Tag Archives: Bolton Wanderers

Is this a chance to get back to winning ways? Or will the table talk?

3 Feb

Brentford travel to Derby County safe in the knowledge that, a mass exodus to China aside (and Lasse Vibe is still very much flavour of the month there, per Phil Giles’ interview during the week), we know the make-up of our squad for the rest of the Championship campaign. It’s a good thing too, because things don’t come much tougher than a trip to Pride Park where the Rams have remorselessly climbed the table to the point that only Wolves sit above them. And even there the gap is closing. Yet as last night’s game between Bolton and Bristol City showed, anything can happen in this division. Anybody can beat anybody. Few people expected the Trotters to beat City but their reward for a 1-0 win was an escape from the bottom 3. The Bees don’t need to worry about relegation but that’s not to say our job is any easier. Equally though, the reward for victory could be a fantastic one. As for Leeds United, you’ll have to wait for the Preston matchday programme for thoughts on them – I’m sure we’ll all cope.

However, today is all about Brentford and Derby County. Whilst other teams have started to reel them in over the last few games, it is still our hosts who occupy an automatic place in the promotion race. At present. The gap to Wolves still 11 points and one would think it’ll take a choke worse than Wayne Rooney’s form at a World Cup finals for them to blow that one. Yet the race to second place is still wide open. Aston Villa are just a point off whilst Bristol City would have started the day level with County had they done the needful last night. Cardiff City are in a similar position, going into their own game at Leeds United today. Expect them to come away from that one with all three points.

Pressure and expectation can do funny things, though. I reference this a lot on these pages but I’ll never forget that final weekend of the 2014/15 Championship campaign. Derby didn’t need to do much more than just turn up to confirm their place in the play offs in a home against a Reading team with nothing to play for but Pride. Yet they didn’t even manage that, missing a penalty en-route to a 3-0 capitulation that saw them miss out on a promotion shot as Brentford were amongst the teams to overtake them en-route to the play offs for the Premier League. It still seems incredible, even now.

Might knowing that they have a chasing pack breathing down their own necks increase the anxiety for the home support? Could Brentford sweep in and clean up just as Reading did three seasons ago? Whilst we’ve had it tough against County in the past don’t forget we have our own, huge incentive. Prior to last week’s game with Norwich we’d been flying. Our own victory then would have taken us all but into the top six . Instead, it is Fulham who now sit in that slot whilst The Bees faced with the toughest of tasks, on paper, if we are to get back to winning ways.

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Harlee and the Judge – not a 70s cop show but a tough trip to Derby from days gone by

Whatever happens, it is just one game. One, tough game but that hasn’t phased us before. We know how well we have been playing at times. How poorly in patches. On the whole though it has been a pleasure watching Dean Smith’s team these last few months. We’ve a great run of fixtures coming up and what better incentive to hit them with than performing some sort of Ram Raid today to take the points from the hosts.

Yet bludgeoning our way through isn’t the Brentford style. There’s no crude unsophistication. A lack of tactical imagination at times, perhaps, but if we were perfect then we’d be top of the Premier League and lifting trophies. Instead, we have a team who play for each other and can play some quite breath taking football when we hit peak flow. The challenge today will be just who Dean starts with and how he sets them up.

An obvious point, perhaps, yet the first half against Norwich was as gloomy as the second was bright. Ok, we didn’t get the goal but at least we went for it. I like Dean a lot and he generally talks very objectively. But I didn’t buy his post-match analysis about Brentford being the better team over 90 minutes and deserving to win. We lost to a belter of a goal against a team who out played us in the first half. A team who out thought us in the second despite our wonderful approach play and infinite step up in both personnel and playing style.

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The Norwich game has been and gone

That was then and I don’t want to labour the point. Instead it’s just a case of taking that one on the chin rather than dwell on what was a first home defeat since August. Of, dare I say it, going again. The only other team to beat us in recent months have been Wolves, and nobody needs a lecture form me on how well they’ve been doing this season.

So we are more than set up for today. We more than have the talent in this team. Who sits up top is going to be an interesting decision for Dean. As will be choosing who provides the width, how defensive his centre midfield is going to be and whether he has anybody to offer Neal Maupay support. Then again, I wouldn’t bet on him surprising all of us.

All this shows however is that like most of us, I have no clue who Dean will start. Does Neal continue up top? Will Josh McEachran retain his place in the starting XI? Could, no should, Sergi Canos be promoted from the bench?

Roll on 3pm when we find out.

Will who now? Sergi was on fire agasint Villa, despite the torrential downpour

Could a returning Sergi see it raining goals?

Nick Bruzon

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Do Brentford have the scent of Royal blood at Reading? Could ‘other results’ actually happen?

20 Jan

Here we, erm, go again. Brentford travel to Reading on Saturday afternoon knowing a win, along with defeats (and definitely not victories as was originally noted)  for the five teams above us, will see the Bees end the day level on points with the play-off teams. Goal difference could even put us into that top six pack. True, this relies on things as improbable and distasteful as QPR and Birmingham City (amongst others) doing the needful but stranger things have happened before. Who could forget that wonderful denouement to 2014/15 when wins for Reading at all-but-there Derby County and Blackburn at home to Ipswich, combined with our own defeat of Wigan, saw the Bees slip through into fifth place?

Indeed it was the penultimate week of that season which saw a Brentford win on the road, at the Madjeski, to keep our hopes alive. Alan Judge and number 26 getting the goals as the Bees ended the day in seventh, two points and vastly inferior goal difference behind Derby.

Andre Gray for 3-0

Andre Gray for 3-0 v Wigan (and other results) secure a 2015 play-off spot

We all know how that play-off campaign ended. It was the play-offs, after all. Although at least we got there, unlike Derby.  Instead the point is made to illustrate what can happen when you least expect it. Sometimes, other results can go our way despite form. Thankfully the end of the season is a lot further away this time and so to desperation for the not so super hoops or Birmingham to win doesn’t have the same frisson, that’s for sure.

Whilst that unholy alliance is not one Brentford need to make today, it is still a nice position to be in. For now, though, let’s just focus on ourselves. Other results will do whatever they do. With games to come against all the chasing pack we still have matters well in our hands. Besides, it seems a bit premature to be talking play-offs and potential promotion at this juncture.

Yet, the table doesn’t lie. The gap to Sheffield United in sixth place IS three points. I’d be a liar if I was to say to you that I wasn’t absolutely excited by this prospect, no matter how slim and tenuous it is. Being realistic, Birmingham haven’t a prayer at Preston. Leeds, despite their own recent poor form, now have Adam Forshaw added to their ranks and are surely good for at least a point at home to Millwall ? Middlesbrough WILL hump QPR.

Can we do it though? Well, there’s no doubting Dean Smith’s team are on form at present. Last weekend’s defeat of Bolton followed a wonderful Christmas period in the league. Perhaps its best we forget about the hiccup in the FA Cup now. Move along, nothing to see there. Indeed, the Bolton game didn’t even require the mercurial Sergi Canos to start that one, although his presence at the end of the game was a most welcome one as the wide man set up Neal Maupay for 2-0 late on.

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Bolton were left looking dazed and confused by the end

I’m still not convinced we know Dean’s best / preferred starting XI. When this squad is on form and the players are at the top of their game, it really is a case of Buridan’s Ass. Which of the available options does he pick? 14 into 11 just won’t go. It’s one of those lovely problems to have, that’s for sure, with Chris Mepham’s form and the return of Alan Judge adding to his quandaries.

Reading, on the other hand, are missing John Swift whilst centre back Paul McShane is also reported as out. The Royals are very much off their A-game, form wise, although at least they have made it through to the fourth round of the FA Cup. In another battle of Championship v League 2, they made it through (unlike the Bees) and their reward is a trip to Sheffield Wednesday on Friday night.

With that to come and their own progress requiring Tuesday evening’s replay against Stevenage, could players be rested? Might if be a case of that old cliche being turned on its head and the Royals concentrating on the cup, now they are effectively out of the league?

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John Swift. The former Bee is missing in action today

One can dream. I’m still expecting a tough one today. The trapdoor to League One isn’t actually that far off for Reading. They’ll be as keen to secure those points as we are. Yet along with form, Brentford will have massive support on our side. Close to 3,000 tickets have been sold to the visiting support . With less than 15,000 turning up for their last league game at the Madjeski, a defeat at the hands of Birmingham City (clearly ten times better than the Royals), the 24,000+ capacity ground could feel a very empty place for the home team.

Certainly, it’s a stadium that has been a happy hunting ground for the Bees. Along with the aforementioned 2-0 win, let’s not forget the following season. Dean Smith’s first in charge saw that wonderful 2-1 victory. It was a win that was lit up by Ryan Woods and Sergi Canos. Goals that fall very much into the category of ‘best we’ve seen in recent years’ (see also: Stuart Dallas at Fulham and Nico Yennaris at Birmingham).

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Sergi. Great goal, great shirt, great hair (then)

That’s all in the past though. If it meant more points, I’d happily settle for 1-0 and a deflection off Josh McEachran’s backside. Scrappy finish or 25 yard piledriver, they all count the same.

Roll on 3pm when we find out which it will be. Roll on 5pm when we see just how those ‘other results’ have gone. Could Brentford continue to climb up the table? Might we be saying a small word of thanks to our rivals?

I can’t wait to see how this all plays out.

Nick Bruzon

Ryan’s wonder goal set a very high bar. That Sergi then cleared.

 

Table makes wonderful reading as Brentford beat Bolton to tighten the gap.

14 Jan

Brentford 2 Bolton Wanderers 0. Another league game unbeaten at Griffin Park (that’s 13 now, our longest run since 1951) and The Bees a mere three points outside the play-offs. True, that gap is tighter than a duck’s behind at the moment.  The same winning margin divides all six teams from Sheffield United down to ourselves in 11th. Yet with victory (and other results going our way)  all that stands between Brentford and a place in the promotion slots, let’s not pretend things aren’t getting very exciting as we enter the second half of the season. Saturday’s trip to Reading already can’t come soon enough.

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Form an orderly queue. Bolton were the visitors on Saturday

It was a game where victory eventually came to the team who bossed it yet nobody would have been surprised had we left Griffin Park with a point. Brentford had taken the lead just before half time. Flo Jo picking up a sweet pass from Lasse Vibe to hammer home high and hard from the cusp of the six-yard box and into the far corner of the net. It was a powerful finish to light up what in truth had been a somewhat turgid opening period. But a 1-0 lead going into the break was all that mattered and as the players re-emerged, it seemed only a matter of time before that was doubled.

Kamo fired straight at goalkeeper Ben Alnwick from yards out with the whole of the goal to aim at. Nico saw a shot bounce of the post. The Bees pressed. The Bees came close. Then the balance of play began to swing as Bolton sensed a glimmer of hope. Dean stuck to his starting XI as the pressure built.

The away fans gasped. The home support clenched buttocks. If the first half had been a damp squib then this was very much exploding into life. A freekick was headed wide, I forget who, as Bolton came oh-so close. Barbet and Bjelland the unfortunate victims of a bouncing ball as Daniel Bentley came to the rescue.  Bolton, cynical in the challenge, but desperate for a point.

And then it was over. Sergi Canos, a late sub for Florian Jozefzoon, squaring it for Neal Maupay to double our lead with the sweetest of backheels. Being honest, there had been a slight suspicion of offside from where we were sitting but nobody cared. The execution had been delicious and the sense of relief was palpable. Besides, watching the video highlights afterwards (Sky Sports have theirs up already; 12pm for the league to let us put the ‘official’ version up) there was nothing wrong with the goal. Perfect positioning and the calmest of finishes. Stick that in your pie and eat it, Ian Moose.

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Bolton were left looking dazed and confused by the end

It’s hard to find fault on what was a wonderful afternoon. Brentford continuing their fine, fine form ahead of Saturday’s trip to Reading. There’ll be over 2,000 Bees fans at that one. A quite wonderful effort for a game where the reward for another win is there for all to see. If I have any ‘negative’ (and the word is used in the loosest sense) it would have been in the delay to making any substitutions.

Whereas the Warburton era saw you able to set your watch by his making changes within ‘the zone’ (60-70 minutes on the clock), regardless of how the team were doing, these days there seems to be almost a reluctance to switch things around until late on. Even when the opposition are turning the screw as we saw yesterday. Sitting where I was, there was a definite upping off the the ante from Bolton that might have seen us pay pay the price with the Bees continuing as was.

It’s a small observation and, ultimately, one that will be dismissed by the fact we came away with a 2-0 win. That will be proven as Dean having faith in the players he picked to do a job and their following it through. And on that point I can’t disagree – they DID. Yet equally, football is a game of fine margins. We all saw how tense it got for a while and there have been times this season when it’s felt as though we’ve been slow to react to what is happening in front of us.

But as we all know, I’m just the numpty on the terrace. I couldn’t manage a beer yesterday (it’s dry January) let alone a football team. Perhaps that is just part and parcel of being a Bees/football supporter – we’ve been conditioned over the years to fear the worst. To expect that kick in the nuts; that ultimate sucker punch. Defenders are paid to defend and they did that admirably. Chris Mepham in particular having yet another stand out game. Talk about a wise head on young shoulders. Dean made his calls and the result shows he got them right. Again.

Equally, the Warburton era saw a team picked by numbers even when perhaps a change might have been due. Jonathan Douglas (at the end) and Harlee Dean (when he was at the more unpredictable end of the scale) seemingly nailed onto the teamsheet. Dean isn’t afraid to mix things around as was seen with Sergi tied to the bench for most of yesterday’s game. With Mepham continuing to keep out more experienced colleagues.

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Late sub Sergi – insert your own caption

But we digress. That’s the price of writing these things on the hoof. Mark Warburton was a hero to pretty much all of us at Griffin Park. He did his thing his way and we all know how close Brentford came. Likewise, we all know how things ended.

That was then, this is now. Dean Smith is the man in charge. Along with his coaching staff, he’s more than getting the results. More than building a quite wonderful team spirit. He has his team set for a second half of the season that could, if things continue, eclipse any that have come before.

Honestly, I didn’t think I’d be saying this back in September given the start that Brentford had. Players sold, bottom of the table and four points from eight games. Then, we went to Bolton and won 3-0. How things have turned since that point. Could Saturday’s win over the same opposition prove an equally telling catalyst ?

One things for sure, it’s going to be fun finding out. Here’s to Reading and that gap towards the top getting even tighter.

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The red and white express raced to another win on Saturday

Nick Bruzon

Terry v Terry. Deano v Bliss. Who gets your vote as Bees and Bolton prepare to step back in time?

12 Jan

Brentford prepare to host Bolton Wanderers on Saturday, looking to put the faux pas in the FA Cup behind them and resume recent form. But for the 3-0 loss at runaway leaders Wolves, the Christmas period saw a quite wonderful return for Dean Smith’s boys. The draw at home to Barnsley was followed by that win on the road against Norwich City. This before quite comprehensively outplaying both Aston Villa and Sheffield Wednesday at Griffin Park. It was a run that saw Romaine Sawyers deservedly being nominated for Championship player of the month. Whilst Scott Carson of Derby County may have scooped that prize, let’s not forget Romaine also began December with a goal in the defeat of Fulham. Yet with the club preparing to use the Bolton game to go ‘back to the 80s’, can The Bees use it to get back to winning ways?

DTS694AWsAAcsEi.jpg-large First up, Bolton Wanderers. Early season form has now dissipated. The Trotters’ former position in the basement has been taken by Birmingham City as a run of form not unlike ours has seen them start to break clear. Three wins out of the last four, including 3 pointers against high flying Cardiff City and Sheffield United, has seen them break clear of the triumvirate at the bottom. Victory tomorrow could take them to the giddy heights of 18th.

One would like to think Brentford, with key players rested last weekend, will have enough in the tank to make this another notch in the ‘W’ column. Moreso with Bolton’s top scorer Gary Madine coming under transfer scrutiny at present. Cardiff City have already had one bid turned down but with ‘the window’ open for almost three more weeks, could the club’s resolve weaken? Might this be a distraction for a player who may suddenly remember he has a sick relative in the Valleys or be suffering from a buttock spasm?

The transfer window is never a fun time. So far the Bees have, mercifully, remained free of transfer gossip or rumour. But for one desperate attempt at clickbait from Get West London (not Tom Moore), the Griffin Park in/out doors have remained firmly bolted. Then again, as was seen in the summer, we do leave it late. As things stand though, I can only take solace in the lack of any talk. At a time when the likes of Alex Pritchard are being linked with a £15M move from Norwich to Huddersfield (he was good, but £15m good? That’s a rate of inflation not seen since Lewis Grabban) then let the papers focus elsewhere.

All that angst is likely to come. There’ll be plenty of time left for us to sweat over any potential exits. Even if they do just turn out to be rumours. Instead, for now, let’s just focus on Brentford and Bolton as the club prepare to take a trip back in time. A trip back to the 80s.

Not so much the fighting, quagmire pitches, smoking in the stands, short shorts or the fanzines being sold in the street. We’ve all moved on since then. Instead it is more a chance to don your retro shirt, to vote for your player of the 80s and even welcome a few club legends back onto the Griffin Park pitch. No doubt there’ll even be an 80s inspired #BeeTheDJ (so no change to the normal soundtrack then with The Clash and Madness sure to be amongst the bands played just before kick off).

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Bliss – a club legend and a classic shirt

On social media, the club have already run an article and a vote for shirt of the 80s (yours truly being given a rare run out on Brentford ‘official’ – that one’s here if you’s like to read more and check out that hall of fashion fame).

The latest survey is one to now decide our player of the decade. This is tough. So tough. Who do you go for from four top draw nominees? The colossus that is Terry Evans. The goalscoring record and iconic FA Cup strikes of Gary Blissett. The ferocity of Terry Hurlock. Or club legend, Dean Holdsworth.

At the time of writing, and half way through the 24 hour vote window, things are tight. Deano is ahead although, being quite honest, he’s not a player I’d necessarily associate with the 80s. An absolute hero in the eyes of many, myself included, but he is a player who only played a handul of games at the tail end of the decade before really making his name in that wonderful partnership with Bliss from 90-92.

Still, each to their own. I’m just pleased that the vote has seen a new picture of Bliss emerge from the archives. Rather than those two ‘stock footage’ pics of him in the 91/92 Chad kit or my crowbarred job, a snapshot of a book cover (1989’s ‘100 years of Brentford’), there’s a fetching image of him in that ‘Funky Bee’ kit. Moustache still resplendent (above).

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Bliss – that iconic image (in my eyes) as Manchester City are put to the sword

If you’d like to vote then the twitter link is below. Enjoy. And good luck trying to pick a winner from these. My vote has now been cast.

And that’s me. I’m off to see if I can pour myself into a size ‘medium’ Osca 83-84 home shirt ahead of Bolton’s visit. This could take a while. Let’s just say that time has not been kind in the battle of paunch versus 80’s fashion.

It might just have to be chinos and rolled up jacket sleeves. Unless anybody has a spare….?

Nick Bruzon

Enjoy Championship action….after dark. Strange thoughts abound ahead of tonight’s game.

26 Sep

Brentford Nights. It goes without saying that an evening game at Griffin Park is always a special occasion and tonight’s visit of Derby County promises to be just that. With confidence high following Saturday’s demolition of Bolton Wanderers, the bar of expectation will have been raised and fans will be hoping for more. In our way stand a Rams side who also played a basement club in Birmingham City and came away with a point themselves.

I really can’t wait for this one. The marketing campaign – Brentford Nights – has given added spice to this one with the lure of Oktoberfest mentioned in the build up and an image of those iconic floodlight pylons on the promo poster. Much as I love the thought of German hot dogs and beer, I’d happily settle for a goal fest or a flood of points.

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For Brentford, back to back league wins can only be the target. Full time will see us having reached the ‘ten game’ mark and the table having officially ‘taken shape’. Will the Bees be heading towards mid-table with another win and just four defeats from this opening period? Will we be starting to look like draw specialists? Or will we be sucked back towards the Birmingham zone at the foot of the division?

If nothing else, yet another changed line up is sure to come. Whether because of ongoing injury to John Egan or Dean Smith quite rightly rewarding the performance of his replacement at Bolton, EFL Star of the day (their words), Yoann Barbet. The BBC report Lasse Vibe and Sergi Canos as still injured and so I can’t see any further changes beyond the return of the Frenchman.

But then, why would you? Saturday’s game saw all the potential that Dean had talked about. You can only beat who you are up against and 3-0 away from home is as comprehensive as it comes. I can’t see any goalkeeper in the land as having been able to stop any of those goals. It just shows what happens when you have the confidence to shoot. I’m still in awe at all three strikes.

The Rams won’t be any form of rollover. Far from it. That same BBC report also suggests that there’ll be no Lawrence, no Davies and no Thorne in the side tonight for Derby. For which we can only be grateful as Tom, Curtis and George all remain doubts. Quite frankly, the less options available to manager Gary Rowett the better.

Yet you can still be sure that he’ll have any team he selects fired up and ready to go for it. If nothing else, the 4-0 tonking administered at Griffin Park last season will be a performance they’ll want some form of pay back for. Truly, the Bees were magnificent that day. More of the same will do very nicely, thank you.

The one disconcerting thing about this evening’s game is the club’s aforementioned strapline of : Brentford Nights.

It may just be me, but I can’t read it without thinking of bad TV. Very bad TV. So bad it’s beyond bad and is genuinely compelling TV. Namely, the David Hasselhoff spin off show: Baywatch Nights. A two series run in which Mitch Buchannon (the Hoff) swaps his red lifeguard’s shorts to form an after dark detective agency in Malibu. As you do.

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Baywatch Nights. The Hoff. It really happened

As career changes go, it was leftfield. The strangest Hasselhoff vehicle since Kitt, the back talking car. Yet if the opening season plots – about serial killers, robbery, and Hasselhoff going undercover in the drag queen circuit (episode 10) were your standard Miami Vice lite – the second series went truly bizarre. Rather than drug rings and kidnapping, the show took an X-files twist as Hasselhoff and his team investigated vampire sightings, Werewolves, a museum mummy and a time travelling log cabin.

Odd doesn’t begin to describe it. Baywatch  Nights never got a third series. Sadly. Mitch returned to the beach and the only surreal happening involving The Hoff were the four goals he scored in red and white. Yet it goes to show that the strangest things happen after dark.

Here’s hoping for more tonight. Strange things going on. Such as a home win. As for the Vampire sightings, I’ll settle for Scott Carson being scared of crosses.

I’ll get my coat.

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The Hoff. Gone but not forgotten

Nick Bruzon

Bees win at Bolton but Barbet wins at Twitter

24 Sep

And relax. Brentford thumped Bolton Wanderers 3-0 at the Macron on Saturday to record an opening league victory and move out of the bottom three. With Birmingham City failing to win (again), this time at a Derby County side who come to Griffin Park on Tuesday, it marked a quite wonderful afternoon for Bees fans. And players – for whom three stunning goals scored by Ollie Watkins, Nico Yennaris and Yoann Barbet were the icing on the cake of a performance that head coach Dean Smith has been promising for weeks.

If it was vindication for Dean Smith then what must it have been like for Yoann Barbet? The Frenchman started on the bench after taking what was, quite rightly, considered to be one of the all-time worst penalties ever seen at Griffin Park on Tuesday night. How he got such height from just 12 yards out was beyond the laws of physics in itself.

An early substitution for John Egan (Dean Smith telling BBC Billy Reeves that “He felt dizzy, felt coming off was for the good of the team” after getting a cut lip) saw Yoann enter the field of play. It saw him leave it at full time having been named ‘STAR of the day’. Not my words but those of the official EFL twitter feed. Although words I’d happily agree with.

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Took his chance – and then some…

Sometimes, you just have to hold up your hands. Tuesday’s penalty was horrific. It lead to my own post match column noting that : “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 … 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“.

Hmm. Ok. That’s why I’m the numpty on the terrace and Dean is the head coach. Clearly there’s something that we don’t see on the training ground because this effort, to open the scoring, was just about as good as it got.

Pick that out. Just about unstoppable and given the space available on the other side of the goal, the last thing any of us expected. More importantly, the last place Bolton expected it to end up. It was a truly wonderful effort.

It was an effort that would later see Yoann win at Twitter. For all the cracks from supporters about the Norwich effort, he nailed things with a clear demonstration of that team spirit Dean has been telling us about week in, week out.

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Yoann wins Twitter

It was a strike that made the final four of ‘goal of the day’ on Sky Sports news and was joined by our second. Step up Nico Yennaris. He doesn’t seem to do easy, that’s for sure. If the one against Birmingham City at St. Andrews last season was special, then this just about blew it out of the park. How does he do it? And so often?

You really had to feel for Ben Alnwick in the Bolton goal. If there had been little chance with Yoann’s curler, then he was left equally helpless here. They could have had two goalkeepers and it still would have gone in. 2-0 up and surely, now, the points secure.

But with the first half delayed by 7(seven) minutes and the second half starting late due to a kids penalty competition still taking place whilst the players were lined up to start, this had all the elements of squeaky bum time in it.

Anything but. Here came Ollie Watkins to heap further misery on Bolton. Ben Alnwick must have run over a cat on the way in because here was another thunderbolt to take the back of the net off. What a strike. You’ll have to catch the highlights on Channel 5 for that one but do take a look. They’re well, well worth a viewing. I’ll update this at mid-day once the Mark Burridge version goes up. It promises to be something very special….

Yoann and team do their thing, officially 

Three nil. Three points. Brentford finally finding their shooting boots and keeping it tight at the back. Dean Smith’s faith was unshakeable, as demonstrated in that aforementioned interview with Billy.

Our head coach was also honest enough to tell ‘official’ that: “I didn’t think we started very well in the opening ten minutes. They got into our faces and we didn’t move the ball as we would have liked but after that we took over the game.” This, before going on to enthuse about “three valuable points with three wonderful goals.” Do check out the full article. It’s been a while coming.

All very well and very easy to do after you’ve won. But still on message. We’ve criticised our indecision when it came to shooting after that Reading game. Even 7(seven) year old Felix Watts getting in on the act when he noted that , “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.

What a way to answer that. But, more importantly, was it a flash in the pan? Or have we now turned the corner? The visit of Derby County on Tuesday night promises to be a huge test for the Bees. But a fascinating one.

Will Dean change his starting XI, again? This was our 12th different line up in 12 league and cup games. Might he have no choice if Yoann has played his way in past John Egan? Were Bolton Wanderers the cannon fodder that many expected or a strong team that felt the wrath of what can happen when we play as well as we’ve done in training, do it for 90 minutes and have that run of good fortune?

Without wanting to get ahead of ourselves, victory for Brentford would take us to within a point of Derby. Victory for the Rams would take them to within a point of the play-offs. This one will be huge and I can’t wait to see how it plays out. See you there….

And on a purely personal note, I’d like to thank Bolton for featuring my own thoughts as ‘away fan’ in the programme column yesterday. Moreso, the picture they used, in the Spall 87-88 away shirt. I apologise for the somewhat gratuitous size – nobody needs yours truly that close up. Yet it is included in today’s column as I’m pretty sure we’ve seen that picture and shirt somewhere before.

Fulham, wasn’t it…..?

Bolton and Fulham programmes

Nick Bruzon

Decisions to be made. Will we get off the mark today?

23 Sep

Matchday. Winless Brentford travel to, erm, winless Bolton Wanderers with Dean Smith in confident mood. He used yesterday’s press conference to tell us: “In terms of how we play, then more of the same will certainly put us on the road to getting a win“.

Agreed, IF we keep up the good bits for a full 90 minutes. IF we are able to change how we play should things not be going to plan. IF we don’t need to rely on refereeing decisions to sink or save us.

As a management team and playing squad those people out there pulling the strings and kicking the balls need to take collective responsibility for performances. It’s not the fault of the paying supporters who, being honest, have been remarkably fair. Whatever has been said on social media where the keyboard warrior is king (and nobody forces anybody to read that), there hasn’t been any dissent where it really counts – the game.

Outside of the Norwich ‘performance’ in the cup (and I use that word at its loosest after we’d aped the Marinus/Oxford farce), there’s been none of the booing or moaning one might expect for a side at the foot of the table and without a win after almost 20% of the league campaign.

Burns Boo-urns

No real booing to date.

It was interesting to note Dean used his briefing to also note this, saying “On the whole, our supporters have been very patient” as well as adding that “expectation and pressure is only built up from outside. The pressure we put on ourselves in the eighth or ninth game is no different to the first game”. You can read this in full on ‘official’

Expectation IS building up on the outside, Dean. Of course it is. This is our team and we want to win. Especially given the much touted quality of our squad. Indeed, I expect a win. Wins even. No question. I’m realistic enough to think the title may be a step too far but does that make me a bad person for hoping we should be able to pick up three points every now and again?

Even prior to the transfer window closing, where we still had the likes of Maxime Colin and Jota available. Stupidity at the back against Bristol City and Nottingham Forest saw us pick up 1 point instead of 6. The opening periods in the games at Ipswich Town and then the visit of Reading should have had us out of sight. By all accounts we dominated Aston Villa and were unlucky not to leave that one with a W.

So today is the day. Today IS the day. The BBC tell us that super computer SAM, the Sports Analytics Machine, is calling this as 54% chance of an away win. Having checked my online bookmaker (for research purposes only), they see Bolton at 5/2 and the Bees at evens for the win. However, having done that I made my excuses and left. If Mrs. Bruzon is reading, no bet was placed. Honest.

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SAM calls this one as ‘away’

It won’t be as simple as the odds make out. Dean was the first to acknowledge how determined Bolton will be to break their own duck whilst admitting that he’s “clashed swords with Phil Parkinson and Steve Parkin many times. You know you are going to be in for a battle.

With our head coach confirming there’s still no Sergi Canos or Lasse Vibe, it’s a case of as you were for his selection options. Which two of three play at centre back this week? Surely Josh Clarke to push up on the right ahead of Henrik ?

Does the (currently) misfiring Neal Maupay keep his place up top? Could there be a start for Justin Shaibu who was denied a beauty against Norwich by the thickness of paint on the inside of the post. Curse that meddling groundsman. Had it not been for his attention to detail we might have scored. Or how about goal scoring Ollie Watkins?

As for midfield, the impressive Romaine Sawyers was off this season’s pace against Reading but I’m sure he’ll be back in alongside Ryan and Nico with the likes of Kamo and Josh (M) on the bench.

And this is as much our problem as Dean’s . Just who is the starting XI? Who is the preferred team? It’s great having a squad but you also need some consistency. Chopping and changing every game , whether forced by circumstance or through deliberate choice, is not an ideal means of playing football.

But if we and Dean (at least, in public) don’t know, then you can be sure Bolton do. And, being quite honest, whatever pressure and expectation there is I still think we’ll have far, far too much in us for this one.

Prediction time: I’m with SAM. Dean will be able to sleep easy tonight. The Bees will open the gap over Bolton to five points and, with Tuesday’s visitor Derby County hosting Birmingham City, there could be further distance made between us and Brentford reserves. Gary Rowett will no doubt be desperate to prove a further point to his former employers and it’s a result that I for one could also get behind.

It’s one theory. I hope for all our sakes that at 5pm it proves to be the correct one.

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Dean Smith – hopefully he’ll inspire us to victory today

Nick Bruzon

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.

Draw

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Barbet pen Norwich

Barbet’s pen. (Inset: now)

 

 

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Dean Smith – nice trainers ; tough challenge

Nick Bruzon