Tag Archives: Bolton

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

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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

Can we extend the run? Should we mention the ‘p’ word? Is this football’s latest gimic?

27 Jan

With the FA Cup taking centre stage in the public eye this weekend (and we’ll get on to last night’s game between Yeovil Town and Manchester United shortly), Brentford have a wonderful chance to make further, almost stealth like, progress. With Norwich City the visitors to Griffin Park this afternoon, stuffing the Canaries will see the Bees move level on points with sixth placed Sheffield United. Of the teams between us and the Blades, Fulham are the only other with a game today. A tricky trip to Barnsley standing between them and their own play-off aspirations.

Brentford, of course, are on that wonderful run. 13 league games unbeaten at Griffin Park combined with 7(seven) Championship wins out of the last 9 played sees us very much the form team at present. Bolton Wanderers and then Reading being the latest teams to fall victim to the red and white machine.

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Bolton were the last visitors to Griffin Park.

Indeed, in the top four divisions nobody has gone unbeaten for longer, with only our FA Cup conquerors Notts County able to match what The Bees have achieved at Griffin Park. Not even the likes of Manchester City or Liverpool, who are next up on 12 game runs. With the Magpies involved in cup action today, their reward for that third round triumph being a home tie with Premier League Swansea, there’s even more incentive to go for it today and stride clear of the ‘unbeaten’ teams.

In our way, Norwich City. A team we’ve already played twice this season whilst who could forget last campaign’s horror shows against the Canaries?

This time around, things began with a Carabao Cup third round tie back in September one we probably shouldn’t dwell on. Whilst not quite up there with the infamous Oxford United game that formed part of the ill-fated Marinus experiment, it wasn’t far off. Move along, nothing to see here.

I take much more comfort from our 2-1 league win at Carrow Road just before Christmas. The Bees were rampant in a game where the  highlight of the night was the pass from Romaine Sawyers to set up Lasse Vibe for our second goal. Even now it is worth watching a few more times just to remind yourself quite how wonderful, ridiculous, sublime, filthy, outrageous it was. Certainly, those were my thoughts at the time and nothing has happened since to change my mind.  Take your pick as to which fits best. Words can’t do it justice.

Romaine’s brilliance is 2mins 37 seconds in on the official highlights.

Listening to Deam Smith speaking at the moment, he comes across as very grounded. Very much in ‘taking one game at a time’ territory. I don’t blame him. He’s the Brentford head coach; I’m the numpty on the terrace. Yet as supporters it is so easy to see the polar opposites. Reaching for the stars or feeling as though we are sitting in the gutter. Our start to the campaign wasn’t great. A situation compounded by those heartbreaking sales. It was as much the immediacy as the final destination of those three that really hurt. Yet how things have moved on since then. How Dean’s faith in his team and their own wonderful spirit has been rewarded.

It is faith and confidence that is coursing through all of us at present. The last few months (Barnsley and Burton at home, aside) have seen some of the most exciting football games we’ve had the privilege of watching in years. Norwich City won’t make it easy. Far from it. Yet I can’t see anything other than home win today. And you can quote me on that. If for no other reason than my Cousin Charles from Gibraltar will be at this one. Any regular readers who know of his record….

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Norwich in the cup happened. Move along

As for the FA Cup, I’m not going to pretend I was anything but gutted when we went out. That defeat to fourth tier opposition, who absolutely deserved it on the day, was only salvaged by the long, long, long awaited return of Alan Judge. Trot out any number of clichés about this oldest of tournament but you can’t deny it is captivating. People want to watch it; teams want to win it. Last night was no exception as Mrs Bruzon and I settled down to watch the BBC fourth round tie between Yeovil Town v Manchester United. Nothing says romance – of the cup or otherwise – than a night on the sofa watching Ryan Dickson.

Sadly, there was no be no Goliath falling on a potato skin. Manchester United won 4-0. No surprise there. The positive was a healthy selection of tin foil trophies on display from the Yeovil fans although the flip side being the return of something we’d seen the previous week in the Brighton v Chelsea leg game.

Namely that of a young child holding up a crudely drawn sign, asking a player for his shirt after the game. Last week it was Eden Hazard, who duly responded. Last night it was Alexis Sanchez, although by all accounts he was yet to reciprocate.

Are we now to see a glut of hastily scrawled A4 sheets of paper held aloft by young fans? Is this the latest trend? Certainly, you wouldn’t get me involved in any such form of cheap stunt. Instead, I’m off to the game now (see you there) and will simply leave Harry to press ‘publish’….

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Nick Bruzon

 

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.

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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

As Bees prepare to go to Hull, will Championship form prevail or could ‘that stat’ take hold ?

7 Dec

Another weekend approaches. For some, the stress of Christmas shopping. For others, the chance for some time out from the relentlessness of the Festive build up and the excitement of football. Personally, my focus will be all about Kingston-upon-Hull rather than Kingston shopping centre. The current UK City of Culture being the destination this Saturday for a Brentford team looking to pick up where we left off against Fulham last weekend. That wonderful 3-1 win a perfect return to winning ways for Dean Smith’s team. Likewise, there’s still an interest at the bottom of the table where #tentimesbetter Birmingham City slithered back into the relegation zone following another defeat on Monday night.

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Another afternoon, another win. This time Fulham were the team to be steam-rollered

First up, Brentford and our trip to Hull City. Spirits should be high in Dean Smith’s camp. Last weekend’s obliteration of Fulham (where only David Button kept it respectable) saw the Bees rise up the table to within a win of eighth placed Leeds United. Those ‘difficult’ first few months – both in terms of results and the deadline day firesale to Birmingham City – all seem a long way off now. True, we’ve still had some iffy moments (such as the finish up the road last Monday, the first half with Sunderland or the entire game with Burton Albion) but the team seems a lot more settled.

A feat all the more impressive given how patched together we are at present. At least, on the surface. Two fullbacks playing out side of their traditional positions and Romaine Sawyers having to spend most of Saturday operating as frontman / false 9 (delete as applicable). Yet Josh Clarke and Yoann Barbet have more than settled in to moving around the pitch whilst you can’t deny the impact Romaine had against Fulham. Certainly he was my man of the match, for whatever that’s worth, although one would suspect his position there won’t be a permanent one !

It’s funny, because with the transfer window opening next month all the talk is likely to be about Ryan Woods. A player very much in form, with a huge reputation, incredible ability and now well into his third season at Griffin Park he is ‘classic’ transfer target material. Yet, for me, Josh Clarke would be an equal worry – certainly in terms of players who might end up coming under the spotlight. His talent is without question; his versatility a real strength. At a time when we’ve had to move things around he’s played at left back, right back and in his traditional mid-filed berth. He overlaps on the break and has even weighed in with the odd goal. If ever there was an unsung hero for this season then, for me, it’s Josh.

All being well, we won’t need / choose to sell anybody in January. All being well, players will look further ahead and realise the benefits of staying at Griffin Park. Certainly, it hasn’t worked out too well for the Birmingham City three. Rather than striding towards the Premier League, they find themselves doing their best to pay a visit to League One with only Sunderland and Burton Albion below The Blues in the table.

Desperately unlucky Maxime Colin finds himself injured whilst Jota has hardly settled into the side. His starring role has been reduced to one of advertising the club’s Christmas range.

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Sad times – all round

As for poor old Harlee Dean, where do you start? He certainly made a rod for his own back. As if his infamous ‘Ten Times Better’ quote about the Bees (a clear contender for the 2017/18 Russell Slade celebrated like the FA Cup award ) wasn’t bad enough, he now misses the Blues trip to Fulham on Saturday after getting sent off against Wolves on Monday night.

In case we needed any reminding of that one (the soundbite rather than the red card) then here you go. Some things deserve to be repeated:  “We’ve got quality in that squad. I’ve been in teams where we’ve finished fifth in this league and missed out on promotion by play offs. And this squad is ten times better than that. Its just about getting the balance right.

Look. I didn’t want to overly talk about Birmingham City today. It’s kind of just happened as the words have fallen out. But they’re not setting the world on fire and having blown all that cash back at the end of August (thank you very much) I can’t see them being allowed to do a repeat in January. That’s their issue though. Work with what they’ve got left, just like we’ve had to do after selling them some prize assets. And Harlee.

Personally, I wrote some pretty emotive stuff about them and us at the time. Especially the morning after deadline day. I stand by that in terms of how I felt. It was raw, it was a shock and on the surface it seemed like footballing suicide for a team that were, back then, struggling to play their way out of a paperbag. Form that continued in the immediate aftermath. Indeed, there’s a part of me that still aches to think of Jota in the doldrums when he was so adored, and so elegant, at Griffin Park. Football is a passionate game and that triple sale, as much in the timing and the destination, came like a bolt from the blue. Quite literally.

Yet, and has been said many times, I’m just the numpty on the terrace. I know nothing of any real insight. I’ve never denied it. Things have worked out. And how! Meanwhile, Birmingham City are in their own mess. That’s their board’s problem. So long and thanks for all the cash.

Brentford continue their inxeroable ascent of the Championship table with the prospect of free scoring Emiliano Marcondes to come in January and Alan Judge putting in 45 minutes for the B-team. His goalscoring appearance against Barnet on Tuesday probably getting the biggest cheer of the week in our house (see also: return of Lewis Macleod v Fulham). Moreso, his declaration that he feels “normal-ish” .

You can get that story in full on ‘official’.

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Official have all the news on this one !

And so with confidence high, we head North on Saturday. The starting XI seems a lot more settled and we have form on our side. The Bees have only lost once in the last thirteen league games (Cardiff City away) and now have the top third of the table is in our sights. Facing us, a Hull City side sitting just outside the relegation spots and featuring former Bee Jon Toral.

On paper you’d call this one as ‘away’ win . If you were a neutral. Nothing is that cut and dried when you are a fan though. The jinx conscious amongst us might point to their sacking manager Leonid Slutsky during the week.

The reverse effect to winning manager of the month (an award that may aswell come with ‘L’ tagged on), the appointment of a caretaker comes with that almost inevitable fillip of a team in decline winning their next game.

Then there’s the ‘B’ team thing. Hull City have only recorded four league wins all season. All four have come against teams whose name start with the letter B.
4-1 v Burton (h);
4-0 v Bolton (h)
6-1 v Birmingham City (h) . Stop. Sniggering…
1-0 v Barnsley (a)

Granted, that’s not in the Luis Melville category of statistical genius, but much has been made of it in the media and it makes semi-interesting review. Until you hit the stumbling block of their game with Bristol City last month. That one ended in a 3-2 defeat to The Robins .

Jinx over. The road is clear for the Bees to do their thing. Moreso given I’ve not, to date, read of a caretaker being appointed. Instead, it looks as though they are going to jump straight to Nigel Adkins. Certainly, if the local press is to be believed.

As for the thing that will really impact us, on field performance, I’d suggest the BBC or Beesotted are your best bets. Honestly, I haven’t seen enough this season to form a significant opinion about how reflective of ability Hull City’s current position genuinely is. However, as somebody far wiser than me once said: “The table doesn’t lie”. Nor do the bookmakers, who have Brentford as 6/5 favourites to win this one.

Then again. They can’t call it and all three results are at a generous price. Roll on Saturday when we find out if form will prevail.

Nick Bruzon

Will Sunderland have Bees Under Siege? Can Lasse channel his inner chef?

21 Oct

Welcome Sunderland. Following on from last weekend’s 1-0 at home to Millwall, Brentford will be looking to make it back to back wins for this first time this season. We’ll also be looking to make it 6 in a row unbeaten in a run that has also seen the win at Bolton and draws with Reading, Derby and Middlesbrough.

In our way stand Sunderland. A name to conjure with the imagination. A club whom we have not played in the league since 1993 (our solitary, pre-Benham, higher tier season in most supporters’ living memory). A club we have not played since January 2006 in the FA Cup when DJ Campbell did ‘that thing’ against Gary Breen. The defender reacting with all the finesse of a turning oil tanker in a moment that will live long in the memory.

A club who are, in all honesty, the biggest thing to fall out of the Premier league since Newcastle United the season before. And now they are mixing it with Brentford.

Let’s be honest. When the fixtures were published, the trip to the Stadium of Light was probably one of the first that Brentford fans looked for. Likewise, the visit from the Black Cats. We all want to see our boys up against the best and, in theory, this is one of those occasions.

Yet, it wold be fair to say, like Aston Villa last season, they are finding the Championship a somewhat different proposition to the top flight they left behind. This is no case of just turning up and bouncing back. England’s second tier being full of cannon fodder for those teams armed with parachute payments is a notion that is long gone.

A solitary league win over Norwich City back in August must now seem a long way away. Since then, there’s been a slump to the point where only basement club Bolton are beneath the Black Cats (with thanks to the Hounslow Chronicle big book of 80s alliteration for that one). Five draws and six defeats make up the rest of their campaign, whilst they’ve shipped 10 goals in their last four games alone. A run that includes a 5-2 hammering at the hands of Ipswich Town.

With Lasse Vibe fit once more and Sergi Canos chomping at the bit to get in on the action, surely this one has all the makings of a Brentford win? The BBC reports that super computer SAM – the Sports Analytics Machine – is calling a 55% chance of home win. The bookies are even less generous.

Checking for research purposes only, The Bees are odds on (4/5) with my own online bookmaker of choice whilst they have Sunderland at an incredible 3/1 to get the win. Three to one. Or in financial terms, invest a tenner and win nothing. Whilst they rarely get it wrong, if ever you wanted an indication of how things are going on Wearside then here it is .

That’s not to take things for granted. Quite the opposite. To borrow a line from Under Siege 2: Dark Territory (the point where the previously wonderful Steven Seagal jumped the shark, and is still jumping), “Assumption is the mother of all fuck ups“. Show any complacency and pay the price.

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Seagal – his siege busting days now behind him

Instead, I’m on board with Dean Smith for this one. He used his pre-match press conference yesterday to make a few telling points. The observation that “We have got good technicians within the team,” could have been lifted direct from the big book of Warburton. More important was his awareness that, “Sunderland’s position doesn’t give us any right to do anything. We ask the fans not to be expectant but to get behind us from the start

As I saw one Twitter observer note yesterday –  Football fans? Expectant? As if that would ever happen. But Dean’s right. I can only imagine a similar set up that of when Derby came to visit recently. Backs to the wall and turgid defence as Brentford had a staggering 76% possession.

With the visitors no doubt anxious to avoid defeat, I’m sure today will see The Bees being given the opportunity to try and put the Sunderland goal under siege. The big question being, is Lasse Vibe our own Casey Ryback?

At 3pm, we find out.

under siege Lasse updated

He’s just a (poorly photshopped) chef.

Nick Bruzon