Tag Archives: Blues

Is this the Chelsea starting XI? Time for more football romance and stupid dreams.

16 Oct

Silly o’clock. Been awake since 3.37am and there’s nothing, absolutely nothing, going on at this ungodly hour. Mrs B and little H are both fast asleep. Even Bentley the cat is yet to howl the house down at the first tread on a creaky floorboard. The internet has been surfed and vinyl I can’t afford bought. Hey, those Bluetones records missing from the collection aren’t going to buy themselves. Brentford shirts are yet to be acquired but the usual sites have a dearth of anything even vaguely interesting. We’ve got Chelsea this evening and I’d love to say the early start is due to excitement at the prospect of their visit but it isn’t. Nothing more than a warped body clock combined with good old fashioned insomnia. Hurrah! 

On the plus side, it IS the weekend. We’re back in action and at the time of writing, social media is already a litany of anticipation. Trips to Lionel Road already underway (Paul Ridley via Barcelona, we’re looking at you in particular) but there is also trepidation about referee Anthony Taylor building. Primarily from the Chelsea fans, it seems. Is there some beef there? 

Goes to Internet. Checks. Ah, yes. It would appear to be the case. The Daily Mail – with apologies for adding to their ‘hits’  – describes Mr Taylor as the club’s ‘nemesis’. Blues fans apparently ‘dreading’ the return of a man they launched a petition against after sending off Reece James for hand ball in the season opener with Liverpool. 

Been there. Done that. Had Keith Stroud on numerous occasions. Pain shared. Albeit attempting the route of petition is a step not even Brentford fans have undertaken. A gesture as futile as having a studio audience for a live recording of Mrs. Brown’s Boys. Any ‘laughs’, surely, coming from the canned track.   

Blue isn’t the colour

Of more importance is who Chelsea run out with today. Good luck getting that right. The usual barometer of starting XI selection, Fantasy Football scout, is predicting several absences (Ampadu, Batshuayi, Thiago Silva, Emerson, Pulisic and Rüdiger aswell as several doubts). You can read their full fat appraisal here. However, even accounting for missing faces it is a line up that still looks immense. What hope do Brentford have in stoping this? In winning the West London derby and stopping our visitors from setting a record of 7(seven) wins on the bounce again teams in the capital. Aside from Anthony Taylor?

Predicted line up from FF scout

Well the great news is that Kris Ajer and Vitaly Janelt are both fit again after missing out at West Ham. Oh, those salty tears from the home fans are still as sweet as they were two weeks ago. Wissa you bloody genius. Shandon Baptiste misses out – a dislocated shoulder will do that to you – but otherwise we’re all good. A central three of Vitaly, Frank the Tank and Christian Norgaard is about as obvious as it comes. Rico and Sergi as wing backs with Ivan and Bryan up top. I can’t imagine any surprises from Thomas with a line up that should have the right balance of silk and steel to upset the bookies (still 26/5), the record books and the opposition.

Hey, one can dream. You have to though. The whole Premier league experience has been so utterly ridiculous thus far that why not keep on riding the crazy train? Wishful thinking and blind optimism have long overtaken common sense and logic. Results coming the way of a team and fanbase who are having nothing but fun. An experienced squad, bolstered by shrewd aquisitions, playing out of their skins in a consequence free environment. Nobody expects us to win. Nobody gives us a hope. Yet, somehow, the points keep on coming. Somehow we keep on defying the odds.

It still feels like relatively early days but after today we’ll be over a fifth of the season done. Brentford go into the game four points behind league leaders Chelsea. European Champions Chelsea. My word, if ever there was incentive to go for the win then here it is. Not that we ever play for anything except a win (the end of Brighton aside). 

The return of Buzz ended up being the highlight of the Brighton game

It was said pre-season that the only club we genuinely thought would outplay us were Manchester City. So far, there’s been nothing to alter that perception albeit we’ve had to be at the absolute top of our game. The way Chelsea have started, and played, only a fool would fail to lump them into that bracket of likely Champions and top ranked teams. More than a few FIFA setting above the Bees when you look at this with a factual perspective. But, as has been noted, we don’t do that.

Sure, they’d beat us 9 times out of 10 if you run the numbers. Perhaps even 10 out of 10. But football doesn’t work like that. Lionel Road is no ordinary place. Brentford a quite unique team. A bus stop club stepping out against a fleet of limousines. A fan base who raise the roof like no other. Give me our football romance and stupid dreams over squads worth hundreds of millions any day of the week. It keeps the blood pumping. The anticipation of a win rather than the expectation gives added edge so sadly lacking for those clubs for whom three points and silverware are the de rigueur lifestyle choice.

I go into this one with utter respect for what they have achieved. For where they sit. No question. And the same feelings are extended to Chelsea. Our boys have had a magnificent opening few months. Can it continue tonight? Roll on kick off. See you there.

West Ham away – last time out was wonderful. Especially the 94th minute

Nick Bruzon

A terrible morning after a frustrating night before.

7 Apr

Another game unbeaten. Third placed in the Championship table. A clean sheet. Clear of Swansea City on level games. Ordinarily one would be ecstatic to be in this position heading in to the final seven games of the campaign. Yet a 0-0 for Brentford against Birmingham City, a fourth successive draw for the Bees, has left nothing but a feeling of deep frustration. An opportunity spurned. The gap to second placed Watford 9 points. As if to underline the gulf in class at the top end, Norwich City took the opportunity to inflict a 7(seven) – 0 bracketing on Huddersfield Town. The Terriers on the receiving end of what happens when the opposition actually take their chances rather than just create them. 

There’s no disguising the final score

Brentford are now closer to 7th(seventh) place than automatic. Bournemouth currently sitting five points behind as they look to break in to the play-off zone. We’ve been saying for weeks that automatic is possible but failure to look over the shoulder has cost us – both Barnsley and Watford storming up and, in the case of the Hornets, through. Whilst the play-offs are the more realistic option for the Bees now (albeit, I’ll never say never until it’s mathematically out of sight) even falling over the line into that final-four shoot out isn’t as cut and dried as once it looked. Comments on Twitter to any post from ‘official’ were the usual mix of FrankOut and calls for Fosu to start. The Messianic pressure being heaped on Tariqe’s shoulders as odd as Thomas Frank’s refusal to mix things up and give his man a start or even just a bit more than a late run.

Instead, the only change from Saturday’s draw at Huddersfield saw Mathias Jensen start in place of Saman Ghoddos. To be fair, it looked good. Pressure built. Chances were created – Jensen blasting over before Sergi Canos had the very best of them. The Spaniard timing his run to break clear straight down the middle, only to Clayton it when one on one with ‘keeper Etheridge. There were others, too. Yet it already felt like ‘one of those’ as we headed in to half time. Lots of pressure and neat play. A statistician’s dream but no clinical finish or even ‘out and out’ chance, the Canos opportunity aside. And the longer the game went on the more it lacked any cutting edge. Brentford looking flat, muted, impotent. Ivan Toney rarely getting a sniff. 

Clearly we’re missing the threat offered by Rico Henry and Josh Dasilva. Two of our three best players missing for weeks now. No coincidence the results have slipped away with their injuries. The added absence of Henrik Dalsgaard further limiting our attacking threat. At least we kept it tight at the back although still had to be grateful to the woodwork after Scott Hogan caused merry hell in the box, freeing up Gary Gardner close in on the angle. Thankfully, the Birmingham player saw his shot cannon clear off the post and the Bees survived. It was part of a sequence that saw our visitors take the game to Brentford early on. Clearly, they weren’t here just to throw 11 behind the ball and with that level of open play we should have had enough about us to convert something of our own. Instead, it was another case of ifs, buts and maybes. A definite feeling of two more points dropped rather than one gained.

Bryan Mbeumo had one of his best games in a while. Coming close himself aswell as creating opportunities, such as they were. We might have had a few good shouts for penalty kicks – Mads Bech Sorensen in particular – but ultimately it was an evening where full time came with a feeling of emptiness. Of lethargy. Of bang average performance rather than one of having seen us kept out by a combination of cat like ‘keeper, shonky refereeing, ratlling woodwork and all those other things that so often come together to aid the opposition. This one was down to us and us only. When the time came, we couldn’t rise to the occasion. 

When Watford had finally left a glimmer of light we were unable to take advantage and close down what, this morning, feels less like a gap and more like a chasm to second place. It is one we can still cross, and let’s not forget that as part of a tough run in, they also have a six pointer at Lionel Road. Hopefully, things won’t be too late by the time that comes around. Ultimately though, every passing game sees it more reliant on maths than it does on our own ability to play football.

I was genuinely full of optimism yesterday.About both the game and our longer term prospects but even having slept on it, the feeling of self-destruct and now being really up against it that hit home at full-time remains. All being well it’ll go by the weekend when we travel to Preston.

I’m not sure what Thomas does from here to help his team rediscover their clinical edge. Short of a miraculous return for Rico or Josh, his squad remains as it is. The clamour for Fosu remains loud on social media and whilst teams have never been picked by fans before, something needs to change. Some fresh blood needed to reinvigorate a team who are so tantalisingly close to the ultimate dream yet, for whatever reasons, so far off the pace at present. There is still time to turn it around, even if it is just our form that returns. Anything else beyond there, from anyone else, nothing more than a bonus.

Then, when things couldn’t get worse, they did. I’ve woken up to the club highlighting the racist abuse once again directed towards Ivan Toney on Instagram last night. The club published their own reaction, one mirrored by all of us with brains.

There are no real words and no excuse to justify what was written by the perpetrator. ‘Frank Out’ is easy enough to ignore or even laugh at but this is totally different. Spineless. Cowardly. Hateful. Ignorant. Here’s hoping they catch whomever it is and use all the powers available to deal with this. How anyone thinks that sort of language about a fellow human being is acceptable remains beyond me. I can’t imagine how utterly horrific it must be to have this directed towards you. It’s awful enough reading it.  A crappy end off the pitch after a frustrating evening on it.

So I’m done. Here’s to a few days of ‘down time’ from social media, from football, from all this nonsense and then back to it for Preston. I think we could all do with a reset.

Nick Bruzon  

This is one we really must win.

6 Apr

Eight games to go. Brentford host Birmingham City on Tuesday evening following the draw with Huddersfield at the weekend. A game we go into with the knowledge that, finally, the results around us have been favourable. Yesterday saw Watford held at Middlesbrough after leading for a large chunk of that one and Swansea City losing their fourth on the bounce. The Bees in third place. Ten points behind the Hornets but with two games in hand. The first of which takes place at 7.00pm this evening. A game where victory has to be at the top of our priorities if there is to be any hope of overhauling the team(s) in ‘automatic’. If not a mathematical ‘must win’ then psychologically, very much the time to return to winning ways. Over reliance on favours not a strong card for any head coach to play too often. All good in theory. The problem being Lee Bowyer and his Blues are very much in a battle of their own at the wrong end of the table and aren’t just going to hand over the points.

All to play for still – not just for the top two

The plus point being the Bees are unbeaten since the 1-0 at Norwich City a month ago. All well and good but let’s not pretend the last three games have been anything but frustrating. Starting off at 100mph against Wayne Rooney’s Derby County but falling over the line to a 2-2 draw. See also: Nottingham Forest where chances aplenty were created but only one converted. The inevitable happened. Then Saturday saw us peg it back against Huddersfield Town for another draw. True, the point saw us clear Swansea City but Watford are the ones that, at present, we all have to catch up with. Indeed, the nature of the opening goal at the weekend a horror show to match anything Mrs. Browns Boys have inflicted on us over the years. 

The net result of all this meaning that, really, only victory will be good enough this evening. Certainly if we have genuine aspirations to recapture that place in the top two we held for a tantalising moment. True, Watford have a tough run but they also have more than enough ability to win them. To beat opponents before they have even walked out of the tunnel. For Brentford, the free-scoring fun seems to have gone awol. The team predictable and , perhaps, weighed down by both expectation and the pressure of last season. If ever there was a time to put the shooting boots back on and bolster the defence it is now. To pray Rico Henry and Josh Dasilva are back soon. The lack of any talk about either player suggests that won’t be anytime in the next five minutes. Perhaps, though, Thomas is playing his cards close to his chest.

Regardless, we still should have enough in this team to win tonight. Ivan Toney knows thew way to goal. Norgaard is back. Fosu and Marcondes must be chomping at the bit to begin this one from the off. Can Thomas inspire his troops? Make the pieces of this most enigmatic jigsaw fit together?

I don’t buy into any of this “We should have strengthened the squad in January” nonsense, btw. How do you predict injuries? How do you pay for it? How do you keep the squad happy? Which players would you have actually brought in? Moreso, at a time when we were on fire and storming it? Genuine question. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but let’s not forget, either, we’re more than holding our own against teams that have parachuted down from the Premier League and been able to maintain their structure. Likewise, that a season lasts for 46 games. Swansea City currently proving that no team can win every game. Hitting a wobble that’s actually worse than the one we did in that unholy trinity of games that reached a brutal denouement at St. Andrews against Coventry City.

Here’s the thing. Laugh and sneer all you want. This isn’t misguided optimism but genuine belief. I’ve been saying it all season and I still stand by the fact of my own personal feeling being Brentford will go up. Even now when, at face value, the table is less than favourable to us with Norwich and Watford in the box seats.  That doesn’t mean we can just continue to try and dial in performances. Saturday was a prime example of what happens when you do that. Yet with our rivals having a tough streak coming up and our own ability to turn it on should we get the on-pitch part right, this is still all to play for. It really needs to start tonight though. Two games in hand are more than handy but they need to be turned in to points. Both are at home to teams playing for their lives (see also: Rotherham in game 45).

This won’t be easy, of course. Birmingham City have got quality in that squad. I’ve seen teams finish fifth in this league and miss out on promotion by play offs. Their squad is ten times better than that. Its just about getting the balance right……

This could be huge. This might even be fun. It should be. What’s the point, otherwise? Kick off is at 7.00pm whilst before that you’ve got a ‘live’ edition of ‘The Warm Up’ . Stuart Wakeford, Marcus Gayle, Karleigh Osborne and special guest Natalie Sawyer will be hosting the show from Lionel Road at 6pm. You can catch that on YouTube with full details on ‘official’, here.. 

Until then, have a great day. See you there (metaphorically speaking). It’ll be another one on the sofa for us. All being well with a lot of cheering……

Nick Bruzon

Anything but a top draw afternoon.

4 Apr

Another point for Brentford. The draw at Huddersfield Town marking a mixed bag of results from the opening round of the Easter Championship fixtures. With Swansea City making it three defeats in a row at the hands of Birmingham City but Watford winning, again, the gap from the Bees in third to the second placed Hornets is now nine points. True, we still have that extra fixture and a visit from the Vicarage Road club to come but, for now, points in the bag are very much better than games in hand. For now… Who knows how things will or could change over the next few games?

We can only start with events at Huddersfield Town. A game which finished 1-1 after a first half in which we were frustrated by tenacious opponents and referee Oliver Langford. The man in the middle clearly set to ‘random’. Our case not helped by a shambolic opening goal conceded via a bit of defensive playmaking as haphazard and frustrating as the ‘officiating’ in the opening period. Raya playing out to Roerslev rather than booting it. The young Dane seemed to lose his footing before giving it away. Norgaard shoved before losing it and then Raya caught flat-footed after man of the match Lewis O’Brien reacted quickest. Just 7(seven) minutes gone and a goal down. Mere words can’t describe how awful it looked from start to finish. Dig out the video if you can do it to yourself. Anyone giving up the booze for Lent would have been forgiven for cracking at that point.

Help very much needed to get through the opening to the game

It was a goal all the more frustrating given Langford had adjudged Sergi Canos to have ‘fouled’ Demeaco Duhaney when running clean through on our hosts just moments earlier. Wonderful though he is, you’ve more chance of the Easter bunny displaying that level of dirty play. The Spanish playmaker one who very much embraces the positive side of attack, preferring to do it with the ball rather than his elbows. A player who trusts the referee to do his job. Sadly, the man in the middle failed spectacularly. See also the clear handball by Naby Sarr with Ivan Toney bursting clear or our man being bundled over yet adjudged to have conceded the foul. 

Let’s be clear, you still need to make your own chances but against opponents facing their own battle at the other end of the table, nothing is going to be handed over on a plate. The referee still needs to do his job and my word, Mr. Langford failed spectacularly in the first half. It was an opening period that actually had me yearning for the card waving discipline of Keith Stroud.

Our own cause not helped by Ghoddos and Mbeumo joining Dalsgaard in missing the game. At least the later had the excuse of being injured so not making it onto the pitch. Marcondes and Fosu amongst those given their chance far too late. Even Marcus Forss coming on for his 80th minute ‘subs by numbers’ appearance was as predictable as it was reactive. I’m no manager but the lack of impact and spurned opportunities in the opening period should have been a clarion call to action at half time rather than waiting until the usual 60-70 minute ‘Warburton zone’ to start proceedings.

Mr. Langford’s first half performance left a lot to be desired

Then again, we came out for the second period with a rocket having been delivered. Mads Bech Sørensen stabbing home the equaliser with just five minutes gone. Ivan Toney then hitting the inside of the post moments later. Surely, now, the pressure would build and the screw be turned? Surely? Alas not. Whilst Brentford had the lion’s share of the ball and possession, inability to carve out any further clear opening saw the game meander to an inevitable finish. Actual goals, rather than expected ones or retention stats, being what wins games. Huddersfield Town proving as resolute hosts as when they scuppered West Brom in game 45 last season. We weren’t complaining about their approach then. Perhaps it is something we might have done well to  remember.

Disappointed? Well, yes. Nobody has a divine right to win but Brentford just feel very samey at the moment. Our free flowing play and attacking intent parked in the sickbay with Rico Henry and Josh Dasilva. Games we might have won earlier in the season now turning into draws. Blame the ref. Blame lost chances (see: Nottingham Forest). Blame late wobbles (Derby County). Either way, the top two places would be infinitely nearer had we been able to close out any of the last three games. On the plus side, the meltdown ushered in by the FrankOut brigade after the Coventry debacle hasn’t seen Swansea City win their three games in hand to stride clear by the eight points predicted. Instead, we’re now ahead of the Swans whose current form reads LLL. Yet, like Barnsley, nobody has really kept tabs on Watford and they are the ones who have kept on churning out result after result after result.

What next? Watford travel to a Middlesbrough team who still have play-off aspirations. That, before another promotion hunting team in Reading, the derby with Luton and then Norwich away. Come out of those in any semblance of good form, off the back of an already mammoth run, and they deserve everything that comes their way. For Brentford, a visit from Birmingham City to set the pulse racing. Harlee Dean, Maxime Colin, Scott Hogan plus  Jon ‘and Toral must score’ amongst those likely to feature on Tuesday.

And Toral must score….

‘Automatic’ is still well possible but it is going to take a huge effort. Not just from those lining up against our rivals but from Brentford themselves. On and off the pitch. My word, if ever there was a time to return to winning ways then this it is upon us. Even Thomas seemed subdued after yesterday’s game, noting that “I would assess it as a decent performance. Not a top performance.

Here’s hoping for a return to winning ways and the chance to hear ‘Daydream Believer’ at full time. Oh, to be there on Tuesday.

Nick Bruzon

Needs must when the devil vomits into your kettle.

2 Apr

Finally, the Championship is back for Brentford after the interminable two week international break. This highlights of which included a first cap for Ethan Pinnock aswell as those much celebrated goals for Ollie Watkins and Gibraltar. The former on his international debut. The later, a brief moment of respite against Montenegro that came either side of home defeats to Norway and the Netherlands. For once, no consolation in seeing the brackets wheeled out as the boys from the Rock took a second half shoeing from the Dutch after an inspired opening forty-five. This, despite the wonderful form of goalkeeper Dayle Coleing. Not often you can concede ten in two games yet still be lauded as a player of the week. That’s now been and gone. Instead, we’re off to Huddersfield Town for a TV game tomorrow lunchtime. Today, we have to sit tight and wait for Watford to host Sheffield Wednesday before Swansea travel to Birmingham City this evening. If ever there was a ‘can both sides lose?’ derby then here it is.

No celebration. No brackets

Of course we should just focus on ourselves. The squad, one hopes, mostly refreshed. Recent pictures of Rico ‘on the grass’ providing some optimism. How close he remains to full fitness is, of course, another question altogether. Likewise Josh Dasilva.

Both sorely missed in recent weeks. Both players who can only strengthen our chances in the run in should they be available. Both players who will be in the Premier League next season – one way or another. See also: Ivan Toney. Cripes, we’ve got some first XI when everyone is fit.

Might we see Rico in action again soon?

Whilst just looking out for Brentford is the text book answer to any question about the last stages of a promotion campaign, we all know that’s nonsense when it comes down to it. Every decision, every goal, every result from our rivals is scrutinised in agonising detail. Moreso, when they are in action and we have an extra day to wait before our own game. Watford are the ones currently in second place. A 3pm kick off at home to Sheffield Wednesday in their game and, surely, no possible outcome beyond a win for the Hornets? Our only hope of a favour here being the Owls fighting a desperate rearguard against relegation. Who knows? 

For Swansea, a trip to Birmingham City in the evening. Last time out Lee Bowyer’s Blues were hammered at Vicarage Road. Tonight’s test equally tough and they’ll have to be ten times better to get anything out the bag here. The combination of Harlee Dean at the heart of the defence and the Swans propensity to be awarded penalties has me worried, that’s for sure. The one real hope being that, like Wednesday, City are also perilously close to the trapdoor. The only thing keeping them out of the bottom three being their having played about a hundred games more than Rotherham United. Any salvation for them needs to start immediately.

With Brentford not in action until tomorrow, let’s not pretend we won’t be following both games with a combination of intrigue and blind optimism. I’m not expecting any favours out of either and know we’ll have to rely on ourselves. Wednesday and Birmingham will only be able to offer the expected resistance of any team facing the dual factors of a relegation battle and promotion contenders. The bookies are giving 2.75 – 1 as the current price on Watford and Swansea in a win double. Lump your mortgage on it. I have. Well, if not the mortgage the remaining contents of my online betting account. Which should see me able to spring for a Creme Egg come Saturday morning.

Whatever happens, happens. None of it counts for anything if we can’t hit our own winning streak. Whilst not a ‘must win’ game, the trip to Huddersfield is one where three points will be very, very welcome. Time is starting to run out for all of us. Brentford have nine games left. That’s still almost 20% of the campaign – a significant proportion of course – but it doesn’t feel like that many when they can be counted on your fingers and thumbs. Especially when you know how the pressure will crank up in those final few fixtures. If ever there was a time to show what we’ve got then it’s now. The Terriers tomorrow and then Birmingham City at home on Tuesday. No irony to be lost there if, somehow, they rediscover the way to goal and any semblance of form today. Stranger things.

It doesn’t feel like there are too many to go….

If you can’t face watching either of today’s games on TV then there are two alternatives. First up, The Beesotted podcast. Billy and team providing an hour long distraction in their own big game build up. You can get that here.

Then there’s the combination of social media and kits. The World Cup of Brentford shirts seeing an epic head to head between Adidas 80 and Hummel 93. That one comes to a conclusion on Saturday morning and, whilst we are sadly lacking the Chad 92, Osca yoke and Funky Bee pin stripe, let’s not pretend the two finalists are nothing but amongst the very best we’ve ever had.

You can vote below. Until then, that’s me. See you on the other side. Tonight, Matthew, I need to be Birmingham City. And that’s not a good thing for anyone, especially those of us who supported the club during the early 90s. Then again, needs must when the devil vomits into your kettle, or whatever somebody much clever than me once said. 

Nick Bruzon

Just what the doctor ordered? Possibly.

11 Sep

Ollie Watkins has gone. Aston Villa his new home. Brentford move on. What does the weekend promise….? Birmingham City. Birmingham City. Owned by a per… well, we don’t sing that one any more. Things have changed at the top of the club. Then again, we won’t be singing anything for a while. The Bees travel to St. Andrews tomorrow for a Championship opener which, save for our dozens of journalists, will be bereft of fans. Much like the conclusion to the previous campaign. 

There will be no fans an no noise this time around

Given the ever evolving advice about Corona Virus (and ‘advice’ is a word used in the loosest sense), one can’t see that changing anytime soon. Oh, good. More couch time at home watching the games on i-follow rather than nail biting away days to those far flung pubs that are visited once a year (subject to cup ties).  Just what the doctor ordered. And this one is on Sky, meaning that per my non-Sky sources, even the online service won’t work. Now TV, a pub or a social bubble are your options. Assuming we are still allowed to meet some of our friends this weekend? 

Anyway, the point being it promises to be a very different start to the season compared to normal. I can’t see anything significant changing any time soon, either. Talk of experiments at allowing fans into grounds seems diametrically opposed to the tighter rules about gathering that come in to play from Monday. It’s all a bit underwhelming now. Everybody well sick of this (no pun intended) and longing for the day we can do something as simple as attend a game of football with our friends. Dreams about filling Lionel Road nothing more than that in the short to mid term.

Cripes. I turn 50 next month. There had been a lot of thought about doing the Preston or Coventry games in style. Of going hell for leather with friends. Now, we’ll be lucky to watch it with more than six of us in the same room. On the plus side, it does make up for there fact I don’t actually have more than six friends who’d want to celebrate.

Anyway, We digress. I’m tired.The dawn of a new season is upon us and that should be an exciting time. There have to be some positives and, of course, there’s always light on the horizon. Benrahma and Raya are still Bees. Will either start / feature  for Brentford tomorrow? Is Luke Daniels our new skipper or will Pontus step straight back in to the team and exert control of the armband?  Can Ivan Toney fill the boots left empty by Ollie Watkins following his move to Aston Villa. Only Thomas Frank knows that one and whilst I can’t see anyway in for the mercurial Algerian, as much through his lack of participation in the pre-season games as any transfer related wrapping in cotton wool (“Hello? Matthew? It’s Dean Smith here…”).

That first team selection is, as we have said many times already, going to be telling. The window has a long way to run – October this year – and the cramped fixture list means we could be well into the campaign by the time our final squad is locked down. Then again, our  directors of Football have their heads screwed on. Time has more than proven that and so whilst it’s easy to panic, gritting teeth and trying to stay calm has to be the way forward. An infinitely tougher task for those of us on the outside looking in but that’s part of being a football fan. Especially at Brentford.

As for our opponents, they’ve got Aitor Karanka in charge and no longer have a number 22 shirt, having retired it after club icon17 year old (is that compulsory still?) Jude Bellingham moved to Borussia Dortmund. With the flair gone and the former Middlesbrough man at the helm, expect a more robust than ever approach from our hosts. Their squad may not be ten times better than it was last season but no doubt Harlee Dean, Maxime Colin, Josh McEachran (inj) and now Jon Toral will all have a point to prove. We’ve more old boys there than a school reunion. Even Aston Villa only have three (although the dream I had last night about Jota – get your minds out of the gutter – perhaps only two).

And Toral must score….

It should be super exciting. And to an extent it is. Yet it would be a lie to say this has the the overwhelming buzz of previous campaign launches. This is nothing to do with ‘that’ result at the W place in North London but more because it all feels so detached still. So disjointed. So close to being awesome yet, instead, we’re locked out of our new home with more of the same to follow. I-follow and Sky coverage ARE great but watching football on TV, being played out in front of empty seats, just doesn’t have the same allure as normal. 

Of course it doesn’t. Its an ersatz replacement but one which will hopefully line us up for when we do get the chance to return. Whenever that may be and however that may look. 

Once the table starts to take shape and the games begin then hopefully the usual positive feelings will return. A win on the road will be the perfect tonic. See you on the sofa for Saturday brunch.

And finally… e-book, season review etc etc. If you’d like to read more then you can pick them all up for free, here. Time is ticking on this one so move fast before Amazon stick a price back on them (at which point any proceeds received go to the Community Sports Trust). From Betinho to Ollie Watkins and beyond….

Nick Bruzon

FA Cup ‘highlights’ build anticipation for Tuesday.

2 Aug

Two more wake ups to go. The battle for the final place in next season’s Premier League is almost upon us. Who will join Frank Lampard’s Chelsea for next season’s West London derby? Brentford or Fulham? Who will stay behind in the Championship to slug it out with the Loftus Road club? Wembley awaits but before that it has played host to yesterday’s FA Cup final between The Blues and Arsenal. 

For the neutrals amongst us, it really was a cracking match despite being played out in front of a near-empty Wembley. Arsenal ran out 2-1 winners in a game that it wouldn’t have been a surprise to hear Keith Stroud had been refereeing. Some of the decisions made were, err, ‘questionable’. Specifically, the second half sending off of Mateo Kovacic when he earned a second yellow for what could be describe as, at worst, a harmless challenge. 

Stroud

A Keith for all seasons

A bitter pill to swallow and, unlike Rico Henry’s red last week, there is no room for any further recourse. At least Brentford had the opportunity to appeal and bring back our man for that blockbuster destruction of Swansea. Instead, this game is now consigned to the record books. Arsenal lift the cup and have now earned the right to be kicked out in the last 16 of the Europa league. Chelsea are left to count the horrific injury cost suffered in this one. More dodgy hamstrings than the deli counter in Morrisons and what looked like a dislocated shoulder for Pedro.

There was a howl of frustration from Mrs. Bruzon when he came on to the pitch, let alone went off. “Urghh – Pedro”. Nothing to do with the player himself but a terrifying flashback to the relentless days and days and day spent watching Peppa Pig when H was much younger.

All I can think of now is blinkin’ Pedro Pony and his whinny voice.” Brentford not feasting at football’s top table had meant, of course, that these are streams yet to be crossed. Until this unfortunate coming together. And with that, the Cup final was ruined.  

Pedro

Pedro Pony

The other big talking point to come out of yesterday’s game was just what font had been used on the back of the Arsenal kit? Bavarian beer house? Medieval? Samurai? Had the designers at Adidas been on the pop when going through the MS Office gallery? 

Sadly, the answer would now seem to be a much more mundane one. Nothing more nostalgic than it being based on the classic crest that adorned their shirt from 1949-2002 before being replaced by the current Clipart. Typeface aficionados can look forward to seeing this in forthcoming Cup and European games.  

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The ‘cup’ font – expect it to be retired by March

As ever, there was controversy. Not so much the sending off but the BBC losing the plot when the added time was announced at the end of the second half. The signal of ‘7’ on the board should have seen a regulation use of brackets. 

Yet rather than go with: “7 (seven) minutes added on” , the live updates on the BBC website went for a quite bizarre mismatch. Whomever was driving obviously had vague notion of 7 = brackets but that was about as far as their basic knowledge of football folklore went.

It was almost as though the videprinter was being operated by Officer Crabtree from ‘Allo ‘Allo. Good moaning. I was just pissing by your door etc etc etc.

How else to account for this mangled grammatical effort?

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And with that, it was all over. I won’t deny a small increase in stress levels when the board went up. And not just because of the BBC setting my teeth on edge. More, due to the fast forward to Tuesday night. Brentford and Fulham really will be in to the last knockings at that point. Will it be a case of hanging on for extra time, backs to the wall defence or throwing the kitchen sink forwards in a last gasp attempt to win the game?

Imagining that moment wasn’t fun. The clock will either be moving at snail’s pace or accelerating at warp factor 10 (don’t ‘@‘ me, nerds) depending on how the scoreline sits.

It’s going to be awesome and awful in equal measure. And I can’t wait. The game is getting ever closer. The moment building. As we noted yesterday, life shouldn’t wished away yet, at the same time, waking up this morning the anticipation seems even greater than ever before. In part this was due to a great game yesterday but, equally, because knowing the possibility of facing both these clubs as part of a regular campaign is only 90 minutes away. Possibly  ninenty-SEVEN (97).

Elsewhere, The Scottish Premiership returned with Celtic looking for their chance to make it ten league titles in a row. Or, as Adam Devlin put it on Twitter…

5lD

And I can’t top that so, instead, it’s a case of saying thank you and good morning. 10am Boot Camp in St. Paul’s Park, Brentford calls (do get along if you are local). Anything to try and exorcise (exercise?) some of those pre-match demons that are already tapping on the shoulder…   

Nick Bruzon

100% VAR gets it right. 100%. But who will blink first?

13 Feb

With the midweek fixtures all played out, Brentford find themselves two points off ‘automatic’ and Leeds United still in second place. Just. For a while, it looked as though things may get even better with West Bromwich Albion behind and Fulham crying out for VAR (looked onside to me !) at Millwall. In the end, the Baggies got their win although the Cottagers ended things level. With Preston taking sixth and Bristol City warming up for Saturday’s trip to Elland Road after edging past Wayne Rooney by the odd goal in five, things remain as unclear and open as ever. Only West Brom starting to make a bit of clear air but, as we’ve seen all season, that can change in a heartbeat. Our own game at Birmingham City this weekend couldn’t be any bigger.

Before we go any further, I’ll likely mention Birmingham City a few times in the next couple of days. We’re due to play them  – why wouldn’t anyone do so in that situation? So to try, but no doubt fail, and avoid the usual nonsense about this tinpot team’s apparent obsession with their enormous club, the Griffin Park perspective on why I’ve absolutely relished our teams crossing paths in the Championship is noted further below. Why such pleasure is taken every time Brentford finish above Blues – which has been every season since our return to this level.

Sure… the financial misconduct, the managerial mayhem, that ten times better nonsense or the triple transfer swoop were factors – the sort of nonsense that makes football great in retrospect –  but nothing compared to what had gone before.

Anyway, getting back to the present, one almost had to feel sorry for Fulham last night. Almost. The brief window of opportunity I was afforded to watch that game before Kirsty and Phil started doing battle over Woodford Green property renovation (ah, the Wednesday night price of a green card for the trip to St. Andrews on Saturday is a huge one) saw two early goals and a huge controversy. Aleksander Miitrovic continuing to trade metaphorical punches with Ollie Watkins at the top of the Championship leading goalscorer charts before the Lions equalised with a goal so far offside even I spotted it first time out. Fulham were rightly incensed but, as we struggled to contain the laughs on our couch, the officials allowed it stand. 

100% VAR gets it right. 100%. But there was no VAR. No second chance. No reprieve and things were level. Millwall even had the temerity to miss a penalty and that’s how things stayed. Apparently. What would I know? The things you do for the long term footballing pleasure.  With that result, Fulham go level on points with Leeds United whilst Brentford remain two points off the pair of them. The Cottagers may aswell chalk up the three points now with a home game against Barnsley this weekend but Leeds – Bristol City promises to be another massive one. 

The Robins are just outside the play off zone. Only goal difference keeping them away from a top six that once again plays host to Preston. It really is a case of seeing who can hold their nerve. Who blinks first. Whatever else, something has to give with West Brom hosting Nottingham Forest. I’m beyond trying to figure out who I want to win in these games though. Let’s concentrate on ourselves and hope those favours continue to come.

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As it stands…

That said, we are now at the point of experiencing that additional factor of a promotion shootout. That moment where the run-in starts and every result of every club around us seems critical. Phones are refreshed mid-game as goals conceded and points dropped here, there and everywhere are celebrated with abandon. Where even a win for the Loftus Road team is to be celebrated if it comes against one of the teams in close proximity. Where shifts in the table are tracked, even ‘as it stands’, and all favours are grateful accepted. We’ve had it by the bucketload during this week’s fixtures with Brentford even sitting in second place until Leeds equalised. Walking past Griffin Park on the school run with Harry, we’ve been going through permutations of results and possibilities – it’s amazing how much that can help with arithmetic. So, If Leeds lose, how many points will they have? Where will Fulham be if they beat Millwall?

There are, of course, a lot of games to go. Almost a third of the season still. But with nobody really striking out on their own, albeit West Bromwich Albion have a few points’ breathing space (at present) one can’t help but get drawn in by the situation unfolding around us. Which, as much as anything else, is why Birmingham City is a massive one for us Brentford fans. Regardless of the history. The obsession. 

I’ll absolutely love it if we pick up the points. Might even sing a song at full time. Roll on Saturday – see you there.   

 

Until then, here’s my take on it. Birmingham City – the ‘obsession’

For me the fascination – and it is one – with Birmingham City goes back to the late 80s / early 90s. I’ve written about this before and so apologies in advance but some things feel as though they bear repeating. No matter how forlorn it may be. Yet it is as crucial now as a means of seeing how far we’ve come compared to how things were before. Those of us a bit longer in the tooth will be well aware how our paths crossed over and over back in the day. 

1990-91 saw us go head-to-head in an epic Leyland DAF Southern zone semi with the Blues. Having already disposed of them in the FA Cup second round, Brentford could have fancied themselves as knock out football favourites. But with Wembley beckoning ,  there are no prizes for working out who eventually won both legs to record a  3-1 aggregate win.

The 91-92 Third Division title race famously saw things go our way in the final game of the season as Huddersfield Town and Gary Blissett ‘did the needful’ at Peterborough. A moment made all the sweeter by Saint & Greavsie having already used their Saturday morning show to congratulate Birmingham on being champions.

Deano and Bliss

Things weren’t so sweet the following season as  Birmingham edged past us in the battle to be named the least bad of our respective sides. Both teams fought a desperate, and in our case doomed, battle against relegation from Division One (now the Championship) with that final game humbling at Bristol City being enough to sink the Bees and save the Blues.

However, the coup de grâce was delivered in 1994-95 where, thanks to the joys of Premiership restructuring, there was only one automatic promotion place to the Championship available. With both teams neck and neck at the top, one game stood out like a sore thumb on the fixture list. For months in advance the trip to St. Andrews, only three games before the denouement of the campaign, was the one we all thought would be the crunch match.

Sure enough, it was. In the pressure cooker atmosphere of a packed stadium, where a win for Brentford would have made it all but mathematically impossible for even us to stuff things up, it was Blues who came out on top with a 2-0 win. To this day, I’ve been unable to watch half-time guest of honour Jasper Carrott. I’d love to blame psychological scarring from that result but, in fact, it’s more just his material. Ahhh, insurance claims.(kids, ask your dads).

Oh well, despite defeat at least we were still in the play-offs…..

So, yes. Whilst I DO focus on Birmingham City (a lot) it is as much about the history. About showing how far we have evolved. Rising up out of the primordial swamp and leaving the dinosaurs behind us – in more than one case . Shrewd ownership has proven that you don’t need to spend big to spend clever. Can we take it to the next level? Perhaps Saturday will give a bit more of a clue, but I wouldn’t bet against this race going to the very last weekend of the season. 

Nick Bruzon

What happened off pitch showed our true colours. Regardless of the result.

2 Feb

My word. Brentford do it again – win handsomely, that is. My words Leeds United do it again – fall apart, that is. A day that began with our tonking Hull City 5-1 and further enhancing a goal difference ratio that could prove so crucial at the business end of the season, ended with defeats for Nottingham Forest (at Birmingham City, of all places) and the aforementioned Whites. Their latest debacle taking place at home to Wigan Athletic – something I’m fairly sure happened last season, too. Yet, really, the day was all about one man – Saïd Benrahma. The hat-trick, the celebrations, the emotion, the reaction of Thomas Frank. All this, of course, following the very recent death of his father.

There can’t be anybody at Griffin Park, or beyond, who wasn’t moved by what happened. To lose a loved one is about as heart-breaking as they come. Saïd’s return to the team for the Nottingham Forest game on Tuesday ended with the player sitting on the pitch in tears – the emotion seemingly still so raw. There was emotion yesterday, too, but of a different kind.  Benrahma playing out of his skin to secure another hat-trick for Brentford – his previous one also coming against Hull City. Each goal greeted with him pointing to the sky and a reveal of his under shirt showing the message – ‘JE T’AIME PAPA’. 

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Brentford ‘official’ capture the moment on Twitter

Referee Darren Bond left no choice but to enforce football’s stupidest rule and book him the first time he did this, with his blue shirt being fully removed. Whilst one would have hoped he might have chosen not to have seen the incident, it was a case of Bond or Benrahma. The man in the middle elected to cover his own backside and pulled out a yellow card in case anybody was watching on from the stands.

Sometimes you’ve got to take that hit and do what you need to, though. The whole of the Brentford family was behind Benrahma. Thomas Frank giving his man a huge hug that set off just about any last stragglers in TW8 who hadn’t as yet succumbed to the significance of the moment.

We talk so often about our togetherness as a club, as supporters, as friends, as a family. Here it was in bucketloads. Thomas the physical embodiment of this huge outpouring of love being directed towards the Algerian  – whether in the stands, in front of the TV or on social media. Thomas the head coach but, more importantly, Thomas the man to show once more the wonderful connection he has with his players.  

To see this coming together got me, I don’t mind admitting. Seeing the pair of them walk around the pitch at full time week in, week out is always a wonderful moment. They have a stunning connection with the supporters. Smiles, hugs, high fives and selfies – and we’ve had all from both this season –  are common place. There’s no slinking off and nobody missed out with at least a wave and an acknowledgement. We see the effort and love they both put into the game but this embrace summed it all up in a nutshell.   

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Thomas giving some big love

As for Hull city, well – they were either going to react to losing their two star players in the transfer window at 100mph or collapse. We got the later. A cautious opening few minutes then saw the game explode into life. Benrahma opening proceedings with a curling shot from the edge of the box and we were away. Ollie Watkins soon doubled the lead with just 20 minutes gone. Or, rather, Hull’s Reece Burke did as he attempted to head the goal bound effort clear. Instead, he somehow directed it into the net. 0-2, game over and possible brackets . Surely?

Of course not. This is football. This is Brentford. This is the place where, at least with the supporters, those inner demons still lurk. A game is never comfortable until we are four or five up. Ryan Tafazolli punting one from close to half way in the direction of David Raya. It wasn’t particularly powerful or bobbly yet, somehow, it went under his foot and in. So innocuous an effort was it that the stats didn’t even deem it to be a hot on goal but they all count.

Oh well. The way the commentary team banged on about if for the next hour you’d have thought that anything similar had never happened before. You’d have missed the fact that only Liverpool have conceded less goals than us this season in the top four English divisions. Still, with Hull offering nothing else whatsoever I guess there had to be some talking point for them.

1-2 and Brentford ahead at half time. It was a score we’d all have taken prior to kick off. It was a score that was then obliterated in the second half. Rico Henry doing magnificent work down the left channel to volley a cross directly onto Ollie Watkins’ head. 1-3 and this time it was game over. Except Saïd had unfinished business. Two more goals followed, each one with another reveal of the shirt although his playing kit stayed firmly on.

The hat-trick clincher culminating a quite magnificent passing move in which Jensen performed a 360 turn and move of the purest filth. Kudos to him. It was a thing of absolute beauty. “Oh, my. I hope they score from here. Just for that” was my comment to Mrs. Bruzon and HB watching alongside. Sure enough, they did. In a game that was once more overshadowed by our well-documented BMW, it was great so see the Jensen Interceptor dominating the middle of the park.

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The Sky graphics team having a moment – Surname 85 playing alongside Trialist 89

All in all, it was about as wonderful a lunchtime as one could have hoped for. Then the other teams did their thing. Ok, Fulham won – but they did their level best to throw away an early 3 goal lead and were left hanging on at the end. West Bromwich Albion secured the win (not a typo) although they were at home to basement club Luton Town. Yet it was at Elland Road and St. Andrews where the truly bizarre happened. If you can call Leeds United falling apart ‘truly bizarre’ – these days it seems to be happening more often than Mrs. Browns Boys winning comedy awards.

Their latest self-destruct happening at home to Wigan Athletic as they went down 0-1. Patrick Bamford needing to polish his shooting boots, by all accounts. Ironically, Wigan being the club and game they had the opportunity to wrap up promotion against last season, before they fell apart when a goal and a man up at Elland Road.

Ah, we can joke. Not that I can imagine anybody in Leeds is laughing (but enough about the recording session for Mrs. Browns Boys). They’re still too far ahead and there’s no way they’ll throw it away this time. Is there?

As for Nottingham Forest, having grabbed the initiative from Brentford midweek they promptly there it away at Birmingham City  – the club fast replacing Wycombe as the home for retired Bees. There were four  featured yesterday – Maxime Colin, Josh McEachran, Harlee Dean and Scott Hogan. It was the later of these who levelled things up before the home side secured all three points (not a typo). 

All in all, a sound afternoon that shows the only certain thing about the Championship is that nothing is certain. We’re five points off second placed Leeds United, whose next two games are away – at Nottingham Forest and then, erm, Griffin Park. 

Could it be time for Big Bee Radio to start warming up the Joy Division? No pressure, Patrick.…

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Last season’s form at home to Wigan…

Screenshot 2020-02-02 at 07.21.15

…continued at home to Wigan

Nick Bruzon

Ten Signs Better? Shock move precedes weekend fixtures.

28 Sep

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

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

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

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

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

mascot-race

But what happened next….?

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

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

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

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

js118650069_geoff-pugh-photography-ltd-telegraph-media-group-ltd-jpg-josh-large_trans_nvbqzqnjv4bq7s7bfnyh2wf3flaspa2wl3cv0eobveb9iwnxqprydm8

Whatever else happens, we’ll always have this

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

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

So there you go. 

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

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

Nick Bruzon