Tag Archives: City

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 

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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

What a week. What a 16 years. Why today is more than just ‘another’ game.

11 Aug

Stoke City here we come. Brentford hit the road today, safe in the knowledge that Ryan Woods remains a Bee after a somewhat uneventful, albeit tense, transfer window slammed shut on Thursday ™ . That said, there can’t be one Bees fan who doesn’t know full well there still remains a gaping hole in the middle of it through which a player could still leave before month end. This, whether to / from another Championship club. Or Lower. Whilst we may be out of the woods in terms of the ginger Pirlo heading to Swansea City, that still remains a theoretical possibility for a few weeks. And with Sam Clucas leaving the Swans for today’s hosts after initially failing to agree terms with top flight Burnley, could their interest in Woodsy now be renewed?  Or might today see a renaissance for Ryan?  

First up, Stoke City. We’ve not had a competitive fixture with the Potters since the 2002 play-off final. That was the one we lost. 2-0. Although we had the unique experience of getting beaten in Cardiff, rather than in the semi-finals or at Wembley. That was the one I attended with my Stoke supporting flat mate Phil and HB’s now godfather, Colin. Where Jack Segal of First Great Western trains tried to make an already awful day even worse on the way home by taking the train out of commission at Newport. Amongst his lesser offences. How DID that evening all work out, Jack? How much did that taxi cost? The one where Steve Coppell’s squad was not so much broken up as splintered into a million pieces immediately afterwards. 

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Move along – nothing to see here. Again.

It wasn’t a great day all round by any stretch of the imagination. Frankly, I was glad to be clear of Stoke. They changed managers a few times but would hold station until the enigmatic Tony Pulis out shone their divisional rivals to make it into the Premier league in 2006/07. It was a position the Potters would maintain until their love-in with the top flight ended in a bitter divorce at the end of last season i.e. they were relegated. And now our paths cross once more. Sixteen years later.

Cripes, Stoke look tasty. Unlike most relegated teams, they’ve been able to keep the majority of their squad together. Clucas has come in from Swansea whilst they had already strengthened with the £6m+ purchase of midfielder Oghenekaro Etebo. In addition, Dean Smith was quick to recognise other new boys including Tom Ince and Ashley Williams in yesterday’s press conference. That’s before you factor in the likes of Joe Allen or England World cup squad member, goalkeeper Jack Butland.  

Then again, the Bees look equally impressive. You can only play the opposition presented yet Saturday’s 5-1 obliteration of Rotherham was about as one-sided as it gets. This despite Ryan Woods not being named in the matchday squad after the interest from Wales. Frankly, that we ‘only’ scored five is still about as confusing as it gets. Brentford were insatiable when pushing forward and could really have made a claim on those beautiful brackets that come with a 7(seven) goal score. Yet three points and top of the table after the first round of games are about as much as one could hope for.

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View from the Braemar – a great performance against Rotherham

Today will be an infinitely sterner test. Just where is that dividing line to be drawn between Rotherham being awful and Dean Smith’s team being considered able to take that next step up? Will the team change now that Woodsy is available? Even just the bench?  Dean told the media team yesterday that “Ryan is a full member of our squad. I am very pleased he didn’t leave. We had bids and there was an unsettling period for Ryan but nothing has happened. Our valuation was not met so he remains a Brentford player.

What that means for today is unclear. I just can’t see a winning team being changed but equally, and has been noted many times, I’m just the numpty on the terrace. One thing Dean does is surprise us with his choice of personnel. Last season’s opening period was punctuated by no team being the same in successive games for a stretch that seemed to last about two months, if I recall correctly. Might we see more of the same?

There’s only one place to find out and that’s 3pm at the bet365 stadium (things to note not to call Lionel Road – I think I’ll cry if we run out at the LeoVegas Arena). I can’t wait for this one. If for no other reason than we get to see how well the boys do in that quite magnificent brown and orange away shirt.

Roll on kick off and see you there.

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Looking forward to seeing more of Said in the brown today

One final note on the Woodsy situation. Or, more specifically, the Swansea City situation. What mess must they be in at present? I’m not close enough to be in any position of knowledge but looking in, it seems staggering. They’ve had years in the Premier League. They have those god awful parachute payments to help keep them afloat. Former Bee Alfie Mawson was sold to Fulham for a fee noted at close to £20m. Clucas for another £6m+, yet they couldn’t reach to Brentford’s valuation (thought to be £6.5m) for a player they had been courting all window.  Then again, that Clucas deal represents a somewhat awful turnaround for a player who cost £16m from Hull City (along with Stephen Kingsley heading in the opposite direction) just 12 months earlier.

That’s not to have a dig at Swansea. Far from it. We all know what it’s like being on the wrong end of your best player leaving or financial mismanagement. More, to note once more how well we are being run and how relatively stable things are at Brentford compared to a lot of other clubs.

Great job, Mr. Benham. Now here’s to three points  today.

Nick Bruzon

 

 

‘That’ day is here. Roll on 5pm.

9 Aug

Here we go, Brentford fans. Strap yourselves in and prepare for that bumpy ride until deadline day concludes at 17.00. With the talk of Ryan Woods to Swansea continuing apace, I’ve also seen plenty of ‘stories’ (hmm) about Chris Mepham to Leicester City (combined with their Harry Maguire to Manchester United) and Sergi Canos to Middlesbrough. We should be talking about the build up to Stoke City on Saturday yet all supporters are doing is crossing their fingers, sweating profusely (that could just be me) and preparing to listen to a day of bums squeaking. After last season’s triple transfer swoop by Birmingham City, one thing we’ve learned is that anything can happen before that accursed window ‘slams shut’ (TM).

Whatever happens today, there are plenty of positives. Plenty. For one thing, no deals have actually been confirmed as yet. Except, of course, that which brought Moses Odubajo back to Brentford for another season. This is a fantastic good news story and one can only hope that, for the player’s sake alone, he is finally able to put that injury hell behind him and get a hugely promising career back on track.

The one down side here was the use of an oh-so confusing hashtag to welcome him back to Griffin Park. Regular readers will know my feelings on these at the best of times. The event-specific comedy hashtag is the lowest of social media art forms (memes aside) and nobody needs another lecture on #trophyfriends (never, ever forget) or #novemberkings. Whilst we seem to have dropped these for a while, our own use of #MolsBack heralded an unwelcome return. Moreso, given the combination of the Twitter typeface and yours truly having a somewhat warped brain read it as Mols Back.

Who is Mol? I thought his name was Moses or possibly Mo for an abbreviation? And what’s up with his back?

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Mo’s back…

It brought all those horrible memories of Manchester United using the #Pogback hashtag to herald the £90m return of player they had sold for £1.5m a few season earlier. Compared to that, MolsBack (Mo Is Back, obviously) is worth every penny of a £3.5m sale turned into a free signing. Whilst in the minority, I wasn’t (quite) alone on this one.

The penny did eventually drop. Glaringly obvious once somebody pointed it out – thank you.

So whilst the out-door is yet to swing, could it? And how many times? The majority of, if not all, Brentford fans were gutted last time out when Maxime and Jota moved to Birmingham City at the death. Joining former captain Harlee who had moved a day or so earlier. Just about the only positives from that one were: the cash (so, so much of it), that Jota hadn’t joined Fulham (which was THE rumour doing the rounds in the few days prior), their subsequent horrific form combined with our own ascension up the table and, of course, THAT game at Griffin Park. Cheer up Harlee Dean etc….

Now we have several names in the frame with Ryan Woods to Swansea being the most talked about story of the summer in TW8. Rumours of an increased £7(seven)million bid were doing the rounds last night with their own Sam Clucas being an alleged target for Stoke. Then there’s suggestions of Harry Maguire moving from 2015/16 Premier League champions Leicester City to Manchester United (talk about a step down to a club who haven’t scoopped the top honour since 2012/13). Completing that merry go round would be our own Chris Mepham. Allegedly.

That’s before we even get to Sergi Canos to Middlesbrough or Romaine Sawyers to Everton. Hey, at least that one is a step up from last season’s rumour of a move to Southend United.

Will all of this play out? No. Will any of it? Quite possibly. The fact that Woodsy was left out from Saturday’s table topping annihilation of Rotherham United spoke volumes. Moreso when Dean used his post-match interviews to explain that, “We both felt it wasn’t the right thing putting him in the squad today.”

I don’t want him to go, let’s be clear on that one. If we get to 16.59.59 and Ryan is still at Brentford then I’m going to be an exceedingly happy man. Yet few could deny his wonderful service to the The Bees. If this one plays out. If Ryan wants to leave then it would only be with best wishes, albeit a few tears in the eye.

Ryan Woods celebration Leeds

Could it be an end to scenes like this?

For me, the real testing point will be Chris Mepham. Without a doubt THE shining star and most potential drenched player in the current squad, Meps is somebody who could go as far as he wants. He has already wowed the crowds, made his Welsh international debut and been the subject of several sky high bids from Bournemouth despite just a handful of league games under his belt. Will a bigger bid come in? Will we accept? Does Chris feel he is ready to step up so soon – he certainly has the talent.

With Ryan, there is a resigned inevitability. Saturday was the tell-tale sign of a wantaway player. With Chris, it is uber-angst about the great unknown playing out. Will he be in the squad for Stoke? Could his future lie elsewhere this weekend? There is absolutely no doubt he will play in the top flight. I just hope it is for Brentford.

And that’s before we get to any of the others. Who will Dean have left to pick from? Are the directors of football already padlocking the gates to Griffin Park, cutting off the phones and taking the players on a day trip to Brentford beach? Who knows? The only things for sure are that by 5pm it will all be over and we’ll know if anyone has ‘done a Birmingham’ to us.

I say it will all be over, that’s not strictly true. Whilst 17.00 is the formal cut off, that’s only for domestic sales and purchases. Reading the deadline day report on the BBC, it clearly notes how football league clubs can still sign loanees and free agents until the end of the month. Likewise, with the European deadlines later in August, they can also sign players after our own cut off this evening. Brentford lending Ryan to Swansea?  Meps to Madrid? Sergi to Barcelona? Stranger things have happened.

Yet if if last season and Birmingham City proved one thing, it is to expect the unexpected when it comes to transfer deadline day. More importantly that whatever short term pain we feel, things have a nice way of playing out…..

Brentford came out of deadline day with heads held high. And a bucketful of cash.

Nick Bruzon

So….who fancies going to Swansea beach and who’s staying at home?

2 Aug

The last knockings of pre-season. There’s just a couple of days to go until things kick of in anger once more for Brentford fans. On pitch, that is, where Saturday sees the visit of Rotherham United to Griffin Park. Off-field it seems to be a case of Swansea this, Swansea that. All served up with a side salad of Leeds United and a smattering of Middlesbrough as the transfer speculation, gossip, guesswork and predominantly click bait continues at pace. As we sit tight and wait for the transfer window to ‘slam shut’ ™ the likes of Ryan Woods and Sergi Canos are the ones very much in the shop window and heading out of Griffin Park. If you believe what you read. Which I don’t.

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Griffin Park looked gorgeous during the week

Urghh. Transfer crud. Every season it is the same. Somebody will go. It always happens. That’s how we work. But there’s no point getting upset over whom it might be, to where or when. Besides, even if we do survive unscathed after August 9th, the European clubs remain able to to buy players from any league – including our domestic ones –  until the end of the month.

Yet with John Egan and Florian Jozefzoon having already departed for fees reckoned to be over £6million, might we have already completed our outward business? Might it be done, dusted and hidden in plain sight? Unless, of course, it is a player who wants to leave rather than the club needing/choosing to sell?

One thing Brentford fans should have learned over the years is that we’re bloody good at picking up players and selling them on for much, much more than we have paid for them. As importantly, unearthing talent to replace those that have gone before. That’s not to say I’m advocating a wholesale clearing of the decks. Quite the opposite. My own preference would be to shut the gates now and have Buzzette imprison the first team squad in the changing room for a week. But enough about my fantasies.

Of course last year was the ultimate leap in faith for Bees fans but it was one which was more than amply rewarded. Once the dust settled. The manner and timing of magnificent Maxime, talismanic Jota and, erm captain Harlee to Birmingham City tested the best of us. I’d absolutely include myself in that group and would be more than happy to eat those words now. It was Brentford who were left with all the money, almost hit the play offs after a lousy start to the campaign and had a ten times better season. Birmingham only just swerved relegation and now have a transfer embargo in place.

I hope nothing happens. Absolutely. But if it does then it’ll just be a case of ‘C’est La vie’, as former hit parade favourites B*Witched once sang. Although perhaps with just a shrug of the shoulders rather than a clunky segue from stone cold pop classic to Irish jig interlude* . If nothing else, I can’t do the kind of stress and angst as we saw when Harry came knocking last time around.

On a totally unrelated note, Swansea beach does look quite magnificent. You can see more at visitswanseabay.com .

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Swansea – has a beach. A nice looking one, too

Two other bits of business for today’s article. First up, fantasy football. And no, I don’t mean Buzzette. If anybody is playing in this year’s official Fantasy Premier League game then I’ve set up a Last Word League. It would be great if anybody wanted to take part and join in – see which Brentford fan has the best knowledge of a division we’ll, no doubt, be aiming for.

It all kicks off on Friday August 10th so there’s time to get your team in still. You can sign in at fantasy.premierleague.com, and then the league details you need are…

League name: The Last Word – Brentford

League code: 707088-156816

If we get a few people in before their big kick off, I’ll see if I can dig a prize out of the cupboard. And if not, we’ll just pretend this conversation never happened.

IMG_5044And finally, FourFourTwo magazine launched their season preview edition yesterday. You can pick this up now from all good newsagents. And probably some bad ones too. It is worth picking up as much for their in-depth Championship preview where they are tipping Brentford to finish 3rd. That’s third (not a typo).

Whether it happens or not remains to be seen – although personally I’ve called us fourth in the ‘fans’ segment of the Bees preview. However, it’s just nice to be recognised for four successive top ten finishes and be seen as a side now ready to look at taking that next step. Certainly, the opposite to that infamous quote from Mr. Holloway. Or that other one from Harlee Dean.

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No pressure, Dean

Predictions mean naff all if we can’t turn performances into wins but it means we start on an optimistic note that, for once, extends beyond well beyond the normal bubble of self-confidence that is TW8. Keep the likes of Romaine, Meps, Bentley and Sergi together and who knows? I’d be partial to a little bit more of Woodsy too, of course.

For the record, Swansea are tipped to finish 13th. Just saying.

Nick Bruzon

*Note to self. Pick this for #BeeTheDJ v Rotherham

 

Who will lose it at the bottom? Can the Bees make it another top ten success?

6 May

Well here we are. One final round of games awaits in the Championship. Brentford entertain Hull City AFC, knowing a win could take us as high as 7(seven)th in the final table. We already know we’ve a trip to Stoke City next season and a possible return to The Valley, if Charlton can do the needful in the League One play-offs. Yet it is at the bottom of the table where the longer term situation is perhaps more interesting. Birmingham City v Fulham is THE big one in the division today and is sure to have Bees’ fans split as to who they’d like to come away with the win. Along with the Blues, the final two relegation spots are predominantly in the hands of Burton, Bolton and Barnsley. And all this is before we get to the end of season ‘player of the year’ dinner and awards. Plus some nonsense on pitch at half time – I really wouldn’t be looking there. Move along; nothing to see.

First up, the visit of Hull. A club, like Wolves, I’ve developed a long standing and unexpected admiration for over the years. Standing up to crackpot owner? Tick. Some of the best kits ever? Tick. Correct use of AFC in their name? Tick. That said, not sure if I can forgive them for Nick Proschwitz but, hey, you can’t have everything.

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Great kits. Great principals

With the sun (and shorts) out, it promises to be a great day. At the time of writing (6.59am) the sky in TW8 is a wonderful clear blue and things are already warming up. The bank holiday awaits and it’s our last time all together for a couple of months. This really promises to be special. Even if we are left wondering whether this is the last time we see some of our heroes in action. Listening to the Beesotted podcast the other day I am curious as to whether it will be a case of farewell Ryan Woods, Andreas Bjelland and Josh McEachran – amongst other potential departures.

Whilst that is a column for another day, it’s mentioned more as a chance to really appreciate these great players. I’m desperate to see the likes of Woodsy and the World Cup’s Andreas back next season of course. Who wouldn’t? By the same virtue I’m also a realist as to how we operate. The last few seasons have taught us that. With the likes of Chris Mepham fast tracking up the football ladder at a rate of knots, the future is still looking good.

We digress. Plus ça change. The club have surprised us at just about every step of the way over the last few seasons. I can’t call what’s going to happen today, let alone further down the track. Let’s just focus on the here and now. Dean Smith wants to finish on a high. As do the fans. I can’t see much change from the side which went down at Barnsley last weekend. If only because it was so out of sorts relative to the last few months that the players themselves will be desperate to prove a point and end with three. Hull City AFC are clear of the relegation pack so can also play pressure free. This could, and should, be a good one. Get those calculators out and prepare to start tracking the goals.

At the bottom, I’m calling Burton and Birmingham City to go down. Blues fans, if you somehow see this then don’t cry. Don’t take it as some personal dig. Whatever some commentators to these pages think, I don’t ‘hate’ your club. Likewise, any perceived negativity is not down to the triple transfer swoop over the summer although, undoubtedly, it has added to a rich tapestry that has been woven over the last 26 years.

That said, Harlee Dean’s ‘ten times better’ comments are most definitely a long term dish that I would take great pleasure in serving up cold at 3pm. If you want to know why there’s such an interest in goings on at St.Andrews, then click here. You probably won’t care. That’s football and I’m not looking for any sympathy after a season spent doing battle with brave keyboard warriors, frustated by their own team’s inadequacy and looking to lash out.

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He said it….. Not me.

Yet given the hand that the fixture list has dealt today, I can’t look beyond League One for The Blues next season. If I’m wrong then will happily hold up my hands tomorrow. Likewise, I’d be genuinely happy if Birmingham do stay up – if only for another chance at six points next season. Ba-doom, Tish !

But I can’t see anything beyond a Fulham win at St. Andrew today. Words which are as distasteful to me as saying Happy Star Wars Day – May the fourth be with you.

With Preston chasing the play-offs, surely that one is a step too far for visitors Burton Albion despite their own impressive run of form in recent weeks. Sadly for Nigel Clough and his team their current streak of WWW is looking like it will be too little, too late. Even though pressure can do funny things, surely that one has to go down as ‘home win’ in the race for the final play-off spot? Doesn’t it…?

Barnsley travel to Derby County today. Derby County, a team who have mastered the art of ‘the choke’ . Who could forget that infamous play-off final against the Loftus road mob? What about the time we reached the Championship play-offs under Mark Warburton. All they needed was a point at home to an impotent Reading side yet somehow self-destructed and went down 3-0. With Barnsley fighting for their lives, that’s where I’m calling the shock (now watch it happen at Preston).

Which takes us to Bolton. Home to Nottingham Forest. Should they win, that takes them level on points with Birmingham. But they need to win well and that’s a BIG ask. The goal difference gap still sees them four behind the Blues yet they are the division’s second lowest scorers having managed just 36 all campaign. The only side having fared worse with the worse in the ‘F’ column being Birmingham who currently have a paltry 35. Compared to our own 61 or the 82 of Champions Wolves, it’s no surprise they both find themselves in such big trouble.

So the heart is ruling the head, here, but with Fulham having to win to have any chance of ‘automatic’ I’m calling four goals as a gap that can be reeled in for Bolton. Even if they need another club to do most of the legwork.

But before you go putting the mortgage on any of this then please bear in mind two things….

Firstly, I’ve not even mentioned Reading. They aren’t safe yet and travel to a Cardiff side that, like Fulham, are also chasing the other promotion slot. Secondly, my predictive skills are notoriously woeful. I’ve called Birmingham and Burton to go down but there’s as much chance of it being Bolton and Reading. Pressure can do strange things.

Instead, I’ll be at Griffin Park cheering on the Bees. Albeit with half a near on the terrace trannie. Purely out of curiosity….

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The BBC table shows just how tight things remain at the bottom

Nick Bruzon

Tonight is huge (again)….but not necessarily at Anfield.

24 Apr

Something, something, something, royal baby. Blah, blah, blah, Liverpool getting a semi. Those glory, glory European Anfield nights. Some perspective people, please. There are much more important matters afoot. Hey, Brentford aren’t even playing tonight and will have to be content with gorging on the memory of Saturday’s derby day victory over QPR combined with looking forward to the weekend trip to Barnsley. Yet if ever there was a case of ‘other results’ being of critical importance to The Bees then Tuesday night is that time as Derby County host Cardiff City and Nottingham Forest are home to Barnsley.

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Sergi and Romaine amongst the architects of QPR’s doom on Saturday

We all know the current position in the Championship table. Middlesbrough in fifth, are on 72 points. That’s four ahead of Brentford and the aforementioned Rams on 68. Yet sixth placed Millwall have 69. I’m no Stephen Fry but even yours truly has sufficient mental acumen to know that’s a gap of one point. One. Point. With two games left to reel it in.

Yet, as ever, there is a potential fly in the ointment. Derby County do have that game in hand. And they play it tonight. Against Cardiff City. Victory will stretch the gap to an, albeit still catchable, three points. Cardiff, on the flip side, know that a win will give them a monumental advantage in the race with Fulham for an automatic promotion slot. Success will see them four points clear in second place with just two games to go.

This is huge. You couldn’t make up a game of this consequence. West London will be split down the middle tonight with Brentford no doubt hoping for a Cardiff win whilst Fulham fans will be mildly waving their clappers in support of Derby. Even QPR supporters will be praying for…. actually, they won’t as they’re long dead in the water.

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Cardiff win tonight and I’ll even forgive them the hashtags

But if this one has impact on Brentford, then our attention is going to be split on two fronts. There’s also the game at Nottingham Forest where defeat for Barnsley will massively increase their chances of relegation. A win will see them leapfrog fourth bottom Bolton Wanderers and have the added benefit of dragging Birmingham City back into things. The Blues own safety net of five points will be a lot squeakier if that becomes three, once the remaining games level out.

Honestly, I’m not sure which result will be best for us here. No doubt Dean Smith would tell Brentford fans just to worry about ourselves. Yet with The Bees going to Oakwell on Saturday, do we want them with destiny back in their own hands and safer, or with that potentially demoralising punch to the gut having been administered by Nottingham Forest? In themselves, a team who have won just a single game out of the last nine, losing the other eight and managing just three goals in the process.

Is it better for us to go into Saturday’s game with Barnsley’s safety all but a mathematical miracle, potentially even hoping that Birmingham City could administer a mid-afternoon psychological blow to our opponents? Or is being the architects of their own survival a better option? Something that would then also see us in the utterly distasteful position of hoping for QPR success on Saturday, with the Blues heading to Loftus Road.

Sadly, having seen the ineptitude of the hapless hoops on Saturday I now have to declare Birmingham City safe. That hurts. But all good things come to an end. Bolton travel to fellow relegation candidates Burton on Saturday and then host goal shy Forest as the season reaches an intriguing denouement. I’m not even going to get close to calling those.

Instead, it really is a case of whatever happens tonight at the City Ground happens. Any result is both good and bad for us. It WILL have an impact but only Saturday at 3pm will tell what that is. Instead, the game of absolute importance will be the one at Pride Park.

I remember back in 1995/96, listening to BBC Radio 5 ( I think, sure the sport had moved on from Radio 2 by then) and Birmingham City v Bradford. It was the season that only one side went up and the Blues only needed two points to guarantee the league title from second placed Brentford. Their 0-0 with Bradford City was one of the most painful bits of self-inflicted torture I’ve ever sat through.  It was rewarded, briefly, the following weekend as The Bees were doing the needful at Bristol Rovers whilst Huddersfield Town took the lead against City. Sadly, results didn’t hold and we ended up in the play-offs. What I wouldn’t pay for that conclusion this time around…

So choose what you do tonight carefully. That Liverpool – Roma Champions League tie is, undoubtedly, a huge occasion. The Reds have a magnificent record in Europe that we can’t get close to. Yet. And if nothing else, the chance to play ‘Liverpool in Europe’ bingo is always a wonderful one.

But for me (Clive) it’ll a case of eschewing Anfield and BT Sport where, whatever happens, it will only be half time. At full time.  Instead, I’ll be glued to Sky Sports and the game from Derby. The prize at the end of that one could be of infinitely more importance in this little corner of West London…

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Liverpool bingo – celebrating both history and cliche

Nick Bruzon