Tag Archives: Bolton

Football fans lost in the superunknown as Festive fixtures take hold.

28 Dec

Is it Friday? Saturday? Thursday? We’re in that dead-zone of the calendar where nothing makes any sense. A random televised game between West Ham and Southampton last night being the only clue that some half-arsed sort of normality is trying to be attained as the festive fixtures plough ever onwards. For Brentford, a 1-1 draw at Bristol City on, erm, let’s just call it Boxing Day for ease, saw The Bees make if 4 points out of 6 as our kamikaziesque tailspin was arrested and Thomas Frank pulled back hard on the rudder with his revamped team formation. i.e. he made us climb. But with a trip to play-off chasing Birmingham City (not a typo) next for Brentford will the return to more positive results continue ?

Fair dues to Garry Monk’s Blues. There’s no doubting we’ve enjoyed the lion’s share of points and jokes at the expense of Birmingham City on the pages over the last few years. How they swerved relegation to League One last campaign was a miracle akin to Christmas. There were the 7(seven) goals scored with none against. Four top ten finishes in the Championship for the Bees – each one above Garry Monk(/ insert name of previous incumbents) Blues. Then there was ‘that’ ten times better thing. 

Yes – I know Blues’ fans like to point it out as some form of ‘obsession’ every time it gets mentioned but football fans have long memories. As was written in the programme notes for Bolton, “The likes of Martin Rowlands, 10 times better Harlee and of course Mr. Moose’s own withering attacks on us have still not been forgotten.” . Even Dean Smith’s proclamation after his Aston Vila threw it away against Leeds United, causing him too declare that “From the celebrations, I thought they’d won the title” brought back found memories of Russell Slade after Leyton Orient had capitulated in that famous promotion clash six years ago. His own sour grapes are as much part of Griffin Park’s rich football folklore tapestry as the dog on the pitch, the hand grenade, badges being kissed or Mark Burridge exploding in the commentary box as Jota sliced through the Blackburn Rovers frontline… and midfield… and defence and goalkeeper… As magnificent as the time Stuart Dallas scored the best. goal. ever. at Craven Cottage.

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Stuart Dallas – one of THE Brentford moments

And so the somewhat meandering point is that whilst Harlee will no doubt continue to warrant a mention from time to time, don’t think there’s anything ‘exclusive’ about it. Don’t think it’s any form of singling out a player or a club. A club who we’ve more than held our own against in recent times. It’s just one of the many comedy moments to have graced our footballing experience that will no doubt be mentioned again and again over the years.

Although I do so this time around with some trepidation. One can only acknowledge current form and results where Birmingham City are flying. They’re up to 7th (seventh) in the table and know that a win could see them leap-frog Frank Lampard’s Derby County (TM). Brentford, on the other hand…. Well, we all know what has happened since being named as joint favourites to win the Championship back in October alongside Leeds United. The bookies never get it wrong, supposedly. I’d imagine there were a few red faces at the Leo Vegas Christmas party this time around when reviewing that one.

Yet, yet, yet. Form can be temporary. Good or bad. The brakes are now on and the team set up has changed. We have the Championship’s leading scorer in Neal Maupay – a player who buried an absolute beauty at Bristol City. Mind you, it needed to be after the opening goal we conceded. A neon highlighter pen would have done a better job at being a a reliable marker as Eros Pisano was given all the time and room he needed to give the hosts an early lead. Just about the only positive to be taken from that one was that it wasn’t followed by a second within a few minutes – something else that has looked like becoming a trademark of our play in recent months. Instead, it was a case of start again and earn a hard fought point.

I take umbrage at Thomas’s post match assessment that “The header for Bristol City’s goal would have gone wide if it had not hit a defender and overall I thought we deserved to win the game”. We’ve done ur piece on ‘deserving’ many, many times over the years. It was a favourite of Dean Smith’s and a dangerous trap to fall into. Moreso, when ignoring the obvious shortcoming around the goal – every man and his dog could see that with all 11 players back in the box to defend a corner, allowing an opposition player to remain totally unmarked is nothing short of shambolic. Something that was also picked up on when  defending a free-kick at Hull City.

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Sky cameras caught how bad this one was

Still, the defence shortcomings have looked to be addressed. The switch to three centre backs to support the pressing full backs is one which has come at the same time as our switch in form. No bad thing either, given today’s game won’t be easy. By any stretch of the imagination. Garry Monk has his team eating up the table for fun and they are where they are on absolute merit. To make matters worse for us, Jota is back after injury lay off and whilst we all know he’ll look to cut in from the right wing, he is a luxury I’d still love to have available.

The bottom line is that going in to this one, Birmingham City are favourites. They’re the team on form. They’re the team gunning for promotion at present. They’re the team the bookies see as the one with most chance of picking up three points. If they do, it’ll be the first time since November 2016 that they’ve recorded a notch in the ‘W’ column when up abasing Brentford. 

That in itself will be reason alone to go for it once more. If Thomas Frank wanted to do anything to win over any doubters on the terrace, then three points on Saturday (I think) will be the perfect way to do it. 

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Feliz Navidad

Nick Bruzon

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With a key festive tradition denied, can we reach an all time high?

26 Dec

Where to go with this one today? By all rights we should be looking in depth at Brentford v Bolton. A 1-0 win for The Bees on Saturday saw Thomas Frank record a morale boosting win with the game’s only goal coming courtesy of Neal Maupay. Indeed, the closest in which lacklustre opposition got to scoring was via the head of their own goalkeeper Ben Alnwick who headed just wide as the game reached a buttock clenching (for some) denouement. Honestly, it was never in doubt and Bolton look to be in serious trouble whilst Brentford will no doubt have much tougher tests ahead in the coming days. Starting this afternoon with a Boxing Day trip to Ashton Gate to face Bristol City. Will the Bolton performance be the building blocks of a lengthy run up the table or a flash in the pan win against a team who will need something special to maintain their own Championship status?

Yet this morning (Wednesday, possibly…) yours truly is very much in relaxed mode. The thought of engaging the brain one which is very much playing second fiddle to drinking another coffee and just enjoing some contemplative time. Some time with the family. Some time off work and not getting upset by the pressures of life.

Why even last night, flicking through the TV selection (the first time in about four days the box has been on) we stumbled across Mrs. Brown’s Boys. A ‘hilarious’ ‘joke’ about an Alexa style device played out before we jumped onwards in a futile quest for a Christmas ‘Bond’ move. There was no rage. No rant. No observation that, “FFS. It’s a man. In a cardigan. And a wig. With one joke. One joke that has been spread thinner than a chunky tarmac driveway“.

Instead, we let it go in search of Roger Moore. Some traditions die hard in our house and whilst we were denied satisfaction in this instance, even ITV4 letting us down, perhaps it might be time to crack out the blu-rays later today. Nothing says ‘festive season’ like Victor Tourjansky trying to figure out whether 007’s latest bit of derring-do really happened or was simply the by product of drinking too much in the mid-day sun.

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And Brentford have won a game… Victor Tourjansky does his thing

 But then nothing says festive tradition like Boxing Day at Griffin Park. Sadly, after what seems like a good ten or so December 26th home games on the bounce (Luis / Jonathan – IF you are reading and could please confirm), we now have to do battle with the seasonal timetable and upsetting the family. And that’s a green card too far in our house. Moreso at a time when Mrs Bruzon has spoiled us fantastically. More than we have any right to expect. Indeed, a key part of her present to Harry and myself was not coming to the Bolton game given her own, alleged, albatross like qualities when it comes to home wins. Sure enough, three points followed. Although he showed bigger balls than me, and he’s only five, when replying to her own post-match question…   

Rachel: “They won!! Does that mean the jinx is off and I can come back to football?”

Harry: “No mummy. Bolton were so bad that even if you’d been here Brentford would still have won”

A bit harsh? Or fair reflection? Personally, I’ve not been so calm at football in a long time. Honestly, the game never felt as though it was in doubt (at least through my eyes) despite Alnwick’s late foray upfield. Another goal or two would have been nice – if only to alleviate some of the stress from those sitting around us – but the three points came gift wrapped and we took advantage of a seasonal offering. Thomas Frank shuffled his pack and his formation. Three centre-backs were named with the wings back continuing to push high up the field – although this time not exposing the defence. Henrik Dalsgaard was finally given what we will politely call a well-earned rest whilst we still had the flexibility to introduce Yoann Barbet when Chris Mepham had to leave the field of play early. Let’s hope that one was purely a precaution.

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Bolton were industrial in the challenge but offered little resistance to a positive Brentford team.

It all counts for nothing if we put in a turkey of a performance at Bristol City, of course. Yet I’m feeling upbeat. Feeling confident. The good vibe of the Junior Bees Christmas party washed over Griffin Park last week and continued through to the Bolton game when Thomas and the boys gave us all the perfect present.

Today, I’ll be following via the medium of social media or possible sneaking a look towards three wise men shouting at their TVs on Sky Sports News. There’s always the commentary option, too, yet locking myself away with Mark Burridge and an earpiece for two hours will likely be received about as well as HB’s attempts at diplomacy. Moreso when Roger is saving the world.

For those who do travel, good luck. And enjoy! For those elsewhere, I wish you well in whatever option you undertake to follow this one. Here’s to three more points. And perhaps, a bit of Bond….

Octopussy

You could do worse…

Nick Bruzon

Somebody call Andie MacDowell. Is this our latest unicorn moment?

16 Dec

Hull City 2 Brentford 0. Another defeat. Two goals conceded in a 9 minute patch. Woeful defending to leave us chasing the game. Possession dominated yet Thomas Frank’s team unable to convert 72% ball retention into anything tangible beyond a statistical nicety. What can you say? It’s all a bit déjà vu. A bit Groundhog Day. I wasn’t there. Can’t comment on the game per se, beyond the highlights package. Yet it all sounds and looks so familiar. And one can’t dispute the fact that we’ve now picked up just four points from the last ten games. That Brentford sit just three points above the relegation places in 19th position. What a cataclysmic tumble over the last two months. Nest week against Bolton Wanderers is going to be Marcus Gayle levels of huge, that’s for sure.

I used that line on Twitter last night. I also used this one: It just feels like TF now facing his own ‘Marinus and the unicorn’ moment. Carry on like this and we’re going to sink without a trace. Is Bolton the iceberg? Can we steer around? Or are we already fatally holed below the waterline?

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Is Thomas facing his unicorn moment?

And to be honest, I’ve genuinely no way or means of answering that question at the moment. One thing’s for sure, this team is not Marinus levels of bad. That was a low that hadn’t been seen since Terry Butcher. At least Thomas has passion. Seems to care. Is still seeing his team play attacking football but not getting the run of the ball. Not getting the breaks. Just totally devoid of any luck in front of goal. Yet equally, when we commit defensive suicide time and again then there has to be a certain acknowledgment of the line that says you make your own luck.

The Hull City goals yesterday could have slotted in to any of our recent horror shows. The second in particular we knew was going to look awful from the audio alone. “Right back Dalsgaard really bad mistake. Goes to kick it. Misses”.   Not my words but the words of Sky Sports. The subsequent video shows it is as bad as it sounds. The first, not much better. I feel for those that went up there for this one on the coldest day of the winter to date. It was never even a possibility of a green card for yours truly and, in retrospect, one I can only thank Mrs Bruzon for enforcing.

Call me disloyal. Fair enough. I love this team and club to bits. I’m not going to pretend I’m enjoying the current situation. I’ve sat through the highlights with Harry today who, after they’d finished, said to me: “Can we watch a different Brentford match? One from last season. One what we won.” I have since corrected his grammar but you get the point. Unlike us yesterday.

I wish. I wish we could play like that. I wish we could play like three months ago. I wish I knew why the wheels have fallen off our confidence. I wish I knew why the defence have been shuffling around like they’ve been suffering from a lack of sleep or bitten by zombies. This tweet alone seemed to sum up our current woes in a nutshell.

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The camera never lies. Nor does the table

So we can all moan. Understandably. We can all jerk our knees and vent spleens on social media. I’m amongst those to do the very same. No hypocrisy here. Some fans are calling for a change in coaching staff and another promotion for King Kev.

I can’t see it happening but at least it’s great that so many have the opportunity to call into question what we see happening. To try and figure out why we have hit self-destruct so spectacularly. Equally, I can’t imagine anybody involved in the club is prepared to throw our Championship status away. Something we’ve fought so hard to not only maintain but actually take the team further.

This is football. Nobody has a right to be good by default. Yeah, that’s one of my stock lines. But it’s true. Just as that fact that stats count for jack if you can’t score goals or keep them out. That’s another.

We can’t change the tactical or positional decisions that happen on the pitch but we can make ourselves heard. Whether its through the likes of social media or more importantly, getting behind the team on Saturday afternoon. It’s a cheesy line but its a true one. This Bolton game will be massive. It’s also one we can win. Categorically. I’m going to continue prodding on Twitter and these pages – when needed. But most of all, come 3pm on Saturday I’m going to be behind this team. Loud.

After surviving so many turgid seasons, the last thing I want is to even contemplate going down now that we’re enjoying some wonderful times. And if it takes Thomas Frank falling in love with Andie McDowell (metaphorically speaking) to get out of this loop, then somebody call Hollywood.

Move over Cameron Diaz, we need a new celebrity fan.

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Hasn’t this happened before?

Nick Bruzon

Is something rotten in the state of Brentford?

9 Dec

We’ve not really touched these pages in the last week or two. Matters outside of Griffin Park (namely, a social life rearing it’s head once more like some long forgotten relic of pre-parental life) have meant the column takes a back seat. To be honest, it’s probably no bad thing given the recent run in form that for Brentford finally looked like it may be coming to a halt with that 1-1 draw at West Bromwich Albion on Monday night. We all know what happened there, with the Bees doing to ‘deserving’ opponents what our own head coaches have felt hard done by so many times over the last few seasons. An injury time equaliser from Lewis Macleod rescuing a point after the hosts had conspired to miss all manner of seemingly unmissable chances earlier on. Good news, we thought. We have stopped the bleeding (not my words but those of Thomas Frank). Then Swansea City happened and a 3-2 defeat that was about as shambolic as it has been in recent months.

The Bees were a goal down with less than 30 seconds on the clock. The Griffin Park scoreboard hadn’t even sprung into life by the time Wayne Routledge had tapped home the opener after the defence had failed spectacularly to clear the most innocuous of pass backs and straight crosses. It was 2-0 Swansea soon after as Chris Mepham turned into his own net to gift the visitors a second. That the clock was registering 27 by the time Swansea made it three was only due to the injury suffered by Martin Olsson. One can only hope that the lengthy treatment before play resumed (there were 8 minutes added on at the end of the first half) was precautionary but it didn’t look good from where we sat on the far side.

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No minutes on the clock and already a goal down. 

That third goal was everything that was wrong with the team at present. A listless ball across midfield that was picked up by nobody. A needless free kick awarded on the right hand side. A ball delivered in that wasn’t cleared far enough before spaces were left for the return that would have embarrassed my son’s U-6 team. Kudos to Ollie McBurnie for attempting the overhead kick that lead to their goal but that he was even afforded that much room was a crime in itself. Leroy Fer made no mistake as the Brentford defence were unable to mop up the resulting detritus. I’ve seen better markers in a packet of Sharpies. 3-0 down and 27 minutes gone, 8 of which had seen the clock stopped for Olsson’s injury.

Frustratingly for Brentford, that unfortunate break in play should have allowed the team time to regroup. To have a chat about what next to avoid the inevitable third and actually find a way back into the game. But there had been nothing and the inevitable happened.

That’s it. If you want to read about inspired comebacks. About almost snatching a point. About hitting the bar two or three times then be my guest. Here’s the BBC website. Here’s Brentford official. Here’s Sky Sports where the report is about as lightweight as our midfield was for that opening period but they do have the goal highlights. I’d suggest you watch them just to see how not to play football.

Don’t let a fight back fool you or mask over another dreadful start. I’d hope Thomas has been up all night figuring out how to repair the gaping holes in the team, in their confidence and in supporter morale. The boos on the third goal and half time suggest that the crowd as finally been lost.

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View from the Braemar. The perimeter boards really rubbing it in during the first half.

It was yet another game where quite wonderful individuals have been that. Individual. Where the team spirit has seemingly gone out the window. Where the inability to kick a ball forward instead of faff has cost us. Where the result of being unable to put in a challenge has been a glut of goals conceded in a short space of time. See also Preston. QPR. Middlesbrough. Sheffield United. I honestly thought the game with the Blades had seen us as off the pace as we could possibly be but this one really trumped it.

That first half was on a par with, if not worse than, Oxford United in the league cup a few years back. At least in that one (and we’re clutching at straws) Marinus could blame his relative short time in the job, the sandpit of a pitch and his own tactical naivety in picking eleven players with barely a handful of first team appearances between them. But Thomas has been part of the set up for two years. He knows the players. They know him. This was a good line up – on paper – but instead it did what it has done time and again in recent weeks. Defensive hesitancy. Midfield absence. Full backs brutally exposed. Passing the ball sideways and backwards instead of forward. Inability to make a challenge, close down or simply mark an opponent. Just not kicking it away when it was near the goal. The ‘discussion’ amongst the team after the third went in was there for all to see.

To be fair, it changed after. As the heavens opened, the Bees came alive. Albeit Brentford very much had Daniel Bentley to thank for even keeping us alive at 3-1 down. This after Ollie Watkins had pulled one back in the first half and before Said Benhrahma gave us hope with a wonderful freekick midway through the second. But it was all too late. You can’t keep on giving away 2 or 3 quick fire goals – bang, bang, bang – and expect to take anything from a game.

From the point where we were named as joint favourites for the league title with Leeds United, Brentford have not so much hit the skids as gone through the crash barrier and plummeted down the mountain side. We’ve got games coming up at Hull City and then home to Bolton Wanderers. Both sides in the rapidly diminishing clutch of teams currently below the Bees. Failure to pick up at least 4 points out of 6 in those will see us getting sucked into that relegation vortex.

It’ll be a big ask given Thomas has only picked up 4 points from his opening 9 games. Even Marinus had managed 8 from the same period. What we’d give for that sort of form at the moment although please note the Dijkuizen experiment is not one I’m calling for a return of. Ever.

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Marinus and the Oxford United fiasco (not a prog rock band). Never forget

What’s really troubling me is why this isn’t working at the moment. We’ve had many poor teams and poor runs over the years at whatever level we’ve played. But the squad is currently packed full of internationals. It is the same squad Dean Smith had. We have the Championship’s second top scorer (Neal Maupay currently one behind Lewis Grabban). Top flight clubs covet the likes of Ollie Watkins, Chris Mepham, Daniel Bentley and Ezri Konsa. Josh McEachran (up there for player of the season so far) has pretentions of playing for England.

We’re not talking about times where the set up has been so thin that we’ve had to beg a favour off Neil Shipperly. These are good players. Great players. Players who hit the ground running and propelled Brentford to the very top end of the table back in August and September. Now, they’ve got all the confidence of a studio audience going in to a recording of Mrs. Brown’s Boys.

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Neil Shipperley. Never forget

Is it simply bad luck? Injuries limiting selection? Or is there something going on behind the scenes. Something as simple as an arm around the shoulders that is missing? Or something more in tune with a change in tactical set up? This should have been a seamless transition but for whatever reason it’s just not working out at the moment.

Let’s not pretend that the end of Dean Smith’s time here didn’t see us in a mini-blip relative to what he’d done prior with just 1 win out of 6. Yet what was intrinsically different then was that he had the winning form that made nobody in any doubt it would be back again soon. Even when we weren’t taking all three points, there was none of this constant shipping of goals over a short space of time.

Nobody has a divine right to be any good. We can’t just rock up and expect to win. Equally though, you still need to rock up in the first place. You can’t keep on giving the opposition two or three goal leads and expect to come away with anything.

Thomas has got a huge, huge challenge ahead of him. Both tactically and psychologically. I hope he has thick skin and a plan B. Or C. The way the crowd reacted yesterday after a frankly awful opening period suggest that if he can’t turn things around fast, things could get very ugly. For everyone.

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Raining (goals) at Griffin Park v Swansea

Nick Bruzon

Will it be third time lucky on the road?

22 Aug

Here we go again. Brentford travel to Aston Villa tonight for a trial by TV, knowing that three points (for either side) will take them joint top of the Championship, at the least. Leeds United are currently top of the pile after their own televised draw with Swansea City last night. 2-2 this time around. Then again, things are so close at the business end of the table that even Bolton Wanderers could achieve similar should they beat Birmingham City. And there was transfer news at Griffin Park as former Arsenal midfielder (cripes, another one….) and England youth international Josh Dasilva joined the Bees rather than take up the contract he had been offered at The Emirates.

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Our destination this evening

First up can only be Aston Villa v Brentford. Despite the Villans’ chance to return to the Premier League last time out, they fell at the final hurdle to 18 year old Ryan Sessegnon’s Fulham side in the play-off final. The summer has been one of worry and rumour yet despite the best predictions of tabloid hacks everywhere, neither Jack Grealish or Steve Bruce have departed the club. Instead, they’ve ignored the noise, hung on to their icon (and also Bruce) , picked themselves up after the bitter blow of Wembley defeat and carried on churning out the results.

Whilst not the most testing run, on paper, you can only beat the teams you are up against. A haul of 7(seven) points earned against Ipswich, Wigan and Hull City sees them level with the Bees and just one behind us in terms of goal difference.

I love games with Villa, that’s for sure. Formwise, Brentford have picked up eight points from our four Championship encounters since paths crossed at this level. Those two games at Griffin Park were as as complete performances as one could have hoped for. The 3-0 in January 2017, the same day Scott Hogan moved from West London to Villa Park, was about as as sweet as it got. Yet even on the road, we’ve performed admirably and earned two successive draws with the Villans.

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Villa Park – two recent trips have seen two draws

The heart is screaming at me that tonight we can go one better and earn our first notch on the Villa Park bedpost. Such has been the explosive start of positive, attacking football from Dean Smith’s side that I only think we’ll show more of the same. The trip to Stoke City showed how little we fear a big name/proper club/fallen giant etc with zero regard being given to their past positon and, instead the midfield pulling the strings once more to open up the opposition as easily as a can of tuna. With a ring pull.

The head says not to under estimate a team that are now firmly established in the Championship. They could have made it last time out. They probably should have, if we’re being honest. Checking the bookies (for research purposes), the home team are 11/8 favourites with the Bees at 2-1 in places. Easy money for backing our boys? Or spot on? Personally, I’d be going for the standard Aston Villa prediction of 1-1 (27/5, for the record).

The truth is, this one’s impossible to call. Brentford are on form. So are Aston Villa. And this isn’t an easy place to go by any stretch of the imagination. Then there’s the TV factor to add to the mix although, to be fair, ‘the curse of the cameras’ isn’t the albatross around our necks it once was. At least, not to the same extent. I’d love a win but would be more than happy with a draw and no injuries. Given there’s Blackburn (away) on Saturday followed by Carabao cup action and then a visit from Nottingham Forest, things are coming thick and fast now.

Elsewhere, Brentford have taken advantage of the transfer window rules to pick up former Arsenal midfielder Josh Dasilva. The full details are on Brentford ‘official, which you can read here. Certainly, he sounds an intriguing prospect although what this means for the long term state of our midfield, who knows? Rumours of Ryan Woods to Stoke City were doing the rounds yesterday, with one report suggesting the club have reached the £6.5m asking price that Swansea baulked at. Although, equally, going by what we saw the other week one would have to ask why Stoke even contemplate investing in their midfield, given they bypass it most of the time. Hoooof.

Josh was pictured at Griffin Park yesterday and clearly has a love for Arsenal, judging by the shirt he was pictured with. Oh sorry, that’s ours. Well thanks a bunch, Adidas.

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Whose shirt IS that? Josh joins

He’s very much one for the future though. For now, let’s concentrate on Villa tonight. I’d love the win to take us top. Absolutely love it.  I’ll be well happy should we draw. Even if it does mean Bolton would overtake us if they do the needful against Birmingham. If nothing else, it means we’ll be keeping up the level of form that people who actually know what they are talking about say that teams should aspire to. Win at home, draw away – 4 points from every 6 and a final total of 92 points tell.

I’m not even contemplating the other result.

Nick Bruzon

One down. Forty-five to go. What a start!

5 Aug

What can you say? Where do you start? Did that really happen? Brentford thumped Championship newcomers Rotherham United in a Griffin Park goalfest that saw the Bees end the day top of the league and disappointed to have ‘only’ scored five. That in itself, a feat we’d not achieved since February when Birmingham City were the recipients of that famous 5-0 payback. Yet if that one was as as satisfactory as they come from a personal perspective, dare I say that yesterday was ten times better, performance wise?

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A glorious result on a glorious day

So many times last season we scored early. Threatened. Pushed. Came oh so close but couldn’t make that additional breakthrough. Possession and shots were high but the net refused to ripple. Then our opponents would pull one back. Undo all the hard work or salvage a draw from the jaws of defeat.

Yet this was different. A turning of the screw unlike any we’ve seen and, better still, in scorching conditions with new players in the squad. Against opponents that we had no idea how dangerous they might be. Without the ever popular Ryan Woods, whom Dean Smith would later admit that following a bid for the player, “We both felt it wasn’t the right thing putting him in the squad today”.

This was one-way traffic and attacking play the likes of which typify Dean Smith’s Brentford when we are on fire. To a man, they were magnificent. Good luck picking out a man of the match although I’ve since seen that two goal Neal Maupay scooped the honours.

Personally, I loved Romaine and Lewis pulling the strings whilst it was great to see Ezri Konsa slotting in alongside Chris Mepham (who is now an alleged target for Leicester City). Dan Bentley looked rock solid as ever, pulling off one incredible save in the ten-minute patch just before half time that Rotherham looked vaguely involved in the day’s proceedings. Even then, Sergi Canos went down the other end and made it it 2-0 with a beautifully hit shot to double the lead after Neal Maupay’s early opener.

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View from the Braemar – a great performance yesterday.

Two up at HT and the game was as good as wrapped up. Surely? Indeed it was. Immediately into the second period Ollie made it three with a sublime finish before Neal added to his opener with less than an hour on the clock. Four up and the play scintillating. A first opening day win in 7(seven) games all but on the cards.

Changes were made. There was a rapturous welcome to the field for the magician, Alan Judge. Likewise, praise in particular for debutant Said Benrahama. “My word. How do we keep finding them?” was the considered opinion of my fellow fan in the Braemar Road paddock after witnessing his own skill with the ball. It was a proper ‘tied to his foot with a piece of string’ display – and that was just in the warm up!!  

Goalwise, things all but dried up. Lewis Macleod made it five just before full time with a hard hit shot that stayed low. Rifled or drilled was the subsequent debate in the pub. Answers on a postcard marked ‘drilled’, please.  Even then there was still a few seconds left for Rotherham to grab the proverbial ‘consolation’.

It was a denouement that prompted Dean to have a go at his players (his words) in the changing room afterwards aswell as admitting that “You don’t get many opportunities when your 4 or 5 up in a game. That could have been one today to try and score a few more but we took our foot off the gas a little bit”.

Whilst he would also acknowledge the heat factor and our all-round attacking intent, it shows the standards he is looking to set. He wasn’t alone in wanting a few more. Five year old HB said to me, “Daddy. I hope we get 7 (seven) because that means brackets”. Honestly, I’ve no idea where he gets it from.

However, it was a marked contrast from prior to kick off where he’d got cold feet about going because Noah from school had told him that Brentford were rubbish. It had clearly been playing on his mind but we had a good joke about it when he opened up and were able to persuade him that Griffin Park was still brilliant. Walking to the ground and seeing all the shirts (even some brown/orange ones) the smile began to grow and he ended the day telling me about his friend, “Daddy. Daddy. Noah doesn’t….know-a lot about football”. 

Honestly, I’ve no idea where he gets it from.

Yet if you want the ultimate sign of how good a game it was then the evidence was there in the fridge this morning. The bag of ‘break glass in case of emergency’ white chocolate buttons remained unopened. Untouched and ready for daddy to demolish today. There have been times in the past when we’ve needed to open these before kick-off, just to keep his attention. Now, he can’t wait to go again and I get a bonus chocolate treat. Nice one, Dean.   

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Get in! If this is what playing like that does then I’m a happy dad

Brentford were electric but we weren’t even physical. Yet the visitors were second to everything. I’m not buying into that ‘little’ Rotherham gumph. We’ve been on the receiving end of it enough in the past ourselves. Teams like Brentford etc. There are no easy games in the division, as West Brom found out yesterday going down to Bolton. As promoted Wigan proved when they beat Sheffield Wednesday 3-2. As Birmingham City discovered as they were pegged back by Norwich City deep into stoppage time at St. Andrews in a game which finished 2-2.

Watching the highlights on Quest TV (not a typo) this morning, studio guest Dean Ashton noted: “If I had money to pay to go and watch a team it would be Brentford” It is something that tells you all you need to know about our style of play yet how nice to see that endeavour rewarded with goals.

As for the show itself, Colin Murray was at the helm. A man who has had more footballing gigs than Steve Claridge and, had he been around at the time of the dinosaurs (velociraptors rather than Big Ron, Richard Keys et al), would probably have survived the asteroid. How DOES he keep going? Yet here he was again. Despite some early show hiccups where it looked as though the starship Enterprise was attempting to ‘beam us up, Scotty’, things settled down and we got what one would expect. Highlights. In order. A far cry from the debut of previous hosts Channel 5 three years ago – never, ever forget. That was the consummate example of how not to do football.

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An early transporter malfunction didn’t put Colin off his stride

The Bees were low down the pecking order yesterday. Understandable from many respects but with a trip to many people’s pre-season favourites Stoke City next up, I’m fairly sure that might have changed by this time next week.

For now, though, Brentford are top of the league. We are top of the league. #TOTL. Whilst we’ve said many times on these pages that the table doesn’t officially take shape until ten games in, I’m not going to deny that checking into the penthouse suite in the Championship hotel isn’t a quite wonderful place to be.

One down. Forty-five to go. Roll on Stoke City…

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The BBC table doesn’t lie…..

As a final note, huge thanks to the club and in particular Stuart Wakeford for the chance to take part in the Facebook live ‘Bees Live Beat The Bee’ competition prior to kick off, alongside Rico Henry. Stu is a legend in the making ; sadly, yours truly isn’t and the challenge ended in defeat to a man whose football knowledge is impressive. Likewise, one who has gone up hugely in my estimation. As much for his offering the prize anyway as his own ‘off air’ answer to the dress rehearsal question….. 😉  

If you fancy taking part against Sheffield Wednesday or beyond, then keep your eyes open for the #BEESLIVE on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. It’s great fun and you never know what you might end up taking home !  

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Stu does his thing wonderfully.

Nick Bruzon

Barnsley deliver a hammer blow as relegation trapdoor still beckons for the other B’s…

29 Apr

Sunday morning and it all feels a bit ‘after the Lord Mayor’s show.’ Not in the same crushing style as the punch to the gut that is an actual play-off defeat or a penalty hitting a crossbar (apparently it happened once, five years ago, but nobody ever mentions that). Yet at the same time, Brentford offered a tantalising glimpse of what might have been before going down 2-0 to a Barnsley team who benefited from what head coach Dean Smith would describe as ‘A spawny goal’ to open proceedings. With Aston Villa and Derby County drawing one apiece, had we been able to turn this one into a victory then The Bees would still been alongside them in the promotion race heading into the final round of Championship matches. Alas, it was not to be and instead we’ll have to content ourselves with aiming for what would still be a staggering 7(seven)th placed finish and the choke off to see who drops into League One – Birmingham City, Burton, Barnsley or Bolton.

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Spawny? Or did he really mean to sneak inside the back stick from there ?

That’s not to be downbeat. Genuinely. That the team had even hauled themselves into this position following a ‘mixed’ start to the campaign is something that should be celebrated. Four points from eight games saw us not so much flirting with relegation as taking her out on a first date although fortunately she would go on to spurn our advances. The triple transfer departure, and moreso the last day style in which it happened, was hardly great for morale either. I’m the first to hold my hands up on that one. Yet soon after, magic started to happen.

The win at Bolton in late September was followed by a run that saw us fail to pick up points in only one more game over the rest of the calendar year. That being the defeat at Cardiff City which led to Ian Moose demonstrating how to make friends and influence people at Griffin Park. Despite the odd hiccup / low par performance along the way, Dean Smith and his team have kept themselves going to make this one of the most exciting seasons on record. Three points yesterday would have kept it alive for another 90 minutes (at least). Yet to come even this close is something we should be applauding. I’m sure over time we all will.

The trick now is, as with every season, how we build on this. Can we keep the squad together? Will new contracts be signed or will the likes of Ollie Watkins, Ryan Woods, Alan Judge, Chris Mepham and Daniel Bentley be on the shopping lists of those fat cats in the Premier League? Or even the Championship. Without a doubt money talks but sometimes, sitting tight can be better for your career. Just look at the Birmingham City three. Ten times better – at going down. The talk about Woodsy joining Sunderland seems almost laughable now when you see how they have fared, too.

Who’d be a club owner? Moreso with a new stadium now well under construction. No doubt there’ll be decision made which surprise us. Decisions made which shock us. That’s all to come though. For now, we’ve still one more game with the visit of Hull City next Sunday. Still one more round of Championship fixtures to see if Harlee Dean’s decision making off the pitch is proven to be as suspect as some of those choices he made on it this time around. After that much trumpeted move, there is a very real chance of the Blues actually going down. Albeit my head says they are safe, despite what the heart thinks.

Their relegation rivals have equally tough games. On paper. Burton are at Preston. Barnsley go to Derby (although we do know how County love a final day choke) whilst Bolton entertain Nottingham Forest. At least The Trotters have home advantage but they are also reliant on having to increase their goal difference.

As we saw yesterday (and the highlights are now available on Sky’s internet site), the biggest of requirements can lead to the most spirited of performances. Hats off to Barnsley. We wanted it. We needed it. But so did they. And perhaps ten times as much. Brentford were fighting for an unexpected bonus. Let’s not forget that we haven’t actually been in the play-off zone at any point this campaign. Brentford were fighting amongst themselves, going by Dan Bentley’s reaction after the second goal went in – understandable having watched this on the highlights. But The Tykes were fighting for their lives. This really was a case of do or die. Whilst it may not have been the prettiest, the hosts did what they had to. And that takes guts.

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Dan and Henrik discuss the second goal

With Burton making it three wins in a row, next Sunday may not be as cut and dried as people think. Of course I’ll be at Brentford v Hull City. Of course I’ll be desperate for three more points to lock in a fourth, successive top ten finish at this level. But I’d be a liar if I was to pretend that there won’t also be an ear on my terrace trannie. Keeping abreast of other results and just what they’ll mean at about twenty past two next Sunday

See you there.

Nick Bruzon

Neal makes Moose eat more pie at Fulham as magnificent Brentford help Wolves go up.

15 Apr

Where do you start with that? A scoreline of Fulham 1 Brentford 1 doesn’t even begin to touch the sides of a dramatic afternoon that saw Wolves’ promotion to the Premier League confirmed, The Bees keep our own play-off dream alive and The Cottagers slip out of a top two they had so briefly graced. At the bottom, things are locking up with a win for Burton aswell as Bolton drawing at Barnsley really keeping the heat on Birmingham City.

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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View from the away end – Brentford go for it at Fulham

 

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Dan Bentley snuffs out a rare first half attack from Fulham

 

 

Nick Bruzon

Time to stand up and be counted. This is huge.

13 Apr

The weekend is almost here. Friday morning is upon us, meaning just one more sleep until Brentford travel to Fulham. One more sleep until The Bees have the chance to continue the push for the play offs against second placed Fulham. With the gap between the top two teams 11 points, should the Cottagers fail to win then Wolves will be crowned League champions. Otherwise, they’ll need to wait until Sunday and their own game with Birmingham City. With Barnsley hosting Bolton, the pressure at the basement end of the table is only sure to get even bigger. What a weekend awaits.

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Another trip to The Cottage awaits

Elsewhere, I’ll need to direct you to a story on the Telegraph website and then a subsequent petition. It is a story that given both our own ground development at Lionel Road and great away following, is of supreme relevance. Moreso given our predilection to stand up at football – whether on the road or in our current Griffin Park home.

First up, Fulham. Putting to one side a £35 ticket price that is approaching Leeds United levels of mickey taking – something even more shocking given the game is on TV – this one is huge. There’s so much riding on this. For Brentford, the chance to keep our play-off push alive. Three successive 1-0 wins, despite the absence of talismanic midfielder Ryan Woods, have seen us move to within just four points of fifth place with Derby County having blown one of their two games in hand.

There’s also the chance to continue a fine recent run against a Fulham side who have only beaten us once in 7 (seven) games since our paths crossed in the Championship. From Jota in the last minute back in 2014, through that season’s 4-1 destruction at the Cottage all the way up to this campaign’s 3-1 home win it would be fair to say that Brentford have had the upper hand. The only blot on the copy book being a November 2016 win at Griffin Park for, what needs to be acknowledged, was a very impressive looking outfit.

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Gone. But not forgotten.

But what a time it would be to notch another three points on the bed post. The previous encounters have all had that huge emotional significance, of course. You can’t beat the passion of a West London derby – even if one part of it is taking place in the neutral stand, with clappers and behind the Gin bar. This one, of course, will have all of that but it will have more. Much more.

A Fulham side packed with some homegrown talent and clever use of the loan system have been relentless in their pursuit of automatic promotion. Slowly that gap has been reeled in until last weekend they made it. They’d hit the top two positions. How delicious would it be to push them back out whilst continuing our own climb. You couldn’t have written a better script in the build-up to this one.

For Brentford, there’s nothing to lose and everything to gain. We’ve played with freedom and talent as our team has come together following the early season stumbles and triple transfer swoop by Birmingham City. Yet, perhaps as much motivated by ‘that’ ten times better  claim, the fans and the squad have been galvanised. We’ve been loud, proud and kept on churning out the results. Now, we are on the threshold of magnificence. More importantly, we are on the threshold of that bold predicton from Rasmus Ankersen coming to fruition.

I’ve mentioned this a lot on these pages but they are words that I’ve never forgotten. Back in Spetember 2015 he told supporters, “It is not an option to not be in the Premier League. It has to happen in the next three years…. At the moment there is no Plan B. we’ll be in the Premier League in three years.

They are words that have been hard to swallow at times. I’m the first to admit that. Yet, at the same time, they are THE marker post. That three year period comes to an end with the conclusion of this campaign. For all that some supporters have struggled to get used to our new set up at Griffin Park. For all that even I’ve had my doubts a t times. For all that we’ve seen a whole host of huge names sold for vast sums of money. For all of this we’re still going. For all of this we ARE in with a chance.

The absolute inner belief in this club is that Brentford are a Premier League Club. I know this for fact. Just speaking to our senior figures  – as anybody can do; they are always very accessible – you can feel the confidence and the self-assurance of the journey we are on. There is no doubt in which direction this club is heading. How incredible would it be to take that next step at Craven Cottage? See you there.

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Get it right and Rasmus really will have his face on a scarf. Half and half or otherwise

Could I also crave your indulgence to take a look at both the aforementioned Telegraph story and then ask, if you feel it appropriate, you sign the ‘safe standing’ petition. We all know what happened in the past but football has moved on so much since then. We all know football supporters still stand – it is as much part of just trying to see the game at times Yet our own Sports’ minister seems to have her head in the sand as to what supports want and to what advice she is being given.

The Telegraph quotes her as saying “The answer to dealing with persistent standing is not necessarily to introduce safe standing….There are regulations to deal with persistent standing – I would like to see them enforced.

What is the answer? To continue with the successful standing zones introduced at the likes of Celtic and several Bundelsiga clubs? Or encourage stewards to take an even tougher stance at physical enforcement? Kick supporters out of the ground?

It’s your shout. But the petition link is here if it is something you feel you need to make a stand about.

Many thanks

Nick Bruzon

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