Tag Archives: Bruzon

Farewell Alan. And can Hank Marvin stop Aberdeen in the latest ‘The World Cup of….’?

15 Jan

No sooner had the dust settled on the weekend than the first departure has happened through the transfer window after it was announced that Alan Judge has left Brentford for Ipswich Town. It was a rumour that we’d seen circulating for the last few days and has now been confirmed. Elsewhere, there’s a question. Of sorts. What links Aberdeen, Newcastle United, two old women and Hank Marvin. But not Richard Osman or Fulham? More to follow, but first Judgey.

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No more a rumour. No more a Bee

What can you say? The player affectionately known as ‘The Magician’ in the Braemar Road has performed his final trick and disappeared. Ipswich Town have picked up a star, that’s for sure. We all know what Alan did for Brentford. The eventual penalty that eventually took us up to the Championship. Eventually. The goals. The pace. The excitement. That free kick at Fulham to round off the famous 4-1 rout. The one at Arsenal earlier this season.

Not only a strike of the highest quality but also one of those rare occasions that a goal has been scored in a brown/orange shirt (although one can fully understand the first XI getting distracted by the incredible tops and being lulled into deeming themselves more catwalk models than a football team).

There was also ‘that’ injury. Ironically enough, suffered at Ipswich Town of all places. It put paid to Alan’s dreams of taking part in the Euro 2016 finals – something that was an almost certainty for a player who still ended up being nominated for the Championship Player of the Year award aswell as being named in both the Championship PFA and the Football League Teams of the Year at the end of that season.

Luke Hyam is plying his trade at Southend these days whilst the mental and physical strength Alan showed in fighting back is more than testament to his fortitude as a player – on and off the pitch. The welcome he received when he finally came back in last season’s FA Cup should tell all you need to know.

Good luck Alan. And thank you for everything! Especially that Fulham goal. You can read more here, on Brentford official.

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What a shirt. What a goal.

Talking of Fulham, we all know that their ‘celebrity’ fan Richard Osman will stick his name to a “The World Cup of…..” anything at the drop of a hat. The World Cup of biscuits. The World Cup of books. The World Cup of crisps. The World Cup of teams having zero shots against but still managing to lose 2-1 to Burnley at the weekend. Granted, that last one’s a little niche but you get the drift.

So it was with great pleasure of the discovery being made on Monday lunchtime that one of THE twitter sites to follow, @TheSkyStrikers , have launched their own – The World Cup of programme covers. And it’s every bit as good as one would hope.

For those yet to discover this gem, in their own words it is summarised best by host Miles McClagan as: “Collating as many old football images as I can from a random bucket of programmes…” And, it would be fair to say, there are some corkers.

Taken largely from the 70s and 80s, it was a time when football was less politically correct but also an industry taking those early steps into marketing. With mixed results. But also a lot of fun and nowhere more is this emphasised in some of the covers now going head-to-head.

There’s Hank Marvin popping up at Newcastle United. As you do. Paul Parker taking a trip in hot air balloon – in full kit. Two old ladies leaning out of a bedroom window at Aberdeen to cheer on their team. Indeed, that’s just one of a trio of covers to feature the Dons which take part in the first knock out round.

The competition launched on Twitter, yesterday, and the first few are below to get you in the mood. Hats off to Miles for a labour of love and a work of art.

But can anybody stop Aberdeen?

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Hank’s Newcastle United and Aberdeen are amongst the early favourites.

Nick Bruzon

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Romaine and Kamo lead the charge as magnificent Bees dominate and ‘jinx’ rules are established.

12 Jan

Brentford 3 Stoke City 1. Where to even start with this one? It was a performance that was every bit as dominant as the reports will suggest. It was a game that saw Thomas Frank make it 6 unbeaten as his team scored two quite magnificent goals following a calamitous o.g. opener from Ryan Shawcross. Yet most importantly, we got as emphatic an answer as one could hope to the question, “Does the ‘manager-of-the-month’ curse travel if the winner changes clubs after being nominated?”. This, after Nathan Jones had of course scooped December’s League One honours for his ongoing heroics at Luton Town.

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Stoke were second to everything all afternoon

Brentford were magnificent. Slick. Irresistible. Irrepressible. Like a greyhound out of the traps, they were in the face of the visitors for the off. Much like the ball. With just 7(seven) minutes gone the Bees were ahead after an attempt to clear a corner (correctly taken ‘not short’) was simply hoofed into the face of Shawcross and returned straight back in the direction it had come . With interest. Boom. One-nil Brentford and more to follow. Neal Maupay almost made it two, forcing Jack Butland into a full length save to push the Frenchman’s goalbound strike from just inside the corner of the box around the post. 

With Brentford continuing to push (up) it wasn’t long before the lead was doubled. There was little over a quarter hour on the clock when Said Benrahma made it two. An exquisite first time connection from a slide rule pass into the box, delivered with aplomb by Romaine Sawyers, saw the ball steered wide of Butland for two. The crowd erupted. Benrahma followed suit, running half the length of the pitch to celebrate with his family. You could see the what this one meant from the smile on his face. It was a delightful moment but one which owed as much to the ball played in from his captain. 

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View from the Braemar – Said celebrates

Romaine may not have made the headlines today but he had a a game he’ll never forget. There were tackles, passes and sublime moments of skill that looked as though they had been made with the proverbial ‘ball-tied-to-foot with a piece of string. He was every bit of his very best, turning in a performance that has to be amongst his top three in a Bees’ shirt. Equal praise must be handed out to Kamo, who absolutely bossed the midfield. Looking through supporter comments on social media afterwards, MOTM award seemed to be very much a two way battle.

Yet nobody should be overlooked after Brentford put in what was about a complete a performance as they come. Thnas Frank will sleep well tonight, that’s for sure. Nathan Jones will still be having the nightmares that must have begun to haunt him within a minute of kick off.  Benik Afobe pulled one back in the first half but it was his and Stoke’s only meaningful contribution all afternoon. The rest of their game saw a reversion to the agricultural style of play we’d seen in the corresponding fixture up in the Potteries back in August.    

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Romaine was flying today

And then Rico Henry happened. The second half started much the same as the first had done. All Brentford. The highlights are up already c/o Sky but they don’t even begin to do justice to our play or the build up to Rico’s sizzling run that saw him cut into the box, keep on cutting before unleashing a low drive into the bottom corner. If the crowd had gone crazy for Said’s they were all on their feet for this one. What a move. What a noise. What a goal. 

It could have been more. Neal Maupay and Ollie Watkins both hit the crossbar in a period that saw Brentford continue to take the game to their opponents. It finished 3-1. It could have been more. Like Oxford in the cup, it was never in doubt. The defensive trio of Jeanvier, Konsa and Barbet as rock solid as they have been since Thomas Frank changed our formation and his fortunes.

One does have to wonder how Chris Mepham will get back in to this team if they continue to play like that. The confidence emanating from the back line flowed through the entire team. Frankly, this is the easiest post-match column I’ve had to write in months – we really were that good.

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Neal pushed but didn’t get a goal his performance deserved.

How nice, also, to see the goals starting to come from other areas of the pitch. To see chances created by players other than Maupay. To see Jeanvier really starting to deliver and Kamo back to last season’s best. 

The other thing to come out of today’s game was an answer to the question posed in the previous column. Namely, “Is the manager of the month curse transferable? Or does it stay with the winning club”. This, after Nathan Jones – then of Luton Town –  was named as one of the nominees for League One manager of the month for December. He subsequently took up the reins at Stoke and picked up the award itself on Friday. Just over 24 hours later the trophy holder proved that the jinx travels. He saw his new charges played off the park to add another notch in the ‘L’ column whilst Luton picked up a point in the League One top-of-the-table clash with Sunderland.

But, to be fair, the Bees were so good today that Thomas Frank could have run over a black cat on the way to the ground whilst ducking under a ladder and we’d have still got the win. Even Mrs. Bruzon was allowed back into Griffin Park (by Harry) to see us at our very best.

Long may it continue. Roll on Rotherham next weekend when we find out.

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Mrs B. and Harry enjoy the moment as Rico makes it 3

Nick Bruzon 

A day of questions for Clem, Sky, the BBC and lovers of football folklore.

10 Jan

Well that was a day that threw up all manner of questions. Brentford have been offered a potential ‘gift horse ahead of the visit from Stoke City this weekend whilst Manchester City have once more thrown open the age old question of brackets. This, after they hit the 7(seven) goal mark for the second time in less than a week when filling their boots against Burton Albion in the Carabao Cup.

First up, Stoke City. There’s an article on Brentford ‘official’ at present ( you can find that one here) , reminding us that it was 27 years ago that a Dean Holdsworth inspired team beat The Potters 2-0.

Cripes, it still feels like it was five minutes ago and is well worth a look. If for no other reason than the shorts and shirts on display – both of which I possess but only one of which Mrs. Bruzon allows me to wear in public. Or private. They certainly made shorts short in those days but, if nothing else, it will be a good excuse to crank something retro out of the wardrobe on Saturday.

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Yet the visit of Stoke City offers a more intriguing prospect than yours truly being poured into a pair of vinyl effect Chad shorts. Not so much the return of their new signing Ryan Woods but more the fact that the visitors have new manager. Nathan Jones. Who has, of course, joined from Luton Town. Aside from being a shoe-in for #BeeTheDJ, it does pose a a much broader question.

On the day he joined Stoke, Nathan was also named as one of the nominees for League One manager of the month for December. I hope he wins it for no other reason than it will then provide an answer to the question that probably nobody has ever asked. Until now.

Is the manager of the month curse transferable ?

We all know what is supposed to happen. Win the award, lose your next game. It is a piece of footballing folklore as old as time itself and as certain as a team featured by Clem on his ‘football focus’ previews also failing to win. At least, historically. It is worth noting that in recent times that jinx has turned itself on its head and Clem is now viewed more as a black cat than a beleaguered albatross.

But what happens when a manager moves with the award ’inflight’ ? Should he succeed, does the jinx remain at Luton Town? Does it travel with him to Stoke City? I’m desperate for Nathan to pick up the trophy just so as we can find out.

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Could Clem provide the answer?

Alongside this footballing curse, the other curio to visit these pages on a regular basis is the phenomenon of vidiprinter brackets. Regular readers will know of our love for a team scoring 7(seven) goals so that this additional qualification can be provided. No, it’s not a typo. Someone really has managed to score this many. 

And on the subject of favourite methods of goal clarification, see also use of the early evening World Cup phrase, “For those of you just coming in from work, the score is….”    

In the last 7(seven) days ‘brackets’ has happened three times. Spurs on Friday night against Tranmere and then Manchester City v Rotherham. Both in the FA Cup. Then last night, Manchester City did it again before eventually running out of steam after hitting 9 past Burton in the first leg of the league cup semi-final. The only saving grace for The Brewers meaning that as away goals don’t count double, they are spared the indignity of needing 11 should City find the net in the return game.

Yet more importantly, it once more opened the can of worms that is the etiquette of brackets. Do you keep going after 7(seven) to 8(eight), 9(nine) and beyond? Is it just prime numbers? High single figures? And then what case? Lower, Upper or a Capital letter? 

My own preference is 7(seven) only and always lower case. Never full ‘upper’ or higher numbers – both are brash, unnecessary hammering home of the fact that a team really has taken a kicking. Even a capital letter seems a little OTT. Absolutely use the 7(seven) but have a modicum of discretion and sportsmanship.

The reason for bringing this up again today – aside from having to doff several hats to Manchester City – is due to the BBC live text as last night’s game unfurled. They went through several permutations up to 9(Nine) before even chucking a 16(SIXTEEN) into the mix. 

A crossing of the streams that was as confusing as it was a terrible example for any younger fans that may have been watching. Probably. 

The point being that if anyone can give definitive authority on what the correct protocol is, and why, it would be appreciated. Until then I’ll stick with my 7(seven) and nothing else.

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Have the BBC gone rogue?

Nick Bruzon

Bingo cards and tinfoil ready? Can Bees avoid upset or match the Spurs 7(seven) ?

5 Jan

There’s excitement in our house this morning. The bacofoil is about to be  liberated from the kitchen. FA Cup third round day is here at last! Albeit proceedings began last night with that most wonderful of footballing moments. A bracketing. Spurs hitting 7(seven) without reply in the opening game of the round up at Tranmere. And now it is our turn as what is one of, if not, THE highlight of the football calendar for yours truly. Brentford entertain Oxford United in a game that may not have had the TV schedulers rushing for this one but which presents a stern challenge for the Bees. 

On paper, a home tie against lower division opposition is about all you could ask for when looking for a means of progression. In practice, it is anything but as Brentford fans know only too well. Recent third round ties at Griffin Park against Notts County and Walsall have ended in tears whilst who could forget ‘that’ 2015 league cup tie with today’ visitors? Very much a case of ‘move along, nothing to see here and please close the door on the way out, Marinus’.

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The FA Cup third round has seen a few rubbish endings in recent years

It is a threat that Thomas Frank would seem acutely aware of. His own pre-match video recognises the potato skin which awaits us, despite the relegation vortex into which League One Oxford United are being sucked. He used this to note that, “We’ll put a very strong side on the pitch, maybe make a few changes but not like we’re changing seven players” .

The BBC suggest the Chris Mepham may well return. That’ll be great to see and if for no other reason than ensuring a player who is once again coming on to the Premier league radar becomes cup-tied. Curse that blinkin’ transfer window. I’d also expect Luke Daniels to start. This is no reflection on Daniel Bentley but simply what we do. Luke has more than proven himself when given the gloves this season and so it would be very interesting to see what happens next Saturday at home to Stoke City – should this happen and he then pull out all the stops this afternoon. The likes of Nico, Alan Jugde and Josh will no doubt contest the midfield starting berths but otherwise there’s not much more room for Thomas to flex his muscles. Is there?

Whoever starts and whatever the result, today also sees a chance for two of those other cup traditions to raise their heads. And they don’t come any bigger than the tin foil trophy. The regular reader will know I absolutely love this ritual and despite my advancing years, will be helping Harry knock up another over-sized replica later this morning. With a post-Christmas overload of the shiny stuff still sitting in the kitchen and a few old cardboard boxes being repurposed, all systems are go.  

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Buzzette – up for the (tinfoil) cup

The other thing I love is FA Cup bingo. Anybody following the coverage over the course of the day will no doubt be given the chance to play along with this third round staple and really go for that full house. Tottenham have already obliged on the ‘team given a shoeing’ square but you can also add any of the following as those lines and events to look out for :  

Trevor Brooking’s header (apparently, he scored once and West Ham won the cup). 

The magic of the cup. 

Radford’s rocket. 

The White Horse. 

This is their cup final.

David v Goliath. 

Romance

Manchester United on TV. 

Minnows. 

Form goes out of the window

You could have sold this one out three times over.

The phrase “His other job is…  with a bonus point available if the player’s fitness routine is also referenced. For example:  Somehow he manages to fit in training three times a week and a game at weekends with his job as a postman/plumber/firefighter (delete as applicable)”.

Let’s just hope Griffin Park isn’t the place where anyone playing along can tick off their ‘cup upset’ box. Bring on 3pm when we find out.

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Fingers crossed that the Bees mark their “Road to Wembley” card today

Nick Bruzon

Bees celebrate a special 50th and another game unbeaten. Happy 2019!

1 Jan

And so a chaotic round of festive fixtures comes to a close with Brentford and Norwich City sharing a point following a 1-1 New Year’s Day draw. The Bees are unbeaten in 2019. Unbeaten over that four game congested run that now sees some respite approaching with Oxford United next up in the FA Cup. On an afternoon that  was chosen to mark Peter Gilham’s 50th year as Griffin Park’s ‘man-with-the-mic’, the game ended with both managers no doubt feeling their respective teams had done enough to win it. Yet, being honest, there were no complaints about another point earned following the Christmas draws on the road at Bristol and Birmingham City. Moreso, given the somewhat erratic performance of referee Gavin Ward who did his very best to enrage both sets of supporters with a stop-start performance, random bookings and several penalty calls ignored.

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And this is Saunders territory… Norwich City were visitors to Griffin Park.

Thomas Frank saw his Bees start this one at 100mph. Attacking, confident football was the order of the day as Said Benrahma and Sergi Canos drove forward with intent. Neal Maupay making a nuisance of himself, Kamo bossing centre-mid and Rico Henry impressing down the left side. Flank partner Moses Odubajo can count himself somewhat unlucky in missing out on this one but perhaps the procession of games over such a short space of time has been telling. 

Pressure built with Brentford taking the lead half way through the opening period. Julian Jeanvier, again part of the three centre back set up that has coincided with our own upturn of form, heading home from a Benrahma corner kick in front of the Norwich supporters. 

I have no idea, but Leo Vegas sponsor every Brentford goal”, proclaimed Peter Gilham as he announced the opener. This, before a brief apology to the French defender. If ever there was a moment to show how much we know and love the man affectionately known as Mr. Brentford then here it was.

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Fifty years on and Peter Gilham still has us enthralled.

The Bees pushed on. Half time came and went with the single goal lead remaining in place. Neil Maupay v Tim Krul in the Norwich City goal becoming a battle that would ultimately decide the fate of the game. Whilst Timm Klose levelled things up late on – a goal that had been coming as Brentford visibly tired in front of us – it was the Canaries ‘keeper who pulled off two wonder saves from the Championship’s leading scorer in the second half which proved pivotal. Do check these out on the video highlights – Sky have theirs up now – then doff your hat to the visitors. They’re at the business end of the table for good reason yet, at the same time, our own running them so close tells you as much as you need to know about our own fighting spirit returning.

Peter Gilham had done his best to whip the crowd into a frenzy. The players kept it going. Gavin Ward played his part too as a series of somewhat ‘random’ (and that’s the polite word) decisions kept both sets of supporters on their toes. The relief that greeted the Norwich City equaliser was palpable from the visiting fans. The disappointment at running them so close evident to the home set. 6 points out of 12 now marking an upturn in form for the Bees who had been on that horrific run.

Turn a few more of those into wins and the top ten is more than possible. That’s a long way off, of course, but at a time that it looked as though Brentford might get sucked into the relegation mire it’s nice just to be looking up once more. It’s wonderful to see our team playing with heart and gusto. To see those defensive howlers fast disappearing into the nether reaches of the memory. Long may it continue.

Next up are Oxford United in the FA Cup. That’s going to be an equally different sort of test. If only  the trying to find any leftover bacofoil after cooking the Christmas turkey. That replica trophy isn’t going to make itself but that’s a challenge for another day.

For now, it simply remains to take comfort in the return of an infinitely more positive and solid looking Bees team. Whilst we are by no means the finished article compared to earlier in the season, and the now open transfer window could wreak further havoc (or benefit) there is plenty to remain optimistic about. Julian Jeanvier continues to impress. As does Rico Henry. Kamo was a rock in the midfield whilst Yoann Barbet’s return can only be a positive. One run in the first half saw him slice through the Norwich City midfield, riding tackle after tackle as he surged upfield before being unceremoniously upended in Saunders territory.

Long may it continue. A very happy start to the New Year. Now bring on Oxford United in the cup….

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View from the Braemar – Rico Henry impressed today.

Nick Bruzon 

Fans guess who got the yellow and ‘Official’ look for a bigger boat. Twitter tears end the day nicely.

30 Dec

Birmingham City 0 Brentford 0. A draw on paper but a victory if social media were anything to go by. Which of course it isn’t in terms of points but is in terms of the moral high ground. As the Bees made it 3 unbeaten with a second successive draw on the road, it set up an intriguing New Years day visit from Norwich City on Tuesday. The Canaries themselves going down 4-3 to Frank Lampard’s Derby County (TM) as the Rams edged four points clear of the play-off chasing rivals and Norwich had to be content with ending the year in second place. It was a combination of results that set the Blues fans off the deep end in terms of post match reaction – whether the bottles that were allegedly thrown or a Twitter meltdown that very much belied their own belief that we’re ‘obsessed’ with them ! Please. No. I’m still laughing.

And laughter is the only reaction you can have. For a team that haven’t beaten Brentford since November 2016 and have failed twice more, again, this season you’d think they may learn to keep it zipped. But no. Instead it was the usual bitterness, tears, hissy fits, tantrums and belief that having a large stadium capacity is somehow akin to being deemed success. For a team that have finished below Brentford for the last four seasons perhaps by now they may have realised that size isn’t a guarantee of quality and matters infinitely less than what you do with it. But no.

There’s plenty out there. A quick search of #KRO or Birmingham amongst those terms to reveal the unintentional comedy gold that lets you know we’ve done a job on them. The marks down Neal Maupay’s back completely at odds with the claims of him being a ‘cheat’. I’m not going to give it the oxygen of publicity. If nothing else, they’re still rank amateurs compared to our good friend Simon C. Hateley of Aston Villa. If you need to rant, at least do it properly. They don’t even touch the sides compared to the Villa Park legend and it won’t take Sherlock Holmes to find the usual suspects out there. Moreso, given the responses from some of our own fans. And Brentford Official. Twitter was awash with feedback: 

‘The Chauffeur’ would note: I’m seeing Villa fans in a different light. Villa fans didn’t cry this much and Maupay  was actually bang out of order in that game. Generally proper fans of a genuinely big club who happen to share a city with w@nkers like Blues and Baggies.

Tony Cross was quick to chime in: I do love it when we annoy other clubs by not rolling over & letting them win ‘because that’s what history says should happen…’

Justin(LionsAndBees): But why are we so obsessed with them? Apparently.

Katie Bennett nails it this morning: Who wants to explain that leagues are point based and not attendance?

David Owen: The energy they put into telling us we’re irrelevant to them.

(That one had a ‘gif’ too).

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Yet, incredibly, if was Brentford ‘official’ who hit the jackpot. We’ve been quick to criticise the club’s use of Twitter in the past and you can never be reminded enough times about the horrors of #trophyfriends or #Novemberkings (amongst others). So imagine the surprise and pleasure at their reaction to a critique of the match report, which went :  

I haven’t read it but I imagine it just says – CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT, CHEAT.

All of which serves as a neat medium for bypassing the match itself. That Sky only have 58 seconds of highlights (here if you want them) probably tell you all you need to know. The Bees had the lion’s share of possessions and shots but, of course, that counts for naff all if you can’t put one away. Whilst we were never seriously troubled, Blues manager Garry Monk would claim afterwards that: “If anyone was going to look likely to get the win it was going to be us” .

There’s no surprise there. Birmingham City have dropped further ground in the promotion race at a time the fixtures are coming thick and fast. Derby County stretched the gap over the play-off wannabees as very late goals from Flo Jo (87) and Jack Marriott (90+inj) saw Norwich City undone at Carrow Road. 

As for Brentford, it’s three unbeaten and only one goal conceded in that period. Thomas Frank used his own press conference to comment how: “Defensively we were very solid and gave away zero chances. They created nothing and that is well done to the boys who have conceded far too many away goals in the past….I would say in general I think the match official needed to protect the key players in the game. You should see Neal’s (Maupay’s) back. There are scratches all the way down on his back.”

The BBC have more extracts from that one here.

The photograph that Neal posted Instantgram afterwards supported these claims. It made a mockery of the language being directed towards the ‘cheat’ (please, I’m STILL laughing) at full time. Yet whatever has gone before, all this has done is further embolden the fans with a positive frame of mind. If nothing else, the sour grapes from our opponents serving no better use than to act as a bonding catalyst for supporters who have heard it all before. Little Old Brentford. Punching above their weight. Tinpot. Tiny ground. Don’t deserve to be here.

You can keep it coming all day long. We love it. There’s no finer means of galvanising supporters than by making us laugh. Giving us the belief in our team. Genuinely, I LOVE playing the likes of Leeds United, Aston Villa and Birmingham City. Not because, “Ooohh – they’re ‘famous’ ” (please note: your definition of famous may vary) but because of the oh-so predictable reaction and under-estimating that we still get, even now, in our fifth season of Championship football.  Long may it continue – hopefully in the Premier League. Assuming, of course, Birmingham et al can get there too.

Bring on Norwich City. I can’t wait for this one.  

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Neal Maupay – ‘cheat’

Nick Bruzon

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

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….

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You could do worse…

Nick Bruzon

Tough questions to ask, and answer, after an insipid performance under the lights.

28 Nov

Well that was awful yesterday. And not the news that Mrs. Brown’s Boys leads the BBC Christmas schedule with two episodes of the alleged ‘favourite’ having been commissioned for the festive period.  Of course we mean football where, being honest, even after sleeping on this one I’m struggling to be positive this morning. That Sheffield United made it 6 defeats out of 7(seven) for Brentford since Dean Smith left is almost secondary. The 3-2 loss contained so many problems that even had we grabbed a last gasp equaliser, it would actually have masked the deficiencies as I’ve no doubt we’d be told how this team never gives up and keeps fighting until the end. Yet the simple fact is this game should have been well out of sight by half-time. How the visitors only led by a single goal as we went in for our bovril I’m still not sure. With a televised trip to West Bromwich Albion next up on Monday night, it’s not going to get any easier for Thomas Frank’s Bees.

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Incredibly…. You HAVE been warned.

It had all started off so brightly. Despite the sparce crowd, Buzz and Buzzette did their level best to get things going before kick-off. The team came out of the traps flying and it wasn’t long before we’d raced into the lead. With just 6 minutes gone, Romaine Sawyers played Neal Maupay through and there was no mistake as the Championship’s top scorer grabbed his 13thof the campaign. What a start. But what a response was to follow.

Straight from the kick-off, the Blades poured forward in a move which culminated with Daniel Bentley’s crossbar left quivering after John Lundstrum blasted it from ten yards out. By all rights he should have scored given the space and position in which he found himself in front of the goal. It was a massive let off for Brentford and alarm bells should have been ringing. If so, nobody was listening.

Just a few minutes later Sheffield United were level as Ezri Konsa turned a corner into his own net for 1-1. And then it was 2. Oliver Norwood giving the visitors the lead with just a quarter hour gone after hitting a beauty from outside the box. Catching it first time the ball rose, curled and then dipped past Bentley high into the back of the net. It was a magnificent strike but saw yet another game where we’d conceded a batch of goals in short space of time to throw things away.

It could, probably should, have been worse after Daniel Bentley made a wonderful save at close range half way through the opening period after denying United from close range with a huge stop.

Yet in return, we offered nothing. The goal aside Brentford were lacklustre. Abject. Masters of our own self-destruction. Sideways and backwards passing saw us unable to make inroads once the visitors had settled. The midfield lacked bite and a leader. Lewis Macleod lightweight. Alan Judge making the effort but getting drawn out of position time and again. Josh McEachran uncharacteristically tetchy. Lucky to escape a booking for a quite blatant push in front of the ref that gave away a free-kick in the heart of Saunders territory. Captain Romaine Sawyers conspicuous by his silence. Where was the desire? Where was the will to win? If it was there then I didn’t see it. And that’s the most disappointing aspect of the night.

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United were head and shoulders above Brentford in the first half.

Yet. Yet. Half-time came and it was only 2-1. Despite it all, we were still very much alive. Whilst United started brightly once more, Brentford soon stepped it up. This was more like it. The pressure built. The ball started to move forward. The crowd started to lift and just after the hour Romaine Sawyers saw his cross-come-shot turned in by John Fleck for the game’s second o.g. as parity was restored. That was better and there was only one team in it from here? Wasn’t there.

Err, yes. Sheffield United.

Instead of pushing on, Brentford allowed the frailties of the first half to return. Sheffield United were given the freedom of Griffin Park as our defence once more turned into vampires. Scared of crosses. If the first goal had seen us concede from a position where we’d have expected Mepham (who missed it) or Konsa (who gifted the goal) the opportunity to clear, Leon Clarke’s winner was even worse. I’ve seen caravans that were less static. Like Middlesbrough at the weekend, a well delivered ball into the box was our undoing.

Clarke may have been embarrassed by the copious space he was left in but he made no mistake. His shot was hard and low past the diving Bentley for 3-2. And that’s how it stayed. The subsequent substitutions making no difference to a Brentford team that limped towards the final whistle.

But for me, the most telling sign was at the death. With the Bees awarded a late free-kick, Thomas Frank was clearly telling Chris Mepham to push up into the box. There followed a quite bizarre looking argument of shrugging, arms open in the ‘what’s going on?’ position and the player refusing to move up. Eventually, he would but it did beg the question what all that was about?

Lack of respect? Frustration? Or just a general confusion about what we should be doing in a dead ball situation? Why isn’t this sort of stuff clarified on the training ground rather than in the public eye? If nothing else, football 101 says that when a team is goal down and awarded a dangerous spot kick at the death, everybody piles up. Sometimes even the ‘keeper. What you don’t do is argue with the boss and keep two defenders back.

I’m not a coach. I’m not a manager. I’m just the numpty on the terrace and you may think I’ve called this all wrong. Fair enough if so. It should have been a quite fantastic night under the floodlights. I take no pleasure from moaning about the team and have looked to remain upbeat this campaign. Yet that was painful last night and don’t let the closeness of the result fool anyone. Brentford were second in every respect. Goals scored. Cohesiveness. Attitude.

We don’t have a divine right to be any good. I’ve said this many times and it’s true. Yet to see players who we know are more than capable looking so out of sorts is just wrong. To see a team looking so bereft of ideas when we’ve torn rivals apart at times is a worry. And whilst Thomas may be on the business end of the bad run, let’s not forget that despite all the ‘deserving’, the culmination of Dean’s time in charge saw only 1 win out of 6. Even Marinus had a better track record at this stage of ‘games played’ into his own start – and that’s a scary thing to acknowledge.

We do have injuries, of course. Who wouldn’t miss the likes of Ollie Watkins or Saïd Benrahma? Rico Henry and Emiliano Marcondes are only just returning to action.  The ability is there amongst those who are fit.

The real question now is not the position of the head coach, which many fans are already questioning, but more what he does to unlock the talent and inspire his team.

Roll on West Brom when we find out.

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The floodlights providing a rare bright moment

Nick Bruzon

Toothless Lions tamed with strike of Sergi-cal precision.

4 Nov

My word. What an afternoon. What a way to return to form. What a time to do it with the trip to QPR next up. Brentford beat Millwall 2-0 in a game that, as it progressed, could easily have seen that score doubled. It was a magnificent team performance exemplified by solid defence, rapid counter attack football and a forward drive that had been so desperately missing last weekend at Norwich. Sergi Canos and Ollie Watkins took their chances brilliantly to give us the goals, each player clean through to tuck it home, but don’t underestimate the way the whole team played here. Said Benrahma must be wondering how his delicious first half curler from the outskirts of the penalty box stayed out (curse that far upright) whilst Said Maupay also touched wood in the second period. Even Daniel Bentley had to stay alert to make one smart save with the scores locked at 0-0. That’s not to overly lavish praise on one over another here. It was about as ‘team’ as it comes yesterday. You could see what this one meant to Thomas Frank at full-time, clapping all the home fans and acknowledging anyone who looked to single him out, as our new head coach got his first points on the board.

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View from the Braemar – Said had a cracking game

That’s the game in a paragraph. As you know, we don’t do the full-fat match reports here. Go to the always wonderful Beesotted, the BBC or, of course, Brentford ‘official’ for that. Sky TV have the highlights here but I’m equally looking forward to seeing if we get a chance to hear what Mark Burridge and Greville Waterman made of this one when the 12pm ‘official’ coverage gets released into the wild. No doubt voluminous praise and excitement of ‘Jota at Blackburn’ levels will be the order of the day. It really was that sort of afternoon as the team returned to a style of play and clinical finishing that we’d become somewhat spoiled with over the early part of the season. Pity QPR on Saturday if we can keep this up. Millwall weren’t even given a chance to come second in this one as Brentford defended about as solidly as I’ve seen us do (some first half faffing across the box in search of the perfect distribution aside – sometimes, it’s not wrong to lump it up if there’s a defender closing in).

What else can we take away from this? Well, first up the celebration from Sergi was just a thing of beauty. With the net still rippling he tore over to the Braemar Road touchline, leaping high in the air as his teammates joined him. This was followed by a double fist pump and exuberant salute – the smile on his face broad. This one meant one hell of a lot. It was a moment of joy only matched by an equally emphatic routine from Ollie Watkins as he made the points safe late on.

Kudos, too, for Neal Maupay’s wonderful interplay in providing the assists for both our goals. He’s the Championship’s leading scorer and provider now. The adoration of fans in marked contrast to 12 months ago as a new signing beginning to find his feet in this division, the likes of Ian Moose pouring scorn and dripping poison.  

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View from the Braemar  – Sergi salutes the fans

Romaine Sawyers was named captain, again. His third time in four games. Thomas Frank would later confirm that he has dispensed of our rotational captain system. Something that Dean Smith had specifically introduced but has now gone with him to Aston Villa. Instead, the pool of leaders has been whittled down to just two – Romaine and Henrik Dalsgaard (of Brentford). Romaine had a great game yesterday after what, it would be fair to say, had been a dip in the form of last season’s ‘players’ player of the year’. Long may this continue!

I thought Josh Dasilva really impressed on his debut, coming on late for Josh McEachran. He drove forward as he added fresh legs and further goalscoring potential with the Bees looking to close this out rather than sit back and allow Millwall to press. Interestingly, I’ve this morning had a message from a Lincoln City fan I work with, noting: “Young lad you have out on loan at Forest Green, Archibald, he can play the game! We won 2-1. Absolute smash and grab though as we were outplayed. He is a very good player, great balance and change of direction. Some would say a ‘typical Brentford player’. We couldn’t deal with him tbh.”

With Josh stepping up and Theo showing his own potential for Forest Green, it’s great to see the B-team system continuing to flourish.

I had fun yesterday. A lot of fun. It was just that sort of celebratory occasion. Moreso, coming after a rightfully sombre start with Peter Gilham leading a minute’s silence to recognise both Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and, especially, the 100 years since the end of WW1 as part of the Remembrance Sunday observations. It was impeccably observed by both sets of fans whilst due praise to Sam Marshall and his programme team in recognising this hugely significant event. The production that he – ably assisted by Paul Briers and Dave Lane – put together to recognise this was a quite wonderful piece of work and compulsive reading.  

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Get one if you still can

The Millwall fans continued their respectful silence throughout the game. Aside from the odd chant of “No-one likes us, we don’t care” (really – then why do you persist in telling us so often?) they were largely as impotent as their team. Toothless Lions on and off the pitch, easily tamed by ringmaster Thomas Frank. Brentford, on the other hand, coming in for rightful recognition in his full time press conference.

There’s not much more to add after this one. On a personal note, Harry’s reaction to the game told me all I needed to know about how exciting it had been. He grabbed my phone, asking if he could call Uncle Tim to give him a full time update, then broadcast this to the Braemar Road forecourt (including one senior club figure whom I can only thank for his own subsequent observations and chat with an uber-excited five year old). He next proceeded to remove his coat to show the world his Ollie Watkins shirt and sung all the way home. Harry, that is.

Yet it was at Harry’s bedtime that I was given the sign that the Thomas Frank era is truly now underway. “Daddy” he entreated. ”As a special treat can I wear my Watkins shirt in bed instead of pyjamas?”

Yeah, he’s hooked. Thank you Sergi. Thank you Ollie. Thank you Thomas. Roll on Saturday and QPR.  

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Unconventional pjs but it would have been churlish to deny him

Nick Bruzon