Tag Archives: Chris Long

ITV on the rise but will Sky scrape the barrel? And what of John Swift?

27 Mar

There was mixed news on the International front last night. Despite many enjoying the 3-2 win for England in Germany, it was the performance of the U-21 team that saw potential bad news for Brentford where Chelsea loanee John Swift limped off less than half an hour into the game with a bloody foot. Elsewhere (and I need to thank the statistical demigod that is Luis Melville for his Twitter tip-off) there was terrifying news from the Daily Mail.

But first, England. What a night – primarily because the alleged  Supporters’ band couldn’t be heard over the TV speakers. Were they even in Berlin? Who cares! The lack of jingoistic parping from their off-key trumpets was music to my ears. If I wanted to hear the theme tune to the Great Escape I’d simply watch TV on any Bank Holiday.

That was my on-field highlight. Yes, of course the goals were wonderfully taken although if you want any form of match report than, as ever, I’d suggest the BBC. The said, the win was hard fought with the ITV commentary team doing their best to jinx it at the death. Eric Dier’s injury time goal was met with declarations of “A winner in Germany” and “a winner on his debut”, despite there still being 90 seconds on the clock.

The other plus point was the performance of Lothar Matthäus  in the punditry position. Channelling the look of Paul Robinson – Neighbours, rather than Birmingham City or Burnley – he was that rare example of an ITV pundit who it was actually a pleasure to listen to. Dead pan humour, common sense and a great reading of the game. Let’s hope they snap him up for the Euros over the summer.

Kit wise, just about everybody has said their piece on this already. England opting for traditional red with burgundy sleeves and blue socks (very much Dagenham & Redbridge 1995, as one Twitter observer noted) whilst Germany elected to wear two tone black/dark green(?) with lighter green sleeves. And don’t forget the white stripes down the side from armpit to hem that looked like a somewhat unsightly deodorant stain.

Screen Shot 2016-03-27 at 19.02.18

As the regular reader will (should one exist still) be aware, I’m all for the unusual and a bit of variety in team kit. These, however, both looked like the product of a “What might go well with jeans?” marketing meeting. And those blue socks should never see the light of day again.

For me Clive, this has surpassed the 1994 effort (oversized flappy collars, all those subliminal badges and a shade heading towards burgundy) as the worst ever England away shirt.

As a final thought on the game, what was with all the adverts for ‘Hooch’ that kept flashing around the pitch? Surely that died out in the 90s with Global Hypercolour t-shirts, VHS cassettes and ‘Eat my shorts’ ? Or are Student Union bars (three of the most terrifying words in the English language, to rank alongside ‘Rail Replacement bus’) about to see a resurgence?

Vintage-england-away-football-shirt-top-umbro-rare-classic2_1024x1024

No longer the worst England away shirt

Next up, John Swift. With Josh McEachran still being reported out injured (and the club saying nothing to deny these stories, unless I’ve missed it) there would have been heart in mouth when he got injured last night. Despite my best searches of the internet – and it is frustrating how often a search for his name is thrown off track by: Taylor Swift, Dear John – the most we know so far is that he has a cut foot judging by the pictures circulating on Twitter.

How bad this is remains to be seen although I am sure we’ll learn more today. Whilst he has, for the most part , divided Brentford supporters during his loan spell from Chelsea, one thing we can all agree on is that another injury is the last thing we need at this pivotal point in the season. We all recall how Chris Long’s nasty gash impacted him at the tail end of the previous campaign and so let’s hope this isn’t a case of déjà vu.

I’m not a hypocrite. I don’t think Swift has had the best start to his career at Griffin Park. An over indulgence on the showboating and tendency to lose the ball has been a frustration yet, at the same time, he clearly has ability as we have seen in patches. The Wolves game in particular highlighted what he can do when we get his ‘A game’. Besides, you don’t get called up for the England U-21’s unless there is something there.

Equally, and as we are reminded time and again, he IS a young player who is still learning his game. These skills and judgement calls will come as his game develops. John has become an easy target in some circles but at a time we need everybody pulling together, let’s hope his substitution was a precautionary one and we have him back, on top form, this Saturday.

Ok. The Daily Mail. Or, rather, Mailsport online have run a disturbing story to suggest Sky will be revamping Friday night football next season to make it, what seems to be, a bit more ‘laddish’. Nuts magazine does football if you will, as guest presenters are suggested to include – brace yourself – the likes of James Corden and Holly Willoughby.

Before anybody mistakes this for any form of misogynistic rant, let’s be 100% clear. I’ve got no issues with women presenting football. Quite the opposite. I think Kelly Cates has been the shining star in the (initially at least) car crash that was Football League Tonight whilst Gabby Logan has been doing her thing, brilliantly, for almost twenty years.

And, of course, who could forget our own Natalie Sawyer who has had her feet under the presenter’s desk for so long that she probably knows more about the beautiful game than most of us put together. (Perhaps Sky should be looking ‘in house’ where, of course, Natalie has also shown her punditry skills on Football League coverage?)

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Natalie at the Sky Sports desk – feet not pictured

My issue is with novelty presenters. Comedians great. Football great. Just please don’t combine the two. Nobody needs another ‘Russell Brand’ guesting on Match of the Day.

Football punditry is three men or women, who know about football, sitting on a sofa and talking about the game. You don’t need to jazz it up anymore. We’ll still watch.

Will anybody, honestly, say: “It’s Chelsea – Leicester City tonight. I was going to give it a miss but Gary Neville is busy with Valencia so Holly Willoughby is presenting. Get the Hooch in and make room on the sofa” ?

Aside from the fact that I’ve got more chance of managing Valencia than Gary Neville next season I can’t believe that situation is going to play out anywhere. Who needs Lothar Matthäus when we could have the host of Surprise Surprise, This Morning and Streetmate (don’t remember that one)? I’ve nothing against Holly per-se but when her sporting pedigree peaks at ‘Celebrity Wrestling’ and ‘Dancing on Ice’, perhaps one to give a miss.

Comedians, alleged or genuine, don’t mix well on football

Nick Bruzon

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Everton lend a hand but are the players revolting?

18 Mar

Nobody could deny Thursday wasn’t interesting at Brentford. Matthew Benham’s cryptic clue was (I am assuming) unravelled when the news was announced that we’d signed striker Leandro Rodriguez on loan from Everton. Doctor, Knee, exit – Leandro, Rodriguez, Everton. Of course! I guess that’s why Matthew is the multi-millionaire club owner and I’m just the numpty on the terrace.

The signing of Leandro marks an attempt to arrest our barren patch in front of goal that came to a sad climax last weekend when, of course, head coach Dean Smith elected to go into the derby clash at QPR with no striker on the pitch. Whatever point he was trying to prove backfired spectacularly as the Bees failed to trouble the scorers and rarely looked like coming close.

That said, we are where we are and this can only be seen as a step in the right direction. The Everton youth production line has certainly been a beneficial one for the Bees in the past. Club captain Jake Bidwell and Adam Forshaw both joined Brentford from Goodison after initial loan spells whilst, but for injury, Conor McAleny and Chris Long both looked set for big things. Here’s hoping that, without wanting to put too much pressure on the young man’s shoulders, the Everton-Brentford connection can do it again.

The other interesting thing about this transfer, assuming you find this sort of thing interesting, was in regards to the announcement of the news. It’s often been noted how ‘off the pace’ we look compared to our rivals and, again, this would seem to have been the case yesterday looking at the release time of stories on the News Now website.

10.31: Everton striker Leandro Rodriguez leaves on loan. Liverpool Echo

10:59: Brentford sign Everton Uruguayan Forward Rodriguez. Beesotted

11:18: Dean Smith makes first Brentford signing as Everton striker joins on loan. Get West London

11:40: John Swift called-up to England Under-21 squad. Brentford FC – Official Site

13:09: Rodriguez Loaned To Brentford. Everton FC – Official Site

13:20: Leandro Rodriguez signs on loan from Everton. Brentford FC – Official Site

13:22: Brentford sign Everton’s Rodriguez. BBC

And with that, it was officially all ‘official’.

Leandro signs

Breaking – everywhere else first. Leandro puts pen to paper

I’m sure it was a case of waiting until the ink had dried on the paperwork but for Beesotted to be almost two and a half hours ahead of the club with this comm does make me wonder how they do it. And ‘official’ don’t. Or just can’t. Moreso as, whatever protests you’ll hear from fans/staff, Dave and Billy are pretty much on the money with everything they run on their site. Who was that last interview with? Oh yes, Matthew Benham.

No doubt the local press get wind of these things from their ‘sources’ and our hands are tied to an extent but, at least, surely we could ‘turn the key’ at the same time as Everton? Or had they just ‘gone rogue’?

Still, at least we were all ahead of the BBC whilst, unlike with Toumani, pictures of Leandro wearing a Brentford tracksuit hadn’t appeared all over social media two days earlier. Compared to that, three hours isn’t too bad in the grand scheme!

official

As somebody once said

The other news of real interest yesterday, where the club most definitely did have the lead, was the update given by Alan McCormack during the press conference from the Jersey Road media centre. The ‘live tweeting’ of press conference updates by ‘Brentford official’ HAS been a real positive in recent weeks. This one was no exception as Alan revealed that Jake Bidwell had orchestrated a ‘players-only meeting’ the Monday after the QPR debacle.

In a subsequent article that you can read in full on the club website, he has been quoted as saying , “We all sat on our own and we said what needed to be done: what needed to happen this week and every week towards the end of the season…..a few people said a few things. We spoke about what we are good at and what we need to do better. Everyone wants to win as much as the player beside them. The attitude of the players in training on Monday, Tuesday and today has been exceptional

 Wow. Are the players revolting? Is Dean losing his dressing room? Or was this a sign of Jake making his mark as captain and the squad facing up to those areas where perhaps they could be doing things differently? Let’s all hope this is very much the latter.

Either way, the last time we were advised of a frank ‘dressing room discussion’ came following the League One clash at Stevenage where Uwe was man enough to listen to his players and then tell all to Billy (Reeves, not Grant).

Following that, the rest was history. Stunning history . Brentford put it all behind them  to embark on that epic unbeaten run en-route to promotion and the Championship. Here’s hoping for more of the same against Blackburn on Saturday.

Three points and I’m sure we’ll celebrate like we’ve won the FA Cup. Now where have we heard that one before…?

Billy and Uwe

Uwe once elaborated on a frank discussion – the rest was history

Nick Bruzon

The Judge is very much our ‘man of the moment’ as Terriers await

19 Dec

Brentford take on Huddersfield Town today for Head Coach Dean Smith’s second home game at Griffin Park. He’s picked up 4 points from his opening 9 and, being honest, can count himself unlucky not to have 7(seven). The linesman’s flag incorrectly denied Jota a winner at Fulham whilst Cardiff City did to us what we’ve done to so many – grab a 90th minute goal as they ran out 3-2 winners at their unimaginatively named Cardiff City Stadium.

Jota onside v Fulham

Jota WAS onside at Fulham (thanks, Channel 5)

It has been a period that has coincided with the return of Jota aswell as our first look at the impressive Josh McEachran. These, both luxuries not available to either Marinus Dijkhuizen or Lee Carsley but which , I am sure, Dean will be relying on more and more. That said, the BBC reports amongst other things that neither are in a position to last a full 90 minutes as yet so expect them on the bench.

Indeed, that BBC match preview contains a number of interesting facts and, specifically, one about Alan Judge. I can’t take the credit for this (and, you can find their full article here) but it was fascinating to read that no player in the top four divisions has provided more assists since the start of last season. He has set up 20 goals – a figure also matched, but not surpassed – by Matt Ritchie and Cesc Fabregas.

This is an incredible figure. Not least because I didn’t think hapless Chelsea had managed to score 20 goals as a team. Although in all seriousness, we all know how good a player Alan is but to see him named in such company, and have his contribution laid out in such a fashion, shows just how much of a danger man he has become. Moreso, given his current total of 8 league goals also sees him as Brentford’s leading scorer this season.

Judge pic 2

Alan launches himself at ecstatic fans after another goal…

The last time our paths crossed, in March, the Bees thumped Huddersfield 4-1 at Griffin Park. Goals from Chris Long (2), Alex Pritchard and Jon Toral saw us get back into the play off zone. This following our defeat away to the Terriers back in early December where three points would have seen us top the Championship table (although I blame the ‘Manager of the month’ awarded given to Warbs just before that one).

This time around Brentford are a little bit more off the pace as we sit in 10th place. Yet with the mid-table zone currently tighter than a hipster’s skinny jeans, victory could take us to within a point of the play-off zone as we enter the busy Christmas period.

However, with Judge on such prolific form and the team having played so well in our previous home game (the 2-0 over MK Dons) I’m going into this one full of confidence. I can’t envisage another 4-1, although that would be nice, but I’d just be happy to come out of it with a win. Moreso against a team who may be at the bottom end of the table but have picked up 6 points out of the last 9.

And I might have half an eye on the Premier League where Chelsea host Sunderland in the relegation six pointer and Bournemouth travel to West Bromwich Albion.

With the Judge, Fabregas and Ritchie all locked on 20 assists, there could be a very interesting sub plot to today’s action.

Nick Bruzon

Alan Judge corner Rotherham

View from the stand. Alan Judge – goals and assists

Transfer window set to slam shut for Brentford but is this it?

31 Aug

Tuesday is the day. The transfer window slams shut ( © Sky Sports) and, with it, the last chance to see who will leave or join the Brentford squad on a full time basis. Of course, the Bees have already stepped up their loan activity with the news that Sergi Canos has signed until January from Liverpool. But does this mean that all business has now been concluded? Or will Jim White and Natalie Sawyer be working themselves into a Griffin Park related frenzy on national “Harry Redknapp leaning out of a car window” day?

Canos is the latest to wield the Brentford FC signing shirt

Canos is the latest to wield the Brentford FC signing shirt

Brentford have certainly been profligate in recent weeks with several big name players leaving TW8 for Championship rivals. Andre Gray to Burnley, Moses Odubajo to Hull City and Stuart Dallas to Leeds United have been the names to really stand out. Not to mention the release of Jonathan Douglas to Ipswich Town. Factor in the freak injuries to Jota and Josh McEachran (the latter before a ball had even been kicked in anger) and it’s no wonder our attacking options have, according to many, been stifled .

But could this change? Monday’s new saw a signing that followed hot on the heels of striker Marco Djuricin to give, on paper, an added dimension of flair to the Brentford squad. In the Red Bull Salzburg loanee we have, at the least, a plethora of puns. Moreso alongside A. Judge (that’s Alan, of course). He is an Austrian international who already has two full caps to his name,

As for Canos, it really is a huge case of potential. I’d offer a word of caution in putting too much pressure on this young man’s shoulders. In recent years we’ve learned that for every loan gem from that part of the world (see Adam Forshaw, Chris Long and Jake Bidwell) there’s a potential Joao Carlos Teixera. For every unheard of youth prodigy (see Marcello Trotta) there’s a Betinho lurking in the wings.

Betin-who ?

Betin-who ?

Whilst we’ve done very well in the past in our recruitment, the previous management haven’t been infallible. Those lamenting the departure of Warbs should bear in mind he took several bites at the cherry to get things right. The second coming of Liam  Moore is another that springs to mind. And then out of it.

It takes time to build a team. There’s no denying we’ve taken an unconventional approach in allowing several well established players to leave (albeit for an incredible amount of money) before looking to rebuild from scratch. Likewise, that we’ve then had our cause hindered by injury – and one can only worry about the amount of twigs that may reach the training ground now that Autumn is almost upon us.

However, my guess is that any long term activity has come to a close and we’ll not be troubling Sky Sports News. This is the squad Marinus has to play with and, with quality players also on the mend, we could soon be in a much stronger place.

Certainly, that usual barometer of impending transfer news – Matthew Benham’s twitter account – hasn’t troubled the scorers since August 19th. And that was the wonderful coming together of fiction and fact that saw Alan Partridge’s ‘Youth Hosteling with Chris Eubank’ become a reality.

So unless we’re planning on signing the former World Middleweight Champion, this is probably it for any ‘inward’ activity on Tuesday. Welcome Marco and Sergi. Griffin Park is certainly a place of change at present but, equally, we’re a club who are on the up.

A Long journey South as Bees capitulate at Turf Moor

23 Aug

Whilst Brentford may be anything from £6.5m – to £10m better off (depending on what you read) this weekend, points-wise we were left very much empty handed after going down 1-0 at Burnley. And it was a win, I’m afraid to say, that Burnley very much deserved from where I was sitting (the away stand at Turf Moor).

The action is about to begin at turf Moor - and doesn't more turf look great?

The action is about to begin at Turf Moor – and doesn’t more turf look great?

Being quite honest, one first half chance for Lasse Vibe aside, all the Andre Grays in the world would have made no real difference to Brentford. Don’t put this loss down to his absence. We were so obsessed with passing the ball backwards and sideways between the defence and goalkeeper, it is no wonder the stats showed such high pass completion or 62% possession.

Hanging on to the ball at the back is all well and good, and we did that part very well, but the lack of any imagination, movement, cut and/or thrust when we tried to take it forward was, ultimately, what did for us. At 0-0 away from home this works but having conceded such a simple goal from a set piece, where Philipp Hoffman failed to get his man, something needed to change. And it didn’t.

The introduction of Maxime Colin and switch of Alan McCormack to centre mid was certainly a start. The new right back has already won over plenty of fans based on his display and it was easy to see why. The problem is that it was too little, too late. Equally, Marinus almost had his hands tied given the sudden dearth of midfield options as a result of recent transfer activity and injury.

The style of football we were looking to play was just too static, too slow and bereft of any sense of urgency. Burnley hardly pushed us but then they had no need to. Being fair, up to the point of the Vibe chance, where he made a magnificent run onto a beautiful through ball from Kerschbaumer, we’d probably been the better of two cagey sides.

Certainly Marinus, in his interview with BBC Billy Reeves, deemed it our best passage of play since he has been here. But then Burnley scored from the simplest of set pieces and, with Brentford unable to step it up, the home side looked comfortable.

This was the sort of game crying out for a Sam Sanders, Jota or Moses to pick up the ball and run at this opposition. Our current run of form with injuries certainly hasn’t helped the cause, that’s for sure, but its no excuse. There were still plenty of good enough players out there but our obsession with sideways passing (something I thought had died with the departure of Jonathan Douglas) was what ultimately did for Brentford.

Positives included the debut of Max Colin (somebody whose name constantly puts me in mind of Christopher Walken’s character from Roger Moore’s final Bond effort, ‘A View to a Kill’) at right back and the ability to switch Alan Mac to centre mid. I thought Harlee and Tarks looked very solid at the back whilst the former added additional threat up top when we finally started to ‘go for it’ in the final five minutes. The pitch was immaculate whilst, points wise, we are in the same position after three games as we were last season.

Max Zorin - crowbarred excuse

Max Zorin – better placed at Turf…Moore ??

Those BBC stats also show we had 7(seven) shots, including 4 on target. There was Lasse’s chance, Alan Judge came close with a free kick and a slow-mo effort from The Hoff in the first half that almost fooled everybody except Tom Heaton in the Burnley goal. However, other than that I struggle to recall him being overly stretched.

Look. It wasn’t a great performance and I do have to wonder about the choice of tactics that seemed, for all the world, to be the mark of a side a side playing for a 0-0 or hoping to snatch something on the break. It’s a shame we didn’t have the courage to play more open football as the Kerschbaumer pass to Vibe showed how easily the opposition could be opened up, with the right movement.

Likewise a few more crosses, had Philipp Hoffman got into second gear to try and meet those that were delivered, would always have been welcome.

The flipside is that we are only three games into a new season and have both a new head coach and a new look squad. Our cause hasn’t been helped by horrendous bad luck when it comes to injury whilst, and you have to remember, Brentford don’t have a divine right to win every game.

Perhaps it is more a commentary on how far we have come and how quickly that we can be genuinely disappointed about losing a game in the Championship. To a team that were gracing the Premiership last season. It wasn’t so long ago that a trip up North was to the likes of Tranmere Rovers, who lost 0-2 at home to Boreham Wood in the conference yesterday, so some perspective is definitely needed.

Talking to Burnley fans before and after the game, word on the street is that the Bees were looking at a loan for Chris Long, as part of the deal that took Andre to Burnley. Interestingly, he played no part in proceedings yesterday and so one does have to wonder if there is any truth in that?

Brentford fans know just what he can do when the ball is in that final third of the field and Chris would be a great acquisition if we could get hold of him. But, equally, why would Burnley have bought the player in the first instance only to then immediately ‘get rid’?

Chris Long - could he be back again?

Chris Long – could he be back again?

Marinus, in the aforementioned interview with Billy, denied any definitive attempt so far to make a move on anybody but, equally, acknowledged that it was as position we need to cover. You can catch that in full, here.

Off field, those of us able to get back in time might have caught ‘Football League Tonight’ on Channel 5. With the show now in week three, the car crash that was the season opener seems an eternity ago as further changes were in evidence upon catching up with that today.

Only Adam Virgo and the awkward looking audience remain from those elements so heavily criticised in the season opener. Even the kebab shop poles that housed the 70’s style ‘league ladders’ have now been replaced by a 21st Century computer graphic showing the Championship table.

A compute graphic now replaces a kebab shop skewer

A compute graphic now replaces a kebab shop skewer

I understand that Channel 5 need to try and be different but, equally, they need to give the audience what they want. Well done for changing so much, so quickly.

They’ve made a decision to stick with the audience that hang around like a bunch of spare parts and so I can only imagine that is here to stay. You know what? I kind of like that aspect now. It still isn’t up to the package put together by Sky but for ‘terrestrial’ viewers, Kelly Cates and George Riley are starting to steam up the blind side.

Let’s hope Brentford can do the same thing next time out at home to Reading.

And as a side note, anybody wanting another, very interesting, insight on the Andre Gray transfer and cost would do well to check out Billy The Bee’s latest Beesotted article. It makes for an intriguing read…

Billy The Bee - Mr Grant asking the right questions, as ever

Billy The Bee – Mr Grant has a great take on events

Nick Bruzon

The distraction before the storm. What a video !

15 May

Finally. Today’s the day when we find out if Brentford can emulate the recent likes of Southampton and Norwich City by making the jump from League One to the Premiership. And all that stands in our way is a play off second leg with Middlesbrough at the Riverside, a one-goal deficit and then Ipswich Town or the aforementioned Canaries in the final at Wembley.

To read the rest of this article, season 2014/15 is now available to download onto Kindle (and other electronic reading device) in full. Containing additional material and even some (poor) editing, you can get it here for less than the cost of a Griffin Park matchday programme or Balti Pie.

Thanks for reading and all your comments over the course of the season. For now, I need to make more space on the site for any follow up. However, ‘close season’ will continue in full, further on.

Matthew Benham - genius

Matthew Benham – genius

Forget platitudes. Now is the time for Premiership answers.

10 May

With Burnley now relegated from the Premiership and QPR sure to have followed them by the time most people are polishing off Sunday lunch, will it be a case of Brentford replacing them or being Championship stablemates next season? Well, the 1-1 draw between Norwich City and Ipswich Town on Saturday has made the play off winner no clearer although Middlesbrough remain the bookies’ favourites.

To read the rest of this article, season 2014/15 is now available to download onto Kindle (and other electronic reading device) in full. Containing additional material and even some (poor) editing, you can get it here for less than the cost of a Griffin Park matchday programme or Balti Pie.

Thanks for reading and all your comments over the course of the season. For now, I need to make more space on the site for any follow up. However, ‘close season’ will continue in full, further on.

Sky viewers saw just how close Tommy Smith came to a late, late equaliser

Sky viewers saw just how close Tommy Smith came to a late, late equaliser

At times on Friday it was all Middlesbrough

At times on Friday it was all Middlesbrough

Supporters turned out well at the first leg. Comedy Frenchman and Chubby Brown amongst the best costumes

Supporters turned out well at the first leg. Sterotype Frenchman and Chubby Brown amongst the best costumes

Just 90 minutes from Wembley as Long mystery explained

9 May

And so the play offs begin with Middlesbrough taking the narrowest of leads from the first leg with a 2-1 victory over Brentford at Griffin Park last night. Pressing for the winner themselves at the end of an impressive second half, the Bees could feel especially hard done by after being stopped in their tracks by a late winner from Fulham loanee Fernando Amorebieta deep into Jota time.

To read the rest of this article, season 2014/15 is now available to download onto Kindle (and other electronic reading device) in full. Containing additional material and even some (poor) editing, you can get it here for less than the cost of a Griffin Park matchday programme or Balti Pie.

Thanks for reading and all your comments over the course of the season. For now, I need to make more space on the site for any follow up. However, ‘close season’ will continue in full, further on.

Boro' fans believe in their team and their,erm, farts???

Boro’ fans believe in their team and their,erm, farts???

View form the terrace - Jota prepares to launch another attack

View from the terrace – Jota prepares to launch another attack

Griffin Park under floodlights for the last time (this season?)

Griffin Park under floodlights for the last time (this season?)

The Ten things that have defined this season (so far….)

4 May

With the dust still settling on the stunning events of the weekend as Brentford beat Derby County and Wolves in the race for a play off place (where, of course, we start proceedings against Middlesbrough on Friday) this column has been handed over to a guest contributor.

Long time Bees fan fan and regular Last Word reader Justin (@BeQuietJustin on twitter) outlines his ten things that have defined Brentford’s 2015/16 campaign to date. So without further ado, here are his thoughts….

That leak – February’s main item of club news was that Mark Warburton and Matthew Benham couldn’t reach agreement about the backroom direction of the club which ultimately meant Warburton would leave at the end of the season, coinciding with the end of his contract. This was reported as a sacking by some extremely lazy journalists in the national press and The Football League Show’s Steve Claridge doggedly insisted that the news was the reason behind any time Brentford didn’t win convincingly in a division they’d only just been promoted to.

The fans’ chanting of Warburton’s name during games, and the players’ celebrations with the manager after Andre Gray’s opener against Watford, showed that those a little closer to the club were unfazed by the largely unwarranted media nonsense.

Warbs  - there was no doubt about his popularity with the players

Warbs – there was no doubt about his popularity with the players

Signing woes – This season brought with it half a team’s worth of interesting signings, many of whom were either injured on arrival or ended up that way.

Scott Hogan was hoped to be the eventual number one striker but picked up an anterior cruciate ligament injury after playing a mere 30 minutes. Everton loanee Chris Long contributed four goals in some admirable performances with raw willing and talent before being sent back to his parent club for injury assessment and exacerbating the problem in a youth cup game.

The Championship-experienced Nick Proschwitz had potential but his finishing soon left fans recalling such legendary names as Clyde Wijnhard and Murray Jones. Exciting Sporting Lisbon forward Betinho apparently did not adjust well to the English game and disappeared from the matchday squads after playing just 13 minutes.

On top of all this, bright Rangers signing Lewis Macleod’s recovery from a hamstring injury was set back by falling down a rabbit hole and tripping over a twig. Make your own jokes about Brentford’s diminutive central midfield. With even one more fit and in-form striker this season, Brentford may well have been automatically promoted. On the other hand, the players have sometimes engineered their own downfall with some noticeable…

Defensive dithering – The new footballing way at Brentford dictated that no longer would we be pumping a long ball over the top for the big striker to knock down to the little one for a shot on goal. Methodical, patient, possession football in the vein of the Spanish national team was the new style and that brought with it a reduction in long goal kicks. Playing out from the back, enabling the defence to link with the 5-man midfield and draw defensive lines out of position, was something very few expected to see from a League One team and this was refined further this season.

However, it also brought with it a fair share of head-in-hands moments, with goalkeeper and defenders seemingly unaware of what was going on around them at times. Numerous occasions brought a short pass to a defender and back to David Button for him to hurriedly lump the ball up the field under pressure when it would have been easier to clear the lines properly and take a standard goal kick.

While the lack of height further up the pitch dictates that wasn’t always the right idea, the high-risk insistence of playing out from the back has resulted in defenders being robbed and conceding goals. Of course, nobody’s perfect, and it would be remiss to highlight the bad side of playing out from the back without mentioning…

David Button – Where would we be without some of David’s fantastic goalkeeping? The spectacular double save at Carrow Road has to be a major contender for save of the season, closely followed by great performances at home against Bournemouth and Watford, among many others.

View from the terrace - David exerts his influence early, telling referee Madley to button  it,

View from the terrace – David exerts his influence early, telling referee Madley to button it,

With Richard Lee’s recurring shoulder injury ultimately leading to him announcing his retirement and subsequently going on loan to a team whose name escapes me, fans were understandably concerned about what would happen in the event of David’s injury or suspension. Jack Bonham looked comfortable in his single appearance against Brighton in the FA Cup, with defensive lapses giving him little chance against two late goals, but the young number two (technically, three?) wasn’t required further.

A testament to goalkeeping coach Simon Royce, David’s kicking and speed off his line have both improved greatly over the last couple of seasons to match his outstanding shot-stopping ability. He pulled off a fine point blank save at 0-0 to help the team on their way to…

Brentford 4 Wolverhampton Wanderers 0 – More money and an established, Championship way of thinking and playing saw Wolves romp home to the League One title last May, finishing 17 points clear of the playoff positions. This game relatively early on in the season was seen as a marker to determine how Brentford would cope in the division against supposedly ‘bigger clubs’.

An emphatic victory rounded off an excellent November consisting of five wins from five games, spawning the infamous #novemberkings hashtag on the club’s Twitter feed. At the end of the regular season, it turned out that this was the result that counted. A 1-0 win for Brentford would have put Wolves in the playoffs and Brentford 7th on goal difference. (editor’s note: (seventh)).

View from the terrace - Wolves perfected their 'kick off' routine at Griffin Park this season

View from the terrace – Wolves perfected their ‘kick off’ routine at Griffin Park this season

A footnote to this game was ex-Bee George Saville, who did not look up to the part having signed permanently for Wolves from Chelsea. I thought George was too indecisive and lightweight last season to make it with Brentford. He failed to impress at Wolves and ended up on loan at Bristol City, registering only 15 total appearances. This match included a brilliant goal in which the entire Wolves back four was taken out of the game in one swift move by…

Andre Gray – Essentially our only true striker this season, Andre massively outperformed early expectations in which he was thought to be playing second fiddle to Scott Hogan. Having jumped up three divisions from the Conference, there was cautious optimism among fans, tempered with a generous helping of wondering where the goals would come from if Brentford were to have a hope of staying in the division.

With Hogan’s early injury turning out to be worse than initially thought, all eyes fell on Andre. Often having to deal with being wrestled, pulled back and kicked to bits by huge defensive lumps, with officials consistently failing to see what 10,000 fans clearly could, Gray has held his nerve, scored 17 goals, set up numerous other chances for his teammates and played a massive part in…

FourFourTwo-2Thumbing our collective noses at the experts’ pre-season predictions – The pundits certainly hadn’t been paying attention to Brentford’s style of play in the previous season and gave them very little chance of making a dent in the Championship promotion race.

As we’ve seen numerous times in the last couple of seasons, underestimate this team at your peril. The most infamous pre-season prediction was that of FourFourTwo magazine, who got numerous things very wrong in their proposed final table (left).

Toumani Diagouraga – Another of my shortlist for the player of the season award. After being farmed out on loan to Portsmouth for eight games last season, many fans suspected that would be the last we saw of the composed, unpredictable midfielder at Griffin Park.

Toumani fought his way back into a midfield that looked like it would never be able to accommodate him due to other players’ performances and has put in 41 appearances so far this season, including numerous man of the match displays. He has been an absolute pleasure to watch, specialising in breaking down attacks with seemingly telescopic legs and twisting opposition players into knots with some brilliant yet, at times, utterly baffling footwork.

Alan Judge – My player of the season. Alan missed games in January and February through injury but it was clear how much we missed his creativity in his absence. Taking over the Sam Saunders mantle as the midfield playmaker, Alan finds space in the centre circle with driving runs to assist or take shots on goal and can spread the play to the wings with ease.

Many Brentford fans have no idea why Blackburn froze him out of their squad, presumably because at only 5’7” he’s not tall enough for their style of play, but their loss is our huge gain. Alan can also strike a sweet free kick, with Good Friday bringing a particularly memorable one…

Bees up, Fulham (almost) down – Perhaps not the biggest thing to happen in the grand scheme of this season, but an emotional choice and an away day that most fans had been looking forward to since the minute the fixtures were released.

Doing the league double over one of our fiercest local rivals showed how far the club has come. From being easily rolled over 5-0 in 2010’s pre-season, to a late home winner and comprehensively spanking that lot down the river in their own back yard, this pair of results gave the long-suffering Bees faithful yet another reason to be proud of what the club has achieved this season.

It’s not over yet, but we have more than enough to celebrate. Here’s looking forward to August, no matter which division Brentford are in!

The win at Fulham was certainly one of the most exciting moments of a great season

The win at Fulham was certainly one of the most exciting moments of a great season

Hats off as a great season comes down to the wire.

2 May

Today’s the day the Championship gets settled. Brentford fans all know the maths in regards to our game and those involving Derby County and Ipswich Town. Meanwhile, at the very top of the table Charlton are the only ones who can stop Bournemouth getting promoted although (and I apologise to Watford fans) it will be the Cherries who lift the Silverware. Plus we’ve the latest from Steve Evans at Rotherham United

To read the rest of this article, season 2014/15 is now available to download onto Kindle (and other electronic reading device) in full. Containing additional material and even some (poor) editing, you can get it here for less than the cost of a Griffin Park matchday programme or Balti Pie.

Thanks for reading and all your comments over the course of the season. For now, I need to make more space on the site for any follow up. However, ‘close season’ will continue in full, further on.

Who am I to argue??

Who am I to argue??