Tag Archives: Championship

When you phone in a performance, look what happens…

1 Jul

Brutal. Brilliant. Together. Brentford blitzed Reading 3-0 where, but for the last line of defence, it could easily have been more. The hosts not getting a look in as the gap to ‘automatic’ closed further. West Bromwich Albion sit a mere two points ahead of us heading into their own game at Sheffield Wednesday tonight whilst Leeds United limped to a 1-1 draw with Luton Town. Most generous hosts. 

With the stress over getting the I-Follow on the TV dissipating ten minutes in (it worked, far too easily, when I’d tried previously so was obviously going to fail when it came to a ‘live’ game) there was nothing more to do than sit back, pop a beer and ready the ‘goal sweets’. It wasn’t long before that bag of Haribo ‘Starmix’ saw a Tuesday evening debut. The Reading defence breached by Bryan Mbeumo after the Bees had been banging on the door all game.

With the BMW finally starting a game together for the first time since lockdown, it was Ethan Pinnock who provided the assist. A corner being headed back for the wide man to steer home. Get in. It felt as though it had been coming but pressure, possession and stats count for naff all if you can’t take the chances when you create them. All the shots on goal are deemed meaningless if you can’t keep it tight at the other end. A lesson so ably demonstrated by Leeds United later in the evening as their 75% ball retention and 23 shots to their opponents’ 3 could only result in a 1-1 with bottom club Luton Town.

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Football on the big screen. Goal sweets in hand

Half time came and went. A first foray into I-Follow deemed what could well be described as a successful one after those initial teething troubles. Whether we could say the same for Mark Burridge and Mick Cabbie in the commentary box is a matter of debate. And that’s not meant as a critique of their skills.

Rather, that they did quite wonderfully holding it all together after a tech failure just prior to kick off meant the dynamic duo were obliged to commentate via mobile phone. It was like taking a step back in time an early 80s UEFA Cup match coming at you from close to the Iron Curtain, with commentary being delivered ‘down the line’.  

Bonus points to Mark for his use of the early evening ‘For those of you just coming in late or from work’. With the unique sound that can only come from phone commentary, shut your eyes and it could have been World Cup Argentina ’78. As @the_mattfinish on Twitter would also compare : Motson’s commentary of the Platini goal had this same crackly greatness.

But whilst Thomas Frank’s boys may be playing with the same confidence as World Champions, 1-0 at half time was still only 1-0. As we saw against West Bromwich Albion on Friday night, we rarely have things our own way all game and, sure enough, Reading matched the Baggies by coming for us in the second period.

However, the Bees were also able to ensure a repeat with another clean sheet being earned. Pontus Jansson with the one notable clearance to keep on lockdown at the back whilst the attackers did their thing at the other end.

First, Josh Dasilva. The midfielder following up his own shot to beat the home defence to the ball and double our lead just after the hour. What a man and what a performance. With Christian Norgaard equally strong, and named man of the match at full time, the Bees looked solid throughout. More importantly, 2-0 and any pressure off. For the supporters if nothing else. Brentford back in in the driving seat. Reading nothing more than passengers. Shares in Haribo going through the roof. 

With Thomas Frank taking full advantage of his expanded substitution allowance, changes were made. They allowed the team to push up (Brentford) and yet another late goal for the Bees rounded things off in style. This time, Joel Valencia the man as he lashed home an absolute beauty from distance with the clock entering Jota time. 3-0. Game over, man. Game over. Brentford clear in third. West Brom within touching distance. 

A further bonus then delivered later in the evening as the scoreline from Elland Road came in. It was a result that barely anyone saw coming. Yours truly especially. All gifts gratefully accepted though and whilst one would suspect that Leeds United are all but up (not even they’ll choke this) there’s always the morale boost of watching them wobble. Of being able to sing that Joy Division song.

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Fail to take the chance ; pay the price… The BBC stats tell a sorry tale for Leeds

Fulham finally got back to winning ways but still sit behind us. Nottingham Forest play tonight so have the chance to overtake them with a win at home to Bristol City. Things really are that tight now. Every win counts. Every notch on the goal difference chart could prove vital. Brentford have the momentum but we have to keep it going. Of course the supporters are going to look ahead to what ifs and those permutations when ‘x’ beats ‘y’.

That’s part of being a football fan. Thomas Frank seems to be taking a much more grounded approach and is focussing on nothing more than the next training session and the next game. Acknowledging at full time that whatever is coming next is always the biggest one. It is not about yesterday or tomorrow but ‘now’.

And that is home to Wigan Athletic. Like the Royals, they are currently languishing mid-table. Does the fact they have nothing to play for beyond pride bode well or is a side under no pressure perhaps the most dangerous of all? Roll on Saturday when we can find out. 

That’s for then. For now, we can reflect on a job very well done. It wasn’t so much that Reading were awful but Brentford were, quite simply, awesome.  We’ve put ourselves into a position where defeat or a draw for the Baggies tonight will see the Bees go second should we manage to pick up maximum points against Wigan.  

Perhaps even Thomas Frank may have half an ear on proceedings at Hillsborough this evening. I know I will…

 

Nick Bruzon

The latest round of fixtures is as big as they come. Here’s why.

30 Jun

How different does the Championship table look since the restart? Brentford head to Reading tonight, hot on the heel of Leeds United and West Bromwich Albion in automatic whilst Cardiff City have now hit the top six. Nottingham Forest have overtaken Fulham to close in on the Bees whilst the hapless Cottagers must now go the next three games without scorer Aleksander Mitrovic. This, after the front man was yesterday given a retrospective ban following his use of the elbow at Elland Road. It is understood that Fulham are not appealing. Neither will they be speaking to the FA to contest the punishment. 

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The verdict was ‘violent conduct’

All of which means that not only are Brentford faced with a quite wonderful opportunity at the Madjeski at 6pm this evening (please don’t forget the early start and try to sign in to I-Follow early) but there is added incentive for Ollie Watkins. 

Whilst most observers were marvelling over Saïd Benrahma channeling the spirit of Paul Daniels against West Brom  – i.e. his magic tricks rather than dodgy hairpiece – Ollie went top of the Championship goalscoring charts after converting the game’s only strike. Although he and Mitrovic both have 23 goals, Ollie has now overtaken the Fulham man on ‘assists’. And with the free-eating frontman out of action for the next few games, what an opportunity for Ollie to move clear.

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All being well, a scene that will play out tonight

If anything, the golden boot threat could come from former Bee Lewis Grabban. He is up to 19 as Nottingham Forest turn up the heat. The Tricky Trees are the ones to keep a wary eye on now and a home game with free falling Bristol City tomorrow night will surely have the goal hungry striker licking his lips. What must he be worth at present? 

Still, it all counts for nothing if we can’t beat Reading this evening. That’s the eternal ‘if’, of course. Things that look like a given on paper rarely play out as simply in real life. This isn’t to say I’m not confident about our own team’s ability, because I am. We’ve picked up like we left off and it takes huge guts and ability to beat the first and third placed teams. Moreso in these quite bizarre circumstances of crowd free football. But they’ve been and gone. The table doesn’t lie and all they mean now is that we are up to third. Fine though those wins were, they have been and gone. Now is the moment to keep the heat on West Brom and Leeds. 

Moreso given that I can’t see anything beyond ‘home win’ at Elland Road tonight. Luton Town are in huge trouble but not even Leeds will choke that one. They looked too strong on Saturday. Too solid and clinical when the moment came. Patrick Bamford found the net early and it was game over from that point. Fulham all huff and puff – picked off with clinical precision by Bielsa’s assassin like team. A cat toying with a spider. 

So Brentford need to beat Reading. Victory would take us just two points behind West Brom and very much game on. Talk about cranking up the pressure ahead of their trip to Sheffield, Wednesday. It’s a genuinely exciting prospect and I can’t wait for kick off tonight. There are snacks in the cupboard, beer in the fridge and goal sweets at the ready. 

Bring it on. I can’t wait for this one. With Fulham starting their own game (the battle between the two worst teams in West London at Loftus Road) half an hour later and then Leeds kicking off at 7.45pm, dare we dream what the table could look like when referee Dean Whitestone calls full time at the Madjeski?

Let’s do this !!!!! 

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Can the kings of West London football kick on this evening?

Nick Bruzon

How the week could play out. Who gets the elbow and who gets clear air?

29 Jun

Here we go. Brentford travel to Reading on Tuesday night, knowing a win will take us to within touching distance of second place West Bromwich Albion. With Fulham the ones falling apart at Elland Road on Saturday afternoon, a 3-0 win for Leeds United saw the gap to the third place Bees stretched out to 8 points. Surely not even they can blow that with 7 (seven) games to play? Funnier things have happened but perhaps the current shape of the table means it is the Baggies game at Sheffield Wednesday, on Wednesday, where we need that additional level of external interest.

Any decision about whether Brentford fans should be cheering Fulham or hoping for the draw was  taken out of our hands almost immediately. Aleksander Mitrovic was lucky to avoid straight red just minutes in to the game (and will surely be summoned by the FA to explain his use of the elbow today) and it went downhill from there. Goal followed goal with the Cottagers left floundering and Leeds looking strong as, to be fair. The only pleasure to be taken was seeing who had replaced Osama Bin Laden in their sea of cardboard cutout supporters – Joe Exotic, amongst others. 

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An ‘accident’ or deliberate brutality? Either way, the ref missed it

But with Fulham in a slump and their goal threat looking like he’ll be snuffed out, Brentford have an excellent chance to keep up the momentum that saw us head up to third place after Friday night’s fine win over West Bromwich Albion. Put simply, a win at Reading on Tuesday night will see us move just two points behind the second placed team. They then travel to Hillsborough the following night for a game that will be as significant as ours.

A trip to Reading won’t be easy. Let’s not rest on any laurels that come with those two fine wins that have kickstarted our return to Championship action in fine style. Sure, Brentford have played some wonderful football and looked solid at the back but this one has all the potential to be a giant potato skin. The unknowns of a team resting safely mid-table and under no pressure to stay alive or win are well documented.

Thankfully, we have Thomas Frank at the helm. A man who oozes confidence and common sense in equal measure. He’ll have his boys grounded and the possibility of an extra boost that may even see Bryan Mbeumo starting a game once more. Emiliano Marcondes is currently bursting with self-belief whilst David Raya and his back four have looked solid as a rock.

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David Raya – rock solid

As for West Brom, might Sheffield Wednesday be an even tougher challenge for them than Reading are for us? The Owls put a massive dent in Bristol City’s promotion aspirations yesterday and might even fancy themselves for a late surge towards the top six.

Poor Lee Johnson. His hopes of using the play-offs to kick lumps out of Said Benrahma now becoming nothing more than something he’ll need to use FIFA 20 to accomplish. All being well the beleaguered Bristol City boss will see the opportunity taken out of his hands by our own achieving of ‘automatic’.

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The full time score at Ashton Gate, c/o Quest TV.

Cripes. This is getting exciting. With Fulham on the slide and West Brom on the ropes, could we see things move even further in our favour? This week is full of ifs, buts and maybes. Focus has to be on our own game with anything else a bonus. The trip to the Madjeski is always a horrible one – so near yet so far, taking as long to reach the out of town car park from the station as it does to get to Reading from West London.

I’d still love to be given the opportunity to make the shlep down there but, sadly, social distancing laws mean it is a case of having to watch the EFL streaming service. Hands tied and voices gagged – metaphorically speaking – rather than screaming on the players in person.

Instead, it’ll be our TV that takes the abuse and the frustration. But enough about trying to make I-follow work.

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Reading – have previously beaten us. In the game of embarrassing hashtags

The other result that may have gone unnoticed at the weekend and, perhaps, offers further hope was Luton Town staying alive with an incredible 1-0 win at Swansea City. Incredible, given the Hatters’ struggles with relegation and their hosts proximity to the top six. Yet as we discovered at Kenilworth Road, underestimate anybody at your peril. Our own 7(seven) – 0 win earlier in the season counted for nothing when we were outmuscled 2-1 in a horrible game just prior to Lockdown. 

Whilst nobody really expects Leeds Untied to drop points tomorrow, perhaps we may have half an eye on what plays out at Elland Road. Just in case. I mean, it’s not as though they have any reputation for falling apart at the critical moment……. 

Nick Bruzon

Busting every sinew to make the abnormal seem normal

27 Jun

No pressure Fulham and Leeds United. Brilliant Brentford battered Bilic’s Baggies – (c) The Middlesex Chronicle big book of 80’s aliteration – at a packed (sounding) Griffin Park last night to move within five points of table topping West Bromwich Albion. With the second and fourth placed teams due to play this lunchtime, something has to give in our way as the Bees continue this dogged pursuit of promotion. At a time that others are starting to fall apart around us, Thomas Frank saw his team make it three wins on the spin, unbeaten since March and 8 goals for whilst none conceded over that period. Ethan Pinnock was a colossus at the back. Ollie Watkins proving he still has the golden touch up front. Peter Gilham giving it his all on the tannoy – his dulcet tones reverberating all around TW8. Screams of Brreeennttfffoooorrdddddd drifting over the neighbourhood. His one man mission to make Griffin Park sound as loud as ever leaving our man-with-the-mic hoarse at full-time.

If it wasn’t the same match day experience for those of us mere mortals usually allowed inside the stadium, the club did the very best to make it feel as normal as possible in the circumstances. The compact nature of our home allowing us to fill the ground with supporter banners and flags to quite wonderful effect. A sea of faces filling the paddock as the 3D effect of the banners gave the look of a large crowd to those of us watching on TV i.e. everybody except those few whose names had appeared on a guest list of journalistic credentials that was nigh on impossible to gain access to. And I did try. Ian Moose would have had more luck walking in to a McDonalds to buy a Big Mac at the moment than Joe Public did of busting in to Griffin Park.   

But with Sky getting better and better at the ‘fake crowd’ noise, to the point of club specific chants, appropriate cheers and the usual boos for Keith Stroud  ( perhaps I made that last one up  – our man in the middle once again belying his reputation) it wasn’t as odd watching it on TV as it should have been. Moreso when we were lucky enough to spend the evening camped out with friends in their back garden that nestles in the shadow of the ‘away end’. Whilst the West Brom supporters may have been so loud they sounded like Aldershot, PG more than made up for it on the home side.

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You’re so loud you sound like Aldershot…

If anything, his bellowing was even more ferocious than usual. There was no breaking his stride. No deviation from the norm. He gave it everything with all the regular stylings. The prematch music remained the same. Likewise at full time with another three points in the bag, thanks to our 1-0 win. Even down to his “Have a safe journey home tonight”. There’s no one there and he don’t care. He could have been the last man on earth and I get the feeling he’d have carried on as though there was nothing untoward.

Honestly, it was life affirming. If ever you wanted to describe to somebody what it feels like to support Brentford. To show them true passion and utter devotion to a team.  If ever there was a living embodiment of a club, our club, then it is Peter. And last night it was demonstrated more than ever. 

As it happens, H and I popped out for some fresh air some time after the game had finished. Who should we bump in to but PG himself. From a safe distance, of course. My word the grin and the croakiness said it all. The enjoyment in what had played out before clear. We’d heard every scream from the garden – including the goal announcement 30 seconds before seeing Ollie guide the winner home on TV with little more than a quarter hour gone. We’d felt every moment. Now we had the quite perfect denouement to a quite wonderful evening. 

Honestly, being trapped outside a locked stadium is not the way to watch a game. We were lucky enough to be sitting within a few yards of the goal. Just the slight problem of a twenty foot fence separating us from seeing the action. The TV coverage is definitely improving and, all being well, it won’t be long until we are allowed back in to the ground. The players are, I am sure, as keen as the fans to have full houses. The full time celebrations showed what it meant to them. Imagine doing that with our usual sell out crowd roaring them on? 

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Close but no cigar. Never has a few yards felt more like a few miles

For now, it remains a case of locked doors. Of wall to wall TV coverage. Of having crept to within touching distance of Leeds Untied and West Brom.

Dare I say it, but could a win for Fulham be the best outcome today? Or a draw? Leeds are five points ahead. We’d need two wins to overtake them, obv. Should the gap become six then it would still be the same, given the huge goal difference in our favour over everybody else in the division. Perhaps it is best just to focus on ourselves. We can’t influence that game and have our own trip to mid-table Reading on Tuesday night. With the games coming thick and fast, perhaps we’ll see a few changes coming on that front. Could Bryan Mbeumo start? His own recovery from the positive Corona virus test confirmed by his place on the bench last night.

Still, all that’s to come. We were immense last night. It was weird to watch but magnificent at the same time. Our club is incredible. Busting every sinew to make the abnormal seem normal. We’re beating our rivals on the pitch. Looks like we’re doing the same off it. Just 7(seven) games to go. Can we close the gap? Roll on Tuesday when we find out ….

And if Leeds could fall apart, again, that would also be appreciated.

Nick Bruzon

Could this player be a free transfer signing to complete the promotion push?

23 Jun

Saturday was immense. Brentford thumped Fulham (plus ça change) before West Bromwich Albion dropped points. Then it got to Sunday and Leeds United fell apart, again. This time at a Cardiff City side who now find themselves right on the verge of the play-off pack. The only way the last few days could have gone any better would have been an air traffic control strike in the immediate vicinity of Manchester City during the Burnley game. What a bunch of pricks. Something we’re not totally immune to either, going by some of the weekend social media commentary – kudos to Ollie Watkins for saying what he did in such eloquent and restrained style.

On pitch, it really was a chance to see who was going to hit the ground running and who wanted it more. To discover how this mini-season will play out as the run towards promotion concludes in a concentrated burst of non-stop action. Brentford, of course, started at 100mph as Fulham were put to the sword once more. We’ve talked about that one already and whilst it was quite the finish, the points are on the board and we move on. Let’s not dwell in the past anymore. There’s the small matter of West Bromwich Albion coming to Griffin Park on Friday night.

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Fulham – put to the sword

It is a visit made all the more tantalising by not only the Baggies dropping points but the ‘L’ awarded to Leeds United after they went down in Cardiff. Should the Bees make it three in a row on Friday (and a game against the table toppers is no foregone conclusion) then it will see us overtake the Cottagers to start breathing down the neck of the Elland Road outfit. Not that they have any tradition of choking when the pressure is on.

There is the added incentive of those two teams then playing each other on Saturday afternoon in a game which, if ‘automatic’ is a genuine aspiration for Brentford, will see a win for the Michael Jackson fan club as the least bad outcome.

That’s all ifs, buts and maybes of course. Football rarely goes to plan and even moreso at present. The club are doing all they can to make the fans feel as involved as possible. The I-follow is ‘up and running’, supporter banners and flags are being put into position whilst they are even producing a match day programme for the remaining home games. The article for that one was submitted on Saturday evening. All being well the celebratory mood not impacting the quality too much. Hic. Please note: your definition of quality may vary.

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Yet despite our engagement, watching on TV is no substitute for being there. Missing out on this most exciting of run ins is desperately sad. We all know and understand why, of course, but it doesn’t make things any easier. I’d love to be there. We’d all love to be there. Never have I appreciated just how much we’ve taken for granted. Those mid-week Autowindscreen games where it was a case of ‘M’eh – can’t be bothered’. Makes you think in retrospect. Now I’d sell the (metaphorical) family silver or the last existing pack of ‘Griffin Park favourites’ Top Trumps for the chance to see us host West Brom or Wigan Athletic.  

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If Matthew Benham is reading, I’ll swap them for a ticket

Last night I took a walk around Griffin Park. I’d been talking to a fellow supporter about Friday’s game and feeling glum at the thought of missing out, decided a stroll around the stadium would help. We only live a few minutes away so why not? People go to church to reflect. A visit to the Bees is much the same  It’s something I’ve done many times before but feels even more poignant now. Our time here is fast running out and every sight of Griffin Park is cause to drink it all in. Perhaps this would help lift the gloom. 

When we lived on Braemar Road you could see straight through the gap in the stand to the penalty box and home end goal from our bedroom window. Whilst that has since been sealed off, perhaps some hitherto unseen peep hole onto the pitch might be discovered? The network of houses and alleyways around our compact stadium might afford a new glimpse onto the pitch for those truly desperate. 

No chance. Sadly. It was all locked up tighter than the Arsenal wallet. Whilst the pitch was still (kind of visible) from the one obvious spot in the car park, expect that to be sealed off on matchday. TV trucks and security guards, quite possibly with Alsatians named Tintin and Pickles, will be the order of the day. There’s no hope of anyone beyond players, officials and journalists seeing anything in the flesh. Don’t waste your time. 

That said, if Thomas Frank is (somehow) reading then perhaps a suggestion. Whilst the squad is looking formidable, perhaps the one area where we are lacking consistent depth is in the category of slightly over-weight 49 year old goalkeepers. As luck would have it, I tick both those demographics, have my own boots and no plans for Friday night beyond watching TV. If he were to make the call I’d reluctantly ditch my family and Sky to join the squad on a game by game basis. If it helped out, of course.  

Failing that, I take a mean photo of pre-match kits hanging up. Kitman Bob, if you need a hand……

Shirt pictures available. Get your free shirt pictures

Nick Bruzon  

The Brentford BMW has a new M as Fulham are flayed. Again.

21 Jun

Well that was just magnificent. It wasn’t the same as being there, let’s not pretend otherwise, but Brentford were nothing short of incredible as they destroyed Fulham at a more atmospheric than usual Craven Cottage on Saturday lunchtime. Benrahma and Marcondes doing their thing in Jota time to send the TV audience wild and silence the home team’s tannoy. Scott Parker was left looking as though he’d caught Alexsander Mitrovic red-handed going through his fridge whilst one can only imagine the scenes that would have played out had we been in the away end for this most incredible of denouements. I believe what the kids would call ‘limbs’. Even Pontus was smiling at full time. Not a typo. His former club, Leeds United, have already been displaced at the top of the table and the gap to our next opponents, West Bromwich Albion, reeled in by two points.

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The smile says it all

Imagine choosing not to watch that. What else were you going to do on a Coronavirus Saturday lunchtime? Online shopping? Cleaning the house? Or sit in your social bubbles with a few drinks to see if the impossible might become possible. Could Brentford pick up where we left off in March and keep up the push for ‘automatic’?

Well, a 2-0 win for the Bees means we are now eight points off West Brom and Leeds (albeit Bielsa’s boys have a a game in hand at Cardiff today) with the Baggies due to visit Griffin Park on Friday night under the lights. That one’s going to be huge but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There’s the small matter of destroying Fulham to talk about first.

Brentford took the game to our hosts from the off. This, despite Thomas Frank confirming that Bryan Mbeumo would be missing out as the individual who had tested positive for Coronavirus. The player has shown no symptoms but is self-isolating at present whilst the rest of the squad had all come back negative on their subsequent tests. Take care Bryan and see you soon. But if his absence might have felt like a blow, it wasn’t impacting the team. Tarique Fosu stepped in and the hairy Bees (Benrahma’s bouff, Dasilva’s beard and Jensen’s top knot – oh dear) went for it.

Both keepers were in good form as the hosts, in the unusual situation of being  roared on…by their p.a. system…. found a way back in to the game. Being honest, David Raya kept us well in it at times whilst they probably had the better of the first half chances. Despite our possession, drive and one close effort from Josh, it was Decordova-Reid who hit the bar whilst Knockaert and Mitrovic both came close. The later even found the back of the net in the second half although was correctly adjudged to have been well offside. The linesman’s flag being lowered with almost slow-motion accuracy to chalk off the rotund striker’s effort.  

And with it, their chance was gone. The arrival of Shandon Baptiste and Emiliano Marcondes breathing new life into Brentford as we kept on pushing. Break followed break until, with the game well into the clock 88th minute, Emiliano played a ball across the box which Benrahma guided home from close in. Yessssss!!! The scream from our house probably loud enough to wake the dead. It was a noise replicated across this part of West London as the Bees moved into a (surely) unassailable position.

No word of a lie, there was calm in our house. This is not the Brentford of old. The Brentford that cock it up late to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Thomas Frank’s brand of football is part Kevin Keegan (minus the meltdown), part confidence and a huge dollop of faith in his players. We kept going. If the ball is up the other end then the opposition can’t score. And sure enough, they couldn’t. Fulham left very much in second place as Marcondes wrapped up the points, and his own man-of-the-match award, late into stoppage time with a cool finish. Not bad for twenty minutes work.

Fulham were broken. Battered. Down and very much out. They retain third place, for now, although have the Bees breathing right down their neck and a trip to Leeds United next up. Either way, something has to give there. With the visit of West Bromwich Albion to Griffin Park taking place the night before, that Elland Road game could turn out to have even more significance than already. Especially if Cardiff City can pull a favour out of the bag today when Bielsa and co resume their own campaign.

I didn’t expect West Brom to drop points yesterday. I mean, Birmingham City? But it happened and that’s a dirty favour we’ll gratefully accept. These early games are going to be critical as teams rediscover there form and fitness. Accept the gifts whilst you can and enjoy our own moment. Beating a team above us in the table, whoever they are, is no small feat. Don’t let the derby nature of the game take away what we achieved. Likewise, Blues at the Hawthorns. No matter how it may feel.

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…Our squad is ten times better than yours ever was…

Yet for now it would be trite not to focus on our own performance. A never give up reminder that football is a 90 minute game. Football is a squad game and if you keep going to the very end, rewards can come.

I’d love to have been there. No question. It was a quite amazing finish to a fixture that always brings out the best in Brentford. Everybody from Jota and Stuart Dallas to Neal Maupay and even Brian Guest have written their own particular chapter in the Brentford- Fulham story. To that you can now add Emiliano Marcondes. The BMW found a new M when it mattered.

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We can’t celebrate in person but this was the next best thing

I’m desperate to attend on Friday but it’s not going to happen. Sadly. I’m not alone. Instead, it’s another shift in front of the TV and the genuine belief that the Bees will pick up where we left off. Yesterday was such a huge morale boost. Something that was quite evident in our own post-match Zoom chat aswell as from dipping in and out of social media. Wherever you went, there we were celebrating. And why not?

Roll on Friday night. Football Is back. It is very different and it is very echoy. But it also has Brentford winning and foe me, Clive, that alone is cause for celebration. Four derbies this season and four wins. Kings of West London. I’ll take that.

See you Friday. In spirit. 

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Nick Bruzon   

All rituals are reset. All clappers binned.

20 Jun

Here. We. Go. I shouldn’t be this excited about a ‘behind closed doors’ game but I am. And there are no apologies. Brentford travel to Fulham this lunchtime for the first Championship game since lockdown began. I-player passes have been issued, banner photos uploaded and we’ve had another chance to get used to the surreal sight of crowd free matches with two more fixtures last night. Norwich City v Southampton followed by Spurs – Man U. It is odd. It is so desperately lacking fans. But it IS a game of football. More than we’ve had in what feels like an eternity since the 5-0 humping of Sheffield Wednesday at Griffin Park in early March. 

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Sheffield Wednesday. 5-0. Griffin Park empty, save for the multi-coloured seats

At 12.30pm I’ll be at The Cottage, backing our boys and heckling Fulham. In spirit. In reality, this will be on the sofa. Jostling with Harry for the prime viewing seat. Mrs. Bruzon being wound up by our bickering as a 7(seven) year old – where the h*ck has that gone? – runs rings around yours truly. Beer in hand and mandatory goal sweets at the ready. Me, not H. One Starmix each time the ball hits the back of the net. All other snacks are able to be eaten with abandon but this is the only time the magic Haribo can be consumed.

It’s a silly tradition that has sprung up amongst our nearest and dearest at Griffin Park (and still beats taking a Victoria sponge to a game). The bag being passed around everyone from Angry Dad to Mr. Partridge and Ohh-nooo Brentford Panic man.

It’s this sort of silly ritual that no amount of TV viewing can replace. The fortnightly interaction with friends and those who have become part of our football family. People whose names we may not even know but whose faces are as familiar to us as those on the pitch. Where’s Jumper Man when you need him? Harry Potter? Billy (Grant)? Although I’m sure even in fan free football he’ll find a way to get his face in front of a TV camera today. The Lockdown inspired ‘Griffin Park Favourites’ Top Trumps pack was about as close as it got. 

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This was about as close as supporter interaction got

It does also make me wonder what lockdown has done to those other important factors that are responsible for Brentford’s performance? No amount of mid-week training can replace the all important power of a supporter wearing the lucky shirt and magic pants. The players can be as fit as they want but that’s nothing compared to not shaving on a winning run or meeting at the same time in the same pub for the same pre-match pint and lunch. Defeat is not rectified by bringing the players in on a Sunday but simply by drinking a Guinness in The Griffin.

All that is now out of the window. I can’t even remember what I was wearing when we were mainlining Haribo against Sheffield Wednesday. Everything is reset and we’re back off once more.

Fortunately, the Bees are in a good place and are as ready for it as possible. Thomas Frank’s press conference was full of his usual positivity. He described how the players showed unbelievable attitude, hard work and came back in a very good place. More importantly, that we are in a better place because we have all our injured players back. Everybody is fit and available for selection. Quite simply, we have the strongest line up available. Something. Something. Something. BMW.

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They’re ok I suppose

His press conference is up on YouTube now. The Zoom chats we became so familiar with in the Spring time being used again to good effect although, sadly, no camera in Greville’s house. I guess there’s only so much topless action or ‘mopping up – live’ one can be treated to. Cripes, lockdown entertainment was desperate. But we’ve got through those first three months and life is slowly starting to return to some kind of previous incarnation. Albeit in very small steps.

 

The other interesting point to come out of Thomas’ talk was his assertion that we’ll see more away wins in the championship than compared to normal. This, a phenomenon that is already playing out in the Bundesliga. Home advantage is no longer a thing with the edge gained from playing in front of your own supporters definitely missing. Here’s hoping that is proven today. Fulham’s missing foam fingers and silenced clappers could prove conspicuous by their absence.

I can’t wait for this one. It’s going to be weird. It’s not going to be the same as being there. But it will be a chance to see our beloved Brentifrd back in action. And if that comes with us stuffing Fulham then all the better.

Roll on 12.30pm. See you there. (kind of). As @TheChauffeur_ put it so succinctly on Twitter this morning…..

Nick Bruzon 

TV review. Football : 3 out of 5. Can Brentford do better?

18 Jun

Well that was quite the surreal experience. It looked like football. Kind of sounded like football. But without the fans it certainly wasn’t football. Mrs. Bruzon summed it up nicely during the Manchester City v Arsenal game with the succinct observation that, “My God, this is shit”. On the plus side, we had the tragedy of David Luiz to enjoy – one that always brings a smile to the face of us Brentford Fans and an elbow to the face of Jake Reeves. Prior to that was the ‘return of football’ with Aston Villa v Sheffield United. A game which saw Hawkeye ball tracking fail to return from furlough and Dean Smith, not unusually, believing his team deserved that (because they’ve previously been on the receiving end). But with the trip to Fulham coming ever closer, what did we learn last night ?

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Nobody has forgotten…

Well the first thing being that the game at the Cottage has come into question from some fans, with the announcement from Brentford that, “We have had a positive test from the latest round of Covid-19 testing. The individual concerned is now self-isolating in accordance with the EFL guidelines”. There’s nothing further added. No word on how the individual is faring or who it is although the priority here being we all wish them well for a quick recovery. There has been no suggestion of any postponement either – from either the club or the EFL  – so it’s pretty safe to assume that we will be going ahead as (new) normal come Saturday lunchtime. The short hop to Fulham set for a televised 12.30pm kick off.

Of course I’ll be watching on Saturday. The chance to tear Fulham a new one never one to be missed. The opportunity to close in on ‘automatic’ as appealing . For those needing a reminder, victory would take us within a point of our third placed neighbours whilst table topping Leeds United are 11 points clear at the top of the pile. And I did have to check, it’s been that long. It’s been missed a lot. Even Harry said to me last night, “Daddy, I really miss my seat at Griffin Park. I wish I could be back there”. Don’t we all. Instead, TV coverage is the next best thing and we had our first taste of it last night.

There was the option of genuine coverage – the one where you could hear every pin drop, exhortion from the coaches and clanger from David Luiz – or the version with fake crowd sound piped over the top. We settled on the later. It made a very odd experience, where supporters had been replaced with giant flags, slightly less surreal. But not much. It was weird. It wasn’t football as we know it but at least it was here. Arsenal showing their customary irrelevance. Their pretentions of success nothing more than a rapidly fading memory. Manchester City imperious and sweeping all before them.

Curse Liverpool and their enormous lead at the business end of the Premier League. The only consolation being that the inevitable triumph will be greeted with, “Well, you won it. But….”. That said, I’m sure their fans will be gracious when the moment finally comes and it won’t be mentioned much.

Yet even with fake sound I found it tough going. Fans are such a vital part to every game and never more has it been seen. Or not. There was no humour. No terrace wags. No natural reaction to events unfolding but more a background hum much akin to motorway traffic heard from a distance. Personally, I don’t know what it’s gong to be like watching a game at Griffin Park without Angry Dad giving his advice to the touchline officials and the referee. 

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The referee and his assistants can now ignore all reminders of the rules

One New Road observer has been in touch to share his thoughts about the prospect of watching Brentford in such circumstance, and they are, as ever, infinitely more eloquent than anything yours truly can put together….. 

“As someone who regularly attends football, what makes the atmosphere at football special and genuine isn’t that sanitised “this is what football sounds like” image. It’s the spontaneity, the characters unique to your section of the crowd, the extra edge a midweek match has as people arrive having had quite enough of work. It’s the chatter and buzz of the crowd before kick off, it’s the lone joker that pipes up with a slice of dark humour at the sight of yet another turgid midfield display, it’s the vociferous rebuke of a player at an FA Cup tie that has the TV producer scrambling for the mixing desk (although let’s keep it inclusive at all times), it’s one away player being singled out as that afternoon’s pantomime villain, it’s the crowd shouting “handball” with every pass to mock the opposition’s failed claim for a penalty. That’s the romance of football. That’s atmosphere. 

You can’t replace that with carefully vetted recordings of Barcelona fans performing their manufactured anthem or, heaven forbid, a crowd using cardboard clappers instead of making noise with their hands and mouths. Genuine atmosphere isn’t someone in the booth pressing a button to play GenericCrowdGoesOohClip3 as another wayward shot sails over the bar. If you want that, you can get plenty of it in FIFA Soccer. I’m not interested in hearing what Sky Sports wants us to think football sounds like. 

One Bundesliga referee recently reported feeling like the job is easier and his heart rate is lower without a baying crowd on his back. Playing recordings of the home crowd jeering a decision won’t have any significant effect on that. The referee and players know it’s fake. Pressuring a referee is part of our job as fans and something that can’t be replicated.

Will anyone dare play a clip of their crowd booing the team off at half time as they’re 3-0 down? But it would be a very brave club that piped in a recording of their entire home end letting Lee Tomlin know he’s a wanker. For example.” *

All this aside, I still can’t wait to see Brentford in action on Saturday. The involvement so desperately lacking by watching two teams I’m not overly bothered by will definitely be present. And then some. We’ll be shouting from our couches and social bubbles. Beer in hand and shirts worn with pride. The fake sound will be turned off. I want to hear Pontus screaming. I want to hear Fulham silent. Albeit, it does seem they have plans to pipe in their own noise. Groan. 

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Moments, and sounds, like this will be denied

Manchester City – Arsenal definitely whetted the appetite but it wasn’t really more than a distraction. Something to finally give me back remote, control after close to 100 days of outback murder, property shows and Gogglebox. Oh, Mancunian dog owner. You may be funny but please get those boots away from the cakes. Please.

To repeat an oft used analogy on these pages, it was like a Timothy Dalton ‘Bond film’. The rest of the crew and supporting cast may be the same, the action and the sound are similar and he even wears the same clothes. Yet ultimately, without the one-liners and raised eyebrow of Roger Moore, or the cameos from Victor Tourjansky, it all seems to be missing critical element. Atmosphere. Passion. Emotional Investment.

Here’s hoping that when it is our turn, things feel better. I’m sure they will. I’d say “See you there” but we all know that’s not possible. Pretty sure social media might be busy though…

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Any excuse for the Victor montage

Nick Bruzon

* Please note, the views shared by one New Road observer about Lee Tomlin are personal but also shared by this page.

Which way are you going?

16 Jun

Here we go again. Part 2 of 2019/20 is almost upon us with Brentford gearing up for life on and off the pitch. Arsenal were put to the sword 3-2 in front of a noisier than usual crowd last week. The Bees then went down 2-0 at Watford on Saturday. Chelsea are supposedly in for Saïd Benrahma, if you believe the ’stories’. A mixed bag of pre-season results and the worry of transfer rumours – the more things change, the more they stay the same. Perhaps most importantly, we’ve got the trip to Fulham on Saturday.

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The blue of Brentford rather than Chelsea is the future. I hope.

I have to be honest that there are a whole range of mixed emotions at present. That football can even take place in any format is going to be a huge morale boost after three months of lockdown. Likewise, the fact that the Championship is able to be determined on the pitch, despite the horribly artificial environments the games will be played in. Some clubs – the likes of Arsenal and Fulham – are sure to thrive in these familiar circumstances. Libraries and clappers have never made for good atmosphere. Others, like Leeds United and West Brom, may struggle rattling around inside those huge, empty arenas. So often a cauldron of noise but now empty vessels where every sound and echo is amplified further.

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Arsenal played Brentford in front of a noisy Emirates crowd.

We’ve all been granted the option to donate our remaining Season ticket balance for access to I-follow and a club brand facemask in order to watch the action. You have to feel for the clubs with revenue streams being decimated. Having to then refund supporters for cancelled tickets on top of this could be a body blow fo many. 

The email sent to Brentford fans was certainly a tough sell,  pressing all the buttons marked ‘togetherness’ and ‘challenge’. I don’t envy the clubs these decisions. I don’t envy fans then being put in the position where they have to make the choice in what are horrific financial times for many. Individual and family circumstances will, of course, vary. Money is tight and if nothing else, Lionel Road Season Tickets still need to be paid for. Some fans may want to help but simply have no option. Others may take the line of why pay for something they aren’t getting to the full?         

Personally, I’ve gone for the donate option. It may be super cheesy but Griffin Park is one place where, for me, ‘togetherness’ IS what it has always been about. Fans mix with players. The top brass talk to supporters. The Community Sports Trust is magnificent whilst let’s not forget our unique involvement – past and present – c/o Supporters Trust Bees United. Buckets have been rattled and times have been hard. Takeovers from down the road have been put off – all thanks to the fans coming together. For me, this is another defining moment in our history and it’s been refreshing to see so many coming out on social media to say that they are doing their bit to help our club.  

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Togetherness – my abiding image of the season to date

Those wanting to get the I-follow access for Fulham have until Wednesday lunchtime to push the button. After that, fans will be sent the link for the game aswell as the chance to upload their picture for the fan banner going up at Griffin Park.

It won’t make for the usual experience, obviously. But football fans and business the world over are in the same boat. We have to try and make the best of a crappy situation. Even if it is in our front rooms and social bubbles. Look positive, should things go one way (i.e where Leeds and West Brom don’t choke but our own wins keep coming), we won’t actually be allowed to go and watch the team at Wembley. We all know what plays out when that happens. Imagine it taking nobody being there to finally break the duck. 

Still, all that is a long, long way off. First up, its Fulham on Saturday. They’ve even been testing fake crowd noise. Good to see that some things don’t change.

Nick Bruzon

99 problems but a pitch ain’t one.

9 Jun

The tumbleweed is starting to clear. The absence of Brentford from our lives will soon be coming to an end as the trip to Fulham next Saturday lunchtime (June 20th) sees Championship action recommence. Following this is a rapid fire conclusion to the campaign as our 9 remaining games take place in little over a month, culminating in the ‘last ever’ game at Griffin Park against Barnsley on Wednesday July 22nd. With all games available to season ticket holders on I-follow and TV coverage being given a huge boost, its a case of move over Sky Sports Leeds United. Whilst you won’t be able to be there in person, there’s every opportunity available to see the on-pitch action pan out with our next game  (West Brom at home) also selected for main channel coverage.

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On pitch action will return

The good news is that season will at least come to an end on pitch, however artificial that may feel. Others haven’t been afforded that opportunity. With Leagues across Europe and at home already calling full time early, even League One clubs seem set to bring 2019-20 to a close today with the morning news reporting that they are going to vote to curtail the season and leave the final table based on a points-per-game ratio. Missing out on seeing Brentford in the flesh will be painful but at least we’ll be able to see the Bees in action.

My word, it hass felt like an eternity. With nothing but constant bad news for the last few months, football has probably been low down on most people’s agenda. That’s not to say it hasn’t been missed. The amazing feeling of coming together denied us by an invisible killer. That communal gathering and Saturday afternoon ritual, of which 90 minutes’s action is so often the meat in a social sandwich of pre and post match meet up, something we’ve not been able to enjoy for endless week after week.

Jonathan Burchill cut to the chase on Twitter yesterday, posting a picture of his Fulham ticket and  noting that when he bought it, could never have guessed this match would be postponed for 99 days. Now it is almost here. Brentford travelling just down the road to pick up where we left off. Injuries hopefully healed and the team chomping at the bit. We’ve already played at Griffin Park – judging by the social media video clips posted – as part of the road to recovery but now we get the chance to do it for real.

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Whatever ‘real’ means these days. No fans and no atmosphere is gong to make for a very strange experience. Fulham aside. For the players and the supporters. Fulham aside. Probably the only people to come out if it as winners will be the officials, especially at Griffin Park where the touchline reminders of the rules so often delivered to the linos will be sadly missing. Who will rise to the occasion? Who will struggle, rattling around an empty stadium? Will the fans be given any chance to get back in and, if so, how many will that be or when could it even take place?

I guess the one thing we can be fairly certain of is that the 5-0 trashing of Sheffield Wednesday way back on 7th (seventh) March will be the last time we have the pleasure of attending a game at Griffin Park in person. The ‘last game’ will be one played out in front of nothing more than handful of press and officials. Barring a miracle, that ship has surely sailed. It’s a topic we’ve done to death already – both on social media and these pages. Banging on about it now, at a time when we actually have something to look forward too, won’t change that fact. Even if we will of course pick up on it once more as we head towards the visit of Barnsley 

For now, we’ve got action incoming. And that’s a real boost, even if it is going to be very odd. There’ll be surreal TV coverage whilst the club have announced that match day programmes will be produced. Each of the final five programmes will also include a limited-edition postcard, whilst that Barnsley game will see a 134-page, A4 printed programme to say Farewell Griffin Park. You can read about that in full here.

More to come over the coming days, no doubt, but until then we’ve got a trip to Fulham to prepare for. Even if us mere mortals aren’t allowed to travel.

The only other news of note, for these pages, was the conclusion of the ‘Griffin Park Favourites’ charity auction Top Trumps pack last week. I’m amazed to say that these went for a staggering £155, with funds already received and paid on to the Community Sports Trust.

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Whilst keeping the names of the bidders secret, it would seem as though there was a furious bidding war between three figures who appeared in the pack. In the end , though, I haven’t a clue who it is that won them. Certainly not a name I recognise. Brentford fan or Top Trumps collector? Who knows. Either way, I can’t thank our supporters enough for taking part.

And if anybody wants to go again, then please do shout. The pack has already been redesigned for a more personal ‘friends and family’ version. If nothing else, to celebrate both the Fulham programme prank and some really crowbarred punning.

What’s to say further tweaks couldn’t be made and another order placed for anybody who may want in….

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Wife of Brian – even Mrs. B liked that one 

Nick Bruzon