familiar?

Harlee Birmingham tweet

Nick Bruzon

Here we go again…..

12 Sep

No sooner has the weekend gone than Brentford hit the road for a second away game in three days. Following the 0-0 with Aston Villa on Saturday, next up is tonight’s trip to Sheffield Wednesday. Can Dean Smith’s team make it 7th(seventh) time lucky and record a first league victory that, whilst our play has more than suggested should have come by now, currently remains tantalisingly out of reach?

I missed Aston Villa. Even in as much as being able to listen to Mark Burridge and team. Whatever the opposite of a footballing green card is, it was played by Mrs Bruzon as a long planned family weekend away took precedence over any lingering thoughts of a trip to Villa Park. Let alone keeping a crafty ear pinned to goings on in the Midlands. Instead, it was country walks through muddy fields as Brentford had, by all accounts, the lion’s share of the game against opponents who believed their own pre-season hype.

Mark talks us through the highlights

Twitter, as ever, a joy to behold from supporters (theirs) who had failed to recognise the Brentford potential and, instead, assumed us to be the pub team that our relative size (and wage bills) suggested. Even Dr. Tony Xia getting in on the act as Brentford’s Championship record against Aston Villa now reads : P3 W1 D2 L0 F4 A1.

We’ve said it countless times before and will no doubt say it again. Having a big stadium, a huge fanbase, a proud history and a ginormous wage bill doesn’t give you a divine right to be any good now. History counts for naff all when it’s 11 v11 trying to play your way out of what is, arguably, football’s toughest division. Just look at how Leeds United have fared since they dropped out of the Premier League in 2004.

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Arrogance and over confidence. How many times will we see it?

All of which brings with sledgehammer like unsubtly to Sheffield Wednesday this evening. A former top flight team with a huge stadium and more than the odd bit of silverware to their name. They’re unbeaten in five league games with 2 wins and 3 draws seeing them sitting 10th in the fledgling Championship table. A midweek trip immediately after Villa, with less away fans than would normally have been expected (give the distance and Saturday’s exertions) would probably not have been on Dean Smith’s ‘wishlist’ . But can Brentford come away with anything?

Out recent form has been relatively positive. In the last five games we’ve only lost once, that being the trip to Ipswich Town where the Bees dominated for the first half hour before being caught by the consummate sucker punch. It is a run that has included three more draws in the league as well as the 4-1 thrashing administered to QPR in the league cup.

If ever anyone was going to suggest that the league table lies (it doesn’t) it would be now. Our play has been quite wonderful at times and, but for some inspired opposition ‘keepers / our own defence having the odd ‘walkabout’ moment then surely the W column would be registering at least 2 ? Nottingham Forest and Bristol City, I’m looking at you.

So can we go one better against Sheffield Wednesday tonight? Well, in short: Yes. Rico Henry is fit again which means we have a recognised left back once more. Harlee Dean is amongst those to have gone and, whatever your thoughts on that move, it does mean that at least we are closer to a settled centre back pairing. Ryan Woods was, by all accounts, at his best against Aston Villa whilst with Sergi Canos suffering that ankle blow there’ll be hopes that Flo Jo has recovered from the fever that caused him to miss Saturday’s game.

Club sponsor LeoVegas have us as long as 13/5 to win this one. That’s very generous in my eyes. Whilst the deeds to the house won’t be going on it, perhaps a little investment – purely for research purposes – is the order of the day.

Take my advice at your peril. Yet, at the same time, I’ve got a feeling something is going to give tonight. In a good way.

Here’s to 7.45pm when we find out.

Nick Bruzon

 

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

7 Sep

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

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

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

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

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

Loftus Road 100

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Villa form

Villa Park. Where form goes to die. Apparently

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

Enjoy.

Nick Bruzon

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

6 Sep

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

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

fans forum panel

The forum has always had a strong panel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3: Is there now a Plan B ?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nick Bruzon

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

3 Sep

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

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It really happened

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

rasmus-goal-stronger

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

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

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

Nick Bruzon