Tag Archives: City

To cap it all, they had a drum. A f***ing drum.

31 Mar

It really was that bad. Brentford and Wigan Athletic played out as insipid a 0-0 draw as one could imagine when Championship football returned on Saturday afternoon following the International break. The scintillating football which has been a trademark of Thomas Frank’s team in 2019 nothing but a distant memory in a game that was as awful as the smell wafting over the DW stadium. For the record, chicken manure from a local farmer – no manners, but what a critic. To borrow a phrase. Instead, it is nothing more than a case of scratching around for positives as the Bees are left chasing a fifth, successive top ten finish and a midweek trip to Swansea City. This before Frank Lampard’s Derby County ™ are next up at Griffin Park.

I’ve watched the highlights. If anything, the 1minute 47 seconds offered up by Sky are overly generous. The other 88 mins 13 were as turgid as it comes. Wigan were determined to strangle any life out of the game. Brentford, unable to find a way through as any attacking intent was choked out of the game. Paul Cook’s team administering a vice like grip around the throat of the Bees. Whenever Neal Maupay got in the box there were three men on him. Saïd was closed down every time he got on the ball. Several players seemed off the pace (first half Henrik and Ollie in particular – sorry, but..) whilst the team were desperately crying out for the fluidity of Romaine Sawyers to guide the ball through the midfield and open up play. And, Wigan had a drum. A f**king drum. At home. That was worse than anything we saw on pitch or smelled off it. At least we had Harry Potter up our sleeve to counter the moribund banging. Nice work, Simon.

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A lone drummer is no substitute for a home atmosphere

Instead, we ended the game with a solitary shot on target. According to the stats. I was struggling to remember even that although the highlights have duly offered it up. Our hosts had three, with Brentford very much grateful to Luke Daniels for keeping us in the match. Three times he retained parity including one effort from distance in the first half that looked as though it might catch him unawares and drift in to the top corner. Instead, it was guided to safety as our virgin goal remained unblemished.

Thomas was bang on the money at full time when he noted “It was a game of very few chances and I think it was a fair result.…. Our normal fluent play between the lines just wasn’t there and we weren’t good enough to play around them”. Not ideal reading but it was exactly what happened and infinitely better to have a head coach who acknowledges what we could all see rather than trotting out the usual “We deserved to win this”.

Look, it wasn’t great. There’s no real action of note to talk about and to compound matters, we lost Yoann Barbet just a few minutes into the second period. He’d needed treatment late on in the first after a nasty looking fall and was clearly limping as he emerged after his half time cuppa. The boos from the home supporters whilst he was being treated both unfair and uncalled for. Something that was consistent with any of our players going down after a lot of rough treatment.

There was little protection offered from the man in neon yellow, referee Andy Woolmer in a game that ended with him blowing up for fouls on 33 occasions. Just to put that into context, there were only 20 awarded as Birmingham City L went down at West Brom on Friday night and 21 as Frank Lampard’s Derby County came one short of hitting 7(seven) goal brackets against Rotherham.   

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View from the away end – about as close as it got

So Wigan stifled it. Brentford were off the pace. But can we take anything positive from this one? Well, the fact that Wigan played with such a negative style and formation shows the threat presented by normally free-scoring Bees. Indeed, as the clock moved on it felt like the sort of game that so many times in the past we’ve seen the team lose 1-0. At least this time around, Luke kept us in it with a number of saves that were as smart as the all red goalkeeper’s kit he was sporting. 

There was a return to match action for Lewis Macleod, too. His appearance as a late substitute for Josh Da Silva being the latest attempt to relaunch what should be such a promising career but one which has, sadly, been blighted by injury after injury. How unlucky has Lewis been? Here’s hoping he can put a few games under his belt and then hit the ground running next season. Indeed, even Josh starting this one and a very accomplished performance from Mads Bech Sörensen off the bench being further testament to a B-team system that is seeing players segue through to the match day squad.

What else. It was another game unbeaten in orange / brown (what jinx?) whilst the pub before and after the game was quiet magnificent – despite the bizarre formation of a canteen style queue to order the drinks. This a phenomena I’ve now witnessed twice in less than a week after having never experienced this previously. How has this been allowed to happen? Why? Did I miss a memo ? It’s quite bizarre.

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Wigan – great beer, despite the queue

The lack of social element aside,  how do you see the full contents on offer across the whole bar front when approaching a fixed point in the corner. Moreso, when you are staring at the back of the prior punter? Why can’t the staff work out who is next up without looking ? Even then, service was still granted by answering the question “Who’s next?”.  Err, me. I’m at the top of the queue. All that was needed was a plastic tray for the full school dining hall experience . Still, as an away fan it made an alternative to being greeted with the words ‘Ow Much..?’ from the previous transaction ringing in the ears.

We digress, as ever and that’s a rant for another day. For now, we’ll file it alongside waiters describing coffee as Expresso and made up coffee words (what the hell is a ventissimo?). Team GB. The faux-verb “To medal”. Mrs. Brown’s Boys. People who think Roger Moore shouldn’t top a ‘Best Bond’ list. Star Wars Day  – that’s the one after May the third.  Ian Moose. iPod headphones. The England Supporters band. Indeed, any form of musical interlude at football. See also: goal music, drums, Mr. Portsmouth and his bell. John Bishop (he’s from Liverpool, apparently. If only he’d mentioned it in his routine). Use of the words Derby County preceded by Frank Lampard’s….

And relax. All of a sudden, a 0-0 at Wigan doesn’t seem so bad. Despite the drum.

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Thomas salutes the fans at full time

Nick Bruzon  

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Uncanny parallels on a day of Gayle v gale as the run comes to an end.

17 Mar

And with that, the home streak was over. After 7 (seven) straight wins at Griffin Park, Brentford went down to West Bromwich Albion 1-0 in a game dominated by two goalkeepers and awful conditions. On a day windier than a naughty puppy at Christmas after snafflling an entire family size tub of Roses, it was West Brom who played both the conditions and the ref to win the game with their one moment of true quality – Kyle Edwards embarking on mazy run through the midfield and the Brentford defence to steer it past Luke Daniels six minutes into the second half. Elsewhere, there was more than a passing interest in how our own FA Cup conquerors, Swansea City, would fare in the next round at home to Manchester City. It would be fair to say there was no irony lost in how that one turned out. But we can only start with matters at Griffin Park.

The writing was on the wall before the game even kicked off in anger, if we’re being honest. And not just the appointment of Andy Madley as our ‘referee’. There was that lowest of low tricks at the toss – changing ends. I’m not a fan of having to kick ‘the wrong way’ in the first half. It doesn’t feel right and gets everybody’s back up. Especially given it meant we’d spend the second period kicking into the wind. And it was strong, very strong. The trees behind the away end were bending double whilst three balls were lost over the stadium roof after being hoofed high into the gusty stratosphere.

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View from the Braemar – West Brom had it when to counted. Sadly.

It was a bad start to the game but entirely understandable given the circumstances. Despite pressure and chances, the Bees were unable to find a way past Sam Johnstone in goal for the opposition in that opening period. It was another game where we went for it from the off.

Yet where previously we’ve had the ability to step it up in the second period, this time there was no way through. The elements providing a massive help to a team who defended with strength whilst cynically running down the clock at every opportunity. The ball was kicked away whenever possible, the ref allowed The Baggies to get in his ear and under his skin, throw ins were delayed and dives that would have had Tom Daley smiling were common place.

Much as against Sheffield United midweek, Brentford were locked out by well drilled opponents. When the chances came, the ball didn’t quite fall right or Johnstone was on hand to pull off top drawer saves. One in particular, from a Yoann Barbet free kick, had the fans out of their seats for 1-0 Brentford before the diving’ keeper’s outstretched palm managed to guide it to safety at the explosion of the ‘goal’ celebration. Canos and Maupay also came close but it wasn’t to be. 

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View from the Braemar – Yoann comes close. So close.

When West Brom had their own opportunity, Edwards took it with style. There can be no complaints about the way he started and finished the move. Even if there were plenty afterwards as the clock headed towards it’s inexorable denouement with all the pressure and tension of a losing Countdown contestant trying to make a last round word out of JKXDZBEIO.

More so, when referee Madley followed a strong first hour with a final thirty minutes which suggested his focus was anywhere but on ensuring the game could flow. His own performance very much going to the dogs as Brentford battled against Dwight Gayle, a roaring gale and a rogue ref.

So after the play-off dream had briefly raised its head in recent weeks, we’re now nine points off the top six with nine games to go. Given the way this team can play, I’m not going to say it’s over until it’s over. But being realistic, things are going to need a remarkable swing.

On the plus side, we’ve got international break to all catch our breath and recuperate before that final push begins at the end of the month with two away games – Wigan Athletic and then a midweek trip to Swansea City. At the very least, another top ten finish is more than attainable. Another finish over the likes of Birmingham City and QPR well within our grasp.

Yesterday was frustrating and notably so, given the conditions we had to watch the game in. Whilst I’d never trade being at Griffin Park for TV, there was a pang of jealousy about the comfort of those watching ‘on screen’ from sunnier climes.

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Not exactly TW8….

Still, if it was all about the comfort then you may aswell stay at home. Something a group of West Brom fans must have been wishing after putting on the worst pre-match display for TV’s Soccer AM since, well, that day we don’t talk about against Doncaster Rovers.

With football done, it was back home to catch up on the FA Cup action. In particular, the game between Swansea City and Manchester City. That one being of particular interest to Bees fans after we’d seen a 1-0 half time lead at the Liberty Stadium in the previous round turn into a 4-1 fifth round exit at full time. The catalyst for that one being turned around was, of course, the unfortunate equaliser where a free kick had beaten Luke Daniels, hit the post, struck the back of the still diving goalkeeper on its return and deflected straight back into the net for 1-1.

So there was no irony lost as Swansea saw a 2-1 second half lead at the Liberty Stadium turn into a 3-2 sixth round exit at full time. The catalyst for that one being turned around was, of course, the unfortunate equaliser where Sergio Aguero’s penalty had beaten Kristoffer Nordfeldt, hit the post, struck the back of the still diving goalkeeper on its return and deflected straight back into the net for 2-2.

That the penalty decision, like Aguero’s late winner, had probably been made the wrong way can only have added to the sense of frustration felt by the home fans. Tell me about it. Yet another two fingers up delivered from VAR or, more the case, the lack of VAR. The FA Cup only allowing the system to be used in games players at Premier league grounds. Nothing like keeping the competition consistent, eh? 

For Manchester City, an incredible opportunity to scoop a quadruple still awaits. For Brentford and Swansea City, we’re back to the drawing board. The Championship play-offs remain a mathematical possibility but are going to take an incredible combination of wins and favours from other teams.

 With Leeds United and Frank Lampard’s Derby county still to visit, who knows what might sill happen…..

Nick Bruzon

Bees hoping for more, more, more as West Brom visit this afternoon

16 Mar

What a run it has been for Brentford. 7(seven) wins in succession at Griffin Park. The crowd behind the team. The team playing for fun. Those full time celebrations and walks around the paddock now becoming a very welcome, and regular, feature. Most of all, it’s fun. The smiles are broad and the goals are flying in. I love it and can’t wait for the next game to come around. However, promotion chasing West Bromwich Albion are in town today and will be the latest team looking to put a spoke in the wheel of Thomas Frank’s runaway home form. Everybody needs to be on red alert for this one. Despite relieving manager Darren Moore of his duties last week, they got back to winning ways on Wednesday night against Swansea City. It was a game which featured what must surely be a contender for worst. penalty. ever as the Swans missed out on the opportunity to equalise in quite spectacular style. When you have that level of fortune smiling on you, it’ll be no surprise if The Baggies come in to this one with their tails up. Yet with the table still tight and The Bees 7(seven) points off 6th with a game in hand, despite our own midweek slip up at Sheffield United, there’ll be no excuses for not going at this one full tilt.

And full tilt is what Thomas Frank specialises in. Our home record speaks for itself whilst last month saw Brentford hit five goals at Griffin Park on two separate occassions. Hull City and Blackburn Rovers being the teams to take that pummelling at the back. QPR were put to the sword with what looked like consummate ease last time we were all here. Then, of course, there was the win on the road at Middlesbrough. Finally, it happened. What a reward for all the hard work, effort and self-belief.

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Thomas celebrates at home. Again

Even our substitutions are positive. There’s no looking to run down the clock or grind it out in the last few minutes with additional defenders or holding midfielders. Instead, Thomas is swapping one attacking player for another. It worked a treat in that QPR game whilst was a tactic deployed very early up at Sheffield United. It was a tactic that almost paid off against a side whose own defence is tighter than a pair of 80’s football shorts.   

As for the team, Saïd Benrahma has been on fire and this week captured the Championship goal of the month award for February aswell as also being earlier nominated in the ‘player’ category. Neal Maupay is becoming a cult hero to rival the best of those we’ve seen over the years as he mixes fighting spirit with goals. His 20 in the league, to date, is a figure beaten only by a small clutch of players and the crowd love him. Sergi is once more playing like the Sergi of old. Romaine is the absolute unsung hero of the side. The choice of wing backs and three centre backs is giving both added protection in along with another option of being able to turn defence into attack. 

The squad is about as full strength as one could hope for at this point in the season. Rico Henry remains absent whilst, of course, Daniel Bentley is a casualty of that game at Middlesbrough. Luke Daniels came in for the Sheffield United game and Thomas has already confirmed he’ll be starting again today. We’ve all see what Luke can do over the last couple of seasons and he can, perhaps, count himself unlucky not to have been given a chance earlier on this tie around. The life of a goalkeeper must be a frustrating one at times.

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Saïd, Neal and the team are providing goals and smiles

So it all sounds very promising for The Bees but let’s not forget the small matter of our visitors. West Brom almost pulled off an 11th hour stay of execution from Premier League relegation last time out and they’ve picked up where they left off. At least, in terms of position. The play off zone has been an almost constant feature this time out, something that their illustrious neighbours (please note, your definition of illustrious may vary) have really struggled with in recent seasons following their own demotions from the top flight. Aston Villa and Birmingham City, I’m looking at you. 

Dwight Gayle is still banging them in, sitting just behind Neal in the Championship goal scorers table. He has managed 3 from his last 2 games against The Bees and will no doubt be looking to improve on that today. The run of results that saw Darren Moore pushed out was immediately reversed with that 3-0 defeat of Swansea City. If nothing else, could the change of manager (given what many fans were describing as confusing tactics) and the huge slice of luck in ‘that penalty’ prove pivotal in lifting them back to a position of being promotion favourites ?

All is forgiven, Marcello…

My heart says ‘home win’ today. Brentford have been on fire, especially at Griffin Park, whilst West Bromwich Albion are still dusting themselves down after the upheaval and wayward performances of the last few weeks. Yet with the visitors looking to lock down their play-off position and the Bees still with hopes of ghosting up the table to sixth, could pressure and expectation be the biggest factors here? Will the winning team be the one the handles this the best? Or will Thomas Frank have more of those wonderful motivational cards up his sleeve to inspire the team and the fans to another home win?

I’m just the numpty on the terrace and have no means of being able to answer that with any form of accuracy. But I tell you what, I can’t wait for kick off to find out how this one is going to go. It promises to be as exciting a game as any we’ve had to date.

Roll on 3pm. See you there.

Nick Bruzon 

All good things come to an end. Now is the time to go ag, ag, ag.. once more.

10 Feb

So it wasn’t to be 11 unbeaten. It wasn’t to be another victory on the road in the incredible orange and brown. A 2-1 win for Nottingham Forest saw Brentford defeated for the first time since that mid-December trip to Hull (and back?) . With back to back TV clashes at home to Aston Villa and then up at Swansea City in the FA Cup to come, January’s manager-of-the-month nominee Thomas Frank is now tasked with the challenge of getting the momentum going once more.

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Thomas will need to go ag.. once more

Brentford official would describe this one as ‘Frustrating’ on the club Twitter feed at full time. The stats would certainly bear this out with the game ending on 70% possession and 21 shots for The Bees.  Ollie Watkins had a goal disallowed, the woodwork was hit twice and Daniel Bentley pulled off a magnificent double penalty save. Sergi Canos provided hope late on with his fourth in four games. Yet we all know that ‘deserving’ and ‘stats’ count for nothing if you can’t take your chances or if you give away sloppy goals.

Certainly, Nottingham Forest will be well pleased with their win and made no mistake when opportunity knocked. The highlights are up on Sky’s website already and are very much a case of – move along quickly, nothing to see here. At least, at the back.

The defensive coaches will no doubt be having words on Monday morning about what were two very soft efforts to concede. In the cold light of day we can’t be pleased about either but, at the same time, let’s not deny Lewis Grabban or Molla Wague any kudos here. They worked their chances, were perhaps given a helping hand but still had to put them away.

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Another penalty save counted for nothing in the end

On another day we might have won this one. The positive news being that there were chances to take. The run of goals, goals, goals had to end at some point. We’ll bounce back. The visit of Aston Villa on Wednesday night couldn’t have come at a better time. If we can’t get ourselves up for this one then what’s the point of bothering? Who doesn’t want to prove a point to Dean Smith? Player or fan?

We all acknowledge why he took the ‘dream job’ and I can’t imagine there’ll be any ‘ill will’  but that doesn’t change the fact he left a wonderful young squad at a progressive club. He’d taken Brentford to a position where we’d been named as Championship favourites when Villa came calling and that mantle was passed to Thomas Frank. Now he returns with a team who are scoring goals, and shipping them, for fun. It could be a scintillating encounter.

Then there’s Swansea City in the FA Cup. What an incredible opportunity awaits in that game. A fleet of free coaches heading up the M4 in the hope of reaching the quarter finals in a winner takes all clash. there’s no chance of a replay now. It has to be sorted on the day, via the mediums of extra time and penalties if needed. No prizes for guessing which direction that one could end up heading. This is Brentford after all….

I’d love to have beaten Nottingham Forest. If only to extend a fine winning run in recent seasons agasint the Tricky Trees at the City Ground. There’s the personal reasons of wanting to get one over a few of their supporters whilst who doesn’t love extending an unbeaten run? Instead, It was former Bee Lewis Grabban who swung the axe to chop us down for the first time in five home games.

Now, we have to prove this was the blip that I am sure it will be after a fine run of form. Forest are pushing at the play-offs. Brentford looking at a cup run. As Harry said to me at full time, “Daddy. Was that a league game? … Thank goodness, so we’re still in the FA Cup then!

I can’t account for the naivety of youth and I’m certainly not going to dent his enthusiasm. Wednesday will be huge but Sunday could be epic.

Nick Bruzon

BBC Wales stick two fingers up to The Bees ahead of Blackburn visit

2 Feb

Brentford host Blackburn Rovers this afternoon, looking to make it 9 games unbeaten and continue the climb up the table that Thomas Frank’s rejigged team have been enjoying since just before Christmas. It is a game that will see him looking to kick on from the disappointment of being held at Barnet in the FA Cup on Tuesday night. That in itself, a game which now presents a further headache beyond the forthcoming replay. Namely, BBC Wales selecting the fifth round tie at Swansea City for a Sunday afternoon, 4pm TV fixture. The reaction to that news one of universal frustration as a day of motorways or train disruption awaits anyone looking to make that trip.

First up, Blackburn. I have to be honest that their position in the table had escaped me. Instead thoughts of Rovers normally turn to Gary Blissett in the FA Cup, ‘Birdy’s date’ (THE single best kit launch video ever – Kitman Bob, if you are reading I remain available) and Jota causing Mark Burridge to explode in the commentary box. Yet a quick glance at the Championship standings shows them just four points behind Frank Lampard’s Derby County (TM) in the hunt for a play-off place. They’ve won four on the spin, conceding just a solitary goal whilst the BBC match preview tells us that they are the kings of the second half goal. Brentford, beware.

Come on Bob. I’m game if you are

Yet The Bees are no slouches either. With goals being scored for fun and Neal Maupay exhuding all the confidence and prowess of a Grand National winner, we’re a force to be reckoned with ourselves. The squad is now confirmed after what was, thankfully, one of the dullest deadline days in history. There was none of the alleged interest from Dean Smith up at Villa Park and so Thomas can be confident he has his boys until the rest of the campaign. Unless, of course, any of them fancy joining Nico Yennaris in China. That being the news that was confirmed on official yesterday but which even Matthew Benham had been tweeting about the day before.

The goals against Barnet were all great. Ollie’s strike from distance, Neal slotting home another ice cool penalty and then Sergi maintaining his composure after a quite delightful ball to feet from Henrik Dalsgaard. Then there were the three efforts against the post. Had Moses Odubajo found himself an inch or two luckier I think we may have had another ‘Jota moment’ in the commentary box. #burridgegasm. Instead, we’ve been left with a tricky replay and the image of John Motson talking tactics under the shadow of Ian Moose stuffing his face. For crying out loud man, at least chew.

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Motty and Chris do their thing as Ian Moose does his

The goals against, and the midfield, were very much a case of ‘move along, nothing to see here’. I guess in part this was down to the slight squad rotation in a game played out against the backdrop of a passionate full house. One thing’s for sure, you can see the incredible difference Kamo makes to the squad. We’re a different team when he starts and one has to hope he’ll be back in the Brentford line up today.

I can’t even come close to calling this one. It promises to be a fascinating match up and I’m intrigued as to how hard we react after Tuesday night. The only thing you can be sure of is that’s going to be bitterly cold out there. Whatever you do, please take care and wrap up warm. The slush may have been cleared but I almost lost a few toes to frostbite on the school run past Griffin Park yesterday.

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A carpet of slush is clear from Griffin Park, Friday

From the league to the cup, next. “An away game at Championship rivals Swansea City has about as much romance, of the cup or otherwise, as a Valentines card and bunch of flowers from petrol station forecourt. I’ve no doubt they are thinking the same…… As I can’t imagine it’ll be one that is selected for TV, if we actually win the replay, at least it should be a traditional 3pm kick off“. 

My words, written on Wednesday morning. Well that’s just another example, if one were needed, of why yours truly is the numpty on the terrace rather than any sort of informed source. As was revealed yesterday, whomever wins the replay on Tuesday night has now seen the match at Swansea City moved to 4pm on a Sunday afternoon.

Well thanks a bunch, BBC Wales. Talk about sticking two fingers up to the fans who now face the prospect of the three scariest words in the English language – ‘Rail replacement bus’- which we’re all thrilled to hear is operating between between Bristol and Cardiff on the Sunday. Expect a return home of about midnight if you chose to take the most godforsaken mode of transport since records began.

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Bad news for The Bees

The reaction has been almost universal. It all seems so pointless. A game that’s not even likely to sell out being picked for a regional arm of the BBC – albeit one available outside of Wales via the medium of Virgin and Sky. Yet we all know that watching it on the armchair is nothing like being there. And why do it at such a ridiculously inconvenient time, given the travel hell that is sure to unfold (see also: moving the cup final to an evening kick off). 

I’ve no doubt the club will point out that we are beholden to the rules of the competition and the whims of broadcasters. Broadcasters who clearly don’t give a monkey about the people that actually make the competition what it is – the fans. Let’s wait to see if BIAS swing into action. This would be the perfect forum for them to say their piece or, better still, our fans’ group get involved. Seriously Adam, if you are reading then you’ve got a quite wonderful opportunity to do something for the supporters. No matter that we already know it is a decision which won’t be over turned.

And yes, I realise that we have to get past Barnet first. They’re in exactly the same boat as us but there’s nothing to stop our clubs, and fan groups, presenting a united front on this one. At least until 7.45pm on Tuesday night.

Still, that’s for then. For now, we’ve got a visit form Blackburn Rovers to look forward to and I can’t wait. See you there.

Now, how about one more look at Jota…..

 

Nick Bruzon   

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

1 Jan

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

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

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

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

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

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Fifty years on and Peter Gilham still has us enthralled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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View from the Braemar – Rico Henry impressed today.

Nick Bruzon 

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

28 Dec

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

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

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

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Stuart Dallas – one of THE Brentford moments

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

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

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

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

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Sky cameras caught how bad this one was

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

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

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

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Feliz Navidad

Nick Bruzon

Now really is the time to go again.

3 Nov

That’s been a long week. Brentford fans awaiting the visit of Millwall have had a lot to think about after last Saturday’s away defeat to Norwich City. However, it all seemed somewhat secondary to the one thought that the broader footballing community has had on its mind – the tragic events at Leicester City later that evening. I have to be honest that, after penning an initial column about both on Sunday morning, subsequent news saw the appetite for talking football dissipate as the story unfolded. The only solace, if there can be any, to be taken from this quite devastating situation has been in hearing all the wonderful stories about Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha. A man with a genuine love for his players, his team and the city. Whilst this was already well known in Leicester, as an outsider looking in to only now understand the full extent of the love and respect in which he is held shows just what a terrible loss this was. I’ve no doubt it’s going to be both an emotional and celebratory one at Cardiff City this afternoon when football begins again for Leicester City.

 

As for Brentford, Thomas Frank welcomes a Millwall side who sit one place below us in 18th. It seems only five minutes ago we were knocking on the door of the play-offs. That 1-1 draw with Leeds United keeping the Bees in sixth place following what would later turn out to be Dean Smith’s last match as Brentford head coach. Three games later, played out over the space of a frenetic eight days, his successor has seen a record of LLL which included going 3 down to Preston in the space of 23 minutes. The Bees slipped another place last night and are now down to 17thafter Aston Villa managed a win rather than their customary 1-1 draw.

Yet, importantly, the table remains as tight as it has all season. We’re 7(seven) points away from the play-off places. We’re 6 away from the relegation trapdoor. That’s neither to over inflate our position (the table doesn’t lie) but nor is it to be the harbinger of doom. I’m not. There’s a hell of a long way to go and, as we’ve both said and seen, the squad has undeniable talent. Instead, the visit of Millwall should be seen as a massive opportunity for Thomas to harness that.

He’s now had a clear week with his squad to run at this. To work at things in training. To get his players firing and be clear just what is his preferred starting XI is (specifically given the injury suffered by Kamo). To try and stop opposition that have, typically for us, started to find form with 3 wins out of the last 4 coming after their own woeful start to this campaign. But which is the team suffering from a brief reversal of form? Who will pick up the points?

Look. Whatever happens it can’t be any more frustrating than Norwich last week. A game played out in awful conditions. Whilst acknowledging the hosts’ lofty position in the league and their clear ability, Brentford looked sluggish. We struggled as the team failing to show their own class. Albeit I thought Ezri Konsa had a stunning game. The atrocious weather – a deluge of diluvian levels descending on us in the first half – can’t have made things easier but it was the same for both sides.

Instead, we seemed guilty of over-elaborating yet remained unable to forge clear opportunities, that anguished triple chance in the second half aside.  As for the goal conceded, sitting in the stand it looked proper amateur hour. There’s nothing more to say. Move on. Fast. I did have to wonder if the Carrow Road scoreboard was sledging us as we went in one down at half-time with only Daniel Bentley’s spot kick save keeping us in it.

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Or , it could have been a dig at their own penalty skills

And relax. That was then. This is now. It’s a clean slate and time to go for it once more in the first of two back to back London derbies. The visit of Millwall is followed closely by the trip to QPR (for those of you who have been able to access the lower tier). Personally, I’m gutted that having started the season at 100mph, things have hit the skids somewhat. Yet equally, it is perhaps time to show some of that faith that the management had in the squad last season.

Who could forget our somewhat crumby start to that campaign? Hmm. Move along, nothing to see here. It was a period dominated by scrappy goals given away, painful defeats but Dean (supported by Thomas) telling everybody that this team were playing well and usually deserved to win. Yet once it clicked, Brentford were virtually unstoppable. I’ve got a feeling that today we’re going to see similar bouncebackability.

I was fortunate enough to meet Thomas last week, by virtue of Harry being mascot at Norwich. We had a very positive chat about the team, the players and the change in coaching staff. What I took away from that conversation was nothing but a sense of his drive, ambition for Brentford and self-belief in what we are doing as a club. For all it has been joked about in passing on social media, this is no Marinus situation. Quite the opposite. Three points are coming today. And you can quote me on that.  

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When Harry met Thomas

Tidying up the rest of the week’s news. Firstly, have you seen the survey which the GPG have put up on Twitter in regards to the ticketing website? The link is here if not.

It only takes a few minutes to complete and is your chance to share any thoughts – positive or otherwise – in regards to a system which has seen a few challenges in the initial inception. The likes of Beesotted, Bees United and BIAS have shared this one on social media and so I’ve no doubt it has already reached a wide audience. However, if our reader has somehow missed this then here you go….

Secondly. Stadium love. I took my first walk past Lionel Road in a few weeks yesterday. Oh, my. To say this has grown is somewhat of an understatement. Whilst the BFC Drone continues to amaze with those aerial flybys, it’s always great to see our new home from the ground up. Or other angles…  

This picture, taken from the SEGA building, dropped in to the Last Word postbox earlier in the week. It’s incredible how quickly the construction work is moving ahead when you consider it was only in late March that we had the ‘breaking ground’ ceremony. 

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To be this good doesn’t, necessarily, take ages

As such inspired, and with the school run back on after half term, I took a stroll on Friday. Below is my own effort, although you may want to refer to the version on Twitter which you can fully expand to see it in all its glory.

Likewise, not forgetting we still have a home at Griffin Park until 2020. A home which, whilst a little rough around the edges compared to our more illustrious friends, still never fails to take the breath away. As the same school run also demonstrated.

See you there at 3pm.

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Lionel Road in the morning

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Griffin Park by evening

Nick Bruzon

Bees march on after cracking game at Villa Park.

23 Aug

The morning after the night before. Brentford took a point from a 2-2 draw at Aston Villa that sees the Bees move up to fourth place in an evolving Championship table which is now almost half-way towards attaining ‘fully taken shape’ status. It was a point that we would all have taken before kick–off and yet, with Villa’s equaliser coming deep into the final minute of five added on by referee Jon Moss, still felt as though we’d had the win cruelly taken away from us. That the Bees had snatched a draw from the jaws of victory. A scenario, at least result wise, akin to QPR away last season.    

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The stats tell it all

Yet at the same time, the common consensus on social media was that it had been a quite wonderful advert for Championship football. That Brentford had put in their (relatively) weakest performance of the campaign to date and Aston Villa should perhaps be kicking themselves for not having wrapped it up early on themselves.

It was almost the opposite of the Stoke (away) game. Whereas as the Bees started that, like every other time the season, on the front foot, this time around the hosts didn’t allow us a chance to settle. Villa pressed and pressed whilst the Bees couldn’t get out of their own half. Chance followed chance and surely it as only a matter of time before the goal came. And on 23 minutes it did. But to Brentford. A quite delightful run and cross from Sergi was headed cleverly into space by Ollie Watkins to Neil Maupay. The Frenchman made no mistake as he buried it with a clean strike high into the back of the net.

Get in!! Our sofa erupted. Not literally. Although the pizza did fly and Mrs. Bruzon does now have a very awkward stain to get out of the upholstery. Glad that one wasn’t me. Yet the joy didn’t last long. With half time approaching Jonathan Kodjia levelled things up for Villa, evading Ezri to fire in hard past Daniel Bentley from close range. It was a goal that Villa’s pressure had suggested would come and so take nothing away from our hosts. It was pressure they continued into the second half as we struggled with our shape. The full backs both looked ragged whilst central midfield was given a much needed backbone with the additions of Kamo and Nico for Lewis and Captain for the night, Josh McEachran.

The two changes made all the difference and with the inevitable sub-by-numbers of Said Benrahma for Sergi Canos, the screw started to turn. Nico almost gave us the lead with one impressively hit shot from distance as the game turned into an end-to-end classic. Maupay then went one better with Ollie Watkins again turning provider. His shot was only parried down and Neal’s reactions were quick enough to again bury it first time. Whether he should have been on the pitch after a stamping incident in the first half was caught by the cameras, albeit missed by the ref, is another question. There will no doubt be a few squeaky bums at Griffin park today as we wait to see if that was deemed accidental or deliberate foul play.

It didn’t look pretty but I’m just the numpty on the terrace and that’s a question for Mr. Moss to consider. There’s nothing we can do and Dean Smith has already come out and said that should any charges be pressed, he’ll be doing similar. He used his post-match conference to tell the BBC that, “If you remember the incident, Mile Jedinak fell over, got up and then smashed Neal in the back of the head so, if they are looking at retrospective for Neal, then we’ll do so for Jedinak.

Let’s move on though. Back to the game. 2-1 up. Less than ten minutes to go yet still Brentford pressed. Said Benrahma had a glorious chance to extend the lead further. His close range head, flying like a tracer bullet to the goal was again only parried by Orjan Nyland in the Villa goal. It bounced on the line and seemed over, but television replays confirmed the ball hadn’t fully crossed.

I say ‘only’. Nyland had minimal time to react and credit to him for a cracking performance when it counted. Likewise Daniel Bentley who, one stutter aside early on, looked as commanding as ever. Sadly, he could do nothing about the late, late equaliser that had an almost inevitable feel to it the moment five additional minutes of time were indicated. It gave Villa the exact period for which they knew they could throw the kitchen sink at things and sure enough, with what must have been the final move of the game, that man Kodjia was on hand to break Brentford hearts.

I was gutted. I think we all were. But at the same time, some perspective. We are unbeaten. We are fourth. We haven’t lost to Aston Villa in five games at this level. That we are all disappointed about picking up an away point tells you all you know about how far this team have come. This isn’t fans being greedy. About having some sort of divine right to just turn up and win. This is about knowing how well we have played all campaign and so being genuinely hopeful of pushing on to take all three points once that second half fight-back had taken hold.

I’m also glad that with one, potentially two, new signings in the stands for the home team, we’ve got this one out of the way early. Like the Bees, Villa sit in the play-off zone on 8 points and I think they’ll only go on to get even stronger. The top two a genuine aspiration for the players. An expectation, perhaps, for the fans. Certainly on this showing.

It could have been more. Given the clock, it probably should have. But take nothing away from Villa in a game where I’d have taken a point up front. Having slept on it, the proverbial ‘fair result’.

With Dean Smith’s interview not appearing on Brentford ‘official’ as yet, I’ll be keen to hear his thoughts in full. Was it another game we ‘deserved’ to win or does he feel a draw was the just result? Funnily enough, we joked about his having a ‘deserved to win’ table on these pages after the Stoke game. Then sure enough, the Sky team would talk after the game about how the club “build an alternative table; the justice table”.

Hmm. I’m all for motivation and telling the players how good they are. Yet results don’t lie and the league table certainly doesn’t. If it works for the club whilst the Championship is still forming then fair enough.  Personally, I’m not a fan of the Justice league. If nothing else, Batman and Superman aren’t a patch on the Hulk and Thor….. 

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I’ll get my coat

Final observations about the game – the viewing experience via Sky Sports. I wasn’t fortunate enough to be able to travel for this one but there was a convenient alternative. TV.

Great coverage, in general, although even as the most ardent admirer of our quite stunning brown and orange kit, I don’t think I was alone in struggling to make out the respective teams. Perhaps it was easier at the ground, and certainly seeing it in the flesh at Stoke presented no issues.  Yet back home on TV, under floodlights, there did seem to be somewhat of a clash. Perhaps a case for orange shorts? Or a third shirt? There’d be no complaints from yours truly with either option.

As for Sky themselves, what is their obsession with our old badge? Still they get it wrong. Come on chaps, it’s not that hard. Surely? How can their graphics department be so out of touch? Let’s all move on from the clipart montage. If you have to get it wrong then at least give us a castle.

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Dear Sky. Please. Stop. Getting our badge. Wrong.

The only other point of note from the night was Reading who drew 2-2 with our next opponents, Blackburn Rovers. Whilst ordinarily as insignificant as result as they come, a point takes their total to 1. Meaning there is now only one team in the Championship who have P4 L4 Pts 0.  

And that, of course, is QPR. After suffering the indignity of a 7(seven) goal bracketing at the weekend, their own woeful form continued with a 3-0 home defeat to Bristol City on Tuesday. They’ve only scored twice all season and have GD of -11 already.

With Birmingham City also failing to win, again, anyone still feeling despondent about last night’s 95thminute (and surely there won’t be anyone now), just take a look at that table today. Top and bottom.

With Brentford not playing QPR until November, one can’t imagine Steve McClaren will still be in the hot seat by that juncture if they keep up this run of form.  Here’s hoping though.

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The fledgling table makes for great reading. At both ends

Nick Bruzon

Will it be third time lucky on the road?

22 Aug

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

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Our destination this evening

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

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

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

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Villa Park – two recent trips have seen two draws

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

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

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

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

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

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Whose shirt IS that? Josh joins

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

I’m not even contemplating the other result.

Nick Bruzon